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10 Ways/Resources to Learn New Things

Posted by Angela Diaz on April 9, 2016 at 1:55 PM Comments comments (0)

     I'd like to write breifly about learning.  Learning new skills, hobbies, new ways to do things, etc.   Learning should be neverending for us.  The world is so big and there are so many things to learn and do.  Nowadays one doesn't have to commit to going  back to school to learn things.   It's easy to acquire new skills outside of the structure of a classroom.  I am always learning and researching about any new thing that interests me and I pay little to nothing for the education/information/skills I gather in the process.  Recently I took to knitting.  I don't have close family or friends that knit.  I have always wanted to learn to knit beautiful sweaters. I've crocheted since I was a child in elementary school, but some items just look more professional when they're knitted (at least in my mind).  Since my adventures in knitting are very recent, I will use knitting as an example of how I've used various resources to acquire this skill, but these resources can be used for anything from carpentry, learning new languages, learning new instruments, cooking, etc. 

1. Library- FREE- The library is a valuable resource to learning.  I've borrowed books and DVDs on the topic of knitting and used their computers and free internet to look up more information.

2. YouTube-FREE-  YouTube is excellent.  Type in anything you want to learn and you have probably hundreds of results, enough to keep you busy for a very long time.  There are so many How-To videos.  I even used YouTube searches when I struggled with something specific. For example, I didn't know how to hold my string and control tension, so I looked that up specifically.  I didn't know how to put my stitches on a holder, so I looked that up when I was stuck on a project. 

3. Meetups/Groups-FREE (depending on the group)- I joined a free knitting group that meets the first Saturday of every month and is located in a local retirement community.  The schedule works perfectly with mine and not only am I surrounded by women who have been knitting for decades, they even throw in free coffee, tea, and snacks!  The group is open for all ages and I bring my young daughter who recently learned to crochet.  We bring the projects we are working on and share ideas, projects, patterns, and knowledge.  There is also a free knitting group/class that meets every Monday evening in my local library.  When I'm stuck on a project, I don't have to wait a month or 3 weeks until my monthly group meets, I can go on Monday evening and get the help I need, or just for a relaxing evening of knitting and socializing.

4. Workshops- FREE or Registration Fee-  Look in your local Craigslist, newspaper, craft shop, etc to look for classes or workshops that are being offered in your area.

5.  Craftstores-FREE or Cost of Purchases- This pertains to learning new crafts.  Go to a place that specializes in what you are interested in learning.  If it's gardening, hang out in a garden nursery.  Talk to the employees or the customers that look like they know their stuff.  I have gotten into great conversations with people in these places. If I see an old lady near the knitting needles aisle, you bet I'm going to talk to her!

6. People/Mentors-FREE-  Look for people who are skilled at what you want to learn.  I found a coworker that knows how to knit and she helps. If you want to learn Spanish, find someone whose first language was Spanish and hang out with them, practice with them, and maybe see if they can mentor you.

7. Trial and Error- FREE (Sometimes)- You can't forget to actually practice what you want to learn.  Want to learn to play the guitar, try, fail, try and fail again.  Carpentry? Try. Make some crooked cabinets. Try again and hope they don't fall off the walls this time.  Nothing beats the process of hands on learning. 

8. Writing-FREE- Doesn't make much sense now, but write about your new interest or passion.  Keep a log of your progress.  Read what others have written on this topic. Take Notes.  Writing is important because you have a better chance of retaining what  you've learned if you write it down.

9. Blogs-FREE- Subscribe to blogs and read what the professionals are writing.  Blogs are great because they are not just How-To sites.  They are personal.  Bloggers share their struggles, their passion, their projects, new things they've learned, etc.  You really feel like you have a comrade in this field.

10.  Books and Magazine Subscription-Cost- This may seem the same as using the library, but there is a slight difference in how we use our own books, isn't there? If you borrow a library book multiple times and it is a great reference tool that you can use over and over again, buy it. Buy it used if you can (that's the frugalness in me talking).  Highlight important areas of the book, make notes in the margins, put sticky notes or tabs so that you can quickly get to the pages of importance.  Make that book yours. Same with magazines. Rip out the article you want to keep and add it to your notebook.  Make notes and mark pages.  Make it worth the subscription cost.

     I am daily researching new ideas, new skills, new interests. Whether it's traveling, brushing up on a language, learning a new craft, or even just learning how to unclog my bathroom sink.   I never want to stop learning and growing.  I am a better person every day and every year as I learn and grow and become a better, wiser, more interesting, and more skilled person than I was a year ago. 


Easy Delicious Deviled Eggs

Posted by Angela Diaz on April 12, 2014 at 6:30 PM Comments comments (0)

     I'm known for my deviled eggs. Everytime there is an office party or potluck, I bring the deviled eggs. Every family holiday get together, I bring deviled eggs.  It's my thing. I always bring these for two reasons: 1, they are very cheap and easy to make 2, you can't go wrong with deviled eggs! Everyone loves them. They are always a hit. Always!

     I'll be sharing my very easy recipe on how I make deviled eggs and if you're like me and buy dozens of eggs at a time in bulk (because you get a better price that way and eggs are so versatile and healthy), then you will always have most of the ingredients to make this and any party that pops up won't necessarily have you running to the store and spending money. (who wants to spend money anyway, ugh). So here it is:


Ingredients:

Eggs

Mayonnaise

Paprika

     Boil the eggs. Peel. Cut them longways in half. Dump the hard yolks into a bowl or whatever. NOTE: Many years ago I got this deviled egg holder for less than five bucks.  I use it every time I make these and makes transporting them a breeze. Definitely worth the couple bucks.

     Now put some large spoonfulls of Mayonnaise in with the egg yolks and using a fork or hand mixer, mix it up. Keep adding Mayonnaise and mixing until you have the consistency and taste you want. I then use a plastic baggie or ziplock bag and put the mayo/yolk mixture into it. I snip the corner and use that device to squueze the mixture into the egg halves.

     Last step is to sprinkle paprika onto the eggs. All done! Now your dish is the talk of the party and you didn't spend much time or money on it!


     I just simplified your life and made you popular. You're welcome.

Smelling Supermarket Produce

Posted by Angela Diaz on March 30, 2014 at 9:55 PM Comments comments (0)

     I thought I'd drop a quick post to relate my most recent experience at the supermarket.  I was looking for a few items in the produce department to add to my stir-fry.  Not sure what prompted me to do this, but I began smelling the produce.  I grabbed all kinds of things, spinach, radishes, carrots, broccoli, etc.and guess what? None of them smelled like anything. No distinct scent at all. I didn't have allergies or a cold that day. My sinuses were clear. Why didn't I smell anything at all in the whole produce department?

     When I was picking my half-share box of vegetables during my lunch break and bringing them to my office, my whole office smelled of fresh earth and...well freshness.The vegetables were so strong and wonderful smelling. If there were a scented candle with that scent, I would buy it. It smelled like I just came in from my own garden with mud on my boots and just pulled up and picked wonderful deliciousness from my garden.

     I challenge anyone to walk around their large grocery store and take the sniff test. Are you finding anything that smells nice? Even the herbs didn't smell strongly.  I rubbed some leaves between my fingers and had to sniff hard to get a faint whiff of the herb. I mean, WOW.  I can't even express how I felt when I walked out of there. That experience made me more determined to give my garden my 100% this year. 

     I was going to plant winter veggies, but I think I'll give my garden a break after the fall harvest. I'll find a local horse farm and collect up a load or two of free manure and give my garden a special rest and manure treatment while I continue to support my local CSAs winter share.  The supermarkets are selling garbage they call "produce". Well, my days of purchasing that cardboard stand-in for real food is nearing its end.

Making Apple Sauce

Posted by Angela Diaz on February 5, 2014 at 9:00 PM Comments comments (0)

     Making apple sauce was so much easier than I thought. To be honest, I don't like apple sauce. I made it because I know that my kids will eat it, but I was quite surprised by how my apple sauce came out and I really like it!  Having control over the ingredients and the texture makes all the difference in the world!  I used three kinds of apples, Cameo, Pink Lady, and Stayman. 

     I washed, peeled, cored, and sliced enough apples to fill a large pot.  It's important to remember to put the apples in a container of cold water with a few tablespoons of lemon juice to keep them from becoming discolored while you work on peeling and cutting the rest of the apples.

     Put about an inch of water in a large pot. Put all the apple slices in the large pot (without the water they've been soaking in!) and let cook on medium/high heat.  Stir the apples every minute or so and use a potato masher to help them along as well. They will get soft and mushy as you stir and mash.  When the mash is at a desirable texture, add some sugar and cinammon to taste.

     At this point I already had my canning equipment ready to go.  I had my bath canner full of boiling water and the jars sterilizing in it.  I also had my jar lids and bands in a sauce pan simmering.  Now, don't use this as a guide to canning. Please refer to the Ball Book of Home Preserving or other resources for step-by-step directions.  Anywho, I took out the sterilized jars, ladled the hot apple sauce into them, covered them with the lid and secured with the bands. I placed them in the water bath canner for twenty minutes, took them out to cool and listened to the cute little 'POP' sounds of the lids securing themselves.

 

     This was my very first time making apple sauce and it's been an absolute success. My kids like it, I like it, and I even had a few of my coworkers try it out. I've gotten some feedback on how good this apple sauce is, but my favorite one was "This is the best home-made applesauce I have ever tried".  That says a lot.  I know it's better than store-bought, but saying that it's better than some other home-made applesauces is a pretty big deal since this is my first time.  I'm very happy with how this all came out.

Making Apple Cider

Posted by Angela Diaz on February 5, 2014 at 8:25 PM Comments comments (0)

     My newest experiments have involved apples.  I went to the Cherry Hill Orchards outlet store and purchased three bushels of apples. Each bushel was a different variety of apple.  I bought one bushel of Cameo apples, one bushel of Pink Lady apples, and one bushel of Stayman apples.  I heard you should use at least three different varieties of apples to make a good cider.  Three bushels should be enough to conduct experiments with.  As of today I have made 2 gallons of apple cider, 6 pints of apple slices for pies, and 6 pints of apple sauce.  I still have plenty more apples to put up.  Maybe I'll make another gallon of cider, another few pints of apple sauce and a few more pints of apple slices. The three bushels cost me $36 and I already feel like I got my money's worth.

     Today I'll just be going over my process of making apple cider.  I've learned a lot from making my first gallon and the next day when I made my second gallon, the process went so much more smoothly. As it is with all things, you learn as you go and tweak your process to make it better the next time.

     First, I went onto Craigslist and found a juicer new in the box for $40.


     I washed and cut up about 12 apples.  I figured out how many of each apple to cut up to make a half gallon.  I won't share that number because the size and type of apple you use makes all the difference in the world so I don't want to lead you astray. The Cameo apples I got are very large so out of the 12, only three of them were Cameo.  Not only were they sliced in traditional wedges, but I also cut those wedges in half cross-wise because I found out that sometimes when I put the wedges in the juicer shoot, they get wedged (ha ha, wedges get wedged!) in because they don't always stay straight and get knocked sideways. 

     I have one large mixing bowl of the half wedges, a large measuring cup to catch the juice, a gallon sized mason jar with a canning funnel in the mouth of it and a small strainer inside that. I put a kitchen towel under the juicer to catch any leaks, messes that may occur (learned this from my first experience).  

     The juicer is so easy to operate, I had my little one help out.


     From this point, just keep tossing the apples in the juicer and when the large glass gets full, pour it through the strainer and into the half gallon mason jar.  At this point, I disassemble the juicer and give it a quick wash.  I've learned that it can get clogged up and start leaking out the sides when too much apple pulp covers the majority of the holes.

     I filtered the apple cider a second time by putting a cheesecloth in the strainer.  The jars got placed in the freezer for later use.  Making apple cider is easy and the taste of course depends on the apples you use.  I will be using different apples the next time I make this recipe.  I used a lot of very sweet and somewhat tart apples so the cider is very strong.  Next time I'll throw in a few of my not-so-favorite bland varieties to balance out the taste.




DIY Bisquick Mix

Posted by Angela Diaz on January 9, 2014 at 6:05 PM Comments comments (0)

     Bisquick is another one of my guilty pleasures that I knew I had to remove from my pantry (well, sort of).  I need to figure out how to make this stuff on my own.  We kinda love Bisquick here.  It makes perfect, hassle-free biscuits and fluffy, flavorful pancakes.  We go through a lot of Bisquick here and that stuff isn't cheap! I scoured the Internet and browsed different DIY Bisquick recipes and tried one out yesterday. 

6 Cups Flour

3 Tablespoons Baking Powder

1 Tablespoon Salt

1 Cup Vegetable Shortening


I went with this recipe because it came from a very reputable site and received five star ratings from a large amount of reviews. 

This recipe is easy. Basically you sift the dry ingredients all together three times.  Using a food processor or pastry mixer, cut in the shortening and keep mixing until the mixture resembles a slightly crumbly texture.  I don't have a food processor and don't know what a pastry mixer is, so I used my good old-fashioned hand mixer and mixed it up until it looked somewhat crumbly.  This recipe keeps in the fridge for 6 months (wouldn't last that long in my house).

     So anyways, I made garlic cheddar biscuits using this mixture the same as if I were using Bisquick (the garlic cheddar biscuit recipe is on the Bisquick web site).  I have to say that I did not notice any difference between using this mixture for the recipe versus using Bisquick. Yay Win!  The true test though, and we all agree here, is pancakes.  Good thing I have evening plans after work today and don't have time to cook a full dinner so it's breakfast for dinner day at my house and pancakes is on the menu! 




    The results were great! These pancakes were flavorful and fluffy!  This gets the thumbs up from everyone here!  The only thing I noticed was when pouring out the pancake batter, I noticed small clumps.  Turns out those small clumps are little pieces of vegetable shortening.  Maybe a food proccessor or pastry mixer would have prevented this, but this made no difference in the texture and taste of these pancakes.  YAY ME!!  No more buying Biquick! I can make tons of it for a fraction of the price and I won't have to suck up the guilt of the cardboard box and plastic inside bag that the Bisquick is packaged in. Woot Woot!!! 

     ***I've seen recipes where you could make this with regular butter or margarine as well. Vegetable shortening is not an item I ever keep in my pantry, but used this recipe because of the high ratings.  I will use this as a stepping stone to experiment with other versions without vegetable shortening now that I know that making your own Bisquick is indeed possible!

    


CSA Fall Share Week 6

Posted by Angela Diaz on December 13, 2013 at 4:45 PM Comments comments (0)

     Okay. We are in the second to last week of this year's fall harvest and it's been great so far.  Here's what I got this week:


Yams, carrots, celeriac, beets, a leek, bib lettuce, broccoli and two heads of cabbage (actually there was only one head, but I grabbed another from the box of stuff you can switch around). 

I decided two heads of cabbage would suffice for my experiment this week of making saurkraut.  Wish me luck! I'll post my results.


CSA Fall Share Week 5

Posted by Angela Diaz on December 4, 2013 at 4:50 PM Comments comments (0)

     I picked up my fifth week CSA share.  Here's what I got:

 

Purple Carrots

Purple Top Turnips

Parsnips

Garlic

Rutabaga

Baby Kale

Romanesco

Last, but not least, one big green thingy.  I'm not quite sure what that large thing is back there.  I tasted a hunk of it and it reminds me of Kholrabi, but I have never seen one so huge. They are generally harvested when they are no greater than the size of a baseball. 

     I have been taking this season's local harvest as an opportunity to experiment with new produce and recipes I would have not otherwise tried.  I took this baby kale home and having never eaten kale before, I looked up a recipe.  I followed a recipe consisting of heating up olive oil and chopped up garlic cloves in a pan, adding the kale and vegetable stock, and eventually pouring red wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.  I'm not getting into the specific recipe details because it was gross.  Someone else might like this, but I can't post a recipe for something I myself didn't like.  OMG it tasted like I was chomping on grass.  I try to eat healthy the best I can, but I need my food to taste good if I'm going to eat it.  I have a hard time with many green leafy things because they taste like I plucked a leaf off a nearby tree and started munching on it.  Ugh. Grossness. 

     Right now I have dinner in the oven.  I looked up a recipe for brussel sprouts and also a recipe for baked macaroni and cheese.  Here's the thing: my guilty pleasure is boxed Kraft macaroni and cheese.  I purchased a ten-pack at Costco a few months ago and promised myself that it would be the last time I purchased this particular unhealthy convenience food.  I mean seriously, I feel weird everytime I open up the paper/metallic cheese package and pour out some mystery "cheese" powder chemical thingy.  That's just not right. This is one more step toward my goals.

     I have a goal of replacing as many packaged convenience foods as possible.  Replacing one thing one step at a time is the way to go.  Changing eating and buying habits has to be done gradually over time.  This is a learning experience.  I have to learn to master home-made mac and cheese before I go on to the next thing.  I think the next thing will be flour tortillas.  I ran out of flour tortillas a few days ago so out of curiosity I looked up a basic recipe.  I was surprised to know that I already had all the ingredients to make them.  The ingredients consist of flour, baking powder, salt, water, and olive oil.  I am so doing this next! I read the ingredients on the package of tortillas that I purchased and, as always, there were a long list of ingredients some of which I can't even pronounce.  Of course you have to include that many chemicals to make a pack of tortillas not expire for a year!  Does anyone see anything wrong with that? I most certainly do.  I don't want my children or myself consuming that many artificial ingredients.  One step at a time, one recipe at a time, one product at a time I will take back what the food industry has taken from me and my family.  

 

CSA Fall Share Week 4

Posted by Angela Diaz on November 27, 2013 at 6:55 AM Comments comments (0)

     I just recently got around to posting my CSA Fall Share photo of week #3, and here I am with Week #4's stuff.  I feel like I a getting these vegetables faster than I can post about them!  I am dumbfounded at the amount of produce growing here in Lancaster County at this time of year. We've already had a few days below freezing.  These vegetables I get weekly are picked within 24 hours of being received at the pick-up location so we are talking fresh, fresh, fresh! 

     I'm excited about the yams this week.  I love candied yams and this will actually be my first time making my famous recipe with fresh yams (not out the can). I know, shameful right? Hey, I'm a work in progress...I'm getting there! One learning step at a time. I also love the cauliflowers. You can't too well in the pics, but each head of cauliflower is only about the size of a softball. They're so cute! Never saw cauliflowers that small before. The carrots and brussel sprouts look scrumptious and I'm not quite sure what the purple and white long thingys are.  You know what I do with root vegetables that I don't recognize? Chop them up and throw them in a soup or stir-fry. Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy. Whatevs.  There is also a little bulb of celeriac which I've never seen in real life. I've only read about them in my vegetable gardening books so I'm pretty excited about that one.  Overall, I'm quite psyched about my share this week....if only I can get around to eating last week's share!

 

CSA Fall Share Week 3

Posted by Angela Diaz on November 24, 2013 at 8:25 PM Comments comments (0)

     Here is what I got last Tuesday:

 

Cabbage

2 leeks

3 Peppers

3 Large Radish Things

2 Purple-top Turnips

6 White Radishes

1 Head of Bok Choy

1 Package of Mushrooms

I also had a butternut squash in there, but I left it at the pick-up center for someone else who might want it because I have a basket full of butternut squashes at home from my own harvest earlier.

I am loving being a part of this CSA share. It's like a surprise every week.  We get things we've never tried before and are expanding our food choices.  It's pretty great. The only thing about this is that these weeks seem to fly by and I'm getting these goodies faster than I can use them.  I still have about half of what I got last week and I have to pick up my next box on Tuesday.  I mean, wow.  I guess the thing is that I'm not a vegetarian, and I eat a lot of Spanish rice and meats so it's a little more difficult to incorporate some of these foods into our daily menu without changing our cultural diet.  Either way, I'm not complaining.  I love this program and look forward to signing up again.