Thursday, October 28, 2021

Making Much With Very Little: Pumpkin Spice Syrup (From Pumpkin Water)

 I have been wracking my brain of late and hitting the books, trying to work out what would be the best recipes to share during this mess of a world state we are all living in.  The Great Depression (in the US) recipes...well those don't REALLY work as well anymore as our living conditions HAVE changed since those days back in the 30s.  There are some that would be relevant, but I don't know about you guys, but hotdogs aren't really that cheap of a food stuff anymore (one of the big staples during the Great Depression).  World War II rationing recipes might come in handy, but really only if food starts being rationed.  And really, things that were actually readily available during the rationing days of the war, seem to be somewhat hard to come by right now, so that didn't really work.  

So, I wracked my brain on what resource I hadn't thought of.  

Then, talking to my mom one day it hit me like a brick.  My mom.  My mom was a resource I could tap.  

You see, my great-grandfather started a dairy back in the 1800's in the Appalachian foothills of Pennsylvania.  My family ran that dairy living in a one room shack with a dirt floor during the Great Depression (I really need to dig up some pictures if I can find them to show you the old homestead) and ran it straight through till my grandfather finally gave up when small dairy farms got harder and harder to run in Pennsylvania sometime in the early 80s.  Growing up on the farm my mom was pretty much raised by my great grandmother Lelia, (my mom was an only child and my grandmother had to help with farm work around the homestead) who taught her the ins and outs of living hand to mouth on a struggling dairy farm.  My mom grew up with electricity, but no running water.  I got to experience some of that when my parents got divorced and we moved back to the old homestead, hauling water for the first year before we could get a well put in and having to start a fire and shovel coal into the furnace every day in the cold months for years until we finally got gas plumbed in and got a gas furnace (oh the joy I had that day *laugh*).

Anyway, back to food stuff.  Out of curiosity, I started to pick my mom's brain about how she grew up and we got to talking about canning applesauce, picking rose hips and other wild foraging to help supplement the diet and such.  During the conversation I happened to look over at the two small pumpkins sitting on my counter that I had to process soon as they were starting to show signs of going over (basically the skin was starting to look mottled and I knew they were going to start to go bad soon) and I asked her what they used to do with pumpkins when she was growing up.  She talked of water bath canning pumpkin butter (no longer considered safe, at all, due to viscosity issues), canning pumpkin pickles, making pumpkin whiskey (which that was a new one on me) and making pumpkin molasses.  I had to stop her at that one and ask what the heck pumpkin molasses was as I had never heard of it before.  From what I gather the process involved boiling down the water left after boiling pumpkin for processing and you would boil it down like maple syrup for LONG periods of time until you ended up with a sweet syrup (my mom said it was like a mild sweet flavor that she could remember) that you could use on pancakes or as a sugar substitute when supplies got short.

I completely forgot about that conversation, honestly (it was a long week) until I went and boiled up my two small pumpkins to turn into pumpkin puree to freeze.  

I took a slotted spoon and removed the pumpkin from the water and then stared at the water for a minute and thought, "I don't want to throw the water out.  It can be used for something."  Honestly, I hate to throw food of any type away anymore, so I thought on what I could do with the water to use it up.  And then the conversation on pumpkin molasses hit me and I had a "eureeka" moment.

I mashed up my pumpkin in a bowl and dumped it into a wire mesh strainer above a 8 cup Pyrex measuring cup and then I just kind of stirred the pumpkin puree around (this is something I do anytime I mash pumpkin to get the extra water out and get the consistency to the point of canned pumpkin for pumpkin pie and such).  I then took the water that had drained, added it back with the rest of the pumpkin water and I put it on the boil until the water was boiled down to a little less than 1/2 of its original volume (this will take a while).  Once I was satisfied with the intensity of the flavor and the sweetness of the mix (very mildly sweet in my case as the white pumpkin wasn't really intensely flavored), I measured out 4 cups of pumpkin water and went to work.

Now, first a disclaimer.  I am not a pumpkin spice crazed addict like many this time of year.  Honestly, this is more me...

Normally this time of year I'm a crazed apple season person who jumps on the first really good sale of Honeycrisp apples she can and spends more than I should so that I can get a few apples to eat before my even MORE apple crazed daughter eats all of my beloved Honeycrisp *laugh*.  

But, in this case, I REALLY didn't want to throw pumpkin water down the drain when I could turn it into something useful.  So, pumpkin spice syrup it was.

Now, my plan for this is to pull it out of the freezer to use on pancakes and such...more a topping than in a drink type of application, but I am sure you could use this in your pumpkin spice lattes and such.  I went searching to see if I could find a recipe like this one, but didn't find any, so I came up with my own, but there were a bunch that called for pumpkin puree to be added if you want a more thick and viscous type of syrup.  I had plans for my pumpkin puree, though, so I just used the good old pumpkin water left overs.

Also, a quick note here.  Do NOT can this.  I know that it's the pumpkin water and not the pumpkin puree, so the viscosity issue is solved by doing it this way, BUT pumpkin is also a low acid food (pretty much zero acid actually) and so isn't safe to water bath can unless you up the acidity through the roof, go through lab tests and blah blah blah.  You can refrigerate this for two weeks, at least, before I'd worry about mold or crystallization of the sugars taking place, but you CAN put it in the freezer and it'll keep for at least a year.  The sugar content is high enough that the syrup will not freeze solid, but I called the cooperative extension service and ran it by them and they said it would be absolutely safe even if not frozen solid as the freezer would still keep the food below the danger zone for bacteria to be able to grow (I'm paranoid, what can I say).  

So, in short, store in the fridge or freezer.  No canning!!!  Okay, moving on!

So, after that intro that reminds me of food blogs that probably drive you nuts (sorry I don't have a "jump to recipe" function as I'm NOT one of those blogs), here is the recipe I came up with.

Pumpkin Spice Syrup (Made from Pumpkin Water)


    • 4 Cups Reduced Pumpkin Water (left over water from boiling pumpkin)
    • 1 Cup Brown Sugar, packed
    • 5 Cups white granulated sugar
    • 2 tsp to 1 TBS pumpkin pie spice of your preference (I went with 1 TBS because I wanted it to be heavily spiced when done, but go with your tastes)
    • 1 tsp salt (helps to kick up the pumpkin notes)



1.  Place all items into a large saucepan (it will bubble up when you stir it so make sure you use a big enough pot!) and whisk all ingredients together until well combined.

2.    Heat to a boil, stirring frequently and then reduce heat to low and boil gently until mixture thickens to a syrup consistency, 10 to 20 minutes (mine took somewhere around 15 to get it where I liked it, but just keep an eye on it).  During the reducing step switch to a wooden spoon as they are the best kitchen utensil for this job.  If you have a candy thermometer you are looking for a temperature of 223 F (106 C) to 230 F (110 C).  

If you don't have a candy thermometer, do like I did (because I couldn't find mine) and use the old fashioned way of testing sugar stages.  You are looking for the "thread" stage.

And most importantly be careful when making anything that involves hot sugar!  It is called culinary napalm for a reason.

3.  Remove syrup from heat and let cool a bit.  Transfer to straight sided canning jars (or other freezer safe containers) and store in the fridge or freezer.  In fridge will last at least two weeks and in the freezer will last at least a year.

Use to make pumpkin spice things, serve over pancakes or ice's the limit. 


Monday, October 25, 2021

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap (Times...uhh...some)

I have to say as time lapses have been on the blog, this one was actually one of the busiest.  It has been truly crazy around here.  So, let's get down to what has been going on around the homestead!

Well, first there was sickness that hit.  I got the kids their flu vaccine and immediately we all came down with colds (not flu, thank goodness, but a cold my husband probably brought home from work).  We came out better than my poor mother and father-in-law who both got taken out at the knees with Covid.  My mother-in-law is feeling better, thank goodness, but like a lot of older people I think full recovery is a ways off for both of them.

Then there was physical therapy, which I've been working hard at.  The stretches and exercises they have been giving me to do at home have been really helping my back and strengthening muscles I've not been able to strengthen in years (two C-Sections make it hard for me to get abdominal muscles to do much).  Despite medical bills giving me hives, the physical therapy really has been worth the money and I am glad that I gave it a shot (thank you to all the folks who encouraged me to go.  I appreciate it!).

I then spent a HUGE amount of time working on rearranging the pantry (still buttoning that up, but I'll share pictures when I'm finished), using up old items that needed to get used up and taking an inventory of things I needed to fill in what remained of the holes in our household supplies.  The way inflation is going it really is wise to stock up now if you can.  I've gotten somewhat addicted to researching the logistics sector of the economy (global and local) and everything going on in the world and I'm just not seeing much relief from our current economic woes anytime soon.

While going through my long term food storage, I did find a bunch of items that need to be used up within the next five years.  Since these are big cans I'm going to have to use up, I'm going to start trying to tackle these items gradually and probably trying to seal and store the left overs to gradually use them up over time.  

PFDs came in and pretty much immediately went out again.  I used some of the money to buy some groceries to add to what we had (which met with limited success as the stores were out of a bunch of stuff I'd put into my order and I ended up having to order some stuff through Amazon anyway...frugal fail) and the rest just immediately went to paying down bills.  Since 2500 dollars (at least) is going right back on the credit cards as soon as medical bills come in...I'm glad I was able to pay down bills and save myself some additional interest doing it that way, at any rate.

I also had to get the paperwork done for Alvah's TEFRA renewal, which is always a bunch of work.  Got that done (I hope) and submitted and hopefully we are good to go until the other 1/2 of the paperwork needs to be completed later on.  

I also at right about the same time as having to do that, I had to get the kids work samples into the home school for the first quarter of the school year.  That's another bunch of work to get done, so I am glad to have that submitted and off of my "to do" list.

So, let's get onto other things I've been up to!

1.  One night my Armina came running out of her room and told me I HAD to look at the sky as the Northern Lights were out and were truly spectacular!  I went and looked out the window and was absolutely blown away by the light show.  I even got my nearly asleep husband out of bed to check the lights out.  I was even able to stand out on my deck and watch the lights in a t-shirt as it was actually rather warm that night, which in itself was miraculous as normally the Northern Lights come out when it is clear in the winter, which usually translates to super cold temps.  I have never seen the lights that bright and dancing before.  It was amazing!  

I then learned that the reason for the lights was because the Earth got hit with a solar storm and it effected the magnetosphere.  If you weren't able to see the lights you can see some pictures and read more about it online in articles like this one.

2.  When I got my "Pick Up and Go" order from the store after dividends came in, I ended up getting a free sample of "Coke with Coffee" in with the order.  I decided to try it and I have to say that I really like Coke and do enjoy drinking it from time to time and I drink coffee every day, but this stuff I did NOT like.  I thought Coke with coffee added was going to be basically Coke hyped up with extra caffeine from green coffee bean extract or something, but no.  It was fizzy, which threw me first as I was expecting more of a flat beverage.  I also could not taste coffee in the drink and I sure could not taste Coke in the drink.  What I DID taste was fake caramel flavor.  Fizzy fake caramel flavor.  I took a few sips to give it a fair shake and ended up throwing it away.  It just was not my thing.

3.  I have found a few new YouTube channels that I thought you guys might want to check out.  First, I have become a bit obsessed by a YouTube channel based in Longyearbyen, the northernmost town in the world.  I find it so funny that the town is much like an Alaskan town in the way it is set up and the way they do things up there.  Now mind you we obviously have trees down here where they are above the tree line (like Barrow and some other Northern Alaskan towns), but yeah it is a neat place.   The vlogger I follow is Cecilia Blomdahl and her vlog can be found here.  

Another vlog that is a great one to check out if you guys want to see a bit more of a more Northern town from here (they are near Fairbanks) is Somers in Alaska.  They are located in North Pole and try and run a very happy vlog, which in the current conditions of everything, I've really grown to appreciate.  If you are curious about Alaska pricing on things, as well, as they do Costco runs and things and show you what things are going for in their area, so if you are curious what Alaska pricing is like they are a good one to follow :).

4.  A while ago I bought some Red Robin seasoning salt on Amazon to go on French fries for the son to try and cut down on the amounts of times we'd have to eat out (he's going through puberty and as a result has some really bad mood days and things of late, probably because he's aching or hurting, but with him it is hard to say as he can't tell me what is wrong yet).  It worked out well, but I was running out of seasoning salt and the prices online shot through the roof and our local restaurant was out.  So, I decided to try my had at some copycat recipes and see if I could come close.  I ended up using this one and honestly?  It didn't turn out at ALL.  I was worried when I got done shaking it up as it was white from the onion and garlic powder in it and sure enough it TASTED like garlic powder and that was it.  I ended up adding a ton of McCormick seasoning salt to it and some more sugar until I got something that was at least palatable.  So far the son isn't impressed with the mixture, so I'm going to see if I can work with it to the point he'll tolerate it until the restaurant gets more salt in.  

Oh as a side note, thank you to the people who bought and sent me spices and things after the earthquake.  I have been using the containers as I empty them and I just refill them with herbs and spices I get in bulk or I'll buy them in envelope types of packages and refill the bottles that way (if you like good quality spices that ship up to Alaska with free shipping might I suggest The Spice House as they have "Flat Packs" that ship free, even up here, and it is a nice way to get fresh spices and herbs (the amounts are pretty decent too for a good spice outfit as well...not an affiliate or anything...I just like the product) that you can just dump into a container (or you could keep them in their flatpack envelopes I suppose).

5.  It took an old, holey sock of my husband's and repurposed it to use as a dusting mitt.  It worked out really well and I was able to clean out some hard to reach spaces with it.

6.  We took a small portion of dividends to buy the rum, brandy (we don't do the cognac, but just use very special brandy instead as it is a lot cheaper...sorry Alton Brown) and bourbon to make aged eggnog so it would be ready around the holidays (you are supposed to age it for a while to get the flavors to mellow and blend together and make it really good :).  Christmastime is the only time of the year my husband and I drink and this is what we drink, so we make a point to make it so we can enjoy our little 1/4 cup portions of eggnog through the holidays *laugh*.   

We ended up with a HUGE bottle of rum as my husband found it to be the best deal (he bought it from our local bulk store).  I looked at the bottle and knew that it would last us probably for the rest of our natural lives (I mean it is huge) and thought for a moment on what I could use rum to make.  I quickly came to the decision that I would have to use a portion of it to make rum raisin ice cream as I haven't even SEEN that flavor of ice cream since moving to Alaska and I used to like it.  I'm not sure if it is a East Coast flavor that just doesn't make it to the West Coast or it is something that just doesn't really sell well up here or what, but it just doesn't seem to be a thing up here.  I've never made it from scratch before, so it might be a fun thing to try out this winter.

7.  I made an appointment for later this week to get a yearly physical done.  Since it is covered by my insurance and such I knew I didn't have a good excuse to skip it.  And I found a good OB-GYN that is local and covered by my network, so hopefully it goes well.

8.  Instead of going out to eat, I told the family I would make fish and chips at home.  This has become a bit of a treat for the family and I really don't mind doing it as instead of 60.00 for us all to eat out, I can make fish and chips for less than 20.00 for the entire family by just buying some cod and making it myself.  

By the way, I was asked by a blog reader if I had a good recommendation for a deep fryer.  I bought this one  (no affiliate link or anything, just sharing) a while back (it is, of course, more expensive than when I bought it.  I got mine for about 50.00) and I absolutely LOVE it.  It is different from other fryers I've had in that it has a hidden cleaning tube that you can pull out to drain the oil from the fryer to strain or throw away.  After draining the oil and scraping out any big chunky things with some paper towels, I just put the plug back in the tube, fill the fryer with hot soapy water on the side of the sink and then wash it with some paper towels while it sits there and then drain out the soapy water through the drain tube, take my sink hose and rinse out the fryer one more time to get the soap out, plug the tube and put it away and then dry the sucker with some dry paper towels (I always use paper towels to avoid getting any residual oil onto my good towels and things).  Put the fryer basket into the dish washer and done.  Now, I always fry with the lid open, which some people complain of the oil leaking down the back of the device if you leave the lid shut.  I can't testify if that happens because I don't close the lid, but yeah I really like it.  I love that I can actually clean it without trying to rewrite the laws of physics to get the old oil out of it and things *laugh*.

9.  The weather here has been all over the place.  We went from pretty cold temps, to warmer temps, to snow and then back to like summer transitioning to fall weather.  It is just one of those falls.  I, at first, didn't get to cleaning the old plants off the deck in time for them to avoid freezing the old soil in the pots, but I waited until warmer weather strikes and then I'll take a few planters at a time and go and empty them down in the old garden bed.  

I'm down to just the big planter that is too heavy for me to do on my own (I might just empty the soil into a bucket a bit at a time to make my life easier and do it that way).  I stuffed the old planters into some of the old cinder blocks from the chimney (we use them to store the air conditioner on top of when it is not summertime) so they are protected from the wind and weather, put the remaining planters I have to clean out under the eave of the house and got the grill all nice and clean (and then I end up using the grill again as the weather it too nice not to grill, but I try *laugh*) and moved back over.  And voila!  Clean deck!

10.  I mended an old Carhart jacket of my husband's that had ripped out from the pockets upward (pretty typical as Carhart is a heavy canvas material).  I mended the rips as well as I could and knotted and sewed a bunch of points above where the material had torn.  I'm hoping it will act as a "rip stop" kind of like when you replace a zipper and have to sew a zipper stop into the zipper when you put it in the right spot.  Hopefully it works and the jacket can have some additional life put into it.

And yeah, I'm going to call it good there as I'm working on about 3 hours of sleep a night at the moment (the son isn't sleeping well) and I'm barely awake today.  Hope you all are well and I WILL try to get back to blogging regularly again here as things start to settle down a bit.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap

 Yeah, I know, this is really late.  It's been really busy around here.  Not in a good way, but busy.

First up there was all the medical stuff.  I've been doing stretches that my chiropractor recommended and taking my medications as needed, but one day my back had just like had enough or something a few weeks back.  I had a spasm in my lower back while I was standing up and cooking dinner and suddenly my right leg just went dead.  Not numb, not tingly,  just dead.  It was a rough weekend as I had to think about where I was going to move before I moved so that I could put my right leg forcefully where it needed to go.  Walking like that is kind of difficult, I have to say.  I started getting intermittent feeling back in my leg and then it would randomly go dead after that.  Monday rolled around and I ended up going to the doctor where I acquired a few new prescriptions for a muscle relaxant and a course of steroids to relieve any internal swelling in my back.  I also ended up with some referrals.  And so it was off for a MRI on my back the next day, which was a fun experience.  Got the results of the MRI back the day after that and found out that it was completely normal and the doctor had no idea what was causing my back problems.  

So, it was then a referral to physical therapy and this time?  This time I went.  Mainly out of desperation to see if someone could help me get my back to cooperate again or even tell me what in the Heck was wrong with it.  Despite the estimated 225.00 per visit price tag attached to it, I wanted to give it a shot.

So, my physical therapy eval was Friday and I'm going to go once a week for a month to see if I can get my back working right again.  The physical therapist thinks that at some pint in the past I probably injured my back, worked through it and ended up getting an uneven musculature and stuff from it, which has progressively led to the problems I'm having now.  It makes sense, really.  I have exercises to do every day and I'm religiously doing them, so hopefully this will work.  I'm praying as I can't afford an appointment once a month, let alone once a week, so I'm determined this is going to work one way or the other.

The cost of the MRI and the physical therapy is definitely going to max out my deductible for this year, so meeting that deductible is going to put me in some nasty debt.  I just pray it is worth it in the end.  Between that and the worldwide economy...finances are pretty freaking terrifying right now and I know I'm far from alone in that area right now.

By the way folks, side note here, I just wanted to let you know that if you stop by and wonder why you aren't getting e-mail updates on the blog, it is because feedburner (the guys who used to do my e-mail updates) aren't doing that anymore.  If you would like an e-mail letting you know when I update, please e-mail me at makedohomemaker (at) gmail (dot) com and I'll try and get an e-mail list up and get that e-mail off to you folks in a timely manner.  Sorry about not letting you know about this sooner.  Honestly, I spaced it with everything life has thrown at me the last few months.

With the state of everything in the world, I got an e-mail from one of my readers asking if maybe I could share some extreme hard times recipes and skills that people might need.  I am totally willing to do that.  I'm going to try and see if I can dig out my great depression, WWII rationing and other recipes and I'll try and share those on here as well as maybe some more tutorials on how to darn different items and things.  At this point I'm figuring this is something people can probably use, or if nothing else find inspiration from, so I'm going to make a point to do that.  If I can help at least a few people, I'll feel it was completely worth it.

Right, so let's get to money saving things that have happened the last bit.

1.  We went to the Fall Festival Special Needs Edition again this year.  Unfortunately, winter decided it wanted to come early that day so it was sleeting, snowing, raining and COLD.  The kids still had a blast, but man, it was cold.  We made it an hour and half and then went home.  My mother-in-law went with us.  It was fun.  Just cold, wet and short *laugh*.  I got no pictures this year because of those factors as all I got was photos of rain drops and blurry things in the background.

2.  I found out that we are getting a PFD this year and how much, and when, it was going to be.  I talked to my husband about shortages and all and we both decided that if we wanted to stock up on food and things we'd best to it now before price increases kicked in or, worse yet, before things weren't available at all.  So, we went an put groceries on the credit card over the weekend and will hopefully pay the credit card back down when PFDs come in.  I'm glad we did it, honestly, as much as I hated to put money on the credit card, because when PFDs come in it is really typical for Alaskans to go and stock up on food for the winter (really it is one of the few times of year that Alaskans tend to have a decent amount of income at their disposal to do it).  Food is already kind of thin at the stores right now, so one good PFD run on the stores and we could be looking at some pretty nasty empty shelves for a while. 

One thing people who aren't from here don't get, but quickly learn when they move here, is that we are pretty much the end of the line when it comes to the supply chain.  Anything that stores can't really sell in other places they throw on a plane to Alaska and figure that Alaskans will buy it.  For instance Fred Meyers in our local area were selling 1 gallon jugs of mayonnaise a bit ago for 1.00 a pop, but you had to buy a minimum of 10 to get that price, as the local stores had ordered quart jars and stuff like normal, but had gotten shipped gallon sized jugs of the stuff that Fred Meyer couldn't ship to other places and we got stuck with it.  We are used to things like that up here.  On top of that our cost of living up here is high just because of where we are, so we are seeing price increases hard up here.  My jaw dropped when I saw that bulk packages of hot dogs had gone up 4.00 since I bought them a few months ago and a lot of items had gone up at least 1.00 per item.  When you ship things as far as Alaska, we get hit hard by shipping costs being added onto items up here and when fuel pries start increasing?  You'll see prices go up exponentially hard and fast.  

I'm not saying Alaskans are panic buying or anything, but I think a lot of Alaskans are just going to go out like normal and buy groceries and when, and if, we are going to see those items come back in stock is debatable.

I was kind of impressed in a way that a lot of staple goods, especially beans and rice, were pretty much gone from Three Bears when we went shopping and PFDs aren't even in yet.  I was able to get more expensive medium grain rice, which was okay since we like to buy that kind anyway, but that was the only rice they even had left on the shelf, so I'm glad we like that type.  Things like cooking oil, vinegar and other staples were getting kind of thin as well, so I was very glad we were able to find what we did and get it while we still could.  It is looking like it is going to be a really rough winter, so I'm doing my best to prepare and fill holes, even ones I didn't think about, to see us through this mess as well as I'm able.  I'll be sharing some of my more odd, thinking outside the box, things I'm doing as well, so you can either maybe get inspired by it or think I'm crazy and laugh hysterically at me.  I'm okay with it either way.

3.  When it came to regular grocery shopping the last few weeks, Carrs gave me a bunch of bonus rewards every shopping trip and also I ended up with a coupon for a free 10 lb bag of potatoes!  So, I definitely took advantage of the free potatoes :).

I also redeemed some gas rewards for...

A free rotisserie chicken (which I then used to make a casserole, which then lasted us many meals during the week.

I then redeemed some more in the next couple of weeks and got...

A thing of frozen raviolli

A box of frozen soft pretzels

Two cans of green beans (I actually redeemed the reward for "two cans of vegetables" and thought I'd be able to get something more interesting, but green beans was all Carrs had that day, so that is what I got.

A free quart of vegetable broth (I bought three more so I'd have enough to brine the turkey at Thanksgiving).

A free bag of tater tots (for tater tot casserole was the original intent...we'll see if that is what I use it for :).

4.  I mended a couple of pair of pants for the son.

5.  I really tried hard to make sure we did have things to eat around here even when my back was really bad.  I was decently successful, which made me feel good that we at least didn't have to spend money on that.

6.  I put potential Christmas gifts for the kids in my cart on Amazon and waited until I could get prices I was happy about before I ordered said items.  It definitely saved money doing it that way.

In other news, Christmas this year isn't going to be terribly exciting when it comes to gifts, but I ordered things that we needed (new sheets for each of the kids, some new shirts for the daughter, new PJ's for the son) and a few things for fun (books and a few art supplies for the daughter, some sensory toys for the son), but yeah, this year is going to definitely be more geared toward "personalized needs so the items feel special, but definitely needs" type of gifts.  The budget stretches that far, but it is going to be tight just with medical bills let alone what else might be coming down the pike.

7.  One of the things that my daughter did at the Fall Festival was they had a booth where you could paint a pumpkin.  She picked a pumpkin and did a fun Halloween design on it and then, after we got home, I checked the sticker on the pumpkin and found we had received a free pie pumpkin.  That was a cool score.  So far the pumpkin is still hanging in there and not showing signs of going bad, so hopefully it might last till Halloween.  We shall see :).  No matter what it is future pumpkin puree for the freezer.

8.  I have gotten really good about making bread once a week so that we have fresh bread all week long to eat with dinner and to eat as toast (the daughter loves that way of eating it).  

9.  We watched some free on Prime videos the last couple of weeks that were more Halloween themed.

And there you go folks.  I'm going to call it good there mainly because I've been writing this post on and of all day and I'm going blurry eyed.  I hope you are all hanging in there and things aren't too hard on your end.