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January 2008

See You In A Week


I am heading off to OR to visit my in-laws, I will be back next week. With all my posts about saving grocery money, I thought I would leave you with my version of oatmeal.

It may seem silly to add all these ingredients to the oatmeal, when you could just add it when you eat it. But it seems to me it would be better to infuse the oats with flavors, instead of covering them. I find also by adding some sugar, my girls use less syrup.

Clarice's Oatmeal

2 cups rolled oats, not instant, I use thick

1 ½ cup milk

2 ½ cups water

1/8 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. ground fresh nutmeg

1/2 tsp. grounded ginger

1 tsp. vanilla extract or half of vanilla bean

Put all ingredients in large stock pot and bring to boil, add oats and turn down to med-low. Slowly simmer till oats are soft. Probably 15-20 minutes. If oats get too dry add bit more water.

While oats are cooking toast chopped pecans in oven, at 350 for 5-8 minutes.

Serve oatmeal with toasted pecans, chopped dried figs and dried pears, a dash of fresh maple syrup and oh what the heck, some heavy cream !!!!

Help, I Need A Grocery Budget: part 6



     Even though I said I did not like writing these posts, I really had fun too and actually I have a lot more to say :-) But I will take a break and in a couple of weeks I will write some more. It is funny when it come to food, I can talk for days!

    I did want to say that all these ideas I have written about do work for our family and I have really been able to make our money stretch so much farther then 7 years ago but I do not want to look like I never struggle. Believe me I do! I have days were I do not want to cook. I have days were I succumb to some expensive cheese temptation. There are weeks where I am really careful and still run out of money. Then have to go to hubby and ask for another $20 to hold me over until payday. As a matter of fact, as I was writing these post somehow unbeknownst to me, I ran out of a bunch of bulk items. I had $50.00 but was saving it for a Trader Joes run. So I had to dip into my household budget. Just remember to do the best you can that day. Luckily everyday is a fresh start.


Powdered Coconut Milk

This is the coconut powder, I was talking about. I guess you are suppose to use it like powdered milk. Add water and make coconut milk but I never use it that way. I just use the powder straight from the packet. I add it to chocolate mousse, stirfrys, puddings, soups, ect. I get mine in the Asian section of my market. I pay I think 60 cents for a 60 gram packet. It is Angie who turned me on to this, thank you!!

Olive Oil

Well this is somewhat of a minefield question because olive oil production is somewhat becoming like wine making. There are soooo many, (too many for me to keep up with) olive oil producers. The truth is I can barely afford the olive oil I buy, which I buy the better olive oil from Costco. I cook everything including baking with olive oil and go through so much, this is the best I can do at this point. I will tell you if looking for olive oil, look for something that had a deep green color. An idea I have had is to check out stores like TJ Maxx food section for good olive oil. But to be honest, except for drizzling a little bottle of oil is just completely impractical for us. So I am sorry I can not be of better help. (5 years later, I am finding some amazing olive oil deals at amazon).

Here are posts were I talk about freezing muffins, scones, ect.



Soda Bread

You can read more of my 6 part series here!


Help, I Need A Grocery Budget: part 5



    Now that I have said so much about how I save money, how do I splurge ? Actually I do not like writing these posts because I do not like to talk about what I do not do, what I can not buy, I do not like to dwell in the negative but rather embrace all that I do have. I want my girls to know how to spend their money wisely but also how to wisely splurge! We all need treats! It is like a diet, you can not be on one forever, you will go crazy one day. Plus even though there is a lot of food we can not afford, I want my daughters to try them. I do not want them growing up and never having had fresh fennel or not know what really Parmigiano-Reggiano taste like. I want them to have an educated palate and strive for the best food they can. I suppose I sound a bit over the top about food (this is were my foodie youth comes in). I can still taste dinners I had in France when I was 18. I want that for my girls and I think it is important. Life is too short to eat bad food!

    So how do I buy treats ? Simple with any leftover money at the end of my two weeks. I now get $100 a week and yes I do have leftover money. Some weeks $3.00 (I can at lest buy them some soda or chips with $3.00) and some weeks $100 (I love those weeks).

    You see by knowing at the end of two weeks we can splurge, have what our heart desire, (well at lest one thing our hearts desire) it makes it soo much easier to be good and not buy extras. Everytime I give in and buy a box of awful cookies, just because I was stupid enough to shop when I was hungry, I am now cheating myself at the end of the two weeks. I could have had some rosemary ham and dried, cured black olives instead. 

    When I first started this budget, I did not have extra money but after about 6 months of bulk buying and making everything from scratch, I had a house full of food. I tell you if I had no money right now, I could feed us for a month. That was my plan. I make sure my cupboards are full of the basics and those yummy (but cheap) do-dads to give my menus some flair. I always have my grains, a block of cheddar cheese, a log of goat cheese (or feta or blue. I can buy big wedges of these and get a lot of bang for my buck). I aways have lemons or oranges. I always make sure my balsamic is not running low. Get the idea. I put my money into those tried and true items I have found over time work for us. Then at the end of the two weeks it is spurge time. Now if I have a hundred dollars I do not use it all on chips and soda. I take advantage and maybe buy a special expensive item to cook with or more meat or extra olive oil. But I try to have cook yummy we do not have very often.

     I only have one more post to write. I hope I am not at the point of boring all of you, I did not want to make the posts to long. I will answer your questions next. So if you have any, there is still time xox

You can read more of my 6 part series here!

Help, I Need A Grocery Budget: part 4



    Another way I save money is to make the most of my bulk section. I am lucky that my gourmet grocery store has a huge and varied bulk section. Now, do not assume you do not have a store with a bulk section in your area, more and more grocery stores are carrying them. I know both Fred Meyer and Safeway have one, also check any heath-food stores in the area.

    One of the ways I save large amounts of money is doing all our baking. I have talked about this before. I make large batch of muffins, scones, etc. Freeze them unbaked and bake them off frozen. This way I always have something to feed my family and I can control how much they eat, or should I say I eat :-) Plus by making it yourself is not only it is cheap but much healthier. I use lots of different gains, make some GF, use much less sugar, etc.

    There is also the issue of breakfast and lunch. For breakfast we eat a lot of muffins, oatmeal, granola, eggs. I do buy some cereal. I get cheap organic oh's from trader joes and then a few boxes of yummier cereal. We mix mostly oh's with a small amount of the good stuff but I only buy so much. So if everyone chows down on the cereal and we run out, then they have to eat something else. Lunch is often leftover from dinner. I never buy juice or soda except treats (which I will talk about in my last post).

   Back to the bulk, I keep a large array of grains, beans, flours, spices and more. I think it is important to rotate what we eat, not always eat the same thing. We might have sushi rice, pearl barley, whole wheat cous cous and risotto all in one week. Bulk section allows me to do this and not spend a lot of money. Nor do I have to go to the grocery store as much. So please take advantage of your bulk section. And just think, you can decorate all those pretty jars that hold all you stuff!!

You can read more of my 6 part series here!


Help, I Need A Grocery Budget: part 3


    Meat, oh the woe of my life. For me a day is just not worth living if it does not have chocolate in it. Well that is my hubby except it is meat, especially big slabs on steaks that hang over the side of his plate with a nice ale on the side! Here I am struggling to feed my family and hubby is begging for meat ;-) How can I afford that? It was tough that first 6 months in our new home and we had 3 nights a week with no meat or something like one pork chop cut up in little pieces served with a lot of pasta (actully I still do that). So soon as my hubby got his next raise, we started having a separate meat budget. About once every 3 months I go to the little ugly, dinky store down the road that sells big 10# packs of meat and fill up my freezer. Ohh doesn't that sound yummy :-o No seriously, I do buy most of my meat (except for really great sales) in bulk. I get some from Costco but most from the little grocery store. I call it my meat run. Since meat freezes beautifully it is easy to buy large amounts and freeze it. The lovely thing is you always have something for dinner.

    So my grocery budget does not include meat, except for a rare sale. It also does not include household items, another separate budget. I also have made a line in the sand about what I am willing spend on meat per-pound. I have had to raise this line but not too much, so far. This cuts out a lot of meat and different cuts. I will tell you when things go on sale, I go for it. Like once a year when my grocery store has it lamb steaks sale, boy do I load up but you can not freeze meat for a whole year. I find 3 months a good time for meat and then it starts to get yucky. I find it is much easier to say once every 3 months I will spend $60.00 on meat. I try to let my hubby know about 3 weeks before I think I will need to go, that it is getting near the time to get meat.

Thank you for the questions and I will do a separate post at the end and answer them. So if you have a question or two just ask aways xox

PS. I wrote this post 5 years ago and a lot has changed in how we buy meat. Now we only eat grass feed beef and organic chicken. We buy a half a cow and freeze it but I wanted to keep the post as it was to reflect my thoughts five years ago. 

You can read more of my 6 part series here!



Help, I Need A Grocery Budget: part 2


    Once I started to get an idea of what was good price, I still need to be able to feed my family of four on $50.00. With my beer budget and champagne taste, something had to go! I started off by stripping out all extras, basically pre-made stuff and treats. Ohh and good cheeses, produce out of season, my favorite expensive chocolate, etc ... etc. It was hard but somehow I knew it would only be for a season, not forever and that helped me.

    Not only was I going to have to totally cook from scratch but I had to or should I say wanted to, make food that was healthy and interesting without all the expensive dod-dads. I started looking over what I used and eliminated what was expensive. Then I focused on what was cheap, like herbs from my garden or homemade flavored vinegars. I also looked for things that would give a lot of bang for my buck. For example I make mac and cheese from scratch but I use mostly inexpensive cheddar. Then I get a small wedge of really strong tasting cheese to give some flavor.

    Now there were some things I did not compromise on like olive oil. I can not afford to get amazing olive oil, but I did not buy the totally cheap, no-flavored olive oil. Also balsamic vinegar it must be some what sweet and have some character. I find that Costco, TJ and Grocery Outlet has some interesting gourmet items. Now we have Trader Joes it totally has opened up all kinds of fun, gourmet items to spice up my dishes without breaking the bank.

    I also focus on how to cook cheap cuts of meat simply and add drama with usual, inexpensive ingredients. I looked at ingredient's and what I could do myself. I have dried my own fruit, made my own jams, bread, mustard's, vinegars, etc. Some I thought was worth the time, some I did not. I do not want to say a lot about this because I think it is a very personal thing what is worth your time.

Here is a list of inexpensive ways to add flavor:

herbs, spices, coffee, coco powder, powdered coconut (it comes in these little packets and it like powdered sugar. It is also dirt cheap and amazing, I throw it into everything)

lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit, ginger

strong tasting cheeses, in small amounts

roasted veggie and garlic (roasting intensifies the flavor)

capers, olives, sun-dried tomatoes (these can be really expensive, you have to look for deals and use lightly)

homemade broth made with bone's that have been roasted in the oven, it intensifies the flavors. If then boil down the broth intensifies more.

mustard, horseradish, vinegars, alcohol

You can read more of my 6 part series here!

Help, I Need A Grocery Budget: part 1


     I have had several letters asking me if I could share how I save money on my groceries. I am going to talk about what I do over this next week but I want to share a bit of my background first. Mostly I want to share because if anyone is struggling to feed their family healthy, interesting food and feel discouraged, I am hoping I can encourage you. Because believe me if I can do it, anyone can!

    I was lucky to be raised in northern California, which I call the Disneyland of food. In my youth I was blessed with going out to eat at amazing restaurant (almost every weekend), hand-crafted food (before it was hip), wonderful wineries all around me, two trips to Europe and really no budget. Even when I was first married I would spend my mornings planning wonderful three course meals for my new hubby, go to the gourmet grocery store and spend the afternoon cooking for him (He is soo pampered !!!). Then Auberne` was born and the first 7 months of her life was a blur of doctors, surgery and hospitals. After her open-heart surgery we needed a fresh start. My mother sadly was newly divorced and also needed a fresh start, so we all moved to Washington. For six months we live in this amazing 100 years home on the waterfront of a small, charming island. Oh I wish you could see it. Then my mother bought an old farm-house with the idea we would all live together. David and I paid very little rent, so again I really did not have a strict budget until 7 years ago when we bought our Storybook Woods.

    We went from a small rent to a large morgage. It was scary and I guess you could say I had to grow up. I had $50.00 a week for four people and remember we homeschool, so we are home all the time. I live in a fairly food expensive area, so it was stretch for me. It took me a good year to make it work and I am still learning to make my money go farther.

    The first thing I did was start a book of prices. I realized I had no idea if something was a good price. As silly as I looked (and I had people staring at me) I took a notebook with me and wrote down the prices of everything and what store it was. It took me months to really get a good picture of what was a good price and what was not. First because I have a bad memory and could not remember what I saw last week! I found there is not one perfect store but over time I could see that store A has the best over-all deal on produce, store B best deal on meats, store C best bulk section and so on. So the first thing I did was to learn what was a good a price, where to go and I only used cash. For me, I do best when I actually have the cash in my hand and can see how much I have. I do not know why, but when I have cash I can make it go amazingly far.

    What I do will not work for everyone and some of it will be stuff your probably have already heard but I hope you will come away with a tip or two!

You can read the other 5 parts of this series here!

ps. the angel above is Auberne`

Lavender Antibacterial Spray


One of my goals this year is to focus on teaching the girls to do more themselves. I want them to approach life with a "I can do this myself " attitude, instead of a "I will just buy it". Things are getting so expensive and of course one can not make everything and needs money to live, but I rather have them learn to live with less money. I have lived on both sides of the coin and actually I am happier now, then when I could just buy anything (well almost anything) I want. There is a wonderful feeling in knowing you can do it yourself. So this recipe for lavender antibacterial spray, is something the girls will learn to make themselves.

I will probably be posting some more make-it-yourself recipes. I also plan soon to do a week on how I save grocery money. It may not work for all of you but hopefully you will get an idea or two.

Also did you know the lavender linen spray makes a wonderful room-freshener spray too. I am now freshening my house all the time.

Isn't the towel above charming. Angie made it. She is so good to me, she lets me wander around her house, looking at all her cool old things, taking pictures and feeds me well too xoxoxo

Feel free to click on the image and save



You could add some alcohol, like vodka, to make the spray last longer, but I am afraid it would burn on cuts and scrapes. I plan on doing some experimenting and will let you know. If you have any feed back, I would love to hear it.

Akk, A Wall Quilt


Akk I can not believe I made a wall quilt. For those who do not know me, for years I said I would never quilt. When I was 19, I made a small quilt. I can not tell you how crooked, wobbly and a mess it was. Never again I said, ha !!!!  At Christmas I saw this panel (below) and LOVED the center picture, it reminds of the old children books I adore. BUT I hated the rest of it (It all matched to much for me ;-). I keep thinking about it and what I could do, I finally decided to go for it. I decided to do the leaves and picket fence in wool felt (that I just appliqued on) Chloe needle-felted the holly berries for me, thank you Chloe. I actually quilted the scallops on the roof and appliqued it on but sadly you can not tell. I think I needed to add more batting to the roof to make the quilting stand out.

There is definitely some flubs and is it a bit wobbly. But for me, it is pretty even and that is all that matters. It was a big learn experience. I have to say it does not really go with my home and I am not sure were I will hang it. But I look at it and am glad I pushed myself to try something new. I have to tell you, I had all you quilting friends in my head as I worked on this quilt. I truly thought of all of you, it was like you were cheering me on. So thank you xoxoxox









Before :


After :


And The Winner's Are


Congratulations Karla you are the winner of a skirt and Jody you are the winner of a pair of pants. I will have Christy e-mail you to get your info. Thank you to all who participated in the give a-way, both Christy and I are so thankful. Ladies I know you will be thrilled with your Remember Your Childhood skirt/pants !!! 


I wanted to share the wonderful gifts my girls made me for Christmas. Aubern'e made me this gorgeous gold crown. I know it was a lot of work but the love the cut edging and the Elizabeth Gordan illustration. Chloe made me this beautiful silhouette ornament. She cut out the silhouette and glued it to the plaque. Thank you girls, you know your mama so well. I am always impressed with your creativity and out-of-the-box thinking xoxoxoxo

Interesting Blogs


Thanks to Pleasant View Schoolhouse I found  Frills, Frocks and Fancies her clothes are so beautiful and inspiring.


Did you know Sharon Lovejoy has a blog, thanks to By Sun and Candlelight I now know. I  have almost all of Sharon's books, my copy of Hollyhock Days is so dogeared. We have used her books many times over the years. I look forward Sharon to getting to know you more through your blog.


Also thanks to Junie Moon I found The Graphic Fairy If you are on the lookout for wonderful vintage graphics, check out the Graphic Fairy.


Also thank you Manuela for the great tip award !!!!  I would like to pass it on to Homespun Living xoxoxox

Rubblework Scarf


Yeah, I did a patchwork and did not kill anyone ;-) I made Kathy- Pink Chalk Studio, Rubblework scarf and love it. I soo struggle with patchwork, I can not cut anything straite (even with cutting mat, rotary cutter and guide. My scarf is skinnier then it is suppose to be and I spent 2 two hours re-cutting and still made mistakes. But I think you can not tell, I hope. Kathy if I see you at the grocery store, do not look too close at my scarf :-). But I have to say Kathy's scarf was very easy to make. As a dyslexic I have such trouble reading patterns but I was really impressed with how well written Kathy's pattern is. Very clear, easy to read, full of helpful information. I loved the extra tips she added but it was not so much information that it lost me. Sewing it was easy and it came together with no problem. One nice thing, is you are just purchasing a PDF file. No shipping to deal with.

I have to tell you I have been lucky enough to meet Kathy and she is such a kind, fun and down to earth lady. Chloe still talks about her daughters. She is just like how she is on her blog. Kathy I love the scarf and am ready to try a bit more piece work, thank you xoxoxoox

Happy Birthday Sweetie !!!!!


Well today my sweet-cakes turns 17 (akkk when did that happen. I am totally freaking out that in one year she will be 18, but I digress) I know I say this all the time but I am sooo proud of the woman Aubern'e is becoming. A woman of grace, beauty and integrity. Also can I be a braggy mom, her writing is getting better and better. Here is some wonderful poetry she wrote.

She has asked for her birthday breakfast-in-bed, croissant sandwich with eggs and rosemary ham, juice and greek yogurt with berries. For dinner, lasagna made with pancetta bolognese sauce, fresh pasta and fresh mozzarella, salad and asiago cheese bread. She is a girl after my heart, for dessert we went to the island and got ice cream at Mora. They have the most AMAZING ice cream. She got marscapone and pistachio. We love you sweetie and Happy Birthday. Remember you are the queen today xoxoxoxox

PS. A funny story about this picture. Aubern'e is about 2 1/2 and she was terrified of men till she was  6 or so. I think it was all the doctors and surgery (she has heart problems and had open-heart surgery when she was 5 months old)  Well anytime she was around men she would hide and cry. For Michael to try to get a picture of Aubern'e was a challenge to say the lest. He had to take them from the other side of the yard. Here is Aubern'e stalking around our yard, trying to get as far from Micheal as possible. See the end of her nose is red from crying. Ahhhhhh what a day. Poor Michele, I hope I made you a really yummy meal to make up for it.

Remember Your Childhood


I have something fun for all of you. One of my long time, dear friends, Christy is having a giving-away. Christy is a wonderful seamstress. She has such a perfect eye for charming fabrics and style. She has been sewing clothes for many years (my girls wore her wonderful outfits) and has a business "Remember Your Childhood" She now has started an on-line store and is celebrating with a give-away. Christy has a pair of pants and a skirt to give-away. So please leave your name and if you have a preference here on my blog. On Sunday the 13th I will draw a name for each. You can also double your chance to win, if you post on your blog about the give-away I will enter your name twice (Just let me know and feel free to use the image above, if you like) Good luck and feel free to let your friends know. Remember even if you do not have a child I am sure you know someone who does and would be thrilled with one of Remember Your Childhood creation.

PS. I am hoping you enjoy the new music, Hello Dolly by Louis Armstrong. Hello Dolly is one of my favorite movies. I loved the clothes and ooh I wanted that hat shop soooo bad. But when Louis Armstrong and Babara Streisand sing together, I always get teary-eyed.



In trying to save money and wanting a more homemade gifts, here is a few things I made for the girls. I use Amy Karol Bend The Rules artsy clutch. These were a bit tricky to make because the fabric was so thin and slippery. I used a very heavy cotton with iron-on facing for the inside fabric, so the silky fabric could just sort of hang around the purse. I added wrist cord to carry them.


These were crystals from Walmart ($1.99) I decoupaged imagines (Ophelia from Shakespeare for Aubern'e and a black capped chickadee, Chloe's favorite bird). Added jewels, broken jewelry, beads for thier Christmas ornaments.


I also made these button rings. So easy, just cut a length of elastic using a whip stitch, sew ends together and sew on buttons. I also made pot holders and embroidered dish towels for my MIL. And I forgot to take pictures of the tote bags I made. The cool one I made for my sister, it is an evening tote bag. She takes to ferry everyday and is single, so I  thought a dressy, evening tote bag would come in handy !!!

My Kind Of Ice-cream Float !!!


If you have not had Lindemans' Framboise Lambic, you have not lived baby !!!! Imagine this very fres, intense raspberry, lightly sweet, very sight beer aftertaste. It is brilliant. Although my hubby is a home-brewer, so I am bit swayed. I do not drink soda (it is to sweet for me) so Lindemans' is like soda to me. My girlfriends who are not big beer drinks, love this. Well for New Years eve David and I made floats with just some good vanilla bean ice cream. Words, fail me, all I can say is it is love. Long, lasting, permanent kind of love. To my CM ladies, next party, we have to make these. I wish you all could have some with us !!!!!!


China Centerpiece

 Pink christmas 101
As I planned my pink Christmas it me realize I do not have a lot of pink Christmas things like Santa's and angles and that made me really think out of the box. What I do have a lot of pink is china, one of my many weakness. My plan was to use a lot of white, silver and gold hopping the bits of pink and pale blue would stand out. Plus I am the type you will never walk in my house and see pink everywhere. Believe it or not I am a "tad" understated  ;-) I believe in knowing when to stop.


Pink christmas 202
For my Christmas table I used my shabby chic floral tablecloth, my great-grandmother's Theodor Haviland Limoges pale pink rose china and pink King's Crown glasses. For the center piece I set out different size saucers, children's tea cups, tea strainer and set tea candles with rock salt. Then I just add some greens from outside. I was so happy with it. There was one more special touch and I will show how I made it as soon as I can.

Pink christmas 303

Pink christmas 404

A Year of Storybook Woods 2007

Happy New Year !!!!!!

I hope this is year full of blessings and exciting new things. I am very excited to see what the new year brings. Kelli did a wonderful post of the past year of her blog and I thought I would steal her idea (Thank you Kelli xoxo). You post the first line, of the first post of each month last year. I will be back in few more days. We are day late on everything this year, so we will be celebrating the New Year tomorrow. I am making some yummy things and will share. Make sure you kiss everyone, on this first day of 2008 xoxoxoxo


January :

Thank you ladies for all the understanding words and encouragement.



February :

Thank you ladies for all the constructive feedback it is very helpful.



March :

It is the first mild day of March:
Each minute sweeter than before
The redbreast sings from the tall larch
That stands beside our door.



April :

We are starting to have glimpses of spring, in between the raindrops.



May :

We were so inspired by all the May baskets we saw on-line today, Chloe and I decide to make our own.



June :

Hello ladies, you are all so kind and left such encouraging words.




At the risk of sounding like a lush, I am posting another cocktail recipe (at the request of a friend)    :-)




We have moved on from strawberry heaven (I have 70 pounds in my freezer) to raspberry heaven.



September :

Well I had the pleasure of meeting La-Tea-Dah of Gracious Hospitality.




"Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort, of feeling safe with a person;



November :

This is going to be a very lean Christmas for us and I am trying to think of creative gift ideas for the girls.



December :

I have been busy playing and decorating my house.