Archive for April, 2009

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

not here, over there

pleasure-notes

No, I’m not changing the the game here at CBD, I’m just letting you know I have a guest-blogger post up over here.  This site is written by the great Emma James, who is in Ireland this week.  She is not very frugal and I don’t think she’d survive a week on the Compact.  But she promised to bring back lots of Irish somethings or others so I agreed to write a post.

Okay, that’s not really true.  She didn’t promise me anything.  But she did ask me to write.  And when a great person taking a trip you’d die to take asks you to write something, how do you say no?

I’m completely intimidated as her writing has actually ended up on TV (and good TV at that) and I talk about what I’m cooking and how much money I spend on groceries.  Oh well, I’m sure her audience is open minded.  At least that’s what I tell myself.

If you’re feeling open minded check it out.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

free stuff

free-stuff

I know I just went on a bit of a rant about Freecycle.  And it’s not that I don’t like Freecycle.  It’s just that I’ve been to busy distracted to do my part to get the most benefit from the program.

I’m not going to do anything about that particular issue now.  Instead, I’m going to offer you some free stuff.

Sorry, this is not a giveaway.

I can’t afford fabulous (if used) prizes and as I’m sure only 3 people besides my mother read this that wouldn’t be much of a contest.

Okay, back to the free…

There are two categories for that which I’m giving freely.  The first is the free I like because it’s fun and creative.  These great sites offer free downloads for things I like to imagine I might make one day.  A girl can dream.  No, the supplies are not free, but the design and the idea are.  That’s the hard part for me.  Sometimes I’m creative, I just lack the design and the idea.  Check these guys out:

Creature Comforts – not only are there great designs to download but links to other free stuff.  It’s a two-fer.  Love the mailing labels.

LollyChops – not only is Lolly a kind gal giving away her designs.  She’s also a fantabulous graphic designer.  I adore the chocolate cobbler packaging.  (Mom, you might be seeing one of these boxed up with a gift tag this year.)  And the MerivelMoon paper, and the calendar template and the…  Oh, just go look.

Vintage Glam – this is primarily a wedding site but there are some really great design downloads available.  Lots of labels, fonts and cards.  Gotta love Freebie Fridays.  Check out the Mad Libs Thank You notes.  Gotta get me some.

So that’s enough nice.  Now something for the general audience.  Assuming you haven’t left me yet.

You haven’t left have you?

I’m a fan of acme eclectic’s blog.  It’s not the kind of blog you might think I’d enjoy.  But it’s eclectic.  Like me.  And sometimes there’s something of national interest.  Okay, maybe not national…but I think you’d be interested.

A while back ae posted about great free music.  Specifically free Song of the Day downloads.  If you have a radio station that offers these you know how great they can be.  Well, here’s what acme eclectic has to offer…

KEXP 90.3 FM (Seattle)

KCRW 89.9 FM (Los Angeles)

KUT 90.5 FM (Austin)

The Current 89.3 FM (Minneapolis)

Each station’s “Song of the Day” rotation includes a little flavor of the local market, as it should be.  But you will find emerging artists from around the world featured on a daily basis.  Each of these stations also present in-studio performances that are generally available for download and that periodically serve as material for that day’s offering.

Time, ideas, sounds…I cannot hold these things in my hands although I consider them all consumable.  All of these things may be free.  All of these things may have value.  I hope I have shared some valuable freebies today.

Do you have anything to share?

Monday, April 27, 2009

monday – menus and more

from-the-kitchen1

The second week home after a vacation or even a three day weekend is when everything starts to feel normal again.  I’m starting to feel normal.  I’m trying to build up my routines.

Boy #2 is due the end of June.  I have about 9 weeks of routine before all hell breaks loose again.  But in the meantime I’m making my lists, checking them twice…oh, wait, that’s another story.  Back to my story.  Grocery list, check.  grocery shopping, check.  Menu plan, check.

Let’s see what we’ll be eating…

Sunday:  leftovers

Monday:  chicken breasts, mashed cauliflower (I love this dish, it’s like mashed potatoes but healthier)

Tuesday:  boneless pork sirloin chops, sautéed carrots

Wednesday:  pancakes

Thursday:  WOHO (wife on her own)

Friday:  pulled chicken sandwiches, green beans

Saturday:  tuna pasta (not sure if this is going to be traditional with cream of mushroom soup or something lighter with flaked tuna, oil and some veg.  I guess it depends on the weather that day.)

felix

Our budget was $80, we spent…

Sprouts Farmers Market – $9.09 (this was all of our produce [minus the bananas] and eggs for the week, amazed even me.)

Vons – $24.96

Trader Joe’s – $10.95 (I can’t believe how little I shop here now, I still don’t want to live without a TJ’s nearby but they used to be my go-to for almost everything.)

Walgreens – $22.41

Target – $7.86 (no food but household items that I consider part of the budget)

99¢ Store – $2.00 (potatoes AND bananas!)

Lots of stops this week but with a final total of $77.27 I think it worked out to shop around for the deals.  All of these stores are within a couple miles and typically on our way home from some other outing.

felix

I came across this picture essay from Time.com about the foods and budgets of families around the globe.  Although it’s quite old it’s definitely worth checking out.  Can you guess which is the American family?

eats-1

eats-2

eats-3

Friday, April 24, 2009

have you been washed?

greenwasher

Green∙wash (gren’wosh’,-wôsh’)– verb: the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.

The (very considerate) husband, once again, pointed me in the direction of a truly interesting article.  If you didn’t catch this story on Slate.com let me paraphrase.  And expand.

TerraChoice, a science-based environmental marketing firm created a study of environmental claims made by manufacturers of products typically found in major retailers across the nation.  I don’t think we can expect a performance by Brad Pitt (so unfortunate), but the findings can be categorized into seven sins.  Or at least TerraChoice thinks so.  They have created The Seven Sins of Greenwashing.  It used to be six sins, but then a seventh was found.  I sure hope that’s the last addition.  The Eight Sins has no ring to it.

The initial study was completed in 2007.  TerraChoice just released the 2009 study.  More claims are being made and an insignificant decline in greenwashing practices has been noted since the earlier study.  The study does not include names of exact products.  Apparently TerraChoice isn’t into pointing fingers.  It’s a darn shame, I’d love to know some of the worst offenders and what sins they are guilty of.

Thankfully, the group over at Slate was curious too.  They found four green products and rated them on an enviro-scam meter.  Maybe the movie will be a combination of Spiderman and Se7en.  Maybe that only made sense to me.

Back to Slate.  The products listed were:

  • Clorox “Green Works” Products – scam factor: 4 out of 10…My favorite bit is from Company representative Aileen Zerrudo.  “We tested products without fragrances and dyes,” said Zerrudo of the marketing research the company conducted.  Turns out test subjects were put off by fragrance and dye-free formulas’ resemblance to water, she said, and perceived them to be less effective.  Perhaps, but Seventh Generation’s “Free and Clear” line seems to be doing just fine.

  • Gas Saving Magnets – scam factor: 10 out of 10…I had never even heard of these before but apparently I’m not missing much.  Companies are really trying to capitalize on the financial crisis as well as the green movement by promoting magnets that ionize the gas in your car making it easier to vaporize.  I assume that means it would burn cleaner or last longer, or something.  How about a product, green or otherwise, that just doesn’t work.  At all.
  • Sephora “Natural Standards” Initiative – scam factor: 6 out of 10…According to Slate, Sephora’s manifesto claims that products sold in their stores that bear a green seal meet “high internal standards” with “the purest, most efficacious ingredients Mother Nature has to offer.”  The Web site astutely observes that “the term ‘natural’ is not regulated by the FDA,” and thus they “created [their] own standards for the natural products at Sephora.” I love that.  Can I create my own standards too?
  • “Green” Hand Sanitizers – scam factor: 6 out of 10…Hand sanitizers are convenient, portable, hygienic, healthy.  Or are they?  New green products claim to be.  The organic options might sound better for you, but the reality is that organic alcohol is still alcohol—and that’s the biggest threat to safety and health in the products.  In the meantime, stick to CleanWell, the 100 percent biodegradable, alcohol-free line. Yup, I double checked, that’s what’s in my bag.

So what do you think?  Are these the worst, or do you know of some pretty greenwashed marketing campaigns.  Go ahead, point your finger.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

a short history lesson

I couldn’t let the day go by without acknowledging the significance.  It’s Wednesday.  Halfway through the week already.

Okay, not that.  Or at least not just that.

Yes, as you know it’s Earth Day.  Posts abound about the environmental impact we have, we should have, we can have.  What did you do today that acknowledged the day?

I don’t care.

No, that’s not really true.  I do.  I’m just being a contrarian.  But then I realized I had something to share.  So I’m sharing.

Check out this Earth Day post.  It has nothing to do with free stuff you can get or what green steps you can take.  It’s the who and the why of Earth Day.  It’s a short history lesson.  And you deserve short after that last post huh?

That’s all.  Go learn something.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

freecycle is a time killer

freecycle

I have posted about Freecycle in the past.  In theory, it is a truly wonderful idea/organization/site/tool.  But it isn’t always friendly to the newbie.

I’m a newbie.

Or a voyeur.  Or a lurker.

Okay, those sound bad.  Let’s just say I’ve been reading the posts but haven’t ventured into the free water yet.  I always read what’s wanted in case I have it to give.  Never have.  I responded to a couple of items that were offered, but didn’t get them. Then I tried to do a wanted post, that didn’t go so well either.  Apparently my local Freecycle groups have rules that you must offer something before you can ask for something.

Who made these rules?

I guess I can agree with them in theory but it’s really put a damper on my free-swapping.  When I first started the Compact I was fine with the idea of getting things in a more nontraditional manner.  But when I have to “sell” something before I can “buy” something I have issues.

I don’t have a lot of stuff to get rid of.  Yes, that’s a boast.  Many Compactors have taken their pledge as an opportunity to clear clutter.  Good for them.  I hate clutter.  I cleared most of my clutter years ago.  I’ve spent the last 4 years clearing my husband’s clutter.  Clutter gives me hives.

I know your thinking I must have stuff to get rid of if I have also spent the last several years buying things.  And you’re right.  But until this year I was the thrift store’s best friend.  At least twice  a year I would drop off whatever I had collected that just wasn’t needed anymore.  Clothes, shoes, bags, books, whatever.

Now I’m hip to the Free world.  When we cleaned the closets last month and had more clothes than some large families we donated them to the local mission.  But as it was the closets there wasn’t a lot there besides clothes.  Clothes closets.  Get it?  But I do have a small bag of things that didn’t end up at the mission ready to be set free.  (Tired of the corny yet?)  I just haven’t had taken the time to write up numerous posts for random shit stuff on the off chance other people may want it.

And I have needs.  In true Compact fashion I got the parts to fix a clock we already owned.  Okay, it wasn’t entirely Compact as I bought the parts.  But since they were pretty specific parts I didn’t have much faith I would find them on Freecycle.  Plus, pay attention, I can’t ask until I give.  I’m behind on the giving, so I gave to Michael’s art store instead.  Let’s not lose focus, the point here is I was fixing something instead of replacing it.  (Helpful tip: don’t change the time on a clock by forcing the hands around the face.  Or don’t let someone not familiar with that tip near said clocks at Daylight Savings Time.)

Where is this all going, you ask?  Can I get to a point?  Any point?  Soon?

Okay, okay.  The point is, my newly acquired clock parts require painting.  With spray paint.  I don’t have any spray paint.  I asked a group of friends if they had any spray paint.  Not a one did.  Who knew black spray paint was so hard to come by.  And here’s the kicker, I need about 3 spurts of it.  Less than it would take to paint a 3 inch square.

So now I have time on my hands.  I want my clock back but I’m not willing to buy paint.  And I could probably find some on Freecycle but I’m not allowed to ask.

What’s an even bigger waste of time?  The fact that I could have written all the posts I needed to get rid of my stuff in the amount of time I have spent typing this.  But then what would you read?  And sometimes complaining is good for the soul.  Okay, not really.  But that’s what I tell myself because sometimes I feel the need to complain.

If you feel the need to complain go ahead.  About Freecycle.  About me.  About whatever.  Feel free.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

monday – menus and more

from-the-kitchen1

I’m not sure how it’s Monday already.  Or how I am so unprepared for this post.  Just when I was getting to the height of my organization game we really got off course with travel.  First it was Portland, which meant two weeks with half-capped menu plans, not to mention what it did to my weekly shopping.

Now, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.  Don’t get me wrong, I love when we make our lives interesting and do cool stuff.  But I don’t know which end is up with the shopping and food supply.  Not to mention our eating out budget.  Yikes.  I think we’re eating in until the second child turns 10.  He’s not born yet but it could take that long to catch up.  Or at least it feels like that right now.

So to kick off this week’s home cooking let’s see what we’ll be eating…

Monday:  salad w/ grilled chicken (this is George Foreman style grilling, I’m just not up to having a charcoal grill on the balcony of our apartment)

Tuesday:  no menu (I am out of the house and the husband has to fend for himself)

Wednesday:  chicken in soda & oj, peas, mashed potatoes (even though it’s a favorite I don’t have a recipe for this, I make it up as I go.  If it turns out well maybe I’ll list some pointers in the non-recipe section that I don’t have)

Thursday:  egg noodles with spinach & sausage (what is this?  I have no idea but I have these ingredients to use)

Friday:  stuffed salmon, stewed tomatoes

Saturday:  no menu (we are headed to the Angel’s game so probably bratwurst or giant hot dogs)

Okay, so we’re already looking at a night not eating at home.  I could suggest we not eat that night, but I don’t think it would go over well with the family.

felix

As for the food budget last week, we were off to a good start but then I sent the husband out for a couple of items clearly marked on the shopping list.  That was my first mistake.  Apparently, frozen pizza, when on sale, is in the budget even if it’s not on the list.  Then, in some catatonic state I also wasn’t around for his shopping sprees at Ralph’s and Walgreens.  What was I thinking?  So I blame him for going over our budget.  And as a lesson (to him or me I’m not sure), he will be eating said frozen pizza on Tuesday I’m sure.

Our budget was $80, we spent…

Sprouts Farmers Market – $49.01 ($3 of which I get back when I return the cinnamon I didn’t need after all)

Vons – $15.59

Ralphs – $18.96

Walgreens – $29.98

At $30.54 over budget I have learned my lesson.  Granted, husband now has enough hair care product to last at least 4 months and 3 packages of english muffins in the freezer.  Now we just need to work on budget vs. sale items.

felix

In other news, I saw this tip about cooking ground beef before freezing and thought it had some merit.  Enough to post it here.  I think I’d still need to keep some for actual hamburgers, it would be kind of hard to stick all those little pieces back together but other than that I liked the idea.

Do you have any quick tips that make cooking easier?  Especially when you don’t get off the computer until it’s after the time you had planned to have dinner on the table anyway?

Excuse me, I have to go make dinner.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

granola, and I don’t mean me

Crock Pot Granola, you say?  What’s that, you say?  Well, I’ll tell you.  The Crock Pot (aka slow cooker, aka grandma pot) is a great way to cook granola so your house smells wonderful, not like burned granola.  I love granola but it is darned expensive.  And the Crock Pot can only make so much stew, chili and Monday Night Special before it needs a break.

I don’t know where I got the idea, but I found a recipe I tweaked (a lot) and headed to the kitchen.

This is my kind of cooking.  A basic list of ingredients, modify to match what you like or at least what you have on hand and skip the measuring cups.  Here’s my list of ingredients:

  • 5 cups oatmeal (the large rolled oats variety)
  • 1/2+ cup honey*
  • 1/2 cup oil or melted butter
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2+ cup dried fruit

Nuts if you like them. I don’t so I didn’t.

*I added more honey because I like it to be clumpy. (1 cup was still not enough to clump this amount of oats) I also greatly increased the amount of vanilla, cinnamon and dried fruit to be more what I wanted.

Basically, whatever ingredients you want on low for 3-4 hours stirring every 30 minutes.  Oh, and vent the lid with a chopstick.  The chopstick is the key.

♦ ♦ ♦

Now that that’s done how about some microwave granola?  Nope, not out of my tree.  Not yet anyway.  I found this recipe and thought I would give it a go because it is supposed to be clumpy.

And truly, it takes one more dish than the above recipe and 10 minutes actually spent in the kitchen.  But then you’re done.  And eating granola before the crock pot has gotten its first stir.  These ingredients are:

  • 3 cups oatmeal (Either Quick Oats or Old Fashioned, they both work well)
  • 1/3 cup coconut (may be omitted, I did)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup raisins (may be omitted, or increased and substituted with dried cranberries as I did)

The directions here are a little funky.

Pour oatmeal (read it again, just the oatmeal) into a glass microwaveable dish and cook for two minutes; stirring once.  Combine all other ingredients into a bowl.  Add the oatmeal and stir to coat.  Place in glass dish and microwave for 4 minutes stirring every minute.  Cool on wax paper.

granola

So why am I giving you two completely different recipes on how to make the same thing?  Because neither one is exactly what I want.  The first one is great in flavor but has the consistency of cereal when done.  The second one is clumpy and bite size but really sweet with heavy brown sugar flavor.

I thought this would be an easy cooking project.  You thought this would be a nice cooking post.  Apparently we were both wrong.  Do you have a granola recipe you love?  Can I have it please?  I’m unsatisfied and I don’t like it.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

random thoughts and comic goodness

As you know, I am pretty much addicted to my bread machine to make wonderful bread, ready and warm upon getting out of bed in the morning.

A tip:  DON’T FORGET TO PUSH START.

You will not only feel like an idiot, you will be hungry to boot.  I cannot tell you my disappointment this morning upon realizing that is exactly what I did last night.  Another tip: probably a good idea not to try making bread after traveling with a small child, arriving home late, unpacking and then trying to be productive before bed.

Just a thought.

Off to be productive.  Before noon.  As recommended.  By somebody.

♦ ♦ ♦

arctic-4-15

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Monday, April 13, 2009

monday – menus and more

from-the-kitchen1

Hello from Portland!

This will be an abridged Monday post as we are in Portland until Tuesday and therefore I haven’t done any shopping.  It’s hard to plan a menu without knowing what the sales fliers have to say but I do have some thoughts just based on what I know is in the kitchen back home.  Here’s what I’ve got so far…

Wednesday – pasta (something easy and painless as it will be a busy day of resettling)

Thursday – eggs in spicy tomato sauce (didn’t have this last week)

And that’s it as we are back on the road come Friday.  At least my grocery budget will be way under.  We’ll have to address the eating-out budget another time.

♦ ♦ ♦

In other news, I love a good hotel.  And that doesn’t mean super fancy with excellent room-service.  This is ‘good people’ kind of good.

Our accommodations in Portland were approved almost entirely based on the fact that the hotel is LEED Certified Silver.  (Don’t worry, explanation to follow.)  The Avalon Hotel + Spa is one of ten hotels in the world that has LEED certification.

leed-logo

One of the hottest trends in design is “Going Green”.  The U.S. Green Building Council developed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) ten years ago to provide a set of standards for environmentally sustainable construction.  When a construction project is Certified LEED it means they are compliant with these standards.

There are four levels of LEED certification:

  • Certified
  • Silver
  • Gold
  • Platinum

Five different design areas are evaluated within a construction project to determine each level of rating.  The five design areas are:

  • sustainability of the site
  • water efficiency
  • energy and atmosphere
  • materials and resources
  • indoor environmental quality

The higher the rating in each area the more credits a building earns. Each level of certification requires a higher number of credits. LEED Certification at any of the ratings requires rigorous attention and adherence to environmentally sound construction practices.

That’s all well and good, but what you really notice is how their commitment affects your stay.  The more common practices of placing cards on the bed and bath about washing sheets and towels are to be found, but so is a recycling bin in each room.  And they offer the most ingenious toiletry option – a soap bar that has a giant hole in the middle.  It’s really just a ring of soap.

Think back to the last time you were in a hotel for a night.  Did you use the offered soap?  Probably didn’t use the entire bar with one shower.  Didn’t take the leftovers home either, did you?  They got thrown away along with the 467 other half used bars of soap from that day’s housekeeping.  This soap eliminates that leftover bar.  I love it.  It’s probably cheaper than buying a full bar of soap anyway.  I’m sure this is going to be the new standard in hospitality.  Just as soon as every hotel offers in-room recycling.

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