Jan 20, 2012

Drastic Weather Calls for Drastic Measures

Seriously.  It. Is. Freezing.

I know you have all heard me talk about our living room/kitchen addition and how we didn't add heat as we were hoping the fireplace and small gas space heater would do the area justice.  Well.  It has not.  Neither have done what they were meant to do.  Our fireplace sucks it... literally, it sucks the heat of the fire right up through the chimney.  Our gas space heater blows...not so literally, it actually stopped working all together.  What we are now left with is half of a house (unfortunately the recently gutted and rehabbed half) that is completely useless to us in the winter.  It feels a little something like this:


You see, the cold half of the house connects with the heated half of the house in two places.

 1.  My office.  That room really is quite warm as it is closest to the furnace so it gets heated first and there is an actual door to block the heat loss.

2.  The kitchen to the dining room.  That doorway is open with no door to block the heat loss.

The walk way from the kitchen to the dining room is the current equivalent to leaving the front door wide open. You can actually feel the temperature dip 20 degrees when going from the dining room at the front of the house through the kitchen towards the back of the house.  20 degrees...I kid you not.

In the Kitchen
In the hallway by bedrooms

It is BRUTAL!  Today I got desperate.

After suffering through many a cold day/night with the heat kicking on every 5-10 minutes I knew we had to do something.  I didn't want anything permanent (as we will soon, fingers crossed, be fixing the problem all together) but I wanted something quick.  My first thought was to use a curtain to close off one room from the other.  My second thought was that I had no spare curtain nor did I feel like installing a rod.  So I went with what we have already lying around:
  • Tension rod - check
  • Blanket - check
All I did was wrap the blanket around the tension rod and secure that baby to the very top of the doorway.  Is this unsightly, yes, but it worked!

From the Dining Nook...this room is still in desperate need of paint...

From the Kitchen...perhaps red isn't the best color for this...

It kind of looks like an exclusive club... OK, maybe more like a strip club, but whatev...it is working!

I am happy to say the furnace hasn't clicked on in over 10 minutes.  I realize this is a VERY TEMPORARY solution (and perhaps I will change the red to a beige fleece blanket we have!), but this year I have vowed to use what we have or wait for what we need.  We don't NEED a new curtain or curtain rod for this little project.  Like I said, that would be a temporary fix.  This is ugly to us but no one else (except all of you) will ever see it.  When guests come over we will simply take it down and blast our 2 electric space heaters in the back.  But, for now, this works for us.  It is saving money on heating and saving us money on a temporary fix that we would have bought things for to make pretty but ultimately not need in the long run.  This is how we rock it LBR style...

Anyone else have ideas to block out the cold?  I am in the process of getting up the motivation to plastic all of our old single pane windows.  Oh, yes, I said single pane...in CHICAGO!!!  Damn - our list of To Do's is out of control...

Jan 19, 2012

DIY Instant Oatmeal Packets - CHEAP, Delicious, and Healthy!

Ok - so you know I am always on the fly (literally) and it is hard to eat when you have no stove, cooktop, or refrigeration at your disposal.  Last year I shared some of the lengths a which I go to to eat healthy on the plane - Burrito ala Galley post right here - but now I am tackling a new issue.  Instant Oatmeal.

In an effort to eat healthy in the mornings I have taken to instant oatmeal as a quick, healthy breakfast that meets most of my flight attendant needs.  It can be kept in my bag without refrigeration and cooked up at a moments notice with hot water from the coffee maker on board...or in the hotel room if needed.  Perfect, right?  Eh, not so right.  The cost for an organic box of instant oatmeal is $3.49 + tax for 8 packages which makes them around .47 cents each.  Not too bad...but most people (not me) like to eat more than one package at a time.  This 8 package box will last me one week of work.  That means 4 boxes a month which equals a little over $15 a month.  Overall, the price is ok but the amount of packaging that comes with it is ridiculous.  We love to recycle here (and at work!) but I could no longer justify the constant boxes coming in and out of this house on a weekly basis.  Some may think I am crazy, but this year I am doing my best to reduce my overall impact on our planet and instant oatmeal is first on my list!  :)  Here is how it's done:

  • 2 cups quick oats (I got mine in the bulk food section at Whole foods for $1.39/lb)
  • Pinch of salt (optional)
  1. Take one cup of quick oats and pulse in the Cuisinart or blender till they are a somewhat fine powder
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients above.  Mix mix mix and store in an airtight container.
  3. Use 1/3 cup oatmeal mix to about 1/2 cup hot water, milk, or soy milk.   How much liquid depends on how runny or thick you like your oatmeal. 
  4. Let stand for a minute then enjoy!

But, ya'll know I had to jazz mine up a bit!  As a vegetarian, I need to make the most of my food when I eat so I try to add fiber, protein, and a good dose of yummy to everything I eat.  Here is my revised version of Cinnamon Spice Quick Oatmeal:

  • 2 Cups Quick Oats (again, I got mine in the bulk food section at Whole foods for $1.39/lb)
  • 1TBS Cinnamon
  • 1TBS Sugar
  • 1TBS Chia Seeds
  • 1TBS Ground Flax Seeds
  • 1/8 tsp Salt (optional)
  1. Take one cup of quick oats and pulse in the Cuisinart or blender till they are a somewhat fine powder
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients above.  Mix mix mix and store in an airtight container.
  3. Use 1/3 cup oatmeal mix to about 1/2 cup hot water, milk, or soy milk.  How much liquid depends on how runny or thick you like your oatmeal.  
  4. Let stand for a minute then enjoy!
Picture Play by Play:

See the difference in texture from the ground oats to the regular?

Can you see the Cinnamon and Chia seeds?  OK, hardly, but I know they are in there!

Again - THAT'S IT!  I like to add walnuts to the top since I am not sure if adding them to the powder would make them turn rancid eventually.  Either way, I always have walnuts when I travel so it is no big deal to throw them on top.  Other variations could include fruit, chocolate chips, cocoa powder, coconut, and the list goes on!

Here is a list of ideas you can add to the basic mixture:

Cinnamon Raisin:
  • 1 TBS Raisins, 1 TBS Cinnamon
Berries and Cream:
  • 1-2TBS dried creamer, 1-2TBS freeze Dried Berries
Smore's Oatmeal:
  • 1 Graham Cracker pounded to a powder, 1 TBS sugar, a small scoop of mini marshmallows, 1 TBS mini chocolate chips...or regular chocolate chips.
Carribean Queen...or King: 
  • 1 TBS ground ginger, 1 TBS sugar, 1 TBS dried coconut, chopped dried mangoes
GORP Oatmeal:
  • Raisins, Peanuts, chocolate chips in whatever amounts you desire

For now I am keeping my Instant Oatmeal in a airtight Tupperware container.  The whole point of doing this was to save money and help the environment so I feel separating it out into small Ziplocs would be wasteful unless you plan to use them again to which I say go for it!  For me, once I go back to work, it will be easier for me to keep the mixture in a jar with a 1/3 scooper in it.  Since I am not separating it out it would be best to remember to shake the mix each time before scooping so the good stuff doesn't settle to the bottom!

So let's get a cost breakdown.  The only ingredient I had to buy was the quick oats at $1.39 a lb.  I wound up buying 1.62 lbs ($2.25) which breaks down to 7 cups of oatmeal which = 3.5 batches of this recipe.  I wound up only making one batch so that I can make a new flavor later.  Either way, each batch is equal to 6 - 1/3 cup dry portions which is the same amount in the store bought packages.  

Ugh...my math is horrible but let's push on...

3.5 batches = 21 1/3 cup dried portions.  
$2.25 for the oatmeal + 9.5% tax = $2.46
$2.46/ 21 portions = 11 cents per delicious serving!  

As I stated earlier the organic store bought instant oatmeal came to 47 cents each.  We are saving 36 cents per serving.  Now, I know, I know, I added things to mine that cost money.  Each item I added was already in the house and readily available.  Again, the great thing about this recipe is you can make it as basic or extravagant as you want!  The store, in most cases, charges you the same for regular or cinnamon spice.The only thing you really need is the oats and water.

Now that I have this in my arsenal of airplane cooking it will be a rare case to see deep fried hash brown patties passing through these lips!  I am happy to have a cheaper and healthy way to have breakfast as well as one that is more environmentally conscious.  Boxed instant oatmeal beware...this recipe has made you extinct in our house.

So what kind of oatmeal do you like?  If you plan to make this recipe, what flavor combos will you create?

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