Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Hiii everyone...my madre will not be able to blog this weeek. she will blog again this weekend so stay frugal =]

...her daughter leen <3

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

My Thanksgiving Promises

I just discovered 100 Mile Diet website. The goal of Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon, creators of this diet, was to eat foods and beverages produced within a 100 mile radius of their home. Their website has lots of great resources, especially if you're just starting out. I liked their 13 reasons for eating local. I find it exciting that the concept of eating locally keeps popping up in various media. The more voices that talk about living a more earth friendly life, the more likely we are to be heard!!

In non-envrionmentally friendly news, I find it somewhat torturous to listen to radio and tv this time of year. Just reading a newspaper peeves me. Everything this time of year is about consumption. It starts with the inherent gluttony associated with Thanksgiving smattered across sales fliers, pushing everyone into a grocery store frenzy. I defy you to find an empty parking space or a free shopping cart in a grocery store today.

If we stop to breathe and think long enough, we might remember that Thanksgiving is about being thankful. It should be a time for families and friends to gather together and enjoy each other's company, not a time to empty the shelves of the local grocery store.

Tomorrow morning we will be assaulted with advertisements that have become the Macy's Thanksgiving parade. Don't misunderstand me, I really enjoy the parade itself. I even like the silly, at times obviously scripted, banter between the hosts. I just can't stand the number of commercials that one must endure during the parade. I can't stand the obnoxious way kids make demands in commercials. I can't stand the fact that we are expected to spend, spend, spend. If you're short on cash, not to worry, those nice folks at visa, mastercard, disover and american express will help you out. Grrr!!!

The other day at school my daughter's teacher announced that it was impossible to be an Amercian and not be in debt. My daughter took exception to that comment and informed the teacher that her parents were not in debt. She told her teacher we didn't have car loans or credit card debt. Her teacher refused to believe her. Leen got indignant and told the teacher all we have is our mortgages. The teacher was gleeful, essentially saying I told you so. Leen was so pissed off.

"So if you were renting you wouldn't be in debt??" she asked me. I told her technically not, but you'll alway need to pay for the place you live in and we're less than 9 years away from owning both houses outright. That doesn't sound like traditional debt to me. She shook her head and said something like, my teacher doesn't believe people like you exist.

The entire holiday season caters to people who don't believe you can be frugal and happy. No wonder Leen's teacher couldn't fathom our lifestyle choices. So.......

I will not go to a grocery store today.

I will not be taken in by the slick commercials that bombard me tomorrow morning.

I will not become inpatient with my children, especially the younger ones, when they begin to get the screaming-I-wants after viewing the parade.

I will not be made to feel guilty about not participating in the "let's get up at 3 am to wait in the parking lot, coupons in hand, until the big box store opens so I can get a great price on ____."

I will make my Thanksgiving meal using foods already in my home, many of which were locally grown.

I will enjoy the company of my family and friends.

I will encourage my family to take holiday buying down a notch.

I will enjoy creating handmade holiday gifts for the people closest to me and I will encourage and help my children to do the same.

Happy Thanksgiving to All!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Coat Coup!

Today I hit the thrift store jackpot. First, I was able to find dress shoes and dress pants for my 7 year old to wear for his chorus concert. (The teacher who thought up the no sneakers, no jeans rule for concerts obviously hates parents. Who has dress shoes for a 7 yr old boy??)

At a second thrift store I was able to get a toaster oven to replace our broken one. Yeah!! Nothing makes my family happier than toast, especially Jim. Since thrift stores often sell appliances as is, I asked to plug in the toaster oven before I bought it. I always find the staff is very willing to let me do that, no matter what thrift store I'm at. In fact I often find thrift store staff much friendlier than retail store staff.

My final find was a winter coat for me. I almost didn't try it on because it was missing a button. It turns out the missing button was in the pocket! Can you see me doing my happy dance? I always get a kick out of the fact that I wind up wearing much higher end clothing by shopping at thrift stores than I ever did buying retail. I mean I'd never by myself a Jones of New York coat off the rack at Macy's and yet I just bought one that looks brand new for $4.99 today!

The catch is, the coat is wool. For me, this is the great conundrum of being vegan and frugal. It is where two sets of ideals smack head first into each other. While I would never buy a wool coat new, I have less trouble buying it used. This is reinforced by the cost of some animal friendly options like Pangea's non wool pea coat . I'd love to buy it but I can't justify spending $169.95.

Then too there's the green aspect to consider. The energy has already been expended to produce the coat I bought at the thrift store. Since its a local purchase requiring no shipping (i.e. gas) it becomes a significantly greener choice in my book.

There's so much to consider when making a purchase but I'm pretty pleased with this one. Does that make me a bad vegan?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Since When Does Thanksgiving Come So Early?

I just looked at a calendar and was alarmed to discover that Thanksgiving is next week! Aoogah!! Sound the alarm, I'm totally unprepared! Actually, I feel no stress at all about planning my holiday menu.

I'm not on valium, so it must just be the calm that comes along with eating and cooking a particular way over a really long period of time. I have plenty of food in the fridge, freezer and quasi root cellar (that's my cute way of saying where I store potatoes and squashes in baskets in my basement.) I also have a fairly large repetiore of recipes. I feel confident that a plan will naturally unfold this weekend. Just in case, I'l peruse my archives under vegetarian holiday cooking.

Once again, four Tofurky and four Tofurky gravies were purchased for our day after Thanksgiving family feast. Its really grown into a tradition around our house. With the discovery of the baked seitan recipe, I really think I could make my own Tofurky-like roast but I've been over ruled. My day will come! BTW, I experimented with baking the seitan in a covered pan rather than foil and it worked out very well.

Now I'm off to cook dinner, drive a child to work, clean a little, knit a little and chill a little.

Happy weekend to all!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Worms Crawl In the Worms Crawl Out

Its a rainy NY day. The kids have left for school, Jim's still sleeping (he's working nights this week) and I'm typing by the light of the monitor while I sip my coffee. Even the dogs are still sleeping! If I didn't have to teach a class at 10:00, I swear I might go back to bed as well!

There are projects that I get so involved in that need to be set aside for one reason or another. Time passes and you begin to wonder, what ever happened with the...indoor worm bin?

We ran into some major compost problems this past summer. The main problem revolved around a humungous beehive that got built inside my outdoor compost heap. Since we were away for the summer and Jim was living off of food I prepared and froze, no one was going near the bin for all of June and July. By the time Jim noticed the swarming bees we were in big trouble. Although I despise pesticides, we had to use a combination of them and boiling water to finally end the problem.

You may be thinking why not just wait it out and deal with it in the colder weather? Unfortunately, this compost heap was conviently located about 6 feet from my garage door and 20 feet from my back door. With my kids running in and out constantly, it wasn't worth the risk.

The worm bins, on the other hand, were less eventful. Those little buggers just plod along, working their way through whatever you give them. The trick is, you have to stop filling the bin once its full. I know that sounds idiotic but I also know I'm not the only one who's tempted to fit just a little bit more in! (I'm like that with the washing machine too. I really have to resist the urge to add just one more shirt!)

We had begun composting the guinea pig bedding in the worm bin and I was curious to see how that went. (Yes I confess, I had definitely overfilled it. I had packed in guinea pig turd encrusted newspapers all the way up to the lid. I'm a bad worm mommy. I need a support group where I can go in and say, "Hi, my name is Katie and I'm an overfiller.") After two months of no peeking, the results were amazing. The bedding is gone, just a few canteloupe rind remnants remain. I'll be putting some of this compost on my rather anemic looking houseplants later today.

BTW, the reason over filling the bin is a bad idea is because when the organic matter gets so too abundant and the worms can't keep up, you get bugs. Bugs in the worm bin generally escape into the room, which makes everyone who comes in contact with them think worm bins are disgusting.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

You Say Potato

After years of dial up connections to the internet, we've finally upgraded to fios. This means I can finally check out things that my slow dial up connection made impossible.

My first stop was the Post Punk Kitchen. I wanted a peek at the shows that grew into Vegan with a Vengeance! I watched the first two shows last night. I still don't like sushi, vegan or otherwise. I can't get past the fishy taste of the nori (sorry all you sushi lovers!) but it was great to see a cooking show that resembled cooking in my own kitchen, makeshift double boiler and all. Although, I drop a lot more stuff on the floor. (The dogs stay near my feet to catch shooting carrot coins as I drop them.)

Speaking of Isa and VwaV, I made her knishes this weekend. I made all three kinds, potato and onion, potato onion and spinach (although I used bok choy because I was out of spinach) and sweet potato. The potato ones were demolished quickly and I presume them to be a big hit. The sweet potato ones were ok but had a more desserty taste than I expected. I'll definitely make the two white potato recipes again. Now if only I could remember to call them knishes and not pierogies!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Got An Itch?

Jim's in the process of making a scratching post for Otis. Here are some DIY links he's using for inspiration:

Dollar Stretcher Scratching Posts

WikiHow Cat Scratching Post

Some tips on getting your cat to use the post you've made

A really elaborate scratching post

Jim also used the sawbuck for the first time last night with amazing results. By making the cross piece of sawbuck the size we need the wood to be, he elminated any guess work as well as time wasted on measuring. I love it when things work out so well.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

When Your Sheet is Shot

In the grand scheme of things, I'm not sure how high up this little annoyance of mine really ranks but today's the day I solve the problem. The elastic on the corners of fitted sheet on our bed is dead. This means the sheet frequently comes untucked. It drives me crazy but not crazy enough to buy a new fitted sheet.

Last year I bought some bias tape for the mittens I made last year. I also have a variety of elastic leftover from other projects and salvaged from clothes used for projects.

The plan is to make a little sleeve on each corner of the sheet using the bias tape and then slide in the elastic, sew it in place and sew the little sleeve shut. It sounds deceptively simple but I've often found that working with elastic is a pain in the rear. I'll do it early in the day before I become cranky and fatigued.

Here's an odd frugal tip that I stumbled upon last night. We were setting up Jim's lunch and breakfast for today since he had to work. Jim was putting together the morning coffee so all he had to do was plug it in this morning. Unfortunately he plugged it in last night and before we knew it the aroma of perking coffee filled the kitchen at 10:30pm. I waited for it to finish and put it in a thermos figuring it might stay warm enough for me to enjoy with just a little shot in the microwave. Imagine my surprise when I poured it into a mug this morning and it was still steaming hot!

Remember to peruse your root cellar (or gee lets pretend this is a root cellar)veggies weekly, one bad apple will certainly spoil the whole bunch otherwise. Today I'll be cooking up some squash and apples that aren't holding as well as I'd hoped.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Knitting & Cooking

I've made it to Friday, I'm so grateful. This week was beginning to feel like it would never end. Of course its going out with a bang. Tonight, Rob's got a practice swim meet at the Y followed by a little party. On the positive side, I'd have to at least stop by there twice anyway to drive Tasha to and from work. I look upon the evening as a gas saving venture rather than a time sucking one! Actually, its a great opportunity to do some knitting. (There's a lot of down time at swim meets, even practice ones.)

This week in knitting class, I made my first practice heel flap for my sock. Its was exciting, and a bit stressful. I'm caught up in so many different knitting projects. I even started knitting a hat while I was waiting for Leen to get out of lifeguard training the other night. Can this obsession be healthy? Sure it can, its stopping me from eating all the Halloween candy.

In food news, we're finally coming to the end of the lettuce in the fridge. Now I just need to find something yummy to do with the daikon radishes. I welcome any suggestions. The funny thing is, despite the multitude of veggies I've used this week the fridge remains PACKED!

We made our first batch of candy chip cookies last night in celebration of Rob's report card. Kyle was so cute mixing the batter, tasting it every so often and exclaiming, "It's really very good!" I love that being vegan means never worrying if your kids eat raw cookie dough or cake batter. (Oh, and I can nip some of the batter too.) I think any time you cook with kids its a good idea to eliminate potential sources of salmonella and ecoli. I taught a nutrition program at a preschool for 10 years and we made all sorts of foods with the kids. I always used egg replacer and no one was the wiser. It gave me peace of mind.

Its already 1:15 and I'm still searching for dinner inspiration for tonight. I'm leaning toward something involving sweet potato (because I have them) and red lentils (because they cook up quickly). Right now I'm going to sneak off to the living room, where the wood stove is burning and the air is warm, to get some knitting done before I have to be mom again.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Using What I've Got Veggie Wise

Wednesdays are such a hectic day for us. Its one of those days where everything seems to intersect. We've got swim team 6:00 - 7:30pm, lifeguard training 6:30-10:00pm, and knitting 7:00 - 9:00pm. We've pretty much gotten it down to a science but it still has us feeling like we're in perpetual motion. Thankfully, we've only got a few more weeks to go.

Dinner last night was going to be leftover pasta baked with some home made cheese substitute but when I went to get it out of the fridge I discovered a hungry child had demolished most of it after school! I had to make an alternate plan and I had to do it quickly. My solution was unorthodox but it worked out pretty well.

I took a bit of leftover split pea soup, mixed in the remaining pasta with sauce and added a bit of water to thin it out. I set this on the stove while I popped leftover veggie burgers into the toaster oven. (I had made the veggie burgers the day before using leftovers of a Garden Vegetable Borscht recipe from one of Sarah Kramer's books.) I enlisted a child to rinse and chop lettuce while another child made French dressing (vegenaise and ketchup mixed together). I scrubbed and chopped a few carrots to brighten the salad and add some nutritional punch. In 15 minutes we had a meal on the table and it was quite good, although nothing like what I had in mind. At least it used up some more of the lettuce!

Chile posted this recipe in yesterday's comments. Barring unforseen disaster, I'm planning on trying it tonight.
Lettuce & Peas Chiffonade
10 outer leaves of lettuce, stacked and rolled into fat tube. Cut into fine even shreds.
1 onion, diced
1 c frozen peas (may omit or substitute!)
Salt & pepper to taste
1 tbs soy milk

Saute lettuce & onions in a little bit of water until lettuce is limp and onion is translucent.
Add peas and cook a moment.
Season and stir another minute.
Add soymilk. Stir and cook on low heat for 30 seconds.

Last night, I set up steel cut oats in the slow cooker. In the interest of adding both fruit and variety to our day, I chopped up two apple, with skin left on, added a teaspoon of ground cinnamon and tossed in a half cup of sunflower seeds. The smell this morning was divine and it tasted good too.

I put dried lima beans in the larger slow cooker last night. This morning I'll be adding in the ingredients for Cider Baked Beans from 125 Best Vegetarian Slow Cooker Recipes, mainly because I have a lot of carrots and celery on hand and the recipe calls for it. How's that for menu planning?

In decluttering news, I was able to stop by the thrift store and donate everything from our closet organizing event. It felt so good to totally complete that job.

Would you believe I found a bag of the jar sprouting lids that I love for only $1.00. This will allow me greater variety in my sprouting or even continuous sprouting when my veggie stash gets low or boring!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Cleaning Out the Closet

Jim was off the last two days, hence my erratic blogging. With the kids at school, we were able to power through several projects that had been mocking us. One of the biggest projects was cleaning out and organizing our closet under the stairs. That particular closet was a catch all for miscellaneous things. It was also the place where many of my craft supplies resided.

In organizing this closet, I took a long hard look at each thing I came across. A giant box of brand new fabric from freecycle was a keeper for future sewing projects. A half done latch hook rug was put in the pile to be donated. Lanyard that had been lying around for eons went in the donate pile. The more I dug my way into the closet, the more I discovered that really needed to be donated. There were 10 x 13 picture frames that I passed on to my daughters to use for collages of friend's pictures. (The largest pictures I ever get are school pictures and those are 8 x 10.)

Jim installed some shelves (plain pine board and L brackets) on one wall of the closet and now we have a much more functional, organized and less cluttered space. Suddenly, we can find all the leftover paint for touch up work!

Jim was so inspired by the lack of clutter that he attacked his record collection, finally sorting out the records he didn't want. I'll head to the thrift store to make a donation on my way home from work today.

Yesterday was our last CSA pick up of the season. My fridge is stuffed, my freezer is stuffed and I've got baskets of squash and potatoes in the cooler locations in my house. I think we're pretty well set with local, chemical free produce for the winter. YEAH!

Now, the cooking challenge really shifts to using what I have on hand. I have to put my thinking cap on while looking at recipes not forgetting to vary things or risk being left with a freezer full of some less loved veggie to slog through day after day.

The first thing I intend to use up is the lettuces, mainly because they are the most perishable. I don't really care for lettuce in the colder weather but its here so I'll us it. I like to make it a little heartier by toasting some sunflower seeds in a dry cast iron pan and sprinkling them over the top of my salad.

More on working my way through the fridge over the next several days.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Frugal Victories ***with a Little Update***

Frugal victories come in all forms. Sometimes it's a price that rang up wrong at the grocery store and you get the item free, like the coffee pot. Sometimes, it's a find at the thrift store, like the cast iron muffin pan that I paid $2 for this weekend.

Sometimes, it's walking into a car showroom, test driving a used car you like (that you've already done all your homework on), making a cash offer that is silly low and still having it accepted. This frugal veggie mama no longer owns a minivan! I also do not have car payments and my insurance actually went down a few dollars. (If you squeeze your eyes shut really tightly, you can see me doing my happy dance!)

I now drive a 2000 Mercury Sable wagon which still seats 7 but gets 5 miles more per gallon and doesn't have all the impending illnesses that my Odyssey did. My goal is to downsize my car even further in about two years but in the meantime, I have to remember I do have four kids to haul around.

Sometimes good planning is the key to a frugal victory. Just this past weekend we drove to Long Island for my son's swim meet. We packed food and drinks for the road. This allowed us to eat healthier (why do they always serve hot dogs at these things???) and save a ton of cash. I confess, I smuggled a few granola bars in despite the signs saying no outside food but the majority of our eating we did out at the car.

Now I need to get busy to make a few more frugal victories occur. What frugal victories have you had lately?

Just a Little Update:

Speaking of the "new" car, Ruthie asked,"Will it get you to the Adirondacks with the dogs, bird, pigs, and cat? Oh, and kids? :-)" She asked in a joking way but a lot of people have asked without the smile in their voice. I thought I'd share a bit more on this.

Certainly the space of a minivan is much more ideal for long trips like that but when it comes right down to it, can I justify buying a larger less efficient vehicle for what essentially amounts to 22 car rides in a 12 month period? (BTW, the 22 car rides include the trip up and back.) For Jim and I, the answer was no.

So how will we make the big exodus without a minivan to haul all of stuff? We'll have to bring up more things in the months/weeks prior to moving up for the summer. This is ok with me. Even if it means making an extra trip, I'm always looking for an excuse to head up.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

It Must Be a Tradition

I was just looking back in my archives to see if I had posted my leftover Halloween candy solution and I discovered that I made the exact same meal this year as last year! Apparently vegan sloppy joes are a Halloween staple at my house. Who knew?? I guess this underlines the need to have a repertiore of a few quick and easy meals to pull out for nights that spiral out of control.

This year I served the sloppy joes with baked potatoes instead of bulgur. I used homemade ketchup that I made and froze this summer in the recipe. The boys loved it more than storebought ketchup. Jim did not but he ate it anyway. (The girls ate at friends' houses so I have no input from them yet.) That's how it always goes!

Ruthie posted a Quick Raisin Bread recipe that I'm itching to try after work today. Conveniently, we've run out of quick grab breakfast items so it fits in nicely with my plans.

After a week of running around like a mad woman, my errands are all done. I've even put the car issue to bed and I did it all by myself. (Ladies, let's all stand up and sing a rousing chorus of "I Am Woman Here Me Roar") I have to confess, after 17 years of marriage, I prefer working as a team to flying solo on big decisions. (Although Jim was involved in the research at home, I was the one doing all the leg work.) I'm glad that's over and done with.

BTW, speaking of women roaring, does anyone else hate the image of the very pregnant woman that cafemom uses in all its ads? There's something about it that just irritates me. There's never a mom with a child, just a very pregnant woman. We're not all pregnant, all the time. It reminds me of a book Jim's been reading, The Terror Dream, about how images of women in post 9-11 America have been presented.