January 19, 2015

My Morning Routine: Cinnamon in the Coffee, Dogs in the Yard, and Reading the Bible

I have a routine every morning that serves me well, and I thought I would share it with you, Dear Reader. At this point, it's automatic and I think it helps me to have happy, productive days.  Really! 

The alarm goes off. 

I get up and get dressed and let the dogs out into the back yard so they can investigate what monsters may have invaded their territory during the night.  (Currently, there has been a possum roaming around the alley and hanging out in the trees.)

I make fresh coffee in a percolator. 

I use the same mug each morning.  It's huge and has the cartoon image of Wonder Woman on the side.  It was a gift.  I like it because it can hold a lot of coffee and the coffee will stay hot in it.  Plus, truth be told, it's nice that someone thought a Wonder Woman mug suited me somehow.  Makes me laugh.

Anywho, back to the coffee routine.  I toss in a smidgen of Mexican Cinnamon (not all cinnamon is the same, FYI) and some stevia with my Half-n-Half.  A bit of butter (yes; Kerrygold).  I down a tablespoon of Coconut Oil at that juncture (I can't go full bulletproof coffee because I hate that coconut taste in my coffee).

I have a reading spot.

Then, depending upon the weather, I sit outside on the covered patio or inside at the dining room table, and I read a chapter in Proverbs.  I have a little study journal to makes notes in if something comes to mind.  I also read a bit from the Old Testament and some from the New Testament.

I don't follow those Read-the-Bible-in-So-Many-Days schedules.  I always read one chapter in Proverbs, the one that corresponds to the day's date.  Sometimes I read more in the Old Testament books and sometimes less.  It's usually about the same for the New Testament.

I read from the Bible.  Sometimes, I take notes.  

Today, for example, I'm in Amos and I read a chapter before I stopped.  I read a chapter and a half in Mark, ending with Jesus and the kids surrounding him.  It's a nice image to start the day -- Jesus had to be laughing and smiling and playing around with those little children, they were all clamoring to be around him. We don't see enough images of this guy, IMHO: the guy who played with kids, who children liked and thought was fun.

This morning, though, the notes I took were from Proverbs 19 -- about it being smart to have "a wise heart and a clear head."

My Morning Routine Helps Me All Day Long. 

Reading the Bible every morning helps me.  Really and truly, Dear Reader.  Often, something pops up from that Proverbs chapter during the day that is so on point to what's happening.  It's eerie.  It's cool.

Plus, having a morning routine that is automatic habit at this point is a good thing, too.  Before I know it, I'm well into my work day and it's in large part because when that alarm hits I don't lay there and think about what I'm going to do that day - with fear and dread or with excitement and anticipation.  I jump up and get going.

Habits, routines?  They are good things for me in my life.  Reading the Bible every morning?  It's a major help for me every single day.  Just thought I'd share, in case it might help you too.

November 10, 2014

Rodent Repellant and The Rat Palace: Getting Ready for the Cold Front

Last night it was pleasant here in San Antonio, and around nine o'clock I went outside to ponder the day while setting on the back porch.  It was peaceful and quiet; the pups were happily sniffing the ground and hoping that the neighbor's cat might pop in for a visit.

In my head, I was planning for Thanksgiving, silly happy thoughts with a silly happy smile on my face, I'm sure, when all of a sudden: YIKES.

I saw a RAT, not a mouse, not a squirrel, not a possum or bird or space alien, crawl down a tree limb in the neighbor's yard and disappear into their metal gardening shed (which sets back on the fence line of their property, next to the alley, catty-cornered to me).

Now, I was pretty darn far away from that Big Fat Rat.  The dogs either didn't notice it or didn't care.  So, I didn't jump up onto my chair or scream or faint or anything.

I did get extremely creeped out, however.  During the night, my thoughts kept returnING to that Big Fat Rat.  My imagination had that one rat entering an advanced Rat Kingdom inside that shed.

Remember the scene in Men in Black where they open the bus locker and there's the alien world? Repopulate that image with rats and you've got my Neighbor's Rat Shed.

Even today, as I sit in the same spot on the patio in the afternoon sunlight, I sneak little glances over toward the sinister shed.  I listen for Rat World noises.  Wait, they're noctural.  Rat World snores.

Where the heck the neighbor's cat is during all this, I have no idea.  He sure likes to climb my trees and go after birds with great regularity.

So, Dear Reader, here's the thing.  I just threw 8 of these Fresh Cab Rodent Repellents all around my garage and my backyard shed this afternoon, before the infamous Alaskan Cold Front descends upon us.

I tried this stuff last year, and boy howdy does it work.  I like that it's not some toxic chemical mess; it's a strong smell that keeps them away from your place.  It's REALLY PUNGENT.  You wouldn't want to use this inside the house, but it's great for the garage.

I have a friend up north who just "put away" his Porsche for the winter, filling it with Bounce dryer sheets. (We should all have the dilemma of having to store our Porsche for the winter, right?  Such a stressor.  LOL.  I digress.)  Maybe I'll tell him about these Fresh Cab bags.  Along with my neighbor who has a Rat Palace.

Egads!  Now I just imagined throwing a couple of these bags into that Rat Shed and all those rodents running out, hoardes of rats and mice ....  I'm all creeped out again.

November 2, 2014

ROKU Streaming TV: How Great Can It Can Be? Pretty Darn Fabulous

This month marks the third year that I’ve lived happily and well without a cable TV connection. I’ve opted for a ROKU streaming device.

Cost me around $50 for a cute little box that connects to my television and a spiffy little remote control. Works off my WiFi.

My internet bill is fifty bucks each month. That’s right: $50.00. It was three times that amount when I stopped using cable television (actually, a bit higher); Lord only knows what I’d be paying now.

And for what? Lots of junk like reality TV shows that I would never watch, along with all those strange channels that I skipped. Not to mention the commercials.

(Now, I do pay a bit each month for subscription services, but my total is under $15.00.  Add that to the cable bill (which also includes my WiFi access for my computers, etc.) and the whopping total is around $75.00/month.)

Commercials: Less is More with Streaming TV

Ye Gads, how I DON’T miss all those commercials. In fact, it becomes very, very clear how many commercials some of these channels stick into their programming when you aren’t used to watching cable television.

You’re at a friend’s house, watching their cable channel, and you realize that there’s an average of 10 minutes of commercials for every commercial break. Viewers don’t realize how many advertisements get shoved into their programming until they get the option of watching a television show that has limited interruption.

Try counting your commercials within the program breaks. For some channels, it’s almost like the chosen entertainment is a break between advertising spots.

Some channels on ROKU have NO commercials. Netflix, Amazon Video: there are no commercials here. Others do contain advertising, but it’s not the same as cable TV. For example, Hulu (I have Hulu Plus) or Cracker both have commercials inserted into their programs, but it’s just one or two quick ones; a couple of minutes and you’re back to your show.

Frankly, I think this is the better way to sell stuff. I remember the Capital One Venture card commercials as well as the GEICO insurance ad much clearer from watching this week’s TV shows on Hulu Plus than I ever remember noticing any advertising on a cable network offering.

Maybe it’s because the same commercial tends to reappear during the course of the Hulu or Cracker show. Watch old Seinfeld offerings on Cracker, and you’re going to see the same product being touted time and again as you go through the episodes. (Gotta love Soup Nazi, right?) Maybe having less commercials is a better way to advertise….

 What I Get To Watch on ROKU Streaming TV

People with cable television assume that I’m losing so much stuff by opting out of paying for cable. It’s been a long while now, and I’m confident that I’m not feeling the loss.

If there is a show that isn’t on Roku that I really, really want to see, I can usually see it for free on my computer. Like the Big Bang Theory, for instance. CBS isn’t on ROKU (yet).

I don’t watch shows on the computer very often, however. I’ve just got so much to choose from with ROKU. Plus,  Hulu Plus offers lots of current TV shows the day after they air.

If you’re a Revenge fan (ABC), no problemo. If you love Law & Order SUV (NBC), ditto. Amazon has FX's Justified (I love Justified) and lots of other cable shows for $1.99/episode so you can pick and choose other cable series as they are being shown for the current season.

I just watch them the next day.  I don't care that I'm not first in line here.  I watched Longmire on A&E the day after it aired for free every season, until A&E was shockingly stupid and axed the series.

Another benefit to ROKU streaming TV is the shows that I’ve discovered: shows that I would never have watched without it. Scott & Bailey; Call the Midwife; Poirot; Miranda; IQ — lots of great British shows that I’ve binge-watched because streaming TV introduced me to them. Great stuff.

Then there are all the free, great movies and the classic TV shows for you to watch as well. From lots of different channels, both free and subscription (Crackle is free, for example).

When I Get To Watch TV Shows and Movies 

 Best of all, I chose when I watch this stuff. If I want to watch Criminal Minds every night at 8, I can. If I want to watch all the episodes of Magnum PI over the course of a weekend, I can. If I’m cooking and in the middle of an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, I just stop the show and return to it later.

Sure, I may miss some stuff. Live local news? Gotta go to the computer to see the local stuff (I usually just read the news the next day on the web). Live sports? Never watch it. The latest reality TV? If I never have the chance to see another episode of the Kardashians, or any of those Housewife shows, I haven’t lost a thing.

Why I Watch Streaming TV Instead of Cable 

 I watch television to be entertained; sometimes to be educated (I love to learn from chefs who cook on TV). Using the ROKU device has returned control back to me; I decide when I want to be entertained and for how long and by what program.

The way that streaming television works, it stops after the show is over (though Hulu can segue directly into the next episode of a series, etc.). You have to decide after 22 minutes or 44 minutes or 1 hour and 15 minutes if you are going to keep staring at a screen or if you’re going to do something else with your time.

You become more aware of the time that you’re spending on televised entertainment. It may mean you watch less TV and do something else. Which is good, too.

Streaming TV via Roku? I highly recommend it.

August 23, 2014

Food Reconditioning: Is This Taking Frugal a Step Too Far?

Food reconditioning - heard of it? You may not want to know; ignorance is bliss .... 

Food reconditioning is not something that’s discussed much in food marketing campaigns much less referenced in grocery store advertising, but it’s real. And it sounds pretty horrible.

Food reconditioning is a way to maximize profits by re-purposing food that has not been sold because it’s past the expiration date, or it’s got some other problem. Like mold or bugs or something.   Yes, you read that right.  Insects.  Mold.  Food that's BAD and you wouldn't buy (and you'd return if you did).

I assumed this stuff got thrown out by my local HEB or Walmart or Target, but apparently NOT. Nope; instead there’s all this “food reconditioning” going on, in some dark and secret place.

The Food and Drug Administration knows all about it; it’s okay with the FDA, though the reconditioning has to conform with the FDA’s compliance policies.

What is Food Reconditioning?

Apparently, when the store pulls something from its shelves, that stuff isn’t trashed. It’s returned to the place it came from — and the supplier gets to deal with it.

Does the supplier toss it? Nope, they’re watching their bottom line and to toss that product means lost money. Instead, the supplier revamps that returned item into something else that can be sold back to the grocery store, and then sold to you.

Examples of food reconditioning include:

  • Chocolate ice cream that results from bad batches of other stuff because the strong flavor and dark brown color are good for hiding lots of things 
  • Applesauce that has been zapped with heat to remove the MOLD that had been in it before it was ‘reconditioned’ 
  • Rice and other grains repackaged and resold after being sifted to remove the insects and bugs that were discovered in it.

Frugal Food Reconditioning at Home 

Now, I’m all for food reconditioning at home. You betcha. That’s what leftovers are all about.

  • Leftover chicken breast becomes chicken salad; 
  • Meatloaf on Sunday turns into meatloaf sandwiches on Monday;
  • Old bread is great “reconditioned” into bread pudding; 
  • Bananas past their prime become banana nut bread or once frozen, the stuff of smoothies. 

But this idea that food suppliers are taking old food or yucky stuff that no one would buy at the get-go and re-purposing it into something else, without our knowledge and (of course) without any price reduction on the Altered State stuff — well, it sort creeps me out.

How about you?

July 21, 2014

Super Fast Bean Recipe: Cold White Bean Salad with Onions and Tomatoes

Here's one of my favorite bean salad recipes that I just shared one more time, so I thought I'd post it here on the blog.

Toss all this stuff together in a big bowl:

2  (14.5 oz) cans garbanzo beans (chick peas)
2  (14.5 oz) cans white kidney beans
1  (14.5 oz) can green beans
1 (14.5 oz) can sweet corn kernels
1 small can sliced black olives
1  red bell pepper chopped (throw in a yellow bell pepper, too, if you like them) 
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 cups cherry tomatoes
2 celery stalks, chopped

Bragg’s Healthy Vinaigrette (1/2 bottle) (I'm including this product because it's what I use, not because I'm getting any compensation for it.  It's just yummy and good for you, too.)

Make sure that everything is stirred together really well and that the dressing has coated every tiny bit.  Then cover with plastic wrap or a lid and let this stuff chill in the fridge for several hours.  Overnight is even better.

Reba's Notes:  

This is so fast it’s ridiculous. Sure, you have to chill the stuff and that's a delay -- and the longer you can hold out while it sits in the fridge, the better it tastes.

Still, this is so easy that my dog can almost throw it together and I cannot tell you how really, REALLY GOOD this stuff tastes.

Having some sturdy and tasty corn tortilla chips along side never hurt anything, either.  Hint.

And, it's cheap, to boot.  Makes a big bowl for not much cash (even less if you opt out of the olives and make your own dressing).

Now, I know that canned beans are going to have that issue of coming out of a can and we’re being warned that canned food may be exposed to toxins in the can linings. 

That’s not good.

However, I don’t have it in me to cook up all these different varieties of beans from scratch and I’m risking it. (You can also buy BFA-free canned food, here's a list of those brands - example, Trader Joe's).

It’s like a bean salad addiction, I’m ignoring the dangers to get my fix. This stuff is that good, boy howdy.

January 2, 2014

Free Books by Beth Moore Offered This Week in Various EBook Formats

From now through January 10, 2014, you can get several of Beth Moore's books for free online in a variety of ebook formats.  

Details are here at Beth Moore's blog at Living Proof Ministries.  Her publisher's blog post has links to Kindle, Nook, etc. as well.

This limited offer is a great blessing to anyone interested in studying the Bible, but it's a special treat for those of us who enjoy and appreciate Beth Moore as a teacher.

Thanks Beth for this (and thanks to your publisher, too)!!!!  God is good!!!!

January 1, 2014

Happy New Year 2014!