Sunday, July 31, 2016

Monthly Goals Update and This Week's Goals

 GAH!!!!!!!  I am so, so frustrated right now.

I was getting invaded by slugs, so I went and bought beer yesterday and set up slug traps next to my seed beds and spread coffee grounds around to deter the ants from them and figured I was hopefully going to see improvement in the seedlings.

Well, it turns out that beer attracts chickadees.  Chickadees like seeds.  I went out to check on the garden to have a flock of chickadees take off for the trees and found my beer traps nearly empty and my seedlings dug up and the seeds on the bottom of them eaten.  At least some of the chickadees were intoxicated enough that they ran into the side of the camper.  I hope it hurt *grumble*.

I quit on the idea of a fall/winter garden at this point.  It was kind of an experiment anyway seeing as how our first frost date is 24 days away or so.  At this point I've blown through a full package of turnip seeds, am lamenting the loss of Tyfon (Chinese vegetable) seeds and generally wanting to do nasty things to all bugs and wildlife.  

I do have a few turnip seedlings that are advanced enough I MIGHT get a few turnips out of the bed, hopefully, and the beet seeds are kind of bursting from the soil in the one bed, so a few of them might survive too.  I'm just not planting anymore seeds right now.  Carrots and turnips are at least relatively cheap at the produce stand and there's the U-Pick farm that I can hit.  Thank goodness I've been saving for the last month in case disaster hit with the garden.

Anyway, the goals for this last week were kind of a mixed bag.

I got erbswurst made for my husband's birthday this week out of materials I had around the house in the pantry and freezer (seen up top and yes, I know it looks kind of gross *laugh*).  Erbswurst is actually a German survival food and is super condensed pea soup formed into a sausage.  You then cut off chunks of said sausage, mix with boiling water to the right consistency and voila!  Pea soup. 

Making it took a long while.  I had to pulverize the peas in the coffee grinder that I normally use for herbs and things and that took a while so I didn't overheat it.  Then it was only after, oh, two hours in that I realized the way I was rendering fat down and bacon down on low heat that I was essentially making lard to hold the sausage together.  So, it took pretty much a whole morning to get it done.  It did come together alright, but I have to admit that the sight of a BRIGHT green sausage is kind of odd.  It also made quite a bit for one recipe.  My husband keeps wanting to try and store it at room temperature, but with the bacon in it I'm nervous to do that, so I'm storing it in the fridge for now.  It should keep forever in there. 

The pretzels, however, didn't get done.  I just had too much to do with a sick kiddo and the garden and things.  At least the son is feeling better now.

I, obviously finished a Christmas gift this week.  Cleaning goals took a back seat due to my son being sick this week, so that didn't get done.  It's been cool enough that I COULD have canned stuff this week, but I was so tired during the day with my son not sleeping at night that it just wasn't going to happen.  I'm hoping this next week will go better for that.

I have continued to harvest peas out of the garden and raspberries (getting down to the end of those) and rose hips around the yard.

Getting up earlier didn't happen.  In fact, today, my son was up at four but blessedly went back to bed, so I ended up sleeping in WAY later than I planned.  Hopefully tomorrow I can get up earlier and get an early start on food preservation things that need to be done.

And, once again, the menu plan didn't happen.  This week I'm determined to do better in that regard.

This week's goals are pretty simple.
1.  Continue to work/save what is left in the garden.
2.  Continue to work on Christmas gifts.
3.  Rearrange kitchen and pantry so everything works in my new "system".
4.  Pay bills for August.
5.  Figure out shopping goals for August.
6.  Figure out monthly goals for August.
And there you are folks.  My goals for this week.  How about you?

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Christmas 2016 GIft Two: Home Made Christmas Cards

First a disclaimer.  I do not own the following images.  I drew inspiration from images that already existed, so no copyright to said images is implied or stated.

So, this next gift is a gift for my mother-in-law. 

My mother-in-law actually does quite a bit for me.  She babysits for us when we really need one.  She has given me food storage, permission to pick her raspberries, feeds my husband when he's working around her house and other things.  Normally I give the grandparents pictures of the kids for Christmas, but this year I thought I'd try something a bit more personal. 

So, enter some home made Christmas cards.

My mother-in-law has found that she loves to send cards to people the last four years or so, so I figured this would at least fall into one of her interest categories.
I took some card stock I had around the house that I bought a long while ago and then either drew directly onto the card itself after folding it in half or I would draw on another piece of white card stock thickness paper and then I just adhered it to the front of the card with a glue stick.
I drew the pictures first in pencil, then in black ink (I just used a good ball point pen for that) and then took some good old fashioned crayons and shaded the pictures.  IF I was talented at water color I might have tried to do them a bit fancier, but it has never been one of my specialties.  I'm half decent at oil pastels, but I don't have any, so crayons it was *laugh*.
For inspiration I simply looked up "Vintage Christmas Card Images" on Pinterest and went from there.

Now, if you aren't talented at art, you can still do this type of gift.  Just go and plug in "Vintage Christmas Card Images" into your favorite search engine, find some you like, get a free photo program (I recommend Photoscape as it's the program I use and really like), crop your images down/resize them so they'll fit on a card and then cut out and paste.  Easy Peazy!!!
 I then went into my word processing program and just wrote out some holiday sentiments like, "May the joy of the season find you this Christmas and all through the New Year" and stuff like that in some nice font, printed them out, cut them out and glued them into the cards with a glue stick.
If you like coloring in, you can also look up "Free Christmas Coloring Pages for Adults" and mess with those to fit onto a card too after you color them in.  That might be fun :).

I finished up the gift by including some envelopes I had from a print out card kit I had gotten a while back, wrapped a ribbon around the whole lot and then put a cute stamp for some cute envelope edging if she wants to make the cards fancier.  And tadaaa!  Another gift done.
Total cost to make:  Nothing as I had everything around here to make it.

Total time to make:  Probably about five to six hours total between all the stages of drawing and coloring and everything.

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap and Garden Update

Well, this has been a productive week, despite some set backs.  I had numerous issues with getting the bulging tire fixed on my car (it was still leaking after we got the new one on, got that fixed and had to get sensors reset, etc) and my son was sick this week, but at least I was able to get things accomplished despite that.

So, onto the garden update.

The turnips are sprouting up and then just as soon as they pop up they are getting chewed on by something.  I don't think it's slugs as the marigolds planted near the turnips, which the slugs seem to LOVE, are actually starting to come back after I thinned the lettuce.  And there aren't slug trails near the seedlings...there's just chunks taken out of them.  I'm going to try spreading some coffee grounds in a perimeter around the space and see if it's ants eating on the plants or not as we've had a bad ant year on top of everything else.

I researched when to harvest potatoes to refresh my memory and found that the potatoes in the garden should be ready to harvest.  So, I went and dug them.  I am glad I did.  I had a lot of little potatoes on two of the three plants, but I also found that they were planted on top of a HUGE rock that's in that bed which I didn't know about.  So, that definitely impacted the growing of the potatoes.  I made a note of where the rock is as it's too big to dig up and I'll plant lettuce or Chinese vegetables on top of that space next year.  In the meantime I planted more turnip seeds and more carrot seeds after amending the soil in the bed just to try and get some small veggies out of the garden before the ground freezes.

While I was digging potatoes I realized that the garlic was definitely ready to harvest as the garlic plants were pretty much dead, so I dug them too.  And was in for one tremendous disappointment as the garlic was small.  Really small.  I was online a few hours after harvesting it and found out that our local produce stand had bundles of garlic for 3.00 per bundle so I went and got enough for (hopefully) a year (garlic quality up here is TERRIBLE no matter the time of year, so this year I decided to buy local instead).  Believe it or not, the entire bunch of garlic you see is only 3 bunches that I got plus my five (yes, five, I ended up with more than I thought when I dug the bed...glad I didn't pull everything up that I thought was grass *laugh*) bulbs near the top (that's where you are supposed to put your smallest bulbs).  I found that due to the weather everyone's garlic wasn't doing great this year, so that made me feel a bit better, but I also found that the variety of garlic I had planted (I got it at Lowes) wasn't really recommended for planting in Alaska because of it's long growing season and not liking cold weather, so one of the bulbs of garlic I bought is destined to be broken into cloves and planted in the garden for next year. 

I came home after buying the garlic and looked up a tutorial on how to braid garlic online so I could have it all in one place.  Fast forward to 30 minutes later with me having six bulbs all nice and braided looking only for the directions to say, "And continue to add 3 to 4 bulbs at a time per bunch and end with a nice looking bulb".  Now mind you, the instructions up to that point were really in depth so picture me sitting there, holding six bulbs of garlic complete with stems tightly and me using some colorful language as I tried to figure out the rest of the pattern.  So, the final results are above after a lot of pseudo braiding and knotting on my part was done.  It would probably make a real blooded Italian flinch, but it'll get the job done, I hope *laugh*.

The results of this week's garden haul, minus some more peas, is up top.  I am pleased as punch with how the carrots have done.  I have never been able to make more than stubby little 2 inch things that are supposed to be carrots, so to pull real to life, honest to goodness carrots from the ground is beyond thrilling :).

Past that let's get onto the rest of the money saving things this week!

1.  I ended up with a sick son this week as he was down with a cold, so overall we didn't go anywhere or do much of anything until today when we went errand running to go to the bank and the store.   So, I definitely saved gas and money by not leaving the house.

2.  I finished one Christmas gift this week (more on that later) out of materials I already had around the house.

3.  I shopped sales and used coupons to get the most out of my money at the store.

4.  I used a bunch of odds and ends of meat (some leftover Thanksgiving turkey from last year, one lone pork steak, some odds and ends of beef roasts I'd cut up for stew beef and some lamb necks) and some "not quite prime" garden produce (skeletal looking chard that had taken a lot of slug abuse before picking, the teeny tiny potatoes, some smaller peas) along with a few pieces of produce from the fridge to make a huge pot of stew for dinner tonight.  It was delicious and filling, even my husband was amazed how filling it was, so score there!  The leftovers will be lunches for the next three or four days.  To go with it I dug out my one lowly package of frozen bread sticks and made a garlic Parmesan bread stick recipe with them (didn't get a chance to make bread the last few days due to sick kiddo).  My son LOVED the topping and ate the tops off of most of the bread sticks, but the rest of us got one bread stick a piece and actually did enjoy our dinner (my daughter even ate hers, more's the miracle).

5.  I fixed the glider rocker in the den.  My son had somehow knocked something loose (honestly he's pretty good with the chair so I think repetitive motion knocked it loose) and the back was falling off when I found him rocking in it (luckily no one was hurt in the event).  I tipped the chair over and studied it carefully and found where a screw had fallen out of the chair and that the screw was really sub par to begin with, so I took my lowly tool bag, hammered the chair back together carefully and sank in a new, nice and meaty screw and made sure it made contact with wood securely where before the screw had kind of just pecked the wood instead of securing it.  I am hoping that will last a while, although in hind sight I should have used some wood glue first to help keep it secure.  Here's hoping.

6.  I finally got through more than one episode of "Tudor Monastery Farm" on You Tube.  Somehow I have had a harder time getting into this series than all of the other farm videos, but it is interesting to watch.  I do have to admit, I miss Peter's and Alex's chemistry.  Tom and Peter seem to fight more on camera even and it just doesn't come across as as much fun.

7.  Retro Ruth of "Mid-Century Menu" linked to this archive of books earlier in the week and I have to admit to getting a bit addicted at looking at random cookbooks and things when time permits.

8.  My husband while at his parent's house yesterday picked a bunch of raspberries for me off of my mother-in-law's bushes.  I'm thrilled as this easily tripled what I had picked wild from our yard in one fail swoop.  I'm hoping we'll be able to get more so I have enough for jam and muffins and things for over winter, but we shall see (and thanks for the raspberries, Stacey!).

9.  I've continued to pick rose hips from my yard and have resisted the urge to pick ones that I see nice and ripe in other people's yards.  I've already gotten several weird looks from neighbors harvesting mine *laugh*.  I think tomorrow I'm going to figure out how many I have and see if I finally have enough to do something with them (fingers crossed there).

10.  I continued to go through things and weed out things and am now, I think, finally at the point where I can organize the kitchen a bit better.  Yay!

11.  I added water to a shampoo bottle and to a soap bottle to get every last drop out of the bottle before giving it to my son to play with (shampoo bottle) or refill it (soap bottle).

12.  I made my husband his birthday gift from things I already had around the house and it was something he really wanted, so double bonus there :).  More on that later as well.  

So, there you are folks.  Some of my frugal adventures for the week.  How did you do?

Monday, July 25, 2016

Monthly Goals Update and This Week's Goals

Well, as goal making goes, this week wasn't too shabby to say the least.  I managed to get the rat tailed radish relish canned, got my gardening goals met (ripping out plants, amending soil and planting new seeds) and such.  I didn't get a chance to work on Christmas gifts as much as I would have liked due to not getting much sleep and thus a cranky kid due to not getting much sleep and allergies that were driving him nuts.  I have about one cup of raspberries in the freezer now after harvesting all week daily and I've blanched and frozen about three batches of peas now, with another waiting in the fridge to do. 

One of the main things that took up my time this week was rearranging the house (again).  Heather, one of our blog readers, was really super duper generous and sent me a lot of material (thanks again, Heather!) and I realized that I didn't really have a system of organization for fabric so much as "shove it into whatever hole it'll fit in".  So, that started me down the organizing and decluttering rabbit hole.  I uncovered loads of old kids clothes that the kids had outgrown in the last year and that I had just put into spaces in closets and things to deal with later.  I went through my fabric and figured out what fabric I had used that I didn't like but was holding onto for some reason (fabric shrank about 15 times normal shrinkage rates, etc) and put it into donation bags along with small little remnants of fabric that a quilter would love, but I wouldn't really do anything with other than hold onto in the event that one day I would decide to make a quilt out of them.  By the time I went through my kitchen (anything that I hadn't used at LEAST once in the last two years was on the chopping block to get rid of), put the old clothes in the donation bags and things the used store was thrilled to get a big load of stuff :). 

I then took the one Closetmaid unit we have that has I think pretty much travelled around the entire house by this point, and grabbed it out of my son's closet.  I then moved it downstairs into the den, moved my antique dresser upstairs into my son's room to house his weighted blanket and spare sheets, and then started folding and arranging fabric and organizing sewing things better.  The final results are above.  I am super happy with how it all turned out and for the first time in my married life I can actually SEE what I have for fabric now.  And double bonus?  My son can't rock the rocking chair back into the wall anymore because he hits fabric bolts instead.  Love it!!!!
I even managed to make a collage of different things to hang above my sewing table where the wall was pretty bare and always kind of drove me nuts as it needed something hanging there.  So, I took a couple of my old vintage patterns, my one totally complete vintage hand needle set and a couple of other sewing odds and ends and made the collage out of them.  It's now hanging above my sewing table, goes perfectly with the antiquey look of the den and it saves me from worrying about my needle kit getting into my son's hands and him wrecking it.  So, win win there :).

Total cost to make?  A .25 yard sale frame that I have reused about fifteen times now for home decor stuff, the needle book came in a desk full of stuff when we moved into our old house, the patterns were .10 a piece at the thrift store and the other sewing notions my step-mom sent me.   Even the scrap booking paper used for the background was given to me by my sister-in-law in a scrapbooking kit she gave me for Christmas years ago.  So, all totaled for less than 1.00 this thing got made :).

This week's goals are all over the place, honestly as I'm trying to get some things done before it gets too hot again and I have a lot of cleaning and organizing that I still want to get done.  So, it's going to be busy.

Cleaning Goals:
  • Clean ceiling fans
  • Scrub son's room
  • Shampoo carpets, especially downstairs carpets
  • Work on camper if kids let me

Gardening Goals:
  • Continue to watch garden and tend to seedlings.  
  • Thin lettuce plants significantly to try and deter slugs (I did that this morning.  So many slugs killed.  It was gross)
  • Thin Swiss Chard back to the last two plants that aren't bolting (did that today too).  Blanch and freeze chard that is picked.
  • Continue to harvest peas and raspberries.

Canning Goals:
  • Can cherries
  • Can rhubarb (this and the cherries are a time and weather permitting type of thing as they ARE in the freezer right now and safe from spoilage)

General Goals:
  • Work on Christmas gifts (I've got a set plan on finishing a gift this week if I can find time to get it done)
  • Continue to work on rearranging kitchen/pantry areas.
  • Get up earlier if possible to work on things before the kids get up (every SINGLE time I make this goal my son doesn't sleep and puts an end to the idea, but we'll see how it goes).
  • Make erbswurst and pretzels for husband's birthday.  Oh and cake, of course *laugh*.
  • Make a menu plan.  I have slacked off on this and the indecision on what to have is driving me nuts in the evening.
And there you have it folks.  My goals for this week.  How about you?

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap and Garden Update

So, in winter you get to see my store freebies.  In summer you get to see my canned goods.  You lucky things you *laugh*.

Sorry I didn't update much again this week.  I've just been super busy and haven't had much time to breath, let alone blog.  My son's eczema is flaring again bad after he welted/swelled up a couple of times, so he's not sleeping much either.  So, between the two things it's a miracle I got him to OT and things this last week.  And then yesterday I was dumping some garbage, did a visual inspection of my car (which I try to do each time I see it) and realized that there was a bulge in my front tire.  My husband is going to dig out whichever old summer tire is in the best of shape to replace it with and we're praying that at least two of the old de-studded winter tires will be in good enough shape to use as summer tires or I'm going to be looking at getting to new summer tires next year on TOP of getting winter tires this year.  Such is life, but ugh.

Quick garden update.  I ripped out the radish plant and the various bolting lettuce plants and also a carrot that had sent up a GINORMOUS middle woody stalk thing, but wasn't developing a shoulder at all.  It was even starting to go to seed before it actually developed a carrot.  It was the weirdest thing I've ever seen (although this is my first year actually growing carrots that are doing anything, so I'm no expert by any means).  Some of the carrots are getting big and that is definitely making me happy :).  I quickly, dodging hornets the entire time, went and planted beet and turnip seeds after amending the soil and the turnip seeds are already sprouting (yay!) and I'm going out multiple times a day now that it's raining to pick slugs off of things and kill them (boo).  Anyone got a good border protection you can put around small beds to stop slugs from getting at plants that won't wash away easily?  I'm fearing for my seedlings with how bad of a slug infestation I have this year.

The peas are continuing to produce as you watch (woot!) and so far I've gotten a couple of side dishes worth off of the plants and they are now blanched and in the freezer for winter and I have another bag of them in the fridge that I almost have enough in to blanch another bunch (and I've even been snacking on them, so that's showing you how many there are *laugh*).  The biggest challenge with the peas, which luckily the slugs aren't climbing the stems of the peas to get at higher leaves and are sticking with anything that touches the ground, is that they keep growing and are falling forward.  I had to go and scrounge around in my husband's scrap conduit pile and find a piece long enough to stick into the soil and push the peas backwards toward the house before they take the trellis down with them.  I've never seen peas grow like this.  It's amazing.  Next year I'm going to plant some in a neighboring bed and buy some actual trellis if I can afford it to put along the back of the entire garden for the climbing plants.  It seems they do like to grow in that area *laugh*.

I harvested my bigger potato planter this week.  That was kind of disappointing.  It gave me about the same amount of potatoes as my small little potato planter did overall.  But, it did give me blue potatoes so that was kind of neat *laugh*.

The swiss chard has just been dealing with too many slugs, too many aphids (to the point you can see through some of the leaves there is so much juice sucked out of them when you clean them) and too much all over the board weather.  I'm thinking that I'm going to be harvesting what is left soon as it keeps bolting and if I need supplemental greens for over winter I'm just going to have to buy some this year (which luckily at least swiss chard is relatively cheap up here this time of year).  I'd plant some Chinese cabbages or even more chard, but with the slugs I don't know if it's worth the battle.  Still debating that one.

I harvested the rest of my herbs this week (note to self:  Put them in dehydrator when done with this post) as they were not only being swarmed by slugs and hornets, but they were also going to seed.  I finally braved the hornets, which actually were very nice and left me alone for the most part and grabbed what was left of the herbs.  Considering everything the herbs were up against this year in the way of bugs they did AWESOME.  I got a really good amount of thyme and rosemary, which is my first year for that happening and my sage did well too.  I almost dug them and brought them inside to overwinter, but my cats just destroy anything resembling a house plant, so I decided "no" was the best answer for that idea.

After I harvested the herbs, I waited until it was raining (to not deal with the hornets as much) and grabbed the planters, drug them across the lawn and parked them by the front garden bed.  I then pressure washed the sidewalk where the planters were to try and get rid of even the scent of slugs if I could help it to deter the hornets.  My son has found that he loves to spray the hose directly into the ground and mess with it when outside and I was terrified he'd get stung.  His skin is so sensitive to allergens right now I don't want to know what bee stings might do to him.  And he has no fear of flying insects, so I was waiting for him to grab one to see what it felt like.  So, yeah, front planters went to an area he doesn't around around in.

I'm continuing to harvest one lowly little handful of raspberries at a time.  My daughter has been into the fresh grapes I got at the store this last week more than the raspberries so I froze a couple of small handfuls of them to use later in jam and such (only about...oh...11 1/2 more cups of raspberries to go to get enough for jam *laugh*).

Today it has finally cooled down even with the last couple of days of rain and the humidity seems to have dropped off a bit, so I'm HOPING to maybe get my cherries and rhubarb canned this weekend.  It'd be nice to not have the bags of cherries dropping on my foot every time I open the fridge freezer.

I got some stuff done in other areas of the house this week, but I'll save that for Sunday's post.

Onto the money saving adventures this week!

1.  I made rat-tailed radish relish this week (I dare you to say THAT ten times fast *laugh*).  The results are seen up top there.  I got up early one day, made sure to use the squat 1/2 pint jars so I didn't have to heat as much water in the canner and tried to make the entire experience as quick as possible for the sake of not overheating the house.

I used the recipe on Canning Homemade but instead of traditional radishes (obviously) I used the rat tailed radishes.  I did make a couple of changes.  Mainly I used about a little over a pound of the rat tailed radishes (I believe final calcs worked out to be about 19 oz) compared to two pounds of the traditional root radishes.  Why?  Because you would not BELIEVE the volume of radishes a pound of rat tails gives you!  I then pulsed the rat tailed radishes in several batches in my food processor to chop them up as grating them wouldn't work and I wasn't going to sit there all day and cut them into tiny pieces with my knife (that and honestly I think the food processor gave them more of a "relish" type of cut compared to a knife.  I also upped the onion to about 1 1/2 cups of onion to give more "crunch" to the relish as I knew the rat tailed radishes weren't going to give much other than flavor and color to the relish once they cooked down.

The rat tailed radishes, since they don't have the body structure that a traditional radish does (basically they cook down a LOT more compared to a root radish) I let the mixture cook down until reduced to a relish-like consistency (probably by a little over 1/3 the volume got boiled out).  I was curious as to how it would turn out, but it sure is tasty and the onions give it enough of a relish "crunch" that you just figure you're eating a slightly peppery relish.  And it made a goodly amount (as you can see).  I was happy that the experiment seems to have worked out pretty well.

2.  I found an AWESOME sale on beef this week.  4.99 lb for Porterhouse steaks!  That's how much I've been paying for petite sirloin steaks on sale!  I had budgeted out some money for beef only so that's where my money went to.  I also got some pork spare ribs for 1.99 lb on sale as well.  It feels good to have more than chicken in the freezer right now :).

3. I used some extra money we got in from a good pay check to buy bread flour and honey this week at the bulk store (way cheaper to get them there).  Felt good getting those things marked off of my list for now.

4.  I used the freebie Friday freebie of free soda from Fred Meyer to get some root beer.  I used it during the hotter parts of the week to make root beer floats for dessert.  It was definitely a good use of the freebie *laugh*.

5.   I passed along some excess lettuce I had to a friend.  It is nice being able to give people salad fixings this time of year when I have it to offer.  She was thrilled as she was going to go and pay for a salad for her lunch and that would save her a bunch.  Always a good feeling :).

6.  I've been decluttering a lot this week.  I am especially looking at my kitchen, pantry and sewing area lay outs to figure out what would work the best so that I actually use up things (as in the case of my kitchen and pantry) that needs to be used or make things visible so I can see what I have to work with (in the case of my sewing area).  Yesterday I tackled the sewing area and have to say I'm pretty happy with it right now (more to come on that), so onto the kitchen next :).

7.  I continued to harvest rose hips from the yard and am getting up a goodly amount.  I've actually harvested enough rose hips off of some plants that the roses are blooming again.  So, double harvest!!!  *Laugh*

8.  I did some brainstorming and came up with more ideas for Christmas gifts this week.  And I actually remembered to write said ideas down!  Yay!!!

9.  My husband's birthday is this week, so I will be spending part of my week trying my hand at making erbswurst made out of primarily materials I normally have on hand (his birthday gift, which is where the sausage casing came into play...and then, of course, I found a recipe that called for waxed paper instead of casing.  Ah well) and home made soft pretzels (really a pain in my small kitchen, so I don't make them that often, but my husband LOVES them).   And no, we won't be eating both at the same time *laugh*.

I'm sure there is more that I'm missing, but I'm tired and sore today and have a lot to do, so I'm going to call that good.  Got any frugal adventures that happened to you this week?

Monday, July 18, 2016

Monthy Goals Update and This Week's Goals

Sorry I didn't post this yesterday, but I've been super busy with the garden and the house, all the while battling the heat that continues to bake us.  Today isn't as bad because it's at least cloudy outside, but yesterday was terribly hot.  So, a lot of my canning goals from last week are getting transferred onto this week.

I actually got a lot accomplished off of my list last week.  I started to clean out the camper of blankets and things to wash them as we found that the mouse problem was worse than my husband at first thought.  Anything pretty much that wasn't elevated and out of reach of little paws has mouse droppings on it, blankets and foam mattress pads were nested in...it's a mess.  So, this week is going to be seeing me going out either after my husband gets home from work or before the kids wake up (so really early) and vacuuming, shampooing and setting up mouse traps (Our cats are woosies.  I tried putting them out in the camper and our older cat just refused to do anything and our younger cat freaked out, found a corner to shove herself into and mewed like she was dying for 45 minutes until I bodily dragged her out of the camper.  Ugh).  Then my husband is going to move the camper to the end of the driveway instead of where it's parked against a bank, to see if we can dislodge and/or just get rid of the buggers.

I got some rat tailed radishes canned last week (seen above, again.  I have a lack of photos the last couple of days *laugh*) and have harvested a ton more radishes.  I finally took stock of what I had for pickles, how many radishes we've eaten in salad and such and I finally decided I need the space in the garden more than I need more radishes at this point.  I've let a few radishes go to seed so I have the seeds to replenish what I used (which actually I ended up ahead since I only planted two seeds) and I'll be ripping the radish plant out this week, amending the soil and preparing to seed some turnips and beets in that bed.  The red lettuce is bolting.  I let a couple of plants go to see if they'd seed for me but they didn't so I'm thinking that it is a hybrid plant that doesn't go to seed, which is fine.  I'll rip out the remaining plants and once again get it ready for fall/winter planting.

I'll be watching the chard and the potatoes carefully over the next bit as the potato plant has gone to flower and died off, so I need to start watching for signs that it might be ready to harvest.  The garlic will also need to be watched as it should be getting close to harvest time sometime soon as well.  So, when it comes to garlic goals for this week it's just going to revolve around harvesting peas (which are going insane now), harvest lettuce as needed (which I also have lettuce coming out my ears right now), digging my one potato planter up on my deck (two of three offshoots of the plant are dying off.  It's time) and just keeping my eye on everything after I plant seeds.

I got the upstairs about 80% shampooed yesterday.  Today I'm hoping to get my son's room shampooed, but he also has speech today, so I'm not sure if I'm going to get a chance to do it.  If not it's on the list for tomorrow along with cleaning the downstairs as today ripping everything out of the freezer downstairs and reorganizing takes precedence so I can get things put away properly.

I did get the den about 80% detail cleaned and am hoping to get more of that done this week.  I got the spots on the carpet cleaned that needed it due to the cat and I've been checking hidey holes daily.

I got one Christmas gift made, another one in the works (that one is going to take a while) and some plans in the works as well, so I feel like I'm trucking right along with that.

Thrift store donations were dropped off last week as well.  It's amazing how getting rid of things that you're tripping over will make you feel good.

By the way menu plans the last two weeks have haven't happened.  I've just been too busy, distracted and the weather too volatile to get them done.  This week with the heat I'm just keeping an open mind and figuring that worse comes to worse I might be grilling dinner a lot (we went and grabbed a tank of propane yesterday with how hot it was, knowing grilling was our only option for a hot dinner and we were all kind of tired of just eating salad for dinner.  Cost 12.00 to fill it, which my husband and I were both impressed with how cheap it was as the last time we got propane it was when gas was REALLY expensive and it cost us close to 40.00 to fill a tank.  So, we're looking at MAYBE getting the back up propane tank filled in the next little bit so we know we have it in case we need it for things).

So, onto this week's goals!

Garden/Yard Goals
  • Harvest ripe rose hips (I'm about 80% done with that one, at least the hips that are ripe now...there are still green ones I'm keeping my eye on.  I still need to hack my way up the bank to get to ones that are a bit buried.  Actually opened up a bit of the yard while getting to the rose hips too, so double bonus there!).
  • Get rid of dead fish in the middle of the back yard (I have no idea.  It was just there this morning.  Freaked me out when I found it as it was KIND of odd you know?  We need to dig a hole and bury it out in the wooded part of the yard this afternoon to avoid attracting unwanted animals to the area.  Of all the dead animals to just find in your yard that one just blew my mind.  Just a whole dead fish, not even any tooth marks from an animal on it...nothing.  My husband is figuring it was dropped by an Eagle.  I'm wondering if it just dropped out of the sky for the sake of funny *laugh*).
  • Rip out plants in garden.  Amend soil.  Plant beet and turnip seeds and maybe more Chinese cabbage seeds.
  • Continue to pick small amounts of raspberries from around the yard as they ripen.  Same with the rose hips.  Harvest other garden produce as needed.

Canning/Food Preservation Goals:

  • Can rat tailed radish relish (this is a definitely needs to happen thing, hopefully when the colder weather moves in a little later in the week, otherwise I'm going to have to get up early and do it).
  • Get husband to install new dial on pressure canner (I've had it for a while and keep forgetting to have him do it).
  • Blanch and freeze first batch of peas.
  • Dehydrate more herbs (finished that up this morning.  Crushed them up and put them in containers).
  • Can rhubarb and cherries if weather and time permits.

Cleaning Goals:
  • Shampoo rest of the carpets
  • Clean ceiling fans.
  • Wash walls in son's room to see if it helps allergies(his face is swelling again the last three days and he's welting unless I keep him on high amounts of Zyrtec and Atorax every eight hours.  I'm praying that allergy med gets approved because if this is happening WHILE on the amount of meds he's on now, he's just plain not going to make it through allergy shots.  Depressing for sure).
  •  Continue to work on cleaning up motor home.

General Goals:
  • Clean out and rearrange freezer(s)
  • Put things that got stuck into the front of the pantry, but belong in other areas where they need to be.
  • Work on cleaning out and scrubbing out fridge.

And yeah, I'm sure there are other things on my "lists" that I'm spacing, but that's a good start.  How about you?  Up to anything this week?

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Christmas 2016 Gift One: A Family Tree Pillow

 So, the first Christmas gift of the year is done.  Yay!  Always good to keep on top of these things.

For this gift, I decided to combine an odd...err...I mean cool...kind of combination of things together.  A family tree and a throw pillow.  Why?  Because it turns out stinking cute that's why *laugh* and is something that, really, who would have one before you made one for them?

In this case I made a family tree pillow for my sister-in-law.  I went online to look for a cute tree template to use as inspiration and found one on this page.  I then redid it a bit to fit with a fall theme instead of a Spring theme like they had in the original template.  The main reason being that I wanted it to go more with my sister-in-law's decor/tastes.  She collects sunflowers, so I went with a fall theme and added in shades of yellow commonly found in sunflower paintings.  For the pillow I used a light blue-grey in a duck like fabric for durability for one, ease of cleaning for two and because she has dishes in blue grey that she has collected, for three.  I then made the names of her, her husband her kids in two shades of alternating blue around the tree when it was done (not quite the same shade as I used for the font above, but you get the idea either way).  I thought, overall, it turned out really cute.

By the way, I didn't want to share the name of my sister-in-law and her family (I'm sure you understand) so for stand in names I used some alternates.  They are...

Emma Peel
Maxwell Smart
Mike Smart (inspired by Mike Hammer)
Joe Smart (inspired by Joe Hardy)
Frank Smart (inspired by Frank Hardy...the Hardy boys in case you're curious there :)
And Jim Smart (inspired by Jim Rockford)

I know that they aren't all detectives, nor are they all secret agents, but darn that'd be a cool family ;).

Around the tree I also wrote different phrases that, to me, all go with the theme.  "Family, Loyalty, Love, Faith".  Just in case you can't read my terrible handwriting translated into embroidery *laugh*.

Now, I know that not everyone has the want or the skill to embroider something like this, so I came up with some ideas to do this on your own, or something close in case you don't sew.

1.  Look up a free family tree template online and fill in the boxes in your favorite PDF program or word processing program (whatever is required).  Print off the family tree onto a t-shirt transfer (be sure to follow the directions on those as a lot of times they tell you to mirror flip the image before printing so the print is going the right way when you iron it on) and then fuse the t-shirt transfer onto a pillow case.  Tuck in the ends around a pillow form and use safety pins to secure it together around the pillow (try to hide the safety pins, of course).  It won't be "perfect" but the person you give it to can always sew some velcro or something onto the ends to make the cover work better for them if they wish.  Or you could just leave it on a pillow case for someone to place on their bed.

2.  Make a basic tree form out of felt (lollipop trees work here) and then place little apple shapes or leaf shapes around the tree and write the names you need on the shapes with a black sharpie/permanent marker (be careful and try to use good handwriting).  Glue onto your background fabric (if you don't have sewing ability go and buy yourself a throw pillow even) with some good crafting/fabric glue.  It might not have the staying power as a sewed item, but it'll still turn out cute I bet!

So total cost to make gift:  Nothing as I had all the materials around here.  Time it took...well I'd estimate about six hours as I did this when I had spare time during the week and was working on another Christmas gift at the same time, so I have to say I wasn't really keeping track, but it did take a while.  Especially the tree trunk.  This thing definitely qualifies as one of the biggest pieces of embroidery I've ever done to date.

So, one gift down.  A lot more to go!

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap and Garden Update

 Oooohhh man I'm tired today.  My son hasn't been sleeping well and for some reason he's been kind of needy of needing mom the last couple of days.  So, I get about an hour (if I'm lucky) of sleep in my own bed and then it's a fitful night's sleep on the loveseat upstairs for the rest of the night in between taking care of kid.  Loveseats.  Who thought that making a piece of furniture that you can't sleep on without curling into a pretzel was a good idea?  Wish we could fit our couch up the stairs without destroying things in its path at this point.  I've been keeping my eye out forever for a nice couch from like the 40's and 50's type of style.  You know, still comfortable, but not hugely overstuffed, doesn't take up tons of room and it'll still be bigger than my loveseat so I can sleep on it without needing Ibuprofen every morning.  I can dream anyway *laugh*.

My son had his follow up allergist appointment this week.  Bright side is that the hives have been MIA since we upped his Zyrtec last, so the allergist was happy with that.  She then sat us down and gave us the low down on allergy shots for my son (five days a week with shots and such) and then suggested we try to get him approved with TEFRA/Medicaid for a drug that not only is good for allergies and hives, but also actually shows that it has helped eczema in patients.  The medication isn't made for children under 12 yet, so since she'd have to use a scaled back amount of an adult medication Medicaid sometimes won't cover it.  I then asked the logical question, as this has happened to us before, if Medicaid won't cover it how much it would cost out of pocket as we'd do pretty much anything to help my son's problems.  She then explained that without insurance the medication just plain isn't affordable.  Like 10,000.00 a MONTH cost.  And it's a once a month shot medication!  I just kind of blinked and went, "Yeah, that's not affordable all right" and now we're just hoping insurance approves it.  They also had us fill out financial "need" paperwork to process with the company who makes the drug themselves to see if we can get a grant/waiver from them to pay for the drug if Medicaid says no.  But, seriously.  10,000.00 per shot!  For allergy meds!!!  I'm still flabbergasted.

In other news, I found, much to my delight, that the raspberry bushes are doing really good this year despite the previous three summers and the moose and every other thing that got thrown at them.  The biggest problem is that the ones in the front yard decided to grow in the back of the "hedgerow", as I'm calling it since it really does resemble a wall of bushes, behind many wild rosebushes and some wonderfully spiky devil's club.  Not fun to pick them, but I've also found that I'm developing a thick skin the longer I work with thorn bushes, so I'm just ignoring the occasional scrape and if I happen to get a thorn that stays put, I notice that pretty much right away *laugh*.  We're not getting a lot of raspberries at one time, we usually don't since I'm pretty sure the raspberries that grow in my yard are wild, but we get a small bowl at one time (seen up top) that my daughter delights in devouring, so I'm not complaining :).

I also noticed that the rose hips are ripening early this year, which is both good and bad I guess.  It's bad because they really get that much sweeter after the first frost of the year, but it's good that they are ripening so early as I have a shot of getting them before the hornets, birds and other wildlife start to realize that they have that food source available and go for broke on them.  At least this year I'm not forced to pick them green and hard to avoid the blight that my rosebushes got last year.  Those rose hips were REALLY tart and made some truly interesting tea last winter.  The rose hips also seem to be pretty prolific this year (at least my eyes aren't deceiving me), which is wonderful as I will hopefully be able to gather enough to make numerous things out of.  Especially since the Johnny Jump Ups have barely come up this year (I think the sporadic weather is to blame) and when they do come up the bugs IMMEDIATELY just chew them down to nothing.  I noticed the same thing with my marigolds in the garden, which truly blew my mind as they are supposed to REPEL bugs.  This kind of dashes my hopes of wild flower jelly this year to add to my stores as the fireweed isn't doing great this year either.  Luckily I still have a decent amount of jelly left from last year.  Crazy bug problems we have this year.

A quick update on the garden.  I harvested TONS of lettuce this week, again, and am really working hard to keep on top of bolting lettuce plants before they go bitter.  I'm starting to lose that battle just because I can't eat the lettuce fast enough, but am glad that I've managed to harvest the majority of it either way.  The green lettuce is still doing alright in a couple of spots without bolting, so I'm hoping to keep lettuce going until the end of July.  Fingers crossed there.
The peas are finally producing in a decent volume at one time (above is a pic of one of the first harvests).  Notice the bag in the bowl and the not staged at all shot?  Why?  Well, my sink was full of dirty dishes most of the day and I'd finally gotten caught up on the dishes and just plain didn't want to dirty a bowl to take a picture, so I lined the bowl with the bag to save it from getting dirty.  Reality takes precedence over pretty sometimes *laugh*.

I found, much to my delight, that I'd actually purchased sweet pea seeds at the store for the upper planter on the deck as I got a couple of peas this week off of it.  I THOUGHT the peas I'd planted in the actual garden were regular peas, but no, I didn't read the package well and had bought edible pod peas, which  my husband and I don't like as well as they just plain aren't as sweet (and honestly I will chew on the pods from the sweet peas and then just get rid of the fibers that are left after I chew the sweet stuff out of them *laugh*).  Kind of disappointing, but at least I know I have sweet pea seeds for next year.  My tentative plan for next year is to plant peas at the back in one part of the garden and then plant runner beans in another part and just trellis them up all over the back of the garden.  Great.  Now the season isn't even over yet and I'm planning the garden for next year *laugh*.   I'm not sure how many more peas I'm going to be getting out of the deck plant as it's in a planter with my potato plants and the potato plant seems to be dying back early (probably because it's in a planter).  I'm really thinking to harvest the potatoes successfully I'm going to have to dump the planter, so the pea plant might be on borrowed time.  Still great that I got any peas off of it at all, though :).

The hanging basket that I'd planted basil and spinach in just didn't do anything this year.  At all.   I finally just called it quits and dumped the soil into the garden to help amend the soil a bit with some manure in a spot where I ripped out some lettuce and called it good.  So, processing basil into pesto pucks for the freezer this year is out, but honestly I'm okay with that.  My husband says that pesto is starting to give him bad acid reflux anyway, so it might have all worked out for the best that it didn't grow well this year.

The rest of the herbs, though, are doing great, and I'm very thankful for that.  I'm filling up my sage, thyme and rosemary containers in the kitchen and will happily move onto other containers as I fill those.  This will save me TONS in the long run instead of buying dried herbs at the store.  Rosemary alone at the store is ridiculously expensive and never comes CLOSE to tasting as good as the home dried.

The carrots are doing good, growing big and I'm starting to see shoulders developing at the surface of the soil.  I'm all excited and hoping I can get some decent sized carrots out of my small itty bitty little patch :).

And the rat tailed radishes are trying to take over the universe as we know it I think.  It's like you blink and more radishes are there to pick.  I've been harvesting daily.

The baby rhubarb plant that my son's OT gave me is doing GREAT by the way (I really need to take a picture of that).  It's already about the size of my other rhubarb plant and continues to just grow away.  I'm definitely excited to get the other rhubarb plants from my friend now as I really do think putting them up by the house instead of down in the yard is going to make a HUGE difference in how they grow!

It has been hot this week again.  As a result the garden has been getting watered again, sleeping has been hard a night or two and my son (who hates heat and cold...really if it's between 40 and 60 he's good.  Anything outside of that he's not too keen on) has been breaking out in heat rash on and off.  It also meant getting up early (and I mean early) on Thursday to get some radishes canned before the heat started shooting up again in my house.  I made a sweet and spicy pickle this time by using cider vinegar instead of white vinegar for the brine, along with the sugar, and then I added a tablespoon of mustard seed to the brine as it cooked , along with some powdered ginger, and put it all in with the pickles.  The brine tasted really good, so I'm hoping it complements the pickles well :). 

So, anyway, now that the "yard" update (I guess?  *Laugh*) is out of the way, let's get to the rest of the post shall we?

1.  Fred Meyer had some crazy awesome sales on meat this week (thank you, Lord), so I decided immediately it was a good stock up week for certain items.  They had bratwurst on sale for 2.50 per package (and some 1.00/1 coupons my mom sent me to make them 1.50 per package...woohoo!!!), polish sausage or smoked beef sausage for 3.00 (I had a couple 1.00/1 coupons to make the packages 2.00 a piece from mailers Fred Meyer sent me with personalized coupons in them), Oscar Meyer hotdogs for 2.00 per package (I got a couple of them for my daughter since she doesn't like bratwurst) and most importantly lovely thick cut bacon packages where it FINALLY went down below my target price and was 3.33 lb if you bought the 3 lb package.  I bought 9 lbs at that price as that will last us a long while.  I bugged the meat manager, who was nice enough to let me dig through their packages of bacon to get the best looking ones, including ones he dug out of the back that he thought looked pretty good.  It's amazing how nice those guys will be if you just ask really nicely and have your cute little daughter with you waving shyly at them ;).  I also got my free juice from the freebie Friday a couple of weeks ago (they FINALLY got it in!) and the free soda from this week.

I'm sorry, by the way, about lack of pictures on that trip, but it was kind of "get it home and get it in the fridge/freezer immediately" type of temps in the house, especially last night with the Fred Meyer trip.  The power went out in the store half way through me getting my order checked out (as my husband said when he came walking up with my son as I was standing there, "I knew I'd find mom at the check out.").  The computer freaked out and froze up, so we ended up messing with that with a new cashier trainee at the register, they had to switch his register, etc etc etc.  It was a mess.  Everyone kept up a good sense of humor about the entire thing, though and I kept the cashier from freaking out by telling him about my experience with a possessed register at Disney (where we had 27,000.00 banks some nights) and how I was about ready to flip out by the end of the evening, accounting had to do the register reports for me, etc.  I smiled at him and told him if he made it through this it was like cashier basic training.  He'd do okay after that.  By the time we got home, after getting take out for dinner (since the trip to the store took nearly two hours all said and done and everyone was starving *sigh*) I just needed to get the groceries put away and that was that.

I also went to Carrs and got a few sale items there when I went to pick up my son's prescription yesterday.  I got chips for .99 per big bag (this is to supplement sandwiches with my husband's lunches and stuff), eggs for .99 a dozen and the big find was marked down milk!  I got 3 gallons for 2.39 per gallon (I got 6 half gallons on 50% off).  Trust me, we'll go through it before it goes bad around here :).

All totaled I spent about 125.00 on groceries this week. I had meat money to cover the meat portion of the bill, so the final bill only ended up being 63.00 after that was applied.  Not too shabby!

2.  I found a couple of boxes of condensed mince meat at the store while I was there for 50% off (about 2.00 per box).  The expiration date was 2018, so I'm not sure why they were on reduced, but my husband and I both really like mince meat around the holidays, so I grabbed them to make into little pies or cookies later on. 

3.  I finished a gift this week out of materials I had around the house (I'll be posting up pictures as soon as I can get good lighting set up to take a picture of it), so one Christmas gift down :).

4.  I made onion soup mix this week (thanks for the recipe point, Dorothy!) as I'd been needing some and the price on it is just...holy cow!  I made a triple batch and put it in the cupboard for future use (I like to add it to roasts and things in the crock pot for a change and my husband loves to make dip out of it once in a while). 

5.  I found some zucchini at Fred Meyer in the little 1.00 baggies earlier in the week when I ran in to get milk.  I bought a couple of them with the biggest weight to them.  I immediately went home, shredded the zucchini and froze it (got six cups out of it).  Dorothy sent me a really interesting looking recipe for cream of zucchini soup, I can make zucchini cheese bread or other applications with it.  I am determined to give zucchini more of a shot in my life as I can get it so darned cheap up here come fall (like baseball bat sized ones for 5.00 type of cheap) and I've been reading up on how to grow it in a planter to maybe try next year.

6.  I received a bunch of fabric and patterns from a blog reader (thanks, Heather!) and found a new dress pattern in with it all that I MIGHT just be able to make work for a dress for myself :).  I'm going to pull out the pattern and really look it over, of course, but I'm kind of hopeful as the other patterns I have just aren't ideal.

7.  I signed up to be a taste tester this week with one of my favorite product companies.  I'm all excited to try some new products in the coming weeks (I'm sworn to secrecy about the company or the products, so that's all I can say :).

8.  Carrs doesn't offer freebies as much as Fred Meyer does in the E-Coupon way, but this week showed how nice they could be.  They gave me Rana brand refrigerated pasta AND sauce for free and a free Kashi bar.  I got some cheese filled ravioli and some Alfredo sauce and then threw in a can of chicken one night and voila!  A quick dinner that didn't heat up the house and it was rich enough that it was able to fill the family up as well.   I love freebies like that =D.

So, there you are folks.  Some of my frugal adventures this week.  How did you do?

Monday, July 11, 2016

Monthly Goals Update and This Week's Goals

Well, last week was busy (really is there any other type of week?).  I did decent on getting some of my monthly goals accomplished already (yay!), so that was an upper.

My lettuce in the garden is definitely on it's way out.  The red lettuce is shortening to bolt and is trying to do it all at once.  I'm harvesting TONS of lettuce to try and keep ahead of the lettuce before it gets too bitter to use and so far so good, although we're living on salad right now and I still have two big bags of lettuce in the fridge waiting for me.  I might be making a recipe from the "Wartime Farm" companion book that's called "Summer Soup" which, really, essentially it's a spiced up lettuce soup.  Sounds kind of odd, but it'll use up lettuce *laugh*.

I am harvesting rat tailed radishes left and right and the plant just seems to grow radishes while you watch.  I can't BELIEVE the volume of radishes that comes off of one plant.  It's spectacular!  And it takes up so little room compared to the volume of radishes you get off the plant.  I mean I think about how many radishes I would have to plant to make up the sheer amount of pickles I have canned and the amount of radishes sitting in my fridge ready to get pickled  and/or put into salad...I'd have at least two rows of radishes planted taking up room in the garden and they wouldn't continue to produce once pulled.  This sucker just keeps trucking along producing.  Pretty awesome :).

So, I canned sweet rat tailed radishes this time around.  I made a simple brine of 3 cups white vinegar, 3 cups water and 1 1/2 cups sugar to make the brine (heat brine to boiling, pour over rat tailed radishes in hot jars and process for 10 minutes in a water bath canner).  I found some really intriguing recipes for honey sweetened radish pickles on SB Canning's site which I'd like to try, but man I don't know if I want to use up my honey doing that.  Now the radish relish recipe she has posted, though, I think might be pretty cool if I can pick up some onions to make it as the rat tailed radishes would chop down pretty easy I think.

While I had my canner out I also pulled two of my four bags of cherries and canned those up as well (two more bags to go.  Woohoo!).  I can't believe how many cherries I am getting out of my 5.00 lot.  I'm beyond thrilled as these will be SO good come in the middle of winter when we are longing for some fruit that actually tastes good and doesn't cost an arm and a leg to buy.  I love canned cherries and these will come in really handy for desserts.  Since I had some of the cherries cut into pieces in the bags, I also added a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice to the mix to stave off browning and also just because I kind of like the added tang added to sweet cherries when you can them.  They get so sweet when you add the sugar that I think they kind of need the lemon juice added to them, but that's me.

So, I still have a couple of bags of cherries to can and what is left of my rhubarb to can as well.  So, that's still on my list of "to do's" this month.  And my husband put in a request that I use the rest of my strawberries to make strawberry preserves as he loved the last batch I made *laugh*, so that'll be on my list as well.

Anyway, the pickles and the canned cherries, done early Saturday before it got too hot in the house, is seen above. 

I also started two Christmas gifts this week.  I started thinking about it and family has been really good to me this year.  I owe some of them a lot.  So I want to show appreciation to not only the kids in the family but also the adults, so I want to make gifts for the couples in the family, in some cases and in others just individual gifts to those who I owe a debt of gratitude to (if that makes sense).  So, I'm glad I'm starting early on gifts ;).

Just a warning to family members who read this blog.  I'll be marking posts with "Christmas 2016" on it or something similar, but there will definitely be Christmas gift spoilers included, so if you don't want to know what you're getting for Christmas...don't read them *laugh*.

I've really gotten some inspiration on what to make for gifts, so stay tuned.  Some of these gifts are, I personally think, pretty darned neat and I'll include different ideas to make the gifts in the event you don't have the same skill sets as me (which I totally get trust me :).

So, yay for getting things accomplished so far!

So, onto this week's goals!

Canning Goals:
  • Continue to can rat tailed radish pickles
  • Can cherries if weather and temps permit
  • Can rhubarb is weather and temps permit

Cleaning Goals:
  • Detail clean den and shampoo carpets (my old cat is just getting old, nasty, and senile, which is leading to me cleaning the den a lot more than I would normally want to.  We'll leave it at that without all of the gross details).
  • Shampoo upstairs carpets, especially living room and son's room.
  • Dust ceiling fans
  • Start to clean out contents of motor home and wash everything (we managed to get a mouse in there chewing on some snack foods my husband left out there a while back, so now it's time to re-wash everything just in case).

General Goals:
  • Continue to work on Christmas gifts.
  • Load thrift store donations into car and drop off (these have been sitting around taking up space forever).
  • Continue to care for garden and harvest things as needed.  Once sections are ripped out, amend soil with compost and prepare it for fall/winter garden preparations.
  • Rip everything out of standing freezer.  Rearrange so awkward shaped items stop making things fall  out onto my feet when I open the door.  Take inventory while at it and write a list so I know exactly what I have.

And there you are folks.  My goals for this week.  How about you?

Friday, July 8, 2016

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap and Garden Update


Before I begin this post, I just wanted to say how grateful I am.  I have run into a lot of angels in Earthly form the last few months and you all will never know how much you have helped me during this trying time in my life.  I was so overwhelmed with gratitude today that I sat in my car and cried for a good ten minutes.  I'm not normally a crier so I had to explain to my daughter that I wasn't sad, but instead just thankful.  I have been gifted everything from posts giving me ideas on how to make money stretch further, e-mails of encouragement, to seeds to grow food for my family, to plants, to physical objects we were in desperate need of (including a backpack and school supplies for my daughter this week) to other gifts, some so generous that I am not sure how I will ever be able to repay the good Lord for sending them in my general direction.

There have been times where everything was so dark and depressing that I was wondering if I could make it through and every single time I was on the verge of giving up someone would come along and offer me a light to help me keep walking along.  Thank you all.  I'm going to move on in this post now because I'm getting teary eyed again, but just...thank you all so much!!!  Be assured, when I have the opportunity I will pay things forward and hopefully be able to help someone out the way you all have helped me.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

So, let's get onto other things :).

1.  I was gifted with some inspiration when it came to using up the masses of ground turkey in the freezer that WASN'T turkey burgers.  I made summer sausage with two pounds of ground turkey using the recipe HERE instead of ground beef (seen above before I wrapped the last log and stuck them in the freezer).  I doubled the spices in the original recipe as turkey is so much milder tasting than beef, but I kept the salt at the same for one recipe.  And it was still too salty for my pallet so next time I'm going to take Dorothy's advice and knock the salt back even further.  It's edible, but definitely salty.

Thanks for the recipe, Dorothy!  Now that I finally found my liquid smoke (I KNEW I had some!) I am going to try my hand at making pepperoni with some next (another Dorothy inspiration :).  This will give us lunch meat and pizza fixings for the freezer for a while and is definitely cost effective with the ground turkey.

2.  I survived my husband being out of town (yay!).  My son always regresses when my husband is gone and was in an awful mood while he was away, so I was doubly glad to see him back home.  Trust me, this does belong in my weekly accomplishments *laugh*.

3. I was able to help out someone who needed some assistance with some advertising things she was doing for her son's band.  It has been kind of nice being able to use the marketing degree and I actually enjoy doing stuff like that and doesn't cost me anything to do since I'm doing it all online :).

4.  I baked bread, cinnamon rolls (yum!) and oatmeal cookies this week (I made the cookies so my husband could take some to the airport with him).  I got an oatmeal cookie recipe out of a Family Circle magazine this month (I got the subscription for free through either Mercury Magazines or Freebizmags).  I was all excited to try it out as the gal who wrote it has like a cookie empire going on and this cookie supposedly built her business.  So, I made it, omitting the optional coconut that was in the recipe (since I didn't have any).  And the cookies came out okay.  Not fluffy or crinkled the way they were supposed to, but they tasted alright.  I think that the coconut should PROBABLY have been mandatory instead of voluntary or they should have given instructions to up the flour as I'm thinking the flattened cookies was probably caused by not enough structural integrity.  Next time I'll probably just stick with the old Quaker Oats recipe for oatmeal cookies as I know my husband really likes those.  It was fun trying a new recipe though :).

5.  I bought steaks on sale this week as part of my grocery shopping (I didn't post pictures because of destructive uber cranky son).  They came in a five pack, which doesn't make quite enough for two meals for us around here now that my daughter actually is eating a steak on her own and such, so I took the last two steaks and cut them up into smaller bite sized pieces to use as stew meat.  I figure if there is one thing that will last a few meals it's stew and hopefully I'll have plenty of veggies to use in stew coming in over the next few months.

6.  I've been watching some series on You Tube, which has been fun and I kind of liked being able to just download one episode at a time since I didn't have to worry about like watching an entire DVD from Netflix to quickly get it back or something.  I could watch part of an episode over my morning coffee before the kids got up or at night after the kids were in their rooms. 

7.  I got a 10.00 I-Tunes gift card for doing a survey for a local business a while back (they accosted me while I was shopping when my son was in therapy).  I kept holding onto it to use as a stocking stuffer for my son, but the way he kept biting on DVD's I figured I'd better go and load something new onto the "entertainment only" I-Pad of his to hopefully keep him out of the DVD's.  I found a bunch of classic Thomas the Train episodes for 8.99 and it had like 23 episodes.  I bought it and it has been a God send when trying to get my son to wind down at night while his dad was away.  Totally worth it!

8.  My son's VCR ate a tape of classic (like from WAY back) Clifford the Big Red Dog and my son broke the tape pulling it out.  My son is kind of obsessed with the tape right now so I was freaking out this morning trying to figure out what to do.  My husband took some scotch tape and fixed the tape.  The tape still has a glitch that you have to baby the tape through, but at least it's able to play still (thank goodness).

9.  My daughter has been watching a show that was stumbled on accidentally (my son was messing with the I-pad on You Tube) and she really liked.  Peppa Pig is now a regular conversation item at our house at the moment.  I really need to sit down and watch more episodes as I'm kind of pretending to know what I'm talking about when she talks about it.

And now onto the garden update!

I am drowning in lettuce right now, which is definitely a happy circumstance.  The lettuce loved the cooler temperatures and the rain we received and despite the slugs best efforts the lettuce is doing well.  I actually thinned out a row of lettuce next to the garlic today as the lettuce was shortening to bolt.  I am going to leave a couple of plants of each type of lettuce as they go to bolt, so I can hopefully collect the seeds to plant later.

Just as an aside, stale hard cider doesn't seem to work as slug bait.  It has killed plenty of aphids though.

And we have pea sign!  Which is a saying that sounds dirty, but really isn't ;).  Anyone recognize the reference from "Dune"?  Anyone?  Right, nerd status confirmed on my part *laugh*.

I was actually able to harvest my first small handful of peas today to eat in salad tonight.   And I harvested one yellow carrot from my rainbow carrot rows as it was like a mutant fast growing carrot and was ready to be dug.  We ate it in salad earlier in the week.

I thinned the Swiss chard and processed it for the freezer and got a small batch of potatoes from my smallest potato plant (seen above).  The potatoes are curing in my pantry right now and seem to be doing well on that front.

The rat tailed radish plant I am so excited about!  That thing is producing like mad!  I had read that they would produce a lot, but I never knew how much they would truly produce and ONE plant is taking over the same spot my tomato plant occupied last year.  I can't BELIEVE how huge it's getting.  It's spreading into my lettuce patch and into my driveway.  I'm super impressed and will definitely keep that plant in mind for future years as one seed definitely pays for itself!

I picked a pint's worth of radishes yesterday and went out today and picked another 1/2 pint with tons more developing.  Since this is going to be our major source of pickles this winter (although I'm hoping for pickled beets too if I get any.  I'm hoping to plant the seeds this week), this is a huge boon for me.  I'm going to be making pickles tomorrow morning before it gets too hot in the house.  This time around I'm going to make some sweet pickles with the radishes instead of dilly style.  I'm like abnormally excited about experimenting with different flavors of radish pickles and things right now *laugh*. 

So, there you have it.  Some of my adventures this week.  How did you do?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Pancake Syrup

Being originally from New England, I grew up a complete maple syrup snob.  I loved pure maple syrup.  Actually, one Spring my mom completely underestimated my love of maple syrup.  Our neighbor, a proud self-proclaimed hippy named Tom, gave my dad a maple sap tap and bucket and told him it would be a lot of fun for me to make my own maple syrup that year as I had kind of adhered myself to Tom to watch how he did it on his trees.  My dad, never to turn down anything free, took it and set it up for me, telling me that I would have to collect the sap every morning before we set out for my paper route (which was early) and bring it in to mom so we could boil it after school into maple syrup every day.  I was absolutely thrilled.  My mom wasn't as she was far from a morning person, but she figured a week tops and I'd be over the whole making syrup thing.

Man was she ever wrong *laugh*.  Every morning I'd go out and chip the ice away on that bucket to release it from the tap and carry the bucket inside like I was carrying the crown jewels or something.  We warped every cabinet in our kitchen that year from the boiling times required to get maple syrup and I only think we ever got up to light maple syrup when making it.  We had mason jars FULL of syrup in our unheated back hallway for YEARS afterwards.  Still one of my most pleasant childhood memories as the sense of accomplishment I got from making that syrup sticks with me.

As I grew older and we moved to Pennsylvania, maple syrup was a bit more expensive to buy, but wasn't terribly bad.  Then I moved to Alaska, maple syrup became popular as a sugar substitute in cooking and I watched the price on maple syrup resemble the price on a new car.

I stumbled across a recipe years ago to make your own pancake syrup and I would can it every year when the kids were small to help extend the life of my one lowly jug of maple syrup.  Now a days I give that liquid gold to the kids and my husband and I use the pancake syrup when money gets tight.    I started messing with the original recipe as it would come out kind of thin and would crystallize over time as it was just a basic sugar syrup with flavoring, so I came up with this recipe.

This comes out thicker than regular maple syrup, but it definitely gets the job done.  Just to warn you, though, if you taste it before it goes in the jar and don't think much of it, can it, let it cool THEN taste it.  It comes out tasting different with the additional cooking and cooling times (which I've noticed that happens with a LOT of canning recipes).

Also an additional note here.  If I have extra maple flavoring I'll add an additional tablespoon or so just for a more maple flavor to the syrup but I kept it at 3 TBS because that's the amount I get out of a standard 1 oz jar of McCormick maple flavoring at the store, and thus will help keep the cost of the final syrup down.

Pancake Syrup

Ingredients:
  • 8 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. canning salt
  • 3 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp. imitation maple flavoring (the entire contents of a 1 oz bottle equals 3 TBS)

Procedure:

1.  Prepare canner, jars and lids to standard sanitary canning practices.

2.  Combine sugar, brown sugar, water, corn syrup and canning salt in a large stock pot.  Heat over medium-high heat until mixture boils and sugar is dissolved.  Reduce heat, cover and boil ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

3.  Turn heat to low.  Add vanilla and maple extracts (there will be some violent bubbling when you do this).  Return mixture to a simmer.

4.  Ladle hot syrup into hot jars leaving 1/2" head space.   Process in boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.  Turn off heat under canner, remove lid and let sit 5 minutes.  Move jars to a tea towel or other insulated surface and leave to seal. 

Check seals after 24 hours.  Any jars that are not sealed can be moved to the fridge to be used immediately.

Makes approximately 5 pints of syrup.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Monthly Goals: July 2016

 When it comes to goals, a big portion of this month, and coming months really, is going to revolve around getting ready for Christmas as much as I can and getting the pantry in order as much as I can. 

I went out to check the garden yesterday and found my Swiss chard looking like Swiss cheese as the slugs seemed to have been helping themselves to it since it started raining.  Since some plants are still rather healthy, I went through and thinned the chard back to about where the package of seeds told me I should and got two decent side servings of chard for the freezer out of it.  I saw the kohlrabi leaves were turning color and looking like they weren't doing well, so I figured I'd see if I actually got a root vegetable in my planter.  Turns out, nope, I didn't, although it was terribly root bound.  You live, you learn there.  I'll know next time not to plant kohlrabi in anything but the ground.  I did mix the kohlrabi leaves in with my chard when I processed things for the freezer once I learned that the leaves were edible too.   So, a few more greens for the freezer there.

Went by my potato plant in the smallest planter and saw it was starting to succumb to some type of curly leaved blight (probably due to too much rain and too dense of soil in the planter) so I harvested that plant ASAP to avoid any damage to the actual potatoes.  Actually got a decent amount (2 bigger potatoes and a bunch of little new potatoes) out of the plant, but it was sad as there were so many little budding new potatoes still.  I'm keeping a close eye on my bigger planter of potatoes to see how it does.  So far, so good.  Went by the garlic and saw something (I'm thinking my air craft carrier cat might be to blame) had stepped on one garlic plant and just basically killed the leaves off.  I dug it and turns out the garlic hadn't yet put any effort into growing, so all I got out of it was a mini-bulb of garlic.  I'll throw it into dinner one night sometime soon, but depressing as I was hoping to get as much garlic as I could from the garden this year with the unexpected plants I found.

I wasn't really planning on harvesting chard and things in the rain, but it was better than them going to waste.  So, while it was kind of depressing having to harvest things early and not getting as much as I'd hoped from them, but silver lining there is at least I got something out of them.  Glad I check the garden pretty much every day or some of my chard might have just plain gone to the bugs.

I am trying to think ahead to winter and things I want to be able to get from either the garden or the produce stand/you pick farm to see us through and how best to store them.  I researched how to store turnips and other root veggies and things (I haven't had much luck storing them in the past) to find that turnips, beets and carrots like it a little humid but also cold.  Colder than my pantry gets during the winter, but not freezing (which is where my problems come in as all of my outbuildings the vegetables would just freeze in).  Cabbage was the same way.  Apples and potatoes I can store in the fridge, but I couldn't figure out where to store other things where they wouldn't quickly rot on me or take up needed room for other things.  I have a spare fridge in storage, but it also is big, has a freezer I'd have to worry about too and I have no idea where I'd put it as my husband uses his garage and the only place I could think to put it I already have a standing freezer in it's place. 

I finally came up with the idea of a mini-fridge (like they use in dorms) or something similar in size.  I could store that easier, even in the corner of my kitchen if need be and between it and my fridge I think I have a good shot of storing vegetables over the winter months without having to can them all.  So, now, it's going to be keeping my eye out for a free mini-fridge as I plain don't have the money to buy one if I can help it.  Hopefully God will send me in the right direction :).

As for other goals this month, I have plenty.  I somehow have to get a back pack for my daughter for school (her zipper is broken on hers and is just plain beyond my ability to repair) and school supplies.  I forgot that I would need to start worrying about that stuff this month.  Blah!  So, I need to dig out what I have for supplies around here and see what I can come up with on that end before I end up spending a fortune at the store that I don't have.

Oh and my husband's birthday is this month.  So, yeah, it's going to be busy!

Goals for the Month:  July 2016

Sewing Goals:
  • Start Christmas projects
  • Repair t-shirt holes and other mending
  • Repair husband's work jacket (before winter, preferably there, Erika!)

Gardening Goals:
  • Collect seeds from heirloom plants as they bolt/seed
  • As things bolt/seed pull them out and plant turnips or other cold-winter veggies
  • Keep an eye on garden and take care of it like a third child.
  • Continue to make different types of rat tailed radish pickles as they produce.
  • Continue to dehydrate herbs as they grow.
 
Cleaning Goals:
  • Continue to clean out and deep clean kitchen cabinets (I've been ending up doing these one at a time over the last little bit).  Figure out if there is anything that could work better somewhere else and reorganize if necessary.
  • Keep cleaning hallway closet (this is my back up plan for somewhere to store veggies this winter if finding a fridge fails to produce anything as it is drafty and cold during the winter, which MIGHT work for vegetables.  Might).
  • Clean kid's rooms some more
  • Shampoo all carpets thoroughly
  • Dust ceiling fans and chandeliers (I hate that chore)

General Goals:
  • Keep eye out for free fridge
  • Keep eye out for excellent deal on back pack (we might be hitting used stores a lot this month)
  • Dig out school supplies and figure out what needs to be bought for back to school
  • Figure out birthday gift for husband (keep it simple)
  • Keep eye out for deals on meat and produce
  • Glean what I can for fruit.  Talk to friends about going to pick wild blueberries when they ripen for the year (I've never done that up here and need someone who knows where to go and hold my hand while I do it the first time *laugh*). 
  • Work on non-sewed Christmas gift ideas and start on any that need extra time.
  • Go insane (already done!  Ha!)
So how about you?  Up to anything this month?