Monday, June 29, 2015

Weekly Savings & A One Question Poll

First you may notice a one question poll on the left hand side of the blog.  We have started on the process of building our new house.  We are doing much of the work ourselves, and I wanted to share the process.  I am curious if you would like to see posts about this in a separate blog.  Please take a second to vote.  Thank you!

It has been a few weeks since I posted about my savings.  I am going to hit the high points.

I ordered some clothing for my cousin's little girl online.  I am planning a review post of this soon.  I got four pieces of clothing for free.  I also ordered some clothes for myself from another online site.  It was not free was deeply discounted.  I will be doing a review of this site as well.

We have been doing some yard work in preparation for our new house.  We needed to move our goldfish to a temporary home.  My parents loaned us a water trough which works perfectly and actually gives the fish more room.

I finished crocheting a baby blanket, long-tailed stocking cap, and diaper cover for my new nephew due next month.  The cost of the yarn was reasonable.  I basically have time in a nice gift.

The garden continues to produce well.  I have been harvesting tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, herbs, and a few figs.  I have put stuffed jalapeno peppers in the freezer.  I have also canned several jars of candied jalapeno slices.  These are addictive and very yummy.  I have frozen some cucumber slices to use for infusing water later this year.  The herbs have gone into dishes or into herbal teas/infusions.
I checked in on my neighbors' house, pets, and garden and earned a little money to put toward the new house.  I also baked a large cake for an engagement party.  The local bakery was closed and the family was desperate.  I hate baking cakes for other people, but it was good money to put into savings.

I really want to be able to borrow as little money as possible for the new house so I will be stepping up the savings.  I told W to let me know if things got too tight.  I know we have to sacrifice a bit now to reach our goal!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Furry Friday - Friends at Last?

Lucy generally sleeps on the bed each night.  Leo has his own bed at the foot of ours.  He knows what time the alarm clock goes off and will generally hop into our bed about 5 minutes before.  One morning last week I had no idea that they were both in the bed and lying very close to each other.

They have learned to tolerate each other, but I never dreamed I would see them this close to each other.  I do not know if I can call them friends yet.  At least they are not enemies!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Favorite Things

I thought I would share just a few of my favorite things from the past month.

First up is my aromatherapy diffuser.  Leo has suffered from horrible storm anxiety.  It was so bad that we looked into getting a prescription medicine.  I was not happy with the thought of the side effects including liver problems.  I found some information on using essential oils with dogs.  I put lavender in the diffuser when it starts thundering.  Leo calms down enough to find a quiet place.  

The second item I am loving is my $3 yard sale electric water kettle.  I honestly use it 4+ times a week for heating water quickly for cooking or making cups of tea.

The third item is our outdoor washing sink.  W was going to throw this away last year when I asked if he could set it up by the garden.  It is great for rinsing off produce before we bring it inside.  He even installed a pipe that routes the water back into the garden so it is not wasted.

The final favorite thing is really a sound.  I love hearing the jars of canned food make the little "ping" when they seal.  It is satisfying especially with all of the work that goes into growing and canning the foods.  

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Book Review: Not Cool

I have never been what I considered a "cool" person if you are going by society's perception of cool.  I never did anything just because everyone else was doing it.  The first indication that I have no problem going against the crowd is that I do not like any sports teams from my home state.  I have no idea who decided that people were required to like the teams in their state.  Back to the book - Not Cool:  The Hipster Elite and Their War on You by Greg Gutfeld.  I just knew as a not cool person I would enjoy this book.

Not Cool was a refreshing break from the average opinions of what is popular.  Too often what is cool is defined by Hollywood and politicians.  Neither group has any real life experience.  I did not agree with every chapter.  (I prefer my natural bug repellent to a bunch of chemicals and am not ready to embrace genetically modified foods.)  Overall I was on board with the message of the book.  Americans need to get back to what made our country great in the beginning and stop trying to impress people by following every wild idea that comes along.

I found the book to be slightly crude in places and have a bit of bad language, but it was not enough to make me not read the book.  There were some really great sections.  One of my favorites was in the chapter about the south:  "Southern hospitality means looking out for one another.  Sure, they know when to mind their own business.  But they also have a tight-knit community, often centered on a church.  Some might call it nosy, but that nosiness can be lifesaving."

My second favorite part is also a great summary of the book.  "The lesson:  It is a mistake to worry about how others view you. ........ You don't need their observation or approval.  You're already observed by those who matter: your family, your friends, yourself."   Do your homework before you offer your support or rejection of an issue.  It is not enough to follow along just because everyone else is.  We each have to just be ourselves and not be concerned with what everyone else thinks.  Never change your beliefs simply to be "cool".  Being not cool is perfectly okay!

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Apologies for the Break

This is what my kitchen island looks like currently.....

The past couple of weeks have been nonstop produce.  Between my own garden and purchasing some produce from local farms, I have been busy.  Fresh produce does not wait.  (I did pick a few less ripe tomatoes so I would not have to deal with 3 five gallon buckets all in one day.)

I appreciate your patience, and I have some new posts lined up for next week.  By then the tomatoes will be gone, and I will be dealing with a mountain of jalapeno peppers.  All of it will taste great this coming winter and will be worth the effort!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Weekly Savings & Pantry Challenge

Last week was a very busy time in the kitchen.  The garden is producing well, and local farm produce is getting ready.  I consider preserving my foods to be a savings.  Here is a rundown of what I preserved this past week.

On Monday I dehydrated squash and zucchini (both from the garden).  I vacuum sealed these in pint jars.  We had a storm come through that night which blew over my mom's tomatoes.  Several green ones were knocked off.  Tuesday I made chow chow (a southern relish).  The best thing about chow chow is that you can use pretty much whatever you have on hand.  For this batch I used the green tomatoes, zucchini, cabbage, peppers, and onions.  Everything except the three onions were from the garden.  It was a good way to use up many of the extra vegetables I had.  Also on Tuesday I made blackberry syrup.  Normally we eat maple syrup with pancakes, but I wanted to try some homemade fruit syrups.

Wednesday was an easier day.  I canned one batch of sweet pickle relish.  It combines peppers, cucumbers, celery, and onions.  While W will not eat most of those on their own, he will happily eat them pickled.  Thursday was a new to me canning recipe - candied jalapeno pepper slices.  I have to wait a couple of weeks before we can try them.  I wanted to do this with the first harvest of jalapeno peppers so I will know if I need to make more or not.  I took the day off Friday.  On Saturday I got corn from a local farmer and froze several packs of whole kernel corn.  I also used up some local peaches in several jars of peach syrup.  I did two different types of refrigerator pickles using the Mexican sour gherkin cucumbers.

All of this kitchen work meant I stayed pretty close to home all week.  I spent some time working on a baby blanket that will be a gift.  I only have 3 weeks left so I need to make more time each day.

I ordered some seeds off eBay.  They were delivered quickly were fairly inexpensive.  None of them were anything I could purchase locally.  I also purchased a pair of shorts that were reasonably priced.
I posted a review of the book I received and was able to immediately request a new book.

I continued to pick piles of veggies from the garden.  We are getting a good assortment.  I am trying to either preserve or eat everything.  I have also been harvesting plenty of herbs.

I planted some zinnia seeds that were given to me.  Originally we had planned to move the last raised bed but have not had time.  I decided to plant something there instead since it was in the area I was watering.  I hope to have some flowers to cut for arrangements later.

On the pantry challenge front - I almost stuck to my budget.  I spent $27 this past week.  This does not include the corn but does include the peaches that I purchased.  I neglected to keep up with our meals.  I am planning to stick to the $25 again this week.  Most likely I will be purchasing locally grown tomatoes to can.  I have some but not enough to can for the winter months.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Book Review: A Bone to Pick

Food is a hot topic.  We all have to eat.  The debates about food safety, organic vs non-organic, GMOs, and how our food is produced are never ending.  The more I read about the topics, the more attention I pay to my food choices.  A Bone to Pick by Mark Bittman was a fascinating look at the good and bad points of food in America.  This book is perfect for people who are already familiar with some of the problems as well as those who are interested in learning.

The book is a collection of columns written by Mark Bittman.  This may seem like a poor choice for book organization, but it is actually my favorite part.  The book covers a wide variety of topics ranging from Big Ag to diets to legislation.  I first thought these divisions within the sections would allow me to read a few pages here and there.  I found that once I started it was difficult to put the book down.  

The publication date of each column is included at the end. It is sad to see how little progress we have made in implementing fixes to the problems with our food system here in America.  The government seems unwilling to do the things necessary to make changes, but we cannot expect the government and food companies to act in our best interest.  We as individuals hold the most power.  Change is not easy when we are bombarded constantly with advertisements for fast food and overly processed foods.  While I feel I make good choices most of the time, the book encouraged me to make more changes and better decisions about the food that I buy and eat.  It is time to take responsibility for our food and speak with the most powerful tool we have - our money!

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Weekly Savings & Pantry Challenge Update

This week was a hectic one.  I should have done a better job at keeping up with the little things I did to save money.

I did better at keeping up with my daily routines which meant meals were planned ahead of time.  I find that taking a few minutes the night before to plan meals means the following day goes more smoothly.

I made some birthday cards using materials that I already had on hand.

I found a bunch of postcards while cleaning out my craft room.  I used a glue stick to glue a plain piece of paper onto the back of each turning them into note cards.  I will actually use these for writing letters.

I picked garden produce again - herbs, cabbage, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, tomatoes.  I pickled a jar of Mexican sour gherkin cucumbers.

W and I took a last minute day trip to the beach.  We drove down for the day and took snacks, drinks, and tortilla wraps from home so there was no extra out of pocket spending.  The weather was lovely, and it was great to get away.  We were home in time to feed all of the animals.

Now for the pantry challenge update.  Last week I was certain that I could make it through this past week without going over the $16.49 remaining in my budget.  That was before a church dinner, snack purchase for beach trip, and stocking up on some very good sales.  Let's just say that I went way over.  I was not even close if I had decided to put a few things back.

It will balance out over the long run.  I bought extra cheese and cream cheese for making jalapeno poppers with jalapeno peppers from the garden.  W requested a few snacks which will last beyond this week.  I bought movie theater candy for our movie nights.  I have enough for the next couple of months.

Unfortunately I lapsed on keeping up with what we ate.  It was just one of those weeks.  I have decided to continue with a modified pantry challenge.  I am going to allow myself $25 per week for groceries.  I am also not going to stress about stocking up on any great sale items.  After all the point of cutting back on the grocery budget is to have money for stocking up.