"I cannot live without books: but fewer will suffice where amusement, and not use, is the only future object." -- Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Microwave Popcorn

I adapted my recipe from:


1/4 cup unpopped corn kernels
a dab of water
Large glass casserole bowl with lid

Update: 4/18/20 - my casserole dish broke, now I use a empty saltine cracker box. Works great.  Just don't add water.


Add corn kernels to a cup.
Add a dab of water.
Stir kernels so they all get wet.
Put kernels into casserole dish.
Cover and microwave on high for 7-8 minutes.
Note: kernels start popping after about 4 minutes. Stop cooking when the popping stops.

Only about 10 kernels did not pop.

It always amazes me that such a small amount of kernels make so much popcorn.

I seasoned the cooked popcorn with grated parmesan cheese.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Writing Workshop: Forms of Short Stories

Forms of Fiction -- Short Stories (In Progress)

Flash Fiction (Microfiction) -- 1,000 words or less.

Anecdote -- like a parable, a brief realistic narrative that makes a point.

Parable -- a brief realistic narrative that makes a point.

Fable -- succinct tales with an explicit moral like Aesop Fables.

Fairy Tales -- 

Tale -- short form of storytelling to portray a moral or lesson, may highlight a cultural or religious perspective. Narration, summary and coincidence may play major roles in story. Similar to oral tradition.
(from: http://theeditorsblog.net/2015/03/13/writing-novels-vs-telling-tales/)

Vignette -- short, impressionistic scenes that focus on one moment or give particular insight into a character, idea, or setting. 

A vignette describes a short composition that can nevertheless display a high degree of compositional skill. Vignettes appear both as stand-alone pieces, similar to flash fiction, and as components of longer stories or plays. Brevity is the key to an effective vignette, though many writers find it valuable to establish a wider context for their works.

Essay --

eShort -- 12-150 pages usually part of a series, perspective may be of a known story but from other characters pov

Short Story -- 1,000 - 20,000, 1,000 - 7,5000
see Alice Munro stories
  • Usually in narrative prose, part of oral storytelling. Small cast of characters, to evoke a single effect or mood. Use of plot, resonance....
  • exposition - setting, situation, main characters
  • complication - event that introduces conflict
  • rising action -
  • crisis -- point where conflict is at the highest
  • resolution -- conflict is resolved
  • focus -- often on one incident
  • single plot
  • single setting
  • short period of time

Short Fiction -- 3,000 - 15,000 words

Novellas/Novelettes -- longer short stories

Writing Workshop: A Sampler of Types of Writers

Writing Workshop -- Kick Writers' Block to the Curb with Seven Easy Exercises

Seven Writing Exercises

1. Spontaneous Writing Exercise -- select a word and write without caring about punctuation, grammar, plot or organization for five minutes.

2. Writing Prompts

     -- Write a letter to your Writers Block to say good bye.

-- You are cleaning out the attic, garage or closet and find....

-- Make a list of story titles you’d like write.

-- Write about the most beautiful place you have ever been.

3. Try a different genre. Write a:

     -- poem
     -- essay
     -- article
     -- biography of local person
     -- short story

4. Go through your photographs/mementos. Pick one. Write a story about it.

5. Take a walk. Look at the houses, businesses and landscape. Think about who lives or works there. Write a short story about your impressions.

6. Write about something you have knowledge of or an expertise.

7. Write something every day.

After you’ve done a few exercises. Pick something you have written in the last few months.
Edit it. Polish it. Submit it to:

-- an online publication (check their submission guidelines).
-- to a short story contest.
-- post on your blog.
-- an agent, or
-- collect other stories/articles/poems etc., and self-publish your own collection.

Action begets Action

7 Creative Writing Prompts to Spark Your Writing -- Writers Digest
A 12-Day Plan of Simple Writing Exercises -- Writers Digest
Creative Writing Exercises by Lisa Binion

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Summer Frugal Grocery Challenge

Because I have done a good job of stocking up on canned goods and other pantry supplies, I am going to try and use the pantry items supplemented by vegetables and fruits purchased from nearby tiendas and not go grocery shopping during June and July.

Will post progress.

A Glimpse of Some Costs of Living Merida, Mexico

Here's is a glimpse of some of the costs of living in Merida, Mexico (in pesos unless noted).

3100.00     1 Bedroom apartment, furnished with wifi, water, trash, & parking*
260.00         Electric bill for 2 months (bill varies upon usage)

7.00             Public Bus fare - one way
40.00           Short cab ride within one zone

Food Costs:
Below is a table of sample food prices. I am unable to fine tune my grocery prices by comparison shopping at a variety of grocery stores and markets because I do not have a car and have mobility issues.

So, my choices are nearby tiendas (mom and pop stores), Walmart, and a Mexican grocery store. In centro, there is a Mexican food market where prices are less, plus north of centro are Sam's Club and Costco as well as other grocery stores.

Product selection varies from source to source. I tend to go to the larger grocery stores because they have many of the items I want like Ginger ale.

Eating Out:
As with any city, you have a wide range of cuisines and costs. I can go to a nearby Italian restaurant and have a wonderful dinner for $150-$250 including a beverage, dessert and tip. But, mostly I go to a variety of cafes where I can have a great meal with a beverage from about $70.00-$120.00 including tip. (Note, I tip 20%.)

Plus, there are many cafes and economica cocinas that offer Servico a Domicilio. I recommend this highly for lunch at least once a week because I can usually make two meals out of one and the cost is reasonable. Below a lunch delivered by Cafe de Origen for $70 (including tip). The meal includes: main dish, rice, salad, soup, corn tortillas, dressings/sauces and a real fruit juice beverage.

Cafe de Origen's chef creates wonderful menu choices with a vegetarian influence and uses delicate seasonings and sauces.

Phone Service:
I use Magic Jack and Skype for international calls. Magic Jack's plans have changed but costs roughly $50.00US a year for service. I add $25.00US to Skype about once a year depending on usage.

In Merida, you buy a physical cell phone from various telephone companies and add pesos for a pay-as-you-go service. Calls are about $1peso for a voice minute or a text message. There are monthly plans, but I don't have the costs on those, yet. I don't use my cell that much, but I pay about $100.00 pesos about every two months only to preserve my remaining minutes. Cell phone service is something I am still investigating.

Lavenderia Services:
I get my clothes, linens, towels etc. washed, dried, folded and bagged about once a month for $120-$240 depending on weight and type of items.

Pharmacies and Doctor's Visits:
Below are sample costs for some common pharmacy items:

44.00     Natural tears, generic
29.11     Aspirin, 100mg (child)
46.40     Ibuprofen, 400mg
52.50     Ibuprofen, 200mg
118.00   Adult vitamins
60.00     Eco Bug Spray

As with food shopping, farmacias are plentiful in Merida including Farmacias de Similares which sells generics. It pays to shop around for medicines not just for price but availability.

Doctor's visits usually cost about $500.00-$700.00.

Now, I could live cheaper but feel I have found a happy medium between cost and comfort.

*If you rent or own a home in Merida, you pay for water, internet, and trash services.

Note: I will update this post over time to reflect changes, more items and costs.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

New Hot Plate

My Hot Plate died.

The apartment owner replaced it with a new hotplate:

We shall see how this affects my cooking. I will test some previous recipes to see if there are any differences.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Leftovers Tomato-Based Soup and the Recipe that Got Away

In the last 2 years,  I have been focused on making recipes for Recipes from the Kitchen of a Frugal Non-Cook. While I am still a beginner in learning how to cook, I have a bit more confidence in just winging it for some recipes.

Today, I made a soup from leftovers and items in the freezer.

Tomato-Based Leftover Vegetable Soup


1/2 bag Peas, frozen
2 baggies of Celery, diced, frozen
2 slices of Spam, diced
1/4 Cabbage, frozen
1/4 Carrot, grated, fresh
3 Heaping Tbspns of Black beans, drained
1/2 Chicken bullion
3 Dollops of a tomato juice drink
ground black pepper
3 dashes of paprika


I put these items in a large pot and filled it with water (about 2/3) and brought it to a boil, then let it simmer on medium for an hour. It came out pretty tasty.

The Recipe that Got Away

I have used Amy Dacyczyn's Apple Crisp recipe often but the last time I used it, I tried to increase the portions by doubling the recipe. I was unhappy with the results, it was too dry, too heavy.

So, when I had two apples I needed to use before they went bad, I just winged it. Using Amy's recipe as a basis, I did not adhere to a rigid doubling of the recipe. But, also, I did not make note of the measurements of the ingredients I used because I thought I was going to fail, again.

Instead, it was a melt-in-your-mouth, light, not overly sweet, perfectly cooked dessert. It was the best thing I ever tasted. I cried because I doubted I would ever be able to duplicate that recipe, again.

Amy's Basic Apple Crisp Recipe
adapted from: Tightwad Gazette

1/2  red apple, chopped
1     teaspoon brown sugar (Substitute: white sugar)
1     teaspoon flour
1     teaspoon oatmeal
1     teaspoon butter or margarine

Mix sugar, flour, oatmeal and margarine.
Stir in chopped apple until coated.
Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Pre-Order Mocktails

At the moment, I use Smashwords more than other online publishing venues but I am still a novice at this game of epublishing.

So, I experiment a lot.

Smashwords has a pre-order option. You follow Smashwords' publishing guidelines like usual but you select a date in the future that the eBook will be available.

I choose to try the pre-order option when I published Mocktails because I felt it gave me time to work out any kinks in the formatting. I choose to create my own .epub because Mocktails has an image on almost every page, so keeping the page format was important.

Plus, using the pre-order option gives me more time to market Mocktails. You can offer a special pre-order price and then once the work is available, you can change the price.

So, Mocktails is available to sample and to buy at the pre-order price of .99¢ US. Once it is published on September 16, 2015, the price will be $1.99 US

Mocktails are drinks that resemble popular cocktails like a: Bloody Mary, Cosmopolitan, Golden Dream, Manhattan, Margarita, Piña Colada, Sombrero, Tequila Sunrise, and more, except there is no alcohol in a Mocktail.

As a former bar maid, I fell in love with the cocktail glassware, fancy garnishes and flourishes like salting the glass rims. The alcohol held less attraction. That is why I love Mocktails.

In the tradition of Recipes from the Kitchen of a Frugal Non-Cook, many of these Mocktail recipes are a bit frugal and do not require fancy equipment or exotic ingredients.

Enjoy a Cosmopolite, Juanita, Mock Champagne, Piña Loca, Sunset Cooler, Stone Cold Sober, Taíno Bay, Virgin Mary, & more.

Have fun making your own Mocktails.

Consider investing in one or two fancy glasses. A beautiful glass adds elegance, while garnishes add color, flavor and fun to these Mocktails.

Enjoy making over 15 Mocktail recipes in this booklet.

Mocktails, the eBook, is available on
Smashwords, Barnes & Noble and other online retail outlets.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Collector, Obsessive, Pack Rat, Scavenger, Hoarder, or Thrifty?

Here is an article I found on Salon.com, My father, the King of Thrift.

This is the portrait of a man who was passionate about finding “sales.” He would go out of his way to drive to various flea markets, asian markets, and discount stores looking for bargains.

Many have seen the TV show Extreme Cheapskates or other thrift shows where we see people with rooms dedicated to storing items they have saved money on; we see people spending hours and hours searching for bargains or cutting coupons; or we see people go to extreme extremes to save money like not painting their house or not buying toilet paper; and we see people (hoarders) who save everything even used food containers in such haphazard conditions that these people live in precarious situations.

When does being thrifty become more of a problem than a solution?

Balance may be the key.

As I have said before, Amy Dacyczyn’s Tightwad Gazette is my bible for saving money. In the Tightwad Gazette, Amy writes about: bulk buying, yardsaling, gardening, DIY, reusing items, gleaning, dumpster diving, and other ways to save money.

But, what she also says is to pick and choose those activities that work for  you.

There are activities even Amy does not do to save money like dumpster diving.

One of my main ways to save money is bulk grocery shopping. Bulk grocery shopping has reduced my food expenses in two important ways.

One, I do not go grocery shopping frequently thereby saving time and money by avoiding impulse buying and saving on cab fare. Two, I eat out less because I continue to experiment learning to make a variety of healthy easy-to-make meals, beverages, desserts, and snacks for a new volume of Recipes from the Kitchen of a Frugal Non-Cook.

In order to buy in bulk, you need storage space.

Amy even encourages apartment dwellers or people with small homes to rethink their storage options in order to buy in bulk. For example, she suggests putting canned goods under the bed.

Saving items can create problems if you aren’t careful. Wanting to keep items with personal meaning is very strong. Once when I was cleaning out a closet, I found I had saved a marshmallow roasting stick I had made during a visit to the beach many years ago.

When I moved to Mexico, I had to get rid of over 40+ years of belongings. The hardest task was getting rid of my books. Books are my passion. I had rooms full of books. After multiple yard sales and trips to thrift stores to make donations as well as giving items away, and trashing stuff, I shipped the remaining items in 15 boxes to Mexico.

When those 15 boxes of books and items arrived, I had a bookcase made just for them.

Today, I live in a one-bedroom apartment with little storage space. But, it has a large wall closet in the bedroom and under the bed drawers. I turned one closet shelf into a pantry where I store canned goods, cleaning supplies and toilet paper.

I also bought a used glass-enclosed bookcase and use the top of the bookcase as a pantry shelf. The four shelves inside the bookcase are used as a medicine cabinet, a bookshelf, a bath linen closet and a bed linen closet. I placed three colorful buckets underneath to hold cleaning supplies and tools.

So, with two pantry areas, I can store a sufficient amount of goods to last months.

For example, recently, I run out of tea bags in the kitchen, I went to the bedroom pantry and found two boxes of black tea. I was good to go for at least two more months.

While I haven't done a labor/time savings analysis like Amy does to determine what my labor is worth, I know instinctively that by making more meals at home and making less trips to the store, I am saving money.

What I am doing now, is fine-tuning the process, to balance what I buy during my monthly shopping trip versus what I can get from tiendas close to my apartment in order make sure I have fresh fruit and vegetables over the month.

A bonus of all this home cooking is I am healthier. I have lost weight and my health is better because I am eating more balanced meals. Plus, I am snacking less.

Being thrifty also means being creative.

Another thrifty habit is to save items that can be reused. I save empty soda and water bottles, empty condiment and peanut butter jars, empty food cans and metal cans with lids and other items.

I wash and refill about six empty drink bottles from the 20-liter water bottle delivered about twice a month. The bottles are stored in the frig for cold water when needed. Then, I fill up clean liter bottles with water as well. This is a backup water supply. So, over time, as the empty bottle supply increases, I cull the supply and toss the excess.

The empty condiment and peanut butter jars are used to store leftover tea, sauce or dressing, or to fill with vinegar and spices to make pickled cucumber slices or onions.

With the empty food cans, I use them to hold pens, “office” items and a variety of things.

The empty metal containers with lids get filled with various items like wrapped candy, cookies, packaged soup, powered drink mixes and other items, and wrapped as gifts.

Making decisions about how to save money and time are important skills to acquire. It is also advisable to reevaluate your thrifty routines, to make sure they are not taking up too much space or time. Don't let attempts to be thrifty dominate your life.

Mom used to say, "There's a place for everything and everything in its place" and it makes more and more sense everyday. My new bookcase holds most of my books, files and mementos as well as casserole dishes and more.

One way I temper my pack rat tendencies is to make sure there is empty space in every room and storage area. Instead of filling space, I seek to empty space.

I cull my closets, cabinets, storage areas, and bookcases frequently. I give away items, or find a way to reuse them, or toss them. One advantage is it is easier to clean the apartment. Plus, I do not want spend alot of time “taking care” of things.

After getting rid of 100s and 100s of books and a lifetime of belongings, I do not relish doing that again, but I do miss my books.

Fish Tacos

Number #4 - Another decent recipe!

Fish Tacos


Olive oil
3 Small Flour Tortillas
1 Fish fillet, defrosted or fresh
1/8 Red onion, diced
Lemon juice
1 Tomato, sliced or 10 Cherry tomatoes

1-2 Teaspoons Mayo
1-2 Teaspoons Pickle relish


Add a dollop of olive oil to skillet.
Add fish fillet.
Cut in half.
Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice.
Add ground black pepper.
Cook on medium-high for about 3 minutes.
Flip fillet.
Cook for 3-5 minutes until brown & flaky.
Remove filet halves, place in bowl.
Cut fish into pieces.

Add onions to skillet, add more oil if necessary.
Cook on medium-high, for a few minutes, until slightly brown.
Remove onions, add to bowl with fish.

Add tomatoes to skillet, add more oil if necessary.
Cook on medium-high until slightly brown and soft.
Remove tomatoes, add to bowl.

Mix items in bowl thoroughly.

Add 1-2 or tortillas to skillet, add more oil if needed.
Cook on medium-high until tortillas puff up.
Flip tortillas over and cook for about 1-2 minutes until slightly brown.
Cook more if necessary.
Place tortillas on a plate or individual plates.

Add about 1-2 tablespoons of fish mixture to each tortilla.
Top mixture with about 1 teaspoon of sauce.

I cooked 3, but ate 1 to see how it tasted. They were good!

Fold and eat.

Writing Workshop, Merida, Mexico, June 6, 2015

Saturday, May 9, 2015

No Bake -- Fruit & Yogurt Dessert

I could tell you about the melt-in-your-mouth recipe that "got away." But, I am on a roll. Three decent recipes in a row! 

No Bake -- Fruit & Yogurt Dessert


1 Medium Baggie
2-3 Small Dessert Bowls (approx 8oz)
1/2 cup Blueberry or Strawberry yogurt
6 Tablespoons Whipped topping
1 cup Blueberries or Sliced Strawberries (save some for garnish)
6 Medium Sugar cookies, crushed (save some for topping)
Garnish: Blueberries or Sliced Strawberries


Place cookies in a baggies and smash into crumbs.
Set cookie crumbs aside.
Mix yogurt with whipped topping.
Add in blueberries or strawberries.
Mix well.
Garnish: Cookie crumbs and Blueberries or Sliced Strawberries

In each dessert bowl, add about 1 inch of cookie crumbs.
With a spoon, make a slight well in the center.
Save about 2-3 teaspoons of cookie crumbs for topping.

Add about 3-4 tablespoons of fruit, yogurt & topping mixture into the well of cookie crumbs.
Push down lightly, crumbs should move up along the sides a bit.
Add any remaining mixture evenly between the dessert bowls.\

Freeze for about 10 minutes.

When ready to serve, sprinkle a teaspoon of cookie crumbs on top.
Add garnish: blueberries or sliced strawberries.