Monday, March 30, 2015

Menu Plan Monday: Menu for Week 3/30/2015

And so another week has come and gone and it's time to make the weekly menu plan.  This week I am keeping to some easy dinners (for when the hubby isn't home) and working on making others that I know my daughter will eat to help make life a little easier come dinnertime around here.

So, here we go!  This week's menu plan!

Menu Plan for Week 3/30/2015
Monday:  Baked Beans

Tuesday:  Cabbage Salad (I THINK I have some frozen meat I can throw in with this to make it more substantial for me for dinner, but we shall see)

Wednesday:  Fried Chicken, peaches, rice

Thursday:  Steak, leftover rice, green beans

Friday:  Baked Ziti (messing with a recipe trying to get it JUST right)

Saturday:  Turkey meatloaf w/white gravy, fruit cocktail, bread

Sunday:  Ham, Greens, mashed potatoes

Desserts:  Rootbeer Float Cake (I'm messing with my own recipe, though), oatmeal crusted apple pie.

Breakfasts (out of the ordinary):  Bran muffins

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Marinated Yogurt Cheese Balls

Remember date nights with your spouse?  Yeah, me either.

With my son and his challenges my husband and I came to the conclusion a long time ago that dates were going to be few and far between.  So, we always improvised date nights.  It might be a date night with a special meal I'd make, or it was a lot of times a simple dinner of "fancy" cheese (store bought from the cheese case) and some type of specialty meat (like prosciutto) on crackers or home made bread.

Unfortunately, even THAT luxury is out of our budget at the moment, so I came up with this idea instead because if there is one thing you can usually get marked down in your local dairy case is plain yogurt.  And I'm sure a lot of you out there are like me where you buy said yogurt on reduced thinking you are going to add jam or fruit to it to make flavored yogurt and eat healthier, you do that for a few days and then the rest of the yogurt sits in the back of your fridge for the next six months.  If you get to the point where you open it at all.

I ran across the idea to strain yogurt and use it for different applications from a Graham Kerr cookbook years ago and found that strained yogurt can be used to substitute a lot of other things.  For instance, you can strain it for a day and use it as a great alternative (and healthier alternative at that) for sour cream.  Or you can strain it for a few days and turn it into a decent substitute for cream cheese.  Or you can strain it for 4 to 5 days and turn it into this.  Trust me, it's worth it.

Yogurt cheese might seem like an odd idea, but it really is tasty.  And once you add olive oil and herbs to the mix, let it sit for a week in your fridge and then bring it to room temperature to eat on bread or crackers?  You won't even miss that 6.00 chunk of brie sitting in the specialty cheese case.

Marinated Yogurt Cheese Balls
  • 1 Container Plain Yogurt (32 oz)
  • 3 tsp. salt
  • 1 to 2 tsp. dried red pepper flakes (depending how hot you like it)
  • 1 TBS dried rosemary
  • 1 TBS dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder (optional)
  • Olive oil...about 2 cups

1.  Pour your yogurt into a wire mesh strainer or colander lined with cheesecloth or a very clean (and lint free) dish towel that is placed over a bowl (make sure it's a decently deep bowl as your yogurt whey will drain into the bowl).  Mix salt into yogurt (be careful of your fabric/cheesecloth).  Fold the towel or cheese cloth over the top of the yogurt once you are done and place the entire rig into your fridge for four to five days to drain (I tend to remove it once a day to pour out the collected'll help reduce the smell of yogurt in your fridge).

2.  Combine all the dried herbs, the pepper flakes and the garlic powder in a bowl and mix well with your hands.  Set aside.

3.  Once the yogurt is a nice solid cheese-like consistency, take small handfuls of yogurt cheese and form into balls with your hands.  As you form them carefully lower them into a wide mouthed pint mason jar (or quart if you have one...I did not, so I used two pint jars instead).  Once you have enough balls to make a layer in the jar, sprinkle some of the herb mixture on top of the balls and then fill with olive oil until the balls are submerged.  Repeat until all the yogurt cheese is used up.

4.  Place balls in your fridge for two days up to a week to mingle with the herbs.  When you are ready to eat, remove the jars from the fridge (the oil in the jars will set up to a solid state over time, this is normal) and let sit until the oil is back in a liquid state.

5.  Carefully remove cheese balls with a teaspoon and smear on crackers, or better yet, some bread made nice and crusty in the toaster.

Consume within 3 weeks.


What I'm Reading in 2015, March: Han Solo and the Lost Legacy

You know on one hand I can't believe that March is nearly gone, but on the other hand it can't leave soon enough as far as I'm concerned.  What a month!

Anyway, I know the two people who actually read these "What I'm Reading" posts might care enough to read through this one too, so without further ado the book I read in March was...

Han Solo and the Lost Legacy by Brian Daley

Ha!  I know!  Not exactly what you'd expect with the other things I've been reading huh?

Well, this book has quite a history (and funny story) behind it.

You see, "Han Solo and the Lost Legacy" is book 3 of a Han Solo Trilogy by Brian Daley.  I'd read the first two books years ago ("Han Solo's Revenge" and "Han Solo at Star's End").  Read:  Before children.

I was really looking forward to reading this book.  Then I had my daughter and my son 18 months later.  My daughter never slept, my son was even worse and wouldn't let me put him down and then when he was old enough he started eating paper (it's part of his autism), so books for a long while got put on the back burner.

I think I tried to start this book about 15 times over the last 8 years.  Something always stopped me from getting more than 10 pages in before I had to stop, put it aside and forget about it for a while.  Finally, this month I was able to pick it up and read it during therapies.  And I got to read it ALL THE WAY THROUGH!!!

You can not believe how thrilled I am to finally have read this book.  I think I had the beginning memorized by the time it was all said and done, but to find out how the book progressed and ended?  Was by far one of the highlights of my year so far *laugh*.

Anyway, a bit about the book.

This is a GREAT trilogy to get for the Han Solo fan in your life.  I have never read anyone who was able to peg Han Solo's character, and Chewie's for that matter, down so well in writing (and in my younger days I read a lot of different ones).

I really enjoyed the first two books, where if you read this book cold you'll notice characters that are held over from the first two books you won't recognize (but you could still follow the book relatively well).  But this book, this book was the best of the three (how often have you EVER been able to say that of a trilogy?) and was just perfect in the way the plot went down and wrapped up at the end (I really don't want to spoil it for you as the ending will really nail Han's luck and make you realize how great these books really are).

And before you wonder, yes, this book wraps up with the beginning of the series of events that leads into Star Wars for Han, but in such a way you'll walk away laughing.  And putting the book into your pile of "keepers" to reread for years to come.

What I consider to be the best part of all of this is if you want to buy these, while they are out of print they are still cheap (.01 on Amazon for the paperbacks), so you won't have to worry about breaking the bank to read them.

Seriously, if you have a child who is a Star Wars fan or know someone who is a fan of the original movies?  Get these books.  You will not be disappointed!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Frugal Friday (Money Saving Weekly Recap): This Week's Adventures

Life is starting to approach something resembling normal again.  My husband got his root canal done on Tuesday, my grandmother's funeral is over and the after effects from both have started to ripple outwards and dissipate a bit like a rock getting thrown into a pond.  Things are settling and life is getting into it's new groove and smoothing out a bit.  The rock (financial burdens and sadness) is still there under it all, but it's starting to feel like a part of a greater whole instead of the ENTIRE whole.  If that makes any sense.

Life moves onward.  And so we lead into the lesson of today's Frugal Friday.  Always, as much as you can, sign up for e-mail updates from your favorite places because you never know when God will use those as a means to cheer you up when life gets you down.

Signing up for e-mail notifications and newsletters is one of the lessons I learned a long time ago when I was coupon blogging.  If you sign up for e-mail newsletters and notifications, you can a lot of times get in on online sales (why I sign up for JoAnn e-mails and Land's End among others) and online only specials and freebies.  Then there are situations like these where when life is depressing financially and you think you can't afford to do anything fun?  Well, sometimes you don't have to pay anything and still get cool stuff anyway.

So, here's a breakdown of some of the things I did this week to save money.
1.  I got free flowers from Carrs via a Just 4 U coupon loaded on my card (seen above).  Nothing beats flowers to help cheer you up when you're feeling down, so it was a great boon to find on my E-Coupons this morning.  I also had a coupon for a free iced tea, but alas my local Carrs doesn't carry that particular iced tea, so that coupon will go unclaimed.  Bummer as I was looking forward to a free iced tea, but oh well.

2.  I got a free spice rub.  I checked my e-mail a few days ago and there was a link to do a survey for a 5.00 credit to an online spice house I'd used a Groupon for in the past.  Figuring a 5.00 credit might score me a freebie, I went and clicked on the survey.  Which turned out to be two questions long (and easy questions at that).

So, I got my free 5.00 credit code and found that my e-mail had already been used in their system in the past, so I went through the five passwords I normally used back then and found on the first try the password I'd used to create an account with them.  And found that I already had a 5.00 credit with the company due to a flub up from a while back (they sent me an order I didn't order out of the blue and I e-mailed them and sent it back to them.  As a thank you they gave me a 5.00 credit which I'd forgotten about since I was in the middle of moving at the time).

So, a 10.00 credit with the store in hand I was able to order a 5.00 spice rub from them and the other 5.00 covered shipping (with a small amount left over).  I ordered a flavor that will go well on popcorn (honey chipotle flavor).  I plan on making said popcorn and giving it out as Christmas gifts to teachers (aside from using it around here, depending on how the allergy information comes back on it).  So, woot for cheap Christmas gifts in the making!

3.  I got a free necklace from my favorite local thrift store.  They have a jeweler who makes jewelery for them to sell to help up their donations and the jewelery is really cute.  I got an e-mail with a secret phrase to use at the counter and if you did you'd get a free necklace (I picked the owl necklace seen above).  I'm going to put it aside to go in with my daughter's Christmas gifts (I know, weird that I do this throughout the year, but seriously it saves a bunch of money come the holidays when you have a small stockpile of stuff).

While I was there I was also reminded that they had a certain tag color on sale for .50 a piece and they had all the clothes up on racks to make your life easier.  I found a Princess t-shirt for my daughter that I'm hoping to make into a pillow sham for her bed come Christmas or her birthday and another t-shirt that either of my kids can wear (whoever grows first gets it ;).

4.  I made all of our meals at home, per usual, which definitely helped to save our bacon this week.  Money is really tight this next week (all of our bills are due the first week of the month and we are super duper tight this month in particular), so it's definitely going to be another week of eating in for us.

5.  I mended a couple of comforters that were starting to leak fluff.  I still have a couple of more to go.

6.  I started sorting my mending to get some of that done this weekend.

7.  I started to pick out material out of my stores to make my daughter some skirts and shirts for summer.  I'm hoping to start on cutting and such this weekend because that will save us a bunch of money come summer.

8.  I grabbed the last of my candy stockpile (I tend to get peanut free candy, Starburst and Tootsie Pops mainly, when they go on sale super cheap usually around Halloween and then save them for other holidays) and put it aside for Easter.  I got other cheap things for Easter to fill out the kid's Easter basket (I'll do a post on that here very soon I promise as I do have some tips to make that cheaper for you) and put those aside as well.

9.  Watched some shows for free on Hulu and YouTube.

10.  I shopped coupons and sales to make sure my dollars went as far as they could go.
And there you are folks.  A few ways I've saved money this week.  How did you do?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Easy Weeknight Crab Cakes

Ah, crab cakes!  A staple you normally find on the East Coast.  Well, you might find it on the West Coast too, but I'm from the East Coast, so I'm biased.  I'll readily admit it ;).

One of the things I've set out to do, being on such a tight budget, is to create meals that are cost effective, yes, but also fancy enough, in some cases, to make my family feel like they are getting something special.  Without breaking the bank.

So, I came up with this recipe.  Traditionally, crab cakes are made with fresh lump crab meat.  Thus, terribly expensive.  This recipe, on the other hand, calls for canned crab.  And not fancy canned crab (although my can swears it is).  Just plain old canned crab.  This crab in fact is the one I used, although I get mine cheaper locally.

So, the next time you're yearning for something special to make for your family?  Instead of hitting a restaurant, hit your pantry instead.  The results are equally yummy (and won't break the bank).

 Easy Weeknight Crab Cakes

  • 1 (6 oz) can crab meat
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 1 tsp. spicy brown mustard
  • 2 tsp. prepared horseradish
  • 2 splashes Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/4 sweet white onion (red onion might be a good alternative if you like things spicier), diced fine
  • 1/2 stalk celery, diced fine
  • 1 1/2 TBS dried parsley
  • 1 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs (great use for day old bread crumbs here)
  • 1 1/2 cup dried bread crumbs (divided)
  • 3 TBS butter
  • 3 TBS olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
1.  Place 1 cup dried breadcrumbs on a lipped plate or pie plate.  Set aside.  Drain crab meat.

2.  Combine crab meat, egg, mustard, horseradish, Worcestershire Sauce, onion, celery, parsley, fresh breadcrumbs,  and 1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs (plus more if needed.  You want the mixture to resemble meatball-like consistency so it'll stick together in the pan, so add breadcrumbs accordingly) in a medium sized mixing bowl.  Mix with your hands until the consistency of a wet meatball like consistency.

3.  Form into six flat round patties.  Place crab cakes one a at a time on the plate of breadcrumbs and press lightly (to coat the bottom side),  Use your fingers to sprinkle breadcrumbs on the top of the crab cake and press very lightly to help crumbs stick.

4.  Heat olive oil and butter in a skillet.  Add crab cakes, being careful not to overcrowd the pan (I cooked them two at a time).  Fry crab cakes until golden brown on both sides (about 2 minutes per side).
Serve warm with cocktail sauce, with lemon and dill, tartar sauce...whatever your fancy.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Menu Plan Monday: Menu for Week of 3/23/15

You ever have one of those weeks where things just didn't go according to plan?  Last week was one of those weeks for us.  Menu Plan-wise anyway.

I think I ended up making maybe three things that were on the seven day menu plan. Not great.  But, things happen and we did still eat at home, so that was the most important thing to me.

Because of the holes in the menu plan last week, however, I did recycle a bit off of that menu as I did still want to make some things.

So, here's this week's menu plan!

Menu Plan for Week of 3/23/15
Monday:  Chili and Cornbread (this chili is so great and so easy to make, I'm definitely going to be sharing the recipe.  It makes a huge pot too, so my husband and I will have enough for lunches throughout the week).

Tuesday:  Pancakes

Wednesday:  Baked Chicken, Pesto roasted potatoes, fruit cocktail

Thursday:  Chili Dogs (use some leftover chili), oven fries

Friday:  Noodle Bowl Night

Saturday:  Minced Rissoles, peaches, blancmange (my daughter has become obsessed watching the 1940's House and requested this meal as it was the first meal the family ate at the house)

Sunday:  Leftovers (of which I'm sure there will be)
Desserts:  Apple Pie (finally got to bake it last night from the freezer), angel food cake.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Saving Money on Utlities: Every Penny Counts

I know I'm not alone in suffering from pure frustration over utility bills.  It seems like they keep going up and it seems that the excuses get worse (natural gas bill going up because people are using LESS natural gas for instance).

Last month was the final straw for me.  I got the highest electric bill in years (the only one higher we got our first year we lived in our new house and we were living on purely electric heat.  That bill hurt) and also got the a high gas bill at the same time.  Both during a month that I could not afford that type of bill entering my life.

So, it was then I knew that some changes had to be made around here.

So, I started implementing changes that I could think of to save money on utilities (gas and electric anyway since the phone bill is now, wonderfully, static every month).

And the changes worked.  With a half of a month of changes (since my bills come in the middle of my "billing cycle" I had no idea the bills were going that high at the time, so by the time I started to implement changes, I would only have 1/2 of a month of savings to show on the bill) I was still able to shave off 70.00 off of my electric bill and 100.00 off of my gas bill.

I thought I'd share some of the things I'm doing in the hopes it might help others as well seeing as how the electric and the gas aren't going to be getting any cheaper anytime soon from the looks of it.

Changes I Made for the Electric Consumption:

1.  I started turning off the electric heaters during the day.

We have a Frankenstein heating system in our house that is a combo of one giant forced air (gas run) heating vent that actually does heat the house pretty well and electric run baseboard (thermostat run, permanently wired, etc) that you can run as a supplemental heating system.  We do run the electric heaters in the bedrooms as we find they can get pretty chilly without it, but I found that during the day especially this wasn't necessary.

See, I run the gas heat high during the day because my kids have an aversion to clothing, so when they're home the house is set to be at about 73 degrees all the time.  But, during the nighttime I set the heat down to 70 and that makes the bedrooms pretty cold.  So, I find the while the electric baseboards have to be on during the night, during the day the house is kept so warm that while the bedrooms might get a bit chilly it's not bad at all with the heaters off.

2.  I started turning off the lights.

My son LOVES lights.  And he likes to turn them all on.  All.  The.  Time.  It used to just make me roll my eyes a bit, but now it drives me completely bonkers.  I am making sure to tell him about 25 million times a day to "turn off those lights" as soon as he turns them on.  And he does.  I keep hoping he'll stop turning them on all the time, but for the time being that works.

I also make sure that as SOON as the sun pushes it's face over the horizon the kitchen lights and living room lights are off and any windows facing the direction of the sun the lights in those rooms get shut off and the curtains opened.  It is a bit dimmer at first as you get used to it, but you quickly realize how unnecessary all of the extra interior lighting is during the day.

3.  I started listening to the radio more and watching TV less.

The children love having their TV's on in their rooms to watch movies on and off while they are playing, but for the most part they like them as background noise.  So, I've been making a point of having the radio on out in the kitchen as a deterrent to turning on the bigger screened TV in the living room.  I enjoy listening to my CD's, the kids get their background noise and I don't have to watch the same TV program 17 bazillion times a day.  When the kids are at school I don't watch TV at all.  I've started reading instead (well when I'm not doing other stuff) and find that it keeps your mind a lot more sharp.  Or I knit.  Or sew or something more constructive.

4.  I started doing the dishes the old fashioned way.

I know, people are going to start thinking I went off the rails here, but let me explain.  For one, think about it.  Dish washers run for how long to clean your dishes?  And as they run they go through a lot of water.  And while they are running they are drawing electricity.

So, not only do you have a device that runs for about 2 hours per load of dishes (if you have one like mine), but you also have that dish washer drawing off your well and/or water while it is running.

I decided that that couldn't be really a great way to do things if I was trying to save money on the electric, so I started doing dishes the old fashioned way.

Not only have I found that I actually kind of like doing dishes (I find it meditative...a good time to think, while doing something constructive), I don't have to rewash dishes that didn't get clean, my dishes actually LOOK cleaner and I don't have to worry about shelling money out for dish washing detergent on top of dish soap.  I also don't feel this need to wait until I have a "load" before doing the dishes, so my dirty dishes are getting washed every night and my kitchen is getting clean (I have a small kitchen, so this is a definite bonus).  And I use my dirty (but not too dirty) dish water to do things like touch up the floor with a sponge or wash finger prints off of low cabinets in the kitchen.  So, the water is doing double duty on those days and I'm not just washing it down the drain like with the dish washer.

Don't think that the dishwasher is getting no use, though.  Nope, when I'm in a hurry I use the dish washer as a drying rack for wet dishes so I can get them done in a hurry.  I'm just as lazy as other people some days, or just as hurried.

 5.  I started doing a laundry day and a baking day.

This keeps my oven running for about four hours straight, yes, but on one day.  The same with the washer in my laundry room.  I also try to make sure I keep all of my laundry sorted, so that I can definitely fill up the washer completely.

6.  I started switching over to LED.

My husband is an electrician and got a love for LED's early on as they draw next to nothing compared to more traditional light bulbs.  Yes, LED's are expensive, but it depends how and where you buy them.

We have switched over pretty much to all LED light bulbs (with the exception of chandeliers we have).  Some LED's we got by using a gift card we got as a gift for the Home Depot and we went in and spent the entire thing on LED light bulbs.  We then got LED light bulbs as part of our 200.00 run to Costco with our tax refund as 3 LED light bulbs cost us the same there as buying one somewhere else.  They are a good buy there!

7.  I started turning off garage lights during the day.

We, like a lot of other people out there, have a garage and while we DO have pretty efficient fluorescent light fixtures out in our garage, it still wastes electric to have them on all the time.  I always seemed to keep them on during the day as I was running in and out so much and I was worried about my husband coming home during the day and not being able to see where he was going in the garage (it gets pretty dark in there).  I managed to get some Rubbermaid storage boxes from in front of the one window in the garage (it's a tiny little thing, but at least it lets in light), so that my husband will be able to see during the day if he comes home to turn on the garage lights.  And so I've started trying to remember to turn off the garage lights during the day.  As soon as it starts getting dim outside I turn them on so my husband won't kill himself if he comes home in the dark.  Every little bit helps!
Changes I Made to Cut Back on Gas Consumption:

1.  I started turning my heat down during the day.

Har.  I know, that sounds weird doesn't it?  But, I am in a position where my children are in school and while I keep the heat turned up during the day when they are home, while they are at school I just turn the heat down.  I don't have a problem putting on a cardigan or covering up with an afghan while they are in school.  When I go out to run errands I'll even put the heat down a few more degrees, just to save that little bit extra while I'm gone.

2.  I have started hanging blankets and other clothes that don't get completely dried with one run through the dryer.

We have a gas run dryer.  I used to just put blankets through two runs through the dryer as a matter of course as they never get dry the first go around, but now I hang them up.  We have a stairway landing rail that I use to hang them right now, but I'm hoping to put up a clothesline in my laundry room sometime soon (we can't really hang laundry outside because my kids are...well allergic to outside).  That should help cut my costs down even further when it comes to laundry.

3.  I try to cook and bake smart.

When I'm doing my menu plan lately, I try to think of what to have for dessert and try to plan it on a day when I'm going to be baking at the same temperature.  That way my oven can do double duty work with no extra waste in fuel.  If I'm going to bake bread, I bake at least two loaves at one time to maximize the usage of the fuel I'm using.

If I'm cooking something on the stove top (say poaching chicken), I'll steam veggies for that night's dinner on top of the pot where I'm poaching the chicken.  That way my veggies for dinner get done without wasting extra fuel as well.

4.  I started doing dishes the old fashioned way. 

This has improved our hot water consumption, so it is a nice bonus to doing dishes.

5.  I do laundry on a "laundry day".

This not only cuts back on electricity as I'm not running a half load of laundry or something, but it is also helping to maximize our hot water consumption and the gas running the gas run dryer.
So, there you have it folks.  A few ways I'm working on reduce our utility bills.  I hope it might help some of you out!  Good luck!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Frugal Friday (Money Saving Weekly Recap)

It was a long week around here.  My grandma passed away, my husband was feeling icky from his abscess tooth removal and I have been battling an allergy cough for months that has just gone bonkers this last week and made me utterly miserable.  My sweetheart of a husband went and picked a pharmacist brain yesterday on what to get for me and I now have cough medicine and allergy meds.  I feel like a medicated zombie if I don't keep food down my gullet, but at least I'm not coughing up a lung, so yay for pharmacists!

So, how did I save money this week?  Here are a few ways...
1.  I started planning my garden (yay Pinterest!).  I normally plant cabbage every year in my wee little raised beds (which always surprises people how much food you can get from those), but since the cabbages did so great last year, I don't need to plant them this year (so says the 18 pints of sauerkraut I have in the pantry anyway).  So that leaves me this thing called space, and I want to make the most of it.  So, I've been working on plans, figuring out cheap ways to make it work and with the weather being so beautiful I'm just jiving for Spring so much right now it's not even funny!

Normally I budget out 50.00 for plants for my garden (I don't grow from seed right now due to lack of space and psychotic cats that will dig up seedlings for fun) and I don't see the point in changing that budget now, although I do think I might end up spending less than that since I won't have to worry about getting all the cabbage plants.  I also want to plant more flowers this year to make the yard...well that will have to be taken into account as well.

I am being very careful with planning however, as my planters and raised beds do contribute to our winter stores every year, so I want to make those square feet count!

2.  I shopped sales and use E-Coupons to make sure that I could get the most bang for my buck at the store.  I was able to get the laundry detergent I was hoping would go on sale for 5.00 today on sale at Carrs, so woohoo!!!

My son also broke my embroidery hoop a while ago and I realized that I needed to replace it if I was going to get started on Christmas gifts and other projects.  So, I used a 40% off one regular priced item coupon at JoAnn Fabrics (sign up for their coupon mailer when you are is SO worth it!) to get one for 2.00.

3.  I cooked all of our meals at home.  Trust me, on weeks like this it was NOT easy, but it was worth it.

4.  I darned a pile of my husband's socks with some really nasty holes in them and was able to actually make it work (I had my doubts on my darning ability with holes that big), so that was awesome.  My husband actually remarked that it was like I had rebuilt the socks stronger than they were before.  I was happy.

5.  I have been taking measures to cut down on utility bills by doing things like turning the heat down during the day when my children are at school (they hate clothes, so I tend to have to keep the heat higher than I would like to keep them warm).  I have also been making sure to open the curtains and turn off the lights during the day.  Hey, we have the sun, I want to enjoy it!

I've also been making sure to do a baking DAY instead of baking throughout the week to save on fuel.  The same with laundry.

6.  I consolidated trips to town with grocery shopping or other errands that needed to be done, so I wasn't running around more than I needed to which saved on fuel.
So, there you have it folks.  Ways I saved money this week.  How did you do?

An Ode to My Grandma

Earlier this week the world lost a wonderful woman.

Sure, many did not know her, but it was a loss for them that they never had the opportunity to get to know her.

The woman I speak of is my grandma.

She passed away quietly on St. Patrick's Day.  Grandma always took such great pride in being Irish and had not drank alcohol due to medication she had to take for many, many years.  So, I have to say it gave me a smile in the middle of sadness to think of her drinking merrily on the other side and being reunited with her husband, who she had lost almost 15 years prior and missed terribly every day.

My grandma taught me a lot.  Even though I didn't know her in my young life.

My parents, you see, had moved to Maine away from both of their families because that is where my dad could find a good stable job.  And there they stayed until my parents divorced.  Both of my parents didn't like the other one's family, so I never got to know my extended family much with the exception of my dad's brother who would come to Maine to visit every summer when I was young for about a week.  And my mom's father did come to visit briefly when I was a young child as well.

So my grandmother was a complete mystery to me.  Until the summer before my parents divorced.  My grandmother, her husband Bill (we always called him Uncle Bill and he always was a grandfather to us) and their two best friends Jeanie and Glenn came to visit, which ended up being one of the most fun weeks of my entire life.

My grandmother immediately realized that I was a shy child who really had withdrawn from a lot at that point in time and not only got me to talk while she was there, she also got me to laugh and eat (which was not an easy thing to get me to do back then).  My mother and father's marriage was in shambles by this point and my mother wasn't home much and my father was hiding from the world in his bedroom most of the time.  So, I just kind of crawled into my own little shell and didn't let things bother me.

Well, the divorce bothered me.  So did moving four states away from everything I'd ever known.  It bugged me a lot.

But, through it all my grandmother became my anchor.  When she realized I was losing weight (which I couldn't afford to lose) because anxiety was making me not able to digest food at all well, she found like four foods that I could eat without problems and would buy them for me CONSTANTLY and make sure my mother always had them at our house for me to eat  My mom ended up having to take care of my older sister more because the two of them related to each other better (not to mention she was working full time trying to make it as a single mom with four kids).  If grandma hadn't been would have been a lot harder for me.

Grandma lived over the hill from us.  I was over at her house a lot.  She showed me how canning was REALLY done.  Her and her husband had a huge garden every year and she'd make sauerkraut, she'd can quarts and quarts of tomato sauce and whole tomatoes, name it.  They had fruit trees and she'd can quarts of apple sauce.  And she showed me how it cut their grocery bill so much during the winter to have those things to live on.

As I cleaned her house she showed me an appreciation of hockey games and we both cheered the Penguins through Stanley Cup wins.  She loved everything we grandkids ever gave her, even when we thought she wouldn't.  She NEVER forgot a birthday.  She was the only one to remember my birthday one year and it meant a lot to me.  She always sent my children birthday cards too and I'm thankful that I have those cards saved for my children when they grow up so they'll know they had a great grandma who cared a lot about them.

She was the best cook and baker I ever knew.  She could make overcooked steak soft and tender for her husband who had next to no teeth left, but make it flavorful at the same time.  She introduced me to cabbage and noodles, stuffed peppers that tasted so good I'd go back for seconds and the best apple pie on the planet.  She showed me how to bake with lard, a substance I had never even heard of before.  And she introduced me to coffee with half and half and sugar.  And she introduced me to butter.  The butter was like a gift from God when I tasted it for the first time, I swear.

I owe grandma so much in teaching me a love of cooking and baking, canning and other things.  She even gave me her old Corelle dishes after her husband passed away (seen above) when she gave up cooking and other domestic things because she felt like she couldn't do them anymore.  I took them out of storage when we moved to our new house and started using them for my family.  We still eat off of them all the time.

They will come to mean more to me now, as it is one of the more corporeal ways to remember her by.

I'm very glad I got to know my grandmother and will continue to appreciate everything she taught me.  So, in that way, I know she'll live on.  And I hope to teach my children the things she taught me so she can live on in a million little ways.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Menu Plan Monday: Menu for Week of 3/16/15

My mood has improved greatly over the course of the weekend.  Mainly by over thinking my situation (if you find something you're good at...) and coming to the conclusion that while things are going to be tight for a while, I can manage.

One of the things that helped route me out of my depression was hitting the books.  Literally.  I hit the cookbooks and figured out some recipes that I could make with what materials I had in the pantry.  Figuring out "fancy" meals I could make with what I had around here helped to make me feel a bit better about my life situation.

I really want to keep my grocery budget at 50.00 a week over the course of the next few months as that will save me a good amount of money overall, and thus help me to pay down bills.  So, that is what I'm hoping to do.  Shopping sales, using coupons (when I can) and being careful not to pick up impulse items is going to be that much more important, but I'm pretty confident that I can do it.

I did stumble a little bit over the weekend and went 6.00 over my grocery budget for this week because Carrs had cabbage and potatoes on sale (still do through tomorrow, actually) and I wanted to pick up a decent amount of each as the red potatoes will keep for months in my fridge and so will the cabbage and really, making salad with the cabbage will be significantly cheaper than buying salad AND will keep a lot longer too.

So, here's the menu plan for this week.

Menu Plan for Week of 3/16/15
  • Monday:  Tortellini in Alfredo Sauce with Peas (I add a handful of frozen peas directly to the sauce for added nutrition)
  • Tuesday:  Crab Cakes (a recipe I'm working's hoping it turns out well), salad
  • Wednesday:  Baked chicken, rice, fruit cocktail
  • Thursday:  Easy Chili, cornbread
  • Friday:  Baked Ziti (I'm going to totally redo how the basic recipe is done to make do with what we have.  If it turns out, I'll post the recipe.  If it doesn't turn out...we'll still eat it *laugh*).
  • Saturday:  Leftovers
  • Sunday:  Pork Chops, rice, green beans 
Desserts:  Vanilla Cupcakes (I got some free from Carrs with my Just 4 U coupons), apple pie, Super Simple Ice Cream

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Super Simple Ice Cream (No Ice Cream Maker Needed)

This is one of those recipes that have been around forever, but it's still a classic.

I think normally this is proclaimed as "Two Ingredient Ice Cream", but what I like about it is that it's easily changed up and made into different flavors as well (so, like three ingredient ice cream if you flavor it).

I mentioned on my previous post that I had some cream that was...well not ideal for just using as straight cream, so I made this instead.

This ice cream is yummy, easy and most importantly doesn't require an ice cream maker.

I know some people might freak out at the idea of sugar and fat content on this.  Just rest assured, believe it or not, it's not that high in sugar (and hey fat is actually good for you in moderation) if you compare it to commercially available ice cream.

Super Simple Ice Cream, With Variations (No Ice Cream Maker Needed)

Base Ice Cream Mixture (Vanilla flavor)

  • 2 Cups heavy cream
  • 1 Can sweetened condensed milk

Combine both cream and milk in the bowl of an electric stand mixer (trust me doing this with a hand mixer or by hand is going to take a while and result in a LOT of sore muscles before you're done).  You can add a tsp of vanilla extract if you wish, but I've never found a need. Whip until thick and creamy (about five minutes).

Place in freezer safe containers and freeze overnight.  
And voila!  Ice cream!  What I really like about this recipe is that where normal "make in an ice cream maker" ice cream tends to be grainy from the sugar if you don't mix it till it dissolves, this recipe doesn't have that problem so it's nice and light and creamy when it's done.

Now for some cool variations!

Chocolate Super Simple Ice Cream
  • 1/2 recipe Base Ice Cream Mixture 
  • 1/4 cup your favorite chocolate syrup 

Whisk chocolate syrup into already made base mixture.  Freeze as above.
Strawberry Super Simple Ice Cream
  • 1/2 recipe Base Ice Cream Mixture
  • 3 TBS to 1/4 cup Strawberry Jam or Preserves (I use home made for this)

Whisk jam or preserves into already made base mixture.  Freeze as above.
I made one and a half batches of ice cream last night (obviously from the picture right?).  I had 1 cup of cream left over after making one batch, so I combined that with a half can of sweetened condensed milk I had in the freezer (I have a citrus/lemon lime aide recipe that calls for 6 TBS of sweetened condensed milk, so I always have some sweetened condensed milk hanging out in my freezer).  So, I made all three flavors and voila!  Neapolitan ice cream!  Yum!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Frugal Friday (Money Saving Weekly Recap): Lessons in Perserverance

It has been just a terrible week around here for my morale. Truly.

My grandmother had a mini-stroke early this week, as I told you all earlier.  Well, she then got put in a recovery home where she then managed to fall out of bed and break her hip.  So, they put her in for emergency surgery on her hip, which they thought actually went really well.

Until she failed to come out of the sleeping meds on time.  And they found she had no strength in her left side when they tested it.

As of yesterday, grandma they found had a bad stroke on her left side.  They found this out by the bleeding finally starting to come out on the CAT scan yesterday, which means that the stroke was deep in her brain.  Her brain is swelling, she's not responding to anything at this point and she's being put on hospice.  Basically, she's dead, but the doctors are waiting for her body to realize it.

On top of that my husband had a bad tooth and went in last Thursday to find that he was going to have to have a root canal on the tooth.  That bill is going to be 1000.00.  This morning he awoke to the other side of his mouth so painful that he couldn't touch his tongue to one of his upper teeth without feeling physically ill.  So, another emergency visit to the dentist was in order.

Final diagnosis was an abscessed tooth.  He had to have it pulled.  Between meds and the extraction that put us about 700.00 down out of the miniscule savings we've got from our tax refund.

And he needs new brakes on his truck, so that will be another 2 to 300.00 for parts.

On top of regular bills.

Do not get me wrong, I'm glad that he went to the dentist and got his tooth pulled.  Heck, I insisted on it as I was worried about an infection being that close to the brain.  But, the money.  God, the money.  I want to cry I'm so depressed right now.  I'm so tired of obsessing over money every waking moment of every single day that I could just scream.

But *sigh* life moves on and we're forced to cope whether we like it or not.  So, here's some money saving things I've done this week.

1.  I refused to let life get me down too far when it came to my shopping goals for this month.  Despite having reduced my grocery budget by 2/3 the last two weeks I managed to do some of the goals so far.

Instead of doing an Amazon Subscribe and Save order for oats, drinking chocolate and toilet paper, I improvised.  I had all the ingredients around the house to make my own hot cocoa mix, so that's what I did.  Once I had made the batch (some of which is seen in the pic above), I mixed in what was left of the precious drinking chocolate (one of my few guilty pleasures) to up the chocolate flavor on the hot chocolate.  It actually came out rather well and I now have two sizeable containers full of hot cocoa to use for later (which is actually a larger amount than the drinking chocolate I would have bought off of Amazon).

For oats, I found that Carrs had 5 lbs of quick oats for 4.99 regular price.   The company passed the test for allergen cross contamination, so I went with those instead of the bulk order from Amazon.  I'm still about 3 lbs short of what I would have gotten from my Amazon order, but I still saved a good amount of money doing it that way.  I also was able to work the oats into my 50.00 per week grocery budget, so I didn't have to spend extra money from savings or something to get it done.

The chicken stock I wanted to buy just wasn't going to happen with my current grocery budget (it's like 14.00 for a bulk thing of chicken stock), so I improvised when I realized my husband wasn't going to be home for cornish game hen night.  I poached the game hens in a big stock pot with lots of water and veggies, deboned the chickens after they had poached for a good long time (a couple of hours) and then continued to boil the bones for another four hours until the bones just crumbled when I took them out of the pot.  I got 5 quarts of chicken stock doing that and I froze them in 2 cup (1 pint) portions for use later on.  I managed to find freezer space, whether my big freezer liked it or not.  I then made bread and used the chicken meat to make chicken salad and we've had that for lunch all week (both my husband and I anyway).  It worked out well, actually, and I got a lot more use out of the chickens this way instead of just roasting them.

Toilet paper has been a bit harder to accomplish.  I normally get a big bulk order of toilet paper off of Amazon and it will last us six months, but my daughter caught colds, we were out of tissues and my daughter BLOWS through the toilet paper when she uses it for tissues, so we were a lot more down on toilet paper than I thought we should be at this point.  Instead of doing the bulk order, however, I have just been picking up one four pack of Angel Soft toilet paper a week and figure if I can hammer some money out of the budget I'll just stock up on 5.00 Friday at Carrs one of these weeks.  It won't be as cheap as Amazon, but it'll do.

I was also able to get 2 #10 cans of tomato sauce from Three Bears on my 50.00 grocery budget too.  They are normally pretty cheap, so both cans cost me about 5.00 total.

2.  I cooked all of our meals at home, which really hasn't been that hard as of late as my husband has been working long hours three days a week.  So, honestly, I've been drinking a lot of tea and eating a lot of bread and jam for dinner (we call this cheap filler where I come from).

3.  I had bought a quart of heavy cream to eat over my oatmeal in the mornings when it was cheap on dairy markdown at the store, but true to my luck, my fridge decided that it didn't like the way we had the top shelf of the fridge situated or something and the cream froze.

I didn't know what to do with it once it defrosted.  I opened it and the fat bits has separated partially from the milk, so it was almost grainy tasting.  It wasn't really fit to serve over oatmeal that was for sure.

Finally, in desperation partially as my husband is going to need soft things to eat the next couple of days and the fact that the kids really needed a treat after the amount of waiting around I've made them do at the store while mom worked her phone calculator the last bit, I made some ice cream with the cream.  I used a recipe for an ice cream maker free ice cream (recipe coming really soon on that) because I didn't have room in my freezer for my ice cream maker bowl and because it called for you to whip the cream before putting it in the freezer, which I figured could only help the cream.  I prayed as it whipped that the cream would whip so hard that the fat globs wouldn't be as apparent in the cream and that the cream would even whip (it took longer than normal cream for me takes to whip, but it did whip).  I made chocolate, vanilla and strawberry flavors, so that we can all have Neapolitan ice cream tomorrow.  It might be fat-grainy (maybe we shall see as it's in the freezer right now), but it at least tastes good so far.

I've done other things around here, but I won't bore you with too many details.  Overall, at least even through the depressing things that have been happening, I did, indeed save some money and accomplish some things

I pray your week has gone better than ours has and that you're all doing well!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Noodle Bowl Night: An Easy Dinner Idea

Okay, so this isn't really a recipe, more like a methodology.  But, really, it's a fun dinner to make, is actually really not bad on the budget (we're talking little handfuls of frozen veggies and such) and it's a great way to keep everyone happy when it comes to dinner (well, so long as they like pasta).

Above is mine and the kid's dinner from last night (my husband worked late so wasn't home for dinner).  All different types of meals, but all easy to make.

Basically here's how you do noodle bowl night.

Make enough pasta (follow the directions on your box on how to cook said pasta) for your entire family.  I like to make angel hair as it cooks really fast, which leads to less, "Mom, when is dinner going to be.  I'm STARVING!" coming from my daughter.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain it, return it to the pan and then coat it lightly in whatever oil you choose so it doesn't turn into a lump.  I like olive oil for this.

Next, take your orders on how everyone wants their pasta.  Try to keep it simple for your peace of mind.  For instance, I keep small cans of tomato sauce (itty bitty ones) in case my daughter wants spaghetti on that night, but if we're out of them I try to talk her into something else.  But, if your kids really like spaghetti (or some of them do), open a jar or can of tomato sauce and then freeze the sauce in ice cube trays.  Bag it, tag it and freeze it and then throw however many cubes you need for noodle bowl night in the microwave till nice and defrosted and toasty.  Easy peazy!

For this dinner I made plain noodles for my son.  All they had on them was the salt from the water they were cooked in and olive oil.  That was it.  I was hoping he'd try them and he actually ATE them, which was a thrilling moment for me.  My daughter went with the old standby comfort food she's eaten since she was young.  She likes the noodles with olive oil on them and then some Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

Me?  I was in the mood for something a bit more substantial.  So, I made a quick broth out of bouillon powder (beef flavor), threw in some frozen mixed veggies (Asian style mixed veggies) as it was heating on the stove and then just poured it into a bowl and added noodles.  It was easy, it was fast, and it was yummy.  And it was huge because I didn't eat much yesterday and was starving.

So, there you have it folks.  The next time you're not sure what to cook for dinner, try noodle bowl night.  It's actually a really cost effective way of doing things because, if you're lucky, your kids will actually eat dinner without complaint, it's pasta so it's cheap to make and you can up the nutrition with veggies and such as you see fit.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

How I Serve My Family Dessert Every Night (and Not Gain Weight)

When I tell people that I do, indeed, make dessert just like my grandma did for years for my family I'll get a baffled look in my general direction and the remark, "But, how do you stay thin doing that?"

I will let you in on the secret, well really the non-secret.

I used to be one of those people who thought dessert and sweets were evil because as soon as I'd actually eat them it seemed like it went straight to my thighs and waistline.  The easiest way to stop this, so I thought, was to just not eat dessert.

Turns out what I really needed to do was just rethink the way I cooked.

See, when I first started my fascination with WWII and rationing it quickly led me into looking into how my grandmother's generation did...well everything.  I really admired the women's ability of that generation to keep clothes done, their house clean and food on the table when they didn't have the time saving devices we have today.  On top of the fact that most families only had one car!

One thing I learned very quickly when I started looking at VINTAGE recipes, not recipes redone to modern ways of doing things, was that the portions back in my grandma's generation?  They were MUCH smaller.  A typical cake was NOT a 9x13 pan of cake, but instead an 8" cake and a single layer cake at that.  And recipes for dinner, for instance, if it called for a dinner to serve four people, there was only four of say, potatoes, that you'd cook.

Basically, they made enough to feed people one portion per meal.  There wasn't going back for seconds.  If you were still hungry after eating dinner than you went with a piece of fruit or other snack or you ate dessert.  That is how it was done.

Which really, if you think of the lack of refrigeration through a good portion of those people's lives, this made sense.  Why would you make enough for leftovers if the leftovers would go bad before you had a chance to eat them?

I figured this way of thinking could definitely translate to our modern world.  Our portions now a days are ridiculously huge and we waste a lot of food because of it.  I mean how many times per week do you go through your fridge and end up throwing out some leftover something or other that you'd forgotten about and was resembling a life form from another planet?

 So, I started cooking less.  If I'm making, say chicken thighs, I make enough that I know my family will eat at THAT meal.  I assume that one portion will be enough to feed each person (I figure portions based on what we typically eat at one meal).  Period.  If there is something left over now, it's not much, and I consider it a bonus for me to eat for lunch the next day.  And, since kids are always hungry, I started making dessert so they'd have a little extra something to help fill them up if they are still hungry after dinner. 

And, it works.  By doing this we waste less food to the point we usually have to go to the dump once a month anymore (and honestly, if my son was off nighttime diapers and would drink something other than soda, I think we'd have to go a lot less than that).  It has also helped to shave a bit off of my grocery bill since I'm cooking less meat at one time now.  And I notice I'm more aware of what is actually left over at the end of a meal (say, canned vegetables) and I figure how another meal we can use the leftovers in so they don't go to waste.

And now I can eat dessert when I want because I know I didn't just consume my day's worth of calories at one meal.

It might not be a system for everyone, but for my family, it works.  And, so far anyway, I'm not gaining weight cooking this way.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Menu Plan Monday: Menu for Week of 3/9/15

This is a hard Monday for me.  Daylight Savings Time is kicking my butt along with a sinus cough that won't go away and not enough sleep, even without Daylight Savings Time.  And I got some bad news from my family back East in regards to my grandma (she's going in for emergency surgery on her hip today after breaking it early this morning, she's got blockages in her neck and has had a mini-stroke so far this's not looking good.  And I love the woman to death, so even though she's's hard), so yeah...I'm kind of out of it today.  And to top it all off, my husband is working late a lot lately, so it makes it kind of hard to get too enthusiastic over dinner when I'm okay eating toast with butter and jam on it for dinner (when it comes to me, I just don't get too excited over food...weird I know).

But, the menu plan has to be made because otherwise I'm at a total loss for what to have for dinner and then on the nights where my husband is home he'll get grumpy if I just shrug and say, "I don't know" if he asks what is for dinner.  Luckily I've been hitting a stack of cookbooks hard this last week to make money stretch and coming up with different meals to try (necessity being the mother of invention and all of that), so I did at least get it done.

You will notice more eggs in this menu.  I've found that eggs are an excellent budget stretcher as they are filling, get necessary protein into the meal and my daughter will eat them (which is a definite bonus to me).

So, here's this week's menu.

Menu Plan for Week of 3/9/15
  • Monday:  Chicken Salad Sandwiches (using leftover chicken from last week), potato chips
  • Tuesday:  Pancakes, bacon, eggs
  • Wednesday:  Noodle bowls (I'll share that recipe after I make them...super easy, really easy to personalize and it's kinda fun to do), mixed veggies (for at least MY noodle bowl)
  • Thursday:  Pork Roast, leftover mixed veggies (with cheese), super baked potatoes
  • Friday:  Egg and Cheese Bake
  • Saturday:  French dips, salad, oven fries
  • Sunday:  Leftovers (if there are any, if not it's Pizza night)
 Baking Things to do (on Monday/'s going to be an exhausting day):  Jelly muffins, bread and scones (muffins and scones are for breakfasts this week as I have both kids home for Spring Break).  Also make ranch dip to have with carrot sticks (determined to break this into my daughter's snack time routine as it's a lot healthier than a lot of other stuff she considers "food").

Desserts:  Applesauce cake (muffins will double as dessert fare as well).

Friday, March 6, 2015

Frugal Friday (Money Saving Weekly Recap): Week Ending 3/6/15

Well, another week as come and gone, so it's once again time for Frugal Friday!  So, some of the ways I saved money this week are...

1.  I cooked our meals at home instead of getting ready made meals to just stick in the oven or take out.

2.  I redeemed my Disney Movie Reward points, well some of them, to get my daughter the above DVD for free, which I'll put aside as one of her Christmas gifts. If you sign up with them you can get points for reading the newsletter in your e-mail as they put random codes in there, you'll get 100 points on your anniversary for being a member every year, etc.  I like to buy older Disney movies on Amazon off the marketplace sellers as they can go as low as 4.00 for a brand new movie and when you buy them new, not only can you get them cheap, but you also get the code paperwork as well.  I hadn't redeemed movie rewards in quite a while (I leave the codes in the DVD cases until I redeem them and then I throw them away, so I always know a code is good when I stumble across it) and between that and bonus points to try and keep me coming back to the site and such, I was able to get her the DVD.

I also plan on using some sticker paper I have around here to print off some Princess stickers and such for another Christmas gift later (around Christmas, of course).  They are available to print on the movie rewards site for free for members.

3.  I had made orange juice last week that while we drank a bit of it, we weren't going to finish it before it went bad, so I used the remainder to brine some chicken in for dinner earlier in the week.  It was tasty and the orange juice didn't go to waste that way.

4.  Instead of watching TV or movies at night, since my husband has been working odd hours, I instead have been listening to CD's on my computer (using battery power vs. TV power draw).

5.  I am recycling an old coffee can to make into a coin bank for my daughter.  I think she's really going to like decorating it (I'm going to wrap the can in some art paper that I bought at a used store, a big ream of it, a long while ago.  We use it for tons of stuff around here...making wrapping paper, doodling paper for my daughter, etc) and I won't have to throw out a perfectly good metal can.

6.  I mended some clothes instead of letting holes get bigger to the point I'd have to throw them away and am working on more.

 And there you have it folks.  My money saving accomplishments this week, small as they are.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Rosehip Jelly

This is the time of year where I seriously start yearning for Spring.  This year it's even worse because the weather is so darned...well Springlike!

One of the things I tend to do this time of year is I start to weed out things that we longer need and/or start figuring out things that need to be used before the new growing season starts.

Rosehips ended up being one of those things this year.  We have rosebushes in our yard growing in a lot of different locations and year before last I went kinda nuts harvesting rosehips in the fall and dehydrating them to use in different applications later.

Well, after cleaning them even I still had a ton.  I used some and made Strawberry Rosehip Jam that year, made some facial products, attempted to make perfume (that didn't work well), etc.  And at the end of the fall season I shoved the nice airtight container in with the rest of my herbs and conveniently forgot about it.  Until the day before yesterday.

See, I was cleaning out my herb collection (yes, I have one of those) and ran into the rosehips.  Checking the date, I realized I really needed to use them up before they started losing potency.  But, I don't really do much herb experimentation anymore, so I tried to think of something other than skin care products to make with them.

Watching "The 1940's House" I had an epiphany when I was watching and they mentioned children getting rosehip syrup as a vitamin C supplement.

I thought of making rosehip syrup out of the rosehips, but I was kind of worried about canning it as I wasn't sure how long it would stay good for and I was sure it would spoil pretty quickly after it was opened because of lack of preservatives in it.  So, I tried to think of something else.

And then it came to me.  I had made Strawberry Rosehip Jam a couple of years ago with tea rose rosehips (which was yummy), so I figured I could use the dried rosehips to make jelly.

And hey, I was right.  And it turned out really well!  I was thrilled as I have been blowing through jam and such around here just with toast and desserts, so I was happy to come out of this with essentially free (since I had all the materials around the house) jelly to use through the rest of the winter and spring.

Anyway, you can save this recipe and use it on your dried rosehips later in the year.  It tastes a lot like apple jelly, actually (part of that comes from the apple juice used to boost up  the flavor and the pectin content a little bit).

I used a traditional/standard jelly recipe for this, but doubled the pectin in the recipe as rosehips don't have any natural pectin of their own that I know of, even though they are (from the research I've done)  related to apples.   And hey, rosehips are naturally high in vitamin C, so double bonus to the jelly!

Note:  This recipe is not evaluated nor approved by the FDA.  I don't have a problem canning it, but that is me.  If you do not want to can this, just use freezer pectin and store your jelly in the freezer (follow the directions on the pectin package).  It will work fine.

 Rosehip Jelly:  Makes approx 10, 8 oz. jelly jars

  • 6 Cups Rosehip Juice (recipe follows)
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 boxes (or 6 TBS) regular pectin
  • 7 cups sugar

1.  Make Rosehip Juice
Rosehip Juice
  • 1 1/2 Cups Dried, and seeded, Rosehips (you can use more if you want a stronger taste, but 1 1/2 cups is all I had)
  • 6 Cups water
  • Unsweetened apple juice
2.  Place rosehips and water in a large saucepan.  Heat to boiling, reduce to simmer and simmer 15 minutes.  Turn off heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

3.  Place a wire mesh strainer over a bowl or large measuring cup (I used my 8 cup Pyrex measuring cup for this).  Pour rosehip mixture over the bowl.  You can do one of two things now.  Take unsweetened apple juice and add to the rosehip mixture until you have 6 cups total of liquid or you can take the now strained rosehips, cover with water again and repeat the boiling/simmering process to get more rosehip juice.  I ended up adding about 2 cups of apple juice to get six cups of liquid.

4.  Prepare canner, jars and lids (use recommended jelly making guidelines for sanitation).

5.  Whisk together rosehip juice mixture, lemon juice and pectin in a large stock pot until smooth and there are no lumps.  Heat the mixture to boiling.

6.  While the mixture is heating, measure out the sugar, place in a bowl and set aside.  Also, pull out the largest whisk you have (this is a great time to pull out a balloon whisk if you have one).

7.  Once mixture is at a boil, add the sugar all at once.  You are going to have a huge sugar cube in the middle of your pectin mixture and this is where a whisk comes in super handy.  Use the whisk to break up all the sugar and whisk it into the liquid, so that no lumps are left.

8.  Switch to a wooden spoon and heat the mixture back to a rolling boil (a boil that can not be stirred down).  Keep boiling for 1 minute (or however long your pectin directions tell you to).

9.  Place jelly in hot, sterilized jars (skim off foam if there is any...I didn't have enough to worry about), place lids and rings on the jars and process in a hot water bath canner for 10 minutes.  Turn the heat off under the canner and remove the lid, but leave the jars in for another 5 minutes.  Remove jars with a jar remover to a tea towel or other protected surface to cool.  Check seal after jars are cooled.

Any jars that are not sealed should be used immediately.  Should keep for a year in the pantry if properly sealed and stored.

Once opened store in fridge.

Monthly Financial Goals and February Recap

 And so, it is time to do a financial goal checkup  from last month and also do my goals for this month.

Honestly?  Is "Survive" a goal or a mind set?  Ugh.  It has been so depressing financial speaking lately.  Last month we had a lot of small paychecks at the beginning of the month and despite working my collective butt off to save money wherever I could,we're making it but barely.

And then my husband, who just got the entire bottom of his mouth capped late last year (which had us, for the first time in years, adding new credit card debt to our bills, which was 10,000.00.  We only have 18 months to pay it off interest free, which isn't easy and then we have a second half we're going to have to deal with that will be 15,000.00.  I am really wishing I was a dentist lately)  has a dental emergency on the top of his mouth (the half he DIDN'T get done last year), so we have to find a thousand dollars somewhere to pay for that.  And then I have a yearly car insurance bill due soon, so I have to save up 300.00 for that.  And that is on top of just regular monthly bills I have to make and that is going to be hard because it is a short month and utilities for last month, that are due this week are high due to some major time in between reads on my meter.  Ugh. Just ugh.

Anyway, *deep breath*, goals this month are going to be a bit depressing as a result of all of this, so bear with me on that one.

But, first, let's see how we did in February...

February Goals:

1.  Recharge cell phone.
2.  When tax refund comes in remove at least 80% and put in savings (more on that one later).
3.  Budget for gift and dinner for holidays.   

4.  Save at least 20.00 somewhere!  

Well, I was able to meet all of the goals last month!  So that was good.

My daughter had a birthday that while not as fancy as she would have liked, it did get the job done and she enjoyed herself.  We ended up spending nothing on her birthday, other than about 15.00 in gifts that I spread the cost over two months to not hurt so badly.  I made her cakes with ingredients I already had, as well as cookies for her class.  We went out to dinner at a local restaurant, but we had gift cards a friend of my husband's had given him as a thank you for working on his house.  We had been sitting on those gift cards for quite a while, so I was glad we were able to give my daughter a special night out with them.

I got my cell phone recharged right before my tax refund came in, so that was nice that I didn't have to raid the refund for that.

Valentine's Day came and went without much fan fare.  The kids each got a container of Rolos that had been on sale B1G1 one week at the store (Rolo's are peanut free).  The kids enjoyed the treat and had plenty of Valentine's stuff to play with from their parties at school.  So, it worked out well enough.

I managed to save a lot of money on regular bills last month, with finally getting my son into local speech therapy and getting my phone bill finally dialed in right (for now).  I have also been trying to implement changes around here to save on fuel and electricity, although I won't know how well those work out until next month I think.

This month's financial goals are going to be very hard to accomplish.

March Financial Goals:
1.  Save 300.00 for car insurance payment.
2. Save as much toward 1000.00 for dental work as possible.
3.  Pay bills.
To accomplish some of this, once again, my husband and I are going to be going on a "if it ain't cheap we're not eating it" type of diet, which means not a lot of shopping, but living, once again, off the foods storage I just started rebuilding (man is that depressing even to write).  It's going to be a sad month to be sure unless I suddenly have an epiphany on ways to save money (which, I have faith that this can indeed happen).  But, such is life.

So, I am going to, for now, set my grocery budget at 50.00 per week around here (which covers the things the kids will eat) and we'll see where that gets me.  If nothing else, if I can make that work, it will save the necessary 300.00 for the car insurance payment.

Hope your financial outlook is a bit brighter than mine is this month.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Mending 101: How to Darn a Sock

And ode to my days at therapy where I darned a million socks!

Okay, so as lines of poetry go, that was kind of crappy.  But, seriously, it seems like all I do at therapy anymore is darn socks.

I'm not sure why, probably from being on his feet all day and having a history of not taking care of his feet very well, but my husband has heels that resemble cheese graters.  And his socks have always suffered for it.

This last year, we haven't had the money to buy him new socks every two months like we have had to do in the past, so I have learned the lost art of darning instead in desperation as I stared at piles and piles of holey socks.

Once you have darning down it can save you a lot of money, actually.  I've repaired dish towels, sweaters with holes that had tears in them from the washer and other things.  But, I want to start out with the most useful of darning techniques (at least to me) and one of the easiest to learn.  Darning socks.

I am new to the idea of teaching anything sewing related, so bear with me here as I try to walk you through this as easily as possible.

First, you are going to need a few things.  One:  Proper needles.  There are such things as darning needles.  If you do not have these and don't have the money to buy them, don't despair.  Just use whatever needle you have with the largest eye (as you're going to have to fit some pretty beefy thread through it).

Next up you are going to need some round object that you can fit into your sock to help you work on the hole without you pulling the fabric too tight, thus puckering the sock and making it uncomfortable as all get out to wear (I actually started by darning a few of my husband's socks that were beyond hope of repair to get this process down before starting on socks he'd actually wear).  A lot of older books suggest a lightbulb or actually a Darning Egg or Ball.  Me?  I use a play ball from my son's ball pit.  You can use anything round and relatively smooth.  An incandescent light bulb would work fine...personally I just can't stand the idea of something really breakable transporting back and forth to therapies and such in my knitting bag, so I stick with the play ball *laugh*.

One last thing you are going to need is the proper thread to do this.  Embroidery thread would work alright if you are pretty easy on your socks overall.  My husband quickly destroyed it with his cheese grater feet when I tried it on his socks, though, so I switched to this...

Twisted embroidery thread (much tougher stuff).  This stuff goes for about 2.00 per thing of thread at JoAnn Fabrics, but if you sign up for coupons you can use your 40 and 50% off a regular priced item coupons on these, or wait for them to go on sale (which is what I tend to do).  Either way one 2.00 thing of thread does quite a few socks, so it really is still pretty cost effective.

Okay and now the procedure.

1.  Take the ball you are going to darn with and work it down into your sock so that the hole is nice and centered on the curved surface.  Like above.

2.  Load your needle with thread (I go for a decently long amount) and start well beyond the hole in the sock.  Weave your thread in and out of the sock and working in straight lines (once again be sure to start well beyond the hole in the sock and then keep weaving your lines around and get closer to the hole).  Once you hit the hole do NOT sew the hole shut, but instead make lines of thread where the original sock was.  This is the first step to weaving a new piece into the sock.  See figure one for more detail...

3.  Once you are well beyond the hole in the opposite direction, weave your thread around the other way and create a cross hatch pattern to the sock.  When you reach your hole and the lines of thread, weave the thread in and out of the lines of thread you put down previously, creating a new woven piece to the sock.  See figure 2.

4.  Once the hole is woven shut and you are well beyond where the original tear was you can clip your thread, admire your handwork and realize you've now darned your first sock!

I realize this looks difficult, but it really isn't once you get the hang of it.  Yes, once you have a pile of things to darn this does get to be time consuming as you find yourself fixing all the holes you once thought unable to be fixed.  But, it actually is a kind of relaxing way to spend your evening as you sit watching a movie.  And it gives you great practice with your straight stitch in hand sewing *laugh*.

Hope this tutorial is found useful by some.  Good luck with your darning endeavors!

Note:  The graphs above were originally printed in the British pamphlets "Make Do and Mend" series for use during WWII.  I do not claim to be the artist who originally made them :).