Saturday, August 22, 2015

Frugal Accomplishments and General Goings-On

It has been a busy week, but somewhat quiet, which was nice.  Here are some things we did! :)

Husband had some errands in town and stopped to pick up a load of free wood that we'll burn this winter in our wood stove.  We have to cut it to length, then it will be ready to go.

I canned another batch of green beans (two quarts, five 24 oz. jars) and made several more sheets of peach fruit leather.  I also picked our first cucumber of the season!  Sunday evening, I picked six cherry tomatoes!  One has been nibbled by a grasshopper, but the others are fine.

Bachelor buttons.

Some of the seeds I planted for fall are sprouting a bit, and there are happy flowers throughout the flower beds.  It will be a while before the flower beds are filled in the way I want them to be, but we are making progress.

Marigolds, bachelor buttons, cosmos, weeds and more.

Wild asters with a caterpillar.  I looked it up - it is a species of owlet moth.

Forget-me-nots (I was given the seed for my birthday) and wild tansy.

Now that Daughter is in school, I am available to do more subbing at the library.  I worked seven hours this week.

I made a double batch of liquid laundry soap and hung our clothes to dry.  Mostly, I hung them in the basement on racks, because they days I was washing laundry were overcast with intermittent rain.  It's nice to have an indoor option for rainy days and winter months.

My friend came for a visit and brought me some lacto-fermented vegetables - they are SO good!  We spent the morning together - did some visiting, dug yucca plants for a school project, planted a sedum plant, brought some stuff from the shed...and I gave her a hair cut.  It was fun to catch up a bit and have some time together, even if we were doing my chores.

I grew these rainbow coleus from seed this year.  They have been outdoors,
so there is a little wind damage, but they will fill in soon enough.

Daughter's new school utilizes parent involvement to enrich the educational program.  The current expedition is about Western Expansion, the pioneers and Colorado history.  On Friday, I took a wash tub, a wash board, some homemade soap, clotheslines and clothes pins, river stones, yucca root and old towels so the 4th graders could get a better sense of what it would have been like to do laundry as a pioneer.  We filled a container near the water source (our pond) and the students hauled buckets of water to the wash tub, then washed and wrung towels, then hung them to dry.  We used stones to crush the fibers of yucca roots to make soap, much like pioneers did when they ran low on lye soaps.  It was fun, and hopefully educational.

I am also volunteering a couple of mornings each week at Daughter's school to help student increase their reading rate, fluency and comprehension.  It's really rewarding and gives me a chance to get to know the school a little better.  I'm in the process of signing up as a nutrition services substitute as well.  I would be able to cover absences/sick days for the regular nutrition services workers.  It is a paid sub position, so it would help offset some of our school-related expenses (fuel driving to and from school, for example).

Another aspect of Daughter's school that I like is that Fridays are half-days.  It means we have a weekday afternoon together!  This week we went fishing and caught 5 rainbow trout in about 2 1/2 hours!  We used grasshoppers for bait.  We caught the grasshoppers out in the field the night before.  Nice!  Husband smoked the trout on the charcoal grill, and they were very, very good.  We ate three and I removed the meat from the other two.  I froze that meat for another time.

Fresh fish!
Freshly smoked.

The little chicks are growing nicely.  We are playing with names like Morning Glory, Pop Tart, Muffin and Omlette, but nothing is really 'sticking'.   I'm sure it will happen when the time is right.  Pepper, our little bunny, is growing well too.  She is a cuddle bug, and likes to be held and petted.  I would like to train her for tricks or agility, but she shows no interest in such things.  Snuggling may very well be her super power....if so, I guess I'll just make her a cape and be done with it, hee hee.  Daughter is training her to wear a harness, which she does not seem to mind one bit, once it's on her.

The three of us attended a Maker Space Safety class at the library - it is a pre-requisite for using the 3-d printers, laser cutters, audio-video equipment, sewing machines, serger, vinyl cutter, etc.  I also took daughter to a math tutoring program at the library on a different day.  Both programs were free and available to the public.  There are many amazing resources our library offers.

How was your week?  What helped you to spend less, save more and make do?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Mid-August Frugality, Gardening and Fun!

It has been a busy week, and I did a poor job of taking photos.  I just have a few to share.

I picked green beans every 2-3 days, and I was able to pressure-can my first batch this week!  I put up two quarts and five 24oz. jars.  The 24oz. jars are new to me, but I really like the size for our family - it's the perfect amount of green beans for us.  So, on that note, I posted on Facebook (locally) that I was looking for more jars of this size, and a friend of mine had 14 of them for me!  I brought her wide mouth quarts, which she prefers - win-win!

I also harvested kale, zucchini (lots of zucchini!) and peaches!  I shared some zucchini with a friend who did not garden this year.  We ate some of the kale (and will have more this coming week) and we enjoyed some fresh peaches.  I also put up a batch of peach jam and another batch of peach-almond jam.  I used the remaining peaches to make some fruit leather.  We will be harvesting more peaches and green beans this week.

Our fruit leather was difficult to remove from the trays.
I will try a thin coat of oil next time.

I planted some seeds for fall - mostly beets, radishes and lettuces.  I am patiently watching our cucumbers grow, and less-patiently watching my tomatoes stay green.  C'mon, yall!  It's time to ripen, pretty please?

I was able to get fresh pineapples for 77 cents each this week!  Husband found coupons for Nature Valley Granola bars, and after the coupons doubled at the store, the granola bars were money-makers.  I purchased four boxes, and self-check rewarded with me four pennies and a Catalina coupon for $2 off my next purchase at Safeway.  Woo hoo!

I joined the local gardening club a few weeks ago, and this past weekend they had a brunch.  It was a pot luck affair, with the club providing beverages and meat.  I took some deviled eggs that I made with eggs from our hens.  I garnished them with chives and borage flowers - they were quite pretty.  I filled the center of the plate with dilled green beans and carrots.  I also took some fruit-oat bars.  For fruit I used apricots and peaches from our trees.  I wanted to take things I had grown, at least in part!  The brunch was really nice, and the people were very welcoming and friendly.  There were lots of door prizes - more door prizes than there were attendees, so many of us went home with more than one item.  I'm now the proud owner of a cute turtle planter and a new (to me) variety of sedum.  One of the members of the club told me that this type of sedum spreads well, which is good news to me!

Before many of the spectators had arrived.  The stadium was about 60% full for the
game - plenty of fans, but it did not feel crowded.

We went to a professional baseball game.  It was a lot of fun!  Husband found a great price on tickets, and each ticket included some credit for food at the park.  We also took water and snacks from home.  It was fun, we were in the shade, and best, the Rockies won!  Rain was a possibility, so I picked up three rain ponchos at Dollar Tree.  It did not rain, so I exchanged them for 200 ct. boxes of facial tissue, since that will be more useful for us in everyday situations.

How was your week?  What did you do to spend less, save more and make do?

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Back to School Week Savings, Blessings and Fun!

If you read my weekly update last week, I want to thank you for indulging my whining.  I'm doing much better, and I appreciate your grace!

Daughter started school!  I did OK - I was almost back to the car when I started crying, so she didn't see me.  She was a trooper, and did just fine.  I subbed at the library that morning, which was good, because it kept me busy and kept my mind off missing her.  The people I work with are so good.  I was there for 4 hours, and the first two, they had me scheduled in the work room, with a box of tissues.  I did cry, a little, but part of it was being so appreciative of such thoughtful people, who gave me hugs and agreed that it really is hard that first day.  I am so proud to know these fine folks.

A lady whose daughters attend the same charter school as Daughter handed down some uniform shirts her daughters had outgrown.  She is a friend of mine...and I guess we are family, in a way - her dog is Taffy's brother!  Some of the shirts fit Daughter now, and some will require a bit of growing, so I have them sorted accordingly.  I did a little spot cleaning and a bit of mending and they are just fine for school!

Daughter has a binder and planner that will go back and forth each day for school, and she needs a tote or backpack to transport them in.  We have several different tote bags around, but a backpack distributes the weight more evenly on her frame.  We were looking at backpacks at the store, but I remembered that we had this one:

We got it at the Goodwill Outlet store, for about 80 cents...back in the spring.  It is a really nice backpack - heavy duty, and the pockets on either side are nice for snacks and such.  It had a small cut hole in it...which is why it has that cute kitty cat embroidered patch on the front.  It's iron-on, but it wasn't sticking well to the nylon, so it is sewn on too.  I used a discount coupon at Michael's and paid $1 for the patch.  Less than $2 for a really well-made backpack is a great deal!

There were just two full school days this first week, and Daughter took her lunch both days.  We had an insulated tote at home that she decided would be just right.  I picked up two re-freezable ice packs so that we can rotate them - back-up seems like a good idea.  We already had a stainless steel thermos and all of the containers for sandwiches, sides, snacks, etc. are things we had on hand.  Daughter picked out a water bottle that has a screw-on snack container.  It is BPA free and it was just a dollar.  I put about an inch of water in it the night before, screw on the snack container (so it doesn't swell funny and keep the container from fitting properly) and freeze it overnight.  In the morning, I add snacks to the bottom, fill the rest of the upper part with water, and her water is still cold at morning snack.  She really likes it.  Our lunch gear cost sits at $3.  Grandma and Grandpa were kind enough to pick up a couple more of the lunch totes (we got them when we were visiting a while back) and they will send them in the next goodie box.

My friend had handed down a bag containing several thermoses - they are stainless, double walled, and really keep things cold.  The decals on the outside were scraped in places, and some were for characters my daughter either doesn't know or doesn't care for, so I took a stainless steel scouring pad and cleaned off the decals on one a long time ago, and I did another this week.  Husband did the remaining two with mineral spirits.

Basket o' Snacks - we have something similar in the fridge with melon cubes,
string cheese, etc.

As for food, she is pretty easy to please.  She helped me make a list of foods that would be good for lunches, and they are all things that we make/eat pretty regularly.  This past week she took sandwiches, carrots and celery, fresh fruit, string cheese (we got 12-packs for 1.99 after sale/coupon!) pretzels, trail mix, whole grain crackers and water.  The time for lunch is just 20 minutes, so taking lunch from home gives her more eating time, because she's not waiting in line for her food.  I think she will eat these foods more readily, and I won't have issues with keeping the same budget we already have for groceries ($180 a month for 2 adults and 1 child).

When we stopped our subscription (years ago!) they never
came for the box, so now it is by my garden, holding hand
tools, a knife for cutting zucchini or lettuce, and plastic
bags to bring in the produce.

In the garden, I've been picking zucchini, green beans, peas (just a few), kale and zucchini (the veg. so nice I picked it twice! har har).  The tomatoes seem to think that they don't need to turn red until Christmas.  I'm hoping they change their minds soon!  I was letting the arugula go to seed, but I lost my patience with the harlequin bugs that kept coming for it.  I was squishing about a half dozen a day, but the weather got hotter and drier, and suddenly, I was finding 12-18 on the plants every morning.  So, I pulled them and fed the plants (and the resident harlequin bugs) to the chickens.  Hopefully, the arugula won't change the flavor of their eggs.

I enjoyed the flowers in our flower beds.  I picked a few for inside the house, but mostly, I've just enjoyed them outside.  We've also been enjoying all the birds at our feeding station!  It is working very nicely as a gathering place for birds, and that lets us observe them through the day.  However, when I took this photo, they all flew into the trees.

I checked the orchard, and we have peaches, pears and apples forming.  No huge crops, but we had late frosts that took many of the blossoms.  We will need to net the trees soon, lest the birds and deer have a feast the day before they are ripe!

Kohl's sent me a post card for $10 off a $10 purchase.  Daughter found these towels that she just loved!  They were in the kitchen part of the household section, but she wants to have them for hand towels in the bathroom - fine with me!  I also picked up this cold drink cup that was on clearance.  The total was $9.98, so our cost was zero out of pocket.

I didn't do much grocery shopping this past week, but I did pick up a few items.  Milk was 1.99 a gallon, leaf lettuces were .50/head (I am between crops right now), and I got a huge cantaloupe for .75!  I also picked up a few peaches for .69/lb and some red tomatoes (hello, tomato plants?) and jalapenos for .59/lb.  Avocados were 3/$1, so I bought three.  We also went to the bread outlet and stocked up on different types of bread.

I made a batch of little pancakes, froze them individually, and then put them into a container so I can pull out 2-3 for Daughter's breakfast a couple of mornings a week.  She eats them with some ginger-peach fruit butter that I made and canned, along with some ham for protein.  It's a nice 'treat' breakfast.  I made potato salad this week, Husband brought home some chicken from Popeye's.  On Tuesdays, it is $1.09 for 2 pieces. I can't make decent fried chicken, so this is an occasional treat.  We ate zucchini, peas, kale and green beans from the garden.  I made guacamole and salsa on the night we had taco salad, and we grilled teriyaki beef for another night's supper.  We had leftovers for dinner a time or two as well, and I made something similar to minestrone with garden produce and some odds and ends from the fridge.

I called my mom to wish her a happy birthday.  I sent a card as well, but a phone call is always nice for catching up!  We also talked after school started - Grandma & Grandpa wanted to know how their grand baby had done on her first day!

I expressed Taffy's glands and then gave her a bath.  I trimmed bunny toenails (sharp!) and Tallulah spent the week acclimating to the bunny barn.  Tallulah is our cat.  Since she can't read, I will just tell you.  We have had that cat since she was about 6 weeks old, and she's never been quite right in the head.  She's a spayed female...who sprays.  We had relegated her to the basement, but she began spraying down there, too, so we made some security improvements to the bunny barn, and moved her there.  She was not happy the first day - outside is a big new world for her - but she has adjusted quite well and seems to be very happy out there.  The barn is 3-sided, with a gate along the entire east side.  The gate has cyclone fence over it, so she is safe.  We added a strip of siding and some wire mesh along the top of that east side, so there is more shade, but still very good ventilation.  When I go out to check or tend the bunnies, she greets me with lots of love and affection...when she lived in the house, I barely got the time of day from her, so this seems to be an improvement in her disposition.  Hopefully, it will work out.  Despite her tendency to be a hot mess of a cat, we do love our Tallulah Mae.

We sold some more items that we no longer need or want, using some local facebook pages for advertising.  I had some things that I really like that I was holding onto, even though I didn't have the 'right' space for them.  I sold my butcher block table, for example.  I really liked that table.  It worked really well as an island in the two kitchens previous to the one we have now, but it just doesn't fit anywhere here.  I'm a little embarrassed that it took me so long to...let go...but I'm just glad I finally managed it.   I used a small portion of those funds to purchase a 'spot bot' - it's a small carpet cleaner that can be used to spot clean, and it also has an attachment for corners and small spaces.  I will use it for spot cleaning and stairs.

Look who we found at the feed store!

How was your week?  What did you do to spend less, save more and make do?  Leave me a comment, won't you please?

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Our Last Week of Summer

Hello, Dearies!!

Can I just say something?  This past week has been a week when I am grateful that, for us, frugality is more or less a habit.  I am glad that I didn't have to put mental energy toward checking prices, making do, saving more, because for me, this last week was a rough week.

Before I turn this into a pity party, I want to say that we are very, very fortunate.  We are healthy, we have all we need and more, and best of all, we have one another.  Still...there is a lot of change happening around here right now, and in general, I am not a huge fan of change.  Several of the changes are really not mine to discuss, so I won't mention them...those of you that know me personally are aware of those.  So my partial list includes helping Daughter get ready to start school away from home.  She is excited, and I am too, but it's going to be different, and she and I are used to spending nearly all our time together.  I know we will both be fine, but it will be an adjustment.

I have also been watching as the high-voltage power lines that we fought to the best of our ability were installed in our community.  We learned of a neighbor's passing, and saw the 'for sale' signs go up on that property, and learned that at least two more properties here will be changing hands in the next little while.  I helped a friend move, too.  She did not move 'away-away', but further away, and in a direction I don't often get to go.  One of my chickens died.

You know...I think it's the number of changes that's getting to me, not the individual changes themselves.  The end result is that I'm whiny and I want chocolate and soda.  Do they make chocolate soda? that I have that out there, I will admit that I didn't make good notes this week.  I will say that we still watched for items on sale and bought things as we needed them.  Our Costco card expired at the end of the month, so we made a last cheese-and-dried-seaweed run, hee hee.  We accepted some fridge and freezer items from my friend that was moving, which was very nice of her, and I stocked up on string cheese and trail mix, both of which were on sale and had coupons to go with.

The friend that moved is downsizing some.  She blessed me with a bag of clothing, an office chair I am using in my craft area, a couple of area rugs and some plant cuttings, among other things.  We borrowed books and media from the library, and I subbed for a few hours one day too.  We sold some items we no longer needed on a local Freecycle page.

I put out some 'wanted' posts on those same Freecycle pages and I have gotten all the uniform items that Daughter will need for school.  I have the size she wears now and the next size up.  I was able to get 12 polo shirts, a sweatshirt, a hoodie and a knit sweater, all with the school logo already embroidered on them, for a total of $24.  Since it costs over $7 per item to get the logo embroidered on, I am very, very happy to have gotten these!  The students can wear slacks, jeans, skirts or shorts (there are specifics about length and not having holes, etc.), and she has those items on hand, so I think we are set for school.

We have been having smoothies lots of days at lunchtime.  This is helping me use the prolific kale from our garden, along with some frozen fruit that has been in my freezer while.  The frozen texture and temperature is really nice on a hot day.  Saturday night, Daughter planned and helped cook supper.  She got the recipes from a book she borrowed from the library.  We had herbed chicken, mashed potatoes with parsley and garlic, glazed carrots and a peach cake.  She helped a lot and did a great job!  She helped gather ingredients, including fresh herbs from the garden.

The garden is producing lots of green tomatoes.  I've told them it's fine if they want to start ripening now, but so far, they are staying green.  We are getting lots of kale, and we picked our first zucchini this week.  The green beans are coming in too, and I expect to be canning green beans in another week or so.  My lettuce is bolting (to be fair, it is August), so I'm pulling some each morning for the chickens and will re-plant this week.  I am so happy in my garden this summer....everything is growing well and I feel like I'm supplementing our food supply with good, fresh, healthy foods.  Oh, and there are carrots!  I like to wait and pick them after first frost, but I think we will have a nice supply of them for fall/winter.  It's so fun to grow our own!  Cucumbers are forming too, and the herbs are all doing well.

I cleaned out our bunny barn this week, and it looks really good.  It has me motivated to get to the other two sections soon, because it's so nice to have it clean and orderly.  It wasn't terrible, but it was dusty - the pressure washer made everything look really nice.  Oh...and before I forget...we have finished our summer reading programs, so we returned the baby bunnies to the gentleman we 'rented' them from...with the exception of the little runt.  She is Daughter's new little friend, and she's a very sweet little snuggle bug.  I'm hoping we can train her to do a few tricks for next year's programs.

Mrs. Patmore was shorn not long after this photo was taken - now, she looks like a lamb!

Mrs. Hughes was also shorn.  There to the right, you can see little Pepper in the cage next door.

Well, that sums up my week.  Thanks for letting me whine a bit at the beginning.  I hope your week has gone well.  What did you do to spend less, save more and make do?  Leave me a comment so I can learn!