Wednesday, January 20, 2021

What's for Dinner: This Week's Menu

When it comes to the menu plan for the next week, well, it'll be interesting.  My husband has a bunch of stuff going on at work, so he's not sure what his schedule is going to be like (for instance he's going to be home late tonight, so I need something that he can reheat when he gets home), we are having a "false thaw" period in our weather so the kid's allergies are going nuts (the poor daughter is utterly miserable today) and I've got a couple of piles of paperwork to fill out, records to find and things like that to do on top of normal household and homeschool stuff AND if my husband's tax paperwork comes in I'll be doing taxes on top of it.  So, basically I'm putting this menu together knowing that I'm probably not going to be able to do all the meals I have planned and will have to punt a few days here and there so I can get everything done that I need to get done.  We'll see how it goes, though.

So, let's get to it!

Wednesday:  Spaghetti with meat sauce, home made bread, salad

Thursday:  Beef and Barley stew, home made bread

Friday:  Pork chops, mashed potatoes and gravy, salad

Saturday:  Pizza and breadsticks

Sunday:  Pad Thai Stir Fry (I don't have things like bean sprouts, we can't do peanuts and such, so I'm just going to make a stir fry with Pad Thai noodles, shrimp, eggs, tofu and some Pad Thai sauce and see how it goes.  I think it'll taste just won't be Pad Thai).

Monday:  Meatloaf, baked potatoes, green beans

Tuesday:  Fried chicken, baked beans, mashed potatoes and gravy, biscuits

And there you go folks.  My tentative menu plan for the week.  We'll see how it goes.  We are supposed to do the Radish box assignment this week (home made ravioli, thus the ricotta and shredded Parmesan  cheeses in the fridge), but I'm not sure if we are going to get to it with how much we have going on.  We shall see I guess.

How about you all?  Making anything good this week?

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Frugal Friday (Well, Tuesday): Money Saving Weekly Recap (Times 2)

Sorry for those who have e-mailed me concerned that they hadn't heard from me in a bit.  I've actually been kind of sick and out of it the last few weeks, so I haven't been blogging.  Bright side, I'm tired, but feeling better than I was, so at this point I'll take improvement of any type.  And don't worry, it was just sinus issues and such, but nothing too serious.  I'm not complaining, honestly, as we have been a LOT healthier this winter compared to previous years, so I'm grateful for that.

When it comes to money saving things that have happened the last few weeks, there are a few.  So, let's get to those.

1.  Even when I put things on Subscribe and Save with Amazon I always continue to monitor the price on those items by adding them to my cart and then saving the items for later.  Then I log into my Amazon cart a couple of times per day and it will tell you if you have any price changes on items in your cart.  By doing this a lot of times I can start to shave money off of what I'm buying on Subscribe and Save by reordering at the lower price and then cancelling the original order.  

Doing this I was able to get a better price on the paper towels I had on order as well as the toilet paper I had put on order as well.  By cancelling my original orders and then reordering them under the new (lower) price, I was able to get another 10.00 to spend (I paid for the items originally via gift cards I got through credit card rewards).  I used that money to order a year's worth of ketchup for near free (I applied another Amazon gift card I had received for taking a survey as well).  I got some Amazon credit via the rewards on my Amazon credit card as well, which I used to order a new trash can for my bathroom as our old one is rusting out on the bottom.  

2.  I had ordered my daughter a series of books she absolutely fell in love with at the library (pre Covid) and had been wanting to read the entire series for quite a while (she had only gotten the first two books read before Covid kind of threw monkey wrenches into the works).  She had asked for the books for her birthday in February, but I had quickly realized that the series had been out of print for quite a while and so I had to order the books used from various sellers on Amazon (new the 8 books would have costed nearly 200.00!!!).  One of the books, ironically that Amazon itself was supposed to be fulfilling, never went anywhere after the shipping label was created and after about three weeks I finally requested a refund.  I was then able to order the book through another seller on Amazon for 1/2 the price of the original book, so I was happy with how that turned out.  And the book is down at our package pick up place, so at least THAT copy got here, so doubly nice.

3.  A long while back, when the kids were tiny, I became a Maker's Mark Ambassador.  It was completely free to do and over the years they have sent out some really awesome Christmas gifts.  This year they sent me a free deck of playing cards, which was cool.  The husband has played more than his share of a few solitaire games the last week or so.

4.  The center grill burner on my stovetop was partially clogged and not firing up, so the burner wasn't heating evenly.   My husband took the burner apart, cleaned it really well and screwed it all back together again.  It is working great now.  I'm really looking forward to getting a working hood in my kitchen someday so that the grease problem becomes WAY more manageable, but in the meantime at least I have a husband who can help me to keep things running right.

5.  I cleaned out the laundry room so that my husband can pull the washing machine out and see about fixing it so it doesn't go off balance all the time.  I was rather proud of myself for getting the room cleaned out as there was a lot of stuff stacked up in there (painting supplies and the like), since I was really not feeling well.  So, hopefully this coming weekend my husband can start to figure out what is wrong with the machine and fix it.  I really don't want to buy a new washing machine because of not only the cost, but because I actually DO like my washing machine.  It has a really nice capacity and I can shove a really large comforter into it and save myself a trip to a laundry mat and such.  So, here's hoping he can fix whatever is wrong with it (he's confident he can, so hopefully he'll be able to fix it :).

6.  I finally went into my jewelry box and started wearing jewelry again for the first time in years.  I used to wear earrings every day, but once the kids came along I stopped doing it as the son was always trying to rip the earrings out of my ears or the necklace off of my neck.  Jewelry became a hinderance that was just waiting to hurt me instead of something that I wore because I thought it was pretty.  I thought for sure, after all of these years (like 10 or so) that the holes in my ears would definitely have closed up, but surprisingly my original holes that I've had since I was like 11 or so were just fine!  Since I don't have to carry my son on my hip anymore (heck he's so tall he should start carrying me *laugh*) and he'll listen when I tell him something is hurting and to stop it, I decided I could finally maybe start wearing earrings again.  It has really cheered me up being able to do that again.  I know it's a small, kind of dumb, little thing, but it just makes me feel like I'm doing a little something to make myself feel good every day and it lifts my spirits :).

7.  I received an unexpected windfall, which helped me to pay down our debt load, of which I'm so, so grateful for!

8.  My husband replaced the showerhead in our bathroom shower as it completely fell apart one morning when he was taking a shower.  The upside to replacing it was that it was really old and worn out (we actually replaced the showerhead in our old house when we moved here so we could take the showerhead with us, we loved it so much), so the new one works a lot better and isn't completely yellowed with age so it looks a lot nicer too.

When he was checking out at the store, he realized that the showerhead was coming up at the wrong price.  He pointed it out to the guy checking him out, and they went and checked and sure enough the item was ringing up the wrong price.  To make up for the mistake the cashier made sure to check my husband out at the contractor rate (our account hadn't been used in a while, so it wasn't taking anything off, but the guy didn't like it, so he pushed it through anyway) and also gave it to him at the correct price.  All totaled, by catching the mistake, my husband was able to save 10.00 off the price the item was ringing up at.

9.  I had ordered Alvah some snow boots online back in October (I wanted to make sure we would get them in plenty of time before heavy snow falls) and the order had then gotten completely lost after like a week of it going no where or into random, weird, locations.  I finally asked for a refund on the order (the boots were no longer available, so getting a replacement was out of the question, unfortunately).  Two months after the initial order was made and me completely having forgotten about the idea of the order ever existing at all, the boots suddenly came in!  I contacted the company about it and they told me to keep the boots as the order had taken so long to get here that they weren't going to charge me for them at all.  I was happy.  Not every day you actually get an order in two months after it got mailed and are able to keep it for free.

10.  I was at the store picking up my son's medication at the beginning of the month and found a bunch of tape on sale for cheap.  I picked up a few 3 packs of tape as we were down to none after Christmas wrapping was done and when I went to check out, I realized that the tape was cheaper than I had, at first, thought, and that both packages only costed me .80 each!  I wish I had seen that before I left the store or I would have grabbed a few more, but really six rolls should see us through just fine.

11.  I introduced the kids to some of my old CD's from back when I was in high school.  The kids actually found a few bands they liked, so we have been having fun listening to different music than we've been accustomed to during the school day.  The son has especially liked the Mozart and other classical music CD's I have in my collection.

12.  We got the son's IEP meeting out of the way for the year, which was a relief to get that done and we set new goals for this coming year.  I also got grades in for the kids for this last quarter and got work samples in for the kids as well.  Doing these things is always a big deal for me to get done and it takes quite a while to get all of the pictures, goals and other things worked out, so I am super happy to have those things done and out of the way.

13.  I almost forgot to file for PFD's this year, sad to say.  Luckily, I got an e-mail from Special Olympics reminding us to get filing done, so that is now out of the way this year.  Honestly, I know part of the reason I forgot to file for it (normally as soon as the new year rolls over I'm online filing for them), is that I sincerely doubt that the PFD is going to be around much longer for Alaskans.  I might just be overly pessimistic, but I definitely have my doubts about the future of the permanent fund.

And there we go folks.   Some of the things that have happened the last few weeks.  Hope everything is going well for you all.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Goals for 2021

Man, weekly blog posts were delayed and other things I had planned just because the last, what, 11 days or so I was just bogged down trying again and again to do some kind of year in review post for 2020.  I would write, delete, write, delete and get frustrated, until finally I ended up with one sequence on the screen that I was happy with...

"2020.  Man.  2020.  It was a year, wasn't it?"

And that is as far as I got.  Trying to find a bunch of good in a year where my son saw every service he received dry up overnight (which despite my fighting spirit and multitudes of classes I've taken to try and fill numerous holes in my education to overcome has NOT been easy), the pool where my kids were taking swimming lessons and doing so well getting shut down permanently, every opportunity my children had for social interaction shut down, so many people suffering and seeing their lives destroyed, seeing our economy thrown into a depression, shortages of every type effecting day to day life,  not to mention sickness around the was really not going well on the "review and find the good in things" front.  So, see the above sentence and figure that is my year in review post at this time.  I might try to revisit the post in the coming weeks and try and come up with something that works, but in the meantime it's time to move on to other posts that I feel like I can actually accomplish by focusing on less depressing matters.  

So, let's get onto the goals for 2021 shall we?

Monetary Goals:

This year I HAVE to reduce debt somehow.  Not that I don't want to and I work on that goal constantly, but it really is going to be important for me to start getting debt paid down, somehow.  We still have a bunch of stuff that we need to get done around here, so trying not to slap all of that onto a credit card is the best possible outcome I can think of.

We do have some things that will hopefully help me to start paying down debt this year, which it is nice having things to look forward to this year, honestly.

Our mortgage insurance finally goes away this year.  Between this and a reduction in our escrow payment (by me putting extra money into the escrow anytime I could find even five dollars to spare, we ended up with an overage in the escrow which reduced our mortgage by 50.00 per month this year instead of the mortgage going up as it has in previous years), I am hoping to take the 200.00 extra dollars a month and putting 100.00 extra onto our mortgage principle per month and the other 100.00 onto our home equity loan and start paying that down some more.  

We really need to get the home equity line of credit paid down, as far as I can really, as we are going to need new gutters this year, new doors for the garage and I'm looking at having to redo my kitchen in the next year or so (the cabinets are finally starting to out and out fall apart and the countertops are separating and things...the kitchen is just reaching the end of its lifespan...I'm praying I'm wrong on how immediate of a need this is going to become, but things just keep bowing, cracking and otherwise making their "we're done" presence known the last bit, so to say I'm concerned doesn't even BEGIN to cover it).  We are also looking at having to replace the windows everywhere in the next few years as well as they are leaking air everywhere since the earthquake, so that's not good.  We also need to replace the laundry room ceiling after my husband repairs and redoes some things that aren't right for code, so hopefully the sheetrock we are going to purchase to repair the hole in the bathroom ceiling (see below for more information on that) will give us enough to replace the sheetrock  we had to cut out of the laundry room.  So, the home loan is becoming more and more of a priority as we might be needing all of help it can give in the next couple of years to finance repairs and remodels.  Honestly, I start to think about it and I get kind of overwhelmed and fight the urge to breathe into a paper bag, so I just try to think of it in little chunks and go from's the best way to keep an even keel.

If we get a decent tax return this year I'm going to take whatever money there is from that and use it to help pay for these things (gutters and doors for the most part this year...we'll see how far it goes if it goes anywhere at all) so that I hopefully won't have to accumulate as much debt to get these things done.  I'm not sure how stimulus payments are going to affect taxes so I'm just in a "wait and see" mode on all of that.

I took our latest stimulus payment, put some toward replenishing savings as much as I could (which isn't much) and threw the majority of it onto paying down a credit card that had some pretty big purchases on it for repair parts and things.  At least we are in less debt than before I did the payment, so that's something.

Household Goals:

Well, some of this has already been covered above, but I am going to continue to repair things from the earthquake damage we suffered.  We still need new gutters, new people doors for the garage (although my husband managed to temporarily fix the jams in the garage, so at least mice aren't getting in left and right) and I have some painting to do.  

As soon as summer break hits I need to paint my master bedroom (and rearrange it so it will hopefully work better), paint my hallway and stairway and hopefully repaint the kid's bathroom as the paint in there is already wearing off (I wasn't happy with it to begin with, but I am really not happy with how the paint is holding up in there), so I need to put a few more coats of paint in there.  My husband also needs to repair the washing machine as it hasn't worked right since the earthquake and my husband is pretty sure it needs new bushings and things.  We need to rebuild parts of the front porch/landing (earthquake heaved the entire thing upwards and it isn't sitting quite right), reseal both the front stairs and landing as well as the back deck and stairs (after the new gutters are installed as the water is dripping and damaging the wood right now and would just wear the new sealant off of the wood).

On non earthquake related things, we need to fix the drains in both of the bathtubs (they won't plug the drain to hold water, so we are using plastic drain plugs instead, but both of the drains need to be repaired/replaced), replace the sprayer on our kitchen sink (it leaks), probably replace the ice maker in our fridge again (it is actually making way too much ice this time and we are constantly turning it on and off) and other things (some of which is covered above).

We will also need to, in the more immediate future, fix our master bathroom ceiling.  I was in the bathroom a few days ago putting towels away when part of the ceiling (nothing huge mind you, just a few inches) fell and now we have a hole in the ceiling.  The ceiling was dry, but my husband checked the hole and realized that there is old water damage in the ceiling and that is why the ceiling fell as it was brittle and just kind of collapsed.  So, he wants to cut a hole in the ceiling to figure out what is going on and see what potential damage we might need to fix.  So, now we get to figure that out and I'll have to, once again, repair and repaint in the bathroom once that is all figured out.

We will also need to get the septic pumped this year to stay on a regular maintenance schedule.  I'm determined to get that done as it isn't a horrible amount of money and will help the plumbing run better, so it is definitely a win-win scenario to keep on top of that.

So, yeah, there is a bunch of stuff that needs to be done around here.  So, stay tuned if you like home repairs *laugh*.

Sewing Goals:

Make new curtains for my master bedroom, again.  The ones I made aren't holding up well.

Make more masks for my husband for work.

Make new throw pillows for the love seat upstairs and the chairs downstairs.

Make myself and my daughter some skirts.

Organizing Goals:

Clean out and redo my master bedroom closet (BOY does it need's horrible in there).

Get den cleaned up/out and get exercise area set up for the kids (they need the physical activity and it seems like the best option).

Pantry Goals:

Keep pantry as well stocked as possible to accommodate shortages at the store (which are still going on.  Shopping this week was an experience as the stores were out of a lot).  Fill in holes as quickly as possible so as not to be caught flat footed when things aren't available.

General Goals:

Continue to pack husband's lunch for work every day (I've actually learned a lot by watching bento box videos on YouTube on how to make a better layout for lunches so that they are more nutritional, decently cheap to make and filling).  This is not only making him eat better (which he was raised on the fast food diet as he was working in the field all the time, so working a desk job for the most part is definitely a shift for him), but also saving us money.

Continue to explore different cuisines to keep meals interesting.  Right now I'm watching "Nordic Cookery" on Amazon Prime videos and having a huge blast as the program explores not just different dishes to make (like things I couldn't really make here, for instance venison isn't a common thing to get where I'm at), but also shows how you can use foraged ingredients in your dishes and uses a bunch of fresh vegetables and things in different ways, which will come in handy this summer (I hope :).  For instance, in one recipe I was watching last night he used pickled rose hips in a recipe.  I am so going to try to preserve rose hips that way this summer with some of the wild rose hips we have around here, as I always have a ton of rose hips and it will be a good way to make use of a free resource.

Lose seven more pounds (right now my target goal is the beginning of March and I'll be down to my target weight).  

Play more board games with the family (this is actually important enough for me that I put it in my son's IEP goals this year).  I think this will be a good way for my son to explore a healthy social interaction setting and also a good way for us to spend time together and have fun doing something other than watching TV.

Garden Goals:

Plant a garden.

Have it not fail.

Preserve what I can from said garden when it does well.

Yup, I'm going for in depth garden goals this year *laugh*.

And there you go folks.  Some of my major goals for 2021.  Hopefully I can start to get some of them accomplished in the months ahead.  How about you?  Got any goals for this year?

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap (times 2)

I was kind of torn on which post to do first.  This one or some of the yearly posts, but this one takes first place.  Why?  Because it is probably going to be the shortest *laugh*.  

When it comes to saving money, not too much has gone on the last couple of weeks.  My husband was able to take the last week and a half off for vacation time so that he was home to celebrate Christmas, my birthday and New Year.  So, basically, I decided that the family spending time together was more important than just about anything.  I'm glad we got to spend so much time together the last couple of weeks.  It's been nice to have so much family time together and just take it easy.  School, and work, start in a couple of days, so it is time to get back to reality, I suppose.

1.  We did do a few fun, but frugal, things the last couple of weeks.  We were able to take the kids swimming when a friend offered us the use of their pool, which was a lot of fun for the kids and super good for the son as the inactivity of the last year has driven him bonkers.  

2.  We made the chocolate crinkle cookies recipe that came with our Radish box last month (seen up top when they came out of the oven).  I was super proud of how the cookies turned out because in the past I've really failed miserably at crinkle cookies.  I'm not sure why, but they would never crinkle or spread right, so it was nice to pull ones that looked like the pictures I'd always seen of them in cookbooks and stuff out of the oven :).  

Anyway, the recipe made 3 dozen cookies about so we used an old coffee can that I cleaned out well (a big one), wrapped it in a scrap of wrapping paper that would fit it and than I used a bunch of tissue paper that we had around the house from packaging materials that I had saved and I made a tissue paper flower to go on top of the coffee can to make it look more festive.  We than filled the coffee can with layers of cookies with parchment paper in between and was able to gift the cookies to the daughter's boyfriend when he came over to drop off her Christmas gift.  It was a heartfelt gift on the daughter's part as she worked really hard to help make the cookies, decorate the gift container and everything and it was made with materials we had around the house.  From the text the daughter later received it sounds like the family really enjoyed the cookies and the daughter has been having a good time eating the last ten that were left over, so I feel pretty good about how that all turned out.

3.  We drove into town and were able to go and see the Christmas lights in the one subdivision that sets the lights to music like we do every year (sorry, I honestly forgot to take pictures this year).  The kids really loved it and had a great time.  

4.  I had put all of our Christmas gifts onto my credit card (not ideal, but that is how it went down) during a special promotion where you got like five times the normal rewards points for purchases.  I'd had to put a license renewal and a medical bill onto the card as well, so I ended up with enough points to redeem that I was able to get a bunch of Amazon gift cards.  I then used the Amazon credit to get a year's worth of paper towels and toilet paper on order and a few other items we've been needing (like conditioner) for the house.  

5.  My husband replaced a receptacle (outlet) in our master bathroom that needed it.  He used a receptacle we already had around the house, so it didn't cost anything out of pocket to get it done.

6.  For my birthday I made a lemon pound cake from a mix I already had in the pantry and we went to Carrs and got Chinese take out for dinner instead of going and getting food from a really expensive restaurant.  Overall, even with running to McDonalds and getting the son some French fries, we were able to feed the entire family for less than 20.00 and I didn't have to cook.  And we had enough left overs to last several lunches, so it worked out rather well.

7.  Christmas dinner went well with pulling the few good steaks I still had in the freezer out and defrosting them.  I then rolled out a box of puff pastry I had in the freezer and made the steaks "fancy" in a kind of Beef Wellington format.  It was a fun dinner and we all enjoyed it :).

8.  My husband got me a very nice watch for my birthday that he found used for not much money.  He took the watch to a jeweler and got a battery put into the watch, but when he went to pick it up the jeweler said it wasn't keeping time correctly it seemed, so he gave the watch to my husband and didn't charge him for the battery because it didn't feel right charging him for the battery when the watch still wasn't working right.  Since my husband got the watch home and it has been running for a while the watch seems to be keeping time now, which hopefully it keeps that up *knock on wood*.  So far, so good.

9.  And, just because it is pretty and the daughter wanted to include it, enjoy a picture of the sunrise from the other morning.  Always nice to see and completely free to enjoy :).

And there you go folks.  Some of the things we've been up to the last couple of weeks.  I hope you all had a great holiday and Happy New Year!  

Monday, December 21, 2020

What's for Dinner: This Week's Menu

So, confession time.  I'm pretty much winging dinner the next couple of days.  Sad, but true.  My husband is taking vacation time for over a week around Christmas, so I'm just trying to make it through until then and go from there *laugh* (so excited to have him home for a bit and not having to worry about him commuting on the nasty winter roads every day :).  So, let's get to the menu plan as it stands at this moment!

Menu Plan for the week of 12/21/2020

Monday:  Baked fish, rice, fruit cocktail

Tuesday:  German Hamburg patties (think of kind of a cross between a hamburger and a meatball :), German potato salad

Wednesday:  Chicken Lyonnaise, rice pilaf, green beans

Thursday:  Lasagna (family tradition), home made bread, bread sticks (for the son)

Friday:  Puff pastry wrapped steaks (thanks for the tip, Mable!), greens (from freezer), roasted beets (maybe...still debating this one.  I do have beets in the freezer, but still wondering if this is how I want to use them).

Saturday:  Beef teriyaki, rice,  miso soup, edamame or broccoli (depending on family preference).

Sunday:  Doppekooche (potato casserole with bacon), applesauce (traditional side dish from my cookbook, so I'm going with it)

Breakfasts are going to pretty much compose of toast, eggs and maybe French Toast (since my husband will be home and that's one of his favorites).  Oh and orange rolls for the daughter and husband on Christmas Day (another family tradition that was on sale really cheap last week :).

And there you go folks.  Our tentative menu plan for the week.  We shall see how it all goes, but hopefully I'll be able to stick to it decently well.  How about you?  Got anything different planned for dinner and things this week?

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Frugal Friday (late and early): Money Saving Weekly Recap

 I would say, "Frugal Friday (Times Nearly 2)" but honestly the only reason I didn't do a post last week was we were busy and there wasn't a huge amount to report, so really I don't mind having to consolidate two weeks into one post here for a change :).

As previously stated, it's been super busy here, mainly with Christmastime things.  We baked Christmas cookies, both sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies (which the gingerbread have been steadily getting inhaled by my gingerbread loving son *laugh*), we attempted to make gingerbread houses with just icing and sprinkles and went sans candy decorations (they didn't last long enough to take a photo as Alvah destroyed and ate about 80% of the mini houses very quickly, much to the ire of his sister *laugh*) and we went and drove around looking at Christmas lights a few times (and plan to go again this weekend).  We've watched Christmas movies, listened to Jon Townsend read "A Christmas Carol"  from the Nutmeg Tavern (I've REALLY enjoyed having him read it as he's a lot better dramatic reader than I am *laugh*), listened to Christmas carols a ton, and watched virtual tours of Christmas lights from all over the place on's been fun I least the kids aren't complaining :).

So, let's get to other things that have been going on around here.

1.  Well, the big one (literally) was when I sent my husband to the store a week or so ago to pick up essentials (we just send my husband into the store as much as possible at the moment to cut down on the amount of people having to go into the store) and potatoes was on the list.  So, I get a call and (literally) this is how it went down.

Me (after the initial greetings):  "What's up?"
Husband:  "So, potatoes.  Do you want a 10 lb bag or a 50 lb bag?"
Me:  "Huh?"
Husband:  "Well, they have both a 10 lb bag and a 50 lb 'Alaska bag' for 5.99."
Me (completely blown away):  "So, wait!?!  They have a 50 lb bag of potatoes for 5.99???"
Husband:  "So says the sign, yes."
Me:  "Get that!!!"
Sure enough, he went to check out and the bag was honest to goodness $5.99!!!!  He brought the bag of potatoes in and I have to say I was in a "Now what?" type of mode as that's a lot of potatoes to find room for.  And then I opened the giant paper sack the 10 lb bags were in and found out why the potatoes were so cheap as every single bag had potatoes starting to sprout.  I sat and thought for a little bit and then decided there was only one place in my house cold enough and actually dark enough most of the time to keep the potatoes good as long as possible.  Luckily the produce drawers in the fridge were either pretty much empty except for celery and carrots (the top produce drawer) or was already set aside to use as a potato drawer (the bottom drawer).  So, I started hauling 10 lb bags of potatoes upstairs and decided to see how many would fit into the fridge.

And yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!  All 50 lbs of potatoes fit in the drawers (with the exception of the potatoes I pulled out to scrub and set aside for Japanese curry rice and oven fries for cheeseburgers later in the week).  I have to say it feels good having that many potatoes in the fridge as they'll last us a while and potatoes really are good things to add to meals for me because, if I'm careful with how I prepare them, they aren't too high of calorie.  That and the family likes them, so that's always good too.

On the other end of the frugal spectrum, I attempted to make a bookmark for the daughter as a small stocking stuffer.  I failed.  Miserably.  Anyone who says that bookmarks are easy to make...well you are more talented than I am *laugh*.  So, yeah, that was a waste of too many man hours and color ink from the printer to boot.  I might try again and try to get the bookmark not the size of a family sized car, but I'm leaning toward the "doubt it" end of the spectrum on that one.

2.  I received some gifts from friends of late, which was wonderful to receive (thank you, everyone :).  I had one friend who lives overseas in London, who when they found out that I had never tried chestnuts, had to do something about that.  We were having a conversation back during the summer and she started telling me about her chestnut dressing for Christmas (she was already looking forward to Christmas due to the lockdowns and all) and I was like, "Oh, you guys can get those over there?  Around here I don't think I've ever run into them at the store."   Next thing I know I get a package in the mail with, of all things, a jar of chestnuts in it.  No syrup, no water, just chestnuts, peeled, roasted and ready to go.  Made in France.  And the expiration date was like 2024 on them, which blew my mind.  I went and looked them up on Amazon and was actually impressed with the reviews so I then asked my friend what she wanted me to do with them.  She basically just wanted me to try them, in "anyway that sounds good, love".  Which has led me down a few rabbit holes trying to figure out how I wanted to try them over the months.  I finally settled on making a simple heavy syrup for them, infusing it with a cinnamon stick, vanilla and lemon (I just added vanilla and lemon extract as I didn't have any vanilla beans around here), putting the chestnuts into a bigger jar and pouring the syrup over them.  You then store the chestnuts in the fridge for at least a week and a half and then you can take them, dip them in sugar and eat them over ice cream or even as bon bons and things.  I love nuts and sweet together, so that sounded like my jam *laugh*.  The nuts, since I took the photo, sunk down into the syrup and I'll start doing things with them next week...maybe even have some with Christmas dinner.  This whole experience, so far, has been a lot of fun, so I hope I like them (thank you Aubrey!).

3.  Speaking of gifts, a friend sent me a gift a while back and I forgot to thank her here.  Thank you for the wonderful gift, Debbie!  It helped a lot!

4.  I got a Christmas card from another friend today and was happy to hear from her as I hadn't heard from her in a while.  Inside the card I found a tea bag.  An orange and clove flavored tea bag.  I haven't had that flavor in a long time and I love that flavor!  I'm really looking forward to drinking it (if my kids stop smelling it and making "that smells great" noises *laugh*).  Thank you, Paula!

I also got a Christmas card from a friend of mine that I've been friends with since, geez, elementary school?  We'll just go with "a long time" and leave it at that.  It was a surprise and also great getting an update on her kids and how everything went with their family this year.

In other news I have more Christmas cards to send out, so some people are going to be getting them late this year after all *laugh*.

5.  I have managed to make sure my husband had things to eat for lunch that wasn't just straight leftovers every day and has really helped to cut down on his expenses when he's at work.  I'm hoping to keep this up as it definitely saves us money for my husband to bring lunch every day (and is way healthier than getting fast food, too).

6.  I went through my clothes for the first time in years and started figuring out what would fit me, what wouldn't, and what would need adjustments made to them to fit me now that I've lost weight.  I not only ended up with a decent pile of clothes at the end, but by emptying out my dresser I was able to find some things that I had lost a while ago and could never figure out where they went (buried in the bottom of my sweater drawer for the most part).

7.  We ended up filling up our reusable advent calendar (it's a lighthouse wooden advent calendar that LL Bean has sold on and off over the dad bought us one when the kids were born to remind me of New England and it is one of those Christmas heirlooms I treasure) with some Andes mints I bought at the beginning of lockdown to use as reinforcers for the son during schoolwork.  Luckily I haven't had to fall back onto the bad school habit of using food to get work out of him, so we had them and I knew both kids loved them, so I just pulled those out and let my daughter fill up the calendar with them.  I have to say the kids have been really good at checking the calendar every day for a change and it didn't cost me anything out of pocket this holiday season to do something a bit special for them :).

8.  I went through the various scheduling and phone conferences with the various people from the homeschool to get Alvah's IEP scheduled for early next year.  I have to say, this is going to be weird.  I haven't done a phone IEP meeting since I was down with the flu when Alvah was a wee tyke in preschool.  So, yeah, it's been quite a while since I've had anything but in person IEP meetings.  We tried to schedule the meeting early to avoid Alvah listening in on the meeting and to avoid it interfering with homeschool.  We'll see how it goes.

9.  My husband asked what I wanted to do for my birthday as it falls right around Christmas.  I thought on it for a second and just told me that I really just wanted to stay home and save money.  He felt bad, but understood.  I am going through my cookbooks to see if there is something I'd like to try and cook for my birthday...maybe something fun and different to eat, but preferably with ingredients I already have around the house.  I have to say, being a huge cooking nerd, I am having fun doing that part if nothing else :).

10.  My daughter wants to give a friend of hers a Christmas gift, but since we don't know if the family will want anyone really stopping by with everything that is going on, we didn't really want to spend a bunch of money that could potentially go to waste.  My daughter suggested making extra cookies and maybe making a cookie tray for the family.  That way if they didn't want to accept it we could just bring it home and eat the cookies and nothing would be lost.  I agreed that was a good idea, so that's what we are hoping to do (if we can get the cookies made, which the son has been really busy, so it's been a bit more problematic than I had hoped to get it done).

And there you go folks.  Some of the stuff that has been happening around here of late.  I'm a bit late getting the menu plan worked on, so I'm hoping to get that up tomorrow.  Hope you are all doing well and life is going okay this holiday season for you.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

What's for Dinner: This Week's Menu

When it comes to menu plans of late...well there hasn't been one.  I've been basing a bunch of my dinners on just what we have in the freezer (spoilers it has been a lot of thin sliced beef dishes and pork chops or thin sliced pork roast as those have been on sale the cheapest) and just going from there.  I have finally found the energy to try and get back into menu planning here as we NEED to pay off debt this winter as next year we have a bunch of expenses we are going to have to wrack up in the way of home repairs from the earthquake (including new windows it looks like), so I need to save every single penny I can.  Not that we didn't need to before with how the price on everything just keeps creeping up, but that just piles onto the need to save money.

You'll notice kind of a lack of fresh produce on our menu plans right now.  Part of that is cost as fresh produce tends to go up in price and down in quality up here in the winter time and part of it is due to lack of supply.  This time of year we don't have a lot of variety in fresh produce in the stores (like I laugh every time I see a recipe that calls for like fresh ginger this time of year, as good luck with that!), so I tend to just switch over to mainly frozen, shelf stable or canned goods during the winter.  I might buy some lettuce every once in a while, but other than say apples, potatoes, cabbage and carrots, our fresh produce consumption just cuts way back in the winter.  Bright side is that this winter at least I have a bunch of different veggies frozen from our CSA that we had over the summer, so those will come in handy.

When it comes to food, I have tried to expand our horizons on what we are eating without breaking the bank, so be prepared for some dishes that weren't on our menu plans before here.

So, onto the menu plan for this week!

Menu Plan Week of 12/9/20

Wednesday:  Pork Schnitzel (basically just thin cut, spiced pork) with mushroom gravy (use dehydrated mushrooms for gravy), leftover mashed potatoes (we had meatloaf night before last for dinner), green beans, sourdough bread.

Thursday:  Japanese Chicken Curry Rice  (this is a GREAT way to use up different veggies from the fridge and freezer I've found and it is really tasty.  Does not taste like Indian style curry.).  Use some leftover Thanksgiving turkey from freezer to make it.

Friday:  Homemade Pizza and Breadsticks.  I double the pizza crust recipe and then use 1/2 of it to make bread sticks.  I then found a couple of copycat Pizza Hut breadstick recipes online and make a topping for the breadsticks from that.  The son is finally eating the tops of the breadsticks, so that makes me feel good.

Saturday:  Beef and barley stew, leftover sourdough bread.

Sunday:  Cheeseburgers on home made buns, oven fries (husband's request as he's having a long week).

Monday:  Spaghetti with garlic toast (make bread and use leftover tomato sauce from making pizza)

Tuesday:  Spiced German Pork Roast (pressure cooker), leftover bread, roasted carrots and potatoes.

Desserts:  Sugar cookies or gingerbread cookies with milk.

And there you go folks . Our tentative menu plan for the week.  Here's hoping I can stick to it with any degree of success!