Saturday, July 31, 2010

Yard Sale Report for July 31st, 2010

I had another unexpectedly good morning out yard sale-ing, considering as how it's the long weekend and it seems like half the population of the city has left for the weekend. I hit four sales today (with two more to check out tomorrow that are Sunday-only).

On my first stop of the morning, I hit a big free pile so of course I gave it a good digging through. I got *all* of the following items for free:

-two cute snowman gift tins
-dancing pig gift tin
-kitchen scale
-two unopened rolls of shelf liner
-mostly-full box of Christmas cards (15 cards left, with envelopes)
-cloth napkin

I was really excited about the kitchen scale as my old one broke a while ago and I've been going a little batty with all my recipes that call for an ounce of this or two-and-a-half ounces of that! I also like to use a scale to divide up portions of meat for freezing so I get the same amount in each bag.

I tried really hard to find something I wanted to buy at this lady's sale but all the good stuff was in the free pile, lol! I was a little embarrassed to be taking so much for free without making a purchase, so I asked her if she was sure she didn't want any money for the items I'd chosen but she told me just to go ahead and take them. Okay :)

The morning was definitely off to an excellent start! Next up:

-a pair of like-new winter gloves for one of my boys
-a floral frog (the first one I've ever found despite all the flea market books saying how common they are) I'm going to use it for a penholder in my office and it might actually get used for its intended purpose once in a while, too!

I paid $2 total for these.

At the next sale I got an awesome Nike jacket for $5:

This will be perfect for cycling or my exercise walks on nippy spring and fall mornings!

At the final sale of the morning, I found several more goodies:

-long sleeve white T for me (excellent quality fabric and super soft - fits me perfectly!) for $1.00

-flirty little summer top for $1.00 (this one will require about 2 minutes of sewing to tame one of the sleeves that "poofs" out slightly too much - other than that it looks great on me!)

 -black cotton skirt for $1.00 (it looks really washed out in this photo for some reason but it's not)

And finally:

-a matching game set for young kids (basically a junior version of Concentration) and travel tangram puzzle set for $2 (both in brand-new condition; these are going in my gift cupboard).

Grand total for the day: $12 for 16 items, or 75 cents per item

Did you find any great bargains this week?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Book Review: Incredible Edibles

I've been growing my own veggies in my tiny urban garden for over a decade now, and most of the time I still wonder if I have a clue what I'm doing! I've read quite a few books on vegetable gardening, and most of the time I come away feeling overwhelmed and wondering if I'm ever going to "get it right". So I was delighted to stumble across this book in my library's new additions section.

Incredible Edibles: 43 Fun Things to Grow in the City by Sonia Day is the book I wish I'd had when I made my first foray into urban vegetable gardening. At a sleek124 pages, it's not intimidating at all. It's filled with honest and witty advice about how to effectively grow fruits, herbs and vegetables in small urban spaces.

The book begins with "The Ten Commandments of Growing Food in the City" (which includes encouragement to "Think Twice Before Planting These" - Day is quite upfront about which vegetables aren't going to cut it in your urban garden).

The bulk of the book is made up of a two-page entry for each of the fruits, vegetables and herbs that Day recommends for urban gardening success. These run the gamut from the incredibly commonplace (chives and mint) to some more exotic offerings (asparagus peas and ground cherries, anyone?) Included for each item are the degree of difficulty to grow (ranging from "easy" to "can be cranky"), light requirements, whether it's suitable for container growing, how to start the plant (seeds or started plants),  common problems, when to harvest, how to store, and how many plants to grow. Specific varieties of each plant that are particularly suitable for urban growing are recommended as well. Most of the entries also include a recipe, in case you're not quite sure what to do with your garden bounty. Accompanying the text are food photos stunning enough that you want to reach out and grab them off the page for a little snack.

I certainly picked up a few tips from this delightful little book (and I'm contemplating the addition of ground cherries to my repertoire!) I would highly recommend this book to any novice urban gardener.

(Disclaimer: if you purchase the book through the link in this post, I will receive a small commission from Amazon)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

RECIPE: Peach Clafouti

I've had recipes for clafouti in my recipe box for years; it wasn't until last summer that I actually tried making one. A clafouti is a French dessert that's somewhere between a custard and a cake. It's traditionally made with cherries; you can use just about any type of summer fruit in this delicious dessert, though!

Since clafouti is both extremely tasty *and* quick and inexpensive to make, it's become one of my go-to summer desserts.

3 cups sliced fresh peaches
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup light (10%) cream
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 tsp almond or vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
icing sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 2 quart casserole or baking dish. Arrange the peach slices in the bottom of the dish. In blender, combine remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth and pour over peaches. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. Dust with icing sugar before serving if desired. Serve warm.

This is probably supposed to serve 6-8, but I confess the four of us always polish the whole thing off in one go :)

I shared this recipe at Tasty Tuesday, Foodie Friday, Friday Favourites and the GCC Recipe Swap.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Weekly Menu Retrospective #5

Welcome to my weekly roundup of the past week's eats. I prefer to report what we ate in the last week, rather than what we're planning to eat in the coming week. Why? The reason is pretty simple: although I usually have a general idea of what we're going to eat in the next week or so, life often unfolds a little differently than planned, and I adjust my menu plan on a near-daily basis to accommodate leftovers and other not-possible-to-plan-ahead circumstances. I find this is the easiest way to ensure that I minimize our family's food waste. I'm also willing to admit that I'm a rather spontaneous cook, given to preparing foods that strike me as the most appealing thing to eat right here and now!

Breakfasts: chocolate chip banana muffins, homemade granola, zucchini bran muffins, pancakes and hash browns

Lunches: leftover Curried Turkey & Rice Salad, peanut butter bagels (bagels from the discount rack), grilled cheese, pizza


Monday: Leftover baked pasta with sausage*

Tuesday: Baked beans (homemade), hush puppies with rhubarb ketchup, leftover celery & sunflower seed salad

Wednesday: Cheese omelettes (leftover beans on the side for the boys, leftover salad on the side for me)

Thursday: Barbecued chicken thighs, green beans (some from the garden) with lemon & herb butter, baked potatoes with sour cream

Friday: Hot dogs, leftover green beans, parmesan & herb noodles and sauce*

Saturday: Spaghetti

Sunday: Tuna burgers*, cheesy cauliflower casserole*, refrigerator dills, peach clafouti*

Snacks & Sides: homemade yogurt, watermelon, peaches, bananas, strawberries

*these recipes coming to the blog soon, stay tuned!

For more great menu planning ideas, head on over to for Menu Planning Monday.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Yard Sale Report for July 24, 2010

My bargain-hunting thrills didn't have to wait for the weekend this week - it seems to have been the week of "free piles" around here! It started off with several items I hauled home from a free bin at one of last week's yard sales. Then, during the week, my hubby stumbled across two different free piles and brought the following items home to me:

Two storage canisters and half a dozen white candles. I really laughed when I saw the canisters - we've had two *identical* to this for years and years (like somewhere between 15 and 20 years!) and I've always really wished we had another one or two this exact size (of course I'd never quite gotten round to actually doing anything about it, lol). So when they showed up in someone else's free pile I was quite amused! The candles are a bit warped, but that's okay - I'm going to melt them down and use the wax to make fire starters for camping. I think two of them might even be straight enough to use as candles :)

So, onward to this morning's bargains. Similar to last week, there were not all that many sales running in my area, so I only had 3 on my list to check out (there's another one tomorrow that's Sunday-only, so there may well be an update to this post tomorrow.) I ended up finding a few treasures:

-a blank journal for 50 cents (I always pick these up when I see them - I go through a lot of them for jotting down recipe ideas, books to read, decorating notes, etc)

-half a dozen dessert bowls for $1 (that works out to just under 17 cents per bowl)

At the last sale I went to, I ended up hitting the clothing jackpot - a woman selling good quality, barely-worn clothes in my size for super-cheap! That doesn't happen very often, so I gave the pile a good digging through and emerged triumphantly with:

-two cotton T-shirts, 50 cents each


- a long sleeve black T-shirt (really, really nice fabric!) for 50 cents
-a cream stretch denim jacket (super soft and fits me perfectly) for $2

Grand total for the week: $5 for 14 items, or 36 cents per item
(I included the freebies in the item count, with the whole pile of candles as 1 item).

Did you find any great bargains this week?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Veggie Garden Update

It's that sweet part of the summer that is so eagerly anticipated each year: the tomatoes and green beans are here! These are my two favourite fresh-from-the-garden vegetables and their arrival is always a cause for celebration!

Here's what I harvested from the garden this week:

Five jalapeno peppers, four cherry tomatoes, and a handful of green beans. I do believe a few more cherry tomatoes got eaten straight off the plant by someone who shall go unnamed :)

There is plenty more garden goodness on the way:

Lots more  cherry tomatoes coming - these are the biggest, healthiest cherry tomato plants I've ever grown! We've had ideal growing conditions this year and it's amazing to see what a difference that's making in my garden (especially after two very cold and rainy summers in a row!)

I've got a couple of nice-sized sweet peppers that I've left on the plant for now. They're a variety called "Gypsy" that I've never grown before. They are purported to be "the sweetest pepper available", with "heavy yields of orange-red fruit". I picked this variety more because of its quick time to maturity (I was really late planting this year) so I'll be interested to see how sweet and abundant they really are :) I'm still waiting to see signs that they're going to deepen in colour to orange/red. I figure I'll leave them on the plant a while longer and see what happens!

There are plenty more beans on the way, too:

I staggered my green bean planting this year, so there are a bunch of plants coming to maturity now, and another bunch that are just starting to grow. This is the first year I've tried growing them this way, with the intention of having a reasonable amount of green beans to harvest each week for a longer period of time, rather than an onslaught of them all at once. I guess I'll soon find out how well that idea worked!

And last (but certainly not least!) are my Roma tomatoes, which are growing just as vigorously as everything else in the garden! These plants are just *covered* in flowers, meaning there are a whole lot more tomatoes on the way. The first of them will be ready for picking soon:


All this bounty from my tiny urban garden! How is *YOUR* garden growing?

This post is linked to $5 Dinners garden update.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

RECIPE: Curried Turkey & Rice Salad

 This is a great main course salad to throw together on a hot summer day - you can make it using leftover rice and turkey (chicken or ham would also work here) and it goes together lickety-split! If you don't have leftover rice on hand, cook 1 1/2 cups of raw rice in 3 cups of water and you'll have the right amount to use for this recipe..

3-4 cups leftover cooked rice
2-3 cups leftover cooked turkey, diced
1/2 a medium red pepper, diced
1 cup green peas (fresh or frozen and thawed)
1/2 cup peanuts, chopped
3 green onions, finely chopped

1/2 of a 13 oz can coconut milk
1 tbsp curry powder
juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp EACH salt and pepper

In a large bowl, combine the rice, turkey, pepper, peas, peanuts, and green onions. In a small bowl, combine remaining ingredients and stir until well combined. Pour dressing over rice mixture and stir until evenly coated.

I shared this recipe at Foodie Friday, Friday Feasts, Friday Favorites and the GCC Recipe Swap

Monday, July 19, 2010

Weekly Menu Retrospective #4

Breakfasts: chocolate chip banana muffins, breakfast parfait (homemade granola layered with yogurt, pineapple and blueberries), peanut butter toast, granola with milk, pancakes

Lunches: homemade cream of tomato soup with broiled cheese on hamburger buns, sandwiches (peanut butter or leftover meat), pizza


Monday: roast beef sandwiches (leftovers from my niece's party), cantaloupe

Tuesday: Sausage on a bun, broccoli salad, oven fries, Lemon Blueberry Polenta Cake

Wednesday: Hummus with grilled flatbread, leftover broccoli salad

Thursday: Curried Turkey and Rice Salad (recipe coming tomorrow!), leftover flatbread, fresh pineapple, vanilla ice cream with strawberry-rhubarb sauce

Friday: "Hummus Hoagie" for me (cheese melted on one side of a hotdog bun, hummus spread on the other, filled with sauteed red peppers and onions), omelettes for the boys (hubby not home for dinner)

Saturday: Baked Pasta with Sausage, green peas

Sunday: hamburgers, potato salad, celery & sunflower seed salad, homemade bread & butter pickles, Lemon Blueberry Polenta Cake

Snacks & Sides: homemade yogurt, fresh blueberries, cantaloupe, pineapple and cherries (all on sale!)

For more great menu planning ideas, head on over to Menu Planning Monday at!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Yard Sale Report for July 17th, 2010

I ended up with quite the haul this morning, despite the fact that I only went to four yard sales! Two of them were slightly east of me, and two slightly west. This ended up being a good thing, because I had to stop at home and unload my bike after the first two sales so I had space on my bike for more finds.

At my first stop, they had a "free" bin. I just LOVE free bins!! I dug all of these items out of that bin:

A muffin pan (looks like it's never been used), a lightweight silver platter, a Mason jar, a wooden trivet and a Christmas tin. The tin and platter will be used for packaging up Christmas gifts. Obviously, the Mason jar will be added to my canning jar stash. I'll add the trivet to my slowly-growing pile of decent looking ones (replacing the crappy cork ones I've used for years). I have a craft project in mind for the muffin tin.

I also picked up a little something nice for my hubby at this sale for $3 but it's going to be a Christmas gift so I'm not posting it here (yes, I know you read these posts, honey).

 More goodies I picked up:
-basket for 25 cents
-two brand new stainless steel water bottles (you can see they still have the tags on them!) for $2 each
-a salad spinner for 50 cents (I've resisted owning one of these for years because they take up so much space - but they really are the best way to get your salad greens dry!)
-juice jug for 50 cents
-photo album (still in shrink wrap) for $1 - I'm one of those old-fashioned people who still likes a hard copy print of my best photos to put in an album and flip through :)
-I also picked up a really great still-in-the-original-packaging kid-gift for $2 but I'm not posting it here so as not to blow the surprise (it would have cost me about $20 purchased new).

And a couple more things, too:

I was excited to score this really neat pan of mini molds for $2. I've been wanting to make panna cottas and gelatin salads and this will be perfect to make cute little individual-serving sized ones!

Last but not least, I found these nifty tea light holders:

They were so cute I couldn't resist them for $1 each. I think one may go live in my bedroom and the other one may end up in my gift stash.

Grand total for the day: $15.25 for 16 items, or 95 cents per item

Thursday, July 15, 2010

RECIPE: Lemon Blueberry Polenta Cake

I have to begin by saying that this is quite possibly the best cake I have EVER made! And considering that I've been baking for 30 years, that's fairly impressive. Even my two boys gave it their highest ranking, putting it ahead of anything chocolate (even my chocolate peanut butter brownies!). So in other words, I highly recommend you make yourself some Lemon Blueberry Polenta Cake as soon as possible. And I'm not just saying that because I invented it :)

This recipe will make two 8" cakes - one to share and one to keep all for yourself! Or if you have a bit more willpower, you can stash the second one in the freezer to pull out on a day when a dose of Lemon Blueberry Polenta Cake is just what the doctor ordered.

This is a moist, dense cake with a lovely texture (courtesy of the cornmeal). You could use raspberries, blackberries or sliced strawberries in place of the blueberries. Heck, I think I'm going to try it with chopped peaches or cherries. I can't imagine any of them being better than the blueberries, though!


1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp almond extract
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 cups flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 pint fresh blueberries
icing sugar for dusting (optional, but makes your cake look extra-fancy)

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together. Add olive oil and eggs and beat for a minute or so. Add almond extract and lemon juice and zest. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, cornmeal, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Add flour mixture to egg mixture gradually, beating on a medium-low speed until well combined.

Line two 8" round baking pans with parchment paper. Fill each pan a bit less than half full with batter. Sprinkle blueberries over batter in a single layer (you should use a full pint between the two cakes). Pour remaining batter over blueberries and carefully smooth it over the top of the fruit to cover completely.

Bake for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown on top and cake no longer has any "jiggly" bit in the centre. Cool on a wire rack for 30-60 minutes, then carefully flip out of pans and onto rack to cool further (although you probably won't be able to wait any longer to start eating it!) Dust with icing sugar before serving if you have guests for dinner :)

I shared this recipe at Foodie Friday and Friday Feasts.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Simple Summer Pleasures

 There are so many reasons to love summer! It's definitely the season that best suits my temperament - relaxed and welcoming. with a focus on fun and family.

Another thing I love about summer is all the little daily pleasures that make it seem particularly sweet. The saying "the best things in life are free" feels even more true at this time of year.

Here are some of my favourite "simple summer pleasures":

1. My hollyhocks (pictured above).
I am unreasonably smitten by the old fashioned charm of these beauties. They grow along my front walkway and I love to sit on my porch and gaze out on them. I bought two hollyhock plants for $1.00 each at a neighbourhood plant sale a few years ago, and they have now filled almost the entire garden bed! Quite possibly the most satisfying $2.00 I've ever spent.

2. Mint tea from my garden
I've previously mentioned that I'm fond of making fresh mint tea with the abundance of mint in my garden. I love to end a summer day by sipping a mugful in the evening after the heat of the day has dissipated. This simple pleasure costs me nothing but the price of boiling some water!

3. My front porch
When we bought our current home, one of the things I was most excited about was the covered front porch that runs across the whole front of the house. It's a wonderful place to hang out in the heat of a lazy summer afternoon. I love to sit there (in the Adirondack chair my hubby built) chatting with neighbours and watching the world go by.

4. Walking barefoot
For me, I don't think there's anything more challenging about a long Canadian winter than the necessity of wearing socks (often more than one pair!) I'm a barefoot kinda gal, and as soon as those warm spring breezes arrive, off come the socks. My feet are very, very, happy right now! Life is just better when I can feel the grass between my toes, know what I mean?

5. The smell of fresh cut grass
Aaah, the smell of a freshly cut lawn! I wish I could bottle that, but of course it would never be able to compare to the real thing. Fortunately, since we live in the city, there's almost always a freshly cut yard full of grass near at hand.

6. Riding my bike
My bike and I have been together for a looong time. We've really gone places together (most notably from Kingston, ON to Halifax, NS one wild and crazy July in 1996). Taking a spin along the Waterfront Trail early in the morning or just before dusk is one of the things that never fails to recharge my batteries!

7. Picnics
Food just tastes better when you eat it outdoors. Picnic food is just so much FUN! And you can have a picnic just about anywhere on a warm summer's day. Come to think of it, I think I need to go on a picnic really soon. Life is too short not to have a picnic as often as possible!

8. Harvesting veggies from my garden
The wait for the first perfectly ripened backyard tomato seems to be universally agonizing to gardeners everywhere. Plucking that first sun-ripened fruit is one of the sacred rituals of summer! Whether I'm harvesting greens for a salad, nibbling fresh-picked raspberries or up to my eyeballs in fresh green beans, I always find growing my own food to be a wondrous (and slightly miraculous) process.

9. Watching my kids have water wars
Is there anything kids can do that's more fun than soaking each other with water? Water guns, water balloons and garden hoses - anything'll do as long as it gets your opponent good! Full-scale, street-long battles have been known to occur around here, and they're alway a delight to witness (once in a while, I might even get wet, too!)

10. Hanging out in the neighbourhood on a long summer evening.
Summer evenings sometimes feel like they might go on just about forever (and wouldn't it be great if they did?) All that extra daylight after dinner leaves plenty of time for taking the dog for a stroll, puttering in the garden, and chatting up the neighbours.

Oh summer, I do love you so! What are some of your simple summer pleasures?

Monday, July 12, 2010

RECIPE: Southwestern Spiced Barley & Vegetable Salad

I'm not sure why barley isn't a more popular grain. It's one of my favourites - I love its unique and satisfying chewiness. When most people think of barley they think of soups and stews; I love to use it in cold summer salads like this one! It's usually cheaper to buy barley at the bulk food store rather than prepackaged at the supermarket. Variations of this salad, using whatever fresh vegetables are on sale, appear regularly on our summer table. It's a great accompaniment to just about anything you might have grilled on the barbecue (shown here with Lime and Garlic Chicken).

3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup uncooked pearl barley
about 3/4 lb or so fresh green beans
1 small red pepper, chopped

1/4 cup olive oil
3 tbsp cider vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
zest & juice of one lime
1/4 tsp dry mustard powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan, bring the chicken or vegetable stock to a boil. Add the barley and simmer until barley is tender and liquid is almost all absorbed, about 45-60 minutes. While barley is cooking, chop the green beans into 1" pieces and steam or boil them until tender-crisp. In a small bowl, combine all dressing ingredients and mix until well-blended. In serving dish, combine the cooked barley with the green beans, peppers, and dressing, and stir gently until well combined. Refrigerate until serving. This will keep well for a couple of days in the fridge.

I shared this recipe at Tasty Tuesday Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Tuesdays at the Table and Friday Favorites.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Weekly Menu Retrospective #3

Welcome to my weekly roundup of the past week's eats. I prefer to report what we ate in the last week, rather than what we're planning to eat in the coming week. Why? The reason is pretty simple: although I usually have a general idea of what we're going to eat in the next week or so, life often unfolds a little differently than planned, and I adjust my menu plan on a near-daily basis to accommodate leftovers and other not-possible-to-plan-ahead circumstances. I find this is the easiest way to ensure that I minimize our family's food waste. I'm also willing to admit that I'm a rather spontaneous cook, given to preparing foods that strike me as the most appealing thing to eat right here and now!

Breakfasts: We went through a couple of batches of Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins and had those most days.One day we had bagels with peanut butter/cream cheese/jam.

Lunches: cinnamon raisin bagels with cream cheese, salads with greens from the garden plus protein "additions" of cheese, sunflower seeds and/or leftover meat,  chicken on a bagel, cheese omelettes and leftover pancakes (from last week), peanut butter toast


Monday: I made a batch of crepes and filled them with leftovers - the boys had "Pizza Crepes" stuffed with leftover tomato meat sauce and topped with melted cheese, I had mine filled with leftover turkey salad and avocado and topped with melted cheese (hubby wasn't home for dinner).

Tuesday: Hamburgers and Creamy Cucumber Salad (cucumbers were on sale for 59 cents this week!)

Wednesday: Hummus and Grilled Flatbread, leftover Creamy Cucumber Salad

Thursday: Lime and Garlic Chicken with Southwestern Spiced Barley &Vegetable Salad

Friday: Hummus and Red Pepper "Hoagie" (hot dog bun with cheese melted on one side, hummus spread on the other side and filled with sauteed red peppers and onions), the boys had hot dogs plus raw sliced veggies on the side (hubby not home for dinner again).

Saturday: out at my niece's birthday party (Happy 2nd birthday, Natalie!)

Sunday: Leftover Buffet (leftover roast beef and Old-Fashioned Layered Salad from my niece's party - I brought the salad and we got sent home with roast beef! - hummus, barley salad, raw veggies and fresh fruit)

We had lots of fresh fruit to go along with meals this week: cherries, blueberries, pineapple, cantaloupe and strawberries were all on sale!

For lots more great menu ideas, head on over to for Menu Plan Monday!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Weekly Yard Sale Report for July 10, 2010

 Hurray! The intense heat we've had all week dissipated after some heavy rain yesterday. I woke up to a gorgeous, sunny and warm (but not *HOT*) morning - the perfect weather for hitting the yard sale circuit.

I had four advertised sales to check out today, and stumbled on another unadvertised one along the way. For the first time in a while, I found some good stuff at the first sale of the day.

Here are this morning's motley assortment of purchases:

-a Coleman cooler jug (yup, another one - remember last week how I said I wanted one more?), three nifty little wire boxes (you can only see 2 in the photo) and a metal star-shaped something-or-other for a total of $1.25. I'm going to use the wire boxes as recipe card holders - they are the exact right size and so much cuter than those nasty plastic holders! I'm not too sure what I'm going to use the star thingy for yet, but a metal star thingy is guaranteed to be useful for one of my "rustic country Christmas" schemes and it was only five cents.

-an outdoor light fixture and a real Thermos brand stainless steel Thermos for $1 each. If you've been following my yard sale adventures for a while, you may recall that I've been keeping an eye out for a stainless thermos jug like this for awhile - I finally found it - YAY! The outdoor light fixture is replacing the one over the back door which is old and hideous. It just needs a bit of cleaning up, steel wooling and a coat of white spray paint and it'll be all ready to go!)

-a white serving platter (I like the textured dots around the edge!) and a pair of New Balance runners for $3.00. I thought the runners were going to be for my older son, but they fit my hubby perfectly, so he's going to stash them away for his next pair (we just paid $16.19 for his current pair on our last Value Village trip - it's not often I find a pair his size at a yard sale!)

Grand total for the day: $6.25 for 9 items, or 69 cents per item.

Sunday morning update:

I hit one more, Sunday-only sale this morning, and came home with the following:

-a good quality wood 5x7 picture frame

-four medium-sized drinking glasses (I actually got 5, then saw that one was cracked when I got them home - guess I didn't look at that one closely enough! It may get used as a pencil holder instead) Glasses seem to get broken fairly frequently in our house so I'm always on the lookout for good quality ones to stash away as replacements.

-a small heavy-bottomed pot; I've been looking for one of these for a while too, to use for melting wax and assorted other messy craft projects that I don't want to use my good saucepan for!

I paid $5 for all of the above.

That brings my grand total for the weekend to $11.25 for 15 items, or 75 cents an item.

Did you find any great deals this week?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Food Waste Friday: I Have NO Idea!

I know there is food in my fridge that's no longer edible. I'm just not sure exactly what or how much right now. This week has been really hectic, and coupled with a heat wave that's left me reluctant to open the fridge door for any longer than necessary (not to mention the fact that we haven't felt like eating much in the heat) I know there are some food waste casualties in there. I'm hoping the temperature will drop off enough for me to dive into the depths and do a full-scale cleaning out before next week (I'm sure it's not going to be pretty!)

I did have a couple of food waste victories this week: I managed to eat the ENTIRE bag of five avocados I'd bought on sale before any of them spoiled, and I made my first ever batch of watermelon rind relish (thus transforming what would have typically gone into the compost bin into edible food).

As usual, you can head over to The Frugal Girl if you want to see how others fared with their food waste this week.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

RECIPE: Grilled Flatbread

Whew! We are in the middle of a brutal heatwave here in Southern Ontario. We often don't see temperatures like this until mid-August around here. When it gets this hot, even a foodie like me doesn't feel interested in much more than ice water, popsicles, and ice cream, lol!

By dinner time yesterday I just wanted to lie down on a bed of ice cubes and really didn't care what we ate!! None of us were feeling like a heavy meal in this heat. But I figured I better come up with something. No way was I turning on the oven and preferably not even the stovetop as I was already dripping with sweat.

My solution? Grill some flatbread up on the barbecue, whip up a batch of hummus, and pull the leftover Creamy Cucumber Salad out of the fridge. There was plenty of fresh fruit stashed in the fridge for nibbling on, too (blueberries, pineapple, cherries, and cantaloupe).

How to Make Grilled Flatbread
(Makes 6 single-serving size flatbreads)

You will need:
1/3 of a recipe of Whole Wheat Refrigerator Dough (1 loaf worth)
Olive oil

Preheat both sides of your barbecue on high for a few minutes. While the barbecue's heating up, divide the bread dough into six equal pieces. Roll each piece out to about 1/4" thick or so. You may need to sprinkle the dough with some flour to make it more manageable if it's gotten a bit sticky. You can make the flatbreads round or oblong, whatever floats your boat :) Mine always turn out a bit misshapen (wait, that would be "rustic hand formed" wouldn't it? ::grinning::) Brush one side of the flatbreads generously with olive oil (I use a pastry brush to do this) and place them on a large platter or cutting board to carry them out to the barbecue.

Turn the heat on the barbecue down to medium. Carefully place two of the flatbreads, oiled side DOWN, on the grill. Close the lid and let them cook for about 3-4 minutes or so, then open the lid to check how they're doing. They should have some "bubbly" spots on the surface of the dough (I would have taken a photo of this but it started raining pretty hard while I was barbecuing last night!). Brush the tops with olive oil, then flip the breads over and cook 2-3 minutes on the other side. Remove to a clean plate and repeat with remaining dough.

You can serve these whole, or slice them into strips. Last night I cut ours into strips for spreading with hummus. Lots of delicious possibilities for these yummy grilled treats! If you want to get really fancy, you could mix some herbs or spices in with the olive oil before you brush it on the dough, but these are fabulous without any embellishment, too.

I shared this recipe at Friday Feasts, Friday Favorites, Foodie Friday and the GCC Recipe Swap.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Mid-Year Clothing Budget Report

Our family of four spends roughly $200-$250 per year on clothing. In the past I haven't kept an exact running total for the year, as clothing is part of our "miscellaneous" spending category, which includes clothes, entertainment, personal care products and services (like haircuts) and household goods. This year I decided to keep track of our clothing expenditures, curious to see if my "guesstimate" of our annual spending in this category was correct.

As of June 30th, our clothing expenditures total $99.54 for the year to date. Here's a breakdown of what that money was spent on:

A pair of sandals for 12 yo son for $8.00 at Value Village

Six pieces of clothing at a church rummage sale: $6.00 (this included a pair of black yoga pants, a white collared long sleeve shirt, light green camisole top, white T-shirt and a tank top for me, as well as a light blue Denver Hayes T-shirt for my hubby which looks like it's never been worn)

A pair of shoes for 12 yo son and a pair of sandals for 10 yo son, $24.13 at Value Village

A pair of black cloth Mary Janes for me, a pair of sneakers for my dh, and a pair of slippers for my 10 yo son, $3 total for all at a yard sale

Socks and undies for dh, $14.00 at a discount department store

Undies for me, $9.04 at a (different) discount department store

Short sleeve dress shirt for dh, $6.77 at Value Village

Decent quality running shoes for dh, $16.19 at Value Village

Skirt and T-shirt for me, $12.41 at Value Village.

TOTAL: $99.54

Well, look at that - so far we are right on track to spend my guesstimated amount of $200-$250 for the year.
You will note that the bulk of the total comes from footwear and undergarment purchases ($74.36, or 74.7 percent of the total spent!). Undergarments are one of the few things we purchase new, so we wait for a sale and buy decent quality ones so they'll last a while. Footwear I don't mind buying second hand; there are lots of pairs of good quality, barely-worn shoes out there. Even at thrift store prices they can still take a bite out of our clothing budget when my dh goes through about 3 pairs of runners a year, and my boys need a new pair of sandals and runners every year, too.

In case you're wondering what the heck my boys are wearing besides footwear (as we haven't bought them any clothes yet this year), we bought several pairs of pants for each of them at Value Village back in the fall. Most of their long-sleeve shirts and T-shirts from the previous year still fit them, as did their swimsuits and some of their shorts. I've had to do some mending on a few items so they'll make it through another season. I also cut off a couple pairs of my older son's jeans (pairs he had gotten a couple of years of wear out of that had the knees ripped out) to make jean shorts, as well as one pair of my younger son's jeans. My younger son needed some more shorts to make it through this summer, so I dug around in our "purged clothing" pile to see what I could do. He has the same waist measurement as me (yep, he's a big, solid kid!!) and I found a pair of jeans and a pair of barely-worn navy cotton pants I had decided I didn't want any more; they are very gender-neutral in their style and cut (probably why *I* didn't want them any more) and they will both make good shorts for him. I'm also repairing a pair of his athletic pants that I'll cut off and convert to shorts as well. With a little creativity, he will now have several new pairs of shorts without it costing us a cent!

I expect the bulk of our remaining clothing budget for the year will be spent on new pants for the boys in the fall. I hope they will still fit into last year's winter outerwear again this year (fingers crossed!). I may have to buy at least one of them a new pair of winter boots as well. Stay tuned for another update at the end of the year!

What is your family's annual clothing budget? How do you keep your clothing costs down?

Monday, July 5, 2010

RECIPE: Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

These were such a huge hit with my family that I didn't even get a chance to snap a photo of the first batch before they disappeared. The second batch didn't last a whole lot longer but I did sneak in a photo op before they all got gobbled up!

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 c cocoa
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
2 eggs (or 1 egg plus 1 heaping tablespoon of soy flour and a tablespoon of water)
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
generous 1 cup grated zucchini

chopped nuts and chocolate chips for sprinkling on top (optional)

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices. In a small bowl, combine the eggs, oil, milk and vanilla. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring gently until well combined. Fold in the zucchini. Spoon into greased muffin cups and sprinkle with nuts and chocolate chips (if using).Bake at 375F for 20 minutes, or until tops spring back when lightly touched.

(Note: if you use frozen grated zucchini, you might not need to use as much milk - add 1/4 cup then gradually add more if needed to get the batter a proper consistency).

Do you have a favourite way to use up an abundance of zucchini? Please share in the comments :)

This recipe is linked to Tasty Tuesday, Tuesdays at the Table and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Weekly Menu Retrospective #2

Welcome to my weekly roundup of the past week's eats. I prefer to report what we ate in the last week, rather than what we're planning to eat in the coming week. Why? The reason is pretty simple: although I usually have a general idea of what we're going to eat in the next week or so, life often unfolds a little differently than planned, and I adjust my menu plan on a near-daily basis to accommodate leftovers and other not-possible-to-plan-ahead circumstances. I find this is the easiest way to ensure that I minimize our family's food waste. I'm also willing to admit that I'm a rather spontaneous cook, given to preparing foods that strike me as the most appealing thing to eat right here and now!

Breakfasts: bagels with cream cheese, pancakes, chocolate zucchini muffins (recipe coming in tomorrow's post!), waffles, banana chocolate chip muffins.

Lunches: were mostly leftover this week; Pulled Pork sandwiches (using leftover Pulled Pork from last Sunday's dinner), leftover cabbage and macaroni salads, and salads using greens from the garden (with additions such as avocado, cheese and sunflower seeds to make them good and hearty). There was lots of fresh fruit to go on the side - strawberries, cantaloupe, watermelon, and cherries.


Monday: Colourful Cabbage Salad, Macaroni Salad (with tuna and cheese), Chickpea Salad with Lemon & Herbs, Hush Puppies with rhubarb ketchup

Tuesday: Thai-Style Peanutty Pasta

Wednesday: Lentil Soup, toast (homemade whole wheat bread)

Thursday: Pulled Pork sandwiches (yes, still MORE leftovers!), Oven Fries, Colourful Cabbage Salad

Friday: Leftover Buffet (soup, Thai pasta and salads)

Saturday: Spaghetti

Sunday: We went to the beach, so our big meal was a picnic for lunch, which included turkey salad sandwiches (I had leftover cubed cooked turkey in the freezer from a 99 cent-per-pound turkey I bought around Easter and cooked for my May birthday), assorted side salads (last of the leftover salads from earlier in the week), watermelon and canteloupe, ginger cookies and kettle corn.

Supper was cheese omelettes.

To get lots of other great menu ideas,  head on over to Menu Planning Monday at

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Yard Sale Report for July 3, 2010 (Holiday Weekend Edition!)

It's the first long weekend of the summer here in Canada and the US too! I didn't expect there to be many yard sales this weekend as a lot of people are out of town. I was pleasantly surprised to have 8 sales on my list, plus the most gorgeous weather to boot!

I had to get about half way through the list before I found much of interest, but ended up coming home with a few great finds:

-cute garden plaque with thermometer for $2 (destined to live on my porch!)
-2 photo frames for $1 (I bought these for the mattes, not the frames)
-a set of four snowman floating candles for $1 (going in my gift cupboard)
-black short sleeve button down top for me (good quality fabric) $1
-Coleman cooler jug and cast iron frying pan for $6 (I talked the lady down from $8, lol)

If you happened to see my post about making yogurt, you might remember that I already have one of these Coleman jugs. I want to keep that one specifically for yogurt making and water-toting (both things that won't leave any odor behind in the jug). This one I picked up to dedicate to coffee use for road trips. Ideally I'd like to have a stainless steel one for that purpose, but I haven't found a good bargain on one yet. I'd like a third one of these jugs for transporting soups, stews, etc around in (stuff that will leave strong spicy odours behind!).

I am SUPER excited about the cast iron frying pan. I've been keeping my eye out for one of these for years. I have wanted an oven-proof skillet for a LONG time. This is a good old-fashioned, smooth-bottomed pan that was even made in Canada (something I see far too rarely these days). Once I get this baby cleaned and seasoned, it will be time to make frittatas, skillet corn bread, and all kinds of other wonderful things (and yes, I might even use it on the stovetop, too!)

Grand total for the day: $11 for 7 items, or $1.57 per item.

Did you find any great bargains this week?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Food Waste Friday: Nothing...Yet!

I don't have any food waste to report for this week...but my fridge feels like a ticking time bomb right now! It's packed full of food; lots of leftovers and produce. So I'll have to be on the ball for the next few days to try and make sure everything gets used up in a timely fashion.

This also leads me to wonder: why is it that my fridge is either packed-to-the-gills full or nearly devoid of food? That middle ground seems elusive. One of the great mysteries of the universe, I suppose :)

To see how others fared with their food waste this week, head on over to The Frugal Girl.
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