March 29, 2012

Blog Award

Thank you to Sue over at Berkshire Cottage for awarding me the "Liebster  Blog Award."  I have some pondering to do about who I will give this award to.  Hmmm - this may take a couple of days as I follow some wonderful blogs.  Decisions, Decisions....

March 28, 2012

Chicken Tortilla Soup

I made this soup last week, and it was oh so good.  Also, what could be healthier than chicken breast, corn, beans and tomatoes?  It was yummy and had just the right spice to it. 

As I was making it, I realized that my counter was cluttered with cans so I definitely was filling up the recycling bin that evening.  Of course, this soup was even better the next day. 

I thought that I would make this during the summer, leave out the chicken and serve the soup chilled.  Here is the recipe:

2 - 14 oz. cans petite diced tomatoes
2 - 14 oz. cans corn, drained (reserve vegetable broth for homemade vegetable soup)
1 - 14 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 - 14 oz. can chili beans, drained and rinsed
1 - 4 oz. can chopped green chiles, drained
2 - 14 oz. cans chicken broth
1 3/4 cups water
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 small bunch of green onions (about 8), sliced thinly
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper to taste
2 boneless, chicken breasts, cubed and cooked
6 to 8 corn tortillas, cut into 1/4 inch strips
Garnish:  shredded cheddar cheese

Add all the ingredients except chicken, tortillas and garnish to a heavy stockpot.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Add chicken; heat 10 minutes. Toast tortilla strips in a 350 degree oven until crisp.  Ladle soup into bowls; sprinkle with tortilla strips and shredded cheese.  Serve and enjoy.

I made this recipe by combining a few different soup recipes.  You can always use 2 cans of black beans if you prefer, but I decided that I liked the color that comes from having two kinds of beans. Besides I had plenty of chili beans on hand but I only had 1 can of black beans.   

I also reserved about 1/3 of the second can of corn and used this in a Tex Mex tossed salad that I served with this meal.  Use a pizza cutter to cut the tortillas into strips when you toast those for the garnish.  I took the balance of the corn tortillas and sprinkled some of the cheese that I used for the garnish and I toasted these in the oven to serve on the side. 

You could add the cans of corn and not drain them, but the vegetable broth from a can of corn usually has a sweetness to it that I didn't want to put into this soup.  I prefer it in my homemade vegetable beef soup so I always pour the broth into a container that I keep in the freezer for soup fix ins.

Also, you don't have to use chicken breast meat, you could use diced turkey or leftover diced chicken - dark or white meat - it won't matter.  This was an easy supper meal for 5 people and we had enough for supper the next night. 

Sorry no pictures - forgot to take one but I promise that if you make this soup, you will have a very delicious and colorful meal to serve your family.

The best cleaning scrub

When I was cleaning our shower last week, I decided to abandon what I normally use to get it clean - Mr. Clean Shower Eraser.  The main reason - the harsh chemicals and the cost.

So I did some experimenting.  The floor of the shower has the rougher surface that the soap scum clings to and it ends up being the hardest part of the shower to clean.  Here is what I did.  I divided the shower into three sections and cleaned one with baking soda; one with baking soda and salt; and one with Oxy clean - the dry powder. 

I was looking for a way to clean the shower without too harsh chemicals but it also had to be easy on my arm. In other words, it should cut through the scum and get the job done without my having to ice my shoulder.


The winner was the baking soda and salt.  Baking soda is already a natural safe scrub in itself but alone it took too much scrubbing.  The addition of some table salt gave the baking soda more scrubbing power.  As to the Oxy Clean, the baking soda did better than it did. 

So from now on it is just a sprinkle of baking soda and a sprinkle of salt.  It's easy on the environment, easy on my arm and best of it all - it is cheap.

March 26, 2012

Easter Dress - 1960's Style

I am a person who likes to dress in clothes from the past.  I collect vintage patterns and I plan to sew many outfits some day from these patterns.

I haven't made a new dress in a long time and I decided that I really wanted to dress a little "Mad Men" style for Easter. 

As with many women, I love fabric and I will buy it when it goes on sale not knowing what I will make out of it.  I just like it and know I will find a pattern to fit the fabric sometime. 

Here is the McCall's pattern that I purchased on sale for $2.00 last fall.  I love this shift dress for its 1960's style and also for the sleeve variations. 

So I started through my fabric collection and decided on this:

The fabric was on sale for $1.50 a yard.  Then I was out looking for some new walking/running shoes and found these sandals on clearance for $9.00.  They are perfect.

I am going to make the sleeveless dress and will wear either a fuschia or melon cardigan with it.  As to cardigans, I am always on the lookout for any cardigan on sale at a good deal.  Goodwill has a great selection.  You can always team a cardigan up with a dress, t-shirt and jeans and just about anything.  So, I have quite the color assortment and it seems they never go out of style.    

For the accessories I plan to make a headband out of the dress fabric for a little fun.  I think that this will complete the 1960's style I am going for.  This is what I like about being able to sew - I can make some trendy outfits for a fraction of the price of anything store bought and these outfits will be better made. 

The only problem - I love to sew, but I have trouble finding the time or should I say, making the time to sew. 

March 23, 2012

What Have I Been Up To?

Tomorrow I will post an update but here is a teaser:  I have been working on a Mad Men style dress for Easter, testing my own homemade cleaners, trying a new recipe - chicken tortilla soup, and getting decluttered and organized. 


I have missed posting and will get back on track.  Kind of hard to post when it is 80 degrees and beautiful outside.  I took a staycation and enjoyed the weather. 

March 15, 2012

Getting Priorities Straight

I've gotten off track lately on spending and I'm doing everything I can to pull myself back on budget.  I have been overspending on groceries because I haven't been planning.  When I don't plan, I overspend.

I haven't had time to just sit and plan as I have been spending a lot of time volunteering at my church.  I love helping out and being part of something bigger but in the middle of "the fun,"  I realized that I had neglected home and family.  So - time to put things in perspective and put first things first. 

I decided to spend this week at home getting things organized and cleaned. As with the rest of the country we are experiencing beautiful weather.  When the weather is warm and the sun is out, I look around my house and see the dirt and dust.  Time to get at it.  I left a note for my family yesterday so that they would be aware that some big time cleaning was going to take place beginning today.  In the note I said that they were to beware of loud music being played in the living room and the smell of cleaning fluids would be permeating the air.

I had high hopes and high expectations that were totally unrealistic.  But --- I did make some progress.

I am on a quest to really deep clean my house without using a lot of harsh chemicals.  The first thing I tackled today was the large area rug in our livingroom.  Our labrador retriever had some urinary tract problems a couple of weeks ago and she had a couple of accidents in the same spot.  I cleaned them the best I could at the time, but sure enough when the warm weather began this week I could smell the faint smell of doggy urine.  

Now this is not a small area rug.  It is 11 x 7 feet.  Our living room has two of these rugs in it.  After doing some research on the web I decided to try the following.  I took equal amounts of white vinegar and water and I saturated the area.  Vinegar is supposed to neutralize the ammonia in the dog urine.  This morning I noticed another area of the rug that kind of smelled so I had two areas to treat.  I took a scrub brush and lightly scrubbed this solution into the rug making sure it went to the back side.  Then I also saturated the pad underneath with the vinegar solution.  The pad isn't very thick at all.  

I allowed the area rug and pad to absorb the vinegar solution for about 30 minutes.  Then I took a small wet dry vac and vacuumed up as much of the water as possible.  By this time the house was smelling a lot like vinegar and I decided it would be best to move the rug outside and let it dry on the back deck.  

I started to scrub the pad when I realized that I should just wash it in the washing machine.  I had a sample of Tide with Febreze and I decided that today was the day to give it a try.  When this was done, it went out on the deck. 

When the rug was almost dry I took a box of baking soda and sprinkled it over "the affected area" of the rug and then rubbed it in the carpet.  The baking soda is supposed to help make the rug smell fresh and remove the odor.  The rug is still outside and I am letting it sit overnight to totally dry out. 

The next step in all of this is to vacuum up the baking soda and apply a solution of 1/2 cup of hydrogen peroxide with 1 teaspoon of Dawn.  I'm not sure about this one as I don't want the color of the area rug to be affected.  So I may do a variation on this one. 

I am considering taking a couple of teaspoons of oxyclean and diluting that in a little bit of water and then adding it to some more Tide with Febreze, diluting it all down and then pouring it on the rug and letting it sit.  Then I will scrub it a little and rinse it with my garden hose. 

I am hoping that the vinegar and baking soda will have done their trick and then the Oxyclean and Tide with Febreze will finish it.  The rinsing of the rug with a garden hose will totally get all of the remnants of baking soda and detergents out of the rug as I don't want these to attract dirt.  Perhaps a good final rinse will make the rug smell fresh again. 

The jury is out on this one as to if it will work.  It's worth a try as I can't have a "smelly" rug in my living room and nothing else seems to work.  I bought some really expensive stuff from the Vet but it didn't take care of the entire problem.

The rest of my afternoon was spent washing my hardwood floors in the living room with Murphy's oil soap.  

I want to start making more and more of my cleaning products but I still own some store bought products such as the Murphy's oil soap.  I am going to use up what I have on hand and then I will start replacing those cleaners with homemade versions.   

March 13, 2012

Homemade Orange Cleaner

I love Clementine tangerines and when I say I love them, I mean I truly love them.  They are a little pricey but it is one way I can get fresh fruit into my diet.  I usually buy them between November and February when they seem to be at their tastiest and are a bargain.

The other day I was thinking about all of the clementine peels that I have tossed away and I decided that I needed a practical use for them.  I did some research and I have started to make my own Orange Cleaner.  In this recipe you can use the peels of oranges, clementines, or tangerines or even a combination of these with lemon peels.

I took an old glass spaghetti sauce jar and dumped the clementine peels in the jar.  The next step was to cover these peels with vinegar.  I pushed down on the peels with the end of a wooden spoon so that the peels were covered by the vinegar, without having to fill the jar full with vinegar. 

So here is what I got. 

My husband came home and saw the jar on the kitchen counter and asked me what I was going to do with the "pickled orange peels."  I explained and he said a quiet "okay."

After only being in the vinegar mixture for 12 hours, it smells really good. I'm surprised at how quickly the vinegar has absorbed the oranges. 

Simply put - that is what I am trying to accomplish - simple and frugal. 

After these peels have soaked in the vinegar for several weeks (I'm going for 3), the liquid takes on more of an orange color and the vinegar smells more like orange than vinegar.  Then you strain the mixture and you are left with a nice base for a cleaner. 

According to the recipe, mix equal portions of the base with water and pour into a spray bottle.  Use with a rag to clean sinks, mirrors, windows, floors, wooden chairs and so on. 

I think this is definitely worth a try as I have decided that I need to go green when it comes to cleaners, as much as possible. 


March 05, 2012

Catching Up

This week I am playing catch up on housework and organization.  I need to sit down and make up some menu ideas and I need to deep clean our house. Another project that is high on my list is researching other possible money saving tips that could help stretch our money to the max.  Nothing is off the table - even if it is an extreme idea - if it can save me a lot of money, I am going to consider it.

Sometimes I wonder if it has all been said and there is nothing new I can learn that could save me money.   But I know there is - I just haven't looked hard enough. 

I have many projects that I want to accomplish over the next few months and I need to make a realistic plan.  Some of these plans are big ones – the exterior of the house needs to be scraped and painted, there are plans for the flower garden I want to have and there are projects such as going through old photographs and memorabilia and scrapbooking them. 

Each of these projects will take money – some obviously more than others – and all of them will take time.  I have a hard time when I have a “free” afternoon trying to decide what to work on. I am overwhelmed by “free” time.  If I have a project ready to work on, then I can immediately get to it. 

This week I will be organizing my large pantry in the basement and cleaning the rest of the house.  Along the way while I am cleaning I will keep a notebook handy to write down the projects that need to be done this year and the projects I would like to do.  I know the list will get to be too long.  The next step will be to pick the top three projects and go from there.

I have several sewing projects I would like to get to.  One thing that I plan to do this year is to hand sew a blouse.  I know, it sounds cumbersome and terribly old fashioned, but I have always wanted to hand sew an article of clothing for myself.  This is a project that I can take with me places, even when we are travelling in the car.  I am intrigued how women years and years ago sewed all of their clothing by hand.  If you purchase an article in a high end couture shop you would pay top dollar for anything that has been hand sewn.  So, I want to give it a try and I think it will be fun. Yes, for some people my idea of fun can be kind of warped.

Do you have any home projects and craft type projects you are working on?  How do you decide which project to work on first?