Monday, July 2, 2012

Strawberry Feta Salad

The lettuce in my garden is struggling because of the heat.  We planted the seeds last fall and they came up early this spring.  We had lettuce really early on, so we have enjoyed mixed lettuce salad for a while now.  Strawberries are a really good price right now.  I am price matching them at Walmart from the Aldi ads.    This isn't really a recipe, just a combination of ingredients.  We usually have this salad for Easter.  We use a poppy seed salad dressing.  We made a garlic dressing for this salad.  This is a favorite in our family.

Strawberry Feta Salad
Mixture of lettuce leaves - Spring mix - washed, patted dry and torn into small pieces
Mixture of fresh basil, parsley, and chives - washed and torn into small pieces
Strawberries, hulled and sliced
Feta Cheese sprinkled on top.

We probably won't have many salads left from this year's lettuce patch, but oh this was a great way to end the season.  This would make a great salad for the 4th of July BBQ.  

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Rosemary Onion Bread

I have a wonderful little garden outside my backdoor, my kitchen garden.  I have basil, thyme, rosemary, chives, lemongrass, parsley, lavender, dill, and sage.  I love stepping outside my door and snipping the herbs I am going to use in that days cooking.

Like most things in my life, it is a little haphazard and not planned out very well.  I like the randomness of it.  I like how it doesn't really need me to survive.  When I do dishes, I throw the rinse water out the backdoor.  When I water the other area of the garden, the water generally sweeps across, but otherwise I don't water it on purpose.  I weed when I go out to snip and see a stray weed.

I like to use herbs in my cooking, but especially my bread making.  I have several bread recipes using rosemary.  Here is one.  I love the smell and taste of the onion and the rosemary together.  I hope this becomes a favorite of yours too.  Please let me know if you enjoy it.

Bread Machine Rosemary and Onion Bread

1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons nonfat dry milk
1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 2/3 cups unbleached flour
1/3 cup stone ground whole wheat flour 
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary
1 small onion, chopped fine
2 teaspoons active dry yeast

Add ingredients according to bread machine instructions.
I use the dough setting on my machine.  Then I take the dough out and add a little flour if too sticky.
Shape into 1 oval shape loaf.  Place loaf on oiled baking sheet or stone.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double in size about 40 minutes.  While loaf is rising, preheat oven to 400 degrees.  
I sprinkle flour on the loaf for a rustic finish.
Use a serrated knife to slash 2 or 3 times on the top of the loaf.
Bake bread until golden brown and loaves sound hollow when thumped, 25 to 35 minutes.  Makes a 1 1/2 pound loaf. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

In a blink of an eye

Five years ago, even though we had a few mystery symptoms that were going on with my husband (we blamed it on stress and depression) my life was pretty easy going, until that moment, that "blink of an eye moment".   We were visiting friends, having an ordinary life, my husband grabbed his head and slid down the wall.  After he started talking nonsense and walked, dragging his leg, we rushed him into the hospital.  Within the next few months he was given a diagnosis of dementia.

It has taken trial and error, grieving, soul searching, friends, family, professionals and God's strength to guide me along our journey.  I learned that God has prepared me for the tasks ahead.  My professional training,  I am a special education teacher who works with students with emotionally disturbed students, works well when applied at home.  My students have a difficult time communicating wants and needs and sometimes use aggression to get what they need. It took me a while to understand that what I was trained for at work could help me at home.

All has changed from that moment and continues to change as his Alzheimer's takes away his functioning piece by piece.  I love this man, whom I have shared my life.  This disease does not change that.  I want him to be able to live out his life in dignity.

We recently had another blink of an eye moment.  We almost lost him to an infection.  He had a kidney infection, pneumonia, and now congestive heart failure.  He fought hard to survive and our family and friends battled along with him.  They arranged for meals at the hospital for me, took care of our pets, mowed our yard, washed my clothes, prayed, and helped get the house ready for his return.   

I wasn't ready to let him go and I don't think he was ready yet either.  While in the ICU, I played his favorite music, brought sunflowers from his garden and declared his room a "no cry zone".  Everyone was only allowed to celebrate his life with joy and laughter.

This last "blink of an eye" moment has again changed everything and I am again learning to adjust.  We had found our new normal and were comfortable in that.   This moment in time has moved me closer to the realities that are coming. 

He has lost a lot of his abilities due to his infection.  He may get some of them back, that does happen with dementia.  Now things are different again.      

I am determined that when the time comes, that "blink of an eye moment", I will do it bravely, do it without tears and again fight for his dignity.  In a disease that takes all, we are determined to give our all.  

Monday, June 25, 2012

Hospital 101

Before my husband began the Alzheimer's journey he was really healthy.  He rarely needed to see doctors.  Now, we are regulars.  Since I make the medical decisions, I worry a lot about my responsibility.  Should we have this procedure, should we wait?  Is it necessary?

I have found that if I have a standard way to deal with his health issues, I don't have to worry as much about what to do when something new develops.  Is it Alzheimer's, is it something else?  I don't assume the new development is due to the Alzheimer's .  We check out the symptoms and make sure there is not another cause.

Last week we started noticing more and more confusion and sleeping much of the day. He also had a fall that ended in stitches.  I asked the doctor to run several tests.  Often confusion is caused by urinary infections.  Nothing showed up and I was afraid that the disease was progressing.  Then he started running a temperature.  Again we could not find the cause when I took him to the emergency room.  They sent us home.  The next day the temperature was even higher.  This time he had symptoms that pointed to a kidney infection and pneumonia.  His blood pressure was really low and his kidney out-put was really low.

He was admitted to ICU.  I like to stay with him when he is admitted since he gets so confused.  We find that if someone stays with him they can help him make sense of what is going on, even if he doesn't totally make sense of things.  Also, he can be comforted by our familiarity.  He has been really sick and I feel really sad when I see him this way.  

We have a pretty strong support system, but since he is in ICU, only immediate family is allowed in.  My daughter has been coming in to sit with him while I go home and take care of my puppy and his cat and take showers and get cleaned up.

I know what the ending is for Alzheimer's Disease, but my goal is and always has been to keep him comfortable, productive and as safe as he can be.  So we are trying our best to get him through this.  Even though unpleasant and definitly not table conversation, I have spoken to my family about his wishes and what our plan will be if something major happens, so things will go smoothly at the end.

I hate the waiting and I dread the results.  Will they find something?  What if they can't take are of his new ailments or he doesn't respond to the treatments.

Due to the fever, medications, and change of routine,  he is terribly confused and agitated.  He looked at me the other night and said he thought Debbie was here.  I told him Debbie was here.  He seemed to be okay with that answer.

Here is some lessons I have learned from our numerous emergencies, procedures and hospital stays.  These work for me.  Of course, I am continuing to learn.

1.  Keep a current medication list in my purse.  Update as needed.
2.  Keep a cheat sheet of medical history in my purse as well as current symptoms or current notes.  I can add questions that were asked that I did not have answers to.  That way I can try to find the answers and add them to my cheat sheet.
3.  Keep a small note book in my purse to take notes of anything I want to ask the doctor or what he/she says.
4.  Grab the phone charger and stick in purse as I am getting ready to go to the hospital.  I try then, to continue to carry it in my purse so I should have it when needed.
5.  Have a Plan A and B in my head of what I would need to do about my dog and cat's care.
6.  Constant updates on the phone to friends and family makes my ear hurt.  I am grateful we have so many caring folk, but in the middle of crisis a plan to follow is helpful.  I ask one of my children to start the phone tree.  Facebook has been an asset.  I can just put his status up each day.  There are, of course web sites that you can post to so each friend or family member gets the same updates.  I envisioned I would use this as his disease progressed.

Having clean underwear has been a problem on the last 2 medical stays.  Somehow when things begin to get out of wack at home, I get behind on laundry.  This time I just stopped by the store and bought new ones when I went home to get our overnight stuff.  My daughter stays with him when I need to go home.  She also brings me meals.  This time because of the length of stay, my church helped set-up complimentary meals for me since I stay with him and help with his care.

None of this is easy, but it is part of the Alzheimer's journey.  I am a firm believer in making a plan and knowing as much as I can about the disease so I can make good decisions.  I also have a local support group that I learn a lot about how to prepare for what the future will bring.  In the middle of crisis, I have friends and family that I brainstorm with.    Of course, I pray and ask God to help guide my decisions and to give me as much wisdom as I need to get through this.

Currently my husband is on day 10 of a hospital stay.  He had a kidney infection and pneumonia.  He was in ICU 4 days.  Normally, any illness will affect the dementia.  Sometimes they get back some of that functioning.  He is doing pretty well.  Of course, we are hoping for a full recovery, but we will shall see.

Please share how you get through the hospital stays.  Thanks, Debbie

Monday, June 18, 2012

Easier than Grandma's Noodles

My church holds an annual Mother's Day tea each year.  This year we had a small gathering of women and their children. My third daughter and her 3 year old daughter attended with me.  My husband came with me so he could help with the dishes and clean-up.  We had a really nice time.

When I got home I realized that I had a sore throat.  I rested for a while and then decided our tea and tea sandwiches probably would not hold my husband all evening.  I had soup broth made up from my vegetable scraps so I heated it up and threw in some onions, carrots, and mushrooms.  Then I made noodles for the soup broth from my mom's recipe.

When I was little, my grandma Grunder made noodles.  When we would come to visit, the noodles would be hanging over broom handles and such, to dry.  This recipe is really a lot easier since you don't need to dry the noodles.  

If I have left overs, I freeze them and then can add them to soup at another time.  This is a single recipe.  I usually double it.  If you double add 1/2 teaspoon baking powder with the floor.

Homemade Noodles
1 beaten egg          2 Tablespoons milk
2 teaspoon salt       1 cup flour

Add a little yellow food coloring to the beaten egg
Combine egg, salt, milk and flour.  Roll on floured surface (a pasta machine comes in handy about now, but not necessary.  Slice into noodles.  A easy method is to roll the noodles like you would for cinnamon rolls and slice through.  Drop the noodles into boiling soup or broth.  Cook 10 minutes or until done.  

This was so soothing to my thoat and so nurishing.  This recipe is great for chicken and noodles, also.  Enjoy!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Blueberry Season

Blueberries are so inexpensive right now and we have been really enjoying them.  I have been tossing them into a mixed fruit salad.  Sometimes we just wash and eat them right out of the container.  

I have been busy all week with Vacation Bible School at our church.  Our VBS is in the evenings, but I have needed to go and set up in the afternoons.  I am only working mornings at school for summer school this month, but it makes for a pretty full day.  I have been trying to get a meal prepared for us before we go.  Something fast and easy is nice for this kind of schedule.  I fixed Blueberry Whole-Wheat Pancakes and sausage for one of those meals.  What a great way to eat blueberries.

Light-as-a Feather Whole Wheat Blueberry Pancakes

1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour              1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder           1 1/3 cups buttermilk
   1/4 teaspoon salt                               1 tablespoon brown sugar
   1/4 teaspoon baking soda                 1 tablespoon oil
   1/2 cup fresh or frozen 

In medium bowl, stir dry ingredients together.  Beat egg, buttermilk, brown sugar and oil together.  Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.  Add blueberries.

Pour 1/4 cup batter for each cake into a well-seasoned hot griddle.  Turn when bubbles appear on surface.  Turn only once.  Makes 12 4-inch pancakes.

When I don't have buttermilk, I put a tablespoon of lemon juice in a measuring cup and then add milk.  


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

For Me

My son came home recently and was surprised to find a new puppy.  "Who's puppy," he asked?  "Mine," I answered.  "Yours." he questioned.  You see I am not as fond of 4 legged creatures as he and his dad are.  In fact, I am always kind of neutral to them.

I decided I wanted a puppy last winter.  I wanted a sweet cuddly puppy that would grow up to love me.  How desperate does that make me sound?

I got my husband a kitten when he first got sick.  That cat hates everyone but him.  She curls up on his lap.and snuggles in at bedtime.  When he has bad spells, the cat seems to sense it and stays close to him.

I know how much time, effort and money a puppy costs.  I am a caregiver to a husband with Alzheimer's Disease.  I don't have time to care for anything else or so it seemed, but I needed someone/thing to care back.  Don't get me wrong.  I have a great support system: family members, a best friend from forever, church family, ect. but I wanted/needed just a little bit more.  When everyone else goes home to a loving family, I am sometimes lonely.  I'm not sure I should say that, because it might be misunderstood.  My husband was and most of the time still is kind and caring.  He still tries to remember to put the coffee on for me before we go to bed so it is ready for me in the mornings.  But Alzheimer's is not a kind and caring disease.  It takes so much of our loved ones that sometimes there is not much leftover.

My puppy is eating my house up, but I got her some chew bones so hopefully she will stop.  We put our shoes up so she won't eat them up anymore.  The dirty clothes basket can not sit on the floor any more or our clothes are chewed up.  Even though she is a handful, I am so glad I have her.  I chat to her in the mornings and tell her what my plans are for the day.  In the evenings, she curls up and I tell her the events of the day.  Due to his disease, my husband has difficulty following simple conversations, so we keep verbal conversations simple and to the point.

Being a caregiver is a demanding job.  The ongoing grief of loosing my husband piece by piece is very difficult to handle.  I do not want to think of myself as a victim because I am not.  So much care is needed and will continue to be needed as the disease progresses and he will be unable to take care of him self at all.  Neither my husband or I would have chosen this path, but we are on it now.  

I think having a puppy helps me deal with my new reality.    A puppy helps to keep things light and easy going.  She doesn't add to my stress, she helps me deal with the stress.  Yes, I have added to my workload, but so do my favorite pastimes of gardening and quilting.  Just as I get something good from the them, I get something positive and rewarding out of caring for the puppy.  I think that this positive and rewarding experience brings a positive outlook to my care giving.

So the surprising answer was, "That is MY puppy."  I take care of her.  I pay for all of her needs, but I get so much more.  She brings a lot of joy to this house and to me.  And I got her - for ME.  

Monday, June 11, 2012

Meat Loaf

I was pretty young when I got married.  My skill set in the kitchen was baking bread, pies and cookies.  And as they say, "Man can not live on bread alone", so I had to scramble to figure out the rest.  Looking back I might have been ahead of the game, but knowing a frugal main dish or two would have been a good idea.  
I didn't even know how to cut-up chicken.  I had to follow a diagram in a cookbook.  When I was growing up we had a home cooked meal every night.  Where was I?
I found a recipe on the back of the oatmeal box for meatloaf.  I guess I was too young to question oatmeal in my meatloaf, because it seems to be an unlikely ingredient when I think about it now.  Had I been watching, I would have figured out my mom uses bread crumbs.  I am a great fan of finding ways to use leftover bread.  I like this meatloaf so much that I will have to continue to discover ways to use up that stale bread.  Anyway, this is my favorite meatloaf.  I hope it becomes yours too.  


1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef (you could use
ground turkey)
3/4 cup Quaker® Oats 
3/4 cup finely chopped onion 
1/2 cup catsup (tomato sauce or BBQ sauce works just as well, especially if you find a great coupon deal) 
1 egg, lightly beaten 
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon black pepper 
Heat oven to 350°F. Combine all ingredients in large bowl; mix lightly but thoroughly.

Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until meatloaf is done (160°F for beef, 170°F for turkey), until it is not pink in center and juices show no pink color. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing.  

That is where my meatloaf recipe stopped.  I would sometimes spread some catsup on top and call it done.  A couple of years ago, I learned to put a sauce on the top (thanks Rita G.)  Twenty minutes before the meatloaf is done, drain the grease/liquid.

In a sauce pan put in 1 cup of ketchup mixed with 4T of brown sugar, 4T vinegar, 2T Worchestershire Sauce.  Bring to a boil.  Spoon over meatloaf and finish baking meatloaf.  Now it is finished.

Any extra sauce can be served on the side.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Oh the Unexpected!

I know that unexpected stuff is going to happen with Alzheimer's, but somehow I never expect it.   One evening, my husband was getting ready for bed and was fixing a dish of food for the dog.  He put the food into a glass bowl. 

I gave up a  long time ago having rules for things. Once upon a time the rule was; soup was eaten from bowls, silverware was put back into the silverware drawer, and dog food went into dog dishes.  Simple rules, actually.   Now days anything goes. 

In this house the Alzheimer's rule is foremost, stay safe.  So putting dog food in any dish in the cabinet works, as long as you don't get hurt.  So the unexpected - my husband fell, the dish crashed to the floor and his hand slammed down on top of a glass shard.

We have plastic dishes for the dog.  How do I get him to use the plastic?  I don't, unless I follow him around or hide all of the glass.  Of course this is probably a one time event.  Not the falling.  He has fallen before since he has been sick and I know he will fall again.

Can I keep him safe from everything?  How can I keep him safe?  I don't have the answers.  

He likes to help out.   Do I take every shred of independence from him?  I strive to keep him as involved as I can.  I want him to feel as productive as he can, for as long as he can.  His desire through all this has been to continue to take care of our family.

I still think some independence is okay.  I think it is my job to keep him safe, but I can't  always control the outcome.  The unexpected will happen.  I think the way I respond is the key.  

He fell.  There was a lot of blood and the cut seemed pretty deep.  I helped him up, wrapped his hand, helped him put his shoes on, and tried to help keep him calm. We had a quick trip to the ER.  He had stitches.  This wasn't a fun evening, but it seems to be a part of our new normal.  

Expect the unexpected!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Conflict - Alzheimer's Style

When my husband was first diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, I had a definition in my head, but the definition wasn't connected to the reality of what my day to day living would become.  

The first Christmas season after the diagnosis, we were going to drive 45 minutes to my brother's house for a family gathering.  I hadn't finished all of my shopping so we stopped at the store before we left town.  It had snowed the night before and the roads were sloppy.  We discovered on the way to the store that we were out of window washer, so we picked up a bottle.

When we got out to the parking lot, my husband opened the hood.  He took a few minutes staring at the engine.  Then he started to open the only lid that I am familiar with, the one for the oil.  I really don't know where the washer fluid should go, but I do know where it should not.  I tried to talk him into waiting, but he refused, so, not knowing what to do, I slammed the hood shut.

He started to shake, pointed his finger in my face, and screamed at me, then walked off through the parking lot.  Not knowing what to do, I followed him down the street.  Since the sidewalk was covered with snow, he walked in the street.  I felt that his safety was in danger and so I phoned the police. 

I gave them an overview of what happened and told them where we were.  Then the 911 operator wanted a description of my husband.  Of course in that moment of craziness, I said, he is the only man walking in the middle of the street in front of Dillon's with a women trailing behind him.  Of course she was looking for the 6 ft. and so on details.  After giving those, they came out to talk to him.  He was very angry at me as well as at the policeman.  They finally talked him into going with me.  He held onto this resentment for nearly a year.  He could hardly remember what he had done in a day, but he could remember being angry at me about the window wash.

I was very puzzled for a long time about what had happened.  I had some anger too about what happened, until I learned more about this disease.  At no point did I think I played a part in what had happened.

The angry outburst had a name: a catastrophic episode.  This is an extreme response to too much stimuli.  I could have prevented it.  Who knew?  I am a special education teacher who works with emotionally disturbed children.  I  am not a stranger to emotional meltdowns.  If I had been working with a student, I would have given space, slowed my motions, tried to redirect and de-escalate.  I would not have pushed the student into a reaction, as I did my husband.  Also, I would not have waited to shop at the last minute to add more stress.  At work, I would have been reactive and I would have had a plan.  

It took me a while to figure out that the de-escalation tools that work at school can work at home.  My husbands reactions are from his disease and he does not have control over them.   I am grateful I have these tools and am now using them at home.

Do the tools always work?  Oh no, of course not.  When I over extend myself in other areas of my life, the stress shows in my face and actions and due to the disease he misreads me.  But since I know that I am the one that can prevent most of the problems before hand and I am the one that can redirect when something does happen, we have less  catastrophic episodes.  Less stress and chaos in our life leaves room for enjoyable moments of being together.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Baked Beans

When I was growing up, we often had baked beans and fried chicken at our many picnics.  My mom would open a can of baked beans and add lots of other ingredients before putting them into the oven.  I tried for years to make a tasty version without the can.  The trouble I had was they took a lot of effort and didn't taste like hers.  Over the last few years my crock pot and I have become best friends.  Here is the recipe I have put together using the crock pot and tastes like mom's.  Mine is without meat, but you could easily add bacon.  Also, If I have a good buy on barbecue sauce, I substitute it for the ketchup.

Nice and Easy Baked Beans

Cook 1 pound of dried navy beans until soft in 6 cups water.  I usually do this the day before, but you can cook ahead and have them in the freezer and defrost before you need them.

1 medium onion, chopped
3/4 cup ketchup
1 cup water
2 T. brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
2 t. dry mustard
1 t. salt
1/2 t black pepper

Drain water from beans.  Put them into the crock pot.  Stir all ingredients together and pour over beans.  Mix.
Cover and cook on low 5 hours.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Welcome New Class

I taught a new Christian Coupon and Frugal Class today.  I hope the participants were all able to take something useful home with them.  I will be teaching a new class in the fall, so if you are in the Wichita/Newton area, please plan on attending.  Date will be picked closer to the date, so I will let you know.  Class participants, please keep in touch and let me know what is working for you and what has been helpful and what else you need.

On my way home from the class, I purchased strawberries and a watermelon by price matching at Walmart.  I love planning my menus around the produce bargains I get each week.  I have 1 box of 79 cent mushrooms left from last week's price matching.   I might make a mushroom omelet for Sunday's breakfast.

Thanks again for attending.  I had a great time.  Enjoy your frugal living!!

Pop, pop, pop popcorn

I love popcorn for a snack.  When I was a kid we would eat popcorn and apples on Sunday evening, instead of dinner.  My mom had a big pan with a heavy lid that she used for popcorn making.  I remember how excited I would get when she would pull that pan out. 

I bought the microwave kind for years and years.   It seemed so much easier than mom's way.  Of course, you then have extra packaging, cost, and ingredients I can't pronounce.  

For frugal reasons I stopped buying the microwave packages and instead I bought bulk popcorn and used an air popper that I had.  The air popper stopped working and it didn't make since to buy another one.  I don't like to shake a pan on the stove.  My stove popped corn never tastes like my mom's.  Also, it seems like too much work for a simple snack, unless I am making kettle corn (recipe soon).  

I found a used popper at the local used store for a couple of dollars.  It lasted about a year and then it stopped working. I still don't think that buying a new popcorn popper is the frugal way to go, so I now use the microwave and a lunch size paper sack to make popcorn.

Popcorn in a Brown Bag

Pour 1/3 cup popcorn into a small paper sack
Fold the sack over several times.  You have to fold several times so it doesn't open up   Put into the microwave for about 3 minutes.  Microwaves are all different so listen to the pop.  When it slows down, it is done.  Pour into a bowl and add your favorite seasonings.  I can use the sack 2 times before it begins to get holes.  So delicious, frugal, and simple to make.  Enjoy!!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


I make salsa from the fresh tomatoes I grow in the summer.  I don't buy tomatoes in the winter.  I use the tomatoes that I put up for the winter.  This is a good substitute for fresh salsa.  The recipe uses tomatoes from a can.  If you can your own tomatoes or freeze them, you could use them.   I like this recipe since it uses parsley.  I don't care for cilantro, but you could use add cilantro with the parsley to taste.  When you make your own salsa you can adjust to your own taste.  Enjoy!



         1 1/2 cans canned tomatoes with juice 
          fresh or canned jalapeno pepper to taste, chopped
         1 small onion, chopped
         2 T. lemon juice
         2 cloves garlic peeled
        1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley 
          1 teaspoon salt (or to taste) 
        1/2  teaspoon pepper
         3 dashes Tabasco Sauce

·          Add all ingredients in food processor for just a few seconds
for chunky salsa or a bit longer for a smoother texture.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Orange Cleaner

This is a great cleaner.  I have been slowly replacing the cleaning products that I buy from the store with products I put together at home.  Mostly  I use vinegar and water for cleaning, but for some reason I don't like to use it in my mop water.  This recipe smells so much better.  I found  this cleaner on another blog .  You might want to check out the site.

We compost, so I don't feel like the orange peels were being  wasted when they are tossed in with the other food scraps, but this seems to make even better use of them.  I often candy orange peels to use in cooking, but the process is time consuming and I don't use most of my peels in this way.  Now I am happy to toss the peels into the jar and know they are being put to a great use.

Peel the oranges and throw peels into a jar.  
Pour enough vinegar to cover.  Continue to fill the jar with peels and vinegar and let sit 2 weeks. 
Shake occasionally.  
Strain the vinegar and return to jar.  
When you use the cleaner, dilute with 3 parts  water.  
I pour about 1 cup undiluted into 2 gallons of mop water to clean my floors. I sometimes add 1 squirt of Dawn Detergent if my floor is really dirty.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Participating in Our Life

When my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease everthing changed in our life.  The first really noticable part was finances.  My husband was unable to work.  We had hospital bills, doctor bills, medication costs coming in.  Even with insurance we were being crushed.  Then, when the monthly bills started coming in, I figured out that my husband had not been able to take care of things for a long time.  At that time I started scrambling to take cover.

First I started reading frugal blogs and digging out my old cost-saving recipes trying to figure out what to do.  I pulled out the bills from the stack and put a plan in place to start taking care of them.  The big thing I learned from the blogs was pay off my bills and credit cards as fast as I could and then put that money towards other bills. 

The key, I understood from my reading was to get more money.  Ha, I wondered, should I wave my magic wand and get a little more money.  The thing to do, I gathered was get another job or spend less than I were earning.  Since my life was in an upheaval, I worked on the part that I felt like I had more control over, the spending less part.  I cut grocery costs, house cooling and heating costs, and every extra that I could cut out and paid towards bills.  A budget was my best friend.

I felt that getting an extra job, since I work full time, was not an option for me.  My family needs were and continue to be too time consuming for an outside job.

I, with my husband's help, started turning the backyard into garden strips.  We read everything we could on home gardening.  We added 1 strip or space a year and planted more each year.  Most years we have good results.  We have had an  amazing time  discovering the wonders of growing our own food.

Our backyard had the poles for hanging laundry, but the lines were gone.  We strung wire between the poles and by the next year we added the second line, since we were hanging all of our laundry, most of the time.

I cook most of our food from scratch.  I make our bread.  I use a white sauce instead of cream soups.  I spend time searching for new ways to use beans in our menus and other cost saving recipes.  Just recently I started making yogurt and granola again.  I make most of my cleaners and laundry soap.  

These changes have been gradual over the last few year.  This has certainly added more work.  I work full-time and am worn out when I come home, but our budget depends on these acts.

I read once that a long time ago, when  people were involved in their lives they were more apt to be more satisfied in their lives.  Their hard work contributed to their survival.  According to the article Daily amount of food waste in America enough to fill a football stadium, since 1974 there has been a 50 percent jump in food waste, with the average American producing around 5 pounds of trash a day with about 12 percent of this waste being food-based waste.  There are several theories  to explain this increase.  One is that there is a transition from those that lived though the Great Depression and tough times.  The other is that Americans are separated from the food they grow and this separation affects there perception about food.  

When my husband got sick and the whirl changed from career busy to healing my husband and now to maintaining his illness, I have discovered that I have that part time job that the frugal articles discussed.   I don't get a paycheck, but am payed back by our involvement in our lives.   I am making an investment in our life.  For me, the work makes a difference, I am more connected to my life.  I can't change my husbands disease or slow down the continual lose of his memory and functioning, but together, we continue to work together as best we can.  I feel that I am more satisfied with my life and am proud of our participation.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Mint Tea

We grow lots of mint in our backyard.  We didn't set out to grow a lot, but that's what happens when you plant mint.  I had a small space that I had envisioned it to hold all of my herbs.  I put a root or 2 of mint on 1 end and lemon balm on the other, planted the rest of the herbs in between.  In about 5 years time the mint is winning and the lemon balm is coming in at a close second.  I have had to move the rest of the herbs to a space near my backdoor.  Yes, dad, I know you told me so!  Of course, the move for my other herbs works out better, since my herbs are closer to the kitchen.  I can just step outside and snip off a little bit as I am cooking. 

I have been collecting mint recipes for obvious reasons.  There are many uses of mint.  Sometimes, I just bring some in, crush it a little, and lay it around.  It smells really good.  I gather a large amount of mint early in the day.  I cut the steams close to the ground.   I wash the mint in cold water and pick off the dead leaves.   Then, I shake the extra water off and wrap it in a kitchen towel and place in the refrigerator.  I can keep the mint in the refrigerator for several days and use as needed.  

We do not generally buy soda pop.  Water and coffee are usually our choices for drinks at my house, but mint tea is an alternate that is great during the hot days of summer and so easy to make.  Here is a simple use of mint (not really a recipe) that is a great addition to a frugal, simple life.  

Mint Tea 

When I want mint tea, I put fresh water in my tea pot and bring to a boil.  I leave some room at the top of the teapot.  Then I turn it off and put in 4 tea bags.  I let it steep for a few minutes and then shove in as much of the mint as I can, without overflowing the tea.  I always use the stems and the leaves, but you can use just the leaves.  I let these steep and cool on the stove.  Then I pour it into a  pitcher.  Since the tea will be concentrated, I add enough water to my liking.  I like tea really strong, but when I am serving it to guests, I dilute it a little more.  A nice touch for the ice cubes would be to add a small spring of mint, add water and freeze.   Add the ice cubes to a glass.  Just pour over ice and sweeten to taste.  A little mint sprig and you are all set.  Ah, so refreshing!

I will add more mint recipes and ideas as we get more into spring.  What are your favorite ways to use mint?  Please share. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Growing Good Feelings

When my husband got sick, he wanted so much to continue to work and help with our expenses.  I tried to create activities to help him continue to be a contributing member of our family, even though he was unable to work outside our home.  Gardening was one of our solutions.  

The first spring after he got sick, he dug up a strip in our backyard.  I had read several books on small space gardening.  The Postage Stamp Garden Book, How to Grow All the Food You Can Eat in Very Little Space By Intensive Gardening Techniques by Duane Newcomb was the book I found most useful in the beginning.  We do not have a large backyard.  We measured out a long strip 4 feet wide.  Each year we added another strip or space.  Each year we tried different kinds of vegetables.  We have grown tomatoes, peppers, okra, cabbage, potatoes, onions, lettuce, turnips, beans, peas, squash, cucumbers, and egg plants.  We have planted pumpkins several years, but they take up a lot of space for so little output. I have lots of mint and lemon balm in small strip.  I have a little space by my back door for my kitchen herb garden.

Due to the Alzheimer's disease, my husband is unable to make plans and execute them.  I plan what needs to be done and what and where we are going to plant.  I also do most of the planting.  I used to have him help more with the planting, but he is having more difficulty with that, so I give him a little area and don't worry about the results, then I finish at another time.  My husband gives me a lot of suggestions on what he would like to plant.  For several years, pumpkins were his favorite, but now he wants to try corn.

My husband is a good weeder.  He loves to go out and pull weeds.   He can spend long periods of time outside weeding.  I think this is something he can do without little input from us.  There have been weeding incidents, though.  My chocolate mint and four-o'clocks have been sacrificed occasionally.  I have come home to find my entire front flower bed plant-free, weeds, flowers and herbs.  I have to remind myself, before I react, no big deal.  Plants can be replanted.  The harm I can cause by showing my disappointment can cause more harm than good.  What's the point?  He won't be able to remember the difference next time, but he will often remember my reactions.

Gardening gives my husband something to look forward to all winter.  He hates being inside without anything productive to do during the cold months.  I often see him thumbing through gardening books during the winter.  Whenever I find a gardening book at a garage sale I get it for him.  I want to keep that spark going as long as I can.

Since his disease continues to progress, he is not able to do the same tasks that he was unable to do when we first got started.  I have to continue to adjust the tasks.  He is much frailer now than he was, so digging and turning over the soil is out.  A friend is letting us use his rototiller for those tasks.  

Gardening has been a great outlet for me.  At first, I felt if I had 1 more job to do I would explode and this gardening thing was adding a lot of work for me.  I think a lot of that resentment was for the disease and the way it was affecting my life. (Yes, this disease affects his life more than mine, and I am not proud of this, but I do have moments of "poor me".)  Of course, now that he has in home health care, I can leave lists of tasks to be accomplished during the day and know that he will have the added support he needs.  We often go outside and walk through the strips and admire our handiwork in the evenings and weekends.  Of course, there is the added bonus of fresh vegetables.  Good years we even sell some of the surplus.  Now, I love that my husband and I can create such beauty in our life in spite of the ugly disease we are dealing with.

Do you have solutions that you have use to help your loved one feel useful and good about them self?  Please share.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Earth Day!

I knew Earth Day was approaching, but I hadn't really given much thought to it, as far as this blog.  This morning, I realized that since this blog site is about using God's resources in the best possible way and making choices that show good stewardship of those resources,  I decided that a post would be an appropriate way to mark the day.

I try to cut down on waste by eliminating unneeded packaging such as cans and boxes.  Using foods that are less processed means I do a little more work, but the trade off is that I have more control on what my family eats and less packaging to go to the land-fill.  Also, it usually means that I save money. Thirty years ago, I started using a recipe that helped me do just that.  

Many casserole recipes call for a can of soup.  This recipe replaces the canned version and doesn't take much more time or effort than opening the can.  In my opinion, the added benefit is that the end result tastes fresher.

Basic White Sauce 
Melt in saucepan.
3 TB. butter

Blend in
3TB flour
1/4 t. salt
Cook and stir until bubbly.

Whisk in
1 cup milk, stock or combination
Cook until smooth and thickened.

This is comparable to 1 can undiluted soup.

Celery Sauce  
Saute 1/2 cup chopped celery and 1 T. finely chopped onion in butter before adding flour.

Cheese Sauce 
Add 1/2 cup grated cheese and 1/4 t. dry mustard.

Mushroom Sauce 
Saute 1/4 cup finely chopped mushrooms and 1 T. finely chopped onion in butter before adding flour.

Chicken Sauce 
Use chicken broth or bouillon as half the liquid.  Add 1/4 t. poultry seasoning or sage and diced cooked chicken if available.

Please share the ways in which you make good choices for the environment.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Laundry Day

I am not very fond of doing laundry.  I hate the piles and piles of dirty clothes.  I hate folding, putting away, hanging it up, on and on.   I don't really like shopping for laundry soap, softening, stain remover. Does it never end!   

Here are some tricks I have found that help lighten the load so to speak.  I start at least 1 load of laundry everyday except Sunday.  At my house, even for just the 2 of use we still have at least 1 full-load a day.  I put the load in right after I take my shower while I am getting ready for work.  I use cold water for most loads for extra savings.  

We hang our laundry out on the line most days, except for the really cold or wet days.  We hang it inside on those days.  My husband hangs the laundry out after he wakes up in the morning.  Since he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, I have tried to find tasks that he can do so that he feels like he is contributing to our life.  Since we don't have to run the dryer as long as normal, this does help us to cut costs.  I do put the clothes in the dryer with a wet cloth and let them bounce around for a little while, about 10 minutes to soften them.  I'm not in favor of stiff towels and such.  

I use 1 cup of vinegar in each load.  The vinegar helps to soften the load and also helps take out stains.  Vinegar is also good if you have a load of sour clothes, it takes out the smell.  

We also make our own laundry detergent.  I have been using it for around 4 years.  My husband grates the bars of soap, which also helps me on time.  I have read recipes on line that say you can use other kinds of bar soaps in place of the Fels Napha.  I have tried and like the Fels Napha better.  I hadn't really ever noticed the bars at the store before, but they are in the aisle with the other laundy needs.

Here is recipe I use.

Homemade Laundry Detergent Gel

Makes 5 gallons -use about 1/2 c.

2 quarts boiling water
4 cups grated bar soap (2 bars Fels Napha)
4 cups Borax (20 Mule Team)
4 cups Super Washing Soda (Arm & Hammer)

Add grated soap to boiling water and stir until soap melts  I use a long handled whisk.
Pour soapy water into a clean 5 gallon bucket.  Add the Borax and Washing soda.
Stir well until all is dissolved.
Add 4 gallons of hot tap water.  Stir until mixed.  Again I use the whisk.
Cover bucket and let set overnight to gel. Stir well.
The directions originally said to store the detergent in empty milk jugs.  I used to do that, but the already used jugs leaked.  It was a waste and a mess.  Now I just leave it in the 5 gallon bucket and dip out what I need.

The don't consider my laundry load finished until it is folded and put away.  This I try to do every evening before bed.  I don't have this part down as well as I have the other parts, but I try not to consider the laundry room an extenstion of my closet.  At least for a moment I can say, laundry done.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Holidays and Alzheimer's Disease

My husband has had a diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease for the last 5 years.  We have had lots of experience with family gatherings and care-giving during that time.  I have learned that it takes a lot of  planning to help keep him comfortable.  Every situation is different of course, but for my husband, he does better with structure and a schedule that is predictable.

My family certainly does not qualify for structured and predictable, but after some wild learning experiences, I have learned a few things.  Of course, the disease is in continuous flux, so nothing is set in stone.  Flexibility is key.  He does better when we are at our house because of the familiarity.  Traveling or going to someone else's house takes another plan.  Since he can't remember the details, but he does seem to recall some of the plans, he will need to reminded over and over.  I try to start our conversations with the information he seems to be struggling with, such as, who will be coming, when they are coming, etc.

The noise and commotion along with the disruption of his schedule are our main problems.  I keep his morning schedule as uninterrupted as I can. No matter what, my husband has to start his day the same way every day.  I think of it as a computer rebooting.  He gets his coffee, get dressed, washes or puts dishes away, and then makes the bed.  He will eat his breakfast when someone gives it to him and then takes his medicine.   He does a lot of walking around between tasks.  This usually takes a while, but some days can take longer, so that has to be a part of his schedule.  If he is interrupted, he can have a meltdown or a catastrophic episode.

Since it is Easter, I will make sure our clothes are ready the day before and have as much of the dinner made ahead.  I also have other family members bring parts of the dinner.  Simplicity is my theme song and organization is my friend.  The most important thing I can do is to stay calm and in control.  I get up a lot earlier than my husband normally, so I try to do a lot of the preparation ahead of time.  We have in-home health care while I am at work, so I try to run my errands ahead of time while he is with the care-giver.

I keep our bedroom ready for him so he can go in and shut the door if he needs to get away.  Other family members can step in with dinner preparation if I need to go sit with him.

Many of the family live a distance away, so there is lots of visiting and catching up.  We have an egg hunt with prizes for all.  We try to keep things fun for all, from the little ones to the eldest.  If things don't work out perfectly, we don't make a big deal of out of it, we just try to make him comfortable and move on.  That is the flexibility.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Playing with your food.

Being frugal doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun.  I am planning on having Easter dinner at my house this year and I was looking for something different for our feast.    Last Sunday, my  Church had an Easter egg hunt and lunch for the children and their parents, so I volunteered to bring a Bunny Bread vegetable tray and Deviled Easter Chicks.   I found the recipes/directions for the bread at and the chicks  They were both pretty easy to make, but I have some tips to make them easier and frugal.

Bunny Bread

There is a really easy to follow video showing how to form the bunny on the website.  The directions say to use frozen bread, but to make it frugal, I used my favorite bread recipe.  Then, I just followed the directions.  I used a milk wash to give the bread a finished look.  After the bread bakes a short while, I put a little milk into a bowl and then brushed the surface of the bunny.    I made the bread the day before I needed it.  I waited to cut the hole in the tummy until right before I was ready to serve, then I put the spinach dip right into the hole.   I made spinach dip because I thought that would be the kind of dip[ that a bunny would want to have in his tummy.  I didn’t think the children would like the spinach dip so we had another kind for them.   There wasn't any dip left, so someone liked it.  Of course, there wasn’t much of the bunny left either.

Deviled Chick Eggs

The eggs were a little harder to make.  The recipe suggests to slice a little off the large end of the egg so that it sits upright.   That was easy to do, but sometimes I cut too much off, then it left a hole in the bottom when I took out the yolk, so I had to be careful there.  The next part was not as easy.  To get the yolk out, make sure you cut lower down on the egg.  I had to break the yolk up a little to get it out.  I did find that the egg whites need to be chilled so they are easier to manipulate.  Also, make sure the egg yolk mixture is thick enough to mold into a chick.  I used small pieces of carrots for the beak and small pieces of black olives for the eyes.  I went through a lot of eggs figuring out how to get the yolk out.  I used the rest of the carrot on the bunny bread vegetable tray.  Cutting my own vegetables to use on the tray is a frugal move also.  We had egg salad sandwiches the next day with my practice pieces.  The reactions from the egg hunters made the chicks worth the trouble.  

I can't wait to serve these holiday treats to my family.  Yum!

If you are serving something fun at your holiday, please share.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Frugal Baking for Spring - Lemon Bars

This is one of my favorite spring recipes.  It is easy, quick, and frugal to make and tastes good, too.  You can't beat that!   When I took it for the refreshment for a meeting at Church, one of the ladies commented that I had probably made it from scratch. Honestly, I didn't know there was another way.  The ingredients are probably in your food pantry.  What could be easier?

Lemon Bars


½ c. butter, softened

¼ c. sugar

1 1/3 c. flour


2 eggs                                   ¼ tsp. baking powder

¾ c. sugar                            3 Tbsp. lemon juice

2 Tbsp. flour                       powdered sugar
Combine crust ingredients in large bowl.  Mix in low speed until blended.  Pat into ungreased 9 x 13 inch baking pan.  Bake on the center rack of a 350 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until brown on the edges.

Meanwhile, prepare filling and pour over the crust.  Return to oven for 18 to 20 minutes or until set.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar and let cool.

Cut into squares and enjoy the season!

Do you have a favorite frugal spring recipe?   Please share.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Frugal Friday – cooking beans 101

A few days ago a friend of mine asked me if I cooked my own beans.  I told her I did.  She told me that she had made bean bags for the kids’ activities for Easter and had some leftover beans.  She cooked them and was really surprised at how easy they were to fix and how delicious they were to eat.   I added that not only are they easy and good, the only waste she had when she was done was a little plastic bag.  No empty cans to send to the landfill.   Beans are a great nutritional addition to your menu, as well as a frugal choice.  If you are making frugal or nutritional changes to your menu, make small baby steps.  I have read where a frugal or nutritious change to the diet or menu should start with one meatless meal a week and beans would fit the bill.  My family dines on beans at least 3 times a week and sometimes more.  We eat bean and onion burritos, beans and rice, soups with beans.   Pinto beans, black beans, red beans, and black-eyed peas are some of our favorites.  We use a lot of garbanzo beans in the summer time.  All of the beans I mentioned are cooked about the same, except for the garbanzo beans (chick-peas are another name for them.)   Think of cooking most beans as bean cooking 101 and garbanzos as the advanced course.  Actually they aren’t harder they just take longer and take different tools.

 I have found that if I cook beans, it is just as easy to cook a large pot of them and then freeze them.   I would use some for that week’s meals and then put the rest into large freezer bags and toss them in the freezer.  When I needed beans I would thaw out the bag.  The problem, then was using up the rest of the beans in the bag before they got bad since many recipes using cooked beans call for 15-ounce cans. The solution took me years, but I finally got there, drum roll please, I put 2 cups into smaller freezer bags.  I take out what I need and leave the rest for another time.  Oh my, life is so simple.

Recipes for cooking beans will be on the bag.  Pick a soaking method, overnight or quick soak.  Either works, for me the choice is a management issue.  Did I plan on beans and did I remember to put them out the night before or is it an emergency?   

Start by sorting and washing the beans.  Don’t let this step scare you.  I pour the beans into a colander and run cold water over them.  Pick out discolored and broken beans and discard.   Use either the overnight soak or the quick soak.  Use 6 cups water for every 1 pound dry beans.

Quick Soak: boil beans and water for 2 minutes, remove from heat, cover and let stand for 1 hour.   

Long Soak: let beans and water stand overnight (6-8 hours).

Cook:  I like to drain the beans and add fresh water.  Simmer until beans are tender.   If I am cooking pinto beans I usually throw in chili powder, garlic powder, and paprika.  That way the beans are on the way to tacos, chili, or refried beans.

I will be add a refried bean recipe in a couple of days.

I’m always looking for different bean recipes, so if you have a favorite bean recipe, please share. 

Thanks, Debbie