A Sweet Indulgence

As of late, one thing I have decided is there are just some things in the kitchen that should not be skimped on and my grocery bills have reflected it. Not that I’ve gone out and bought the most expensive everything and anything, but each trip to the supermarket, or maybe more like every other trip or every third trip, I pull out a list of what I consider “sweet indulgence” ingredients and buy something from the list — especially if I happen upon a sale.

Not everything on the list is expensive. Some items are just ingredients that I would not use very often, making it hard to justify purchasing them. Others are a bit on the pricey side but there are some ingredients you should NEVER buy imitation or knockoff’s of, it’s worth spending the extra money.

The other day while picking up a few items at a specialty fruit market (someplace I don’t usually go unless there is a sale of some sort), Hubby and I found a sale on mascarpone cheese. This cheese is best known for its use in tiramisu, but is a wonderful addition to many other rich desserts. A container that would normally be anywhere from $6.50 to $8.00, was marked $3.50 and the expiration date was not until the end of May. What a find! I picked up two containers knowing I would find a use for them.

Some nights I go all out on dessert for the family and spend half the day working on something special. Other nights they are lucky if they can find packaged cookies buried in the freezer. A day or so after finding the deal on the mascarpone cheese in between putting the finishing touches on dinner and serving it, I whipped up a mascarpone cream and soaked some fresh fruit in sweetened Marsala wine. Talk about a rich, decadent dessert!

Although this particular dessert was not something Grace could enjoy with her sensitivity to dairy, Hubby and Zeb devoured the custard bowls filled with the fruit and cream combo. If you’d like to see how I made it, check out my post on Simply Grateful Cooking for Mascarpone Cream with Sweetened Marsala Berries.

DSCF3759

This dessert could probably be made with a less expensive cheese such as ricotta, but the rich, smooth mascarpone, albeit typically pricey, made this dessert “company worthy,” and for this sweet indulgence I am — Simply Grateful.

Advertisements

The Art of Knowing How To Pack A Car!

Finding a bargain is great, but being privy to great bargain information from the source — well there’s not too many things that make my day better than that.

Yesterday I received a text from a woman in the deli department at our local grocery store that we frequent two to four times a week.  Over the past ten or so years Hubby and I have established quite a friendship with many of the workers there and it has really worked out for us.  I share coupons with many of the women, and they in turn share “upcoming sale” information with me.  Yesterday however, the text I received was about a special in the meat department.  My friend in the deli, who’s friends with the manager in the meat department, was alerted that he had several cases of boneless, skinless thighs that had to be clearanced out immediately.  They were originally marked $3.20 per pound, marked down to $.99 per pound, and then clearanced for an additional 20% off the marked down price.  Knowing how we love chicken thighs, my friend texted me right away to share this information.

Within five minutes of receiving the text, Hubby and I were on our way to the store.  All the way there we contemplated where we would store the meat.  Our chest freezer was nearly full, the basement refrigerator freezer is full of frozen vegetables and fruit, and the upstairs refrigerator freezer is packed with a little bit of everything.  I want another chest freezer, but where we’d put it is another matter.

Hubby dropped me at the door 15 minutes after getting the text and I grabbed a cart and headed for the meat department.  Not wanting to draw attention to myself, I casually walked along the meat freezers, scanning all the prices, until I came to the chicken section.  There, right in the middle of the freezer were three shelves with family packs of boneless, skinless chicken thighs on clearance.  I quickly started to fill my cart.  In the end, I had 11 packages of thighs.  Just to give you an idea of the savings, one package was marked at $14 and some change and I got it for $3 and some change.  Not a bad savings.

On our way to the cash register we ran into our friend from the deli.  She was happy to see that we’d stocked up and told us that regular thighs and legs (with the skin and bones) were going on clearance the next day.  So guess where I went this morning?  You got it, back to the meat department.  Of course, I barely found space in the freezers yesterday for the 10 huge packages (yes it was 11 but I had to make something for dinner) of chicken we bought, but how could I possibly pass up such a deal.

This morning I picked up 8 packages of chicken thighs and 5 packages of legs for $.99 per pound less 20%, 4 packages of chicken thighs for $.99 per pound, and 4 packages of pork ribs that I found on clearance for $.99 per pound.  What a haul!  Of course I had the wonderful job of trying to squeeze all this into our already stuffed freezers when I got home, but if there is one thing my father taught me — I know how to pack a car, or in this case a freezer.

Growing up, whenever we went on our annual summer family vacation to Crystal Beach, Canada to stay with my Great Grandmother, there was a lot of luggage and other stuff to pack into our small car.  Two adults, two kids, all the luggage, any toys or entertainment us kids wanted, food for the 6 hour road trip, and sometimes anywhere from 2 to 4 dogs.  My father was in charge of packing the car and no matter how much stuff we had, he always found room for it.  Every nook and cranny was utilized, not an inch of space was wasted.

This ability to “pack a car” became my father’s “thing” that he was known for.  Whenever something needed to fit into a box, a car, a room, or even a bag, Dad was the one we’d rely on to make it fit.  Every time I moved, Dad was the one to pack the truck.  Every time the basement needed organizing and shelves needed to be put up, Dad was the one to build just the right amount of shelves and store everything perfectly.  Every time we went even on just a day trip, Dad was the one to pack the car.  His ability to make it all fit was untouchable.

For years I watched my father pack and organize.  I stood there with him as he calculated where to put each parcel, how high to stack each box, and what should go in next.  I watched and learned.  Now, after 46 years of observation, I have come into my own when it comes to “packing the car.”  The torch has been passed.

Whenever Hubby, the kids and myself head out for the day or for a week, I’m the one to pack the car.  We drove to Florida several years ago to take a cruise.  We had four large suitcases, blankets, pillows, two overnight bags, a garment bag, a cooler, the kids duffel bags, two camera bags, my bag of journals, a small television that we plugged into the lighter, and my laptop.  I managed to fit everything in the small space behind the second row of seats in our Ford Freestyle.  This gave the kids the entire two rows in the back of the car to sprawl out and enjoy the leisurely 3 day road trip to Florida.  Hubby still marvels at how I could possibly fit everything in there.

I pack our storage rooms in the basement, I pack the refrigerators, I pack the pantry, I pack our closets, and today I packed our freezers.  Yes, I was somehow able to fit every bit of the meat I bought today into “not an inch of available space” in our freezers.  I packed, unpacked, and repacked until the job was done.  What other choice did I have?  Now we should be set with chicken for a while.

Of course, while I was filling my shopping cart with chicken this morning, the meat manager happened to stop by to say hello.  He said he was glad that I’d gotten the word about the specials and that in the next couple of days several more things were going to be going on clearance.  Great!  Just what we need.  At least I have a few days to do a little cooking and possibly make some room so I can replenish and refill when the next great bargain comes along, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Kiwi Lemon-Lime Concentrate

Whether you call it a weakness or an obsession, whenever I find a good deal on any fruit or vegetable in the produce area at our local grocery store, I just can’t pass it up.  Even if I have no idea what I’m going to do with, don’t really need it, or don’t have the time to do anything with it, I have to have it.

A week and a half back I found six-packs of kiwi for $1.00 and…you guessed it, I couldn’t pass it up.  I picked up three packages. For more than 10 days these kiwi have haunted me.  Every time I’ve been in the kitchen, which let’s face it is more often than not, I looked at those kiwi, cursing myself for buying them, wondering what I was thinking, and worrying what I was going to make with them before they spoiled.

Having more than enough jams in the pantry, I decided to try another concentrate.  Not that I don’t have enough of these in the pantry too, but there are far less concentrates than jams.  So, this morning I opened the clamshell packs of kiwi and set to work.

Kiwi Lemon-Lime Concentrate

DSCF2934

  • 18 Kiwi, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 Cups Lemon Juice
  • 2 Cups Lime Juice
  • 6 Cups Sugar

Put all ingredients in a large stock pot.

DSCF2930

Using a stick blender, puree the kiwi until smooth.

DSCF2931

Heat mixture over medium-high heat until it reaches 190 degrees.  Remove from heat and strain.  Fill jars leaving 1/4 inch head space and boil in water bath for 30 minutes.

This concentrate if very mild and refreshing.  To reconstitute I would start with a 1:1 ratio (one part water to one part concentrate).  I liked it with one and half parts water to one part concentrate.

Bargains are a great way to try new recipes and experiment with little cost.  Today I followed through on a bargain that I found quite some time ago before it spoiled, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Pineapple Days, Raspberry Nights

DSCF2399

Canning, canning, and did I mention canning! That is what I did today and if I hadn’t run out of sugar, I’d probably still be doing it. Plus my feet feel like they are on fire, my back is aching, and I’m tired, but heck, if I had sugar I’d probably never have stopped. So much to can and I haven’t even gone strawberry picking yet.

This morning I spent six hours making another batch of Pina Colada Concentrate without the pulp this time, a batch of Pineapple-Kiwi Jam, and a batch of Lemon-Pineapple Preserves. Any normal person would have called it quits after this, but I wasn’t tired of canning, just tired of canning pineapple. So I set my remaining seven pineapples aside for another day and decided to start working with raspberries.

Last week my favorite grocery store, Meijer’s had raspberries on sale for $1.00 per 6 oz. package. I picked up ten packages and stuck them right in the freezer. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to do anything with them right then, so seeing that raspberries freeze quick and easy, they went in the chest freezer until I could get to them.

Taking the berries from the freezer I spent the next couple hours making Raspberry-Lemonade Concentrate and Raspberry-Lime Jam. I hadn’t worked with raspberries in a few years, but knew I didn’t like the seeds. This meant using my food mill to strain out most of the seeds. A few I can stand, all is just too much.

Following are the recipes with photos. The Pina Colada Concentrate update can be found in my prior post: Frozen Pina Coladas the rest are new. All of my jam/preserve recipes today used Clear Jel as the setting agent. This is only the second time I’ve used this for something other than pie filling.  I am still learning how much to use. Any changes that I’d suggest based on the final consistency are noted at the end of the recipe. I hope you try some of these, all turned out very tasty.

Pineapple-Kiwi Jam

DSCF2374

3 Cups Chopped and Peeled Kiwi (about 9)
2 Cups Fresh Crushed Pineapple with Juice (1 pineapple)
1/3 Cup Water
7 Tbsp. Clear Jel
3 Cups Sugar

Peel and chop kiwi.

DSCF2362
Core and puree pineapple.

DSCF2367
Combine kiwi, pineapple, 1/2 Cup sugar and Clear Jel dissolved in 1/3 cup water in large pan.

DSCF2370
Bring jam to boil, careful it does not stick. This is very thick so it will stick if you do not watch it closely.

DSCF2371
Once it boils, it will start to burn if you don’t add the sugar immediately. Add remaining sugar and bring to boil.

DSCF2372
Boil jam for 3 minutes. The mixture will be very thick. To thin you could add additional pineapple juice or water.
Ladle jam into jars and put on lids. Water-bath can for 10 minutes.

***This jam turned out much thicker than I like it. Clear Jel does leave it still spreadable, but I prefer a softer set jam and would suggest decreasing the Clear Jel to 4 Tbsp. next time.

Lemon-Pineapple Preserves

DSCF2397

3 Large or 5 Medium lemons, squeezed of all juice, strained (shells reserved)
3 Pounds Fresh pineapple, cleaned, cored, and pureed (about 2 whole)
2 3/4 Cups Water
4 Tbsp. Clear Jel
6 3/4 Cups Sugar

Combine lemon shells and seeds in a cheesecloth bag or jelly bag.

DSCF2390
Combine lemon juice, pineapple, and cheesecloth bag in large stock pot. Bring to boil and simmer for 20 – 25 minutes.

DSCF2392
Remove cheesecloth bag and add 4 Tbsp. Clear Jel mixed in 3/4 cup water. Add 3/4 sugar and bring to boil. Boil for 2 minutes.

DSCF2394
Add remaining sugar and boil for 1 minute more.

DSCF2395
Ladle into jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Cover and seal. Process in water-bath canner 20 minutes.

***The consistency was perfect, however, although tart, I could not taste “lemon” in this preserve. I might consider adding the zest of one lemon to see if it would make it more lemony next time.

Raspberry-Lime Jam

DSCF2389

5 Cups Raspberries
1/2 Cup Water
2 Limes
4 Tbsp. Clear Jel
1/4 Cup Water
5 Cups Sugar

Combine raspberries and 1/2 cup water in stock pot. Bring to boil. Turn down and simmer for 10 minutes to release juices. With immersion blender puree raspberries.

DSCF2379

 

Run berries through food mill. This should give you approximately 2.5 cups of strained pulp.

DSCF2380

Zest one lime and juice two.

DSCF2376
Combine lime zest, juice, raspberry pulp, 1/2 cup sugar, and 4 Tbsp. Clear Jel dissolved in 1/4 cup water in stock pot. Bring to boil for 2 minutes.

DSCF2385
Add remaining sugar and boil 1 minute longer.

DSCF2386
Ladle jam into jars, cover and seal in water-bath canner for 10 minutes.

***The consistency was good for this jam. The lime flavor however was very slight. I would use the zest of two limes rather than just one next time.

Raspberry-Lemonade Concentrate

DSCF2336

6 Cups Raspberries
4 Cups Lemon Juice, fresh or bottled
6 Cups Sugar

Combine all ingredients in large stock pot and bring to boil.

DSCF2325

With an immersion blender/stick blender puree the liquid till smooth.

DSCF2328

Heat to 190° over medium-heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
Put the concentrate though food mill to remove seeds.

DSCF2329 DSCF2334
Return concentrate to pan and bring back up to 190°. Remove from heat, ladle into jars, cover and process in water-bath canner for 15 minutes.

To reconstitute: Mix one part concentrate with 1 1/2 cups water. Or for a more refreshing alternative, try making a Frozen Raspberry-Lemonade Smoothie (recipe follows).

Frozen Raspberry-Lemonade Smoothie

DSCF2404

1 3/4 Cup Raspberry-Lemonade Concentrate
5 Cups Ice
1 Cup Water

Combine all ingredients in blender.

DSCF2402

Blend until smooth.

DSCF2403

Serve in a tall glass. Could garnish with fresh raspberries and a wedge of lemon.

The canning went fast and by 3:00 this afternoon I was done canning and on my way to making dinner. I was beginning to wonder if I was ever going to get out of the kitchen. Thankfully, dinner is done, I’m out of sugar, and tomorrow is another day, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Parishing Pineapples

Sitting around doing nothing is not something I do well. Actually I am quite terrible at it, thus why I have been in bed for the past four hours after insisting on getting up and doing more than my body was ready to handle. If this gallbladder thing doesn’t resolve itself soon, I may very well go crazy.

For the past two mornings, when I’ve gotten up, I’ve felt good. In fact, today I felt really good until about noon. Then I started getting fatigued and achy. Being stubborn, or maybe just stupid (the jury is still out on that one), I decided to push myself to the absolute limits — and here I am in bed, anxiously waiting for the sun to set so I can go to sleep and end this day. It’s not so much that I want this day to end, as I want tomorrow to start because it is my hope that after a good night’s sleep, I’ll be better again. Keep your fingers crossed.

So what was so darn important that I had to push myself beyond my current hindered capacity?

I had a dozen pineapples sitting on my kitchen table that I bought nearly a week ago. When I bought them I had every intention of making some wonderful things with them, and still do. Trouble is that they are ripening faster than I would like and seeing as I neglected to move them to the basement where it is much cooler and far less humid, something had to be done.

Without much energy or inspiration I took six of the twelve and made a family favorite snack — Dried Pineapple. I really wanted to make this because for my birthday my parents gave me a new food dehydrater this past weekend and I was dying to try it.

The brand new food dehydrator my parents got me for my birthday.

The brand new food dehydrater my parents got me for my birthday.

Dried pineapple is easy enough, just time-consuming. It took about an hour an a half standing on the hard kitchen floor to fill the dehydrator and scrape all the pulp from the shells for a later project.

Three of the twelve ripening pineapples.

Three of the twelve ripening pineapples.

First I sliced off the tops.

First I sliced off the tops.

Next I screwed my handy-dandy pineapple corer into the pineapple.

Next I screwed my handy-dandy pineapple corer into the pineapple.

8 to 10 full turns later, the pineapple is cored.

8 to 10 full turns later, the pineapple is cored.

The pineapple slices.

The pineapple slices.

The pineapple slices on the dehydrator rack.

The pineapple slices on the dehydrator rack.

Once the racks were full, I then cleaned the pineapple shells so I’d have the pulp for another project when I’m up to it (or not up to but stupid enough to try before I’m completely better).

The cored pineapple.  This still has  lots of pulp that is great for other recipes.

The cored pineapple. This still has lots of pulp that is great for other recipes.

The shells after I scraped out all the sweet usable meat.

The shells after I scraped out all the sweet usable meat.

A full bowl of pineapple scrap for later projects.

A full bowl of pineapple scrap for later projects.

That’s six down and six to go. A manageable amount, don’t you think?  Trouble is that while I’ve been sitting here in bed, fatigue in my legs and back driving me crazy, and trying very hard not to be crabby with everyone, I decided to research recipes for canning with pineapple. I had two recipes on my Canning To Do List already, but found three more. You know what that means? Yep, tomorrow I’m off to buy twelve more pineapples while they are still on sale for $.99 each. This time though they are going in the basement.

I might not always allow my body to recoup as much as it needs to, but today while suffering a slight relapse I found some really fun recipes to try and a couple great ideas to put my own spin on, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

GallBladder Gardening via a Sheeny Man (or woman in this case)

I am currently on Day 5 of  a gallbladder attack and can say that I am quite tired of it. Not being able to stand up for more than a couple of hours after a full nights sleep and then only in about half hour increments three or four times a day has put quite a damper on everything. Aside from worrying whether or not my gallbladder is going to perforate, spread infection, or just explode (I don’t know that this is possible, but I sure feel like it might at times) I can tolerate the pain. It’s the nauseousness, bloating, and inability to eat that is truly bothering me. My one reprieve is to lie down completely flat and the pain subsides almost immediately. The nausea and other symptoms are an almost constant.

I have had gallbladder problems for about 15 years. A bout with the flu triggered an attack that many years ago and ever since every year or so I’d get that over-full feeling after eating, pain on the right side, and feel sick to my stomach. This is the worst case since that first time when I did go to the doctor and aside from removing my gallbladder, he had no suggestions. I have not been to a doctor in more than 10 years and have no intention of going unless absolutely necessary — too many bad experiences. So I have been trying every “home remedy” on the Internet, to no avail. I think the pain is at least getting better, now I just need to get past the other symptoms and once again I’ll be back to wreaking havoc around the house.

Still, I am not about to just sit around. Every hour or so I get up to do something like make dinner, throw a load of wash in, hang a load of wash outside, fold some clothes — anything that will keep me busy. At least two or three times a day I do mosey out to the garden to see how things are going, water a little, prune, and weed. What would normally take me just an hour or two, has taken me the past five days to complete.

Three days ago I started a project to help with the slug problem on my pepper plants. Although my slug catchers continue to catch anywhere from one to three slugs a night, I’m running out of beer and the population just seems to be multiplying. Figuring that the mulch around the plants is giving the slugs the protection they require and enabling them to feast on my peppers at night, I came up with an idea that I hope will do something.

First though I have to tell you, my father is a sheeny man at heart and this has rubbed off on me. For those not privy to what a sheeny man is, it is an over-glorified name for a garbage picker. Yes, come garbage night, hubby and I pile into the car right around dusk and drive through the neighborhood in search of hidden treasures among our neighbors trash. You might think we’re crazy, but we have found some awesome stuff.

We have gotten three perfecting good leather office chairs. One that was brand new that the man said his wife didn’t like. The box was still on the driveway. I’m not sure why he didn’t just return it, but I’m not complaining, we were grateful. I’ve found full bolts of drapery/upholstery fabric, plastic storage bins, cabinets to put in our garage, a 100-foot hose that had a four inch section that had burst and hubby fixed for $3 that is now hanging on the side of our house, black diamond to outline a small portion of our landscaping, and even a leather recliner that my neighbor said he paid $700 for but his mother didn’t like so he went out and got her a different one. He just put it on the curb. What a find that was! This is in my bedroom and one of my favorite places to sit and journal, and it came with a matching ottoman.

While we were out cruising the neighborhood one garbage night, I happened to notice a stack of plastic gardening pots sitting by the curb. These were not the pots that stores put plants in when they sell them, they were the more expensive ones that people actually buy to plant flowers or garden plants in for their patios. My mind began to race. If I brought those pots home, I’d be able to have pots of tomatoes, beans and whatever else I could think of on the patio and it wouldn’t cost me anything but the cost of the plant. Hubby stopped, I jumped out, and the rest is history.

For the past month I have been collecting pots, filling some with dirt and planting in them, and storing the rest for future projects. It has become an almost obsession. Just this past weekend, as terrible as I felt, I had to go out in search of pots and came home with more than a dozen. They range from 10“ to 18“ and are all in perfect condition. I can’t imagine why someone would get rid of them, but I am not going to look this gift horse in the mouth.

With all the pots I have stored in the garage and the continuing infestation of slugs, inspiration hit. What if I were to cut the bottom off a few of the pots, slip them around my pepper plants (after removing the mulch from the base of the plant), and then bury it half way in the ground. This would form a barrier between the mulch which gives the slugs their protection and my plants. I know that the slugs can crawl up the sides of the pots and still reach my plants, but that’s where my slug traps come in. Hopefully they will be so parched from the long crawl from the base of the mulch to the top of the pot that they’ll smell the beer and forget all about gnawing on my pepper plants.

I have no idea if this is going to work, but it sure sounds good on paper. Of course, the way I’ve been feeling, this project took me three days to complete. One day to cut the pots, one day to remove the mulch and dig the holes around the plants, and today I finally set the pots around the plants, filled them with a little more dirt, replaced the slug traps, and pushed the mulch around the base of the pots. If nothing else, this does make watering the plants much easier. All I have to do is fill the pot with water and I’m done. No guessing how long I have to hold the hose on the plant to make sure it gets enough water through the thick layer of mulch.

Here is the pepper plant before I added the pot.

Here is the pepper plant before I added the pot.

First I cut the bottoms off four pots.

First I cut the bottoms off four pots.

The mulch pulled away and the pot slid around the pepper plant.

The mulch pulled away and the pot slid around the pepper plant.

Under the mulch there was lots of slugs.

Under the mulch there was lots of slugs.

More slugs.

More slugs.

The pot sunk into the ground, more dirt added, and the slug trap buried.

The pot sunk into the ground, more dirt added, and the slug trap buried.

Watering is much easier.  All I do is fill the pot and go.

Watering is much easier. All I do is fill the pot and go.

It amazes me what people get rid of. Every week there are televisions with signs on them saying “Works Perfect – Remote Attached,” furniture that is worn but certainly has a few good years left in it, toilets that have been ripped out during bathroom remodeling, lawn furniture, office furniture, and a ton of other things that I don’t see because it’s not what I’m looking for. All these things are perfectly good but are no longer needed or wanted because people have upgraded, outgrown, or tired of them. I’d say that it is such a waste, but obviously it isn’t. Hubby and I have certainly found some great treasures among the trash, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Garage Sales Galore!

Always trying to save money, I often buy clothing for my kids from the garage sales. Recently, I purchased a new shirt from JC Penny for my 6-year-old and was wondering why she was reluctant to wear it the next day. After asking her she responded, “Oh, the store has their own washing machine… that’s why we don’t have to wash it first?!”  From:  undefined | Great Clean Jokes

Garage saling became a necessity when the kids were very little.  It was where I bought a good portion of their clothes and even some of their toys.  As they got older, however, their interest in wearing garage sale clothing waned.  I have always enjoyed going to garage sales and finding a bargain and have a hard time resisting those signs advertising “Everything Must Go!”  Recently the kids have gotten a renewed interest in exploring the offerings of garage sales.  When you have unlimited wants but limited funds, necessity dictates.  Plus, very often you can find brand new or slightly used items at garage sales for pennies on the dollar.

The past three days, in every moment that I could spare, I have been enjoying our subdivision garage sale. I’m not exactly sure how many homes are having sales, but with 1,200 homes in our subdivision, even if only 5% were having sales, that’s quite a few to hit.

With my list memorized and money in my pocket, I headed out on Thursday and finally today I can say that I think I’ve hit every single open sale in our sub. Meeting the neighbors, catching up on the latest gossip, seeing how the neighborhood kids have grown, and finding treasures among another man’s trash has made this a pretty good weekend. One of the best parts is that I was able to find some great things we really needed for a fraction of the cost they would have been at retail.

Here are just a few of the things I got:

A brand new bike helmet - $1.00 for Zeb and slightly used backpack - $1.00.

A brand new bike helmet – $1.00 for Zeb and slightly used backpack – $1.00.

A cute bushel-style basket to store my onions in - $.75.

A cute bushel-style basket to store my onions in – $.75.

A fan for hubby's office - $.50.

A fan for hubby’s office – $.50.

Scaves and gloves - all for  $4.00.

Scarves and gloves – all for $4.00.

Brand New rolls of paper towel and packages of napkins - $.10 each and dish soap - $.50 each.

Brand New rolls of paper towel and packages of napkins – $.10 each and dish soap – $.50 each.

Brand New boxes of Kleenex - $.25 each.

Brand New boxes of Kleenex – $.25 each.

Brand New caulk with gun - All for $5.00.

Brand New caulk with gun – All for $5.00.

In addition to those pictured, I also bought one case of quart canning jars – $3.00, one case of pint canning jars – $3.00, one case of brand new jelly jars $2.00, a vintage half-apron with a towel attached to it (homemade) $1.00, 5 DVD movies for the kids – $1.00 each, 5 Perry Ellis shirts for Zeb – $1.00 each, and probably the best deal of all was a bike rack for our car that originally cost $110 for only $10 and the man even showed me how to put it on my car. Whew! What a haul!

Getting a great deal is wonderful, but going to the sales with a good friend on Thursday, Zeb, Grace, and even hubby during the next two days was a nice way to spend some time away from the house and the constant demands of being a housewife. Whoever invented the garage sale had an excellent idea that day, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

The Ultimate Garage Sale Bargainer

“I’ve learned that if you go to a garage sale, you’ll almost always buy at least one item you don’t need.” ~ Unknown, page 157, Live & Learn & Pass It On

Garage Sale season has officially opened in our area. Subdivision garage sale signs are popping up all over. You can’t drive anywhere without seeing some sort of advertisement on every street corner you pass.

garage-sale-signs-104aab0c8f207781

For years I anxiously awaited this season and for years I’d bring home one thing I never thought I’d buy — or should buy for that matter. “One thing” might be a slight understatement, but it’s a good place to start.

My passion for garage saling began when I was a teenager. My father introduced me to this addictive social phenomenon while we ran errands on the weekends together. My father was ruthless. He never paid full-price for anything at a sale, believing that “garage sale” was synonymous with “make me an offer.” If something was marked $4.00, he’d offer $2.00, knowing full well he would probably get a counter offer of $3.00 and would be all too happy to pay it. Not every bargaining effort went smoothly, and sometimes he walked away empty-handed, but the rush he got from the experience was palpable and contagious.

For years every summer when garage sale season opened, my father and I would get together to traipse through subdivisions that advertised “This Weekend ONLY” sales. House after house we’d hit, picking up little things here and there, and occasionally finding something big we could not do without. Although these excursions were enjoyable for us, my mother was not so enthralled. She complained incessantly about each and every thing my father brought home — whether it was a good deal, something they really could use, or something my father just wanted. She claimed he was wasting his time and their money.  Still, the time I got to spend with my father during these trips was priceless.

As my father got older, my mother’s wrath against garage sale treasures took its toll and my father decided the battle was no longer worth the fight. Age has a funny way of changing people. Our summer expeditions came to an end as did the priceless father/daughter time we shared. I occasionally would stop at a garage sale by myself, look around aimlessly, then get back in my car and head home. The thrill was gone.

After several years of living firmly under my mother’s thumb, my father reached his breaking point and came to the realization that “he mattered” just as much as she did. He started stopping at garage sales again, picking up an occasional trinket that HE wanted. This opened the door I thought had closed forever and we once again embarked on our father/daughter garage sale expeditions.

This year in preparation for Garage Sale Season I decided to approach it from a different angle. I decided to make a list. As corny as that might sound, lists are something that really keep me in check. Going to the grocery store, shopping for Christmas presents, preparing for the next semester of Grace’s college, getting ready for a dinner party — all of these things begin for me with a list. So why not garage saling?

All winter I have made notes of little things I needed or wanted but didn’t want to pay full price for on the retail market. There are a few things on the list that have already been crossed off, because the need or want for them outweighed saving a few bucks, but for the most part, I had a pretty good idea of what to look for when the long-awaited Garage Sale Season opened.

Today my father and I spent an exhilarating morning driving through a huge subdivision garage sale, stopping at every house with an open door. Even if from the street it looked like all they had were baby toys and clothes, we knew from experience you just never know what treasures they might be hiding in the dark depths of their garage.

The very first sale we hit, my father found a brand new pressure canner still in the box, something on his Garage Sale List. My mother had thrown his out, claiming he didn’t need it. My father picked it up, opened the box, examined the contents and then looked at the price. It was marked $20. Although they go for much more in the stores, the “make me an offer” mind set lives on, so he offered the owner $10. She looked at the box, argued “It’s brand new, never been used,” then after some hesitation, countered with $15. — SOLD!

Time pushes on, changing people as it does. Sometimes however, people hold onto parts of themselves they need to, they want to, that they like the most. My father is a garage sale bargainer at heart, and no matter how hard anyone tries to change that, he prevails, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Mother’s Day Canning, Gardening and Cooking

“Sometimes the strength of motherhood is greater than natural laws.” ~ Barbara Kingsolver

Mother’s Day wasn’t as productive as I thought it was going to be. The hubby and kids actually wanted to spend some time with me — go figure.

Being an early riser, I was able to can the box of nectarines I bought on Saturday before anyone knew it was morning. The box yielded 10 quarts and I have over a dozen left on the counter to eat fresh.

10 Quarts of Nectarines - All Floaters

10 Quarts of Nectarines – All Floaters

At first I was concerned when the quarts came out of the canner looking half-full and all the fruit floating at the top. Researching this on the internet though I learned that “floaters” are a normal outcome when it comes to nectarines. They have more air in the fruit than some other types and I used a light syrup which almost always means “floaters.”

With the nectarines done and no one up, I headed outside to tackle some of the gardening. First on my list was planting the pepper plants. This year I’ve decided to try growing jalapeno and green chili peppers. I bought two of each plant — just enough for the side gardens.

Once the peppers were done, I used the extra dirt from the holes I dug for the peppers and filled two buckets so I could plant the two Roma tomato plants I bought. Last year I bought a bushel of these from a local farm to make tomato sauce. This year I’d like to see how many I can get from a couple of plants to see if it’s worth trying to grow my own bushel. I’m not sure how they’ll fare in the buckets, but that is yet another test.

Next I worked on putting a few marigolds in the pots around the plum tree. The plum tree is in full bloom. There are so many flowers that the blossoms look like carnations and the sweet fragrance that fills the yard, made planting around the tree a wonderful experience.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Before I finished the marigolds, the family got up and being a “Mom” took precedent. It was time for coffee, gifts, and then some last-minute grocery shopping. Although Mother’s Day, I was cooking dinner, had to have my mother and mother-in-law over. The good thing about making my own Mother’s Day dinner is that I get to make my favorite things. I didn’t have to worry about what anyone else wants — it is MY day too you know.

So for dinner it was turkey burgers, bacon wrapped deep-fried hot dogs, potato salad, pasta salad, home-made mac and cheese, deviled eggs, canned peppers, and homemade plum-cranberry sauce. For dessert it was a strawberry Jello cake and fresh peach cobbler. I had made peach crisp before, but never cobbler. I chose an easy Bisquick recipe and am very glad I did. It was a hit, my husband’s favorite, my father’s favorite, and the one thing everyone loved. If you want a quick easy dessert, give it a try.

Peach Cobbler - Golden Brown

Peach Cobbler – Golden Brown

Classic Bisquick Peach Cobbler

  • 2 Cups Original Bisquick Mix
  • 2 Cups Milk
  • 1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 Cup Melted Butter
  • 2 Cups Sugar
  • 7-8 Cups Fresh Sliced Peaches or 2-28 oz. Can Drained

Heat oven 375°
Stir together Bisquick, milk, and cinnamon in ungreased 13×9 baking pan.
Stir in butter until blended.
Stir together sugar and peaches and spoon over batter.
Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until golden brown.

I served the cobbler warm with vanilla ice cream.

Although I didn’t get to all the canning I had planned or all the gardening that needed to be done, I spent an absolutely beautiful day with my family enjoying good food and a reprieve from the daily demands of motherhood, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Canning For Mother’s Day

A bargain is something you can’t use at a price you can’t resist. ~ Franklin Jones

Spent a couple of hours this morning at my favorite produce market and came home with a carload of produce, plants, and top soil. Once again my eyes seemed bigger than my gumption once I got home because I was a bit overwhelmed, but I’m sure tomorrow, after a good night’s sleep, I’ll be up for all the canning and planting I’ve got ahead of me.

The best finds at the market today were two boxes of California peaches and one box of nectarines for a total of $5.00. My daughter, Grace recently discovered my canned peaches in the basement (I’ve been canning these for a couple of years, but she never noticed I guess) and in the past week she has eaten two quarts of them. Finding the peaches was perfect. I can make a peach crumble for Mother’s Day dessert tomorrow and can the rest. As for the nectarines, I’ve never canned them, but am anxious to try this. I don’t have to peel them, so it should be a quick process.

Bell checking out the cases of peaches.

Bell checking out the cases of peaches.

 

Nectarines - No Peeling Required!

Nectarines – No Peeling Required!

After stashing the boxes of peaches and nectarines on my cart, I headed over to the discount table and found more than 15 boxes of mini cucumbers. No, I did not buy them all. In fact, I wasn’t sure what I could do with them. I’ve made pickles with pickling cucumbers, but never these mini cucumbers. Still, I couldn’t pass them up — they were calling to me. So, I bought one case for $1.50 and am hoping for the best.

Mini Cucumbers - Hopefully they'l make good pickles.

Mini Cucumbers – Hopefully they’ll make good pickles.

Next, I walked around the market a few more times and when I came to the tomato table a worker offered me a box of tomatoes he had just sorted off the table. For $2.00 I got a good size box of tomatoes and will can these chopped for salsa. They are not the reddest yet, but give them a day or two on the counter, and they’ll be good to go.

A case of tomatoes for $2.00 - how could I say no.

A case of tomatoes for $2.00 – how could I say no.

Heading to the checkout I hit the discount rack and found two bags of peppers, one orange and one yellow, for $1.00. I’ll freeze these for a variety of dishes. I like freezing peppers. All I have to do is clean them, slice them, and freeze. No blanching involved.

A dozen peppers for $1.00 - definitely going on the menu for next week.

A dozen peppers for $1.00 – definitely going on the menu for next week.

It was a good day at the produce market and now I’ve got my Mother’s Day planned — canning, canning, and more canning. Oh yeah, I also picked up some pepper plants, a couple of Roma tomato plants, some pickling cucumber plants, and marigolds to plant tomorrow. It should be a full day, hopefully the weather will hold. At any rate, the family will all be home and I’ll be spending it with the people I love, doing my favorite things, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.