September 26, 2011

Poppy Seed Bread and Plenty More

I found this recipe in an old church cookbook and gave it a try this weekend.  I take breakfast breads such as muffins, coffeecake, quick breads along with fresh fruit to church for some Adult Education classes.  Along with baking muffins for my DH's cross country team, this gives me the chance to try some new recipes.

I have some poppy seed bread recipes that start out with a cake mix but I don't always have a cake mix on hand.  Also, I wanted a recipe that wasn't lemon.  The amazing thing about this recipe was that I had the three flavorings in my cupboard.  It was truly delicious and moist and what was left after Sunday School was taken to the youth group and they finished it off. 

Poppy Seed Bread - Makes 2 loaves

3 cups flour
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups milk (I use powdered milk reconstituted in the water)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1 1/2 teaspoons butter flavoring

Combine the flour, sugar, poppy seeds and baking powder in a mixer bowl and mix well.  Add the milk, oil, eggs and the extracts and flavoring.  Beat for 1 to 2 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally.  Spoon batter into two 5 x 9 inch greased and floured loaf pans.  (HINT:  I cut a piece of parchment paper to fit in the bottom only of the loaf pan and then I butter the paper.  This makes it so easy to get the bread out of the pan without tearing the bottom of the loaf.)  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.  Cool in pans for 5 minutes. 

I didn't do the next step as I wasn't sure how sticky it would make the tops of the loaves and I also thought the bread was sweet enough. For those who want to try it, here are the rest of the instructions.

Combine the following in a bowl and mix well:  3/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup orange juice, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon almond extract and 1/2 teaspoon butter flavoring.  Drizzle over the tops of the loaves. 

I wasn't sure if the sugar would dissolve well enough and perhaps I will try this the next time but I will use powdered sugar instead of the granulated sugar.

Now as to what I have been up to:  DECLUTTERING!!  I have more to do, but that will have to wait for another week.  In the meantime I am leaving tomorrow for Kansas City to go to a church conference and will be back Friday evening.  I have been doing laundry and some cleaning in hopes that my home won't look like a disaster when I return. 

When my son asked what he and my DH were going to have to eat for dinner when I was gone, I simply said "your dad will take care of it."  No way was I going to spend time thinking about this.  My DH's response is that he will fire up the grill and they will have hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken.  I told both of them that there were plenty of things to eat from the freezer and my DH's reply was "we will be fine." 

My husband is the best.  He doesn't worry about meals when he is home alone as he is pretty self sufficient.  He isn't much of a cook but he can grill meat, make eggs, pancakes and French toast along with a few other things.

It is unusual for me to be gone for 3 days and I am looking forward to being with friends from church and to also make some new acquaintances. 

This morning's newspaper reported the high numbers of those living in poverty and also individuals receiving assistance from food banks.  I started thinking about what it would take to come up with 3 days' worth of groceries to give away.  I've thought about this for a long time as a possible "missions" project at our church.  I am pondering items to put into 2 brown paper bags or even one brown paper bag that would be enough food to make meals for 3 days for a family of four.  In the brown bag could be recipes and instructions of how to make those items into meals. 

These meals would definitely be low cost meals as we would want to be able to make up as many brown bags as possible.  I envision any meat being kept in a freezer in our church that we could drop into one of the bags when someone needed food. 

Food banks are being stretched to the limit and although several churches in our community provide 3 evening meals at the end of the month for anyone in our community, I keep wondering about what else we can do.  I worry especially about children during school vacations and holidays and for that matter weekends, when they are not receiving school breakfast and lunches.  No one should go hungry.

I'll be back blogging Friday or Saturday.  If anyone makes the poppy seed bread tell me how you like it.  Also remember that we are coming into the "holiday" season with Christmas only 3 months away.  Many of you may be like me looking for possible recipes for food gifts to give away.  This poppy seed bread fits the bill.

September 21, 2011

My Biggest Mistakes in Getting Organized & Cleaning

Mistake 1.  I purchased books and e-books or I spent time reading library books to tell me how to get organized and how to clean or set up a cleaning schedule.

I have a shelf of organization and housekeeping books.  The books I refer to the most are the ones that are more the advice type of telling me how to get out a particular stain and so on.  These are the old Home Ec style books.  The others are books that give advice on how to set up a cleaning or organization schedule. 
You might as well save your money.  We are all different and everyone has a different housekeeping style.  It set me up for failure to try to duplicate what someone else was doing.  While I could glean some tips, the bottom line was that what works for someone else didn’t necessarily work for me.
I remember when the first Sidetracked Home Executive books came out in the early 1980’s.  I read them because they did address the side tracked issue but I couldn’t keep up with their card system.
A better use of your time would be to sit down with a tablet of paper and ask yourself these questions.
a.  How much time do you have to spend on cleaning?
b.  Are you a “clean a little bit at a time each day person” or are you a “deep clean once a week kind of person.” 
c.  Can you delegate some of the tasks to other family members and do you want to do that OR would you prefer to do it yourself to your standards?
From these questions I could see what was realistic for me and what was unrealistic for me.  My goal was to have an uncluttered home and relatively clean home that I could maintain. Yes, that is right, that I could maintain and what was realistic for me.
Spending some time writing down a plan that was tailored to my personality and my needs was the best use of my time. 
Mistake 2.  I went out and bought a bunch of plastic containers before I started doing anything. 
You know what it is like.  You wake up one day and think “this is the day I will get organized.”  So you get in your car and go to the Big Box store and buy a bunch of plastic bins and containers to put stuff in.  Save your money. 
As you put things away, you will find out very clearly what you need or if you need anything at all.  Many times just clearing things out of closets and throwing and giving things away will clear up space.  After doing that you may need some plastic bins and tubs and you may find out you don’t need as much as you thought. 
Mistake 3.  I tried to tackle everything in one day.
I would get “Gung Ho” about cleaning and organizing.  You know what it is like, you make an announcement because you are at the end of your rope and decide that you will get your house in order that very day.  After an hour you begin to grow a little weary, you lose focus and you start to wane.  Many times you are left with a bigger mess because you leave things all over the place (piles that you are going to organize) thinking you’ll get right back to it later.
You didn’t get into this mess overnight and you aren’t going to get out of it overnight.  It’s great to be motivated, but don’t go overboard.
Mistake 4.  I tried to clean and organize at the same time. 
This is much to do at one time and again, it is too overwhelming.  It was much better for me to put things away in their proper place and then clean the house.  When the house was clean and in order, I could then start to sort through closets and drawers and de-clutter and organize. 
What has worked for me?
Again, remember, everyone is different.  I cleared off an area of the dining room table for me to work at so I wouldn’t be too distracted by my surroundings.  I sat down with a tablet of paper and a cup of coffee and I wrote down my ideas for getting things done.  The goal was to have a clean house and maintain it.  Then the second goal was to spend time going through all the stuff in my house and decide what would be kept, what would be tossed or given away and what I would need to organize and maintain the stuff. 
I cannot do a lot all at once not only because of my chronic back pain, but also because I lose interest.  So I came up with a plan to get things done by doing a little bit at a time and delegating things out when I wanted to.  Yes, I like things done my way, but there are some things that I don’t mine passing off on someone else. 
One thing I have quickly found out is that if I can pick things up at night in the main living areas of the home and then when I get up in the morning everything looks good enough that I feel motivated to get my work done.  Even if I need to clean, it is much easier to face it in the morning when everything is put in its proper place.
We are all different and we have special gifts and talents.  Time is better spent coming up with your own plan based on your personality and your style of living than to try to replicate someone else’s plan. 
It may be frustrating at first to sit down amidst the mess to make a plan, but it will help you out in the long run.  You will have a tailored made plan just for you. 
Here is my best cleaning and organization secret that I will give you for free.  Yes, I could go on t.v. and offer this for $9.95 plus shipping and handling, but today it’s free. 
What is this amazing tool?  A wire bound notebook.  Yes, a 1 subject wire bound notebook that you can get at Walmart for 15 cents during the back to school sales is my secret tool.   Keep this notebook in the room that you are cleaning or organizing in order to write down anything that you are remembering to do while you are working.  This will free your mind to stay on task because you don’t have to worry about remembering other things.  For example, while I am cleaning I will think of things such as the need to fill my prescription for my thyroid medicine or I will think of a gift to give someone for Christmas.  When I quickly write these things down in a notebook, then I can stay on task knowing that these thoughts are written down in a wire bound notebook that won’t get lost while I am working.

September 19, 2011

The Path to Frugality is two years old

I have come a long way from when I started this blog two years ago.  I remember back then I fretted more over the fact that I didn't know how to set up a blog than I should have.  Blogging is fun and it has become my journal of what I have gone through over the past two years. 

I've been reading some of my posts from two years ago and it takes me back to a newness in my life.  Back then being home was so new and fresh.  I was rejoicing in my newfound freedom I had to my daily life.  My schedule was my own and I could pick when I wanted to do any household project. 

The first few weeks I started my day with a cup of coffee on the back porch while reading the newspaper.  Then it was on to a quick shower, doing my hair and makeup and deciding what I would do that day.  Reading those older posts helps me to stay grounded and on track to my goals.  I have strayed over the past two years and have spent money when I shouldn't have and each time I pull myself back on track.  When you fall, you get up.  Making one mistake does not mean throwing in the towel and giving up on everything. 

Two years later I still enjoy the freedom being at home has brought me.  My schedule is still my own.  I have added volunteer responsibilities to my daily schedule but I still choose when I want to do them. 

I have the same concerns that I did have back then as to if I could really make it living on one income as I am by nature a spender.  I've learned what pushes my "money" buttons and I've tried my hardest to stay away from temptation to spend money on frivolous things. It's hard to stay on track. But it was also hard for me to work a job and never have time to myself.  It's worth the trade off.

Tomorrow I will sit on my back porch and sip a cup of coffee (Green Mountain Nantucket) and instead of the newspaper I will be reading a book on my Kindle.   

Thanks to my followers and those that comment and read this blog.  You have become my friends and I value your comments and critiques.  I do my best to follow your blogs too.  I consider all of us "family" doing what it takes to survive in this economy and helping each other along the way by giving advice and great helpful hits.  Thank you my friends. 

September 17, 2011

Living in a Messy House - Temporarily

When my kids were young, they loved all of the "Bernstein Bears" books.  I still have all of the them in hopes that my grandchildren will enjoy reading them.  "The Messy Room" book was their favorite.  As I look at the cover picture for the book, I think that the pictures should be reversed for me as I am the one with the messy room.

Over the past month I have been busy taking on new volunteer responsibilities.  Perhaps I should give this another name as "responsibilities" gives the connotation of "work" and the idea that I'm not having fun with what I am doing with my time.  I am having fun with all of the activities that I am involved in.

The problem is that I have neglected my housework.  I have been "putting the fires out" throwing a load of underwear into the wash when we are about out, and thankfully with a full freezer and pantry I have been able to throw a meal together in the last minute until about a week ago. 

Last night we ate a frozen pizza for supper as I was too tired to make a homemade pizza.  Now, that is not going to kill us and actually it tasted pretty good, but my disorganization has made it's way to the budget.  I am over budget in my spending on groceries and a few other places in the budget because I haven't sat down to actually make up much of a grocery list.

Aside from the money aspect it has led to the frustration in my life of trying to find things and just the mental anxiety of living in a home that is messy and disorganized. 

I don't like to clean but I love a clean house.  How many of us admit this?  I want a clean home with the yard work all done and everything put together with those beautiful fall mums in planted pots on the front porch, the yard trimmed and looking good and then when you open the door to the house you look into a livingroom that is clean, uncluttered and inviting.  The kitchen is always put together with a few little flowers in a bud vase.  The beds are made and everything smells so clean and wonderful. 

The house that I know that looks like that is one that is on the market to be sold and has to look like that in case someone stops by at any time to go through it.

So what to do.  Today I am decluttering the downstairs of my home.  By decluttering I am talking about simply picking up stuff and putting it in it's proper place.  The majority of the clutter has been caused by me.  I can't blame any other family members.  It is mine. I will then spend some time getting as much of my "desk work" done and organized.  

My family is willing to help clean if they know what I need them to do.  It is easier to give a task to do when things are put away.  My husband will vacuum and my son will clean the downstairs bathroom.  I will do a quick dusting and then tidy up the kitchen and wash the floor.  That is all it will take to bring the house into some order.  Then I can organize a deep cleaning day.

I haven't had time to just sit down and get my calendar out and get organized.  When I do that, my house and life run so much smoother.   

I don't want my days filled with work. I love to have time to sit down in the evening to read or watch a movie on Netflix or to be able to read the blogs that I follow.  Life shouldn't be all work, and there are times when you serve frozen pizza for supper or you get take out or hit the fast food restaurant for a quick meal.  It won't kill you and because it is rarely done in our house, it is a special treat. 

It will just feel good to be able to find a pen when I need it or that stupid to do list that I wrote and I lost and had to start over again two or three times.

September 16, 2011

Coming out of the fog . . .

I started being weaned off Paxil last week and today I noticed that I am thinking more clearly, have more energy and I feel as if I am getting my old self back.  That is good. 

I took a couple more days off from blogging as I was experiencing some side effects of withdrawal.  It wasn't really that bad, but I was glad to be home so that I could nap whenever I needed to. 

Yesterday I had a major cooking disaster.  I baked 8 dozen homemade blueberry muffins for my husband's cross country team.  My recipe calls for 1 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries per dozen.  I was in the kitchen happily baking these muffins, sprinkling the tops with a cinnamon sugar mixture and then baking them.  By the time I was ready to make supper, the muffins were done and cooling on the counter.

I'm not sure why, but I decided to take a couple of muffins and set them on the table for supper.  It is a good thing I did as I measured the wrong amount of baking powder for those muffins - by the wrong amount, I put in too much.  Those were the worst tasting muffins I have ever put in my mouth.  As soon as I bit into the muffins it tasted like a mouthful of baking powder and they sucked my mouth dry.  I couldn't even swallow them. 

So, 8 dozen beautiful looking bursting with blueberries muffins were dumped in a garbage bag and put in the trash.  There was no way to resurrect anything like that.  Ugh, I can still taste those muffins just thinking about them.

After supper I baked 8 dozen more blueberry muffins and they turned out fine.  I think I went wrong with the first 8 dozen by trying to watch a movie while I was measuring.  Next time, I will definitely be more careful as this was an expensive mistake. 

The weather has already turned cold and we have had frost warnings.  On Monday I had the air conditioning on and last night I turned on my electric blanket to get the bed warm.  This weather is ridiculous but it does put you in the mood for homemade soup or chili. 

The economic news has not been good for a long time.  It's starting to wear on me.  The only good thing has been that in our area they have really been running a lot of sales to get people into the stores.  For the past 3 months I have received a coupon from JC Penney for $10 off an item valued at $10 or more.  I have been using these coupons to buy anything that is close to $10 so I am not spending extra money.  I can always find something on clearance that I can use or buy for a present for someone else.

Other things that have been going on in my life is that I've been planning the meals that I help cook for our youth group when they meet on Sunday evenings.  We have to keep our costs down as much as possible and so far we have been doing pretty good. It can be a challenge but the one thing that I am finding out, is that these kids like home cooked food.  In a couple of weeks my helper, Marcia, and I are going to make homemade baked mac and cheese.  Velveeta has been on sale for only $3.99 for a 2 lb. block and macaroni was on sale this week for only 66 cents for a 1 lb. package.  We are cooking for around 60 (hopefully the numbers will increase) so that is going to be a cheap main dish for us.

I like when the weather turns cool, but it is about a month early for us.  So, what has the weather been like "in your neck of the woods?"

September 13, 2011

Back to Normal Tomorrow

I'll be back to normal posting tomorrow.  My 18 year old son just won a seat on the local school board.  I've been spending time helping with his campaign so tomorrow I go back to "normal" whatever that is!!!

September 11, 2011

Just a Quick Note this Morning

I'm watching the 9/11 memorial services as I eat my breakfast before church this morning.  Wonderful tributes. 

I have been busy in the past few days and come tomorrow, I will have a few projects completed and ready to move on to more.  I am now a volunteer at my church coordinating the ministries - that is I am working to help improve communication between the committees.  In that capacity our church staff is brainstorming ways to reach out to our community and help others.  We are being  guided by Christ's mandate to love one another.  

Here is what we have been working on:  reaching out to our local college students by delivering 1 dozen of homemade cookies to any student that wants them; trying to coordinate a potluck at our church a couple of times a month for the college students and young adults that attend our Sunday Morning Worship. 

And there is more that we are working on related to men's and women's ministries, children's ministries, ministries to our senior citizens and so on.

It is a lot of fun working with our church staff and others to bring ministries to our community.  Yes, it is fun. 

Today we have invited some college students to eat with us for lunch and I have made plenty so that I can invite others as well.  This afternoon I will be at the church around 3:30 to make sloppy joes as I am cooking for the youth group.  Our middle schoolers and high schoolers meet each Sunday evening for their own worship service complete with band and then they break into their small groups.  We are on a very limited budget for food and that is where I come in.  We are making simple food, but plenty of it. 

Tonight we are having sloppy joes, chips, corn and bar cookies.  Next week I am planning on homemade baked mac and cheese with the sides being provided by parents.  We will be feeding around 40 to 50 youth along with 15 adults.

If any of you have recipes to feed a crowd on a budget, please let me know.  Serving at church is fun when you find a place to serve that is in line with your talents and gifts.  Yes even frugal cooking is a talent that can be used in ministry.

What's the lesson here?  Find what you like to do and then do it for others. 

September 08, 2011

Homemade Muffins

Thanks for your kind comments.  The antibiotics are working but they do make me drowsy.  I am also slowly being weaned off of Paxil which is great.  I'm looking forward to being off of it and having more energy. 

Tonight I baked 8 dozen banana muffins for my husband's cross country team.  I, as the coach's wife, have baked muffins for their breakfast on Friday mornings for 12 seasons.  It always is surprising to me how much these kids (grades 7 through 12) love muffins.  I have a list of muffins that I bake for them:  pumpkin, bran, banana, donut style, blueberry and applesauce.  They practice for 6 weeks so I just rotate them my  repertoire.   

Muffins are a treat for these kids as moms don't bake muffins much anymore.  These kids are always telling me how much they love these treats and I am always being thanked.  I find that even though they are being made from scratch, it doesn't take that long to make muffins and they are really pretty frugal.

I have a huge metal bowl that I get out for a big baking project.  From start to finish I can make 8 dozen muffins from scratch in about 90 minutes.  I baked banana muffins today as I was able to get some slightly overripe bananas for only 29 cents a lb. 

The next time you want to take a treat to someone, try muffins.  They are quick to mix up and bake and when you deliver them still warm, they are extra special. 

September 07, 2011

It's been a week....

I am going to keep this post short.  I haven't posted lately as I have been sick - have a U.T. infection and I am on some strong anti-biotics.  As I type this I am feeling a little "loopy" but the drugs are working.  As the nurse said "you have a raging urinary tract infection."  I have been ignoring the pain in my side and my back for a long time thinking it would go away.  Well, it didn't and then I was doubled over in pain one day which means - it isn't going away!!!

I'm sure I will be better by tomorrow and will be on the meds for another week or so.  Best part -- I have plenty of food in the freezer so I don't have to worry about going out to the grocery store and I can hang out at home and sleep on the couch. 

Lesson One (the one I never seem to learn).  Take care of myself.  Don't be like me and be a martyr feeling like you can keep going and going and ignor what your body is telling you, because sooner or later you will have to deal with it.  If I would have dealt with it sooner, I wouldn't feel so yucky right now. 

Lesson learned (for the umpteenth time). 

September 02, 2011

I Wish I would have bought .... and Tightwad Gazette III

Have you ever found something that you would like to buy at a garage sale or auction but your spouse says absolutely not? Well, sometimes I get these crazy decorating ideas and my husband looks at me and shakes his head. Normally he goes along with many things such as the colors we painted the exterior of our house and the colors I painted in our living room, but last year he put his foot down about something I wanted to buy.

I really wish he would have said yes as I had a place for this item in our yard and I imagined what it would look like. I tried to explain to my husband that this item would look very “Kitschy” and then I had to try to explain what that was.

We were riding our bikes one evening and I saw what seemed like a wonderful purchase. We drove by this house for the next few days and I kept gawking at it until I finally told my husband that we should buy it. For $100 we could have been the owners of a 1950’s little trailer.

It looked very much like this but it was yellow instead of red and a little smaller.  I wanted to put it in our backyard and then put a little awning in the front of it. My plan was to store our garden supplies inside it or I was going to make it look old again with newer cushions and pretty little curtains in it and we could sit in front of it and read or sit in it and read and relax on rainy days. It was just something cutesy that I thought would be really cool to have in our backyard.

But my husband was a definite “No way” to this idea. I regret not working on him a little longer as I really wish I had this. Oh well – perhaps there will be another one on sale in a couple of years when I have worn him down.

This is the only purchase I have ever regretted not making. Usually it is the other way around in that I will buy something and regret purchasing it later on.

Now some tips from Amy Dacyczyn of the Tightwad Gazette III.

When Amy was a child her mom shopped at a grocery store that had a bin full of imperfect fruit, brown bananas and grapes that had been separated from their bunches. These items were sold at a reduced price.

With all of the upscale type of grocery stores that became the new trend, (and still are), it is very hard to find sub-prime fruit or vegetables at a reduced price. One day a reader made a comment to her grocery store manager about wishing there were some reduced priced produce to purchase. He told her to come back on Tuesdays, Thursdays or Saturdays and she could have all of the over ripe produce she wanted. Well, she did just that and found herself bringing home bushels and carts of produce for about $1.00 a bushel or cart.

Amy sent a staffer out to several different grocery stores ranging from high end stores to small Mom and Pop stores to investigate any opportunities to purchase reduced produce. Each store had their policies regarding selling over ripe produce. Examples of these policies were selling this type of produce every now and then, donating all of it to a food pantry or a farmer bought it, being careful not to order too too much produce in the first place or throwing it all out. One store did sell over ripe produce at a reduced price when it was available.

So what does it come down to? Being bold enough to ask a store manager if they sell any over ripe produce at a reduced price.

Last year I was canning apple butter and I needed some more apples. When I went to my grocery store, I asked the produce manager if they had any bruised apples to sell. He told me to wait and he would be right back. He came back with a paper sack filled with apples that were in pretty good shape. I purchased these apples for $1.00. Many of the apples were perfect so I picked those out for eating and the rest I used to make applesauce. Now if I want to bake banana bread and there aren’t any over ripe bananas for sale, I simply ask if they have any. Usually the produce manager is able to find some to sell me at a reduced price. It always pays to ask.