Thursday, March 31, 2011

Batch Cooking #2

the freezer after the last batch cooking session
We’ve cleaned out our freezer lunches from the last batch cooking session – so I’ve started up again. This time I made or am in the process of making:

DONE Taco Casserole (my own design, it was a massive fail but I have ideas for round two)
DONE General’s Pork over brown rice (aka shredded cooked pork with jarred General Tso’s sauce)
DONE Chicken Noodle Soup
DONE Tex-Mex Sticky Rice with pork (I got a good deal on pork recently)
Breakfast Sandwiches (fried egg sandwiches cut in half, for breakfast not lunch)
Macaroni & Cheese
Chili (I don’t know why I am unable to make decent chili without a recipe, it should be so easy…)

The Plan:
I decided not to try and fit everything into one weekend like I’ve done in the past. That idea had been inspired by the once a month cookers. It seems so awesome, the idea of only cooking once a month. I just haven’t found that it works well for me. I cook for a few days instead, and will freeze leftovers to have quick things available. But once a month cooking, even for lunches, is too much trouble for me at the moment.

Instead, I’m making one per week, which gives me a little more wiggle room. So far I like doing it this way a lot better - it gives me time to do other stuff on what would have otherwise been a purely cooking weekend. (Such as doing other stuff like ripping up the kitchen floor to get the broken dishwasher out because the previous homeowner installed another layer of ½” subflooring after putting in the snugly fit dishwasher, making it impossible to get the dishwasher out without demolishing something. Idiot.)

I’ve gotten a lot of great tips on freezer cooking (or cooking for the freezer) over at Life as Mom. In particular:
http://lifeasmom.com/2010/09/how-to-do-freezer-cooking.html - lots of links on this post
http://lifeasmom.com/2009/11/freezer-cooking-what-can-you-freeze.html - a quick guide on what you can successfully freeze

It doesn’t have to be lunches or dinners, by the way. My mom freezes cookies. Every few weeks she makes dozens of chocolate chip cookies and then freezes them. She brings a dozen or two to work every Friday, so this way she doesn’t have to bake every single week. (Lucky bastards. I could be eating those cookies instead.)

So, do you make extra food? Do you freeze it for later? Do you make meals just for the freezer?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Frugal Luxuries: Broth – Too Simple for Words…

…or is it? bwahaha!

Yes, we’re talking broth today. Or stock. Choose your favorite word. I’ll be using both. The definitions contradict each other saying that the other one is the one with chunks, but I’m referring to flavored water with no chunks. In my mind (related to this topic at least) chunks=soup. Lots of chunks=stew. No chunks=broth/stock.

I use chicken broth the most, so that’s what I’ll be referring to today. But you can also make vegetable, pork, or beef broth. (Apparently pork broth is a hot topic? Odd. Maybe because of its strong flavor, and that a lot of Western style recipes are chicken or beef based? Your thoughts? I’m loving the comments over here.)

My basic stock making method:

Step 1: Start with a gallon freezer bag (clearly labeled, we don’t want mixup on this one) kept in the freezer. Put chicken bones and vegetable trimmings in the bag.
Note: Good vegetables to use are celery, onion, carrot. Potatoes don’t tend to add a lot of flavor. Mushrooms are so/so. Tomatoes are generally not used, but you might dig them.

Step 2
Step 2: When the bag is full, dump the contents in a big pot, fill with water, and simmer for a few hours. Two hours seem to be the minimum. If desired, add in salt, garlic, and spices. I put in a little salt but hold off on the spices etc, I add that later when I’m prepping the actual dish I’m using the broth in.

Step 3: Let the pot cool.

Step 4: Strain out the solids and discard them.
Step 4
Note: To make the straining out process even easier, I have a stock pot that has a nesting colander. It’s pretty spiffy. I put the colander in the pot and then put the stock ingredients into the colander. It makes Step 4 a breeze.

Step 5: Admire your broth. Skim off fat once it cools. Store in the fridge or freezer.

My broth came out pretty thinly flavored – but I also stretched it to 10 quarts. I’m ok with that because I tend to add a lot of other flavor (herbs, spices, meat) when using stock in recipes. You may want to add less water to get a stronger flavored broth.

It really is ridiculously inexpensive since you’re using things that you’d throw away anyhow, minimal spices, and water. It’s almost free! Way better than paying over a dollar per quart in the store!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mother’s Day Raffle to Benefit Japan

Photo courtesy of A Bit of This and a Bit of That
As you may remember, I featured Rita from Surfing Silver last month for the beautiful key fob that I gave my husband for his 30th birthday. She has teamed up with a fellow blogger, Jo at A Bit of This and a Bit of That, for a raffle benefitting organizations who are assisting Japan in the aftermath of the tsunami.

The rules are pretty simple: Make a donation to one of the organizations she lists, then post the receipt number and your email. The raffle will close on Monday, April 4th, and the winner will be selected at random.

The winner will receive a silver Mommy bracelet (or pendant), like the one in the photo but using your own child’s artwork. If you aren’t a mommy, daddy, or grandparent, or don’t have a little one to draw something precious for you to be engraved on the bracelet, Ebi-kun (Jo’s little one) can draw a masterpiece just for you.

I’ve already donated and entered, and I hope you will too – it’s for a good cause and you get the chance to get something pretty in return.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Max’s Bookshelf

Max’s room has been in some desperate need of easily accessible storage to help the toys-all-over-the-floor situation. He loves toys, even if sometimes he has a very loose definition of “toys.” He has a piece of folded cardboard that came with one of his outfits that he just loves, he pretends it’s a book and that he’s reading it. He won’t pretend to read actual books, but that piece of cardboard he’ll open and close, and open and close… He’ll even babble to me as he reads it. Very serious, he is.

Back to the point - he needs storage. My requirements:
  • Easily accessible for an infant/toddler
  • Tall enough that he can’t reach a lamp sitting on the top shelf
  • Sturdy (I know he’ll be climbing it when he thinks I’m not looking)
  • Relatively aesthetically pleasing
  • Something neutral that he can grow with
  • Inexpensive, or even better, free
We don’t really have spare furniture so moving in a piece from another room wasn’t a great option as I would then be lacking in another room. I scoured thrift stores, Craigslist and FreeCycle for over a month with no success. I just didn’t like anything. I had a vision of long and low in my head, with different sized cubbies for different sized toys and books, and that wasn’t appearing.

Then, I remembered some Ikea bookcases (two different sizes) that we had used in an apartment but didn’t assemble here since we have a lot of built-in bookcases. Essentially they’re spare lumber. With some pre-drilled holes and lots of screws…

I did a lot of measuring and planning, and made a diagram. I used the larger bookcase frame as a base and half of the smaller for the top, trying to incorporate as many pre-drilled holes as possible.



I cut the ends off two long edge boards (where they were curved to fit over floorboards) and cut two shorter shelf boards in half. Then I did a lot of measuring and pre-drilling. And some more pre-drilling when I put those holes in the wrong spots. (thankfully hidden by other boards)



Then I assembled the whole unit, using exactly the number of screws that came with the units. Cool, huh? I also used iron-on veneer to cover the rough ends on the long boards. If you tilt your head sideways to the right you can see the 1 1/2 bookcases that went into this.



I debated painting it white, but I’m glad I stuck with the light wood. We brought it up to Max's room and I secured it to the wall studs with some strapping that came with the bookcases.



I love them, Max loves them (or at least loves pulling himself up on them), I got some practice building something, and they were free. I had everything except the veneer, which my dad bought for another project that he never ended up doing.

What do you think?


Linking up to:


 
 
Dittle Dattle

Friday, March 25, 2011

Kitchen Floor Update


Oh my gosh and golly. I’ve had 108 page views so far today! That is definitely an all-time personal record. Thanks to the Nester and her Risk Party! I’m guessing it has something to do with the photo thumbnail that I put up, since I know that’s what I was looking at with all of the other entries. Here’s a nice, big version of that little thumbnail:



I’m hoping that people weren’t clicking to check out the dirty dishes on the counter. Or the crock drying on the stove. Or the dirty dishtowel that doesn’t match the color scheme. Or the cupboard door that still isn’t hung. Or the missing outlet covers. Or… well, I don’t think I want to keep pointing everything out.

I know that people probably aren’t as focused on my messy, imperfect kitchen as I think they are. Because their kitchen probably looks similar, or would if they were in the middle of a renovation. I’m hoping that they clicked on it because they saw how the floor was half peeled up and maybe wanted to know how I did it. (Elbow grease, a metal putty knife, and for part of it a heat gun.) Or maybe they clicked on it because the combination of white cabinets with turquoise walls is just awesome. Or because they love my teapot as much as I do (clearance from HomeGoods).

I’ve actually finished peeling up that half of the kitchen floor (sorry, no photo, but imagine that it's all plywood) – and I smartened up a little bit and broke out the heat gun (borrowed months ago from dad for another project). Without the heat gun each tile took a good 3-5 minutes of strenuous muscle use and scraping with a putty knife. With the heat gun it took 2-3 minutes top per tile and much less muscle power. And a lot less scraped knuckles!

Can I just take a moment say how handy  it is to have a dad who lives 1.4 miles away and has a full range of tools at my disposal, provided I’m very careful with them and don’t break them (or myself)? Thanks, dad!

I have 36 full tiles and 14 partial tiles left to scrape (or thereabouts), then I can start taking the screws out of that layer of subfloor and see if it will come up. I’m crossing my fingers that he didn’t use glue. Please let there be no glue. I really want this to go smoothly. Or as smoothly as possible considering I have to take up the subfloor in the first place.

Lowes.com
Once I have it up we can fix the dishwasher. Then I can scrub the heck out of the newly exposed old subfloor. THEN, I can lay down the new vinyl flooring tiles. But they don’t look like vinyl tiles, they look like wood. Sweet, huh? The tile is plank sized, 4”x36”, so I won’t have that obviously fake parquet floor look going. The actual flooring looks darker than on the screen, but you get the idea.

I may paint the ceiling before I lay the flooring, it would probably be a smart idea. Less danger of paint oopsies.

While I’m on the subject of fixing the dishwasher (which brought on this whole project in the first place), does anyone know how to replace hoses? Or how to check to see if that’s even the problem? I have no idea, and my favorite handyman is currently laid up for a couple of weeks.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fungus, Eww

Not that kind of fungus
Did you know that the same fungal infection is called different things depending on who gets it and where it’s located? Because I have diaper rash on my lower back, but since it’s on my back and I’m a grownup it’s called ringworm. I had no idea.

According to my doctor it goes something like this:

  • If it’s on a baby in the diaper zone, it’s diaper rash 
  • If it’s on adult male bits, it’s jock itch 
  • If it’s on adult lady bits, it’s a yeast infection 
  • If it’s on the feet, it’s athlete’s foot 
  • If it’s in the mouth, it’s thrush (grownups and kids) 
  • If it’s elsewhere on the body, it’s ringworm (thank goodness it’s not actually worm related)

It can be caused by a few different types of fungus, which is why there are different creams with different active ingredients. Lately I’ve been using vag cream on my back as well as on Max’s peaches. I compared prices and it was the least expensive per ounce (versus medicated diaper creams or foot creams).

Of course talk to your doctor before trying any new treatments. It’s working really well on Max. It’s only working so/so for me since I have trouble getting the bandaid to stay on my back so the cream doesn’t wipe off on my waistband.

So if you’re like me and have a phobia about parasitic worms – don’t worry. Ringworm is not caused by worms. And it sounds a lot better if you call it diaper rash.

Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Muffins Six and a Half Ways

Blueberry
A while back I posted on making your own muffin mixes. You probably noticed that it’s a basic muffin mix, very plain. I thought I’d share my favorite ways to jazz it up.

Basic Muffin Mix:

Muffin Dry Mix Ingredients
1 cup white flour
1 cup wheat flour
½ cup sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt

Muffin Wet Ingredients
1 egg
¾ cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil or melted butter

Mix dry ingredients, sift as needed to remove lumps. Mix wet ingredients in separate bowl. Pour wet ingredients into dry, and stir until just combined (don’t over-stir). Fill muffin cups 1/2 to 2/3 full with batter. Cook at 400 degrees F for 18-20 minutes.

The variations should be done at the time of mixing and baking and are not suitable for storing as part of the muffin mix.

Variations:
Blueberry – add 1 cup blueberries to the dry ingredients, stir, then add the wet ingredients as directed (the coating of flour helps suspend the blueberries in the batter so they don’t all sink to the bottom of the muffin)
Banana – add 2-3 mashed, ripe bananas to the wet ingredients, decrease milk to 2/3 cup, add 1 tsp cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg to dry ingredients
Carrot “Cake” – add 1 tsp cinnamon, a dash of cloves and a dash of allspice to dry ingredients, add 1 cup shredded carrot and ½ cup diced pineapple, drained, to combined wet and dry
Coffee – add 2 tbsp instant coffee crystals and ½ tsp vanilla to wet ingredients
Cran-Orange – add ½ cup orange juice to wet ingredients, reduce milk to ¼ cup, add 1 cup fresh or dried cranberries to combined wet and dry
Zucchini – add 1 tsp cinnamon, a dash of cloves and a dash of allspice to dry ingredients, add 1 cup shredded zucchini to combined wet and dry

As much as my husband may ask I refuse to put chocolate chips in muffins. That’s just blatantly trying to make muffins into cupcakes. If I want a cupcake, I’ll make a cupcake. But, if you want you can put in ½ cup of chocolate chips. Just don’t tell hubby I said so.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Taking a Risk on my Kitchen

This weekend I took a big risk for me: I started peeling up floor tiles in the kitchen. The peeling up floor tiles in and of itself was not a huge risk – I’d planned on taking up the floor tiles to put down different ones. However, the risk is more of the whole I-need-to-take-up-subflooring thing. By myself. Eeek! (I work on house stuff while hubby watches Max – as much as I love my husband, he’s not very handy)

Why do I need to take up the subfloor, you may ask?

Because our dishwasher is leaking so I need to pull it out and check the hoses. No biggie, right? It wouldn’t be a big deal, except a previous homeowner put in a ½” layer of subfloor (and those ugly tiles) ON TOP of the dishwasher feet.

glorified dish drainer

And he fit it so tightly that I can’t push it back further and then lift it up and out. No, that’d be too easy. So it’s either rip out a layer or two of flooring, bringing it back to the subfloor that the dishwasher currently stands on, or rip out the countertop (which I’m not doing). I debated cutting the legs off the dishwasher, but as you can see in the photo there isn’t a lot of leg to cut.

 
So, up come the tiles. Then I have to figure out a way to make the dishwasher continue to be accessible while still having an adequate amount of subflooring. <sigh>

When I start to get too frustrated with my kitchen reno, I look at this photo and remind myself that our kitchen has come a long way.

before - dark and ugly

Even with the slanted floor (yeah, I’m not sure why either), the unfinished countertops, the non-existent backsplash, and the other problems it’s leaps and bounds ahead of where it was. (Excuse the dirty dishes and the general lack of picking up before I took the photo.)

now - bright and in progress
I have the vision in my head, and it will look fantastic when it’s done. The countertops will be white/gray marble-esque tile (the gray paint is a temporary sanity saver), the backsplash will be a simple row of 2” square white tile (sitting in the garage), the sink will be properly aligned and have a new faucet, the floor will look like wood (but really be vinyl tile), and all of the cabinet doors will be hung and functioning. And the dishwasher will be fixed.

I’m linking up to Nesting Place for her National {not really} Take a Risk Day. Check out her site for more people taking risks in their home! 

UPDATE: Click on some links below to see the progress on my kitchen
Kitchen Floor Update
Countertops?
I Have a Kitchen Floor! 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Time Change and Spring

Check out that snowmelt stream!
Happy Spring! The snow is melting! It’s finally warmed up enough to go out for walks (I’m the wuss, not Max), so Max and I have been taking strolls when I can fit them in. I live on the edge of town, so if I go left we have sidewalk and steep hills and if we go right we have roads and relative flat. I don’t walk on the road after dark, and the sidewalks have been touch and go this winter, so between all that and the cold we haven’t been out much. But now with the time change, we have a bit more daylight in the evenings for walking! I already have a few blisters to prove it.

Speaking of the time change, whose idea was that? (No, I’m not actually asking, I’m just being fussy.) Having to get up an hour earlier, changing mealtimes, changing bedtimes… it’s bad enough for adults. Trying to get an infant, however good natured he may be, to adjust to the change has not been easy. Especially in the mornings and evenings. That Sunday Max stayed up until almost 11pm (new time) and was up at 7am Monday morning. Eight hours is just not enough sleep for him. Or me, considering I have to be up by 6:15. That was a rough morning. It wasn’t until Thursday morning that he actually woke up in a good mood a little after 8:00.

But, it means longer hours in the evening, and wasting less daylight sitting at a desk staring at the computer. I love long summer afternoons and evenings. So, in theory I like daylight savings. I just hate the transition.

Max is loving the warmer weather, it means I can just bundle him up in a sweat suit (over his regular clothes) and blanket instead of his snowsuit. He really doesn’t like the snowsuit. It’s also starting to get too short, so the temperature needs to stay above freezing so he doesn’t have to keep squeezing into it. That, and the temperature needs to stay up so the snow melts and my flower bulbs can come up. I’m in major need of some daffodils in my yard, and not just in my kitchen.


Aren’t they pretty? When I was little my dad would buy me a bouquet every spring to support the American Cancer Society, and I’ve done it the last few years as well through my office. Daffodils are still my favorite flower because of those bouquets he gave me every spring.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Barter Item

I know you all have been eagerly awaiting what it is I will put up for barter: a small frosted glass oil lamp. Pretty, isn’t it?

Here’s what I know about it:
  • I bought it in Arizona at a fair in Quartzsite five-ish years ago
  • It works, I’ve lit it up a few times but currently have it dry
  • As far as I can see there aren’t any chips or flaws
  • I haven’t even looked at the bottom to see if there is a maker’s name there
  • It’s pretty and functional, so I bought it in case the lights went out
That’s about it!

Things I’m interested in:
  • Pyrex baking dishes in lime green, turquoise, yellow or flamingo pink (no gold bits or patterns)
  • Arbonne mineral powder foundation
  • Gray suiting fabric
  • Books – children’s (gender neutral or boys), chick-lit, sci-fi/fantasy 
  • Babysitting if you're local and I know you!
OR

Make a suggestion! You may have something that I didn’t even know I wanted. Or that I did know I wanted at some point but forgot.

Please leave me a comment or send me an email if you would like to barter for the lamp. And please don’t take it personally if I say no thanks.

I’m linking up to Apron Thrift Girl today!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bartering – Trade it on Up!



one of two floor pillows
I’ve done some bartering in my life. We all have. Trading one good or service for another. (not to be confused with haggling) I started out at a young age, as an infant in fact. I bartered good behavior and smiles for food from my mom and dad’s plates. Later that progressed to trading goods like toys or lunches. In college I bartered proofreading for having someone else walk across campus in the cold to fetch food from the cafeteria for me. (I sense a trend in my bartering priorities…)

As an adult, I’ve bartered with relatively random people (mostly via the internet) for floor pillows, makeup, haircuts, advertising space, music… I’m sure there are other things to that I just can’t think of at the moment. Earlier this week I bartered tomato starts this spring for chicken poop (for the garden) this fall. My coworker doesn't have time to do starts herself but will have plenty of chicken poop after she gets her chickens this spring, and I can easily start a dozen or so plants for her but I don't have easy access to manure for the garden. A great solution, and everyone is happy!

Things that I’m interested in selling I’ll often post on Craigslist in the barter section first, just to see if I can get something cool instead. Usually I’ll make a list of things that I’m interested in to give the viewer an idea of what to offer, but I’m always open to suggestions. That’s how I got the music! If your local Craigslist bartering listing is mostly cars like mine, sift through. You might find a few treasures like tree removal, digital camera, custom stained glass (current local listings).

Another great bartering venue specifically for books is Paperbackswap. You have to pay for shipping, but the books themselves are bartered, or swapped. They have a section for purchasing as well, but I’ve always stuck with the swapping.

I did a quick search and found websites that you can sign up for and barter your goods and services. I haven’t used them before, and I’m always cautious about that type of thing. I like Craigslist because it’s local, and Paperbackswap has a proven track record. Do you have another bartering venue that you’ve used and liked?

And, while I’m on the subject – Apron Thrift Girl is having a bartering campaign that I’m going to join:

“Our Bartering Campaign is called Trade Me Up and the goal is to trade items for the month of March and April with the goal of trading for something better than what you began with. What's valuable to me might not be valuable to you which is where trading and bartering can really come into play. What can be exchanged without any currency spent? Although because this is internet based, there might be some money spent on postage.”


You can read the full article at http://apronthriftgirl.typepad.com/apron_thrift_girl/2011/03/trade-me-up.html  Her first trading post (har, har) went up earlier this month.

Hopefully I’ll have something up for barter tomorrow and an accompanying wishlist! Want to join me?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Really? It’s Free?


Photo Credit: http://www.freecycle.org/
That’s right, there are still some things for free. Mostly just stuff other people don’t want, but it still counts.

Personally, my favorite way to find free items and to list items for free is through FreeCycle. I’ve signed up for my local group and I’ve gotten several items this way including:



before - minus tray
after - minus tray
See the transformation of the above highchair...

was given to a friend, baby not included, of course

exersaucer, by far Max's favorite toy


I’ve also gotten pots and plants, (hostas and irises to be specific), a couch, a baby swing, baby gate, bouncy seat, an exterior light, and several other items. I’ve gotten rid of much more than that, it’s a great way to purge and have the items go to someone who can use it!

There’s also a free section of Craigslist. I haven’t had much success finding anything, but I have had good success with posting free items and having quick pickups.

What are your favorite resources for free items? Do you have a giveaway pile? Do you list items or do you bring them to thrift stores?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Other Side of Thrift: Too Much Thrifting

A beloved find
So now that I’ve advocated thrifting, I want to talk about the other side of it. Too much thrifting. Shopping addiction. Stuff for stuff's sake.

I was raised in a recreational shopping, “I’m bored, let’s go shopping,” type of environment. (there wasn’t a lot to do where I grew up) We didn’t necessarily buy a lot each trip, but it made an impact on my behavior. When I moved out on my own, I would get bored and go shopping at these amazing malls that had two stories. (TWO STORIES!) I felt the need to fill my new apartment with a bunch of stuff. Pretty stuff, but still stuff. And it cost money. The hit on my wallet slowed me down, until yard sale season. Then I went back out and bought even more stuff that I didn’t need, because I felt the need to have things and I figured, why not? It’s not that expensive. And I really need that ____ to add to my ____ collection.

Then we moved across the country, and I couldn’t take it all with me. That was probably the best thing that could have happened to me regarding my shopping habits. I went through all of these things that I was sure I wanted and needed and did a very small purge, if you can even call it a purge. It felt like one at the time though. I stored most of that stuff. But once we got out there and I didn’t have a lot of anything (and only 500 square feet to fit two people, two cats, and two birds), I started to appreciate that less is more, in this case less stuff meant more room to live in. When we upgraded to a 750 sq ft apartment, I had room to expand, but I didn’t really. I’d gotten used to it and grown to like bare spaces.

When we moved back and I started going through all of those boxes of things that I just had to keep, I filled the garage with yard sale items. There are a few things that I had missed: a small china teapot, a toy car (a miniature of my dream car), a couple of vases. Those things, as well as a few items that are lovely and purposeful, like my milk glass lamps, stayed.

The Nester has recently discussed similar thoughts. She refers to it as thrifting-itis. I’ve listed a few of her posts below, you should check them out.

http://www.thenester.com/2010/07/the-secret-to-thrifting.html - a pro-thrifting post
http://www.thenester.com/2011/02/how-to-cure-thrift-store-shopping-itis.html
http://www.thenester.com/2011/02/your-thoughts-on-thrifting-itis.html
http://www.thenester.com/2011/02/final-thoughts-on-thrifting.html

I still absolutely go to the thrift stores, and I have a blast when I do. I purchase things. I just do so purposefully. I only buy things that are useful and that I like (like the fish lamp). I avoid knick-knacks. I avoid collectables.

Really, it’s all about moderation. Middle ground, you could say.  ; )  Where do you fall on the scale? Have you come back from the brink? Are you afraid to shop because you don’t want to catch the thrifting bug? Do you manage a happy medium?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Shopping Thrift



photo credit The Thrifty Chicks
Do you know why I love shopping at thrift stores? It’s like a yard sale that you can go to in winter. (I love yard sales! But that’s another post) Just like at yard sales, there are always great treasures just waiting to be found.

Yes, it’s become a bit of a fad lately to shop thrift, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. A lot of thrift stores are actually becoming better because of the increased public interest in buying used instead of new, upcycling, and wasting less by using what is already available.

I remember even just ten years ago, thrift stores were mostly just clothing, and kinda yucky clothing at that. Now you can find all sorts of fun things – house ware, décor, kitchen items, toys, baby paraphernalia, books, movies, music, furniture, and of course, clothes. The quality of the clothes has gotten a lot better – I have several items in my closet that are from thrift stores including the denim blazer and black slacks in this photo. My mom has a great hand knit wool sweater in the Irish Cable Knit style in perfect condition that she got for a song.

I was never much of a purposeful thrifter, I was a browser. I’d just go to the thrift stores once in a while to see if they had something interesting. Now I go with specific items in mind, though of course I keep an eye out for those gotta-have-it items. It might take a few trips, or even months of looking, to find that particular item, but if you plan ahead and have some patience the rewards can be great.

The blog that gave me the kick in the pants to purposefully thrift is The Thrifty Chicks. Shopping Golightly, the leading lady at the Thrifty Chicks, is absolutely inspiring with her thrifting finds. Her home is almost entirely furnished in repurposed items, she and her family wears almost entirely thrifted clothes, and they all (home included) look like a million bucks. Recently she got a $700/retail chair for only $40! Holy cow! She doesn’t advocate shopping for shopping’s sake, and she has one heck of a set of snake eyes and can spot the most fantastic deals. For expert tips on thrifting, or just to ogle her finds, make sure you check out her blog at http://thethriftychicks.blogspot.com/

If you’re an old hand at thrift, good for you! If you’re like I was a few years ago and just went as a novelty instead of a viable option, or if you’ve never thrifted, give it a solid chance. Check the thrift stores first instead of going right to retail. You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised. Now when I want something in particular, like a lighting fixture for the dining room, I’ll check out the thrift stores first, even if it takes a couple of trips and patient waiting until the right item turns up.

Don’t know where the thrift stores are in your area? Go to http://www.thethriftshopper.com/ put in your location, and viola! A handy list of the thrift stores near you!

So, my dear readers, go forth and check out your local thrift stores. And report back and let me know how it goes, I love to share in the thrill of a great find!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Saturday Give Away!

A Day In The LifeNo, I'm not the one doing the give away - my buddy Regan at A Day in the Life is!

You can comment to win a custom print on stretched canvas from Easy Canvas Prints, how cool is that? I know I'd love to see a photo of my son on canvas.

Go, check it out! :) http://mamacancraft.blogspot.com/2011/03/impromptu-giveaway.html

 
 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Coming Up: The 2nd aRRR!



The most ARRRsome hat I've made!
We (and by we, I mean me) are into the three R’s at our house – the classic Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Next week I’m going to be discussing the second R: Reuse. As in second-hand items. (Is it just me, or is that cool that it’s the second R and it can stand for second-hand?)

I’ll be talking about:



Thrifting


Free Stuff


Bartering


I’m sure there will be a little bit of Reduce in there as well, that is an important factor as well when talking about accumulation of things – reducing as you accumulate to keep it all in balance.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Kitchen Clean Out

That's only a small portion of my canning jars
I was initially going to title this post Pantry Clean Out – but really, I’ve been attacking organizing the whole kitchen, not just the pantry area. Since the highchair is in the kitchen while the dining room is being remodeled, I’ve been spending a lot of time there recently, hanging out with Max while he eats his big-boy-finger-foods (a very time-intensive process). Needless to say, I’ve had a lot of time to kill in the kitchen. So, I’ve been organizing and cleaning out the cupboards.

Like I mentioned yesterday, the inspiration for my cooking recently has been to use what I already have in the cupboards and freezer (and fridge, of course) to clean them out. That inspired the Tex-Mex Sticky Rice, Chicken & Pineapple Pizza, and Crock Pot Macaroni & Cheese. And when hubby’s not around for dinner, just eating a package of instant mashed potatoes. I love those things.

I’ve found some interesting things in my cupboards – like a jar of roasted red peppers, a couple of cans of bean sprouts, water chestnuts, and bamboo shoots (I must have wanted to make some fried rice or lo mien at some point), 4 cans of clams, another jar of soy sauce (thank goodness that stuff lasts forever), rice noodles (yep, I definitely was going to do some at-home-takeout-Chinese food at some point), and a plethora of spices in the spice cupboard. A few spices I’ve never used that I recognized as having bought in San Diego – in 2005. Those got put in the compost bag.

I’ve been going cupboard by cupboard, doing inventory, organizing, getting ideas for meals, getting rid of gadgets, pans, containers, etc., that I don’t use or that I can live without, and overall making the kitchen more functional.

Some things I’ve done:
  • put the baby food jars and containers that I’ve collected into a box so they wouldn’t topple all over the shelf 
  • grouped spices by general type (baking = cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg; taco = cumin, red pepper, paprika, etc)
  • put like pantry foods next to each other
  • stacked Tupperware/plastic ware and lids, getting rid of any broken or mismatched pieces
  • gave the stick blender back to my mother
  • dedicated two cupboards to baby items, one near the sink for bathing (towels, washcloths, soap) and the other for food, bottles, and misc

It feels so nice to have some organization in the kitchen. When we moved in I didn’t have a feel for the kitchen yet so having a chance to rework what wasn’t working has been great.

Have you gone through your kitchen lately? What have you discovered? Have you changed anything? If not, it’s a great time for an early spring cleaning!


P.S. Yes, I know I don't really need that many pie plates and tart pans, but I just can't make myself get rid of any.