Monday, June 29, 2015

Frugal Accomplishments and Summer Fun - Mid June

It's been so busy here that I'm late getting this posted.  It is actually two weeks' worth of entries.

Last week, the poppies were blooming and they were glorious!  The peonies are finishing now, and the flower beds look really nice...especially when you're far enough away from them that you cannot see all the weeds.

The garden is growing well for the most part.  We are getting lots of lettuce and spinach, but I expect them to start bolting soon, since we are expecting some hot weather the next few days.  I picked and washed a big bag of lettuce and I was able to share some with friends and library co-workers.  Something came along and ate the tops off the beets in one garden, but they are coming back from the roots.  The chard is growing very slowly too, so I planted a little more.

Kale and spinach are growing well in the cement blocks that edge one of the gardens.
The blocks keep netting in place, to prevent the chickens from getting to our plants.

My friend gave me three tomato starts.  I planted one in a spot where some patty-pan squash seeds never germinated (two of them germinated four days later), and the other two tomatoes along a garden fence where I had a little space.  Everything else seems to be doing well.  The plants are tall enough now that we are mulching between them to even out the moisture and keep the weeds at bay.  The peas are blooming, and we are very happy about that too!

I found a crown vetch plant growing in the grass, so I moved it to a flower bed.  I asked husband to confirm for me that it was indeed crown vetch.  He confirmed it and pointed out three or four more plants!  They are in a buried planter - I will water them a bit and then transfer them as well.

We bought half-price tickets for the Renaissance Festival, and will go on the weekend that kids get in free.

We borrowed books and media from the library.  Daughter attended a free library program last week, where she learned to make paper.  Early this week, she attended the followup program where she learned to make paints from plants!  I read Wonderland Creek by Lynn Austin, and I enjoyed it a lot.  Currently, I am reading two nonfiction titles - one for review and another just for fun.  More on the review copy soon - the other book is Lessons From Madame Chic by Jennifer Scott.

I did some subbing at the library, some scoring for Pearson and two 'super bunnies' library programs.


We used sales and coupons to get 6 oz. cans of almonds for about 1.25.  Other than that, we didn't buy a whole lot the first week.  We picked up a couple of freebies we had loaded to our King Sooper card - some Snapple tea and some Ice Breakers mints.  Some ice cream sandwiches made it into the cart...and so did some potato chips.  Week two, I stocked up on chicken (1.67/lb. for boneless skinless breast and 1.59 for boneless skinless thighs), we got a pineapple for .88, grapes for .88/lb. and Triscuit crackers for about 1.20/box.

When we went to the Asian market they had lychee in the produce department.  Daughter and I had never had it.  It was rather expensive, so I just bought six - two for each of us...and it was really good.  I would describe it as sweet, has a very interesting texture and it's very juicy.  I'm glad we had the opportunity to try it!

lychee fruit, husk removed
lychee seed in center of fruit

I took Taffy to the animal health clinic and had her tested for heart worm.  She was negative, which I expected, but the test is required before you start heart worm medication.  There is no office visit fee at the clinic - you pay for the test and the meds.  It is a great way to save on basic animal care.

We spent the weekends staining and sealing some window frames.  We've lived in the years...and we're finally getting this done.  The next time we build a house, I'm staining and sealing the windows before they are installed, hee hee.

I saw an offer on the local freecycle page and we were able to get Daughter a trampoline.  It is in really good shape.  We got quite the workout taking it apart....and putting it back together.

A friend of mine gave me some landscape fabric (the fabric that you put under the mulch or stone to keep the weeds from peeking through), and I was able to give her some lettuce.

We celebrated Father's Day with cards, hugs and phone calls to our dads.  For Husband, we had a shrimp boil for dinner - it was fun, easy and really tasty.

A neighboring family has been cleaning out their big garage and gave me a box of canning jars with lids and rings.  They also offered us the remaining 'space' in the roll-off dumpster they rented for their project, so we were able to clear out some space in our barn.

I had received a postcard from Kohls good for $10 off a $10 purchase.  I chose a couple of garden flags for our entry way and paid just over $1 out of pocket.  We also went to Penzey's and used the coupon they sent us to get a jar of Fox Point seasoning free of charge.  We received some magazines in the mail that are free subscriptions.

I've been hanging the laundry outdoors to dry - it smells so good!  I wash our clothes with homemade laundry soap.

We created a nice outdoor space using things we had on hand.  We simply moved them from here and there (and over there), and put them in the shade.  We've been spending quite a lot of time out there enjoying the summer weather.

Husband and I celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary.  We went to a specialty shop that sells infused olive oils and vinegars and got a few small bottles so we can experiment with them at home.  We went out to lunch that day as a family and did some other pleasant errands - it was a very nice day.

I gave Husband a haircut - it looks great!  That night, I gave myself a haircut, and according to my friends and library co-workers it looks pretty good too! :)

We have had some magnificent storms!

We spent time outside, enjoying the cool breezes, birdsong and time with friends and family.  We have had some hot days, but at night it is cooler, so we open the windows, turn on the ceiling fan and cool the house down.  Even with temperatures around 90 degrees, the house has remained comfortable. are you doing with summer frugality?  `I hope you will share some of your wins in the comments! :)

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Frugal Accomplishments, Blessings and Summer Fun!

I did some sewing for Daughter's Paddington Bear - this is his coat.  I had to make a pattern first, but it went fairly well and turned out nice!  She got the bear and the hat (separately)  at Goodwill and combined them for her own Paddington.  I used three sheets of felt (about 75 cents), and had the rest of the supplies (thread, jute, button, etc.) on hand.  I made the pattern from newspaper, so the cost was quite small for the coat.

Daughter and I sat down one day and looked through some photos I'd pinned on Pinterest.  We went outside and chose some rocks for painting, washed them well, and then made these.

She made the green kitty with sunglasses for me (green because she knows it is one of my favorite colors.)  The owl has glow in the dark varnish on the eyes.  All of them have been sprayed with a spray-on clear coat to protect them from hail.  We put them in our gardens.  There is also a smaller ladybug that Daughter made, but I couldn't find it when I was taking photos.

I picked the left side of the patch a few days ago and got a huge bowl of lettuce.
After I took this photo, I picked the right side - another huge bowl!
It will be enough for the next 4-5 days.
We are getting more from our garden now, which is nice!  I'm still picking green onion tops, asparagus and radishes, but now we are also getting cilantro, lettuces and spinach in great quantities.  There are herbs that are large enough to pick too.  I'm happily finding lots of little sprouts for beets, baby bok choy, carrots, beans, pumpkins, squashes and herbs.  The weather has been cooler, so I have pieces of glass resting on top of the protectors that the tomatoes are growing in - this makes each of them into a mini greenhouse.  I can see that they are growing more quickly now.

Tomato plants (Oregon Spring) I started from seed.  THey are about a foot tall now.

In my flower beds, I keep finding new, exciting things.  I assume that most of them are perennials we have planted over the years that were dormant (or too small to bloom) during the last several years of drought.  In any case, I have a lot of flowers that feel like they are 'new' this year.  I hope to divide some and move others, if we continue to get rainy weather.  I also discovered some beet berry in the old herb garden.  I thought it had died off over time, so I will (happily!) move it to the new herb garden so it does not get trampled.  (The old herb garden is now under my clothes lines.)

I picked flowers and sprigs of lemon balm to make a bouquet for the kitchen table.

bunny program bunnies

Mrs. Patmore, an English Angora rabbit.
We did not do a lot of grocery shopping this week.  We are getting more of our vegetables from the garden now, but we did pick up a cantaloupe for 88 cents, some apples for 88 cents/lb. red and green grapes for 88 cents/lb.  There was a sale/coupon combination that made 3 Musketeers candy bars 25 cents each.  We purchased a 2 liter of olive oil from Costco as well.  I have a couple of things on the list for 'soon' but I'm watching for sales and deals in the mean time.

We were able to get our truck repaired this week!  It was making a strange howling noise for a while.  The mechanics who heard it did not know what it was....or tried something that did not fix it.  The howl turned into a low growl (it sounds like we have a wolf in there!), plus a couple of people recommended that we take it to Al and have him check it.  Al determined that it was the carrier bearing, which is a doohickey that is behind the U-joint.  He replaced it, and our truck is quiet again.  I looked it up - if we had not persisted and found someone to fix this, it could have been a much more serious (and costly) repair in just a few weeks.  We bought our truck new...21 years ago.  It has been very reliable and has needed very few repairs.  Everything still works - even the air conditioning! - and we hope to keep it going for a long time.

I was able to pick up 100 feet of flexible drainage pipe that someone listed on a local freecycle page.  We have some drainage we want to install and this is one of the things we will need to complete that project.  Free is a great price!  We also talked about some improvements we want to make in our back yard.  We have some of the supplies on hand, so we may be able to get started soon.

We have some large stumps that were removed from the front yard last summer.  Husband removed as much as he could for firewood, but Daughter wanted to keep them, because she likes playing in and around them.   This weekend, we used some rope and plywood to make a 'sled', and rolled them onto that to relocate them to a space out back.  Moving them felt like a Redneck Cautionary Tale waiting to happen, but it acutally went well.  This became Daughter's "camp".

There are spaces beneath some of the logs that she can use to cache her supplies.

'Wild game' (a fish and a bunny) on a line in camp, to keep bears from taking it.
We got some nice things in the mail this week, including a $10 Kohls coupon and a Penzey's catalog with a coupon for a free item on the front.  I received my first free issue of Weight Watchers magazine as well.

We borrowed books and media from the library.  Daughter completed the first level of the summer reading program and got her coupon sheet for that.  We attended a free library program as well, and had our first bunny program of the season.

My friend lent us some items we will use to help create Daughter's costume for the Renaissance festival this summer.  She also gave me cuttings for coleus and spider plants, some cranberry beans (to grow or to eat?  I still haven't decided).

We spent a lot of time outdoors, enjoying the nice weather.  We had some rainy days that saved us some water as well.  We have been busy mowing, moving plants, trimming trees and swatting mosquitoes.

How about you?  What did you do this past week to spend less, save more and make do?  What did you do for fun, and how were you blessed?

Monday, June 8, 2015

Summer Activities - The Plan

It's summertime!  School is out!  We use a virtual school, so we are used to being home together, but we want to keep ourselves busy (and I want to make sure that skills are not lost during break).  Here are some things were doing with our summer days:

Summer means more time for birdwatching.

Library Activities.  Our library district has a fun-filled summer reading program.  Kids can earn prizes by logging their time spent reading.  There are also lots of fun programs to attend.  Some are educational, others entertaining, some are for crafting while others focus on math or science.  Daughter is signed up for summer reading, and she is attending the summer sessions of 'after math', where they do various games and activities that help kids retain and enhance their math skills over the summer.  This coming weekend, there is a free children's book exchange - donate books you have outgrown in the morning, then come back in the afternoon to choose new (to you) books in the afternoon.

Music.  Daughter takes piano lessons from a high-school student.  In the summer, there is more time to practice and have fun, impromptu concerts.  She has a little 'i-cat' toy that lights up and dances to the music, which is really fun too!

Outdoors.  We are gardening this year, fishing on the weekends, playing outside with friends and generally having fun.  This week we're making 'seed bombs' with a friend.  They are a test for an upcoming library event, but I think the girls will enjoy helping us come up with prototypes!  We have also been planting seeds in the flowerbed and doing some bird watching in the cooler parts of the day.  There are chores too - tending our animals, picking up all of Taffy's sticks so we can mow, weeding and watering, etc.  We have a tent, and I plan to put it up as soon as I get the first round of mowing done.  It will be a fun and easy fort.  When it gets a little hotter we will get out the water balloons, squirters, etc.  We also have a small fire pit, where I am hoping we can roast some marshmallows on a warm night.

There will be fishin'...and hopefully, catchin'.

Flash!  Yep.  I'm old-fashioned, and we've been spending a few minutes (fewer than five!) each day with the flash cards.  If we can keep those basic math facts current over the summer, I think it will make back-to-school time a much more pleasant transition.    I'm also going to start with some penmanship 'mini pages' soon, to keep penmanship skills in place.

Projects.  I have some things saved on Pinterest that I think would be fun for a rainy day, or even a very hot day, when there is interest in 'something to do'.  Most of these are things like painted rocks, coloring pages, making walking sticks, pine cone crafts, etc.

Nature.  We'll be hiking (and possibly biking) out in nature throughout the summer.  Daughter has a lovely nature table downstairs where she can bring her collected items, and we can use them year-round.  She has found fragments of some songbird eggs, a few feathers and some beautiful stones.  She takes a field guide and binoculars with her when we go fishing, too.

Chores.  I have been asking for a little more help, and Daughter is learning a few more tasks that she can do.

Computer.  Daughter is signed up for a free program called Ten Marks.  It's a quick, daily math activivites to help keep her skills current.  After completing a certain number of quizzes (we think it's six), a game is unlocked as a reward.  She is also talking about starting to track her birding interests online.  Finally, her virtual school offers some free summertime live lessons.  We went through the list and marked the ones that are for her age, and that she is likely to enjoy.  Some are book talks, and others include science activities, a summer cooking lesson, camping skills and camp games.

Western Tree Wolf - pup (rare)

Western Tree Wolf - proud parents (rare)

Being a Kid.  I think this is the best part - just having time to explore interests, discover things and have fun!  It is fun to see just how creative and imaginative children can be, and 'down time' is important for that sort of development.  So, we are not 'on the go' all that much.  We have big blocks of time to pursue interests and create.

Me.  Me?  I want to read when I have time, and do spring (ahem) cleaning.  Today I washed the screens, windows and blinds in the living room, swept the ceiling, wiped down a couple of walls....being a grownup is fun like that!  There will be gardening, mowing, spending time with friends too, as well as my sweet hubby.

What are your summer plans?

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Frugal Accomplishments for the First Week in June

Hi!  I hope you're having a good week!  Ours has been fairly typical - books and media from the library, laundry on the clothes line or on drying racks, a fair bit of scratch cooking - all those little things that add up over the long haul.  It's summer - Daughter is out of school for break, so I will share some of our summer plans and activities soon!

Taffy...aka, Houdini.  She has been quite the little escape artist of late.
We've been harvesting radishes, asparagus, greens and lettuces from the garden.  This week we had our first real 'garden' salad, with mixed lettuces and radishes from our garden.

My friend and I went to the Asian market together this week.  They had beautiful produce and great prices.  For $4.50, I was able to get Shanghai bok choy, bean sprouts, snow peas, a sprig of Thai basil (yum!), Persian cucumbers an opo (also called long melon) squash and some really nice broccoli.  At Walmart, I did some price matching and got limes for 12 cents each, strawberries for .98/lb, tomatoes for .98/lb., carrots for .50/lb, celery for .98/bunch, and more (but I can't remember right now!)

Oh yeah!  I picked up a 4lb. boneless ham (shaped) for 4.96.  I have a meat slicer and I'll use it to slice the ham for sanwiches, then I'll freeze it in half-pound packages so we can use it for sandwich meat throughout the summer.  I'll cube the end pieces and use those for stir-fry or omelets.

We recently borrowed the movie Paddington from the library, and Daughter thought she would like to have a Paddington stuffed bear.  We were in Goodwill on Thursday.  She used her own money (which was gotten a few months back by selling some things she no longer played with) to buy this Gund bear...

...and this OshKosh hat...

So sweet!  I admit, I'm really proud of her eye for putting together her own Paddington!

While we were at Goodwill, I also got her a pair of slippers, a couple of shirts for myself, a retractable leash for Taffy and a couple of other small things.

Mostly, it has been an at-home week of mowing, gardening and housekeeping.  We have done some of our summer activities too.  I re-planted seeds where some had failed to sprout, and put more flower seeds in the empty spots in our flower garden...and the weeding has begun!

I made a quiche this week.  Husband and I warmed up pieces for breakfast (daughter doesn't like eggs).  I used eggs from our hens, a mixture of spinach, kale and chard for the greens and green onion tops for the onion called for in the recipe...all those came from the garden.  The butter in the recipe was some I bought for $1 a pound, I used a little ham (from our freezer) I got back at Christmas for .99/pound and the cheese was purchased in bulk for about $2.25/pound.  It uses just small amounts of each of those items....with a few other ingredients (a little milk, salt and pepper, 2T. flour) I would estimate the total cost at about $1.20, or 12 cents per serving.  I adapted the quiche recipe from The Prudent Homemaker site.

Homemade cheese pizza with basil and Sriracha!
I did a fair amount of scratch cooking this week, mostly simple things like bbq chicken, roasted potatoes, and various salads.  I made a fairly traditional 3-bean salad, but added a bit of dijon mustard and some sliced radishes from the garden.  It's yummy, and tastes like a whole new salad.  I am thinking that when we are finished with it, I may use the liquid as a salad dressing.

I have several bunny programs this summer in our local library district.  I have two English Angora rabbits, but I need more for the programs, so I am 'renting' bunnies for the summer.  They are really cute - I'll share photos soon!  I'm also pet (baby chicks!) sitting for a friend while she's out of town - they are so fun.  It's nice having more animals around, even if it's just for a little while.

I was given some past-prime produce to feed to our chickens.  They really enjoyed the extra treats.

We gathered flowers - some wild daisies, and the blossoms from the chive plants (which smell surprisingly nice!) and brought them indoors to enjoy.

I hope you're having a great week.  What did you do this week to spend less, save more and make do?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

May Stock-Up Review, the Plan for June

 I did not track items/costs in order to make a list of the things we stocked up on in May.  It was a busy month, and it just didn't happen.  I can tell you that we took advantage of sale prices to stock up on pork shoulder roasts, chicken, ground beef, dry beans, lentils, potatoes, coffee, coconut oil, ketchup and mayonnaise.  I also started purchasing at the bread outlet, so we have several items in the freezer from there as well.  Right at the end of the month I purchased some shredded cheese, most of which is in the freezer for future meals.  We ended the month with approximately $5 remaining in the grocery budget, so we began June with about $185.  That will cover food and pantry stock-ups for the three of us.

We continue to get some produce from our garden.  I've picked radishes and asparagus, and early this month I picked some kale, spinach and chard.  Much of the garden is just sprouting, typical of our growing season.  I can begin picking greens for salads now, which will be really nice for the next couple months.  We are also getting ample eggs from our hens.

from-scratch blueberry muffins
I am doing less baking since I started shopping at the bread outlet.  If a sale presents itself I would like to fill my flour bucket (unbleached, all-purpose), but I have plenty of wheat I can grind for whole wheat items.  We used the last of the chocolate chips, but those are not typically on sale this time of year.  Mostly, I expect deals on things like canned beans (mainly baked beans and pork and beans), condiments you'd associate with cookouts, pickles and meats that do well on the grill.  With that in mind, I'll stock up on those items if we have a need.  We have a good amount of variety in our pantry right now, and I don't know of anything that we are out of that we tend to stock (other than those chocolate chips!).

One source of summer recreation for our family is fishing.  Generally, we eat what we catch, primarily pan-trout.  We have been twice this season, but we haven't had any luck just yet....time will tell if it's a good fishing year.

What are your plans for June stock-ups?