Friday, May 27, 2011

Getting the Heat Out of The Kitchen!!!

It is that time of year again, I am NOT going to do much cooking in my kitchen.  It is in the exact middle of my house and even with the new stove hood, which vent the heat out, I don't want to do much cooking in there.

Today, the family is gathering for an early Memorial Week End BBQ.  We will of course have the standards, hot dogs and hamburgers, but I have secret surprise cooking for them.  BBQ Pork Spare Ribs ala Wonder Box.  I am about to put them on (9:30 am) and they should be absolutely falling off the bones by dinner time.  All I will have to run the stove is about 20-25 minutes and the rest will be done out on the patio, just o get the box out of the way.  Think of all the energy I will be saving.  Time will be saved to since I won't have to check them once they ore cooking.

I already have baked beans in one crock pot and the funereal potatoes will be going into another one as soon as the ribs are tucked into the Wonder Box.  The men can be manly and "man" the grill . . . not for me thank you very much!!

UPDATE:  As usual, I checked the temperature of the meat as soon as I opened the pot and bag.  They were still at 157 degrees, great !

The ribs turned out wonderful, in most respects, juicy and tender.  There was a little hole in the bottom of the bag, so some of the BBQ sauce leaked out and some of the water leaked in.  

Lesson learned:  Check for leaks in the baking bag!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Summer Weather and All of It's Fun is Here . . . .Early!

As I have been working  my little tushi off to get my belated garden in, I have been watching the news a lot.   In case you have missed it,  a lot of people have been losing their power, water  . .  and they are the lucky ones in some areas!  This was driven home when I read the following post on "Safely Gathered In". Click HERE.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Texas Sheet Cake, to Thrill a 5-Year Old

Years ago, I learned to decorate cakes and thought it would be so wonderful to do special cakes for my kids as they grew up.  My hot old hands (even when I was young) would melt the icing in those bags so quickly, so I had to resorts to other methods.  Wish I had figured out how to use this "pouring"  candy frosting a long time ago. 


Learn to roll with the punches, make it easy on yourself!  Creating special memories can be fun and easy!!Now I can just have the kids guide me and give them what they want.  It is often no where near as grandiose as we imagine.  I have adopted the motto, " don't impress the adults, thrill the kids,"  I had more than one question about how I made this cake.  Smart moms, smarter than I was!!  

Texas Sheet Cake  and Candy Frosting  click HERE  This will also show the cake I made last year for Garrett's 4th birthday.  

So anyhoo, here is the low down on the birthday of our big 5 year old boy!!

The cake started with talking about fractions with Gabriel ( 6 year old brother).  This is how his mother and my other kids were also introduced to fractions. . .  cooking.  The idea got mixed reviews from the kids, but Gabriel thought it was OK since he got to help me make the cake . . after which, I taught him the "fine art of scraping the bowl". That of course is a VERY important part of baking.

Next night, Garrett (birthday boy) got to help me frost the TX Sheet Cake.  He made the same mistake that I tend to do, and went over the same spot too many times.  Poor little guy looked up at me with such great big eyes full of panic.  he was so sure that he had ruined his own cake.  It was OK when I told him that we could put the requested island full of dinosaurs over it.  The light blue frosting was poured over a coat of white frosting that was blocking out some of the brown from chocolate showing through.  Garrett loved the spray that gave the "water" a little more dimension.  Garrett was shown the fine art of scraping the pan after making the candy frosting for the cake . .  also a VERY important part of baking.

The island needed to have some height so that there could be the requested water fall on it, so I made the second cake in various pans and bowls.  It was supposed to be light chocolate so that would look better under the "sand".

We made a second batch of the candy frosting, tinted it a bit to make it tan colored and poured it over the "island".  Garrett was getting pretty excited at this point as he could see his dream cake coming together.  It was his job to place all of the fishes in the water and dinosaurs on the island.  I did have him leave some space on that one area for a surprise shark that Gabriel had helped me find.  It was BIG!! and had great teeth.

Garrett is talking about volcanoes a lot these days, so along with the shark, and water fall, I added some hot lava . . .  he seemed excited when he first saw it over at the park, just before his party and then all of a sudden, got upset and wanted it "off right now"!  It was just too late and then the guests started to arrive . .  what to do, what to do.

He finally accepted and went to play with the rest of the kids.  Whew!!  You really can't tell, but there is a little Tiki hut on the backside of the volcano.  I had hoped to put the five little candles at the top like fire coming out of the volcano, but he wanted to have the "five" candle up there.  Oh well, it was his cake.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tire Gardening . . The Next Chapter

I have realized that this is not for the faint of heart.  Cutting the side walls was hard work, even with a big supply of new, sharp blades and using the saws all.  By taking my time and pacing myself.  If I sound a little wimpy, I am 61, had health (breathing, asthma and other issues) since 2006.  Though that has left me a "wimp" compared with what I used to do, I am thrilled to be able to physically accomplish what I have done this Spring.

It is dark, but in the morning I will take more pictures and talk about:
  • Where to find free tires.
  • Figuring the amount of soil that you will need.
  • Placement
  • What to plant in them
  • Some advantages of using them.
  • Using them for Winter Gardening
Because it is a little late for planting here, I have just purchased plants instead of starting with seeds, a little expensive, but after shopping around, I hope that I will be able to make it pay off in the long run!

Monday, April 18, 2011

New Category . . . . Thriftiness

I am addicted to weddings and bridal or baby showers.  I love to help at the celebrations surrounding these happy occasions.  One reason I help with these is that it should be a wonderful happy time for those involved in them.  I have offered my assistance many times to help out friends and it evolved from there.

I now have many materials to help create a base for decorating and fluffing.  Arches, tulle, lights, greenery, table cloths, serving dishes, you name it.  I am working on boxes to give lift to the serving tables for interest and create ease in self serving.

Why am I bringing this up?  Have you ever watched the shows on "reality" TV that deal with weddings?  It's insane!  Now is the time to think out of the box if you are involved with one of these wonderful occasions in your life.

If you have or as you attend other weddings, start making calls if there were things that you could use in your event!  When I go to a wedding, I am always looking for new ideas and what colors they have.

As you may be shopping, look at the "outlet" stores for serving and decorating pieces.  Most of my crystal trays and bowls have come from Ross, Marshal's thrift stores.  My goblets came from Costco, a real "splurge"  for me.  But they were a gonga deal or I wouldn't have bought them.

My arches were bought for half price after Christmas when my daughter got engaged that month.  They have been used in so many weddings and parties that I have lost count.

I need to go out and work before it gets too hot.  Can you believe I am saying that in April?   I am, we have been over 90 degrees several time and even in the 80's is hot to me  ;- ]

Out to my tire cutting . . . !

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Today, as I was struggling with my little tools, OK, not so little, I realized that some people might not always know what I am taking about.  So I have some more little pointers to share tonight
Tire with steel belted side wall.

First I will share a few pictures of the tools that have worked for me.   Since the steel belts ate up the blade on the jig saw, I drilled several holes in it.


To join them and make slot long enough for the saws-all  blade to fit through, I cut through them with the jig saw.

When I fit the saws-all blade through the slot, I had to ease it in to keep from bending it.  A bent blade makes it hard to control the piece being cut.


I don't know if they all have adjustable handles, but his one does.  I have always used it with the handle bent down, but when I straightened it today, I could put more pressure against it and cut through the tire faster.  I finally figured out how to keep the plate (that the blade goes through)  resting on the tire to avoid vibration.  Makes it so much easier to get the job done!

Next I turned it around so that instead of pulling it so that it was coming toward me, I was pushing against it.  I could line it up and cut straighter and cut much faster!  I was able to remove the side wall from a big tire, truck sized, in less than 10 minutes.

I hope that these tips will be a help to those who want to garden and have limited resources.

In a couple of days I will be picking up a load of good garden mix.  It will be 1/3 native soil, 1/3 manure and 1/3 sand.  I will also be picking up some good quality compost to mix in.

More soon, I hope!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Can You Sleep At Night?

I ran this story about two years ago, but with all of the natural and man made troubles through out the world, I feel it is worth asking ourselves this question again. 

A farmer needed an extra hand to help on his farm. One young man came to interview for the job. "What are your qualifications?" the farmer asked. "I can sleep when the wind blows," the young man said. This simple reply confused the farmer, but he was desperate for help and the young man was hired.

The young man was a diligent worker through the harvest season, but the farmer still questioned his answer.

Autumn ended and the first cold storm of winter came late one night. The farmer panicked as the winds began to blow. Calling the young man for help, the farmer grabbed his coat and pulled heavy boots on his feet. He was disappointed to find the young man asleep in bed at a time like this. Grudgingly he ventured out alone planning to shuffle all of the animals in the barn and then fix that last hole in the roof. He mumbled about the young man sleeping and was sure all the farm equipment was left standing in the field, collecting rust from the snow.

However, when the farmer reached the barn all the animals were tucked safely inside. In fact, clean hay had already been set out for the new day. Not a single hole could be found in the roof, and the tractor was parked perfectly in the shed.

"Who could have done it?" the farmer wondered. And then, he realized what the young man's answer meant, 
"I can sleep when the wind blows."

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Tire Gardening . . . More Adventures!

I was delighted yesterday to see how easy it was to cut the side wall from a tire.  It only took about 5 minutes per tire . . . THEN I went for one of the bigger tires.  Did you know that in the big ole' tires, the steel belt goes all the way form the tread to the bead that is against the actual rim?  Not funny!

I noticed a difference when I drill the pilot hole to put the jig saw blade in.  The blade wouldn't fit, so I drilled a second one on the edge and made it longer.  Then I started to saw away, or so I thought.  I had to push that saw a lot harder and it went very slow.  Then the smoke started  sneaking out of where I was trying to cut . . . . . aw nice, burnt rubber .  . every one's favorite . . .  P-U!

I finally took the blade out, grabbed it with the fingers of my other hand . . . OUCH . .  that baby was HOT!  The good news is that I now realize that my numb finger has more feeling in it than I thought.  I took a look and saw little sparkly things in the rubber of where I had managed to force the blade through.  Ah ha moment here.  The steel belt went farther than I had realized.  So it was time to drill lots of exploratory holes.  They all did the same thing, in all of the tires that I have left to cut.

This morning I took my third little grandson and he helped me pick out some saws all blade that are hardened to cut through metal and just as soon as it stops raining out there, I will go and try one of those .. .  or see if I can sweet talk my main squeeze into doing it.  It is only about 63 degrees here today, after having several weeks of over 80 and even 2-3 days of going over 90 degrees.  All of us desert rats are going into a little shock here.

In the meantime, here are some pics of my first, successful, attempts at this new gardening adventures!

I just used an ordinary 1/4" drill bit to make the hole for the jig saw blade.

Using the blade with the larger teeth for metal cutting went around an average sized tire for a passenger car in about 5 minutes.  There was no belt in the side wall.

Wah La!!  Ready to be cleaned up and filled with a good garden mix!

The next tire was a large pick up tire with a steel belt up the entire sidewall.  When you drill the pilot hole in the side wall, it will kind of catch as it goes through the steel belt.  You will hear the wire break.  If you hear that, see if you know someone with a saws all if you don't have one.  I found the hardened blades made for metal at Home Depot.  I have also seen them at Lowe's, so they shouldn't be too hard to find.  Using those in the saws all, it took about 10 minutes to cut the side wall out.  the saws all takes more hand strength to hang on to but don't let that scare you gals off from getting this done if you need to.

The metal cutting blade for the jig saw didn't have the hardened blade and the teeth were worn almost all the way off by the time I had cut about 12"-14"in that steel belt.  Lesson learned.  Good blades pay for themselves.

Tomorrow is Sunday, so this project will be completed on Monday.  "See" you then!!

Thursday, April 7, 2011


My kids beat me to the draw.  I am proud of them for doing that.

I understand that it was pretty hard to cut straight with all the vibrating from the saws-all.  Though it looks pretty good to me!  

Mine isn't working right now, so I will be using a jig saw. . . . or maybe my husband will be able to get the saws-all going . . . and he, like my son, has stronger hands so will be able to help me . . . . I hope?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Economy . . . Ideas on How to Survive It

My Piggy Bank after I filled my gas tank
I have been thinking a lot about the economy since I was filling my gas tank the other day at  $3.45 / gallon of gas.  I know, many others are paying much more already, but it is sending me into a little bit of shock.   I used to fill my tank for that amount!

I was in college during the "Energy Crises" of the 70's.  I had my suspicions during the holidays.  I spent each day trying to fill my mother's tank while she drove the other car so she wouldn't have to.  Got lots of needlework and reading done over that Christmas Break.  When I got home, my roommate from Canada told me about all the reports up there showing all of our harbors clogged with oil barges that no one would unload, so I knew I was right.

Well, I now more than suspect that we are being manipulated again, for the good of only "Heaven know who".

My daughter's fave story
when she was little.. because it
reminded her of me
I do NOT believe in scare tactics.  I feel they are counter productive and even harmful.  I do believe in using good sense and taking action however.

So I am working my saggy old bottom (oops, too much info, sorry) to the bone doing what I have been talking to death for several years.  I will be gathering more ideas and sharing them as I go along.

It is time to use ALL of our resources to build a way to be as self sufficient as possible.  
  • Use our imaginations.  
  • Pray for guidance of how to best use your resource.  YES, I did say pray.  I have found many answers to dilemmas through prayer.  If you are a meditater, meditate.  What ever way you choose, use it.
  • Talk to the funny old geezer up the street from you.  Ask what people did in the depression . . .  you either will find it pretty depressing or pretty inspiring.  If they just depress you, be polite and find someone who had an imagination.  My poor father had such a tale of woe, my father-in-law became a wonderful gardener.  Guess who actually went hungry at that time.  You decide what who you want to be like.
  • Look at your finances. I mean to really LOOK.  Go through it & ask your self,  "Do I really need that?",   everything that doesn't sustain life and keep a roof over your head.  Not make it prettier roof, just one that gives you shelter and a refuge from the outside world.
  • If you just HAVE to go to Disneyland this year, hope you enjoy it. . .  as you are going to the store and grind your teeth over the price for the rest of the year.
  • Think of fun things to do as a family, at home or near by.
Have I turned you completely off to my ideas? Hope not. I have lived on such meager means and survived them, without incurring any debt.  We have great memories ( now they are great) and we did't have to take nearly as long to recover after financial reversals.

On Friday I will be posting the pictures of our tire gardens.  They will show how to cut the sides out, fill them with proper garden soil, all the how's and why's I can find and share with you!

Other grow boxes have been put in as well that I will share with you.  Amazing what can be scrounged.  

Just think of it as recycling!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


  • I do NOT make New Year's Resolutions.  I have found that I am normal and make unrealistic goals, too many.  That is the way to set a person up for total and complete failure and then they can find all time lows when they "beat" themselves up for "failing".

  • I doubt that I am the only one who has been doing a little extra (OK, tons!) cleaning with the intention of setting my house in order, literally and "biblically".    Something about taking down holiday decorations just makes a soul want clean and clutter free!

  • I made the mistake of accumulating too much food storage too quickly and lost my living room for about three years.  I had been using it as a kind of warehouse while refurbishing other rooms, one at a time. It was just the room we all walked through to get to the rest of the house  ;-D 
  • To make things worse, I stacked bulk food storage in one, then two back corners behind the stacks of furniture, etc.  I was gathering extra to help each of my children's families get started.  I jumped into all of this without a good plan, just felt like it was important to gather food while my husband's income would support it.  We felt sure that leaner times were coming.   It was good to gather the food, let me make that clear,  I just needed a better and more complete plan.  Time proved we right about the net take home pay. We are grateful for the guidance we were given and that we felt enough urgency to heed it.

Loooong story not quite so long, I had 4 mice get into the house when the weather turned cold, they had a hay day so I lost some of the foods that had not been stored away, had such chaos surrounding me that it was almost paralyzing, and just lost control of pretty much everything.

  1. All of the foods have been packaged for long term preservation and now I am inventorying, and creating a chart to track it's use and replacement and creating a little more storing capability that is out of the way but has easy access.
  2. I will be sharing all of this as I go along.  Some will be by reposting old posts, by sharing links to great information and by new posts.
  3. Due to the anticipated in reduction in my husband's reduced net take home pay and easier access,  we are using our storage more.  I plan to share new ideas as I come up with them or will share the links to other sites when I find ideas that help me.