Thursday, January 31, 2013

Disaster Preparedness: Firearms

Seems like such a serious title and it is. Around the world weather has changed so dramatically that no one really can say what the seasons will bring anymore. Tornadoes are commonplace EVERYWHERE now. Hurricanes seem to favor the Mid-Atlantic coast more than ever. Brush fires, mudslides, earthquakes, all showing up in their normal spots as well as new ones. We need to be ready and we need to know how to be ready.

There is a great discussion about disaster survival topic going on at Down to Earth. Now, Down to Earth being an international blog and I, as an American, noticed the one thing not discussed in this post, which makes me wonder if I really do live in a much more violent society than others.


This is the touchiest of subjects, especially here in the US right now, but I feel it has its place when it comes to disaster survival. If, God Forbid, things get really ugly and desperate the police will not be able to reach you then what can you do? I am not dying for bread or water, but I do have a child to protect. A friend of mine who lives in Georgia also had this discussion with me. Neither of us are comfortable with guns in the house, but we do understand from a survivalist stand point, the purpose of owning one. The question then goes which kind should you have and why? I favor the Walther PPK series and the Dominator Nighthawk.
Let me back pedal a bit here and say I know nothing and I mean nothing about guns. In one of my novels, my heroine is a former marine turned bounty hunter, so I had to do A LOT of research and ask a friend who is Captain of the SWAT team about firearms and how they work. She uses the above guns I mentioned and now I can say I know a tiny little bit about guns, but it would never impress anyone. The reason I bring firearms up at all is because when Hurricane Sandy hit, within a few days people started to snap over gas rationing and lack of power. People who were ill prepared for such a disaster were getting hostile and voicing such hostility on the radio for all to hear. To be that at a loss without the Internet or TV is a little frightening. Yes, some actually complained about not having their computer or TV. Dude, people lost their homes and you are pissed because you missed an episode of something or can't access Facebook? Some complained about not having lights. How do you not have candles or lanterns? I understood being angry about not having heat or your food spoiling, but again, if you were semi-warm and dry and with a roof over your head, you were ahead of the game than most. The year before, Hurricane Irene, Hurricane Lee and the freak snow storm in October sort of told us that this was the "new normal" here in NJ and we better be ready. Of course, those who lived down the shore or in Queen and Staten Island could have had everything ready, but they were still going to lose their houses and in some cases their lives, which was and always will be beyond awful. I hope some of them had bug out bags ready so they were not caught off guard too much, but I have a feeling a lot of our citizens were not ready and some will still not be when it happens again.

Yes, I believe this will happen again.

And with that will come the jerks who loot and harm others in the middle of this crisis. These are the people that made us discuss owning a firearm. Those that think nothing of taking advantage of a bad situation. As I said to my husband, "If someone thinks they can just bust into my house to take stuff, they are wrong." This conversation happened because you could feel the tension in the air. Like some people were on the brink of doing something desperate since supermarkets were closed and could not get deliveries and gas was scarce. I have no problem helping others in need and we did, but if you come in by force, no way. You are getting carried out in a body bag. God, I sound so awful. Are these really the times we live in? Or am I imagining a boogeyman? I do not really know. All I know is, when there is a disaster you may need a way to defend what is yours. I don't care if you use your hands, a baseball bat or a gun, but part of survival is having a way to keep your home, your family, safe. I mean, you can maim someone with a martial arts move or a shovel just as easy as a gun. Do you plan a panic room instead or have an escape route to save your family if some jackass comes waving his own gun ready to steal? This is a topic I wish more people would discuss, not just on survivalist boards, but in general.

On a brighter note, I was happy to see most of the population come together and help one another sans violence. Lending a hand, gathering clothes and supplies to be distributed to those who had nothing but the wet clothes on their backs. People opened their homes to house those same people and that is a kindness one cannot measure. That is the society I prefer, not this current one where violence is the solution to protect what is mine. I want that type of decision and violence to stay in my novel, in that dystopian world that we are not a part of...yet.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Decadence and Fashion

While I am all for living within one's means and simple living, I do appreciate the work that goes into couture clothing, hand made furniture, jewelry (which I admit I miss making. I did wax carvings, metal work and even lovely beaded stuff, but the market is so flooded with mass production lines like Silpada and Lia Sophia, I would have to go completely high end and I cannot afford the materials). I have come across some interesting finds and want to share them. This isn't to make anyone feel bad or less than for not being able to afford these luxuries. I just wanted to show that there are folks out there passionate about what they do and sometimes it is expensive and sometimes it's not too unattainable. Enjoy!

Henry Herbert Tailors in the UK come to you on a Vespa and measure you for your Savile Row suit. Bespoke clothing is so glamorous to me.

David Linley Game Table. Just stunning.

City Joinery out of Brooklyn and Easthampton, MA has some exquisite pieces and they try to use salvaged wood as much as they can. The furniture is very interesting and modern.

The NYC jewelry store Ten Thousands Things has always had such a beautiful collection of unique pieces. I especially love the look and design of this ring. The raw look of the Tahitian Pearl against the golf. Le sigh.

Dara Lamb in NYC is on W57th Street and makes custom clothing for women. As someone who is a busty gal, I would have loved to been able to afford key wardrobe pieces made especially for me. I have tried sewing, I did a skirt and a purse. While I enjoyed it, I have a special respect for those that can make their own fabulous wardrobe. I doubt I will ever get that skilled so it is something I would splurge on one day if I can.

Hope you enjoyed this brief foray into high end design.


Monday, January 28, 2013


I set up my bird bath and got some suet cakes for my bird feeder this weekend. I did this because it is cold and snowy so the birds need water to drink and food to eat, but also because we have about 8 bluebirds hanging out with cardinals, finches and some other lovelies. The bluebirds are such a burst of color and even my neighbor commented how excite he was to see them.
There is something lovely about having birds in the garden. I have a few areas of my yard set up with gardens. The one where the bird bath and shepherd hook are is a small mound that has a yucca plant, I will never understand the proliferation of that plant in New Jersey landscaping, and there is also my gorgeous sage, cat mint, Russian sage, rosemary and oregano. I will be moving some lamb's ear to that area in the spring. The other garden was a vast wasteland of overgrowth which now has decorative grasses, lemon balm and bee balm, both which multiply on their own and makes it easy peasy to tend. Then I have my vegetable garden. Last year I did not have great success with some of my vegetables which just plain out sucked. Also, having a little one did not allow me to putter about as much as I like to. Some people can do it with ten kids, but with my one and our handicapped dog I had a hard time finding a rhythm that suited us best. Anyway, because of that we are going to participate in a CSA with a local farm. The good thing is it works out to about $21 a week for vegetables and fruit. Now yes, I have grown my own stuff, but there things that have failed miserably in my garden. Cabbage, brussell sprouts, eggplant, beans, cauliflower and even my cucumbers were bad. They were wonderful the year before that. I do have a composter and I use it all in the garden, but for some reason even my basil was crappy last summer. So, I will stick with what has been successful, kale, leeks and swiss chard and have the CSA supplement everything else. I like being able to support a local farm and not need the supermarket for my produce. I only wished we lived somewhere that had a year round CSA.
I might even choose to grow flowers that the deer would normally eat within my vegetable garden since is a fenced area. I just saw a flower that i must grow called lupin. They are those lovely tall flowers on the right.

There are some wonderful photographs of English cottage gardens on the blog Frugal Living UK. I am sure those gardens are a lot of work, but once they are established, oh the joy they must bring.


Friday, January 25, 2013

The Weekend Has Arrived

And snow will be here later. Brrrrrr! Winter has let us know she is back that is for sure!

We just had a bunch of stuff like an old bed frame and old clothes picked up by the United War Veterans. I like that charities will come out and get stuff. I know that a lot of it goes to for profit thrift shops, but I would rather someone else get use of it since we no longer need it. I love to purge. I have no idea why, but it feels good to remove things that are just wasting space or have been forgotten about.

I have noticed an uptick on quite a few blogs I read about personal circumstances during these hard economic times. Be it UK, Australia or the US, it is amazing how many of us are dealing with similar issues. Oil and gas prices, keeping thermostats below "normal", food prices, living on one income, living on NO income, unable to find work or taking the worse paying jobs just because they need to pay bills, being without cars and lousy public transport and even serious health issues. What burns my ass is how little our politicians seem to be aware of this. Sure they tout the whole "We need to get out country back on its feet" rhetoric, I speak for the US only right now, though I am sure other countries hear the same bull, but Senators do not see the faces of their people. They regale those not working as to being lazy and entitled. I wish to God I knew who to contact because I would send them every blog I read and show them. I want to yell, "These are your constituents. The ones you claim are abusing the system and are lazy and do not want to work. These people struggling to put food on table, fill their gas tanks and stay warm. Read about their plight, understand they have tried every avenue. This is not someone conjured up as an old school "welfare cretin" getting their nails done and driving a new car will using tax dollars." I am sure those system abusers are out there, but somehow we need to make the politicians see past them and reprimand those that abuse the system instead of ignoring and then cutting services which effects everyone. Sorry, but I hate to see people suffer after doing everything they can and then they fall so low.

And scene.

This next bit is going to seem a bit crazy after my little rant because it goes in the opposite direction. I have a bit of an obsession with unusual appliances and especially ones that have an array of colors. This of course means you will pay an arm, a leg and a small child for them. If I were a rich gal and lived in Europe,  I would be all over Robeys UK for my appliances.  I will refrain from showing you the Aga as I think I have established that as my dream stove long ago. Seriously, just look at these cookers. Swoon, Swoon, Swoon!!!

I want this Everhot because we have electric for our stove and this is way nicer than anything put out by our standard brands here.

Rayburn. Just look at that blue! Mama is in love.

Stanley cooker. Beautiful!

Robeys also sells refrigerators, God help me. This Meneghini wants to be in my house.

And today's recipe comes from The English Kitchen. I have not made it, but it looks so comforting and delicious. Crustless Salmon Pie with a Lemon Butter Sauce.  She uses a tinned salmon which is very economical for many people. That is something I have not bought yet, but we do keep sardines, tuna and anchovies in the house. Give it a go this weekend if you can :)

Have a wonderful weekend!


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

This Old 1920's Bungalow

I love my bungalow, I do. And while we knew it would need updates and some love which it was sorely lacking, we were also not immune to the fact that old houses bring problems with them. We have updated, with help, the electric, added a radon monitoring system, new ceiling lights, drainage, ripped out the fake fireplace and a closet, put in a closet, replace the flange in the toilet, painted the rooms, laid down a cool floor in baby's room and much more.
Our most recent fun repair adventures are dealing with a leak in the roof and mold in the attic, which we discovered just before Hurricane Sandy and a radiator in our kitchen that even with the valve off, spews water. Needless to say my kitchen floor, which is this poorly laid Pergo is shot.

But wait, let me start with the mold.

We woke up one day with a leak in our bedroom, called someone in and was told there is mold on certain parts of the dormer. The roof was done wrong, no shocker there since most updates, if you can call them that, were done in a slipshod fashion. That means we need to repair the roof along with putting in new insulation, which was also done incorrectly. All the work that needs to be done: new roof, roof vents, new insulation, is thankfully covered by insurance and I am hoping once it is all done there will not be extreme temperatures upstairs anymore. We did get two estimates for what all this will cost. No, it is not cheap, but it needs to be done. Sometimes I think it would have been better if we bought land and built from the ground up, but I know there is no fail safe when it comes to houses.

And now the radiator. We have this Pergo flooring in our kitchen that was laid down in such a fashion that is slides open so you can see the layers underneath. Seriously, did anyone do anything in this house correctly??  So the kitchen radiator has leaked, not a slow leak, but a serious pooling water leak, and damaged the floor. Sure I want to replace the floor, but not now. I would have done it when we redid the kitchen way down the road. Anyway, I am sure there is some seriously ugly linoleum under there, I have an unattractive pink bathroom so I expect nothing less with this flooring. I am sort of hoping it is hideous so I can relish it LOL. I can't get upset about it so I might as well enjoy it. I will need to take a picture if it is as awful as I believe it to be.

There are pluses to all of this though. My husband is grateful to our friends and my brother who have taught him a thing or two in being handy and I had wanted to repaint our bedroom and will be doing so after the repairs are done. We also have landscaping getting done and the feedback we have gotten from the neighbors has been very positive because as those who live on the block have said, this house was never really loved. It is now, but she is not a cheap date that is for sure.


Monday, January 21, 2013

A quick thought or two

Hope you all had a nice weekend. It is getting a bit chilly, okay freezing, in New Jersey. So we are bundled and toasty and keeping in layers since oil prices are offensive.  Anyway, I am not here to talk weather, how boring, but to just share a few things I have come across then I must dash off to get some things done.

First off, I have a serious love/hate relationship with Facebook. Because of that I have begin to tread the waters of Tumblr. I like that the arts promoted heavily there and some of the blogs are pretty funny. I have only just started posting and I think I am going to mostly focus on lovely things and places. It does not mean I am abandoning my ideas of simple living or frugality or homesteading or what have you. Life has a lot to offer and sometimes we all like to look at dream of having an elaborate gardens even when we only have a patch of grass to cultivate. So if you want to check it out here is where you go.

My love for sweet potatoes continues and I think I need to add this my must make list. A nice gluten free Sweet Potato Lentil Pot Pie with a Corn Biscuit Crumble Topping. Yum!

Want to know how our Mid-19th century ancestors survived freezing temperatures without electricity?  Passion for the Past has a most fascinating post about that topic.

The Anglophile in me loves this from Liberty London. Sadly, I do not needlepoint/cross stitch/whatever this may be, so I just have to admire the picture. 
They do have some gorgeous fabrics and if I sewed more, let's just say I would be having fun.

Until next time! 


Friday, January 18, 2013

Inside the Actors Studio

I have always enjoyed this series. One of the funnier episodes is when Robin Williams was the guest. I know he is not everyone's cup of tea, but it is a very good interview and full of laughs which I feel a lot of us could use these days. Enjoy and have a wonderful weekend!!


Thursday, January 17, 2013

BBC Documentary on Growing Up Poor

About a month ago I posted about the PBS documentary "Poor Kids". If you also watched the program, you saw the devastating effects of poverty. Be it a family caught in a cycle or one that was just one paycheck away from losing it all and did. Well, it seems the BBC has their own documentary showcasing a few teenagers in the UK. I have not watched it but came across an article about it in The Economist.

Poverty Up Close

The comments in the article regarding the young ladies' situation are telling. People chalk their plight up to bad parenting and lack of role models as well as an unwillingness to work. The worse is placing blame on a single moms for having sex and going on the dole. So the boy or man that got her pregnant is no lout or not responsible? Come on now.

I would like to see if there are any similarities to "Poor Kids" in terms of the family trying to better there situation and why they can't.

This made me think of a line from Howard's End spoken by Mr. Wilcox.

The poor are the poor, and one's sorry for them - but there it is.

That always stood out to me as being cruel and indifferent when Mr. Wilcox says it, but I sometimes wonder if E.M. Forster had a different idea. More along the lines of it sucks, we do what we can to help, but in the end do not expect much to change. I don't know. Clearly the programs in place now are not really doing much except sustaining people where they are at. And it seems David Cameron wants to slash housing benefits fro those under 25. Um, if someone is from a hateful/violent family, forcing them to move back home or onto the streets creates a whole new batch of problems.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Chill and Comfort Food

Good Lord it was close to 60 degrees on Monday and now we are heading for the 20's! I do have many wraps and ways to keep warm. Thanks to the ridiculous cost of oil we keep the house at around 67. Believe it or not it is warm and very comfortable which is great when one has a toddler on the go. Right now there is snow on the ground which will get worse since we have freezing rain in the mix. Ahh Mother Nature is fun!

Yesterday I made a delightful Cauliflower Indian Stew in my crock pot. This is the second time I have used the crock pot and I am becoming a huge fan. To be able to throw in a bunch of ingredients and not have to rush at the end of the day to put a hot meal on the table is terrific. Now I am on a quest to accumulate as many vegetarian crock pot recipes as I can.

I have been writing my novel, but mostly at night. I want to try and do some know while the little guy naps, but he is rebelling against that so the writing may have to wait until later. C'est la vie!


Monday, January 14, 2013

Mattresses, Queen of Versailles and Tiny Houses

Yesterday we walked into Sleepy's and when the salesman asked me what we were looking for I said, "A two sided mattress." To which he replied, "We don't have any as they no longer make them."


They did not have any, but I had seen online more than enough mattresses that still come two sided. They are pricier than their one sided counter parts, but I want my mattress to last more than three years. I am not asking a lot. We told him we already had a one sided Simmons that was sagging and lumpy. He said we should contact Simmons. We will, but that still doesn't solve the dilemma of a finding a decent mattress.
Anyway, we tried out a the standard brands: Sealy, Serta, Stearns and Foster. Found two we liked and decided we would come home and discuss it further as these mattresses were both over 1100 dollars.
That is a down payment on an apartment in some parts of this country! Plus we had no desire to put 10% down to "hold" the price. These places have sales all the time so if you love a specific mattress and can wait, there is not reason to do that.
When we got home I decided to do research on the mattresses we were considering and thanks to the very informative website Sleep Like the Dead, we are going to go back to Ikea and try out the two latex mattresses that rated very high. We did buy a nice Ikea bed frame awhile back, but we never even considered their mattresses. Now we have to hope they are comfy, I like firm so for me they will most likely be great, and then we can bring it home and stop waking up with sore necks and backs. And the two mattresses we were interested in at Sleepy's? They have a low customer satisfaction and surprise, surprise, they biggest complaints is that they end up sagging. 

I watched two documentaries this weekend that were polar opposites and both very interesting. 
First was "We the Tiny House People" which basically showcased, around the world, people who lived in 80 square foot apartments in NYC or Tiny Houses in California or turning a pigeon coop into an apartment in Spain. The ingenuity form the homeowner and architects was incredible and really shows how you do not need so much space. No one is saying you can't have it, but it is showing how with a little thought, you can make anything work.
After dinner we watched "The Queen of Versailles". David Siegel, owner of Westgate a massive timeshare company, and his wife, Jackie, decided that their 26,000 foot mansion was not roomy enough for them and their 8 children so lo and behold they set out to build the biggest, and quite frankly ridiculous, house at 96,000 in Florida.
Then the crash happened.
In some cases, their story is like everyone else's, they both came from working class families. There is a huge age difference, which is sort irrelevant because honestly, she does love the old curmudgeon. But what we do witness is a very, very wealthy family having to come to grips with cutting back. There were a million things they could have done and didn't. Like sell the Rolls Royce an Faberge eggs for one, they fired most of their staff keeping just one housekeeper and two nannies who pretty much worked around the clock. Why were the children not being taught to walk the dogs or clean? This bugged the crap out of me because at one point Jackie states that the kids may have to work instead of expecting money to be there for them.
Um, shouldn't they know how to wok anyway??? 
The kicker for me was the fact that David says he never put anything aside for his kids. I nearly fell off my chair. How the *#&$ are you a billionaire and not have trust funds set up for your EIGHT children?!?!?!?
Either his financial advisor is a total tool or he does not have one.
I walked away from Tiny House People feeling good and intrigued by human ingenuity. I walked away from Versailles feeling like these people got what they deserved by not heeding the old adage, "Live within your means" They were not despicable people, just out of touch. I mean, if you have to go without a fur coat or three refrigerators, 8 people can survive with one fridge, but who am I to say that?, do it. Do it to save your children's financial future. Not your plane, not your yacht, but your children's future.

And that is that.


Friday, January 11, 2013

Coconut Oil

I have become a little obsessed with the health benefits and uses of coconut oil. While I was never a fan of the coconut candy bars or the shredded stuff sold for cakes or cookies, fresh coconut is lovely. Actually, the smell of coconut oil or coconut butter just makes me swoon.
This morning I made chocolate chip pancakes using that fantastic eggless pancakes recipe and I added pumpkin spice and used coconut oil instead of vegetable oil.

Sing with me people! It was fabulous!

Now I am on a quest to locate more recipes incorporating coconut oil. It seems I can substitute it in all kinds of baking instead of using butter or even my earth balance bars. I want to give it a go with my beloved scones. If that works, coconut oil will become a full blown staple in our house.
I did also use some to rub on my ridiculously dry hands and lips and it was heavenly.

Here are links to some sites with recipes and a heap of information regarding types of coconut oil to buy, how to substitute it for butter or oils and the fat content.

How to Bake with Coconut Oil

Baking with Coconut Oil: Our 10 Favorite Recipes

FAQS on coconut oil and how to use it

Happy baking, cooking, moisturizing. Enjoy the weekend!


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Bernice Bobs Her Hair

I was flipping thought a Real Simple magazine and there is a section where they asked readers what their favorite short stories were. Someone mentioned a little ditty by F. Scott Fitzgerald and their synopsis was so delicious that I had to find this story online. Thank you University of South Carolina! I grabbed my tea, took time to read it while the little one napped and became immersed in this dark little story. So, I insist, please go get yourself a cup of tea or coffee or even a mimosa, sit back and enjoy.



Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Time to Plan

The decorations have been taken down and still need to be boxed away, but for me this means it is time to plan the vegetable garden. I decided that this year I was going to attempt every thing from seeds. That includes any flowers and of course, veggies. The reason I am going this route is because last year, my hubby brought some seeds home around May and I decided to to just sow them and see what happened.

They all grew. It was a miracle. No seriously, I am not too green thumbed and now I will have an abundance of thyme, echinacea, sage, cilantro and what I am really hoping comes back is the lavender. Herb gardens to me are a lovely way to fill unused or ugly space and you really can't fail at them. This inspired me to do the same for the vegetable garden. This could be risky, but why not? So I have started to search out all types of seed companies. I would prefer heirlooms so I have checked out Seed Savers and a few others. One place that has intrigued me is Monticello. Thomas Jefferson was quite the avid gardener and introduced a variety of crops from overseas to America. Here is a bit on their Seeds of the Past and here is the link to the shop where you can purchase seeds directly from them. I think it would be very interesting to grow a vegetable or rose that got its start at UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Best part is, I have yet to get there, but from what I have read and seen in magazines and online, I would adore the gardens and it would be a great place to take the little guy when he can appreciate the history.

Now I just need to decide what I am going to try and grow this year. I have never had luck with lettuces or cabbage so I may have to forgo those which is such a shame as we love them. I used Neem oil to get rid of the cabbage moths, but it did not deter them enough. I need to do more complimentary plantings like marigolds to help ward off the beasts. I did mint, which of course got out of control, but that did not ward off enough. I need more flowers interspersed around the veggies garden instead of just herbs. Though when my oregano flowers it is superb :)


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Quickie Post

Just wrapping up a fun filled and busy weekend. We had a party for our little one's One year birthday and now we are winding down for the evening.

I was doing a little blog reading before I got to writing and one of my favorite blogs My 50s Year also known as The Apron Revolution is no more. It is still up mind you, but the author has moved on and has started a new interesting blog called Charm of Notions. Instead of focusing on one era like she did with her prior blog, check out her archives it is fascinating, she is sort of browsing through many eras and sharing some of the recipes or ways of living she finds interesting. This is quite a treat as I have always enjoyed her musings and posts and factoids about certain eras. She touches on the Victorian Era a few times and that is pretty interesting. So have at it and I will be back soon!


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Merry New Year!

I always loved that line from "Trading Places".

Hope everyone has had a stellar holiday and is ready for 2013!

Today will be short and sweet. First off, imagine my horror upon discovering that our mattress is only one sided and cannot be flipped. We are sleeping on something the shape of a 'W'. Now it is an 'M' because we turned it around, but I got a little miffed finding out why they stopped making a lot of double sided mattresses. It is cheaper to not add the plush backing on the other side and the added bonus is you will need to buy a new mattress once very 3 or 5 years as opposed to the old 10-20. Good times. What a disgrace. There is no pride in innovation or longevity anymore. Yeah I know, companies and their shareholders need to make money, but I am not a Rockefeller who can shell out the big bucks for a new mattress in such a short time span. Asses. This goes hand in hand with some of the new fangled appliances out there that run like crap. For some insight about mattresses, read this post from Bedrooms and More. Okay, onto brighter things.

I made a fabulous vegetarian chili the other night in a crock pot. The crock pot is a very welcome hand me down and it works beautifully. The chili was a tad spicy, even for my hot sauce/chili pepper lovin' self so  I would say take it easy on the chili powder. Then again, I used Indian chili powder which might have been the true kicker. Also, I used shallots instead of garlic since I was out and it worked fine. It is even tastier the next day. And of course it has sweet potatoes! :)

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili with Sweet Potatoes

We have a little soiree to attend today which should be nice. Then it is back to our routines like the rest of the world, with extra goals and desires.