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June 25, 2011

Frugal Festival Food Follow-Up

I didn't take any pictures today as I'm a bit shaken up by my puppy's back diagnosis and spending a lot of energy toward her care, but I did attend an event today that I wanted to report back on:

The Frugal Festival Food Event sponsored by Julia, the Bargain Babe herself, was a great resource of tips and tricks to help your budget, and a fun place to meet people!

There are two blogs that I found out about today of which I'm an instant follower. Tia, of Tia Saving Cents gave a great presentation on couponing that taught me the bones of the game. Unfortunately, time was short so I don't feel like I absorbed as much of what she was saying. But she plans to put her full powerpoint presentation on her blog, so I'll be linking to it as soon as I see it! Tia's also on Facebook, if you like blog posts to just show up in your daily feed.

Another wonderful resource I discovered was Billy Vasquez, author of The 99 Cent Chef. He did a tasty food demo of veggie wraps, with homemade hummus and organic greens. The friend I'd brought to the event as my guest swears by the produce section and cold cases at 99 cents only, and I found it hilarious that someone blogs about how to cook by shopping only there!

The swag bag was first-rate and the balmy breeze made for a perfect afternoon. I had some nice conversations with other attendees before my friend joined me. I'm definitely looking forward to this event next year! It'll be on my summer calendar in bold.

June 23, 2011

New Territory in Pet Ownership

My seven-lb Teddy Roosevelt Terrier, Claire, was a rescue from the Carson shelter in 2006, and has been certified as a therapy dog through Delta society for several years. She has walked with a pretty pronounced curved back for about a year and a half or more. I've taken her to several vets without pinpointing the exact problem. She's had a few incidences of pain, but nothing that lasted more than a day--until last week. She was yelping so much that I took off in a hurry to see any vet who would have me. I was referred to a specialist, a veterinary neurologist, for a spinal consult.

Claire had an MRI on Tues afternoon, which is a story in itself--$2300 just for the test. But it gets worse: she has a herniated disc in her back which requires a $6000.00 surgery. Since I absolutely do not have that, we're treating her conservatively with meds: steroids & pain medications, possible therapy to include hydrotherapy, acupuncture, massage.... that should treat the symptoms for a while & ideally lessen the inflammation, but won't cure the problem. She's still got a good ten years left on her, which means at some point, this degenerative condition will require surgery. So I've got to start now applying to foundations like Actors & Others for Animals, set up a ChipIn page to accept donations, set up a facebook page in her name, whatever I can think of....

I've requested a written estimate of the surgery from the vet & a letter stating her condition. I've never entered this territory before as a pet owner so will be taking it one day at a time....

Do any of you have dogs with back issues? What sort of therapies have you tried? Any resources in the community with pet owners without financial means? Please give me any referrals or leads you may have in the comments to this post.

June 18, 2011

Cake Pops

A bridal luncheon I attended recently had the sweetest cake pops as dessert and favors. The bride's aunts had made them themselves after reading an article in the local paper, the Kansas City Star. I was having too much fun with the bride at the event to think of taking a photo, so the ones above are from Starbucks.

I know some bloggers who only print original recipes. One reason I do occasionally reprint, with proper credit, an article I've read or idea I've seen elsewhere is to create my own index of things I want to try. Another, as in this case, is that some webpages can only be found for a limited time. I went to dig this up only to find it had expired on the newspaper's site, and I had to do a fair amount of searching to come across it again.

At Starbucks the cake pop version "Rocky Road" is a chocolate frosting decorated with mini marshmallows and nuts. Since I love the ice cream, that one always jumps out at me visually.

The pops in the recipe re-printed from the newspaper article are decorated with candy corn to look like flowers. I just liked the technical explanation of how to make the pops come together. I think my "cake pop stand" will consist of a cereal box, with holes poked using an ice pick. And I see the recipe states not to freeze--wonder why not, or if you can at least do so once the pops are made....Some kitchen experiments to come soon....

Cake Pop Flowers

Makes 48 cake pops

1 boxed cake mix, baked as directed

¾ can vanilla frosting

3 (1-pound) packages white chocolate candy coating

1 package of 50 cake pop sticks

Multicolored candy corn

1 cake pop stand (available at most craft stores)

1 pastry bag

1 small bag pastel-colored M&Ms

In a large bowl, break up the cake into fine crumbs, eliminating all chunks. Add the frosting, then cream it together with the cake crumbs until the mixture reaches a Play-Doh-like consistency. With your hands (wearing thin, latex gloves) mold the batter into small, cone-shaped balls, then place them on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper. Cover it with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours in a refrigerator. Do not freeze.

Melt the candy coating, one package at a time, according to package directions. (Tip: if the candy coating is too thick, add 3 tablespoons of solid shortening per package and reheat in the microwave to achieve a thinner consistency).

Taking a few cake balls out of the refrigerator at a time, dip the end of an empty cake-pop stick into the melted candy coating, then pierce the center of the narrowest end of the cone-shaped cake ball, pushing no more than half way through. Holding the stick with the pop facing down, dip the entire pop into the melted candy coating. Remove the pop slowly and lift upward, allowing excess candy coating to drip down toward the stick. Rotate (or spin) the pop as the coating drips down to achieve an even coating and cover all "bald" spots. Set coated pops in the cake pop stand. Add melted candy coating to the pastry bag.

Using coating like glue, squeeze a thin layer on top of the cake pops. Carefully arrange candy corns in desired colors to make the petals of the flowers. Squeeze more candy coating on the middle of the flower petals, and top with an M&M of your choice.

Recipe from Celia Thompson, instructor of the cake pop class at the Culinary Center of Kansas City.

June 17, 2011

Hesby House Garden 2011

My garden has gone largely ignored this year, but even without putting energy into it, I'm seeing the progress of the last few years of landscaping.

I've had pictures set aside to post from April, when things were beginning to bloom and promise was everywhere. In fact, I had peaches the size of walnuts! But then I left the house, and most everything shriveled from neglect. The peaches dried up on the branch until they fell off. Luckily the tree is still alive, and next year I resolve to do better. My apple tree has finally developed more than one branch too but still hasn't grown fruit.

I have a yellow rose, and then this red one, that love the spot they're in....

In April, the Amyrillis were just beginning to bloom, and the Bird of Paradise was loving the weather.

I have had a few special surprises in my yard. The Daylily "Millie Schlumpf" that I got at a farmer's market in Salt Lake City in 2009 has taken off....

A few transplanted Irises are doing well....

The major improvements have been twofold: when I house-sat in April and May, I walked all three dogs daily in my friends' neighborhood, where I saw lots of beautiful Amyrillis. With permission from owners, I went back one weekend and dug up starts from several homes in the neighborhood. I planted them into a new garden bed at my own home right near my front door, which I've now christened "Jaysene's Garden" after my friend. Had I bought these plants, I would likely have spent over $80 because Amyrillis bulbs are so expensive. I'm excited to see how they all take root! It also prompted me to do a little cleaning out of my own, as I planted a bag of Fritillaria bulbs that had been in cold storage in my fridge since last fall.

This is what a Fritillaria looks like when not in bloom....

Here's what the side of my building looked like in mid-May.

And the entrance path from outside the gate, on the driveway.....

Just yesterday my landlord cleared the side of the house in front of mine, so now instead of thorny ferns and huge fig leaves blocking my path, I'll have beautiful color in the form of these red Geraniums. They were a favorite of my grandmother too, so I think of her each time I walk past.

I still haven't cataloged my tomatoes and where they're planted this season, so I guess there's another post coming. I got my first couple of ripe ones off the vine in the last week.

Fused Glass Vase Art

I'm sure I'll get flak for this from several sides, but it's brought smiles to my days this spring, so I couldn't help but share. I bought this thin, small fused glass pocket vase at a Mother's Day craft fair for only $15, then filled it with a wispy silk poppy that was less than $2 at the craft store. It's translucent so it's easy to see through, and tiny. I'm not usually one for silk flowers, but right now I'm loving this. It's about time to trade in my car, and I'll be able to celebrate my new home on the road with this bit of cheer.

My First Giveaway!

A huge thanks to Julia Scott over at Bargain Babe for donating my first ever giveaway on this blog! I have five tickets to The 3rd Annual Frugal Festival Food to offer to readers! The event is devoted to saving money on food and eating well. The event's organizers expect about 500 guests at the Festival, so RSVP quick!

Frugal Festival Food!

Saturday, June 25, 11am-2pm

Canoga Park High School

6850 Topanga Canyon Blvd.

Los Angeles, CA 91303

Event info from Julia:

Frugal Fest is an yearly event to raise awareness about saving on food in SoCal, with a ton of fun activities planned.

- A "Coupon Challenge" contest cosponsored by ALBERTSONS and AOL a challenge of couponing skills - who can find the best grocery deals first!? Prize is a gourmet gift basket worth $300 and a donation of $100 in winner's name pledged to LA Regional Foodbank.

- Fresh tastings and cooking demo from Albertsons

- A Recipe Exchange: Submit an original recipe for the Frugal Festival Food! cookbook and get a copy of the $9.95 e-cookbook FREE

- A free Raffle with more than 136 prizes valued at $2,977, including a $300 Albertsons gift card

- Free face painting for kids (and adventurous adults!)

- An interactive quiz to test your frugal food know-how

- A Coupon Clipping Class for beginners

Just after the Frugal Festival coupon class, there's an exciting Coupon Challenge contest to see who can find the best deals using an Albertsons weekly flyer and Shortcuts coupons. I'm guessing the winner will find all the matches in just a few minutes!

The winner gets a $300 gift basket that includes a $100 Albertsons gift card, a CHEFS $50 gift card, gourmet food items from Albertsons, a grocery checklist of special recipes, a Shortcuts apron and travel mug. Plus, a $100 donation from Albertsons and Shortcuts will be made to the LA Regional Food Bank in the name of the winner.

The Coupon Challenge is at 12:30. Are you in?

I'm giving away five single tickets in a raffle closing at 11:59P on Sunday June 19th. Please include your full name in a comment on this post for an entry in the raffle, along with an email address so I can notify you of the win. I'll also offer an extra raffle entry for each retweeting, fb'ing, blogging, and commenting about this offer (post another comment here to let me know that you've re-posted elsewhere). Here's a sample Tweet you could use:

I want to win a tix to #FrugalFest hosted by @bargainbabe on 6/25 in LA! Sweet goodie bags worth $19 and coupon challenge contest! --w/ link to this post at

Purchase additional tickets to the event here.

Can't wait to meet you there!

June 10, 2011

Blackberries 2011!

Being away from my home for a good chunk of the spring, housesitting, visiting parents, and just plain working, I thought I'd missed berry season completely by May. But the blackberries waited for me! Here's the first colander of fruit I picked at the end of May.

The berries have been literally dripping off the branches from my neglect, overripe and extra-sweet. I've been freezing them and planning a cobbler for 4th of July. Last year I made a cobbler from a box mix and added my own fruit for extra flavor. It was fast and good but this summer I'm anticipating something made from scratch. I was planning to do a web search for just the right recipe, when I came across this article from Summer Living with a wide selection of 12 Crazy Good Fruit Cobblers.

Tonight I tried the Easy Blackberry Cobbler recipe from MyRecipes, published in the July 2008 issue of Southern Living. The fruit bubbled up tantalizingly through the sweet, crunchy crumb topping. The next one I want to try is this cobbler recipe with Sugared Star Shortcakes. I like the idea of using biscuit dough to make a shortcake sandwich.

Easy Blackberry Cobbler

  • YIELD: Makes 6 servings
  • COURSE: Desserts, Pies/Pastries
  • 4 cups fresh blackberries
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • Whipped cream (optional)
  • Garnish: fresh mint sprig
  • Preheat oven to 375°. Place blackberries in a lightly greased 8-inch square baking dish; sprinkle with lemon juice. Stir together egg, sugar, and flour in a medium bowl until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle over fruit. Drizzle melted butter over topping. Bake at 375° for 35 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes. Serve warm with whipped cream, if desired. Garnish with fresh mint sprig, if desired.
  • For a neat presentation, bake for the same amount of time in 6 (8-oz.) ramekins on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet.
The blackberries have been entertaining me in one more way--Claire, my 6 lb dog, loves them! She bounds to a private corner to protect her treat when I hand one over, then bounds right back to me for another after eating one up in one gulp. And because of the thorns, I've had to put the "cone of shame" on her when I leave for work, hoping that a wider head will prevent her from nuzzling into the bushy vines looking for more. I still come home at night to berry juice on white fur, and tons of scratches on her underbelly!

I've planted the berries in a raised bed, and trained them to weave through a fence, but Claire still searches them out. How do you keep pets out of your garden? Please leave comments on this post. And let me know if you have a favorite cobbler or berry recipe too!
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