Archive for August, 2009

Monday, August 31, 2009

cookin’ stuff

Sorry, no recipe here.  It’s not even about food.  Although it is all about the kitchen.  Which is quickly becoming my favorite room in the house.  Or at least the one I spend the most time in.

I have always had a weakness for china, silver and glassware – blame my grandmother for teaching me the artistry of a well dressed table at a young age.  Recently though, I have really taken a hankering to kitchen tools.  All the things that a kitchen should have to function at it’s peak.  Yes, I know the brush is only as good as the artist holding it.  But a girl can dream.

And today I found a place to dream big.  Unfortunately it’s not a new thrift store.  Cookin’ Stuff is a nearby cooking and bakeware store.  If only I had stepped foot in this place before joining the Compact.  I either could have already fully stocked my kitchen or avoided today’s denial deluge.  If you’re not a kitchen tool kind of person you won’t understand, but just look at all the goodies, stacked row after row…


Okay, so the rainbow of colors isn't really necessary, but they sure are purdy.

I swear, they don't come used.  Just ask anyone who owns one if they'll sell it.

I swear, they don't come used. Just ask anyone who owns one if they'll sell it. (And I apologize for the terrible photography, I only had the point and shoot and took this without the flash.)


I don't even know what they're all for, but don't they look cool?

I know this is obnoxiously non-Compact but I will say I was going to the store for wooden skewers and twine, so legitimate purchases by most standards.  (If your standards are higher than that, I applaud you.  And have no desire to be you.)  I just couldn’t help myself wandering the aisles drooling over the possibilities.

Okay, confession time.  You knew it was coming.  I made purchases beyond my skewers (they didn’t have the twine).  I bought a lovely tea cozy and a set of cookie cutters.  The tea cozy is something I have thought about for years – again, blame Grandma – but have never seen a used one and am not of the skill level to make one.

The cookie cutters were purchased to fulfill a birthday party design need.  What’s a birthday party design need?  It’s a designer’s need to have pbj sandwiches cut out with a shape that matches the overall scheme of the party.  And to set the style of all future cookie/sandwich and other cutouts.  I know cookie cutters can be found at the thrift store, I’ve seen them there.  Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any in the last 4 days since I decided to add cutout pbj sandwiches to the menu.  I’ll be keeping my purchase in their wrap until the last possible moment in the hopes of replacing them with a borrowed or used set.  Although, I really do like having a signature style of cookie cutout, and these would be perfect for a lifetime of cutting.

Have I justified yet?

At least I left all the Le Creuset and Kitchenaids on the shelves.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

weekly accounts


We’re having a heat wave in Southern California.  We don’t have air conditioning.  We’re going out to dinner.  But wait, those two things are not related.  No really.  It’s the husband’s birthday today and he shares it with a friend so the annual tradition is going out for dinner.  Today, I don’t mind at all.  What will we be eating the rest of this too hot week?

Saturday – out for dinner

Sunday – crepes (made them for husband’s breakfast, being super loverly and making them again for him)

Monday – madras lentil (from a box) and rice

Tuesday – pineapple chicken (I don’t know what this is, I’m making something with pineapple and chicken)

Wednesday – pizza

Thursday – sloppy joes

Friday – pesto pasta with shrimp


We are using a system that is somewhat based on $80/week for grocery and non-edible and the $50 a week budget.  Each week we calculate how much we spent overall and I announce if we are under or over budget.

We are typically over budget recently.  Either this means the budget isn’t realistic for us or we just don’t follow it.  I’m going to go with a mix of the two.  Yeah, that works for me.  This week we are…

eating out – $70.36

grocery – $104.59

grocery non-edible – $6.87

$31.46 and $49.95 over budget depending on which system you count.  I can only guess that I’m spending too much time planning Toddler L’s party to properly review what is coming into this house.  I’m loving the party planning but this spending has got to go.  I’ll be working on that next week.

Friday, August 28, 2009

eat cake


As it’s Friday and we’re all about food waste today, I thought I’d share the sentiments on the birthday card sent to the husband by our insurance agent.

You should have your cake


(because cake tastes pretty good, and

if you don’t eat it, it will just go to waste,

and we all know wasting food is bad.)

Well, I thought it was funny.

Friday, August 28, 2009

food waste


Don’t store food on top of the refrigerator.  Unless you want to forget about it.  Case in point – croutons made some three months ago to salvage stale bread so I wouldn’t have to post it on a food waste Friday.  Should have saved myself the effort.  And the oil.  Next time I’ll have to find a more memorable spot or keep a list on the fridge with all the foods in unusual places that need to be eaten.

Do my posts about food waste make you more aware of what gets tossed into the trash bin at your house?  I hope so, even if it’s just a passing thought.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

alloy artifacts

toolan example of the specialty tools produced by Bog, a No. 328 piston ring groove cleaner

What do you do when you find the most interesting looking whatcha-ma-thingy at the Goodwill but have no idea what it’s actual name or purpose is?

Head over to Alloy Artifacts for their extensive guide to the who, what and why of almost every hand tool manufactured in the 20th century.  If your thing-a-magig has any writing on it at all you will most likely be able to find manufacturer, patent and name in the extensive listing.  Be prepared to take some time though, this is truly old-school with no search box or thumbnails.

Still, to find out what that whatcha-ma-callit does this is the place to go.

via Make

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

palm sheath plates


I want these plates.  I have been gathering all my ideas and goodies for Toddler L’s upcoming birthday party.  And now, I want these plates.

I know the most Compact choice would be to borrow plates from several friends, but as we are at a wilderness park with small children I am afraid I might not be returning as many plates as I borrowed.  So that idea’s out.  The next most Compact idea would probably be to get all the plates I need from Goodwill.  I could either keep the plates or send them back to Goodwill after the party, but I don’t want or need that many mismatched plates and I’m trying to keep costs down so buying and re-donating plates doesn’t really seem to make sense either.  As I’m being as eco-friendly as I can about this whole shindig the next option I see is to buy environmentally friendly disposable plates.

I saw these palm sheath plates on a party planning site and immediately felt pangs of desire.  They’re perfect.  They’re called bioplates.  They’re made from naturally fallen palm sheaths and can be used multiple times.

They’re also only sold by this company in Australia.  Not exactly environmentally friendly to have my plates shipped from Australia (or economical, or realistic, or going to happen).

I’m working really hard to find another equally fabulous option.  Sometimes being a designer, and wanted just the right look is a real pain in the butt.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

helpful tip #3


I think the best thing I ever learned from my mother was how to boil rice like pasta.

Okay, maybe not the very best thing.  That might have had to do with mascara.  Or boys.  Or peanut butter and pickle sandwiches.  But this is a close second.

Apparently cooking rice like pasta is quite normal in Canada.  I don’t know how I missed it while growing up, but here in the States very few seem to be in on the secret.

Here’s the secret.

Put water in a pot.  Boil water.  Add parboiled rice.  Continue boiling until rice is tender.  Drain rice.  Eat.

No water to rice ratio.  No simmering.  No rice sticking to the bottom of the pan even though you followed the directions exactly.  I don’t know how it works with other types of rice but as for white rice, my life will never be the same again.

Monday, August 24, 2009

fashion basics


If you have, or love, a little girl you simply must try this project.  I am exempt as I have boys but I sure think it’s fabulous.  The ingenious Ashley, at Make It and Love It, shows all it takes to have the cutest, simplest little skirt and leggings.  Two old t-shirts (your own or from a favorite thrift store – how Compact) and what looks to be a very short amount of time.

What little girl wouldn’t love this for the new school year?  I know I would, but I don’t think the sleeves would fit.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

weekly accounts


I am pretty good (or pretty bad depending on your perspective) at making decisions that have a major effect on my family.  Joining the Compact was a big one.  Now I’ve decided that we are limiting our meat intake (at home) to what is healthiest for our bodies and our planet.  Namely organic.  Needless to say, we aren’t eating a lot of meat anymore.  I was vegetarian for years so this doesn’t really bother me, the husband on the other hand has been adjusting.  More because I had gotten into the habit of cooking meat with almost every meal than because he was a die-hard fan.  I could make plain spaghetti every night and he would be pretty happy.  Now that meat is no longer a habit (and that’s really what it had become, strange I know), what will we be eating?

Saturday – spinach and rice

Sunday – buttermilk french toast

Monday – yellow curry with cauliflower and tofu

Tuesday – brown rice salad with tofu

Wednesday – pizza (still doin’ but requires more thought as I am off dairy until Baby S has better digestion)

Thursday – pork fried rice (last piece of pre-organic pork in the freezer)

Friday – brats with homemade buns (I love that I have homemade buns – sad and geeky I know, but true)


Using a system that is somewhat based on $80/week for grocery and non-edible and the $50 a week budget of $125 we are well and truly overextended this week.  It’s amazing how it adds up at the end of the week.  I wasn’t really paying attention this week as I knew we weren’t buying meat (although I did buy almost 3 lbs of organic ground beef for an upcoming party).  I thought it would be easier to stay under budget without that expense.  Not so much apparently.  We did go to Costco as I needed vanilla, yeast and apple juice – all great buys there.  We also had several fun events, including major league and minor league baseball games, that hit our eating out budget.

eating out – $116.13

grocery – $120.87

grocery non-edible – $7.65

All in all a bad week.  But a good reminder that we need to pay more attention as the week progresses.  And make the shopping list early and stick to it.  And spend less money.


In other news, I’m having a great time planning Toddler L’s birthday party.  I can’t believe he’s already 2.

I am probably more Martha Stewart than Edith Bunker when it comes to throwing a party but I am loving the challenge of doing it on a budget, with thrift store finds and in an eco-friendly manner.  Since we don’t have a backyard we are hosting at a wildlife preserve, so we’ve got that part of the green theme covered.  If all goes well I may post some pictures when it’s all said and done.  More planning and thrifting and crafting before we’re there though.

Friday, August 21, 2009

getting real about the high price of cheap food


For anyone who has not yet seen Food Inc., Time magazine has a great article outlining the reality of conventional farming versus organic farming.

Just because the price tag is low doesn’t mean there isn’t a much higher cost to that package of 80% lean ground beef.  Diet, supplements, environmental impact and human impact all play a part in keeping the prices down.  Most of us would rather not have to spend so much time and energy worrying about our food.  But if we don’t think about it what price are we paying?

How willing are consumers to rethink the way they shop for — and eat — food? For most people, price will remain the biggest obstacle. Organic food continues to cost on average several times more than its conventional counterparts, and no one goes to farmers’ markets for bargains. But not all costs can be measured by a price tag. Once you factor in crop subsidies, ecological damage and what we pay in health-care bills after our fatty, sugary diet makes us sick, conventionally produced food looks a lot pricier.

Consider this a primer for Food Inc., a must see if you are concerned about your health or the health of this planet we call home.