Bacon Lentil Soup

I know soup is not something you usually think of as a summer time food, especially in Texas, but I didn’t want to make a mountain of dirty dishes, and a casserole would heat up the kitchen even worse, so soup it was. I accidentally made what appeared to be an enormous amount of soup last night, but once it got into bowls it vanished quickly. I had a little bit of bacon lying around that I wanted to finish off, so I conceived of this recipe. (Vegan alteration below) You will need:

1 16 oz. package of lentils
1/2 onion, diced
3 strips of bacon (more if you want)
5 cups kale, chopped roughly (remember, kale is bulky, so with other greens you won’t need nearly this much. If you’re using finely chopped or frozen greens about 2 cups should be plenty)
1 tsp liquid smoke
6 cups chicken or veggie broth
Seasoning salt or garlic salt to taste

Cut the bacon into small pieces and throw it in the pot. Get it started on low to medium heat while you dice the onions. Once there’s a little fat in the pan, add the onions. If you want to make this recipe vegan, leave out the bacon (shocker! I know!), and use a little olive oil to saute your veggies instead, and obviously use veggie broth later on.

Chop up and throw in your greens and let them wilt a bit. I only used 4 leaves of kale, but they were GINORMOUS MUTANT LEAVES, so I can’t really judge how much you should use. I also love greens, and they’re so healthy, I just toss in as much as will fit in the pan most of the time. Once the greens are a little wilted and easier to stir, add the broth and dried lentils. If you are using already cooked lentils, add your broth 1 or 2 cups at a time and judge how brothy you want it to be. Hubby likes thicker, more stew-like soups, so that’s what I tend to make.

Bring the pot to a mild boil (not like a vigorous, knocking-the-lid-off boil) and let it cook until the lentils are done, probably about 45 minutes. Stir it periodically. Once it gets close to done, I always eat some of the lentils to make sure they’re actually done, and not faking it. Then add the liquid smoke, and other seasonings. I also threw in a bunch of dried parsley, both to make it look pretty, and because herbs have lots of nutrients, but this is optional.

Hubby and I both enjoyed the finished product, and I’m glad there are leftovers. This recipe probably makes 8-10 normal people servings, but about 6 for me (eating for two, remember!) and Hubby. There was really minimal veggie chopping and clean up, and it was easy, even though it has a medium-long cooking time. The ingredients were also super cheap! I probably spent no more than $3 for the whole pot! Can’t beat cheap eats!

June 29, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Cooking. 3 comments.

Jewelry Revamp Guest Post

So I haven’t made an official announcement or anything, but here it is: I’m knocked up! The Hubby and I are very excited to welcome baby NachoNacho BooBoo Tarzan to the family. Pregnancy is incredibly draining however, which has led to a dearth of blog posts. Always helpful, Kornberg and my sis Beans have stepped up with some guest posts! Here is Kornberg’s helpful tutorial about remaking jewelry with jewelry you already have:

Jewelry upcycle!

So I was cleaning out some of my jewelry and ended up with a huge baggie of stuff–half of it I loved but never wore and the other half was junk.  I hated to get rid of some of it but I never wore it!  One pair of earrings stung in particular–I loved them.  I loved the texture, the pattern and the color but they were uncomfortable to wear.  Then it hit me–I can fix this!  So next time I was at Jo-ann’s, I stopped by the jewelry area and picked up some supplies.  I got 2 sizes of jump rings, 2 packs of chain, 2 sizes of earring hooks and a pack of ring bases–all of it was on a 50% off sale so it ended up being less than $15 and I have plenty leftover for future projects.

 

I also had 2 small pliers from other projects–having 2 was really helpful because I could use the round tip ones to hold something stable while the flat grippy ones could grab and manipulate whatever I was holding.


Of course I didn’t take pictures before but here is a mock of up of the original inspiration earrings.  The top has a post on the back and is really huge–I have other piercings in my earlobe and that smooshed them.



Here is how they ended up.  I replaced the old jump ring and put them on long hoops.  They brush the curve between my neck and shoulder now and look amazing.  Best part is that I got them originally at the city-wide garage sale for $1.

 

Here are the remains of another piece that I was really upset to get rid of.  I loved loved loved the beads but the necklace was an awkward length and was really bulky and didn’t go with anything.


See how awesome those are???

 

And here is the final product.  It’s a really long necklace and the beads are intended to sit at different levels on each side.  It’s much more in tune with my style and it looks like I spent a crapton of money on it.  I’ve seen things like this on sale for way more than I am willing to spend on costume jewelry.  I just took some of the beads from the original necklace and hooked them together in segments and then attached the chain.  I would hold stuff up to me to guess at lengths but even if it’s wrong, you can always make things shorter or longer by hooking chain.  I made sure to get chain that was easy to work with because I am a total novice and have no idea how the fancier types of links work.


These earrings were another garage sale find.  They were on posts and my main problem with them was that they tangled up with EVERYTHING.  So I pulled the posts off with pliers and put hooks on them (taken from some other jewelry that I didn’t want to re-use) so now they can hang on my earring ship.

 

These are locally made earrings that I loved but were too short.  I guess I like a longer look for my jewelry because these and the next 3 pieces were all just made longer.  All I did was take the hook off and put them on a longer hook.



For these I just stole a length of chain from the awesome bead necklace and inserted it between the hook and jump ring that the earrings came with.  I spend a lot of time on the phone right now and those short earrings were so annoying and would clank everywhere.  Now they won’t!



These were more garage sale earrings.  They were originally wired in silver but one of the hooks had apparently been lost and instead of replacing it, they made a new one out of what looks like a paper clip.  It was all janky and made my ear holes itch.  I also didn’t like the length–these are way too cool to be hidden like that!  So I used some jewelry wire from another project and tried to copy what the original wiring looked like.  I have no skills so they are “deliberately” messy–I made them very messy so it looks intentional.  I do this with a lof of things in my life–my hair, my make up, my art projects–so that my lack of skills is not apparent.  Now you know my secret.

June 25, 2013. Tags: , , , , , . Arts and Crafts. 2 comments.

Can Blockbuster be saved?

I had a really random, and vivid dream last night. Hubby and I were out jogging, which is the main event that proves none of this actually happened. We jogged past Snoop Dogg, and saw some guy walking around with his pants hanging down below his butt, and his underwear hanging out.

Me: “I can’t believe that is still a style. You’d think it’s been going on long enough that someone could make underwear with a design you’re supposed to see, instead of just ratty underwear.”
Snoop Dogg: “That’s a good idea, I’ll do that. (In my dream he has his own clothing line, which I’m not sure really exists) You know what? I own Blockbuster, too. Why don’t you go over there and let me know if you have any ideas to fix it up?”

In the dream, Hubby and I jogged on over to a Blockbuster and immediately saw several problems. There were 6 or 7 employees just sitting around with nothing to do. The store was tiny, and yet had almost no stock at all. In an effort to save the company, the higher-ups had decided to branch out into selling sneakers and electronics, both of which were packed in styrofoam take-out containers for some reason. I told one of the employees “Look, this place is going out of business, regardless. You should focus on finding yourself a new job.” She started crying.

When I woke up, my brain was still whirring with the task set to me by Snoop Dogg. If I owned Blockbuster, what would I do to try and turn it around?

Option 1: Turn it into a movie hang-out: build in a coffee/snack shop, have a large screen at one end and show movies while people hang out. Have movies for sale at the other end of the store. This option would obviously cost a lot, since all remaining locations would have to be heavily remodeled. They could have evening events though, when they played student films, localling made, indie movies, and old classics. I would hang out there for sure.

Option 2: Turn into a used movie and video game store. This is risky, since the big companies are trying to make their video games non-resellable, and I’m sure movie studios will try to go the same route. Also, media is heading more and more into the exclusively digital sphere, so this still might be untenable. Where I live we also have Half Price Books that resells movies, music, and video games, so depending on the market, they could have stiff competition in place. However, they already have all the equipment in place in the stores they would need, so the costs to change would be almost exclusively marketing. I also wonder what happens to all the DVDs from Red Box once they’re done with them? This could be a cheap source for inventory.

Honestly though, Blockbuster is probably a remnant of the past. They waited too long to change, and at this point any action would probably just be delaying the inevitable. I honestly don’t know if they’re even still open, but I found it amusing how methodical I was being, even in dream-land.

June 10, 2013. Tags: , , . Random typing. 4 comments.

Money Basics Part 4: Spending with Friends

Some of the hardest spending to avoid is spending with friends. There can be so much social pressure to buy a round of beers, get dessert, go skydiving in Russia, etc, and not necessarily in a negative way:

Friend: “Hey, Rodger and the Donkey Bears are in town, and we’re all going! Do you want to go?”
Trying to Save Money Person: “Yeah, sounds cool!”
Friend: “Awesome! It’s only $80 each, and we’re going out to dinner at $uper$wank beforehand, and then sharing a limo to the show, and I’m having commemorative T-shirts made, so it’s only like $3,000 each!”
TTS$P: “…..great….”

It sounds like fun, and you honestly want to go, and everyone just wants to have a good time, which is why it’s so hard to rain on a friend’s parade and say something like “That is way too pricey!” or “Oh, I forgot, my Grandma will be dying that day”. For this particular event, I would recommend simply meeting your friends at the venue, thereby avoiding all costs aside from the concert ticket. And even then, look online for groupons, student, military, or senior discounts, or any other promotions that might be running.

Some places will give a discount if you bring a canned good or a specific soda can (obviously check online before showing up with baked beans in your pocket). Look on ticket sales website for people reselling tickets at a discount, and check Craig’s List. If you really love the band, that is. If you’re not that into them, just make plans for brunch the next day, or meeting for dinner only, or drinks afterward.

If these types of things happen to you frequently, consider taking control of the situation by planning an event or two of your own. Frisbee golf, doggy playdates at the dog park, movie marathon night with theme snacks, or craft night can all be free/cheap events. You’re friends with these people because you have something in common. Figure out what that is, and use it as a jumping-off point to plan some events. Odds are your buddies will be glad for a change of pace, rather than just going to the movies all the time, or constantly skydiving in Russia.

You can also just be straight forward with your friends *GASP* I know! Especially in this economy, reduced spending has become much more common. “But Clever Chick! I don’t want people to think I’m POOOORRRR!!” You whine, which is why I never answer my phone. That is abrasive, you should have grown out of it by now. Here’s the thing, being poor is not bad. That’s a whole ‘nother rant, but lots of people save their money. How do you think Bill Gates got started? He had money to INVEST. He didn’t spend it on flashy clothes and $10 haircuts! He saved it, so he could do something better with it later.

If you are still concerned with social stigma, say something like “I’m trying to save up to pay off my car” or put a downpayment on a house, or clone Velociraptors, whatever your goal is. This puts your activities into a positive light and makes you look responsible/evil scientist-y, depending on your goal.

You might be surprised by the reaction you get. Often, friends who I considered to be rather spendy said something like “That’s great! I saved up for our jetski by only shopping at Cheapy Cheaperoo’s grocery store. They have amazing sales every third Wednesday!” Look at that, you just opened up a whole new topic of conversation with your friend, became closer, AND found a new cheap place to buy groceries! (And I made myself sad because I imagined a fantastic secret grocery store filled with bargains, but it doesn’t exist. Just like my cloned pet Velociraptor).

With any situation regarding money, try to take a step back from the emotions involved, and think outside the buck for solutions. (Get it? Outside the buck?? I hope I haven’t killed you all with laughter!)

See also: Part 1: Budgeting, Part 2: Prioritizing, and Part 3: Avoid Spending

June 3, 2013. Tags: , , . Thriftiness is Cool. 2 comments.