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.

4/30/2008

Shred your own cheese


By taking the few seconds to shred your own cheese you will save money. Check your local Costco cause mine just started selling blocks of organic cheese. I bought a 16 oz block for $5.99, the pre-shredded counterpart weighing in at 8oz costs 4.99.
Not only will you save money you will slim down too. Since shredding your own takes time you won't be as inclined to pile on the cheese on your next handmade pizza.

4/29/2008

Introducing Felix (the Beta Fish)


It is true - I want a dog. But the timing is just not right for us.

Announcement: After much debate, Greg and I will be staying in Boulder, CO for the next 3-4 years while Greg pursues a Ph.D.

Finally, settled in a place that is super dog-friendly we couldn't wait to find an apartment that would allow us to rescue a friendly four-legged fuzz ball. Unfortunately, we weren't able to find an apartment that was suitable for our needs and allows fuzzy roommates. The biggest obstacle is the fact the Boulder is a huge college town and all the "pet friendly" digs have been destroyed by their previous tenants and their pets. So we will wait another year and search again.

So, in order to have something lovely and living to take care of we brought Felix into our home last night. He is already bowl-trained and doing well. He is no where near as exciting as The Skovron Family's latest addition but we appreciate him just the same.

Creepy Crawlers

It's so amazing to rediscover the world through a child's eyes.
My youngest son spent the afternoon getting reacquainted with worms. This is the child who I caught eating worms last summer but has always refused to eat spaghetti. Well now that he's a year older and wiser he's given up adding them into his diet and instead is completely fascinated by the worms. I snapped a few pictures while he let a worm wiggle in his hands. Who needs the latest, greatest, made in china toy when you have a yard full of creepy crawlers.

4/28/2008

Mother's Day

Mother's day is right around the corner, May 11th for those of you who had to think about it for a second. And this year forgo the flowers or "Mom" printed coffee mug, this year do something simple and from the heart. As a mom, what I think most mom's would like for mother's day is for their work to be acknowledged. Sit down and write your mom a letter. Thank her for all of the wonderful things she has done for you, and be specific...recall some of your favorite memories perhaps always seeing her cheering you on from the sidelines or proudly displaying your artistic masterpiece in her office. Write it out on pretty paper...yes you read that correctly...WRITE with a pen. Personal letters should always be in your own handwriting even if you think you have horrible handwriting, just take your time. I'm sure this will be a letter your mom cherishes forever.

4/27/2008

The Truth About Back Pain

Many of you know that for several years I struggled with chronic back pain. After years of seeking solutions, I was lucky to find Dr. Todd Sinett - my favorite doctor in the Universe. He recently publish a book, The Truth About Back Pain, which is (as the covers promises) a revolutionary, individualized approach to diagnosing and healing back pain.

This blog is dedicated to crafting, cooking, and conscious living. It is difficult to craft and cook if you are in chronic pain and you are definitely not living consciously if you are ignoring pain by habitually taking over-the-counter or prescription medications to mask pain. If countless other methods have failed, I beg you to buy this book and give it a read - it could change your life. Meeting Dr. Todd definitely changed mine.

Prior to being treated by Dr. Sinett's methods I suffered daily for over 5 years with chronic, yet not diagnosable, back pain. In addition to seeing medical doctors, physical therapists, and massage therapist I read EVERY book on back pain on the market. None are as clear and concise as Dr. Sinett's slim volume, The Truth About Back Pain. My gratitude for this book is over whelming because I know it will help others wake-up to the true causes of their chronic pain!

If you are beating yourself up for having mysterious back pain (or shoulder pain or stomach pain etc.) that keeps you from living the life you know you should be living - this book will begin to reveal to you that the pain is not just in your head. It is real; however, it might not be bending over to pick up the car keys that started it. It might be poor diet or unrecognized emotional stress.

Share this book with your chiropractor or current medical profession and see if together you can help heal your pain without costly operations or Western medical pain killers.

And, if you do live in NYC - read the book then seek treatment at Midtown Chiropractic Health and Wellness.

You don't have to live with back pain. You deserve to be happy and pain free.

4/25/2008

The Creative Family


Have a few friends with babes and you're wondering what to buy them for their b-day or mother's day? Run out and buy The Creative Family by Amanda Blake Soule.

Before the book came out I heard Amanda interviewed on a podcast and I quickly put the book on my "wish list". Sadly as many other books before this one it gets forgotten about after put on the list. But thank goodness my friend Corie is more on top of the ball and brought a copy with her on her recent trip to the east coast. After just flipping through I was again hooked. There are so many craft projects to make for your child or with them. I'm so excited to have some projects waiting in the wings for summer when school is out. Most of the ideas in the book are free or low cost to make. Using nature as your guide.

I am so inspired by Amanda's creativity and passion. She started out as a blogger, just like us Jessica, and she got a book deal out of it!! Check out her blog here: SouleMama
Notes from the CocktailMoms in print....a girl can dream!!!


4/23/2008

My First Falafel

At the beginning of this year I set a few goals for myself in the kitchen. Learn to make pizza dough, learn to can veggies & fruits, learn to pickle, and learn to make falafel.

One down, a few to go. (Thanks to Gretchen and her recent pizza dough post, crust is the next on the list.)

I ask this all the time but -- what did we do before the internet? I mean seriously? When I want to make something I've never made before, whether it be a lace edging for a scarf or bran muffins, my first step is consulting Google. My "falafel recipe" search brought back around 353,000 results. Seriously...what did I do before the internet?Of the 300,000 plus pages - I only read about 15 recipes (I mean I have to do some work at work - I can't just surf the web all day) .

Reading the different recipes allowed me to see what ingredients were staples in the recipe and which different process I could do to achieve the dish I desired to prepare. For example, after reading the various falafel recipes it was clear that re-hydrating chickpeas (which I had never done before) versus using canned chickpeas was the preferred main ingredient. One of the sites cautioned that using canned chickpeas would lead to sludge at the bottom of your blender.

The recipe from The New York Times that I decided to make had all the usual suspects as far as ingredients went, but called for the patties or balls of batter to be fried in an inch of oil. I read several other recipes that gave instruction on baking the falafel, but I knew they needed to be super crisp and I wasn't confident that baking could make that happen. So I comprised: I pan- fried the less than a 1/4 cup flatten patties of batter for a minute or two on each side in a few tablespoons of oil, then baked them on a cookie sheet in a 450 degree oven for about 20 minutes. By not submerging the chickpea batter in oil, I hope I made them a little healthier.

Falafel making wasn't pretty but it was worth it. My first concern began with the smell of the soaked beans. They smelled liked well... the toot from the fruit. My next concern was that there were too many beans to fit into one batch in my blender. So, I processed the chickpeas in batches adding a few of the other ingredients in with each batch. Once all the batches with together in a large bowl I used a potato-masher, and later my hands, to combine the mixture throughly.

Once my hands were in the batter (did I mention it wasn't pretty), I realized that it would be a miracle if my mealy mixture would stay together during pan frying. I remembered that a few of the recipes had called for bread crumbs. That was exactly what I felt this mixture needed. So, I added about 1/4 cup bread crumbs, incorporating them by hand into the mixture. Then, I put a a few cups of bread crumbs in a roasting pan. After I formed each patty I gently laid them in the bread crumbs and lightly covered with crumbs.

By this point, I was thinking about ordering pizza. But why stop now. I panned-fried the falafel patties in batches in about 2 tablespoons oil for each batch. After pan frying 1-2 minutes on each side, I baked them for about 20 minutes. They were awesome. I was proud of myself because on more than one occasion I considered throwing the sloppy mess out. But, they tasted so good I'll probably make them again.

I served them on warm pita with diced up lettuce, cilantro, tomatoes, cucumber, and onions. I also made an impromptu cucumber-dill yogurt sauce. I just kept throwing things in the sauce till it tasted right. Some yogurt, some peeled diced cucumber, dill, lemon, garlic, salt & pepper. I don't have any idea the proportions because I just kept adding stuff till it looked and tasting like the sauces I used to eat in the Greek restaurants of Astoria, Queens.

What are you making from scratch for this first time this year?

4/17/2008

SAHM vs WAHM

Many SAHM's (stay at home moms, for those of you not in the know) reach the year when they start questioning if and when they will go back to work. As if they can't be a SAHM if all the kids are in school...though many of our mothers did it with us. I've never thought much about the "going back to work conversation" because I actually started my company, www.AuntArt.com, the year my son Logan was born. But I've chatted with many women who are considering a new career choice and feel guilt about not contributing financially to the family. I can understand this...one of the many reasons why I started my company when I did.

I had an "ah-ha" moment today, as Oprah would say, when I realized that I have one more year of having a child at home. And instead of worrying about wholesale orders and how to market to my target audience or getting enough product made for the upcoming craft show season...I'm giving myself the year off.

Don't get me wrong Aunt Art will still be up and running but I'm not going to worry as much as I do about expansion. I'm not going to do any craft shows or take on any more wholesale accounts.

I'm just going to enjoy where I am in life.

I have a list of craft projects that I want to make for gifts or to do around the house and when your work has you sitting at a sewing machine the last thing you want to do is sit and sew throw pillows for your sofa. But I really really want throw pillows on my sofa!! And I already bought the fabric 6 months ago!!

I don't know where I'm going with this post...I guess just giving you a glimpse of my inner turmoil of being a SAHM vs. a WAHM and maybe starting a conversation or 2 about the changes in our society that women 30 years ago stayed home all through their child's education and now that is not quite acceptable in certain circles of society.

4/15/2008

Vintage Patterns


I have a small collection of vintage crochet and knit patterns. Every so often, when I need a project idea, I flip through them. Some of the styles through the years have been pretty crazy. I thought I'd share a few of my favorite pattern pictures from this stash. If anyone wants a copy of one of these patterns let me know. I'll scan a copy and email it to you.

Washing Dishes By Hand

I tried a little experiment this past month with our electric bill. I haven't been as good as I would like to be with the laundry hanging outside to dry so I'm still using my dryer most of the time but I decided to only wash dishes by hand for a month to see if we would save any money. Guess what!?!?! We saved 100 dollars off our electric bill!!! And 20 bucks on our water bill. Obviously our dishwasher isn't as energy efficient as I thought and instead of running out and spending money on a newer model I think I'll be washing by hand for a little while longer. The added bonus is I use a large bowl to catch the rinsed water and then carry that outside to dump on the garden. So no water is wasted. Try your own experiment to see if your dishwasher is as bad as mine :)

4/11/2008

Mini-Measuring Cup

I'm not sure if this really qualifies as a kitchen "gadget" as it is super low-tech, but I am still bestowing it with the title 'My Current Favorite Kitchen Gadget'.

To the untrained eye this may look like an run-of-the-mill shot glass. In fact, I included one in Gretchen's recent birthday package and when she fished it out of the gift bag she questioned, "Ah, it looks like a shot glass."

"Ah... but it is so much cooler than that." I responded.
To be fair, we are getting a bit old to be giving each other souvenir shot glasses.

Anyway, if you cook even a little bit, you must be familiar with the standard set of dry measuring spoons. These little sets always cause a bit of kitchen havoc for me. The first problem is: if you only use one spoon, for say, a tablespoon of flour - do you wash to whole set? Another issue is that if you separate those little buggers - forget about ever finding the 1/8 teaspoon ever again! Finally, if you are baking, it is a pain in the butt to use the 1/4 teaspoon for salt after you just used it for vanilla.

That's why the mini-measuring cup is a genius invention. Labeled on various sides with different increments of measurements (tablespoons, teaspoons, and ounces) it is the perfect tool for all of your small liquid measuring. I love it for soy sauce, olive oil, water, and even honey.

They generally run under $5.00. Look for it where kitchen supplies and/or bar tending supplies are sold.

4/10/2008

It's a Cocktail Mom's Birthday!

Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday dear GRETCHEN! Happy Birthday to you. Hope you have a fantastic year!

4/09/2008

Sesame Carrot Salad

This recipe is from Everyday Food. With the price of groceries constantly growing, I 've been trying to find cheap side dishes to make. Organic carrots are usually the same price, or only pennies more, than regular carrots which make this an great dish to make that is affordable yet still organic.

Sesame Carrot Salad
5-6 carrots peeled, then sliced into ribbons with a veggie peeler
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1-2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 piece (1 inch) finely chopped ginger

Combine all ingredients together in a large bowl. Salt and pepper to taste.

I served this dish at room temperature the first time I made it, but I think I liked it even better refrigerated the next day for lunch.

Back to being a Tightwad

There was a time, not too long ago, when my husband and I were raising a child (just 1 @ that time) on 27 thousand dollars a year. And because of our frugal ways we were able to buy and afford our 1st house. My husband now makes a lot more money and we have slacked a bit on our frugal ways. A trap that I think many people fall into when you get a raise or salary increase. For example we have eaten out @ restaurants more in 2008 than we did in the year before and after buying our 1st house.
Well I am pulling in the reins. We are going back to our frugal ways so that we can beef up our savings account. I'd like to try and see if we can live off 27 thousand again but with the cost of food now I highly doubt it. But I'm going to try and come close.

Watch out frugal- tightwad posts will be appearing on the blog soon!

4/08/2008

Update on Scrapbook Yard Sale

Well I just had to share a picture of my treasures I got on Sunday. I spent a total of 40 bucks...yup you read that right everything on this table cost me 40 bucks. And some you can't really see cause I had to do a stack of stickers at the top in order to make it all fit for the picture. Some really awesome deals, for example the vellum quote books have 1 page out of 48 missing in each book!! I paid $2.50 for both and they retail for 6 bucks a pop. I'm so excited to finish some pages now.

4/07/2008

Current Chinese Tibetan Conflict

I've grown sadder and sadder within the past weeks as I have watched the current conflicts between the people of Tibet and the government of China. I have felt helpless and useless. Sure, I could go online and find some organization to donate nominal amount of money to support Tibetan refugees or write letters to our government asking them to urge the Chinese Government to meet with the Dali Lama, but these actions will not alleviate the heart sickness I've been experiencing over the situation.

In case you've been too bombarded by the plethora of other horrifying news headlines (recession, war, etc.) that are continually developing in our 24-hour news cycle, here are a few of links that have helped me to understand the circumstances currently occurring in Tibet:

The cover story of Time Magazine a few weeks ago was 'A Monk's Struggle'. The story focus's on the Dali Lama's non-violent quest to convince the Chinese Government that he is not behind the separatist movement; however, the Chinese government continually viciously accuses him of being the leader. The Dali Lama is on public record as only wanting autonomy and religious freedom for the people of Tibet. Although there are many Tibetans that do want full-fledged independence, the Dali Lama's firm stance is now, and has always been, that he is willing to work with the China's leaders to develop a state-like autonomy for the Tibetan region that does not require the area to become its own nation.

Recently, The Jim Lehrer News Hour featured the story: Deep-rooted Tensions Surface in Tibet Unrest. The story, which you can watch by following the above link, summarizes the current conflicts and then has several experts discuss the possible outcomes. Perhaps the most disturbing part of this discussion is the fact that all of the guests in the discussion agreed that protesting the Olympic Torch as it is carried or boycotting the opening ceremonies of the games will only cause the Chinese government to punish the Tibetan people.

Democracy Now, a liberal daily new show that you can easily podcast at democracynow.org, recently interview noted Tibetan scholar and personal friend of the Dali Lama, Robert Thurman. Listen to the interview from this link. This interview, like the PBS link, does a good job of covering the recent conflicts but also gives Mr. Thurman's personal view of the situation which is very informative due to his close relationship with the Dali Lama.

Finally, the news of today. Today's New York Time's front page story, "Olympic Torch Goes Out, Briefly, in Paris" covers the recent protest in London and Paris. In both places the path of the Olympic Torch has been lined with protesters that feel the honor of the Olympic Games should not be given to a government that is trying to destroyed the ethnic and religious beliefs on a large population in their country. There is no doubt that there will be more protest tomorrow when the torch is scheduled to travel through San Francisco the only U.S. stop on the torch's journey to Beijing.

In conclusion, I have decided that the best action I can take is to meditate consistently each day dedicating my practice to a peaceful resolution for the people of Tibet. I've tried off and on to stick to a meditation routine for the last three or four years, but I have always been willing to skip a session for the flimsiest of excuses. Skipping one day leads to skipping two and then I'm off the Zafu for weeks. Currently, I am 2 weeks strong meditating everyday. My goal is to have an unbroken practice through the Olympic games in August. Perhaps, by creating the space in myself that meditation fosters, I will find a way to be at peace with the dreadful reality that faces one of the most peaceful groups of people alive on the planet today.

Gardening on the Cheap

When we moved into this house last July the backyard was covered in ivy. I have spent hours clearing out the ivy and digging up the roots. I swear that stuff is like cancer, spreading and suffocating a healthy plant. After I cleared it all away I'm not left with much, but I also am anxious to see what comes out of the ground this year. Already we have some lovely daffodils, ornamental grass and a plant I have no idea what it is but it's appeared in a few places in the backyard. We are at a point where we are watching the funds and picking and choosing what areas of the house get our attention. We laid a flagstone patio so we can have cookouts but we aren't budgeting plant money into the equation this year. So how do I create a pleasing to look at backyard without breaking the bank? I ask my friends and neighbors if they need to thin out any of their plants. I then offer to dig them up and plant them in my yard. I just picked up some garden phlox from a church friend. She is as relieved to get rid of them as I am excited to have free plants! It's a win-win situation.

4/06/2008

Freecycle Moderator

I am a HUGE fan of Freecycle. I can't say enough good things about it. Well I have a reached a new level in my freecycle journey, I am now a moderator for the Greenbelt, MD group. What does that mean exactly? Well I help approve "offer", "taken" and "wanted" posts and approve memberships. It's interesting to be on the other side of things now. I have a whole new appreciation for all the freecycle moderators who volunteer their time because they believe in a greener tomorrow.

4/04/2008

Mending A Sock

I never thought I would ever do this and maybe it's because my son got a hole in a brand new pair of socks or maybe I am now an extreme environmentalist or just a total tight wad.

But today I sat and mended a hole in a sock.

With the talk of a recession and many newscasters talking of the Depression it's made me think a lot about the extremes that people had to go to in order to get by during that time. It's made me appreciate the many luxuries I do have. It's so interesting the habits people hold onto that lived through the depression.

I hold a special place in my heart for one of our elderly neighbors when I was a kid who when I would visit her house served lemon meringue pie (made from scratch) and while we chatted she would mend socks. And now here I sit, needle in hand ready for the next hole.

Pizza from scratch!

OK this is the first time that I've ever made pizza dough and I can't believe how freakin' easy it is. Why have I been buying frozen crap for so long??

Here is the recipe I used from www.Cooks.com:
1 pkg. Quik Rise dry yeast (Red Star)
1 c. lukewarm water
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. honey
2 1/2 c. flour (I used white flour that says on the packaging "great for breads")
1/2 tsp. garlic powder (no salt)
1/2 tsp. onion powder (no salt)
Mix yeast in water in glass bowl. Add other ingredients. Mix well by hand. Let sit in bowl 5-10 minutes, covered by towel. Flatten on greased pan. Add your own topping. Bake at 450 degrees for about 12 minutes.

Grease hands for nonstick mixing.

4/03/2008

Scrapbook Yard Sale

If you live in MD and you are a scrapper clear your schedule on Sunday April 6th to attend the 3rd Annual Scrapbook Yard sale!!! (I know you are so jealous Corie and Wendi!)
I went last year and picked up a ton of stuff for cheap. Everything from stickers to albums. Some of the best random deals I got were half used embellishments. Like they bought the embellishment for a particular color or word and then I bought it from them for 10 cents! I'll be there again shopping till I drop, if you want to meet up send me a shout.

Here are the details:
3rd Annual Scrapbook Yard Sale
Sunday April 6th
9am-2pm
Elks Lodge #622
2517 Solomons Island Rd (Rt 2)
Edgewater, MD 21037
50 Tables of Marked Down Scrapbooking Supplies
7 Storefronts, 8 Consultants, 35 ladies with too much stuff!
$3 at the door to get in
Food available onsite for purchase(Boy Scouts Fundraiser)
For more info and directions, go to www.cropmania.com

My $2 buck dinner that feeds 4!


Tonight I made a dish that I have never made before; Hominy Corn Chowder. My goal was to make a dish that didn't cost a lot and produced barely any waste and I accomplished it!!! And guess what...it even tasted good! Luckily for me the hominy was "reduced for quick sale" and cost me only 50 cents for the entire bag and the sausage was part of a buy 10 for 10 buck deal at my grocery store.
Here is what you need to recreate this inexpensive meal.
1/2 lb Dry Hominy Corn
1 package of sausage formed into small balls
1 small onion chopped
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 stalk of celery
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups of milk
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese

Soak the hominy in cold water overnight. Drain and rinse. Combine 4 cups of water and the hominy in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour. In a medium skillet, cook sausage until browned, drain; set aside. Cook onion and potatoes and celery until tender in a skillet with a tablespoon of oil. Combine hominy, sausage, onion/potato mixture together. Stir in the bouillon cubes, pepper and the milk. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes more and then add the cheese and continue to stir until cheese is melted.
Enjoy!

4/02/2008

Computer cable mess- conquered!


I can't stand the messy look of cables behind a desk or TV stand. It drives me nuts! During the office makeover I came up with a really inexpensive way to organize them. Buy plastic tubing from your local home improvement center. I used 1 " black washing machine discharge tubing left over from the remodel. I cut it the size I needed and then using a razor slit it open down one side. The cords all fit nicely in the tube and are no longer an eye sore.

4/01/2008

Star Wars Amigurami


Go to Geek Central Station to check out the bloggers amazing Amigurami. There are several free crochet patterns on the blog, including various Lord of the Rings Amiguramis.

I like to pretend that I will make Amiguramis someday but the truth is I just love to look and admire them.

Another truly amazing artist in the Amiguami field is Beth Doherty. You can see here work at Gourment Amiguami. Left is one of my favorite creations of hers.

Schedule Chart for Autism

My oldest son is on the spectrum and his teacher suggested we make a schedule chart for our home to help Logan deal with the transitions from one event to the next during the weekend. I imagine that not only would it be good for autistic kids but neuro-typical kids as well to keep them on track of the family schedule. It may even cut back on whining for a particular item or event if they already know the schedule for the day. I made our chart out of upholstery fabric, but the chart can easily be made by cutting cardboard and using a manila envelope taped to the bottom to hold the cards. The cards are simple images that suggest the event. I got the images from google and laminated the cards so they survive constant handling from a kid.

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