a "been-there" mom of six offers encouragement
to wives, young mothers, and those not so young,
and simple common-sense approaches to
the "ings" of life:
child-rearing (hints and helps), homemaking (all areas),
cooking (simple, cheap, and do-it-yourself)
making (toys and gifts), preparing (for the unexpected),
maintaining (sanity and peace in this increasingly crazy world) and more---
all aspects of making the most of making do on little---
and having fun in the process.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Another Version of When I am Old. . .

There are a variety of poems that address the basic theme of When I am Old I will wear a purple dress and a red hat and learn to spit and do as I wish. Since I am probably officially old, here is the Simply, Gail version.

I am a mature woman and I can do as I please (mostly)
I can wear colors that don't quite match and shoes that are comfortable, rather than stylish.
I can do somewhat odd things, maybe even outlandish
Like eat cookies for breakfast and breakfast for dinner
And read all night if I wish -- and then sleep all the next day.

I can plant plastic flowers in my garden beds and people them with clay critters
And eat microwave meals at home or enjoy senior discounts out
I have time to read the entire newspaper without interruption and clip articles to send
     to my kids (who have no time to read them).

My time is more free than it used to be
And I will use it as it suits me (usually)
There is less to do and I've more time to do it
But I'm so slow this new math doesn't add up.

I've been there and done that and need no more stuff
New crafts and dust catchers are a thing of my past
I can attend Enrichment Night and feel I get all the enrichment
     I need simply by visiting with my friends
But maybe I'll quilt or help others learn the things I have already learned.

I have done my growing but does a mature plant ever stop giving
It continues to give of itself---the strength it develops, the roots it sinks deep
     makes it ever more valuable.

I have found peace within myself, and confidence and know-how and how-to
     through the years (even if just a little)
I can be as the plant giving my growth and my gain to nourish and enrich those that
     are struggling along the same paths I've already trod.

I can punch the buttons of my many time-and-labor saving devices with the best of
     the young (and I love them---both the devices and the young)                                                                                                                                                            
But I also know how to do and make do without these conveniences (while many do not)
And we are told the time will come when we will need to know how to do these things again.
The years have taught me much and I have much I can give----
If I will.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Few More Simple Suggestions

I didn't start out to do this, but. . . 

this week's M-W-F posts have sorta built on one another. Maybe, kinda in the same way the ideas/practices/habits/traditions came about and/or build on one another, usually one at a time.

Hopefully you can or have gleaned at least one something from these three posts.
Life happens one day at a time. When we are living it, everything is vivid. As time passes,
trust me on this, images and memories fade. It is very important to write at least dates on
the back of all your photos. Identifying those in the picture is also a great idea because, believe
it or not, down the road you may not remember everyone in the photo, or the whens and
whys of the event. The messages on the back of pictures become a photo journal.

That said, if I am fairly close at guessing their ages, this photo was taken about 1983.

Some of the following may increase happiness in the family---
Others may help you maintain your sanity---
A few prepare for the future--- (it is not as far away as it may seem!)

  • Take lots of pictures-----and consider actually printing some of them and fastening them in a book. Back in the day, before computers, many happy hours were spent pouring over photo albums, again and again.
  • Keep a journal (more about that next week)
  • Keep a note pad handy where you and family members can jot down items needed when you go shopping---and then remember to take it with you when you do go shopping!
  • Keep a note pad, manicure set, book, etc. in your purse or glove compartment to use in the spare minutes that you may have to wait for a doctor's appointment, sports practice or music lesson to end, etc. The wait goes faster, and having something to do helps ward off antsy-ness or grumpy-ness.
  • Continue to court your spouse and maintain your friendship. The two of you were more than likely a couple before you became parents and the time will come when it will be just the two of you again.
  • As I have said before, intentionally strive to create memories and traditions since the best things in life aren't things.
  • Find time or make time to spend with each child individually.
  • Don't let children have everything they want or go without chores just because your childhood was financially sparse or heavy on the need-to-help-out. Intentions are good but the results can be disastrous.
  • Let children help you with simple chores while they are still young enough to want to help and enjoy helping. Hopefully chores will be habits by the time the "newness" of the activity wears off. Accomplishment charts can be fun for them.
  • Also, let boys help mom in the kitchen and girls help dad with car and yard chores.
  • Start a "treasure box" for each child---in it they keep special school papers, and stuff. It doesn't have to be fancy, just a decent size. At first our kids wanted to keep everything but learned to be more selective as their apple boxes started to overflow.
  • Learn some simple travel games.
  • Keep a kid kit in the car --- it's contents will depend on the ages of your kids. Our "auto survival kit"   was a figurative life-saver in the days of having infants and toddlers. Dave and I love to take rides and explore the country and we have been known to start out for the grocery store and return home hours later. Maybe we followed a hot air balloon or found an intriguing back road. Our kit made this easy to do. We kept a bag in the car that held extra diapers, bottles, canned formula or juice, baby food, crackers, toys, sweaters, and a change of clothes for each kid. We had these impulsive adventures often enough that the food items never went bad. It was great spur-of-the-moment fun!
Years Later
When we were back to just the two of us, we were/are really apt to start out on a quick outing and come back hours or maybe even days later. Our first experience with that was several years ago when we helped a son and his wife and their little boys (it took two cars) drive 11 straight freeway hours through three states to their new home. Dave and I then meandered home, checking out the most interesting-looking little back roads, photographing many old barns, stopping at several quaint shops---never once getting on the interstate. It took 38 hours.

Last month we carefully planned for our first long (2+ weeks) "real" vacation in five years. We knew we weren't getting any younger and wanted to make this trip and see new things while we were still able. We were excited to get started. 

And after two days, we both decided independently of each other, that we really didn't want to drive day after day and spend night after night in a different motel. We took back-roads all the way home. It was great and turned out to be just what we needed.

And in closing for today, no matter where you are in your life, please remember these three important things . . .

Simple things from Simply, Gail

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Some Simple Suggestions from Simply, Gail

Monday's post was on priorities and how they change. I concluded the post with the following:

"Along the way we have established priorities---individually, as a couple, and as a family. We never thought of them in such a formal way but that is basically what they were."

Today I will list some of them. For most of them, the one or two sentences will speak for themselves.

These suggestions may seem to be written as commands. This is because it is a waste of time and space to keep saying "you might want to" or "consider doing," etc., and I don't want to keep saying "I do this and that. . ."

Confession: If you have been reading The Creative Cheapskate for very long, it probably won't surprise you to learn that an office review when I was a young woman said, "Gail will get along better when she learns to make her suggestions sound less like demands."

And I promise you ----- I am still working on that.

I suggest that you

  • Use what you can,
  • Modify an idea you basically like, and
  • Most importantly, feel totally free, without guilt, to ignore what you don't like.
What has worked for me

Get up, get dressed, brush your hair and put on a little make-up. Then, take five or 10 minutes to quickly straighten up the living room and kitchen. You will feel better and be better prepared for any unforeseen visitor or situation.

Just before your husband comes home, freshen up your hair and make-up, and maybe even dab on a little fragrance.

Confession:   As I was doing the above one day, our two youngest boys were sharing the bathroom with me. The youngest asked if I was going somewhere and the next oldest responded, "No, it is time for Daddy to come home." 

When he comes home, greet him at the door if possible, but don't immediately begin telling him what a horrible day you had or how ornery the kids were. Chances are his day wasn't so great either.

Realize that as unfair as it may seem, the mom's mood seems to set the mood of the home.

Start dinner, as much as possible, early in the day---thus allowing for the inevitable interruptions.           (Or, at least, give some thought as to what you are going to have.)

When making casseroles or sauces, double the recipe and freeze part for a future time. Keep extra cookies or quick breads in the freezer so you are ready for unexpected guests or for delivery to a new neighbor or someone that is ill --- or for your own bad day.

Confession:  It didn't take me long to learn that frozen cookies or cake slices were very good----and that was in the days before microwaves!

If you have the space, find a place for a rocking chair in the kitchen. It was great for quick special moments with a child, or for just a relaxing minute while waiting for water to boil or the microwave time to ding.

Tomorrow is a big day in the USA. And that makes today a busy day!  Have a wonderful and meaningful Thanksgiving Day. No matter what your individual circumstances and/or trials, take time to

". . . count your many blessings -- name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done."

No matter how much there is that is wrong, there is always something right----something to be grateful for.

"The difference between a truly happy person and a very miserable person is gratitude."
                                                                                                              Joseph B. Wirthlin

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

#6 What If . . . RICE -- when the grocery shelves are empty!

Continuing the series to prepare you for a time when the store
shelves are empty and you have to get by on what you have on hand.
RICE is the staple grain for more than half of the world's population.

It has been commonly known and used since ancient times, and has been grown in America since 1668.

Rice is easy to store, takes little storage space, and has no waste since it is completely edible. It is a good source of energy and can supply vitamins and minerals to the diet. It is generally classified as a grain, but in family meals it can be used as a cereal, a vegetable (substitute for potatoes, as a base for meat or in soups), in puddings and custards as a dessert, and even as a beverage.

Rice for Storing

While there are 7,000+ varieties of rice in the world, long-grain white rice is recommended for long-term food storage. Brown rice, while much healthier, has a short shelf-life because of its oil content. In these times of plenty you can experiment with your favorite type of rice. Basically there are three lengths of rice and five kinds.

Lengths of Rice
  1. Long Grain Rice's length is 4-5 times its width. The grains are translucent. They remain separate after cooking, and are light and fluffy.
  2. Medium Grain Rice is about 3 times as long as it is wide. This type is less expensive than long grain because it requires a shorter growing season and produces a higher yield per acre. It is easier to mill than the long-grained variety. When cooked, it is more moist and more tender than long grain rice.
  3. Short Grain Rice is only 1-1/2-2 times as long as it is wide. It is generally the least expensive of the three lengths. It tends to cling together when cooked.
Kinds of Rice
  1. Brown Rice is the whole, unpolished grain of rice with only the outer fibrous, inedible hull removed. Brown rice requires more water and longer cooking time  than white rice. It has a chewy texture with a distinctive nut-like flavor. Again, because of the oil content, and how rapidly it becomes rancid, brown rice is not a long-term storage item. Refrigerating or freezing brown rice in self-seal plastic gas will extend the storage time considerably. The bags must be completely airtight or moisture buildup will occur inside the packet.
  2. Regular Milled White Rice is rice from which hulls, germ, outer bran layers and most of the inner bran are removed in the milling process. The grains are bland in flavor and are fluffy and distinct when cooking directions are followed.
  3. Parboiled Rice, Also called Converted or Processed Rice, has been treated to keep some of the natural vitamins and minerals the whole grain contains. It has been cooked before milling by a special steam pressure process. This is often the type of rice recommended when cooking it in a slow cooker.
  4. Instant or "Minute Rice" is completely cooked. It needs only to stand in boiling water to be ready for serving. It is a gummy-type rice.
  5. Fortified or Enriched Rice is a combination of highly fortified rice and ordinary milled rice. A coating of vitamins and minerals -- thiamine, niacin, iron and sometimes riboflavin -- is used to fortify rice. This coating adheres to the rice and does not dissolve with ordinary washing or cooking.
Wild Rice is not rice at all, but the seed of a wild water grass found around the Great Lakes region. The demand for this "rice" is almost greater than the supply, causing it to be much more expensive than the types of rice described above.

To retain the most nutrition and have the best results, there are some rules that should be followed when cooking rice.
  • Do not wash rice before cooking, nor rinse it after cooking. Rice is one of the most sanitary foods. Rice grown and milled in the United States is clean. Nutrients on the surface of the rice are washed away if it is washed or rinsed before cooking.
  • Do not use too much water when cooking rice. Any water drained off means wasted food value. 
  • Do not stir rice after it comes to a boil, as this breaks up the grains and makes the rice gummy.
  • Do not leave rice in the pan in which it is cooked for more than 5-10 minutes or the cooked rice will pack.
  • When cooking rice  you may want to cook extra for future use. Store the cooked rice in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week or in the freezer for up to 6 months. To reheat chilled or frozen rice, in a saucepan add 2 T liquid (water, broth, etc.) for each cup of rice. Cover and heat on top of the stove for about 5 minutes or until the rice is heated through.
Cooking Long-grain White Rice

Stove-top Method: Bring 2 parts water to one part grain to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork and serve.

Slow Cooker Method: Pour 4 cups long grain rice, 10 cups water and 4 tsp salt into slow cooker that has been greased with 1 Tablespoon butter or margarine. Cover. Cook on high 2-3 hours or until rice is tender, but not overcooked. During cooking time, leaving he lid off as short of time as possible, stir occasionally. Makes 10 servings.

Microwave Method: In a 2-3 quart microwave dish, blend together 2 cups rice, 1 T vegetable oil, 3-1/2 cups water and 1 tsp salt. Cover and microwave on HIGH for 17-19 minutes. Do not stir or lift lid while cooking. Let stand 5-10 minutes. Fluff with fork.

Hints for Using Rice
  • Cook rice in beef or chicken broth instead of water.
  • Mix cooked rice with a variety of things -- sliced mushrooms, sauteed onions, crumbled bacon, slivered almonds,  grated cheese, etc.
  • Try sour cream and chives mixed into cooked rice.
  • For breakfast cereal, cook rice as usual. Drizzle with honey or sugar. Chopped fruit, fresh or canned, can be added. Top with warm milk or cream if desired.
  • Herbs can be added to the cooking water when preparing rice: 1/2 tsp dried thyme, oregano, sage, rosemary, basil or savory; 1/2 tsp celery seeds or dried dill, seasoned salt instead of regular salt; 3/4 tsp dried marjoram.
  • Make "potato" salad replacing the potatoes with rice.
Rice Stir-Ins Ideas
  • Dried cranberries, chopped pecans, sliced green onions, and Parmesan cheese.
  • Thawed frozen peas and chopped smoked ham.
  • Chopped roasted chicken, toasted sliced almonds, sliced green onions and orange marmalade.
  • Scrambled eggs, chopped Canadian bacon, and chopped chives or green onions.
  • Orange segments, toasted sliced almonds, and sliced green onions.
  • Granola, vanilla yogurt and golden raisins.
  • Butter, lemon zest and fresh lemon juice.
  • Minced garlic and mushrooms sauteed in butter.
  • Diced tomatoes, sliced green onions, and shredded Monterey Jack cheese.
  • Vanilla ice cream and a dash of cinnamon.
  • Scrambled eggs, crumbled cooked sausage, cream cheese cubes, sliced green onions, dash of poultry seasoning.
  • Yogurt and fresh fruit.
  • Zucchini and carrot "matchsticks" sauteed in butter or olive oil and Parmesan cheese.
  • Sliced apples sauteed in butter, cinnamon, brown sugar, chopped nuts and vanilla yogurt.
  • Thawed frozen corn, mild green chilies and sour cream.
Rice is the Great "Stretcher"
Rice helps a main dish like stew, chili, beans, etc. go a lot farther by serving them over rice. We learned this stomach-filling trick several years ago when we lived on an isolated atoll in the Equatorial Pacific. Container ships were scheduled (loosely) every six weeks or thereabouts.

Rice as a Beverage!

Horchata (or-CHA-tah) is an old-world drink that was enjoyed by the Aztecs. Today it is served throughout Mexico, and is appearing on more and more menus in authentic Mexican Restaurants in the United States. It is a cool and soothing enhancement to spice food.

There are many recipes on the internet. Some are dairy-free, making it a great drink for those with lactose intolerance. The ingredients and preparation methods are similar, and all require a several hour "setting" time and the necessity of straining. Serve horchata over ice.

Lola's Horchata
1 cup uncooked white long-grain rice
5 cups water
2/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 T. vanilla extract
1/2 T. ground cinnamon
Pour the rice and water into a blender container; blend until the rice just begins to break up, about 1 minute. Let the rice and water stand at room temperature for a minimum of 3 hours. Strain the rice water into a pitcher and discard the rice. Stir the milk, vanilla, cinnamon and sugar into the rice water. Chill. Stir before serving over ice.

Lola's recipe is from allrecipes.com. Comments from the site include:

  • This is the best horchata recipe I have ever found. I found that ground cinnamon floats on the stop so I let 2 cinnamon sticks soak with the rice and water for 3 hours.
  • I have made this three times and found the trick to perfecting this the second time around! Here's my recommendation for "authentic" homemade horchata: put 1-1/3 cups rice in the blender jar. Add about 2 cups water and 2 cinnamon sticks and blend until he rice and cinnamon are roughly ground. Add the remaining water and blend thoroughly. Pour into a pitcher and place in the refrigerator to soak (overnight is best) -- or at the very least 4-5 hours. Strain the mixture through a sieve. I doubled the amount of milk called for. I used about half the sugar ( a generous 1/3 cup as I like mine not too sweet) and a generous splash of vanilla.
  • I found that the flavor was better the longer it sat so I served it the following day. There was a lot of undissolved cinnamon, but I found the perfect solution is to strain the entire mixture through a coffee filter just before serving. Because it sat overnight, the flavor was still full, but you did not get undissolved cinnamon with each sip. My measurements for 10 servings is the following: 1-2/3 cup uncooked white long-grain rice, 8 cups water, 1/2 cup sugar, 1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 2 cups milk; 3/4 cup+2 T sweetened condensed milk; 2-1/2 tsp vanilla.