Monday, August 23, 2010


I remember when I was young we had a patch of mint growing on the side of our house. It started off as just a little bit, but quickly grew into a big expanse. We had a neighbor at the time who was Vietnamese - she married an American service man during the Vietnam war and they settled in Bellevue when his tour of duty was over. One day she must have discovered the mint plant, because she rang our doorbell and asked if she could have some. My mother told her to take as much as she wanted. I don't think my parents ever knew what to do with the mint, maybe they put a pinch in iced tea or something, but it was hardly ever used it. I'm not even sure why they planted it, but our neighbors loved it and pretty soon her relatives and friends started ringing the doorbell to see if they could have some too. My parents finally told them all that they were welcome to our mint whenever they wanted, no need to ask first. These people were very nice, and they were also excellent cooks. I know this because they would come by from time to time to offer us some Vietnamese delicacy that they had just made with our fresh mint. I remember especially liking their fragile spring rolls that were bursting with fresh vegetables and that lovely mint. These foods seemed so exotic to me and my bland American palate, and opened up a peek into the vast, gastronomical world that I knew must exist somewhere outside of our very ordinary neighborhood. I'm not sure what happened to the couple next door, I think they may have gotten divorced or something and then they moved away. I remember that her family and friends still came over for that mint, until one day when they didn't. I later used it as a breath mint to mask the smell of cigarettes and liquor. I always did like that plant.
Today, that mint plant is no longer on the side of my parents house. I think they finally dug it up as they had no real use for it. But Sparky and I have mint growing outside with the other spices. A few weeks ago, I was picking some basil when I discovered a pot that contained a bunch of dried twigs with a sad leaf or two of mint still attached. It must have gotten moved around the yard and then lost in the shuffle, and it wasn't watered for a while. I knew that if it was properly watered again that it would come back - these are some hardy ass plants. My parents always said that it was impossible to kill a mint plant, even if you had the blackest thumb around. So Sparky watered that little guy and gave it some love, and lo and behold, we have abundant mint again. I use it all the time now. I just used some last night in a corn dish that I make. I really like this plant and I cannot say it enough: I love fresh mint!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Homemade Dog Food

Today, for the very first time, I made dog food for Glenn. I've been meaning to do this for ages, ever since we visited our friends down in Ramona. They make their own dog food and always give some to Glenn, who is absolutely crazy for it. It's so simple to prepare - I can't believe I haven't done it sooner. I bought some hamburger on sale, browned it in a little bit of olive oil, then added broccoli, brown rice, and some leftover lentils. Next time I'm going to try chicken, rice, carrots and peas. You could also use ground turkey, grated cheese, cottage cheese, eggs, potatoes or oatmeal. The key is to mix together a meat, some vegetables, and a starch. I made a big enough batch to last him for about a week. The benefits are two fold: it's healthier and less expensive than canned dog food. It's fun cooking for your dog, and I highly recommend that anyone who has one give it a try. Your pup will love you for it.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Miser Facts

Everyone knows that Misers hate paying for parking, and try to avoid doing so at all costs. Misers also intensely dislike paying shipping and handling fees, and often can be enticed into buying stuff over the interweb simply because of FREE shipping. Misers are DIYers, and thus never spend money on pedicures, gift wrapping, or dry cleaning. Misers love libraries, parks, and sunset walks on the beach. Misers are cheap, but dream of a future of rolling in money.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tomato Sandwich

When I was little, my favorite thing to eat for lunch was a lettuce and mayonnaise sandwich. Everyday in first and second grades, my mother would ask me what kind of sandwich I wanted to take to school, and I would say "lettuce and mayonnaise." She would ask me, "How about peanut butter and jam? Or bologna and cheese?" And I would answer, "No, I want lettuce and mayonnaise." Iceberg lettuce, lots of mayonnaise (NOT Miracle Whip) slathered between two slices of white bread. To me it was the perfect sandwich, and my mom made them better than anyone else. I tried to make it myself once, but I accidently used cabbage instead of lettuce and it was the worst thing ever. I finally outgrew my obsession with this sandwich, and these days it seems that tomatoes have taken the place for me. Tomatoes fresh from the garden, a little bit of light mayonnaise, and a sprinkling of sea salt, layered between two slices of homemade whole wheat bread. Yummy.
Our tomatoes are starting to ripen - finally. It seems pretty late in the season but its been a little bit cold and cloudy in Los Angeles this summer. It is especially chilly at night, which is very odd for August in L.A. (Hello, climate change.) So as a consequence our vegetable garden is nothing to write home about. But I was pretty excited to eat that first tomato sandwich the other day - it took me back to my old lettuce and mayonnaise days. I'm planning on canning our vegetables this year (which we'll hopefully have enough of), and was stoked to see an article in the Los Angeles Times food section today regarding this very subject. It seems that it has become pretty trendy to can vegetables, fruits, pickles, jellies and jams in these economically challenging times, just like Grandma used to do. Now that's a trend I can get behind. The DIYers are experiencing a Renaissance right now, and I am quite happy about it. The article was helpful because it explained that you didn't have to make huge batches of stuff, which I obviously won't be able to do. I'm not an expert on canning; I remember my sister and I helped my mother can fruits in the summers, but I didn't much enjoy it as it seemed like just another annoying chore. I have a whole different attitude now, but I'll need to read up on it before I start canning away. Tomatoes, chillies, zucchini, maybe something with lemons. And I may buy some fruit or something at the farmers market and make some preserves. Yummy.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The First of Octember

Things have been pretty tight at the Miser household lately, but I'm trying really hard not to freak out or whine about it. Instead, we have been attempting to have some fun on next to no money. And we talk about what we'll do, where we'll go, what we'll buy, etc. when we finally have money once again. In our minds that magical day will occur on the First of Octember, the holiday that Dr. Suess invented where all kinds of crazy good stuff happens to you. The problem is that we're not really sure when the First of Octember is, but we do know that's when all of our Miserly problems will be solved! We'll be able to take that trip to France, eat at that fancy new restaurant down the street, buy some shiny new clothes for us all. On the First of Octember we'll eat whatever we want, drink whatever we want, go where ever we want, and stay up all night long. Until that magical day arrives, we will do our very best to hang in there and to be thankful for what we've got, because it turns out it really is enough.