Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Art of Living Well

It's always fascinated me how some people appear to be comfortably well off while others are struggling but it turns out that they are bringing in similar salaries. How can that be? Credit cards may be an answer, or a second income but a lot of it is attitude. Another big plus is resourcefulness and the ability to handle money.

It's also amazing to me how one can be as poor as a church mouse and still have wonderful things happen. At least that's what happened to me this last weekend. My youngest daughter sent me an airplane ticket to come visit her in Las Vegas. The journey is wonderful, 40 minute flights out of the nearest airports, both of which happened right on time and without incident.

Once there I was wined and dined in lavish style, taken boating on Lake Mead and jet skiing for the first time ever! My daughter and her partner totally spoiled me. It's also amazing that my children give me money to help out. I never in a million years expected that would ever happen. The first time they did, I didn't know what to do about it. But then I figured, what the heck since I was generous with them for many years.

I really want to become independent again though and stay that way as long as possible. I want to not only get by on my own but to learn to live well on my own.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Last week we were housesitting at my brothers and he isn't a baker. There were no ingredients, so I was forced to resort to a box muffin mix. But this Sunday we are back home and therefore, back in business.

I decided to make the first recipe I spotted when opening my The Joy of Muffins: The International Muffin Cook Book. It was Irish Jam Muffins. This was a departure for me as I don't usually cook with buttermilk or lemon. OMG they were SO GOOD!!! You actually bake the jelly into them and top 'em off with a sprinkle of powdered sugar. I was glad I followed the recipe closely as they turned out so fine and high quality.

Here it is:

1 1/2 cops flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp soda
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1 egg
4 tbsp. butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp lemon extract
1 cup raspberry or blueberry jam
confectioners sugar

Mix together flour, baking powder, soda, sugar and grated lemon rind in a large bowl. Whick egg with melted butter, buttermilk and lemon extract. Make a well in dry ingredients and quickly add liquid ingredients. Fill greased muffin tins one-half full. Add two spoons of jam and cover with batter. Bake until done, remove from tins after five minutes and sprinkle tops with confectioner's sugar. Bake at 400 degrees, 15-20 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.

You have to understand that this took maybe 5-10 minutes in the kitchen to make and baked up really fast. There's no reason to make boxed muffins when you can throw homemade ones together from scratch so quickly and easily.

It actually made 9 nice, large muffins for us. I had one of those thingys that you grate lemons or oranges on to get a fine rind, can't remember what they're called. I was tempted to use vanilla extract since I didn't have lemon extract. Instead I just squeezed the lemon into the batter. Mmm, mmm, mmm...delicate, delicioso but be careful. That jam is really hot inside those muffins when they first come out of the oven!

I would have loved to use some black raspberry jam that my brother had at his house and was selling at the store for $5. But it would have been a frivolous purchase as I already had 3 kinds of jelly/jams at home. What I did was make 3 of the muffins with orange marmalade, 3 with prune jam, and 3 with strawberry jelly. I ate one of the orange marmalade ones and it was SO perfect. I'm not normally a big citrus fan but this made up into a light and satisfying product.

Monday, September 7, 2009


It's Labor Day ... 3 day weekends unnerve me. I've become much more of a routine-oriented person in my old age and not being at work on a Monday morning just feels wrong somehow. It's nice to catch up on your sleep though!

Yesterday morning we had blueberry muffins and this morning corn muffins. No recipes to share as these were from mixes. Since Jeanne and I are housesitting, we don't have access to all the ingredients we'd need to make home made muffins.

Jeanne lost her job this week. We had JUST been celebrating that her store had released a list of employees ranking based on secret shopping scores, meeting daily sales quotas, credit card aps, etc. and Jeanne was ranked number 1. Within the week she'd been called into the office and told that her job was discontinued. It was "nothing personal" and mostly based on seniority. Since J was one of the last hired, she is the first to be let go. sigh. At first I thought we'd get by OK if she gets unemployment, but then I realized that she really has to kick butt and get a job NOW since this area is so seasonal. Her goal is to get back into the grocery store industry as she did so well in that field before.

But none of the above is what I had intended to blog about today. What I want to write about is addictions. I once spent a few days with friends who were going through rough times financially. They had little in the way of groceries but a refrigerator full of beer! Go figure. Our downfall is soda. No matter how poor we were this summer, we still managed to have fresh two liters of soda in the house at all times. Not as expensive as some addictions, but still troublesome.

I can't imagine what this is doing for our bodies. It's time to go cold turkey but I don't believe in giving things up, I believe in making exchanges. Instead of reaching for the coke, I'll drink sparkling water or iced tea. Oddly enough, sparkling water is more expensive than soda, especially in restaurants.

Another example of exchanges instead of sacrifice - I used to have a shopping addiction. That was my hobby and a fun way to spend weekends while raising 3 daughters. If bored, we'd pile in the car and head to the mall. When I realized that my finances were taking a downward turn, I stopped shopping at department stores and instead shopped at places like Ross and Marshalls. Then I downgraded to thrift stores and garage sales. It was fun to head out on a Saturday morning with a 10 dollar bill and see all the stuff I could find to buy with that, every bit as satisfying as department store finds. Since I'm not a packrat, this led to my holding a lot of garage sales of stuff I'd accumulated in my travels. That became an important end of the month boost to our finances for years, before the advent of ebay and craigslist.
I'm a different person now. I don't gather as much, I mostly reduce my belongings and see how little I really need to get by. I think I'll start a company - the Simplification Organization. It's time to use my years of garage sale experience to help others!