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.

6/30/2008

100 Thing Challenge

Michael David Bruno is trying to restrain his consumption. To do so he has created the 100 Thing Challenge. On his blog guynameddave.com, he has set himself a list of rules that will limit his personal possessions to a mere 100 objects for a whole year. He also has begun to compile the list itself.

Dave is allowing himself a few small personal memorabilia boxes in the garage (that he will not access throughout the year) as well as shared items in the house such as pots and pans to not count towards his personal items. What he is counting is his clothes, shoes, computers, cellphones, ipods, pens, pencils, jewelry, wallet etc. Just the purely personal objects he owns.

His challenge has begun a movement and other people are pledging to limit their personal items to 100 things as well. You can join the 100 Thing Challenge group on Facebook

In the past, I have thought about this very issue -I HAVE TOO MUCH STUFF- especially last year when I moved across the country. However, I have always thought in it of terms such as: 'Before I can get a new pair of pants, I need to donate a pair of pants to the Goodwill.' Dave's ideas are fairly radical to me - I mean I have 100 things in my purse right now for sure! But I think they are issues that we all need to look at on a daily basis.

I'm not ready to jump into this challenge but before I pick up another $1.99 sale item at Target I hope to evaluate if it is something I would keep if I could only have 100 things. It is important to value the things we own and not just buy another dish towel because it is on sale.

6/28/2008

Key Ingriendent Cooking

Wednesday night I went to my local Whole Foods and attended a class led by Jodi Balis. She was recently featured on Good Morning America describing her $60 a week food budget for 2 adults. You can read about it here. The class has inspired me to be more creative in regards to my menu planning. She taught us how to choose a staple ingredient and plan your menu using that ingredient multiple times. The goal being that you will eat the food you have on hand before it goes bad and you'll save money in the process. I'm inspired! And of course I'll be keeping you posted on the results.

6/27/2008

What the canning folks don't tell you.

I recently taught myself how to make jam and do water bath canning. It was surprisingly difficult to find all the supplies that I needed locally, sadly it is a dieing tradition. I don't think canning is all that difficult really. The hardest part is managing everything that has to happen at the same time.
  1. The water bath pot needs to be almost at a boil.
  2. Large pot holding clean cans put on a simmer.
  3. Small saucepan filled with the flat lids also on a simmer.
  4. The large pot you will actually be making jam in also occupies a burner.
You will need a standard stove to accomplish this, anything smaller would either be impossible or extremely difficult. Watch this tutorial from Ball's website before you start. It's a great resource.

So here is what was never told to me that I think would be helpful information for a newbie.
  • I used KitchenAid tongs, and it worked out great for retrieving lids and lifting the jars in and out of the water. If you plan to use jars larger than a pint I'd purchase the jar lifter. Otherwise save the bucks you'd spend on buying something that only has one purpose and go for the tongs that you can use for grabbing meats and veggies.
  • Save the foam that you skim off the top of the jam, before pouring it into the jars. Store in the fridge, it's great in cottage cheese and yogurt and on ice cream! YUMMY!
  • Buy a funnel, will save you tons of time and will help keep the canning mess to a minimum.
  • Wear clothes that you don't care about because the first time canning you will get berry juice on them.
  • Plan to make jam/can when you have undisturbed time. You can prep everything beforehand but once you put those smashed berries in the pot you are tied to that stove until all the jars are filled.
So I hope this helps you stumble through the learning process with ease. I think my generation is going to bring back the canning, you wouldn't believe how many people I've met who either are also learning or really want to. My great grandmother would be proud.

6/26/2008

Raverly.com


Last night I attended Boulder's local Stitch 'n Bitch at the a lovely organic coffee/ice cream place that has recently added a yarn store. Purl Knit Cafe (pictured left) is located just 9 blocks from my front door so there was no excuse for me to not start attending the local knit circle that they have there every Wednesday night.

Although I consider myself an outgoing person, I still get a little nervous when attending "social-group-things" for the first time, especially when I don't know anyone. But, of course it was a blast! There was only a small group of ladies (7) last night but they were are extremely friendly. Several even admitted that they too lurked around the Boulder Stitch 'n Bitch message board for months before they attended their first gathering. All of the women in attendance were serious knitters or crocheters. They were throwing names of specialty yarns around the way some people discuss popular TV shows.

After I mention that I recently began working for a local Tech Company, they all immediately demanded to know if I was on raverly.com. I cringed inside a bit because I wasn't sure if I wanted to join yet another time sucking facebook or myspace type website. But then they started to describe to me what Raverly is all about, and I could barely wait to go home to join.

Raverly is a knit and crochet community but unlike say, Facebook, where the main purpose is to keep friends updated with current pictures of you or to scan and see what kind of movies your friend likes, raverly has a specfic purpose. On your profile page you can log all the various needle and hook sizes you have - so you don't end up buying another E-hook. Or you can enter all of the yarn you have in your stash. You can also search the yarn you have in your stash and see what other people have created with it. People post patterns for free and for charge. They also link to their craft blogs. It is just too amazing for words - and I have even entered the site yet.

That's right since the program is in Beta, all you can do is sign up for and invitation to join! Currently, I am #180585 to request an invitation. There are 2,174 people in line ahead and 363 behind. All people will get an invitation - it just takes time. In my case probably 3-7 days.
Here's a screen shot from their site tour:
So, if you're a knitter or crocheter go today and sign up for an invitation so we can be friends in what looks to be a practical and fun online community.

6/23/2008

The Food Budget

The cost of food is reaching all time highs paired with the cost of gas. What are you doing to off set the amount of money you have to budget for food? I've been thinking of ways that my family can keep the food budget we are on while still eating 3 meals a day with snacks for 4 people. Here are some of the things I'm doing.
  1. Breakfast for dinner. Pancakes with eggs or oatmeal with fresh berries, both make great alternatives to traditional dinners.
  2. Goodbye Cereal! Homemade scones, muffins or breads for breakfast cost much less than cereal, even if you get it on sale. The added bonus is that homemade muffins produce a lot less waste too.
  3. "I be jammin!" I started making my own jam and canning it for the year. Logan is on the GF/CF diet and can't have sugar or artificial sweeteners. Finding a jam that is only sweetened with fruit juice costs around 5 bucks for a 10 oz jar. Now I make my own and the jars can be reused every year so the overall cost will be very low year after year.
  4. PB &J. If no one is allergic in your house, start packing your lunch with the school time favorite instead of lunch meat and cheese. It's lower in fat and peanut butter is a great source of protein.
Share your tips, I'd love to hear what you are doing to keep the food budget at a reasonable amount.

6/22/2008

Orchids


I'm beginning to think I should stick to easy house plants like spider or aloe plants.

In May when my friend Jordan asked me if I could watch his plants for him while he was gone for the summer I said, "But, of course!" At the time I had know idea he would be dropping his orchid plant off for me to care for.

Orchids scare me a little. Just try it yourself. Google 'orchid care' and see how many sites come up. And each and every site has different and often contracting information. One page will say never let the plant's soil dry out completely ALWAYS make sure it is slightly damp. The next page will say to ALWAYS let plants dry out between waterings. Yet another page will claim that you must always have the plant living over a little tray of standing water so it can absorb the moisture.

And for as many contradicting water instructions there were there are even more other possible instructions. Several chat rooms have heated discussions about whether an orchid should always have a slight fan breeze blowing on it at all times or whether it should be protected by all means from nasty drafts. Other pages warn that the delicate flowers should ONLY be watered early in the morning at first light. It goes on and on...

Jordan said he had wonderful luck with the plant and that all he did was water it when it was dry and cut the stalk off near the soil once the blooms had finally died. When I got possesion of the posey it had recently been cut back so there were no blooms to enjoy -and it still looks exactly the same! I keep it moist in a medium West facing window. Sometimes I put a low fan on it but mostly I don't. Why hasn't it re-bloomed? I wish I knew. The leaves are green and it is definately not near death and yet, the cut stalk hasn't move - to my eye- even a centimeter.

Although I've never claimed to have a green thumb, I usually am quite good at keeping house plants happy and healthy. I definately do not want the plant that I was entrusted to care for to die on my watch. (Even if Jordan said he understood if it wasn't alive when he returned.) So, I ask our readers - Has anyone out there had luck with getting orchid to bloom. If you have please let me know ASAP. Any and all of your personal orchid knowledge would be greatly appreciated as a guest blog post this summer.

6/21/2008

Apple Oatmeal Bars

I served these the other night for my Knitting Group and it got rave reviews. It's so simple to make!
Preheat oven to 350.
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 cups peeled and chopped apples
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips
Combine the first 5 ingredients and pat into an 8x8 inch pan. Layer on apples and sugar. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top. Bake 35 mins at 350.

6/20/2008

Bag filled with Fun

My hubby suggested I post everything I make, during my work sabbatical, on the blog. Here is what I made yesterday. Twice a week Logan has developmental clinic, so while he's having fun on the trampoline in physical therapy or doing sand play in speech therapy Zane and I are stuck in a room listening to speakers for 2 hours. Needless to say this is really boring for an almost 3 year old and sometimes a 32 year old too. :)
So I made Zane a "fun bag", every time we go to summer school (as we call it) Zane gets to pack his bag of things to entertain himself.
Does the fabric look familiar? It's made entirely from left over fabric from the Custom Pocket Headboards.

6/19/2008

Triple Berry Jam

When you buy a house you don't always know what you are getting into. Sometimes you buy a house that has a dryer that works but will shred your clothes to pieces in less than 3 minutes or you'll buy a house that only has one outlet in the entire kitchen. Well we bought a house that has many trees in the backyard and one of them happens to be a mulberry tree and right below the tree is a bunch of bushes that I haven't gotten around to clearing yet. Well luckily I was lacking motivation because those unsightly bushes are producing blackberries. Those 2 berries combined with strawberries from our local farmer's market has produced the most tasty jam!
I've never tasted mulberries before but apparently they are pretty popular in China. Traditionally, mulberry fruit has been used as a medicinal agent to nourish the yin and blood, benefit the kidneys, and treat weakness, fatigue, anemia, and premature graying of hair. Who would have thought! And in my backyard!

6/18/2008

Libraries are Incredible

I have not been impressed with the story time at our local library. I recently learned that the folks reading to the kids are not children's librarians. Well, why not? Intrigued I asked a librarian and she informed me that there are only a select few children's librarians in the county, and that these people are placed in branches based on need. The way the library determines this is by looking at the number of books checked out in the department. After chatting with some SAHm/d's in the area not many of us are checking out the maximum 75 book limit because we all live within walking distance and read the books there at the library. Well now all that's changed in our house. We checked out 32 books today and came home and had story time. My kids sat for 45 minutes listening to story after story. (this is pretty impressive for a 3 and 5 year old) Check at your local library to see if you have a children's librarian and if not..start checking out more books.

ps- I normally do not dress my kids in matching outfits. They actually dress themselves and both boys wanted to wear matching shirts.

6/17/2008

Embroidered Everyday Napkins

So I'm totally getting into this embroidery thing. I wasn't expecting to like it this much. For Father's Day I made an embroidered set of Everyday Napkins for my dad. I've influenced him in other "greener" choices, for example light bulbs and bringing his own bag to the grocery store. And I am hoping that if my parents have a beautiful set of everyday napkins that their daughter spent hours embroidering by hand they will be guilted into using them and giving up the paper variety. The cat napkin is from Sublime Stitching Craft Pad, it's fantastic!

6/15/2008

Quilted Coasters

I recently read the book Last Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson and I have a list of new items that I want to complete. I love how the book is broken down into how many hours the project takes to complete. Tonight I finished a much needed set of coasters for our house and also made a set to give as a hostess gift. The book has a wonderful suggestion : "Wrap a set of coasters together with a recipe and supplies for iced tea for a special summer house-warming gift".

6/14/2008

Happy Father's Day!!!


I feel so blessed to be married to such a wonderful man who I believe is the best dad in the world.
We parent "together". Together we make decisions on rules, schedules, education etc. The point is we do it together and I feel lucky to say that, not every person can.

The boys look up to daddy with wide eyes, dreaming to be as big and strong as him. And when I asked Logan what he wanted to be when he grew up, the first answer was "Superman" and the second was "Daddy". I think he's a pretty super dad and if I was Logan I'd want to be him too.

Happy Father's Day to all those amazing dads out there!

6/12/2008

Even the Amish are "made in china"

I hold a special place in my heart for the Amish. It's mainly based on fascination. The no electricity thing, horse and buggy and those clothes all made by hand. Part of me would love to live that type of simple (ha!) life but the other half would miss my email inbox and my Honda Element. And I don't really enjoy picking up Dharma's dog poop so I can't even imagine dealing with horse shit on a daily basis.
When I heard about the Amish Farmer's Market coming this summer near our house I was ecstatic!
So I made plans today to enjoy the market with my dad and the boys. My dad shares the same love/fascination as I do. And since these Amish were from PA it was even better in my dad's eyes since he is from Altoona, PA.

As I drive to the market I'm envisioning rows of outside booths some with tents, some without. Farmer's with callused hands and sun red necks and chatting with the women about their beautiful quilts, asking the farmers how their crop has been with all the rain. I pull up and already I get uneasy when I see that it is inside a large building that looks like it was a grocery store in it's past life. As my father and I walk around I realize it's not at all what I expected. Sure there are a few Amish but mostly Mennonite selling at each of their booths. But these are not farmers market type booths, these booths come equipped with air conditioned glass cases. Everything looked pretty and clean. A little too clean, I was suspicious.

We reached the back of the market and there they were...the veggies! OK! I am ready to shop...but then as I survey the items I think to myself WTF!!! Oranges in PA!?!? Come on! Peppers aren't even in season! Lemons! What the hell is going on here!?!?!?!
I immediately felt like I was being had. I watch a man pull out potatoes from a box marked that they are from Idaho and placing them in little wooden baskets.
They are selling us the illusion of buying from farmers from PA, equipped with costumes!!!
I pointed out the boxes labeled California oranges and tomatoes to my dad, I think I burst his bubble a bit, he was as equally excited as I was about this market.

So we skipped the veggies, bought some homemade bread that you could see the woman actually making behind the booth. We headed for the lunch meat booth, I asked the gorgeous blonde haired beauty if the chicken was grass fed, organic or just no antibiotics. She smiled revealing beautiful straight teeth and said she'd have to ask her dad. I watched as she went over to the older man wearing the Amish clothes equipped with a straw hat talking on a cellphone. A cellphone! I know I'm one of the last people on earth not using a cellphone but even the Mennonite are "in the network"! He shrugged his shoulders. The blonde beauty comes back and sweetly says they don't know. A little confused I asked, "what do you mean you don't know, weren't these once your chickens?" "oh no", she smiles with a slight laugh behind it.

Yup that's right folks these "farmers" are buying all of their products from factories just like Safeway, Giant, Whole Foods and any other big grocery store chain.
It's a total scam!!!

I tell my dad that I HAVE to see the crafts, hoping deep in my heart that at least those items would be made in PA. I turn over a picture frame with a cute little embroidered quote on fabric and there is was...the sticker...MADE IN CHINA!!!! Everything I pick up has the same sticker.

Clearly the folks from PA got a little too big for their britches, as my mother would say, and after success of selling handmade items the money sign$ showed in their eyes and off to china to mass produce what was was once so cherished...so pure...so handmade.
Even the Amish are made in china!

6/11/2008

Salmonellosis Outbreak in Tomatoes

I've taken the following text from the FDA website:

"The Food and Drug Administration is alerting consumers nationwide that a salmonellosis outbreak appears to be linked to consumption of certain types of raw red tomatoes and products containing raw red tomatoes. The bacteria causing the illnesses are Salmonella serotype Saintpaul, an uncommon type of Salmonella.

The specific type and source of tomatoes are under investigation. However, preliminary data suggest that raw red plum, raw red Roma, or raw round red tomatoes are the cause. At this time, consumers should limit their tomato consumption to tomatoes that have not been implicated in the outbreak. These include cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, tomatoes sold with the vine still attached, and tomatoes grown at home."

To read the whole article go to the FDA website.

It seems like two to three times a year now we are experiencing a major food sickness outbreak. I don't remember this happening when I was younger. I know it all stems from the industrialization of the food chain and other than buying what you can locally I'm not sure if there is a way to eat 100% safely. Of course this doesn't prevent you from getting sick via a restaurant that has purchased tainted food.

The worst part about this particular outbreak is that taking the regular precautions of washing your veggies wouldn't have helped because washing doesn't get rid of Salmonella.
Just another reason to plant your own garden, I guess.

6/09/2008

Dinner on the Cheap


I swore I'd never eat pork again but with the cost of food nowadays I've realized that I need to be less picky. I often think about the people who lived through the depression or who are currently living on our planet and are hungry.

I know that I think about that and how much trash I create more than the average person.

So the pork...when I saw a package of organic pork in the "reduced for quick sale" area for $1.85 I gave up my no-pork stance. Instead I knew my "i love to eat meat" husband would be thrilled. Pair with a red beans and rice box side that I also got in the clearance area because of the banged up box. I also never buy box side dinners because they are so overpriced and high in sodium but once again when I saw this box for 65 cents I said to myself "what's a little sodium?!?!?!"

So for less than 3 bucks my hubby and I enjoyed a very easy dinner thanks to the clearance area of our grocery store.

6/08/2008

Craigslist Desk


I've been looking for a year now for a better desk for me to use in my loft office.

Finally this gem showed up on cragslist.org for $30. There were several times that I almost settled for less quality or a higher price but I'm glad I was patience.

I'm still waiting for my dresser. It will show up.

6/04/2008

How to Cook a Bug

Alright. I would do almost anything to help reduce my impact on the environment but I'm not sure if I'm ready to start eating bugs. This video shows a chef cooking bugs. I originally read the article "Eating Bugs" in Time Magazine. Go here to read the article online time.com.

Anyway, in addition to discussing various dishes a person can eat that include ingredients such as crickets and moth larva the article discusses how "green" eating bugs as a protein source is for the environment.

Here's the thing I'll use scratchy environmentally safe toilet paper and I'll live in unflattering florescent light but I'm not yet ready to eat bugs even if pound for pound they use significantly less resources to produce. I just can't even think about it without gagging a little. But if you think you want to try it I've added the chef's cookbook to our amazon store.

On a completely different note, I am trying to blog this post directly from youtube in order to share the video. I hope it works.

6/03/2008

Window Frame from trash to treasure

I picked up this window frame at The Community Forklift. On Fridays, the normally priced 5 buck area is totally FREE but only on Fridays. You better believe I'll be stopping by every Friday from now on.

I've actually been looking for one of these old window frames, odd thing to be looking for but I had this idea a long time ago and now it's complete! It is at the top of our stairs and my hubby and I both are in love with it. Oh yeah the kids like it too since they are in the photos :)

I lightly sanded the whole thing to chip away some of the old (aka:toxic) paint. I then took a dry, cheap and I always do this style of painting with cheap brushes because they don't give good coverage and that is exactly what I want. I would dip the tips in the white flat wall paint and then tap the brush on a piece of scrap paper and lightly and randomly brush on the frame. I wanted to keep the frame looking distressed but it was a tad too dark and yucky in some corners for my taste.
I measured each frame window and then cut card stock and went to town designing each square. I chose a spring theme and the plan is to pull these out when I tire of looking at them and then make new designs for another season. I love that it will constantly be changing. And it's a great way for people to see the scrapbook pages I design when they are in our house instead of forcing them to flip through the albums. Yes I do force some people, grandparents especially.
Trash to treasure... and treasure it I will.

6/02/2008

Handmade Calendars

This is my third year of making these calendars as gifts for our family for Christmas. It's a perfect way for me to use some of my scrap paper and embellishments. Each calendar is different and tailored for the person I am giving it to. I print out the calendar pages on card stock and adhere them to the photo pages. I use to get them bound at KinKos but when money was extremely tight one year, my friend Wendi gave me the idea to use binder rings. You can buy a large amount of them at any office supply store. I wasn't actually going to make them this year but many people hinted, not so quietly, that they were looking forward to their new calendar. So I guess it's become a tradition. I normally start them in the summer, since I make about 10 calendars I need the time to get them done. And it also makes crafting for Christmas gifts less stressful if I create items throughout the year.

6/01/2008

Silicon Vegetable Steamer


Find that half-broken metal vegetable steamer that has a few rust spots and two broken panels and throw it out. You know the one I mean, the one that scratch your non-stick cookware.

The silicon steamer has arrived. In the last 3-4 years there has been an explosion of silicon cookware from muffin pans to cookie sheets. And the full disclosure is that I haven't tried any of it. I already have a muffin pan and I couldn't quite justify buying new all new baking pans just to have the pretty colors.

That said, buying this smart and affordable (under $10.00) silicon steamer was a no-brainer for me. For years I've struggled to cook with imperfect metal steamers which rarely fit the pan right and usual have a life span of under 2 years.

I've been using this steamer for about 2 months now and it awesome. I've added a link to it in our Amazon store (top right of blog) but you should be able to get it at Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, or any numerous cooking gadget store. Give a shout out to me if you've used the silicon bakeware. Now that I love this steamer, I might be willing to give them a try.

Oven set @ 450

We went to one of our local farmer's markets today and picked up all the great goodness seen in the photo. I love farmer's markets! All that beautiful produce shining in the sunlight....ahhh heaven!
Well one of the easiest dinners to make is seen here. Buy a bunch of veggies from the farmer's market, come home and set your oven to 450. Drizzle a 2 inch deep baking pan with olive oil...don't be shy about pouring it in. Cut up your veggies. Remember to slice root veggies thin since they take longer to cook. Add salt and pepper and maybe some of your favorite herbs...or not...toss so the veggies are coated in the oil. And place in the oven for 30 minutes. If you wanted to add meat to the pan you could do that also or not.
So simple and so delicious!

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