Friday, April 30, 2021

Frugal Friday(s): Money Saving Weekly Recap

 As stated in my previous post, things have been busy around here of late.   A mixed bag, per usual, but there are some frugal things to report, which is nice!

Warning:  This post is going to be long, for obvious reasons (passage of time and all *laugh*).

First, thanks to Sensadyne and time, my tooth is feeling better, so that is definitely something good to report!  Next up, let's get to the frugal stuff!

1.  Now that we aren't buried under a goodly amount of snow, my husband and I decided it was time to start working on things around the house.  So, we went out to our storage van and decided it was time to start cleaning that out and getting rid of things we don't use anymore, and (for me) it was also an opportunity to look for things in random boxes that I haven't seen since we moved and had been looking for.  We pulled in the dollhouse my grandfather made for me when I was a young child and my daughter and I have been working on fixing it up (the freeze and thaw over the years with the humidity on top of it, wasn't overly kind to the poor thing, so it has needed some repairs), but I also went looking for household things I haven't seen in years. 

And for once, I found some of them!!!

I pulled in some random boxes that looked like they held household things and went through them.  I was able to find my French bread/baguette pan (woot!), my egg holder (which, with my small amount of countertop has come in super handy when baking so I don't have an entire dozen eggs sitting on the counter at one time and I can wash it afterwards, which is super handy as well), and the pewter salad bowl that my sister-in-law gave me as a gift years ago and I've always found it to be so pretty.  Note:  This is modern pewter, made past the point that pewter contained lead, so I don't worry about using it :).  It took some scrubbing to get the tarnish off of the bowl, but I did it and then I went over it with a coating of cooking oil just to see if I could hold off the tarnish for a while.  I put the egg holder and the bowl on the shelf above my sink and just moved my coffee and sugar bowl back to their places on my counter.  Not totally ideal, but it was the one spot I could find to put them where they would be handy, but out of the way.  I was also able to dig out the accessories for my Viking immersion blender (which is nice for a back up if my electric mixer bites the big one or something) and got those cleaned up and stored with their main counterpart.

Speaking of scrubbing, I was down in my furnace area (I'm gutting my den to redo's a complete disaster of bags of boxes going to different spots right now, so no picture, but yeah...I've been busy) and FINALLY figured out where in the heck I had stored my cast iron Dutch oven!  My mother-in-law gave me it as a Christmas gift years ago, but I rarely used it compared to other pots and pans, so I ended up putting it in storage when we moved into our current house as I didn't have room for it in my kitchen.  Well, since the earthquake, I have more room than I used to and I really want to start trying my hand at making no-knead bread, so I pulled it out of storage and scrubbed a LOT of old oil and things off of it, re-seasoned it and then put it on my stove for the time being.  I'm going to try and find a better spot for it, but the one cabinet where I had planned to store it...the bottom is bowing and I didn't want to add that much weight to it, so I'll have to think of "plan b" here.

2.  On the "mixed" end of things, I was making coffee one morning last week and heard a dripping sound from under my kitchen sink, which is NEVER a good sound.  I opened the cabinet and found that the sprayer for my sink was actively leaking down into the cabinet.  It had been dripping for a while, but I had been trying to mitigate it by doing a few tricks to the sprayer when I'd use it to stop the thing from leaking.  Obviously, my luck had warn off in that area.  I had bought a under the sink shelf to try out in the kitchen cabinet to see if I could find things under it better and hopefully stop the middle of the cabinet from caving in (it's the one sink cabinet that hasn't been replaced and it is a MESS.  At some point every sink leaked bad in this house and the previous owners to "fix" the problem had put a fake bottom over the rotten bottom of the cabinet instead of actually fixing under the kitchen sink in the back has never been good since we moved in), but I quickly realized that the shelf wasn't going to work.  The cabinet is just too caved in and warped and bowing everywhere that a shelf wasn't going to sit right.  So, I ended up getting a box and putting any cleaning things in it that weighed anything much and put it downstairs in the laundry room and then, after my husband installed the new sprayer, put things back in the cabinet at the front of the cabinet only as much as possible to stop the weight from caving the cabinet in worse in the back.  It turned out decently well and will hopefully see us through until we can afford to redo the kitchen.

I did figure out a kind of neat little thing to put under the sink.  I had been trying to figure out how to get my scrubbing brushes and things up and off the floor of my cabinet and decided to repurpose the metal container I used to put on the back of the sink to hold my sponge and dish soap.  I took an old, very cheap, over the door wreath hanger and just bent it over the cabinet and then worked it into the metal slats of the container to hold it stable.  Worked like a charm and then I filled it up with my straw brushes, my cast iron chain mail cleaning thingy and my scrubbing brush.  I was even able to use some old rice measuring cups that I had in a drawer (more on that organization later) and repurposed them to hold my potato scrubbing brush and the straw brushes and things.  I found a spot to hang my rubber gloves where they will be out of the way of things and threw my floor scrubbing brush in for good measure.  I was happy how it turned out.

3. This one is kind of cute and I just had to share.  My kids are really into the movie "My Neighbor Totoro" right now.  One of the things I found in my random boxes from storage was some old sandwich cutters of various shapes that I had bought years ago when I was trying to do bento boxes for my daughter and trying to get both kids to eat sandwiches (I've had limited success with the daughter over the years, but neither kid has gotten into sandwiches like I did when I was a kid, unfortunately).  I decided to wash them all in the dishwasher and find room to store them in the house just because I didn't want to put them back out into storage.  I had put them out to dry and I heard my daughter say all excited, "Mom!  I didn't know we had a Totoro cookie cutter!"  I blinked in confusion and then looked over her shoulder to see what she was looking at.  

Turns out she was looking a a Millennium Falcon sandwich cutter I had gotten with a lunch box for like 2.00 on Williams Sonoma years and years ago and had never used.  But, she was looking at it vertically, not horizontally and she was right.  It did look like Totoro like that!  Here, I'll show you...

Millennium Falcon.


I have since laughed a lot at this as it reminds me of that painting where you look at it one way and it's a face and then if you look at it another you see a vase. 

So, yeah, we made Totoro cookies yesterday (and frog cookies as I found my big frog cookie cutter in storage too and had to use it...I collect cute frog things, so I was thrilled to find it *laugh*).  Next time I really want to do a more decorative icing on the cookies so I can draw the face and details as I think it will look really cool, but yeah...we have Totoro cookies *laugh*.  My daughter is thrilled.

4.  I was trying to figure out different ways to use up the shelf stable/UHT milk we have around the house as we bought a bunch during quarantine last year to help pump up our milk supply in case we couldn't get much fresh milk (which that milk did come in handy from time to time for sure).  I've been using it for baking, but I wanted more ideas.  I was online and found out that the shelf stable milk makes quick and easy homemade yogurt as you don't have to do the "heat milk to this temperature and then wait for it to cool to this temperature before adding your yogurt culture to it" finicky steps as the milk is already pre-sterilized.  So, I took a carton, put it in my electric pressure cooker, mixed in about a 1/2 cup of yogurt (live and active cultured, remember that part!) and let her rip for 10 hours on the yogurt cycle. 

 I then took the very loose yogurt that resulted and strained it overnight in the fridge and what came out was really delicious, smooth, not overly tangy, Greek style yogurt!  

I saved the whey, of which there was a lot (I ended up with a pint of yogurt at the end) and used it to bake bread and make waffles one night.   I'm using the yogurt for a bunch of different purposes, like I used it in a dressing that called for sour cream the other day and then used it to make gyro sauce as well for dinner the other night.  Delicious and so darned easy!!!

5.  I have mended a LOT the last month.  I took my yellow comforter from my bed that I love dearly and mended tons and tons of tears in it (including the above tear which was about 18" long.  My plan, now that I've finally started to dig out my sewing table in the den, is to attach some loops to it and make the comforter into a duvet and then make a duvet cover out of some sheets I found at the used store.  Here's hoping it works out alright as I really do love the weight of the comforter and things, but it needs to be protected from further damage as much as possible.

6.  This one was quite the interesting screw up.  I was baking some blueberry muffins.  Nothing too extraordinary about that.  My daughter was helping me, which ended up being a Godsend for me as I suddenly hear, "Mom, why did you double the milk?"  And I was like, "What?" double checked the recipe and yeah...I won't go into what I said after that as it wasn't pretty.  I had, indeed, doubled the milk in the recipe like a dumb nut.  The worst part, for me, was that if I tossed the lot and started over again I'd be wasting a good two sticks of butter because that is what the original recipe called for.  So, I, after some debate, decided to double the recipe.  One small hiccup in that was that the original recipe makes 24 muffins!  So, yeah, to make sure the baking powder didn't die while waiting for things to bake, I made 2 dozen muffins, a dozen baked blueberry "donuts" that I later covered in lemon glaze (minus a few in the picture as my husband ate a few pre-glaze) and a blueberry bread loaf.  The blueberry loaf didn't turn out so great as by the time the middle cooked all the way (the dough for the recipe is very dense), the bottom burned and stuck a bit.  I ended up cutting off the bottom of the loaf and put it and most of the muffins into the freezer to eat later.  The donuts we ate right away.  The donuts turned out good anyway, which I was happy with and now we have muffins for a while that we can just grab out of the freezer and go.  But, yeah, that was an interesting day to say the least *laugh*.  

The lesson?  One, don't bake when exhausted and two, read twice measure once or you might end up with some interesting culinary results *laugh*.

7.  Let's talk the yearly Monopoly game shall we?  I decided at the beginning of Monopoly season this year that I wasn't going to really "play" the game as I didn't have time to mess with it, and frankly, I didn't really have the energy either.  Fate, however, had other plans.  One day when I went to the store last week the cashier was FAST pulling out those tickets and shoving them into my bag before I even knew he did it, so I went and opened the tickets and played the tickets I had.  I was kind of shocked at how much I won with a mere 13 tickets.  Then, I went online to put coupons on my card for the week and found that I was offered some E-Coupons for a free container of croissants from the bakery and a free bag of organic frozen pot stickers (I didn't take a picture of the pot stickers as they are a load bearing bag in my downstairs freezer now and I didn't want a broken toe to take a picture *laugh*).

So, yeah, last week I ended up with a free bottle of Ibuprofen, a free container of hamburger buns, a free box of tissues, a free spice mix packet (which I didn't pick up as all they had was taco seasoning, which I don't need) and I won 2.00 off of my next shopping trip.  

I also picked up my free pot stickers and my free croissants.  I froze the croissants in their original shell case and then pulled them out today, pulled three our for breakfast tomorrow and then put them in groups of three in freezer bags.  I then put the bags back into the original croissant container and put it back into the freezer so that the croissants will have a decent amount of protection from getting beat up in the freezer.  I'll pull them out 3 at a time so the husband, daughter and I will have enough for breakfast.  That way they won't go bad on us (the son won't eat them, so I'm going with groups of three versus four) and they'll be readily available to grab for a "fancy" breakfast in the coming month or so.

Yesterday, I asked my husband to stop off at the store on his way home from work and pick up groceries.  He ended up with 96 tickets since it is the last week of the Monopoly game.  So, I went cross eyed last night inputing codes online and opening tickets.  We actually won quite a bit, most of which I can actually use (which is always nice), so I'll have to see if I can make it to the store to get the son's prescription this weekend and see how many freebies I can grab before the game officially ends.

8.  I took advantage of the Cinco De Mayo sales going on this week at Carrs to get limes and avocados super cheap.  The avocados I'm going to cut in half, treat with acid, food saver and put them into the freezer to use for dinners later.  We don't use a HUGE amount of avocados, so splitting them in half will be perfect portioning for us and this way I won't have to pay the normally high prices for avocados just to make guacamole or put slices on a sandwich!

The limes I'll use to make Brazilian Lemonade as we really love that as a summertime drink.

9.  While watching some of my favorite Japanese and Korean vlogs, I found a neat recipe for preserving lemons in honey.  I had a good personalized price on lemons and had plenty of honey in food storage, so I decided to give "honey lemon pickles" a shot.  Basically, you scrub off the wax from the lemons, slice them into slices, remove the seeds and then stack them alternatively into a jar with layers of honey covering them.  You then store them in the fridge for at least a week before eating and they'll keep for about six months in the fridge.  It was a perfect solution for me as I LOVE lemons, but always end up buying too many and scramble to use them before they go bad on me.

I have to say that I am in love with the lemon pickles!  I have been fighting allergies something fierce with all of the cleaning and things I'm doing, so I've been putting a few slices of the lemons into a cup of tea and it helps a raw throat and a congested head SO much!  And just putting some into a glass with some sparkling water makes an awesome drink!

I also stumbled across a vlogger who puts her nuts in a jar and covers them with honey and just leaves them out on the counter to use on ice cream and things.  I, who am forced to buy peanut free nuts in bulk online (as that is the only way to get them in a lot of cases) was intrigued, so I went and looked into it and found that preserving nuts in honey pretty much preserves them indefinitely and is a good way to store them.  So, I made up a few jars of walnuts (after roasting them) and a jar of pecans in the honey.  Oh my GOSH are these good!  I have been eating them on yogurt in the morning with some fruit and things and all I can say is "YUM!".

10.  I have been managing to plan my meals so that I'm am sure to use up all left overs one way or the other.  Like the other night I took leftover hamburgers (I've been grilling a lot now that the sun is out and the snow is gone, which I am thrilled about *laugh*), crumbled them up and threw them into spaghetti sauce.  The family was happy with it and I was happy that I didn't end up throwing away two leftover hamburgers :).

And, yeah, I'm going to leave it there as it is getting late and I have other household stuff to do, but, yeah, I've been busy and I have to say I'm pleased with a lot of it.  How about you?  Been up to anything lately?

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Spring Cleaning and Reorganizing (A Recap So Far)

April showers bring May flowers.  Or so the saying goes.  

And yet, we awoke to the first day of April to snow, which got worse as the week progressed and we ended up with a pretty significant quantity of snow.  And it got COLD, going down to below zero at night.  My electric bill alone is insane.  I don't want to know what my gas bill is going to be like next month.  Bright side, Monday rolled around and suddenly the temperatures started to go up around here.  By next week we have one day that is even calling for it to be in the 60s!  I am thrilled as honestly I'm so over winter at this point and just want Break Up to officially be here.  We went out sledding over the weekend when I realized that we finally had enough snow, it hadn't blown away and we were looking at it melting this week and the kids had a lot of fun, especially the daughter.  This week the kids are getting a kick out of playing outside and running around on the bare patches of ground where the snow has melted off.  Crazy weather.

 It has been, once again, hectic around here.  First there was the drama around my tooth.  I got my permanent cap on around three weeks ago and while the temporary cap was just fine, the permanent one has been giving me grief from the moment I got it on.  Hot liquid especially would make me jump in pain and it seemed like it was getting worse.  So, I ended up back at the dentist a few weeks ago trying to figure out if I needed a root canal or what.  The dentist, after various tests, assured me my roots on the X-ray looked fine and what he thought was going on was that when they were messing around putting the permanent cap on they had scraped away all of the material that I had protecting my weak enamel on my tooth (I've always had weak enamel) and I was basically dealing with an overly exposed nerve because my tooth was over sensitive.  They painted on a de-sensitizing agent onto my tooth to help it to start to heal and told me to start using Sensadyne toothpaste.  It has helped, but the stuff they painted on my tooth wore off as of yesterday, so I'm in pain again on and off.  Bright side, hot liquids aren't lighting me up as badly as they were, but now cold sensations, especially sucking cold air, does not feel pleasant, we'll just say that.  Between that and still battling the after effects of being sick...I have been better.

The husband ended up back at the doctors, this time for his neck giving him grief and he was diagnosed with tension headaches and is on a mild muscle relaxant as needed.  It does seem to help him, so I'm glad of that anyway.

But, yeah, it has been a bit of a challenge around here.  

Despite it all, though, I HAVE been getting stuff done around here.  Actually, some of it is kind of neat, so let's get to that.

I originally planned to put this in a Frugal Friday Recap, but we've been up to so much around here and it just gets busier, that the post would be about 20 pages long, so I figured I'd show you guys some of the things we've been doing around the house as we wait for the weather to finally show us Spring.

Despite the fact that there is still snow outside, the light continues to come back around here, so I've really gotten into Spring cleaning and organizing the happens every year, but this year it does seem to be a super potent need for me...probably because we have been in the house for basically a year and so everything just starts to get to you after a while.

First, let's start with the living room.  I got tired of the living room as there always seemed to not be enough room for all four of us to sit comfortably and it seemed like the daughter was always taking refuge back in her room and not wanting to sit and watch a movie as she always seemed to move to the floor to watch something.  So, I decided that the den is going to become a activity room for things that are more PE related (I'll get more into that later) and I would move the chairs that were in the den to the living room so we could use the additional seating.  Turns out the son LOVES the grey chairs and pretty much takes them up himself, but everyone else doesn't mind as we can sit elsewhere.

I have been working hard at accumulating credit card rewards the last year or so and now that the cards are pretty much paid off due to the recent stimulus payment (I had to put things like a medical bill on my husband's card, my Amazon Prime renewed that I had forgotten about and such, so there is some things on them again), so I have worked on paying off one credit card completely every month and then use that card to pay the utilities and things, so that we can quickly accumulate rewards.  When your electric bill is about 400.00 at the moment due to winter not giving up...yeah that adds up quickly. 

Anyway, one of the things I purchased with credit card rewards (well after redeeming said rewards for Amazon giftcards) was to get an I-Pad charging station for the living room so I could get the tablets out of my kitchen.  I LOVE it!  It is so nice to not be tripping over charging cords all the time and having a place for the tablets to plug in that is out of the way of me cooking and things.

Next, I tackled the kitchen.  I have become addicted to various vlog channels on YouTube the last few months, mainly a South Korean vlogger whose channel is Nyangsoop because I love her style of vlogging and I love the warmth of her home and kitchen.  I really have become a fan of channels like hers due to lack of vocal communication and quiet backgrounds, so I can just read the subtitles and enjoy the neat cooking segments and stuff while sitting with the TV turned way down at night waiting for the son to settle down and go to bed.  While watching her channel and other Asian vloggers, I started to really get some good tips on how to make my small kitchen run more efficiently.  I watched pretty much every American video on how to better organize a small kitchen and got nothing, I repeat nothing, out of them (no offense to DIY stations, just modern kitchens don't really help me organize my 1970's style kitchen), so it was great to me to run into things that actually gave me some good ideas as I am always striving to make things work more efficiently around here.

Note:  The following do not contain associate links, but I am linking to some product pages.  I'm just sharing.  If you would like to support the blog, feel free to click on the link to Amazon on the right hand side of the blog (you may need to turn off your ad blockers to see it) and order things after clicking through to Amazon from there.  I will receive a small commission for sending the sale Amazon's way if you order through the link.  Thanks if you do :).

I have been working on picking things up slowly over the last bit and just using reward points and things to pay for it.  With the exception of the chairs.  The kitchen chairs went onto my Amazon card, but were needed.  I just found that our one wood chair that the daughter was sitting in was in need of replacement and a much less intense job than what it was dealing with day in and day out with kitchen table duty combined with homeschool.  My father-in-law has always had this bad habit of tipping back in chairs when he would sit in them and he is NOT a light guy.  He managed to break one of our kitchen chairs years ago and that is why we had the metal framed chair since the kids were very small and the other one he managed to crack, but it was managing to hold together with some maintenance help from wood glue.  But, I did my six month check up on the chair for Spring cleaning and found that the crack was getting worse.  Since the table set used to be my husband's grandparents set, has sentimental value for my husband (and honestly I love the maple furniture myself, not to mention I had a lot of affection for his grandparents), the last thing I wanted to do was to break that chair.  

So, I went on Amazon and put a two pack of kitchen chairs on my credit card  after looking around everywhere I could find trying to find a replacement for our old chairs (turns out the company that made our table set declared bankruptcy in 1983 and it is really hard to find the maple furniture now, sadly).  I checked locally, but found nothing that would even close to work for us, tried (won't ship the kitchen chairs to Alaska) and everywhere I could think of.  I, after trolling around Amazon for ages, found these, which would actually ship to Alaska (most of them don't ship up here that are on Amazon either).  My husband helped me to put them together and while they don't match our table finish (which, I would have been thrilled if it had, but knew that the odds of that weren't good), they are solid wood and came together solid, so we are happy with them.  And, hey, at least the two chairs on either side of the table match now where they definitely did not before.  The other chair retired to my bedroom where it sits at my husband's computer desk for his occasional internet surfing.  He is much happier with it than the fold out chair he was using and I think the chair will last a long time in that location as my husband will be good to the chair.  I took the black 80's style chair and put it at my sewing table to replace, once again, a fold out chair, so that is also nice for my back when I'm doing sewing (which I have some of that on my long list of things to do as well).

The chair cushions are not built into the chairs by the way.  The cushions are these.  I ordered them to help my back as sitting on the bare wood furniture for hours helping the kids with school was not helping the bulging disc in my back.  They are okay.  They don't slip like the old tie onto the back of the chair cushions used to when I was a kid, but they aren't the best either.  They definitely are firm, so if you are looking for something cushier, I would not recommend them.

The bread box behind the table is this one, although I got mine at way less of the price point than it is now.  And I WOULD NOT recommend buying it at that price point!  The instructions for assembly were non-existent.  It took me two hours to get the screws to hold the bamboo and not strip out as the screws were cheap and I had to figure out how to construct the thing with no instructions to go off of.  When it was finally together, it is cute, I'll give it that, and it works like a bread box should.  I do like the plexi-glass fronts on the bread box as I can see what is in the box.  I am so tired anymore that I was forgetting bread in my other box and was losing things to mold (my fault, not the boxes fault), so this has been really nice and gives me a good place to put baked goods that keeps them off of my counters, which I need.

I took the other bread box I had (that I love the look of) and was able to store a ton of things for more "fancy" baking in it.  Like my icing tip kit, cupcake liner papers and things like that.  I was even able to store some of my holiday cookie cutters that were for the non-Christmas holidays (Easter, Halloween, etc) in my old bread box as well.  It is nice having them by my microwave and within easy reach for when we want to use them without having to tear apart the house looking for them.

I put a radio I found at the used store early this year (whoever got rid of it, got rid of it quick, because when I searched for it I found that it came out in August of last year) on top.  I love the look of it and it will work with a power cord or batteries, which is nice for an emergency.  It gets a few channels, but not my favorites, so I might be moving it around the house to find the channels I want to listen to and working on finding a radio that fits my tastes that also doubles a Bluetooth speaker *laugh*.  I also cleaned up a pewter flower pot (so much tarnish!) I found at the used store years ago and has migrated around the kitchen since I bought it and I put some fake flowers (we bought some new for a art project my daughter had for school and I just snatched some when it was done) in it.  I like how the entire thing looks in the kitchen, I have to say, and it is nice being able to listen to the radio in the morning while I am waiting for the kids to wake up., even if I can't seem to get the classical music station on the sucker.

I ordered a new blind for the kitchen when the pull string for the old one ended up breaking so I couldn't even put the blind all the way down and I was having to stand on a chair to open the blind all the way when I wanted.  It was a HUGE pain and I had enough of things being broken on it.  The wand to open the slats had broken in the earthquake, so the string was the only way to open or close the blind, the paint had changed color from age, it as metal so it did not like to clean up at all, it was an outside mount blind so it got in the way of the pot rack...we had our issues.  The string breaking was just the final straw for me.  So, I ordered a new blind and installed it this week (my window, it turns out, is an odd size window, so I had to order a non-standard sized blind to install).  I am happy with it and even ended up with two as one got lost in the mail for nearly a month and showed up at my door a day after the replacement order came in.  What I am going to do with the other blind...I have no idea, although my mom suggested keeping it as a back up in case something broke on this one.  I tried to match the mahogany type of stain on the trim of the window, and while the photo doesn't show it very well, I nearly succeeded, so I'm okay with it.  At least I can open and close this one *laugh*.

I also, after careful thought, got a behind the sink shelf to try and get a bit more space out of the kitchen. I put my mortar and pestle there so I can access it easier (and not break a toe dropping it on my foot), my ceramic coffee cone (as it doesn't sit in my cupboard very well, but it was a gift, so I was determined to find a nice place for it), my coffee filters (in the tan holder there), my coffee container and my sugar bowl.  It makes morning coffee very streamlined and I really love it.  I wish it was a bit taller, though, as the shelf gives me BARELY enough room to turn the faucet on and off and using the sprayer on the back of the sink requires a bit of creativity.     

Next up was a real game changer for me and was one of the ideas I got from a bunch of Asian vlogs and that was a cutting board holder so you would have cutting boards within easy reach.  I got this cutting board holder and set it up in an awkward corner of my kitchen counters that always seems to not work right.  I got my most used cutting boards out of my sheet pan cabinet (which is saving me a bunch of arm strength as getting sheet pans out when the cabinet is full with the cutting boards in there is not an easy task) and put them in the holder,  Best use of credit card rewards, I swear!  I love having such easy access to my cutting boards!!!  I was even able to put a nice bamboo cutting board I got as a birthday gift in front so you don't have to look at my plastic cutting boards first *laugh*.

The other big purchase I made, was due to, once again, necessity.  My phone started to die and was muting calls randomly.  I went online and found that the Vtech cordless phone I had definitely had a problem with that happening and I should replace the entire phone system.  So, instead of having to buy a new cordless phone and having to replace the batteries way too often (so it feels like anyway) and spending more than the phone originally cost on said batteries, I decided that I was just going back to basics and ordered this corded phone instead.  We have another old corded phone plugged in downstairs, so now we have two corded phones in the house.  I bought a 25 foot phone cord to go with the phone, so it stretches about 12 feet or so without too much trouble and honestly I don't miss the cordless phone.  I only talk to a very limited number of people on the phone, so it works fine for me.  And now I don't have to worry about power outages taking out the phone (sure the answering machine and caller ID won't work, but the main phone does) and I don't have to worry about replacing batteries.  It works for me!  Now I just need to find a good place to wall mount it to get it off of my counter.

Next up, I invested in a six pack of heavy duty magnetic hooks and I hung up all of my pot holders on either side of my fridge to free up actually a pretty significant amount of drawer space out of one of the few drawers I have.  I also like how easy of access I have to them this way.

And the last thing I got for the kitchen is a good old fashioned pan rack so I could turn all of my more awkward shaped pans onto their sides and organize them better and not worry about everything falling over every time I needed a pan.  Once again, a great investment (the one I ordered is no longer available, so no sharing this time) and I'm glad I got it.

For non-photo related items, there are various ones.  My goal, right now, is to do one thing on my Spring Cleaning/Chore list a day AT LEAST, so that I feel like I accomplished something and also to just start slowly checking things off of my very long list.  So we also...

1.  Cleaned the fridge all over the outside, removed the bottom plate and cleaned out the coils anywhere I could reach on the fridge.  Had the husband move the fridge out (if we were going to break the water line, again, moving the fridge, I wanted him there to take care of it *laugh*) and did a deep clean behind it and everything.  I still need to empty the fridge itself and deep clean all of the shelves, but I'm making progress.

2.  My husband has started to put down carpet in my son's room.  It is going slower than we hoped.  The carpet was completely shot, the carpet pad was disintegrating and we even had some mold on the sub-floor (luckily no black mold).  We got all the old carpet in about 2/3 of the room ripped out after doing a bunch of research online I found that you were supposed to scrub the sub-floor five times with borax (I added some bleach just to be safe as well) to make sure that all mold was killed before putting on new carpet.  So, that's what I did.  Got a ton of blister on my knees that day climbing back and forth across the floor, but it came out clean, lighter and the room had no smell anymore.  Course then my husband started putting down carpet squares and there was carpet glue smell to worry about, but with the help of a nice big fan and an open window, the smell went away fast and the son's mood improves every time we can find time where he's in a good mood to put down more carpet squares.  I'll share pictures when the room is a bit more done, but I'm glad we are getting that job done since we have been sitting on the carpet for a good long time now and I'm happy to get it where it needs to go (and get the boxes out of my den *laugh*).

3.  I sat down and started to sketch out my master bedroom closet to try and figure out a good system to organize it.  It looks like Armagedon right now, so I really want to get it organized, neat and accessible and so I'm working it into my master bedroom plans for the summer (since I have to repair and paint it anyway).

4.  Sat down and started figuring out different food preservation plans for this year and uses for each (I don't like to preserve anything anymore that I might or might not use...I work on preserving things we will use versus "might use" for the sake of not wasting food and so we don't have to worry about eating things we might not like).  I'm working on embracing more than just canning as a means of preserving food this year as canning jars have become hard to find and cheaper quality (I've seen and heard absolute horror stories on the new Ball canning jars that are coming that they have been sold, I guess quality control is not what it used to be) and canning lids are still platinum plated unless you want to take your chance on ones made in China that might or might not work.  I've got a limited number of Tattler lids and an old stock of one use canning lids, but still want to make my efforts and materials last as long (and as smartly) as possible.

5.  Started to make tentative plans for the garden this year.  Seeds are definitely out this year as the cats dug up my attempt to start seeds in the house and with the weather breaking so late this year I'm figuring the nursery is going to be my best bet for plant starts.  Between the garden and the CSA box I'm hoping to put up a decent amount for winter next year.

And there you go folks.  Some of the things we've been up to lately.  How about you?  Getting cleaning and organizing done this year?