Reading About Vegetable Shortening Helped the Time Slide By

I recently went on vacation. One of my vacation indulgences is to buy a magazine to read on the plane. I know, that doesn't sound like much of an indulgence, but really how often do we get to take the time to read through an entire magazine? This trip I bought a copy of First for Women, healthy living made easy, the March 2009 issue, Bauer Publishing. I learned many interesting things about losing weight, easing back pain, how to sleep better, exercise more efficiently, suppress a cough with dark chocolate (dark chocolate is amazing!) and of course I read dozens of recipes. But the article that really caught my attention was about a substance that I have in my cupboard all of the time - Vegetable Shortening. I had no idea there were so many uses, other than cooking, for Shortening.
The article is titled 10 Brilliant Uses for Vegetable Shortening by Dana Squilla.
Here are 4 of the shortening strategies that I'm anxious to try:
  1. Remove ink stains from vinyl upholstery - Put a little vegetable shortenting on a clean dry cloth. Gently dab at the stain with the cloth until the ink is gone. Rinse with a soapy sponge and let dry. It seems that the palm oil in the shortening, "seeps into the materials fibers, attracting the ink's oils dissolving the color residue, so it washes away without a trace." Cool!
  2. Wash automotive grease and oil off of your hands - Before you wash your hands rub them with the shortening. The shortening should dissolve the grease so that it will easily rinse away.
  3. Soften Winter heels - Cracked winter heels? Before bed give your feet a soak in warm water and then massage them with shortening. Wear cotton socks to bed and rinse the shortening off in the shower in the morning. The result - softer feet.
  4. Vegetable shortening face paint - In a small cup, I think that a Styrofoam egg carton would work perfectly for this, combine 2 Tbl corn starch, 1 Tbl shortening, 3 drops of food coloring. Mix a different color in each cup. For applications, use paint brushes, make up brushes or Q-tips. This will wash off with mild soap. I like to use baby shampoo.

I was a little disappointed that they didn't mention my favorite use of Vegetable Shortening - pie crust. Here's a recipe for the way that my family would prefer that I use shortening:
Double Pie Crust
2 Cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1/3 cup unsalted butter (if you use salted butter adjust the salt to 1/4 tsp)
6-7 Tbl ice cold water

Combine the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. With a pastry cutter, cut in shortening and butter.
Start by sprinkling 3 Tbls of water over flour mixture. Toss with fork. Add water one TBl at a time until dough barely holds together. The key is to not overwork the dough. Turn the dough onto a well floured pastry cloth or clean counter top. Divide in half and roll out with floured rolling pin.
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Be Old Fashioned, Post Through the Post

I recently had a conversation with a friend who reminded me of something that I have let slip in my life. I spend so much time at the computer, as so many people do, that I forget that email and twitter and facebook can't really take the place of personal communication. My friend mentioned how nice it is to get a handwritten message, a card or a letter, in the mail. Especially now days when every mail delivery is met with apprehension about what bills will be waiting for us in that little box. What a joy to find the treasure of a message from a friend hidden between the bills and junk mail.
When my husband and I were dating, we lived far enough away from each other that calls were long distance and we were only able to see each other on the weekends. So, each week we wrote each other one letter. I remember the excitement of rushing to the mailbox when I got home in hopes that there would be a letter from him, the excitement of seeing his return address on the envelope and my name written in his handwriting. Yes, I was (and am) very much in love. But the point, for this post, is that the communication in those old fashioned posts was not a hurried email but a carefully thought out message that added growth and excitement to our relationship.
My heart still smiles when I get a card or a letter in the mail. Really, what an inexpensive way to make someone's day a little brighter, just .42 for a stamp. We don't need to buy expensive cards, note paper will do or keep your eye out for cards that your friends can frame or reuse. My mom does a fun thing, she sends one of her beautiful cards* with her note written on a separate piece of paper so that I can reuse the card. I get a smile and then I can send it to someone else to make them smile.
So, I resolve to send treasures in the mail much more often. I will step back in time, grab a pen, paper and stamp and post through the post.

*My mom, Kay, is a watercolorist. She often turns her lovely paintings into cards. Visit her blog Joy To You - Inspirations of hope and joy in art and scripture.
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Making New Shoestring Friends

Do you ever feel the need to justify your Shoestring Lifestyle? Do you ever feel as if you are the only one hanging on to the aglet (that's the plastic thingy at the end of the shoestring)? Actually, we are in excellent company in the world of frugality.
Here are some of the great money saving blogs that I visit regularly:
  • Freebies 4 Mom - This blog lists free stuff, coupons, sweepstakes, give aways and good advice. I love Freebie Friday!
  • Rather Be Shopping - Great coupons and financial tips. Practical and up to date.
  • Frugal Hacks - Different contributors add to this blog administrated by a mother of 9 who has the frugal lifestyle down to a science. You can even add your own frugal hacks (ideas) to the mix.
  • eBay Selling Coach - This blog is written by a mom who is an eBay power seller. She shares her advice on what sells, how to navigate eBay, and other ecommerce resources.
  • $5 Dollar Dinners - Erin Chase shares her menus and recipes for dinners that cost $5. A yummy resource for Shoestring meals.
Check out these blogs and make some new Shoestring Friends.
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Shoestring Meals - Overnight Lasagna

A couple of posts ago I posted a recipe for Easy Italian Herb Focaccia Bread. This deliciously easy bread is a great compliment to the recipe that I'll share with you today, Overnight Lasagna. My friend who first served me the Focaccia Bread also served this mouthwatering money and time saving lasagna (thanks, Tana!)
One of the things that makes this dish unique is that you don't cook the noodles and yet they come out perfectly tender. I have tried lasagna recipes that call for uncooked noodles only to find that the end result is chewy underdone pasta. The secret to this recipe is a nocturnal rest in your fridge. Plus it is so easy to assemble the night before so you can relax when your guests or family arrive.

Overnight Lasagna
You will need:
1 lb ground beef - brown and drain the fat
32 oz jar of spaghetti sauce or 4 cups of homemade
salt and pepper
16 oz cottage cheese
1 egg
1 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1tsp Basil
1 pkg of lasagna noodles

  • Add sauce to browned ground beef and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Combine cottage cheese , egg, mozarella cheese and basil to make cheese sauce.
  • Layer in 9x13 pan (I would spray the pan with pam for easy clean up),
1/2 cup meat mixture
layer of noodles
1/3 cup cheese mixture
1/3 cup meat mixture

  • Continue layers ending with meat mixture and topping with 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese.
  • Pour 1/2 cup water around sides of pan. This is a very important step.
  • Cover with foil and leave in the fridge overnight.
  • Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
  • Let stand 15 min. before serving.
  • Enjoy!

image by stock.xchng
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Shoestring Cleaning - Quick, Simple, Cheap

Friday is the first day of Spring. Woohoo! The nearness of spring always put me in a cleaning mood. When I think of spring cleaning I think of moving furniture and deep cleaning corners that no one ever sees and polishing things until they shine and beating rugs (I know, nobody beats rugs anymore but that's what I think of). The problem is that I just don't have time for that. I need some quick ideas that give the semblance of a spring cleaned house without the time spent.
Here are a few quick ideas that will clean quickly, simply and cheaply:
  • Make your bed. Even if your room is a mess in other ways, a made bed transforms a room and gives a feeling of order. I timed myself - it takes less than a minute and a half to make my bed. We all have a minute and a half. Time your kids when they make their beds and challenge them to beat their best time.
  • Pick things up. Clutter is my middle name (actually it's Arlene). I like to have my favorite stuff around so I tend towards a cluttered house. Clutter doesn't have to be messy if there is a place for things. It's when things are not in their places that a room looks messy. When you walk through a room, always look for something that's not in it's place and put it away. It's amazing the cleaning satisfaction that you experience just by putting one or two things away and it only takes a few seconds.
  • Make things shine. Take a cloth and buff your door knobs, wipe your dishwasher and oven doors with a damp dish towel after you do the dishes, quickly spray and wipe windows and mirrors. When things are shiny they give the impression that the spaces around them are clean.
  • Wipe your bathroom down every time you get out of the shower. Take a damp towel and wipe down your shower door and walls, moisten a paper towel with rubbing alcohol to shine and disinfect your sink faucet and handles and quickly wipe down your toilet. I timed myself on this one too - a quick bathroom wipe down takes 2 minutes.
  • Sweep and vacuum just your high traffic areas. Once again, when the areas that people use the most are clean the rest of the house seems clean.
  • Keep the laundry area clean. Whenever you wash towels dampen the last one to go into the washer and wipe your washer and dryer before you start the load. Keep a trash can lined and handy for dryer lint and trash from pockets. Have laundry baskets ready and waiting to hold clean loads and for sorting dirty clothes.
  • Keep cleaning wipes (or bleach water and paper towels) handy so that you can quickly clean up a dirty spot when you see it. If we don't have the tools handy we tend to put off a job. If the wipes are right there on the counter you just need to grab and wipe the finger prints on the door, the chocolate sauce on the cupboard, the muddy dog prints on the floor. If you see it, wipe it up.
  • Dust. I hate to dust, but a quick swipe of visible surface areas with a dust cloth can really brighten up a room. So I must force myself to do it. I bet that I can dust my living room in less than 5 minutes.

Of course, these quick clean ups don't take the place of a real spring cleaning but until you have the time to devote to a top to bottom clean up give them a try.
What are your quick clean up tips? Leave a comment and share.
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Shoestring Beauty - Homemade Beauty Products

I'm a sucker for beauty products but they can be so expensive. Here are some ways that I found to indulge in fun products and still hang on to the plastic thingy at the end of the shoestring.
  • Look for your favorite make up and lotions at Big Lots. I often find a brand that I like or that I've wanted to try for a fraction of the cost at Big Lots. The inventory changes quickly so you have to check often.
  • Two other great discount places for lotions and perfumes are Ross and TJ Max. They carry many of the face creams that you find in high end department stores at a huge discount - $5.99 for a 29.00 face cream. Now, I would never pay 30ish dollars for face cream, but I would try it for 5ish.
  • I have often found name brand make up like Maybelline and Cover Girl at Dollar Tree and other dollar type stores.
  • There are also homemade beauty treatments that are cost effective and fun. offers a whole list of recipes for your homemade spa using ingredients that you probably have in your kitchen. Being the coffee lover that I am, I found the Invigorating Coffee Scrub very intriguing:
    • 3 T Coffee grounds (organic-caffeinated)
    • 1 T Salt (optional)

To Make: Brew a fresh pot of coffee. Enjoy a cup, if you like. Put grounds (and salt) in a small bowl. Use grounds within 20 minutes of brewing before oxidation occurs.

To Use: Scrub mixture over entire body while in the shower. Rinse. Tone. Moisturize.

  • If you are thinking green these days, Planet Green gives a whole list of homemade beauty products and suggestions: 3 ways to make your own shampoo, vegetable oil as a hair conditioner, homemade vegetable toner - just to name a few.

  • has a section on homemade facials, masks and soaps. They even have a recipe for Coffee Scented Kitchen Soap and a yummy Orange Yogurt Mask.

Cosmetics and Creams are fun but remember that beauty comes from the inside. A loving heart, giving hands, a mind stayed on the One who created beauty in the first place will shine through to true loveliness.
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Shoestring Parenting (or anyone who shares their lives with children) - Hunkin's Experiments

Do you have children in you life? Are you a parent, grandparent, teacher, homeschooler, neighbor, babysitter, aunt, uncle? No matter what our station in life it seems that there are always children about somewhere. Which means that almost everyone is faced upon occasion with the question, "What can we do to entertain these kids?" I know, for parents that is an everyday, minute by minute worrisome thought. Well, here is one solution to keep those wonderful little brains and hands busy - Hunkin's Experiments (over 200 home experiments).

The author of the site, Tim Hunkin ( is a trained engineer and cartoonist. He drew the cartoon the Rudiments of Wisdom for the Observer newspaper and then wrote and presented the television program, The Secret Life of Machines. Currently he works for museums building interactive displays and exhibits. Mr. Hunkin has put together a site with experiments that cover just about anything that an inquisitive kid could want to know (inquisitive adults, too). Accompanying each experiment is an imaginative cartoon that details the instructions. What makes this a wonderful shoestring activity is that almost all of the experiments use everyday household objects. No going to the store to buy extra stuff!
Some of the Experiment Catagories are:
Food experiments
Mathematical experiments
Biological experiments
Electrical experiments
Experiments in the office
Sound experiments
Hobbies experiments
Clothes experiments
Experiments with objects

Mr. Hunkins shows how to do the experiments but he doesn't explain the science behind them. If you are a homeschooler or public school teacher you'll have to do your homework to use this as a teaching tool or addition to your science curriculum. Otherwise, these are some cool and entertaining activities to fill a rainy day and get our brains, both young and old, working beyond TV and video games.
Haven't you ever wondered how to - balance a chair on a broomstick? get an apple into a milk bottle? do Russian multiplication? pull a string through your neck? use a watch as a compass?
change the color of a goldfish?......

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Shoestring Meals - Easy Italian Herb Focaccia Bread

I must be hungry this week because I'm posting about food again. Last night we had dinner with some very dear friends and she made delicious Focaccia bread. She assured me that it was very easy and gave me the recipe. I made it for lunch this afternoon and she was right - It is very easy and oh so delicious. It is one of those recipes that make you feel rich, as if you had visited your favorite Italian bakery, even though the ingredients cost very little.

Easy Italian Herb Focaccia Bread
  • 31/4 Cups of flour
  • 1 pkg. yeast ( her recipe calls for rapid rise yeast but I just used the regular kind)
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 Cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 2/3 Cup warm water (not hot!)
  • 2 Tbl. Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbl. Italian seasoning (make your own: 3 T each dried oregano, basil, parsley, 1 T garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp dried rosemary, 1/4 tsp. pepper)

  1. Mix flour, undissolved yeast, sugar, salt in a large mixing bowl
  2. Add 2 Tbl. olive oil and water
  3. Stir until well mixed
  4. Spread dough in a well greased 13x9 pan
  5. Cover and let rise until double, 30 - 45 minutes should do it
  6. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, poke holes all through the risen dough
  7. Drizzle or brush remaining olive oil over dough and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning
  8. Allow to rise for an additional 15 minutes - Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  9. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes until lightly brown
  10. Serve warm

This bread is a great compliment to an Italian pasta dish, my friend served it with lasagna, or as an appetizer with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping. One of my favorite ways to enjoy Focaccia bread is with mozzarella and fresh tomatoes. buon appetito!

image by stock.xchng
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Shoestring Meals - Meat Stretching Tacos

This photo is titled dona paz - the taco lady. It reminds me of the best tacos that I have ever had.
A couple of summers ago we were at a graduation party for my niece and the main dish was served by a taco truck parked out front. The chefs in the truck made the most delicious authentic tacos and burritos. When we returned home we just had to try our hand at replicating the tacos and we discovered that these tasty Mexican handfuls were great meat stretchers. To feed our family of 5, two large chicken breasts or 1/2 a pound of hamburger was sufficient to make plenty of tacos to satisfy everyone. The trick is to have lots of flavor dense ingredients to accompany the meat.

Our Version of Taco Truck Tacos
  • Soft Corn tortillas - the smaller size works best
  • Your choice of vegetable oil, canola oil or olive oil
  • Meat of your choice - Grilled and sliced chicken, Ground beef, small steak-thinly sliced.
  • Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • Fresh Cilantro
  • Caramelized onions
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Fresh Salsa
  • Anything else that you love: guacamole, jalape├▒os, olives, etc.

  1. Heat a pan or griddle to medium heat.
  2. Brush tortillas on both sides with oil
  3. Place tortillas on pan or griddle and heat one side for about 30 seconds or until you can feel the heat come through on the other side.
  4. Sprinkle salt on the tortillas and flip them over to heat the other side. (The tortillas will remain soft, don't try to get them hard or crunchy that's another kind of taco)
  5. With the tortillas still on the heat, spread meat, onion and cheese on one half of each tortilla and top with fresh cilantro.
  6. Fold the tortillas in half and serve the tacos immediately.
  7. Each person can then add the rest of their favorite toppings.

What I love about these tacos is the fresh taste and that they are a quick and crowd pleasing Shoestring Meal. Share your ideas for meat stretching meals.

image by stock.xchng
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