Gretchen Schock shares her love of recipes, crafts and frugal living. She also speaks very opening about the challenges and triumphs of parenting a neurotypical child and a child on the Autism Spectrum. After a breast cancer scare in 2012, she decided to say goodbye to her nightly glasses of Chardonnay. It was time to get sober and live life with eyes wide open! The CocktailMom name remains, however with a new focus on healthy and authentic living.

11/30/2007

Categories

Just wanted to let you, our readers, know we have been doing some organizing on the blog. We added labels to all of our posts and on the right hand side of the blog you will see a new list of categories. This should make it easier for you to find the topics that you are interested in reading about. Enjoy the weekend!

11/27/2007

Raisin Oatmeal Scones

The biggest way to save money in your food budget is to make breakfast. And I'm not talking about popping Eggos in the toaster. Breakfast can be the cheapest meal of the day. Schedule some time over the weekend to make a batch of muffins or these yummy scones. And just so you know I have substituted raisins for dried cranberries and dried blueberries and they always come out fantastic!
And remember....breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
  • 1 1/2 cups of flour
  • 1 cup uncooked oatmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup softened butter
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup sour milk (milk with 2 teaspoons of vinegar added)
  • 1 egg beaten
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix dry ingredients, cut in butter and raisins. Stir in enough sour milk just to moisten. Divide the dough in half. Flour hands and pat dough into 2 circles on a greased cookie sheet about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into bars or squares. Bake 10 minutes. Brush on egg and then bake until golden brown.
Serve with honey or jam.

11/26/2007

Winter Window Draft Stoppers

It's that time again, time to winterize the house. Our house is very old which means DRAFTY!

I've tried the weatherstripping tape sold at Home Depot and Lowe's and was extremely frustrated when I had to take it off the windows and the tape left a sticky residue that took me hours to scrap off with a single razor blade. This year I wanted to make something that I could use year after year. So I created what I call Window Draft Stoppers, much like those draft stoppers for doors that my Grandma use to have in her house and that I later used in the college dorm to keep certain smells from wafting into the hallway. :)

I measured the width of the window and the depth of the area where the draft stopper would sit and cut scrap fabric according to those dimensions. I found the best fabric to use was a flannel. Basically I made a long rectangle, sewing around the 3 sides, leaving one end open. I turned it inside out and then filled each draft stopper with unused, recycled, pine cat litter. Once filled, I hand sewed the opened end shut.
I am amazed on how well they work. These would also be great for renters since most windows are standard sizes you can take them with you when you move.

11/25/2007

Sew Green Mentions CocktailMoms

I read this neat blog called Sew Green and one of the writers asked for ideas on how to wrap gifts this year in an environmentally friendly way, so I sent her links to my 2 posts on wrapping gifts and she mentioned them in her blog post.
Enjoy!

11/21/2007

Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake

This is a great recipe if you feel like switching up the classic pumpkin pie at the Thanksgiving table this year. I used ready made crusts, who has the time for making crusts? I know I don't. This recipe will make 2 pies. I used a chocolate graham crust for one and a shortbread one for the other. Both are delicious!
  • 2 packages of 8 oz bar cream cheese
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 can of solid-pack pumpkin puree
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces semi sweet chocolate chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl except the chocolate. Mix with a hand mixer until smooth. Set aside. Melt the chocolate. We don't have a microwave so I melted the chocolate in a saucepan with a small amount of milk. If you know how to melt chocolate in the microwave...go for it! Add 1 cup of pumpkin mixture to the chocolate and combine. Set aside. Pour the pumpkin mixture into ready made crust pie pans. Then pour chocolate mixture on top. Take a knife and gently swirl it through the 2 mixtures but don't over do it. Place in the oven and bake uncovered for 40-50 minutes. Bake until cheesecake is set but jiggles slightly when shaken. Cool in pan. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours (and up to 2 days).

11/20/2007

Yummy Dog Treats

So you have a girlfriend who doesn't have children but treats her precious pups as kids? Instead of buying another toy or trendy collar this Christmas whip up a batch of homemade dog biscuits that are sure to please everyone.

Peanut Butter Biscuits
  1. 2 cups whole wheat flour
  2. 1 cup wheat germ
  3. 1 cup peanut butter
  4. 1 egg
  5. 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  6. 1/2 cup water
  7. 1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine numbers 1, 2 and 7 in a bowl and mix. Then add remaining ingredients. Roll dough out on a floured surface about 1/2" thick. Cut out with cookie cutters. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 1" small cookies for 15-25 minutes. 3" large cookies for 30-35 minutes. Let cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge.


Oatmeal Biscuits
  1. 1 1/2 cups of oatmeal
  2. 1 cup flour
  3. 1 cup cornmeal
  4. 1 egg
  5. 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  6. 1/2 cup water
  7. 1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine numbers 1, 2, 3 and 7 in a bowl and mix. Then add remaining ingredients. Roll dough out on a floured surface about 1/2" thick. Cut out with cookie cutters. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 1" small cookies for 15-25 minutes. 3" large cookies for 30-35 minutes. Let cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

11/19/2007

Free Rice and Improved Vocabulary

I LOVE THIS SITE!!!! FREERICE.COM Gretchen introduced it to me over the weekend and I can't stop. I just adore the fact that while I'm improving my vocabulary, as I prepare for the GRE Test, that I am also donating rice to hungry people.

FreeRice has two goals:

  1. Provide English vocabulary to everyone for free.
  2. Help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free.
Just go to the site right now and I promise that you will be addicted too.

And now for a blog question and confession.

Confession: Gretchen does most of the upkeep on the blog. She has done a lovely job of making the layout and making the archiving happen as well - as a bunch of other stuff that I don't even know she does to make sure the site runs smoothly. So a great thanks goes out to her!! I mention this because I am stumped with a blog question.

Blog Question: At the bottom of this blog page I have added a picture provided by freerice.com but I cannot seem to figure out how to make the picture a link. Instead I have added text link above the picture. There must be a way to do this. Please post a comment and enlighten me on how to make this picture/link situation work.

And again, thanks to Gretchen for introducing me to FreeRice.com and for keeping this blog up and running!

Pressed Pennies

Our friend Ryan recently introduced us to pressed pennies for collecting while visiting the National Museum of Natural History in DC. His wife actually collects them but for us we immediately thought it would be perfect for our kids. Honestly it would be perfect for any young kid. Now every museum or destination (example rest stops on a road trip) we bring along 51 cents to press a penny. Recently we went to the Baltimore Aquarium and instead of buying an overpriced souvenir in the gift shop both of my kids were thrilled to pick out their picture for their pennies.
If you don't have kids yourself set your nephew or niece up with a penny passport and a pressed penny from the state you live in. Then every time you visit him/her bring a pressed penny to add to their collection. You'll immediately be the favorite aunt, and that's what we all want. Right?!?!

11/09/2007

Casual Coasters

I finally mailed out Jessica's b-day gift a month late (sorry again Jabby!) and part of her gift was casual coasters. From her previous posts you know she has been having a dilemma coming up with low cost coasters. I scoured my scrapbook stash and went to work. They key is to use card stock as the backing and embellish each square with paper scraps and flat stickers. I have a Xyron machine that laminates so I used that but you could also use regular clear contact paper that can be found @ craft stores or office supply stores.
Not a scrapbooker? No problem!

Start saving all the cards you get in the mail for holidays and birthdays. It's card stock weight and can easily be cut and laminated. I saved all the cards that my 4 year old got in the mail for his birthday and plan to make coasters out of them. What better way to train a child to use a coaster if the coaster has pictures of Superman on it. This technique may also work on significant others. I thought the days of coasters were over once I had children since most break when thrown or dropped but now I am excited about bringing these into our home. And besides Superman goes with any decor.

11/08/2007

Daily Rituals

Recently, I read the nationwide bestseller Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I mostly read non-fiction books on Buddhism or informative semi-manuals like Fast Food Nation. Nationwide bestsellers aren't usually what I prefer cuddle up with, but this book was given to me by a friend who was extremely excited that I should read it. I could tell she had been deeply affected by the book, so I gave it a go.

After just a few pages of reading I thought to myself, "Everybody should be reading this!" As it turns out, everybody was! Everywhere I looked I saw another woman reading the book or if I went into a bookstore it was on the "Staff Recommends" shelf.

Eat, Pray, Love is an exceptionally well written account of one woman's breakdown to breakthrough transformation that I would encourage all women (and men too!) to read. Especially if you are going through a heart wrenching break-up or struggle with the guilt of dealing with depression in an otherwise-seemingly-fantastic life. There are several miracles that take place throughout Ms. Gilbert's journey but the most miraculous part of the book for me is how the author retells her tale without apology.

Thanks to Gretchen's heads-up, I was able to see Elizabeth Gilbert recently on Oprah. It wasn't a choice in Oprah's book club; it was just an interview with Ms. Gilbert about the book and the world's reaction to it. After you read the book, you should definitely go to oprah.com and watch the fantastic conversation.

My favorite part of the interview is when Elizabeth described the two daily practices that she does to keep herself in balance. I have been practicing these two simple daily rituals for the last few weeks and have found them to be rewarding and informative.

The first happens first this in the morning. Everyday when she wakes up she writes and then completes the following question in a journal:

What do I really, really, really want.....?

She remarked that the three reallys are very important because she wants to record what she really, really, really wants in her life. It is not a list of the things you might like but a list what you deeply desire. I look forward to evaluating the patterns that will emerge from recording this statement over a period of time.

Her second practice is to take that same notebook before she goes to sleep and to record:

The happiest or most joyful moment of my day was...

This helps brings gratitude to the forefront and, for me at least, has made me re-evaluate the activities I am doing on a daily basis. The most interesting part of looking for Joy throughout the day is that, because I have been looking for it, happiness seems to be popping up everywhere.

Friends

In Seattle I have 3 girlfriends and we call ourselves the Jitterbugs. We were in the same MOMs Club, we each had a 6 month old kid and long story short we met every week in each other's homes for playgroup for the last 3 years. We experienced everything together, even the births of our 2nd kids. We included the husbands in this circle of friendship by having J-Bug family dinners every other month and Moms Night Out.
And now even though I am across the USA, in Maryland, we still talk via email daily. I honestly couldn't imagine life without them. If a few days go by without an email someone finally hits the send button with an email title "where are you???"
One of my J-bug friends, Wendi, sent this article to all of us and I haven't been able to get it out of my head. It's made me think about how I am approaching possible new friendships. I've found myself comparing women I meet to the J-bugs or else I'm immediately attracted to befriending someone that reminds me or looks like one of the J-bugs. I'm like one of those people you go on a date with and all they talk about is their ex-boyfriend/girlfriend. Sure, it's humorous and I know now that I need to stop and be open to new friendships by letting go of the J-bug comparison chart.
The article also had me thinking about those women in our lives that we have let go of. The friend that knew you before marriage and kids and who you thought was your "Best Friend Forever".
I'm thankful I have the J-bugs and also Jessica, we have withstood the test of time and distance with our friendship. But their are a few women out there that I often think about.
Kisha Howard
Brooke Spradlin Carter
Kelly Riale
Jeanne Hughes
Where are they? What are they doing with themselves?
And then their are friendships like the one I have with Cindy, she reads this blog and I read hers and it makes us feel as though we are still connected to each other. But we barely talk on the phone or email anymore. And I mourn the loss of that.
In short...friendships...they come and they go. Check out the article and then pick up the phone and call your old BFF.

11/07/2007

Wrapping Paper

Every year I try and come up with a clever way to wrap gifts for the holidays that is both environmentally friendly and frugal. As I passed a neighbors' house I noticed a box on the front lawn with the word "FREE" on it, I just had to stop and take a look. Not only did I find several hardback books for me and my husband but I also scored 2 rolls of Christmas wrapping paper. I think my family will be shocked this year to see actual wrapping paper on their gifts, I'll leave out the part that it was free. Here is a list of ideas for wrapping your gifts this year.
  1. Children's Art Work: If you have children that are in school I'm sure, like me, you have a stack of artwork sent home from school. After proud placement on the fridge the artwork gets moved to a folder in our house and then when holidays or birthdays arrive I wrap gifts in the kid's art. There is no possible way to keep every masterpiece my sons make so I spread the love to grandparents and other family members.
  2. Old Magazines: I'm not a fan of using newspaper because of the ink transferring to your fingertips. If you have an Oprah fan on your list and you just so happen to subscribe to Oprah magazine, take the time to pull out some cool pages to wrap the gift. This is the key, I think, to make the present look unique and well thought out. Another example is to use pages of recipes from multiple magazines and use it wrap the gift for the "chef" in your family. Take the time to pick and choose the pages and because each wrapping is catered to that individual it won't come across as looking "cheap".
  3. Fabric: I'm a children's clothing designer so I have quite a stash of odd remnants of fabric. But fabric is something you can pick up for cheap or almost free at yard sales. This is a great wrapping for the crafter/quilter/sewer on your list. The wrapping is part of the present!
  4. A Present Within a Present: I can't remember who I did this for but I remember it was a boy gift. I found this awesome vintage t-shirt and wrapped the t-shirt (as if wrapping paper) around a hardcover book, using double sided tape to keep in place and adding a ribbon for the final touch. You could even have a t-shirt wrapping paper theme and wrap all your gifts in t-shirts, I'm sure you would get quite an applause for the creativity of it. I've also used this idea at baby showers and used a cotton baby blanket for the wrapping of the actual gift. A perfect environmentally friendly gift- no waste!
  5. Outdated Manuals: Go through your stash of manuals that have come with every appliance or computer program you purchased and purge the ones for the programs/ appliances you no longer own. Makes a great wrapping for the "geek" on your list. They may get a chuckle out of your original windows 95 manual and the bonus is you also purged random clutter in your life.
  6. For those of you who have adopted my Movie Book Space Saver Idea and don't know what to do with all those DVD sleeves you thought to save, tape a few together and wrap your child's gift in that.
  7. Old Calendar Pages: With the new year ahead the 2007 family calendar will soon be making it's appearance in the recycle bin, give it a detour and use it as wrapping paper and you'll be using something twice before recycling. LOVE THAT!
  8. This idea is for Gift Tags: If you use a photo processing place to print your pictures you may have too many copies of one shot or else what you thought looked awesome on the touch order screen is actually horrible. Or maybe, like me, you have a box hidden deep in a closet of random-not-so-good pictures from back in the day of film processing. Recycle those pictures as gift tags. Cut them to size and write the To and From on the back. You may want to embellish the pictures with funny mustaches and balloon phrases, I'm sure the humor will be much enjoyed.

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