Monday, December 21, 2020

What's for Dinner: This Week's Menu

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

Menu Plan for the week of 12/21/2020

Monday:  Baked fish, rice, fruit cocktail

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

Wednesday:  Chicken Lyonnaise, rice pilaf, green beans

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 17, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

What's for Dinner: This Week's Menu

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

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

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

So, onto the menu plan for this week!

Menu Plan Week of 12/9/20

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

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

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

Saturday:  Beef and barley stew, leftover sourdough bread.

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

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

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

Desserts:  Sugar cookies or gingerbread cookies with milk.

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

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Monthly Goals: December, 2020

 I was kind of worried doing monthly goals this late in the month and then looked at the calendar and realized that it's only the 5th.  So, really, I'm not doing too bad.  Go me!

Of course, it being December there's a lot going on this month.  We still haven't gotten Christmas cookies started.  The son's eczema went nuts the last bit and he's not sleeping again and so neither are the rest of us.  I really feel for my husband who gets up at 4am on work days to be into work on time, so with the son going to sleep late and then being up at different points in the poor husband isn't getting much sleep at all.  I'm at least functional...for the most part...despite not getting much sleep.  

When it comes to goals, it's a miracle I finally settled on a certain list.  Some goals got nixed from my original list.  Like I was going to make a gingerbread house again this year, but the cost just wasn't in the cards this year.  I'd rather save that money for regular grocery shopping or, in the least, to use the money to make gingerbread cookies for the family to eat instead.  The daughter was a bit disappointed, but agreed that making cookies to eat was a better option and would definitely work better for the son (gingerbread cookies are his favorite and he'll actually eat them versus just eating the sprinkles or the frosting off the top of the cookies).

So, anyway, lets get to the goals for this month. 

Goals for December 2020

1.  Divide up what is left of the Thanksgiving turkey and the cranberry relish and freeze (done).  I'm thinking I'll be able to get quite a few meals out of the turkey with how much we had left over, so that was an upper.

2.  Paint master bedroom.  I would LOVE to get this accomplished as it is the last official room I have to repair and paint and fix the earthquake damage (all that is left is the stairwell and the downstairs hallway after that, which is all going to be white), but I'm not sure if it is going to get done.  We'll see how the month goes.

3.  Dig out the little bits of sprinkles from the cupboards to use on the Christmas cookies (trying to save money by using up what we have).

4.  Read "The Yule Tomte and the Little Rabbits" to the kids.  We've already started this since the story begins December 1st.  The daughter loved this story so much last year and Alvah seems to really enjoy it to, that I'm seeing it becoming a Christmastime tradition.

5.  Make skirts for the daughter and put them under the tree.

6.  Make son a new scarf (I don't have yarn right now, so it'll probably have to be flannel that I sew together) for warmer weather.

7.  Make husband a few new tool rolls out of old torn jeans (this is an experiment on my part, so hopefully it turns out).

8.  Make Christmas cookies with the kids.

9.  Work on getting back to menu planning.

10.  Work on getting the den cleaned out and organized (one day I'll get this done, I swear).

And there you go folks.  It's not a long list, but still a ton to do.  How about you?  Got anything you need to get done this month?

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Frugal Friday (Times nearly 2, again): Money Saving Weekly Recap


I want to take this opportunity to apologize to anyone who follows my blog on Facebook.  Facebook changed their format about, what, a month ago or so (I'm not on Facebook much, so I don't really have a good time table here) and since they changed their format I've posted up links to my blog post from last time about, oh, fifteen times, and it has YET to show up on the blog feed on Facebook.  Facebook has been e-mailed and they are working on it, I guess.  I finally got Facebook working on my new cell phone, so I will try to link to this post and last time's post (I haven't been able to post as my blog either) together and we'll pray that something works here.  So, yeah, sorry we are experiencing technical difficulties on social media at the present time *sigh*.

We've been busy around here, so I haven't had a lot of opportunity to blog the last few weeks.  I was busy putting up Christmas decorations, wrapping gifts and putting them under the tree (more on that down a bit further), getting Thanksgiving out of the way and wrapping up our current concepts in homeschool.  We are now officially on Christmas break (I love homeschool for reasons like this :), so I will hopefully have more time to blog this month (as well as get some Christmas gifts made for my family).

Right, so lets get down to some nitty gritty on what has been going on around here.

1.  Our state is in basically voluntary lockdown at the moment, so I have been avoiding going anywhere, which is saving us money I suppose.  The downside of it, though, turned out to be wrapping paper.  Turns out after using the same rolls of wrapping paper for years, they all decided they wanted to run out at the same time.  I managed to make it work.  If you flip some of the boxes over under our tree at the moment you might find some creative patches of mismatched wrapping paper, but hey, if you look at them from above you can't tell, so I am calling it a win *laugh*.  We'll definitely have to purchase more wrapping paper next year, though.

2.  We had a nice, simple, Thanksgiving at home.  Besides the turkey the side dishes ended up being more simplified than in previous years for the sake of my diet (the family was insistent that I didn't need to make the dishes just for them :), so that saved us some money.  I have been busy and was just really tired before Thanksgiving so I got as much done the day before as possible to cut down on dishes on Thanksgiving and we didn't bother pulling out all of the "fancy" dishes that survived the earthquake like we did last year.  I did pull out our nice turkey platter and used our new roasting pan (which worked great by the way), but otherwise we went simple this year.  And it was a lot of fun and everyone had a good time, I think :).

3.  When the husband took his car in for a recall he found out that his fuel filter needs to be replaced.  Instead of having the dealership do it and pay them the labor costs (which wasn't cheap) he went online and ordered the fuel filter and will replace it himself.  Thank goodness he got the garage cleaned out so he'll be able to work on his car in the comfort of a heated building as it has gotten cold here.

4.  Speaking of heat, I got our electric bill and gas bill in for the month.  I'm not sure how much gas we are saving by putting the plastic panels up in the windows, but I definitely noticed a reduction in the electric bill from them.  I think the electric baseboard heaters aren't cycling as much with the plastic blocking the wind blowing in through the windows.  Normally this time of year our electric bill is up well over 300.00 and this month it was 279.00, which is definitely a savings.

5.  I did end up taking advantage of Black Friday sales this year.  The son needed a new winter coat as he's shooting up like a weed (I saw him next to his dad's nearly six foot frame and he's nearly as tall as his dad!), so I went on Land's End and took advantage of their 60% off sale for Black Friday to order him a new coat.  It's a small men's, so it should last him a while and it is rated at -7 degrees Fahrenheit for comfort, which is pretty good.  Hopefully it is will be as good of quality as I am used to with Land's End and will last him a while.

The other sale I took advantage of was Amazon had Puriya Mother of all Creams on sale for nearly half price on Black Friday.  I like to keep an extra tub of it in the fridge to put on the son's eczema cold (it seems to help kill the itch better), so I ordered a tub of the cream on sale as it saved me over 10.00 buying it on sale.  

6.  My brother sent us an Amazon gift card for Christmas.  I used it to buy clothes, mainly for myself I'm sorry to say.  It has been years, and I mean YEARS since I bought myself clothes brand new (with the exception of like sneakers), so it is kind of a weird feeling to be getting new clothing in the mail, not for the family, but for me.  I've lost enough weight that my old clothes are fitting odd and the used stores don't have much that I've been able to find that isn't all stretched out and such (I think a lot of people gained weight this last year), so new it is.  I'm praying everything fits alright so I don't have to return things.  I comfort myself that the fitting rooms everywhere are closed anyway, so even if I went to the stores I'd still be guessing and having to return things if they didn't fit *laugh*.

7.  Our bed frame fell apart.  And no, I'm not kidding.  The son sat on our bed and it just collapsed.  

The bed frame has been giving us problems since the earthquake.  It was an old frame given to us by my husband's grandfather years and years ago, and it had these lock nut things that went around the frame to hold the thing in place and then we just screwed it to the headboard my brother-in-law gave us later on.  Well with everything collapsing onto the bed in the earthquake the locknuts bent and wouldn't stay where you needed them so we were always fighting with this or that cross frame collapsing and having to be repaired.  I honestly think, after taking the bed apart, that the frame was over half of our problem with the bed giving us back aches and things as all the cross frames were shot and just would not stay put.  I threw the old frame away and put the mattress and box frame on onto the floor.  Since it was lower than it used to be, I went and grabbed our old mattress out of the den (yes, it is still sitting in the den *sigh*) and put it onto the pile of mattresses and box frames.  It ended up coming out the perfect height that way and so far it's a lot more comfortable than it has been the last month or so. 

The husband has decided he's going to build his own frame for the bed and make it with drawers under the bed.  If this gets done I'll be thrilled as any new storage, especially for sheets and things, is always appreciated around here :).

8.   I sat down and talked to the family about Christmas dinner.  I normally try to buy a really nice rib roast for Christmas, but we just plain don't really have the money for it this year and, I explained, we really don't need anymore beef in the house as we still have a bunch of beef in the freezer.  So, I asked, if we could just cook the few fillet steaks we have in with our beef and make a "fancy" dinner with the filet mignon steaks instead of worrying about getting a beef roast.  The husband and daughter didn't have a problem with that idea.  So, at least I don't have to worry about that added expense this month, which honestly is a relief as prices continue to climb and money gets tighter.

9.  I have been really enjoying Townsends on YouTube (been a fan for years, honestly).  Right now we are watching him read "A Christmas Carol" on his YouTube channel, which is really enjoyable as he's MUCH better at dramatic reading than I am and so the daughter is enjoying it a lot more and not getting caught up in what this or that word means *laugh*.

10.  We put our noses to the grind stone the last few weeks and managed to get our schoolwork buttoned up for this month as of yesterday.  So the kids are officially on Christmas vacation for the month and we are officially half way through the school year.  I am feeling a major sense of accomplishment in that :).  I have lots of fun activities planned for the kids this month, including (hopefully) making Christmas cookies tomorrow (the first batch.  I want to make sugar cookies and then make some gingerbread cookies for the son as well).  I'm determined that even with the just plain crazy this year has been that the kids will get to enjoy themselves this holiday season!

11.  I needed new cutting boards.  I had bought some cheap ones from Amazon a long while ago, which worked OKAY, but were wearing out and honestly I never used the smaller sizes of board as they were too small to be of much use.  Instead of ordering new ones, I remembered that my husband still had some heavy duty commercial grade cutting board material that he had bought to make a platform for my son's race car bed out of (it doesn't mold like the particle board that was in it originally did).  I asked him if he could cut me a few cutting boards out of the material and gave him the sizes I would like.  He was able to use the scrap pieces of cutting board material to cut me a few new cutting boards and I am GREATLY appreciating them as they work wonderfully!  And it didn't cost us a penny, which is right in my price range :).

12.  One of the things I was able to sign up for this school year was the Doodle Crate through the Kiwi Crate company (Kiwi Co) for my daughter.  This was taken directly out of our school allotment and counts are part of her art grade.  She had gotten aa soap making kit as one of her boxes and we saved it to make during the month of November (we made the candles and the soap as part of our "pioneer crafts" fun unit I put together for the kids).  My daughter gifted most of the soaps in with family Christmas gifts (along with most of the candles we made) as gifts from her and Alvah, which I thought was very cute and we had a lot of fun exploring different melt and pour techniques.  

And there you go folks.  Some of the things we've been up to the last few weeks.  I hope you are getting things done and that life isn't too hard for you right now.  I hope you are all having a good holiday season so far!

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap (Times nearly 2)

Man, I'm tired.  Daylight savings really wholloped me this year, mainly because it threw off the son's schedule and I've been fighting him on going to bed even more than usual because of it.  Le sigh.

Sorry it took so long to compile this post together.  It's been kind of rough digging up things that have saved us money as it seems like money is just flying out the door as soon as my husband's paycheck comes in anymore.  Just the price on groceries alone gives me hives.  But, I'm determined to find the bright points though, so let's get to those.

1.  One of the things I decided to incorporate into our lesson plans this year is some fun stuff to do around the holidays and incorporate things we can use for gifts as well.  So, I ordered a beeswax candle making kit at the beginning of the school year (as close to a pioneer craft as I wanted to do with the son as you roll beeswax candles versus having to juggle boiling hot wax) and we made candles yesterday.  The kit didn't make nearly as much as it promised (well, we could have made the amount they stated IF we made a bunch of birthday cake candles out of the last sheet of wax, which was kind of a rip off), but the candles we did make turned out decently cute.  My daughter, especially, is looking forward to putting the candles into Christmas gifts this year :).

2.  The husband went and got his oil changed on his car and at the same time got a recall issue on his car taken care of, so it was good that he was able to get both things done at the same time.  He used the lifetime oil changes we got on the vehicle when we bought it so we didn't need to pay anything out of pocket for the oil change.

3.  The sleep pants that I bought back in high school finally started to disintegrate on me.   I can't say that the pants haven't fulfilled their duties admirably and the 8.00 per pair I spent on them at Target back in the day...well they definitely paid for themselves many times over.  I ended up going on Amazon and found a couple of pajama sets.  I got one with shorts and one with pants and got both sets with a panda theme to them, so that the shirts will be interchangeable.  Since one shirt is a short sleeve and one is a long sleeve, this will serve me decently well I think.  I ended up having to order myself some new t-shirts as well as a bunch of t-shirts I have had forever started to fall apart as well.  I'm just praying things are decent quality and that they'll last me a while.  I'm going to pray anyway.

4.  I made out Christmas cards and got them mailed off early for a change!  I'm so proud of myself as this never happens *laugh*.  I even made Alvah sign his name on all of the cards so we got fine motor skill practice in as we filled out the cards.  He wasn't happy when he had to sign his name for the 8th time, but hey, it worked *laugh*.

5.  Our state went back on voluntary lockdown starting Monday of this week due to Covid spreading and the ICU beds (we only have 215 in the state or something close to) are quickly being taken up by patients with it.  My daughter got severely depressed by the new lockdown as she was hoping we could go and do stuff again soon, so to cheer her up a bit, we started to decorate for Christmas early.  We've just done a little bit of decorating every day (like yesterday we made the candles to put in Christmas gifts, etc) and we'll finish up by putting the tree up the day after Thanksgiving.  This doesn't take any money to do since we're just digging out decorations we already have, but it has definitely helped to raise the spirits of the kids, so I think it's worth it.

6.  When I realized that lockdown was coming I went to the store and tried to get as much as I possibly could for Thanksgiving and Christmas bought in the way of supplies.  Unfortunately, I wasn't alone in this way of thinking so fresh herbs were COMPLETELY gone already (as well as a bunch of everything else as people, once again, stocked up for the time ahead...up here I can't even say it is panic is just stocking up, but our inventory is so limited things run out FAST and stay that way for quite a while when something like this happens), so I guess I'm going to get creative with dried herbs for the turkey this year.  At least I bought vegetable stock for the turkey brine over a month ago when it was on sale, so I'm not completely up a creek.  I ended up buying so much I was able to get a free turkey.  I pulled out our free turkey from last year and put it in the fridge to defrost for Thanksgiving and put the new turkey in its spot in the freezer.  We'll have that turkey for Thanksgiving next year.  I know it seems kind of weird to do it this way, but one thing I learned when we were really, really poor was that this way I have security knowing that no matter what we have a turkey for next year.  It gives me a tremendous sense of relief to see that turkey there, so I have no problem with that turkey taking up room in the bottom of my freezer all year.

7.  Our lunch containers for the husband have slowly broken over the years and I realized that I really didn't have enough left to do things like freeze him some meals for quick grab lunches or anything or he'd have nothing to take fresh lunches to work in.  I ended up buying these Rubbermaid containers (no associate link or anything, just sharing).  So far I really like them.  They are definitely lighter weight than the easy find lid Rubbermaid I had gotten in the past, but I really like how many divided containers this set came with as it allows me to do a divided bento-like lunch set up for the husband so he doesn't have to worry about all the food blending together and I don't have to worry about packing up four containers for his lunch and can fit it all into one or two, which saves time, space in the fridge and space in the dishwasher later on :).

8.  I made our yearly recipe for aged eggnog and got it in the fridge to age for the holidays.  I'm determined to work drinking a little of it here and there into my diet.  I don't drink at all except for little glasses of eggnog this time of year, so I'm determined to at least enjoy it :).  That and non-alcoholic glogg.  I became addicted to that stuff last year, so yeah, that's on the menu for the holidays as well =D.

I used the same bottles of alcohol I used for the eggnog last year and had enough to make the recipe (barely, but I made it :).  I was able to get the dozen egg yolks by redeeming fuel rewards I wasn't using (I had a ton of bonus rewards that were going to expire as we don't go anywhere so I'm not using the rewards for gas) to get a free dozen eggs.  I froze the egg whites to use in angel food cake later (I found that Alton Brown's angel food cake took 12 egg whites, so that worked out perfect).

9.  I have become addicted to this youtube channel.  The gal makes bento boxes for her husband and films it so you can get ideas of how bento boxes are put together.  I've gotten some really good tips on ways to better pack my husband's lunches through the channel (like using rice or parchment to absorb excess oil to help keep things fresher) and it has really improved my ability to fit a good, balanced lunch into a smaller container :).

10.  My husband fixed an issue his car had by himself, thus saving us a TON of money having to take it into a garage and get it fixed.

11.  I bought a boneless pork loin on sale and then thin sliced it (I mean REALLY thin sliced it) to use for schnitzel, Japanese dishes and other things.  Thin slicing it REALLY stretched the meat and made a bunch of different freezer bags of meat.  I'm definitely thinking I need to do this more with beef and pork as it will give us meat in our meals, but also makes the meat stretch, thus saving us money, which with the current economy we desperately need to do.

And there you go folks.  Some of the things we've been up to the last couple of weeks.  How about you?  Up to anything?

Friday, November 6, 2020

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap (Times 3)

Well, okay, so technically it's two and a half weeks, not three, but I'm just going by how many Fridays have passed.

It has been crazy around here, per usual.  So, let's break down what I've been up to of late.

First up there was the dentist.  I went in and got my fillings done.  Thankfully, I did not need a root canal.  Unfortunately, between the deep filling I got combined with the first deep cleaning (well any cleaning, really) I've had done on my teeth since high school (spoilers:  That was quite a while ago), the dental appointment ended up taking me out at the knees for a good week and a half.  My TMJ flared, my teeth hurt and I was REALLY worried that the deep filling they gave me had failed as that tooth was so sensitive that eating or drinking anything was not a pleasant experience for a good week.  About four or five days after I got my tooth filled (which I liked the dentist who did the initial dental work on my teeth but then he turned over the filling of the teeth to a lady who did, in the bluntest terms I can come up with, a crappy job.  I can still barely floss the teeth that were filled, I have really rough surfaces on those teeth, etc), a nasty shard of porcelain filling came out from under my gum where I got my tooth filled.  It was huge (or so it felt in my mouth), it was SHARP and as soon as it was gone my tooth felt about 18 bazillion times better.  I called the dental office and talked to the dentist who did the initial work on my teeth and he took some notes to talk to said lady who did the fillings on my teeth as he was not happy to hear about my experience.  He told me to watch for any swelling or additional pain as he was worried about a gum infection after having that shard of filling in there.  Luckily, it seems I'm doing okay since then.  I'll tell you what.  If I could afford my old dentist I would go back in a heart beat.  Unfortunately, this office works with my insurance and makes dental work so cheap I'll probably keep going back just to save the thousands of dollars I would spend at my other dentist.  

At least after this I should only have to go in for cleanings every six months (and I have to say that thee dental hygienist who did my cleaning was awesome!) and keep on my top of my dental care and hopefully I'll be alright from this point out.  Nice thing is my dental insurance covers cleanings 100%, so hopefully, hopefully, as far as dental work goes I'll be alright for a while.  I still have to get the kids in and checked out as it has been almost a year since they were seen last and my husband has to get a tooth fixed, but otherwise...I'm relieved that at least I'M out of the way, if that makes sense *laugh*.

I also got my bifocals in and had to get used to wearing those, which was a kind of hard four days or so as my eyes adjusted to a new way of seeing out of glasses. For the most part, I'm happy with the glasses now and I have to say I don't miss having to switch out glasses every three minutes while doing schoolwork with the kids.

Right, so a couple of people have e-mailed me and asked how the diet is going.  Well, I'm halfway to my goal already, so I'd say it is going really well.  I really like the "Lose It" app.  The one thing that it has done for me, I've noticed, is that I stopped snacking during the day and if I'm really hungry in between meals I find that I'm a lot more careful in what I will eat to get the most nutrition to fewest calories I can out of the snack.  Side benefits of dropping weight have been I'm seeing a decrease in back and leg pain at night (which for me is HUGE as I have been having a hard time sleeping due to my lower back issues for a while now), an increase in energy and an increased want to get my husband to eat healthier at lunch, so I've been having a lot of fun watching Japanese bento videos that people put up on YouTube to try and figure out different lunch options to put in my husband's lunches during the week.  I've found that cooking Japanese food has become more common around here as, so long as I'm careful with the portions on rice, that the portions on my meals are nice and healthy and relatively low calorie.  So, to the people who have asked me to share what I'm doing with the diet, you'll probably see it in my menu plans for the week (if and when I find time to do them...I've been so busy I've been punting from day to day *laugh*).

Right, so let's get onto money saving things I've been up to the last few weeks.

1.  I got my free Christmas cards in from Shutterfly, which they came out cute and I'll have enough to send to family back East, so that'll be great.

2.  I got the plastic insulating panels up in all of the windows around here (see up top for the shot of the living room window).  I saved plastic scraps as I went and was able to do the windows on the front door as well, which has definitely helped with how cold our landing was getting.  I'm praying that with the panels in place we'll see a reduced heating bill this winter as we are already having cold and icy temperatures outside, so this winter might be a cold and miserable one.

3.  We haven't gone many places at all the last bit (I know we aren't alone there), so I had a bunch of gas rewards that were going to expire on my Carrs card.  Instead of letting them go to waste, I redeemed them for a bunch of money off our next shopping trip, a free dozen eggs and a free avocado.  Because of that and shopping sales I was able to cut my grocery bill in half last week, which was nice :).

4.  I rearranged the kitchen, again, and have slowly tried to make it more functional.  I am making progress, so I am happy about that.  I'll try to take pictures after it is all done as I'm still trying to figure a few things out, but so far, so good.

5.  I needed some hamburger from the bottom of our "beef freezer" in the kitchen, so I decided it was good opportunity to take everything out of the freezer and do an inventory of what we had for beef left.  So far, we are doing pretty well, so I am happy about that.  And I remembered to grab the five pounds of hamburger out of the freezer to transfer to the other, more easily accessible, freezers (I pull five pounds of burger at a time, so I don't have to constantly dig to the bottom of the small block freezer to get some).  I nearly forgot, so I was happy that I remembered before I added too much stuff back to the freezer *laugh*.

6.  I pulled out all of our winter coats, made sure they ready to go so that when the weather turned cold the coats were ready to go.   Between that and my husband working hard and getting the garage cleaned out so he could put his car in there, it has been a lot nicer having to go out and about if we need to definitely go somewhere (I forgot how nice it was to have a preheated car in the garage it has been so long since we were able to fit one in there).

7.  I took part in my usual once a year autism research study and was given a 15.00 Amazon giftcard in exchange for participating.  I used it to buy my son some more chewable Benadryl (the stores have been out of it for months and Amazon only has it sporadically, so I was thrilled to be able to order some before we ran out at home).

8.  I found a few series that I had been wanting to see that were free to watch on Amazon Prime, a few for a limited time.  I had fun watching "Cities of the Underworld" as I studied a bunch of the structures they were exploring while I was in college.  So, it was cool to actually see said structures in real time versus as pictures in a text book :).

9.  Halloween passed low key and fun at home.  My mother and father-in-law came over and we had sandwiches for dinner, watched Halloween cartoons and had fun chatting and visiting.  We made chocolates from chocolate we had in the pantry that I'd purchased a while ago on clearance and was safe for the son, made a cake and decorated it with Halloween picks we already had from previous Halloweens, and overall had a fun (and frugal) time :).

10.  I sat down and figured out calorie counts on food for Thanksgiving and ran things by my husband who told me to just not worry about making a few dishes as they were really high calorie.   Since I normally make food that the leftovers last for quite a while, he was okay with me omitting a few things this year for the sake of my diet.  Which I was really touched that he wanted to do that as I was willing to make the other dishes for the family if they wanted them and I would have just skipped eating them this year.  So, that'll save me not only some time, but some money as well, by not having to make those items.

11.  I mended some more holes in some comforters.  I feel like someone sticking their fingers into a dyke at times with how many holes comforters start to develop (blankets get washed a LOT around here with my son), but at least they are still functional even if they don't look the greatest.

12.  I took some older towels, rolled them up, and put them under the doors as draft blockers to help keep out the cold.  I have some actual draft blocking strips that I'm hoping to put up this weekend, but we'll see how the weekend goes.

13.  I found some materials I really wanted to read on various topics in PDF format online so that I didn't have to go and try to pay hefty amounts to buy the books in print.  I do love printed books a lot more than electronic format ones, but I can't complain when the price is free compared to a upwards of 50.00 for the book in printed format (yay for Google books and other online sources).

14.  I taught my daughter a bit of beginners HTML.  She was supposed to go online and find a webpage builder for a school project, but I nixed that and instead showed her some beginning HTML to build the website instead.  It was nice being able to use the HTML knowledge I built over the years to teach my daughter something *laugh*.

15.  I cleaned and organized my fridge.   I only have five more pounds of potatoes to put into the bottom drawer of the fridge and then all of my red potatoes are protected by a nice, cold environment.  I'm hoping to be able to fit the last five pounds in the fridge this week.  It will be just in time as having the potatoes out at room temperature they were JUST starting to sprout.

16.  I cut up the white pumpkin we got from our CSA and the last delicata squash I had and put them into the freezer to use in dishes later on.  They were both starting to look old, so I wanted to get them safely in the freezer before they went bad.  I've found a new love for Japanese style curry, so I am having dreams of having curry with those items in it later in the winter *laugh*.

And yeah, I think I am going to leave things there for now as I've got to get back to doing schoolwork with the son.  I hope you all have been hanging in there and doing alright.  Any cool money saving things happened to you of late?

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap (Times 2)

 First, I want to thank everyone who has e-mailed or posted about their own dental visit anxiety.  It really made me feel less alone in my cowardice when it comes to facing the dentist.  Thank you :).

Right, so I guess I'll start there.  My dental visit.  Really, for not having been to the dentist in six years, I was expecting worse.  But, I do have a quarter of my mouth that is kind of a mess and I have one cavity that is deep enough that the dentist is concerned that it could be a potential root canal.  So, I go in next week and hopefully I'll just have to get a few cavities filled and be all right.  I'm hoping anyway as a few fillings won't cost me an arm and a leg, but a root canal?  Not so much.

Our weather decided to launch into winter the last few days.  Since it wasn't exceptionally early, I wasn't overly surprised by it, but it has definitely hammered home the need to get the windows insulated properly before the weather gets REALLY cold.  I got the son's room done a few days ago, but it is slow going getting the windows done as the son has been really busy of late and demanding a lot of attention.  I'm hoping to get the daughter's room done today, but so far I haven't gotten to that yet.  I'm still getting used to bifocals compared to the way my eyes were used to doing things and I've found that I get a bit disoriented (and thus suffer from eyestrain a bit) if I switch from near to far sight a lot as of yet.  It's getting better, but I'm still adapting.  I've only had my glasses less than a week, so I was told it would get better after a week or two.  Here's hoping :).

So, what else have I been up to the last couple of weeks?

Well, I e-mailed the Center for AAC and Autism looking for a program that I could use to add LAMP icons to pages in a word processing program and make my own worksheets and books for speech therapy.  They got back to me and, lucky for me, gave me some links to free resources that I could use to make worksheets and books happen.  I haven't had the time to really mess with the program a lot yet, but I'm super happy to have access to it.

I got the kids' work samples into our contact teacher and Alvah's Special Education contact teacher for the first quarter of school and both teachers were very thrilled with everything sent in.  I have to say that it ends up being a ton of work for me to organize, photograph and describe everything that we did, but at the same time I'm happy that they are happy with the job we are doing.  So, yeah for that being done for the quarter!

And now, onto other money saving things that have gone on the last couple of weeks.

1.  My husband and I went yesterday and got our flu shots.  We get immunizations free through our insurance, so I was happy to get that done for the year :).  My mother-in-law was nice enough to come and keep the kids company while my husband and I went and got our shots, which was really awesome of her and much appreciated!

2.  We have been trying to figure out what to do for Halloween this year as most local events are completely canceled due to Covid.  We went to the recycling center this weekend to get rid of the tons of cardboard that conglomerate around here and we found that the recycling center is going to have a Haunted Trail outdoor event on Halloween, which we are thinking about going to as it is outside with social distancing protocols in place.  We'll then have Halloween treats that we'll make and have at home as well, so hopefully the kids won't feel too badly about missing out on Halloween fun.

3.  Using the free Lose It app on my phone to track my calories I'm consuming in a day, I'm steadily losing the weight I've been trying to get off for a while now.  Yay!

4.  My husband took my son out by himself one day and they went and got to play around on heavy equipment at my brother-in-laws and got to go run around a farm as well.  Alvah did awesome!  He was able to steer some vehicles and was even able to back up a mini-excavator my brother-in-law had all by himself.  I'm hopeful that maybe we finally found Alvah's autistic "obsession" and if it revolves around driving heavy equipment that, at least, can definitely translate into a job when he gets older.  I am, to say the least, thrilled :).

5.  I loaded the Amazon Music app on my phone and have been really enjoying listening to a bunch of albums that are available to listen to for free through Prime.  The daughter and I like to listen to music while doing schoolwork, so it has been a welcome change of pace to listen to some of the albums versus listening to the like three albums I've actually purchased over the years *laugh*.

6.  Amazon offered me a 3.00 giftcard for writing a brief review of a product that I'd purchased.  I took about ten minutes of my time, wrote the review and got the 3.00 credit applied to my account.  I combined that with a 10.00 gift card I got for redeeming some credit card rewards and some Amazon associate fees (thank you to everyone who orders through associate fees on the blog.  It really does help!) and was able to get a few Christmas gifts for the kids out of the way for not much out of pocket.  With how much prices are rising on things, I'm grateful for every penny to help pay for things :).

7.  I rearranged one of the bookcases by the loveseat in the living room that housed my cookbook collection and ended up moving my entire cookbook collection down into the den and moved the kids school books for the year upstairs.   This will allow us to be able to grab schoolwork and move about six feet to the kitchen table versus the daughter having to take numerous trips up and down the stairs with loads of books in her arms every day.  She's going through that awkward phase in development where she's really uncoordinated, so I REALLY didn't want her running up and down the stairs with heavy books in her arms and not being able to see well.  It was a lot of work getting everything shifted around, but I'm thankful to have it done :).

8.  We changed the filter on our water softener this weekend.  It was WAY overdue because of us not thinking about it, honestly, with all the earthquake stuff taking up our brain power.  Our water has HEAVY iron in it, so when my husband saw that the water in the salt tank was looking red, we knew it was way overdue to get the filter changed.  I'm glad to have that done and checked off of the "to do" list.  We only have to change the filter on the fridge and on the well once a year, so doing it in a timely fashion is definitely preferable.

9.  I put in a Subscribe and Save order with Amazon, taking advantage of sales they had for Prime Day to maximize my savings.  I ordered dish soap (we use Seventh Generation) as it isn't readily available at Carrs (which is my main store I shop at) and a few other things.  I was able to bury the five item threshold to get 15% off of your subscribe and save items so that should save me a bunch of money when the items ship at the end of the month.

10.  I was offered a code for ten free Christmas cards from Shutterfly.  I quickly went and designed the card and used the code to only pay 4.99 shipping on the cards.  Since this passes for me sending pictures of the kids to extended family, I was happy to get the cards out of the way earlier than I was expecting this year :).

11.  I had some recipes I really wanted to try.  Instead of paying out for expensive sauces and things, I went and found recipes for the sauces, found that I had nearly all the ingredients to make multiple sauces and all I had to order was a 5.00 spice versus spending a lot more than that ordering multiple sauces to make the recipes :).  

12.  For a fun Octoberfest type of meal I made soft pretzels, bratwurst and home made sauerkraut.  My husband loved the meal and I found that using Alton Brown's recipe for soft pretzels, but subbing out 1/2 of the flour for bread flour and then keeping the other 1/2 AP flour that the pretzels had the texture and crumb that I had been trying to get for years from the recipe.  I was super happy with the results and the husband has no problem taking leftovers to work for lunch, so double bonus!

And I'm going to call it good there.  I need to start worrying about getting dinner ready to go.  I hope you all had a great two weeks and are doing what you can to get through everything!

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Monthly Goals: October, 2020

The weather is getting colder every day here.  So far we've been barely above freezing at night, but this weekend it is supposed to start dipping into the freezing category.  So, it is time to start hunkering down and preparing for winter.  

This year I finally broke down and invested in some measures to help us insulate the windows and doors a bit better from cold breezes and things.  We've definitely noticed this year how badly some of the windows got shaken in the earthquake.  They were probably close to the best windows you could buy when they were installed.  Back in the early 80's.  Unfortunately, after the earthquake and just how old they are, we have windows that have gotten loose and lost their seals and as a result are just going to leak heat like nobody's business.  So, some of the goals I have this month are going to be centered around getting some insulation measures installed to hopefully help keep my heating bills down a bit this winter.  

I have accomplished a lot so far this month.  My husband has been getting on me to take better care of myself and to start getting health appointments out of the way.  So, despite the nerves and downright panic attack inducing levels of anxiety, I made myself a dental appointment for tomorrow for the first time in years.  To say I'm nervous about going is a vast understatement as I've had bad teeth since I was a kid (weak enamel combined with bad advice from my dad's dentist to brush more and I've had just continual fillings since I was like 12) and I just got my last dental bill paid off about a year ago.  So, yeah, I'm a yellow bellied coward when it comes to going to the dentist.  I'll admit it.  I'm also seeing a new dentist, one who works with our insurance and gives us a really good deal on procedures, so we'll see how it all goes.  Wish me luck there.

I also went and got my eyes tested this week as my glasses I bought just a couple of years ago, the frames aren't holding up well and I've been having problems reading more and more and getting eyestrain headaches.  So, I found out that my eyes had gotten worse (shocking, I tell you) and I decided after a lot of debate to get bifocals.  I was even able to get a good deal on progressive bifocals so I don't end up with the line through my glasses, which would drive me nuts.  Hopefully the new glasses work well and I stop getting so much eyestrain.

I got the speech therapy class for LAMP done already as well and have been spending a lot of days digging up speech therapy materials to start the son on next quarter (starts next week).  I laminated sheets, dug up old binders to use to sort and organize things, started to get learning materials for next quarter worked's been crazy busy on the home school front.

So, yeah, anyway, let's get down to the list of goals for this month before I walk through them all *laugh*.

Monthly Goals for October, 2020

Household/Organizing Goals:
  • Use insulation kits to insulate windows.
  • Put insulation strip under the garage doors and figure out what needs to be done to insulate around the garage doors.
  • Continue to reorganize kitchen (getting there ever, EVER so slowly)
  • Get den cleaned up
  • Start to reorganize bedroom so I can hopefully get it painted in the next couple of months (here's hoping as I really need the bedroom reorganized so I can fit the Christmas tree in the den somewhere!
  • Start to organize folders better (I need to start getting things better organized so I can find things easier)
  • Work on getting freezers organized a bit better to try and free up some space to put up lunches for the husband to grab (I am determined to cut down on spending this winter and hopefully keep from accumulating more debt, or, better yet, to hopefully pay off some debt as well).

Homeschool Goals:
  • Get a blog post together on the first quarter work we've done (I want to share some of the things that have worked for us and what we are doing around here to hopefully help others).
  • Start speech therapy activities in earnest with the son (here's hoping I can do this!)
  • Start making some personalized worksheets with LAMP icon sequences built into them to work into schoolwork (getting everything done that I need to get done with speech therapy has been a constant race of late to try and get as many ducks in a row as possible.  I've been insanely busy of late).
  • Find good places to put up laminated sheets detailing activity sequences with LAMP ties in in different rooms (I found ones that go in the kitchen, bedroom, by the door for when you go someplace and in the bathroom, so I want to get those hung up).
  • Make Halloween craft with the kids (more on that a bit later if it turns out)
  • Finalize plans on crafts to do for Thanksgiving (I'm planning a bunch of pioneer types of activities for the kids to do for fun.  I'm really looking forward to it!).
  • Get work samples in for both kids this weekend (they are due next week).
  • Figure out grades for both kids for quarter and get those submitted to the homeschool
  • Go to speech therapy appointment at the end of the month to touch base with the homeschool speech therapist.
Diet Goals:
  • Continue on diet and keep my calorie counts at or below what "Lose It" tells me I should be at.  Drink plenty of water (so far I've completely given up everything but coffee in my diet, otherwise I'm just drinking water, so I think I'm doing okay so far :).

Gift Giving Goals:
  • Get the rest of the husband's Christmas gifts in and get them hidden well (he's terrible about being able to just stumble across gifts you get him and inadvertently ruin the surprise).  
  • Get two gifts planned for husband made.  I was able to do check this one off this week.  Shutterfly had a code for 50% off plus free shipping on most of their stuff.  I did the math and found that the 50% off code plus the free shipping actually saved me more money then waiting for a free item code and having to pay the shipping on the item (shipping to Alaska isn't cheap what can I say).  I had spent months trying to find what my husband wanted in the way of a couple of coffee mugs with some of his favorite things on them, but I couldn't find anything even close.  So, I just made the mugs instead.  Hopefully they turned out okay (they got shipped, but won't be in until next week).
  • Make skirts for the daughter.  I want to make her one for each day of the week for Christmas as she loves to wear skirts (unlike me *laugh*), but this is going to hinge on me getting the den cleaned up and being able to access my sewing machine (which is currently buried under stuff *sigh*).
  • Continue to try and figure out what to make for the son for Christmas.
Paperwork Goals:
  • Get phone interview with Department of Disabilities out of the way (for the son's TEFRA renewal)
  • Keep on top of insurance paperwork
  • Organize paperwork that have filled out so far for 2020 (I have it just kind of piled right now)
And there you go folks.  Some of my goals for this month.  Unfortunately, it seems like things keep coming up and I end up having to add more and more to my goals list, so we'll see how long it grows to in the weeks to come.  How about you?  Getting ready for winter?  Up to anything around your place?

Friday, October 2, 2020

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap (Times 2)


It has been so busy the last couple of weeks, I honestly can't believe it's just been two weeks have passed.

So, what have I been up to?

Well, there is homeschool of course.  That's been taking  up a goodly amount of time.

1.  Then I went and got the kids their flu vaccinations (they are covered by insurance, so I'm counting that as a frugal savings, really :).

2.  I took a six hour online course in LAMP Words For Life via Zoom last week.  It has been more than a few years since I had to take an actual class on something, so having to get up at 4am to complete a six hour course that started at 5am was, in a word, rough.  But, I got a bunch of valuable information from the course and am also getting a manual on LAMP as part of taking the course, so I am completely happy with the money I spent on the course and have already implemented some of the tips the course covered and have found they are helping Alvah navigate the program better.  Like I said, completely worth it!

3.  The color printer and new I-Pad mini (to use as a new talker for the son) that I was able to order through the homeschool came in and we picked those up when we went in for Alvah's first speech therapy e-val with the homeschool.  I was really, really impressed with the speech therapist that works through the homeschool and can't wait to work further with her.  I haven't had that in depth of an interview on communication since we got Alvah diagnosed with autism through the neuro-psychologist when we was two!

4.  We attended the "Special Edition" of the fall festival at our local U-Pick farm.  It was an outdoor event and people were really great about keeping proper social distancing and things.  Even the special needs kids were actually really well behaved about leaving people their personal bubbles since they had so much room to run around and all kinds of different activities to do.  We had a blast and I'm so glad the weather cooperated this year.  I was even able to run into a friend of mine who was volunteering at a food booth that I hadn't "seen" in years (we talk via Facebook from time to time, but hadn't seen each other in ages).  I'm so glad we were able to go as the kids really needed to get out and do something for a change.

5.  Covid has finally started going through my husband's workplace and as a result of possible exposure (the husband has been really careful to wear a mask and keep that social distance between him and others) through a contractor the husband went and got his first Covid test.  Luckily it came back negative, which was a relief as I have a couple of appointments next week (dentist and eye doctor) and was worried about the results.

6.  It turns out that the Clonodine the son was on might not have been helping him to sleep any more, but it was controlling his Pica (eating non-food items) as the more he came off of the Clonodine's effects the worse the Pica was getting.  So, I rescheduled his appointment with his psychiatrist and got in for an early appointment day before yesterday and we both decided it was best to put him back on the Clonodine just for the sake of calming him down and helping with the Pica.  He took some Clonondine last night and so far today we are doing good, so I'm hoping that the medication at least helps him with that aspect of his autism as Pica is a really worrisome condition.

7.  I started using the app "Lose It" and loaded it onto my phone.  It is a dieting program that helps you count calories and does the equations for you to help you lose weight in a given amount of time.  I on the one pound a week program and am working on losing 20 pounds (15 of which I gained when I went on Valtrex and Prednisone with the staph infection last year and just can't seem to lose no matter how hard I try).  I do well with structure when dieting, so I'm finding the app really cool and am doing well at it so far.  The only diet I've been on before this was the low carb/diabetic diet when pregnant, so this is a COMPLETELY different way of dieting that I'm having to get used to.  I'm getting there, but am still fighting the knee jerk reaction that I shouldn't eat bread because it has this many carbs in it, even though calorie wise it really isn't that bad to eat a sandwich *laugh*.

8.  I used some free computer paper that my husband was given by a friend who was moving a while back to print off a TON of speech therapy materials for the son.  I bought some LAMP materials through Teachers Pay Teachers and one of the things I bought was vocabulary cards that you could use and there was over 100 pages of cards to print off.  I am looking forward to using the cards one at a time to start to teach the son some basic vocabulary on LAMP starting next week (at the same time we start quarter 2 work with him :).  

I also printed off an online user manual for LAMP that walks through how to customize the program as needed.  I'm going to take some old binders we have around the house and use our three hole punch to make a couple of books out of the materials for our new, more intensive, speech therapy sessions.  Here's hoping the son takes it well and we start to make some progress!

9.  Since the earthquake I've been buying non-stick cooking spray because my Misto bottle got smashed and punctured during the event.  I finally, after spending too much money on bottles with too little spray in them, broke down and ordered a new oil spray bottle from Amazon.  It should be in Monday, so hopefully that'll work out well and I'll be able to save some money not having to buy cooking spray.

10.  I rearranged the kitchen, finally.  I tried to draft it out beforehand, but the husband was always too busy to help me and honestly I suck at drafting, so I finally just rearranged it one day last week.  It isn't perfect, but it is a start.  I was able to weed out a bunch of different dishes we don't use anymore (like toddler cups and things that just end up getting buried in the back of the cabinets), really condense down my plastic cups and dishes (now that Alvah is better about not smashing things on other things I've switched him more to glass plates as I like them better) and just hopefully help things to fit better.  So far, so good.  I'll take pictures of the finished project when I get a few moments.

11.  I watched a ton of new things on Amazon that were free with Prime to watch since the son wasn't sleeping at all.  

12.  I started the process of renewing the son's TEFRA insurance for another year.  They gave me little to no time to get the paperwork in, so I e-mailed it to our Care Coordinator and asked her to send it in via secured e-mail (it gets time stamped that way).  I then asked why we needed to fill out the paperwork as Medicaid was supposed to be extended six months, at least by the letter the Medicaid office sent out at the beginning of quarantine.  Turns out that while one branch of the government with TEFRA is extending out six months, another branch isn't, so be sure to check in with your care coordinators if you have federal Medicaid disability insurance to make sure everything is kosher, folks!

13.  I started making a list of monthly goals for October (there's actually quite a few).  I'm hoping to finish it tonight and post it up in the next couple of days.

14.  I was offered a ton of bonus reward points at Carrs if I spent so much in one shopping trip.  With all of the different bonus rewards, and the fact that we aren't going very many places right now, I needed to redeem some rewards before they expired.  I redeemed enough rewards to get 7.00 off of my next shopping trip.  I used the 7.00 to help pay toward produce purchases we made last week.  

15.  Instead of turning the heat on in my bedroom at night, I just threw another blanket on the bed instead.  So far it's working to keep us warm enough at night and will hopefully 

16.  There was a sale on squash last week for .99 lb for different varieties of squash.  I was able to get two delicata squash for cheap.  After trying different varieties of squash last year I found that I really liked this type of squash, so I was thrilled to get a couple of them to roast later on.

I also took advantage of a sale this week and got 6 cans of Lindsay olives for .99 per can.  It was a maximum of 6, but since the regular price on olives at the moment is kind of crazy, I was happy to get some cans for a decently cheap price.

17.  The store stopped carrying Rockit apples or they are out of season, out of stock, or something.  These are my husband's favorite snack to take to work, so I am going to work on baking and cooking different things for the husband to take to work with him over the weekend.  Hopefully I can keep him stocked up on snacks and meals so that he doesn't feel the need to eat out, as that derails our budget really fast.

18.  We decorated for Halloween using decorations we have saved throughout the years that the kids have made or things I bought on clearance for cheap in the past (such as the Halloween wood decoration seen at the top of the blog post).  We are now very festive and ready for the Halloween holiday.

Oh, and speaking of Halloween, a few people have e-mailed me and asked for suggestions on what to do for Halloween since Trick or Treating and large gatherings are out in their area due to restrictions and what not.  Personally, we are going to have a "Sleepy Hollow" themed Halloween party around here, based on the foods and fun that the characters in the Disney version of "Ichabod Crane" was feasting on at the Halloween party (I need to try and afford a few slices of ham by Halloween *laugh*).  I'm going to read (or the husband is, depending on who the kids want to read to them) "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", the original one by Washington Irving, and other festive things.  I think the kids will have a lot of fun and we don't have to worry about going anywhere :).

And there you go folks.  A few things I've been up to the last few weeks (and believe me there is more, but that's at least a portion of it).  I'm tired, really tired, but feeling like things are starting to get accomplished and I'm getting more of a handle on things.  Here's hoping!

Friday, September 18, 2020

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap

 Well, fall is officially here, it seems.  The temperatures at night are going down into the upper thirties (Fahrenheit that is), the leaves are falling from the trees at a rapid rate, and the furnace is now on pretty much full time.  

It has been a week of things breaking.  I dug out the pan that I normally roast our turkey at Thanksgiving in (it's like a 10x15 pan versus the 9x13s that I have in my cabinet) to move it to clean the spot it was in.  I somehow managed to drop a Pyrex baking dish, on carpet, in a way that shattered old reliable.  So, I bought a new roasting pan this week.  At least this one is metal and I can use it for chicken and things as well as for the turkey (the old pan was so big that really the only time I ever dug it out was at Thanksgiving).  The cheap cooling racks I bought at Denali Dollar years ago (it was kind of like our 1.00+ store in Wasilla for a while) started to rust.  They were never great quality to begin with, but I do use them all the time and I don't want rust in my baked goods, so I ended up having to get a new set of cooling racks from Amazon (I got a two pack for like 13.00 which seemed to be the best deal for ones people said didn't rust and were decent quality).  The son sat on the cloth box that I was using in his room for a hamper and he not only flattened it but managed to break all the spot welds on the thing, so after many years of service I had to call it quits for that and I'm hoping I can keep on top of the laundry so I can keep his room hamper free for now.  A fuel pump went in a vehicle and we had to replace it.  The DVD player in Alvah's room died (thank goodness I had a spare one that worked that I could grab).  The husband had to build a support system to help the mattress platform sit flat in the son's bed (which yay that worked good).  It's been kind of crazy around here.  My dad always said that things broke in threes, but we buried that number for sure this last week.  

So, yeah, money saving wasn't really too successful this week.  We did have a few silver linings though, so let's get to those.

1.  We finally got an appointment to get Alvah evaluated by the speech therapist that works through our homeschool.  Bright side to this is she'll be teaching ME how to teach Alvah, so hopefully between that and the classes and books I'm reading I might be able to hopefully help him to better to communicate with us.  I'll be so happy if that happens.

2.  I was able to buy 20 lbs of potatoes from our local farm that our CSA box was through.  Man the last box they gave us was awesome!  I ended up with two pumpkins (one is really green, so I'm not sure if that'll ripen or what, but if nothing else we can carve it at Halloween.  The other pumpkin is a white pumpkin, which I've never bought one of those before so that was cool), russet potatoes, tomatoes, honey, apples, broccoli, beets, carrots, lettuce, turnips and collards.  It was a great way to end a really cool experience.  

I was kind of nervous about buying the potatoes.  I put in my order in good faith and was just waiting for the amount when I picked them up because no one e-mailed me back when I asked for prices per pound.  I got 20 lbs of red potatoes for 20.00.  At 1.00 per pound for farm fresh potatoes...I was happy let's put it that way :).  I currently have them sitting loosely in a cardboard box under the coffee table in the den to dry out and cure (I'm mixing them to dry them on all sides) as they came directly from the farm covered in mud, so they definitely needed to cure and dry out before storing them.  Between them and the drawer full of "new potato" type of russets I have filling my crisper drawer in the fridge, I'm hoping to be well set on potatoes for a while :).

I pulled out an old waxed cardboard box that was used to store potatoes from a previous year when I bought some through another farm in Palmer and I'll reuse that box to store the new potatoes in.  Hopefully, if I can store them right, they'll last me well into winter.  Fingers crossed.

3.  We got approval to get Alvah a new talker through the homeschool and I was able to get in contact with the man in charge of technology orders and get in our order for the I-Pad mini.  It should be waiting for us at the office when we go in for the speech therapy evaluation next week.  I'm so relieved, honestly, as having to buy a new I-Pad mini so the son would have a portable talker was going to be expensive no matter how it was cut, so being able to use his educational funding for it was a real boon.

4.  Homeschool, speaking of which, is going well with Alvah.  I'm really happy with him so far this year.  He's enjoying me reading "The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood" to him (he has never sat still while I read anything to him before now, so it has been great for me), his hand writing is slowly getting smaller and better and he's tolerating the bits he doesn't like a LOT better.  He's biting apples when I hold one up to his mouth, he's really enjoying watching us cook and bake (which it is really great watching him show interest in things) and yeah...I'm happy :).

5.  I finally got the pantry better organized and I think it'll work well for this winter.  I'll try and take pictures here soon and give a quick update on how we are going into winter and what my thought processes are on what I bought and why, so if you are interested stay tuned for that.

6.  I started to take measurements of my kitchen cabinets.  Why?  Well, since the earthquake my kitchen cabinets don't work, like organization-wise.  I ended up having a bunch of stuff come down off the top of the cabinets after the quake to save what was left of my glass items from getting broken in the many aftershocks.  Tons of stuff broke and a bunch of it I couldn't get replacements for, or I couldn't get near the same item as the items I was using weren't made anymore and weren't exactly easy to find (and if I had found replacements, since the items that broke were "vintage" and popular with collectors, it would have cost me a FORTUNE to replace them with similar items).  I've rearranged my cabinets about, on, ten times (at least) since the earthquake and each time I've made the spaces in the kitchen work worse (somehow).  So, instead of tearing apart the kitchen, again, and organizing the cabinets this way and that, I decided I'm just going to draft it all out and organize the cabinets that way and THEN put everything in its place when done.  If it worked for Julia Child I figure it can work for me *laugh*.  

This will be an experience for me.  You are looking at the woman who was only able to pass drafting with a "C" in high school by being good at making an ellipse in a three dimensional cube and doing those plans over and over and over again (my art teacher loved me though as I was able to make him a very nice series of templates for ellipse shaped mat frames for different art projects *laugh*).  But, yeah, me and three dimensional drawing/drafting?  Not something that I was good at to say the least.  Hopefully, my brain will get it this time ;).

7.  I just wanted to highly recommend to anyone the LEAST bit curious about the Norwegian countries and interesting tidbits about their traditions, how they speak (turn of phrase and things), etc. this newsletter I found online.  I was on Amazon (of course) looking at different cookbooks last Christmas to see what fun things I could find to do with the kids for our "Christmas Around the World" unit I put together and I stumbled across a series of cookbooks that were written by the owner of a restaurant called "ScandiKitchen".  I signed up for their newsletter mainly as a lark, but I actually really ENJOY getting the newsletter in my inbox every week and find it extremely entertaining.  Really!  I know, getting a online newsletter and being happy to get it seems kind of odd, but really it is a lot of fun.

You can go to their website HERE to sign up.  It is one of those entertaining oddball things I've found that are free to do, so I thought I'd share :).

8.  We made the apple cider donuts from the Raddish box this week.  I put them in a "fancy" box that I had to make them a bit more special.  I was, sadly, kind of underwhelmed by them.  I was hoping that they would be really apple tasting since the main liquid was apple cider, but instead, as my husband put it, "they taste like carrot cake a bit".  They weren't bad, don't get me wrong, they just weren't great.  The recipe called for cinnamon and nutmeg as the two main spices in the recipe and I found that the nutmeg just kind of overwhelmed everything else (at least to me).  I want to try again with some different recipes and see if I can find ones that are closer to the apple cider donuts I remember from my youth apple picking in New England :).

I did find that my husband would bring breakfast to work with him this way, though, so I'm seriously thinking of trying some different recipes so he'll bring food with him in the morning.  He goes to work really early, so things like donuts and other things that will keep for a while before he eats them are ideal so he can wake up fully before eating.  If I can get him to take food with him he's less likely to buy breakfast foods while at work which will definitely save us money as anything at the airport, as anyone who has been to an airport knows, is super expensive.

We doubled the recipe to practice our fractions and I sent in a half dozen with my husband to work to share with his co-workers.  His team really enjoyed them, so hey at least there's that :).

And, yeah, I think there are some things I'm forgetting, but those are definitely the major ones that happened the last bit.  How about you guys?  Things been going okay for you?