When a Good Pet Misbehaves

Sometimes even the nicest pet misbehaves. Before sending them packing, or putting them in time out, try to figure out the reason for their bad behavior.

The adorable but naughty Karma

Or, What to Do About Bad Karma …

One of my favorite cats belongs to friends of ours. Whenever I visit their home, I always seek out the company of Karma. If I’m in luck, the big handsome fuzz ball will sit on my lap for a while.

So, I was surprised a couple days ago when my friend mentioned that he almost had to find Karma a new home.

“The darn cat pooped in the bathtub,” he explained, obviously still a bit grossed out by the incident. To make matters worse, he had started the shower water before the scent hit his nose. I’ll spare you the details of that cleanup task. Suffice it to say, he was very unhappy with Karma’s behavior, and upset enough to consider finding the cat a different home.

Yikes, that’s bad Karma! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

That’s very unusual, I pointed out. A cat that has always used his litter box wouldn’t go somewhere dramatically different without a reason.
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Pan Seared Pork Chops with Caramelized Onion

One of my favorite meals is my husband's pan seared pork chops with caramelized onions. The juices are seared into the meat, keeping it moist and tender.

My Husband’s Pan Seared Pork Chops

It was love at first bite.

Seriously. If I had a list of the top 10 reasons I married my husband, his pork chops would be on there. When he asks if I want him to make pork chops, my eyes light up and I always say yes.

Growing up, I don’t remember ever having pork chops at home. I do remember embarrassing my mother when we were eating dinner at someone else’s house. They served pork chops and I had to ask what kind of animal they came from, since pork was such a rarity for our family.

My husband is a little disconcerted that I am giving out his secrets, but it is more than just knowing how to make the pork chops. I love that he does the cooking for me on those nights. He patiently stands over the stove until the onions reach caramelized perfection for me. Swoon ….

I’ve watched him make them while writing down the process several times now. He is the type of cook that doesn’t measure ingredients or count minutes, but just has an instinct for what to add and when. I will do my best to replicate his process in a format you can use to recreate one of my favorite meals. [Read more…]

“Mom, You Ruined Christmas!”

Do you feel like cutting back on presents will ruin Christmas for your kids? Here's how to handle kid gift expectations while on a tight budget.

Handling Kids’ Holiday Expectations

Each year the pile of presents under the tree gets smaller. Last year, there wasn’t even a tree. We had an artificial one, but I decided that if no one wanted to help decorate it, I wasn’t going to put it up at all.

When my son was little, the holidays were a big deal. Now, at 14, he views it pretty much as an opportunity to get some stuff he wants, and to hang out with his cousins.

At this age, he is too old for toys and cutesy dollar store gifts. His peers are all asking for big ticket items like a Playstation 4 or iPhone 6. I can’t keep up with all the new technology trends, much less afford them.

I understand that he wants to fit in with his friends, but I have to set limits on Christmas spending for the long term financial health of our family. If there is something he wants that I can find a way to get within my budget, then I try to get what he wants. Otherwise, no. Period.

There was a time when Christmas meant overspending to try and “make everyone happy.” Now I am a lot more frugal and responsible with what we spend.

The trouble with making a personal or family decision to cut back on gifts (or decorations and holiday activities) is you risk having disappointed kids. However, if you can do some things to prepare them for a more frugal Christmas. You can even make it the best Christmas yet! [Read more…]

Practical Gifts for Frugal Friends

Practical gifts: ideas based on the items I like and use the most, for the frugalista on your list. From products that reduce food waste to electric use.I’ve been torn about how to promote products while staying true to my message of frugality and smart spending. At the same time, the holidays are here (like it or not), and I see a need for gift ideas for practical minded folk.

When people ask what I want for a gift, I usually say I don’t need anything, because I don’t need more “stuff.” I do, however, appreciate getting things that will be truly useful.

My husband and I get each other such practical items for birthday or Christmas presents. We also use wish lists on Amazon for letting others know what we could use.

My criterion for this gift list is that the items are useful, save money in the long run, save time and energy, and have a great reputation for quality at a good value. I also want to share items I personally find well worth the cost for the use I have gotten out of them. [Read more…]

Coming of Age in the Great Depression

My Grandmother grew up during the Great Depression, part of a resourceful and proud generation with much to teach us of frugal living and self-reliance.

My grandmother Marie at her Confirmation, age 15.

They didn’t think of themselves as poor, my grandmother explained. And they certainly didn’t go around feeling sorry for themselves. In fact, it took some discussion and figuring out the time line for her to even realize she was a child of the great depression.

Back then, people didn’t label themselves that way, nor did they let it define them. And yet many of those who came of age during this time in American history share a certain set of qualities. Self-reliance, resourcefulness, pride and a strong work ethic shape their character.

My grandmother, Marie, was born in September of 1924. When the stock market crashed in October of 1929, she was not old enough to understand its impact on her life. But growing up during the years of the Great Depression certainly left its mark on her and her family. [Read more…]

December Meal Plan

Letters From Sunnybrook's December Meal Plan features home style cooking for the entire family. Easy, affordable comfort food, recipes and a calendar page.It feels like just last week I was working on the November Meal Plan, and here we are now at the end of the month. If you saved some leftover turkey from Thanksgiving Dinner, you can easily substitute it for the chicken in many dishes. Whenever I have a roast, I separate the meat into freezer bags of one to two cups of the chicken, beef, pork, ham or turkey. Then the meat is ready to thaw and use in my recipe. Add that to the chopped veggies in the freezer and dinner is halfway done. Now that’s my kind of fast food!

We’re still on a comfort food kick as the cold days have us craving heartier soups and pasta dishes. I also plan to post some easy bread recipes to go with them.

I hope this menu plan provides a helpful resource to make quick work of dinner at this busy time of year. Remember to make a little extra and save some in the freezer for another night when you aren’t in the mood to cook. [Read more…]