Eating Crow (and it tastes like chicken)

Some of you might remember a post of mine about firing the maid and doing my own cleaning.  I was young and idealistic, looking forward to rolling up my sleaves and giving my floors some elbow grease and home made cleaners to get the job done in a cost-effective manner.  Not sure how many months its been, but I’m crying uncle.  Cleaning service will be starting again next week. Sigh.

I admit it.  I couldn’t keep up.  If I can’t make it happen when I’m at home with the baby, I have no shot of keeping it up later.  Might as well throw in the towel and have a cleaner place to live while I’m at home, right? 

In other news:

Popsicles: I just made raspberry popsicles!  I put a pint of raspberries, a couple of tablespoons of sugar, lime juice, and a little water in the food processor.  Then I put it through a strainer and then into popsicle molds.  It’s freezing now.  I’ll see if Max wants to partake tonight. (I’ll add pictures if he does)

Fruit Leather:  My friend Emily came over last night with a batch of pureed apricots from her tree.  We put it on parchment paper in my food dehydrator and it’s looking promising — though it’s taking much longer than the 5-10 hour estimate in her recipe.  Thanks, Emily for participating in my homemade mishugas! (that’s yiddish for craziness)

Now, I know aspects of this post seem silly.  I caved and hired a cleaning service, which is objectively expensive, but I consider my victories to be pospicles and fruit leather — which, in actuality, save very little money in the family budget.   Maybe it comes down to the commitment aspect of it.  If I go 6 more months and don’t make another popsicle, no one will notice or care. (well, maybe Max would care).  But if I go 6 months without addressing the cleaning situation, then Child Protective Services gets called.  What I’m really saying is, someone please tell me it’s ok!!!

Springing into Spring

Tonight we almost went out to dinner, but Max was having a mini-fit.  So, rather than subjecting the restaurant (and us) to a public tantrum, we went straight home.  My initial panic was that I remembered the fridge looking sort of empty as we hadn’t planned to eat at home tonight.  I told J. in a panic — but we have no food in the house.  He reminded me of a few things we had on hand that Max could eat, and if we had to, we’d make do with Mac & Cheese.

As we pulled up to the driveway, I realized how silly I’d been.  Sure, my fridge may look like a collection of condiments, but the front yard is our other fridge!  Even though it was still lightly raining, I popped outside and picked a handful of radishes, a Max-size serving of fresh peas, a few snow peas and spinach.  Yes, we did eat pot-stickers from the freezer — one of the few processed foods I haven’t let go of, but all in all, we all got our veggies in.  The radishes tasted amazing!  Almost sweet.  I’ll definitely be enjoying this crop and planting more as they only take 5 weeks or so to mature.

I Do By Myself!

That’s a phrase heard around our house a lot.  Usually uttered by our two year old.  He is fiercely independent.  Wonder where he gets this from?

Today I planted our next batch of lettuce and arugula seedlings.  We got a ton of use out of the last crop from the Fall.  Yesterday I transplanted a few pole bean plants and pickling cucumbers into one of our new raised beds in the front yard.  (pictures coming soon).

I’m exhausted, but can’t seem to nap.  Figured I shouldn’t waste Max’s epic nap, so I’ve been cleaning.  I had to research how to approach mopping our engineered hard wood floor.  Wouldn’t you know, the first few hits that I found recommended to use whatever cleaning product the manufacturer recommends.  Well, I didn’t install these floors myself, so who the hell knows what the manufacturer recommends.  And, I’d bet you $4 that the manufacturer stands to make some money off of whatever they recommend.

In the end, I settled on a solution that was 1 to 4 ratio of vinegar to hot water & a little essential oil with orange sent.  I don’t think the orange came through, because I smell mostly vinegar.  So, next time I’ll use more.  I’m thinking that I’ll try more vinegar next time because I do see a little bit of streaking — so maybe it didn’t cut grease well enough with this diluted recipe.

Then, I finished off our Meyer’s all purpose cleaner and took the opportunity to make a fresh batch of all-purpose cleaner myself.  I used a 1 to 1 ratio of water to vinegar with more orange oil.  This actually smelled like orange.  And it worked amazingly well.

While I’m even more tired now, it feels good to know that I don’t have to worry about Max making contact with toxic products that don’t even work all that well …  (the spray I made cleaned up things that Meyer’s didn’t).  Also, from a cost perspective, I am pretty sure we paid something like $6.99 for the Meyer’s spray.  The batch I made up was pennies because we get our vinegar in bulk at costco for like $5-6 (if memory serves).

One thing that is kind of a bummer about no longer using the cleaning service is that I don’t feel like there’s ever a time when the whole house is clean.  We triage different areas based on our tolerance level, but there’s no coming home to a totally clean house.  Oh well. Trade offs.

Who fired the maid?

When a friend of mine used to walk into her messy apartment, she used to say, “who fired the maid?” This was in jest, of course, because she didn’t have a maid.

We, on the other hand, had been having a cleaning service come in twice a month for the last couple of years. It seemed like quite the luxury, but not without its annoyances.

For one, they weren’t terribly consistent on when they arrived. Two, you feel like you have to leave your house when they are there so that you aren’t in their way. Three, you have to rush to clean up before they come so they can actually find your floors and such to clean. Four, it freaked out the cat … and a few times we thought she ran away. Five, I asked them to use green cleaners, and I think they nodded and smiled but didn’t really do it because the place always smelled way too chemically when we got home. Six, they would always put stuff away in random places (likely because we weren’t too great at cleaning up the clutter in the first place).

Well, one of the new years resolution was to cut back on expenses. So, I fired the maids. 😦 I figured this was an opportunity to turn a new leaf and A) actually clean things myself and B) venture into the green cleaning products.

First, I made my own laundry detergent. Which I LOVE! Here’s the recipe:
– 3 cups of borax
– 2 cups of grated bar soap. (I did mine with lavender scented soap in the food process with the shredding attachment. I didn’t smell the lavendar after all was mixed up, so next time I’ll use cheaper, all natural soap)
– 2 cups of baking soda (arm & hammer)
– 2 cups of washing soda (arm & hammer)

Mix these together and you are D-O-N-E. Use 2 tablespoons per load. Clothes come out just as clean as with store bought fancy shmancy detergent. (I read online that if you use the basic bar soap like Kirk’s Castile soap, the cost of the detergent comes out to about a penny a load)

Then, I made floor cleaner! We have a swiffer, and we have a regular mop. But I couldn’t find the swiffer sheet — and I don’t think they work all that well anyway, so we went with the sponge mop approach.

The recipe:
– mix 1/3 cup of Borax, 1/3 cup of baking soda with one gallon of warm water. Add one tablespoon of liquid dishwashing detergent and 2 tablespoons of white vinegar. I added a few drops of lavendar essential oils, but I think next time I’d like to try orange or lemon.

And then! I actually cleaned the floors!

I realized that what I always really looked forward to the maids for was having that clean the kitchen floor. It gets pretty grimy with all the foot traffic and cooking that goes on in there. So, if that was my big incentive for house cleaning service, that amounts to a monthly saving of roughly $230. Not too shabby.

Blackberry BBQ Sauce To Die For

First, my apologies.  We devoured dinner and forgot to take pictures until there was nothing but rib bones on the plate.

Inspired by what I saw at Blue Moon Organics last week, I decided to use up the leftover pint of blackberries we had by making a blackberry BBQ sauce.  It was fantastic on baby back ribs.

The only change I made to the recipe was cooking it on the stove top for just a few minutes on low heat rather than putting it in the microwave.  If you ask me, it didn’t really need any heating at all as we basted the ribs with it and put them under the broiler.

We ate the ribs alongside a nice heirloom tomato and cucumber salad.

We promised ourselves we’d repeat the meal this week so that I can take proper pictures.  See the sacrifices I make for you guys?

We took a 2 hour walk today.  Along the route there was a man selling cases of strawberries.  Since I could smell them from across the street, I had to get them.  We had two pints for dessert and I’ll use the remainder for jam.  The case was $10.  Normally we’d pay $7 for 1/3 of the size.  Sounds like a good excuse for strawberry jam to me.  I’ll be using Ina Garten’s recipe.  However, I think I’ll skip the liquor as I don’t have any at home and would rarely use it.

And weight progress… have dropped 3 pounds so far from my plateau.  Let’s hope I can keep it up!

Another Cheap Dinner Option – Frittata

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As you may have noticed, pictures have been a bit sparse on the website.  I’m borrowing J.’s computer these days because it’s a little faster, but most of my pictures are on another computer.  Ah, the complicate

d joys of technology.  Anyway, here are some photos of one of dinners this week: frittata.  Every ingredient is from the farmers market.  I didn’t calculate the cost of each ingredient, but I’d venture a guess that it’s roughly $5 a serving.  This frittata also makes use of a couple of egg whites left over from making mayo.

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Perspective on Wardrobe

On the eve of returning back to work, I posted in minor desperation about what I felt was a lack of a wardrobe to return to work.  Well, it’s two weeks later and I’ve managed to get by.  I dressed professionally every day without repeating an outfit or buying anything new.  And I don’t get the sense that I’m at the total end of options, either. 

This gives me valuable perspective.  We women often get that “I have nothing to wear” feeling, while our male counterparts can make it just fine on 3 pairs of slacks and 5 shirts.  I think my previous perspective came from a place of not feeling good about myself in what I had to wear.  These are my fat clothes.  These are not the clothes that would cause a co-worker to compliment me in the hallway.  But these clothes look just fine and if I had to meet a client in them, I wouldn’t be embarrased.  So, now, I choose to derive my self esteem from the fact that I was capable of sticking to my guns and using the stuff I already have without needlessly spending money that I need to be saving.

I gotta admit, it does feel pretty good.

On the flip side, no progress on the weight loss side.  Grr.  I’m starting to consider atkins, but I know that as soon as I stop it the weight will come back and be even harder to lose.

Wanted: Wheelbarrow of Tomatoes

I was testing out my recipe for making tomato sauce — hoping that I would be able to make  a large batch for family when we finally do our canning day (looking like July is  a possibility). 

Well, roadblock.  At the farmer’s market today I bought 2 lbs of extra ripe tomatoes which were on sale for $1.50/lb.  Now, I didn’t put any veggie or onion filler in it just yet, but all those tomatoes are not yielding a whole lot.  I cut them in half and roasted them for 40 minutes @ 350F  to concentrate the flavor, then I peeled them (really easy after roasting), then food processed, and then reduced in a sauce pot with dried basil, oregano, salt, pepper, garlic salt and onion salt.  It’s tasting pretty good, but it looks like it will make a quart tops, and it’s not all that cost effective.

Thus, I think the only people who make large supplies of sauce for preserving are those who grow their own tomatoes and had a bumper crop. (Or get a large supply from the CSA)

Tonight I’ll have most of the sauce on a store-bought pizza crust.  We’ll top it with roasted squash, zucchini, and eggplant from today’s market.  Then topped with pesto jack from last week’s market that we need to use up.

Other planned meals for the week:

  • beef soft tacos
  • seared ahi tuna with spinach salad
  • spinach fetuccini with fava bean/cilantro pesto
  • pork shoulder steak with cucumber tomato salad and little red potatoes.

These meals were picked because they require no prep time prior to when the munchkin goes to sleep and can be made in 30 minutes or less.

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Food Update

A few weeks ago I wrote about creating my own Mexican spice comboIMG_3787Today I used it for the first time on steak fajitas and I am happy to report that it was great!  I added salt to the mix, and some fresh lime juice while I cooked it.  Also, to use the last bit of flavor left in the pan with all the great carmelization, I rubbed the tortilla across the bottom of the pan so it would pick up that flavor.  FABOO!  Here’s a pic of the spice mix — note that I am re-purposing an old pickle jar (which makes me happy).

And just because I think it’s pretty, I’m adding a pic of what the sprouts look like today (in a repurposed jam jar).  Oh, and these jars are pretty old.  Now we but our jam and pickles from the same vendor at the farmer’s market who takes them back, cleans them, and reuses them (but with new lids).

IMG_3788 And lastly, that fruit basket hanging out on the coffee table?  It’s all been consumed.  Woo hoo!  now for the fridge fruit…

Taking Pride In Ownership

First: my Savings Challenge act of the last few days was using a coupon for pizza last night. Yes, we ordered pizza (for pick up) as a treat for a very long week. As a kid, we used to clip coupons for fast food all the time. Then, somewhere along the way we decided that it wasn’t worth our time to even bother. But you know, there’s something gratifying about finding a coupon for something you want anyway.

Now, on the subject of this post. It amazes me how quickly stuff breaks or looks old. We have a few white mugs that J. and I use to drink tea and coffee every morning. Soon enough the inside of those mugs (and accompanying spoons) look stained and yucky. They go through the dishwasher like everything else, but they look so dirty that I’m embarrased to show them to guests.

Well, I saw a bit on the Today show where they recommended using a solution of 1 part baking soda, 3 parts hot water, filling the mugs to the top, mixing it up, and letting it rest overnight. The next morning, the baking soda will form a crust on the edges. Using a scouring pad and some elbow grease to remove the crust will show off a brand new looking mug. Likewise for the spoon.

I was so proud of myself as I marched with mugs to J. to show off my handywork. I hope I will be as resourceful when we finally own a home. Fixing things — or better yet, taking care of them so that they stay looking new.

I’m this close to plastic covers on my couch, grandma style. (It would sure help with all of Max’s spit up). img_2706

That reminds me, I took 3 of my throw pillows to the dry cleaner to spiff them up. I’ve never done that before. They sure did come out clean, but are lumpy now and have kind of lost their shape. I think I’d want to re-apholster the couch once Max gets a little older.

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