Monday, August 31, 2015

Menu Plan Monday: Menu for Week of 8/31/15

Well, starting this week you're going to see kind of a different format for the menu plan.  I'm going to be doing more pantry dependent meals to help get us through the month without hopefully spending too much on groceries.  So, be prepared because I'm going to make "ingredient notes" to myself in some of the menu items and some of items might seem kind of weird to YOU, but I have them in the pantry right now, thus why you're seeing them.

So, without further ado, here's this week's menu.

Menu for Week of 8/31/15

Monday:  Pork roast, baked potatoes (from garden produce in pantry), leftover canned peaches (we had some for dessert last night).

Tuesday:  Leftover pork roast with Pantry Friendly Fig Sauce, rice, mixed veggies (from pantry)

Wednesday:  Super Chicken Nachos 
Ingredient Notes:  Canned chicken with taco seasoning, crock pot refried beans (recipe coming soon),  corn chips from pantry, salsa (home canned from pantry), velveeta (from pantry).
Thursday:  Pancakes, bacon, eggs.
 Ingredient Notes:  Home made bisquick from pantry.
Friday:  Noodle bowl night

Saturday:  Baked chicken, rice pilaf, green beans
 Ingredient Notes:  Rice pilaf mix from pantry, green beans from pantry.
Sunday:  Chicken salad sandwiches (leftover chicken),  canned pears.

Desserts:  Jello parfaits (ingredient notes:  Dream whip, raspberry jello from pantry), apple slices (dehydrated) with caramel dipping sauce (boil sweetened condensed milk in can for 4 hours, cool to room temp, open and use.  Makes great caramel and is super easy to do...just takes a while :), birthday cake (for son's birthday).

To Bake:  Pizza rolls (STILL haven't gotten to this yet *sigh*), bread, chocolate chip cookies.  Baking day:  Wednesday.

And there you go folks.  This week's menu. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Monthly Goals Update and This Week's Goals

I am in a state of "eating the lining of your stomach with the huge acid ball of doom" near panic right now.  Ugh.  We're having issues with pay right now and doing the math I'm not sure how we're going to make it this month.  If I drain our VERY meager savings, which I'm going to have to do...I still don't think we're going to have enough to make it.  I mean basic bills (which are all due the first week of the month, unfortunately)...let alone gas and food.  Why do these things happen when you end up with 500.00 in extra bills a month paying for new teeth for your spouse?  Times like this I really wish I had anti-anxiety medication and then I laugh at the idea that I need to go the doctor to get prescribed medicine for anxiety but can't afford to go to the doctor to GET anxiety medication.  A dark sense of humor will get you through a lot in this world.

Sorry to be depressing.  I'm just worried and honestly don't know what else to do BUT worry and so here I am.

Anyway, I had a productive week this week and do have things in the works for next week, so let's get down to brass tacks on things shall we?

I got a ton of canning done this week and I think I'm pretty much done for the year.  I was able to get green tomato relish canned (above), raspberry jam and wildflower jelly.

I even got a gift of some rhubarb from a neighbor as well as some 1/2 pint canning jars as a thank you for delivering a package to his house.  He must have dropped the key for the package pick up box down by our mailboxes one day a couple of weeks ago and I found the key (and people give me a hard time about looking down...ha!).  I didn't know what else to DO with the key so I used it to open the package box and found his package inside.  I, luckily, recognized his name and so I delivered the box to him.  It turned out it was medicines that his wife needs to take regularly, so he was very grateful that I'd done that for him and he brought the rhubarb and canning jars as a thank you (he knew that I canned as I've given him jars of strawberry jam and such in the past).  I gave him a hug as a thank you and went in and made some rhubarb BBQ sauce out of it (I'll post up the recipe as soon as I can).  I dropped off three jars to him which made him laugh that I was giving them some of their rhubarb back along with some of his canning jars, but it was the least I could do.  He has his grandson and three of his great grandchildren living with him right now, so I know the BBQ sauce will be used.  I'm very lucky to have the neighbors I do.

I sewed the quilt for my son's birthday this coming week and made a pillow sham from some of the leftover material from making the quilt top.  I then embroidered a matching theme onto the pillow sham.

My son has been spending more and more time in my daughter's room since I redecorated it and I'm really starting to think that he is envious of the older kid things in her room.  Sometimes I forget that my son is getting older because I end up seeing just the autism too much, so I decided for his birthday that I'm going to give him a more "grown up" room.  I settled on a theme, dug around the house and the internet to find things to work within the confines of what I have and I'm going to get it all done while he's in school this week.  He'll be getting a new room for his birthday.  A bit early, but I think he'll like it.  The pieces are coming together nicely so far, so if it comes out as well as I plan in my head I think it'll look really nice.  I hope he likes it too.  Unlike my daughter's room where I had a 20.00 budget to get her room done, my son's room I have no budget.  Luckily I already got the quilt done, so that 7.00 was spent before monetary panic set in, but I still have no budget for the rest of the room.  Which is testing my creativity, but I think I'm stepping up to the challenge and doing alright so far.  Here's hoping it all works out well :).

I got baking done with the exception of the pizza rolls, which I plan on doing tomorrow while the kids are at school (doing any real baking that calls for a lot of rolling and things is hard with everyone home as I have a tiny kitchen that suddenly becomes grand central station as soon as I decide to bake things).

We're having board game night tonight, so I will teach my daughter to play checkers then :).

I got our new printer set up this week as well and I'm SO glad I did.  I didn't realize how old, slow and crappy my printer was until I hooked up our new printer.  So much nicer to print something without having to force feed the paper down into it and have a great quality print out in no time flat compared to the old and slow printer we had.  I didn't realize our printer was 7 years old until my husband pointed it out to yeah...that explains a lot *laugh*.

We awoke to a decently heavy frost this morning, so I think I'm going to have to harvest my tomatoes soon and just let them ripen inside before the frost starts to hurt them.  They are too big to put plastic over, so that seems to be the best option.

And now onto this week's goals.

Canning/Preserving Goals:
1.  Can cranberry sauce, if I have time.
2.  Dehydrate herbs from garden (I managed to get the herbs picked yesterday, but have yet to dehydrate them all). 
3.  Keep an eye on the tomatoes.  Pick if instincts tell me it's time.
Sewing Goals:
1.  Make bunting for son's room.
2.  Mend more of husband's work clothes.
3.  Darn some of my socks.
4.  Work on Christmas gifts.
5.  Oil sewing machine and clean it.
Baking Goals:
1.  Bake pizza rolls.  Freeze.
2.  Make icebox cookies.  Place in freezer for later.
3.  Dig out cake flour to make son's birthday cake.
General Goals:
1.  Have faith.  Don't panic.  Breath deeply and feel grateful for what I have in this world. 
2.  Work on son's room decorations and get ready for the big "reveal" of his room for him later in the week.
3.  Work on one month meal plan for next month.  Make as pantry heavy as possible.
4.  Work on goals for next month and shopping goals.
 And there you go folks.  My goals for this week.  What are you up to?

Friday, August 28, 2015

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap and Garden Update

Oddly enough, it didn't seem like I got much done this week because I've been so preoccupied with different things.  We found out the hard way that my son was allergic to dandelions by his occupational therapist putting some dandelion salve on his eczema, which I approved when I found out the three ingredients in the salve not thinking about it.  Yeah, a week later he's still hiving but the first three days were the scariest where he was on the max amount of medicines he was approved for to keep him from needing an oral steroid to stop the allergic reaction.

Then my husband caught a bad cold and I've been dealing with that.  My daughter had a field trip this's been one thing after another it seems on top of the regular money worries.

I did manage to accomplish a lot this week even with all of that going on though.

1.  I harvested green tomatoes to make relish (as I have a LOT of green tomatoes) and the rest of the kale from the garden this week (seen above).  The kale I'm going to give to friends and family as I have more than enough greens to last us through the winter now and I figure sharing the bounty is never a bad thing.

I was able to make the green tomato relish with green peppers I had in the freezer from some peppers I vacuum sealed from our garden from previous years and onions, garlic and green tomatoes (obviously) from the garden this year.  So, the relish was literally made from materials from my garden (sure the peppers were from a previous year, but I'm still counting them ;).  I thought that was really cool for some reason.

2.  I canned a lot this last week.  I canned rhubarb concentrate, salsa, wildflower jelly and other things.  I managed, for the first time, to do my math right, so that once I am done canning some cranberry sauce I will have used up all of my empty jars exactly.  I feel proud that I managed that as it seems most years I end up having to pick up at least one flat of jars to finish up my canning for the year.

3.  I baked bread yesterday and am planning on baking cookies and pizza rolls today.  This will be a great help for lunches for my daughter and husband.

4.  I finished the major part of my son's birthday gift.  I made him a quilt yesterday.  Today I'm going to sew a pillow sham that I want to embroider to finish the bedding "set" I am making for him.  I ended up spending 7.00 on materials to finish the quilt as I was a couple packages of quilt binding short.  Still can't figure out how I managed to do THAT boo boo, but it happened.

5.   My son's therapist had apples that had fallen from her tree out for anyone to grab if they wanted some.  I grabbed a few and have been eating them as snacks the last few days.  They are small, but tasty.

6.  I redecorated my daughter's room for fall for free by re-housing things I already had (more on that in another post).  I'm now focusing my attentions on my son's room and am hoping to have it redecorated by his birthday.

7.  I made a big pot of chicken noodle soup earlier in the week.  I made double the amount that I had called for on the menu, knowing that my husband had a cold and figuring I could eat the leftover soup all week long for lunches.  It has been nice to have soup again and I am thinking about doing this more often (my husband doesn't like soup).

8.  I have been trying to clean more efficiently, thus saving money on things like electricity.  I'm trying to schedule out things like a mending day, a washing day, a shopping day, etc.  If nothing else it is helping me to feel more organized, which is a nice feeling.

9.  Anytime we have sunlight I've been turning off lights and opening the curtains.  We finally had to start turning on the heat the last few days on and off, which it is all the more important to be careful with the electric and such now that winter is definitely coming.

10.  I mended a bra this week that had a seam that split and I had underwire poking out.  I took a small piece of material and a bit of batting and fixed it so it could still be worn comfortably.  I've got more mending to do on my list for today, so I'm hoping to be able to get it all done.

11.  I made 1/2 tank of gas last in my car for two weeks worth of driving the kids back and forth to school and keeping running around to a minimum.

And there you are folks.  Some ways I saved money this week.  How did you do?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wildflower Jelly

This is a recipe that can be tailored to fit your needs.  Just make sure the flowers you use are edible, of course ;).

For this particular batch of wildflower jelly I used a combination of fireweed blossoms and Johnny Jump Up blossoms.  I used 1/3 fireweed blossoms and 2/3 Johnny Jump ups.  It has a unique flavor, but is really tasty!

Some flowers, such as dandelions, when you make them into jelly they tend to come out tasting honey-like.  This jelly came out tasting...well to me kind of grape-like (mildly so) with a cranberry-like note to it.  Like I said, unique but tasty!

Wildflower Jelly
  • 3 cups wildflower juice*
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 box regular powdered pectin
Prepare canner, jars and lids with standard sanitation practices set forth by our friendly FDA (or your local government agency).

Put wildflower juice* in a large saucepan.  Add lemon juice and pectin and whisk until pectin is completely dissolved.  Bring mixture to a boil.

Add sugar all at once and whisk till dissolved.  Bring mixture back to a rolling boil and keep boil going for one minute (or amount of time specified by your pectin).

Ladle hot jelly into hot jars leaving 1/4" headspace.  Secure lids on jars and process in a hot water bath canner for 10 minutes.  Remove lid from canner and turn off heat under canner.  Leave for five more minutes.

Remove jars from canner and allow to cool.  Let cool completely, check seals and store.
Makes approximately 5, 8 oz jars.

*To Make Wildflower Juice:  Place 8 cups tightly packed wildflower blossoms into a saucepan and add enough water to just cover blossoms.  Boil mixture until flowers turn grey.  Turn off heat under pot and allow mixture to cool.  Strain liquid into catch bowl.  Mixture should be a nice bright color (purple, pink, etc) if the mixture is brown looking you didn't use enough blossoms. 

When you go to make jelly, if your mixture is a nice bright color and you don't have quite enough juice, add water or apple juice to bring you up to 3 cups.  If you have more than 3 cups, measure out 3 cups for the recipe.

If you aren't ready to make jelly, you can pour juice into a freezer bag and freeze until ready to make jelly.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Zucchini Cheese Bread

When I received a chunk of zucchini from my mother-in-law, my mission became using said zucchini to make something different.  And by "different" I mean "not zucchini bread" as that was the ONE thing my parents made with zucchini religiously all through my childhood to the point I don't know if I could stand to look at a loaf of the stuff to this day.

So, I came up with two recipes.  This was one of them.  I had a recipe in one of my cookbooks for cheese bread and thought that zucchini instead of carrots (which the original recipe called for) might work and then I messed with the formula a bit to make the bread lighter by making the recipe into a traditional muffin batter.

The bread is light, fluffy and cheesy and if your kiddo asks what the green things are in it (my daughter was one of those) tell them that the cheese turned green when you baked it.  Sure, it's a lie, but it's still getting zucchini in them ;).
Zucchini Cheese Bread
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini 
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese 
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Heat oven to 350 degrees (325 if using a non-stick pan)

Grease a 9x5" bread pan.

Beat egg.  Stir in milk, oil, zucchini, cheddar cheese and Parmesan cheese. 

In another bowl combine garlic powder, flour, baking powder and salt.

Add dry ingredients to wet all at once and stir until just combined (batter will be lumpy).

Pour into greased pan.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Turn out onto a cooling rack to cool.  Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Rhubarb Nectar (Rhubarb Concentrate)

My mom gave me this recipe in with a bunch of others she wrote out for me a while back, but I've never had enough rhubarb to make it happen until this year.

My grandma called this stuff, "rhubarb nectar" and used it in a bunch of different applications.  You can use it undiluted and pour it into ice cube trays, freeze and use the cubes in lemonade or my grandfather liked it in iced tea.  I liked it in ginger ale myself.

You can also dilute the mix with water, ginger ale, lemonade or soda water to make different drinks.  Grandma even made a sweet and tangy salad dressing with this stuff once and threw it into a coleslaw type of application.  It was amazing.  Wish I had that recipe too *laugh*.

I found a recipe very similar to this one in the Ball Book of Home Preserving while I was flipping through it.  Their recipe, called "Sunshine Rhubarb Juice Concentrate" calls for fresh lemons, where my grandma's used bottled lemon juice.  Grandma's also called for bottled orange juice, but all I had was a fresh orange, so my recipe this time ended up being kind of a Frankenstein mix of the two recipes.  If you have neither lemon or orange juice, though, don't worry as I'll post just the tried and true straight recipe at the end.

Rhubarb Nectar (Rhubarb Concentrate)

  • 12 cups diced rhubarb
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 TBS orange juice (or the zest and juice of 1 orange)
  • 2 TBS lemon juice (or the zest and juice of 1 lemon)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
In a large stainless steel (you NEED non reactive for this recipe as it is acidic!) saucepan, combine rhubarb, water, lemon zest and orange zest.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat, cover and boil gently for about 10 minutes or until rhubarb is tender (falling apart) and has let out all of it's red coloring (it makes a pretty pink colored liquid).  Remove from heat and stir in lemon and orange juice.

Transfer to a jelly bag or strainer lined with several layers of cheese cloth set over a deep bowl and let drip for at least 2 hours (okay, this is where I never have this type of patience.  I don't care if I get a clear liquid, so I let the mixture cool for a bit on the stovetop...about 1/2 an hour...and then I put the mixture through a strainer lined with a very clean lint free dish towel, let whatever liquid will drip through drip through and then I grab the towel with all of the "rhubarb guts" in it and squeeze the mixture over the catch bowl until all I have left is pretty dry pulp.  It's a lot faster and tastes just as good...just leads to a cloudy mixture).

Meanwhile prepare canner jars and lids by standard sanitizing practices put forth by our friendly FDA (or your local governmental agency).

In a clean large stainless steel saucepan, combine rhubarb juice and sugar.  Heat to 190 degrees Fahrenheit  (grandma's recipe called for "just below the boiling point" I like the temperature degrees set forth by Ball a lot better) over medium high heat.  Remove from heat and skim off foam.

Ladle hot concentrate into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Wipe rim.  Center lid on jar.  Screw band down until resistance is met and increase to finger-tip tight.

Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes.  Remove canner lid and wait another 5 minutes.  Remove jars, cool and store (be sure to check seals to make sure they are sealed correctly).

Variation:  For a basic rhubarb concentrate, omit the lemon and orange zest and juice and reduce sugar to 1 cup.
To Reconstitute:  Mix one part concentrate with one part water, tonic water, soda water, ginger ale or lemonade.  Adjust concentrate to taste.

 Makes about 4 pint jars (500 ml)

Menu Plan Monday: Menu for Week of 8/24/15

Okay, so it's Tuesday again and this is late.  Last night menu planning just wasn't going to happen.  I have a stress related stomach disorder (I'll spare you the gorey details) and it has been hitting me kind of hard this last week, so the last thing I wanted to think about last night was food.

I'm feeling better this morning, though, so let's get this show on the road!

Menu Plan for Week of 8/24/15
Monday:  Crock pot chicken, zucchini cheddar bread (recipe coming today hopefully), green beans

Tuesday:  Chicken noodle soup with easy home made noodles.  Use dehydrated veggies from pantry.

Wednesday:  Ham, cheese and kale quiche.

Thursday:  Poached chicken (crock pot), baked potatoes, peaches

Friday:  Chicken salad sandwiches.

Saturday:  Beef Roast, roast veggies (if money permits, if not green beans), stuffing/dressing.

Sunday:  Leftovers
Desserts:  Rhubarb and Zucchini Crumble (recipe coming today too, maybe), fig steamed pudding with caramel sauce (recipe coming eventually *laugh*).

To Bake:  Pizza Rolls, bread, cookies (baking day:  Friday).

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Monthly Goals Update and This Week's Goals

With the weather suddenly cooling down to the point where we're working on getting our furnace ready to turn on here soon it's hard to imagine a couple of weeks ago we were running an air conditioner around here.

I got a couple curve balls (good ones) thrown my way this week that made me add things to the "I must get this done" list, but I did manage to get some things on my list done for the week.

For one, I did get some canning done today (seen above).  Due to my mother-in-law giving me the rhubarb she couldn't use and figuring out what I had managed to get from my own plant and froze, I knew I had enough rhubarb to do something with and so I added "something with rhubarb" to my canning list (and yup, it started out that specific *laugh*).  I decided to make rhubarb concentrate out of the rhubarb (I'll try to post the recipe tomorrow) as I didn't have any strawberries left to make jam with said rhubarb as I used all of our strawberries to dehydrate or make jam (which I was grateful to have).  It's a pretty versatile and yummy way to use up rhubarb as well.

I canned salsa today too.  I still have more on my canning list that I'm hoping to get done tomorrow if it's still nice and cool out, but we shall see how everything goes.

In addition to the rhubarb, I also received a big chunk of zucchini from my mother-in-law (who got it from my sister-in-law).  I made two new recipes with it as I really didn't feel like just making zucchini bread out of it...I was going for something a bit more exciting than that.  The recipes for that might come this week as well so I don't get too far behind posting recipes (I actually have a back log right now *laugh*).

I made home made "rice a roni" pantry mixes today as well.  I like to make these to have around as they do come in handy when you are at a loss for a side dish to go with dinner (I'll post that recipe up soon as well).

I figured out my son's gift debate.  I decided to make a twin sized quilt/blanket out of it and I also decided I really want to give it to him for his birthday, SO my schedule on that got upped a bunch.  I am hoping to get it done this week as I only have two weeks about till his birthday.

I did change the beds.  Especially my son's.  All week long.  He's potty trained during the day right now but we depend on night time diapers still.  Unfortunately, the night time diapers available kept getting cheaper and cheaper made to the point they are pretty much useless.  We have a four day weekend coming up next week and I'm thinking setting alarms and making him go to the bathroom in the middle of the night is going to be the only way I'm going to be able to avoid washing his bedding every single day.

I got my daughter's dresser cleaned out of all the clothes that no longer fit her this week and started on my son's room as well.  I'm still working on deep cleaning their rooms, but at least I am able to get them clean enough during the day that they are CLEAN for when the kids come home from school.  With how many bugs we have running around in the yard this year, I don't want any invitations for them to come into my house if I can avoid it.

I darned some of my more heavily damaged/torn comforters this week.  I got one completely done and am about 1/2 way done with the other.  I really want to get them done before the weather gets too cold and they are on the beds constantly.  I also embroidered a pillow sham for my daughter for Christmas and am starting work on some embroidery on some handkerchiefs.

I baked bread this week, but didn't get around to the pizza rolls.  So they'll be rolled onto this week's goals, along with cookies for a lunchbox treat for my daughter.

I also vacuum sealed my herbs, fruits and nuts that needed to be sealed this week.

I went and pulled the rest of the garlic in the garden.  I thought that there was only like two garlic bulbs left, but when I went to pull up all the grass to get ready for composting in that part of the garden I found like six more mini cloves of garlic.  I think I'm going to dice up the garlic and dehydrate it at this point, as I'm honestly not sure I could use up all of the little bulbs before something happens to them.

So, onto this week's goals!

Canning/Preserving List
1.  Dehydrate the rest of the herbs from the garden.
2.  Can green tomato relish.
3.  Can wildflower jelly
4.  Can raspberry jelly (or jam...still undecided there).
5.  Harvest the rest of the kale and clean in preparation to give to friends.
Sewing Goals
1.  Sew quilt top for son's birthday gift.
2.  Mend comforter edge that has come apart.
3.  Work on Christmas gifts.
4.  Work on mending husband's jeans and work shirts.
Other Goals:
1.  Work on blog posts, including the next installment on the "how to darn" series.
2.  Shampoo carpets.
3.  Clean living room fan (we have a high ceiling in the living room and the fan duster isn't cutting it, so it's time to pull in a six foot ladder and get it done).
4.  Teach daughter to play checkers.
5.  Decorate daughter's room for fall and work on decorating for son's room.
6.  Get baking done (cookies, pizza rolls and bread).
And there you go folks.  My goals for this week.  What are yours?

Friday, August 21, 2015

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap and Garden Update

I have shocked no less than four people this week as I told the tale of how I had to re-stake my tomato plants this week as they were quite literally growing across my driveway and I had to do something before I worried about slugs getting to them.

I've NEVER had tomatoes grow like this in Alaska.  In the 12 odd years I've grown tomatoes up here they haven't done 1/2 as well as they did this year.  I grew two plants this year, as a matter of fact, in the hopes that I could get enough tomatoes to perhaps have an odd tomato sandwich or two before I had to pickle or can all of my mini green tomatoes at the end of the season.

Now I'm at kind of a loss as I wasn't planning on having half of the amount of tomatoes I'm getting.  My husband can't eat tomatoes raw due to acid reflux (even seeded, which is depressing) and my daughter hates pretty much all vegetables.  My son with his issues won't even look at a tomato period.  So, unless I want to turn red here in the next bit, I'm thinking I might be making some green tomato relish (something that has intrigued me for years honestly) or I might be trying to dig up some more canning jars to can some tomato sauce or whole tomatoes.  I'm not complaining, do not get me wrong, just surprised *laugh*.

I got turnips developing!  I was thrilled to see that in the garden today.  Even if I only get some small turnips before the snow flies, I'll be happy with that.  You can see the one leaf that got eaten by the cabbage loopers before I pulled my potato plant.  Poor turnip plant.

I picked some green tomatoes from the garden (when I re-staked the tomatoes some tomatoes were harmed a bit in the process, so I picked them).  I turned some of them into fried green tomatoes one day (yum!) and plan on seeing if the others will indeed ripen on the counter, or if I'll have to make more fried green tomatoes out of them.

I didn't harvest herbs this week.  I'm planning on harvesting what is left of my herbs this coming week as the plants are hitting "the growth wall" as I like to call it where they are starting to put their efforts into seeding rather than growing new offshoots.  So, it's time to harvest them, dehydrate them and call it good for the year.

Anyway, onto other matters!

1.  I started working on my son's birthday gift yesterday.  I've been so preoccupied with money that I just plain forgot his birthday is coming up in a few weeks.  I didn't want to spend a lot of money on his birthday, but still wanted to make him something he'll like, so I've got things in the work to do just that (more on that later).

2.  I started working on Christmas gifts this week too.  I've got a lot of Christmas gifts to worry about, so I always start early on them.  I embroidered the pillow sham I made last week for my daughter and am planning on putting the finishing touches on that tonight.  I also sketched out some other embroidery designs for other Christmas gifts as well and starting figuring out a gift making schedule (yes, I really am this OCD sometimes).

3.  I mainly tried to stay home as much as possible to not spend money.  I worked on cleaning the house and baking a lot this week now that the kids are back in school.

4.  I tried a new recipe for bread while I was baking.  I found a recipe that calls for SAF instant yeast (my favorite yeast) and makes bread in under an hour.  I liked the time frame so I made some.  And I really like it!  It makes a very light and fluffy bread.  I sliced both loaves into slices for easy sandwich or toast making and we've been eating the bread all week.  I will definitely be making the bread again.

5.  My mother-in-law gave me a hunk off of a giant zucchini that my sister-in-law bought.  I'm planning on making the hunk I have into two different recipes (more on that later if it turns out).  I haven't messed with zucchini in years, so this will be an interesting experiment for me.

6.  I cooked all of our meals at home, which saved us money.

7.  I mended one very torn comforter this week.  It was one of my son's favorite comforters as it's very soft, but it had about four good sized tears in it.  I darned the comforter and now my son is even happier with it (although disappointed that I didn't leave him a hole to pluck batting out of it).

8.  I mended a hole in a pair of my daughter's jeans.

9.  I shopped sales and used coupons to get the most out of my dollars this week.

10.  We burned a couple of old movies that were only available online that we'd been wanting to watch and enjoyed the movies with some popcorn for a movie night.

And there you are folks.  Some of the various ways I've saved money this week.  How did you do?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Thrifty Thursday: Thrift Store Finds

Well, this week was a good one on the used store/thrift store front.

My husband didn't understand my squeal of excitement when I found the above item.  I held it aloft like it was the most treasured possession in the universe and said, "I FINALLY found one!!!  A fish mold!!!  And it's only two dollars!"

My husband looked at me like I had something a bit off in my head and said, "Uh huh.  I always thought those were sort of ugly."

He didn't understand my excitement at finding the above item, although at least he understood when I explained to him the main reason I have wanted one of these forever is because I have some vintage molded salad (or other recipes) that call to "pour into fish mold", which never had how many cups the recipe made, or anything but THOSE words, so I have been searching for one of these suckers so I could try out some of my vintage recipes that called for said mold.

And really, how many people remember these from kitchens in their youth?  These things were still a regular decor item hanging in many kitchens when I was a child and I know these suckers were hanging in kitchens as far back as the 40's.  So, really, the fish mold is a bit of culinary history you can hang in your kitchen.

And if you husband thinks it's kind of weird that you think it is so cool and thinks they are kind of ugly, you can do what I did which was to impersonate the 80's astronaut character from the Lego movie and continually show your husband the fish mold as you are walking around the thrift store and saying in a highly excited voice, "Fish mold!!!"

Hey, if you can't be a quasi-embarrassment to your spouse once in a while what is 14 years plus of marriage worth?  *Laugh*.

And yes, I did indeed hang the fish mold in my kitchen.  Oddly it looks pretty good hanging on the wall, although it goes against my normal tastes.

Now my husband did get to be excited by one thing this week.  He was able to get the above item.  It's a sand blasting cabinet.  My husband has been wanting one of these for a loonnnnnggg time to sand blast things like tool boxes (my husband is a vintage tool collector) and such, so he was thrilled to get it for 30.00.  It even came with the sand blaster in it still and had blasting material (sand) in it.  So, it was definitely worth the money.

The rest of what I scored at the used stores this week is above.  I was able to score a couple panel projects to sew for Christmas gifts a little later on for 2.00 a piece, a bunch of bias tape and twill tape for .10 to .30 a piece and some gloves for me for 3.00 (that were in brand new condition!).  I also went to Wally World, one of our local thrift stores, to try and find some Tupperware as, surprisingly, I have used up all of my Tupperware containers housing different things in my pantry of late.  I found a pitcher there and a neat vintage plastic tray (which I'm going to use as my "landing pad" on the above trunk for kids drinks once Christmas time gets here).  We then went to Value Village and I spent more than I wanted to getting some Tupperware pieces (they were like 4.00 a piece...ouch), but at least they had a couple of them.  And I was able to find this...

A solid marble checkerboard (this thing is HEAVY!) for 5.00!  I am using this as the "landing pad" for drinks on my living room coffee table now (seen above).  I love it too as now we have a checkerboard to play on whenever we just want to pull checkers out. 

When I picked it up I didn't have checkers.  I figured I'd keep my eye out for a cheap game of checkers to finish up the set.

And loe and behold we went to the last thrift store of the day and I found a checkerboard set for 1.00!  And all the checkers were in it!  That is what you call an awesome set of circumstances :). 

The last thing my husband found and gave me as a gift, so I'm not sure how thrifty it was, but I love it all the same.  He was at a local antique store and texted me asking if I'd like a vintage Corelle bowl for a decently cheap price that had graduated markings for volume on the inside.  I was more than intrigued and the price was right so I told him to pick it up.  As he was checking out the lady there said they had a handle for the bowl???  So he told her to grab it and he'd buy that too.

It turns out that this is a detachable handled Corelle line that came out.  I also found out that the piece was rare in it's markings compared to some other lines with the same cornflower blue pattern on it, so I decided it was going into my china cabinet so I would be less likely to chip it.  Oddly, I never thought I'd ever collect the cornflower blue pattern, but I now own four things with the pattern on it, so I guess I'm collecting that now *laugh*.  I always liked blue on white, so I'm okay with it.

So there you are folks.  My thrifty adventures this week.  How did you do?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Menu Plan Monday (late): Menu for week of 8/17/15

Man, yesterday.  By the time it was over I counted myself truly blessed that the kids were in bed.  The first day of school is always hard, but then on top of all the change (my daughter HATES change about 99% of the time) my daughter's "boyfriend" whom she really liked might have moved away as he wasn't at school yesterday.  So, I ended up with an overly exhausted daughter who hadn't slept the night before in tears most of the afternoon and evening.  Luckily she seemed to be doing better this morning (fingers crossed there), but with her mood and my son being tired planning was completely OUT yesterday.

So, here we are today and I know I need to get my act together and start cleaning, but before I do that let's get this show on the road and get that menu plan done!

Menu Plan for Week of 8/18/15
Monday:  Noodle Bowl Night (this worked out as I was as exhausted as the kids were)

Tuesday:  Baked chicken, baked potatoes (use blemished potatoes), mixed veggies (freezer).  Dessert:  Fig steamed pudding (new recipe I'm HOPING will turn out well).

Wednesday:  BBQ ribs, mashed potatoes (with gravy for daughter), biscuits, green beans.

Thursday:   Balsamic herb pork roast, rice, pears

Friday:  Leftover pork roast with whatever leftover veggies/fruit we have.

Saturday:  Baked whole chicken, stuffing, green beans

Sunday:  Chicken sandwiches with popcorn (or pizza depending on time).
Desserts:  Fig steamed pudding with caramel sauce, ice cream, s'mores

To Bake:  Bread (plain only), pizza rolls.  Baking day, Tuesday.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Monthly Goals Update and This Week's Goals

It's kind of hard to believe that tomorrow my kids go back to school.  The summer seemed to pass too quickly.  And now my little girl is starting a new grade and is bursting with excitement after meeting her new teacher.  Even my son seems to be catching the excitement at the idea of a new school year.

Of course, within a week the housework will be caught up, I will be able to get some naps in so I'll be more of a human being and the kids will be realizing that they have a while until their next vacation.  And then we'll start counting down the days till Christmas break.

In the meantime, it's been busy around here.  Between me having to harvest some of the garden earlier than I would have liked due to bugs and things, surprise visits from friends and family (welcome though they were), picking raspberries at my mother-in-laws and just generally trying to get the kids ready for school, I'm ready to drop the kids off at school tomorrow, come home and sit staring at a wall for ten minutes until I move onto the massive to-do list I have going.

People think I'm busy when the kids are home.  They have no idea.  When the kids are in school I seem to always be rushing to get things done before the school day goes by too quickly and I'm helping my daughter with homework and cooking dinner.

This week's to-do list kind of got bumped for other things like those mentioned above, but I did manage to get some of it crossed off today.

I made a tablecloth for the living room coffee table (some of it seen above...I didn't want to take a pic of the dirty carpet, so you don't get the full effect, but you get the idea).  I used some of the unbleached muslin I bought on on a Black Friday sale.  I love it so much I really do want to get some more of it I have a chance.  I got the super muslin that is pre-shrunk and it is totally worth the money as it is decently heavyweight and doesn't shrink like the cheaper muslin does.  The nice part about it is that it matches so much of the things in the living room.  My husband picked out the color and brought up all the neutrals in the curtains and carpet and he was right.  The muslin works well.  I can also make others for different holidays and just embroider on some designs for fun.  But, that's in the future if I feel motivated.

We went to the used stores over the weekend (more on that on Thrifty Thursday) and one of the things I found was a solid marble checkerboard (seen above).  I decided that it would work great as a tray when it wasn't being used as an actual checkerboard to help keep the tablecloth on the table, but I needed to resurface the back of the checkerboard as the felt they had coated it with was completely shot.  So that was another project I ended up doing this weekend.  Came out looking great though.  By the way, Elmer's Craft Bond?  Totally worth the money as a craft adhesive.  That's like super super glue in a can.  I nearly had to take professional strength solvent to my hands to get it off!

We're hoping to start doing a board game night on Saturday nights as my daughter does enjoy board games and I think my husband and I really need to spend more time with her doing things like that.

I also sewed a handkerchief (didn't get to the other one as my son was in a MOOD the last little bit) and a pillow sham.  I plan to embroider both of them with different designs.  I was planning on doing a pillow sham for my son as well for Christmas, but I might be redoing my plan into a blanket as the material was actually quite wide when I unfolded it and I think it would make a wonderful little accent to his room design.  I'm still contemplating on that one.

I harvested and dehydrated herbs this week and also pulled some garlic (the details on the garden can be found in my Frugal Friday post for this week).  I still have two garlic plants left (I pulled two more garlic plants today) which I'm hoping might actually make it to small bulbs of garlic as the stalks are still doing pretty well.  I'm planning on composting the spots where I pulled plants a bit later this week.   I haven't gotten my vacuum sealer out yet.  It's in my pantry in a spot where I'd have to pull a bunch of stuff out to get it and since I just got my pantry done a while ago it's going to be painful to make a mess in there *laugh*.  I'm hoping to get the nerve up to get it out this week.

I made laundry soap today too.

This week's goals are:
1.  Shampoo carpets.
2.  Change beds.
3.  Figure out son's Christmas gift (sham or blanket).
4.  Bake bread, pizza rolls and cookies.
5.  Work on sewing and mending.
6.  Can raspberry jam, wildflower jelly and salsa (if I have time and the temperature permits).
7.  Work on son's room (decorating, etc).
8.  Make up home made Rice a Roni type of mixes.  Put in pantry.
9.  Deep clean kid's rooms (now that they are going to be in school and not hindering me).
And there are my basic goals for the week.  Hope I can get it all done.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap and Garden Update

The garden is starting to go into it's downward slide for the year.  I pulled the rest of the lettuce this week and used the greens from the bolted lettuce with the one lettuce plant that waited a bit to bolt, so the lettuce was normal tasting.

The kale is still producing well, despite cabbage loopers that have decided to munch on them.  I would try harder to kill them, but I've gotten enough kale out of the plants at this point that if I have to pull it I won't cry.

My rhubarb plant, though, got nailed HARD by little green caterpillars and I fear it might not come back this year it looks so terrible right now.  It looks like someone dumped acid on it.

The cabbage loopers decided they liked the potato plant and since the potato plant was butting up against the turnip plants my biggest turnip plant was being chewed on too, so I dug the potatoes.  The plant was acting like it was ready for the potatoes to be dug, anyway.  I got seven potatoes out of the one plant, which I've done better in previous years (read: cooler years), but I'm still happy with the result since the initial potato I planted was free anyway.  I cured the potatoes and am going to use the two potatoes that have obvious blemishes/problems first and store the rest in the pantry for later use.

The turnip plants are doing really well now that the potato plant is out of the way.  I turned up the soil well on every plant I pulled to make sure any worms weren't hiding there for one and to make sure I would dry out and kill any worm eggs that were in the soil before I regretted it next year for two.

I pulled two more garlic plants and found mini garlic had developed, so I cured them and I'm just going to use them like I would bulbs of garlic in recipes.  They sure are cute.

I harvested loads of mint, parsley, thyme and sage this week as well as more rosemary and oregano.  I dehydrated it all and hope to get a bit more before the herbs go to seed.

I've not been at all impressed with the pineapple sage.  It smells like pineapple, when it's fresh, but it doesn't taste like much when you chew it and when it is dehydrated it tastes like grass.  Not my thing.  Kind of disappointing since I worked so hard to keep it alive early in the year, but now I know better for next year.

On the bright side of things though, I got my first ripe tomatoes this week (seen in the basket above)!  I have enjoyed them in salad, as a snack and as tomato sandwiches for lunch.  I'm looking forward to getting more as some are nearly at the breaker stage.

I decided I wasn't going to let the fireweed dying off quickly and being buggy stop me from making jelly, so instead I harvested as much fireweed as I could and padded out the blossoms with johnny jump ups (which is trying to take over the universe).  I'm not sure how the wildflower jelly will taste, but it's worth a shot anyway.

And so now onto other ways I've saved money this week.

1.  My brother-in-law is redoing some trailers to resell later and a couple of them had furniture left in them when he bought them.  He offered us a queen sized headboard and foot board and a dresser.  My husband said "yes" sight unseen, but when I saw what we got I was really surprised.  The furniture is VERY well made!  I'm kind of excited as we'll have a real bed once my husband gets the queen sized bed from my mother-in-law.  The dresser I'm thinking about just using as my dresser instead of trying to dig the one out of storage, as it's a bit bigger than the one in storage for one and for two it's taller so I won't have to worry about my son crawling up on it.

2.  My mother-in-law asked if we'd like to go over and pick raspberries as she heard of my plight with my raspberry bushes.  We finally made it over today, which my daughter, who has been super excited at the prospect of picking raspberries immediately picked one raspberry and took off on me to watch TV.  But I picked every raspberry I could get my hands on out of her two bushes.  It's enough to make some jam, anyway, which is great.  She also offered to let me come back in a couple of weeks and pick the ones that are still too green to pick now.  I'm definitely going to take her up on it as the jam will definitely help pad out our yearly supply.

While I was over she also gave me some rhubarb she wasn't using that a neighbor gave her.  She had gotten a ton and was just tired of making rhubarb things, so I gladly accepted that as well.  I'm still up in the air over what I'm going to do with my rhubarb this year (I have like four ideas), but for the time being I just cut it up into pieces and froze it with my other rhubarb.

She also gave us a couple of six packs of flavored water that she'd gotten for cheap at the store.  I gladly accepted it as my daughter's school room (we went to an open house this afternoon to meet her teacher and drop off school supplies) was sweltering when we were in it, so I worry about her only having a juice box with her lunch for the time being.

3.  I baked branch bread and bread (both white and cinnamon swirl).  I managed to do both of those right before we got a visit from my sister-in-law, one of my nieces and my nephew.  It was a great and fun visit and I was able to give her a big box full of baby clothes for my nephew out of the ones I'd gone through from storage. It felt good being able to help her out and getting some of the stuff out of the house.

4.  I found whole chickens for 4.00 a piece at the store when we went earlier in the week to get milk and back to school food.  I bought two and also a tube of hamburger.  I poached one chicken in the crock pot, baked one the same night and then cooked up the tube of hamburger, just browning it without seasonings.  Some of it I turned into taco meat last night for a quick dinner and tonight we had chicken sandwiches with the leftover baked chicken before I put it into the freezer for use later on.  Tomorrow I'm going to pull the meat off of the poached chicken and boil the carcass in the crock pot with the stock the chicken made when it cooked.  I'm going to use that to make myself some chicken noodle soup for lunches later on.

Yes, the menu plan went a bit awry, but it all worked out and I figure I'll reuse some of the meals later on anyway.

5.  My husband and I cut my son's hair (we use clippers for him) and it came out looking good (he HATES hair cuts).  I then trimmed my daughter's hair and had my husband trim mine.

6.  I cooked all of our meals at home, which saved us money.

7.  I shopped one day only this week to keep gas consumption and money spending to a minimum.

8.  I cashed in swagbucks to get some giftcards.  I then used them to help pay for a new pair of sneakers for me as my other shoes are just plain dying on me.  I found some New Balance sneakers (one of the few brands I can wear...I have a weird shaped foot) for 25.00 on Amazon.  After giftcards I paid 15.00 for them.  I then ordered the shoes through the Swagbucks link as well also so I'll earn Swagbucks from the purchase (I hope...I've never done that one before).

9.  My children and I have spent a lot of time playing outside this week as the weather has been cooler.  It's made getting things done around the house a bit harder, but worth it.

And there you are folks.  Some of the ways I've saved money this week.  How did you do?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Branch Bread

So, I'm sure you've heard of branch bread.  I mean, who hasn't?  *Room raises their collective hands* Oh.  Well, let me go into a bit more detail than.

I originally got a recipe for branch bread from my dad.  See, my dad was one of those people who would read voraciously.  I think my step-mom lost count of the amount of books on his Kindle when he died.  And he read EVERYTHING.  One of the things he read, throughout his adventures, was a lot of material on Iceland.  And thus, is how I became in possession of one recipe for Icelandic Branch Bread.

The original recipe I got called for some rye flour to be added, which makes sense as it seems most countries besides America love the stuff.  But, I didn't have the money for rye flour (nor could I really find any that wasn't in bulk bins and we have a peanut allergy to worry about) so I used all white flour.  And it actually came out REALLY tasty.

This recipe calls for no yeast.  No bread flour.  So, really, unless you don't bake at all you should be in possession of the ingredients in your kitchen.

Now, just to warn you.  These crackers (my dad called it flat bread, but seriously it's a cracker) have some serious pros and cons.  Pros:  These crackers are tasty, the size of a dinner plate and will keep up to a month without any special things you have to do.

Cons:  These crackers are the size of a dinner plate *laugh* and you get to roll dough into the thickness of a flower petal.  Now, I'm not sure how hard this really is to accomplish with a normal rolling pin.  The original recipe said it would take five minutes to roll out each cracker.  I, who am used to lifting a 70 lb six year old and have in my possession one marble rolling pin was able to get two trays of crackers done in that time.  So, I'm not sure what kind of advantage that lends me.  But, just be aware these might take you a while to roll out and plan your schedule accordingly.

I store mine in air tight containers in the middle of my table (yay Tupperware!), but if you aren't in possession of a container as large as a nine inch dinner plate (or in my case 8 1/2 inch salad plates), just place these carefully in some ziploc bags before storing them in your pantry (as they are thin and crunchy).  They might last longer than a month without going stale, but we've never kept them around long enough to find out!

Wonder why it is called branch bread?  Before you bake the crackers you create a cross hatch/chevron design in the crackers with a knife.  When the crackers bake and the cuts separate the cuts resemble branches on a tree.  Cool huh?

Branch Bread

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt (I use kosher for bread baking)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 2 tbs. butter or margarine
  • water for brushing
  • additional salt for sprinkling on crackers
Mix together flours, salt and sugar in a large bowl.  Make a well in the center.

Heat the milk and butter/margarine until bubbles form around the edge of the pan.  Turn off heat and mix until the butter/margarine is melted.

Pour hot liquid right into the flour and stir to combine as well as you can with a wooden spoon.  Once the dough is cool enough to handle (it only took a few moments for me), work into a smooth dough with your hands.  Press the dough to combine, don't knead it.  Think smoosh, not pulling.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and place the upturned bowl on top of it.  Let the dough rest for 30 minutes (it's still going to be warm when you do this).

Heat oven to 425 degrees and line two half sheet pans with parchment paper (or grease the baking sheets).

Divide dough into 12 equal portions (okay, I HATE when recipes say this as I'm bad at it, so here's how I do 12 equal portions.  Form dough into a round, like a small pizza and then divide circle into four equal "slices".  Then divide each of those four pieces into 3 equal smaller pie slices).

Roll out each portion of dough as thinly as possible (I made sure to flour my surface and the dough a LOT to do this.  The dough is actually pretty tough so move it around as needed to keep it mobile and not sticking to things).  The aim is as thin as a flower petal.

Use a 9 inch dinner plate (or an 8 1/2 inch salad plate if you are me) as a guide and cut the dough into rounds.  Lift each round onto your baking sheet (on a 1/2 sheet pan, carefully positioning the rounds at two opposing corners I was able to fit 2 per cookie sheet).  With a sharp knife (I used the same one I cut the rounds out with) cut a series of chevrons in the dough to make the traditional "spruce tree" design.

Brush the dough very lightly with water and then sprinkle additional salt on to taste (the salt does NOT fall off after baking, it bakes into the dough very well, so go light with this...I learned my lesson the hard way).

Bake, preferably, one cookie sheet at a time 8 to 10 minutes (watch them as they burn FAST).  Transfer the breads to a tea towel (or if you have tons of them lying around cooling racks) to cool.  They'll cool off in a few minutes.  Repeat with remaining dough.

Once completely cool transfer to airtight containers or ziploc bags and store for up to one month.

Makes 12 breads.
Goes great with cheese, soups, dips...use your imagination.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Pantry Friendly Spiced Cranberry Sauce

A recipe whose entire purpose is to dress up chicken to make dinner more interesting?  Gee, I wonder why I would find a need to create one of those.

Kidding.  Kind of.

Anyway, I came up with this recipe the other night when we were having chicken for the third time in a week and I desperately needed something to "glamorize" the meal up a bit. My husband thought it was so good that I'm definitely going to be making it whenever I need to dress up baked chicken.

This recipe calls for good old fashioned canned cranberry sauce.  I used home canned for this recipe (thus why it is a deep brown as the cranberry sauce was old enough to get brown on me), but the jellied stuff in the shape of the can would work too.  You could probably use whole cranberry sauce too, but you might have to reduce the sauce longer to get the right consistency.

If you don't use all of this on your chicken, refrigerate the leftover cranberry sauce.  It will set up kind of jelly-like and works GREAT on leftover chicken sandwiches.  Just a suggestion.

Pantry Friendly Spiced Cranberry Sauce
  • 1/2 cup ( 2 oz) canned cranberry sauce
  • 1/2 cup apple or orange juice (if you don't have juice, just use water, but the depth of flavor won't be as intense that way)
  • 1/4 tsp. ground sage 
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/8 tsp. dried rosemary
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Combine cranberry sauce and apple/orange juice in a small saucepan over medium heat and whisk well till cranberry sauce melts into the juice. 
Add the herbs and simmer over medium low heat until the sauce reduces by about 1/3 into a nice sauce-like consistency.  Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve over baked chicken.

Menu Plan Monday: Menu for Week of 8/10/15

I'm currently in the process of making a more pantry heavy dependent menu as money around here has been so sporadic that it's been hard to really buy things like meat regularly.  Luckily, so far I've found random good deals on meat, which will see us through for a bit, but I'm picturing by next month we're going to be doing a lot more pantry eating until we can build up some type of savings around here.

I'm still trying to shop from the pantry as much as I can to make meals more interesting and less monotonous as there are days we swear we're going to start sprouting feathers eating so much chicken.  I have very small amounts of beef I pick up from time to time when I can find it cheap, so I'm really working hard on recipes to make those little amounts of meat go as far as I can.

So, here's this week's menu using things like a few thin sliced round steaks I found at the store that are starting to get freezer burned used in tonight's dinner.

Menu Plan for Week of 8/10/15
Monday:  Crock Pot Beef Stroganoff (pantry friendly ingredients), salad

Tuesday:  Chicken Pesto Pasta (use dried pesto mix from pantry), fruit cocktail

Wednesday:  Pork Chops, rice, cheesy mixed veggies
Thursday:  Brined orange chicken, leftover rice, green beans
Friday:  Pancakes (make extra for school breakfasts later and freeze them) with blueberry syrup (from pantry), bacon, eggs.
Saturday:  Black olive and ham Pizza (use ham from freezer for topping)

Sunday:  Baked chicken, stuffing, mashed potatoes

Desserts:  Orange Fluff Jello (use items in pantry), S'mores (microwave).

Baking:  Make branch bread (didn't make this last week), white bread, cookies for school lunches (Tuesday:  Baking Day).

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Monthly Goals Update and This Week's Goals

Well, this is a week where despite a son who has been SUPER destructive (I spent until now today cleaning up the serious mess he made my upstairs while I was cleaning and organizing the den) I actually got a decent amount of things done!

So, let's get to it shall we?

I managed to reorganize the den and got my sewing area set up!  The shot above is what you see when you enter my den from the hallway.  I also, as you can see, got the glider rocker upholstered and placed in the den for my son to use.

 This is the shot of what you'd see if you were standing with your back to the glider rocker.  You don't see the bookcases off to the left and right of the cabinet that are still a major mess, but it's hard to make VHS tapes look good, so I just focused on the clean parts *laugh*.

I would share the before photos of the den, but honestly it was just a HUGE mess.  My sewing area, after we got the TV cabinet was all over the place, some of which was in open Rubbermaid containers that were stacked wherever.

 And here's a shot of my new sewing corner.  I am super happy with how this turned out and I can safely say I paid not one penny to get this done as I shopped around my house to find the things I needed to get it done.

For instance, the clock on the wall has rotated around two houses now.  When we bought our previous house it was on an estate sale and was FULL of stuff when we got it.  The clock, and the antique fold out bar came with the house.  We had the clock hanging in our bedroom, but would always use the digital alarm clock to tell the time, so I moved it out to the den so I wouldn't lose track of time when in the den.

The crate on top of the basket I received with a free thing of Melissa and Doug blocks I got years ago (I had a 10.00 off 10.00 code for some site and the blocks were on sale for 10.00.  It was awesome).   It's very solid and even dove tailed, so I use it to store current sewing projects I'm working on.  The basket hamper under it I use to hold my fabric scraps.  That was found at a used store a couple of years back for 3.00.  Didn't work as a hamper as it was just was too big for the area I needed  a hamper in, but it works great as a fabric scrap basket.

The dresser houses some of my cloth stash and a bunch of my crafting things as well.  On top I used some of my vintage jars to house zippers, plastic weight beads, buttons and other sewing notions. They'd been sitting on the sill above the TV cabinet, but always looked cluttered.  So, I moved them where I could access them easier.  I then moved a lamp for added light to the top of the dresser as well.  The basket housing my "most necessary" patterns was a leftover from my pantry redo.

The dresser itself?  Well, this was actually my dresser from my bedroom.  I got it at a local antique store years ago at a great bargain.  I just fell in love with it (my husband still, I think is kind of baffled by my love of it as the veneer on top of the dresser is shot, thus the tablecloth cover) and the character it had.  I desperately needed SOMETHING to clean up the den and knew we didn't have the money to build shelves or something to house my sewing and crafting items, so I figured the dresser would get the job done.  And it looks great with the all the pine in the den, I think.

I'm living out of Rubbermaid containers for the time being, until I can pull a dresser out of storage, but it is worth it.

Above the dresser I even hung up my little collection of vintage embroidery hoops.  I thought it came out looking awesome myself.

The sewing table I got at a used store about three years ago for, geez, I believe it was like 20.00 or something close to that.  It's unique in that you can mount whatever sewing machine you want to the table and then the entire sewing machine folds down into the sewing table when not in use (instead of needing a special sewing machine to go with the table, which is what I normally see).  Under the dresser I stored some of my bolts of material.  And then I stored a glass jar of ribbon behind the crock (not shown, obviously).

The crock I had picked up at a yard sale for next to nothing a long while ago.  Honestly, I'm not sure why I picked it up, as it had another family's name on it, but I always wanted a crock, so I bought it.  I turned it around so the name wasn't visible and it had been housing some of my children's blocks, but I cleaned it out and placed all of my hem tape, bias tape, quilt binding and the like in the crock.  I love the little design element it lends to the area.

The red toolbox is my "stuffed fuller than full" sewing box.  It folds outward like a tackle box in both directions and my husband brought it home from one of his expeditions years ago.  I thought it would make a great sewing box, so he gave it to me.

So, yeah, I am proud of the den.  Can't tell can you?

Other than all of that, I finally managed to go through the rest of the storage we had, or at least anything that I could access anyway.  The rubbermaid containers of lawn sale things are currently stacked in the corner of my bedroom where my dresser used to be and also in a couple small areas of the den, but at least it's done.  Now we just need to find time to have a yard sale, or at least start to slowly donate or give away the things we don't need.

I haven't gotten the master bedroom reorganized yet, although I did make a floor plan and worked on figuring out where I wanted to place things.  I'm hoping to get to that next week.

I dehydrated some more herbs and kale this week and even got a few more rosehips out of my yard and dehydrated them.

I pulled about 1/2 of the garlic from the garden.  I didn't want to give up on the healthy looking garlic, but I might just pull it all this week and call it good.  I've been saving my coffee grounds to work into the soil after I pull the garlic to help it get some nourishment to help see the soil well through the winter.

So, let's get onto this week's goals!
1.  Cut out shorts for children.
2.  Rearrange master bedroom.
3.  Continue to dehydrate herbs, vacuum seal and store.
4.  Set up new printer.
5.  Shampoo upstairs carpets.
6.  Pull rest of garlic and compost that area of the garden.
7.  Make laundry soap.
8.  Make tablecloth for living room coffee table.
9.  Cut out pillow shams and handkerchiefs.
10.  Get kids ready for school and make sure upstairs space is ready to accommodate lunch items such as juice boxes.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap and Garden Update

Well, this week was another week where I didn't spend much money at all due to not having any.  Bright side, though, is bills are paid.  So, yay for that!

How did I save money this week?  Well...

1.  I harvested parsley, lettuce (the last of it for the year I fear as it's all bolting), oregano, rosemary, mint and kale from the garden.  I also harvested more rose hips as well.  I dehydrated the lot, excluding the lettuce (some seen above).

I finally starting pulling the garlic as it's not doing much of anything and is showing signs that it needs to be pulled.  I might try to plant new bulbs when the weather turns colder for next year, but I'm still debating about that.

2.  The potato plant is definitely producing as some of the potatoes started to break the surface.  I buried them before the light got to them too badly and turned them green.  It was nice to see decent sized potatoes, though, so hopefully I'll get a decent amount of potatoes out of the one plant.

3.   In non garden related news, I made new cushions for our glider rocker.  The glider rocker had been sitting out in storage the last three years and I finally pulled it into the house when I realized that my son REALLY needed a rocking chair to help with his sensory issues.

Some might remember the bolt of shirt material I got at a local used store for 15.00 a while back.  I took that material, doubled, and then sandwiched a layer of interfacing in between to toughen the fabric even further.  I used thick upholstery foam we had out in storage for the cushions and then I used bias tape as ribbon to tie the cushions to the rocker.   

I took velcro and used it to make the cushion covers so that I could take the covers off to launder them.  My son tends to dump liquids on things and spit food, so I wanted to make sure I could launder the covers.  I also am going to dig out a container of waterproofing spray and treat the covers with that as well to help add a longer lifespan onto the cushions.

So, one re-cushioned and re-upholstered glider rocker for free (as I had all the materials).  Yes, it's not perfect, but neither am I.  Overall, though, I'm happy with it.

4.  I texted my mother-in-law and asked her if she had any instant potatoes in her food storage as I'm currently out.  She gave me a bag of them, which was a help (thanks, Stacey).

5.  While cleaning out some more of our storage, I managed to find a container with more yarn in it and some of the colors will come in handy for Christmas gifts.

6.  I had a really nice God send this week.  We had a problem with our home owners insurance not getting renewed on time earlier in the year so our discount for running my husband's "insurance score" didn't get counted with our mortgage company in time before our yearly payment came out of our escrow.  I thought that the home owner's insurance would send the refund check to our mortgage company to put back into our escrow, but instead they sent us the check.  The check will cover a good portion of my shopping goals for the month, which was such a blessing.  On top of that my mother-in-law insisted on buying some fabric drawers (that used to be in my pantry before I redid it) that were sitting out when she dropped off the potatoes, so that money covered a block of cheese from my local bulk store.  God is good :).

7.  I cooked all of our meals at home which saved us money.

8.  I ate any leftovers we'd had from dinner for lunches during the week, which also saved us money.

9.  I mended two comforters this week.

10.  Instead of going out and buying furniture and things I needed to redo my sewing area in my den, I shopped from my house and got a space I love (more on that in my Monthly Goal Update post Sunday).

And there you are folks.  Things I did to save money this week.  How did you do?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Crock Pot Honey Mustard Pork

I'm sure you've seen on my menu plan the slot for mustard pork chops in the crock pot.  Well, this is the recipe I use.

Just a side note:  This recipe does work with chicken too.  I tend to use drumsticks when I make crock pot chicken as they are flavorful, cheap and a couple of them per person is perfect portions for us.

I like to serve this over noodles (as seen in the pictures).  I just boil noodles in salted water and then when they are done and drained I put a bit of light olive oil on the noodles and toss.  Then put the pork pieces right on top of the noodles.  It works wonderful.

This is one dinner where I tend to serve fruit instead of veggies with dinner, but a salad would work as a good accompaniment to the pork.

I call this "honey mustard pork" instead of "pork chops" in the recipe because by the time it's done cooking it falls apart in chunks.  So, really you're eating chunk pork vs. pork chops by the time it's done.

Crock Pot Honey Mustard Pork
  • 2 to 4 pork chops (I use bone in pork chops for this.  Amount of pork chops depends on how hungry we are)
  • 1/3 cup spicy brown mustard
  • 1 1/2 tbs. honey (or more depending on sweetness level preferred)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tbs Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
Combine water, mustard, honey, Parmesan cheese and a pinch of salt and pepper in crock pot and whisk to combine well.  Add pork chops (push them down into the liquid so that they are covered as well as you can).

Cook on high 4 hours or low for 6 to 8 hours.  You'll be able to tell the mixture is done when you lift the pork chops with a fork and it'll fall apart. 
Serve over plain oiled pasta or rice.

Note:  You can double the recipe and pour over a pork roast if you don't want to make pork chops.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

This Week's Goals

Ha!  I was going to put the "Monthly Goals Update" at the beginning of that and then thought, "Wait.  I just posted up the monthly goals a couple of days ago.  People can page down if they are curious at this point in time."  So, yeah, if you want to know how these weekly goals are going to add up to the monthly, just page down and check *laugh*.

Well, when it came to last week's goals I actually did get a decent amount done.

I got mini-hampers set up in the bedrooms.  I ended up with a canvas basket/drawer in my daughter's room, a five gallon bucket for my son's room and a basket for my husband and I.  The design elements might not be spectacular with the rooms, but they certainly work for now.

I got the family Christmas list tweaked and pretty much finalized.

I dug out the school supplies I had and found that I only needed a few things to make my daughter's school supply list complete, which was a relief.

Really, about the only thing I didn't get done last week was working on sewing, but it's been kind of hard to work on sewing when my den looks like a freight train hit it.

So, my goals for this week are:

1.  Reorganize den.
I think I've got a plan that will work out overall to separate out the different parts of the den and get my sewing area better organized.  Here's hoping it all works as well in application as it does in my head.
2.  Muck out what little I haven't gone through in storage
I'm thinking I'm down to baby clothes pretty much at this point, so yay!
3.  Reorganize Master Bedroom
Even if we don't get to the getting of the bed from my in-laws, I still want to reorganize the bedroom to stop the cat from knocking everything onto the floor all the time.
4.  Once room is reorganized, set up printer on desk.

5.  Make cushions for glider rocker.
One of the things I found out in storage is our old glider rocker.  We've had it since before my daughter was born and it's still pretty solid.  Unfortunately the cushions that came with the thing were just crappy and even after re-upholstering the cushions the cushions themselves just finally broke down and we threw them away when we moved.  I found some thick upholstery foam out in storage, so I am going to use it to cut out some cushions for the chair.
6.  Cut out a couple pairs of shorts for the kids.  Try to sew them if possible.

7.  Pull out mason jar vacuum sealer and seal mason jars of herbs, fruits and nuts.

8.  Shampoo upstairs carpets (my son got chocolate on the carpet).

9.  Pull out garlic from the garden.  Mix in compost in soil to get ready for planting something else.

And there you are folks.  My goals for this week.  Here's hoping I can get it done!

Finding Wonder and Joy: An Important Lesson

When it comes to anxiety, I feel like I could write volumes now a days.  And depression?  Yeah, I battle that too.  You can only have your child look at you so many times asking, "Mommy, are we still too broke?" before you want to give in, curl into a ball and cry.

We have all been there.  Whether it is a time of financial hardship, health problems or just a time in our lives where it seems everything goes wrong, we all have periods where we feel the crushing weight of the world on our shoulders.  Like Atlas we struggle along, feeling very much alone in our suffering and trying to figure out where to find the energy to make that next step.

I've had friends ask me again and again how I cope with everything.  My son's autism that has kept his voice silent from me these long six years.  My daughter with her stomach problems.  Both of their allergies.  My husband's health issues.  Money problems.  They seem to look at me like I'm some type of super woman or something and ask in wonder, "How?  How do you cope?"

My answer is always, "Because I have to.  There is no other option."

And it's the honest to goodness truth.

I don't consider myself extraordinary in any way.  Heck, most days I'm barely making it through the day.  If not for caffeine I doubt I'd be a functional human being at all. 

I do try to keep a positive mental attitude as much as possible.  One of the ways I do this is by seeing joy and wonder in the small everyday things (the other way is to have a sardonic and somewhat dark sense of humor at times).  Sometimes it's as small as seeing the smiles on my children's faces.  The sun rising or setting.  My children finally asleep in their beds so I can go and crash in mine.  Appreciating the smell that the air gets after a rain shower.  How wonderful and renewed you feel after a good shower (other parents will appreciate that one ;).

I thought, today, I'd share one of the songs I've found inspiring throughout the years.  I've found this song inspiring since I was a child. 

And it's from the TV show "Fraggle Rock".

Yup.  I'm sure I've mentioned that I'm odd.

Seriously, though, when nothing else seems to get me through, this song puts a smile on my face and makes me look around for the wonder in everything around me.

I mean think about it.  You can plant a seed and it grows into a plant.  You can turn strawberries into jam.  You can turn negative thoughts into something positive.  It's not easy, but it's possible if you just try (and please note, in NO WAY am I saying you can cure clinical depression on your own.  If you can't pull out of a negative space, please seek help.  Depression is nothing to mess with).

So, here you go folks!  Find wonder in the every day!  It will help put a smile on your face. I promise.

Today, I woke up and thanked God for a few things.  I thanked him for my husband, my children, that I had a roof over my head and that I woke up at all.  Always those are good things to be thankful for.

Follow Me (Uncle Mat's Theme from Fraggle Rock)

Every day the world begins again
Sunny skies or rain
Come and follow me

Every sunrise shows me more and more
So much to explore
Come and follow me

Every morning, every day
Every evening, calling me away

While the sun goes 'round
I'll still be found
Following the sound
Something's calling me

When the world goes drifting back to bed
Memories in my head
Wonders follow me

Every morning, every day
Every evening, calling me away
Every morning, every day
Every evening, calling me away