Monday, January 31, 2022

Bread Pudding

When I started to think about recipes I could share that might help people through hard times, I started thinking beyond casseroles and things and decided I wanted to share some different recipes from across the board to see if I can help people make the most of what they have and maybe even make dinner time more interesting to help get through the rough times we are finding ourselves in.

Bread pudding is one of those recipes that I've known about since I was a kid.  Oddly, my mom didn't make it (I am thinking she might not have liked it) that I remember, but my friend's mom did.  I was over at her house one day and she gave me a piece to try and I fell absolutely in love with the custardy concoction.  When we moved to Pennsylvania my grandma would make bread pudding from time to time and I was always so thrilled to pour some of her vanilla syrup or some maple syrup on top and eat it with gusto.  When she showed me how to make it, I was enthralled that it was there to stop bread from going to waste and also was a really cheap way to fill you up when times were tight.  Since then I have made bread pudding on and off for years, usually when money was tight and I had some bread to use up (go figure *laugh).  

When I made some bread pudding out of some rolls that I feared were going to go moldy, I immediately felt a need to share this recipe, so here you go.  Bread pudding is seriously one of the easiest recipes you can make truly.  If you feel a need to throw some nuts into the mix, feel free, but I am a purist and like to eat it as is. 

Bread Pudding:

  • Enough Bread, torn into bite sized pieces, to fill a 7x11" baking dish (you can also do an 8x8 or even add more milk and eggs and put it in a 9x13 pan...the recipe is really easy to adapt to your needs).  I used 2 large hard rolls for this recipe and it filled the 7x11" baking dish just fine.  I'd say 4 to 6 slices of stale bread would give you about the same result.
  • 3 TBS of butter, melted (this just adds extra flavor, so you can omit if money is really tight)
  • 4 to 6 beaten eggs (depending on what you can spare).  I like 6 as it makes the pudding really custardy textured in the end.
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar (depending how sweet you want it)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon (you can reduce down to 1 tsp if you don't want a heavy cinnamon flavor.  I love cinnamon, so I use 2)


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  Coat your baking dish with non-stick spray.

3.  Tear your bread and place it in your pan.  I like to tear the bread directly into the pan to save myself time.

4.  Pour the melted butter over your bread in the pan and mix the butter into the bread pieces a bit (just adds a bit of flavor to the finished dish and helps to crisp the top a bit)

5.  Mix the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon in a large bowl.  Pour mixture over the bread in the baking dish (try to get a good even soaking over the surface).   

6.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.  The top of the pudding will also spring back if you push it down with the back of a spoon.  The mixture may look a little jiggly as you pull it from the oven, but don't worry as it is a custard and will set up the rest of the way as it cools.  You will also notice that the pudding kind of collapses as it cools as well.  This is normal as the custard mixture cools.

7.  Wait for the mixture to cool a bit before serving, so it will be easier to cut. Put leftovers in the fridge (I like to reheat pieces in the microwave to serve later).   I also will freeze it for 6 months or so.  Just wait for it to cool, refrigerate to get it cold, cut it into single serving squares and wrap each square in plastic wrap.  Then place pieces in a freezer bag and store in the freezer for 3 to 6 months.

I like to eat mine with maple syrup, but you could make buttermilk or vanilla syrup or even put jam or jelly on top (my friend's dad did that) for a fruity bread pudding.  


Friday, January 28, 2022

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap

I was watching one of my favorite YouTubers.  She's Japanese and has a channel called Choki.  She posted up a quote that really rang with me in her last video.  It goes...

"One year from now, you'll regret what you didn't start doing today."

That really spoke to me, as it is so true.  I have things that I put down on paper at the beginning of the year to get done and when they don't get done by the end of the year I just sit and regret that I didn't get to it.  This year, I decided, was going to be different and I was going to get as much done on my list for this year as I could.   Hopefully, by the end of the year, I won't have many regrets to talk about :).

So, I pulled out my list the last couple of weeks, added things to it and by George I got it done.  And not on very much sleep I'm kind of proud to say as the son hasn't been sleeping well for a good couple of months now.   So, let's get to some of the things I've been up to the last little bit!

1.  The first items up for bid was some canning!

I canned...

  • Strawberries and blueberries (seen up top there)

  • Mixed fruit.  This one was made up of different things I had in the freezer that I put together into a fruit cocktail type of application and canned up.  So, this ended up being a mix of pineapple, peaches, strawberries, grapes, red currants, mangoes (get to that in a minute) and maraschino cherries (I had a few left in the fridge so I threw a few into each jar, and don't worry the cherries were in the trusted recipes I found online :).  

Now about the mangoes.  Mangoes are kind of tricky to can as if they get too ripe their acidity level can fall JUST below the recommended levels for water bath canning.  I was kind of worried, although not horribly, as the mangoes were part of a bag of frozen fruit medley I had in the freezer that I wanted to can.  Since every other fruit in the bag was definitely green when I tasted it, I was figuring I would be fine, as green mangoes are definitely safe to can (and there wasn't exactly a huge amount of mango in the mix or anything), but I wanted to play it safe.  To counteract any acidity issues there was the pineapple (of course), but just to be safe I added a mixture of orange juice and lemon juice to the syrup when I made it (used the juices instead of water in the syrup equation for about 1/3 of the water) to up the acidity level as well.  I don't know how it will taste after it sits for a bit, but it was really good when I jarred it up to go into the canner :).

I'm still working on different canning projects on my list, but it was nice getting that amount of stuff out of the freezer downstairs to make way for...

2.  The baking and freezer prep stuff!

I ended up making a bunch of different things the last bit, so here's a quick breakdown...

I took some rolls that I was worried were going to mold on me, let them dry out on the counter a bit and made a pan of bread pudding (recipe forthcoming soon).  I then cut up said bread pudding, wrapped the pieces in plastic wrap and put them into a freezer bag and put them in the freezer downstairs.  This will help me on days when I can't figure out what I might want to make for dessert or really if I feel like heating myself up something for a rich breakfast one day.

I made a big batch of chocolate chip cookie balls and put the majority of them into the freezer to harden.  Once they were frozen I put them into a freezer bag and put them back in the freezer to make cookies with later on.  

Of course I had to make 16 of them as well for the daughter (chocolate chip is one of her favorite cookies).

I made a batch of Lynn's Kitchen Adventures Breakfast Bowls.  This is one of my husband's favorite freezer meal prep things I've done so he was thrilled when I made a new batch as it has been a while.  He's already eaten a few bags of it, so I think it was a success *laugh*.

I made a pan full of cinnamon rolls and put some buttercream frosting on top.  I froze 6 cinnamon rolls by wrapping in plastic wrap and putting into a freezer bag to eat later on and we ate the other 6 for breakfast last weekend.  I love cinnamon rolls so I definitely enjoyed that addition to the freezer.

I also made a big batch of Swedish pancakes (think crepes, Americans) and took the extras that we didn't eat with dinner, put some parchment paper between the pancakes and put the stack into a freezer bag and put it into the freezer.  This will be great for either sweet or savory applications for breakfast or dinner, so I was really happy to add those to the freezer inventory.  I want to make a few more batches and freeze those as well, but haven't gotten around to it yet.

To top it off I made a big batch of sausage gravy and froze a good portion of it in smaller containers so my husband could grab it for a quick breakfast on the go.  I made a big double batch of biscuits to freeze with the gravy, but my daughter ate about 80% of them in two days (she LOVES biscuits) so that was out *laugh*.  I'll have to make some hopefully this next week and add those to the freezer as well, but so far I haven't found the time to make them.

3.  For the fridge, I made a double batch of Erbswurst and put it into the fridge.  For the casings, by the way, I just use summer sausage casings that I got at our local Sportsman's Warehouse, but you can definitely use parchment paper if you don't have the casings.  I would suggest, though, on putting the sausages into a plastic bag so that the casings themselves don't mold.  The sausages will keep indefinitely in the fridge (I put the bag of Erbswurst I made into the deli drawer), but I have had waxed paper mold on me from sitting in the fridge too long up against something that had moisture wicking out of it, so I wanted to put that caution out there.

I am glad I had the materials to make more of the Erbswurst, as my husband loves to eat it when he is sick (you slice off slices, put in boiling water and you have really yummy instant pea soup) and he blew through all of the Erbswurst we had in the house after this long bout of illness he's just gotten over.  This should last us a good long time, so I'm glad to have that chore out of the way as it takes a while to make.

I used a new coffee grinder with a variable grind on it that I got for Christmas a few years ago to grind my split peas into flour to make it.  It worked awesome, which I am super glad about as my old coffee grinder that I've used for projects like this over the years finally died on me a while ago.

4.  I filed the family for PFD's for this year and printed off the screen shots showing we are eligible for them this year.  

5.  I got all the proper paperwork in and got my taxes done.  I even used an e-mail code the tax outfit sent me to get 5.00 off on my tax prep for the year.

6.  I took the last of a container of yogurt and mixed it in with two boxes of UHT milk I had (boxed milk) and made yogurt with the milk.  After straining the yogurt I was able to refill the quart container from the yogurt with nice new homemade yogurt.  I've been eating it for breakfast with some honey and some granola sprinkled on top, so it was great getting more yogurt without having to pay out of pocket for it.  The boxed milk was past it's use by date by a good bit as well, so it was good to use it up in the yogurt :).

7.  I continued to deep clean areas of the house that needed it.  Still slowly but surely working my way through the house, but I'll get there.  I was able to take things like the split peas I had on top of the fridge and put them into a smaller container, so I could use the larger container for other food storage needs.

8.  I made a list of things I wanted to make for Valentine's Day for dinner and for a gift for my husband.  I was able to get a few things bought with my normal groceries when I knew I could get them, so that I won't have to buy very much come Valentine's Day (I hope, and I hope the few things I need will be AT the store when I want to buy them *fingers crossed*).

9.  I mended a hole in my comforter.  It may one day end up being 100% darning the way it is going, but so far the darns are holding, so I'm going to keep darning it *laugh*.

10.  One of the legs on our loveseat broke.  I was able to force the leg back into place and made a temporary fix for it until we can hopefully find a more permanent way to fix it.

And there you go folks.  Some of the things I've been up to around here.  How about you?  Getting things crossed off your list for the year, yet?

Monday, January 17, 2022

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap

Well, be prepared folks.  This is going to be a short list.  Between two windstorms, getting through that, and then the husband not getting well and having to go back to the doctors for another round of medicine and then getting our gas and electric bills for some of the really cold weather we've had this winter...well... it's been hard to concentrate on frugal anything around here as we have been sending more money than I'd like out the door for sure.  We are counting down the days till payday, let's just put it that way.

Anyway, enough of that depressing subject.  Let's get to what we did that was frugal the last few weeks!

1.  I was floored, as I knew I would be, by my electric bill for the month.  I went and compared my consumption last year to this year and found that the periods between meter reads were 34 days versus 28 last year and, most importantly, the temperature was 12 degrees lower on average by the day than last year.  And it wasn't exactly warm last year.  I used the tools  I had to teach my daughter about electric consumption and differences between bills and things and showed her how to compare so that you stay informed.  It was a good life lesson to learn and just cost me my time to show her.

2.  I sat down and wrote out my goals for the next month to month and a half.  Writing things down gives me things to cross off and keeps me more motivated.  I've already marked a few things off of my list for this month, which makes me feel pretty good (more on that in another post :).

3.  Our local stores are out of a LOT of stuff of late, it seems.  When I wasn't able to find dissolvable Zyrtec for the son, I went and checked online and ordered some through Amazon, which turned out to be a really good idea as they had a coupon for 25% off of your subscribe and save order.  I ordered one box regular price to get it here when I needed it, but ordered one for later at a really good price (10.00 for a box of 24), which beat local prices by a long shot.

4.  My husband and I have been watching a few things online that we've been wanting to see for a long time and by checking different sites (Roku, YouTube, etc) we were able to watch them for free instead of having to pay to watch them through Amazon Prime Video.

5. gave out a 10.00 credit to people again this year as a Christmas gift.  I have to say this is one of the nicest Christmas things a company has ever put out in my experience.  We claimed our 10.00 gift card and my husband and I went through all kinds of movies when there was a sale for New Years and found a movie we wanted to get.  With the 10.00 credit we were able to purchase the movie we wanted for no money out of pocket and got a ton of laughs from the movie, which was worth its weight in gold :).

6.  I spent a lot of time the last couple of weeks cleaning.  I am behind on the New Years cleaning I wanted to get done due to the Windageddon, so I figured better late than never.  I started with a few different areas, but have been focusing a lot of time on the kitchen this last week.  I pulled the knobs off of the oven and deep cleaned EVERYTHING.  I still have some baked on grease on the oven window but between a lot of scrubbing and a thirty minute self clean cycle on the oven (I don't do the full 4 hours on the self cleaning cycle...small kitchen...lots of smoke...worries about setting things on fire...warnings online about self cleaning cycles killing ovens...just kind of an anxiety building exercise for me), it is a LOT better than it was.

7.  I pulled out and washed a bunch of pint jars to get ready for canning up a bunch of stuff.  Now I can just throw them in the dishwasher and sanitize them to get them good and hot when I am ready to can stuff (hopefully starting that I've said for the past week, but I'll get there anyway).

8.  I decided to start decorating for Spring.  Yes, I know it is WAY off yet, but the sunlight is slowly coming back, Christmas is over and I really am jiving for Spring.  So, I took down winter themed decorations and put up more Spring like themes for the sake of lifting our moods around here.

In a quick side note, if you are looking for decorating options that don't cost very much, that you can trade out whenever you feel a whim and gives you a decent amount of themes to choose from, might I suggest getting a postcard book (basically a bound packet of postcards) that you can just hang up different ones when you want?  I got a postcard book of Monet's works through Amazon at the beginning of the school year to "decorate" the school space a bit with the passing of seasons and I just hang them up on the fridge so we can look at them from the table as we are working on schoolwork.  It has been wonderful and I've been able to put up three to four postcards at the same time with various themes to change up the house a bit.  My son really gets a kick out of it and was thrilled when I took down the winter themed postcards and put up new ones *laugh*.  My current postcards I just put up are seen up top.

9.  I found and used up some things in the freezer and pantry I ran into that needed to be used.  I also pulled out some things that I can make and freeze for later out of the pantry so I can make them here soon (like pancake mix) and put those on my "to do" list.

And there you go folks.  My short list of things I've done the last couple of weeks.  It isn't much, but at least I did get some things done around here :).

Hope things are going well for you and yours.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Goals for 2022

Blogging was, once again, delayed due to the weather.  We had a few days that were wind free and then round two started and was blowing hard all weekend.  Bright side, if there is one, is that the winds only reached about 60mph this time instead of 100mph, so while the winds were scary sometimes, at least they weren't as destructive as the first round.  People still lost power as weakened trees went down, but MEA has stated that all power has now been restored, so I was happy to hear that.  As soon as the wind calmed down I ran out and put ice melt on the entire driveway because the wind had managed to batter the ice on the driveway from the ice storm we had into a nice, solid, glossy sheen.  If we'd had ice skates we would have had a great time, but since we were trying to drive vehicles over it, I figured putting down some salt was a good idea, especially since the weather called for snow (which we got about an inch of yesterday) and they are calling for chances of snow for basically the next week.  The ice melt seems to be making a difference, so I am happy to see that.

Right, now that "Wind 2:  Electric Boogaloo" is over, I finally found time to get some goals actually written down and some things done around here.  So, let's get to the yearly goals, shall we?

Oh and as an aside, please enjoy the shot of a calm sunset I took when the wind finally stopped here up top :).  

In general, 2022's main theme on the goal front is "to be more self sufficient".  The world situation is...well uncertain and scary....and I am determined that I am going to do everything in my power to make sure my family can ride the tide of things to come with as little upheaval as possible.  So trying to get more and more self sufficient is going to become more and more important.  That probably means me looking around come Spring to see if I can find someone willing to part with some egg laying hens and getting prepared to be a chicken owner again.  I need to do some checking on feed and bedding prices, though, as everything costs more up here, so I'm not sure how cost effective I can make chickens in our current budget.  I want to be prepared this time.  Last time I took on chickens fast and furious because Shani needed me to, so this time I want to make sure I do it smart if I do it.  You'll definitely see the theme of self sufficiency moving through the goals this year.  So, let's get started on things I want and/or need to get done this year!

Painting Goals:
  • Get hallway and stairway painted.
  • Repaint upstairs bathroom.
  • Touch up paint in son's room.

Household Goals:

  • Get cabinet handles for bathroom cabinets and install them 
  • See about getting cabinet handles for kitchen and install them (wow, I can't believe how uncluttered I managed to get the countertops back when I took this photo.  It doesn't look like that now).  The cabinets are just starting to show wear and tear little bit by little bit so I'm hoping using handles will help to preserve what is left of the cabinet finish.
  • Try and find something to install as a backsplash in the kitchen (I just cook and bake too much and it just beats the paint up, so I'd like to find something that is easier to clean).
  • Install wood stove.  My husband surprised us with a wood stove for Christmas that we can install as a back up heating source, so we need to get that installed.
  • Get new gutters for the house installed.  My husband keeps kicking this goal down the road as he's the one with the gutter installer contact, but I'm determined to get this done this year as the gutters are becoming more and more of a mess and the lack of gutters in places are really wearing on the house.

Financial Goals:
  • Try to stop getting into more debt (and boy I know I'm not alone in that regard).
  • Be more proactive about health (to avoid going to doctors and screwing up goal #1).
  • Pay down bills as much as possible.

Pantry Goals:

  • Can more!  There.  My one pantry goal.  Okay, so it's a loaded pantry goal, but still it is one single goal.
I think I pretty much managed to find all of my empty jars from around the house and now it is a matter of starting to use them more and get back into full scale canning (creative jar storage seen in the photo above).  I'm not going to go too crazy with the canning (as in what I am going to can), but I do want to put up some things that we will use.  Like right now my list starts with canning the frozen fruit in my freezer so we have it to use on pancakes, waffles, on cake, or as a mixed fruit type of cocktail for dinner sides (I have a bunch of miscellaneous frozen fruits that I put in the freezers to stop from going bad, so I'm just going to mix them all together and can them) and things.  

I also am planning on pressure canning (I haven't pressure canned in years as I found it was just too much work and worry with juggling the son as well) some soup and also canning some different beans to use in dishes later on so they are readily available and such.  Since I have tons of dried beans, this seems smart to me.  When it comes to storing the jars in the pantry, I got some nice heavy duty boxes that I'm putting aside so the storage will work easier.  Here's hoping my plans work out in reality.  With the way prices keep going up and the shrinking amounts in cans and other packages (shrinkflation), doing as much for ourselves as possible is becoming more and more of a necessity just as a means for our dollars to go as far as we can make them.

Freezer Goals:

Okay, so some might remember my lofty "freezer inventory" goals I came up with before 2020 made everything spin on its ear.  I'm not going back to the freezer inventory idea, per say, but I did do a bit to reorganize the standing freezer to work better by organizing meats into boxes so that I don't get a broken foot pulling things out of the freezer for dinner (this works fabulously and I recommend it to everyone!) and everything stacks up SO much nicer this way.  You'll notice a lack of beef in the freezer.  That is because, with the exception of the steaks I bought that are on the top shelf wrapped in freezer paper, the rest of our beef is in the small chest freezer in my kitchen.  It just seems best to keep like things with like.  One day soon I'm going to get motivated and move the steaks into the small block freezer in the kitchen, but it just hasn't happened yet.

So, my goals to make the freezer work a bit better for our needs, is once I can the fruit on the top shelf of the freezer there, I want to make the top shelf of the freezer into a shelf for convenience foods (snack foods and the like) and ready made meals and desserts.  I'll get into the things I'm going to make this month in another post, but I have to say that I'm excited at the prospect of having things made and ready to go, especially for the sake of my husband's lunches, so on days when I'm out of ideas we can just grab something from the freezer to pack in his lunch box.

With the potato shortage (no, really, this is a thing) causing problems and may be putting a strain on McDonald's French fries (which gives me nightmares since that is one of the few places Alvah can and will eat), I want to get some potatoes cut up, blanched, frozen and ready to go into the deep fryer so the son will have his French fries.  Man, I hope I can get it dialed in where he will be happy with it as he's super picky about his French fries.  I've always failed at home made French fries before, so wish me luck as I try again.  Here's hoping it works this time as I really don't want Alvah to lose one of the few things he'll eat *fingers crossed*.

Garden Goals:

This year I am planning to expand the container garden so that I can plant and harvest more food this summer.  I need to be sure to be careful and not overload the deck with too much weight, so my husband will be on board to help me figure all of that out as we go.  I am thinking, if I can get them, about putting the patio tomatoes going down the deck stairs on one side, which would give me a TON of tomatoes if they grow well, but it is still an idea in progress at this point.  I am determined to grow more food this year and to keep it as safe from insects and animals (I'm looking at you, moose) as I possibly can.  Here's hoping it all works out.  

So, yeah, my goals are pretty much the same as last year.
1.  Plant Garden.
2.  Have it not fail.
3.  Put up as much as I can for winter when the garden does well.

*Laugh* as goals go, I'd say that every gardener has pretty much the same, but here's hoping it all works out!

And there you go folks.  Some of my more major goals for 2022.  It is going to be a full year and I am DETERMINED it is going to be a good one!  

Friday, January 7, 2022

2021: A Year in Review

You know, it is amazing when you feel like you did next to nothing all year and then you start to look back and realize that you actually did quite a lot!  I was like, "Man!  The year in review is going to be a really short post this year! " and then I started looking back through the year and realized that I actually accomplished a good amount, which really made me feel better about the year AND really motivated me to do better this year :).  So, let's get to the year of 2021 in review!

The House:

1.  I FINALLY started to see the light at the end of the long tunnel when it came to repairing earthquake damage in the house.  We didn't get the gutters in last year, but I at least was able to paint and reorganize and rearrange my master bedroom, which was wonderful to get done.  I adore the new layout to my bedroom, I have to say and it's been really nice having my desk in there as it looks really nice in there :).

Getting the bedroom done means this year all I have left is my hallway and landing, which is all going to be white (but a lot of complicated maneuvering to get to it painted with the high ceiling in the stairway and such), but I have to say I'm excited to get that done.  I also need to repaint the children's bathroom and probably touch up my son's bedroom as he's hard on the paint in his room.  We also need to get the son's flooring done the rest of the way as well.  So, it is going to be busy this summer, I hope.

2.  I made new curtains for my bedroom, which matched the new paint really well when it was all said and done.   

3.  I rearranged the living room to give us more seating, which has worked out well for us.  I was able to bring in my stationary bike from storage and put it down in our den so that the kids can work out on that this winter and try to stay active.

4.  I bought some things for the kitchen, including some new kitchen chairs and am very glad I did.  I will do an update post on some things I ended up getting and how they are working out for me as kind of a update post here soon.

5.  We got a new to us washing machine from my sister-in-law, which has been AWESOME to have!  Its larger capacity has really made washing blankets and things so, so much easier!

6.  I redid my snack closet/working snack pantry earlier in the year.  I'll give an update on how that has worked out as well here soon :).

7.  I redid my spice cabinet and rearranged my lower cabinet in my kitchen so things worked better and were more streamlined.  It is still working great and I'm glad I did it that way!

8.  I managed to make new throw pillows for the love seat and my daughter's room this year (okay, pillow forms in the daughter's room case).

The Pantry:

Sorry, in my mind the pantry is its own thing, separate from the house :).

1.  I worked really, REALLY hard on the pantry and the larder this year to make sure we were as well stocked as we could be to ride the tides of global supply issues and inflation.  One of the ways we did this was by buying a beef and pork pack with our tax return and some federal stimulus money.  The meat packs worked AWESOME to make sure we had a decent variety of food all year and I'm very, very glad we did it.  Just recently I had to buy some more steaks and some more pork chops, but we still have plenty of different cuts of meat to give us a good variety of things to choose from in the coming months this year.  I'm not sure if I'll have to purchase another meat pack come October/PFD time this year, but so far we are doing fine on meat, so I am not worried about purchasing either a pork or beef pack this Spring.

Stay tuned for an update on the freezer inventory situation and what the plan for this year is going to be.

2.  I took every available penny we had and sunk them into buying food last year.  I rearranged the pantry to accommodate the extra provisions (and ended up rearranging the house a few times *laugh*).   I love the new arrangement to the pantry, as it works SO much better than it did and is a lot brighter in there now.

Oh, I also got a question on what lights I used in the pantry as someone noticed that the back part of the pantry is really low (since it is under the stairs, you have to squat walk to get into the back part of the pantry or crawl even).  The main entrance to the pantry has one lightbulb that is hardwired into a light switch ceramic fixture, but the rest of the pantry has no permanent lighting built into it.  

To make sure I can see what I'm doing, I bought a motion detecting light from, I want to say Lowes, that was like 5.00 years ago on a recommendation from my sister-in-law and it has worked awesome (the light you see in the above picture).  To supplement the light and try to make it easier to see in that part of the pantry, I invested in some LED motion detecting puck lights from Amazon a few years ago and they have really helped to brighten the place up that much more, although I've noticed that they EAT batteries compared to the bigger one I bought at Lowes.  I used to have a few "hit and light up" type of puck lights you could move around, but one died on me a long while ago and the other one didn't survive the earthquake, so that is the system I have right now.  I would like to add a few more lights eventually just because I have a hard time seeing fine print sometimes.  It is much dimmer in the pantry than you see in the pictures.  The camera flash combined with some backlit functions on my photo software really help to make it look nice and bright in there.

Stay tuned for more on the pantry this year too.  I have some plans I'm hoping will work out (more on that in yearly goals post here in a bit).

The Garden:

1.  You would not believe how thrilled I am to be able to post positives about the garden from last year *laugh*.

This was my first year trying out a full on container garden and it was a GREAT success!  How successful?  I JUST used my last cabbage from the garden that was stored in the fridge and used it in the beef and barley soup I made a few weeks ago!  I mean how very awesome is that?!?  I still have frozen produce in the freezer from my garden and the local CSA I invested in last year, which is wonderful to have as well.

I am really wanting to expand the container garden this year and hopefully it does half as well as it did last year!  We shall see how it goes!


1.  Well, we started high school with the daughter this year, which I'm still in shock about and we are studying hard to get really good at the driving written test so she can go in (not freak out as she freezes up when a written test is put in front of her sometimes) and get her driving permit.  It's crazy she's gotten this old on me so fast *laugh*.

2.  We have been doing a wide variety of things in homeschool with the son this year and it has been working out well, overall.  He really has enjoyed me reading to him more and absolutely loved "The Jungle Book" and "Treasure Island".

3.  I have continued to study everything I can about autism research, verbal apraxia and all the conditions my son struggles with.  I took a few more classes on LAMP and have been working hard with the program to get proficient in it so that I can talk to Alvah through it.  I am getting better and faster (faster is important with LAMP) and he really does seem to be enjoying me talking to him in this format more and more.  I still can't get him to reply to my comments with more than one word answers, but as the saying goes, "Rome wasn't built in a day".

And now for the cons for the year.  Namely...

My Health Issues:

1.  My back continued to give me real grief this last year and I finally got to a tearing point where I needed to find out what was wrong and try to fix it.  Cue lots of expensive medical tests to try and find out what was wrong with me and then physical therapy to try and help me adapt to my back issues, which after all of the testing they couldn't tell me what caused the back problems but figured physical therapy was the best bet to try and get past the problems.  

Physical therapy did help.  The bills didn't.  I'm still getting bills coming in from the various medical appointments, physical therapy appointments and such.  It really added a huge amount to our debt load, which stinks, but it is what it is.  I've got a lot of work to do to get us crawling out of the new debt hole I created, but I will get us there.  I'm determined.

And because I don't want to end on a down note...

And Honorable Mention:

Despite having next to no mechanical proficiency, I managed to tear apart and fix my food dehydrator which has been sitting broken for three years.  I am still tickled every time I turn it on and it just runs.  No burning smell or anything else that would shout, "You did it wrong, you idiot!"  

And there you go folks.  My year 2021 in review.  On to 2022.  I have a lot of plans for this year and am determined to make a bunch of them a reality (if not all), so stay tuned for that =D.

How about you?  Any goals for this year?  

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Windstorm: January, 2022

Since this is starting to hit a few national news channels (so says Google anyway) and since the winds have finally started dying down, I thought I'd give a "head's up" on how we are doing around here.

2022 came in like a wrecking ball.  A wrecking ball compiled of hurricane force winds that lasted for three days straight and hit the Matanuska-Susitna Borough hard.  It was a white knuckled ride.  

Before I link to an article about the event, I just want to assure everyone that we are okay.  Thank goodness.  My husband and I didn't sleep for three days as the winds were scary, hammering and brutal, but so far *knock on wood* we have a bunch of trees that got blown over but somehow managed to avoid hitting anything super important (at least I hope.  I haven't gotten a chance to go out and completely survey the property, but at least the house and outbuildings are okay).  The ice storm we had last week ended up being a blessing in disguise as the ice on top of the snow that we'd gotten managed to seal the snow to our roof.  So, the winds battered the house, but with all of that snow and ice to go through we managed to last out the worst of the winds with that layer of protection that the wind had to work through.  Basically it became a buffer for our roof, so we didn't lose shingles or worse and a lot of homes in the Valley were in the same condition, so I honestly think Mother Nature saved a bunch of us from roof damage.  

I mean look at that barn roof.  It was just getting down to bare roofing when the wind slowed down.  Talk about lucky.

We were also blessed living where we are because our house is right off of a major pole line that MEA (our local electrical company) tends to make sure is clear of falling tree danger, so we somehow didn't lose power.  It flickered a lot, but didn't go out.  Most of the Valley wasn't that lucky.  A bunch of people are still without power and at points nearly 30,000 people were without power at one time.  As soon as MEA would fix a downed line another outage would occur.  My hat is off to the linemen who were working around the clock since the start of this thing trying to keep as many people's power on as possible and are still out working today to hopefully restore the rest of it.  

Winds started out brutal and didn't let up.  We had winds clocking 100 mph in places and they were averaging 82 mph in Palmer.  We don't get typhoons (East Coast of US is hurricanes, West Coast is typhoons) up here, but we do get wind.  We can get some pretty good winds in the Valley (Wasilla and Palmer area of Alaska) and we have some really tough building codes in this state to deal with our unique environmental challenges, but we were not used to this type of winds for that long.  Planes at Palmer airport flipped over and were destroyed, tractor trailer trucks flipped over in the wind, we had storage sheds flying around like tumbleweeds, road signs and store signs blew off and hit vehicles and buildings (our hotel in Palmer, which worked really hard to stay open during the entire event had a sign fly through the front window and injure a few people), some people lost roofs (including Palmer Carrs lost part of their roof, their sprinklers broke and spewed water everywhere before it all froze in a crazy waterfall down the front of their building, trapping two cars out front in the process) and the A&W/KFC in Wasilla is in rough shape after their roof got ripped off in the wind and caused catastrophic damage to the building.  The Matanuska Susitna Borough declared a state of emergency and then the state did for our area.  Sadly, we are not alone in major problems right now.  Fairbanks and the Delta Junction areas are still dealing with their major ice storm and snowfall problems, Juneau has avalanches and things going on right now...and I'm sure I'm missing some, unfortunately.  The state is setting up disaster funding for people and we'll see if FEMA decides to help out on a federal level.  But, yeah, it's a mess up here right now.

Basically, there is going to be a lot of rebuilding that is going to be needed after this mess and I'm just talking about my local environment here.  We are expecting high winds until Wednesday (by NOAA), but the winds have at least died down to a point where it is closer to normal (by Valley standards) wind conditions, so I'm able to breathe again.  Unfortunately our temps are now starting to plummet down into the single digits again, which means that the wind chill is hovering around 40 below at the moment...for those without power this is scary and dangerous.  MEA had only about 8,000 people without power as of this morning (sadly I feel like "only" was a good way to put that as there were so many more people without power yesterday) and were hoping to get those people back on today, which I'm hoping they can for everyone's sakes.  We'll see how much real estate damage is done when frozen pipes start to get defrosted and things, but even now things aren't pretty.

If you'd like to see pictures of what happened in Wasilla and Palmer and places, you can check out the article here via our local paper the Anchorage Daily news.

I'll give an update on things when I can, as I'm sure I'm going to be taking pictures of things in the coming weeks, but at the moment I'm just so grateful that we weathered this storm okay.  Yes, we have trees that we are going to be cutting down (in some cases) and cutting up this Spring/Summer, but I am counting every blessing we had during this event and that my family is okay and safe.  I pray that the rest of Alaska can say the same here soon.  At least, from what I was reading, we haven't had any major injuries or any deaths reported from this event as of the article I read this morning, so I pray that stays that way.  

Stay safe, Alaska, and persevere.