Vlog: Scrumptious Sundays – Sopa de Fideo

Mexican pasta soup. That’s right. We use pasta!

There is nothing more homestyle cooking, more mama than a hot, lovely sopa de fideo. I’ve been eating this since I was old enough to eat solid food, and its a starter, a comfort food, and a staple in the Mexican home.

My cousin Paula asked if I knew how to make my mother’s sopa de fideo. Yes! And now, you do, too!

Please try this out and let me know how it went!

Much Love,

Gloria

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Club W June 2015

“Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know.”

― John Keats

I joined Club W a few months ago, and have mentioned it a couple of times. I thought you might want to see what sort of wine I’ve been getting from them. Usually, you start with 3 bottles, and pick from a selection they offer you based on your original taste profile, and then later, the wines you buy, and how you rate them.

However, if you buy 6 bottles, you get free shipping, and since they produce small lot wines in collaboration with various farmers and vineyards, you get some really lovely wine at a lower price than for a similar quality wine at the store. I thought today you might like another video. Sadly, I made the mistake of shooting this the wrong way. Hopefully, I remember to NEVER do this, again. Oops.

“Without bread and wine, love goes hungry.”

― Latin Proverb

I hope you click on that link up there, and give this subscription a try. If you start with the referral, you get $13 to spend on a bottle (yes, they’re that low), plus, I get one, too! I’ve really enjoyed it. So far, it seems like a good deal with the option to try their higher-priced curator wines, as well. Let me know what you think, and as always:

Much Love!

Gloria

The best cat toys cost nada

Kitty enrichment on the cheap

Kitty enrichment on the cheap

I have a lot of expensive cat toys…that are completely ignored

My cat is far too smart for her own good. She’s a bengal, and has all the qualities that go along with the breed: loud, chatty, needy, playful, active, curious, and easily bored. (plus health things, but not this post)

I always look for ways to keep her occupied for a few minutes each day so she doesn’t feel bored or antsy, and when I got a package filled with biodegradeable packing peanuts, I thought, ah-ha!

Box. Cat. Crunchy things.

Fuzzy kitty bottom digging for treats.

Fuzzy kitty bottom digging for treats.

I hid a few treats in the middle of all the peanuts and she spent a good 10 minutes digging around, pulling out the peanuts and enjoying all the crunchy sounds and throwing them around. Plus, she loves her some yummy treats. She did 3 rounds and I put it away for another day.

Rosie is older, so doesn’t do much playing fetch (yes, she does that), or running around chasing a string any longer, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t still need to have mental and emotional stimulation. When it comes to older pets, creative toys can be simple, and cheap!

Much Kitty Love,

Gloria

I’m probably a closet Martha Stewart

I buy a few nice ornaments every year.

O Christmas Tree

When I was going to school at UNT, some friends from England taught me how lovely hand-crafting things as simple as cards and wrapping is, and if you’re broke, using ingenuity made it even more gorgeous. Back then, all groceries were packed in brown paper bags, so we had an endless supply of kraft paper, but these days, I tend to use them for my paper recycling or re-use them as shopping bags when I go to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.

Regardless, there’s something really special about receiving a gift wrapped with thought, especially if you took some time to make it unique. Usually, I’ll use the technique taught to me by Alun and Andrew in my 20’s and carve stamps out of raw potatoes, and using water or poster colors, stamp a few designs onto the kraft paper-wrapped gifts before ribbons or glitter or other bits. I was really pressed for time this year, and the extra hour or so meant I’d be up wrapping instead of relaxing a bit before bed.

I also forgot to take a picture of the gifts under my tree, so I asked for the families to take pictures for me before unwrapping and one of them is slightly blurry. Sorry about that, but I promise when a birthday comes up, I’ll do better.

Much nicer than neon paper that just gets ripped into anyway.

See, aren’t they sweet?

Isn’t this better than elf paper?

 

I went to Jo-Ann Fabric and Crafts and snagged a bunch of ribbon and two rolls of kraft paper for 60% off. I still have quite a lot left, too. My only complaint is that the paper seemed to be coated, so tape had an awfully hard time sticking to it. I should have just plugged in the glue gun, but I knew that I would end up reopening a couple of the packages to make sure I got the right gift to the right little girl since the boxes were identically sized.

 

For boxes, I wrapped re-used boxes from different subscriptions with kraft paper so they look like plain boxes under the wrapping.

I wish you could see the glitter tape better in these photos (will show you better shots next gift time) but I took double-sided tape and sprinkled snow (irridescent glittery flakes) on one side and taped it around the box all the way around as an accent.

Those tiny little ball ornaments I find at Target in plastic tubes in the dollar section in the front of the store, so I snag a new tube every year or so since I use them for just this sort of thing. The same with the tinsel, but make sure you get the stuff that’s attached to a strip at the top so you can use it to decorate gifts more easily without it going absolutely everywhere.

For tags, I took pieces of kraft and folded them into a tag shape, punched a star-shaped hole at the top with a shaped punch, and tied them on with some skinny ribbon with an ornament attached. Since “auntie Gloria” knows little girls, I also knew that at least one of them was going to end up with a craft box of odds and ends to play with.

I think the look missed a stamp or three in various Christmas colors. My friends, however, still loved the outsides, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw their hand-made wrap designs at some point.

Hopefully you have all your holiday shopping finished, and only need to wait for days off, relax and sip an eggnog with your loved ones.

Much Holiday Love,

Gloria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make it shiny and clean this spring, but save your dough

"SNAP!"

Clean home, happy Gloria

I always look forward to spring. By April I’m actually tired of the cold, sick of shoveling out my car and getting awfully grumpy watching the salt eat away at my favorite dressy boots. This year, it’s barely been cold, there hasn’t been snow, and my boots just need a good polish and heel re-covering before getting put away. What is the same this year is the spring cleaning. I don’t do it. I clean regularly, and I have become house proud over the years. Even my dark, little room that makes my allergies go haywire (old house, basement apartment) needs to be clean and as neat as I can get it with limited storage space. This is a challenge with a cat in a tiny room with no air circulation, but I do the best I can.

Spring cleaning is what you do if you have a big home with lots of stuff squirreled away, dusty nooks and crannies, and maybe a fireplace that’s been going all winter, but for most people, it’s not really necessary. Cleaning regularly all year round and picking up after yourself will suffice. This blog is about living well (clean home, happy home) without spending a lot, so you have more shiny in your pocket.

If there is anyone in the world that understands laziness about cleaning it’s me. Seriously. I know people who have lived with me will probably testify to the opposite, especially after they’ve yawned their way into the bathroom one morning, and on a scrubbing spree the night before I scrubbed everything: corners, behind the toilet, under the sink, buffed the mirror, even. They head into the kitchen: the stove sparkles, the fridge is sweet-smelling and gleaming white. I’ve even gotten the oven.

No, I wasn’t born this way. Over the course of many years I forced myself to be clean. When I was young, in my very early 20’s, being a little messy, and not so regular on the bathroom scrubbing was acceptable and ignored, really. (Especially when most of my friends were guys.) However, when I got into my mid 20s, even male-dominated homes were immaculate, put away and comfortable, if not always imaginatively decorated. Nagel prints, anyone?

Needless to say, I got a bit self-conscious about my home. It’s one thing to be a messy, young college student who forgets to take out the trash and thinks the soap and water running down the sink will clean it well enough during hand-washing. An adult who still lives that way gives an entirely different impression. And for those who disagree, trust me, any friends you have who are remotely clean internally cringe at using the toilet or getting a cup of coffee at your place. Guys: whisker shavings all over the sink and body hair dotting the tub? Ew! Ladies: a full trash full of…well, you know. Ew-er!

And while clean is important, I believe that we as a society have become awfully nonchalant about some of the chemicals we use to wash our hands, clean our homes, and purify our laundry. The insult on top of injury is that we pay a lot extra for the privilege of hurting ourselves and our environment. There are plenty of sites out there that talk about quite a few less toxic cleaning alternatives, but I’ll share a couple of my favorites. I can’t make you clean, at the risk of making you feel 17 and rebellious, again (and if that’s your reaction, well…that won’t be covered today), but I can help you get together supplies and tools that work very well, won’t toxify your home or the environment, but will save you cash and effort.

We don't need no stinkin' triclosan!

Shiny Clean, Healthy Clean, Cheapy Clean!

There are some things that no one enjoys cleaning in each room. In kitchens the world over, it is usually the oven and stove. Caked-on spilled food, baked on grease splatter, black charcoal from, well, you’re not entirely sure, but it may have been from Christmas dinner. Okay, first, you should have cleaned that already, lazy! Second, no, don’t haul out that toxic oven cleaner that costs at least $5 and lasts for maybe two cleanings. Take a look at the ingredients. Butane, sodium hydroxide, and other harsh things you really don’t want to huff in accidentally. The following is one of my favorite cleaning methods, and it’s one I love seeing people try. “Oh! Wow, wait, how did that work? WTF?” Okay, maybe they don’t get all that excited, but I do! You’ll need:

  • A box of baking soda, maybe even in a large-holed shaker, shaker definitely optional
  • Spray bottle of water or a small bowl of water
  • A sponge or paper towel

Spray down the inside of your oven with the water and then either shake the baking soda with the shaker all over the place and then re-moisten it with the spray bottle OR make a paste of the baking soda and water and with a sponge, put a layer of it all over the surfaces of the oven. Close the oven door. Don’t turn it on. It is not necessary and will scorch the baking soda, oops!

Every hour or so, go back and spray it down with some water. I usually leave it overnight and just spray it before I go to bed so it can stay nice and damp for a couple of hours. In the morning, or after a few hours: 4-6 depending on how filthy it is, spray down the now-dry baking soda, grab a paper towel, and just wipe it off, followed by a damp sponge to pick up the rest of the residue. Seriously. That’s it. All the gunk, burned on grunge and that ill-fated apple pie you forgot about (okay, we all know it was really a Sara Lee) just slides right off. You’ll have to gather up the loose baking soda and use your damp sponge to pick it all up, but, and here’s the healthy beauty of it; if you leave some residue, it won’t stink, ruin your food, and release poisons into the air. Also a whole box, which you can use for cleaning, cooking, etc, costs far less than a dollar.

You can all go do it tonight and tomorrow let me know if you thought, “WTH?”

As far as the stove, the BEST way to keep it clean is to immediately wipe it after every use. (Thanks, Adriana, for the pointed lesson so many years ago) Oh, man! you say? That’s such a pain! I don’t want to take the time! WHINEWHINEWHINE. Shaddap. You’ll complain even more when every burner on your white stove is now black-brown burned-on stuff that won’t come off without some serious elbow grease or a razor blade (use very carefully held flat against the surface so as not to scratch the finish). If you use steel wool it’ll just scratch the finish. So, the best thing to do is grab your spray cleaner, (recipe coming up) or the sponge you were using to wash dishes with soap still on it, and wipe the stove surface down. It takes 15 seconds. Or, you can spend 30 or more minutes every few weeks trying not to be embarrassed when company comes over.

These next two cleaners are the only products I regularly use at home. You’ll have to invest about $30 or so in materials and supplies, but it will last you a long time, compared to buying fancy scrub cleaners, fancy spray cleaners and those really wasteful and expensive disposable wipes. Just grab a dust cloth, cut up old t-shirt, or paper towel and your spray cleaner.

Scrubbing cleanser:

Mix together and put into a plastic container to shake out when you need it. You can, as an option also add a little natural dry soap or even grab a dried-out bar of soap, shave slivers off (I use my food processor or blender) and mix it into the dry scrub. Another option is when you are going to clean, put 1 part dry scrub to 1/4 part liquid dish soap and enough water to make a light, creamy cleanser. If you do this, you need to mix what you plan on using that day, because it won’t really last stored if it’s wet. In fact, it will start getting really hard and difficult to use if you wait too long. Borax and the washing soda are both a little caustic, (on the lower end of the PH spectrum, in other words) so it’s best if you use gloves. I’ve done without, but it does dry my skin out a little.

Spray/glass cleaner:

  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of liquid dish soap or natural soap
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 cup rubbing alcohol (optional, but I like)

Put all into a spray bottle, shake gently. Just spray and wipe. It’s great for counters, surfaces and wonderful on glass. I make one big one, but you can make 2 smaller ones, one for kitchen, one to keep in the bath.

Wasteful, expensive cleaning wipes or cheap, effective do it yourself?

Those popular disinfecting wipes are in almost everyone’s home. They’re good for wiping the kitchen counter, good for cleaning the bathroom sink, etc. The thing is, one, they’re fairly expensive at about $4 for the smallest package, unless there is a sale, and also, it’s got a lot of chemical disinfectants. You may think to yourself, well, I want to get rid of germs! Those cleansers I told you about do pretty well at that, and also, plain old soap without triclosan also washes away germs. Didn’t know that? Well, now you do. We are creating some awfully resistant forms of viruses and other nasties and our bodies aren’t being allowed to develop a resistance to everyday germs, either. That’s a different conversation, but it is one reason I don’t like the wipes. Also, they cost so much, plus cause so much waste. I completely support and follow recycling practices, but even recycling uses energy and materials, so it’s best to keep your carbon footprint small.

That little magic, white sponge

There isn’t much to say about this one, but I absolutely LOVE that magic eraser sponge. There are the expensive brand names or you can go with a cheapy store brand like this one:

Poof! You’re clean!

It scrubs away bathtub ring, soap scum, stains from porcelain and countertops, helps with some of the rust around the sink faucet, removes scuffs from your tile floor, etc. without any cleaner what so ever. You just wet with clean water and scrub. You can use it a few times (You can see I used that one a bit, already) as long as you rinse it out afterwards. It starts to fall apart, but that’s how it works to gently scour.

Relax in your home and don’t worry about unexpected company, ever.

I love a clean home, but I love to relax a lot, too. Just put away those jeans as soon as you take them off. Wash that dish as soon as you’re done (and tap out the sink strainer). Keep a bottle of the spray cleaner in the bathroom, under the sink, along with a roll of those paper towels that let you tear off a half sheet. If guys sprinkle when they, you know, they can easily spray a bit of cleaner, wipe it off, throw in the trash, then close the seat and flush. Same with the ladies. You know what sometimes happens. Have the means at hand to not leave embarrassing things behind, if you know what I mean.

Take 5 minutes to do those little things each day and you won’t have to do a 2 hour cleaning job. I’d rather clean a bit here and there every day and never have to do a spring cleaning, unless I do end up moving into my dream castle, all wood floors, marble staircases, stone walls and lots of nooks and crannies. Then, maybe, I’ll hire a crew to do the spring cleaning. Maybe.

Cheap Love,

Gloria!

Live cheaply, feel like a million bucks

The holiday season always makes me feel like I should put forth some extra effort and try to look extra nice. Sometimes, like this year, it’s a bit difficult as 90% of my clothing is packed in a 10-foot-deep storage unit, and just my luck, all of it is in the very back. So, while I look like an extremely casual photograph (think Yuengling-pints-and-house-whiskey-shots-bar dress code sort of casual) as we approach the social season (my long sleeve Henley t- shirts will need retirement afterwards) I can at least make sure my actual BODY looks taken care of.

Winter always makes me want to scrub down vigorously and then soak in a tub of warm almond oil drizzled with rose oil. I hate itchy legs. After every ounce of moisture has been sucked out of the air by all the snow and heaters the front of your shins look crackly and you scratch constantly. I really hate that. I also hate rough, dry feet and dry, frizzy hair. I am lucky in that I own a small soap and body care company and can grab some product or whip up a quick solution to the itchies. Most people cannot or do not know how to combat winter dryness without buying some good pre-made products. Admittedly, a good, natural scrub will work best, and a lovely natural moisturizer also works best, but hey, we’re trying to be cheap here!

Scrubby, scrubby in the tubby!

I do make a wonderful salt scrub for my company, and it works very well, rinses nicely without leaving you too oily (and smells awesome), but you can make something that works very well at home with some things you probably have in your cupboard. Since you don’t have certain ingredients, it won’t rinse off as nicely or easily, and it won’t stay well mixed, but if you make a small batch to use as you need, you’ll be happy with the results.

About 1/4 to maximum 1/3 of a cup of scrub is all you need for one use. This will give you approximately 1/4 cup.

  • 1/8 cup of one or a combination of the following: extra virgin coconut oil, olive oil, almond oil, grapeseed oil, even canola oil in a pinch!
  • 1/8 cup sea salt or raw sugar, and again, in a pinch, regular salt or sugar will do
  • a couple of drops of essential oil like peppermint, lemon, tea tree, or whatever suits your fancy (optional, especially if you use the coconut oilas it smells awesome)
  • Very small squirt of a natural liquid soap (also optional, but helps with the rinse off)

If the coconut oil is solid, you can put it in the microwave for a couple of seconds (I mean very few, as in 5-7) to soften it up and then just mix everything together in a non-breakable dish and take with you to the shower. Be extra careful, this leaves your tub or shower stall very slippery, not to mention the container you have it in. If you use a ceramic or glass bowl, stepping on broken glass in an extra-slippery shower while naked won’t make your holiday memorable in a good way.  Standing out of the water, scrub very gently, paying attention to rough spots, rinse and pat dry, leaving the residual oil on your skin.

Are those chicken feet?

Tough, thick soles and callouses are great for someone living like a native out in the bush somewhere, but if the boyfriend, or girlfriend, offers to give you a foot massage, you want those piggies to look sweet and soft. If you live in an urban area, you walk a lot, and during the holidays, especially, women walk a lot in heels. Add in winter dryness and you have lots of calloused, white, dry, scaly feet. Trust me, that is not an attractive quality in these parts.

There’s an easy solution, but you have to do it regularly so your feet always look inviting. Remember the oils you used for the scrub? Before bed, grab one of them, extra virgin coconut or olive oil being your best bets, grab a couple of baggies, the plastic bags you put your veggies in at the grocery, or even some plastic wrap, and some socks. Make sure your hooves are clean, slather on that oil, put on the baggies or plastic and slip socks over that, and go to sleep (an added benefit is your feet will be warm). During your morning shower, use your pumice stone. You’ll find the rough skin and callouses are softened and easier to smooth off and your hooves will once again become feet. If you do this once a week, you’ll never have nasty feet, and always be Ready Freddy! for a relaxing foot rub, sans socks.

I love Gilda Radner, but don’t want to look like Roseanne Roseannadanna

Hair gets dry in winter, just like your skin. Grab some of that extra virgin coconut oil (are you seeing a trend here?) or olive oil, rub a few drops between your palms, and smooth through your hair. If your hair is really fine, just do the ends. I also leave conditioner in my hair after I wash it.

You know what else that coconut oil is great for? Removing makeup! It’s gentle, natural, and if I see you using baby oil, I’m going to smack you myself. Mineral oil? In your eyeball? Seriously. Don’t make me come over there.

Hey, I love the holidays. I just can’t afford to spend like I’m getting a money tree for Christmas. You don’t have to, either. Look naturally hot and don’t spend all that money on an $80 body exfoliator. Spend it on me, instead. You know, Christmas cheer and all that?

No? Well, it was worth a shot!

Cheap Love,

Gloria