Monday, September 15, 2014

A Week in the Life in Photos

This week I got to exercise my domestic muscles which I love.
Lots of time in the kitchen and a little bit of time in the garden.  The garden is slowing down quickly, but I managed to harvest this yesterday.  Not bad, eh?

Tomatoes, cukes, purple beans and kale.
The strawberries are still producing, and I can't wait to get them a patch of their own next year.

I ate my Spanish Tortilla everyday last week for breakfast, and my body loved all that protein.  I really feel like it kept my energy level constant throughout the day.  All my lunches were leftovers, which is excellent news for my savings account.

The cilantro in the garden has had it (it didn't do too well this year), but it did give us lots of seeds!  I plucked those and I think I will save some to plant and use some for spice (dried coriander is from cilantro seeds).

Not the best photo, but food really is to eat, not to photograph, right? *says no blogger ever*  Peanut butter, chocolate, almond and maple syrup granola. It was supposed to be for the kiddo, as oats do a number on me.  But guess who ate most of it? Sigh. 

My commitment to no more food waste inspired a little baked apple dessert that Little Girl loved. None was left for me, but I didn't need it anyway.  Speaking of, do your kids have huge appetites?  My kid can eat grown men under the table and she is skinny as a rail!

I tried my hand at gluten free Irish Soda Bread for the first time.  This will be my go to bread from now on.  My girl loves it, as do I.  Much fewer ingredients and heartier than the Udi's I've been buying for years. The only problem is, it tastes so good, it gets eaten up far too quickly. 

My sister who also loves to feed people and enjoys the simple pleasures in life planned a picnic for the three of us before her trip to Mexico for the next 3 weeks.  The food was delicious, and the view second to none. 

There is nowhere more beautiful than Seattle on a sunny day.
Another experiment in the kitchen led to some white bean patties.  Little Girl ate them up like she would never have chance to eat them again.  Served with salad and a bit of olive tapenade on top.

On Saturday night my niece and nephew spent the night.  They are both adorable little characters with a lot of personality.  They are more like siblings to my daughter than cousins.  That means more fights, but more love too. 
My niece wearing the cat mask my daughter made last year.
The two older ones repaid their lack of sleep with breakfast in bed for me.

Toast with about 4 tablespoons of butter, berries, juice from a juice box and a tangerine.

Sunday dinner was pork chops, green beans, salad, soup, soda bread and raspberry pie for loved ones.  If you've never heard me mention it, I have some of the loveliest friends in the world.  And several of them live just a few houses away.

After all the cooking and cleaning this week I felt a bit like a sleepy kitty cat in the evenings.  As someone who used to be chronically fatigued from illness, this sort of tired makes me feel truly, truly lucky.

Photo of our baby Charlie, courtesy of Little Girl. 

Waste not Want Not: A look Into My No Food Waste Commitment, Week 1

As explained here, I've made a public declaration to not waste any more food.  I feel the food I've been wasting is one of the shoddier parts of affluence.  How can I possibly throw anymore food in the garbage when there are people going hungry?  It's something I just can't stomach any longer. 

The benefits of the No Food Waste Commitment:


I've come up with some inspired dishes as of late.  As a creative person, this really feeds that corner of my brain the same way poetry or art does. But you get to eat it.  'Nuff said. 

*Money Saving

This doesn't need much explanation.  The organic broccoli I tossed out (on two separate occasions mind you) because I didn't get to it in time,  $4 each.  I certainly wouldn't toss four dollar bills in the compost, would you?

*Mindfullness (both a side effect and an important element of  doing this successfully).  

You must take stock EVERY DAY.  Being mindful and in the moment is a great way to relieve stress and feel grateful.  

*No guilt from food waste 

(Who am I kidding, I went to 13 years of Catholic school LESS guilt from food waste).

Yep, that's an abandoned breakfast apple my daughter left in the back seat of the car.  And yep, I ate it after work.


There's little question that to do this sort of thing out of anything but necessity means you have it good in the food department.  Being aware has a wonderful effect on my sense of gratitude. And gratitude = happiness. 

But, as with any sort of behavior change, there have been some unexpected challenges:

* Eating when not necessarily hungry so something doesn't go bad.  "Oh, I'm not hungry but there are two grapes left I should eat them."

* More cooking time and more mess.  To be honest, I really don't mind this part.  Because if I'm having fun creating anything, the result is usually time consuming and messy.  I'm ok with that. Most of the time.  Although cleaning my kitchen 6 times this weekend was a bit much...

A few recipes born from this commitment:

Scrappy Soup:

Zuchini guts and seeds, a few carrots, several tomatoes a day away from becoming compost, half an onion, garam masala spice (I think that's what's in that container!), a spoon full of leftover butter, a dash of olive oil, kosher salt, a dash of red pepper flakes, a gnarly looking piece of ginger, a dash of cumin. Everything finely chopped and simmered for half an hour.  The flavors and taste of freshness were divine!  The third time I made it I even threw in half of a green apple that needed using up.

The start of "Scrappy Soup"

This is delish with a little yogurt with honey and lime or coconut milk swirled on top. If I had cilantro I would have plopped some of that on top.  Add a side of gluten free soda bread, and you have a delicious meal. 

It's not the prettiest thing you'll ever eat, but it's freaking delicious.

I made this soup 3 times this week and everyone (I experimented on 8 people) except my daughter and my guy liked it. You've got to be a fan of the spices to truly appreciate this soup.  Tastes extra good when served in a pretty vintage dish given to you by your sister-in-law. 

Tangerines with citrus, kefir and honey dressing:

I had a tiny bit of kefir left in the bottle (mainly clinging to the sides).  Normally I would have thrown it own by now, but with my new found commitment I refused. I warmed up some honey, added it to the kefir and shook up the bottle.  I took some past prime tangerines and peeled and sliced them and drizzled on top.  Little girl suggested adding a squeeze of lemon to it - and boy was she right.  The only thing to have made it more perfect was a chopped mint leaf or two. She loved it so much she declared my favorite words after eating an at home creation, "Mom, you should open a restaurant."

Tangy and Sweet Lemon, Apple and Plum Kefir Rice Pudding

A flopped batch of lemon rice (too much water so it got gummy) turned into the inspiration for this treat.  I added kefir, a couple of plums, a green apple sliced up, some turbinado sugar and cinnamon.  The result is out of this world. And nephew Liam approved.

Some things I've found helpful so far:

1) Taking stock of the fridge every single day and planning around that.

By taking stock I was able to use up a bag of raspberries given to me by a coworker recently.  She grows the BEST raspberries. They were slightly freezer burnt because they were last year's harvest, but I cooked the bejeezus out of them with orange simple syrup from the last time I made Orangettes.  I had 2 pie crusts in the freezer from the last time I thought I was going to make pie (months ago).  The result was fantastic and I served it with a cheesecake inspired topping (cream cheese and powdered sugar).

Raspberry Pie!

Leftover gluten free bagels that my daughter no longer likes (sheesh, kids) became mini pizzas for my niece and nephew. 

Sadly, when taking stock this weekend I found 2 packages of sausage in the freezer from 2012 that were no longer good.  In addition, four pieces of moldy bread went in the trash along with a way too old jar of pickled asparagus.  I'm confident that as I go along if I stay on top of this this these wasteful moments will occur less. 

2) Use-up the food that is on it's way out first.  Sweet stuff can be tossed together in the freezer and used a few days later in rice pudding or some other concoction.  Veggies can be put in a plastic bag and used in scrappy soup when you have a few extra moments on the weekend.  Any leftovers become lunch, eaten in the order of how quickly it will go bad.

3) Feed people.  To be honest, I love feeding people.  I'm of the schmarmy sort who thinks you can taste the love in food. Share your extras with friends and family. Much better to see your labor enjoyed by those you love than to see it in the trash. 

What I hope to accomplish in all of this is simple: Stop wasting food, stop overbuying, get my food budget down so I can put more in savings and give some of the difference to food banks. 

Do you have any tips to share to successfully eliminate food waste?  Please share in the comments!

Friday, September 12, 2014

The BEST Way to Get Rid of Fruit Flies

It's plum and tomato season at my place.  Which means it's also fruit fly season.

These nasty buggers multiply faster than gremlins, and the time to take care of it is when you see the first fruit fly (but who ever actually does that?). 

All you need is a glass or jar, a large piece of paper, and some bait (i.e. Something sweet to attract them.  I used a bit of fruit, but vinegar or wine will do the trick).

Make your paper into a cone shape above the bait and watch those dummies fly around unable to get out.

Me -1, fruit flies-0
Make sure to dispose of outside so you don't let any of the buggers loose.  Feel proud you outsmarted hundreds of invertebrates. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

How a $0.62 Jar of Classico Spaghetti Sauce Cost me $3,000.00.

It was a fantastic deal. With the promo going on at QFC and the printable coupons, each shiny jar of Classico pasta sauce was $0.62 a piece.  I couldn't make sauce for that.  

I spent a portion of my days blissfully googling recipes I could make beyond the standard fare of gluten free spaghetti and sauce...Minestrone! That's where I would start first.  Oh how I looked forward getting my hands on the little beauties.  They would fill out the pantry so pleasantly.  And the meals I could make for friends... oh, I was drunk off the deal as you can see.  It happens from time to time.

I gleefully told friends and family that like to save exactly how and when to make this dream, er, this deal, a reality. My sister Rose was JUST as excited as I was and passed it along to her friends.  Here I was, saving the world one jar of Classico at a time! Cough cough. 

I went to the store and collected the sauce. Four jars it would take to make the deal happen, but I decided on eight. I felt a momentary pang of something.  Selfishness?  Worries I was becoming a hoarder? Maybe, but I don't even think it was quite that.  I just wondered if I really needed to be doing what I was doing, and for some bizarre reason, if it was right.  Who thinks about if it's the right thing to do to buy 8 jars of pasta sauce?  <points thumbs enthusiastically at chest> THIS GIRL!

Despite the bizarre hesitation I bought the jars and brought them home.  The canvas bag which held them was quite heavy, and so there they would sit in my kitchen until I brought them downstairs to put away in the basement food cubby. 

They sat in the corner of the kitchen for days until a rainy Sunday afternoon in April when, while watching "The Blind Side" in what can be described only as "I've given up" pajamas and with pure disgust realized it was 11 am and I'd done absolutely nothing productive so far that day (pre-child days I would have never felt bad for such a thing). I paused the movie, and in a fit of slight discomfort went to put on a pair of fuzzy pink socks that my mom let me "borrow" only to never be in possession of them again.

With my toes properly cared for in fuzzy magenta socks I set out to do the bare minimum of guilt assuaging cleanup: I was going to put away the jars of sauce.

I hoisted the bag on my shoulder (it was heavy and awkward), opened the door to the basement, successfully navigated two entire stairs (Go me!), then slipped on my fuzzy magenta socks and saw my life flash before my eyes as I taboganed down the incline. About midway down the steps the jars crashed together and as my hand instinctively reached down to grip something, it landed with force on an open jar of discount black olive and mushroom.. 

Within seconds it looked like a very violent Al Pacino movie;  Blood and sauce and glass EVERYWHERE.  I didn't really feel pain, but knew I was hurt and bad and said as much repeatedly, out loud: "I'm hurt. Bad."

I called my mom because what else is a single 34 year old woman to do in a matter like this? She told me to call 911 and when I refused she told be she'd be over as soon as she could and to wrap up my hand.  

I could feel the adrenaline rushing through my body (thank you sweet adrenaline for helping me feel no pain) and knew I needed to sit outside before I passed out.  I had managed to not shed a single tear at this point (stop laughing everyone that knows me), that is, until my sweet neighbor driving my with her two kids knew something was amiss (not the fact that I looked like something dragged out of the drain - they see that frequently) and hopped out of the car to check on me. 

Being the badass woman she is, this neighbor who I shall refer to as H, took care of business by grabbing up the kids, taking me back inside, and cleaning up the blood I had trailed around my living room.  To commiserate with my pain, her kids told me stories about injuries they had heard about, and not to be outdone, the not quite four year old told me a story that he was clearly not supposed to have hear about the man who had recently tried to remove his "business." This brought some necessary levity to the situation. 

It only took ten minutes for my mom and dad to arrive which is quite the feat considering they are usually very cautious (read: slow) drivers and it typically takes no less than 15 minutes to get to my place (*favorite child).  I sat teary in the back of the car (why do I cry when people are concerned about me?) and in about thirty minutes I was in a room at the ER laughing about the hilariousness of it all including asking myself the big questions: why is it that every single time I go to the ER I'm not wearing a bra?

I sat confidently on the hospital bed thinking the worst was over (no, no it wasn't) until the Dr. who was ridiculously nice and good looking, told me the next thing he was going to do was going to hurt. Bad.  Thinking I am far tougher than I am I scoffed at his claim and proceeded to sob violently as he injected lidocaine about 30 times deep into the laceration.  After the cleaning and the X-rays and the stitches the the prescription for pain pills I was good to go. 

Several months later I received what I hope will be my final bill of $3,000.00 (that's with insurance). I'm not sure what hurt more, the lidocaine, or handing over my debit card. 

Thank god for savings. 

My bloody hand on a giant diaper.  You should all me thanking me for not showing you the injury. 

*Siblings reading this: that was for comic effect.  I don't think I'm the favorite child (**but I am)

**read above

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I Will Not Waste Another Damn Piece of Food

Even during my lean times, when I didn't have money for new clothes or books, when I bought all my daughter and my clothes and shoes and gifts at garage sales. When I couponed like crazy and washed my hair with baking soda. When I made nearly everything by scratch (which seems like a dream now...never discount the luxury of time), I never went hungry.  My daughter never went hungry.  We always had enough.

I could pay the rent and the heating bill, and while it was a small budget for food, we made do. We always had enough. Enough.  Enough. Enough.  Saying it a few times and even the word itself sounds full. 

If ever there came a time when money was too tight, I could always borrow money or food from my family if it came to that.  I was lucky it didn't.  There was always enough. Now I was resourceful, I'll give you that.  I knew how to budget, the basics of cooking, and I didn't have champagne tastes (or if I did I could handle not having my heart's desire).  I had enough money to build a good pantry for cooking staples.  I watched every penny because if I didn't spend them wisely, there wouldn't be enough.  

I was raising a child on less than $20,000/year for a time in a high cost of living area and do you know how lucky I was to have the resources of a supportive family and friends, the ability to cook and to budget, and if I had ever felt I had needed them, the ability to contact a social service agency? I had safety nets. Plural.  I had enough. 

I wasn't a moocher.  I wasn't afraid of work.  I was a single mother with a small child trying to make the best decisions for my kid. I couldn't have afforded full time day care and living in an apartment.  I was able to get a low paying job as a nanny and bring my daughter to work with me.  That along with child support covered our needs. 

Now I'm more comfortable financially. Not rich, not even close, but comfortable.  Continually adding to my savings is of paramount importance.  I'ts another important safety net that I have had to use, and even live off of at times. Thank god for that.

I've been reading a lot more about hunger and food politics lately.  Those topics that are easy to slip by when you have enough. The punishment of the poor.  The hardworking poor who are no better or worse as people, just people like me doing there best to get by - often in worse circumstances than I ever was. There are people going hungry in this world.  Not just in underdeveloped countries far away, but in cities like mine. 

Every broccoli crown I've tossed in the trash, every lonely apricot that's rolled to the back of the fridge until it's unrecognizable...It makes me sick to think about the amount of food I've wasted.  Not only because it's like ripping up money and throwing it into the toilet, but I feel it's a slap in the face to every person who went to bed hungry last night.

I've had enough.  I will not waste another damn piece of food if I can help it. 

This week's no-waste fare so far: 

Overripe plums became a delicious base for Moroccan chicken and vegetables.

Not quite right lemon rice became sweet kefir lemon and apricot rice pudding. 

Roasted potatoes that needed eating went into a Spanish Tortilla.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Make it! My Take on a Fresh Tomato Spanish Tortilla

I've never loved tomatoes more than I have this summer.  I'm not actually sure why.  Maybe it's because I've planted fewer tomato plants and so each red or yellow orb seems a little more special.  Maybe the tomatoes this year just taste different.  Either way I'm enjoying tomatoes more that ever before.  But here's the thing,  I don't like store bought tomatoes. Call me a brat, but I just don't.  I'll do without. From the garden though? I'll find a way to incorporate them into breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

This took less than 5 minutes to prepare.

And speaking of breakfast, lunch or dinner, here's a terrific and simple dish that's as lovely to look at as it is delicious.  If you're lucky enough to grow your own tomatoes  (or zucchini, or squash, or any other tasty veggie), or have neighbors that share, this will make for a flavorful meal at any time of the day. It's high in protein, and anywhere from $.20-$.65 per serving and makes 6 servings (1 egg a piece).  Bulking it up with potatoes and veggies is a great way to get some more vitamins and filling of tummies. It's a perfect vessel to use up more shabby vegetables or tomatoes. 

The hallmark of a traditional Spanish Tortilla is thinly sliced potatoes and eggs cooked in a round dish and sliced in wedges.  If you'd like a more traditional preparation, see here. It's a simple dish similar to an omelet, but my version is easy and takes less time (well - if you have leftover roasted potatoes like I did that need using up).  It's also just so pretty to look at.  You can serve it hot or cold.

As with anything I cook, this is a loose recipe.  No need for strictness here.  Add anything you want really that sounds yummy to you.

Here's how I made mine...

Easy Spanish Tortilla with fresh Tomatoes

6 Eggs

Kosher Salt


Smoked Paprika

Small handful (1/4 cup-ish) shredded cheese (I used a Trader Joes 4 cheese blend with parmesan)

Tomatoes or other veggie thinly sliced

Leftover roasted potatoes

Fresh parsley (any green herb - dried or fresh works)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put your eggs in a round baking dish. Sprinkle salt pepper and smoked paprika to your taste.  Add in the roasted potatoes that you served four days ago at a dinner party and need to use up because you will simply not waste any more food.  Slice tomatoes thick or thin and lay on top of the eggs (the tomatoes, not you). Sprinkle with cheese even if you are lactose intolerant because: CHEESE.  Add some fresh parsley to the top.

Cook until eggs are done (probably 20-30 minutes or however long it takes to clean the kitchen).  I do a quick 5 minute broil on high at the end to get that beautiful golden top (keep a watchful eye so you don't burn it).

Try to forcefeed your daughter who hates tomatoes. 

Golden and bubbly. Prepare to stuff in face.
 That's it! Easy huh?  

Do you make egg pies or Spanish tortillas in your home?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Make it! Sunday Blessings and Moroccan Inspired Plum Chicken

Yesterday was a lovely mix of lazy and productive--exactly how I like my Sundays.  I spent a good chunk of the morning in bed, followed by grocery shopping, cleaning and cooking.  I like a tidy house, but often let the laundry get a wee out of control (out of sight out of mind in that basement laundry room). I've been working on keeping up with the laundry almost everyday, and so far it seems to be helping with the transition back to school, and maintenance of my sanity. Keeping on top of things throughout the week allows for these blissful Sundays. 

I had two good friends over for dinner last night. They also happen to be neighbors, so it's easy to throw together impromptu dinner parties. When my little girl is with her dad I spend extra time in the kitchen experimenting with recipes, dancing to Otis Redding and sometimes having a nice adult beverage along the way. I like having an afternoon to myself now and again, but when I make something delicious, I am always so disappointed she missed it being the little foodie she is. 

Blissful but sweaty, very sweaty, in the kitchen.

I had an abundance of plums from my generous neighbor Suzie, so I wanted to work as many into the recipe as possible.  I had picked both purple plums and yellow, but the yellow ones were already overripe and needed to be used immediately.  If you don't have a source of free plums, you could try prunes, raisins, wilty apricots or peaches, and even an apple or two.  Anything to give that touch of sweetness. 

I had my heart set on Moroccan chicken after my friend Deborah mentioned she had some recently.  I googled "Moroccan chicken" for inspiration on spices and searched the cupboard and found that I had smoked paprika, cumin and turmeric.  Those would be the smoky, savory flavors balancing the sweetness of the plums.  Moroccan recipes are often a wonderful marriage of sweet fruit and smoky, spicy flavor. 

As are most of my "recipes" (I put "recipes" in quotes because I'm an off the fly cook and think that a little confidence and a few techniques in the kitchen are far more important than any recipe), this was an easy dish, and relatively frugal.  The price per serving was approximately $2.24 per person, but could have easily been cheaper if I had used cheaper meat and veggies.  At one time I would have only have had the option of using less expensive ingredients.  I think you could easily get the recipe down to at least $1.25 per serving if not lower if using less expensive chicken and veggies (i.e. not organic).   For me, while I do adhere to a budget, I choose to put some of the extra money I have now towards food.  It's valuable to me.  I didn't always have that option when I was in my very lean years where I was living on $150/month for two people to eat.  The important thing is that we try to fill ourselves with nourishing food within our budgets that are enjoyable and healthy.  

I did serve this with some sides from the garden, but it is easily  an entire filling meal on its own. Lemon rice would also be delicious with this dish. 

Without further adieu...

Moroccan Plum Chicken


5 chicken thighs (feel free to use more, this is how many came in the package I bought)

1/2 pound of rainbow carrots (bag is 1 lb)

1 onion

1-2 tablespoons of olive oil or some other oil

Spices (turmeric, smoked paprika, cumin, cinnamon, black pepper) 

Kosher salt

Potaoes (I think I used about 1 pound - I abide by the "use as many as can fit in your pan" rule"). 

1/2 jar of Trader Joes Green Olive Tapanade

8 skinned plums (Since these were free I didn't factor them into the overall cost.  Possibly slightly unfair, I know). 

Chicken thighs are a cheaper cut of meat no matter if you buy conventional or organic.  The higher fat content in the meat makes this an extra flavorful and juicy cut.

Start by taking your meat out of the package and put them on a plate.  Salt them generously on both sides with kosher salt.  Sprinkle with turmeric, smoked paprika, and cumin an both sides.  I like the chicken to be out of the fridge for about 40 minutes before I cook it.  It really helps to get all that flavor in there.  

Take your overripe plums and slide the skin off (an easy task with such ripe fruit).  Pop the pit out by squishing the plum with your fingers. I squished the plums into pieces into a small pan just using my fingers.  Sprinkle with a generous amount of cinnamon. Honestly, I don't know if it's entirely necessary to cook the plums to bring out the flavor.  I did for about 20 minutes and the results were smashing - but feel free to experiment. I think I could have cooked them much longer and reduced to a sweeter concoction.  This makeshift plum sauce would be incredible over ice cream, mixed with dessert rice, or in cottage cheese or yogurt. 

Chop up your potatoes, carrots and onions and toss with oil, salt and black pepper in a bowl.  Toss with the plum sauce and place all that yumminess into a baking dish.  I broke my large casserole pan last week (it exploded, long story), and so I used an old Corningware pot that was generously given to me after a neighbor on the block passed away. Lay those juicy chicken thighs right atop that lovely veg and then top each thigh with a scoop of green olive tapanade (it's best to scoop out what you need first in a bowl and then place on the chicken as you don't want to contaminate the rest of the jar with chicken germs).

Not the prettiest picture, but I swear to you, this was delicious!

Pop in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 mins to an hour or until the potatoes are done. I finished off my cooking with about a five minute broil. If you prefer your chicken not quite as well done, add in after the potatoes and veggies have cooked for a bit. Enjoy with friends or family.  Or if you are lucky, friends you love enough as family, and family you like enough as friends. 

My lovely friends and a giant air conditioner tube.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Frugal Haps with Photos!

The garden is still chugging along in early September.  The zucchini and cucumber are still producing, albeit they are scraggly and so pitiful looking they seem as though they are begging for mercy (pull me you wicked woman!).

Yesterday's snack all from the garden.

Tomatoes are in fine form, and if you can believe it, strawberries are still coming.  Large and red berries and healthy green plants.  I hope to expand to an entire bed for them next year next to the raspberry bed I hope to have. Oh garden dreaming...

My sweet neighbor Marianne gave me lots of spicy lettuce to transplant, and I hope they survive my ineptitude (I replanted them yesterday in full sun). 

The pumpkin patch was overtaken by the blight, but we were able to get a great haul of sweet round pumpkins.  We gave away several to the neighbors, and will save two for my niece and nephew. The few remaining will be part of our fall decorating.

We will keep a few.  One for me, the girl, and our kitty Charlie.

If the weather is nice and I have good energy I tend to go hog wild on my day off.  I take off every other Thursday without pay so I can take my daughter to school and take care of home necessities.  Yesterday was a blissful day of good health and lots of yard work.  Those are my favorite days. It also happened to coincide with the local nursery's fall clearance sale.  Can anyone say FRUIT TREES?!  I was able to pick up a Dwarf Fuji for $10, a peach tree for $10 (we will see how that does in this climate), and a beautiful ornamental somethingerother.

Which reminds me something I haven't shared! Because of my neighborhood's issue with sewer runoff into the Puget Sound, I qualified for a free rain garden from the city! Well, almost free.  I did have to pay $384 for the 200 gallon cistern, but I had wanted one of those for years.  I was able to water the yard with it yesterday. 

The garden is gorgeous and between labor (lots of digging underground pipes) and plants, it was nearly $2,800 FOR FREE!

I really love my time in the garden.  It feeds me (both literally and spiritually).  I love sharing my bounty with neighbors, and they in turn are so gracious in sharing with me.  In fact, yesterday my neighbor Suzie invited me to pick tons of plums from her yard as they are dropping like crazy.  And my sweet next door neighbor Mary shared several different kinds of tomatos!

Thank you Mary!

Along with the photo of the yummy plums, I'll leave you with the classic William Carlos Williams poem on that very subject...

Thank you Suzie!

This Is Just To Say

William Carlos Williams1883 - 1963
I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Robin Williams' Final Gift

Photo Credit: Peter Hapak for TIME Magazine
*Today's post is not frugality related, but  something I feel compelled to write about. 

By all accounts, Robin Williams was a generous man - not just financially, but with his time, through his kindness, and his humble nature that made it possible for him, one of the biggest stars in America, to relate to his fellow human beings in everyday life.  Both the famous and non-famous seem to have the same account of this man: generous, kind and funny.  Good god was he funny.  But like Pagliacci, the famous clown, Robin Williams was struggling with a deep pain that millions of people struggle with worldwide.  A very common, and very dangerous illness that few like to talk about and even fewer admit to experiencing: Depression. Robin Williams’ legacy in life was the gift of laughter and entertainment, but through his tragic suicide, his insurmountable pain, he has left us with another gift – blowing wide open the dirty little secret that causes so many to suffer in silence and is the number one cause of suicide worldwide.  And it may save lives.

Like a fungus, depression thrives in the dark – isolation, shame and solitude keep people from getting the help they need.  Like Robin, many of us who have struggled with depression wear a mask of happiness to hide what society deems a flaw in personality, rather than an illness.  Whatever the cause of someone’s depression – stress, life events, medical factors, chemical imbalance, spiritual causes, there are very real physical changes happening in the brain.  And when it goes untreated for long enough – the consequences may be deadly.  People can hide depression for a time, but not forever. If not exposed in the light of day, the fungus will destroy its host – and leave many others shattered with grief in its wake.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 800,000 people commit suicide every year worldwide, and depression is the leading cause of suicide, yet I still hear people making jokes about things like Prozac flippantly.  Whether medication is a solution or not is not the point – depression is no laughing matter.  Breast cancer killed half that many people in 2010 according to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.  When was the last time you heard a breast cancer joke?

There is an episode of my favorite t.v. show, The Office, that makes commentary on the insensitivity and lack of awareness about depression and mental illness.  In the episode Michael calls a meeting to read out of the “suggestion box” that hadn’t been in use for years.  Michael pulls out a sheet of paper and reads, “We need better outreach for employees fighting depression – Tom.”  Michael (played by another gifted comedic actor, Steve Carell) insists it’s a joke, they don’t even have a Tom in the office – until Phyllis reveals that Tom did work there years ago, in accounting, and shot himself.

People with depression often feel embarrassed, less than, and are many times in denial of their own condition.  When suffering from undiagnosed OCD that led to serious depression at 19 years old, no one even believed I could be depressed.  I smiled, was pleasant, and as I had been my whole life, an optimist.  I wore a mask because I was afraid of what people would think about me. However, as most people that have experienced a mental illness at some point in their life will tell you, you can only hide for so long.  Eventually untreated mental illness will cause your world to fall apart.  That’s why it is so crucial for people to feel safe and unjudged in regards to depression and other mental illnesses, so they can get the support they need early on.  Mental illness can happen to anyone, and will affect everyone at some point in their lives either directly or indirectly.

In the aftermath of this tragedy, I’ve heard people argue that depression should or should not be classified as a disease, similar to cancer. That is just semantics, and beside the point.  Depression is an illness of the brain and it can be treated in various ways.  However what is crucial in the collective fight against depression is that we begin to talk about it as if we were talking about any other illness.  Take away the shame, and the insults, and replace it will empathy and questions.

People with Depression often feel ashamed, worthless, and flawed.  They feel like a burden and maybe the world would be better off without them.  This isn’t just pessimism, this is the thinking of a very ill brain.  I believe that because he led an extraordinary life, people will be able to say, “Robin Williams was a good man, a kind man, a talented man and he suffered from the illness that is depression, like me.”  

Depression is not a flaw of character, and it may have taken the death of one of the greatest characters of all time for us to really see that. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Back To Basics

A bouquet from my gentleman caller in my $2 vintage vase that I love!

I've been a bit preoccupied lately.  As a single mother working full-time, it happens - sometimes seemingly at the slightest change in wind.

But this thing that has come along is more than just a change in weather, and I feel like I am learning things all over again - maybe even for the first time. 

In short, I'm dating someone.  Now I've dated on and off for years, but nothing ever serious.  I've been single close to ten years.  So this thing - er, um, this man - has had quite the effect on my life, and even on seemingly unrelated things like my budget (I'll explain more on that below). 

Many positive things come with a boyfriend, but I've found it's a learning curve for me - there are all the internal questions, the anxiety, the wondering.  One thing that's required in love is certain, and there is no real way around it, there's always an element of risk involved.  Those are the big guns - the big heart questions, the dance of getting to know someone that comes with the territory of romantic relationships.

And yet, there's another thing I've noticed affected by being in a relationship, and that's my spending.  Now, I've found a man that enjoys paying for things.  He's old fashioned that way and while it's certainly not expected, it's really refreshing to know that he likes being generous in that way. I reciprocate at times, but he pays for most things we do together.  Where I tend to spend more in dating is buying clothes, paying for things out of convenience because of time constraints, and when I cook for him I don't hold back too much and if there is a special ingredient I want to get, I'll get it. Then there's things like buying lunches at work - which there is no real excuse for, I just happen to be doing it.

I don't want to be too hard on myself here, but I do want to become more aware and reign it back while still allowing for some fun.  I need to get back to the basics.

Does your attention to finance change when life changes?

Here's a poem I like about change.  I'm not going to claim I know exactly what it means, but I like the imagery and the way it sounds in my head as I read it.

The Beautiful Changes

One wading a Fall meadow finds on all sides   
The Queen Anne’s Lace lying like lilies
On water; it glides
So from the walker, it turns
Dry grass to a lake, as the slightest shade of you   
Valleys my mind in fabulous blue Lucernes.

The beautiful changes as a forest is changed   
By a chameleon’s tuning his skin to it;   
As a mantis, arranged
On a green leaf, grows
Into it, makes the leaf leafier, and proves   
Any greenness is deeper than anyone knows.

Your hands hold roses always in a way that says   
They are not only yours; the beautiful changes   
In such kind ways,   
Wishing ever to sunder
Things and things’ selves for a second finding, to lose   
For a moment all that it touches back to wonder.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Garden Delights and Wise Words from John Updike

My only potatoes of the season, some zucchini, purple beans, and the last of the snap peas.

The garden is full of delights this time of year.  Some things, like lettuce and snap peas which burst onto the scene with reckless abandon, have drifted off into a slumber in the summer heat.

Still growing like mad are zucchini, cucumbers, purslane, kale, tomatoes, carrots and pumpkins.  I've probably got at least 30 pumpkins growing at the moment and I'm hoping there will be enough for the neighborhood and family kids to all get one for Halloween this year.

Just three pumpkin seeds in a little mound of dirt is all it took this year,  The bees have been busy pollinating the large blossoms. 

I had not anticipated the success of the pumpkin patch this year!

While I can't always count on her help in the garden (except for the harvesting part!) my daughter loves to make "fairy houses."  She will spend considerable time on making these homes pleasant for the fairies of her dreams.  Sometimes the fairies leave little gifts.

It might be hard to see, but this has everything a fairy might need!

So much growth and so much wonder takes place in the garden.  Lessons are learned in both patience and acceptance.  What becomes merely a memory of hard work, gives so much in the growth of plants.  That is, until it is time to work again.  The time in the garden rarely does feel like actual work to me for some reason.  Even sore muscles and sweat translate into joy.

Here is a poem I love from John Updike about hoeing in the garden. 


I sometimes fear the younger generation will be deprived 

of the pleasures of hoeing;

there is no knowing

how many souls have been formed by this simple exercise. 

The dry earth like a great scab breaks,

revealing moist-dark loam--

the pea-root's home,

a fertile wound perpetually healing.

How neatly the green weeds go under!

The blade chops the earth new.

Ignorant the wise boy who

has never performed this simple, stupid, and useful wonder.

~John Updike