Category Archives: House and Garden

My Grocery List

As I’ve mentioned several times before I get most of my produce, nuts and beans from the farm, so I tend to do one big shop a month to pick up everything else I need, with a weekly stop for milk and any last minute item. As a result, my grocery list often looks a bit imbalanced.

December List

  • onions
  • oatmeal
  • brown rice
  • eggs
  • butter (x2)
  • blue cheese
  • brie
  • chocolate chips
  • dark chocolate
  • vodka
  • trash bags
  • toilet paper

As you can see, I rarely buy any produce from anyplace but Nevermore. Also, I start out reasonably healthy, move into some less healthy stuff before diving straight into the hard liquor, then wind up with the mundane.

What does your grocery list look like?

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Pantry Staples

Last night I reached into my vegetable drawer only to find a pile of yuck: apparently something rotted and decided to take everything thing else out with it. However after some gagging and making faces I got to work making dinner with kitchen staples. Fortunately, long ago I realized that my life was easier if I always had certain foods in my kitchen so that I always have a Plan B.

Grains: brown rice, whole wheat pasta, oatmeal, popcorn

Proteins: lentils, chickpeas, black beans, eggs, raw almonds (freezer), cheddar and mozzarella cheeses (freezer)

Vegetables: onions, garlic, canned tomatoes, carrots, celery, frozen spinach, frozen broccoli

With these ingredients, some cooking oil and a few spices, I can come up with a healthy meal or snack from almost any culture in no time.

What are your kitchen staples?

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Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

As I’m attempting to simplify my life by getting rid of things that clog my house, I’m also realizing that I need to take better care of what I already have. While confronting my pantry last week I realized the white door was getting a little grungy where I handled it. I looked around and noticed that all my cabinets were kind of grungy, particularly those under the sink.

Please note the grayish ick on the bottom. And once again, I’m really selling my kitchen, aren’t I?

Anyways, this week I spent an evening with a bowl of hot soapy water, a dish cloth, an old toothbrush, and a little bit of elbow grease. For the most part, this system worked really well: stains, grease, and dust came right off. That is, until I got to the cabinets under the sink. You see, I bought this house from some inexperienced flippers. Yes, they repainted the cabinetry, but they did a bad job of it, including painting over dirt, leaving bumps in places, and without sanding, so the latex peels off. So, yes, I managed to get most of the dirt off, but unfortunately that meant I occasionally took off a layer (or two) of paint by accident. Those brown spots on the lower left? That’s bare wood. Oops. Perhaps a future project will include properly stripping, sanding, and repainting my cabinets.

Regardless, my cabinets now sparkle, which makes my floor look dingy in comparison. Guess that’s due for a good scrubbing too.

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Filed under House and Garden, Simplify

Spicing Up My Pantry

Have I mentioned lately how much I love Freecycle? Because I do.

Earlier this week, there was a posting for a bunch of unused spices. I love to cook, and spices are expensive, so I said yes! But y’all, this wasn’t just some regular old McCormick cumin from Safeway; it turned out to be two boxed sets from a fancy spice store in Chicago. I now have the International Salt-Free collection, as well as the Ethnic Chicago Neighborhoods complete set. Plus, both sets came packaged with lose herbs and spices, so now I have a whole new jar’s worth of bay leaves, cinnamon sticks and nutmeg. They all smell so yummy, and I’ve been having lots of fun with them already. It’s been fun playing with my salad dressing and adding flavor to my afternoon snack of air-popped popcorn. (Yes, I’m the person who makes popcorn in the office microwave. I’m sorry, but it’s delicious.)I can’t wait to see what tweaks I can make to some of my old standard recipes.

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Energy Care Program

A few months ago, I swallowed my pride and applied for the low-income program with my power company. I shoved it to the side of my mind, until I got a call a few weeks ago that I had been accepted, and would now be charged reduced rates. I was relieved, but wondered why it required a phone call, until the woman continued that with entrance into the program, I was entitled to a free home energy assessment. I like free, I like saving money and I like things that make me more environmentally friendly, so I said yes.

Y’all, it was awesome. I’ve been slowly replacing my regular light bulbs with CFLs as they burn out, but they went through and replaced them all. Then, since CFLs aren’t very pretty, they replaced three of my light fixtures that had exposed bulbs with ones that covered the bulbs, and conveniently, matched the ones already in my house. My water heater got a new insulating blanket, new weather stripping for my doors and windows, and new insulation around the exhaust for my furnace and stove vents. They even replaced my showerhead with a handheld low flow version that has multiple massage settings.  And, had my refrigerator been old enough, they would have replaced it.

They also gave me some tips for how to reduce energy further: shorter showers and wash clothes in cold water (which I already do), clean refrigerator coils and replace my furnace filter (which are now on my to do list!).

I admit, I was really nervous to admit to perfect strangers that things were tight financially, but they were so professional and matter of fact that I never felt like a failure. And, now my power bill will be reduced two fold: lower rates and lower usage.

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Filed under Cutting Back, House and Garden

The Ups and Downs of Homeownership

A few weeks ago, I got good news and bad news all wrapped up into one. The county reassessed the value of my townhouse, and it’s gone up. And while it’s nice that my home is worth twice what I owe on it, the extra $100 a month on my mortgage to pay those taxes, is not so nice.

Showing my usual mature side, I set aside the notice and pretended like if I ignored it, maybe it would go away. But no, yesterday the full new cost of my mortgage was drafted out of my bank account, and now my budget is $100 tighter, which is a lot on my stipend.

However, now the flood zone status of my home is being reassessed by FEMA, and it looks like I can drop my flood insurance, which will save me about $60 a month. But, unfortunately, that doesn’t give me that breathing room I need this month.

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Freecycle Vases

Have I mentioned how much I love Freecycle lately? Because I do. My latest find was a group of pretty and vintage-looking vases and bottles. My flowers are doing really well this spring and I want to scatter some around the house. Ooh, or buy corks and fill some with herbs from the garden and vinegar for home infused vinegars. Basically, I’m excited about this. Any other great ideas?

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Filed under Cutting Back, House and Garden