Thursday, January 31, 2008

Tinned Octopus Slices


It is quite funny to see the kids in the aisle with the canned body parts of various sea monsters. They are excitedly talking about or grabbing things they'd like to try...Dd was hoping to buy a can that contains snails. Well actually we did buy one - but she was hoping to buy the can that held a snail so big there was only one inside the can. I'm not so sure I could handle that one. But being that the one giant slug would have cost $13 - not much chance I will have to deal with it.

We also bought some octopus. It cost $3.66 for a small tin.

"Octopus in Soybean oil, salt added - Product of Thailand – Wild Caught," the package states.

I know the kids would have loved to have opened the tin of octopus and have found recognizable pieces of the octopus –but it wasn’t so.


Dd – “Mmmmm smoky. Very chewy and smoky.”

Ds – “Hint of bacon…chewy…but I actually like it. I really like it but I don’t need more.” Hmmm exercising self-control – or does he really NOT like it.

I thought it was a sweet smoky flavor – overpowering fishy smell which I never like. But it did not taste fishy…actually not much taste but the smoky flavor.

I liked it and ate a few pieces – but later I felt kind of sick and when I would think about having eaten the octopus – it made me feel worse. I'm sure it was all just psychological...there were no lasting effects - psychological or otherwise!

This is a picture of the pieces rinsed off for a better look

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Mendu Vada - Lentil Fritters


Mendu Vada are "Crispy Golden Lental Fritters" reads the box it came in. We purchased them frozen - $1.99 for a box of 6. On the package they look like deep fat fried cake donuts...don't be deceived!

The fritters are a savory dish. Ingredients are: urad dal, water, coconut, green chili, salt, coriander leaves, curry leaves, spices, coriander seeds.

Urad dal is a lentil like bean.

A serving size of just two of these fritters will set you back 204 calories - half of them in fat!

I did like the fritters - they were better after adding some salt. I think if you dipped them in ketchup - it would almost be like you were eating fat onion rings (minus the onions).

They were quite hot spicy.

Dd said "Not bad - like a spicy egg roll...very, very, very spicy."

Ds said "I don't know what to say about it - it just tastes weird." He said he had 3 BIG bites...I'd say probably three little nibbles. I try to tell them they won't get a proper taste unless it's a big bite. But I understand how apprehensive they are - b/c I feel that way too!

Works For Me Wednesday - Journal Keeping

Before I got married I filled a few journals. Not necessarily writing every day - but enough to fill the need.

After I got married - the journaling pretty much stopped (ummm maybe b/c I now had a constant companion to relate all my stuff to - poor guy!).

A way that works for me now to keep a journal, that I don't have to write daily or even weekly, is to go to my "sent emails". I look for emails that I have primarily sent to my family (my family lives 1000 miles away and my dh's family lives 3 hrs away - so a lot of our communication is via email).

I quickly sift through the emails looking for journal material...special things we did or a special thing one of the kids did, maybe a time of illness someone had etc. I cut and then paste the writing into a word document - along with the date.

I do this a few times a year maybe - whenever I think about it and have the time. You can either take an afternoon to do it or do it in bits and pieces.

When the kids were really small I'd usually be writing to grandma or to another family member to let them know all the cute/fun/bad things the kids were up to. This helped too, to fill in the baby book gaps - you know the deal - where the first kid has a full baby book and the other children have blank pages or empty fill in the blanks. I was able to look back in the emails and gather some of the missing information.

Of course this all takes time - and maybe it would be easier to do your journal writing each day - but I know I'd never get around to keeping a written journal like I did before marriage. And the way I do it - I'm kind of killing two birds with one stone.

The journal isn't so much for me to remember all these things - though I imagine some day I'll be old and gray (or should I say old and gray-er) and will get a kick out of reading the accounts of our youth. The journal is for our children.

My dd (now only 8) especially has enjoyed looking back and reading some of the journal entries that pertain to all the stuff she did when she was really little - and from time to time she'll mention to me or to her brother about the funny time mom was talking on the telephone outside and how she snuck up to mom and dumped a pail of sand on her head and that it was the same day that she bit her baby brother.

For more Works For Me Wednesday tips - head on over to Rocks in My Dryer.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sesame Seed Cookie - Vietnam


When I was growing up in Canada - there was a type of "candy" called "Sesame Snaps." They were little hard rectangles of sweetened sesame seeds. I had actually forgotten about them - but when we were in Manitoba last summer, I was looking around the grocery store trying to find "familiar" foods - and I came across some & got to taste them once again.

So when I saw this large circular sesame seed "cookie" at the world food store - I knew I had to buy it.

The "cookie" cost less than $2. The ingredients are sesame seeds, peanuts and sugar.

It tastes WONDERFUL! It was similar to the "candy" I remember - except this was not hard and crunchy but chewy like toffee. It tastes like sesame seeds and peanuts mixed with toffee (hmmm fancy that). It's not overly sweet. If it were not for the caloric factor - I would have finished it off today.

Dd said "Yuck - I don't like it...too peanuty and chewy." Well she never has a problem with peanuts and things that are chewy - she just doesn't like sesame seeds so she pretty much automatically rejected it.

The boy said "I don't like it too much." He did think it was sweet and peanuty and did ask for some after supper - but only tore off a small piece and then didn't want any more.

I'd definitely buy this again!


This "cookie" is almost the size of a dinner plate.

Speaking of sesame seeds - a couple of months ago I replenished my supply of sesame seeds and poppy seeds from a Mennonite bulk food "bakery". My old seeds had been languishing in their containers for probably a year and though I still had some left, I pitched them and bought some "fresh" seeds. About the first time I opened my seeds a little WORM fell out of the bag! The seeds were all pitched :( and I am now without poppy or sesame seeds. I love sprinkling the seeds on homemade French bread or bread sticks.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Bloggy Give Away - Field Guide to Produce

Leave a comment to try and win this book below...

I love garage sales! I love thrift stores! I love free stuff!


Shannon over at Rocks in My Dryer is hosting a Bloggy Giveaway Carnival starting Monday morning. Once you sign up to win one of MY cool prizes - head on over to Rocks in my Dryer where you will find links to hundreds (last carnival had over 500 links) of blogs also giving away FREE STUFF.

My give-away is a brand new copy of the book called "Field Guide To Produce...How to identify, select, and prepare virtually every fruit and vegetable at the market". The book includes color pictures.

I like this book b/c it includes alternative fruit and vegetable names (good for researching), history, storage, ripening techniques, preparation methods and some recipes.

This book does not include a whole lot of global produce - but it's still a good guide to the more likely items you'll find in a larger supermarket that carries some "exotic" produce. I slip my copy of this book into my purse when I go shopping. I liked it so much that I bought another copy to give away to one of my few faithful readers - or to one of my soon-to-be-faithful readers.

If you don't win the GRAND PRIZE - perhaps you'll have a chance at the consolation prize. The first name I draw will be for the book - the 2nd name I draw will be for a package of dried squid shreds! Maybe you'll enjoy the squid so much, you'll think it was the GRAND PRIZE! The squid shreds are in honor of the first food we ventured to taste - way back here. The package I'm giving away looks a bit different - and may taste different - I haven't tried it...but I couldn't find any like my original package.

So if you are wanting to take an adventure on the food frontier with us - all you have to do is leave a comment on this post with your name and your blog URL or email address so I can contact you if you are the winner.

Forelle Pear

For some reason, the kids do not like pears. I can understand ds's dislike b/c he doesn't like most fruit - but dd loves fruit and she loves apples - so why not pears??

I saw these cute little pears and despite knowing that they would be almost automatically rejected by the kids, I bought them anyway. They were $1.99 per lb.

Forelles are visibly appealing...the contrast of the yellow and red peel and the petite size (almost 1/2 the size of a "normal" pear) make them mighty cute!

They were crisp on the outside and juicy and sweet inside. The sweetness had a caramel flavor.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Japanese & French Women Don't Get Fat

I'm not Japanese or French - am I out of luck? Am I genetically doomed for life?? I am rather multi-cultural, a virtual melting pot myself...my dad is Ukrainian and Polish, my mother is Scottish and Swedish. I was born in Canada and moved to the USA. Perhaps the fact that I was required to take French in school and all the products in our home were labeled in English and French, would qualify me as French. I'm French therefore I'm not fat.

Hmmmm I just came up with a new word blending my multi-culturalism - I'm a North American (that takes in both USA and Canada) Ukish (Uk for Ukrainian and ish for Pol-ish, Scott-ish and Swed-ish). N.A. Ukish. Sounds good to me.

A few years ago I read the book "French Women Don't Get Fat". From what I remember of the book - it all boiled down to eating smaller meals and eating them slowly...enjoying the food, rather than rushing around or having a meal on the go. Also - getting more exercise...not driving everywhere you go. The longest documented lifespan of any person in the world - was that of a French woman - Jeanne Calment...so maybe they do have the "secret."

Since I had read the French women book - I was intrigued when I saw a book at the library titled, "Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat." The oldest documented male that lived was Shigechiyo Izumi from Japan. Hmmmm maybe the Japanese have the "secret".

I found the book rather boring - but was able to glean the important ingredients to living a long and thin life...base your daily diet on fish, rice, fruits and vegetables and soy...eat less, no fat-ful sauces...eat rice instead of bread...eat a nutritious filling breakfast...eat small helpings of dessert...don't deprive yourself of foods you really want.

It's not really a bunch of secrets either. It's pretty much common sense.

The book includes a number of recipes and tells you how you can set up your own "Japanese" kitchen...cooking tools you will need and ingredients you should have on hand. I don't plan on setting up a Japanese kitchen - so the recipes, though perhaps interesting - were of little value to me. The secret isn't eating Japanese food - it's following the principles laid out in the book. And you can follow those principles regardless of what ethnic food you eat.

Moderation...self-control...exercise - I think that sums it up.

So really you don't need to move to Japan or set up a Japanese kitchen. You don't have to hire a French chef or move to France. You don't even have to buy the books or read them...you just need to exercise and exercise self-control.

Now if only someone would write the book "North American Ukish Women Don't Get Fat or Get Old"... I'll be good to go!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Oriental Udon Noodle - Mr. Udon!

Being that my kids love all things noodle - I decided to make some "Mr. Udon Oriental Udon Noodles" with some stir fry.

The noodles come in a package, pre-cooked - all you need to do is add them to some boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes. The noodles are soft - not dried. They cost about $1.00 and are from Korea.

The noodles are made of water, wheat flour, salt and acetic acid. There is also a little packet of soup powder that you add to the boiling water and some dried flakes that are sprinkled on before serving.


I liked that the noodles were quick and easy just like the package says - and I liked the way they looked. But that was about it.

The taste wasn't very nice and I didn't like the texture. I was expecting them to be like all the other noodles I ever tasted in my life and they were not...they were kind of slimy. The kids did not like them at all - which was very surprising.

Show and Tell Friday - Gold Locket WWII


My grandfather was in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) when he met my grandmother.

He wasn't a pilot - but was an airframe mechanic...which is good since he hated flying. But it was also bad, b/c the mechanic that worked on the airplane was required to go up with the pilot for a "test drive".

My grandfather was a story teller and a practical joker, so he was always entertaining us with his stories from his days in the RCAF.

My Show and Tell Friday item is a gold locket given to my grandmother, by my grandfather. The locket has some engraving on the front, along with the RCAF emblem. On the back my grandparents' names are engraved and inside are photos of my grandparents. They are young and grandpa is looking handsome in his uniform.


After his stint in the Air Force he was a pastor and an evangelist. He ministered in "logging camps" and was a "Shantyman". In his later years he pastored a church in Ontario, Canada and also traveled into the USA to minister as an evangelist.

My grandparents are I were very close. From the age of about 6-13 we spent summers with them out at the lake. Once they moved from the lake - I would sometimes take the bus out by myself or with one of my sisters, to visit them, 4 hours from home.

My grandmother died before I got married, and my grandfather died about 9 years ago. I miss them both. There is so much of my life I would have enjoyed sharing with them and I regret that they never got to see my children, and that my children never got to meet them.

For more Show and Tell Friday items - check out There is No Place Like Home.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Frugal Friday - Saving $ Mailing Packages

Mailing packages is expensive. Mailing packages to Canada and overseas is even MORE expensive. It's pretty bad when you spend a lot more on the shipping, than on the item being shipped!

Here is how I save a bit of money.

If I am mailing magazines to my sister overseas - I tear out all the little paper inserts and all the pages that are just advertising. I'm sure she doesn't mind (you don't, right Kelly??) One magazine before removing the "extras" was 1 lb - after removing the "extras" it weighed 10 oz. An envelope weighing 1 lb to my sister overseas would cost $10.10 - a 10 oz envelope would cost $8.65...saving $1.45. Most packages I send weigh much more than 1 lb - so the savings is even more significant. A first class package weighing 4 1lb would cost $27.50...a 3 1lb package would cost $21.70...saving $5.80.

I also try to remove any unnecessary packaging on the items I send...you know how you buy a little toy and it has huge amounts of extra cardboard and or plastic...when prudent, I cut it off or remove it. Obviously you don't want to cut off any instructions for an item, or something that would make the item more likely to break - but the stuff that is going to be thrown in the trash right after it's opened, is fair game.

I know things tend to look used if you remove packaging and such - and if that is a concern to you, you could always include a little note stating that the item is new and that you removed the excess packaging. By removing huge packaging you may also be able to fit the items into a smaller box thereby saving even more on shipping. Or it might just mean that the recipient gets the bigger box, filled with MORE stuff - rather than more stuffing.

You can also save money on shipping by using free "Kraft" paper for wrapping up your parcel.

For more Frugal Friday tips - please visit Crystal over at Biblical Womanhood.

Not So Cuddly Cuttlefish


Cuttlefish are marine critters that belong to the same family as squid and octopuses. It is not a fish but a mollusc. Like their relatives, they squirt ink which was once used as a dye called sepia.

Here is a picture of the not-so-cuddly cuttlefish.

This package of cuttlefish, packed in it's own ink, was $2.75 and came from Spain.

We purchased this creature a couple of months ago. At first I was scared to try it - and then it kind of got forgotten about. The other day I put it in the kitchen cupboard, so when my dd asked "what can we have to eat?" (during teatime) I noticed the can of cuttlefish and asked if they wanted that. The reply was an excited affirmative.

The appearance is obviously not something appetizing. It looks kind of muddy and clumpy.


The girl "Rinse off the ink."
The boy "No we want to taste it."
The girl "Well it would be like eating a pen."
The girl "You want to cuddle with it?"

It was decided that the ink would NOT be washed away. The girl poked her finger in the ink and tried writing with it.

As usual 2/3 of us liked the cuttlefish. Dd when looking at the cuttlefish "...I think I see...it couldn't be! (suction cups on a piece)...it tastes very suction cup-ful...it tastes like sardines." When I asked her if she liked it she made a loud slurping sound and said "Delish! It was VERY good!"

Ds said "I don't really like it...tastes like oysters."

I liked the cuttlefish, despite its appearance. Though it had a strong fishy smell, the flavor was not very fishy...actually it didn't have much flavor. It wasn't oily and rubbery like I thought it would be.

There is a recipe on the back of the box for "Cuttle Fish and Rice" which I think would be tasty. It would be especially cool if it turned the rice another color.

Self-Portrait of an 8 Year Old

In case you have been wondering what exactly my children look like, I have included an artistic rendition of my 8 year old. She drew the picture herself :)

The part I like the best is her shirt, because it really did look quite similar to what she had on. I'd say the hair looks pretty accurate too :)

Yesterday she was busy making a magazine for kids...and then somehow moved on to working on her self-portrait. She is a very crafty girl - give her glue/tape/paper/scissors and she'll end up with something clever.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Kappalandi Masala (Spicy Peanuts)


Kappalandi Masala is a snack food from India.

Kappalandi, I believe - means ground nut or peanut. The masala is "Spices, herbs and other seasonings mixed and pounded. If liquid is added, in the form of water, yoghurt or vinegar, it is referred to as a wet masala. Garam masala applies to a dry mixture."

So translated into English - I'd just call them Spicy Peanuts. And spicy they are!

Daughter tasted it and exclaimed "My tongue hurts - spicy! My tongue hurts really bad!" The boy said "Tastes like Japanese Peanuts"...almost burns your tongue off." If you like heat in your food - then these spicy nuts are for you. I think I might choke if I popped a handful into my mouth. If you like a little less heat - just mix these in with a jar of salted peanuts.



For a 8.75 oz package of these nuts, it cost $1.99.

The ingredients include: chickpea flour, rice flour, coriander, tumeric, chili powder, black pepper, salt, curry leaves, fenugreek, dry ginger, garlic, cumin seeds, cloves, peanuts, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmace.

Getting Kids to Brush Their Teeth

Does any kid like brushing their teeth? How about adding a little excitement to their daily toothbrushing ritual.

A couple of years ago we came across some “Firefly” toothbrushes for kids.

When you squeeze the handle a little light in the handle flashes on and off for one minute, just the amount of time the kids are required to brush their teeth. Aldi sells these toothbrushes for $1.00 and they come in white, blue, green, pink and red. I’ve also seen these toothbrushes at Big Lots.

The batteries last a long time; we’ve never had one run out.

For a little more toothbrushing fun – have the kids brush their teeth in the dark, so only the “Firefly” light shines.

Aldi toothbrush - $1.00
Money saved on dentist visits for rotten teeth - $1000
Kids having fun brushing their teeth – priceless!

Works for me!

For more Works for me Wednesday tips - visit "Rocks in My Dryer".

Kids in the Kitchen - Homemade Pasta


This is definitely the time of year for some hot soup - and some homemade noodles in that homemade soup!

This is a simple - kid friendly recipe to make with the kids on one of those "snow days" or when you're looking for some kitchen fun.

I've made these noodles five or so times and they've always turned out great (or maybe we just have low noodle standards around these parts).

It has been my experience that young kids love pasta. They don't necessarily go for the tomato sauces or creamy sauces - they like their noodles bare (with maybe a sprinkle of parmesan or a dab of butter).

My kids enjoy helping make noodles - b/c it's fun to see this glob of dough turning into one of their favorite meals. You do NOT need a pasta machine.

Let the kids do as much of this themselves! I know some moms have a hard time letting kids do things in the kitchen. Whether it's due to fear that the kids will get hurt or fear that the kids will "ruin" the recipe...or my usual concern - it's just faster to do it myself! But this is an activity for the kids - so try to keep your hands out as much as possible. And it doesn't matter if it takes a lot longer because remember you are doing this because you've got some time to kill!

Homemade noodles

1 egg, beaten
1/2 t salt
2 T milk or water
1 c flour

1. Combine egg, salt and milk or cold water.
2. Add enough flour to make a stiff dough, mixing with your hands when it gets too stiff to stir with a wooden spoon.
3. Roll very thin - 1/8" thick on a floured surface...let dry 30 min. before cutting
4. Roll up as for a jellyroll, and slice thin or cut into strips with a sharp knife.
5. Spread out to dry for at least 2 hrs before cooking. When dried, the noodles can be stored several days in an airtight container, or they can be frozen.

To prepare - drop dried noodles into boiling broth or water. Continue cooking 8-15 min or until tender.

NOTE: I do not roll my flat dough up - instead I leave it laying flat and cut out the strips with a pizza cutter. Nice and kid friendly - don't need to worry about them slicing off fingers. Of course the strips are not even - but that adds to the "rustic" look of these noodles. I guess you could use a ruler and run the pizza cutter down the side of it to make the strips more even.

I read a fun way to let the noodles dry. Place a broom handle between 2 chairs and cover with a clean dish towel. Hang the noodles over the towel. I tried that for the first time and it worked great! (the kids thought I was crazy...) A lot of the noodles did break when I took them off the broom - don't know if it was b/c I let them dry too long (all afternoon) 0r what the reason was. But I had planned to break them up into bite-sized chunks for the soup I was making anyway - so that worked out fine.

Noodles Hanging to Dry

My kids prefer the noodles pretty plain - but I usually add them to some homemade soup. I usually cook the noodles before adding them to the soup so they don't soak up all the soup water - but you can do it either way.

As you are probably noticing - the noddles in these pictures look whole-wheatish. I decided to try using half white flour and half whole wheat flour (I also doubled the recipe to get this amount of noodles). The mix of flours worked out great - and the kids still loved them!

Close up of dried noodles

For more winter fun with the kids - check out Scribbit. She is hosting a Winter Bazaar - fun ideas for winter entertainment.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Bamboo Shoots


Bamboo shoots are "...the edible shoots (new bamboo culms that come out of the ground) of bamboo species Bambusa vulgaris and Phyllostachys edulis. They are used in numerous Asian dishes and broths, and are available in supermarkets in various sliced forms, both fresh and canned versions." (from Wikipedia)

We bought the canned variety of bamboo shoots. I think it cost about $1.50 (I threw away the receipt as it was before I wanted to include prices)...based on the food item and size of the can - I don't think I would have paid more than $1.50 for it.

I read that if the smell was strong - you could boil it for 5 min. in fresh water - so that is what I did. I still thought the smell was unpleasant - kind of like cooked rubber. The shoots resemble noodles - kind of fat and long...longest was about 4 inches. ..and about the same color as noodles.

At first there is a bit of a crunch and then it's chewy. It didn't have much flavor. I know you can add it to different dishes - so I imagine it takes on the flavor of whatever spices or meat you are mixing it with.

Dd liked them a lot. "Not much taste - kind of a hint of noodle...pretty good...I'll have more." Ds said "A sense of wood and cardboard...I like bamboo shoots." These are kids that love any kind of pasta - and will eat it either plain or with a sprinkle of parmesan, so not surprising that they liked the taste.

I Better Be Careful of Those Foreign Pickle Jars

"A Slovenian woman who found a mouse foot in a jar of pickles was shocked to be told it was "completely normal".

Lenka Komparova contacted the Health Ministry as she prepared to sue the company producing the food.

But, instead of supporting her claim for compensation, officials said she should see the mouse foot as a "special additive".

I came across this interesting story this morning. Obviously not all countries have the same standards of what is, and what is not, normal.

Stories that hail from foreign lands - it's hard to know whether or not they are fact or fiction.

But it does make me wonder what could be lurking in my jar of pickled gem squash from Poland!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Of Cabbages and Kings or Of White Castle and Baroque


"The time has come," the Walrus said,

"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."

I'm not talking about cabbages or kings, but two things that are just as dissimilar as cabbages and kings are.


White Castle and Baroque.

Today was a first for our children. The first time they have ever eaten at a White Castle. They were a bit hesitant to go, being die-hard McDonalds' Happy Meal fans, but then they got excited about going somewhere new.

About 10 years ago I experienced my first White Castle meal. I was not impressed. It took me 10 years to risk it again.

The kids were excited because onion rings were on the menu. They generally don't like onions - but they love onion rings. "This hamburger is better than McDonalds!" the girl exclaimed. The boy thought it was great. They ate all their onion rings, their White Castle burgers and decided they needed another burger. "Two!" says the girl. I ordered one more for each of them. Hmmmm all of a sudden the burgers were not so great. "The bun is so soggy!" says the girl trying to scrape off the tiny onions and the mushy part of her burger. "I've had enough" says the boy after one bite. Dad ate the girl's burger as she was complaining too much. The boy decided to eat his.

I had to agree with the girl. My burgers were a bit on the mushy bun side too. I have NEVER been able to deal with mushy bread. Whether it was a sandwich or a hamburger or whatever - any mushy parts had to be torn off. If I make a picnic lunch - my sandwiches need to be made when I get to the location, for fear that a bit of dampness from the meat or mustard will cause some unbearable sight of mush.

As it is, I loathe store bought bread. Specifically store bought white sandwich bread. Take one bite, chew a few times and your mouth is full of glue.

So even though the overall burger at White Castle was tasty and cute - the mushy burger issue might prevent me from ever returning. I loved the fries!

Now how does Baroque fit in with White Castle? Well it doesn't really. Except for the fact that after White Castle we went to a family concert series at the symphony hall - and the music was from Handel and Vivaldi.

The program is a series geared towards children ages 3-12. Before we headed out, we listened to some Vivaldi and dad gave them a quick lesson on Baroque Music.

Seems like the kids enjoyed the event some...enjoyed seeing the beautiful symphony hall with all it's chandeliers... and listening for awhile to the concert, but later claimed they were "bored." They both agreed their favorite instrument there, was the harpsichord.

The children behaved well, so I was pleased with that. Not so pleased with the little kid behind me that kept kicking our seats!

So since the kids said they were "bored" and "it took so long" (1 hour!) - I guess we'll never do it again. Ha! They won't get off that easy. "Take your medicine kid - it's good for you!"

We're not taking them there because we think immediately they will love it. But rather, if they have no exposure to it - how will they know whether or not they like it. Just like food, music and other experiences, can be an "acquired taste." You need to experience it a number of times before you find out you really like it. And maybe if you don't like it at aged 8, you'll like it at aged 10 or maybe at aged 30. It's part of their "aural education." :)

Both children enjoy listening to all types of music, including Classical and Opera. I'm sure some purists would frown on it - but there is a great Opera CD for children
World's Very Best Opera for Kids... in English!

Another music series I like for children is Beethoven's Wig: Sing Along Symphonies.

The kids have also listened to some Opera in "foreign tongue", and listened to "real" classical music before listening to Beethoven's Wig, so I'm not just trying to "dumb it down" by giving them music geared to children. My two cents, for what it's worth (and that is about the worth of it is) - is to have the kids listen to unadulterated versions of the music first and once they have had a taste, give it to them in a fun way too.


Gooseberries

The only thing I ever heard about gooseberries, was that they are very sour. Not the kind of berry you would sprinkle on a bowl of cereal in the morning.

Being that it is winter time, I wasn't about to come across any fresh gooseberries...and if I had, I imagine they would be about as expensive as any other fresh berry this time of the year. So luckily I came across some canned gooseberries (less than $2 I think) IN SYRUP.

On one hand - I don't like tasting something in syrup because I feel like it's kind of cheating and you're masking the real flavor. On the other hand, some things are just not meant to be eaten sans sugar - and if we all took a bite of one without any sweetener, and just spit it out and declared it "nasty" - that would hardly be giving it a fair chance.

The ingredients were simple...just gooseberries, water and sugar - and they came from Lincolnshire, UK.

I thought they looked and tasted similar to the little grapes in canned fruit salad. I liked them and would enjoy tasting them picked fresh and cooked up in a pie. My dd thought they were "sweet and sour but pretty good." The boy, as mentioned before, not a big fruit eater declared them "Horrible!"

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise

This past week I have been enjoying the book, "Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise," by Ruth Reichl.

Ruth was a food critic at The New York Times. As such, a lot of the restaurants had photos and descriptions of her posted, so that when/if she ever came to their restaurant they could be sure to give her wonderful, quick, doting service and perfectly prepared dishes.

Ruth wanted to get a true picture of the restaurants, their food and their service - so she felt the only way she'd be able to do that, would be if she changed her appearance.

Enlisting an old family friend who had experience in "show business", she created a new look and personality to go with it. She would use her new persona for a time and then move on to another one.

Once she was a elderly, quiet woman whom "no one noticed", so ordinary in appearance she was. Another time she was her deceased mother Miriam - who was very flamboyant and demanded to be noticed.

So far the book has been entertaining. The descriptions of the restaurant dishes are wonderful. I've never eaten fois gras (fattened liver of a duck or goose) - and don't plan on eating it in the near future - but the way Ruth describes the taste and appearance, it pretty much makes me wish I was popping a fat liver into my mouth. Of course one would never be "popping" fois gras into one's mouth...it would be something you would savor...eating slowly, with small ladylike bites.

When Ruth critiqued a restaurant she would not visit just one time but maybe 4 or 5 times to make sure that the food/service wasn't especially good or especially bad that one time. And she'd also go as herself, so she could see the difference it made in the way she was treated when she was incognito or when she was known.

So I guess the moral of the story is - if you want good service and great food...you better look/act like you are used to great service and great food. I haven't finished the book yet - so perhaps there is another "moral" coming my way.

Incidentally, I generally do not frequent the restaurants Ruth writes about...my idea of a "nice restaurant" is the likes of Bandanas or Applebees... I'm sure I've never paid more than $20 for a meal. Anything over $10 is exiting my comfort zone.

This is how I figure it. Once a meal is finished and my stomach is full - it doesn't really matter if I ate a McDonalds "Happy Meal", soup and a sandwich at home, or a $10 meal at Applebees. The end result is the same. My hunger is gone. Well the end result isn't quite the same. If I ate the food at home - it might cost me $1.00...the happy meal $3.00 and the Applebees meal (with soda!) about $10.00. The difference is how much enjoyment you get out of the meal before and during the time you are there. Another difference would be that the food at home would probably contain a few drizzles of fat whereas the restaurant meal would contain about a pound of fat and a cup of salt (both of which I love!)

I'm not running down "nice restaurants" - if it wasn't for the money factor, I'd definitely be there. I'm just not willing to pay a whole lot for "ambiance" and a passing pleasure. Of course I don't mind someone else paying for me to enjoy the ambiance and passing pleasure! ;) And I don't mind reading about someone else preparing or feasting on wonderful dishes - I can experience those things vicariously and expense free.

---
"I've had my first ever juice injury!" the boy solemnly told me just now. He is the self-imposed boss of making sure there is juice for breakfast, and if there isn't, he begins the difficult task of making it (ie adding water to frozen concentrate). He gets pretty concerned when I have not done my duty and made sure there is a can in the freezer to immediately fill the empty juice pitcher.

He explained how he was getting out the juice can and somehow, someway the can banged his hand against the chair and cut his finger (no blood...just a little skin scrape).

Awhile later he's back with, "My sister is trying to look up in her "First Aid" book what to do (about his finger)...she's looking up cuts and nose bleeds."

I reassured him that it was NOTHING serious at all, and he ran off.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Blood Orange

I finally got to try a blood orange! Hard to imagine I have lived 39 years without trying one.

You have to admit the name is a bit off putting. What sounds better "I think I'll have one of these little Cutie Clementine Oranges" or "I think I'll try a Blood Orange"? Blood orange makes you think of blood, and blood isn't something you generally like to think about consuming (unless you are a vampire...or a mosquito).

The blood orange cost .69 for one.

I just sliced it into a few thin slices and gave each of us a taste.


Well, unsurprisingly it tasted like an orange. I'd say not as sweet as a regular orange - but still delicious. I love the color!

The next time I buy some, I'd like to try making some freshly squeezed juice.

Show and Tell Friday - End of An Era


Ah yes, some exciting photos of a computer paper box and file folders. I'm sure you've never seen the likes of that before have you?

Well it's what's in the boxes and folders and binders that are the real treasure. Problem is - I can't give you a closer peek. Oh, well I could - but then you'd be seeing some very personal information...not just about me - which I could choose to show - but information about the daily lives of those in our circle - that we love.

These are hundreds...maybe a thousand, I've never tried to count them - of letters written to me and to my dh ever since we were teenagers.

When I married my dh 12.5 yrs ago, I found out that he did the same thing that I did. He saved every letter (for the most part) he ever received... So these are stacks and stacks of letters written by our parents, our friends, our relatives and some penpals. These letters span a period of about 27 years.

Some of the letters are from people we loved, that have now died. Some are from people we are no longer in contact with. But nonetheless, all are or were a part of our lives at some point.

They are special for that reason, but also because those letters represent the end of an era, so to speak. The era of the written letter. Handwritten for the most part. With the arrival of computers and email - letters became quick notes, not lengthy epistles. Sure with email you get a quick as it's happening or happened account of something in someones' life. But it's not quite the same. You miss out on the (sometimes) beautiful paper it was written on, the (sometimes) beautiful handwriting...or just the familiar... Sometimes a newspaper article, or a comic or some little do-dad was included with the letters.

I believe in this stack is every single letter my dh wrote to me, and I wrote to him - beginning when he was 10 and I was 14. We lived 1000 miles apart and were "just friends" for most of those letter writing years. What a great written history we will have preserved for our children.

Reading the letters I wrote and sent to my dh is like reading a diary. Events that I have long forgotten are there in front of me.

This huge lot doesn't even show all the letters that were saved in scrapbooks and the letters that are still in our file cabinet (letters from the past year or so).

Do I save all the emails I receive? No. Sure they are saved in my "mailbox" - but they have not (for the most part) been printed off and saved "for ever".

What will I do with this huge collection of history? How will I preserve it? I don't know. But I want to figure something out. Some of the letters were laid flat, hole-punched and stored in binders.

I found this website just now, that talks about how to preserve old letters - they are specifically talking about war letters, but the same procedures works for any kind of letter. I haven't had a chance to go through all the information - but I will.

For more Show and Tell Friday items - check out There is No Place Like Home.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Frugal Friday - Tracking Daily Expenses

Have you ever gone on a shopping receipt hunt? You know how it is. You get home and found out that the thing-a-ma-jig you bought doesn't fit/look right/match - whatever. You need the receipt to return it and it's nowhere to be found. Or you are about to enter your weekly expenses into your spreadsheet or budget software - and you can't remember how much you paid for groceries that week.

You check inside the bag. You check your purse...inside your wallet and all the purse pockets. Then you check your pant's pocket, your jacket pocket. Most times you are lucky and it's found - other times you're not. And so now you are stuck with an ill-fitting thing-a-ma-jig...or a "hole" in your spreadsheet.

Well I recently found the perfect solution.

I bought the cutest little plastic, purple, pocket/expanding file case. It is small enough to fit inside a purse and it only cost $1 at Target. Yes I know an ordinary envelope would work and it's cheaper - but this has 7 pockets (one for each day of the week) and it's plastic. Paper envelopes tear and things fall out of it. They also get rumpled up and "hidden" amongst all your other pursely goods.

Keep it right next to your wallet in your purse, so that you remember to take it out each time – and put the receipt in the folder. Then at the end of the week you have all your receipts in one place, and separated by days of the week.

No more missing receipts due to shoving them in your pocket, the bottom of your purse or the grocery bag. No more missing receipts when you need to return something to the store.

It’s also big enough to keep a pen and a small notepad or piece of paper, inside…that way if you don’t get a receipt you can write it down before it gets forgotten.

If you don't have a budget for yourself right now and you don't even know where to begin - you can begin by tracking every single penny you spend for a week.

It's unbelievable how much money slips through the cracks...$2 for coffee, $6 for lunch, $3 for a magazine, .50 for a pack of gum, .50 for a newspaper...$1.07 for a slurpee :)

It's hard to decide that you are going to allocate a certain dollar amount to a budget line item - if you don't even know how much you are spending on that line item presently.

For more Frugal Friday tips - please visit Crystal over at Biblical Womanhood.

Freshly Baked Portuguese Corn Bread


I love to bake bread. But I have to be in the mood for it. And once I'm in the mood for it - I might continue on a bread baking "frenzy" for a time.

Our latest bread was Portuguese Corn Bread (PCB) - a.k.a. Broa De Milo. We love cornbread. Cornbread from a mix - nice and sweet. Homemade cornbread - tasty but less sweet. Blueberry cornbread - a cool combination. Pretty much any cornbread is wonderful...especially served with chili or homemade soup.

I thought the PCB was interesting, since it was combining a yeast bread with a typically non-yeast bread. I just so happened to have cornmeal on hand, so I began the bread baking.

No matter how many times I realize it AFTER the fact, and thus should know better the many "next times"...this was a case where I began the recipe and realized too late that I did not have quite the amount of an integral ingredient, as was called for. But I figured I could make do.

I love my book, "The World Encyclopedia of Bread and Bread Making" because of all the coloful pictures of the different breads and because it also includes some historical information on breads of the world.

When I have read reviews on this book -they were not all very favorable - and some talked of recipe inaccuracies - which I can attest to. So when I use a recipe from this book I pretty much expect that I will need more flour or more water - or both. But other than that - I have enjoyed making some of the breads in this recipe book.

This bread has some extra rising time - so I'm glad I started in earlier in the day. Instead of making one large round loaf - I made two smaller ones. I did not have enough cornmeal (due to another round of frog legs) - so I used extra flour. Also the loaf was to be sprinkled before baking, with polenta - and I planned on using cornmeal for that too, since I did not have any polenta (which appears to be similar to cornmeal)...so I ended up sprinkling flour on the tops.



The PCB turned out wonderful! Warm, with a thin layer of butter spread on top - delicious! Both kids thought it was great...ds said, "This bread with that juice would make a good summer Sunday meal." I'm not quite sure where that all came from - we do tend to eat lightly Sunday night - so perhaps that was what he was thinking. Today when he was talking about his soup he said "It has a HINT of something like Bandana's (BBQ place)." It was the smoky flavor. Well maybe he's on his way to becoming a food critique.

The PCB did not have an overly strong taste of cornmeal - which was fine with me, though I'd like to try it again using the right amount of cornmeal. It is pretty "dry" like cornbread can be - but it doesn't crumble and fall apart like cornbread. It holds together real nicely when spreading jam on top. Since it doesn't have much fat in it - it's pretty healthy (which I like!), but dries out quickly.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Capers Caper

I know this picture isn't the greatest but the jar is already in the trash at the curb so I can't redo it.

Caper - 1. A playful leap or hop. 2. A frivolous escapade or prank.

Caper - The pungent grayish green flower bud of the European and Oriental caper, much used for pickles.

Today was the first time I ever tasted capers. It was also the last time.

When I saw the capers on the store shelf I think I was mixing them up in my mind with anchovies (which I've never tried before)...and was expecting them to be a bit fishy.

I was NOT prepared for the taste. It was NASTY! NASTY! NASTY! It definitely is the worst thing I have ever tasted.

It tasted like nail polish remover. I have never actually drunk nail polish remover - but the capers taste just what I expect the nail polish remover to taste like. It even smelled like nail polish remover.

I had wondered if someone had pulled a caper with my capers. You know some "bad guy" adding nail polish remover to capers in order to extract millions of dollars from the the producer. :) I just couldn't imagine that this is how they were supposed to taste.

When I read about capers, the taste was described as "pungent" or "an acquired taste".

Even though the kids did not like the capers, they were not as vehement in their dislike as I was. They thought it was "salty, vinegary, peppery". Which are all good things generally.

I got to thinking afterwards, that I should not have made such a big deal about how horrible these tasted, in front of the children. I want them to keep their taste options open and don't want them to hear "NASTY! NASTY! NASTY!" whenever they see capers in the future.

The jar of capers cost about $2.50.

Works For Me Wednesday - Getting Boys to Read

My firstborn - a girl - had no problem learning to read, she was actually one of those kids that basically taught herself to read before she was four.

When it came to teaching my son to read - I wasn't so sure how I was going to do it. He enjoyed having books read to him - but he was five and was showing no indications that he was gonna learn to do to it on his own.

I began teaching him out of the book "How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" - and it really worked. But as we neared the end of the book - I was tired of the lame stories, and wanted to move on to some "real" books for my ds to practice reading on.

I have found that boys are more "obsessive" than girls are. They focus in on something they like and that's all they can think about and all they want to play with or learn about or be around...whether it's "baseball", "big machines", "cars" or as in our case, "frontier living/army/weapons/Davy Crockett/Daniel Boone".

How do you get boys to want to read - especially at the beginning? Don't make them read the old school readers with stories like "See Jane run." "See the cat." You know the story. Maybe a little girl would enjoy the pictures and the relationship between Jane and the cute, soft, furry animals - but if your son is obsessed with "big machines" - that book isn't going to give him any encouragement to keep on learning those words.

Do what you can to find easy readers in your boy's favorite subject. If you can't because he happens to be obsessed with something children's books are not normally written about - let's say vacuum cleaners - than make your own book! It's simple. Cut out pictures of said obsession, glue then on a page and begin writing (or typing) out your story. It's a little extra work - but a happy boy that is BEGGING for a reading lesson - is your reward.

I wrote earlier this week about the Dan Frontier books that my son loves so much. They are not cheap b/c I have to find them on places like eBay - but it's been worth it. My son reminds me when we have gone too long without a reading lesson, even asking for a lesson on Saturday - and if the story is pretty riveting (in his eyes) - he doesn't want to stop reading too soon!

For more Works For Me Wednesday tips - visit Rocks in My Dryer.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Hungarian Candy
















On the way to pick up my mother-in-law from the Amtrak station a few days ago, we made a somewhat unplanned stop at the global food store. Amtrak in this area is notoriously late - and even though I had called about 1/2 hr prior to leaving for the station - as we got closer, I decided to stop and call for a train arrival update.

The best place to stop was at the store b/c then if the train was even later - we could pop inside and pick up a few things. Sure enough - 1/2 hour later than the last time I called. We went inside.

On clearance were some packages of mixed candy/chocolate for $1.49. Sounded good to me. Inside the package were some loose (but wrapped) mini chocolates, a small candy bar, a crushed chocolate Santa and 2 packages of Hungarian candies.

The kids ate the Santa. I ate the other chocolates.

The first package of candy is called Hogolyo - which in English means "Snowball". I found a neat Hungarian to English translator on-line (and also the package did say snowball - but that just confirmed that I was using the translator correctly).

The snowballs have the texture and look of mini brains. The inside is pale yellow and on the outside there is some kind of white icing. They taste more like a breakfast cereal than candy...or maybe the breakfast cereal we are used to is more like candy that cereal.

They have a lemony/strawberry-ish flavor at first - then you taste Corn Pops cereal. It does have a nice soft crunch and they are cute (if you think little white brains are cute).

Ds said, "... it tastes just like shredded wheat." (the kind with the iced tops). Dd did not like it at all. I wasn't crazy about it, but mind you I still ate about a handful of it. It's not candy - so I won't waste my calories on it (anymore that is).

The other candy is called Pehely - which means "Flake" in English. The English on the package says, "Raspberry flavoured flaky candy". The candy is striped (light and dark pink) and tastes like raspberry. It looks like a butter mint and has that soft-ish texture like a mint. Ds liked it and so did I. Dd did not like it.

Neither of these candies are something I'd go out of my way to purchase again. If it's the only candy in the house, I will eat it - but it's not really worth keeping around.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Everyone LOVES Pizza



Seems like almost every day the kids ask to have pizza for lunch. Probably once a week I agree.

Now what we call pizza in our home - might not even come close to resembling the pizza in your mind.

It's quick, easy, somewhat healthy, and my 8 yr old can make it herself.

Take one tortilla (whole wheat if we're feeling overly health conscious and have some on hand), add a small amount of shredded cheddar and a few pieces of pepperoni. Pop it into the toaster oven, turn to broil, and bake until the cheese melts.

Today we only had one tortilla in the whole house (and incidentally it was whole wheat) and there were two kids. We also had a large-ish awkward shaped piece of somewhat dried out "Afghan bread", so I decided to use that.

Out came the kitchen scissors. Voila! - Scherenschnitte! :)

"It's not Valentine's Day", said the girl when she saw my edible Scherenschnitte . They loved it!

Is Exotic Eating in Harmony with Frugality?

When Meredith over at Like Merchant Ships asked me to include the prices of the foods we buy – it started me thinking.

I realized a few weeks ago, that even before we began this blog, our family had already been buying/eating/testing exotic or ethnic foods for a long time. Since a lot of grocery stores now carry ethnic foods – they are pretty easy to find. Some are expensive. Some less so.

Being that I have talked of being frugal and have even participated in some “Frugal Friday” tip giving – I thought I ought to explain my reasons behind purchasing these items, that are not necessities, that are purchases many would not consider frugal and are not always the cheapest foods I can buy.

1. It’s education for the mind. You can use the foods as the starting point for discussing the countries they come from, the nutritional contents, and the people that eat them. A great book for further using foods as “education for the mind” is the book by Peter Menzel – “Hungry Planet: What the World Eats”. This book includes photos and essays on people in different countries and what they buy/eat in a week.

2. It’s education for the taste buds. Kids can taste foods from far-away places, without leaving the comfort of their own homes. Cheaper than flying to Mexico. Kids that only eat sweet foods or only eat bland foods – are missing out on a whole range of flavors. Sometimes kids grow out of their picky eating habits, sometimes they don’t. I’d rather introduce tastes and flavors and textures to our children while they are still young – and hope to “expand their taste buds”.

3. It's frugal to me. What does frugal even mean? Some people are frugal out of necessity (too little money or too much debt), some people are frugal by choice. Being frugal does not mean that you are cheap or miserly or greedy or selfish. It doesn’t mean that you forgo pleasures and entertainment or that you suffer – but rather that you weigh your purchases and spending against your overall goals. Being frugal gives you options to use your money in areas you believe it could be better spent – like in an “edible education” fund. :)

In a society where we want things NOW, - it’s hard for folks to understand a restraining hand when you have the money for what you want. And I place myself in that category at times too. There are a lot of things I’d like to have and I could afford to buy those things if I wanted to. But we realize that things are not always what are most important to us. Instead of spending $50 on a new shirt at the mall – I’d rather spend $5 on a “new” shirt at the thrift store (same end result – a new shirt that I like) and use the remaining $45 for something else…that something else might be a hobby, savings account, some form of entertainment, charitable giving, travel, retirement, our kids college education or even some “edible education”.

I love this definition of frugality from Wikipedia…"Frugality (also known as thrift or thriftiness)… a traditional value, life style, or belief system, in which individuals practice both restraint in the acquiring of and resourceful use of economic goods and services in order to achieve lasting and more fulfilling goals. In a money-based economy, frugality emphasizes economical use of money in meeting long term personal, familial, and communal desires."

In order to taste new and exciting foods – it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. You don’t have to buy $3.00 passion fruits. You don’t have to buy exotic foods daily or even weekly. But one .60 blood orange isn’t going to break the bank. Even stores like Aldi carry some ethnic foods – throughout the year they carry German, Mexican and Asian foods.

4. It’s fun! Our lives are pretty dull out here in the Midwest – especially during these cold days, so a little food experimentation, and blogging about it – is entertainment for us.

Children's Book Monday - Island Boy


A Path Made Straight is hosting a "Children's Book Monday" that I am participating in again.

Title: Island Boy
Author: Barbara Cooney
Illustrator: Barbara Cooney

I enjoy a lot of Barbara Cooney books...sometimes she is only the illustrator - other times the author and illustrator.

This is a book that would be suitable for children about ages 5 and up. Due to the fact that there is a lot of text on each page, and the subject matter - it's a good read out loud book.

The story does deal with death. And just re-reading the book now has made ME all teary eyed. So you'd definitely want to pre-read it before reading it aloud to your children - to see if it's something that you think would be suitable for them. There are a lot of colorful, scenic pictures.

This is one of those books that is interesting for the parent reading the story and the children listening to it. A vital combination in my opinion!

Island Boy is the story of a boy who grows up on an island with his family. The island was vacant except for his family's home...a household filled with children. The mama was a homeschooler :)


The story continues with the boy - Matthais, growing older, working with his brothers and dad. Matthais' siblings grow up and leave the island and he alone is left with his parents. Eventually he is old enough to leave home and gets a job on a ship.

Matthais travels all over - to Boston, New York and the West Indies. After 15 years of being away from home - he cannot forget the island - and he says one day he'll return home. And he does.

He returns home with his new bride - and becomes the father of 3 little girls. His brothers encourage him to move to the mainland, thinking he cannot farm without any sons. But he refuses.

More times passes. Matthais' girls become young ladies and move away. Matthais and his wife continue living alone on the island. But soon - other people start building cottages on the island - and again family tries to convince Matthais and his wife to move away. He refuses.

Then Matthais' wife dies. Still he does not leave. Every summer his daughter Annie sends her son out to the island to live with him for the season. Then Annie's husband dies. Annie and her son move in with Matthais on the island.

One day the little boy says to his grandfather "I too shall be a sea captain when I grow up...and then I will come back and live on Tibbetts Island." "It is good to see the world beyond the bay...they you will know where your heart lies." replies Matthais. "I already know," said the little boy (also named Matthais).

One day grandpa Matthais goes out in his little boat and is never seen alive again.

"The people climbed the hill and crowded into the little farmhouse to pay their respects to the steadfast old man of Tibbetts Island. "A good man," young Matthais heard them say. "A good life."

Pickled Gem Squash


Something little. Something cute. Something pickled. A vegetable with ruffled edges. How could you go wrong?

Well how about if they were SWEET pickles...

I had assumed they were dills, which no one could possibly find offensive - so I bought them.


The pickled gem squash were not as sweet as normal sweet pickles, and they didn't have the cucumber crunch of a pickle - but other than that, if your eyes were closed, you'd think you were eating sweet pickles.

As soon as the kids tasted them they said "like sweet pickles" and that was about the end of the tasting.

They do get extra points for being cute.

They would like great on a tray of pickles and olives or used as a garnish.

This large jar of gem squash cost about $2.79...and is a product of Poland. The ingredients are pretty typical of pickled foods...squash, water, vinegar, sugar, salt, peppers, onion and spices.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Sugar Palm Fruit - Kaong

Sugar Palm Fruit or Kaong - is the fruit of a sugar palm tree, and comes from the Philippines.

The fruits were little and white and egg-shaped, almost transparent.

The kids and I did not like it. It tasted super sweet, was chewy and had a bubblegummish / banana flavor. After tasting, we noticed that artificial banana flavoring was one of the ingredients. Artificial banana flavoring, never tastes good.

Dd's opinion, "too chewy and weird", ds's opinion, "tastes sweet and chewy...too banana-ful (he hates bananas - except the dried variety...and sister hates the dried variety and loves them fresh and greenish).

I guess you could think of them as the white equivalent of maraschino cherries...I love maraschino cherries - but eating them straight out of the jar isn't all that great. But, once you mix the cherries into some yummy dessert like this, or add it to a hot fudge sundae, or add it to some homemade Cherry Coke - I can't stop eating them!

Frugal Friday - Debt Free...1 lb at a Time

Crystal is hosting a Frugal Friday. Here is my contribution.

Become debt free - 1 lb at a time.

Being in debt is like being overweight. It happens so slowly you hardly notice it. But once you notice it – it’s always on your mind.

Getting out of debt is like losing weight.

Just like it took a long time to add those extra pounds to your body, it will take a long time to lose that debt. There is no “quick fix” for either of them.

Sure there are quick ways to lose weight (starve yourself, take pills, have your stomach stapled) – but unless you change the behavior that caused the weight gain, you will shortly pile those pounds back on…and more.

Same with debt. Perhaps you win the lottery and get all your debt paid off..or a dead relative leaves you $5000 and the debt is clear, or you get your income tax refund - whatever. Unless you fix the problem that caused the debt in the first place – you will be on your way to a hill of debt once again.

It’s not easy losing weight. I know …everyday for about ½ hr I get on the faithful old Nordic track and ski up a storm. I hate exercising. I’ve been doing it faithfully for about 4 years now (never exercised a day in my life before that). I know that the only way I’ll keep my weight under control is by doing something that is hard, unpleasant and sweaty. I don’t like it. It hasn’t after four years, become something I look forward to. If I don’t do it first thing in the morning – I’m always thinking about how I need to do it – and I feel a bit guilty.

It takes time before you start seeing the results of your labor….a pound here, two pounds there, and you become encouraged. You realize “I can do this!” and that is your impetus for continuing.

Getting out of debt is the same way. It’s not a pleasant process – it’s painful. Your “exercise” might be taking up a part-time job, or maybe taking a part-time job in addition to your full-time job. Maybe the house gets sold and you move in with your in-laws (temporarily!). You make some significant household spending changes.

At first you’re not going to notice much difference – you’re actually going to feel worse. It’s gonna take some time before you notice that a pound of debt here is gone, a pound of debt over there is gone. And when you start seeing, start “feeling” the difference, you will become encouraged to “keep on keeping on.”

The thing is – don’t get discouraged because the task seems insurmountable. Don’t look for a quick fix and become more discouraged. Take it one pound at a time, and after much sweat and labor – it’ll happen.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ambrosia - Creamed Rice


This tin of creamed rice is from the U.K. I have always loved homemade rice pudding, so I wondered what it would taste like canned.

Interestingly enough, sugar was not one of the first ingredients, like you would expect in a pudding. Whole milk, skim milk, whey, rice and sugar are the ingredients, in that order.

I liked the creamy texture and the light rice flavor. I would have liked it sweeter though :)

Dd liked the creamed rice - ds didn't. I figured they'd find it to be similar to their favorite dessert - tapioca pudding, and did not tell them at first that it was rice pudding (I wanted them to keep their thoughts open)...just said it was similar to tapioca. "Tastes like rice." Is the first thing the girl said.

As we do with tapioca pudding, I drizzled some raspberries/sugar mixture on top. I love the contrasting colors and anything with raspberries is wonderful.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

7 Things You've Never Wanted to Know and Were Not Afraid to Ask

Mrs. Mordecai tagged me for a meme on "7 Random and or Weird Facts about yourself " (I guess that is in addition to the 8th weird fact already known - that I AM weird!)

This is my first meme, so here's hoping I do it correctly (I'm kind of lacking in sleep due to a dd that thought it would be fun to get up in the middle of the night and read in the bathroom for 1/2 hour...and every mom knows you can't sleep when your kids are lurking around in the middle of the night...and if I wake up for more than 10 min in the night I have a very hard time getting back to sleep...and then I woke up to clumping sounds at 5:50 AM and found the kids with their light on????). OK enough excuses.

Here are the rules:
  1. Link to the person who tagged you;
  2. Leave a comment on their blog so that their readers can visit yours;
  3. Post the rules on your blog;
  4. Share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself on your blog;
  5. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post;
  6. Include links to their blogs;
  7. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
Here are 7 random and/or weird facts about myself:

1. I am an ex-Canadian…and yes you can be a former one…I had to officially RENOUNCE my Canadian citizenship to become an American.
2. I have 4 sister – no brothers.
3. I am very opinionated.
4. In spite of number 3, I am very much an introvert.
5. Until I was married, I had never traveled more than 4 hrs from home. Now I live 17 hrs from home, and in a different country.
6. I hope some day we can sell our home, buy an RV, live in it full-time, and travel to every US state and then to travel to every Canadian province.
7. I didn’t learn to drive until I was 27 and married (my dh, shall I say, strongly encouraged me to get my license. One of the best things he ever did!).
8. I'm cheating and adding a third - I love to play Scrabble!

I am now going to tag:

1. Chickadee at A Familiar Path

2. Meredith at Like Merchant Ships

3. Monica at The Homespun Heart

Winter Bazaar - Eskimo Picnics


Scribbit is hosting a Winter Bazaar - fun ideas for winter entertainment.

The kids and I take a lot of picnics throughout the year - and yes that includes picnics in the winter. These cold picnics are referred to as "Eskimo Picnics". Granted, the weather in the Midwest is not equal to weather in Alaska or in Manitoba, Canada (where I grew up)...but it still gets cold enough that we need to wear our winter jackets, mitts, hat etc.

For our Eskimo picnic I pack a lunch (something easy to eat with gloves on - like a homemade tortilla pizza) and something hot to drink - usually hot chocolate. We head out to one of our towns many parks and the kids play until they are hungry, or shall I say, until I am hungry.

Another good winter picnic item is some soup (in a thermos).