Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Memories 2013



 
Well its done!  I made it to the Christmas day of 2013 and got what needed to be accomplished, accomplished.  Yay me.  Here sits our humble little tree.  Our bigger tree or what the guys  affectionately call the "elegant tree" is in the dining room.  This is the tree they call the "fun tree" or "family tree".  This tree encompasses everything we are as a family.  It has the ornaments given for first Christmases, Homemade ornaments created in art classes, simple but reverent ornaments celebrating Christ's birth, the fun Santas, Gingerbread men etc. 
 
 
 Christmas eve started with the tearing of wrapping paper, opening the traditional Christmas eve gift of jammies Mom made, but WAIT!  A surprise awaits because it isn't jammies....no it is


ROBES!
 
  Rubic says he looks like a Jedi and Einstein says he looks like he should be smoking a cigar sitting next to a fire and reading stories to little kids.  "gather around children"  He says.  After the opening of the gifts, it was time to eat junk food and watch "A Christmas Story". 
 

 

 
No Christmas would be complete without the cutting out of cookies.  That is my oldest grandson with Rubic.  Just call him DL.  He is 5 now!  Can't believe it.  After the cookies were done we all piled on the big bed and watched "The Polar Express".  DL was good until it was wrapping up and then he decided he was ready to go do something else. 
 
This is my newest grandson.  We could refer to him as DL as well, but that would be confusing.  We will call him Bruiser.  Can you believe that child is only 5 months old? 
 
 
No Christmas is complete without the obligatory cat on the presents picture.  Here is Nermal.  She loves Christmas time cause she can lay on the gifts (Messing up bows).  This is her normal spot during the holidays. 
 
I would love to say I got pics of Christmas morning, but the light wasn't so good.  I can say it was a morning filled with laughter , love, wrapping paper and general mayhem.  Some wants were covered, and some needs as well.  These times are becoming bitter sweet for me.  My boys are men now and will soon be out on their own.  I want to try and remember these times; savor these moments.  Tomorrow the decorations will begin to come down and thoughts will turn to "to do" lists, schedules, Spring and all that entails.  I also received an aerobic step which will begin to be broken in (poor thing) tomorrow.  It is time to pay the piper so to speak.  Time to work off cookies, dressings, candies, desserts, and other bad for you stuff.  Not a New Years Resolution, but a necessity or I can't wear my clothes anymore.  So anyhoo, I hope you guys had a great Christmas.  I am looking forward to 2014.
 
 
  The future isn't scary if you know the person who holds it! 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

"To every season, turn, turn, turn..."

So things are beginning to slow a bit here at the ole homestead.  Well at least I am getting caught up.  I have one more thing to make for this holiday, wrap a couple more gifts, and do the final cooking/baking for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  I am hoping to have my check list completed today and can just enjoy the next few days of Christmas. 
So because of that, my plans start to trend toward things I need to do starting in January.  It isn't a New Years Resolution list.  I don't do those.  But there are changes coming.  I have a feeling a season in Dh and my life is changing.  Diva left the nest a few years ago and has since started a nest of her own.  I added a Son in Law and two grandsons in exchange for her leaving my nest.  A positive to be sure.  Now I am looking at Einstein starting Technical college in a couple of weeks.  Rubic will be going down to the same area on those same days and plans to take his GED.  Soon after he is going to be going to tech college.  As a result, things are changing.  We are having to coordinate DH and I going to work, Einstein going to school and Rubic's GED and studies, all with one car.  FUN!  In addition to that, the holidays instill a desire, after much heavy food, to eat and act healthier.  We have added to our home gym and now have one that looks pretty nice.  We have an Elliptical , treadmill, air bike, and free weights.  I should use it don't ya think?   So all of us are getting back on the health bandwagon after our food hangover.  Still no weird diet food.  No artificial stuff, but definitely whole grains, fruits, veggies, lean meats, etc.  In order to coordinate everyone's schedule, still eat healthy and use the equipment (I mean it's there!),  I am needing to change some things I buy.  Packing 4 lunches as opposed to one or two means I need to find items that are quick to pack.  So whole fruits, yogurts, cheese sticks etc. will be on my grocery list; as well as the individual packs of baked chips.  That's for starters.  Most of my baking will have to be relegated to the weekends and so that cuts back on days of mammoth baked goods prep.  Time will be precious.  Gardening season will be upon me in a couple of months and I need to be able to focus on that.  It saves more money in the long run.  I can already feel the gardening bug biting.  I should be starting my cold weather crop seeds indoors soon.  Yay. 

There will be other seasonal changes in our life for sure.  I need to enjoy, for now, the presence of our two youngest still at home.  In a few years that may change.  I am past the days of Santa visiting my kids, and I do miss that.  I still enjoy Christmas and all the joy it brings to us.  I think, when the time comes that our kids are on their own; the difference in our Christmas will be the hardest to face.  So in the mean time, I will focus on this and every season and enjoy it to the fullest.

 I hope everyone has a blessed Christmas. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

We hate to interrupt this program...

But I think for a little bit I am gonna have to break from blogging.; until Christmas or until I catch up which ever comes first.  If I get a chance I will post, but I just wanted you guys to know why I won't be posting as much during the month of Dec.  Until then  MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

When it comes to grocery shopping, be ever vigalant

On a day looooong ago ( we won't talk about how long ago), my mother and I went grocery shopping for my first grocery shopping trip as a homemaker.  I remember her words as we exited the car; "Let the battle begin".  Make no mistake.  The grocery stores job is to separate you from as much of your money as possible and your job is to not let them.  Period.  As consumers it is our job to make sure as little money as possible is taken from our wallet for merchandise which, lets face it, ends up in the septic tank.    I have remembered those words over the years, and tried to live by them when it comes to providing food for my family.  That being said, even I have fallen off the vigilant band wagon periodically.  Such a time happened to me this week and I wanted to share what I learned. 

I usually shop once a month and throw in small really good sale purchases if they come up during the month.  Since I shop once a month I will usually grab a few pounds of lunch meat.  I leave one in the fridge and the others I freeze,  The draw back to freezing lunch meat is it ends up kinda watery.  Well the other day I was making lunch for Dh and I thought to myself, "I am gonna drain off the water of this package and weigh it to find out how much it is taking off the over all weight of the lunch meat.  So I weighed the pkg of lunch meat after draining off the extra water and found it only weighed 11.58 oz.  At first I was shocked thinking "I can't believe I lost that much in a 1 lb pkg of lunchmeat!".  Right on the tale end of that I looked at the weight of the pkg and what I used to buy as a 1 lb package was now 14 oz.  So the good news is I only paid $2.99 for 11.58 oz of meat and 2.38oz of water as opposed to paying that for 11.58 oz of meat and 4.38 oz of water.  I am being sarcastic right now.  Neither one is great but I do have a lesser of two evils.  So my answer to this?  I roasted a turkey last night an will use it for lunch meat.  The turkey cost me .59 a lb and no extra added water.  So my being asleep at the wheel maybe will help you as well.  So the lesson learned is to pay attention to package sizes especially when it looks like the sale price is better than normal.  I wouldn't be surprised to find that the package size has shrunk and you are being scalped.  When you think about the price per pound I was willing to pay for lunch meat ($4.13 lb) I could by the round or sirloin tip roasts, cook it and carve it for lunches and come out better!  My Dh will be thrilled with that one!  Always, always, always re-evaluate purchases.   Okay, resume your normal day.  See ya guys!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving is almost here!

It has come around again so fast !  Oh! Uh  if you weren't already freaked out by the swiftly looming holiday season; Christmas is 30 days away from today!  Yikes! 

It is so easy to overlook Thanksgiving as just the beginning of the Christmas season, but we need to take the time before all the black Friday, shopping craziness and remember what we are thankful for and to who we owe that thanks. 

So who do I have to thank?  Well, God first and foremost.  He is my Lord and Savior.  He is my shoulder to lean on. He is my rock to stand on.  I will be the first to say the trials in my life ( and they are small in comparison to others) have been much easier to bear knowing He is there.  While I thank God over all, there are many of "His Hands" in this world deserving of my gratitude.  Those "Hands" take on the form of a friend who gave us a deer and some apples (thanks guys), another friend who in the midst of her own battle with cancer, still took the time to pray with me (love you girl).  They are family always there to lean on or look to for advice, comfort, or a laugh.  They are a church member with a heart for ministry who sees those around him needing help and gives it.  And even better he brings in other church members to bless them with the opportunity to bless others as well.  I am grateful to the men and women who will miss their holiday with family in order to ensure my and my families safety and freedom.  Whether it be as a soldier in a far away country, a police officer in my town, or my local fire fighter, they deserve my gratitude.   I am grateful to Doctors and nurses who will miss the holiday, or at least post pone it for a bit in order to give patients the very best care. 

I am blessed beyond measure...pressed down, shaken together, and running over.  I am fully aware of my blessings and my prayer for this day and the up coming season is that my eyes would be open to those around me needing something, anything.   I pray I am able to bless as I am blessed.  I don't want to spend this season so overwhelmed with things to do that I forget those around me.  Lord I pray for a Thankful heart!

Monday, November 18, 2013

" Hmmm I Wonder" Enchilada Casserole.

So tonight I get home from work and am trying to think of what to make for dinner.  Little by little things started to fall into place and I ended up with a recipe that was popular enough for there to be none left.  So all in all a positive outcome.  I literally was using up odds and ends of things, and trying to make sure veggies were a part of the equation.  It also had to taste good.  What follows is what I came up with:

"Hmmm I Wonder"  Enchilada Casserole:

1 lb ground beef (or chicken or turkey)
1 cup grated zucchini
1 can cream corn
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 ts salt
1 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 ts chili powder
1/4 ts garlic powder
1 ts cumin
dash oregano
1 cup shredded cheese (I used a mixture of pepper jack and mozzarella)
2 oz cream cheese
Tortilla chips

I know, bear with me.  Brown the ground beef.  Add the rest of the ingredients with the exception of the shredded cheese and the tortilla chips.  Heat everything through to let the flavors meld a bit.  About 10 min.  Remove from heat.  Spread a layer of tortilla chips into the bottom of a 9X9 baking pan.  Spread about a third over the chips.  Sprinkle with 1/3 of the cheese.  Repeat layers using everything up.  Top with a couple of crushed tortilla chips and the remaining cheese.  Back at 350 for 20-25 minutes.  Serve with salsa, and sour cream (Or plain yogurt). 

So I dare ya to try it!  DH says it is a dish he would like me to make again.  Good thing I keep frozen zucchini in 1 cup portions.  Betcha this is a recipe you will not find any where else. 
Well off I go to finish up making some apple butter.  See ya next time!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

You know the old saying...

"The Good Lord put me here to accomplish a certain number of tasks before I die...Right now I am so far behind I will live forever!".  That is how I feel right now.  I went out this morning to tend to the little chickies, and went by the garden.  There are sweet peas that still need to be picked, shelled, and dried.  I have about half the garden put to bed, but there is still that other half.  The chicken coop needs cleaning out..again.  The house needs a good cleaning and arranging to get ready for the Christmas d├ęcor that will soon be up.  I have done no Christmas shopping yet.  I am hoping to start around the 25th.  Nothing, however, can be done until I am done getting things together for a Christmas Market I am participating in at our church.  Part of the proceeds go to a crisis pregnancy center in our local area.  Apple Butter(Check, done), Rice Heating pads(Pads done, covers not done.  Hope to do that today), Butter toffee crunch ( Hope to do that on Thursday), some doll clothes I have finished (Not many, but a few outfits), and Cranberry compote(This is looking unlikely as no one has cranberries on sale yet.  Grrr).  Normally by now I would be sewing PJs for the family.  Not sure if that will get done this year.  May need to think of an alternative.  Still hopeful though.  I think once this next weekend is wrapped up, my focus will be able to go to the holidays and all that entails.  As busy as I get, I still love this time of year.  I know, I'm certifiable. 

I would love to impart some frugal tidbit to you, but alas the well is dry...or at least not very cooperative today.  I am sure in the near future some little tidbit will come to mind, but for right now I need to FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS!  Have a great day!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Pretty day.. Thought I would share

In my last post I told you guys about how DH and I were going into the mountains to catch some leaf watching.  I took some pics of the beauty to share with everyone.  WARNING:  I am not a photographer so don't expect much.




 
The below two pictures were taken at Dukes Creek falls off of Richard Russell hwy just outside of Helen Ga.


 
There's Dh playing tour guide.  Such a ham!  Gotta love em though.

 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

I Did Not Yield!

I know, sounds like some great and wondrous thing was accomplished, but in actuality I just made pizza.  Hey but it got you to read right?  Let me explain...

This past week I have been trying to get back into the frugal swing of things.  I am back to making bread and crackers; using up stuff, using more dried beans to stretch my meat supply, things of that nature.   In all of the chaos of the past few months with trips to Fla, the garden, work, etc.; I had taken some shortcuts, been using store bought bread (thrift store), and yielding to the temptation to eat out some.  Now in my defense, it was usually two Little Caesar pizzas or a couple of Subway footlongs for $10.  Still, not a good use of my resources.  So, back to the frugal band wagon.  Yesterday was extremely hard since I was to work the whole day.  I didn't get off work until 5pm and arrived home to find the kitchen a mess.  I grumbled and complained, but loaded the dishwasher anyway.  DH apologized for not loading the dishes.  I need to post here that it wasn't his job to do the dishes.  It was the job of Rubic and Einstein.  Need to work on that one.   But, while in the throws of guilt DH was truly susceptible to coercion for eating out.  In other words, he agreed to go pick something up for dinner.  Oooo I thought about it......long and hard.   But in the end I told myself to just go ahead and make the pizza at home.  Christmas is coming, everyone else's birthday is coming, Car Insurance and tags are due; so that $10 here or there adds up.  So I took the frugal road and feel much better for it.  The pizza turned out great and all were happy with the results.

I share all of this with you because I want to emphasize;  Being frugal is work.  The more frugal you are the more effort goes into it.  That being said, it is worthy of your effort.  Either way I have to work.  I can either leave my home and spend 40+ hours a week to earn a paycheck (In which Uncle Sam will take a sizable sum ((Cause we are rich ya know)), or I can put forth a little more effort at home to save money.  This is the whole concept of "a penny saved is a penny earned".  Saved money is money that isn't taxed by the way.  Knowing all that, I am still human and can easily be lured into taking an easy way out.  Now this is not to say that we can never have fun, but it needs to be fun that is both planned and budgeted.  For instance, we are going to see the new Thor movie next week.  I have budgeted the amount for tickets.  We, as a family, enjoy the Marvel movies at theaters and so make a point to see them as a treat.  We don't buy refreshments there unless we are "Vacationing".  Then it is like a planned amusement park trip and we expect the ridiculous prices.  Otherwise we might have an ice cream afterward or some other such inexpensive treat.  In other words, we pick and choose our battles.

On the agenda today is a trip to the Nora Mills granary in Helen, GA.


We are on our way there today to pick up more wheat berries for grinding.  On the way DH and I will be enjoying the peak leaf watching in the mountains.  Then it is home for lunch and we promised Rubic and Einstein we would go to some thrift stores for them to search for vintage video games.  They are spending their birthday money, so uh...Yay!  I need to put something in the crock pot for dinner.  Can't believe I am writing this post at 4 am in the morning.  Think I am tired now so will probably go back to bed.  Hope you guys have a great fall day.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

In Loving Memory....

The past two days have been incredibly hard culminating in the worst part yesterday.  We had to put down on of our dogs.  It was such a heartbreaking decision.  He had stopped eating and had dropped about a forth of his body weight.  They thought it was due to a urinary track infection, and put him on antibiotics.  He perked up for about 2 days and then stopped eating anything; only taking water.  So we took him back to the vet.  We also made them aware that we noticed his left side was distended.  They did an ultra-sound and came back with liver cancer which had metastasized to his kidneys.  The vet told me there was no positive outcome here and so after bringing him home to have a last evening being loved and spoiled by his family; he was laid to rest in my arms.   Oh but I loved that dog!

Can I tell you about Wolly?





 We adopted him 9 yeas ago from the Humane Society.  I had gone with my sister and we both fell in love with him.  She already had a little beagle dog and so the idea of our family getting one too was awesome. He was a Beagle/ Basset mix.   She stood guard over his cage until I could go up front and tell them of my desire to get him.  Good thing too because there was an interested family right behind us.  Originally he was to be a gift for my daughters 15th birthday.  She was having a hard time and we thought he might help.  He was good for her and followed her everywhere.  It was while following her that he got nailed by a truck.  We were lucky.  He only had a dislocated hip.  The veterinary staff were amazed at how stoic he was.  They were able to reset his hip without anesthesia and he never snapped at them; not once.  It cost us a small fortune, but he was right as rain,  His only complication was arthritis later in life.  Within about 3-4 months he had a seizure and was diagnosed with Epilepsy.  He has been on meds ever since to control his seizures.  The other dogs know the sound of his pill bottle and, like Pavlov's dog, will come running to get a treat whenever Wolly was getting his "Treat".  Because of his medical issues, he stayed with us after Diva moved out.  She couldn't afford the meds and labs that went with keeping him.
  I have so many memories of him....  He would smile at you; not the panting "He looks like he's smiling" smile, but a smile using only the front of his mouth.  He would also talk back to me if he was in trouble.  Not making any sounds, just the moving of his mouth like a teenager talking under their breath.  There was the infamous Nerf cat safari.  We'll talk about that another post. 




We have three dogs (That's Wolly on the right) and one of them is Jesse (left), a female coon dog/beagle mix.  That's Mona in the middle.  Wolly and Jesse acted like an old married couple.  If Wolly got out of the gate and Jesse didn't, she would nag him from the front door all the way to his kennel once he returned.  He would just hang his head and endure until he got to his kennel.  When he got to the age of 9-10 years, I would periodically let him out the back door to go run in the woods.  He was older and I wanted him to have that chance while he could use it.  I am glad I did.  Sometimes he would walk around the house and past the front gate where Jesse was outside and then she could see him.  Drove her crazy.  Definitely a "Neener Neener" moment for him.  Of my three dogs, Wolly was the only one I felt competent enough to be outside of the gate.  I would let him out the back door while I was in the garden and within thirty minutes I would see him laying at the edge of the garden watching me and enjoying the spring breeze. 
My constant companion for the past 9 years; he followed me everywhere.  Many times My husband and I would be lying on the bed watching TV and I would get up to go check dinner or something.  I would inadvertently step on Wolly due to the fact that he had tucked himself under my side of the bed.  Even at his sickest, he would struggle to get up to follow me where ever I was headed.  Finally Knight and I would pick him up and carry him where ever I was going next. 

Don't get me wrong, I love Jesse and Mona, But Wolly was my baby.  One of the hardest things to face these last few days has been the absence of him by my side.  He is in every part of this house; from the absence of his tap, tap, tap as he made his way across the floor (he favored his previously dislocated hip), how he would sit in the kitchen watching me cook in the hopes I would toss him something to eat.  He would sit at my feet while I ate dinner and place one paw on my leg to get my attention.  He could make his eyes so big...well I just had to give him something off my plate!

I could go on and on..... I love him.  I miss him.  It is that easy. There is no way he can be replaced and the void is impossible to fill.  I take comfort in the fact that I will see him again.  Please save your breath if you are thinking dogs don't go to heaven.  I don't believe that.  I realize Christ didn't die for pets, but then again, maybe that was because He didn't have to.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

WOOT WOOT! Mama gots to play this weekend..

By play I mean I got to do my normal around the house stuff with no interference.  I started my weekend on Saturday making a loaf of banana bread for breakfast.   After that I tasked myself with getting my sewing table back in working order, catching up the mending, and finishing up some doll clothes.  I was so excited to finish three doll outfits I am planning on selling(I hope) and a gown for an antique doll I have.  Here is the gown:

For breakfast this morning it was homemade cinnamon rolls with milk or coffee depending on your particular bent.  Then off to church.  After church I was able to come home, get dinner in the crock pot, and get into the garden.  I weeded and trimmed around garden beds, cleaned out the chicken coop and tilled the "Organic matter" removed from the coop into one of my garden beds.  By the way Miss Priss is still providing an egg a day.  Bless her heart!  Todays egg offering was the biggest she has laid so far.  Anyway, back to the garden duties.  Slowly but surely I am getting the garden put up for the winter.  I still have items growing and producing and so can't put up all of it yet.  I am getting there though.  I clipped a lot of rosemary and am currently drying it in my oven on a low, low, low  temp.  Dinner was literally a hodge podge of what I have in my fridge.  Left over chicken, in it goes.  5 cups of cooked black beans?  Throw it in there!  Add 1 cup of salsa, a chopped onion,salt and pepper to taste.  Cover with chicken broth and let it cook in your crock pot for a few hours on high.  We served it with crackers and or tortilla chips depending on personal taste.  I would say over all a very productive weekend.  Now to get ready for work tomorrow.  Looking forward to next weekend.  We should have our first temp of the season below freezing and Dh and I are going into the mountains to buy wheat berries and look at the leaves changing color.  So holding that thought in my head I am off to do something productive...take a shower.  You guys have a good day.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Putting my money wheremy mouth is....for real

So a few weeks ago I wrote a blog post talking about our plan B in case of financial hardship.  The jest of the post was being able to weather the storm and be self reliant in the mean time.  Well, we are getting to put that in action.  Not to the extent we would if one of us was laid off, but close, very close.  You see, due to the wonderful men, women, and President currently in office, we have a little thing called The Affordable care Act aka "Obamacare".  It has taken up residence at our house.  Last year I took a position with our hospitals Hospice Dept.  In order to make the transfer I took a 16% pay cut.  In order to off set that, I waived all my benefits to get an extra 12% in my pay check.  My Husband and I both work for the same hospital just different Dept.  Because he was working full time, I was on his insurance.  Fast forward to this year and I have discovered that the hospital is no longer insuring spouses who are able to purchase insurance through their employer.  I currently work 40 hours every two weeks.  Therefore I qualify for insurance.  In order for me to buy said insurance, I have to get benefits.  To get Benefits I have to lose the 12% pay rate increase.  Then I get to turn around and pay a premium for just me of $68 per pay check and also start contributing to my own health savings account.  The one my husband and I have been contributing to will not cover me as of Jan 1st.  The only way to avoid this is to cut my hours to 30 or less every two weeks.  If I could do that I would A) be able to remain on DH insurance, and B) actually come out ahead by about $38 each pay period.  However, upon discussing this with my director, I am thinking she will not have a position for me for only 15 hours a week.  So right now I am looking at having to buy my own.  This forced purchase, and it is that, will take about $400 a month out of an already small family budget.  Ironically, this new legislation, meant to insure the uninsured, has made someone already insured buy an extra policy.  How moronic is that.  My only hope is that my director convinces the higher ups to let me keep my 12% pay increase.  I hope to find out soon.  Until then I will put on my frugal black belt and get to work.

I know beyond a shadow of doubt that I am in the job I am supposed to be in.  God put me here for a reason.  I am truly convinced of that fact.  It is because of that fact, I am able to have peace because "He works all things together for the good of those that love Him".   I know He is in control.  He is my rock, my provider.  I will do what is in my power to do, and where I falter, He is there to hold me up.  He has never let me down before, and He never will. 

So I get to really use the frugal juices.  Who knows what future posts will look like.  I would think there might be plenty of my "Hmmm I wonders".  So until then, SEE YA! 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Well here's a good reason to always be prepared,

So it doesn't have to be an end of the world scenario in order to justify keeping a pantry.  Saw something interesting yesterday.  I went last night to pick up the odds and ends of groceries I still needed at Aldi last night.  Upon arrival I saw a sign posted on the door saying the EBT system was down.  We don't get food stamps, but we wanted to make sure our debit card would work.   Dh and I went on in and asked if the regular debit cards still worked and the cashier said they were fine, just the EBT(Snap, Food stamps) were down; IN 17 STATES!  She said she had been putting groceries back all day because people would come in, fill their carts, only to realize the EBT cards wouldn't work.  They would just leave their cart where it was.  I came home and looked up the story online and found it was a glitch in the system that should be resolved by now (I hope).  The stories I read online were amazing stories of people going nuts at Walmart  because their EBT cards wouldn't work.  Many were angry or were panicked.  My point in this story is that, while this was (hopefully) a one day glitch, what if this had lasted longer?  What if Food Stamps had been affected by the Govt Shut down?  What if the glitch lasted a week?  For those people who only use their food stamps (or grocery money) to buy only enough to last until the next trip, something keeping you from purchasing your groceries would be a reason to panic.  I am not just picking on Food Stamp folks,  What would have happened if I needed to get groceries and the Debit card system was down.  I have seen that happen as well.  I have gone to stores that said all they could take was cash.  In my case, because I had a pantry at home I was A) only buying things to  replace items used in storage, B)  buying what was a good deal, C) and could easily adjust my grocery shopping plans because I still had things at home.  I would have just been minorly inconvenienced in making a fruitless trip.   SO here we have another reason to keep a pantry at home. 

Sort of on the subject but a little off to the side, a worth while thing to know is that in between now and Christmas, stores will be having staple items on sale: flour, sugar, oils, butter, spices, cocoa, choc chips, etc.  Now would be the time to stock up on these items to have in your pantry.  Watch for the sales.  I added oil, brown sugar, and cocoa to my pantry yesterday.  So worth it.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A totally un healthy, non frugal very good day

Well isn't it true that anytime you eat junk food and spend money on fun stuff it's a very good day?  Today is Einstein's birthday.  He is 20 years old.  My how time flies when your having fun.  As of this year all my chillins are legal adults.  My last holdout, Rubic, will turn 18 next month.  Do I feel old?  Uh  Yes, but I also feel proud.  So proud of my children. 

So on todays agenda, Waffles with syrup for breakfast, lunch will be whatever everyone wants.  Tonight's dinner will be burgers at Five Guys followed by home made cookie cake and ice cream.  I know you guys are thinking "Okay I see the un healthy part, but where is the non frugal part?"  Well  you might not be thinking that, but I can dream can't I?  Anyway, anyone who has ever eaten at five guys knows it isn't cheap, not to mention the birthday "Gift" money. 
In order to keep in the frugal maven vein, The waffles, syrup, and cake are home made.  The money for dinner and gift was budgeted.  That's it.  That's all I got for the frugal stuff.  Hey but it's something. 

In other homestead news, we are up to 5 eggs laid by one hen.  She seems to think she needs to lay an egg a day.  I'll take that.  It is great because it means I could meet my goal of  8 dz eggs a month.  Could it be that I don't have to by those bland white eggs!  Hubby says each time he goes to get the egg, the little white hen comes in to see what he is doing.  I told him if she ever sets on any eggs we will leave them to her, but until then they are fair game.  No pun intended. 
Ironically my garden is putting out tomatoes.  I picked about 3-4 lbs last night and left them out on the counter to ripen.  There are still some out there and I will leave them as long as I can.  I may cover the plants this year to protect from frost to see if the last ones can ripen on the vine.  I have picked about 1 1/2 lbs of peanuts so far.  Since they are from volunteers, they are free!  I have also dug about 6 lbs of sweet potatoes.  Also volunteers.  I have more peanuts to pick and sweet potatoes to dig.  Peppers are coming in.  They aren't as large as I am used to, but I will take them.  My English peas plants are covered in full pods.  Once the plant dies back I will pick them and put them up. 

I need to pause here to give a big thank you to the ladies my husband works with.  In honor of his mom who passed recently, they gifted us with an apple tree.  We will get it in the ground hopefully today or tomorrow. 

I have a list a mile long of things needing to be done both inside and outside.  Hopefully I will get things done. Here's hoping. All I can do is do the next thing. 

Well, that is all I have for now.  You guys have a great day!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Congradulations its a......er...ah..an EGG!

Yes, we can finally say the hens are laying.  We got our first ever egg from our chickens today.  I feel like I should be handing out cigars or something.  DH went out to get the chickens ready for the night and found the egg.  He is so proud he took a pic and posted it on face book.  TA DAA!

 
So now the egg is in the fridge, chillin.  I know it is just an egg, but it is nice to know we haven't done anything to screw up the chickens too badly.  This being our first endeavor. 

Okay, that is all for now.  I just wanted to share.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

So What Now?

You know everyone is talking about the government shutdown and how it affects everyone.  So why should I be any different, right?  I won't wax political here except there are two sides to every story and before you start placing blame on one party or another, get your facts and not just headlines.  Regardless of who you blame, one needs to look to themselves if they find themselves in a position of reliance on the government.  I am not talking about those thru no fault of their own are having to rely on government assistance in times of great trial.  When Diva was a baby, I found myself laid off from a suit manufacturer and unable to find another job.  For two months I was on Welfare.  I took a job at McDonalds to get off of it.  While it helped during that time, let me tell you about how the need for that welfare was my own doing.  First off I was unwilling to leave where I was and go home to admit I was wrong.  I mean seriously, my parents lived a little over an hour away.  Once I did that (and you can read about that here ), things began to look up and I was able to get my life together.  Because I refused to leave, I stayed in an area where unemployment was high.  For a person with only a high school education that was bad.  Another thing I was responsible for was the birth of my daughter.  Now let me say here.  Diva is never a regret and I would not change a thing if I went back in time.  I wouldn't risk not having her, but I did learn a lesson I am not willing to repeat in the future.  KUDOS to all single mothers.  I was one for 3 years.  It is hard being mother and father. Some people are in this situation against their will, some people put themselves into this situation with bad decisions. It is for those that make those bad decisions I would warn them to avoid the type of relationships that would make you have to decide between yourself or a child.  Anyway, this is turning preachy and I don't mean it to be.

Now things like Welfare, Medicaid, Social Security are functioning, there are some programs shut down for now.  As a result, many find themselves furloughed and others find themselves in a position where something that helped make ends meet has been shut down.  What do you do in a situation like that? I can only ask myself what would I do in a similar situation?  In the 20 years my Knight and I have been married, we have had money situations.  Even now we have a plan "B" that we will utilize in the event one of us ends up unemployed.  Until another job is found, the plan "B" would consist of cancelling services we can live without, relying on what I have in  our pantry, and other extreme cost cutting items.  When I say cancelling services I am talking about non essential things like phone, cable, internet, but also things like electricity.  That would go in an extreme situation, but I would be willing to make it go.  I would prefer we keep the mortgage going.  It would supply the roof over our head which takes precedence over electricity.  If needs be, we would have to find homes for our pets and chickens.  They would be a luxury we couldn't afford.  Things like our tax withholding would be changed in order to give us more income in our check every two weeks.  The amount we currently put in our health savings account would be lessened in order to give us more income.  We currently have a high deductible insurance with a health savings account.  Never thought it would be as great as it has been.  Wish we had done this years ago.  But I digress. 

While the previous paragraph talks of the extreme of losing one of two incomes in a family where two are necessary, some people are just facing the loss of a service that subsidizes their existing funds.  All of us have had to re-adjust budgets due to an unforeseen expense such as an emergency care repair, doctor visit, or higher power bill to name a few.  You adjust what you can.  That usually falls under groceries, gas or any other type of flexible expense.  When you can't afford your normal grocery budget, you adjust to get by on what you can afford.  While normally I would get chips as a grocery list item, they go by the wayside if I can't afford the expense.  Other items I nix are, mayo, yogurt, breads, cookies, cereals, and any meat over $1.69 a lb.  I say 1.69 lb because that is how much the ground turkey is @ Aldi.  I will also stretch what I have.

One thing people need to realize is to rely only on yourself.  The less you need to rely on Government, I believe the better off you will be.  When we were young my DH and I thought it was no big deal to use government services.  We learned the hard way  what can happen when you use those services.  That is a story for another day.  Needless to say it was enough for me to say "Never again".  Live you life in such a way that the shenanigans in Washington won't affect you, because lets face it from the top down we have toddlers running our country., and with few exceptions. Actually I shouldn't insult toddlers. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Well it has been an interesting week

Everyone has them and I am  no different.  Everyday of our loves is a hodge podge of ups and downs.  Some ups are higher than others and some downs are lower.  It's life.  It's what keeps things interesting.  It has been a crazy kind of week.  I have been so busy with stuff I haven't been able to do the "homey" stuff with the exception of making yogurt.  Seriously I love the fact that I can make yogurt now.  Its the little things...ya know? 

Anyway, some of my er ah challenges this week include a leaky roof, a leaking sink, and a washer on the fritz.  Wonderful joyous discoveries.  Dh will fix the sink, but I will need to call our fix it guy for the roof and an appliance repairman for the washer.  All of this and its 3 months til Christmas...THREE MONTHS TIL CHRISTMAS!!!!  Okay, uh  Bye!   Just kidding. Not leaving yet, but I do need to start the ball rolling so to speak.  Also everyone's birthday falls in the next 3 months so things will definitely be busy.  

The joys this week greatly out weigh the challenges.  My son in law received a new position at work which will enable him and my daughter to work opposite schedules so my grand boys won't have to go to a baby sitter.  This will help them immensely. 

I had my yearly doctors appointment this week and all my labs are good, and my weight has held steady, which is 20 lbs down from 2 years ago!  In fact my cholesterol is down some from last year.  177 is the magic number.  WOOT WOOT.  What have I been eating?  Why butter, red meat, whole milk, and all the other things they say no no too. HA  so there!  I am resisting the urge to say neener neener to all the low fat diet folks.  Oh why not!  Neener neener!  Full disclaimer here;  everything in moderation, and I still don't fry stuff too much.

Last night was an evening controlled by our sons Einstein and  Rubic.  We went out to dinner and they go to go to some store they like.  Both of them are training to get drivers permits, but they don't have them yet.  Between Rubic's lessens,  my working and only having the one car, they don't get to get out of the house very much so we wanted to take them out.  This morning Dh and I are going out.  We may be going to walk a nature trail or something, and maybe going to an antique shop or two.  Rubic and Einstein are babysitting our grandsons.  Another reason why they went out last night instead of today.  I am looking forward to a day out with my fella.

Tomorrow is a day that I will be spending with my sister.  Will actually will be sewing cause The Ric Rac is closed on Sunday.  Lol.  I will head on over after church.  I love the times we get to spend together.  Dh will be watching his football.  I know he's happy about that.  Watching it on his huge TV we got at The Ric Rac for 20 bucks!

Also on the good news front, our power bill was less again than this time last year; by about 45 dollars.  I'll take that.  Every little bit helps.  

So there you have it; my week in a nut shell.  Do I get frustrated with the challenges.  Yes I do.  Do I still sleep well at night.  Yes I do.  I do because I know whatever happens, A) there are  many people going thru much bigger problems, and B) God is in control. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Another Product endorsement...

Well I hate to admit when I am wrong, but I will do it.  Never let it be said I don't.  I am not wrong often, so make sure you mark this date.  Lol.  I have always believed that all electric dishwashing detergents were created equal.  They aren't.  I bought a bottle of Cascade Dishwashing detergent to make a stain remover recipe I have:

Recipe:

1 cup liquid cascade
1 cup Clorox color safe bleach

Fill your washer with hot(turn off the cold) water and add the bleach and cascade.  Soak whatever clothes you have that have food or grease stains.  Soak them over night.  Then let the washer run thru the rest of its cycle. 


Anyway, I was too lazy to wash my dishes by hand today and so I ran a load in my dishwasher.  I avoid my dishwasher because for years now I have been convinced that it just didn't wash dishes to well.  I could do better hand washing my dishes.  Well that changed today.  I was able to unload all of my dishes and not have to rewash a one of them.  So now being fugal maven and being faced with wanting an expensive dishwashing soap, I am left with no alternative but..... to seek out coupons!  It is for that reason that I emailed Proctor and Gamble and asked nicely.  Oh, and guys....I am using Tide too.  I know, we have fallen down the rabbit hole and into a world of madness!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Once a month grocery shopping part 2

Yes, it is time once again for the next installment of "Once a Month Grocery shopping". I know you guys have been just waiting with bated breath to see what I would write.  Am I right or am I right?  (Smile). 

Some Things to Think About

1.  Unless you have a basement or refrigerated garage somewhere, space to store said groceries will be at a premium.  We live in a Double Wide mobile home ( or for a more high brow phrase, a Modular home) on a foundation.  I wish we had a garage or basement, but alas no such luck.  As a result, I need to be very careful with my storage space.  Remember, I also can garden produce.  Over the years I have redesigned my kitchen to have a large (and I do mean large) pantry.  It Is actually two pantry cabinets installed side by side.  LOVE IT!  My bedroom walk in closet also doubles as a second pantry.  Now you don't need this much space to buy once a month.  I try to keep at least 3-6 moths of food on hand for emergencies.  So I need more space.  You will need additional space though, so get creative. 

2.  I buy staples; partly due to space concerns, and partly to give me more options.  As much planning as you might do; you will run low or out of things before grocery day.  You will also find you have left overs or odds and ends that need to be used up before grocery day.  This is a good thing because it enables you to clean out the fridge and/or defrost the freezer before grocery day.  Makes putting groceries away much easier.  It is during this time my creative juices get to flowing.  This is where you will pull out recipes to make what is needed.  It is a good idea to have convenience food recipes in your quiver.  White Sauce mix- is a substitute for cream soups.  You can find the recipe and uses here.  I also have Choc syrup, Season salt, Granola, Quick Bread Mix and pancake syrup in past blog posts.  Just search for them in the search bar. 

3.  Disclaimer here:  Putting the groceries away will take longer FYI.   But you are only doing it once a month so it all evens out.

4.  Things that help me save and stock up at the same time;  buying items on sale and stocking up with enough to last til the next sale, Getting some of my items at a warehouse store ( again, know your prices.  Not everything is cheaper), buying staples and cooking as much as I can form scratch, and growing what I can. 

Everyone's needs and ways for monthly shopping are different. It won't take long for you to adjust one thing here or tweek something there and you will be shopping like a pro. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Once a month Shopping Part 1

So you guys have my friend Emily to thank for this one.  She called me yesterday wanting my advice on this topic.  Kudos to Emily.  I know her from work.  She is a nurse who chose to become a stay at home mom, homeschooling her soon to be 4 children.  The 4th being due in 3 days.  I want to help her in any way I can.   It is for that reason (and also cause I love to talk) that I am posting this blog post today. 
Buying your groceries once a month has some advantages; less gas used; fewer trips to the grocery store means less time wasted in line, putting up groceries, etc.  It does take some planning, especially in the beginning.  Once you get it down though it is a great benefit.  I have shopped once a week, bi-weekly, and once a month.  There are advantages and disadvantages to each.  I have finally come up with something that works for me and that is shopping once a month with money left over to grab a really good sale. 

THE PLANNING PHASE:

Many of you , if you have read my blog for any length of time, have read about my preparations for "grocery day".  It is a methodical plan of defrosting the freezer, organizing my pantry, cleaning out the nearly empty fridge, and going over ads.  Just as my monthly trips require planning; when you are first starting to transition to once a month shopping, the best thing to do is go back over your last month of grocery shopping to get an idea of how much of each item you used/purchased.  Use that as your guide.  No worries though, you will tweek( no twerking people!) it over time.  I have heard a lot of people say to make a menu for the month, but that means extra work and I always change my mind about what I want for dinner.  Instead I know what meats, etc I use regularly, and I plan to have those things on hand.  Rather than plan meals, I buy staples: butter, sugars, rice, potatoes, meats, flours, veggies, etc.  Then I make up my meals depending on what I have on hand.  This also enables me to try new recipes using what staples I have.   I mean, seriously, the pioneer folks couldn't menu plan when they needed to take a days ride to the nearest general store to get provisions for winter.  They  bought staples and built from there.  If it is good enough for them.....
So anyway, your planning phase also includes going over grocery ads to see what is on sale.  Now while I do get a good bit of my regular groceries at Aldi; I watch ads.  This week I am getting a good bit from Kroger.  I know SHOCK!  My mother once told me that grocery shopping is WAR!  Those sneaky grocery people's job is to take as much of your money as they can. Your job is to keep as much as possible. The only way to be successful at that is planning, planning, planning. 

WATCH FOR SALES!

Some are advertised, some aren't.  I always, always, always (did I say always?) check out mark downs in the meat, bread, and dairy sections of the store.  OK, Before the shocked gasps drag unsuspecting people in off the street, please note:  This food is perfectly safe to buy even though the sell by date is that day or a couple of days away.  It just means the store can't sell it after that date.  It also means you can take it home and either freeze it ,or cook it (can it too).  There are significant savings in stocking up on marked down meats, etc.   When you see a particularly good sale stock up on what you can to keep you from having to buy it full retail.  This doesn't apply to fresh produce unless you are planning on canning it or dehydrating it. 

KNOW YOUR PRICES!

In order to know if a sale is any good, you need to know what prices are good.  If you are someone who has always just gone to the store, picked out what you want/need, and checked out without really paying attn. to prices (Boggles my mind), this will be a learning experience.  Check out the ads for more than one store.  I always look at the online ads for Kroger, Publix, Aldi, Sams, and a local store called J&J.  I may not go to all of these stores, but once I check out the ads I can decide where I am going to get each part of my groceries.  When you look at these ads, you can compare prices for certain items and get an idea of the range of sale prices for any given item.  When you begin to grasp the range of prices for an item, you will develop a personal price range.  You will have your (rare) "AHH I can't believe my good luck I am going to stock up for sure" price , and you will have your " Eh, not great, but I really need this so I guess I will have to get enough to get by.  Maybe it will go on sale soon" price.  I also have my "I guess we will go without, I am not paying that for this" price.   Here are a few examples:

Cereal-  I love to find cereal for 7 cents an oz.  When I find it for that price I get a lot.  Like uh funny looks from the cashier a lot.  I will buy what I have to cause my son loves cereal at 10 cents an ounce, but I am not happy about it.  Anything over that, sonny boy eats something else. 

Chicken breast, boneless-  I love to find it for $1.49lb.  YAY!  I will buy what I have to at 1.99 lb.  I will look for a different cut of chicken when it is over $2 lb. 

Sugar- UGH!  I am not that old, but I remember having a sale price of .99 for 5 lbs.  (Sigh) those were the days.  Now my stock up price is any combination that gives me $2 for 5 lbs.  I have gone as high as $2.87 for 5 lbs, but that is reluctant.  Luckily I store sugar in large volume, so I have the opportunity to wait for good sales and stock up.  I have bought so much sugar in stocking up that I have gotten questions from the cashier like " uh are you making moonshine?".  Really you would think the first thought would be maybe I am making jam, but I guess it depends on who's doing the asking.

Well I am still typing and I am sure your eyes have glazed over, so I am going to end this segment for now.  I will be bringing up part two in a bit.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Please stand by....

Just wanted to check in with everyone and let you guys know that I am going to be posting an update Sat.  We just got back from Fla yesterday and we aren't even unpacked yet.  Instead we are both feverishly working our jobs til the weekend.  I am trying to make up missed days so my hours are crazy this week.  So stay tuned, I am sure I will do something crazy in time for a Sat post.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Life is on hold for now...

I would love to be able to impart some tip I learned or antic I attempted, but for now I am holding down the fort.  My husband and two sons have left to go to Fla.  They are due home today.  I can't wait to see them, but the reunion is bittersweet.  You see he left last week to go and say his final goodbyes to his mom.  He wanted to get there to spend time with her before it was too late and allow the grandsons to see her as well.  I am so glad he had that opportunity.  My heart hurts for him and his siblings.  I am a daughter in law and so I have no clue what they are going through; facing the possible loss of both parents in a 6 month time period.  It is hard enough, I imagine, losing a parent, but both....I can't imagine what that must feel like.  My husband returns home for now and the next trip he and I take to Florida will be to attend the funeral.  It is a sad day.  I wish I could have gone with him, but finances wouldn't allow it. 

 


Always composed; I never saw her lose her cool.  She is the quintessential lady.  When my husband (before he was my husband) and I first moved in together (yes when we were heathens lol.); we tried to keep it from her because we thought she would disapprove.  His parents were in a different state so it should be easy right?  No.  The first time I met her was after we had moved in together.  We went to see them for Christmas.  Anyway, she knew.  I think she knew right off.  She never said a word  about it.  She just asked me if I had a nativity scene.  I said I did.  She said it was nice to know her son had one now.  Nothing else.  That was all, but we knew then the jig was up.  SO I guess it wasn't surprise when we told her I was expecting a few months later.  Before we were married.  Still composed, supportive, loving, kind.  We married very soon after.  LOL.  She was there when Einstein was born.  I was out of it so didn't realize it until the next day when she thanked me for letting her stay.  Surprise!   I regret that I had a little chip on my shoulder then.  I was immature and expected judgment and so projected it from her.  She never gave me judgment, just love, kindness, and support.  Over the years we would have long phone conversations, or talks while we were visiting.  I realized long time ago that she always accepted me as family and for that I am eternally grateful.  About 10 ish years ago she started ending her phone conversations with "I Love You".  It was and still is one of my favorite memories.

She loved her children, and grandchildren.  She loved family.  She is truly the matriarch of her family.  She has experienced joy and pain through her 89 years, and she has handled it all with grace and poise.  While no one lives a perfect life, and I know she made mistakes as well.  But the woman I knew in the past 20 years has inspired me.  I will be forever grateful for the influence she had on me to help make me into the woman I am today. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Butterscotch Granola (I know YUM! Right?)

Ooooo tried a recipe today.  One of my own design thank you very much!  I just started playing around with my main recipe and here is what I came up with.

Butterscotch Granola

5 cups quick cooking oats(Or whatever variety of grains you would choose; oats, wheat germ, rice flour, barley, coconut, etc.  Make your largest contribution be oats and then just add extra of the other grains to make 5 cups)

1 ts cinnamon
dash salt
1 stick butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp butter flavored extract

Butter a large cookie sheet.  In it place  your grains, cinnamon, and salt.  Mix well.  Put aside.  In a sauce pan melt the butter.  Add in the sugar, honey, vanilla, and butter extract.  Heat just until melted well and sugar is dissolved.  Pour syrup mixture over your grains.  Mix with a spoon as much as you can,  but then go thru it with your hands to make sure it is really well incorporated (Wash hands first please!).  Spread out evenly on the cookie sheet and bake in a 350 oven for 10 mins.  Take the cookie sheet out and stir thoroughly then put back in the oven for 5 min.  Take from oven but don't stir.  Let it cool where it sits.  Once cool you can store it in an airtight container.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Aint Technology grand!

Nope, not talkin about the latest IPod or Galaxy gizmo.  You'll have to see my dad or Rubic for that one.  According to my youngest son, Technology is the answer to everything.  I am a pioneering soul.  My heart longs for all things canning, gardening, sewing, farming, and anything else of the self sufficiency nature.  I am not a hopeless romantic thinking of the "good ole days" as if they were a utopian ideal.  They weren't; by a long shot.  Many people died of diseases or injuries which could be easily fixed or prevented today.  There was, though, a strong work ethic.  A higher percentage of families were intact.   We were less sedentary.  I mean really, you could eat a full breakfast of eggs, bacon, biscuits, with butter, whole milk, etc , and work it off before lunch.  Hey, I have my priorities.  That sounds pretty good. 
What I am talking about is medical technology.  It has been brought home to me in capital letters how great medical advancements have been.  My daughter would not be here.  She was born by C Section.  My middle son would have died of "Fever" as an infant.  Cancer could have killed my dad.  When you think about it, we have come a long way....medically.  I, myself, have been sick in recent days.  Nothing earth shattering:  UTI, and Thrush.  Not life threatening, but certainly miserable.  Having to let something like that run its course would have been awful and possible fatal.  YUCK..  But thanks to the wonderful invention of antibiotics and anti fungal meds , what would have been really bad turned out to be misery in the short term.  Still bad until the meds, but better and better almost immediately.  I received my meds on Friday and by Saturday morning I was all better except a headache and a few other minor symptoms that were gone before the end of the day.  So HURRAH for medical advancement. 
Now...uh..ever heard of irony?  Murphy's Law?  Yea.  I began writing this particular blog entry over the weekend after I was feeling better and life was good.  It is now 3 am Tuesday morning and once again I am dealing with an illness.  A virus.  Still taking my meds from before, so a virus is all that is left right?  My Son in Law had this particular virus over the weekend.  Silly me drove up to their house and invited him to our house so I could help him while Diva was at work. He made sure he had my number in case (we live very close), but preferred to stay home. I was very careful to not touch him or anything else in the house.  The one thing I did touch was the door knob, but I kept that hand in a tight fist until I got home (not my driving hand anyway) and could wash my hands.  So apparently this little gem is airborne....Fun.  It is one of those creepy crud viruses with the sneezes, headaches, body aches, nausea and all that goes with it.  Kinda like Flu but without the fever.  Oh Joy. 
Aint that a hoot!  (Sigh) so anyway, I still rather like this day and age of medical advancement.  Now if we could just mix that with "The Good Ole Days", things would be juuuust right.  You guys have a great day and stay well.  I' going back to bed.  Good...er.. night? or morning?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Busy, Busy Busy

Just wanted to check in here to let you guys know I have not fallen off the face of the earth.  I am just ridiculously busy this past week.  Who am I kidding.  I have been busy for a month now.  But anyway; Tuesday was spent making grape juice.  Not too shabby for the day.  I ended up with 13 qt jars of concentrate.  Each jar will make a 2 quart pitcher of grape juice.  The juice is really good, but tart.  Jimmy, the gentleman who gave me the grapes, encouraged me to take a lot of green, unripe ones.  "Oh yea you want some green ones especially if you are making grape juice".  Ummhmm.  Well we did.  I still didn't think we took too many, but we took enough to make some seriously tart juice.  I ended up having to add sugar to the juice so now it is just tart like cran-grape drink.  The guys like it.  I am having to keep them from opening my jars of juice.  I had one quart I left un-canned and we mixed it up to see how it would do and to make sure I had the recipe right.  It was a big hit.  Jimmy says I can go back and get more grapes this weekend.  So it looks like this Tuesday will be another grape juice making session. 
I had baking to do yesterday morning and then it was outside to get into the garden.  Once outside I noticed an ominous cloud on the horizon and it was a race against the rain to get tomatoes in. We have had so much rain, my tomatoes are splitting so I was out there grabbing any tomato with just the slightest bit of color to bring in out of the rain.  While I still have another row to pick , I am disappointed in the large number of tomatoes I have had to toss. Still, I ended up with enough tomatoes to cover a bath towel (I lay a clean bath towel on my kitchen counter then lay my tomatoes on that), plus enough to cook to make about 2 qts of sauce.  I have been making sauce, but not canning it.  I have been putting it in a container in the freezer until I have enough to fill the canner.  Well I have enough now so I am planning on canning tomato sauce this afternoon.  I also need to pick that other row.
I have another bed of corn to pick sooner rather than later, and I harvested my first "Free" watermelon" on Friday.  SWEET!  Not only sweet to the taste buds, but seriously I have not had to plant a watermelon seed in about 4 years.  This watermelon and the other 3 still left are from volunteers.
I would like to say everything has been doing well, but that isn't the case.  While I did get enough green beans to do about 23qts, that isn't near what I am used to putting  up.  Re-plants aren't doing well either because the Mexican bean beetles are getting them.  It stayed dry long enough for the seeds to break thru the ground, but now that they are old enough to spray, I can't because of rain.  So these plants might be a write off.  In addition to that I got no peaches from my trees.  Frustrating.  Between the late freeze that zapped some blooms (but not all) and the rain which has kept me from being able to spray...at all, my peaches are gone.  So once winter is in full swing, those trees are getting pruned big time and I will try again next year. 
One thing I am realizing is that there is a reason the recommendation for putting up a harvest is to put up 2 years worth.  You want to have enough so if you have a bad garden on year, you can ride out the bad season and try again next year.  Well as far as beans go, I hope I have enough  to make it til next years harvest.  Would not want to be paying the going price for canned beans these days.  I am also thinking I am not going to have enough tomatoes to do BBQ sauce or salsa. 

So anyway, That is the garden update to date.  I have to say I am getting ready for fall and a slower pace.  That is until the holidays.  Seriously!  Holidays are 4 mths away!  YIKES!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

I love a frugal challange!

So yea, yours truly made a major faux pa this pay period.  Yea, I forgot to add in not 1 but two credit card payments!  In other words both payments of our only two credit cards.  One is open and one closed.  Thank the Lord I found it!  I was recording transactions from my grocery shopping trip and was feeling veeery smug knowing I had used only $287of the $400 I had budgeted.  Then I realize I had forgotten to subtract the two cc payments from our account.  WOOPS!  Well, everything turned out OK in the end.  I would like to say it was no big deal, but I would be lying.  It took what was left of my grocery money, as well as most of what we had in savings (Which wasn't much since we had to pay for a regulator for our cars power window last pay period SURPRISE!).  I am happy that we still have a little (very) in savings, but we are not touching it.  We pretend it isn't there.  (Sound of whistling..."What savings?").So now we are in a "No spend" phase for the next two weeks. 

I write about this, not to air my laundry, but to provide a point.  We knew going into this pay period it was already going to be tight.  I don't get paid days off.  I took an extra day off to help my daughter after the birth of my second grandson. 

Because of that knowledge, I was already going into my grocery shopping trip with the idea of spending only what I had to.  If I could make it, it didn't get purchased.  As a result, I had that left over money for sales later.  I was able to keep my grocery budget down even lower, and be able to take the loss of grocery money "reserves" because A) I keep a pantry.  Anything I already had at home, I didn't buy unless I was almost out.  B)  I am able to make a large variety of items normally bought at the store.  I made two exceptions to my tightfisted grocery shopping trip.  We like chips with our lunches, and, not knowing the outcome of my homemade yogurt, I bought some flavored yogurt. 

Now comes the fun part.... the prep.  Yesterday was a busy day.  I started early mainly cause I woke up early with my mind racing.  So I got up and got started.  I made hamburger buns, hotdog buns, two loaves of bread, 2 batches of homemade mayo; one for sandwiches and one for homemade ranch dressing  er..a.... plus the Ranch dressing(from scratch, no mix).  I also put up two quarts of tomato sauce and froze a lot of corn on  the cobb.  On the docket for Tuesday and Wed (my days off),are Pancake syrup, Bagels, English muffins, Shake and Bake mix and Whole wheat tortillas.  This morning it is banana bread from two bananas a little over ripe.  Once I do a cost analysis on the mayo and ranch dressing I will post it on here.  If you want the recipe, you can find it at www.thefamilyhomestead.com.  Look under the kitchen tab and she has lots of great recipes.

My point is this.  It is so much easier to face these surprise obstacles if you area already prepared for Murphys Law.  I am glad we were able to weather this without adding to our credit card bill, or losing sleep.  It is a better way to live.  Definitely.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Oops! I forgot this great yogurt recipe

So your kids like Trix yogurt so it doesn't work for you to make yogurt.  Weeeelllll let me tell ya, I have a recipe for a Trix like custard yogurt you can make cheap and the kiddies will love!

Trix style custard yogurt

1 pkg flavored Jello (or the generic equivalent)
1 cup water
3 cups plain yogurt
1/3 cup sugar

Boil your water and add the Jello, and sugar.  Mix well.  Fold in the yogurt until well incorporated and smooth.  Chill to set.


TIP:  If you don't want  to use the Jello, you can use 1 cup juice concentrate (like grape or juicy juice) and a pkg of unflavored gelatin instead of the Jello and water. 

I did it!!!! Yogurt How to's. Its easier than you think

Many years I have attempted yogurt and have been successful in as much as you would cook with it, but never made yogurt I could just eat straight out of the jar.  Most of the time it was kinda runny and or thin.  I would us it instead of buttermilk in biscuits, cornbread, etc.  I bought a yogurt maker last summer, and while it is nice having one, it isn't necessary for successful yogurt making. My yogurt was still the same consistency as before.  So in frustration and ready to give up I went to the internet to get the answer.  So without further adieu, here is how I did it.

HOMEMADE YOGURT

4 cups of milk (I have used dry; reconstituted, whole, or 2%)
1 6 oz container of store bought plain yogurt (Make sure it has active cultures. I like Dannon or Stonyfield farms.  Once you make your first batch of yogurt, you can set aside some to be your culture next time and you wont have to buy any, SAVINGS!
1/3 cup of sugar (gives the bacteria something to eat)

So first of all you want to heat your milk up to 180 and keep it there for 30 min.  This alters the makeup of the milk to make it more receptive to the culture.  About half way thru the 30 minutes, you need to prep whatever container you are going to use.  I have little 6 Oz glass jars in my yogurt maker, but a glass Mason Jar or any glass jar capable of holding 1qt yogurt; 2 pint jars work as well.  Make sure these are clean and then totally submerge them in water and boil them.  I boiled them about 15 min.  This kills off any unseen germies that could attack the good bacteria. When the 30 minutes is up, remove the milk from the heat and let cool to 110. This won't take long.  When it has cooled to the 110, add your culture.  Mix it well.  Wait a few minutes and mix it again just to make sure the culture is evenly distributed.  Pour the mixture into your now sterilized container.  If you have a yogurt maker, Kudos.  Set it up and off you go.  But like I said before they are not necessary.   I used to take a Playmate cooler (Any cooler will work, but keep it small), fill up a couple of pint jars with very hot water and put them and the yogurt in.  Then I would put hand towels all round.  I once saw a lady who very shrewdly inserted a light bulb into the lid of a Styrofoam cooler and used that as a heat source.  The idea is to incubate your yogurt keeping the temp above 80 degrees but not so hot that it kills the bacteria.  Once it is set up, leave it for about 4 hours.  Check it out and if it has set up, then refrigerate.  You can let it sit for up to 8 hours, but the longer it sits the more tangy it will be.  It will set up more in the fridge.  Mistakes in yogurt making are still great for a substitute for buttermilk, so give it a try.  It is something that is not very labor intensive.  My cost analysis for this initial batch, culture included, is 32 oz for 1.49 and that is because I used a greek yogurt culture and they are more expensive.  Now that I have made my yogurt and therefore my culture for the next time, my cost for 32 oz of yogurt will be .68.  Compare that to the cost of a 32 oz container of yogurt on sale at the store.  The cheapest I have seen is a sale price of $1.99.  Even buying the more expensive yogurt for a culture still put me cheaper than store bought.

NO WHEY!  GREEK YOGURT!

Big FYI here.  You can make your own greek yogurt by simply straining your homemade yogurt.  The whey that is drained off is a great source of protein and it also aids indigestion.  You can add it to biscuits, corn bread, quick breads muffins, etc.  If you are making oatmeal, put your oats in the bowl the night before with 2 TBS of Whey and the water to cook them with  let it soak overnight then cook it up the next morning. A good resource for using the whey is the book " Nourishing Traditions"  by Sally Fallon.

YOGURT CHEESE!

Got some cheese cloth or  other type cloth that will allow you to strain off even more?  Put your yogurt in the cheese cloth and hang it up over a bowl ( of course) to catch the whey.  Once all the liquid has drained off you will have yogurt cheese.  Use it like cream cheese.  You can add fresh herbs to it and have some awesome spread. 

So what are you waiting for!  Go for it!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Ode to a housewife

I have published this poem before, but I think it bears repeating.  So for those of you who may be new to this blog, here goes :

Ode to a Housewife


Now I lay me down to sleep

Alas my house I could not keep.

Kitchen, floors and laundry to do

But distractions came and time flew.

I did accomplish a few things

but many of them contained calories

I find that on a cool rainy day

I am less apt to work and more apt to play

At cooking and baking in my kitchen

Making chocolate cookies and fried chicken

So while my waist gets wider and my house is still cluttered

I look to tomorrow to find another

Day in which to give a try

To keep my house as women gone by

Thursday, July 18, 2013

And Panic ensues.....

So yesterday I was so excited to see that I had enough green beans to fill a canner for the first time this season.  For the past few weeks I have been getting some, but never enough to warrant all the joys of pulling out the ole pressure canner.  Finally!  I could start filling up the larder with all the goodies coming in from the garden. To date all I have put in the larder are blueberries and beet jelly.  Don't get me wrong, every little bit helps, but pulling out the pressure canner is a sign that things are taking off.  SO last night while watching a movie, I snapped said beans and then informed my DH that I will be staying up late to get the beans canned.  I get everything situated, jars washed, etc.  Then I go to get out my pressure canner.  Well it isn't in the cabinet where I keep it.  Hmmm, maybe it is in my closet...no...the boys closet...no, UP!  On top of the freezer....no.  It shouldn't be in the shed, but I check it anyway.  Not there.  This goes on for a while.  I can't find it anywhere.  Well I know it has to be here somewhere!  I then message Diva on FB to see if by chance I loaned it to her and didn't remember.  I didn't hear back by midnight so I went to bed knowing I couldn't can these beans.  I dreamt about that canner, finally waking up at 4:30 am.  I thought and thought about it.  Finally I gave up on sleep and went to the computer to see if Diva answered my message.  She had answered and she did have the canner.  I swear I do not remember loaning it to her and she even says to me that she told me the other day it was up there.  That will tell you how with it I am this time of year.  Now the panic comes in when I was facing a life without my pressure canner.  Sure I could buy another one, but they are pricey.  The worst thing though is that my pressure canner is 72 years old.  Yep!  It was made in 1941 when my dad was 2 and it belonged to my grandmother.  It was a National Pressure canner.  Presto bought them out a looooooong time ago.  Fortunate for me, Presto was nice enough to replace the gasket and weight for just the cost of the part and shipping it up there.  They shipped it back.  I had it checked out at the county extension office (a great resource for all things domestic and agricultural)and aside from the gauge being off by one notch, it works fine.  I just have to look at 11 lbs pressure as the 10 lbs called for in the recipes.  Here are my newly canned beans and my ole pressure canner


I know it looks kinda worse for wear, but it is 72 years old. 

I have decided that I cannot let this thing out of my site.  I will have Diva come to my house to can her stuff or I will go to hers.  Anyone need a lesson, I can go to your house or you to mine, but it stays with moi.  As I told me mommy, and in the words of Charlton Heston "Out of my cold dead hands!"

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Beet Berry Jelly

I know, are you thinking "Beets?".  Yes.  That is what I said.  I have made Beet Berry jelly for the past few years.  All thru the  year I keep a freezer container(in the freezer of course) and add the blueberry juice drained off my canned blueberries as I use them.  In the spring I plant beets, which are then harvested, and cooked.  The cooked sliced beets are frozen to give to my parents who love beets, and the juice from the beets is strained thru a coffee filter and saved in the freezer until I have enough to make the jelly.  See my family, including my DH hate beets.  I made Harvard beets from fresh picked beets one  year.  The response was less than stellar.  My Dh tactfully said they were good.....for beets.  Rubic said "They taste like dirt", and Einstein said "Uh I think you forgot to wash them".  FYI, They were washed, and peeled.  Need to have that disclaimer.  I would like to think I can cook.  SO!  Anyway, while my family won't eat the beets, they will eat the jelly.  Go Figure.  So I split the diff.  My parents get the beets and we get the juice.  So anyway, here is the recipe for anyone interested in trying something new.

Beet Berry Jelly

4 cups beet juice (Or in my situation a mixture of beet juice and fruit juice.  Any type juice would work except OJ)
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 pkt sure jell
6 cups sugar

In a large pot mix the beet/berry juice, lemon juice, and sure jell(Pectin).  Bring to a rolling boil for 1 min.  Add the sugar.  Bring back to a rolling boil and let boil for 3 minutes.  Have some clean, hot, jelly jars ready.  Fill each jar leaving about a 1in head space.  Wipe rims and put on your sterilized lids and rings.  Process in boiling water bath canner(With jelly jars I just use a reg stock pot.  You just need to have a pot deep enough to cover the jars by 1.5 to 2 in of water) for 10 min. Makes about 8 jelly jars.  Well it makes 8 if you don't do what I did and knock one over.  FYI that is hot and very messy. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

It Soooooooo pays to ask! Tee Hee!

Today was my monthly main grocery trip.  It was an excursion to Kroger (Ralphs for those in that area), Aldi, and Sams.  My plan for Kroger was to pick up some bone-in chicken breast which was on sale for .99 lb.  They were out mainly because two ladies came in and cleaned them out of what they had out.  I shrugged it off thinking I would check meat prices at Sams to find an alternative.  Well as luck would have it (In other words, I was blessed), I happened upon 7 whole Tyson chickens with an expiration date of today.  They weren't marked down, so I asked the meat dept lady how much they were planning on marking them down.  I made sure she understood I would buy them all if (and I do mean if) she gave me a good deal on them.  I got those 7 whole chickens for .49lb!  Now some of you may turn your nose up at mark downs, but they are a staple of my grocery buying.  They are what allows me to keep my grocery budget under $400 a month (including pet food, toiletries, cleaning) and still keep a well stocked pantry.  The only concern you need to have when buying markdown meat is that you either use or freeze it that day.  Well I do that anyway.  I buy meats on sale and in large quantity, and freeze them.  I also look for breads marked down as well as dairy.  You can freeze milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.  Cream cheese doesn't do as well frozen, but you can still use it to cook with.  Many items like milk, yogurt, etc are good refrigerated after their sell buy date.  I used to scout out markdowns in the dairy dept at Kroger so much, that I met the manager, Robert.  He is no longer in that dept.  He is in produce now, but he still throws up his  hand to say hey and notices when I haven't been around.  Oh, and I do scout out markdowns in the produce dept as well. Things I can either use quickly or can.  So I guess I have typed all of this to say, it pays to search out mark downs.  Although if all of you realize the treasure trove of savings when buying markdows; you will start buying them all and there will be nothing left for me.......hmmm.  Okay!  Change of plans!  Forget everything I just wrote!   Uh  I was....Kidding.  Yea that's it!  Nothin to see here, move along, move along.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Summer time on the Beckner Homestead (Pics)

So finally I have arrived at the time of year where my garden, and everything else is in full swing.  Should you ever walk outside in my back yard, the following is what will greet you...
( I should say up front "Thank you Babe!" cause DH fought with the digital camera to get these to down load.)




This is a "Sun Parasol".  I have been waiting all summer for it to finally bloom.  I would say worth it.

 
The blueberries are coming in.  I am up to 8 lbs so far.  That is a round up cause I have weighed 7.5 lbs andeaten at least another 1/2 lb while picking and or working out in the backyard.  I can feel those wonderful antioxidants coursing thru my veins.


This is the upper half of my garden.  I had to take it in two shots cause it wouldn't fit in the camera.  Here is the second half.  This includes my concrete raised beds.

The front bed is my herb bed and also holds my yellow squash plants as well.  Each opening in the cinder blocks holds either beets, marigolds, or lima beans (the beans are new additions).  The front right bed holds more lima beans and cucumbers as well as volunteer peanut plants.  The back left bed hold sweet potatoes (new), lima beans(new) and beets.  The back right bed holds marigolds, tomatoes, and volunteer peanut plants. 



No pic blog post would be complete without some shots of the ladies.  So now that I have shared these pics, lookie what I picked today.  This is what about 15 lbs of produce looks like

 
So that is that.  Thanks for lookin!