Monday, August 27, 2012

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

I ran out of dishwasher detergent.  

I HATE buying dishwasher detergent.  

I hate it (and wasting water) enough that I give Mark grief about running the dishwasher when it's not completely full of dishes crammed into every possible space.  

I did not want to go the store having just left $100 there for what I had planned to be 7-10 days worth of meals.  

So I looked up a recipe for dishwasher detergent on the internet and was amazed at how simple and inexpensive it was.



Baking Soda


Dishwasher Detergent

Use equal parts Borax and Baking Soda in whatever quantity you like or have at hand.

This recipe works just fine and I don't feel the least bit deprived at not having a fancy bottle of Cascade.  I love the simplicity of the homemade stuff.

I stored my new dishwasher detergent in an old Good Seasons Italian Dressing (from the mix) bottle that was sitting around in the cabinet but I'm still brainstorming on what a better container would be.  There might be a blog post about that when I figure it out!

Meanwhile, you might give this a try.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Resourcefullness...and Brevity!

Brevity is hard for me.  I remember being assigned a 20 page paper and turning in 35.  I'm just kinda WORDY.

Yesterday's post was just supposed to be a list of the dozen spices I used in my curry dish and a sentence marveling about that.  Then I had to add photos and recipes and comments from all angles.  I can sure complicate things!

Today's experiment in brevity:

Thep Thai before:

Thep Thai after:

The owner (who's name I have never been able to discern) who did  ALL of that himself, gradually, over time.  He even grows vegetables and herbs in the parking lot.  Amazing!I have enjoyed watching the progress over the years and love to marvel at it all when I'm there.  He always inspires me.

Ha!  Just blew my extreme brevity!  As I was cropping the photo above (that I pulled off the internet) I realized that the woman I was cropping out is probably my friend, Karon!  And then I could go on about how Karon was a big part of why and how I got a real estate license which could lead to lots of other topics.

 I love this town!  I almost never meet someone that I don't have someone in common with  -- one or two degrees of separation (I never know how to figure that)!  And now I'm tempted to put in a link to "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" or the whole concept of "Six Degrees of Separation" or the research study that I participated in about it years ago (BTW all connections went through my dad who knows EVERYONE!).  Oops!  Couldn't help myself!

Life is just too interesting to leave fun stuff out!

Bye! (As opposed to "Goodbye".  Which is longer.)

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Mark and I have a date night tradition that means we go almost exclusively to our favorite Thai restaurant, Thep Thai.

When money is REALLY tight, we go just to share an order of basil rolls (glass noodles, scrambled egg, lettuce, carrots, fresh basil, and one shrimp each, wrapped in a thin rice sheet and served with peanut sauce and spicy shiracha sauce).  They are divine.

Recently we took on the adventure of making our way through the "Curries" section of the menu (after an appetizer of basil rolls, of course).  We liked some, found others too hot for us, and disliked the one that tasted like soap (though I'm sure it's good if that's the variety of curry you like)!

Then it occurred to me that I could make the perfect curry for me at home!  I am very impressed with myself as this is not the sort of ethnic food that one thinks to make at home.  Have you ever made egg rolls at home?  (Shush up if you're the one person who has and let me have my point.)

I searched around on the internet and found a recipe for "Vegetarian Korma" that I modified based on other readers' comments and my own whims.  I think it's a bit unfair to so conspicuously label it "vegetarian" as this could scare off some would probably never miss the meat if they didn't focus on the absence of it!

What amazes my most (beyond how INCREDIBLY DELICIOUS this is!) is how many spices are in it!  How can something NOT be wonderful with the skillful combination of a dozen exotic flavors?

Here's the spice list:
garam masala (which I would have put in if I could find a place to buy it)
(also: does olive oil count too? And coconut milk?)

That comes to AT LEAST 12 spices!

This dish is very easy to make I love that it is also very inexpensive to make (skip the cashews at $5.96+ a can and you can cut the cost in HALF).

tomato paste        .62
coconut milk      1.48
sweet potatoes   2.00
carrots                 .68
cilantro                .98
garbanzo beans   .88
onion                  .30
ginger                 .15
Total                7.09 (+ tax)
(Plus spices that you probably already have in the cabinet and any veggies, protein, or rice you might want to add in though I did not so I can keep it on my "Cheap Recipes" (under $10) list and make it frequently (I don't miss them anyway).  The recipe serves around six which makes it around $1.25 per serving.

I also love that this dish is very healthy!  It contains: carrots, sweet potatoes, tomato paste, garbanzo beans, other assorted/changeable vegetables, ginger and many healthy spices (as listed above).  In fact, other than the salt (which it really does need) there's nothing in it that's not good for you!  It is shown with white rice in the photo but I prefer brown rice for both taste and nutrition.  However, I don't eat it with rice because I don't want the carbs or the bulk (and I'd rather just eat more of the Korma!).

Here's my version:

Annie's Indian Korma
(serves six-ish)

4 carrots (sliced)
2 sweet potatoes (cubed)
1 can garbanzo beans
1 small (8 oz.) can tomato paste
1 can coconut milk ("light" if available)(or you can use evaporated milk,  fat free evaporated milk, or even
        heavy cream depending on dietary preferences and availability)
1/4-1/2 onion (diced)
1-2 cloves garlic
1Tablespoon grated fresh ginger (or 1-2 teaspoons powdered ginger)
2 teaspoons salt (don't skimp on this)
2 teaspoons curry
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala (optional)
2 jalapenos (diced)
1/2-1 bunch fresh cilantro (chopped)
1 tablespoon olive oil
(Optional: add tofu, chicken, other vegetables, and white or brown rice as desired.)

Preboil the carrots and sweet potatoes while you are preparing everything else.  In a large skillet, saute onions and garlic in olive oil.  Add in ginger.  Add remaining ingredients (mix the chopped cilantro in or put it on top before serving -- whichever you prefer).   Stir and cook for about ten minutes or until you think its done!  Enjoy!

I hope you will try this dish!  You will be glad you did and harbor eternal gratitude to me for the recipe!

Next, I need to learn to make basil rolls at home!

Now I am REALLY glad there are leftovers and I am going to go eat LOTS now!  Bye!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tour of My Front Entry Hall

I have had great fun this morning writing a REALLY LONG blog about my front hall. Consider yourself warned!

Alas, I didn't take before pictures again.  I didn't really plan on making such a big difference when I started cleaning up the front hall the other day.  I love it when a little tidying snowballs into a big overhaul -- or at least something big enough in the change department that I want to get out of bed to go gaze at it periodically!

Picture a black highboy dresser that's missing the top two drawers, a little white 1940's dressing table, the foot board from a queen size sleigh bed, four red legs off a kitchen table, and a box of Christmas decorations.  Then sprinkle in some more miscellaneous junk, some muddy footprints, a pile of school supplies, a few stray shoes, and a rambunctious kitten batting a pen cap around the floor.  There!  Now you have a semi-complete "before" shot!  Then add some more junk to your image.  Ok, now you've got it.

All of the above is what happens when it starts to rain on my projects and I have to stash them someplace safe.  Safe = the front hall.  Then things tend to stagnate there.  Then we end up having to climb over them to get into the house.  I know.  I hope a bit of a problem.  But not anymore!

Here are a few "after" shots and WAY too much commentary!

View from the front door into the kitchen.
This is the view from the front door into the kitchen.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my blue toile curtain  that hides the hall closet and replaced those infernal hollow-core, bi-fold closet doors.  I just adore this luscious fabric! 

Here's a kinda blurry shot of my little blue ceiling.  One morning about 12 years ago, I looked up at this little ceiling section and got a brainstorm.  I pulled up a stepladder and painted it with paint I had on hand while still in my nightgown!  Then I put gold cardboard stars and brass tacks on it to represent the stars around the "sun" of the light.  It still makes me happy!

In another little example of my instantaneous brainstorms, I noticed one day that three door headers converged in this space and realized that, if I had a board the right length, I could use the door headers as shelf supports.  I wandered into the garage, found an old chippy gray shutter, cut a couple of inches off of it so it would fit, and made a shelf in about three minutes.  Look around your house for these fortuitous convergences and made a quick display shelf!  In a bathroom, this would be a great place to stash a stack of crisp white towels to have handy (but safe from everyday use) for guests!

From this vantage point, you can see four of the five collections I have stashed in this space (I am only mildly ashamed to admit that I have 125+ collections):  the stars above the closet, the white matte vases above the doorway, a few of my crosses to the right of the doorway, and a collection of framed kids' art depictions of the world to the left of the stairs. 

Earth as depicted by my daughters.

There are a couple of other collections around the space as well.  Some of my blue plate collection:

French doors to the TV room on the left.  Plate collection in the middle.  Curtained coat closet on the right.
Here's a more concentrated shot of the blue plates -- plus a couple of iron stone platters in a hymnal rack.  What I'd really love is to put a couple more hymnal racks on this wall but I'm going to have to find them first.  That should be fun!

Blue Plate Collection

Also present:  a gathering of my ancestors.  On the wall going up the stairs (see below) are antique photos of my maternal grandparents and their parents and grandparents.   I can't tell you how many times one of these frames has been knocked off the wall and gone rolling down the stairs!  This is how I've learned to cut and replace glass in frames!  Luckily, none of the ancestors are any worse for wear from their wild rides!  And I don't panic when it happens anymore but it sure freaks out guests who have wayward elbows.  

The view of the stairs.  

Below the ancestors is an old church pew that I still love after many years of having it around the house.  I whipped up a blue and white striped ticking seat cushion for it and a blue toile pillow so it would match the curtain on the closet.  Under the bench is an old yellow drawer and three baskets that hold shoes.  

Above the bench on the wall is a bird-themed set of hooks for keys.  It is a high offense to NOT put the keys on the hooks (right, Mark?)! 

 If you're wondering about the baby gate to the right, that's how we keep our vicious dogs from eating visitors -- we pen them on the stairs.  It was originally installed to keep little Tessa and the little Sara-Grace from climbing upstairs and plunging to their deaths but now we just use it to protect visitors from the dogs.  I must admit I kinda like having an excuse to keep the gate up -- it's kinda nostalgic for this mom of teens to live in the past a little now and then!

Sometimes I look at the view of the stairs while I'm sitting on the sofa in the TV room and I think to myself "That almost looks good enough to be in a magazine!" -- the "magazine-worthy" thing always being my goal.  Then I remember that I am blind to the missing spindles in the stair rail.  There's a story about that:  more years ago than I care to admit, my ex-husband was moving a heavy item of furniture (I no longer remember what) down the stairs.  It got away from him and took out the spindles.  Well, it turns out that they no longer make that style of spindle so they have to be custom-turned on a lathe by a furniture-grade carpenter.  $25-$30 each.  Times FIVE!  $150 for stair rails is a lot on my budget.  It just hasn't made it to the top of the list yet.  That and I completely forget about it because I am basically blind to their absence.  At least it makes room for the "stair basket"!

I am so blessed that I am also frequently blind to my 90's white tile floor which I HATE!  Just picture slate tiles instead.  Please.

Halfway up the stair is Juliet's lair.  She frequently sleeps on the stairs and jumps up anytime someone goes up or down the stairs (which is a LOT in our house) so we put her bed in the corner where she can safely snooze no matter how busy the stairs are!

Juliet on her pink puff.

Above Juliet on the wall is an old hymnal rack that I fill with book suggestions for my girls who are voracious readers.  This works better than leaving books on the kitchen counter and forgetting to mention them to the girls.

I never realized what a church my front hall is with all the crosses and hymnal racks and the church pew!  Perhaps we should start holding services!

Juliet's Lair.

Above the front door is more of my cross collection.  I love having them en masse!  To the right is a vintage jelly cabinet that holds things like sunscreen and sunglasses and jump ropes, the "lost and found' box, and anything else I want to stash out of sight.  On the floor is a very old wire wastebasket that I just adore.  It just feels like it once lived in an old newspaper office and was "the round file" for early drafts of the next day's hot news!

The front door.

You might have noticed (but I hope you didn't!) that he front door is only partially painted with black chalkboard paint.  I started out planning to just paint the inset panels in the door and then, when that looked stupid, I decided to paint the whole door.  Then I ran out of paint.  This will be remedied soon, I hope!  It's been interesting to have the door go from white to black.  At first, we would all glance at the door and panic thinking the door was standing open.  It even faked out the dogs a couple of times!  They really thought they were free to go explore the neighborhood!  Everyone wants me to paint the door back to white but I'm determined to see the project through because I think they'll like it in the end.  If not, I'll paint it back to white -- or some other color if I get a better idea!  Any suggestions?

And, one last unfinished corner:

I love drawers!

I spotted this little set of "closet drawers" while driving 50 mph past a yard sale on a rural highway.  I knew they were mine before I even got out of the car!  Good thing the price tag complied with my budget -- $11.
They hold scarves and mittens and hats and umbrellas and socks and stuff like that.  Apparently, we have way too much "stuff like that"!  They are about to be painted with black chalkboard paint like the door.  I think they will be fun like that and that the silver knobs (that I added) will look good against the black!

Here's one last hall photo that I just had to add because the kitten wandered in and wanted to be in the photo (and on the blog)!  This is Topaz.  She is a wild thing.  She is wondering where that really fun pen cap went!

Find the kitty!

Now that the hall is clean, I can let people in the house!  Come on over!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Back-to-School Shopping

I wrote this post on Friday.  Then I didn't post if because I felt like it needed more photos.  Now I'm kinda glad it doesn't have more photos so I'm posting it late.


Ah, Friday!  Today is off to a lovely start!

There are gray, rumbly clouds outside that made a wonderful backdrop for a morning walk that included a cup of coffee in my hand and a cute boy by my side.  And that new boingy haircut that I got a couple of days ago!

I got a lot of sweet, wholesome things done before work this morning.   I fed and watered the chickens.  I watered the tomatoes, pumpkin, herbs, morning glories, and monkey grass. I put ingredients in the bread machine for a loaf of "Heavenly Whole Wheat Bread".  I ate Lucky Charms with a frail old cat on my lap and a spunky, mischievous kitten pawing at my back for attention while Mark ate eggs and leftover Onion Soup Bread which he complimented me on heartily as he ate.

I put on a new shirt that I found yesterday.  Gotta love a new $3.50 shirt!  This is my first item of gray clothing.  I grabbed it off the "reject rack" to try on with some pants I was trying and ended up liking it more than the pants.   Expect to see more gray in my wardrobe!  My girls tease me that my whole closet is black, white, brown, and pink.  It is.  With a little green as well.  No gray.

Ugh.  I hate photos of myself.  But, after taking 50+ tries, I had to put SOMETHING in!

Speaking of clothes, Tessa and Emily and I have had great luck shopping for school clothes the last couple of days -- ALL thrift store, of course.  Gotta rave about the goodies and the bargains!

On our first round, for something like $52, Tessa got:
2 dresses
2 pair of jeans
1 pair of pants
1 cardigan sweater
2 shirts
1 pair of boots
1 pair of sneakers
2 belts

Then Emily wanted to go so we hit the Goodwill last night.  Taking two teenage girls clothes shopping can be very terrifying to the pocketbook!  We got out with three HUGE bags for a total of $84.  Whew!

Emily's $29 got her:
an Aeropostale coat ($5)
2 hoodie jackets ($4 each)
a pair of jeans ($3.50)
a pair of boots ($4)
2 shirts ($3.50 each)
a pair of zebra fleece pajama pants (that she's so excited about she planning to wear them even though it's August!) ($1.50)

For $21, I got:
a nice pair of black brocade slacks ($2)
the gray shirt mentioned above ($3.50)
a black sweater with ruffles ($4)
a long brown cardigan ($3.50)
a pair of black boots so I won't be skating or landing on my butt the next time it snows -- like last time! ($4)

Tessa got a huge bag of clothes the specifics of which I lost track of but I was greatly relieved that the total was only $37.50 (and that there are a couple of things in there I plan to borrow)!  From the receipt, it looks like she got 3 t-shirts ($2 each), 5 shirts ($3.50 each), 2 hoodies ($3.50 each), and a vest ($2.00).

That works for me!

 I really have zero need to ever buy clothes at retail stores/prices ever again (except for underwear).  The savings is obvious but, also, the selection is larger and I get better brands at thrift stores than I would ever buy retail.  For example, I would never pay Banana Republic prices.  But I have a bunch of $3 Banana Republic items in my closet.

The only downside of thrift store shopping is, if you like something that's the wrong size, they are NOT going it have it in your size.  But that's ok, cuz there's LOTS more to choose from!

I am almost always dressed head-to-toe (including shoes and belts) for $10-$12 (often less).  Sometimes this even includes a coat or jacket.

My girls, who were all a little hesitant at first, now happily fill their closets from thrift stores with the same satisfaction at getting more for less that I feel.

We all basically feel like WE WIN!  Game over!  Until the next time we feel like playing!  Which we can afford to do almost anytime we want because it's CHEAP!


Now, go buy yourself a $3 something at the thrift store!

August Roses

I adore my little rose garden.  Mark and I baby it together so it's very meaningful to us.

The bushes have finally gotten established enough that they are pretty self-sufficient.  Two heat waves and two ice storms and the hearty survivors are just that, hearty survivors!

The roses seem to have two seasons -- the bloom like crazy in May and then, again, after the heat, in October.  If we are lucky (like were were last year), we get a few November roses!

This pretty pink rose is called "Perfume Delight".  It is well named because it has that strong, heavy, old-fashioned scent that just screams "ROSE!".

Here is promise of another August rose!

I missed the sale this year but I usually buy the clearance roses at Walmart when they are marked down to $5 each.  Next year I'll try again.  I would love to have a Tropicana (orange/yellow), a yellow, and a couple of whites.

My favorite is the New Dawn climbing rose that grows up the arbor we used at our wedding reception.  It has small, pale, peachy-pink tinted white blossoms.  Here's a photo of it from last year.  Isn't it just luscious?

At the moment, it has an ant den under it so it's not exactly healthy right now.  Gonna have to fix!

What is your favorite rose?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Volunteer Pumpkin

Every Halloween, when we carve jack-o-lanterns, we throw some of the pumpkin seeds out in the yard somewhere.  Most summers, we have a pumpkin vine as a reward.  This year, one grew out of the clay pot we set the jack-o-lantern in.  I don't remember there being any seeds, but, apparently, there were!

You know... now that I think about it, I seem to remember Sara-Grace (who has such a green thumb she could grow crops for profit!) asking me if she could put a pumpkin seed in the pot.  Figures!  I make her do all my seed-handling!

I don't know if I'll really get a pumpkin off this vine but, even if I don't, I love the lush, green, heartiness of it in all its volunteer enthusiasm!

There's a blossom!  Could it be that I might get a pumpkin eventually?

I planted some butternut squash seeds this year and had one good vine.  But the squash beetles killed it -- as usual!  They kill my squash EVERY year.  I have never had a squash vine survive.  This year, I sprinkled cayenne pepper around the vine.  It seemed to work at first but the beetles won out in the end.  

I hear that autumn squash is more successful so I think I'll try growing some this year.  Autumn gardens are a totally new concept to me!  I always think I've missed my chance if I haven't planted by May 1.  Now I can try again in mid-to-late August!  Yay! 

You know what amazes this grocery-store-girl about vegetables?  You can take the seeds out of a squash or a melon or a pepper and put it in the ground and grown more squash or melons or peppers.  This truly amazes me!  I know it's kind of obvious but I see it as miraculous!  

And, one of the many neat things about it is that it's FREE (except for the water maybe)!  Love it!