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October 31, 2009

Halloween 2009

Ms. Claire the Fire Hydrant, and Mr. Chancey-Bee hung out with me at Priscilla's coffee house yesterday evening as the sun set. I'm such a lucky mama!

Bakery Bread Outlet

One thrift-saving tip is to buy your bread through the day-old bakery. The Orowheat outlets also have fresh products that the retail stores didn’t take that day. They stock Bob’s Red Mill whole grain products as well as buns and loaves of bread. Oroweat also owns Entenmann’s, so some of the outlets offer both products. They offer a punch card, so every so-many dollars spent gets you an extra something. Thursdays are double punch days towards those cards. But even without a punch card, spend over six dollars and get an extra item of the store's choosing.

Today I got everything in the picture above, including two loaves of seeded whole wheat bread and four packages of english muffins, for only seven bucks!

To find an outlet in the LA area, start here.

Do you buy your bread through an outlet, or make your own? Please share your methods in a comment on the blog.

October 30, 2009

More Cute Halloween Pics

Last year, I was stuck home sick on Halloween, so Chance and Claire were my only entertainment. Good thing they're cute. ;o) Can't say Claire liked having the monster teeth hanging in her eyes, but she didn't try to get it off, either.

Los Angeles Guerrilla Gardeners

There was a great story on the news last night about the Los Angeles Guerrilla Gardeners, a group of volunteers that covertly spruces up the neighborhood. The mission of the guerilla gardeners is "To not only get our hands dirty and start gardens all over Los Angeles, but to become a resource for other potential Guerrilla Gardeners and a homebase for people interested in brightening their own communities." They're open to all ages and levels of expertise.

I can't think of a better fun free activity for the whole family. Can you? Put a comment on the blog if you've ever been involved in a covert mission to brighten your community.

Witches Fingers and Popcorn Balls

My dad clipped this magazine recipe and sent it to me years ago. You all know how much I love cheese, and bread--and here they are together! It's a delightfully ghoulish form perfect for Halloween. Since the dateline is cut off, I have no idea where it came from. When I googled the title looking for an image, this page from Sunset magazine came up. It's quite likely he saw it in that publication. Click on the recipe image to enlarge to a readable size.

As a special treat, I'm also sharing my great-aunt Pauline's recipe for popcorn balls. Remember when homemade treats were appropriate for Halloween? I understand the safety concerns that have made this practice illegitimate, but I still yearn for some comfort. Guess that has to come from people you know.

What would you make for a Halloween bash? What do you give out to trick-or-treaters? Leave me a comment on the blog.

October 29, 2009

TGI Fridays One-Cent Appetizers in Costume

One cent appetizers at TGI Fridays tonight from 9P till closing with purchase of any beverage if you show up in costume! Here are details on the deal, and here's a store locator.

Let me know if you go, and what you dress up as, by leaving a comment on the blog!

October 28, 2009

Judson Studios Stained Glass Exhibit/Show

Click on the flyer image above to enlarge details on a exhibit of stained glass by Judson Studios. Judson is the oldest stained glass studio west of the Mississippi and is still run as a family business.

"Present & Past: The Judson Studios and the Art of Stained Glass" runs weekdays from 10-4 through Nov. 6th. Admission is under ten dollars. Group tours are available if you call ahead.

October 27, 2009

Our First Costume Contest

Here's our first Halloween in 2006. I'd only had Claire about a month at this point. I went for squishy, puffy costumes--Chance was my little Bull Moose, and Claire was the cutest little Tweety Bird. We had fun at costume contests, which was great socializing for the dogs and training for me in how to handle them in a crowd. Aren't they cute?

October 26, 2009

Online Home-Movie Log

I just started cataloguing my home movies--DVDs and VHS--for the first time. I was working in a word table, until my friend told me about a website she uses called DVD Aficionado. It's a site that allows you to keep a log online, so it's accessible from anywhere. When you input a title, director, UPC, etc., the site will show cover art for that movie in all its generations, so you actually pick not only the film you own, but the edition. The site's free to use, though you must register in order to list a collection.

In addition to listing what you have, the site has a "wish list" function. This is great for family members wanting to gift to you. The site has great tutorials and is really easy to use. And your page is easy to find, as it's "your screen name" (without the quotation marks). I'm looking forward to checking my list before I purchase anything for myself, to make sure I'm not duplicating something long forgotten at home.

The one aspect that I find is a negative is the fact that it only registers DVDs, not videos. Though I no longer buy VHS copies, I do have a number of them still in my collection.

Here's the tutorial, showing the benefits of using the site, and how to make your own log of your home movie collection:

Have you given away all your videos yet? What formats do you use: DVD, Blu Ray, etc? Do you keep a collection at home, or prefer to only rent? Do you ever check videos/DVDs out from your local library? Please leave a comment on the blog with your hints and tips.

October 25, 2009

Chai Tea Offer

Get a free sample of Oregon Chai Tea Latte mix here. I'm pretty jazzed about this offer, as it's something I drink all the time! Thanks to The Freebie Blogger for pointing it out.

Making drinks at home in lieu of Starbucks or Coffee Bean can be a great way to save money. What's your favorite at-home drink treat? Leave a comment on the blog if you have a potion to share.

3rd Quarter 2009 Round-Up

-visited my folks for a week in July, helping them with small projects around their house.
-got $1000 of dental work done
-did routine maintenance on the car, brakes & alignment, plus replaced the catalytic converter
-turned 35 in August (ugh!)
-attended nine concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, including the following:
w/A.S.: Chaka Kahn & Adele
w/M.W.: Ultimate Mancini, w/Bill Conti, Dave Grusin, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Monica Mancini, and FIREWORKS!
w/L.B.: Jenny Lewis & Ray LaMontagne
by myself: Guys & Dolls
w/D.L.: Michael Feinstein & Jewel
w/H.G.: Diana Krall
by myself: Liza Minelli
by myself: John Williams
w/J.L.: The Big Picture/Rogers & Hammerstein
-reunited with classmates from Judge Memorial High on Facebook and hosted one for a weekend visit
-repaired a watering hose myself with a hose repair kit ($2.50 home repair task I learned, rather than spending $30 for a new hose)
-started using a dehydrator for the first time. Preserved quarts of cherry tomatoes this way
-changed my ebay store over to etsy, at least for the vintage Pyrex items, to avoid the monthly store charges.
-got my KitchenAid Stand Mixer that I've wanted FOREVER!
-started volunteering with 4-H
-dog sat my friend's daschound mix for two weeks in September while friend was in Europe. This friend takes care of my dogs whenever I need help, so I'm deeply indebted to her and it was nice to be able to pay back a little.
-joined a work softball league
-investigated my dog Claire's immune deficiencies/possible "Plechners Syndrome" through a new vet who may or may not be reliable. This was quite the maze, and cost about $400 so far. Primary vet has convinced me that Plechner's work on Claire has no validity. Am now waiting for the steroids we gave her to leave her system before my primary vet can do more in-depth blood work and biopsy.
-catalogued my stained glass pattern books
-catalogued my cookbooks
-cancelled my cable service
-reevaluated the interest rate on my Certificate of Deposit account and switched it around to maximize gain

From my Prior Quarter's Goals Post:
-did begin to see a chiropractor again, though I don't know how long I can afford to keep this up. I'm not doing my exercises as I should.
-did have a card making day with one friend this month (Oct) and have now begun to organize all the supplies. Better late than never.
-didn't buy a grill, and didn't have a party, due to vermin infestation in my house, which I dealt with over the course of two months. Once it became clear I wasn't having a party, lost all interest in maintaining the yard or garden. Am just getting back to yard maintenance now.
-did maintain the dogs myself, and have been trying to stay more frequently on top of the nail trimming. Am saving money and energy going to a groomer though my pets now avoid me when I'm in certain positions, as if they think I'm going to groom them. Am walking the dogs more rather than taking them to a dog park and just letting them go. Need to continue to expose both dogs to new situations, but I am continuing my effort.

Goals for 4th Quarter:
-biopsy Claire's cysts at the end of October. Come up with a better dietary regimen for her to prevent allergic side effects, and do blood work/tests to see if her endocrine & immune systems are up to par.
-hold project meetings for 4-H kids
-finish stocking/strengthen my Etsy store and test its effectiveness over time
-catalogue my videos/DVDs
-complete scanning of first book of printed film photos
-get back on the bandwagon with quicken/balancing & accounting for finances
-start attending ice skating "coffee club" on Friday mornings from 11-12 as regularly as possible
-do my back/neck exercises daily or at least every other day
-continue to make more of my food from scratch, and find ways to maximize my food budget
-frequent the Sunday flea market at Fairfax High School
-continue to encourage filming in LA and my own personal career growth through involvement in DGA events
-maintain the yard once the summer heat has cooled and watering can be more effective
-find more time for reading (this may be a perpetual goal)
-put all (craft) crap in my living room away--clear off table for Thanksgiving celebration
-celebrate my first Thanksgiving in my own home with visiting family--plan menu and cook!
-celebrate my first "blogiversary" in November
-make xmas cookies with my new mixer!
-attend my cousin's wedding in IL in Dec.
-host my friend Cathy's family's visit to Disneyland in Dec.
-drive (with dogs) to visit my parents for my customary weeks-long holiday trip
-set realistic goals for next year's xmas gifts--more handmade/homemade--and prepare in advance (I usually do this the week between xmas and new year's)

I don't know why it's taken me three weeks to publish this round-up, which I keep as a running tally as I go (so it was basically already written). These quarterly posts are always the hardest for me to do as they are most personal and introspective. I guess I've been feeling like not much changed over the course of the summer/fall, and I wasn't quite sure how far I'd come. Quantifying what I've been up to should help me to see this, but I'm feeling the effects of a slow year in my industry, and sometimes it's hard to see past all that. Fourth quarter is also the hardest for which to set goals, as so much time and energy is taken up in preparation for the holidays, and it's usually my busiest work-wise, so filled with the least amount of personal time. I've already started doing some of these goals, like testing recipes that I want to make at Thanksgiving.

I'm lucky that California weather doesn't restrict me too much, or completely change all of my routines. What are some of your fall or winter-time goals? Do you find yourself doing more reorganization or cleaning out? How do you pace yourself for the holidays? If you have any suggestions for me, please leave a comment on the blog.

October 24, 2009

Squash Casserole Follow-Up

Back in September, I passed along a squash casserole recipe I'd just gotten from a friend. I've made it a couple times without the mushroom soup-sauce for my gluten-free friend with cancer.

Last night I finally made it for myself. A home run! I even went back for seconds. I was so excited to try it out that I forgot to take pictures, so you only get half a photo--of the good end that I'd not scooped into.

I did find a few shortcuts even for this recipe: I used precut bags of butternut squash from Trader Joe's, and didn't bother to smash the squash, but left it cubed. This raised the cost of my ingredients, but the convenience was immeasurable. These bags were microwaveable, so I steamed the squash before putting it into the casserole, which then reduced the cooking time. I also used my jarred caramelized onions that I make every so often, so I didn't have to cut or sautee the onions. This then became a simple assembly that only needed to be heated through in the oven once put together. For my gluten-free friend, I substituted potato chips for the bread crumbs on top, and added a bit of vegetable broth for moisture in lieu of the mushroom soup.

Have you tried this after reading it on my blog? Or do you have your own version of something similar? Please post a comment if you did!

October 21, 2009

A Little More Halloween

Out for an evening coffee, doggies on a down-stay, a bit more Halloween fashion recycled from years past....

October 18, 2009

Cinnamon Grape Jam--Um, I Mean Glaze

I had a ton of grapes leftover from the Pasadena Wine Fest, definitely more than I could eat in my single-person household, so I thought I'd make some jam one day last week, and turn my windfall into some nice Christmas gifts.

It was a great excuse to thumb through some of my cookbooks! What sounded like a great combination to me was Cinnamon Grape Preserves--a flavor pairing I never would have come up with on my own.

I found the recipe in my Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.

Unfortunately, when I went for supplies, all I could find was liquid pectin, not the more common powdered form.

My Ball book had some great advice for me on using liquid pectin--turns out the process is more precise with this ingredient. I followed this information to the letter, bringing my fruit-sugar mixture to a full, hard rolling boil before adding the pectin, then letting the final mixture boil hard for another minute longer with the pectin added in before canning the mixture in a water bath canner.

I've gotten a bit ahead of myself in talking about the pectin process. I came up with another shortcut in the beginning, using my little Black & Decker food prep machine to chop small handfuls of the grapes, rather than going through the process of skinning all the grapes and chopping the skins, as called for in the recipe. I'd used seedless grapes, so I didn't have to remove the seeds. This little machine was a cast-off from my brother's garage sale, and I've found it to be really handy! I use it to chop herbs too whenever a recipe calls for a full bunch.

Here's all the equipment I used in this "experiment"--my water bath canner, five quart cast iron enamel pot, and colander of fruit.

From this colander of fruit I expected to get six or eight jars of jam. Since the fruit was free to me, that's a pretty good gift investment of only about fifteen bucks of materials.

This is the grape mixture with cinnamon and sugar added. I used ground cinnamon, not the stick suggested in the recipe. And since the grapes were so sweet, I added very little sugar--only a cup or two. Don't the bi-colored grapes look pretty together?

Now comes the confession--it didn't set. Even following the special instructions in the Ball book. I was left with yummy tasting, slightly syrupy stuff. I canned it all anyway, hoping that the liquid pectin would set over time.

While I waited to see how it would turn out, I gave some thought to what I could do with what I had. I came up with the idea of a glaze. Thanksgiving's coming up, so I'm hoping my friends will be roasting a ham. Basted onto meat, this failure will be a success, and an even more unusal homemade gift than the typical jar of jelly. Cinnamon-Grape Glazed Chicken is probably pretty great too. Can't think of a way for vegetarians to utilize this: Cinnamon-Grape Glazed Broccoli? Guess I'll just give it all away. It made more than I expected, and I ended up with ten jars.

Has anyone else had experience with liquid pectin? Have you ever tried to make a glaze on purpose? If anyone knows where or how I went wrong, I'd love to learn. Please leave a comment on my blog.

October 17, 2009

Weekend Coffee

We're trying to work more on our "Down-Stays" as people walk over or past us, make noise with chairs, etc. Claire looks like she's got this down, but she talks to me a lot when I try this when the weather's cold. They both enjoy the walk to and fro though!

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