Saturday, October 31, 2009

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Horror Stories

So now, in time for Halloween, are Horror Stories from the down recession. These are true stories (I think) with the names omitted to protect the innocent.
  • Horror Story#1 A man sells his profitable business for a million bucks and plans on living off the interest. He makes enough to live comfortably for a while, until interest rates go south and then he can't make it. He goes back to work at his business, under the new owners. He now works at his old job at his old business, under "bosses" that are half his age and micro manage his every move. Scary!
  • Horror Story #2 A well-known businessman who owns a chain of sports bar restaurants gets "in trouble" for permitting gambling in his establishment. After he returns from his unplanned "vacation" he needs to find employment. He now works, as a cook in the kitchen of his chief competitor's sports bar restaurant.
  • Horror Story #3 A friend of mine who is a writer/editor with her Master's in P.R., has lost some of her writing gigs, so she's decided to sell designer handbags/clothes on E-bay. She actually enjoys it and has, so far, been quite successful.

Since this "Upsides to the Down Economy", the last story may be the upside. When you lose your job or your hours are cut back, this may be your opportunity to try something new. You may actually find something you love doing, are good at, that you never would have dreamed doing before. Maybe you will pursue this, instead of your old career, or when the economy recovers, use it as a supplement to your income. People today have to be creative and inventive in order to survive. But, as Americans, this is what we do. So here on Halloween, don't duck under the covers and Boo Hoo. Get out there and do something, anything to further your dream. You never know where it might lead.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Rainy Days

Most of us have never suffered through the harsh economic climate we are now faced to deal with. Double-digit unemployment, real estate market in the toilet, banks who've been bailed out who now won't lend to anyone. It's depressing. When our parents or grandparents talked about the Depression, it was hard to relate to the devastation and impact that period of time had on them. My grandmother Julia, born in 1918, was a child of the Depression. She hated bouquets of flowers for her birthday because they were wasteful, rarely ate out, re-used whatever she could and saved everything. I know this because when she died, I inherited her house and had to go through everything. Receipts for items long gone, photographs given to her by others (she didn't own a camera), newspaper clippings, holy cards, homemade gifts from her grandchildren and, of course, every greeting card that had ever been given to her for any occasion. This was probably the most fun item to go through. She and my Aunt Josie passed back and forth a birthday card for probably 10 years, just signing their name and the date, so they wouldn't have to waste money on a new card. While she was frugal to a degree, she also had a lovely house filled with quality items, took nice vacations, gave generous gifts and always had a little money stashed away. So that's one good thing about this recession- Americans are now saving more than they ever have in the past. Because now we know what a rainy day looks like.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Reusable Bags II

Update on reusable bags. Just got back from CVS and if you buy a little reward card for 99 cents and attach it to your reusable bag, you get $1 every fourth time you use it for purchases. I think I like the getting-money-back plan, better than the-charging-you for bags plan. Yeah USA!

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Recyclable Bags

Went to my favorite store (Target) yesterday and brought a couple of reusable bags with me. To my delight, the cashier informed me that if you bring in your own bags, you get 5 cents off per bag. So, not only am I saving the environment, I'm saving money! You can't beat that. When I was in Italy this summer, we went shopping at a local grocery store for dinner that night. As we went to pay, the cashier kept trying to explain something to us (in Italian) that we didn't understand. We finally figured out that we were being charged for the plastic bags to carry out the groceries in. Maybe, if we started doing that over here it would be a good incentive to remember the recyclable bags. I always try to keep a couple in the trunk for unexpected stops. If you forget yours, you can usually buy one at the store you're shopping at. They're usually only 99 cents and I find you can never have too many. As Martha would say, "It's a Good Thing."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Pray

Pray. Okay, you can eat and love too, but the very act of prayer gives comfort and hope. When I feel I have no control over my life, when I feel powerless and helpless, I pray. Since I was raised Roman Catholic, I've been saying a lot of Hail Mary's lately. It's a mantra that soothes me in uncertain times. I also have a fool-proof Little Flower Novena (a prayer for nine days) to St. Theresa that I seem to be saying on a constant basis for different people and causes. Even if my prayers aren't "answered", I get something just from the act of praying. I try to do it first thing in the morning, to put my priorities in order. When my grandmother died and I moved into her house, I found a stack of prayers to different saints tucked away in her nightstand, right next to her "exercises to be done in bed". You always knew you were in trouble if she prayed to St. Jude for you. (St. Jude is the patron saint of impossible causes.) She was praying to St. Michael for Cancer patients (my Dad) at the time she died. Of course you don't have to be Catholic or any particular religion to pray. Thank you is quite a nice (and easy) prayer.

Here are a couple of my favorite quotes on prayer:

"Pray and let God worry." Martin Luther
"Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays." Soren Kierekegaard

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Upsides to the Down Economy/ The Bucket List

I've heard people talking lately about their Bucket Lists- you know, the things you want to do before you kick it. Maybe, it's becoming more relevant because, when things get tough, we tend to focus on what's important to us. Or maybe we just want something to look forward to- to keep our spirits up on days when life throws us a curve ball. I got to check off one of the items on my BL list this year that I'd hope to do since high school. Surf! Went to my sister Elise's beach house during Spring Break and took a surfing lesson in Cocoa Beach (where Major Nelson lives with Jeannie). Getting up on the surfboard and "catching a wave" (even a small one) was as fun as I'd always imagined it would be. The Beach Boys weren't kidding- I was "sittin' on top of the world" at that moment in time. Now, I just have to visit all 50 states ( I have 17 left to go), read the Bible and sell a screenplay. What's on your Bucket List? Is it the same as it was ten years ago? Have you checked anything off? Maybe it's time to revise, renew and pursue it. Mazel tov!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Upsides to the Down Economy/ A Priceless Gift

Yesterday, I gathered at my Aunt Josie's house with my sisters to a take a photo to accompany an article I wrote about her for The Miami Herald's Miami Stories. Although Josie said to the photographer "You're not going to use all the stuff she wrote, are you? Some of its just stupid!", I thought it was important to write the history of how she (and my grandmother and aunts) came to Miami. My great grandfather started the first Italian restaurant in Miami and my grandfather (with his mother and my grandmother) started the first nursing home here. At the Pinecrest Library the other day, the librarian talked about an upcoming speaker who was going to teach children how to write down questions for their grandparents, so they could interview and video tape them. I think this is a great idea and the perfect gift for someone who has everything (like my father-in-law). She explained it was a wonderful way for kids to ask questions of their grandparents now, before they are gone. How many of us have thought about questions we should have asked our loved ones who are no longer around? In this day and age of electronics, where everything passes by us at the speed of light, there is still some inherent value to sitting down and talking to our relatives about the "good old days". Which is what my sisters and I did after the photo shoot was over. Look for the story next Sunday, November 1st, in Neighbors.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Halloween Costumes

Some of my favorite Halloween memories are of trick or treating in costumes my mother had sewn for us. I became a Geisha Girl, Turn-of-the-Century bathing beauty and even Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz (I was in my 30's for that one). I'm not a seamstress, but when my kids were growing up I still liked the idea of homemade costumes, rather than the cheapo-looking ones you got at Kmart, so I improvised. One of the favorite costumes I "made" was The Joker (original Jack Nicholson version) for my son Brad. I got a cheap cotton jacket and long sleeved shirt at Goodwill and dyed them purple (jacket) and orange (shirt) with Rit dye. A chiffon aqua scarf I wore for my sister's wedding was tied into a bow, and some gloves, a large felt hat and walking stick, rounded out the outfit. Of course, the Joker's make-up was essential to make the costume complete. He looked great and I think it was one of his favorite costumes. Goodwill is a great source for cheap costumes and Party City has a lot of accessories to complete your outfits. As long as you get the main items right, people will get the idea of your costume- it doesn't have to be Martha Stewart perfect. I keep a costume box that I pull out for inspiration for new costumes. With the fake pearls, long white gloves, a cigarette holder and a tiara I have, a young girl can become Audrey Hepburn at Breakfast at Tiffany's (just add a black dress). Another alternative is exchanging costumes with a friend who has a child the same age, or shopping at the consignment store. As for my stepdaughters, one is re-using her Whoopee Cushion costume, one is going to be a cowgirl (we bought a hat and gun) with a flannel shirt and jeans she already has and the third, of course, is undecided. Family Fun's website has good ideas for homemade, no-sew costumes and I'm sure there are other ideas on the Internet. Although people seem to spend a fortune these days on Halloween costumes, my point is, you don't need to. It's more fun and rewarding to be creative.

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Appreciate Your Job

People bitching about their jobs is nothing new, but, in this economy, just to have a job seems to be a blessing. Where I live, in Miami, unemployment is in the double-digits, higher than the rest of the nation. I have talked to a lot of people who work in offices that have been down-sized and they are having to pick up the slack for positions that have been eliminated. While not an ideal situation, at least they have jobs to bust their butts for. I just interviewed a lady looking for a housekeeping job. Her husband had been working 80-90 hours a week driving a medical supply vehicle, and with the overtime he made a comfortable living. They cut out overtime at his job and now they cannot make it on his 40 hour work week, so his wife is taking a job cleaning houses. If you love your job- great!, if you don't, try to do whatever you do well and keep a positive attitude. Even the most menial jobs can be done with love, attention and pride in your work.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Shoe Repair

I was in the shoe repair shop yesterday and guess what? It was packed. with 4 people waiting to get their shoes fixed. Usually, the place is a ghost town. I guess it just goes to show, we are learning that fixing quality items is better than running out and buying cheap replacements. I had to laugh when my grandmother, a product of the depression, was taking in her manicure scissors to get repaired. To me, it didn't make sense, factoring in the time spent and money used for gas to run the errand, when you could buy a new pair for $5. But it is also one of the things that bothers me about our society- that everything is so disposable. That we would rather do the cheap and easy thing, than possibly the right thing. Because, when you think about it, where do the old scissors go? In the trash, of course, along with all the rest of the trash we generate. I still have my grandmother's pair of manicure scissors (she died 8 years ago) and I guess when they break, I'll take them in to get fixed. Again. Not exactly an heirloom passed down to generations, but maybe just a good lesson from a child of the depression to an adult in a recession.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Shop in your Own Kitchen

Trying to save money or just too lazy to go to the grocery store? Shop in your own kitchen. Check out the contents of your freezer, fridge and pantry and see what forgotten items you come up with. When I recently did this I was rewarded with two lobster tails (wrapped in aluminum foil) and a flank steak from Cotsco. Paired with a baked potato, it made a delicious surf and turf Saturday night meal my hubby and I. Find a petrified ham hock in the freezer? Delicious (and inexpensive) split pea soup is a comforting solution. Once you identify your holdings, go through your recipes to come up with ways to pair things or, if you need inspiration, Google items (Chicken breasts, cream of chicken soup, couscous) for recipe ideas. Pasta is one staple that is always in our pantry so here's an easy recipe using items you may already have on hand.

Greek Spaghetti

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 pound spaghetti or linguine
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (6 ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts
12 Greek or Italian style black olives
1 teaspoon oregano
juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup grated Romano or Parmesan chees
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Cook pasta according to package. Drain and set aside. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion and garlic, saute 1 to 2 minutes. Drain artichokes, reserving liquid; cut artichoke hearts in half.
Add reserved artichoke liquid, olives, oregano and lemon juice to onion-garlic mixture. Mix well. Heat 2 to 3 minutes. Add reserved artichoke hearts. Heat through. Combine pasta, artichoke mixture, Romano and feta cheese. Serve and enjoy.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Make Memories

Yesterday was a beautiful, fall cool day here in Miami so we decided to make some Halloween Place mats. Is this the most necessary item in the world? No, but my youngest stepdaughter had asked to make some to fill in for the two we already had. Last year, we had a big Halloween party with a haunted house, fortune teller and mad scientist laboratory, but this year, I have neither the time or inclination (or disposable income) to do it again. So, the place mats were a little something to do to put us in the Halloween spirit. We went to Joanne's fabrics, waited in a long line (apparently the cool weather had inspired other crafters) and picked out a cute fabric and some batting to cushion the place mats. Since the batting was 50% off and the fabric was $11, it cost about $16 for the whole project, with a little fabric leftover. Although it took me until the third place mat to perfect the method (fold over a side and put the batting in between), once I figured it out, it went quickly. Rachel, our resident seamstress, sewed them together. We made 5 place mats for about $3 each. I think they turned out cute and they will always remind us of a fun, cool fall day every time we eat on them.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Be Grateful

I just took a drive through my old neighborhood- Mangowood. It was a Desperate Housewives type neighborhood where everybody knew your name. (Wait, that's Cheers) Memories of my life when my oldest kids were young, came flooding back when I saw a group of kids playing football in the front yard. I don't usually like driving, but today I was happy to meander about. By the park Christopher played his first soccer match at (he was only 5), by the church we used to attend, where AJ had her first communion. I was struck by the sheer beauty of my surroundings driving down Old Cutler, and then Red Road; of the regal royal palms against the luminous sky. The autumn light hitting the landscape at sunset was especially beautiful. I then passed my old elementary school and the park I used to take Brad, my oldest, to play when he was a toddler. He's now 29. How fast the years go by... how fast this year's gone by! And then my eyes filled up with tears because I am grateful for every year, every month, every moment.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Nanny Chronicles/ The UN of Nannies

Braid Lady has been gone a week, as of today and the house has not fallen down around us. Unfortunately, I have not been very successfull in my nanny search. Most don't speak English, have no housekeeping experience or don't drive. It doesn't help that my phone has been turned off since Monday (sent the check in Tuesday) so no one can call in. It is peaceful though. Saturday, I interviewed a former Montessori teacher from San Francisco who: sold jewelry at Nordstroms, sold luxury cars at a dealership, worked for a realtor and was a personal assistant for some impossible-to-work-for (according to her) lady. She was personable and enthusiastic but I think more of a Nanny than housekeeper. She said she thought cleaning was "good exercise". I think there's a lot more to it than that and when I asked her about cooking she said her friends say she is a good cook, so she didn't sound too confident with that. Finding a housekeeper is not the hard part, finding one that drives is. I don't even care if they cook at this point- that is the least of my worries. I guess I will send my husband's shirts to the dry cleaners, since Braid Lady usually irons them. One day when she was bringing his shirts up to the bedroom, she asked me how much the dry cleaner charges per shirt. I told her I didn't know (I don't). And when I told her this summer that I was going to Italy on vacation for two weeks, she said "Must be nice." Her exact words. These images and the memory of her horrible attitude remind me of why I must keep on my quest for a new nanny/housekeeper. But, in the meantime, I saved 200 bucks this week. And no attitude.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Top 10 Running Songs

Are you using your CHEVRAlegs? Sometimes even the most avid exerciser needs inspiration to get motivated. When this happens, I download new songs into my I-Pod. I know I-Pods are expensive, but most people have them and to download a song only costs 99 cents, (or a little more). Another option is to download songs from CD's you already own.

Here are my top 10 Running Songs as of today, that will get your legs moving.

1) Walk of Life Dire Straights
2) Stronger Kayne West
3) I Gotta Feeling Black Eyed Peas
4) Bombs Over Baghdad Outkast
5) Material Girl Madonna
6) Guitar Man Elvis
7) Glory Days Bruce Springsteen
8) American Girl Tom Petty
9) Jai Ho Pussycat Dolls
10)Golddigger Jaime Foxx

Update on my wildflowers: Little green things have popped up, but I think they're weeds.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Moments in Time

Life, when we look back at it, is mostly remembered in moments. When you think about the happiest, saddest, most memorable time of your life it is most likely that you're remembering one specific incident, not a whole day. The birth of a baby, the exchanging of vows, seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time, cracking up at a joke with a friend, getting your first car, job, kiss- these are all moments. While we wake up each morning hoping to have a great day, don't forget about all the moments that occur during it, happy, sad or frustrating, and try to treasure each and every one of them. Maybe, instead of saying "Have a Great Day!", we should say "Have a Great Moment!" Happy Birthday Allison!

"There is no happiness; there are only moments of happiness." Spanish Proverb

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Upsides to the Down Economy/Flower Arrangements

I used to occasionally treat myself to a bouquet of flowers when I went grocery shopping and I always made sure to have one on hand if company was coming for dinner. Now, I rarely, if ever, buy flowers or arrangements. Instead, I rely on the natural flora and fauna outside my front (and back) door for inspiration. When I want to spruce up the house, I walk outside, clip some flowers, leaves, palm fronds. bamboo sticks, or whatever I can find and make up my own arrangement in vases I have at home. I am lucky to live in Miami with many tropical plants at my disposal, but I'm sure you could find something in your yard to clip and use. Even small wildflowers, or herbs look good when grouped together in little vases. If you have nothing available, you can also make arrangements out of a bowl full of lemons, oranges or even nuts in the shell (good for fall). Fall leaves look pretty arranged on a pewter plate or in a hurricane lamp; even bare branches can look artistic (or spooky) when artfully arranged. For my last end-of-the-year tennis party, a friend came over and helped me arrange vases full of flowers from the backyard. She used scissors to cut plants down to size and even cut leaves into different shapes. Here are some photos of the resulting arrangements. So- be creative and save money at the same time.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Upsides to the Down Economy/Coupons

When I was first married (numero uno), money was tight and I was an avid coupon-clipper. I even had a little segmented pouch to separate the coupons into categories. After a while, I stopped using them; I would invariably forget them or when I remembered them, they were expired. Now, when I go to the grocery store, I gather my environmentally friendly grocery bags, anything I need to recycle at the grocery store and I go through the coupons I have clipped. Yes, I have started using them again, but with certain caveats.
1) It has to be more than 50 cents. Otherwise, it's not worth my time to clip.
2) It has to be a product I normally buy. It's not worth buying some new product if I hate it, but give me coupons for Yoplait (save $1 on 6) or Lean Cuisines, and I'm there.
Nowadays, you don't have to rely on your Sunday paper alone to get coupons. The Internet is filled with deals for all kinds of items (not just groceries). Google "coupons for" whatever item you're interested in and see what pops up.
Another money saving idea I use is racking up points for stores I frequent. CVS, AMC, Winn Dixie and Best Buy are just some of the stores that offer cards that reward frequent buyers. I love getting CVS Extra Bucks or a free movie ticket at AMC. It may not be that much in terms of money, but remember what Ben Franklin said.. And somehow eating a bag of free popcorn just tastes better.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Upsides to the Down Economy/Be Present

Be where you are. This sounds simple, but it's really not. When you are playing PLAY, when you are working WORK, when you are driving DRIVE. Go Dog Go. I was recently at a dinner party where one of the guests left after dinner to run an errand, and when they got back to the party, got on their cell phone. When I play tennis, even in matches, players are constantly checking their phones in between points. I hate that. I leave my phone in the car when I play tennis because I am there to play tennis- I can check my phone calls when I'm done. Unless you have a sick child at home, or some one you know is on the verge of death, I don't see a reason to bring your phone to a match. To be really present in the moment is living life to the fullest. It costs nothing, but pays back so much in return.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Upsides to the Down Economy/Exercise DVDs

I've never been a gym rat. When I walk or run, I usually go outside and do it. Sometimes, however it's raining, or simply, too darn hot. On these days, I rely on my library of fitness DVD's (and some VHS'S) to get my steps in. I have everything from Jane Fonda to Denise Austin to Billy Blanks. I have ballet, pilates, yoga, step, sculpting, exercise ball, tae kwon do, etc... My lastest purchases were two Denise Austin DVD's from Marshalls for $3.99 each! While I enjoy all my different workouts in my library, sometimes buying a new one helps motivate me and for four bucks, you can't beat it. A lot of stores are clearing out their fitness DVD's so keep your eyes open and get your feet moving!

The Nanny Chronicles/ The UN of Nannies

I've had about 8 people call for the position. Not exactly the line out the door from the scene from Mary Poppins, but a good start. The four that speak no English eliminated half my candidates. My husband answered the phone for one of the people that called, wrote down the number one a piece of paper in the kitchen that has now disappeared. Did Braid Lady find it and throw it away? The person called from work, so I really can't call her back. I interviewed one of the candidates yesterday. She's from Columbia (I've never had a Colombian nanny before) and was took care of little kids (infant and toddler). She seems sweet, but was more a Nanny than a housekeeper and when I asked her about ironing, she kind of gave me a blank stare. Not a good sign. Her reference said she is professional, flexible and a good cook. Her English was pretty good and she'd just come from yoga class, which leads me to believe she's happy and centered, although maybe I'm reading too much into the yoga class. I have another interview tomorrow with a candidate from California who has held many different jobs, from pre-school teacher to selling luxury cars. From speaking to her on the phone, she seems over-qualified which is a problem with the present Nanny (doing a job that she believes is beneath her). She didn't seem too keen on housekeeping and also seemed like she might talk my ear off, which is a drawback. It is an unfortunate reflection of the economy that there are so many professional people willing to do this kind of work. I may try out some of them while Braid Lady is gone- kind of a Clean Off. While cleaning is important, personality is even more so and I go more on combatability than references.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Nanny Chronicles/ The UN of Nannies

I got six phone calls yesterday regarding the position advertised. Despite specifying "must speak at least some English", two of them who called barely spoke English, and the other two, not at all. One asked "Spanish?" I said "No" and she hung up. I'm not sure how they are even reading my ad if they don't speak English. Living in Miami, I really wish I spoke Spanish, but I do not and I need to be able to communicate with this person. Comprendo? I have an interview with one of the two English-speaking candidates today and need to call the other one back. I was worried that Braid Lady would overhear them asking about the position on the answering machine since she worked yesterday and the phone kept ringing. I thought she was going to be gone this week, but it is next week. We'll see how it goes.

Upsides to the Down Economy/How to Buy Fruit

This is the second week in a row I have bought strawberries and half of them have gone bad in a day. I hate that! Barring picking through each and every one of them (or picking my own), I'm not sure how to avoid it but wanted to pass on another tip for picking good fruit. I told my 11-year old to grab some oranges in the produce section the other day. She asked how to pick them and I told her to choose the heaviest ones. An older lady in the produce section said "I never knew that!" If you pick up a lime, lemon, grapefruit, orange that feels light, it is sure to be less juicy because the liquid has left the fruit. For melons (another tough one), push on the button. If it gives slightly and smells good, it's ripe. For avocados (just picked one up from my aunt) when you are able to push it in slightly, put it in the fridge to stop it from ripening anymore. Of course, if it over-ripens, you can make guacamole! And, for most fruit, if it isn't ripe yet, leave it out of the fridge to ripen. A paper bag can speed up the process and NEVER put tomatoes in the refrigerator before you cut them. It ruins the flavor.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Nanny Chronicles/ The UN of Nannies

I am trying to find a Nanny/Housekeeper, but mostly a housekeeper because the children are older (15, 12, 11) and don't really need a Nanny. I need someone to pick up the kids from school. and my current housekeeper (Braid Lady as my youngest has knicknamed her) refuses to do this. She also refuses to vacuum because she says my vacuum "stinks", won't wash the windows outside because "it is too hot", complains about having to dust cobwebs in the windowsills "because they always come back" and overall, she is constantly complaining. Although she calls herself a "happy person", I believe she is disgruntled with her current job since she used to be a professional in her native land in South America. She is going home for a few weeks, so I have put an ad on a local website for a new Nanny/Housekeeper. Here it is:

I am looking for a trustworthy housekeeper/Nanny who speaks at least some English, has a cheerful disposition and is good with kids and pets. I would need this person 2 days a week to clean, iron, pick up the kids (3 girls) from school and possibly start dinner.

Someone responded that it sounds like Mary Poppins. Wouldn't that be nice? I am now awaiting calls.

Upsides to the Down Economy/Buttermilk

I know this sounds weird but: Buttermilk. I bought some to make cupcakes for my tennis team's dessert- lemon cupcakes with lemon icing, decorated to look like tennis balls. They turned out cute, but I only needed 1/4 of a cup and buttermilk only comes in the semi-big containers, so I have a lot leftover. This happens frequently when I buy buttermilk for a specific recipe; it usually sits around for a while and then I'll give it the sniff test. Buttermilk is one of those food items, like blue cheese, that I never know when it's actually gone bad because it smells bad when it's still good. Of course, there's always the expiration date, but I mostly take those as a suggestion. At any rate, since I hate wasting food (and money), I decided to find some other recipes to use the buttermilk in and here they are.

Buttermilk dressing

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar

3 cloves of garlic

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 cup buttermilk

Mix together lime juice, balsamic vinegar, garlic, mustard, salt and pepper and olive oil and buttermilk in a blender.

This recipe is used in a Mexican recipe for a salad with mixed greens, feta cheese and fried cubed sweet potatoes, but it also works well in other salads.

Other suggestions for leftover buttermilk: Buttermilk Pie (yummy!) and I've seen it used in cornbread. Buttermilk's delicate tang gives a lightness to baked goods and it's low in fat. You may have other ideas and recipes, but the point is try to use what you have. Be creative!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Upsides to the Down Economy/Smile

"Smile, though your heart is breaking"... Someone recently reminded me that it doesn't cost anything to Smile. Let's not get into how many muscles it takes to smile vs. frowning (apparently there's some debate about it), but smiling, even if you don't feel happy, has a transformative effect. If you force yourself to smile, even if you don't want to, it can physically change your mood. Not to mention, smiling is contagious, so you can cheer up others around you. Naturally, a real, genuine, heartfelt, teeth-baring smile is best, but faking it till you make it works too. Go ahead, I double-dog dare ya! Smile :)