Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Choosing trust

I had just dropped Samantha off at her youth group swimming party and then stopped at Goodwill to leave some donations. There, propped against the outside wall with the other donations, was a beautifully curved white iron twin bed frame, the kind that were ordinary at the turn of the last century. I got out of the car and asked the attendant how much the bed frame was, knowing that I shouldn't even be tempting myself. (Money's tight.) He told me that it couldn't be sold until it is priced and on the floor, but that he guessed it would be between 14.99 and 19.99 and should be on the floor in thirty minutes. I thanked him for the information, left my donation and went home, struggling not to pull into Safeway and get some cash all the way.

You see, I LOVE old furnishings. Well, I love just about anything old if its got good bones. I have an unusual eclectic mix of traditional, cottage, some Victorian, and even a slightly-cluttered-traditional-slash-Pottery-Barn-ish air in my home. (It's the living room that has the Pottery Barn take going on in bits and pieces, since we "had" to buy a contemporary sofa and own a Scandia entertainment unit and I'm attempting to make everything work while still expressing my own style!) Seeing an old iron bed going for comparative pennies makes my mouth water. Do I have a place for it right now? No. Will I have a place for it someday? Maybe. Do I have a place to store it? Well, yes, this house came with a three-car-garage. However, we moved a three-bedroom-house-full, an attic-full, and a storage-unit-full of possessions to this three-bedroom home. We've never managed to have the blowout garage sale that would clear out most of the garage for a workshop area for Hubby, a dance-floor area for Samantha and a project area for me. In other words, bringing home a bed which will then be homeless in our garage (or more clutter, in other words) would make Hubby very unhappy.

Actually, this bed is only the latest in my series of small desires that often flare up, demanding notice and insisting quite loudly that I stop being sensible and just go and "buy it!". During the past week, I've resisted cocktail shrimp and ice cream on sale (not to be eaten together!), a vintage-y hanging planter I saw at my favorite consignment store as I drove past, a picture frame and lamp at Goodwill when I was specifically looking for shirts and shorts for Samantha, and a set of sheer curtains advertised in a JCPenney ad. Each time, I've had to invoke the "Do I need this or just want it?" question and then urge myself to move on.

I KNOW, with every atom of my being, that God will provide EXACTLY WHAT I NEED. Sometimes he even provides what I simply desire - that thing desired for its loveliness or usefulness or even newness. What I don't know, is WHEN he will provide it. That's where trust in him has been growing me. I say "growing me" on purpose. Yes, trust in him is growing "in" me, but God is growing me, stretching me, watching me as I firmly push down those "I want" impulses and send the wish to him. He asks only that I wait and trust. At 49 years old, I find that my willingness to be obedient to him is becoming easier and sweeter.

Because he's there. Constant. Watching over me. Loving me. Holding me up. And utterly filling my heart. What iron bed or antique mirror or transferware plate can do that?

I love to be surrounded by the little things, the "things" that I've lovingly gathered to fill my home. I also know that home isn't made up of the things in it, but the people who live there and the love they have for each other. But the truest truth I know is that the empty place in each of our hearts that we are born with, the one hollowed out there by our Creator that can only be truly filled by him, waits for him to be invited in and can never be filled by the pursuit and ownership of mere things.

Finally, I'm human. I still want the bed! But, I'll let him decide when the time is right for this desire. And I'll go to sleep tonight knowing that I said "no" to the "gimmes" again, and that the desire that I feel for the old white iron bed will fade over the coming days.



Monday, June 29, 2009

Zucchini Corn Fritters - a winner!

I made these last summer when I brought home bargain-priced ears of corn from the store and we had zucchini to use up. This recipe got such rave reviews from Hubby and Samantha last summer that when they came into the kitchen yesterday and asked what I was making, the answer made both of them cheer!

2 C. all purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
1/2 t. ground cumin
1/2 C. sugar
1/2 t. salt
fresh ground black pepper (ordinary ground pepper works fine if that's what you have)
2 eggs, beaten
1 C. milk
1/4 C. butter, melted
2 C. grated zucchini
1 1/2 C. fresh corn, kernels cut from cob
1 C. finely shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
oil for frying

In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, cumin, sugar, salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and butter. Whisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Stir in zucchini, corn and cheese; mix well.

Warm oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Drop batter by the tablespoonful into hot oil. Fry until crisp and brown, turning once with tongs. Remove to paper towels.

Notes: This recipe was found at allrecipes.com (using the ingredients search feature). The recipe originator mentioned that it could be made without the cheese. Her family loves these served with ranch dressing. The first time I made these I didn't have cheese or ranch dressing, so I omitted them, as I did tonight. They're just fabulous plain - I can't imagine how cheese and ranch dressing could improve them! They're also great cold, if you have leftovers and refrigerate them. We're a family of three and ate generous servings of these and still had leftovers, so a family of six shouldn't need to double the recipe, unless leftovers are desired.


Friday, June 26, 2009

I think Hubby overdid it on the bargain lighted shelving...

We have been so unbelievably blessed because I stopped in at the Villeroy and Boch store at our nearby outlet store center (in May, I think?) and then overheard one of the salespeople telling a customer that the store was closing and that all of the fixtures were for sale. It's even more remarkable that I stumbled across this because we only get to the outlet center two or three times per year, since it's at the other end of the county. (Besides I'm more of a thrifter and garage sale afficionado than a new stuff type of gal, mostly because of budget, but also because I love to transform things.) Hubby had been asking me to keep my eye open for well-priced shelving while I'm treasure hunting, so I asked another salesperson for details. It turned out that each section of display shelving (about six feet tall, extra-deep glass shelves and wired for lighting) would be sold for 20.00 per section, with the understanding that the buyer would have to come and remove them himself and assume all risk if the units got damaged in the process.

Anyway, I went home, told Hubby about the shelving and persuaded him to at least go and look at them. Hubby works two jobs now that his earnings have been so severely affected by the recession, and he was so dog-tired that he thought about not going. That would have been fine with me, even though they were such a good deal, but I reminded him that he had asked me to be on the lookout and this was a real steal of a deal. It isn't likely I'll come across another like this anytime soon. So we headed south to go have a look-see together.

When we walked into the store with our wall measurements, he took one look at those display units and he was smitten. Off he went to check out the construction of the shelves while Samantha and I browsed the store. After about twenty minutes, he called me over to go over a sketch that he'd drawn out. Since our laundry area is on the rear garage wall, he had an idea to use the back sides of the units as a temporary wall to enclose the laundry area by making an "L" shape with them. We could use the other side of the units for storage. I thought this was a great idea and a thrifty way to give me a separate laundry area that isn't so visible when the garage door is open. He also said that he wanted to buy all of the shorter units (twenty!) to be sure that he had enough to use as he envisioned and not end up regretting it if he bought fewer. He knew we could resell them easily if we decided not to use them all.

He asked if I had any thoughts and I said I'd like to get some units for our living room, one on either side of the fireplace and possibly two more that we could use on either side of a television console on our entertainment wall. Our living room was converted long ago from a two-car garage and is so spacious and the scale of the fireplace so big that I've been struggling with furnishing the wall space on either side of the fireplace. Everything I've tried with the pieces we have looks dinky and just so WRONG because of the length of the wall and the height of the fireplace. And, our media is all in an old Scandinavian Designs wall unit that we bought twenty years ago, before I had any idea what our personal style would be. My idea was to paint the new units going into the living room black, which should bring some needed visual weight to the areas where they would be placed. We also decided to purchase two sections for our eat-in kitchen, so that I could finally display some of my ironstone and other cherished china and ceramic pieces. Those units would be painted in creamy white.

I also saw a square display table that would solve my kitchen-without-an-island problem. I've wanted an island for a while, but two to three hundred dollars just isn't doable right now. The salesperson gave me a price of 10.00 for the table. Score! It'll need paint and casters, but those are such easy fixes.

Hubby went down to the now-closed store on Tuesday and spent the day taking the decorative crown molding off the units, dismantling them from each other and loading them onto the large carrier truck that his employer loaned him. As he brought the units into the kitchen, I could see that those, at least, won't work. The proportion and scale are all wrong, the tops being even with the door opening on that wall and they just look too massive. Sometimes even taking measurements isn't enough - you've got to see the furniture in the space.

The table (now an island) appears to be the right size. We're using it now even though it needs paint. I'm trying to decide if I want to enclose three sides with beadboard panelling. Either way, I'm making a trip on payday to buy Bullseye primer and liquid sandpaper and I'll be getting started on some portion of this project!

The units for the living room are still in the garage, waiting for Hubby to recharge. Spending his day off dismantling these units and moving them twice, on top of his two jobs, has left him totally spent. He's also looking at all of these units in the garage and thinking that he could have saved money and a ton of effort by buying fewer. At least we know they'll sell easily if we decide to let some of them go.

Anyway, I'm pretty shocked at the final cost. I remembered being quoted 20.00 per unit, but hubby says he was told 10.00 when he paid for them and he brought home twenty of them. We did pay 200.00, plus 10.00 for the table. (Talk about a month of juggling funds so that we could pay for these!)

And yes, one of these days I'll actually learn how to post photos! However, the jury's still out on whether or not I can learn to use fewer words to tell a story!

Blessings on your day!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Borrowed Quote:

"Be kind, for we are all fighting a hard battle." (Plato)

(As seen at "The Lettered Cottage"; check my sidebar.)



Sunday, May 24, 2009

Salmon Pie!

This is a favorite frugal meal at our home, a winner that my mom discovered several years ago. It's fast and easy and uses canned salmon in a new way, if you're looking for a change from salmon patties. (If you have an eater that likes lots of protein, I would suggest doubling the recipe and making two pies. Even if you don't touch the second pie, it makes great leftovers, hot or cold.)


1 egg, beaten
1 16 oz. can salmon (take out the skin and mash the bones with the fish for the extra calcium)
1/2 t. onion salt
1 t. marjoram
1 t. lemon juice
2/3 C. sour cream
(note: I add about 1 t. basil as well. The recipe is great as is and you may want to try it that way the first time you make it, but I like the burst of flavor that the basil gives.)

Spread mixture evenly in an ovenproof pie plate. Spoon one small can of chopped olives (or roughly 1/2 C. whole olives, chopped) around the edge of the pie plate, creating a ring of olives. Cook for 30 minutes at 400 degrees.

Great served with salad and sourdough or french bread!



Wednesday, May 6, 2009

About blessings . . .

There are so many uncountable blessings that alight on each day, some unnoticed, some unappreciated, but when we stop and really pay attention , we can realize how many little things feed the soul while we're not even aware and how many more "could" feed the soul if we just brought our awareness to the surface. I'm amazed at how the simple step of "counting blessings" brings such peace to the soul.

I was visiting Tracey McBride's Frugal Luxuries blog and she posted about a few moments with her daughter, counting "frugal luxuries" ((blessings)) in their lives. (Look in my sidebar - I don't know how to post a link!) I had just recently realized how doing this one simple thing could lift worries and bring me back into appreciation of the present, where I really want to be anyway. God gifts us with so many moments, moments we sometimes miss while we're consumed with the busy-ness of life. To stop and reflect, to notice, to realize that the little things are really the biggest and the best things in my life, and to give thanks for all of it, makes me realize what a gift it is to be a human being right here, right now, even with all of the challenges that are immediately facing me.

I re-read the comment I left on her blog and I'm going to repost it here because it expresses how deeply I value the ordinary gifts of each day, even when I forget and get distracted by other types of gifts, the daily challenges.


After my prayers at night, I have been working on starting a new daily habit. I count thirty things that are blessings in my life. The ones I treasure the most have no price (they're free) and are the most cherished (priceless, as you say, Tracey). Hugs from my husband, random loving touches as he walks by me, requests for hugs from my daughter several times a day, the way she leans into my hand when I walk by her and stroke her hair as she is homeschooling, singing songs together while we're driving in the car, a perfect rose blooming on a less-than-perfect bush, the rich-as-thick-cream purr and silky fur of a well-loved kitty, nourishing food on the table for every meal, enough food stocks in the pantry to share with friends who are struggling right now, a card from a treasured friend letting me know how she treasures me (!), a small stray kitten choosing our home as a refuge, a snowy white egret in flight viewed from our back deck, a homey classic movie starring Jeanne Crain on a rainy Saturday afternoon, curling up with an old favorite book under a soft throw with a cup of steaming tea . . .

Yes, my husband's pay has been cut. Yes, he's working two jobs. Yes, we have to careful with money. And yes, I'm so grateful that through it all God not only meets our physical needs, but also meets our spiritual and emotional ones, so very well. So many blessings, so many moments to treasure, so much to be thankful for. I can only thank God for loving me enough to gift me with so much.

I'm just as human as the next person. I get distracted by the "problems", the "struggles", the "hurdles", the "worries", the "annoyances". I'm noting these in quotes because my commitment right now is to remember wise words from my mother. She told me years ago, "There's a gift in everything. Look for the gift." A problem, struggle, hurdle, worry or annoyance contains that gift waiting to be discovered. The gift could be anything - a new realization about myself, a newly-discovered skill that can resolve a situation, remembering that I have a true and loyal friend, or the gratitude I feel when I realize that God not only answered a specific prayer, but he brought me something even better!

When I'm annoyed at my husband for some tiny thing, I try to remind myself of the man who gets out of bed at 2:45 every morning to go to his physically demanding "second" job, the man who does this out of love for his family. When I'm stumped about what to cook for dinner and contemplating the familiar package of ground beef with a less-than-thrilled attitude, I try to remind myself to say "Thank you!" for the fact that my hand and our tummies are not empty. When I wish I didn't have to remind my daughter three or four times to complete a task, I try to remember to thank God that I have a healthy daughter that has blessed our lives for thirteen years. How many parents have lost babies, toddlers or teenagers and would be so grateful for the minor annoyance of constant reminders, if they could just have that child back in their arms?

As I'm sitting here typing this, my beloved Siamese kitty, Jamoca, is curled up in front of me with his head draped over my left arm, purring in sublime contentment. Now and then his feet touch the keyboard and cause all manner of alphabetical mayhem. I gently move his feet away and fix the damage, stroking his silky fur to keep him content. When I save this post and wait for the computer to take me to the next step, I will be waiting. Reworking our spending plan means that we had to drop our faster-than-fast broadband access to a less-speedy option. It's slower while it does the job, but the important thing is that I still have internet access. Dinner tonight is likely to be some kind of pasta dish with vegetables because my pantry is full of sauce and packaged pasta and I have veggies in the freezer. I could choose to focus on what could be different, thinking that different would be better, but doing so does not change the FACT that all of these ordinary things are blessings.

God blesses me abundantly in every moment. He loves me that much. And he loves you that much. So, if you're having a day shadowed by doubts and darkness, I challenge you as I challenged my daughter this morning. Take a few moments and count twenty blessings in your life. And whether you believe in God or not, say "thank you".

I can see your smile from here.

Blessings upon you,


Thursday, April 30, 2009

Overheard at Target . . .

While my mom, Samantha and I were shopping at Target early this week, we overheard a small girl tell her mother, "He's sneezin' and sneezin', Mama. We hafta be careful or we'll catch his allergies!"

Thank you, little one, for a day's dose of healing chuckles and smiles.



Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Treasures aplenty!

I have been so blessed with thrift store finds lately and they are awaiting their final coat of spray paint before I post befores and afters . . . provided, that is, that I can finally manage to post photos! (Sometimes this blogging newbie gets completely boggled, or should I say "bloggled", LOL?) I am still in awe of the magic contained in a lowly can of spray paint.

My darling mother is also clearing clutter and I was thrilled to volunteer to move some of it to my house! Mom always offers me her no-longer-needed treasures and many find their way home with me, even though our styles are quite different. (If you know me, you would know that clutter is something that grows well in my "garden". It happily trails along, spreading just like ground cover in a planter box and breeding like "Tribbles" in that funny old Star Trek episode. This may well be the only thing I can grow, since houseplants are famous for perishing under the influence of my black thumb.) The funny thing is, I'm trying to clear my own clutter for an upcoming garage sale, and yet I can't resist bringing new treasures home. Hopefully, I'll have pictures to post soon.

Blessings on your own "treasure-filled" day!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Quote o' my heart...

"You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me."

C. S. Lewis

Friday, March 27, 2009

Butterscotch Bars

This is a recipe from the 1950's, using basic baking staples. As well as being delicious, it is SO easy. (I always make a double batch because these disappear so quickly!) I know the sugar content is high, but these bars are so worth it!

Sift together in medium bowl:

2/3 C. flour
1 t. baking powder

Melt 1/4 C. butter in a saucepan and remove from heat. (ONLY use butter; margarine just won't do.)

Add to bowl all at once and stir until blended:

1 C. brown sugar (firmly packed)
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
the melted butter

Pour into greased 8 x 8 pan and bake for 30 minutes @ 350. Let cool slightly before cutting into bars. Don't wait too long or you'll have to work to cut them up. When they're almost cool, sift confectioner's sugar on top. (I always skip the confectioner's sugar, but you may prefer it.) Enjoy!

Notes: I always double this recipe and use a 9 x 11 baking pan. Doubling the brown sugar equals a full box, so you can skip the measuring of this ingredient.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Computer glitches...

We're struggling with a sluggish computer (five minutes to load one page!) AND my own attempts to post photos with a tutorial for inexpensive "art". (Not to mention trying to learn how to use a link imbedded in the text...)

Bear with me, please! I have lots to share, but the means of sharing it is muddled right now!

Blessings to you!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Economical lunch - or dinner!

The humble potato has become a favorite lunch in this home. We split a (Costco-purchased) big bag of the oversized baker potatoes with friends and usually end up with about a dozen or so potatoes for about 4.40. One of these big potatoes is a meal for one person - sometimes, more than a meal! (For kids, I would definitely split one big baker potato between two people, or just use regular-sized potatoes purchased by the bag.)

Although I would definitely bake these in the regular oven IF I was already baking something else, it wouldn't be efficient to turn it on just to bake potatoes. My mom taught me how to end up with a great baked potato using the microwave. Cook on high in the microwave until soft and then wrap in a paper towel, so that two layers of the towel are covering most of the potato. (For my microwave, even though I have a turntable, I stop it midway through the cooking time and flip the potato on the plate from bottom to top. If I'm baking two at a time, I flip them end to end as well.) Wrap in terry cloth - kitchen towels, hand towels, washcloths. You want thick layers to keep the moisture in the potato. Let the potato steam inside these wrappings for five minutes. This results in a perfectly moist baked potato. ( I usually save these paper towels and use them for more than one baked potato.)

We like ours simple - sliced open, with a bit of butter and salt, or sour cream and chives, or grated cheese. Steamed broccoli and cheddar cheese is great too. If your hubby can't handle a meal without meat, try adding chili topped with grated cheddar cheese.

Aside from being the base of a hot, delicious meal, potatoes provide nutrients we need, one of which is potassium.

Let me know if you have any other topping ideas!


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ebay for coupons and today's deals: Safeway and Raley's

Just a quick note for those of you who wonder where to get specific high-value coupons. I know coupon services are available, but I've never used one because I can usually find what I want quickly and easily on ebay. Coupons are usually available in lots of ten or twenty and a typical cost could be five to ten cents per coupon, although you could pay more if the coupons are high-value, "free item" or in high demand. For instance, I knew I needed to watch for a sale on Celestial Seasonings teas so that I could stock up again. I had recently gotten a coupon for .55/1 in the Sunday newspaper, so it was a good bet that these would be available on ebay. I happen to live in the North Bay Area, one of the areas in the country that gets fewer high-value coupons, so I had a hunch that there might be coupons "out there" with a higher value than .55. I was delighted to find that there were 1.00/1 coupons listed on ebay and I completed a sale on a "Buy It Now" lot with a reasonable cost for the combined price and shipping rate. The coupons arrived within four days and then I started watching for sales on Celestial Seasonings teas!

I ran to Raley's tonight before they closed to pick up some of the best deals I've seen advertised for a while. Those of you who have access to Aldi's or who don't live in California (!) may think these prices are high, but honestly, they're excellent for this area.

I got:

8 jars Classico pasta sauce @ 2/4.00 = 16.00
(one free box of Ronzoni pasta with every purchase of two jars, priced at 1.00 each on sale)
1 ten-lb. value pack of ground beef, 1.69/lb. if purchased in bulk = 16.88
10 boxes Celestial Seasonings teas, 3.19 and BOGO, minus 1.00 coupons on each box = .60 ea.

(minus 2.38 for tea for friend)
(minus 20 cents bag credit since I bring my own bags)

Total spent = 36.25

I could have gotten more tea at this sale, but like most people on a budget, I have a finite number of dollars that I can spend right now. The coupons are good through April 11, so chances are good that I'll find another sale before they expire. I did buy four boxes for a friend who drinks a specific variety that she can seldom find. She'll be happy to reimburse me for the tea and cost of the coupons at this price!

I do try to cook more and more from scratch, since that is the best way to save on costs (and to know what is going into our food!). However, I know from experience that in this household I have to have quick and easy options available for the times I'm rushed, or not feeling well, or hubby cooks dinner. Jarred pasta sauce is, for us, key to a healthier and less expensive option than the drive-thru or even most inexpensive frozen food. Sometimes the less frugal option at the front end (in this case, purchasing the jar of pasta sauce) leads to a far more frugal result at the back end (the dinner that ends up in our tummies on one of those rushed and harried nights).

I then stopped at Safeway for some of their "Dollar Deals" for the week. They were out of the Safeway Apple Juice (.99) but I got a rain check for four bottles. The tomatoes were .99/lb, but they didn't look very good, so I skipped those. Canned albacore was priced at .99, but I'm stocked up on that, so I skipped it. There were other value-priced items, but nothing that grabbed my interest.

I got:

7 jars of Ragu sauce @ .99 each
(daughter loves Alfredo sauce and Ragu has a "light" version that I'm okay with for occasional use)
2 cans Progresso Italian Wedding soup @ 1.25 each
(another quick meal option - this happens to be daughter's favorite)
(used .50/2 coupon)
1 loaf fresh bakery French bread @ 1.25 each

(minus 5 cents bag credit)

Total = 10.13)

Total spent at both stores = 46.38

Added these items to stockpile:

10 lbs. ground beef (to be split up and frozen in 1-lb. packages)
15 jars pasta sauce
4 1 lb. packages pasta
6 boxes herbal tea
2 cans soup

(And what was never intended for the stockpile, but would never have made it anyway - the fresh French bread - I'm afraid we got into that right away!)

Blessings on your day!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Well, I'm dipping my big toe in and testing the waters...

I've been wanting to set up a blog for a while and am frankly amazed at how easy it's been so far, especially since I'm nearly completely computer illiterate!

What I hope to do here is to share the little things that make life what it is. I have a love for decorating and happily spend time looking for ways to get the pulled-together results I love on a bare-bones budget. I'm also interested in many facets of frugal living - from freebies, bargains and coupons to second-hand treasures and inexpensive meals at home. Although I've learned so much about living well on less over the last many years, I WELCOME any new ideas, resources and creative solutions. I hope this will be an encouraging place to "set for a while", but ultimately, I want this blog to be a place where I can be "real" with you, and where you can be real as well.

I've got a lot to learn, including how to use the bells and whistles on my digital camera. (Baby steps, baby steps.) Be back soon!