Friday, November 28, 2014

Get it together people! Really!

Every year the stores advertize for Black Friday, offering crazy deals on the lastest craze, but only while supplies last. Every year we are treated to crazy, rude, and sometimes violent people as a back drop to start the Christmas season.  The Christmas season.....a time to remember the greatest gift given, a time of peace, good will toward men.  This year seems particularly egregious because, instead of at least taking a break from the mayhem to be grateful for what we have, the Black Friday maddness started even on Thanksgiving.  It's sad really.  Part of the blame I am sure, lays with the store purposely dangling the carrot before the public to turn us into crazed animals intent only on obtaining "the prize".  You know who else gets the blame?  We do.  A public that willingly succumbs to the stores taunts and throws our better selves away for one more.....thing, gadget, trinket. 

Now don't get me wrong.  Not everyone acts like apes.  I will concede that point, but more and more we are becoming a comsumerist society; basing our status on what we have rather than who we are.  I will confess I look at the ads to see if there is anything to tempt me to venture forth, but more often than not I stay home.  Long ago, before it got too crazy out there, I would go out for the Black Friday shopping.  Then it was fun.  You would wait in line, striking up a conversation with others around you.  Sometimes ads would get passed around so everyone could get one more look.  The doors would open and we would pour in, but rather than trample each other to get to something, we were allies, helping each other get what we wanted for Christmas.  Fast forward some years, and I am dissappointed in what it has become.  For that reason I opted out of Black Friday shopping at the store a few years ago.  I opted out of Thanksgiving shopping all together.  I started some of my Christmas shopping in my Pj's with a cup of coffee at a reasonable hour this morning and then proceeded to put on Christmas music and decorate my house for Christmas.  You know what?  I still got good deals on gifts for Christmas.  I am happy to have started my Christmas shopping (with a budget of course). 

Is there a way we can get back to what Christmas really means and get that special gift for a loved one and do it on a budget?  Yes,  and it doesn't take the government passing a law.  Stand your ground and don't fall for the hype and craziness ginned up by stores.  The great thing about a Free Market is we dictate which direction it goes.  If we willingly throw Thanksgiving away, and make a mad dash for the latest new thing, then they will give us exactly what we want.  But if we stay home on Thanksgiving and treat each other with courtesy and kindness then they will accommodate that as well.  No item purchased at a store is worth the behavior seen on Black Friday.  No excuses. 

Okay, I will give my soap box back now.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


I know, seriously sound like I am on a swing set, but no, I am just excited.  Why do you ask?   Well let me tell ya!  We are now the owners of two, count'em two laptops!  I just don't know what to do with myself.  We have never had two pieces of technology at a time.  I mean seriously we still own a VCR.  We don't use it much, but it works and we have movies on VHS to play when the urge hits(not often).  We have a DVD player and hubby just bought a refurbished PS3 about the time the PS4 is coming out.  That's it, but now we have two lap tops.  Wow, two.  Amazing. 

So what happened?

Well I took our broken laptop down to my Mom and Dads for our Thanksgiving get together.  My dad worked on it forever. getting rid of viruses, etc.  It started to feel somewhat better.  We could at least operate it.  Still it was bogged down.  Then my nephew showed up.  My Dad grabbed him and he went to look at it.  Before dinner (Thank you very much Nephew).  I asked my nephew if he was my defender.  His response was that this wasn't defending it was more like the flailing around right before you die.  You see I had gotten a really nasty virus that even deleted, would just pop up somewhere else, under another program.  In addition to that it was inviting other friends over to play.  My poor computer was using every ounce of strength it had to just come on.  The battery was draining and we thought it was bad.  Since repaired the battery holds its charge fine.  I felt bad because all of the work my Dad did ended up being wasted because my nephew had to restore the computer back to factory settings.  It wiped everything. but also the virus.  He then reformated it for me.  Now this computer runs like new.  I am typing this post on my previously hospitalized computer.  And guys, it is true that more than likely the virus came thru on a Microsoft update.  Don't let your computer automatically update.  And be careful what you download.  We thought we were being careful and had done everything right.  Nope.  You can't be too careful. 

 So we have two "new" computers.  I had to go thru and change all of my passwords on just about every webpage.  I strengthend them as well.  I should have done that before.  I had on some pages, but now it is on every page.  I want to say a heart felt "Thank you" to both my Dad and my Nephew.  In exchange for his help, my nephew charged me 1lb of toffee, 1 chicken once butchered etc, and I have to say " he is awesome".  Easy payment plan I must say.  He is Awesome! A little more pricey than Daddy.  Daddy just wants hugs.  I got plenty of them.....especially for my Dad.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Oh how the mighty have fallen!

I would love to say it has been a frugal week, but in the dollars and cents area, not so much.  I have done some frugalish things to mitigate the disaster, but it is a drop in the bucket.  Oh to be the type of person that can wire a house, fix a stove, and debugged a really bugged computer.  Then I could wow you all with the frugalness of my ways.  Alas that is not the case and the dollars started stacking. 

SO WHAT HAPPENED!  I hear you all shout to me from cyber space (I know you aren't really, but it makes for a good read wouldn't you say?)

Well for the past few months we have been dealing with our computer being crazy.  We had an automatic update  from Microsoft a couple of months ago, and while I am not saying Microsoft was at fault, it seems about the same time as the update, malware was downloaded to our computer in the form of System Optimizer Pro.  It is nothing but an advertisement to clean up malware (ironically), but instead it bogged down our whole computer.  We tried everything we could to get rid of it, but it kept getting worse.  We planned on taking it somewhere to get fixed/cleaned up.  Now the battery is gone.  In order to use the thing it has to remain plugged in.  Since we were planning on getting a second laptop or tablet after Thanksgiving, we went ahead and ordered another one.  That was Monday.  It did not add to our debt and was simply a move up of an already planned purchase.  We still plan on repairing the laptop if cost effective to do so.  That way DH can have his football on TV and laptop on Sunday and I have a laptop as well. 

Tuesday morning my stove went up in a puff of smoke, taking with it, apparently, the power cord and the outlet.  This stove has been the bane of my existence since we bought it 4 years ago.  This stove was supposed to be a place holder until I could get something better  Then life happened and it stayed.  I have dealt with a possessed stove for years now.  The right front burner will, without warning, go from med low to high and the only way to stop it is to turn it off and wait a few minutes.  It is so badly insulated, that I can keep items warm on top of the stove while baking in the oven.  I mean really warm.  Simmer is a non existent temperature.  The list of Grrrrr things is long so needless to say I was not sad to see the stove bite the dust.  I tried to find a used one, but my mom pointed out that with as much cooking I do, investing in a new well made stove would be wiser than obtaining someone else's headache.  Wise words.  So Tuesday I also ordered a stove.  It will not add to our debt, but only with some maneuvering.  Problem now is, we ordered the stove not knowing the cord and outlet were dead.  Enter a new cord (which we bought and installed) and an electrician for the outlet to the tune of $95 a hour plus parts.  Yay! 

In addition to all of this, Hubby can't find his glasses.  We have torn the house, car, and work up looking for them.  Murphy's law says they will show up after we have ordered another pair.  DH was due for an eye exam and a update to his prescription anyway.  Another blessing is we contribute to a Health Savings account and the money for the glasses will come from there. 

Now in all this "un frugalness", I have managed to do some things frugal.  I used Ebates website to buy my stove at Sears.  I shopped around the stores in my area.  I found the stove I wanted at the Sears store.  Went home and found the exact same stove for the same price as the brick and mortar store but with free shipping.  I went thru Ebates to get 6% back from my purchase and so will get a check for $24 and some change.  I also managed to cook a whole dinner as well as bake biscuits for breakfast this morning on our grill.  Once my stove is back, I will be back to making Granola and Bread for us and I have a long list of items to make to sell.  These are due around Monday.  Pretty much all I make will go back into the savings account for Christmas. 

So now you have it, my drama for the week.  I guess it is time to go watch for the electrician.  You guys have a great day!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Well I can do it.

Today was to be butchering day on the homestead for our resident roosters.  However,  once my friend Jimmy and I had butchered the first two we noticed they were kinda puny.  This surprised me since they are 20 weeks.  Unlike commercial chicken growers, ours haven't been plumped up with designer feed, hormones and such.  Not to mention they have plenty of moving around room, so don't get fat as quick.  That being said, we are waiting at least a few more weeks for the rest.  I do know now I can do it despite many people guessing I wouldn't go thru with it.  Not to say I am cold hearted.  I'm not.  It wasn't easy to do.  Had they all been hens, they would have had a place somewhere.  I will not sell a single rooster.  Not in my area.  My  choices were either sell and hope they were not going to use him for fighting ( not chancing that), keep him and feed him forever til he dies of old age (not), or butcher him.  We went into this knowing there would come a time when we would have to take the responsibility of butchering one or more roosters.  I also take the responsibility for one day having to butcher hens no longer producing.  I didn't go into this to begin a chicken retirement home.  These animals provide a service in either eggs or meat.  One way or the other they provide for my table.  In exchange I provide shelter, food, and care for them while they bless us on earth.  Ideally I would buy my chicken at the store ignorant as to where my meat comes from.  Many people do that very thing.  I guess I have been behind one to many chicken trucks.  At least my birds get fresh air, grass, bugs, and good things to eat.  Not to mention way more room to move around.  SO now I know it can be done.  Thanks Jimmy for your help, instruction, and friendship.. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Finally Chocolate chip granola bars, and the wonders of silicone baking mats.

Much like acquiring the ability to make bread, the art of making a good granola bar has always eluded me.  I would try recipes and they wouldn't be what I was looking for; namely a Nature Valley crunchy type bar.  Most recipes were for chewy granola bars which ended up more sticky and the crunchy ones ended  up hard despite my best efforts.  Granola itself was no problem, but a chance. 

With the holiday opening of my little "store" of toffee, conserves, etc, wax paper became my friend.  All Hail wax paper!  Anyway, Yesterday, making a batch of just regular granola, I had an epiphany.  What if I just pressed my granola into the cookie pan once it comes out of the oven!  Normally with granola you don't disturb it as it cools and then you break it up.  This time I would take it out of the oven.  Place a piece of wax paper on top and then, using my rolling pin, roll it flat.  Then let it cool.  Problem is I would need to be able to get it out of the cookie sheet without breaking it up.  So I took a piece of wax paper and lined my cookie sheet.  Then prepared my granola according to recipe only this time  after removing it from the oven, I covered it with wax paper and did the whole rolling pin thing.  I also went ahead and cut it into bars before it was cool to also avoid breaking them.  The granola bars turned out great and did exactly what I thought they would do with the exception of one thing.  Not all of the wax paper released from the bar.  It was a messy frustrating process and some of the bars broke.  Grrr.  So close!  So now enter my new best friend in baking.....the silicone baking mat.  I have taken some of the proceeds of my holiday store sales and bought 2 silicone cookie sheet liners.  Since they are reusable, it is a much better investment that wax paper and won't leave bits of paper on the finished product.  As for the actual bars, they have passed inspection from the men in the house and so I can check one more item off my to buy at the store list. 

Chocolate chip Crunchy Granola Bars

4.5 cups quick cooking oats
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dry milk
1 tsp ground cinnamon
dash salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup oil
1.5 tsp vanilla or vanilla/butter flavoring
1/3 cup choc chips

Take your first 5 ingredients and mix together well on a cookie sheet (lined with a silicone baking mat or sprayed with cooking spray)
In a saucepan, mix the sugar, honey, oil, and extract.  Heat up on med heat just til boiling.  Pour over the oat mixture.  Mix as much as you can with a spoon (cause it will be hot FYI), and then lay the spoon aside and mix with your clean hands.  Spread out equally over the cookie sheet.  Bake in a 325 oven for 10 minutes.  Take out and stir well, spread evenly again and put back into the oven for 5 minutes.  Repeat, place back in oven for last 5 minutes.  Once removed, sprinkle the chips over your granola.  Cover it with wax paper and using a rolling pin, roll it flat, flat, flat.  Go ahead and cut into bars while the mixture is still warm or you won't be able to later.  Once cool, you can break the bars apart and store in an air tight container. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

What to say about Rubic...hmmm

Yesterday we celebrated the 19th birthday of our son, Rubic.  Although he has surpassed me in height by almost a foot, he will always be my baby.  I'm sure he hates that.  There are moments when I see this man before me as he was at five.  Usually those are moments where he is in a vulnerable situation such as illness, or upset about something.  For the most part, he has grown into a confident (sometimes a little too)man.  I enjoy watching this young man full of dreams.  Wanting to be a lot of things at once, travel, etc. basically take the world by storm.  And he is fully capable of doing it if he sets his mind to it.  (Sigh) ahh to be young again.   I remember my dreams.  Some have been fulfilled, and some have been replaced by dreams much better than anything I could think of.  But I digress......

Rubic is my go to guy for all things technical.  While he will be the first to tell you (and he has me) that he doesn't know everything about computers, he knows more than his parents do for sure.   He is also the encyclopedia of all this video, graphic novel, and movie.  He and I kind of have an understanding.  He will drone on about a video game character and my eyes glaze over; much like his do when I talk politics.  We understand these things about each other, but it doesn't stop him from telling me about his interests anymore than it stops me from sharing mine.  We tease him about being our resident liberal.  Though not active in politics....yet,  he is really more libertarian.  We do have some lively debates about many different topics.  He definitely keeps me honest and thoughtful.  I would hope his dad and I impart something to him as well.

Rubic is a ready smile, quick wit, and a hug when I need it.  He is ever curious, learning, growing.  He has so much to look forward to in his future.  As he matures, I know there are aspects of his personality that will be tempered some.  While I know that for a certain because it happens to us all as we grow and learn, there is a light of mischief in his eyes that I hope never goes away. 

So Happy Birthday to my youngest and tallest child.  I love you Rubic and am so proud of you.  One more year and I will no longer be able to say I am the mother of a teenager.  Maybe I can start saying I am the mother to tweenagers.  Hmmmmm  that's a thought.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Well Brrrrrrrr!

Windy and cold here this morning.  Got down into the 30's over night and will be down to 29 tonight.  The current wind chill in Atlanta is 29 degrees. We are about 1.5 hours north of them and more rural so less concrete to hold heat so I am figuring we are a couple of degrees cooler.  Dh just put on his jacket to go see to the chickens and commented "maybe it just seems to be colder outside than it really is".  My response?  "once you go outside I think you will say "" nope it is just as cold as I thought it was"". 

I love cooler weather.  But usually we are done with outdoor work and can be warm and cozy inside.  Unfortunately, this colder weather has caught us by surprise and we still have more to do outside.  We are currently trying to decide if we want to try and revamp the old coop.  The advantage would be a quicker way for chicken maintenance/egg collection.  Plus with the thicker walls, the chickies will have a warmer shelter.  The disadvantage is having to do this in the cold, and well the work.  For my Alaskan, Canadian, and Yankee friends, these temps might be spring to you but it is cold to us! 

We have been able to take the divider down between the two chicken flocks sharing one new run.  They are slowly but surely mingling.  We are hoping we can get them together so everyone can enjoy the shelter of the new coop.  Until then we have a tarp covering one end of the run in order to give the chicks some form of wind break/shelter.  Fortunately these are cold hardy chickens.  That doesn't mean I want them to have to use that ability.  I am sure they would rather be warm. 

So in addition to that decision, is the fact that I need to make bread for the coming week.  That is much nicer to do when it is cold outside because it heats up the house.  It is definitely a cozy chore in fall/winter, and more of a hot job in the summer.  But I feel good about it.  DH told me the other day he loves my bread.  That makes it all worth while. 

So Dh has come back in from chicken duty and has confirmed our suspicions.  It is cold outside.   Big surprise.  Now I head off to get started with my day.  Not a barn burner today, but if we do the revamp, I will have more to post.  Have a great day!

12 hours later...... well we did it!  We muscled our energy, lacking though it was cause we did not sleep well last night (Mona our pitbull was afraid of a noise from outside due to the wind.  Go figure), and went to Lowes.  We bought our materials and went to it.  The old coop now has a back door similar to the new coop.  This will make it so much easier and faster to collect eggs, clean, etc. 

Isn't it cute!  Once we have the flock all organized, the PVC run (which you currently can't see cause this is the back of the coop) will be taken down and the two coops will be attached to the larger newer run with a divider in the middle.  It will be like a little subdivision!  Lol.  The Rubbermaid container next to the coop is for hay storage.  Works pretty good and keeps the hay convenient to the coops.

Okay, so finally there is the update!  WHEW!