Saturday, March 29, 2014

Mini Porchsteading: Update 1

I don't have a lot of room for gardening but I was very persistent about having tomato plants this year and I was going to have my tomato plants. 

I planted the seeds too close together but that's just fine. Once they started seeding I made these planters from old 2 liter bottles. 

The plants don't live outside just yet. They live in front of the windowsill. You are looking at four of the tomato plants, a cucumber plant I'll soon have to move to a much larger container, oregano, and purple basil hiding over there in an old can. 

It isn't exactly ordinary but they are all thriving quite well and I can't wait to see them progress. I also can't wait for them to become spaghetti sauce. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Home Decor Theory 101 with Surama

 It is rightly said, a house is built of bricks and mortar but a home is built of love, warmth and care. Coming back home after a tiring day work is one of the most satisfying triumphs of our daily lives. A person’s aesthetic sense, personality and values are reflected in the home.

It should be decorated so that it harmonizes all the essentials together into a serene atmosphere. It is the innate desire of most of us to adorn our homes, a place which is comfortable, cozy, and neat. The interior of the home reflects the personality and taste of the owner. 

William Morris has nicely quoted, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” Interiors that have been done with some underlying elegance have something royal about it. 

Antiques, wooden carvings, potted plants, stoneware, terracotta, furnishings, artifact's, paintings, wall hangings, sculptures display passion.

 Color adds brightness to the vivid views of the landscape. In totality, there is an effect blend of contemporary elements and traditional sensibility that radiates warmth and comfort in a home. It requires a little time and effort to do up a house. A few tips in decorations will help in renovating the rooms in a home. 

Go for wall finishes, wall papers or textured paints. Pastel shades and white look great and provide a sense of uncluttered and neat look. 

• Furniture forms an integral part of decoration. Antique and teak wood is an invaluable possession. 
• Indoor plants when placed in right place add freshness and bright look to the living room. 
• Brass or copper vessels in bigger size can be filled with water and flowers and floating candles can be placed in it at the entrance/foyer. 
• A handicraft work can be placed on a wall to accentuate the area. 
• Mirrors should be placed in areas where there is little space as it creates an illusion. 
• Lampshades with handwork give a unique aesthetic appeal to the room. 

Creative space for the little ones: While planning for an infant, two things that should be kept in mind -- baby’s comfort and mother’s convenience. Rooms should be well lit, airy and should be away from direct sunlight. 

Furniture should be sturdy, compact, easy to clean and free from protruding or sharp edges. Floor space should be sufficient so that as the child grows, toys and other baby supplies can be kept in the room. 

Rooms for teenagers should be furnished in a way that they can entertain their friends. Bed, chest of drawers, desk and table should be arranged to give the teenager a little private space for activity and relaxation. 

Interiors for the elderly: Mobility is a prime concern for them. Wider door facilitates easy movement if one is using a walking and grills should be put in the balcony as they are weak and infirm. Avoid placing sharp edged tables, beds, stools and accessories in their room. 

The furniture should be high so that the person can feel comfortable. Uplifting the decor of the room by choosing a color scheme of their choice and soothing music to their ears beings a smile on their face. 

Special care should be taken while lighting so that the room looks well lit and daytime sunshine reaches the room also. Everything done in the right frame of mind looks aesthetically pleasing!


I am a dentist by profession and sometime do write-ups, have a food blog of my own and enjoy expressing myself in different ways.

Guest Post: Feed a Family of Four on $15 a Day!

This writer has chosen to remain anonymous.

Thank you, Andrea Kratzenberg, for the use of your photo. 

According to recent estimates, 1 in 5 American households are receiving some amount of food benefits. As any family receiving benefits and trying to keep food on the table knows, it can be difficult to have a filling and healthy diet on a small budget.

The benefits amounts have increasingly gotten smaller as the government has been forced to cut programs to the Farm Bill, which incorporates SNAP (Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program, colloquially known as food stamps).

Additionally, the cost of preparing meals from fresh ingredients can easily be more expensive than cheap fast food options. Here’s a quick one day family menu designed to cost less than $10 total for the combined servings, but not for the ingredients.

Oatmeal (buy bulk)
1 egg per child, 2 per adult
Frozen sausage patties or links in bulk package, 2 per person

Oatmeal will always be one of my favorite ways to fill a belly early in the morning with something that is warm, comforting, and sticks to the bone. I like to add some protein so I can keep the troops going until snack time or lunchtime.

To save, adopt a few backyard chickens! You can sell the excess eggs to neighbors.

TOTAL COST:  $0.50 + $1.34+ $1.16 = $2.82

Pretzels from bulk or large package
10 Strawberries
String cheese sticks (one each adult, kids split)

Pretzels are one of the cheapest snack items one can purchase. The crunchiness is what attracts me, and the earthy flavor. For a real cheap party snack, make your own soft pretzels at home and serve with mustard, marinara sauce, or homemade cheese sauce. Delish!

TOTAL COST: $0.10 + $0.99 + $0.75 = $1.84

Brown Rice (from bulk)
Teriyaki Sauce (from family size or bulk size)
Grilled Chicken Tenderloins, marinated and topped with
Teriyaki sauce (bought in bulk package from a warehouse store)

The cheapest place that I’ve found to buy meat, thus far, has been Costco frozen chicken. I am partial to the tenderloins, which sell for about $16.00 for a six pound package. They sell a ten pound package of frozen chicken breasts for $19.99, but I’m too impatient to wait for them to defrost. The tenderloins will defrost easily in the microwave.

TOTAL COST: $0.50 + $0.65 + $2.66 = $3.81

Popcorn (buy kernels in bulk and prepare at home)
Apple slices

TOTAL COST: $0.20 + 1.24 = $1.44

Buy the cheapest apples that are not red delicious apples. I find these become mealy easily, and are over waxed. To save, plant an apple tree in your backyard! It takes 10 years for them to begin to produce fruit, but it is worth the wait!

6 Tortillas, burrito size
Re-fried Beans (homemade from beans bought I in bulk and soaked overnight)
Mexican rice (homemade with white rice, a small can tomato sauce, and onions and peppers)
Cabbage or Lettuce Corn (from frozen bulk package) and green onions

TOTAL COST: $1.22 + $0.45 + $1.25 + $0.99 = $3.91

Rice and Beans combined make a perfect protein. This is a classic South American dish, once made for me as a tween by my friend Adriana’s mother, a Mexican-American immigrant.

She made her re-fried beans homemade, as should you, adding a small amount of lard and spices to cooked beans and putting them in the blender. Voila! Re-fried beans!

There are many recipes online for homemade Mexican rice, find one that suits you and perfect it. The rice can be combined in the burrito with the beans and cabbage or eaten as a side. Prepare the corn on the grill, if you can, or in a grill pan.

Add spices and a small amount of fat and cook until corn is heated thoroughly. Don’t add the green onion until the last minute.

Cinnamon rolls (homemade)

(Editor’s Commentary:  As mentioned below by the author you will be needing sugar, cinnamon, frozen bread dough.)

Buy or make your bread dough homemade. It can be frozen. I like to buy a five pack of frozen bread dough, found in the freezer section next to the garlic bread. I defrost one loaf and let it go through the first rise.

Then I flatten it out and add butter, sugar (a combination of brown and white), and cinnamon. Google a copycat recipe if you’re partial to the kind you can find in the mall. Let rise again and then bake. The aroma will be enough to draw the family to the kitchen without you announcing what’s for desert! 

TOTAL COST: $0.60 + $0.50 + $0.25= $1.35

Friday, March 14, 2014

Things To Teach Your Kids: Everyone is a LIAR! (My identity was stolen by d-bags.)

I know that sounds a little harsh but when I explain my reasoning, you'll get it.
This week, I decided that I would start putting the money away to buy a home- in cash. This is Penny Living. Do you think I want to take a chance on a mortgage loan on a home I can't afford? Hell, naw!

Out of curiosity and being a responsible human being, I decided to check my credit report. This is essential to keep myself out of debt. I do it every year. I spent years getting myself out of debt and I want to stay that way.

The first mortgage loan, I considered it a fluke. I figured, "Hey, nobody is going around stealing my identity and applying for mortgage loans." But yeah, they effing were. They weren't doing a very good job, but they were. 

Naturally, this sketched me out a bit but luckily the information gave me a pretty good decent idea of who did so. 

Three things are happening:

1. My bank account was shut down without any explanation or reasoning. Luckily, I don't keep a lot of money in there because I don't trust banks. Hmm, wonder why.

2. Bill collectors are calling my family for me.

3. This is pissing me off. 

Like any parent would lovingly, do my parents raised me to be loving, naive, and trusting. Those are all good qualities in some way but now being almost 27-years-old, it's not. Not in this generation. I'm bringing new light to a more modern practice: teach your kids to not trust anyone. 

My dad gave me a pretty good tool when I was younger. He said, "Promise me you will never co-sign anything. That way, when you're an adult, you can say you promised your dad you didn't." That was that. I never co-signed anything. 

I'm pretty sure I know exactly how my identity was stolen, who did it, and why. Being the sweet, loving naive teenager that I was, I had been forced to live in a world where I didn't really want to. I was asked for my information for taxes. "Sure," I told them.

Then I lovingly handed out my social security number like an M&M without consulting my parents because I was legally adult and knew everything in life. (Ha!) 

I let them claim me as an dependent, as was legally right. Then, I went on my merrily little way and lived my life while two mortgage loans and one auto loan was applied for without my knowledge.

Luckily, those loans, as far as I know, were not accepted and were declined. For the first time in my life, I'm glad I don't own a giant home or a car worth over $25,000 that I could have been stuck paying for in the years to come. What else has happened? I don't know. Frankly, that scares me.

Through this experience, I realize that I'm being lied to every damn day. Every day, I check my e-mail and find something like my Apple iPod account was suspended. Which is interesting. Because I don't have one. 

Or, I find out my account was hijacked, or suspended, or something else and 90% of the time it's a phishing scam or someone in Nigeria needs help or someone is interested in hiring me for printing checks which are all freaking scams. 

I can't even advertise my business for more than 10 minutes without at least one email asking if Ahmad's assistant can pick up my used sofa for $5,000 if I return the rest of the cash back to Timbuktu.

What is my point?

1. Teach your kids to not trust people with their information. 

2. Help your kids find out how to start saving for home before they move out. Early. Way earlier. Like age 13 and putting 15-20% of everything in the bank earlier. I know this sounds unrelated but it's NOT. 

3. Don't make them doormats. Obeying is a great quality to have as a child most of the time. In adulthood, it's not always a great quality to have. "No" can be an exception.

4. Let the kid dream and help them dream.

When I was about 13, I would create blueprints of homes and design my dream house. I would scan through and through of the free Real Estate catalogs and say, "I want this house. I like that house. I can live in that house. I don't like that house." 

Be supportive and help. If they make mistakes, so what. Who cares? As long as their identity isn't stolen. I'm serious, you guys. You've got 18 years of children and the rest you have adults. Don't let them be screwed over before they even have a chance to start.