Sunday, November 30, 2008

MY Time of Year!

It's officially the Christmas season at our house!

The love, and well-being of Thanksgiving led to a 2-day flurry of Christmas decorating. The weather even cooperated by giving us a 2 inch cover of snow on Thanksgiving Day. Last night we sat in the glow of candlelight and Christmas lights in our living room. Peace on Earth reigns in our home, if nowhere else. Isn't that what home should be, a refuge from the rest of the world?

This season I will be sharing recipes, craftiness, and gift ideas that have always made our Christmases special.

The above picture is of a decoration that Z made in 2nd grade. Z's 2nd grade teacher was a crafting genius. Many of our favorite decorations were lovingly crafted by Z under this teacher's tutelage. Thank you Mrs. M! If you're wondering what the small children in your life can give to their parents or grandparents, this reindeer is a sure hit.

Memory Reindeer:
Trace your child's stockinged foot on a piece of stiff brown paper(If you don't have construction paper, a brown-paper shopping bag will work)

Have your child trace each of their hands onto the same kind of paper.

Cut out the shapes, and glue the hand "antlers" to the foot-shaped head.

Glue, or draw, a face on the reindeer.

Voila! You now have a keepsake Christmas decoration made from your child's foot and PRECIOUS!

Make sure to have your child sign and date the back of their reindeer.

I don't know about your families, but my family LOVES leftover turkey! I always buy the biggest bird I can find, just so we have tons of luscious leftovers. This year, with our questionable economy, I also bought a second turkey when the price dropped to $.67/lb. If we run out of turkey leftovers this winter, I will roast this turkey. If not, I'll smoke it on the grill this spring.
Here's a quick, and nutritious, leftover turkey recipe:

Turkey Stir-Fry(Serves 4)
2 C leftover turkey, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1-2 C leftover gravy(just enough to lightly coat the veggies)
4-5 C of your favorite stir-fry veggies:broccoli, cauliflower, celery, zucchini, mushrooms, onion, julienned carrots, pea pods, asparagus, bok-choy, spinach...whatever your family likes, or you have laying around.
fresh garlic, or garlic powder, to taste
a few squirts of soy sauce

Stir-fry the veggies in your favorite oil with fresh garlic, or a few sprinkles of garlic powder.(Don't use garlic salt in this recipe, unless you like a lot of saltiness.)
When the veggies are tender, but still crisp, add the gravy and turkey.
Stir constantly, until gravy is hot, and the mixture is evenly coated with gravy.
Add a few squirts of soy sauce to taste.

Serve over rice.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tater Tot Hotdish

1 lb hamburger (I use ground turkey. It's cheaper and has no fat to soak into the tater tots.)
2 lb bag tater tots (I use generic.)
onion salt (Or whatever spice you like.)
1 can cream of celery soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup (Generic, of course.)

You could probably use 2 cans of ANY cream soup for a variety.

Pat burger, in an even layer, into bottom of greased 9x13 cake pan.
Sprinkle burger with onion salt.
Arrange frozen tater tots, in rows, on top of meat.
Evenly spread soups on top of tater tots.
Bake @ 375 for 30-45 minutes(or until the top is skinned over and lightly browned) on the bottom oven rack.
Cut in squares and serve.

Served with salad or vegetables, this recipe makes a quick and easy meal. This is one of the first recipes my kids learned to prepare on their own. I think Z was 5 when he cooked this the first time.

This hotdish easily feeds a family of 4. It also freezes quite well. Just wrap leftover squares in plastic wrap, freeze, and re-heat in the microwave for a quick lunch.

My cost for this meal:
turkey burger-$1.79
tater tots-$1.18

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Moving Right Along....

Everybody has now seen what a cynical bitch I have become. I guess it's time for an attitude adjustment!

The first thing I must do is stay away from the news for awhile. I'm so tired of hearing about our tax dollars being used to bail out the results of greed and gross mismanagement while the unemployment rate rises daily. My Boss is no different. Over the years, she has let her personal spending habits ruin her credit and endanger her business. This scares me!

What I really, really need to do is concentrate on the upcoming holiday season. Thanksgiving and Christmas are the bright spots of my year. Fortunately, we are already equipped with everything we need for a joyous holiday season. 20 years ago I started putting money away, every week, for Christmas. This year I put $15 in an envelope EVERY week. We now have $780 of Christmas money. This year we won't be able to spend all of this money on gifts. We'll need to put some of the money away to make up for the payless days off we have coming up. This shouldn't be a problem, as I've already bought several gifts, on sale, throughout the year.

Our Christmas package to SME's family must be mailed by Dec 1st, in order for it to arrive before Christmas. I bought everything I could locally, then I ordered the rest of their gifts online. My orders should arrive any day. Then I just have to wrap and mail them. Yesterday I lightened my mood by ordering almost all of the rest of my gifts. I got some incredible deals! This week I'll be starting a couple of homemade gifts.

I've also been stocking up on holiday baking supplies(all on sale) over the past couple of months. All I have left to buy are fresh items, like eggs and sour cream. Tomorrow I will buy the final item for our Thanksgiving feast...the turkey! Turkey went on sale today for $.67/lb. YES!!

The day after Thanksgiving we will start decorating our home with the 13 boxes of Christmas decorations that we have accumulated over the years. I even have a couple of extra strings of lights squirreled away...just in case.

This year we will have to stick to a stricter budget for our holiday celebrations. Thanks to a bit of forethought, we'll hardly notice the change. Christmas lights and the aroma of fresh-baked goodies will do a lot to lift my mood!

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Is it just me, or is anyone else having a hard time working up sympathy for the uber-rich folks who are losing their houses to the California fires?

In my mind, you can't really call their houses homes. I seriously doubt if any of those home-owners have ever even pounded in a nail to hang a picture, much less hung sheetrock. Did these folks decorate their own homes, or did they hire an interior designer to deck their houses in the latest style? Do these folks feel the pride that comes from choosing and laying their own flooring, or do they just aim to make their friends jealous of their doo-dads? Have they ever dug a hole to plant a tree or plant, or did they hire a landscape designer to plant a yard that will require poisons and sprinkler systems to survive? Do they care that they've squandered the water in their ecosystem on their lawns and pools, and don't have enough water to fight the fires?

Are these people hurriedly packing up family photos and other precious family memories to save them from the fire? I doubt it. Most of those houses are nothing but a residence. Their owners reside in the house when they happen to be in California. Insurance will cover their losses, and they'll be able to build bigger and better.

I feel a lot more sympathy for the people who have recently lost their jobs and are a house payment away from homelessness!

This is the season to look around and be grateful for what we have. I'm grateful that we have a pieced together, self-decorated, energy efficient, memory filled, loving HOME!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

More Progress, Despite the Hindrances

VOILA! Here's my newly completed valences. The drapes washed out a bit in this picture, but the detail of the valence material came out great. The material has a leafy/woodsy pattern to it; perfect for our decorating scheme.

After they turned the water off on Monday, L and I went to the fabric store. I took along the new drapes and the arm cover from the couch to match the fabric. We found the perfect fabric that is the exact color of the couch, yet blends well with the green stripes in the drapes. The total price for the valences was $19.30, including thread. Total savings: $160-$19.30=$140.70!

It took me most of the day to shorten and hang the new drapes, and sew the new valences. The money we saved was well worth my time!

Here's a picture of our worn-out drapes that had been hanging for the past 23 years. Putting up the new drapes was a necessity, as I don't think the old drapes would have survived another washing.

I'm a firm believer in insulated drapes! No matter how good your windows are, you will still have cold reflecting off the windows, into your room, at night. Our living room drapes are store-bought, foam backed drapes. The rest of the curtains in the house, I sewed, using quilted fabric. The other money-saving bonus of our window coverings is they are all machine-washable/dryable.

Money saving sewing hint:
I used a dried out soap sliver to mark my fabric. Ever wonder what to do with all the little slivers of bar soap in your soapdish? Save a few of them for marking fabric. This works much better than those expensive little chalk pencils you can buy. Plus, the soap washes out of your fabric without leaving a trace.

This has been a week full of utility problems. Monday, we had a scheduled, day-long water shutoff. Tuesday morning, we had an hour-long water shutoff due to "debris" that got in the water line the day before. Thursday night, we were without power for 7 hours. A transformer had exploded and burned down the power pole it was attached to. Fortunately it was a warm night, so we didn't have to hook up the generator to run our furnace.

The last 2 days we got over 3 inches of rain. Today it's snowing. What a mess! BUT, when I look at the weather in South Dakota, I realize we have nothing to complain about.
I'm just grateful that we finished all the winterizing last weekend!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Hunkering Down

L and I have a bonus day off today, without pay of course. Our water will be turned off for, at least, 9 hours today. There's no way a restaurant can run that long without water, so here we are.

Our village finally bit the bullet and decided to replace the 360 feet of water line that has been giving us problems this fall. Today is the day they will hook the new line into the system, hence the extended shut down. The new line is 12 inches and the old line is 8 inches. I'm worried that the crumbling old line won't be able to handle the new water pressure, and will rupture further down the line. Time will tell...

I had to work Saturday, so yesterday we did all the chores that required water. I think we're finally ready for winter.
The new porch is caulked, primed, and has one coat of paint.
The porch floor has a protective coat of deck stain.
New lights have been wired both inside and outside of the porch.
The sidewalk is moved to its new location.
The outside windows are washed.
The oil has been changed in the generator, just in case...
4, 5 gal emergency gas cans have been filled. Hooray for $2.39/gal gas!
The lawn mower and rototiller have been replaced by the snowblower.
The garden hose has been drained and stored for the winter.
The AC has been tarped.
The camper has been moved and tarped.
A new dog tie-out post has been cemented into the back yard.
The new cd/dvd shelf unit is finished and installed.

Now, onto the indoor chores!

Today, the guys will wash the inside windows while I hang the new living room drapes. The new drapes have been sitting in the closet for the past 3 years. Why, you ask? Because I was too cheap to spend $80/window on valences. I KNOW that I can find a solid-color material that will go with the drapes. Valences are easy to sew. So WHY haven't I sewed them already? Because once I have the sewing machine set up, I know that I'll have to tackle the 2 HUGE baskets of mending I've been neglecting for the past 3 years, that's why!