I’ve been spending some time perusing Groupon lately, and there are some pretty interesting things to buy and places to see listed. I haven’t used Groupon in quite a while because the last time I used it I had a bit of an issue. Not with Groupon, mind you, but with Urthbox. The short version is that I bought the deal through Groupon, but when I signed up at urthbox.com they did not honor the discount code and charged me full price. It took quite a few angry emails to get any action from them, and in the end all I received was credit to my account, not a full refund.
And so, I thought maybe I would give it another chance and do a Groupon series. I’ll buy some stuff, order some services, see some Ontario attractions, and let you know how smoothly it all goes, from start to finish.
My first real issue is occurring as I'm trying to write this post. I have always used the app, and it's one of those things where you sign up, click the 'remember me' box, and don't really give it a second thought. Right now I'm attempting to get my password reset because I'd like to log in from my laptop but don't remember my password. I have (so far, the night is young) sent seven password reset requests, both from my laptop and from the app.
A definite snag. I'm not sure where they're sending the reset email, because it's not showing up in my inbox or my spam. I even added them to my address book. Still nothing. After an hour and I lost count of how many requests, I sent Groupon a direct request. Fingers crossed.
Let's move on.
The first Groupon I decided to get is one I’ve been eyeballing for a few days: goodfood.com. It’s a meal prep subscription box. I love cooking & I have a real soft spot for subscription boxes. There’s just something fun about getting a mystery box of goodies delivered to your door. If I had the funds, I think I’d be up to my ears in subscription boxes!
The discount looks pretty good: $69 for a $140 box. Yes, it says $150 for the regular price, but I selected that one on the website and it was listed at $140. Even at regular price, on its face, it looks like a fair trade for four family meals. So enough fresh ingredients to feed four hungry mouths. I say on its face because I haven’t seen the portion sizes yet, so I’ll have to reserve judgement. Anyone trying to eat real food knows that $140 does not go very far nowadays, so I’m curious to see what kind of bang I get for my buck. I'll do a full review on the actual box once it arrives.
After I purchased my Groupon, but before I redeemed my voucher, I visited the goodfood.com website to confirm that I am actually getting a special deal. In other words, I don’t see the point of purchasing a voucher from Groupon and taking those extra steps if all I’m getting is the standard ‘new customer’ discount available to anyone direct from the site. You do get a discount directly from the site with your first order, but it’s $30 off, so your first week costs $110 instead of $140. I paid Groupon $69, and a strange (but wonderful) thing happened. When I entered my Groupon code, I received a discount of $150! So it looks like I have a credit of $10 towards next week. Bonus. (This must be because the Groupon stated $69 for $150)
New customer discount vs Groupon discount
The goodfood.com website is easy enough to navigate. Although I do have an option to switch out 2 meals, I decided to go with what they chose for us. I also got to choose my delivery day, which is nice, and a bit unusual. Most subscription boxes show up whenever they decide, especially with fresh food. Understandable, they’re grouping orders to each location to save time and cut down in costs. Goodfood.com did, however, give me the choice, and I went with Tuesdays because if I decide to stay with them awhile I figured it made sense to account for holidays and family stuff on weekends.
As with all subscription services available at a discounted price (on any site, not just Groupon), I did have to enter my credit card information. However, the website is upfront... you’re entering your card number right above the disclaimer that clearly, in regular sized font, tells you that you are signing up for a service that will charge your card $140 every week unless you say otherwise.
So, other than the password thing, it was pretty smooth sailing. I found something I liked on their main page (within the app), I purchased it, immediately received an email, and was signed up with the service with no issues with my discount code. Now I am on my way to some yummy meals next week.
**UPDATE** Groupon customer service got back to me very quickly. Although it doesn't explain why I couldn't get a password reset through the app, it seems that I was attempting a reset with groupon.ca, while my account and purchases have been with groupon.com. (groupon.ca is for residents of Quebec) So top marks for customer service so far.
A word about navigating the Groupon app; Even when I enter a specific city in the search bar, it shows me a whole lot of attractions and events that are not all that close. For example, I live in Oshawa, and when I enter that, I am also getting fun things to do in Downtown Toronto, which is an hour drive. I can tell you right now that I am not interested in driving for two hours just to have dinner or learn to salsa. An easier way to hone in on your actual area is to use the map feature (which you can find in the upper right hand corner on the app) and only things in that specific area will show up across the bottom of your screen. Now you can just scroll through them and see what is actually available in your area.
Finally, a pet peeve for all us Canadians... pricing in USD. Wagjag is famous for it, and that is largely why I don't really even look through their offers anymore. Groupon is pretty good, most things are priced in CAD, but it is disappointing to see what you think is a great deal and then see that the price is say, US$72 for a concert in Toronto. With the current exchange rate, it isn't really a good deal anymore because it's actually costing me just over $91, and that doesn't take into account the exchange fees my credit card will charge. I wish they'd do away with that and just show pricing in the currency of the country that I'm shopping in.
So that is it for my inaugural Groupon post. I'll give you an update on how quickly my password situation is resolved, and expect a new post either Tuesday or Wednesday when I review my GoodFood box. Stay tuned to see what I buy next!
Click here or any green Groupon to use my personal referral link! It won't cost you anything extra, but I'll get a small credit to help me buy more from Groupon and deliver more honest reviews for you! Thanks for stopping by and supporting my blog.
To say I like to go into some form of brumation* during our long, cold, Canadian winters is an understatement. All but essential tasks are put on hold for me. I get up out of my warm bed only to go to work, keep my husband and children alive, and (kind of) keep the house looking like a house and not an episode of hoarders.
Brumation is an example of dormancy in reptiles that is similar to hibernation. They often wake up to drink water and return to "sleep". The brumation period is anywhere from one to eight months depending on the air temperature and the size, age, and health of the reptile. Brumation is triggered by lack of heat and the decrease in the hours of daylight in winter, similar to hibernation. Source: Wikipedia
As you well know if you visit here more than once, blogging is also something that doesn't happen with any sort of frequency during the winter. Yes, something that catches my fancy will make it here (The Black Panther Movie, cracking the code of feeding a family on a budget, a mockumentary I thought was real, and an updated book review because The Terror is coming to AMC). Four posts in a month and a half is kind of sad.
So when I got an email from Ashley Lipman from Seed Needs offering up a guest post for my blog, I jumped at the chance. Okay, I had to come out of my semi-conscious state, be reminded that the offer was there, sleep on it some more... you get the idea. But, I was happy to have something fresh and someone with a new perspective get a voice here at sonjarants.
Stock up on seeds at amazon.com
So, although it's February, and no one in Southern Ontario would even be able to dig a hole to start planting anything, it's warm somewhere, and this is a good list of veggies you can start thinking about now, so that you can enjoy them when the fall weather comes around.
And so without further ado, I bring you...
Photo credit/site www.pexels.com
6 Fall Veggies to Plant Now
Guest post by Ashley Lipman from Seed Needs
Many of us think of gardening as exclusive to late summer, and spring. However, there are many places on the planet where summers are cool and winters are harsh, and go on for months. Nature never leaves us on our own. There are many veggies that are grown in colder months.
In the following list of vegetables, you will find a variety of plants. Some have leaves that are editable, and some have roots that provide food for humans, and animals. Most will survive minor frosts. All are nutritious, and delicious.
Celery (mild winter climates)
Onions (bunching--standard onions harvested before they form bulbs).
Pak choi (Bok choy)
Photo credit/site: pixabay.com
Tips and Hacks for the cold-weather garden
There are some things that you can do to ensure a good cold-weather harvest. We have put together a list to help. If you are confused, there are many free apps you can download to your smartphone to help.
Prepare your soils well
Make sure you clean the soil, removing ant debris from your spring, and summer gardens. Turn the soils well, and add compost or manure to fertilize the ground.
Frame your garden
Using boards, build a small frame around the garden. If the garden is large, frame sections. This is to help your garden have room to grow, and to allow you easier access to protect the plants from harsh weather.
Use slow release fertilizer
This is important. In the fall, and winter months, you need a constant supply of fertilizer to your garden.
Do not over water your crops
You want moist soil, but not heavy, and damp. Too much water can allow freezing to destroy your plants.
Protect from frost
This is where the frame of the garden comes in handy. Attach a clear shower curtain to the frame of the garden to protect the plants from frost. If you are concerned that it will be a heavy frost, string a string of Christmas lights under the shower curtain. This will generate just enough heat to protect the plants.
The fall crops may not grow as large or exactly the same way you expect in warmer months, but they can still produce. Try planting potatoes. You may not see leaves but dig anyway. Sometimes there will be a bountiful, new potato crop under the ground
Herbs are a great way to give your food fresh flavor year-round. The best thing about herbs is you can grow them in almost anything. Use small, plastic coffee cans (with a few nail holes for drainage) or small flower pots. Use lengths of rope to secure them to your fence or grow them on a rolling cart. When the temps drop, just bring them indoors. A few herb plants are a great addition to your cold-weather garden. They make soups, stews, and other foods spring to life.
When you are finished with this garden, repeat the soil preparation that you began with. Cover your clean, and prepared garden with mulch to keep the nutrients in the soil. You will have little work to do on the earth when spring arrives.
Thank you very much Ashley for your great tips! Looking forward to the warmer weather so I can implement some in my own backyard garden.
As always, thank you for stopping by, see you next post!
This post may include affiliate links inserted by the guest author. sonjarants.weebly.com is not affiliated with any company or product that may be mentioned or advertised, nor do I necessarily endorse them.
2018 is going to be a fantastic year for those of us who love the Marvel Universe. This year we are blessed with Avengers: Infinity War, Deadpool 2, Ant-Man and The Wasp, and Venom. [Click any of those titles to open a new window where you can see the official trailer.] And the very first one out of the gate is definitely setting the pace. Black Panther officially opens in Canada and the US today, and it is a force to be reckoned with.
I am lucky enough to live near a Cineplex theater that shows blockbusters starting the night before, so our family always goes to see superhero movies on the Thursday before official open. Last night we went to see King T'Challa show us the wonders of his beautiful Wakanda.
As I say with all of my reviews... I am really weak at writing a succinct synopsis, so I give you this one from google.ca:
The Black Panther movie stars Chadwick Boseman as King T'Challa/Black Panther, Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger, Lupita Nyong'o as Nakia, Danai Gurira as Okoye, Martin Freeman as Everett K. Ross, Daniel Kaluuya as W'Kabi, Letitia Wright as Shuri, Angela Bassett as Ramonda, Forest Whitaker as Zuri, Winston Duke as M'Baku, and finally, Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue.
To say that this movie is packed with talent is an understatement. We have some big names like Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker, Oscar nominees like Daniel Kaluuya, fan favorites like Danai Gurira (I am so in love with her as Michonne on AMC's The Walking Dead), and some up and coming talent like Letitia Wright (she's done mostly TV until now). It's a wonderful cast and the chemistry between the characters is spot on.
I would be remiss not to point out (if you haven't already noticed), the predominantly black cast. I feel like Marvel released Black Panther in February not only to warm cold Canadians, but more importantly to celebrate Black History Month. This cast is strong, talented, and as if you needed more, there are so many strong black female characters, you could say they carry the story.
Black Panther gives so much to its audience. There's so much action, you definitely know you're watching a Marvel Studios movie. It's an origin story, because although we were introduced to the Black Panther in Avengers: Civil War, we know little of this character so far. But it is so much more than just an introduction to King T'Challa; we are told the lore behind the Black Panther and taken on a tour of the beautiful hidden city of Wakanda, a place the outside world knows as a third world farming community that is in actuality the most technologically advanced society on the planet, thanks to their mountain made of vibranium (the stuff that makes up Captain America's shield).
Marvel Puzzle Quest screenshot
Aside from loads of action, this movie packs sadness, happiness, beauty, and duty to country in equal parts to give us an extremely well-balanced film. I was absolutely in love with the way the director, Ryan Coogler, blended the traditional look of African Tribal Elders, farmers, and royalty with technology. The "coronation" of King T'Challa was fantastic, wild, and visually stunning.
The soundtrack is nothing to sneeze at either. Available on Spotify, it boasts talent like Kendrick Lamar, 2 Chainz, Khalid, and The Weeknd.
You can also download for free the February issue of Cineplex Magazine here, where you can read a short interview with the King himself, Chadwick Boseman. There's also a short intro to the timeline of Black Superheroes in the Marvel Universe (in the comics).
Whether you're in to superhero movies or not, Black Panther is worth a watch. It has a great story, is visually stunning, boasts some stellar acting, and shows off some pretty imaginative technology.
I give this movie 5 movie passes out of 5.
I'm sure you've pinned and clicked through many of these on Pinterest. I'm a big fan of them myself - the only problem with the vast majority? They're not realistic. I have yet to find one which would actually feed my family - 6' 2" hubby, 6' eighteen year old son, thirteen year old son, and myself.
The taglines are so enticing... "How I Feed my Family of 7 on a $85 Weekly Budget", "How to Feed a Family of 5 on $200 a month", "How I Feed my Family of 6 for $200 a Month", and my personal favorite, "Real Food Meal Plan: Four Weeks Four Mouths $330".
I could spend this entire post breaking down the feasibility of each of these four examples, but I'm here for a better purpose today. Let me just point out that what these posts, along with the hundreds like them have much in common; they're only counting dinner, the meals are pretty much chicken, rice, and some canned stuff thrown in for good measure, and often they are talking about feeding small children who eat like mice. If these families are making this work, good on them, but not even one of them would work for my family. First off, we need to eat actual food. Secondly, we're not that fond of chicken. We like it, don't get me wrong, but if I served chicken on Monday, chicken soup on Tuesday, chicken rice on Wednesday, chicken tacos on Thursday (you get the idea), my family would revolt.
Yes, you cannot be too choosy when you're eating on a budget, but food is not just fuel, it should be flavorful, nutritious, and delicious. That is what we are used to. Which is probably why our grocery budget was absolutely out of control. I was spending my (pathetically sad) $300 weekly paycheck on food, and when you do that , there is not much left over for things like bills, or heaven forbid - fun. Which is why I decided to take a good look at some of these and come up with a plan that can actually be used on a large scale.
Another thing I'd like to mention is that I have yet to come across a Canadian budget meal planner. I'm sure they're out there, but I've only clicked through American ones. Why does that matter? Because I cannot go to the grocery store and pay .89 for a dozen eggs, nor can I get a whole chicken for $3. My cost could be double some of these in some cases. So I had to tailor it to my food prices. Now, if you're living in the States and you're reading this, you could possibly shave about a third off of my cost, just because your prices are lower in many areas, which is just an added bonus for you.
Before I get into the meal plan - three meals a day, every day, for one week - I'd like to share some pointers that will make this so much easier for you. What I'm about to tell you is no secret - many of the links and posts widely available offer much of the same advice. Actually, a large number of these "Feed your family on a budget" posts do not actually contain meal plans, they just give you pointers like 'clip coupons', 'buy in bulk', 'batch cook', and 'love your crockpot'. All fine suggestions, but we don't have a whole lot of coupons here in Canada (not like in the States), and I have yet to find a coupon for anything in the produce section. Buying in bulk means you need a place to store all of your bulk (and it means cans and boxes, which I am not fond of), no one wants soup or stew every night, and don't get me started on batch cooking. Tried it once - no thank you.
So here are my pointers:
Plan Out Your Week.
Whether it starts on a Sunday or a Tuesday doesn't matter. Get a pen and a piece of paper and find a comfy chair. I write out the days of the week, and the first thing I do is make a note of which days I'm working. Nights, actually, I work 11pm-6:30am, which should make this whole cooking three squares a day even more difficult for me, so if I can do it, so can you. The reason you're doing this is so that you do not plan a complicated dish on a day you're going to be excessively tired or busy running around. Use leftovers or simple dishes on those days to make your life easier.
Write Out Your Meals
Write down seven breakfast dishes, seven lunches, and seven dinners. You'll trim this down as you decide because some dishes are 2-day deals, i.e. oatmeal, chili, or soup. But writing down three for each day gives you a variety of choices. Whatever you decide to take out can always be pushed to the next week. Now trim your list. My list includes two different kinds of oatmeal, donuts, and muffins, and that covers my week. My lunches are tuna melt pie, scones, and sandwiches. My dinners consist of chili, soup, pizza, sliders, and pasta. More on all of these later, but you can see a wide variety of food - actual food. I highly recommend Pinterest for this exercise because you can just search "cheap dinner", "budget friendly meals", etc., and you'll get a ton of ideas. Draw on your own experience also. There's nothing wrong with meatloaf, spaghetti, or whatever your family has always loved. So trim your list by making notes of which meals will have enough leftovers for a second day, you'll see what I mean in my plan.
Write Out ALL The Required Ingredients.
You mean even things like salt or pepper? Why? A couple of reasons. First, you're going to make one trip to the grocery store. You heard me. One. Can't do that if you missed something. Second, you may think you have an ingredient, but when you go to the cupboard to get it while you're cooking you find that you are out of it. That sucks and has happened to me more times than I like to admit. Third, you may think you need an ingredient, but guess what? You have four of them in the back of the fridge because you keep buying it. Going once and getting everything you need and only what you need saves you time and money. If you're like me this will be very strange. I am used to shopping 2-4 times per week. I am also used to throwing stuff out because I forget I bought it because I had no actual plan for it, and now it went bad. More money wasted. And I work at a grocery store - so if I can limit my food purchases to once a week, you definitely can.
Trim Your List
Once you've written everything out, go through your cupboards, fridge, freezer, pantry, and everywhere else you house foodstuffs and cross off anything on your list that you have on hand. Most likely you have things like salt (I was almost out of pepper, so that will stay on the list next week), baking powder, or flour. But you may be surprised at what you do have sometimes, tucked away in the shadows. Now you have your basic list. I whittled a list of over 60 items to less than 30 - sweet. This is what you will venture out to buy. If you are a coupon clipper, now is the time to go through your coupons and see what you have that will help you with your list. I am not into coupons, not because I don't want to be, there just isn't much that I purchase in the coupon world. I do suggest 2 apps here that will help you immensely. If you are not using the flipp app to shop, you're nuts. I absolutely love it. At this point I pop in my basic list and look for sales on the items I need. I usually only shop at two stores, FreshCo and Real Canadian Superstore, the first because the prices are great (but the selection is meh), and the second because although the prices are a bit high, I can often find anything FreshCo doesn't carry here (plus I work there so I get my [truly mind boggling, how do they stay in business] 10% discount). Both stores price match, and I can do that right from the app. The second app I suggest is Checkout51, which saves you a little bit here and there. You just look to see if anything you bought is offered, take a pic of your receipt, and you're good. You won't get rich off of it, but it's easy and it helps a little. This week I got $1.00 cashback for buying the Eggo waffles, which I was buying anyway. *NOTE* I don't know how widely these apps are distributed, I live in Ontario, but I'm sure you will have something similar in your area.
And buy ONLY what is on your list. Yes, those strawberries look so delicious. Sure, that cake is on sale. Oh yeah, the chips are 2 bags for $5. Do not give in. You are on a budget. Whatever reason got you here, you must think of it and buy only what you see on your list. And only make this one trip. It may be to two or three stores, but do it in one go. It's a time saver in the end, but it also cuts down on the temptation to impulse buy.
The only time I encourage you to go off list is if it is an extremely good price and it is something that can keep for a bit. Maybe you only need one can of romano beans, but they're on sale for .88, and that's a good deal. I would buy maybe four or five cans (all different), and possibly use them the next week.
Okay, enough about all that. I'm sure I'm not really telling most of you anything you don't already know. Here is the part that made you visit here in the first place:
7 Day Meal Plan for a Family of 4 for about $100
Breakfast: Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin
(2-day recipe - approximate cost per day <$2, my cost was $0)
Lunch: Tuna Melt Pie + Salad
(2-day recipe - approximate cost per day ~$7, my cost was $5.50)
Dinner: Beans & Pasta
(approximate cost <$5, my cost was $3)
Day One Notes: I made the muffins and pie the day before and the salad was simple, I bought a big bag of organic mixed spring greens for $5 which will make about 6-8 servings, a great addition to a smallish lunch and easy enough to take to work. The beans & pasta is a staple dish in our home and very simple:
1/2 pkg elbow macaroni
2 cans romano beans (do not drain them)
2 strips bacon
1 tsp oregano
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
1 onion, chopped
salt & pepper to taste
1] Boil pasta
2] While pasta boils, chop bacon & fry until crispy, do not drain. Add onions and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add spices and stir.
3] Add beans and liquid to bacon/onion mixture and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and stir once or twice. Let cook another 5 minutes.
4] Drain pasta and add to bean mixture. Remove from heat. Stir until all pasta is covered and serve.
Day one cost about $14 if you purchased all the necessary ingredients. My cost was about $8.50.
Breakfast: Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin
Lunch: Tuna Melt Pie + Salad
Dinner: Southwestern Style Chili
(3-day recipe - approximate cost per day $5.50, my cost was <$4)
Day Two Notes: A pretty easy day with two meals consisting of leftovers so no need to cook. The chili can be made stovetop (as I did) or in the crockpot, as the recipe calls for. I froze the third day's serving as it is actually a little less than what would feed all of us and I think it would be great for chili cheese dogs next week. The chili pricing includes the toppings: cilantro, sour cream, and shredded cheddar cheese.
Day two cost about $14.50 & my cost was about $9.50.
Breakfast: Slow Cooker Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal
(2-day recipe - approximate cost per day $2. My cost was $1.50)
Lunch: Bacon, Cheddar, and Chive Scones + Salad
(2-day recipe - approximate cost per day $6. My cost was $4.50)
Dinner: Southwestern Chili
Day three notes: The oatmeal cooked overnight and was hot and ready to go in the morning. I baked the scones the day before and froze half of them for next week.
Day three cost about $13.50 and my cost was <$10.
Breakfast: Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal
Lunch: Cheesy Frittata + Salad
(2-day recipe - approximate cost per day $6. My cost was $2.)
Dinner: English Muffin Pizzas
(Approximate cost $9.)
Day four notes: The pizzas are another fun staple in our house, and so simple to make!
2 packs (of 6) of english muffins
2 small cans pizza sauce (you can get away with one but we like a lot of sauce)
1 can mushroom pieces and stems
1 snack pack of mini pepperoni
1 onion, sliced
1 sweet pepper, sliced
2 cups shredded mozzarella
Halve the muffins, spread pizza sauce, top with cheese, then all other toppings. Bake at 350deg for about 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned. Feel free to add or remove any of the toppings, put whatever you like on them, they're quick, easy, and delicious.
Day four cost about $17, with my cost about $13.
(Approximate cost is $3.50)
Lunch: Frittata + Salad
Dinner: Golden Coconut Lentil Soup
(2-day recipe - approximate cost per day $2.50. My cost was $0)
Day five notes: Yeah, I know you got all excited about the donuts, then clicked on the link and got weirded out when you saw what the donuts were made of. Trust me, it's okay. It's just a little cheat and we are not a bunch of snitches, so our secret is safe.
Day five cost about $14.50 and my cost was $8.
Breakfast: Slow Cooker Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
(2-day recipe - approximate cost per day is $2. My cost was $0)
Lunch: Reuben Stromboli + salad
(approximate cost $12.50. My cost just over $11.)
Dinner: Coconut Lentil Soup
Day six notes: Remember when I told you to write out EVERY ingredient and then go from there? I did not write the dressing down for the reuben recipe because I really just glanced at it and came to the conclusion that it was only for the dip, and I was not going to make the dip, so I did not need the dressing. So I did not put it on my list at all. Boy was I wrong, and I don't even know how I missed the necessity of the spread on the bread. Anyway, I always have mayo in my fridge, so that was a quick save.
Day six cost about $17 and my cost was about $11.)
Breakfast: Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
Lunch: Chicken Nugget Eggo Waffle Sliders
(Approximate cost $12)
Dinner: Sausage & Egg Sliders
(Approximate cost $14. My cost about $13.)
Day seven notes: Today turned out to be slider day, I don't think I planned it, but I didn't hear anyone complaining. I have to give you the link to Chicken Waffle Sliders because that's where I got the idea for my chicken nugget sliders, and I like to give credit when credit is due. I took their idea but made it easier by just buying a package of Jane's chicken nuggets and topping each one with a little mayo, lettuce, and 1/3 of a grape tomato. Yum!
Day seven was the most expensive day by far at $28, with my total around $25.)
The approximate total cost for 3 meals a day which actually, realistically, feed a family of four for 7 days turned out to be about $119. My total was a little lower at $84.50. Your total would also differ depending on what you already have in your home. However, even if your fridge is empty and your cupboards bare, I have shown you how to keep your family well fed on about $120.
One last thing I would like to comment on before I send you off: drinks. We drink a lot of water in our house. (Real) juice is a weekly treat, and pop is a rarity, really only when we have company and we all indulge, a few times a year. We also drink coffee (the adults) and tea, both hot and iced. If you're trying to wean yourself or your family off of pop and juice, try squeezing the juice of a lemon or orange into a pitcher of water. Maybe some fresh mint (slightly muddled), or even a few chopped strawberries. Ease your family into it. I won't judge, it's your family, you can ingest what you like, but I feel like if you just give good old H2O a chance, you may find you enjoy how refreshing it can be. And it's also a heck of a lot cheaper ;)
I thank you for sticking around, I know, this was a really long post, but I wanted to be as thorough as possible because the very simplicity of the other posts made me feel it was a waste of time to click through. Comments are always welcome - let me know if you've tried my plan, or if you have any inexpensive but delicious recipes I can add to a future plan.
Yesterday, as I set out to do some laundry, I went through the usual motions: turn on the TV and search Netflix for something to play in the background as I flit around. I searched for the usual fare: documentaries, true crime shows, alien mysteries, historical stuff. Usually you don't have to watch very intently to get the gist of what's going on at any given moment, and I usually end up watching it a second time if its interesting enough.
As I'm browsing through the fare on offer, the picture above catches my eye in the "Trending Now" section. I thought it may be a documentary about the underwater sculpture park in Grenada, and that sounded interesting, so I dove right in (pun intended).
As soon as the documentary began, I realized that it was not, in fact, about the sculpture park, but something even better: a search for lost treasure. I love shows about lost treasure, but I often find them highly unsatisfying. Usually the only thing they find is that they're on a wild goose chase with nothing to show for their efforts, or they do find something interesting, but we end the movie or series with the crew wrapping up their find while they await proper approvals and fight over who owns what. There's also the case of "The Curse of Oak Island", a show, I'm embarrassed to admit, I have been watching now for five seasons! And all they've found is some bits of bone, pottery, book binding, and a coin. Basically, nothing I've watched yet has given me any satisfaction.
Until I watched Treasures From the Wreck of the Unbelievable.
I watched the story unfold. How they came upon a video and decided they had to find that spot and search for more treasure. How they found the perfect person to fund the excursion (a bored artist not sure what to do next), and suddenly, miraculously, treasure! Not just any treasure, either. Magnificent Objects D'Art were surfacing at an unbelievable rate. Sculptures from all over the world, coins pointing to the time of Nero, a piece of the ship hinting that the vessel could rival anything Noah may have built.
And then the gold. Stunning pieces of art glinting on the bottom of the ocean. Millions (billions?) of dollars worth of golden sculpture. When the first piece broke the surface of the water, it took my breath away as I stood in front of my television, mouth agape, like a five-year old child.
Not only was there satisfaction in the sheer number and beauty of the artifacts steadily breaking the surface, but there was a fantastical theory about who these treasures may have belonged to, and why they were all on the same ship all at the same time.
Legend tells us of a freed slave named Amotan, from Antioch in north-west Turkey. He amassed an extraordinary fortune and spent it on glorious treasures from all over. He loaded 100 of his most precious onto a colossal ship called the Apistos and sailed away to build and furnish a lavish temple to the sun god Apollo. Amotan's ship sank and lay undiscovered for almost two millennia, his treasures and story lost to time.
I also found great satisfaction that about three quarters of the way through the documentary, we are shown not only oceanic shots of the treasures, but also the sculpture, cleaned (but not excessively, I loved that corals and other marine life were left in situ on the pieces), and on display at a museum in Venice, Italy.
I was so entranced by this movie, that after dinner I put it on again, so my husband could also enjoy it. He marveled at everything right along side me. However, he does not watch anything with the child-like innocence that I do, and he did bring up some questionable material. But I shushed him, and we continued to watch.
When I woke up today I decided that I had to a) find out more about this treasure; and b) blog about it. I'd like to say that I was not surprised when I found out that Treasures From the Wreck of the Unbelievable is actually a mockumentary to compliment Damien Hirst's (the aforementioned 'bored artist') new collection. I'd like to say that, but I really can't. There were signs, for sure, but I think I didn't want to notice them. I wanted to believe.
For example, I was wondering why they were able to whisk away all the treasures to a foreign country. I've watched enough actual documentaries to know that a whole lot of it has to stay in the country where its found, for various reasons. I was concerned when they were bringing up all the gold pieces in broad daylight without any cover, to me that just screamed dangerous. In that respect, I figured they just did re-shoots after the fact, so that they could get the maximum emotional response from the audience. Then there was the demon statue, which came out of the water at a height of about 4 feet. Once it made it to the museum, it had grown substantially to about 60 feet. Then there were the three busts, the camera pans across the back and the word "CHINA" is clearly visible... I was confused by that one. And of course, the one that bothered my husband the most, Mickey Mouse.
As I googled this subject, I found that many (within and without the art world) were incensed that Hirst would dare do something like this. How could he possible have duped everyone and filmed this fake movie about a fake ancient legend (Amotan's full name is Cif Amotan II, which is an anagram for "I am Fiction", and his ship, the Apistos, translated to "unbelievable".), and filled it with unimaginative art to bring crowds to his new exhibit?
Those in the art world were outraged and screamed that this was the end of his career. Lay people were angry at being tricked into believing it was all real.
I thought the sculpture was beautiful. There was no rhyme or reason to the collection, and I loved that about it. I liked the fact that he took these art forms that have been done and redone, polished them, then added the sea life to breathe new life into it, so to speak. And I love that I was tricked - that I did believe. That is what makes a mockumentary great, when you believe that it is real, and say "you got me", when you find out that it was not. Not only did he create the art, but also a fantastic mythos to go with it.
Bottom line, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, from beginning to end. I recommend you watch it if you haven't already, even if you now know that none of it is real.
Visit artsy.net if you're interested in seeing more from Damien Hirst or perhaps thinking about purchasing an original piece of his art.
Do you have a product or service you'd like me to review? Click here to send me a message (use "REVIEW" in the subject line) or DM me on Twitter
As far as books I'd recommend, the Terror is at the top of my list. This is my third go at this one, as I often read books I love more than once. I've actually purchased this one twice because my first copy got damaged and fell apart.
The Terror has been made into a series which will air on AMC at the end of March 2018. If you've read the book and this is news to you, or if after reading my review you're intrigued about this book, you can take a look at the 'Discover More...' section at the end of this post for links you may find interesting.
It's the late nineteenth century and the British Royal Fleet is trying to find the north-west passage. Frozen in the arctic ice for almost three years, this is the story of two ships, the flagship Erebus and her sister ship, the Terror, and the horrors the officers and crew endure while trapped with no way out and no hope of rescue. Between life on the ships and out on the ice with spoiling food, scurvy, near-mutiny, a strange mute Esquimaux woman and a terrible beast methodically stalking them, Dan Simmons weaves an engrossing tale mixed with fact and fiction of terror, madness and survival.
At almost 1,000 pages, The Terror is not something you can get through in a weekend. That being said, it is incredibly difficult to put down. I'd like to take a moment here to remind everyone that this story is based on actual events. Simmons uses all the tools in his literary arsenal to paint us a vivid picture of his idea of what horrors befell the crews of the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror as they were trapped in the Arctic.
And none of it is pretty.
Every page oozes bone chilling cold. Every page turned pulls the reader deeper and deeper into the terror filled and continuously more desperate fight for survival. Dan Simmons masterfully weaves a tale of the human condition. The desperate fight for survival against all odds. He tells us that we will often do the most terrifying things to survive - and sometimes we'll put our foot on the necks of our fellow men to raise ourselves up.
The ending is quite surprising and hopeful - a real departure from the rest of the novel. I wasn't too sure about it the first time I read it, but it matters and it fits, and that is what's important to a good story. If you enjoy period pieces, nautical stories, thrillers or just a well-written novel, The Terror is a must read. Simmons brings history alive in the most fantastic way. His prose is almost poetic as he forces you to sympathize, to love and care for his characters - and then he rips them away from you in the most terrible of ways.
I give this book 5 out of 5 bookmarks.
Author's Website: www.dansimmons.com
AMC The Terror Teaser Trailer: www.amc.com
AMC The Terror Official Website: www.amc.com
AMC The Terror Newsletter: www.amc.com
Follow AMC The Terror on Twitter: @TheTerrorAMC
Beginning in 2008, Parks Canada embarked on their own expedition: to find the lost HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. Thankfully, their efforts have been much more successful. The HMS Erebus was found in September of 2014, followed by the discovery of the HMS Terror two years later, in September of 2016.
You can follow Parks Canada on Twitter @PCArchaeology for updates as they continue to dive to the wreckages.
It's that time of year again - the time of year when everyone and their uncle has the best pumpkin pie recipe. And while a homemade pie is almost always going to be better than one you pick up at the store (farmer's markets and true country stores not included), the recipe I am going to share with you today is the only recipe you need to blow your family and friends away. It's so good that people who don't eat pumpkin pie (myself included) will eat your pie.
Please don't tell anyone that I told you my secret recipe in all of its entirety. My husband and children all said that I should post the bulk of it and "leave out" an ingredient or two so that no one else can make them like mine. I won't do that to you (insert evil laugh here).
This pie is ready to get into the hot oven
Empty pie shells ready for pumpkin goodness.
I'm going to keep today's post short because I have a ton of stuff I have to get to, but before I get into the recipe, I do want to warn you: If you feed this to anyone, and I mean anyone, be prepared to be the 'pie person' for all Thanksgiving events forever unto the end of time. If you're willing to make that commitment, read on.
Try to prepare all of your ingredients before you start.
Secret Weapon Pumpkin Pie
(For the crust)
17 Oreo cookies (filling removed from 12)
1/2 cup melted, unsalted butter (for a crust a little more like graham)
or 3/4 cup melted, unsalted butter (for more of a cookie crust)
1) Grind Oreos in a food processor on pulse until they're crumbs.
2) Mix in the butter. If you're using 3/4 cup, it will be wet and easy to flatten out and line your pie plate, if you're using less, you'll have to mix it well to make sure all the crumbs are covered, and it will be a little more difficult to get a nice, even cover on the pie plate.
3) Put aside while you make the filling.
(For the filling)
1 can pure pumpkin (I prefer ED Smith)
1 whole egg + 3 egg yolks
3/4 cup melted ice cream (good flavors are French Vanilla or Butterscotch Ripple)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tbsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1) Place a large pan of water in the bottom of your oven and pre-heat to 425 deg.
2) Add all ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer and, using the whisk attachment, blend on low 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and mix on medium low for about two minutes until everything is well incorporated.
Put it all together:
Divide the filling between 2 pie dishes (regular sized, the white ones you see in my pictures are actually deep dish. I tripled this recipe and made two deep dish and four small ones), spreading and flattening out with the back of the spoon. This filling is thick and will not spread out on its own while baking. If you want to make pumpkin designs on them, you absolutely can!
Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350. Bake at this temperature for 35 minutes.
The pan of water in the bottom should help reduce cracks in the pie by circulating some moisture and not allowing the pies to dry out.
Cool on rack about a half hour and then refrigerate at least two hours (or overnight) before devouring.
Top with whipped cream to increase your enjoyment!
**NOTE** the ratio of yolks to whites makes this a rich, dense pie. If you like yours a little less dense, use more whole eggs (i.e. 3 whole + 1 yolk), and use a full cup of ice cream.
If you need any clarification or have any questions, post in the comments, I'll answer the best I can.
Last time I left you with my experiments with lilacs. I was a little underwhelmed with it, I have to admit. I didn't care for the 'refreshing' lilac water, and the lilac sugar's taste is so mild that it just gets lost in whatever you bake or eat with it. However, if there's one thing I've learned, its that not everyone is going to like everything and if you fail (even if its only in your own eyes), just dust yourself off and try something different.
Next on my list is yucca. I have a large yucca next to my front porch, which my mother in law gave me just after I moved into this house 7 years ago. At the time I didn't even know that the spiky plant flowered, but a couple of years after planting it, one lone stalk came up and I remember thinking how pretty it was. Many years later I now have two flower stalks come up each year, loaded with pretty, bell shaped blossoms. Imagine my surprise when I read that the flowers on this plant are edible! I was so excited to try it out and could not wait for it to bloom this year.
Well, the time has arrived, and I spent the last couple of (super rainy) days outside picking blossoms and shaking insects off of them. Although I did find a few different species, there are two that really, really love my yucca, a small white moth and an even smaller black and red beetle. I brought my colander and a pair of scissors outside with me and cut off about 120 blossoms. Then I spent a good ten minutes shaking the colander and picking beetles and moths out, and I still had some stowaways. Apart from making sure you get as many bugs as possible out before you take them inside, also make sure that when you are picking flowers which are unblemished, freshly opened blossoms.
My adventures in yucca are much tastier than the lilac ones. Raw, the blossom tastes ok, a little meaty, with a bitter aftertaste. If you enjoy bitter greens, like dandelion, you would most likely enjoy these raw in a salad. After blanching, the flavor improves a bit, the aftertaste is still there, but only a little. After I got everything in the marinade I just could not wait, so I tried a little the next day. Really delicious! So good that I can't wait for the second bunch of buds to flower so I can make more! I got three small jars out of the recipe below, two for me and one for my mother in law. She's always interested in these weird things I do and I thought it would make a lovely gift for her if it turned out. I know she browses through my blog posts, but I don't think she actually reads all the way through, so it'll still be a surprise, even though I just told all of you!
One last thing before we get to the actual recipe - you absolutely have to try this on home made naan bread smothered in goat cheese. Its delightful!
This recipe makes about 3 small jars - or 2 medium ones.
As I mentioned before, even after 24 hours it's already pretty delicious. After the three days, store in the fridge. The oil will solidify in the cold, so take out an hour before serving.
Thanks for stopping by, feel free to comment if you tried to make this, if you have any other things that you make with yucca, or if you just have any questions.
Interested in foraging, cooking, baking, homesteading, or all things green? Follow me on Pinterest!
I have spent most of my adult life steering clear of politics, my eyes often glazing over as I listened to others discuss it. It didn't even matter what kind; Canadian, American, World, it all just bored me.
That is not to say that the world of politics is boring - far from it. That world seems rife with excesses in money, sexual exploits, and especially lies. That last one is really what kept me away from it for so long, very few politicians tell the truth, or even answer a direct question. I find it maddening.
With the rise and subsequent crowning of the messiah of the 'forgotten man', I am loathe to admit that I haven't missed a day watching CNN. If I'm awake, it's on my TV, even if I'm not really paying attention. I soak this drama up the same way some people devour the exploits of the Kardashians or the Real Housewives of [insert city here].
Mostly I feel like I'm watching a train wreck in slow motion - I really cannot believe that this is actually happening. Sometimes I watch, mouth agape, in sheer disbelief of what I have just witnessed/heard/read... sometimes all three at the same time. I often can't understand how anyone with a functioning brain stem thinks that this man, and what he clearly stands for, is fit to run a lemonade stand, much less an entire country.
Now that that's out of the way, I, like so many others, feel the need to weigh in on the Trump/NLF battle raging in the US right now. Why should you listen to my opinion? Why am I qualified to even give an opinion? Well, you don't have to read this, and I'm not really qualified for anything, but my opinion is mine, and that is why I have a blog called sonjarants. I do more cooking, baking, and reviewing than actual ranting on this site, but when I feel strongly about something, I need to let it out.
I'm going to start by saying that I was initially against Colin Kaepernick not standing during the US National Anthem. I take great pride in my country (I'm actually Canadian, in case you didn't know) and often actually well up when I hear my anthem. I feel a great respect for our anthem and our flag, because they represent the men and women who fought and continue to fight (in numerous ways), and those who gave their lives so that I can say and do pretty much anything I want. In other words, something as simple as a song and a piece of cloth represents so much more than I can articulate.
I felt (what feels like 100 years ago) that anyone, anyone who doesn't respect their country's flag and anthem, no matter the reason, was in the wrong. case closed.
It was Donald Trump himself who changed my mind.
I, unlike Trump, knew why Kaepernick was kneeling, but I thought that he could maybe find a different way to call attention to it. Racial inequality and police brutality are important issues which require attention, conversation, action. I hate to admit it, but I wasn't paying a whole lot of attention to it. It's going on in the States (not saying that we don't have our own racial issues here), it's involving a protest by an NFL player (I only watch football once a year), and, quite frankly, before January of this year, I didn't really keep on top of current events. I knew what was going on, knew I didn't approve, I moved on with my life.
Since this whole thing has blown up on CNN (I might have mentioned I'm slightly addicted), I've had the opportunity to learn more about it, to reflect upon the meaning behind it, and to change my view.
I realize now that by kneeling, Kaepernick isn't disrespecting those who fought for his freedoms - he is showing his outrage that those who are still suppressing him are the ones actually showing disrespect for all of those who fought and died so that he could take every advantage of them.
I hope I said that clearly enough: in the US right now, his freedoms as a human being are somehow different from mine in the eyes of the law, mainly because he is a black man and I am a white woman.
Your constitution is not mine, but I think that we all know the phrase "All men are created equal". Equal means equal. The same. Identical. Uniform. Alike. Parallel. I could go on with the synonyms, but I'm sure that anyone reading this will understand at least one of those terms. And since he, and those he is kneeling for, and many countless others are not being treated equally, two centuries after those words were penned, well, that isn't right, and should be protested.
Follow this link to hear Dale Hansen explain what's going on - he does a great job for those of you still on the fence on this issue.
President Donald J. Trump has more immediate issues that require his focus rather than picking a fight with the NFL over an issue he doesn't even understand. Like The disaster in Puerto Rico. Like DACA. Tax reform. Obamacare. Travel bans. Insane travel costs incurred by spendthrift cabinet members. Jared's emails. The Russia thing. Shall I go on? Because I could. The list seems almost endless. Perhaps right at the top I should have mentioned mending race relations or even calling Nazi white supremacists sons-of-bitches, instead of peaceful protestors.
I'm pretty sure there are numerous Americans (and people all over the world) who are just holding their breath, counting the days until this nightmare presidency is over so that they can start to finally pick up the pieces and try to heal their country.
Kaepernick was trying to do just that when he started to #TakeAKnee.
#45's sad legacy will be The Great Divider. He promised to Make America Great Again, but all he seems to be doing is tearing it apart for ratings.
Originally published on June 30th, 2015 on UnusuallyDelicious.
It's early June here in Southern Ontario and my Dwarf Lilac has just begun to bloom. My entire yard smells so wonderful. While I'm transforming my yard, every time the wind blows I get the lovely scent of lilac. Who knew they were edible? Not me. Nor anyone I've talked about eating lilacs to. Some even questioned whether they were toxic. Well, here's the lowdown on what I've found about ingesting lilacs:
Firstly, they're part of the olive family, so that's a good sign. As with all things, start slowly. You may have an allergy you have no idea about, and since many of us do not ingest flowers on a regular basis, it's always best to start out small. The best things to make with lilacs are syrup, infused water, sugar and scones. I'll write a series on the fragrant lilac and give you the how-to on all of the above, along with uses for each (although the scones may be self explanatory).
Recently, thanks in part to my addiction to Pinterest, I have discovered the fascinating world of foraging. Don't get me wrong, you will not see me bent over at the side of the road picking dandelion, but I do have quite a bit in the way of diversity when it comes to the 'weeds' in my yard. I have purslane, stinging nettle, lambs quarters, plantain, and of course dandelions growing all around my property. That's only what I've noticed and been able to name while perusing pins, boards, and websites dedicated to eating weeds. I have spend years bent over, killing my back and my hands pulling them from the earth and cursing them profusely.
This year I decided I'm going to go about my garden a little differently. Aside from the total makeover I have started in my backyard (you can watch the progress on my blog at sonjarants.weebly.com), I have decided to try out some of the recipes online with these wild foods and maybe try to make a few of my own. Not only the weeds, either. Quite a few of the flowers I grow are also edible, apparently. So that is where we will begin our journey together, with a flower.
I've always loved growing things. Flowers, fruit and veggies growing in my home or in my garden bring me great joy. I don't exactly have the greenest of thumbs, I've likely killed more plants than I've nurtured through an entire life cycle, but I still try because I love it and truly, there is nothing that compares to walking outside in the morning and popping a cherry tomato into your mouth as you pick and choose which herbs and vegetables will be a part of your morning meal, or choosing which strawberries are the ripest for your clafoutis.
I also thoroughly enjoy cooking and baking (the process and end result, but not the cleanup!), and thought that it would be a great idea to start up a hub page dedicated to cooking and baking with things that grow in and around my home. I'll try to keep it interesting. Let's face it: you probably don't need another 'best ever marinara' recipe. So I'll try to show you the interesting side of my garden and kitchen. I love to experiment, and I'm really excited that you're along for the ride.
Since most of the recipes I found online which use lilac as an ingredient don't actually call for the flower itself, but lilac sugar, that is the very first thing I decided to make with it. I'll have to make a whole lot, and pick and dry a whole lot of lilac blossoms in a short period of time because they really don't last very long, and I'd like to take advantage of it while I can. So to start, I picked a bunch of lilac branches and brought them inside, sat my butt down in front of the TV and started picking. This is no quick task. After about an hour and a half, I'd only picked about 4 branches clean and had about a cup and a half of blossoms. I decided that was more than enough for my first 'test' batch, so I washed and strained them, then placed on a layer on some paper towels to dry overnight. The next morning, I split the pile in half, so I could test two different methods of making the lilac sugar. Almost all of the recipes for lilac sugar I found online were vague on how to use the blossoms, fresh or dry? So I decided to try both methods and see which one, if any, is better.
I ended up losing one half of the batch because I thought I'd speed up the drying process and stick half in the toaster oven to dry them further. It didn't work. They browned almost instantly and the smell was no longer pleasant. So I just used the fresh ones dried overnight and the result was underwhelming to say the least. The sugar absorbed liquid from the blossoms and smelled kinda weird.
However, I left the lid off for a couple of days and continued to shake, and the scent began to correct itself, as the sugar slowly dried. After two days, I ran it through a fine mesh strainer, not an easy task, I might add, but with the now brown flowers removed and the sugar drying out, I can smell the pleasant lilac fragrance coming through, and I can't wait to use this in my first recipe.
Take three. I picked a new batch of blossoms and this time removed as much of the green bits as possible, washed them, and placed on a tray lined with paper towels on top of the fridge to dry out for a few days. Aaaand... Success!
This can be used in recipes like cupcakes, frosting, and scones. I'll post recipes as I make them. You can also decorate some small mason jars with ribbon, fill with sugar and give as gifts. I thought of this as I was closing up the jars and will post pics when I make mine, as I am planning to give some as gifts this year for sure!
Unfortunately, I did not take any good pictures of my own lilac sugar (all the others are mine, and my dwarf lilac bush seems more pink than purple) before it was all dried out, so I found this one at honestcooking.com - click the link to go to their site - they have a recipe pretty much identical, but I think they used the blossoms fresh (I had better success with the dried ones). They do, however, have a link to a blueberry pie recipe which calls for lilac sugar which I will definitely try soon, so please do visit them.
Feel free to comment if you have any other great uses for lilac sugar or if you make yours differently.
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Hi! I'm Sonja and I'm glad you're here! I'm happy to share some recipes and gardening tips with you while I let you know about great (or not so great) products, services, and media I encounter.
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