1.31.2014

january wrap up


The only thing blooming in my garden right now.



I think I will try to end each month with a wrap up of sorts, you know looking back and seeing how things went. What worked and what didn't.

1.  Ok, so I think January has to go down as a 5 star month for my finances and I have you and the blog to thank. Staying committed was much easier with you along.  I looked at our bank statements from last January and we spent an average of $75 a week at the grocery stores and were also eating out a lot. So starting the new year like this is so motivating. All the money we saved this month was added to the principal of our mortgage. I wish I had woken up financially speaking, sooner. And I'm not just talking about grocery shopping.  I just wish paying my mortgage off had been a priority earlier in my life.  It always just seemed like such a large debt that would never go away but now I realize it is a lot like that saying...how do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.

2.  In February I will try shopping the farmers markets and see if I can buy local and still keep my expenses down.  We will see how that goes.  I don't know how you guys feel about me continuing the series.  It is an eye opener but I can see where it is boring too.  I really don't want this to become just a food blog.  So let me know what you think.

3.  Another thing I got from this grocery series is that seeing my groceries laid out like that really opened my eyes to exactly what I am eating.  For instance, the chips.  They went into my cart so easily.  But then had to be in that photo I took.  I realized I really don't want to be eating a bag of chips every week. Wait let me rephrase that...I'd love to eat a bag of chips every week but health-wise, I shouldn't.

4.  Also being so mindful about my groceries spilled over into every other aspect of my life (no shopping anywhere) so savings, savings everywhere.

5.  The rose garden is done.  All the roses have been pruned, new wells dug around each one and they've all been fed. What a job.

6.  A huge, huge thank you to everyone who tried one of the recipes I posted and to all of you who left comments.  The comment section of this blog is better than the blog itself.  I'm telling you this blog is nothing without you.  Thank you for putting up with my blather.  Seriously.

7.  And lastly, here are some links that I came across this month I'd like to share with you...

A reader here, Ashley, put up this link in the comment section.  I've added it to my Vegan Resource List.  What a fabulous link it is for vegan's or wanna be's.  You guys often ask questions that I can't answer and this site is a wealth of good info. Vegan Health.

Just because I watch this at least once a week and will never tire of it...My Friend Maya.

A peek into a friends kitchen storage.  Such Glamorous Simplicity.

Yuki's beautiful dining room.

A new blog I found, again through the comments here. Such A Beautiful Piece of Writing.

Are you thinking of going gray?  Stephen Andrew wrote an excellent post about it here.

And that my friends is a January wrap.  Tomorrow is the first day of February I will hopefully be back with my super bowl sandwich. (!)



1.29.2014

a few things we ate this month





Here is a sampling of some of the food we ate this month.  You saw the ingredients I bought and now here they are in action. I thought I'd start with dessert because it's so pretty.  Lemon tea bread with a dollop of blueberry yogurt and fresh blackberries.  Recipe coming soon in a post all its own.





Whole wheat tortilla filled with lettuce, radishes, cucumber, onion and pumpkin seeds with my favorite Dijon vinaigrette.



Yellow split pea soup

1 cup split peas
4-5 cups water
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1 minced garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon liquid smoke

Wash peas.  Combine all ingredients, bring to a boil and reduce to a slow simmer covered for about an hour and a half or until soft.  You may have to add a little more water and time to this equation. Keep the lid tipped so that it does not boil over.  Thickens a lot by the next day so just add more water or vegetable stock.  This is delicious, hearty and cheapppp.





1/2 banana
a few ice cubes
1 cup of spinach
1 cup of chocolate milk
1 great snack





Corn tortillas stuffed with refried beans and extra jalapenos.
Salad with avocado and fresh cracked pepper.







Vegetable stock

4 cups of broccoli crowns, broccoli stems, zucchini, spinach or whatever green veggies you have.
A great way to use up anything and everything in your refrigerator.
1 or 2 carrots
1 or 2 celery stalks
1/2 cup onions
3 minced garlic cloves
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
fresh or dried basil is good here too
salt and pepper
6-8 cups of water
bring to a boil and simmer until veggies are soft
puree in blender

Add to anything needing vegetable stock or just add rice, noodles or sip on its own.



Assorted roasted vegetables over brown rice.

Roast assorted veggies with a light drizzling of olive oil, s&p on sheet pan for 30 minutes in a 400 degree oven.  Serve over rice, pasta, mashed potatoes or alone.






The next day roasted veggies pureed with vegetable stock.
Add in the leftover brown rice for delicious roasted vegetable soup.

That's pretty much it.  Plain, simple food.

On another note, I'm having a lot of trouble replying to comments.  Something is wrong with blogger and hopefully it will be fixed soon.  I'm trying to answer any questions but if I don't get to them right away or my reply winds up on the wrong comment, I apologize.  Other than that, see ya soon.





1.27.2014

groceries - week 4



Here is the last grocery haul of this month.  You will see by my receipts that I bought dark chocolate and sparkling water both from France.  I love that.  Shopping at the .99 store has such a stigma attached to it and is looked down upon by a lot of people so when I see products that I know are sitting on the shelf of my fancy gourmet market with much much higher price tags, I get excited.

I also popped into Clarks which is my local health food store and bought my vegenaise and some soy cheese and Tofurky lunch slices.  I want to experiment with a vegan Reuben sandwich for Superbowl Sunday.  Is anyone else out there mourning the end of football season?





Anyway the total for the week is $23.18.  I cannot even begin to tell you how much I've loved doing this little grocery series with you.  It has kept my spending and eating on track.  More on the eating part coming soon.  And since I'm paying such close attention to what I'm spending at the market, it has really opened my eyes to what I spend elsewhere.  I'm sosososo happy to report that my grand total for the month of January groceries is $84.33.

This month has just fueled my passion for paying down my mortgage even more. Thank you for bearing with me and reading about the small details of my life but this blog is keeping me accountable.  How about you?  Have you changed the way you shop this month?  Did you see any improvement in the bottom line?  I love hearing from you.



1.24.2014

pantry basics





A lot of you have expressed interest in the contents of this little pantry, so here you go...
And just in case you have nothing better to do, I have talked about it in the past here, and you can see right here what it used to look like.  Oh and why not throw in a look at my kitchen drawers? Riveting stuff.


Top Shelf -  I keep a variety of vinegars in the house.  Balsamic, red wine, rice wine, apple cider and plain white.  I usually have a plain salad oil like sunflower and always extra virgin olive oil.

The canned foods I keep are usually 2 or 3 cans of diced tomatoes, a couple of cans of beans, coconut milk, tomato soup.  I look at canned foods as my lazy night alternatives to scratch cooking.

I always, always have jarred jalepenos, they add so much flavor and heat to everything.  Plus agave, Braggs liquid aminos and liquid smoke, which I use in place of anything that needs a smoky flavor to it.  Also nutritional yeast, but I keep that in the refrigerator.

I also like to keep a box of Knorr vegetable broth cubes around.  They are a great stand-in for fresh.  Not as healthy but in a pinch they do the trick.  Every kitchen I ever worked in used knorr instant bouillon.

2nd Shelf.  I always have a variety of dried beans and lentils and also white and brown rice on hand.

3rd Shelf.  I keep my flours and sugars in those sealed tubs.

On the back shelf you can see a tub that I can seal shut that keeps the nuts fresh.  I always have walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds on hand.

Next to the Le Creuset dutch oven you can see another little tub that holds my baking things.  It has the vanilla extract, baking spices, baking soda, baking powder and yeast in it.  I like keeping these corralled into one little box that I can easily grab.






Opposite side of pantry above toaster and coffee pot.  This is what I call our breakfast station.  Our coffee, teas and oatmeal are kept here.  Also pastas, quinoa, etc.

I also always have potatoes, onions, celery and carrots in the house.  They, along with the rest of what you see are the backbone of my kitchen.  With a few fresh ingredients there is hardly anything I can't make from scratch.

So what are your pantry basics?  Am I missing something you think I should have?  Fill me in.


1.22.2014

mushroom bourguignon






When I surveyed my kitchen before shopping on Saturday, I realized I had half a bag of frozen pearl onions and that frozen wine.  Smitten Kitchen's mushroom bourguignon came to mind and so it was on.

But before we get to the recipe, lets see the weeks grocery haul...



Nothing exciting but still el cheapo.
That block of cheese you see there is Larry's.
The chips are mine.






Popped into Trader Joe's and got coffee and a loaf of sprouted cinnamon raisin bread.
My total for both places was $21.98.

So now onto the recipe.  I'm not big At All on recipes that use lots of ingredients and have lots of steps but I promise you this one is worth it.  All the ingredients, except the mushrooms and pearl onions are pretty basic.  This is what the frozen wine looks like straight out of the freezer, more slush-like than frozen solid.









Mushroom Bourguignon - Serves 4-5

4 large portobello mushrooms sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 Tablespoons Earth Balance margarine
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 cup diced onion
1 cup sliced carrots
2 cloves of minced fresh garlic
2 Tablespoons of tomato paste
1 cup red wine
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup defrosted pearl onions
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/2 T flour
salt and pepper

In a dutch oven or heavy sauce pan, melt a Tablespoon of olive oil with a Tablespoon of Earth Balance and saute the mushrooms.  Season with salt and pepper and cook until they darken but are not completely limp.  This took me about 10 minutes.

Remove them from the pot and add the 2nd Tablespoon of olive oil and then add the diced onion, carrots, garlic and thyme.  Saute til onions are slightly browning.  Add the red wine, deglaze the pot and reduce by half.

Add in the broth and tomato paste.

Add the mushrooms back in.

Simmer for 20.  Then add in the Pearl Onions and let them cook for 5.

Mix one Tablespoon Earth Balance with the flour making a paste.
Add to mushroom mixture, stir and simmer for a few minutes or until desired consistency is achieved.

Spoon over mashed potatoes or noodles.  I prefer mashed potatoes because it makes it an even heartier dish.

The flavor of the wine mixed with the earthy mushrooms and the sweet pearl onions make it incredibly rich and filling.  I served a simple green salad and crusty bread with it.  fancy.




1.20.2014

my labor of love






This past week I spent every spare moment in the rose garden.  I've been doing a hard prune which it has been in desperate need of.  Last year's blossoms did not live up to their full potential but I am hoping that some extra care will make for a spectacular spring show.  Key word...hoping.






I knew I needed to be ruthless and get rid of the poor producers, most likely runners, that had been left alone for decades.  It's hard, quiet work back there save for the occasional thorn induced curse word. At times it seems overwhelming and never ending, but mostly I love it.  At the end of the day every muscle in my body is sore and tired but yet I feel good.  I still have a mile long list of things to do but really I'm not complaining. I know I'm lucky to have this lovely little home and garden to care for.  And at this point I don't know who is taking care of who any longer.

Oh and one more thing...you are all the nicest readers in the whole www.


1.17.2014

questions answered


Hello everyone.  I will interrupt today's post which was going to be on my rose garden (boring) to answer your questions about olive oil (less boring?)  Last week my search bar didn't work and this week it's my comment section. When I hit reply Blogger takes me back up to the top of the page and then I have to wade through every single comment to find the one that needs an answer.  So if your question wasn't answered I apologize and will try to answer it here.

1.  Olive Oil vs linens and clothing.  Do not worry about your linens or your clothes.  The oil absorbs so quickly that this has not been an issue with me.  If you don't turn your bod into an oil slick mess then you will not have a problem.  Trust me, you'll get the hang of it in approx 3 seconds.

2.  Apply olive oil is not time consuming or messy.  Give it a try, you'll see.

3.  I don't know a lot about argon oil, coconut oil or any of the other oils you guys asked about.  I do use jojoba oil to remove wax from my clients and I love that.  I believe it is quite a bit more expensive than olive oil.  But if you are using that and you love it then that is awesome.  Same goes with all the other oils...if you are using them and they work then keep up the good work.

4.  Sunscreen.  This is a controversial subject these days, especially in the beauty industry.  Here is my take on it and remember this is just my dumb opinion.  I've had skin cancer on my face twice so I don't take this subject lightly.  First and foremost use common sense.  If you burn easily like me then do your best to avoid direct contact with the sun in its strongest hours.  And if you can't avoid it, wear a hat and sunglasses.  If you are going to be on the slopes, beach or tennis court then you will have to use a broad spectrum sunscreen to help as back up. Don't think that using it will negate a burn or sun damage because it won't.  I've seen terrible burns where the person applied sunscreen all day long.  I cannot recommend a particular sunscreen.  I use whatever Larry buys which usually has some crazy high number attached to it that is designed for outdoor sports.  And then as soon as I get back inside I wash it off b/c I cannot stand the feel of it on my skin.  If you have a sunscreen you love go ahead and share it in the comments please.

5.  This has nothing to do with olive oil but a few of you have asked if I would do a weekly menu plan and post the recipes that go with them.  I'm sorry to say this but that probably isn't going to happen. That would take so much time and planning and I really kind of fly by the seat of my pants menu-wise anyway.  The key is to have good basics in the pantry so that when you go to the market you can buy what looks the best and freshest and then build your menus around that...not the other way around.  I will do a post for you on what my pantry is stocked with if you think that would help.  It's so easy to eat this way.

6.  If I still missed your question ask here and I'll try again.

1.15.2014

my favorite facial moisturizer - olive oil








Some of you will recall that awhile ago I started using olive oil as my one and only body moisturizer.  That post is here if you are interested.  I absolutely loved the results and at first was hesitant to use it on my face but in the interest of the blog, I made the switch over a year ago and highly doubt I'll ever use anything but olive oil again.

Now remember this completely unscientific study was done on exactly one person...me. Of course individual results will vary.  The experiment was performed on 56 year old, very dry aging skin. Even if you are younger or older and with a different skin type you may want to try it because the risk factor is incredibly low and you'd have a lot to gain if it works for you.  Less chemicals, saving money, soft skin.

Here is exactly what I do every night. After my bath or shower, but before I dry off, I put one pump, which is about 1 teaspoon into my palms and apply it directly to wet skin.  It takes about 2-3 teaspoons to do the entire body. Then I take a half of a pump and apply it to my wet/damp face. I massage it in gently taking extra care around my eyes. If I'm bathing, then I massage the oil into my face and place a warm washcloth on, which is incredibly lovely and spa-like. Then I pat my face dry first and then pat the rest of my bod.  The whole thing takes about 1 minute. Keeping the olive oil right next to the tub helps. I put mine in a empty plastic soap dispenser.  I adore the way it makes my skin feel, soft, not slick or oily.  The oil absorbs within minutes so no worry about transferring it to clothing or sheets. Again, individual results will vary, experiment with it.

Here is another thing...if I'm going to put on foundation, I will wet my face and apply a tiny bit of olive oil and pat it dry and it makes the best make-up primer ever. Again love how it feels and the way make-up looks with it.

So will you give it a try?  If you do, please report back.

1.13.2014

groceries 2




The only thing I had to buy extra last week was this 75 cent tomato.





Here is a photo of lunch leftovers, potato and black bean enchiladas with a salad.





This Saturday's haul.







What I spent - $20.95.  This week we will be having split pea soup.  A batch of white bistro chili. Sauted mushrooms with spaghetti.  I've been craving crunchy vegetables like radishes, cucumbers and celery for lunchtime veggie wraps.  As usual oatmeal and smoothies for breakfasts. Basic, that is for sure but again healthy, filling and we like eating like this.  My menus are not fancy so I won't bore you to death posting this every week...you get the picture right? Make a big batch of something and have it for 2 or 3 nights or mix it up with lunches.  We are fine having soup and a sandwich for dinner too.  I'm really glad I decided to share this with you because it is really making me think about what I purchase instead of just walking through the market filling my cart without a thought. So I must thank you and the blog itself for keeping me accountable.  x

1.10.2014

so so







I was going through my past outfit posts the other day and just cringing.  How on earth could I post these photos of myself?  Not enough attention as a child...that has to be it. But here I am posting another. What's wrong with me?

I guess the reason why I originally started outfit posts was because I had just turned 50 and noticed there weren't many 50+ women's fashion blogs out there. It's been tricky fashion-wise for me. Suddenly things that used to look good don't and then there's the issue of how much skin shows in the simplest things like t shirts.  Sleeve length, dress length...everything is now an issue. It's not easy to sort out.  Anyway I don't in any way consider myself a fashion blogger but one thing I notice is that what looks good in the mirror does not necessarily translate well in real life. Here is a perfect example.  I thought the jeans looked ok rolled at the cuff but all it does is make my legs look shorter. All this is to say...I've added another so-so outfit to the archives.

Please try and have a decent weekend.

1.08.2014

neatness






With the whole holiday frenzy over, it's time for me to embrace the ordinary.  The color has been removed from the house and it's back to blah.  Good thing I like blah. I also like things neat around here and one of the ways I achieve this is to have only a few knickknacks around.  I'm super picky about what I let in and I prefer an emptier look.  Also, with such limited storage I don't have much choice.  I no longer have the luxury of unlimited closets, drawers and a garage. Oh sometimes I miss those days...but not so much that I wish them back.

Someone in the comments was asking me about my housework schedule.  I'm one of those people who neatens as I go.  At night when we are done reading or watching tv, I fold up the blankets and fluff the pillows just like the old lady I'm turning into would do.  I like coming out in the morning to a tidy room. Same with the kitchen.  After years of cleaning a big house, this one is a dream to clean.  I dust, clean the bathrooms and wash the floors happily once a week.  I do a quick sweep about every other day.  I do the chandeliers and open shelving once a month. Everything else just gets cleaned as I go.  For instance the pantry gets cleaned weekly because when I'm making my grocery list I always give it a once over and wipe it down.  I love coming home from the market and putting things away into a clean pantry that is not overstuffed.  Same with the refrigerator. The stove gets wiped down each evening after each days use.  This may seem like a lot of work but for me it's a small price to pay because all these monotonous actions bring me peace.  And a sense of calm.  Just like Prozac only cheaper and with better side effects.


1.06.2014

grocery shopping






Depending on what kind of person you are this post will either be fascinating or boring.  I'm always fascinated by how people spend and manage their money so you know what camp I'm in.

Last week I got a question in the comment section asking how I am able to spend $50 a week on groceries for the 2 of us.  To be honest I usually spend a lot less than $50.  I'm able to do this because I do most of my shopping at the .99 store.   I started shopping there when we were broke and I continue to shop there because it is smart.  I supplement what I get there with a trip to Trader Joe's or the farmers market.





A lot of people think the .99 store sells food that is past its due date (everything I bought had a minimum of 10 days til the expiration date) or is in some way inferior, but they are wrong. All products sold there meet all local, state and federal safety, labeling, environmental and all other laws and regulations.  If you purchase something that you feel is inferior in any way they will happily refund your money just like your local market would.

On Saturday's shopping trip I was able to purchase enough food for 2 weeks of breakfasting plus several dinners and lunches.  They don't always have vegan yogurts so that was exciting. I'll put a few spoonfuls of yogurt and chopped nuts over the fresh oranges and grapefruits my neighbor just gave me. Fresh apples and oatmeal will make up the other breakfasts.  We go through a lot of spinach in smoothies and the frozen mango is great paired with it. They always have fresh basics like broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, shallots, mushrooms and so many other veggies that are perfect for soups and stews. A lot of the produce there is organic too.

The dinners I plan to make with this haul (and also use existing food I bought last week) will be 2 nights of spinach, black bean and potato enchiladas (5 lbs potatoes purchased last week for .99) with green sauce, vegetarian chili for at least 2 nights. 2 nights of spaghetti and salad. And 2 nights of black bean/veggie tacos.  1 night of fresh steamed veggies over mashed potatoes. Lunches will be a combination of salads, veggie sandwiches, leftovers and soups.  As you see our meals are quite mundane but they are healthy and filling.

Also, I buy other products there too.  Cleaning products, greeting cards...all sorts of things.  The savings really are dramatic.

If you are not on the west coast and are unfamiliar with the .99 store, here is an ABC News report on a man who lost a ton of weight (250 lbs!) eating at the .99 store.  I love his light bulb moment when he cleaned out his refrigerator. Made me (almost) want to jump up and throw out the chips I had just bought!  Also it's a good video because it shows the great choices available and that the store is clean and not what you might expect.  Here's the video.

Alrighty then, have you shopped the .99 store?  If so what are some of your favorite products?  Are you put off by the .99 store?  Do tell.


1.03.2014

freezing wine





I know there are a lot of you out there that would think this is such a ridiculous idea. Why on earth would anyone freeze wine?  You are supposed to drink it for goodness sakes.  But what if you've had a few parties and there are multiple bottles of wine that just have a glass or 2 left in them and just thinking about drinking them makes you a little ill?  I really hate to waste anything, especially food and wondered if you can freeze it.

Well guess what?  You can. You can freeze it for cooking or just drinking. Don't take my word for it, even this dude says you can.  So go ahead and put the leftovers in a plastic bottle or ice cube tray, leaving a little room for expansion and freeze it. Next time you are making risotto, soup or a veggie stew you can use it up. Don't know why I've never thought of this before.

Have an undramatic weekend.


1.01.2014

100 things








Happy New Year from slight hangover land here.  I thought I'd start the first day of this spanking new year with a 100 things challenge.  In less than 5 minutes I've accumulated 39 things that were in drawers or cabinets that need to be gone.  From receipts, magazines, nail polish (which will be donated) to gift bags and grocery bags...they were stored somewhere in this small house.  I haven't even touched the medicine box or under the kitchen sink.  By the end of the day there will no doubt be 100 items.  So may I suggest you get up from wherever you are and take a run through your house and see what you come up with.  Or not, because really who cares but if you like this sort of thing...ready, set, go.