Tuesday, December 31, 2013


I find that the children's message (a quick 5 minute lesson during the service for children) at church is often as meaningful for the adults as the children.  This past Sunday it was about New Year's Resolutions and how people try to make big changes all at once and fail 88% of the time.  The takeaway lesson was that it is better to make small changes and build up to the big changes. 

I am not big on New Year's resolutions, but I do like to set goals.  Often my goal is to save more money.  That is a broad goal, and one that could benefit from making small changes to reach a big goal.  With that in mind my January money goals are:

*Cut grocery budget to $40 per week and use the extra $10 for stocking up on sales.  This will involve eating from the pantry/freezer some and allow me to use up some items that have been floating around in there for too long.

*Cut out frivolous spending.  If an item is not a necessity or an item I have been searching for that is a good deal, I am going to pass.  W and I both get "fun" money each week that is ours to spend so this goal is more for bigger items.  These are things that would be nice to have, but I can wait to purchase later.

*Build up the "Life Happens" accounts.  Since I am cutting back on spending I want to put the extra money into savings.  My Life Happens accounts include medical, dental, car repair, etc.  These events will happen, and it is better to have money set aside for them before rather than after.  I also set aside a bit of money for entertainment, clothing purchases, and things like that. 

I think these three small steps will be a great building block for a larger goal as the year progresses.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Crafting for Operation Christmas Child - Cross Necklaces

I set a goal of working on one crafted item each month to include in my Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.  For December I chose to make cross necklaces. 

Wood cross beads - $6.25/100
pony beads - $5.99/bag (lower with coupon)
hemp cord - $3.99/400 feet (sale price)
*You may find a large needle helpful as not all of the holes in the wood beads were clear.

I cut the cord to about 28 inches.  I used the needle to make sure the holes in each bead were clear.  I put a cross bead on each piece of cord and added a few beads on each side just for fun.  These are optional as the necklace is cute without it.  I then tied a knot in the cord ends.  These easily slipped over my head. 

I actually had 98 wood crosses in my bag.  I purchased the beads with a 50% off coupon and used about half the bag.  I also only used around half of the ball of cord.  That means that each necklace cost about 12 cents.  You can cut the cost to 9 cents if you leave off the pony beads. 

Maybe you do not need 100 (or 98) necklaces.  Oriental Trading offers a Cross Faith Necklace Craft Kit for $5.50 that makes 12 or 46 cents each.  These premade Cross Necklaces are $4.25 for 12 or 35 cents each.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Feathered Friday or The Tale of the Evil Rooster

Today's post is about one evil rooster.  Last month we got some new chickens (8 hens and this rooster).  W warned me that the rooster was feisty so I was careful not to turn my back on him.  Oddly enough the rooster seemed to like.  He even let me pet him.  Little did I know this was all part of his evil plan.

I had no idea chickens were familiar with the phrase "keep your friends close and your enemies closer".  I was lured in by his friendly act.  Fortunately I did not trust him enough to turn my back on him.

About three weeks after Mr. Evil came to live at our little farm, he attacked.  If you have never been spurred by a rooster I recommend you leave that little item off your bucket list.  When I finally got out of the pen, my right leg was bleeding and covered in puncture marks, whelps, and quickly after bruises. 

It has been three weeks since and the bruises are finally fading.  Mr. Evil no longer lives with us.  He was sold two weeks ago.  I do not mind a chicken who will occasionally fly up at me, but Mr. Evil went way past that line. 

Next week I will introduce you to Mr. Evil's replacement.  He is much nicer although it would be hard for him to be worse than Mr. Evil.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Espresso Meringues

Last week I made a banana cream pie for W and wanted to make meringues for myself.  Meringues are a wonderful way to use up leftover egg whites.  Several days prior I had received a recipe for chocolate-dipped espresso meringues from Real Simple.  I had all of the ingredients on hand so it was easy to mix them together. 

I opted not to dip mine in chocolate although I am sure that would be delicious.  They were good just like this.  Even my dad who is not a coffee fan said they were tasty.  Just a note: do not try to make meringues on a rainy day.  They will not turn out crispy. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

 Wishing you and your family a wonderful day!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Garden and Greenhouse Update

This time of year I can still grow some vegetables outside.  Since there has not been a hard freeze I have lettuces growing in the raised bed and main garden.  You can also see some mustard on the right.

We have cabbage, broccoli, and turnips growing in the main garden.  These plants last throughout our winters.  We have harvested broccoli, and my mom harvested turnips a couple of times.  The cabbage is just starting to head.

Now we are off to the greenhouse.  First is a flower - a Christmas cactus - that W rescued from his parents' house. 

Here is the tomato that I picked and you can see a few others.  They are not going to be as large as a summer harvest would be, but they taste just as good.

I have a few tomato plants actually along with some pepper plants.

The pineapple plants take up a large section of the greenhouse.

I am waiting patiently for the lemon on my dwarf lemon tree to ripen.  It also has several smaller lemons, but this one will be my first.

Next week I need to arrange things better as it will be time to plant the spring tomato and pepper seeds.  I always have good intentions of placing the plants in the greenhouse neatly the first time.  When the cold weather is looming, I just rush to get everything in and arrange it all later.

Monday, December 23, 2013

I'm Back

I have no good excuses for my absence.  November was beyond busy and then I seemed to play catch up most of this month. 

Pictured here are the lettuce and tomato I picked from the garden/greenhouse last week.  BLTs in December with homegrown tomato is a real treat.  I even bought pork bacon (a rare treat) to go with them.  I figured a fresh tomato deserved it.  I think it was better than any July BLT.  I hope you will come back tomorrow for a tour of the garden and greenhouse

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Garden Update

While the weather is cooling down I still have some plants growing in the garden.  I have plenty of pepper plants left, but they are starting to look a bit ragged.  The heirloom tomato plants are growing well.  I might have mentioned that it is not uncommon for me to be harvesting tomatoes as late as New Year's Eve.  This is outside - not in the greenhouse.  I may be moving these plants into the greenhouse though as were planted late and not leftovers from the spring garden.


This is one of two apricot trees I have.  I need to get some bamboo skewers to stake them both up.  I started both of the trees from seed.

I had to move my pot of chives into the greenhouse.  The chickens found them and were snacking on the tender tips.  You can see where the chives have been clipped.

These pots of herbs are also in the greenhouse to prevent them from becoming chicken snacks.  I LOVE the pots which I bought on clearance at Lowe's last month.  I had plastic pots which fit perfectly inside them.  In the second picture you can see another tomato plant.  This one came up in the herbs which were planted in dirt from the compost pile.  I suspect that it is a yellow pear tomato since I only dumped a million or two seeds in the compost pile earlier in the year.

I was thrilled to discover one of my pineapple plants was blooming again.  This plant is a pup off the first plant that produced a pineapple.  It has taken just a year to produce a bloom!

This is the ginger plant that has grown from the piece of ginger I planted.  It makes quite an interesting plant, and eventually I will be able to harvest some ginger.

This is a non-edible portion of the garden.  I discovered that my local Lowe's discounts the succulents as winter approaches.  I bought a few at 50% and a few more when they marked them 75% off.  I will repot these in the spring and put them around the goldfish pond.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Holiday Grand Plan - Week 8 Review

This past week I worked in the kitchen.  I had already worked a few days in the past couple of months doing some organizing.  During this session I relined a section of kitchen cabinets.  I cleaned out the refrigerator/freezer.  The freezer portion is much better organized now.  I also reorganized the final section of kitchen cabinets.  All of the others were done at an earlier time.

No freezer cooking was done as the main freezers are still very full.  I did very minimal grocery shopping.  I ordered two Christmas gifts and also decided to skip making the crayon rolls.  I am not sure I will really have time and they are not a must make gift.  I found myself putting it off and dreading it.  I knew at that point it was time to mark them off my list. 

This coming week I will be focusing on the pantry.  It is a mess and needs some serious organizing.  I want to go over the upcoming holiday events and plan what foods I will be preparing so I can keep an eye out for grocery sales.  In the gift area I will work on the personalized cups and wrap the gifts I will be mailing.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Furry (and Finned) Friday

Last week we had a rainy day, and the animals were in a lazy mood.

Paris' favorite new sleeping spot is the laundry basket.
Leo prefers to curl up on the couch.
While out shopping last week, W picked out a new, larger aquarium.  We moved the plants and fish over, and he added in new gravel and a log.  The filter is so much quieter than the old one.  We hardly can tell it is even running.

We wanted to get some more fish to add in.  The owner of our local pet store suggested we wait six weeks to give the tank time to "settle".  It is nice to have a store owner who is interested in what is best rather than making a sale.  Of course, we will return to the store to purchase fish in December.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Week 7 and More Baking

Last week was not a good one for cleaning.  Between being out of town and then under the weather I did not get much accomplished.  The craft room is clean again though, and I can actually see both tabletops.  The animal ABC books are done and all of the Christmas cards are addressed.  I did a check of the gift list and feel okay at this point. 

This recipe for pita bread was on my to try list for last month.  I did not make it last month, but I had some free time over the weekend and decided to give it a try.  The first two pieces did not puff properly.  The other six did great though.

My wire rack has a plastic coating so I needed something different to bake them on.  I did have a pizza pan with holes which seemed a suitable substitute.

I mixed the dough in my bread machine and then rolled it out.  After a rest of about 30 minutes I baked it in the oven.  Overall I found it to be a quick bread recipe and one I will definitely make again.  I love pita bread but store bought leaves much to be desired.  It is nice to know that I can make it myself!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Halloween Decorating

My Halloween decorations have not been put out yet.  First I was waiting to see if tropical storm Karen was going to hit my area.  Then when I went to the storage building this past week, I opened the door to find a huge wasp nest.  I decided it was best to wait until W could spray it before I go stirring around in there too much.  I did have a couple of items stored inside which I put out.  First is the snake wreath from last year.  It held up much better after I wired on the snakes and then spray painted it black.  The snakes blend in with the grapevine wreath which makes it look like a huge pile of snakes.

While browsing on Pinterest a while back, I sold a BOO hanger for sale on Etsy.  It was cute but definitely out of my price range to purchase ($35-$55).  It was easy enough to recreate though.  I ordered the wood letters, painted them orange and tied the letters together with black yarn.  The original version had a bow at the top.  A bow did not work in the area on the porch I planned to hang it so I left it off.  I think I had $7 in the materials.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Baking Day

I mentioned yesterday that I made oatmeal cookie dough to freeze.  I did bake a dozen of the cookies but the rest of the dough was measured in cookie size balls and frozen in a baking pan.  Once frozen it can easily be put into a container and the necessary amount of dough removed and baked at a later time.  I actually did a double batch of the dough as it took no more time to mix. 

While I had the oven on for baking the dozen cookies I also baked hamburger buns and two loaves of bread.  The bread is a bit odd shaped as my bread machine messed up and went through the initial mixing twice.  It still tasted fine just rose up a bit more than normal.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Week 6

It is hard to believe that last week was one-third of the way through the Holiday Grand Plan.  It seems like I just started.  Technically last week was the children's rooms, but I have no children so I decided to change things up.  I did some cleaning in a few areas of the kitchen.  It was mostly organizing.  In the craft room I made an attempt to dig out the countertop. 

Freezer room is a bit limited since one of our big freezers died.  I did make oatmeal cookie dough to freeze (more on that later in the week). 

I have all of the animals cut out and put together.  The plan is to (finally) finish the animal ABC books.  I am ready to start working on a new project.  I think the next project will be a couple of crayon rolls using this tutorial

Much of my week was focused on Operation Christmas Child.  I did finish all of the crocheted wash cloths. I put together the fishing kits and sewing kits.  W and I started packing boxes.  Unfortunately two rooms are a bit taken over by the shoebox stuff.  I expect it will take another two weeks to get everything done and out of the house.  It will all be worth it when the boxes are turned in and on the way to blessing some children around the world.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Holiday Grand Plan Weeks 4 and 5

A couple of busy weeks and MORE Internet problems (with another technician visit) and computer time went out the window.  Here is a quick update on the past two weeks.

Week four I worked in the bedroom.  I had done a bit of cleaning in there recently so it was not too bad.  The worst job was cleaning out the huge desk so we could replace it with a smaller one.  I had to do a pile of decluttering.  We now have some extra space in the bedroom which is nice.  Week five was easier as I cleaned our tiny bathroom.  This was another room I had worked on earlier in the summer so the decluttering was done. 

I am switching things around this week and will be cleaning some in the kitchen.  This will actually be part one of the kitchen clean up.  I have scheduled two weeks for the kitchen as I have a long list.  I want to reline all of the cabinets, do some organizing, and declutter. 

For holiday prep I have addressed more Christmas cards.  I have four pages left in the animal ABC books.  I am ready to finish those so I can move on to some other handmade gifts. 

I will soon be in full swing packing Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.  I still have a few items to finish making.  On my list are 12 wash cloths, 8 sewing kits, 10 fishing kits, and 10 weaving loop headbands.  I also need to pick up some more toothbrushes this week.  I will be packing the first set of boxes this week. 

Another busy week, but I am working to make things easier when the really busy holiday time arrives.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Holiday Grand Plan Week 3 Update

The original plan was to work in the yard again, but I gave W the choice of yard or walk-in closet  He chose the closet which was in desperate need of attention.  We both decluttered piles of clothing.  Some of it was not worth donating, but most is headed to charity later this week.  I considered a yard sale, but in the end I wanted it all out of the house.

For the freezer I made breakfast burritos and chicken pot pie filling.  I do need to pick up four frozen pie crusts while I am out shopping this week.  I decided that would be easier than making pie crusts myself.  It is still very warm here. 

I continue to work on the animal ABC books and up to the letter "P".  I crocheted wash cloths for the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.  I also scored some good deals from Oriental Trading and Party City for filler items. 

I feel like I did not get much accomplished, but the closet looks 100 times better.  It is nice to be able to walk in and find everything organized.  With less clothing it is easier to find something I love to wear.  One of my tricks is to turn my hangers around backwards.  When I wear an item I turn the hanger back to correct way.  This time next year any items on hangers that are still turned backwards go straight to donation.  If I have not worn it in a year, I know it is time to let the item go. 

This week I will be cleaning the master bedroom.  Check back next week to see how I did.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Freezer Friendly Recipe - Spaghetti Pie

I waited until the last minute to post this recipe.  I use the word recipe loosely since it not hard to make and there is no definite recipe actually.  I call this a poor man's lasagna.  This is one dish that tastes better after it has been frozen.  W prefers it over spaghetti, and it is easy to make several in advance.
This consists of four layers (only three are shown above) so I will give you the basic and how-to for preparing it. 
Layer one - cook about 8 ounces of spaghetti.  Drain it well.  While it is still hot, stir in a few tablespoons of butter, some grated Parmesan cheese (I do a good handful), and two eggs.  Stir quickly to mix everything in.  This goes in the bottom of a pie pan or casserole dish.  I usually get three to feed just W and myself.  Technically it should make two.
Layer two is super simple.  On top of the spaghetti layer, spread cottage cheese.  I used a 24 oz package on my three pies.  Use as much or as little as you like.
Layer three - cook a pound or so of ground beef (turkey, venison - whatever you like).  To this add your favorite spaghetti sauce (jar or homemade).  Spread this over the cottage cheese layer.
At this point you can bake or freeze the pies.  I always freeze them since they taste much better after a week or two in the freezer.  To cook - thaw overnight in the refrigerator.  Bake at 375 until bubbly (how long depends on how big you made them).  My two person version takes about 25-30 minutes.  Then top them with layer four - shredded cheese.  Bake another 5 minutes or so until the cheese melts.
The spaghetti pie will dish up better if you let it sit 5-10 minutes before trying to cut/spoon.  I usually serve it with breadsticks (from the freezer too) and salad.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Holiday Grand Plan - Week 2 Review

Week two was spent working in the living room.  I dusted everything and organized some cabinets.  W helped reorganize our DVDs.  I had neglected that chore for the past few months so it was a mess.  The furniture was vacuumed and the floor scrubbed.  This is one area that I will need to stay on top of with weekly maintenance cleaning. 

Our aquarium had gotten into a mess after the algae eater died.  I purchased a new one and also bought some von rio tetras to add to the tank. 

I worked on the animal ABC albums and am done through the letter "J".  The crocheted wash cloths are coming along well.  My plan is to focus on those more over the next two weeks and hopefully finish them up.

Finally I did some freezer cooking.  I made 3 spaghetti pies which I consider a poor man's lasagna.  The recipe on that will be posted later this week.  I made some more chicken tenders.  I also used the same process to cover some small chicken breast halves.  I will use those to make chicken parmigiana.  I will bake the chicken breasts and then top with a homemade marinara and mozzarella cheese. 

Week two was a success.  I am changing things up a bit for week three.  I would normally be finishing up in the yard.  Instead I am going to work on the walk in closet.  The plan is not a set in stone list of rules.  It is easy to customize to fit each person's needs.  Check back next Monday to find out what I accomplished!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Feathered Friday - Where's Francesca?

Can you spot the chicken in this picture?  Look closely and you can see a beak and tiny head peeking out.  W found a nest of eggs while we were working in the yard last week.  He did not pick them up, which turned out to be a good thing.  Francesca is sitting on them.  She has found a wonderful hiding spot and is well protected under the sago palm.  She also gives me a good excuse not to clean around the deck just yet.  I do not want to expose her hiding spot.  Hopefully in a few week I will be sharing cute little chick pictures.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Pineapple Plants

I mentioned dividing some pineapple plants.  Once a pineapple plant puts on a pineapple, it then forms pups (tiny pineapple plants) which need to be removed.  These form entirely new pineapple plants.  I also have had plants that die back a bit but sprout out two plants from the original root.  As a result of all that I have ended up with this:

This picture does not even include all of the plants I have.  I never intended to start my own pineapple farm.  We have 29(!) plants in all.  W wanted to keep just 6.  I talked him up to at least 10 - maybe 12.  That means I have to find homes for 17 pineapple plants.  I am going to try to sell them at a neighborhood yard sale later this month.  I would love to keep them but simply have no room.  It is going to get cold in a few months, and W is not interested in building a second greenhouse just for pineapple plants.  They are nice to have and nothing beats a homegrown pineapple!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Recipe Request - Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

I really wish that I could remember where this recipe came from so I could give proper credit.  Unfortunately I have no idea.  An internet search came up with no matching recipes.
If I run across the recipe source, I will be updating this post.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

1 envelope yeast
1/4 C warm water
2 T granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/4 C unsalted butter, melted
1 can (15oz) sold pack pumpkin (*I use 2 C of my frozen garden pumpkin)
5 1/2 C bread flour (*a combo of bread flour and whole wheat flour is fine)
3/4 t salt

Filling: (*I never measure but just add enough to cover the dough)
unsalted butter, softened
brown sugar

Glaze:  Confectioner's Sugar & Milk

Combine dough ingredients in bread machine on dough cycle.  (You can also mix the yeast, water, and sugar.  Once it gets bubbly add other ingredients in mixer with dough hook or knead by hand.  Allow to rise until doubled in size.)  Once dough cycle is complete.  Roll out on lightly floured surface to form a rectangle.  Spread with filling ingredients to cover dough.  Roll up jelly roll fashion Cut into pieces and place on baking pan(s) coated with nonstick spray or Crisco.  (I usually get 20-24 slices.)

Option 1 for baking now, cover the pan with a dish towel and let sit until doubled in size. 

Option 2 for baking the next morning/day - cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Allow to come to room temperature while oven preheats.

Option 3 for freezing, wrap pans with foil and freeze.  Thaw in fridge overnight.  Allow to come to room temperature while oven preheats. 

Heat oven to 350 degrees uncover pan(s) and bake until cinnamon rolls are golden brown (25-30 minutes).  Mix confectioner's sugar and milk to form a slightly thick glaze.  Spread over warm cinnamon rolls.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Holiday Grand Plan - Week 1 Review

I love having a big yard, but it takes effort to maintain it.  Honestly when the southern summer hits, it is impossible to muster up much effort at all.  As a result our yard was a mess.  W pitched in this past week and helped me get the items on my list completed.  He cleaned around part of the greenhouse, and I cleaned the inside.  We picked up tree limbs, loaded up stuff that needed trashing or returning to its proper place, and mowed.  We repotted some pineapple plants (more on that later this week). He fixed up two additional birdbaths. 

I pulled up all the poison oak and poison ivy that was growing around the yard.  W is highly allergic to it.  I have no allergy to it at all.  I inherited that lovely trait from my dad.  I just pulled it all up with bare hands and disposed of it. 

W also did some work around the goldfish pond.  He removed the yucky fence and added in river rocks.  We do have an electric fence (not electrified - yet) around the pond to keep Jack the dog out.  He is my parents' big goofy hound dog, and he loved wading in water.  Nevermind that there are still ditches full of water all around the yard.  The pond was calling his name.  We are hoping that the fence alone will be enough to keep him out.  We still need more rocks and will be adding in some succulents in the spring.

We originally went to Lowe's in search of paint.  I really wanted to repaint the front door.  The front door is fine, but I had seen a design in a magazine and wanted a change.  After pricing paint I was forced to choose between paint and river rocks.  The paint was a definite want while we needed the river rocks to keep the grass from growing into the pond.  It was nice to dream but reality set it.  I do love the river rocks around the pond and in the long run will be much happier with them than a different colored door.

Week two has me headed into the living room.  I will also be doing some freezer cooking.  Check back next Monday to see how I did. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Feathered Friday

Just a few random shots of the feathered pets this week. 

The ducks are getting darker feathers in anticipation of the coming autumn season 

Showing off for the camera!

This is Bubbles.  She is a princess and is not a big fan of sitting on the dirt.

One of the bantam hens

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Homemade Fruit and Nut Bars

I love Kind bars.  They are delicious.  I am not so in love with the price though.  I searched online for a homemade version and was not disappointed.  I used this recipe from Love U Madly.  I made mine with almonds, pecans, and cranberries.  I live in a small town where brown rice syrup is impossible to find.  Thank goodness for Amazon. 

I am definitely going to be making these again and experimenting with different flavor combinations.  I opted to store mine in the refrigerator since the humidity made them a bit sticky. They were a hit with W and one of his co-workers who ended up eating the entire bar that I put in W's lunch.  I remembered to include two the following day.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

In the Garden

The spring garden is long gone, but I have a few things growing in my fall garden.  First I have some tomato plants.  These are the heirloom Cherokee Purple tomatoes which were by far the yummiest tomatoes I grew this past year.  In my area with normal-ish weather, I can harvest tomatoes through the end of December.  These will have time to grow and produce before the cold weather hits.

I also decided to try growing ginger after seeing it on several other blogs.  I just bought a piece of ginger at the grocery store.  I divided it into piece and planted them.  I have had good luck with them sprouting and have a couple of nice starter plants.

Working in the garden always means that I have helpers.  I discovered this permanent garden resident.

I have no fear of spiders and am quite happy that this one is guarding the few spring tomato plants that are working on a comeback.

JoJo the cow was hoping that I would toss some pears over the fence.  She is nothing but a big baby.

Lucy was inspecting the work I had done in one of the raised beds.  She was too busy to stop and pose for a photo.