Salvaging a shopping mistake

I made a terrible error in my grocery shopping this week, buying 32 ounces of plain yogurt instead of the vanilla I believed I was reaching for. Imagine my surprise, taking a big bite of that nasty stuff at lunch yesterday.

Being my frugal and creative self, there is no way I’m letting this stuff go to waste so I’m looking for ways to incorporate the yogurt into my cooking. I have a terrible sweet tooth so I started out by searching for easy dessert ideas and here’s one I tried last night.

Jello Yogurt

Mix one cup of hot water with your sugar free Jello of choice. Mine was strawberry. When the jello powder is completely dissolved, slowly mix in one cup of yogurt. Whisk really well and refrigerate for two to three hours. It is a kind of strawberry mousse and very tasty. Next time I plan to add some fruit too.

So. One cup of plain vanilla yogurt gone. Three cups to go!

Isn’t it gratifying to salvage a mistake? Especially when it tastes so good?

Road tripping adventures

Mr. Wonderful and I spent our long weekend adventuring through parts of Kentucky and southern Ohio. As is true of most fun times, this weekend went far too fast and I’m a little sad to be home. But we have a lot of memories and pictures to keep us company until our next adventure.

We are reasonably tame as adventurers go. No ziplines or lion taming here. I won’t bore you with all the details but here are a few highlights.

We were two of four people on a tour of Ashland, the Lexington home of Henry Clay. The tour was very informative and the house beautiful. Pictures inside the home aren’t permitted but I could take all the pictures I wanted of the grounds and gardens.

Isn’t it lovely?

I have a thing for architectural elements. This guy was too awesome to not share.

Tours of the home cost $9 per person and are worth every dime. Our tour guide was informative and the home is beautiful. I think you can walk the grounds for free though.

We also toured the Wild Turkey Distiliary. I’m not a drinker but still enjoyed learning about how this product is made. It amazes me that it takes just three days to make but years to age. Wild Turkey ages for at least six to ten years in a world where we expect everything to happen instantaneously. Few companies would invest in a product they can’t sell for a decade.

In case you are wondering, the tour was free so it was a great value!

Another place with great photo ops was the Kentucky Horse Park. This place is sprawling and, if you enjoy horses, you could literally spend the entire day. We just had a few hours so we only took in the highlights.

Admission to the horse park is $16 per person but that includes admission to all the museums, the shows and even a horsedrawn trolley tour of the park.

We also ate really well (or badly, depending on your perspective) on this trip. One great meal came from Billy’s Bar-B-Q which is near the Henry Clay Home in Lexington. We had the special that day – a delicious pulled pork plate with two big sides and cornbread. Their  cornbread, a combination of cornbread and white bread, is tasty!

It was seven or eight dollars per person and a great value for the money. As an aside, our fast food meals later that evening were about $6 per person. Sigh. What a rip off.

But the centerpiece of the trip was the Bob Dylan/Leon Russell concert at Riverbend in Cincinnati. Bob doesn’t allow cameras so I have no pictures but I promise you it was a great show. I’m not a big Bob Dylan fan but Mr. Wonderful is a super fan. He was in seventh heaven and I enjoyed seeing his zeal.

So that’s the weekend in a nutshell. If you’re planning a weekend or vacation and you’re within driving distance of Lexington I would highly recommend this city. The city has an amazing mix of historic and modern elements and is a very southern town with great hospitality.

I feel guilty because this isn’t an especially frugal post but trust me when I say there are a lot of things to do that cost little or no money. We opted for some of the more costly activities because we had limited time and those were the things that interested us most. Since we saved a lot on the hotel by using Priceline we could afford to splurge a little in other areas.

We are already talking about going back sometime to take in the things we couldn’t do. Isn’t it wonderful to leave a place feeling there is so much more to discover than you could experience? That leaves the door open for future exploring!

Road trip here we come!

We selected Lexington, Ky as our whirlwind weekend road trip destination. I am so excited to get away for a couple of days it really doesn’t matter where we go but it sounds like Lexington is a terrific choice.

We plan to visit the Kentucky Horse Park, tour some historic sites and maybe even the Wild Turkey Distillery. Some of these places charge admission while others are completely free so I think it will be very affordable to entertain ourselves. There’s also a Half Price Books that’s already calling my name.

When it came time to locate lodging we looked at a lot of different options. Finally, Mr. Wonderful decided to take the plunge and try the Priceline name your price option. Guess what!!! We are staying at one of the nicest hotels in town for just $52 plus tax! That’s cheaper than a Red Roof Inn. If you are traveling and don’t mind not knowing exactly which hotel you will end up with, I would absolutely recommend the Priceline deal.

Adventure, here we come!!!!

Have a great weekend everyone! I will report back with details next week.

Simple ways to save: Laundry room edition

Have you noticed lately what it costs to buy just one jug of laundry detergent? Why is keeping your clothes clean so expensive?

About a year ago I realized that my laundry detergent was costing a lot of money every year and that it wasn’t doing anything special. I mean, that $16 container of Tide doesn’t come with Rosie from the Jetsons to actually fold and put away your clothes for you.

A friend recommended that I try making my own laundry detergent and even gave me a recipe. With about a $7 investment I was able to make enough batches of detergent to last my single self for close to a year. My clothes look, feel and smell cleaner. The waste is just two small boxes and a soap wrapper and I store my detergent in an airtight container that looks attractive sitting on the shelf.  I couldn’t be happier!

Powdered Laundry Detergent:
1 c. grated Fels Naptha soap
½ c. washing soda
½ c. borax
For light load, use 1 tablespoon. For heavy or soiled load, use 2 tablespoons.

Here are a couple of other recipes that I have found useful:

Laundry Pre-treatment:
½ c. ammonia
½ c. white vinegar
¼ c. baking soda
2 tbsp. liquid soap or laundry detergent
2 quarts water
Mix in spray bottle. Spray spot.

Laundry Pre-treatment 2:
1 tsp. liquid laundry detergent
2 tbsp. ammonia
1 pt. warm water

Mix in spray bottle. Spray spot, let sit for 20 minutes.

Fabric Softener:
Add ½ – 1 c. vinegar to your softener dispenser

Bleach Alternative  for Laundry
¼ c. hydrogen peroxide

I know in this busy world it may not sound practical to make your own laundry supplies. But look at the recipes. All the supplies should be available at your local grocery or big box store. The most labor intensive part is grating the soap for detergent and that just takes a few minutes. The reward is well worth the grating time.

What do you think? Have you ever made laundry detergent? Do you like it?

Road Trip!

The two most exciting words in the English language?

Road Trip.

When I’m involved in the trip, that is.

Mr. Wonderful and I decided to take a little road trip this coming weekend. We don’t really know where we are going yet or just what we want to do but I’ve narrowed it down to four possibilities.

The parameters are that the trip has to be inexpensive (we both are poor public servants who have shelled out a lot of money for home repairs recently) AND it has to be something we can do in two days. Oh, and the trip climaxes with a Bob Dylan concert in Cincinnati on Sunday night.

Half the fun for me is in the planning. Just imagine all the possibilities! There are so many amazing things to see in our part of the country that it’s truly hard to decide. So I’ve been burning up the internet looking at lodging options, travel times, museums and hiking trails in the areas that interest us.

Whatever we do, though, I’m certain we’ll have a good time. We both are interested in a lot of different things and are extremely compatible so it feels like we have a good time no matter where we go or what we do.

We both grew up without siblings. Yes, the dreaded only child. The neat thing about being the only kid in the family is that you learn quickly to entertain yourself and to be entertained by simple things. So give me a camera, some decent walking shoes and a place I’ve never been and I’ll be content for hours. It’s an adventure!

I’ll let you know what we decide. Meanwhile, I hope you are planning a little adventure for your weekend!

Roasted veggies and playing in the kitchen

The weather is beginning to cool a little, especially in the evenings, turning my thoughts toward fall. I’m truly looking forward to the crisp, cool mornings of fall and to warming my home with roasted chickens and stew steaming on the stove. So it was no surprise tonight  that I roasted vegetables and fish for my lunch the next couple of days.

I had odds and ends of vegetables – some summer squash, zucchini, mushrooms broccoli and onions that I tossed with some olive oil and vegetable seasoning. The result was a colorful, tasty dish that is as nutritious as it is pretty.

This meal is much like many things that I make – no recipe and flying by the seat of my pants! I tend to forage in my cupboards and fridge for whatever may work together. I love using recipes, as is evidenced by my cookbook collection, but there’s something freeing about working without a plan and just playing in the kitchen.

I know your mama always told you not to play with your food but I would encourage you to view your kitchen as a playground rather than a workplace. You never know what you’ll create with a little imagination and a good attitude. Incidentally, this meal was the very definition of frugal cooking since I used items that were just languishing in the fridge and nothing went to waste!

Adventure Saturday

Some people qualify adventure as something daring, grand and maybe even dangerous. Ziplining, rock climbing and traveling the reaches of the earth come to mind. But I think adventure can be a lot of things to different people. For me the best adventures are born from spotenaity and can be very close to home. Finding that unique piece in an antique mall or stumbling into a beautiful scene are just as adventerous to me as anything.

In fact, last week I posted a cool tv commercial that drives home the belief that adventure is as close as your own back yard.

This weekend Mr. Wonderful and I hopped into the car and headed out to Athens, home to our alma mater and to some of our favorite haunts. We spent well over an hour browsing Haffa’s Records – we’re like kids in a candy store there. I did find some bargains there including season 4 of The Big Bang Theory on dvd for just $5. Love it!

And we dined at Casa Nueva because that’s what we do in Athens. There are tons of restraurants to choose from but we’ve never been to most of them because Casa is just too great to miss.

Since I declared this “Say Yes Saturday” we went wherever the wind blew us, taking in thrift stores and unusual sights along the way.

A nice walk uptown before school starts next week was just what the doctor ordered. I miss being a pedestrian and Athens is a great walking town, especially when most of the students are gone. Living in the country I tend to drive a lot so it’s fun to park the car and do everything on foot.  We even relived some fun memories walking campus, taking pictures and admiring the beautiful old buildings on the College Green.

Here are a few shots from the day.

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The picture of the steps leading down to Ellis Hall isn’t so great but it’s significant. As an English major I can’t tell you how many times I ran up and down those steps between Ellis and Alden Library. Good times. Especially on snowy, icy days.

We ended the evening with a little movie viewing with a pizza and oreos on the couch. This day was the perfect balance of fun and rest and I can’t help but wonder why we don’t do this more often. As an aside, I have found that you are with the right person when you forget to look at the clock, when it doesn’t matter you don’t have a lot of money to play with, and when you can think of no place else you would rather be.

Maybe that’s the best adventure of all.