It’s Hard Being Cat AND Dog for Your Humans

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A few weeks ago our dog, Fiver, passed away from kidney failure. He and Bubba, our cat, had quite the love-hate thing going on, and alternately pestered and disciplined each other for one thing or another–mostly for our entertainment, I’d wager.

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In the weeks since Fiver’s departure to the hereafter, which I’m sure in his case includes lots of trees full of squirrels to bark at and pickup trucks to ride in and pretty girls in drive-throughs to flirt with in exchange for fries, Bubba has done his utmost to pick up the slack.

There’s a certain dogginess to his actions now that wasn’t there before. Granted, Bubba has always marched to a different drummer, but he has some habits now that previously only Fiver (and his mother Zoey) used to do, like follow us around the house. If we get up from bed in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, Bubba escorts us exactly the way the dogs used to. Open the bathroom door and there he is, ready to walk me back to the bedroom by the glow of the nightlight in the hall.

He waits outside the door while The Tall Bald Guy takes a shower.

He sits, tall and patient, beside The Tall Bald Guy at dinner, his body a perfect “I’m-a-Good-Boy” triangle, hoping for a tidbit or two to be tossed his way.

Fiver at his post.

Fiver at his post.

He still has his normal kitty fits–that is, his “I-must-repeatedly-run-across-the-house-for-no-good-reason-and-nearly-smack-into-the-wall” fits, but now they end at the living room window, where he stands watch for a few moments, making sure no errant squirrels scamper unnoticed across the yard.

He always took notice if one of his humans was rustling around in the kitchen, but now he jumps off the couch and runs to see what we’re doing and if he can somehow benefit from it. He never did that before–I wonder if he and Fiver had a deal? “See here, mutt, you give them the face, and bring whatever you get back to me, see? I’ll give you your cut later. Now scram!”

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I suppose it’s his way of taking care of us humans…perhaps he and Fiver had a conversation, much like the conversation I’m certain Zoey had with Fiver (and Tucker had with Zoey), about making sure we are protected from rogue squirrels and ensuring that regular patrols against who-knows-what continue and demanding that we don’t get so lost in all things human that we forget to look at the world from the point of view of something little and fuzzy and relatively helpless.

Perhaps someday soon we will bring another critter to the house to learn all that Bubba can teach them regarding the care and protection of these hapless humans that inhabit his home. Until then, Bubba will continue working two jobs, proving once again that it’s hard being little and fuzzy in this world.

 

A (Land)Filling Dinner

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In our house for the past several weeks there has been playing a broken record of “I’m-sick-of-casseroles” and “I-don’t-really-wanna-cook,” especially with the recent holiday weekend, which consisted mostly of hamburgers, hot dogs, cold cuts, pasta salad, fresh fruit, and the ever-delectable Gluten-Free Pretzel-Less Strawberry Pretzel Salad, which I blogged about several months ago. Go and check it out–it’s rather drool-worthy, if I do say so myself. In any case, it was a nice way to ring in the summer, but now I have to get back to cooking.

When one in your household has food allergies, meals can get complicated, especially when you’re trying to save money. I do a lot of “double-cooking;” that is, I will often cook one meal for the guys and another for myself, because allergen-free options are usually expensive and not often appealing to those whose meals don’t have the potential to kill them. I said to The Tall Bald Guy last week, “If all three of us followed my diet, we’d lose the house.” He agreed and decided we weren’t exaggerating by much. It’s difficult at times to find dishes that appeal to the guys that don’t end up killing Wife, the Great and Powerful. When we find them, I cook them often, and cook extra to take to lunch at work.

One dish we’re all fond of is my Chicken Stew. It’s a great Landfill Dish, which is the term my mother uses when she finds random fridge, freezer, and pantry ingredients (“You know, you ‘dump’ in a can of this and ‘dump’ in a bag of that and ‘dump’ in a handful of this leftover whatever…”) and throws them all in one big pot. Landfill Dishes are popular in this household, especially after a then nine-year-old Boy said, “You know, Mom, with vegetable soup, it doesn’t matter what you put in it, because everything in it ends up tasting the same anyway.”

That was when I started sneaking vegetables into chicken alfredo, hamburger helper, etc. since it all tasted the same anyway. You can keep a secret, right? :)

I started with four boneless skinless chicken thighs, boiling them until done. It’s much easier and faster to boil them when I get home from work since by that time I frequently have two hungry guys chewing on their own shoes and mumbling, “When’s dinner? I’m starving.” Once they’re done, I remove them from the water (the chicken, not the shoes) and throw them in a bowl to sit for a few minutes in the freezer to cool. I’ve learned the hard way that it’s just too difficult to cut up the freshly-cooked chicken without burning myself, for I either exhaust my repertoire of cusswords or shout, “Ow! Hot! HOT!!” to which The Tall Bald Guy acknowledges, “I wondered when you’d notice–I’ve been working out.”

I started buying chicken thighs several years ago when they were cheaper than chicken breast, but sadly, that is no longer the case. These days I basically just buy whichever has the best price that week. I tend to spend the extra money for boneless chicken as it’s easier to deal with on worknights, but I’ll still buy bone-in on sale and keep it in the freezer for weekends when I know I’ll have time to spend in the kitchen.

I dump the water out of the pan and throw in a stick of butter and a handful of onions and some salt, pepper, and garlic powder. This time the onions came from my container garden, which currently houses a 2×6 table of fast-growing green onions that are just short of singing showtunes and screaming, “FEED ME, SEYMOUR!!” Some of these onions have already been washed, chopped, and frozen, and are ready to add to whatever I’m cooking. I prefer these onions because they’re more flavorful than the chopped frozen onions available at the store and I don’t have to add as many.

While all that’s melting into fragrant, buttery goodness, I cube the cooled chicken and add it to the pan, browning it a little. When it’s reached a color I’m happy with, I add about two cups of water and a bag of frozen peas and carrots. When it reaches a boil I add some arrowroot or potato starch. Typically, in order to avoid getting gummy, flavorless clumps in the finished product, I’ll put a few tablespoons of starch in a cup and add the hottest tap water I can get, stirring immediately and thoroughly, and then pour it into the pan.

Once that is stirred in I add two cans of diced potatoes and two cans of green beans and heat them through. Other days I might add broccoli…or cauliflower…or carrots…whatever’s festering in the freezer or pantry, really. Also, I typically add a few drops of yellow food coloring to the pan, in order to give it a more appealing color–at times the starch gives it a grayish tinge.

The guys like to inhale this with biscuits*, and I with a slice of The Silly Yak’s Classic Rice Bread, and it’s a filling, tasty meal, if the groaning and the rubbing of stomachs and the “Oh geez I ate too much” from the males of the house is any indication.

*Actually, I think they just like watching me open a can of biscuits. I dread it. I know it’s going to pop open–I prepare for it; but like a glaucoma test at the eye doctor’s, I can never stop myself from jumping eight feet in the air every time it happens. For them it’s dinner and a laugh.

I suppose that’s okay with me, since they’re such enthusiastic eaters of my cooking.

What’s Your Favorite Frugal Tip? Tightwad Brainstorming

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It seems everyone has a list of frugal tips they’d like to share, from magazine articles to infomercials to even Yahoo Finance, but they’re all saying the same thing:

“Make Your Own Coffee and Save $4 Day”

Seriously?

“Shop Around for Better Insurance/Phone/Cable/Internet/Mortgage Rates”

…yawn.

“Eat at Home”

Duh!

“Shop at Thrift Stores”

Sheesh.

“Wait Until You Have a Full Load to Run Your Washer/Dryer/Dishwasher”

Is that the best you’ve got?

“Spend 50 Hours a Week Combing Through These Coupons and Buy a Bunch of Brand-Name Food You Don’t Need So You Can Feel Like You Saved a Lot of Money!”

NOT!!

Have I lived a frugal lifestyle for so long that I don’t realize people aren’t aware of this information?

Perhaps we have made frugality such a huge part of our lives that we don’t think about it anymore. I simply can’t imagine that there are people out there, especially in this age of ever-increasing prices and ever-decreasing wages, who haven’t at least absorbed this information, weighed it in their minds, and decided whether to change.

There’s never a time when we’re not watching our pennies, sometimes literally. In the last several years, I have:

  •                 Only washed my hair every other day if I wasn’t working—I would wear my hair in a ponytail the second day. That extended the life of our shampoo by one day.
  •                 Same for makeup: if I wasn’t supposed to be anywhere, like work, I didn’t wear makeup that day. That extended the life of my makeup by one day.
  •                 Hung laundry in front of fans which were circulating the air through the house in lieu of running the furnace or air conditioner, or hung them on racks on the porch.
  •                 Found random handfuls of vegetables and meats in the freezer and thrown them in a soup or casserole. (Believe me, The Tall Bald Guy and The Boy haven’t noticed!)
  •                 Opened the curtains to let the light (and heat) in when I’m in the house by myself, sitting under blankets and wearing extra clothes (and legwarmers) if I got cold rather than turning the furnace up.
  •                 Made laundry detergent at home for $.72 for three gallons rather than spend ten times as much on a quart bottle of the cheapest brand at the store.
  •                 Used newspaper for seedling pots in the container garden on the porch.
  •                 Researched using canned and dry goods past the date, and refrained from throwing carefully inspected goods away simply because the “use by” date has passed.
  •                 Saved all those egg shells from the deviled eggs I made at Easter and added them to the soil before planting the tomato seedlings to combat Blossom End Rot.
  •                 Introduced more meatless and “leftover dinners” to The Tall Bald Guy and The Boy, who, as it turns out, don’t mind a bit!
  •                 …and a thousand other things.

Maybe I’m just bored. I feel more productive somehow when I’m researching new information and testing it out in my home. I feel like I can add things to my frugal arsenal or check them off my list if they’re not feasible for my family.

I need new material, and I don’t know where to find it. So I’m sending this out there to all of you:

What frugal thing have you done in your home that no one else you know does?

Inspire us! Throw out there your craziest money-saving venture, even if it only saved pennies. Even if it didn’t work well for you. Even if it crashed and burned—like my experiment with homemade dishwasher detergent. Yuck!

Leave your message at the end of this entry. I can’t wait to hear from you!

Wife, the Great and Powerful (and Frugal)

 

–.gif Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

 

Liebster Blog Award

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I was recently nominated by KleesButterfly for the Liebster Award! How nice of her to think of someone all the way over here in America!

I have read the rules, and it looks like a great way to get to know people. The rules for accepting the Liebster Award are:

  1. Send a link back to the blogger who nominated me.
  2. Answer 11 questions asked by the blogger who nominated me.
  3. Provide 11 random facts about myself.
  4. Find 11 websites to nominate for the Liebster Award, and ask them 11 questions.

If you haven’t seen KleesButterfly’s TravelBlog, I encourage you to go and take a look—her photos of the history and local color of Germany and other parts of Europe are the next best thing to being there!

KleesButterfly asked me 11 questions about myself:

  1. What would you like other people to stop doing? I would like people to stop working so hard to get out of working. I especially saw it a lot in the hospital psych ward where I used to work.
  2. In which city would you live, if you could choose freely? And why? If I could freely choose it would be somewhere in the countryside. I currently live in central Indiana.
  3. Do your pets sleep in your bed? Yes, and they hog most of it.
  4. Do you follow rules on dates? I don’t date anymore, but when we were dating, my husband was a perfect gentleman. Threw me for a loop because I wasn’t used to it, thanks to the jerk I was married to before.
  5. What is your next planned travel destination? I will be going with my husband in July to western Pennsylvania to visit his mom.
  6. Have you ever hitchhiked? If yes, when? Nope!
  7. Who is your favorite artist? Not sure. Never really paid attention to one in particular.
  8. Do you read while eating? No, but I eat while reading. :)
  9. While traveling, do you have regularly excess baggage at airports or do you weigh your suitcase at home? I don’t travel much at all, and I have never flown in a plane.
  10. What is your favorite café (indicate the city and the name, and if you like, a link as well)? Don’t go out for coffee or to restaurants at all; I have too many food allergies.
  11. Do you still read paper newspapers (I mean the real ones, not on the internet)? Never had a subscription myself, but my mom brings the Sunday paper over every week. I read it less and less. A few weeks ago I used them to make biodegradable seedling pots in my container garden.

Eleven Random Facts About Myself:

  1. I am allergic to several different foods.
  2. I have a cat named Bubba and a dog named Fiver. Bubba had a littermate named Earl who ran off for greener pastures long ago, but when they were together I called them “BubbaKnurl.” You know, like Brangelina? Fiver was named after the runt rabbit in Watership Down, since he was the runt of his own litter.
  3. I have a Master’s degree in Counseling, but I don’t use it. I couldn’t bring myself to perpetuate the machine—what passes for acute mental health care in my area is ridiculous. After five years of swimming upstream I took a job as a secretary at the university where I obtained my degrees.
  4. I write and use a fork left-handed, and I bat and throw a ball right-handed.
  5. I like to read Harry Potter FanFiction, and I was a beta tester for Pottermore.
  6. I am 5 feet 10 inches tall, and I’m still the shortest in the house—on two legs, anyway.
  7. I married my second husband on Friday the 13th. Strangely enough, the wedding chapel was open that day. :) We got our marriage license on April Fools’ Day.
  8. When I was a kid I wanted to either be a professional photographer or a deejay.
  9. My first job was at a KidsRUs. It was a new store at the time, and for the Grand Opening I wore a Pound Puppy suit. It was the grey dog…don’t remember his name. It was really fun being able to run around and frolic in that suit, but it bugged me when the kids would step on my paws and pull my tail. :)
  10. I don’t really warm up to people when I start a new job for a year or two. I’m rather quiet at first, but when I start to cut up and have fun, people look at me like they’ve never met me before.
  11. I have a 19-year-old son who has been taller than me for quite some time and inherited my twisted sense of humor.

Now I get to choose 11 other bloggers to get to know, and here they are in no particular order:

  1. http://soccertranslated.wordpress.com/
  2. http://myaberdeengarden.wordpress.com/
  3. http://talesfromtheseed.wordpress.com/
  4. http://livingthelifeofkylie.wordpress.com/
  5. http://letsreviewstuffblog.wordpress.com/
  6. http://tomboyforlife.wordpress.com/
  7. http://susipet.wordpress.com/
  8. http://thesnallygaster.wordpress.com/
  9. http://excusemytruths.com/
  10. http://garamchaikipyalli.wordpress.com/
  11. http://maddisallotment.com/

And they have to answer my 11 questions:

  1. Dark chocolate or milk chocolate?
  2. What is your favorite movie/television genre?
  3. What is your favorite music?
  4. Education, money, and location aside, what is your dream job?
  5. Do you grow anything for your own consumption or decoration (vegetables, livestock, flowers, etc.)?
  6. What was the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
  7. Name one little thing you do for yourself to relax and recharge.
  8. Are you Introverted or Extraverted? If you don’t know, take a quick test here.
  9. Do you have a favorite season of the year?
  10. What is the strangest gift you have ever received?
  11. Do you prefer paper books and magazines or their electronic versions (Kindle, Nook, etc.)?

I look forward to hearing everyone’s answers!

 

 

 

R.I.P. Fiver: May 2, 2006-May 12, 2014

We were privileged to be present at the first day of Fiver’s life as well as the last, through the food allergies, the clicker and crate training, the messes, the barking, and the insatiable appetite of an animal who found joy in a simple truck ride. The house is far too quiet today.

R.I.P. Fiver: TruckDog, Patroller of Sidewalks, Destroyer of Squeaky Toys, Conqueror of Kibble, Beggar of Breakfasts, Squirrel Tracker Extraordinaire, Garden Guardian, and All-Around Good Boy.

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