Saturday, May 31, 2008

Building My Log Cabin One Row at a Time

Here is the basket of yarn leftovers that I've been using in my log cabin blanket.

Here is my log cabin blanket.

If you look closely, you'll discover that there are colors mixed in some of the bands. Look at the yellow section. It starts out dark, then gets lighter and finally finishes out in white. Check out the maroon, beige, multi colored section. Or how about the section I'm currently working on, blue with two rows of multi colored in the middle.

So what's all this funky color combining about? Simple, I really want to see if I can use up all my yarn leftovers so I'm sneaking them in wherever I can. Sometimes it works perfectly, like the blue section I'm working on now. I had just enough multi colored yarn to create two rows in the center. Sometimes I screw up and badly misjudge how much yarn I have/need for a particular section, see the aforementioned yellow section.

In the end though, I like the way its coming together. Along the way something else has happened...

Somebody else is getting hooked on knitting! Rob's been on the waiting list to learn to knit at school. This past week I finally gave in to his begging and tested my knitting skills by teaching him how to knit. Now he can go to the knitting club at school because he already knows how to knit.

Friday, May 30, 2008

A Corn Trick & a Bedwetting Solution - How's That For an Odd Pairing?

As you might have guessed, things didn't go smoothly packing the car last week. In fact, it resulted in a trip to the emergency room for our youngest who tumbled down a hill in the melee almost breaking his hand. After Jim spent hours in the emergency room with Kyle, I gave up. We left Friday morning instead, grateful that Kyle's hand wasn't broken. Things got a lot smoother after that.

I was particularly pleased with the food I made. It was all very simple but a few experimental things worked very well. I cooked corn on the cob in the slow cooker on low with just enough water to cover the bottom of the pot. The results were fabulous, especially since I have no microwave, only a three burner stove and a very small oven to do all my cooking.

We had a lot of company on Saturday so I gave up on the standard burger/dog fare and instead made a baked ziti using Follow Your Heart vegan mozzarella. I served this with the fancy biscuit recipe from How it All Vegan and a vegetable that I can't remember (how sad is that??) For dessert I broke my own rule and tried a new recipe, Chocolate Upside Down Pudding Cake, also from How it All Vegan. (We needed a birthday cake ASAP, I had no choice but to break my own rule!)

This recipe was a big hit served with a scoop of ice cream on top. By itself it had a slightly chalky taste, although no one noticed except for me. I suspect if you incorporated some powdered soymilk into the pudding mixture the result might be creamier tasting. The leftovers of this cake, with a scoop of ice cream, reappeared at almost every meal much to everyone's delight.

I used the leftover biscuits as buns for the veggie burgers I made the next day. I used Isa's recipe from Vegan With a Vengeance. It's always a hit. In fact we eat a lot of the burger mix uncooked while we cook the burgers. Ah, the simple joys of vegan cooking! We served these with homemade oven fries, the aforementioned corn and baked beans.

So now that I've been back to reality for a few days, here's what's going on.

First of all, if you've got a bedwetter on your hands, listen up. This is my second go round with bedwetting and, as near as I can tell, the end result is always a ruined, foul smelling mattress. My frugal solution, in addition to the usual plastic sheet/absorbent pad/etc, has always been to give the bedwetter hand me down mattresses. So for example, this weekend we had to replace the girls mattresses. One was in just horrible shape with springs coming through, the other was ok for a lighter child to sleep on.

The ok one replaced a foul smelling one that was beyond repair (believe me I know, I've even used the carpet steamer on mattresses to give them a little more life). Here's where I accidentally made a frugal discovery. Bunk boards are the supports used in place of box springs in bunk beds. (If your bunk bed has enough support slats no bunk board is needed.) Bunk boards may be the most crappily constructed thing I've ever encountered. Aside from a wooden frame, they are made of cardboard and covered with low quality fabric. A piece of plywood would work just fine and probably be less expensive, but I digress.

When I removed the old mattress, I discovered the stink of it still lingered. The smell was coming from the bunk board. I dragged it outside, ripped off the fabric, removed the cardboard. This left me with just a wood frame, which thankfully didn't smell. Originally, I thought I'd have to recreated the cardboard and fabric cover but then I thought, "WHY??"

I put the naked frame back on the bed, topped it with the mattress and it worked perfectly.

I'm still working on my log cabin blanket. In an effort to use up scraps, or perhaps because I've gone nutty, I've taken to combining colors to finish out a particular patch. I'll post pictures and explain more about this tomorrow.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Finding Peace In the Madness of It All

Earlier I was running around like a loony trying to get ready to go away. Now I'm sitting here sipping a cup of coffee trying to regroup. The reality is, I'm a down to the wire packing up the car kind of a gal. So why am I trying to fight it? I know I'm leaving late and arriving late no matter what I had planned originally. It's part of the joy of living with four kids and many pets.

So I've decided to try and find the joy in the process of packing rather than continuing to run around like a loony trying to meet an arbitrary deadline. Perhaps my newfound inner peace comes from the yoga class that I had to stop and teach this afternoon. It really helped me come to peace with my task.

The food I cook this weekend will evolve from the staples I bring up. I have vowed not to stress over it. We are getting together to enjoy each others company not to be food critics.

I hope you all find peace and joy in your holiday weekend!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Must Focus!!

Has anyone else ever noticed that whenever you're up against a cleaning deadline, something (usually something that breathes) is often working against you? In just over 24 hours I'll be heading to the Adirondacks with the kids, 2 dogs and a car full of stuff. All I want is to leave a clean house behind but I'm starting to think it isn't meant to be.

Aside from a lack of time, Biscuit's got a belly ache complete with diarrhea and farting. Actually, he's always tooting but now it's bad enough to make your eyes water. The pepto hasn't kicked in completely, although it is improving things so I'm on "doggy gotta go now" watch. This means keeping the dog in the same room with me and paying careful attention to his body language. I have to say, it's a little limiting, especially since he runs out of the room whenever I run the vacuum.

BTW, for anyone who's wondering why I don't just give the dog rice instead of pepto, it's because he won't eat rice at all. He just spits it out.

I'd also like to get a meal plan figured out for the weekend since we'll be having quite a bit of company. Must focus...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I Made Pop-Tarts - Sort Of

I guess it all comes down to this, if you hate rolling out pie crusts, why would you want to roll out dough for Pop-Tart like creations? Think of how many opportunities there would be for the dough to stick to the counter. If only I'd thought of this a few hours ago...

I confess, my attempted toaster pastries have been molded into one giant, crumbly, hand pressed toaster tart. It's baking right now. It's going to be a mess but a tasty mess. Being frugal means not throwing it out, it doesn't mean it always has to look pretty. I'm not even going to tell the kids they were supposed to be Pop-Tarts. It's just too embarassing.

So don't despair when your recipe comes out less than picture perfect. Why do you think I rarely take pictures of food? Now go cook something.

I'm in a cooking and cleaning frenzy. Much laundry to do, bread is rising, beans are cooking, pop-tart thingies are toasting away.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Cooking So the Cookie Won't Crumble

I made a delightful batch of oatmeal cookies yesterday. I started with the recipe in Simple Treats for Oatmeal Raisin Cookies and changed it to make use of what I had onhand. Here are the changes I made:

subbed granulated sugar for maple syrup (you need to increase the liquid in your recipe if you do this)

subbed whole wheat pastry flour for barley flour

subbed dried currants for raisins

There were no earth shattering substitutions but if you're new to cooking or just rigid in your cooking technique, these changes may seem shocking. The trick is to look at the purpose of each ingredient.

The barley flour binds the cookie together, whole wheat pastry flour will do the same. But the recipe already calls for you to grind up some of the oatmeal into oat flour. Why not just use oat flour in place of the barley flour. The oat flour will not bind things together well. You'll wind up with a very crumbly cookie.

The maple syrup provides sweetness and liquid. Sugar can provide sweetness and soymilk (or other liquid of choice, even water) can make up for the lost liquid.

The raisins provide a texture and a sweetness. Currants can do the same. In fact lots of dried fruits would work in this recipe. Use what you like.

You can do this too! Find a recipe that you have most of the ingredients for and go for it. Tell me how it goes.

BTW, I've finally taken down the Cut the Crap banner, a mere 16 days after the challenge ended. Thanks to Chile for inspiring us all. We're still crap cutting around here but I think its just an integral part of our existance. Once people know you're frugal they tend to deposit their excess stuff with you. This is a mixed blessing. Stuff comes in and we need to make sure that stuff we can't use goes out. I guess that means I have to come to terms with the fact that no one wants to pay for the karate sparring gear that I put on craigslist. Off to the thrift store it must go.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Where Does the Time Go??

The commitments of everyday parenting come to a demanding crescendo this time of year. We're knee deep in it and getting deeper everyday. There's not a lot of time for blogging, or breathing for that matter.

My oldest went to her junior prom last Friday. We drove to the prom and her date's parents drove home so we avoided paying for a limo. I was shocked how many kids actually did rent limos for the occasion. Then again, I probably shouldn't have been shocked when you consider the prom was held at the same place my brother had his wedding. My junior prom was in the high school cafeteria and we still turned out okay.

The dress was a bit pricey ($119) but we'd agreed my daughter had to pay half. All the other expenses were hers, including the $310 hair-do (she got hair extensions sewn in, a very pricey thing indeed!) In her defense, she had the money, she'd always wanted to do this and it will last 2 1/2 months. I don't think she'll be too quick to spend that much on her hair again though. She hated seeing her balance go down so quickly.

My cooking has been so basic it's boring me to tears but no one else seems to notice. My meal plan has been a real life saver. When I'm standing in the kitchen all brain dead and unmotivated, it does the thinking for me.

The book Cheaper & Better that I had mentioned, has some interesting ideas but they need to be veganized and I haven't had the time or energy to give them too much thought. There is a pop tart like recipe that my kids would love. I'm hoping to try it later this week.

Through it all, I continue to knit. It's like a crazy addiction. My mother in law just gave me a bunch of yarn leftovers which I've gleefully been using in my log cabin blanket. I think that was the best mother's day gift of them all, although the crocheted blanket she made ne was very nice too.

Why does knitting make me so happy? I'm not sure but I take it with me everywhere I go. Case and point, Jim had to drop his car off for service and I whipped it out while he was filling out the little envelope.

Now I'm off to a second grade spring concert but out of respect I'll leave the knitting behind, unless I get there early enough to get a row or two in before the singing starts!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Bike

Wouldn't you know it, the laundry was gently swaying in the breeze and just about dry when the sky suddenly darkened and it started to rain. No sooner had I yanked 3/4 of it off the clothesline, the rain stopped and the sky brightened. Why was Mother Nature trying to toy with me?? I opted to tumble the laundry in the dryer rather than risk another shower. Sometimes practicality has to take priority over frugality.

I'm not getting anywhere on this quilting project and its really annoying me. I can't seem to find the time. It looks like Tuesday will be a good day to try again since I'll be off and alone all day.

Sometimes the promises I make myself drive me nutty. A while back I set myself a goal to not pay full price for anything unless absolutely necessary. Then your son's birthday comes sneaking up on you and you can't find what you're looking for...what then???

I was on a quest for a bike for my very tall son. I didn't want to buy a new one. After all, he's an 8 year old boy. Have you ever seen the way 8 year olds treat their bikes? The ones in my neighborhood don't understand what a kickstand is for. They just let the bike drop to the ground. The thing was, I couldn't find one in the size I needed. So I...looked harder!

I know that sounds snotty but its true. I expanded my search. I checked online tag sale sites, I checked craigslist, I was about to check ebay locally when the perfect bike popped up on craigslist for $20. So now it sits in my parents garage waiting for my son's birthday to arrive.

Now if I could just think of an idea for my other son's birthday which is coming up in July...

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Frugal Overdrive!

Since the living room was emptied for the rug to be installed, I've had a bit of trouble putting stuff back in. It looked so nice empty. Its been a good opportunity to do a little unexpected craft culling. I've begun the tedious task of sorting through two boxes of buttons that I acquired a while back. Some are broken, some are hideous and there's an awful lot of linty ickiness in the boxes. My goal is to get it down to one box of useable, useful buttons. It could take a while though, I keep getting disgusted and walking away from the project.

My log cabin blanket is coming along. I know you're not supposed to do the same yarn on all four sides but its my project and I wanted to finish up this little ball of yarn so a big raspberry to anyone who doesn't like it! I've got quite a collection of little yarn balls that will become part of this project.

I just took Cheaper & Better Homemade Alternatives to Storebought Goods out of the library. I haven't had a chance to really look at it yet but I've heard good things about it.

I'm off to get the day started! Bread to make, laundry to wash & hang, dinner to get started. There's no room for unfrugality (is that even a word??) right now since we've begun the project of replacing our worn out deck. The cost of the supplies is enough to give me heartburn. Between that and the cost of gas, we've got to keep our expenses super low as we try to sock some money away for the two months that I don't work. Time to kick into Frugal Overdrive!