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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Freaking sweet giveaway

About 6 weeks ago, I was at a meeting at a local establishment.  They were offering drinks, and light pastries.  I didn't partake, but on my way out I saw the words "chocolate, mint, and truffle" on a flat little package, so I totally snaked one and stuffed in my purse.  "Complimentary breakfast" need not only apply while you're actually AT the meeting...should it?

Flash forward 2 weeks and I found it in my purse.  Turns out the little package was tea!  I quickly brewed a cup.  Holy.freaking.cow it was awesome.  I sent my friend Elaina a text saying "oh my god I'm drinking chocolate mint tea".  Her response "you mean orgasm in a cup"?  Yes.  That is exactly what I meant.

It was so good that I emailed Mighty Leaf Teas and asked if they would kindly send me a box of this delicious tea so that I could give it away to one of my lucky readers.  Well, they went so far above and beyond and offered me a whole tea extravaganza that includes organic tea (hot and iced), and an ice tea pitcher that can brew iced tea in just minutes.  The whole tea shebang is valued at $60.  I am not being compensated for this post* - it's just Mighty Leaf being super awesome!

So, how can this tea sweetness be yours?  Simply leave a comment saying your interested.  That's it!  There is no tweeting, Facebook liking, or following involved.  But, if you're a new reader here just for the giveaway, I do welcome you to poke around.  I hope you enjoy what you see/read!

This is open to US residents only, and Mighty Leaf will ship the winner the package directly.  I'll draw for the winner next Friday at 5 pm PT using  Best of luck to you all!

Postscript: it appears that Blogger is having another issue with commenting PMS.  If it keeps giving you a circular error when you try to comment, unselect "remember me" when it asks you to log in.  That should work.

*so, I didn't receive any money for this post, but Mighty Leaf did ship a box of tea to my house which I assumed for about a week was for the giveaway.  After a week of lusting after the tea and wishing it was mine, I emailed my contact and asked if they were shipping the tea pitcher in a separate package.  The sweet woman at Mighty Leaf then informed me that they would ship the package to the winner directly and that awesome box of tea was for me!  I may have said something like "OMG, I love you and want to marry you and have little tea babies with you".  There may be a tea restraining order out on me.  I can't be sure.  My memory is a little bit fuzzy at this point.  Perhaps I should steep on it...?

This post has been linked to Frugal Tip Tuesdays, and Real Food Wednesdays.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sunday - family time

Troy is rarely home these days, so when we DO get time with him, we try to make those moments fun!  Sunday, we headed out to my favorite state park before the law goes in to effect forcing you to buy a $30 yearly pass.

Preparation for the big hike:

My ghost baby knows that sun protection is very important!

And after an exhausting climb, Jack knows a sucker someone who is always willing to lend a hand.  Or a pair of very broad shoulders.
I love this photo and posted it against Troy's objections that "my smile is pervy".

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Keep calm and carry on

I once found a blog where the blog header has a quote that says "I've had the kind of day that would make Saint Francis want to kick babies".  I'm sorry that I don't remember the link to give appropriate credit, because it's a funny quote.

Well, if you replace "day" with week, you'd be in my shoes.

Last week we got some crappy news about my poor momma.  Her arm has been hurting for awhile and she finally went to the doctor and had an MRI.  Now, for my mom to actually say "it hurts" and want to see someone means the rest of us would be in the fetal position sucking our thumbs.  Bear in mind, this is the woman who walked around for months saying her foot felt funny.  IT WAS BROKEN.

Anyhoo, her rotator cuff is all kinds of fucked and can't be fixed.  Horrible news for the normal person, but when you consider that she needs her shoulders and arms to push her walker (she has had MS for 35 years), it truly sucks monkey balls.

I thought the week was getting better last Wednesday when we found out Troy got a paid EMT job!  This is great and means he'll be gainfully employed in a field that is actually close to what he is trying to do (become a fire fighter).  The good news was short-lived when we got a call that night that my grandfather had passed away.

Grandpa Carl was the best.  He was such a kind and dear man and never had a cross word to say about anyone.  I remember reading some letters that he and my grandma had written to each other, and to paraphrase my gramps it said "I don't mean to curse Mary, but these darn guys make me so angry".  So when I say kindhearted, I mean just the best kind of guy out there.

He had been suffering from dementia for a few years, and was moved to assisted living last fall.  His mind was fleeting, but his heart and his gentle soul is how I choose to remember him.  He was a wonderful man, and he will be missed dearly.

Just when I thought it was safe to pull my head out of my cloud, I get a call on Friday that my dad was headed to the ER with heart trouble.  Bah, when it rains it pours!  He turned out to be ok, but Jack and ended up having a sleepover at grandma and grandpa's house to make sure all was well.

And just when you think that it's safer to stay in your bed all day and cry, you pull yourself out of your sadness stupor and see something like this:

And then you take a deep breath and realize that today is another day.  Bad stuff happens.  Sorrows happen.  But the sun always comes up the next day and you move on and snuggle the people around you just a little bit closer.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lara bar winner

Congrats to All About Us for winning the Lara Bar giveaway!  Please email your contact info to beingfrugalbychoiceblog at!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Happy anniversary

Happy anniversary to my mom and dad.  They've been putting up with each other for 37 years now! Ha!

Thank you both for being a wonderful example of what unconditional love means.  In a world of short-term marriages and relationships, you're proof that some people are still in it for life.

Love you both!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fantastic deal

One of the many things you need to know about me is that I LOVE organization.  I'm pretty sure that the first time I ever walked in to a Container Store I got a fem boner.  I used to have my nice and orderly calendar on my Blackberry, but with the fancy phone being collateral damage of the Great Recession, we were using a free NRA calendar that was purely craptastic.  That being said, had anyone ever broken in to our house, I feel confident that the calendar could have blown their ass away.

I bought this calendar 2 weeks ago, and even though I can't technically use it until August, I'm deeply and hopelessly in love with it.  It is a 17 month calendar, and each page is 1 week at a glance and each family member (up to 7) has their own schedule grid.  It will allow us to track everyone's schedule on one page.  With Troy's internship and part time job, my full-time plus job/meetings, etc., and Jack being watched by 2 separate family members, knowing what each person's day looks like is huge for us!  Because it's just the 3 of us, I've saved one of the lines for meal planning.

I rarely pay full price for anything, but apparently I did for this thing.  2 weeks ago when I bought it, it was $14.95, which I assumed was a great deal.  The stinkers at Amazon have marked it down to $11.21 and it qualifies for free shipping.

For full disclosure, if you purchase the calendar via the link, I get the teeniest tiniest percentage of the purchase price.  BUT, my intent of this post is to declare my love for the calendar and to let you know it's on sale.  Amazon just happens to be the only place I can find it, i.e., this post wasn't created to generate kick backs for me.

Egg cups - protein to go

As part of Troy's special Father's day breakfast, I made a batch of my world famous egg cups.  Well, I've never made them before, and no one has ever heard of my egg cups, but this is their big world-debut!

1.  Thoroughly grease a 12 cup muffin tin with shortening or coconut oil.
2.  Cook 12 slices of bacon until each slice is about 95% cooked. I used bacon made from a local butcher.  Local piggies = local bacon.  Mmmmm.
3.  Place each slice in the muffin tin and curl it around until it makes a delightful bacon circle
It's not accident that they look like halos.  Bacon is born from a higher power.
4.  Mix 8 eggs (pastured and organic preferred), 1/2 cup of milk, and 1/2 tsp each of chives and dill
5.  Pour in to  muffin tins and bake at 350 degrees for 22 minutes.  Top with a little shredded cheese and bake for an additional 5 minutes.

6. Enjoy
My goal was the get the least appetizing photo of these things.  Mission accomplished!
These things freeze beautifully, so make a double or triple batch and store them in a freezer-proof bag.

This has been posted at Frugal Tip Tuesdays, Traditional Tuesdays, Real Food Wednesdays, and Simple Lives Thursdays.
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Monday, June 20, 2011

Mr. Clean take me away!

I could do a whole series over the next year entitled "stuff the previous tenants screwed up".  The previous tenants I speak of are the disgusting family of what must have been wookies (you should see the hair I've been pulling from drains, the dishwasher, door jams...), who lived in my parent's rental home that we have since taken over.  Today's post is all about the condition they left the master bathroom shower in.  Yeah, I ended that sentence with a preposition...what are you judging me for...?

At some point in the last 25 years, my dad had a cast on his foot and it scratched up the shower in the master bath.  The scratches were always there, but the renters took it to a whole new level and decided to fill those scratches with filth (the janky cell photo doesn't do it justice.  Much grosser in real life!):

Yuck, how do you shower in there and feel like you're clean?
Now you know me, and you know that I don't like single-use products.  BUT, I also don't like using harsh chemicals that are dangerous for my family and for the community water systems.  So...when nothing "green" will work to get that crap off of the shower...where does one turn?  If you're me, you picked up the new Mr. Clean Magic Bathroom Eraser.  I bought them at Target for about $4.

After 20 minutes, a bunch of elbow grease, and 1 nearly shredded Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, I turned the shower in to this:
The eraser went in the garbage afterwards which added it to the ranks of single-use products being tossed, but I didn't have to use any bleach or other harsh chemicals to get a clean shower.

And since you're here, don't forget to enter the Lara Bar giveway!

Note: this post is not sponsored by any company, and all opinions are merely my own. I didn't receive any compensation for writing this, and heck I even bought the product myself. So stuff those suspicions in a sack mister.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Miracles, blisters, and a giveaway!

The cable guy came yesterday to disconnect the cable that the previous tenants had forgotten to cancel.  Last night, I connected the converter box and a miracle of miracles happened; we still get about 10 local channels!!!!  At our last place, even with the converter box we only got Fox.

I'll still watch TV for free on Hulu via the computer, but it's so nice to have local news and let's be honest - Law and Order episodes.

Yesterday I took a portion of our yard from this:

to this:

The space to the right of the cleared area is scheduled for weeding and then a planting of raspberry bushes.  Soon. Very soon.
 I hand weeded it all, but Troy and his hand sawzall (sp???) were responsible for removing the bush that was blocking light from where I want to plant blueberries um dying. 

Tomorrow after applying a nice layer of Cedar Grove Compost, I'm going to plant 2 blueberry bushes and a whole mess of strawberry plants.  Come fall, I'm going to put in a few asparagus plants (bushes?).  Since this area faces the road, my thoughts are planting edibles that are also attractive year round is a neighborly thing to do.

The good folks at Larabar have provided me with 4 different flavors of bars to giveaway to 1 lucky reader.  My only recommendation to the winner is to try the bars, then make my homemade version and see what you think.

To enter - leave a comment that you are interested.  I'll draw for the winner next Thursday (June 23rd) at noon.

May you all have a fantastic and restful weekend!  It is supposed to be pretty nice here in the PNW, and the garden is calling my name.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Smoothie 2.0

Chocolate, banana, and peanut butter.  Mmmmmmm.

And spinach. 

My latest "breakfast in a cup" incorporates some yummy and healthy things that mask the taste of some super healthy veggies.  My green hatin' son (excluding kiwi and avocado) drank a ton of this smoothie and said "yum, chocolate milkshake mommy".  SCORE!

Sarah's Protein Powerhouse veggie hiding Smoothie
1 banana sliced and frozen (I slice and put in the freezer the night before)
1/3 cup of organic milk or coconut milk
1 dollop of honey
1 fistful of raw spinach
1/3 cup of creamy peanut butter.  Why not try homemade?
1.5 tsp of good quality cocoa powder (I prefer dark chocolate)
1 tsp of chia seeds

Blend all ingredients until smooth.  I like to make this about 20 minutes before I leave for work, and then stick it in the freezer.  The chia seeds make the smoothie thicker the longer it sits, so it's great to let it "rest" for a bit, but don't wait too long before enjoying it!

This has been posted to Real Food Wednesdays.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What exactly does one eat at the ass crack of dawn?

When you have to wake up at 4:45 am, what is on the breakfast menu to allow for every additional second of precious sleep?  SLURPEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES!

No, not this kind of Slurpee:

a huge dose of high fructose corn syrup and red dye is NOT how I like to start MY day.

Jack started calling smoothies "slurpees" about 3 months ago, and the name has stuck.  With my longer commute, and even earlier wake up time, a healthy and portable breakfast is in order.  And I rarely do coffee, and never caffinated coffee, so the breakfast of choice must include something with enough energy to prop up my heavy eyelids.

Sarah's Bright-Eyed and Bushy-Tailed Smoothie
1/2 cup of froze fruit (I used a mixed bag of pineapple, mangoes, strawberries, and papya)
Splash of organic milk
1 big fistful of organic baby spinach
1 banana
1 tsp organic chia seeds*
Blend and enjoy!
I'll admit, I've been coveting this smoothie blender for months, but a few things happened.  1) I reigned myself in and reminded myself I don't need to spend money on more "stuff".  2) I saw the cup in-person and realized it wouldn't fit in my tiny little cup holders in my car.  When you drive a stick shift, the cup holder is your friend.  So, instead of purchasing more crap to fill my kitchen, I just use my immersion blender that I've had for years.  Bonus is that I can make the smoothie IN the cup I'll eventually drink out of so it reduces dirty dishes.  Because I need more dirty dishes like I need a hole in my head.
Let's run the numbers!
-bag of frozen fruit - $8.79 at Costco.  Not organic, but it is in my price range.  Works out to $.22 per serving
-homemade raw milk yogurt - $.45 per serving
-organic spinach - $.35 per serving (if I can find a type that doesn't bolt in heat, I'll plant my own.  Any suggestions dear readers?)
-1 banana - $.17
1 tsp organic chia seeds - $8.99 a lb in the bulk section at my market.  I bought .22 lbs for a cost of $1.98.  I'll be able to get about 15 servings from that, so $.13 per serving.
Total: $1.32 for a 16 oz homemade, real food, healthy smoothie

I drink this in the car, and then have 2 hard boiled eggs at work around 9 am to get some protein.  The 2 hard boiled eggs are $.66 total.  A yummy breakfast that keeps me going until lunch for under $2 - score!

*Wondering what in the hell a chia seed might be?  Read all about it courtesy of Wikipedia.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Moving sucks. Usually

When you have a crew like this, moving can actually be enjoyable.

That is Troy on the mix table, and cousin Scotty bustin' a move.  Erica, you must be so proud of your man! 

I don't ever remember laughing so hard while doing such exhausting work.  Our work crew consisted of  2 of Troy's cousins (1 cousin is the source of the fantastic laughter in the video), 1 cousin's spouse, his sister's husband, his best friend, and my amazing father-in-law who I believe is on the list for sainthood.

Moving twice in 7 weeks has led Troy to declare "I don't ever want to buy another thing again".  Seriously.  We've lived in small apartments our whole 7 years of married life, but we have accumulated so.much.freaking.STUFF.  We're having a garage sale in July or August, but we're both on self-imposed purchasing hiatus.  That works our perfectly with our non-self imposed income fluctuations these past 15 months.

The big move was on Saturday, and we moved out of the inlaws yesterday.  I spent all of Saturday unpacking as much as I could.  This week marks the return of my 10 hour a day work schedule (four 10's) so a very early wake up time greeted my tired bones today.

This morning I am 10 degrees of exhausted, and am hurting in places I didn't know was possible (anyone else ever pulled their armpit?!), but none of that matters because I feel so blessed.

~I'm blessed to live in a home that is so perfect for my little family.
~I'm blessed that for the 1st time in 7 years of marriage we have more than 1 bathroom and 1 tiny shared closet.  The thrill of not having to schedule a bowel movement cannot be described.
~I'm blessed to be surrounded by people who will trade their Saturday morning for some pizza and soda in exchange for back breaking work.
~I'm blessed to have gotten to sleep on our fantastic king bed last night after 7 weeks of sharing a double bed at the in laws.  Even though our mattress is so awkward and heavy that the 4 guys carrying it yesterday recommended we sell the place with the mattress included...
~I'm blessed that my hours of prepping, taping, and painting vanished the second I heard Jack take a huge deep, excited breath and yell "Jackie's new room"!!!!!!
~I'm blessed because every box I have left to unpack - and there are ohhhhh so many - is 1 step closer to having a space that I can consider a home.
~I'm blessed that the last renters were such morons that they forgot to have the cable turned off.  Yes, we will of course let the cable people know when they come to install internet on Wednesday, but for the next 2 days I have free TV!
~I'm blessed that tonight when I make pasta, I'll be able to walk outside and snip some basil from my newly planted garden.  Clearing the space for the garden has been a labor of love that will culminate in fresh herbs for my delicious dinner.  Worth.every.second!
~I'm thankful to my sister and her husband for allowing us to turn their converted garage in to the set of Hoarders for almost 2 months, allowing us to not have to spend money by renting a storage unit.
~I'm oddly blessed that our last neighbors, whom Jack referred to as "mean people" were actually so awful.  Had they not been so awful, I may not have broken down in tears one Sunday.  That emotional snap was the impetus for my parent's offering us a chance to rent their beautiful rental house.
~I'm blessed to have family that gives and offers assistance with the only strings attached being that they want you to be happy.  Mom and Dad, the gift of use of this space is beyond anything we could ever imagine.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Stop renting your modem!

Earlier this week I was online setting up internet for our new place.  I noticed that renting a cable modem is $3 per month.  We use a local/regional cable company, but I believe Comcast charges $5-6 per month.

For $52, I purchased the exact same modem our cable company would have rented to us.  That means, after 17 months, the purchase will have paid for itself.  If renting your modem is more than $3 per month, obviously the break-even point will come much sooner.

If purchasing the modem isn't an option for you right now, try freecycle and see if anyone in your area has a spare!

Happy thrifting!

This has been posted to Frugal Tip Tuesdays.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A veggie-centric dinner

Thankfully I was in a veggie mood last night, because there was allllllllllllllll shades of green on the menu.

Main course - Buffalo chicken wraps
Ingredients - lettuce, chicken, buffalo wing sauce (store bought or homemade), dressing of your choice (homemade ranch would be lovely in this!), and whole wheat tortillas.

Marinate chicken breasts in wing sauce for 8 hours.  Grill and slice.  Place a nice handful of lettuce on the tortilla, top with sliced grilled chicken, and drizzle with dressing.  Omit tortilla and serve as a salad if you don't eat grains/gluten.

Side - Sesame Cucumbers
Ingredients - sesame oil (DUH), 2 cukes, rice wine vinegar, salt, red pepper flakes, and sesame seeds.

Peel the cucumbers. Cut them into quarters, lengthwise. (If the seeds are bitter, scrape out the seeds and discard.) Cut the cucumbers again, crosswise, into 1/2-inch thick pieces.

Place cucumbers into a serving bowl. Sprinkle with salt. Toss with sesame oil, seasoned rice vinegar, sesame seeds and chili flakes.

OTHER side - Grilled Artichokes with aioli. 
(You're not scared of artichokes are you?  They're super simple to cook and so delicious!)

Ingredients - Artichokes, mayo, minced garlic, dill, salt, pepper, and chives.

Cut off the stem of the 'choke if it is longer than about 1 inch.  Place in a steamer basket and with water in the pot, steam for about 30 minutes or until the outside bottom (near the stem) leaves peel off easily.  Putting them in a rice cooker with the steamer insert takes the guess work out of figuring out if they're done.

While steaming the chokes, mix 1/3 cup of mayo, 1 tsp of minced garlic, 1/2 tsp of dill and chives, 1/8 tsp of pepper and salt.  Mix well and store in the fridge until you're ready to serve it.  If you make this at least 15 minutes before serving, it allows time for the flavors to develop.

Then for dessert you need to eat 3 s'mores and then wonder why your pants are getting tighter these days celery and peanut butter.

We're "almost" done with the house remodel, and I'll be posting photos soon*!

*Soon is a relative term and is contingent upon ever finally getting moved and/or a little bit of quality.  It should not be used in any legally binding terminology.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The world's fastest lasagna

I walked in to my inlaws house last night and was greeted with a scent that can only be desribed sunshine  and rainbows covered in awesomesauce.  Upon inspection of the oven, I saw a delicious and bubbling lasagna.  After being told it only needed 20 minutes to bake, I realized this must not be a typical lasagna.

Turns out I was right!  My fantastic mother-in-law had covered the bottom of the baking dish with sliced polenta instead of noodles!  You can make your own polenta, but it's also sold pre-made.  If purchased pre-made it is already cooked and therefore it dramatically cuts down on the cooking/prep time for this yummy dish.  Even better - make your own and store in the fridge.  Added bonus: this recipe is gluten-free if your polenta of choice doesn't include flour (and it shouldn't!).

MIL Stupidly Awesome Lasagna
1 tube of polenta, or homemade (preferred), sliced
1 jar of organic marinara, or homemade
2 cups of mozzarella cheese
8 oz of ricotta cheese
8 oz of protein of choice if desired (MIL used some local homemade sausage from our butcher)

Layer baking dish with polenta slices, cover with half of the ricotta.  Next, layer on marinara and then mozzarella.  Repeat with cheese and sauce.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until the cheese is warm and bubbly! 

This post is shared with Pennywise Platter Thursday,  Simple Lives Thursday, and Fight Back Fridays.
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