Saturday, March 30, 2013

Gimmee Bread, Man

Yesterday was ladies' lunch at Silver City Brewery.  All my girls have their birthday in March and I take them all out for lunch and we have a great time.  This year I even got presents!!  In the picture, Miss MaggieMay on the left, Miss KnowItAll in the center, and my daughter-in-law, Miss PeggyRae, on the right.

I want to expound on my ideas about bread today.  Remember back in the late 80s when everybody went gaga over bread machines??  After about six months to a year, most machines went to live out their life on a shelf out in the garage.  Not mine.  I'm on my third one and I bought it in 2000, and it is still going strong.  It is a Breadman Pro and definitely worth the money, although it is getting scruffed up.  It always lives on the counter with the doggie bone cookie jar.

When did store bought bread get so expensive??  A loaf of good bread (like Killer Dave) will set you back about $5 at my store, and the rest of the bunch are pretty spendy, also.  And have you read the label recently??  I found this in the very back of my fridge and was freaked out when I read the label because I had eaten most of the loaf:

This is the list of ingredients to make this humble loaf of bread:

  1. Wheat flour
  2. Malted barley flour
  3. Niacin
  4. Reduced iron
  5. Thiamin monointrate
  6. Riboflavin
  7. Folic acid
  8. Water
  9. Oats
  10. Triticale
  11. Barley
  12. Rye
  13. Wheat germ
  14. Flax seeds
  15. Sunflower seeds
  16. Cornmeal
  17. Yeast
  18. Sugar
  19. Vital wheat gluten
  20. Brown sugar
  21. Vegetable oil
  22. Raisin paste
  23. Cultured wheat flour
  24. Distilled vinegar
  25. Xanthan gum
  26. Salt
  27. Dough conditioner
  28. Calcium sulfate
  29. Enzymes
  30. Nonfat dry milk
  31. Soy flour
Pretty scary, isn't it??  No wonder bread has gotten so expensive.  This particular loaf expired in February and is still going strong with no mold.  I don't know about this.  I prefer to make my own.  It is easy, inexpensive, and I know exactly what is in it.

I buy my yeast at Costco and store it in the bottom drawer of the fridge.  It is a cinch to measure or weigh it out and the whole bag cost about the same as a three stripper from the market.  Miss CutiePie told me about King Arthur flour about a year ago.  It makes a better loaf than regular bread flour.  I have no idea why, it just does.

I tinkered with my recipe for quite some time before I got it just right.
  • 2 1/4 t yeast, or one pack
  • 11/8 c warm water
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T molasses
  • 11/2 c unbleached flour
  • 3/4 c whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 c whole oats
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 c sunflower seeds
Proof the yeast in the warm water.  When it blooms, pour it into the breadmaker pan.  Add the rest of the ingredients, except the sunflower seeds, which are added towards the end of the kneading.  Close the lid and turn on the machine.

As you can see, this makes a tall loaf.  If I want a perfectly shaped loaf, I put it in a loaf pan when the kneading is done and bake it.  This loaf will last me at least two weeks in the fridge and makes fabulous toast.

So dig out that old breadmaker and give it a go.  It just takes a few minutes to measure the ingredients.  You can load most breadmakers in the evening and set it to be done baking by the time you get up the next morning.  This wasn't a huge success at the MoneyPenny house because the wonderful smell of baking bread jerked us right out of a sound sleep before we were ready to get up.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Get The Most From Your Costco American Express Card

Yesterday my yard got mowed for the first time this year.  It really needed it, what with all the sun and rain we have gotten.  It was over a foot high over the drain field and in nice even rows.  I forget how awful it is after the mowing, especially if the grass is wet.  The above picture is of Pici's green feet.  I have grass all over the house, including in my bed.  Wherever the dogs go, it is green, but the yard looks good.  You have to take the good with the bad, my mama said.

Usually when we think of our American Express card we are only thinking about the annual rebate check and no annual fee, but there is a lot more than just 4% back for gas, 2% for travel and restaurants, and 1% for everything else.  I checked the Amex site out and here is what it said:
  1. Extended warranty -   For instance: you bought a new lawn mover last year, using your card and it had a one year warranty.  This spring, a year later, you go out to start your mower.  The engine has seized over the winter and your warranty is up.  Give Amex a call because they will warranty your mower for an additional year so you can buy a new one.
  2. Return protection - Example: you buy yourself a new iPod, using your card, then your son gives you one for Mother's Day.  You take the first one back to BestBuy, but they have a 30 day return policy (I just made that up.  I have no idea what it is).  What to do??  Call Amex because their return policy is 90 days and they will refund your purchase price, if the merchant won't, but this does not include shipping or taxes.  I don't know whether they come and get your iPod, or not.
  3. Purchase protection - Amex will refund the purchase price of your item, bought using your card, if it gets stolen or accidentally damaged within 90 days.
Living out in the sticks, as I do, small merchants rarely take my Amex card, but big chain stores like QFC and Safeway do.  For big purchases, I usually head out to Silverdale where everyone takes it.  I also use it for purchases online.  But if you want to cover all your bases, you could also try the Visa Signature card.  I don't personally have one of these but I'm thinking about it, because they supposedly have a lot of the same benefits and everybody takes Visa.  

I'm happy to have my way with the credit cards, because, for years, they had their way with me.  Once I got smart and quit carrying a balance, my card started to work for me, and it doesn't cost me a thing.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Hummer Time in the City

I was surprised this morning when I got up at 6:30 and fogged my way out to the coffee pot, to see that the hummers were busy at the feeder.  It was still dark!!  Do those guys work 24/7??  That would certainly explain why they are going through so much sugar water.

I brought my new feeder in to change the nectar and snap a picture, so that you can see how cool it is.  I got this up at my local hardware store for about $20.  There is nothing plastic on it and it completely comes apart for really good cleaning.  Even the little flower dealies are metal.  My old feeder was plastic with places you could never get to to clean.  And I love the red old fashioned jar with the funky little flowers.

I don't waste money on those mixes that you can buy, preferring to make my own without red dye.  I'm always looking for deals on sugar because the hummers are going through a feeder a day and that adds up.

The recipe is really easy; just use sugar; not honey, or anything like that:

1 cup sugar
4 cups water

When the water has come to a boil, add the sugar and stir until the water is clear again, and all the sugar is dissolved.  When it has cooled, fill your feeder and store the rest in the fridge.  Easy peasy.

Change out the water every couple of days, or, sooner, if it gets cloudy, because we don't want the little guys to get sick.  They need to be good and strong to dive bomb us every time we get in "their" space.

Carpal Tunnel Surgery Bill Update:

I've been nervously waiting for the bill from the surgery, imaging all kinds of horrible scenarios.  Well, that was wasted energy for sure because the bill came to $228.24, after the insurance company paid.  The cost was $1850.00 per hand, coming in at $3700.00 for the whole works.  Not having to be put under and having both hands done at the same time really was a money saver.  And my insurance company really came through on this.

Trader Joe's Update:

Miss Teri left a nice comment on my post about Trader Joe's and my not being a fan.  I so wanted to love TJs.  I remember the morning I was putting away the newspapers at the library when I noticed a headline that said that TJs was coming to Silverdale.  I read it out loud and everybody in the library cheered.

As I mentioned, there are things that I only buy at TJs, but to get good value for my bucks, I need to do most of my shopping elsewhere.  I think that the clerks are great - always cheerful and willing to help.  I did buy a Romaine lettuce 3 pack the other day when I was buying my coffee filters.  It was $1.99 and very fresh.  Next time I'm there (Miss MaggieMay loves TJs) I'll pick up some more.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

QFC Grocery Basket 3/27

Miss MoneyPenny is not a big fan of Trader Joe's.  There, I said it.  I know this is unAmerican, but I've had bad luck with their produce, such as, dry and juiceless lemons, bad avocados, and mushy apples, and moldy bread.  And what is with all their "organic" processed foods??  Seems strange to see those words in the same sentence.

Having said all that, I always buy my coffee filters there.  When did these things get so expensive??  At TJ's they are only $1.99 for 100 brown #4s, which is a screaming deal.  And after I've brewed my morning coffee, I toss the whole thing, filter and all, into the compost for the wormies.  They also carry a high quality sea salt for a good price and canned coconut milk (for curries) at $ .99 a can.

I'm not down on TJ's like I am with Walmart, but since I pretty much cook from scratch. there isn't much there for me.  I do better budget-wise shopping the weekly QFC ad, Costco, and Chimacum Corners, our local farm stand for my food.

Now that I've blown off some steam, let's look at the QFC ad for this week.  Sunday is Easter and a lot of people cook up a big feed.  I used to do this before the kids took it over and added the adult Easter egg hunt.  I modeled my menu on what Mom cooked which was always a big ham.  The kids rarely cook a ham, since none of us like it, preferring to serve ribs or Mexican food before the big hunt.

If you are having ham, it is on sale for $ .99 a pound this week.  The best part of the ham, as far as I'm concerned, is making bean soup with the bone.  QFC is still running the Buy 5, Save $5 promo and the cereal promo, which is Buy 4/Get a free gallon of milk, with cereal at $10 for 4 boxes.

Here are my suggestions this week:

Spice Island Spices - 33% off
Mountain High Yogurt - $1.49 (Buy 5, Save $5 promo)
QFC Butter - $1.79
QFC Whipping Cream - $2/16oz
Simple Truth Natural Eggs - $2.50/doz
Tillamook Cheese - $4.99/2lb
Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream - $2.69/16oz (promo)
Boneless Pork Loin - $2.99/lb
Gusto Shank Half Ham - $ .99/lb
Fresh Dover Sole - $5.99/lb
Asparagus - $1.98/lb
Driscoll's Strawberries - $2/lb
Grape Tomatoes - $3/10oz
Green Onions - $ .69/bunch
Radishes - $ .69/bunch
Fresh Cut Tulips - $3.33/5 stems (3 for $10)

I noticed that there is a lot of alcohol on sale this week.  It takes up a lot of ad space which they could be using for real food specials, but I have a feeling that there is real money to be made on booze, as opposed to milk and bread.  Nothing like getting blasted on Easter.  I have actually done this back in the old days, but now I wouldn't survive the hangover.

Cruise Fund Update:

Old Balance              =    $741.81

                                 +       14.39 (Amazon sale)

New Balance            =    $756.20

Monday, March 25, 2013

Costco's Kirkland Signature Brand

Now you know how Miss MoneyPenny loves Costco.  Miss MoneyPenny is all about getting good value for her hard earned bucks and Costco does not disappoint.  I wrote an earlier post on how to shop Costco and you can look at it here, but I have a couple rules that I live by when it comes to my Costco shopping trip:

  1. A list is mandatory
  2. Set a budget
  3. If I see a bright sparkly thing that I just gotta have, it goes on the list for next month.
  4. Can I really use it all, no matter the great price??
These simple rules have saved me from spending way too much money.  I actually avoided Costco for several years because of this reason, but once I figured out how to shop there, it is my favorite place to save some serious money.  And an important part of this is the Kirkland Signature brand.

I'm usually not a fan of "store brands," no matter how cheap they are.  My experience has been that they are of inferior quality, so I avoid them, as I did the Kirkland Signature products.  Then I bought the famous toilet paper, then the paper towels, then the garbage bags, and I was hooked.

The Kirkland Signature brand was first introduced at Costco in 1995 with the promise that these products would be equal to, or better than the best selling national brands, at a great price.  These products are constantly being revisited and re-evaluated every 12 to 24 months to make sure that they are still up to snuff.

Here is my list of KS products that I buy, and I totally agree that they live up to the promise.  This list is a work in process as I discover more KS products.
  1. KS Dark Roast Supremo Coffee (3lb can) - $9.99
  2. KS Fabric Softener - $9.89
  3. KS Salmon & Sweet Potato Dog Food (35lb bag) - $33.69
  4. KS Bath Tissue - $14.99
  5. KS Kitchen Garbage Bags - 
  6. KS Paper Towels
  7. KS Aller-Tec (generic Zyrtec) - $14.99
  8. KS Ibuprofen (generic Advil) - $17.69
  9. KS Vitamin C
  10. KS CoQ10
  11. KS Nuts
  12. KS Albacore Tuna - $14.99
  13. KS Honey - $12.99
My daughter-in-law, Miss PeggyRae, gave me the composter pictured at the top for Christmas, and it came from Costco.  The picture doesn't really show just how big both of those containers are.  This year I am not going to run out of composting space.  I'm still adding to the bin on the right, giving it a spin every time I empty my kitchen crock to hurry it along.  When it is full, I'll just spin it, only adding new stuff to the bin on the left.  It is sitting in full sun, so these warm days should get it to cooking.

Yesterday I visited the local garden center and came home with a flat of starts from Red Dog Farm, which is just down the road about two miles.  The starts that I bought from them last year did really well.  I'm a little concerned about getting them in the ground because last night was cold, 25 degrees when I got up this morning at 6:30, but I'm gonna do it anyway, because I can't wait.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday MishMash

I've got a question.  In my house there is carpeting in the master bedroom (not a big room), the small guest room, and in my very small office.  The rest of the house is moppable, but where do my critters go to throw up??  You guessed it!!  In fact, if they have too far to go to make it to the carpet in time, they will throw up on the rug under the dining table.  Miss KnowItAll suggests that they need traction for this particular activity. Makes sense to me.  I should buy stock in Al's Carpet Cleaning.

I want to mention that LL Bean is offering a $10 gift card with the purchase of $50, and 10% off your order until Monday, the 25th.  I've been waiting for this.  The way I'm gonna work this deal is to go to the Ebates site and type in LL Bean because I'm going to earn 2% of my order for my  Ebates account.  Then I will also use my Costco American Express card to earn 1% towards my annual rebate.  This is how it will look:

Order (1 tee & yoga pants)    =      $70.00

                                              _         7.00  (10% off)

Order total                            =       $63.00

Gift card                               =       $10.00

Ebates                                  =       $ 1.26

Amex                                   =       $  .63

The other day I was reading the latest issue of the Costco Connection, which I "borrowed" from the doctor's office (no matter what I do, Costco will not send me my own issue because I am "family").  Anyway, the article that I was reading mentioned a website that was started by two ladies (Nancy and Marlene), who really hate food waste.  The name of their site is Expendable Edibles and it is a good one.

They don't waste anything!! even stems and skins.  No matter what you got, they have a use for it and their recipes are practically gourmet, even for leftover morning coffee.  The site is easy to use and there is a handy search box which will take you right to that recipe for leftover mashed potatoes or that wine that is getting a little long in the tooth.

There is even a tip jar so you can help them get enough money together to write their cookbook.  I'm gonna donate because I want to see that book get written because I think it is important.  Our grannies knew how to get the ever living last bit out of their food but, somehow, most of us don't have a clue.  This would make a fabulous gift for a young bride, and an old one, too.

On that note, here is my food waste.  I've been doing really well in that department lately, but occasionally something will get away from me.  This is a pretty spendy jar of preserves that I bought for a recipe and then promptly forgot it because I'm not a jammy person, and, yes, that is mold.  Eeew!!

Cha ching : $5.00

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Review: Myfitnesspal

This is such a useful app that it deserves its own post!!  My sister, who is a real smartypants, told me about this cool app.  I checked it out and it is the real deal, and a screaming deal, too, because it is free!!

This is everything that Weight Watchers Online is and a hell of a lot easier to navigate, and, did I say that it is free??  The last time I checked WW Online was $14.95 per month, which isn't bad when it comes to weight loss programs.  Have you checked into Jenny Craig lately??  Could easily cost you $300 - $400 a month!!

With myfitnesspal you get a weight tracker, food tracker, exercise tracker, lively community, and even a barcode scanner.  They have millions of foods along with nutritional information stored in their huge database, and it is easily accessible.  You can save favorite recipes that will go quickly into your food tracker with a couple of clicks.  And when you exercise, it will tell you how many calories you burned.  You can even track your water intake.

But - this will only work if you do the tracking, just like all weight loss tools.  I have MFP installed on all my devices, so that I can track better, no matter where I'm at.  The method that works best for me is to pre-plan my meals and exercise for a couple of days.  This way I know what I'm gonna be eating and what I need to buy at the grocery store.  If something comes up, it is easy to change.

So, if you need some help getting rid of that pesky winter/holiday flab, and we all have it, check out this app. It really works, especially if you talk to it often, like it is your best pal.  Oh, yeah.  Did I tell you that it has audio??  On my smartphone, whenever there is a keyboard, there is also a microphone.  Slick!!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

QFC Grocery Basket 3/20

The first day of spring came in like a grizzly this morning, blowing and raining like crazy, but I'm not complaining.  We are doing so much better weather-wise than most of the poor country.  I saw a late night comedian say that they should eat Phil because he predicted a short winter and early spring.  What does a groundhog really know, anyway??

I saw an interview with the author of Salt, Sugar, and Fat this morning on the CBS morning show with Charlie Rose that just blew me away.  Michael Moss has a Pulitzer, so I'm taking him very seriously.  He has done interviews and research into what Big Food puts in their processed foods to make us actually addicted just like Big Tobacco has done.  I'm not surprised as I have a heavy addiction to Coffee Mate and the only way I can give it up is to not drink coffee, which is really not a bad idea, but it gets me going in the morning like nothing else.

I'm gonna read his book and probably scare the pants off myself, but I'm pretty sure that he will advocate buying and eating only "real food" to be safe.  As you know, this involves a lot of planning and careful shopping and work in the kitchen - just like what our grandmas did.  Miss MoneyPenny tries to help out by posting as much "real food" in the weekly ad as she can find, and here it is for this week:

Franz Bread - $2.49/loaf
Gold Medal Flour - $2/5 lb bag (stock up price)
Mountain High Yogurt - $2.79/qt ($ .50 coupon SS/2/24)
QFC Eggs - $2/18ct (good price for Easter egg dying)
QFC Butter - $2.49/lb
QFC Cottage Cheese - $1.67/24oz
QFC Whipping Cream - $2/16oz
Fresh Wild Rockfish Fillets - $5.99/lb
Broccoli Crowns - $ .99/lb
Cauliflower - $ .99/lb
Roma Tomatoes - $ 99/lb
Colored Bell Peppers - $1.25/ea

QFC is running two promos this week - Buy 5, Save $5 and Buy 4 Cereals, get free gallon of milk.

Cruise Fund Update:

Old Balance - $621.81

                   +   120.00 (Costco/Amex rebate)

New Balance - $741.81

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Again With the Tax Tips From Miss SmartyPants

 So - just in case you think that Miss MoneyPenny exaggerates, here's the proof!!  I've mentioned in earlier posts how important it is to have free haul-away of your old mattress when you buy a new one.  Well, yesterday Miss CutiePie and I were out dividing up the sedums and daylillies (mainly she was doing all the work) when I spotted this leaning up against my neighbor's house, and it is still there today, so it isn't just getting aired out.  And it is getting ready to rain!!  I don't know what to say.

My sister, Miss SmartyPants, is counting down the days until April 15th when she finally gets to take a deep breath.  She took a minute and sent another tax tip.  She must be thinking of our kids because Granny gave them a mint coin set every year for Christmas for about 30 years.  I asked my son if he still had it and he looked at me like I was crazy to ask such a silly question.  If he ever plans to sell it, he will need to consider the tax implications.

More tax tips:

If the dust is collecting on Grandpa's old coin collection or you just have too many Monet's for your wall space, you may be considering selling them. Be aware that these are taxable income items. They are considered collectibles and you do not get the lower capital gains rate as you would if you sold that vacant lot next to the shopping center downtown. Or if you buy gold or silver coins when the price is down and sell when the price goes up. These are considered collectibles also. Could have serious tax implications. Be sure to talk with your tax advisor before you sell. Who would have thought that you would be penalized for buying gold coins versus gold stocks? The laws these congressmen come up with...

I have been noticing that my Electrolux Stick Vac didn't seem to be working as well lately, so I turned it over and this is what I found - a whole head of hair wrapped around the brushes.  There was also a big choking gob around the little turner mechanisms at the ends.

This is easy to fix.  Just open the little door on the left side and the roller comes right out, making it easy to cut off the hair and strings.  This made a huge difference!!  I really need to do this more often.

There's an app for that:

My post is all over the place today and that gives you an idea of how my brain works.  To organize it, I use a couple of apps.  The app on the left is Evernote and I love it to death.  I have it installed on my phone, Color Nook, and computer.  It syncs everything together, somehow, out there in the ether, so if you write a note on one of them, they all know it.  Too Cool!!

I'm a huge list-maker, so this is just right up my alley, and I'm always taking notes or writing down my thoughts.  I rarely sit down to write MMP without my notes and research.  And you can throw away your grocery list.  Since Evernote has audio, I just tell it what I want on my list, then when I get to the store, it is on my phone.  

And how many times have you been waiting at the doctor's office and something comes to you that you want to remember??  Grab your phone.  In fact, you can even turn on your little microphone thingy and record your doctor when she finally gets to you and it will write it all down.  Slick!!

I recently added the web clipper and am figuring out how to work it, but the idea is Evernote will take your highlighted piece of information and store it for you to read later.  Or, for example, say you are in the market for a new washing machine.  Have the web clipper store your research on the different models.  When it comes time to buy, whip out your phone and it will be there for you in the store. 

On Saturday, Shane, the world's cutest handyman, is coming by to build some raised beds and I have my list and specifications on my phone.  I thought that I would just show it to him, but guess what??  You can print out your lists!!  Which I did, and I'll just give it to him, and I won't have forgotten anything.

I've just skimmed over the top of what this app will do and I'm just learning myself.  There is a lot of information on getting the most from this app on their site and on the web.

Now, my sister swears by Astrid Tasks, the one on the right.  This is a great list maker that actually has a reminder (Evernote does not have a reminder) that will ring and alert you that it is time to apply the flea meds, or change the furnace filter.  This is what I mainly use Astrid for but if you need a good basic list maker this is for you.  I'm sure if Miss SmartyPants has something to add, she'll let us know.

Both apps are free, which is a screaming good deal!!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Herby Butter

Today is National Supreme Sacrifice Day.  Forget that!!  Who comes up with this stuff, anyway??  I'm headed out for pizza and diggin' with Miss CutiePie today, so no sacrificing here.  She is gonna do the digging and I'm gonna reap the benefits of divided Autumn Joy sedums and daylillies.  I've almost waited too long but because of the carpal tunnel surgery I've not been able to get on the business end of a shovel.  That has been the hardest part of this whole deal.

Pictured above is my son, the plumber, holding my great-granddaughter, Miss AslynGrace.  She is coming up on six months here pretty soon.  She is a tiny little thing.  Her grandpa weighed what she does now at six weeks!!  What a little beauty she is!!

Yesterday I got outside before the rain hit and pruned up the herb patch.  In these two pots which are outside the kitchen door, I grow sage, thyme, marjoram, and oregano.  They were looking pretty scraggly, so I cleaned them up.  The purple sage did not do very well over the winter.

I gave the new growth a haircut so it can take off now that we are having some warmish sunny days.

When you grow herbs in pots, they have to be dumped out and divided every three or four years, depending on post size.  Otherwise, they don't do very well.  I also give them all new dirt to give them a boost.

The thyme smelled so good when I was cleaning it up that I thought that I should make a batch of herb butter for the freezer.  This recipe is easy peasy and you can adjust it any way you like.  You can use whatever herb that you want.  Dill butter is another one of my faves.

For thyme butter I assembled butter, cracked pepper, garlic, lemon zest, and the thyme, of course, in my food processor:

Midway through, give it a good scraping so that it all gets incorporated.

When it is well mixed, scrape it onto some plastic wrap and mold it into a log.

Once you have it shaped, wrap it up and stick it in the freezer.  When you want to use it, just slice off what you need and put the rest back until next time.  I like to put slices under the breast skin when I'm roasting a chicken and add it to finish steamed veggies or fish.

If you have more than one person in your household, you can make several rolls at a time.  When the dill is on this summer, I'll make several to last through the winter.  This stuff is really good!!  We all need a jolt of summer time in the deep bowels of winter.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Mattress Redux

Now you know how Miss MoneyPenny loves it when somebody leaves a nice comment on her blog.  And not only does she love the comments, sometimes they even get re-posted up front if there is something useful to share.

Michael Green left a nice comment the other day on one of the mattress posts and I think he is a pretty smart guy because he agrees with me about the problem of an old mattress.  You really don't want one laying around the place bringing down property values in the neighborhood.  Remember - several years ago, the renters next door heaved their old mattress out the back door in the rain, and then proceeded to set fire to it.  Nothing says low-life like a two week old mattress smolder.  This is what Michael had to say:

 Getting rid of an old mattress is no fun at all if not a real problem. This is a good point to consider before purchasing a new one. Your insights are practical and economical, and it helps me have a good idea since I’m planning to purchase a new mattress. Thank you!

So, make sure when you buy your new mattress that they have free haul away of your old mattress...if you don't plan on handing it down to the kids.  I bought my new mattress at SleepCountry and they recycle gently used mattresses for charity.  I'm assuming that they go through a rigorous debugging of some sort and just what do they mean by "gently used"??

Heads up!!  I'm told that the May issue of Consumer Reports magazine is covering mattresses.  This would be a very good place to start and then just go lay on some mattresses.  It doesn't take long to narrow the field when your back is doing the talking.  Hint: I'm told that the Kirkland Signature mattress at Costco is a very good mattress but you gotta do the hauling.

Now, on to more fun things.  It is difficult to find a lot of gardening tasks that can be done by a recovering double carpal tunnel surgery war veteran, but I did.  Today was such a perfect day for gardening.  My sister called it a "soft spring day" and that covers it.  I even heard the frogs for the first time and they were croaking up a storm down by the creek.

The most important thing that I did today was jet-spray the wasp's nests down from last summer before they could move back in.  I took down about 20 of their hotels.  I didn't find any wasps but there were a couple of some kind of bees complaining around my head.

I also Sluggo'd all around the entire house, paying close attention where they like to hang out.  Doing this really keeps the population down and allows me to actually have a garden.  Costco is the best place to buy your Sluggo, unless you find some real screaming sale elsewhere.

This is my Jack Frost given to me last fall by Miss KnowItAll.  As you can see the snails love him, so I hit him hard with the Sluggo.  The picture doesn't do his bright blue flowers justice but they are there.

The flowering red currant is just about ready to burst forth and be stunning for about two weeks.  After that??  Not so much.  I used to have two of them but finally convinced my neighbor, Kim, a novice gardener, to take one.  This bush really needs to be any place other than a flower bed because he is all over the place and pretty ugly the rest of the year.  He would work well in a native plant type of garden because that is what he is.

Carpal Tunnel Update:

It was two weeks yesterday since my surgery and all stitches are now out.  You can see where the stitches were by the little holes and there were a total of four.  You can also see that the surgery was in a pretty important location on my hands.  Now all I need is some patience and that is starting to be in short supply.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Corned Beef Redux

I love these guys!!  I am also very proud of them.  The CutiePies, aka, the Thackers, are a young couple who are really on the ball.  They are smart, hard working and beautiful.  They have accomplished amazing things in their two year marriage because of their hard work and vision.  And they are fun to be around.  Be sure and check out their blog and see what they are up to.  They have done a lot of work on their house.

Miss CutiePie posted a comment on my last blog about cooking corned beef in a cooking bag.  I thought that it was too good to pass by, so I'm gonna re-post it:

       We've had corned beef twice this month already (can you tell we love it in our house?). This year I've tried something new and have been cooking it in the crockpot. I throw it in with about a cup of beer or wine (whatever I have on hand) and sprinkle it with the spice packet it comes with and let it sit all day. I check it periodically during the afternoon and if I think it is getting overcooked I'll change my setting to keep warm. So far around 8 hours has worked well and I've roasted my cabbage and potatoes separately in the oven. This is my new favorite preparation! The veggies and potatoes aren't soggy and the corned beef has been moist and perfect every time!

And my sister, Miss SmartyPants, also chimed in:

I love MMP cooking ideas in those cooking bags. No cleanup and everything is always cooked to perfection. I must make the leap some time. I have always cooked my corned beef in the crockpot since way back in the early 70's when I got my first crockpot. Remember those first ones? You had to soak the whole thing in the sink because 1) it didn't have a removable cooking pot 2) it definitely wasn't nonstick 3) the cord did not remove from the bottom of the pot. I'm amazed that we didn't all burn our houses down with those things! My glass lid had a chip in it and one of the little legs rotted off and it still kept cookin' away for years and years. About 10 years later I finally bought a new crockpot with a removable liner and set the old crockpot on top of the outside garbage can. My husband came in after work with the crockpot in his hands and said that it still worked and it looked sad out there. So, I put it back on the shelf and it sat there unused for another 10 years, but with a happy face. I throw on 1/2 of my cabbage and let it cook all day with the corned beef because I love the cabbage flavor mixed with the corned beef. Then, about an hour or so before I'm ready to eat, I take the rest of cabbage and cut it into 1/4s and push it down into the juice and cook some more. I've never thought about putting my own seasonings on... What a concept! 

I love it when I get comments and I will keep sharing those that are helpful.  From now on, I'm going to put beer in my cooking bag instead of water.  What a good idea!!  The recipe calls for only a half cup of liquid, so I guess I'll just have to drink the rest.  Right??  No waste in the MoneyPenny household.
I wasn't going to cook corned beef this year because it is just me but now I'm craving it, so I'm gonna invite the Bradster over to share.  He's a good eater and a real appreciator of leftovers.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

QFC Grocery Basket 3/13

Does it get any sweeter than this??  This is my great-granddaughter and her daddy, Kevin, taking a little nap.  My granddaughter is really good with a camera and I think that she would win if she entered this picture in a contest.

Top 'o the mornin' to ya, even though it is almost night, but we are getting into the spirit of St. Paddy's Day, which is this Sunday according to my Seahawks calendar.  I plan to celebrate the day by watching a spring training game with the Mariners.  If I were entertaining that day, I would cook corned beef and cabbage, along with potatoes and lots of horseradish sauce.  And good beer.

I always have good success cooking corned beef, except for once, and that was totally not my fault.  The local butcher at that time assured me that his own cured corned beef was the best.  It wasn't!! and I had a house full of guests.  In fact, it was inedible due to amazing saltiness, even though I rinsed the hell out of it and boiled it - just like he said.  Good thing we had lots of beer.

Boiling your corned beef is the traditional method of cooking it and it works fine, but I really think it turns out much better in a cooking bag.  I think that the directions are in the cooking bag box but in case they aren't, these are the directions from the Reynolds' site.  I usually do not add the allspice or salt, because it is plenty salty already, in my informed opinion.


1 Reynolds™ Oven Bag, Large Size
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup water
1 corned beef brisket, about 2 1/2 pounds
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 head cabbage, cut in 6 wedges
1 large onion, cut in 6 wedges
3 large carrots, cut in half crosswise and then lengthwise


  1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F.
  2. SHAKE flour in Reynolds Oven Bag; place in 13x9-inch baking pan. Add water to oven bag. Squeeze bag to blend in flour.
  3. ADD beef to bag, fat side up. Sprinkle allspice, salt and pepper over meat. Place vegetables around beef.
  4. CLOSE oven bag with nylon tie; cut six 1/2-inch slits in top.
REYNOLDS KITCHENS TIP: If a seasoning packet is included in your corned beef package, substitute it for the allspice, salt and pepper.


  1. BAKE 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until fork-tender. Let stand 10 minutes. Remove and toss top leaf from cabbage. Slice beef and serve with vegetables and meat juices.      
You will thank me for this little hint, especially at clean up time.

Since it is coming up to St. Patrick's Day, it is time to move the shamrock from the holiday plant nursery (the guest room) and hit it with the Schultz's plant food.  Once it assumes its rightful place in the bright north window, it will bloom its little heart out all summer.  

This shamrock was part of Grandma Lou's big giant one and her daughter, my daughter-in-law, Miss PeggyRae, gave me a chunk after Lou passed away.  It is special to me, and meaning no disrespect, we both call it "Lou", as in, Lou needs water, or repotting.  I'll take a picture when she gets up to her full beauty.

Okay, let's take a look at the ad.  QFC is still running the promo where you buy four boxes of cereal and then get a gallon of milk free.  I took advantage of this once when my grandson was going to be here for a week.  He was very impressed when I whipped out my coupons for his favorite cereals that were on sale and then got a free gallon of milk.  

Here are my picks this week:

3 day ad - Friday thru Sunday

Corned Beef Brisket - $2.99/lb
Green Cabbage - $ .59/lb
Red or Yukon Gold Potatoes - $ .79/lb

Regular ad

Franz Bread - $2.50/loaf
Tide Laundry Detergent - $4.99/small size (coupons in March PG insert)
Land O Lakes Butter - $2.50/lb
Coffee Mate Creamer - $2.79/qt
QFC Sour Cream - $1.25/16oz (cut with horseradish sauce, yum!!)
Tillamook Yogurt - $ .50/6oz
USDA Ribeye Steak - $5.99/lb
Fresh Dover Sole - $5.99/lb
Asparagus - $1.69/lb (very good price)
Fuji or Cameo Apples - $ .99/lb
Daffodils - $2/10 stem bunch
Primroses - $1/ea  (beautiful colors yesterday)

Carpal Tunnel Surgery Update:

It is over!! and in less than two weeks.  My last stitches were removed today and I can finally start putting cream on my hands again.  I still can't go out and start shoveling or anything crazy like that but I'm on my way.

Monday, March 11, 2013

National Take a Nap Day

Miss MoneyPenny really dislikes daylight savings time.  It is not natural to keep fooling with our circadian rhythms, especially as we get older.  According to CBS there is a 10% increase in heart attacks the week after the spring event.  Car accidents increase, also.  I can see why because I feel like I've got a hangover and I'm retired!!

I use to hear that the reason we have this messing with the clocks business is so that farmers could get more hours in on their crops.  Not true.  My Grandpa Redmond was a farmer and he didn't care what time it was. If the work had to be done in the daylight, he got up and was out there by dawn, no matter what the clock said.

Then we were told that it saved energy.  I truly don't get that one.  The real reason for daylight savings, especially early in spring is so that there will be light after people get off work.  The thinking is if it is light, you will want to go, you guessed it, shopping, and spend money.  Why does it always have to be about the money??

And if we are a little foggy from having our rhythms messed with, we might not be so careful with our money and spend more than usual.  Pretty clever, guys, but if this can actually be dangerous and make us feel like ****, why keep doing it??  Surely the cost of health issues, accidents, and poor productivity cost something, too??  Not to mention grouching at your significant other.

We will feel better in a week or two, but in the mean time, grab a nap.  Actually, my Kitty, DC, is very good about taking naps.  This is her favorite place...on a cushion, on her chair, in the corner, surrounded by sunny windows.  It doesn't get any better than that.

There's an App for That:

My sister, Miss SmartyPants, is a real enthusiast when it comes to Apps and she has infected me, also.  We were talking about them and how helpful they can be and she thought that profiling our tried and true Apps would be helpful.  The first App that I downloaded two years ago is still with me and it is a goody.  It is called Shazam and it is free!! which is one of my criteria for a good App.  This is what it looks like:

This App works by listening to music heard in stores, restaurants, etc. and then telling you what the song is and who is the artist.  I use it a lot while I'm driving because they never seem to tell you what the song was that they just played on the radio.  I just click on the Shazam App and let it listen.  When I find out what it is and I want it for my iPod, I just head over to iTunes and buy it.  Shazam saves your queries, in case you forget, like me.  It is available for both Android and iPhone.  Very slick.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Shopping Macy's for Martha

Miss MoneyPenny is a big fan of Martha Stewart.  She is one smart cookie, and tough.  She has to be because every time she tries to play like the big boys, she finds herself in hot water.  Men, as a rule, don't care much for Martha; in fact, I've yet to meet a man who likes her.

I became a serious supporter of Martha back in the 90s when she had Miss Piggy on her Christmas show.  Martha was trying to teach Miss Piggy something but she was busy flirting with the cameraman in all of her Piggy fashion.  Martha got exasperated by her behavior and said "Pay attention, Piggy!!."  I knew right then that Martha doesn't take herself too seriously.

Martha Stewart is being awarded the famous MoneyPenny Seal of Approval.  If you buy her products, you will get good value for your money, and that is what the Seal is all about.  I realize that Martha can be over the top but it is her attention to detail and understanding of homemaking that make her so popular.  She, alone, has taken the art of making a home from dull drudgery to something to be proud of.  And why not??  We all need a home, so why shouldn't it run smoothly and efficiently and be a pleasant place to hang out??

If I have a choice, I always buy Martha and that is usually at Macy's.  Since Miss MoneyPenny lives on a fixed retirement income, she has to be very careful with her money, so she never pays straight retail.  I've been thinking about replacing my old 60s and 70s Tupperware food storage containers with glass and had been eyeballing Martha's product because I think that they are the best looking.

I've been keeping house since 1967 so I have a pretty good idea of the sizes of containers that I really use so opted out of the boxed set.  Once I knew which pieces that I coveted, all I had to do was wait for a sale.  When the sale hit, I took them to the check out counter and slapped a coupon on them, getting them for 40% off.  Here is what I bought:

I do not put the snap lids in the dishwasher, figuring that might not be good for them.  I used to be crazy back in the day because my Tupperware show signs of being put in the microwave.  I wonder which of my health issues was helped out by doing that!!  You can tell a Tupperware that has been zapped because it looks like snot is clinging to the sides, so you can see why I want to get rid of it.

Carpal Tunnel Update:

On Friday I want down to Silverdale to have my stitches removed.  They ended up leaving two stitches in each hand for another week because I had obviously overused my hands.  The hardest part of this whole thing is trying to be careful but I'm going to tone it down for a few days and just get through it.

Today, the Bradster took me to Costco and did all the heavy lifting for me.  I needed to exchange my composter (which was in a box, big and heavy) and buy a 35 pound bag of dog food.  After Costco, we dropped by Silver City Brewery for a yummy lunch.  I have never had anything on their menu that wasn't good.  Next time we go, we are going to order just one chicken pot pie because it is big enough for a whole family!!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Some More Tax Tips From Miss SmartyPants

I thought that since she has been kind enough to share her tax tips with us for free that you might want to see my sister's picture.  That is her on the left and I could not find a picture where she had her eyes open but you get the idea of what a pretty lady she is.  And the little beauty in the middle is my daughter-in-law, Miss PeggyRae.  Of course, Miss MoneyPenny on the right, and we are enjoying lunch at the Silver City Brewery in Silverdale, my fave restaurant down there.

Heads up!!  My sis will be starting her own blog after tax season!!  She intends to cover raising three grandkids, aged 7 to 11, while kayaking, backpacking, gardening, cooking, and, oh, yeah, running a tax accounting business.  I haven't run across a blog that deals with that particular situation, so her ideas and stories will be helpful for other grannies in her position.  When she launches, I will post the link.  Can't wait!!

She posted this information in the comments section and I want to make sure that everybody sees it, so here it is:

Tax tips:

The best way to get your money's worth (and more) from your accountant is to visit with them during the year when they aren't so crazed with IRS deadlines. They have more time to discuss and research your questions. Sure, you may have to pay for an appointment (depending on your questions and research involved and amount of time involved), but it will be worth your time and money. Also, if you are looking for a new accountant, the best time to meet with them for the first time is NOT during tax season. Meet with them months before the end of the year so they can review the prior year's returns and make any suggestions. Also, gives you time to gather documents they may need. I had to turn down a new client the other day because I just did not have the time to review his prior years and discuss his business.

Don't be frustrated by the late 1099 documents you are receiving from the brokerages. They get their information out to you as soon as they are able. They have to wait on information sent to them before they can compile and send to you. Accountants are aware of these timelines and we work around them. Also, we are aware of which accounts will probably receive amended 1099s and are waiting for these before we finish the return for the client.

Cruise Fund Update:

The old fund took a hit yesterday when I forked over $135 for my passport.  I hated to take it out of there but I just don't have that kind of money laying around with nothing to do.

Old Balance              =      $742.47

                                  +           7.14 (Amazon sale)

                                  +           7.20 (Ebates)

                                  -         135.00 (Passport)

New Balance            =       $621.81

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

QFC Grocery Basket 3/6

What a good idea!!  My buddy, Miss MaggieMae, posted this on Facebook and I think that it is brilliant.  What you do is fill a jar with plain vinegar, add orange peels, put the lid on, and let it sit for two weeks.  Then you strain it and fill a clean spray bottle and you are ready to go with a very effective and safe all- purpose cleaner.  Probably could even use it on your salad.  This from the folks at DIY.

This morning I was standing at the kitchen sink while washing up the breakfast dishes and thought that it doesn't get any better than this.  On display, right out the kitchen window, were a couple dozen busy birds working over the feeding station.  In that snapshot there were finches, juncos, house sparrows, chickadees, and for the last week, nuthatches.  There were a couple of hummers working their feeder, too.

I really appreciate their attendance because for the first couple of years after I moved here, I didn't even have crows.  I really didn't know what to think about that.  I put up feeders for them and a bird bath, just like in my old place, where I had gobs of birds.  But they didn't come.  Then, slowly, they found me.  Now they don't even move when Pici drinks out of their bath.  They know that they have found bird heaven here on earth.

Okay, let's take a look at the ad for this week.  QFC has a pretty decent ad, plus, they are running a three day mini ad within it, Friday through Sunday.  They are also doing a cereal promo where you buy four boxes of the featured brands and you get a free gallon of milk, so dig out your coupons for your favorite cereal and stock up.

Here are my picks:

Spice Islands Spices - 33% off (not great but if you need something)
Del Monte/S&W Canned Tomatoes - $1/ea
Tide Laundry Detergent - $4.99/50oz ($3 off 3 coupon in March PG insert)
Coffee-Mate Creamer - $2.79/qt ($1.10 off 2 coupon RP/1/27)
Fage Greek Yogurt - $1/ea
Draper Valley Whole Chicken - $ .88/lb (stockup price)
Lean Ground Beef - $2.66/lb
USDA Choice Flank Steak - $4.99/lb
Fresh Rockfish Fillets - $5.99/lb
Haas Avocados - $ .88/ea
Cara Cara Navels - $1.99/lb (peels for the vinegar)
Carpinito's Bark or Soil - $2.50/1 - 2 cubic feet

3 Day Mini Sale:

Dave's Killer Bread - $3.99/loaf
QFC butter - $1.88/lb
Tomatoes on the Vine - $1.48/lb
Tully's Coffee - $5.99/12oz

Passport Update:

After at least three trips up to the courthouse and several dollars later, I have finally been approved for a passport.  I should receive it in four to six weeks and when I do, I will do a post on how to do it in Jefferson County, Washington, anyway, so you won't have to run all over hell and gone like I did.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Costco Coupons 3/7 - 3/31/2013

Did you get your Costco/American Express Reward Coupon??  You will find it on the last page of your March American Express statement, which covers February charges.  The first year that I was in the program, I shredded my statement because I didn't understand that it wasn't going to be a check.  Now I am on it.

This is a win/win program and if you pay your charges off every month, you will get money for free, because this is a no fee card.  My daughter-in-law, who works at Costco, tells me that people come in and cash their coupon for several thousand dollars because they put their whole life on their card.  I'm thinking about doing this.  It would certainly require discipline.

Remember that you only have to cash your coupon at Costco.  You don't have to spend it there.

Costco has some pretty good coupons this time and I will be going down there soon for my monthly trip and hot dog.  I love those hot dogs even if they do give me a headache and my hands swell up, but all hot dogs do that to me.  Why is it that the foods I love the most (shellfish, for instance) don't love me back??  Here are the coupons that I like:

Royal 16-Sheet Paper Shredder - $20
Best Foods Mayonnaise - $2/limit 2
Pine Sol - $2/limit 5
Kingford Briquets - $4.50/limit 2
Palmolive Dish Soap - $2/limit 2
San Pelligrino Mineral Water - $3/limit 4
Resolve Spray 'n Wash - $3/limit 5
Colgate Optic White Toothpaste - $4/limit 2
Goodyear Wiper Blades - $2.50/limit 2
Brita Filters - $8/limit 5
Sonicare Replacement Heads - $10/limit 5
Kirkland Signature Diapers - $5/limit 2

I've been contemplating getting a flat screen TV for some time now.  The problem is that my 16 year old, 200 pound TV works just fine.  You have to sit close if you want to watch a movie, though.  Even my 18 year old grandson, Eli, mentioned it, and he has good young eyes.

When I finally do break down and get a new flat screen, I will get it at Costco.  And, why, you ask??  Because Costco has this fabulous service called Costco Concierge.  What it is is a 1-800 number that you call for technical support and it is free!!  I used this when I bought my iPod four years ago when they carried Apple products.  A very nice lady helped me set up my iTunes account and guided the way for my successful use of my beloved iPod.  I didn't know that it didn't come with decent instructions and I was expected to "intuit" how to work the thing!!  Crazy.

Anyway, I'm thinking that I want one of those smart TVs that you can hook up to your computer and stream Netflix and all the other cool things that you can do now...if you know how.  Eli says he will come up and get me going, including hooking my iPod and stereo up to the whole works.  Sounds like something out of the Jetsons, doesn't it??  But anyway, if we should run into issues, we will have the Concierge on the phone.

Monday, March 4, 2013

March - Best Month to Buy

Yippee skippee!!  We are definitely on the countdown to spring and Miss MoneyPenny is ready for it, even though we have had a mild winter.  A mild winter is not really a good thing because the bad bugs do not get taken out, especially the fleas.  I'm just now getting a handle on the pesky devils after just about going broke buying both kinds of the major flea controllers, and switching them out every two weeks.

As you might have noticed by the above graphic, March is National Frozen Food Month.  This means that we should see more coupons and store ads featuring frozen foods this month.  I'm not real excited about frozen food except, of course, ice cream.  I prefer to get my food fresh and freeze it myself so that I will know what is in it, although, I do buy frozen fruit at Costco.  Not that I'm a conspiracy theorist or anything, but I just don't trust the big "food" guys, however organic they say they are.

Here is a list of seasonal produce that we should start seeing in the stores, with, hopefully, a good sale:

Asparagus, artichokes, broccoli, carrots, chard, citrus fruits, Haas avocados, peas, radishes, rhubarb, and spinach

QFC has a good sale this week (ending tomorrow night) on asparagus ($1.88/lb), avocados ($.88/ea), and oranges ($ .99/lb).  I picked up all three and I'm having the asparagus tonight, sauteed in butter and then steamed in the pan until tender.  Then I hit it with a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper.  Simple, pure and delicious food.  What more could you ask for??

March is also a good month to take a look at:

Air Conditioners
Gardening Tools
Gas Grills
Golf Clubs
Winter Coats

I did notice last time I was at Costco that they are carrying Sluggo again.  They have the best price and it will last all gardening season.  I first start out by sprinkling the whole perimeter of my place with it because I have world class snails.  I'm the only organic yard in my neighborhood, so they all come to my house.  This little trick enables me to actually have a garden.

Carpal Tunnel Surgery Update:

I took off the bandages this morning and this is what was underneath.  I really enjoyed my shower this morning but my hands really ached afterwards, so will slow it down and put them on ice and watch a Mariners spring training game after lunch.  Friday the stitches come out.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

I Survived it!!

On Thursday I had carpal tunnel surgery done on both hands.  My doctor enticed me into this crazy idea by tickling my money-saving frame of mind.  One surgery instead of two is a big cost saver and this is important, even with insurance.  My insurance, Regence, has indicated that they will pay 85% - of what, I don't know, but, still, 15% of whatever is not going to be cheap.

This whole thing has gone pretty darn smooth because of planning ahead, good supportive friends and family.
Miss MaggieMay drove me and stayed with me for the surgery and it turned out to be a pretty long day.  Then she showed up the next day and ran some errands.  I'm in her debt, for sure.  Miss KnowItAll brought me ice cream and DVDs, and Mr. KnowItAll offered to give me a sponge bath.  What are friends for??

As you can see I have almost full use of my hands.  I just can't get them wet.  Tomorrow morning I take off the bandages and take my first shower.  On Friday, the stitches come out.  Pretty slick!!  The worst part of this whole thing was the projectile throwing up due to the pain medicine but I discovered that I really wasn't in that much pain and that Advil did just fine.

My knight in shining armor, my handsome grandson, came up for a couple of days and took really good care of me.  He waited on me, drove me around, and watched lots of movies with me.  He also scrubbed the north side of the house and gutters, put together my greenhouse, cleaned and organized my garden shed, and get this, fixed my stereo system which has been on the blink for about four years.  Thank you, Eli!!

I really wish that I had gotten this done years ago, instead of living in constant pain and not being able to sleep well.  I can honestly say that the recovery discomfort has not been as bad as what I've been living with and it is wonderful to sleep through the night.  I'm going to go easy on my hands, giving them time to get well before I really hit the gardening hard in May.  I will have pictures of my new greenhouse up in a few days.