October 28, 2012

Variation on Pumpkin Streusel Coffee Cake

Last week I posted a recipe for Pumpkin Streusel Coffee Cake.  Yesterday I came up with a variation on this to make another coffee cake for church today.  To the yellow cake mix I added 1 cup of sour cream, 4 eggs and 3/4 cup vegetable oil.  I mixed it for around 3 minutes on medium speed in my mixer.  Then I "layered" it with the Streusel as I did in the Pumpkin Streusel Coffee Cake recipe.  Bake the same and then when it is cool drizzle with a little confectioner sugar glaze.  Just take some confectioners sugar, add a little vanilla and thin with some milk. 

This was very, very good.  Give it a try.  I wonder what other variations I can come up with.  I'm thinking that I may add a layer of apple butter with streusel on top the next time.

Oh and by the way, yes I am still on a diet but I am enjoying treats in moderation.  (Hi Debs.)

Hospice care for our Dog, Griffey

Our Labrador retriever, Griffey.
Our old dog, Griffey, has cancer and is dying. About 3 weeks ago I noticed that she hadn't been eating much and after a few days my husband took her to the Vet.  When the cancer diagnosis came, I wasn't surprised.  I could tell she hadn't been feeling well.  So now we are taking it a week at a time.  Griffey is taking some pain killers which helps her be "happier."  

We continue to take her on her morning and evening walk with our other dog, Molly.  We have been loving her a lot and until last week I even was able to take her on walks on the local rec trail through the woods.  I would love to take her more often but she has a lot of trouble getting in and out of our car.  

Walking the Rec trail, one last time.
Our goal is to make her final days great ones.  

After her walk tonight she stumbled and fell and had trouble getting up our back steps.  I am wondering if she will make it to Thanksgiving and I am also wondering if I will be able to be with her when she is put down.  I will find the courage to be with her as she deserves to die with her family loving her.

In the meantime she is on homemade dog food.  Here is the recipe the Vet gave me. 

3 cans green beans
3 cans yellow wax beans
3 cans stewed tomatoes
3 cans carrots
1 pound browned hamburger
1 pound cooked rice 
6 cooked potatoes, cubed

I keep "Griffey's stew" in the fridge and feed her around 2 to 3 cups in the morning and in the evening.  She devours this food.  The first week I gave it to her she gained 1 lb.  I looked at her tonight after helping her in the house and realized that she is looking boney and losing weight again.

So, until the time comes when we will have to put her down, Griffey will be getting her homemade stew, pain killers, play time, walk time and loving time.

Dogs do bring joy to our lives.  It is always sad when we have to say good bye to much loved pets, but I wouldn't trade the joy and memories that these pets bring us for anything. 

Update on Cleaning my Area Rug

Back in March I wrote about how I was trying to clean a large area rug that had been soiled by our dog.  You can view the post here.  We were able to get our dog on some medication (Estrogen) and within a few weeks she had been cured of her old age incontinent issues but I had been left with a less than fresh smelling area rug.  In the post you can read about what I had tried to do to clean the rug in a frugal way. 

Well, the rug dried out completely and then the very hot weather hit our area so we rolled up the rug and stored it in the basement for the summer.

Here is a picture of a portion of the rug.  The size is 10 x 8 feet and we have two of these rugs in our living room.

Well, when we brought the rug out of the basement at the end of September I could smell the dog urine immediately.  I had my husband and son take the rug outside and drape it over the railing on our deck until I tried to figure out what I could do.  

Now when the dog was wetting on the carpet my husband told me at the time that he would buy me a new rug as he wasn't ready to put the dog to sleep.  The problem is this rug was purchased 10 years ago and was expensive - $750.00.  I knew that it was out of the question to replace this rug and I also knew that I love my husband and I was willing to wait to see if the dog got better.

So now it was September and I had a smelly rug on my back deck and I knew it was ruined and no way could it be used in our home again, at least that is what I thought.  

Sometimes the best ideas come from pondering the problem over a period of time.  I started to think about all of the spot cleaners, rug cleaners and the detergents and vinegar that I had used over the years to spot clean the carpet.  Most of those products leave a residue and end up holding the stain or smell to the carpet.  It seemed to me that I needed to get some water on the rug and see if I could just douse it enough to rinse out all of the old cleaning products and see what happened.  

I rinsed the rug one half at a time.  I just draped 1 half of the rug over the railing and using the garden hose on the jet setting I power sprayed cold water at close range on that rug.  Suds streamed off of the rug.  I took my time and fortunately I picked a very warm day to do this as I was getting soaked.  Then I took the hose to the back of the rug and did the same thing, finishing with a final rinse on the right side of the rug.  

The rug sat in the sun for a day and while still damp I poured the following product all over the rug.

Simple Solution:  Urine Destroyer
I found this product at Wal-mart and it had been recommended by the Vet.  The cost was around $6.00 for a 32 oz. bottle.  Simple Solution worked better than I ever expected.  The urine smell is completely gone.  Now, it could be that the rinsing I gave that rug probably got rid of most of it, but Simple Solution took care of the smell.  

After I applied the Simple Solution to the rug ( I saturated the rug) I left the rug on the back deck for a week to let the sun do it's magic work too.  I knew that the fresh air and sunshine would help refresh the rug.  

All in all it took a little over two weeks to complete this process as I was working with a large area rug and I could only clean one half at a time.  When we brought the rug in the house the only smell was the light scent of the Simple Solution.  I did spray the rug once with Febreze after we had brought it back in the house.

It has been 3 weeks and the rug still smells great.  Even when I sit on the carpet I can't smell any urine at all.  It truly is a clean rug.

What was the cost of the cleaners?  It took 6 bottles of the Simple Solution for a cost of around $36 plus tax.  That is a lot cheaper than buying  a new area rug.  

October 24, 2012

Pumpkin Streusel Coffee Cake Recipe

I made this last Saturday and took it to church for our Sunday School class to enjoy. This was very, very good and very easy to make.

For the cake:

1 yellow cake mix
3 eggs
1 (16 oz.) can solid packed pumpkin puree
1/4 cup butter, softened

For the Streusel:

1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 cup quick oats OR 1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the streusel ingredients and set aside. Blend the cake mix, eggs, pumpkin puree and butter. Beat at medium speed for 3 minutes. Pour half of the cake batter into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan. Sprinkle with half of the streusel and spread the remaining batter over that. Sprinkle the top with the rest of the streusel. Bake for about 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

October 19, 2012

Losing Weight - Frugal Phone App

I have been trying to keep my weight down ever since I became a full time homemaker.  It was a struggle before when I was working full time but working outside of the home meant that I couldn’t snack.  I never had time to snack because I was very busy working.  Now that I am home I am surrounded by my kitchen most of the time.  Another factor is that I am 3 years older (53 years old) and I have reached the point in many a woman’s life when you know weight control is going to be an uphill battle. 

Let’s face the facts; it all comes down to calories in and calories out.  Also I can be too hard on myself many times and I need to relax.  My weight is 145 lbs. and I am 5’ 5”.  I weighed 125 lbs. when I got married some 32 years ago, but that is history and I’ll never see that again unless I starve myself and continue to starve myself to keep it off.  So it comes down to this – 145 lbs. isn’t so bad and I need to accept it. 

I remember in the Tightwad Gazette books that Amy Dacyczyn talked about losing weight and how she did it.  She counted calories.  Sometimes it’s the simplest things that work the best.  My weight started to creep up on me a couple of weeks ago and I hit 148 lbs.  I knew it was a sign that I needed to be more careful about what I was putting in my mouth and just as important how I was burning those calories, namely exercising.

I was delighted to come across a great app for my phone – My Fitness Pal.  It is a free app.  This app helps me keep track of what I eat.  It has thousands upon thousands of foods and their calories, including restaurant foods.  So far there hasn’t been one thing that I eat that hasn’t been in their food calorie log.  Then there is the fitness app.  There is just about every work out plan possible in this app and you simply have to input how much time you spent in the exercise and the app determines how many calories were burned.  It has my Curves Circuit workout calculated which led me to realize that I needed to do something else so I am now walking a few miles a day.

This app is super simple.  I just had to input some basic information, along with my weight loss goal.  It calculated the amount of calories I was allowed per day.  Then when I exercised it added those exercise calories burned into my food calories.  The more I exercised the more calories I could take in, if I wanted to.  At the end of each day I simply log off the day and the app tells me that if I continue what I did that day what the results will be in 5 weeks.  Namely it has predicted that I will be down to 142 lbs. 

It is a fun app that keeps me accountable.  Also it is so easy to input the information no matter where I am at.  Best of all it is free.  I like free. 

October 16, 2012

I have been distracted . . .

I have spent the past week focused on getting our youngest son moved out of our house and into his apartment.  It was a sudden move decision as the right apartment at the right price became available so he snatched it right away.  The problem is that we weren’t quite ready for the move.  His plan was to move out in January.  

Being unprepared we had to come up with some furnishings, get the utilities hooked up, arrange to get things moved in, buy groceries, and so on.  Then, there is a disaster in his former bedroom.  He has left stuff behind that he doesn’t want – mostly papers and things from his closet, drawers and under the bed and well, if you have ever parented a boy, you know what I am talking about.  Then he was around 3 weeks behind in washing his clothes so while he was moving in to his new apartment, I was trying to get his laundry done.  It has been fun and I am playing catch up.

He is moved in now and is getting used to living on his own.  Tonight I fielded a few phone calls from him on how to cook his supper.  I had to take him one of my large skillets as the skillet he had wasn’t big enough for what he wanted to make.  I needed a new skillet anyway.
As we moved him in I marveled at the simple things that were making him happy.  He had his mattress and box springs from his old room.  We purchased a basic metal frame for him.  I refused to let him take the sleigh bed from his bedroom here at our house as that will now be a guest room.  So I paid $94.00 for a heavy duty bed frame for him.  Luckily that “$25.00 off a purchase of $49.99” or more coupon from a local furniture store came in handy.  I’m glad I hung onto it.  Now I will need to purchase a new mattress set for our “guest room.”  This can wait until January when mattresses are on sale at their lowest prices of the year. 

We gave him an old love seat, recliner, end table and desk that we had been saving for him.  He could use a table for his kitchen, but insists that he could get by with a card table.  I have a card table in our basement that I use to sort laundry on, but I could give it up for him to use. 

His grandparents gave him a set of Corelle dishes.  We purchased some other basic kitchen supplies along with a $20 set of 3 pots and 1 small skillet.  He has the basics.  

Again, I want to emphasize how happy he is to have a place of his own with the basics.  This has caused me to feel uncomfortable with the stuff in our house.  I need to donate more of the items we don’t need or use. 

The other thing I noticed was how conscious he is of money now.  His thermostat is set at the low range (he has electric heat).  He told me that he is taking shorter showers and get this, he yelled at me for keeping his freezer door open too long.  I was looking at the icemaker.   We don’t have an icemaker and it kind of intrigued me. 

It would seem that when you have to pay your own utilities you tend to become frugal.  What a great kid!  He has learned something from his mother. 

Now I can get back on track with my household chores, get that old room of his cleaned and made into a guest room and work on my new price book.  Except there is one more thing I am dealing with:   our old dog, Griffey, has cancer and is dying.  We found this out last week.  She has cancer, and is losing weight.  The vet prescribed a mild pain killer for her and it has made her disposition happier.  She is able to move and can be taken on walks, but the end result is that we will have to put her to sleep at some point.  This is sad but we have time to say our good byes to her.  I spend time petting her and stroking her and talking to her.  I am taking her on some short walks on the local recreation trail so that she can get out on the trails in the woods and enjoy all the smells that a dog enjoys.

I am making her homemade dog food per the vet’s advice.  Actually it looks pretty good.  The recipe calls for 1 can of green beans, 1 can of yellow wax beans, 1 can of stewed tomatoes, 1 can of carrots, cooked potatoes, some rice and some hamburger meat.  I have quadrupled this recipe and been freezing it in meal sized portions. 

I am going through a lot of changes in my life right now and it can be hard to see our youngest leave home, yet it is wonderful to see him thrive living on his own.  At the same time it is hard to say goodbye to our old beloved black lab and yet we have wonderful memories of her as a great family dog. 
Life can be happy and sad at the same time.  But I can honestly say at this moment, Life is good.

October 10, 2012

Exciting News to Share

Yes, yes, yes, you, my blog family, have been ignored.... but .... I have been busy with family,  

My oldest son and his wife have recently announced that they are expecting a baby in March.  This will be our first grand baby.  I can hardly believe that I am going to be a grandma, something I have been hoping for, for a long time.  Now my thoughts turn to things I can make for the baby and ways I can help my son and his wife throughout their pregnancy and after the baby is born.

My youngest son leased an apartment as of yesterday and will be moving in to his new place this weekend.  He is in college and wants to move out and live on his own.  So we spent today getting utilities set up and fine tuning his budget.  I was at Goodwill purchasing two lamps and a little plug in hamburger maker for him.  My thought was that it will be easy for him to buy a lb. of hamburger and take 1/3 of it and make a hamburger quickly in a hamburger maker vs. going to a fast food restaurant.  He will be on a tight budget but he is excited to be living on his own.  

I will be going back to Goodwill tomorrow to see if they have any dishes that would have come in on tonight's truck and other kitchen items.  Then it is off to Wal-mart to get a microwave and toaster and then to Dollar General for some cheap silverware, a shower curtain and shower curtain rod. 

He has already had a lady that is going to give him a table and chairs. We have a bed, living room chair, love seat, end table, floor lamp, desk and bookshelf he can have.   I have been hanging on to some of our old furniture for just this purpose.   We also have plenty of towels and sheets for him to take with him.  He can raid my pantry for food and cleaning supplies that he needs too.  I really hope he wants the cleaning supplies and he uses them.  My feeling is that when he has his own place, he will keep it picked up and clean, because it will be his place.  

Our college girls will be moving out at the end of December and in January we will be "Empty Nesters."  So, life is changing in our family and it is very exciting.  

But don't worry, I will be back to blogging regularly from now on.  In fact I have already written a couple of posts but wanted to post my news first.  Next up . . . creating that price book we talked about last week.

October 02, 2012

Time to get back to the basics - Price Book

I just got done looking at the grocery ads for this week and I only circled one thing that appeared to be a good deal - Bartlett pears on sale for 88 cents a lb.  Maybe there are more deals but with prices having risen so quickly I am struggling to figure out what is a good price anymore.  

I haven't had to keep a price book for quite some time because I knew the prices of everything I purchased.  Now that prices have dramatically changed, I am making up a new price book.  This is so frustrating.  

The past month or so I have been kind of going on a whim and a prayer when it came to buying some of our groceries.  There were the obvious deals such as 4 boxes of Cheerios for $5.00; but there were the other items that I wasn't so sure about. 

So now I'm getting back to the basics and keeping a price book.  I need the information in order to make wise purchase choices but I also know that it will be kind of sad.  Why?  Comparing today's prices to the prices in my old price book is sad.   Actually it's even worse if I go back to the very first price book I ever kept from 18 years ago.  I came across it recently and under beef I had chuck roast listed as $1.49 a lb.  Now that's really sad.

In Search of Contentment - Final Post

4. Quit tying contentment to stuff.

Having more stuff does not bring contentment. This is something that a lot of people need to learn. Many people seem to think that once they have a certain something that they will then suddenly be content. They constantly chase after the one thing that they can buy that will bring them happiness. Perhaps it is the new I-phone that just went on the market or it could be as simple as having the latest movie on dvd. These bring temporary contentment and then you are out to find the next thing that will make you happy.

Don’t misunderstand me, I am not against having things. I am just saying that we make too many emotion tied purchases. The phrase “You can’t buy happiness” is very true.

Right now having more stuff would mean that I would have to work full time. I don’t want to do that at all as I like the freedom that I have by being home and being my own boss. It took me awhile but I now embrace the belief that contentment does come from within yourself.

5. Quit looking at what others have or own. They may not own it after all.

Yes, you may feel a little envious when you see a new car that a friend has just purchased and you would love to have the same car, but is the car payment worth it? Do you really think that when you drive a new car down the street that everyone walking down the street stops to say “what a cool car, that lady sure is successful and smart and pretty and makes wise choices and makes a lot of money and so on.” I pass many new cars every day and I never think these things. Usually I am thinking “please pull over and let me get by.” I am an impatient driver.

Think about this the next time you want what someone else has. What difference would it make in my life to go out and purchase what that person has? Would it suddenly bring me happiness and contentment or would it make me miserable because of what it cost me? Do I really need it? Would I be happier with more money in the bank and not having the stress of another debt payment?

Back when I worked at the law firm, we handled a lot of different cases. It was the divorce cases that were interesting because each party had to file a Financial Affidavit listing all of their assets and liabilities. It was very eye opening to see the debt listed. It was not unusual to see multiple credit cards maxed out in the thousands of dollars. Next up was the mortgage and the car payments. I often wondered if the thousands of dollars of items that were purchased on credit was a great trade off to the marriage. Does anyone ever say “I am so happy that we have all of this credit card debt and I am happy because of it?” I don’t think so.

Finally, to wrap all of this up, the bottom line is this: Contentment comes from relationships. It is the people in our lives that bring contentment, would that we cherished them as much as we should.

Sit down now and make a choice to invest in relationships. I firmly believe that if you are happy with your relationships – spouse, children, other family, and friends that you will be happier and more content beyond anything money can buy.