Friday, April 28, 2006

The cons of living on a budget

In Dillards with Karen. I need shoes for Leanna's wedding. Salesman approaches.
"May I help you?"
"Actually, yes. I'm looking for dressy brown heels for a wedding."
"Sure! Let's head over this way....are you looking in a particular price range?"
"Yes, I'd like about fourty dollars or--"
"Oh, I'm sorry, we don't have that."
"...okay...thank you...."

Move on to the Clinique counter. Clinique Bonus available with a $21.50 purchase. Saleswoman approaches.
"May I help you?"
"Yes, we'd like the lip gloss in Black Honey."
"Okay, that'll be $14.50"
"Hm...okay, do you have anything for $7?"
"Um, no."
"What would it take to get up to $21.50 for the bonus?"
"Another lip gloss for $14.50."
"...okay...thank you...."

Today, Jared's Jewelers to find a setting for my aquamarine stone from my grandmother. Saleswoman approaches.
"May I help you?"
"Actually, yes, I'd like to find a setting for this stone. I also have two gold rings I'd like to melt down for the setting."
"Okay, sure, let's find a setting you like."
We do. It's a gorgeous setting with an aquamarine and 6 small diamonds on the sides for $450. I figure I use the gold from the old rings, the CZs from the old rings, and the stone I have, all I'll pay for is the labor, right?
"I have bad news. It turns out we don't use other people's gold. And we also don't allow CZs. So to use your stone in this setting with our gold is $540. It'd be cheaper for you to buy the pre-made ring and do something else with your stone."
"...okay...thank you...."

I'm all for living on a budget. But I get a little discouraged when what I feel is a reasonable amount to pay for an item is nowhere near what the store thinks (which, according to supply and demand, also means that most consumers feel the store is correct).

However, I think of when I was looking for a car. I went into several dealerships with the same request every time: "six thousand dollars or less, sixty thousand miles or less, year 2000 or newer." I got several quick "no ways," several "it's not about the full cost, but what you want your monthly payment to be," and then finally, I got an "okay, let me show you what I have." And that encourages me. And unlike a car, the timing doesn't matter on getting my stone set. So I'll wait, and look around, and carry my two old rings with CZs and my stone around until I finally find someone who will put them all together into a beautiful new ring...all for the price of labor.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Gumbo Recipe

For Rachel, who contributes much to the recipe world, here is my family's gumbo recipe. I will preface it by saying that this recipe came from Southeast Texas, in Cajun country, where there is a Gumbo Cookoff held every year. That in itself does not make this gumbo good (though it is good), but it might explain the rather vague directions. :) To those of you who have never had gumbo, I will warn you that it seems to be an acquired taste. But oh, so worth it!

Meat: this could be chicken, shrimp, sausage, turkey, alligator, wild game would probably work as well....or any combination of the above. I used two very large chicken breasts, thawed and cut up.
red pepper
black pepper
1 onion
4 green onions
4 T parsley
2 C flour (may add 1/2 C)
1 C oil

Put flour and oil in large pot. Stir roux continuously over medium low heat until it is almost fudge-colored. (I put mine on medium heat this time--cooked faster and didn't notice any negative results. Roux takes at least an hour, usually longer.) Add 1 chopped onion. Stir 1 minute. Roux will look slick. (Ah, my roux didn't look slick this time, maybe because it was on medium, but it turned out fine.) Add cold water until paste is smooth. Add hot water to desired consistency (coats spoon). (I just fill up the rest of the pot. Usually it simmers down to the right consistency) Add 4 chopped green onions and 4 T parsley. Bring to a simmer. Add meat (cubed) seasoned with peppers, salt and garlic. When meat is done, check for seasoning. Add creole seasoning to taste. Serve gumbo over white rice.
There really aren't that many ingredients, and most of them we have on hand, so this is a nice "throw together" recipe...except for the fact that it takes about three hours to make. Roux is available pre-made at the grocery store, at least in Southeast Texas where gumbo just might be one of the major food groups. We put plenty of Tony Chachere's on there, my dad likes to add gumbo filé and Tabasco. Put the rice in a bowl, pour gumbo on top, crumble some Saltines over that (or I like to put a heap of rice/gumbo mix on Saltines and eat them one by one), and it's done! Like salsa, gumbo tastes better as leftovers, after it's had some time to "cure."

So there you go. A little bowl of Cajun cookin' for all you who thought I was joking about the alligator, which means you're obviously not from Southeast Texas! :)


My debut to the hearing world will be this Sunday! That's right, I will be playing my guitar for people other than senior citizens who forgot their hearing aids in their rooms. So far, that one fact has been what has given me the courage to lead hymns on Sunday mornings at the rehab center, but this Sunday I'll be leading worship for our Sunday School class. Pray that I won't be too nervous, that my mistakes won't inhibit worship, and that I'll focus on what I offer to God and not what I sound like to the people listening.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Last Gumbo of the Season

Fort Worth has had a cool front. Last week we had temperatures in excess of 100 degrees. Tonight it will be in the 40s. So strange.

However! That has allowed us to make gumbo one last time before the hot weather really sets in! Gumbo is best eaten on cold days, and it's just too hot to cook on hot days.

Tonight I started the roux not realizing we had no chicken to put in the gumbo, so I had to shut off the burner and make a quick dash to the store. What's gumbo without forgetting an ingredient? :) Last time I made it my parents had to pick up an onion on their way over...

So now I'm back to stirring the roux until it's a nice chocolate-y brown. And since that takes more attention than one would realize, I can't spend any more time on blogging!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Ghetto-Fabulous Cat Tree

Well, this blog is about innovations, so today I have a new one for you. What do you do with two boxes and one hyperactive kitty? You put the first two together and let the third climb in!

I cut a hole between the two boxes so Friday could climb between the two, and hung a string with a jingle ball on the end for him to play with.

Tada! A ghetto-fabulous cat tree! Who needs a hundred bucks? Just raid your trash can! And I've got one kitty that's happy from head to toe....

And if Friday ever decides he's going in and not coming out (if the cat carrier comes out to go to the vet, for example), we simply cut the tape on the box and pull him out! Then tape it back up again! This might be a little more complicated if I ever decided to paint it, but the idea would still work.

The jingle ball on the string was Jon's idea. We looked everywhere for Friday's jingle balls. He should have about 12 laying around the house, and we couldn't find any anywhere! I finally remembered that there was one behind the fridge that Friday tries to get at every once in awhile. Jon pulled the fridge back, and there was not one, but seven jingle balls! Friday thought it was Christmas all over again!

Possible improvements in the future:
  • Paint it
  • Add nubby fabric to one side for Friday to scratch
  • Suspend a string on the outside of the box
  • Put a carpet sample at the top entrance for Friday to scratch

So many possibilities....and to think: you, too, can own such an invention, for the low low price of a dumpster dive!

Monday, April 10, 2006

New look

In honor of Spring, when all things become new, I've changed the look of the blog. Now if I could be as productive with my list of Spring cleaning chores, I'd have a much cleaner house....

Weekend Project

This past weekend was the perfect weekend for a Spring Project. Anyone who's seen these benches before know they were grey, weathered and rickety. I sanded them down, tightened all the screws, and primed and painted Friday night and Saturday morning. On Saturday, I planted all my seeds in my new pots. Thank you, everyone, for the gardening things for my birthday!

Now this is the view I see from my window as I work. When the paint cures enough the long pots will go on the benches. I can't wait to see the plants start to come up!