Friday, July 31, 2009

Beans coming out my ears

Aren't they beautiful! Nice, crisp, green beans.

This is my third picking off the plants, my second one for this week. I am not up to canning beans, the pressure cooker freaks me out. But I blanch the beans and freeze them up.

First, I pinch off the ends and snap them into bite-sized pieces. A great project to do while watching television, since it doesn't take much brain power. Once that is done, I heat up some water on the stove.

Once the water is up to a rolling boil, I spoon in a few cups of beans, let them boil for a brief amount of time (a minute or two). Make sure you have an ice bath set up to put the hot beans in to shock them to stop the cooking process. After the beans have briefly cooked, put them into the ice bath and swish it around. The ice will need to be refreshed after a while as it will melt.

While the cooked beans are cooling, put some more beans into the boiling water to keep that process going. Once the beans are chilled from the ice water, I strain them and put them on a cookie sheet to freeze. Keep up the process until all the beans are done.

I place the cookie sheet in the freezer and let them set up for 12 to 24 hours. Once they are frozen solid, into a freezer bag. Don't wait too long to move 'em to the freezer bag or they will get freezer burnt (this affects the flavor and makes them can still use freezer burnt veggies in soups if it bothers you).

Out of the batch I did earlier this week, I ended up with two quart bags of beans. I should get the same amount from this batch as well.

Happy harvesting!

Rockin' the shopping!

Today was shopping day for me. I spent a half-hour last night looking over the ads and making my list (checking it twice!). I bought 116.75 worth of groceries (includes a prescription co-pay) and spent only 29.75 out of pocket. That was seriously rocking it!

How did I do it? Well, one store that I rarely go to had a coupon to get a $30 gift card if you transfer a prescription. My son takes a daily medication that I have to get refilled every month, so I keep my eyes open for those deals! Nearly every month I transfer his prescription to a different pharmacy to take advantage of those deals. The same store had another coupon that if you spend $50, you get $10 off your total. Right there, if I get the prescription first, I would be able to combine trips and buy the RX and groceries for a total of $60, minus the two deals for $40, actually spend $20 out of pocket.

Why stop there? I looked at what other deals were available, like 3lb of turkey breast for 5.99, 6.5 lb of bacon for 9.99, frozen juice for a dollar a can, 2lb of shredded cheese for 3.99 each. All of these are great deals all by themselves. This store also doubles four manufactures coupons, meaning I got some hand soap for 35 cents after my coupons (was on sale, plus the coupon doubled) and cat food for just a few dollars.

Folks, it can be done! Yes, it takes time. But if I spend just an hour or so (total time for this trip, including sorting the ads last night, was about two hours), I saved over $80! That is a HUGE return for my time. And shopping like this is how I continue to be a stay at home mom. (Plus, it frees up money for more fun things....dinner out with hubby? Or art supplies!)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Car shopping

Oh the irony!! I finally reconcile myself to having my old car for a while longer, working thru those "wants", and letting it all go. Pfft, I just wrote to y'all about it! And not two days later, my car starts smoking more than it has been, hesitating, and knocking. Mr Mechanic goes out and does a diagnostic on it, it needs all new rings, maybe a new head, and even then, it may not solve the problem. So, what would solve the problem? Oh, a new engine (to the tune of 2k).

Well....we decide to put the old girl to rest and buy a new (to us) vehicle. I gotta love hubbs, he tells me when I am half asleep on Saturday, and then runs to a co-workers house to help them until the afternoon, leaving me to do the banking and leg-work. Nice to know he trusts me still!

I hit the bank, run the numbers and work out our budget amount to work with. Then, time to check the internet, find prices and models that work for us. By mid-day, I have three solid leads, and by the time hubby comes home, we are ready to shop.

We stop by the closest choice. Go and look. Ugh, it's not quite what we want. Since starting on this journey, Hubby and I have talked a lot about what is important to us---price is number one, has to fit in the budget. Number of miles is second, nothing over 50,000. Third is space, a preference for four bucket seats to keep the boys separate. Me, I would LOVE (love!!!) a Prius, but it's a little small for the kids at this point, plus the price is out of our budget. I would like any type of hybrid, but all hybrids are out of our budget. *sniff* The second thing that I really wanted was a stick-shift. I have always owned stick shifts, and have a distinct preference for that. But those are becoming rarer than hens teeth, and typically cost more up front. Lastly, I have never liked minivans. The whole stigma of "soccer-moms" drives me nuts. If I had a choice, I would pick an SUV over a minivan, but those tend to cost more. Lesson learned? Really think about what is most important, and let some of those other "wants" go.

Back to car shopping. We looked at this first minivan. Too small. Still, we go inside, and talk to the agent. They look at what stock they have at other locations, and then start pushing hard to spending more money. By another 5 thousand!! "If you increased the terms by another year, you won't be increasing your monthly payment." But you still owe the money! Never mind. Off to the next place.

So we go to our second stop. I had two cars picked out for this lot, and we talk to a salesman, take a look at both. We looked at another HHR (similar to what we saw in June) and a large minivan. Comparing the two, we decide to test drive the minivan. Take it out and tool it around. Go back to the lot, and hubby goes over the van with a fine-toothed comb. He crawled under the van, checked out the engine.

Talked and haggled. And left with a new minivan. (New to us, it's 5 years old) It's a very nice ride, lots of bells and whistles (compared to my old, stripped down car). I am still getting used to driving such a large car. I am used to my old putt-putt, so this large van takes some getting used to.

Called and finalized all the paperwork here on Monday. Got the insurance switched around (only 50 cents more per month, I am shocked and thrilled! What a blessing that it isn't a huge increase.).

Sitting in the car service department today (I needed to get a second key made so we each have our own). Overhearing a young lady with a broken car talking to an older gentleman about buying a new car. She's talking about 14k for one or 15k for another. This older man said "It doesn't matter, you are financing it anyway." I wanted to scream so loud "It DOES matter!!! Even if you do finance it, you have to pay it, so spend wisely!"

Guys, I know sometimes we have to finance things. Most of us need a car, and most of us finance to buy them. But, spend the least amount possible and pay it off as quickly as you can. Frees up funds to do other things.

That is my saga for the weekend. At least I can know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, we bought it because we needed it, not because of a want. And we waited a month and a half of serious looking to buy. Not an impulse. Here's hoping it never happens to you, but if it does, be smart and be blessed in your choosing.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Best tip for frugal living

The best tip I can give anyone? Stop spending money.

Alright, way too simplistic. And somewhat unrealistic at times. So, how can I frame it where it IS realistic.

I want a new car. I am in an odd position, where I now see cars, pass by the dealerships and crave a new car. I was looking at prices, etc this morning and wishing I could have a new car. (Reminder: my car is 13 years old, 170 thou miles, and had broken down a month ago. Hubby fixed it a few weeks back and its fine at this time)

I paid bills this morning, went to the bank and paid the second mortgage and transferred money to our savings account (we keep an emergency fund, and dipped into it during July to buy the pellet stove, as well as a ton of pellets. Nice to know that heating is taken care of for the winter! Plus, we go on vacation next month and I need money set aside to pay for gas to travel with.). I had an AH-HA moment. I transferred over the "extra" money to savings, but if hubby hadn't worked all the overtime that he had the past two weeks, there wouldn't be any extra. As in, after the regular bills were paid, there wasn't any extra except for his overtime.

What would I have done if I had a several hundred dollar car payment? There isn't always that overtime and extra money. How hard and stressful would it be if we had that additional bill?

Yes, we have options. I could always go out and get a full-time job to pay for a car. But I enjoy being a home MAKER, in taking care of my children and having the freedom to be available for my children. If I was working full-time, I would need a lot of outside assistance with the kids.

Bottom line: I'd rather have an old car and be at home than a new car and be working. Which is kinda what would have to happen.

So how does that translate to others? Well, think about extra purchases when you make them. Can some of these things wait until later to buy? How important is it to have right away? How many hours would you have to work to earn the money to pay for that item, and is it really worth that?

I have found that most things that I "want", if I wait and think it over, I chose not to buy it. There are simply other things that I want our income to go toward.

Best way to save money is to not spend it.

Realistically, what do you throw away in a day? In a week? How frequently are those cool new things used? (BTW, if it's something you will use daily or very often, paying extra to get more durable goods that will last longer and be more comfortable or efficient, it's worth the extra money!) Really think about how often you would use the item, how many hours it takes to earn the income to buy it, and how long the item will last.

Just my two-cents for the day. I am feeling thankful and blessed that we passed on getting a new vehicle. I am glad I don't have that additional bill. So very glad I don't have the stress of worrying about how we would pay for that debt. How much of a blessing would a new car have been if hubby and I were stressed about finances?

Think about it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My 'no poo experience

For those who aren't way super green, going " no-poo" is referring to no longer using commercial shampoo's on your hair. It is a transition from shampoo to no-poo, using a paste of baking soda on your scalp and hair, then rinse with diluted apple cider vinegar, let sit, then rinse.

Going no-poo (or "no shampoo") takes a few weeks before your scalp stabilizes. Commercial shampoos strip the hair and scalp of natural oils and dirt, which causes your scalp to over-produce it in an effort to keep hydrated and covered. When you go no-poo, most people have a few weeks of very oily hair (due to overproduction of oil) and it takes a while for the scalp to adjust. Once the scalp HAS adjusted, there is less need of washing as frequently, hair may become curlier and more manageable. Plus, it is less harmful to the environment and water supply.

I went no-poo last August. I have chronically dry scalp and hair, so I have always drawn out the time I wash my hair, going two to three days between washings. I avoid nearly all hair products (I will use a little gel from time to time, but not regularly), and do not use any hair tools like dryers, curling irons or flat irons. Trust me, it isn't an economic issue, it is a laziness issue. I'd rather read a book or work on an art project than mess with my hair.

So, started the no-poo in August. I never went through the oily phase. Just never did. (For those wanting to try no-poo, the recommendation is baseball caps and ponytails. Don't fall off the wagon and wash your hair with shampoo, it will only make this stage longer.) I followed the instructions, and cleaned my hair with baking soda (BS) and apple cider vinegar (ASV) three times a week.

Result? My hair always smelled funny. For the first day after washing, I always smelled faintly of vinegar. And I RINSED my hair really good! Also, my hair had some weird film on it. I adjusted the amounts of BS and ASV, tried some coconut oil to condition it, tried waiting it out. Still felt filmy and very blech.

I wasn't a fan of how long the process took. Normally, I wash my hair when I bathe, and this process wasn't conducive to doing while bathing. So, washing my hair became separate from it, creating another step in my hygiene process (I know, big deal, whoop-de-do, but remember....I refuse to own a curling iron or blow dryer because it wastes my time.)

I tried it and stuck with it for over three months, through most of the fall. This is a large enough time to judge whether or not something fits into my lifestyle, and this particular way of cleaning my hair didn't fall into that.

The positives are, I now know a good alternative for washing my hair. If the worlds supply of shampoo suddenly disappeared overnight, I could survive! I like knowing that I have a method of taking care of myself that doesn't rely on big business, and that is less expensive.

I would encourage anyone wanting to try going no-poo to give it a whirl. Definitely stick with it for at least a month or longer to get a good idea if it is working or not. Some people love being no-poo, and good for them! It just wasn't the best choice for me.

Leave any comments on how no-poo worked for you!

Nature in my yard

Look at this beauty! Fire-engine red, bright as can be.

I watched him flit from plant to plant around the pond, and it was patient enough to let me take over 20 pictures of him. Very lovely to see in my own back yard.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Power went out

It's high summer around here, with the heat up around 90 degrees. Yesterday, as I was sitting on the deck reading, my son comes outside and tells me the computer crashed. Really? Tell me more about it. It just stopped working.

I ask some more questions, and figure it sounds like the power is out. I went inside to check...yup, it is out!

My neighbors come out of the house to figure out if it is just them, or if everyone is out of power. Seems like we are all out of power around here. Up and down the block, no electricity.

Grrr....I can't call my husband (I have no cell phone, and the cordless phone won't work if the base has no power), I can't internet (the router and modem won't work without power even though my laptop is fine). Not to mention the dinner I had going in the crock pot and the bread I had baking in the bread machine!

I decide to take my son out to see if we can pick up some cold salads for dinner (since the bread and crock pot dinner could be a total bust). We drive up to the store, which is running on generator power. No lights, but they have those registers running and the credit card machines humming.

All of the refrigerated cases are cordoned off. No one can get milk, cheese, meats cold salads. Nothing from the deli. Grrr....Yes, I completely understand the principle of needing to keep the fridge and freezer doors shut. But I am unable to purchase anything for dinner because of this. I grab some tomato's and rolls and we check out.

OH!! I need gas! My car is on empty (had a long car trip last week and haven't filled it yet), and I need gas. So, I get some extra cash to pay for the gas. Hold up...I can't get gas because the pumps don't run without electricity. D'oh!

Thankfully, blessedly, the electricity comes back on as we were pulling out, so I got gas on the car ride home.

Lesson learned: I am far more dependent on electricity than I had an idea about. Sure, we weren't using a huge amount in our house (didn't have the AC on, no lights on), but I couldn't do the normal things I had going (like baking and cooking). When we left the house, driving was a nightmare with the lights out, having to stop at all the intersections. Not being able to purchase items like I normally would, and what if I couldn't have gotten the gasoline that I needed? For two hours, my entire world was turned upside down. I really don't know how I would have reacted if it had gone on for longer (well, my husband would have hooked up the diesel generator, and I could have cooked, at least). makes me wonder about the dependency we have on POWER. mmmmm.....

And my rolls came out wonky. They were edible, but not light and fluffy. Doggie hockey pucks for the yard today!

Friday, July 17, 2009

TMI: this one is for girls only

Warning: guys, please skip this post. It may gross you out.

Okay, I am hoping that warned off any male readers. Ladies, I am gonna talk about Luna cloths, also known as Momma Pads. Yeah, I will go THERE and talk about cloth maxi pads.

This one is pretty green, and freaks a lot of mainstream people out. Using cloth maxi pads instead of disposable ones. But, ladies, how do you think your grandmother dealt with her period (or "time of the month")? She used fabric strips, and then washed them.

I've been using cloth pads now for over 6 months, and they work really well. The cloth is much softer than the crunchy plastic, the sticky doesn't stick to ME (most purchased luna pads have wings that snap in the back), and it seems to be better for my health overall.

Most purchased pads are made with flannel, very soft on the tender bits, and cotton padding. The more they are washed, the softer they get. You can purchase (or make!) them in cool fabrics that reflect your own personality, like frogs, or pirates, or hearts and stars. It's kinda fun to pick out a colorful pad to use---one of the rare things that might make you smile and make your period a bit more bearable.

When washing, use cold water. Do not use fabric softener, because fabric softeners have ingredients that repel stains (and you want the fabric to absorb the flow, not repel it!). I wash mine in a small load, not completely separate from the rest of my laundry, but I selectively pick what I wash with them.

I realize that initially thinking of using cloth pads instead of disposables seems gross. But, historically, this is what women have done. Plus, many mom's use cloth on their babies because of sensitive skin or environmental issues. Why not take the same care for yourself?

If you wish to purchase any for yourself, I suggest going to to look them up. No, I don't have a shop there, and no, I don't make my own. But I have purchased them there twice and recommend supporting a in-home artisan who is working in small batches. Plus, you can ask for specific styles of fabric that reflect who you are! Many sellers also make "wet bags" for their pads, but I have never needed to use one.

So, there is your alternative green tip for the day. Green for the environment, and a bit kinder for your tender bits. Just think about it.

Finished laundry detergent

It's been sitting for over 36 hours and has set up.

When the detergent sets up, it forms a skin of the bar soap that separates. I whisk the skin back into the detergent, and then pour it into bottles that I store it in. (Some people leave it in the bucket, but I like it in smaller bottles, plus I can give it a good shake before using to reincorporate the soap)

I used far more soap this time than in the previous two times, and it came the closest to a gel ever. Note to self: using goats milk soap (the orange color) isn't the best choice for bar soaps to use. I have read that Ivory soap, Fels Naptha or other pure soaps are better choices. I used the last of the goats milk soap and a small bar of generic Ivory soap.

If you like fragrant laundry soap, now would be the time to add several drops of your favorite essential oil to the mix now that it is cooled. I always forget this step, plus I like the smell of sunshine and wind in my laundry from hanging outside, rather than EO's.

And that is it! It's pretty easy to make the detergent, and for my family, each batch lasts a good three to four months. Well worth the small amount of time it takes to put it together.

I have a front loader washer, and use about a half cup of detergent per load. If you have a top loader, you may wish to use more (like a whole cup per load).

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Silly duckies

My front pond is over-grown. Okay, using the term "pond" on this overgrown puddle is being generous. It's more like a shallow depression that I keep filled with water and plants. I digress.

I have some pond plants, and keep a small floating plant in the pond(s). I am pretty sure it is called "duck weed". Any-hoo, the ducks LOVE this plant, and eat it all whenever there is any around. Which means that the only pond that ever has any is in the front yard, where they can't get to.

My front pond is totally coated with the stuff. And I wanted to give the ducks a treat to eat it. But my skimmer is broken. Hubby has fixed it once (screwed new screen onto it), but the frame holding it has broken, so it's pretty much out of commission. And I either forget to buy a new one, or can't find one when I DO remember.

I am resourceful. I am able to "think outside the box". I figured, "Hey, I'll just bring all the ducks into the front yard, put them into the pond, they will snack and then I will take them back into the back yard."

I move the ducks up to the front pond. That right there freaked them out. Any time I separate the ducks, Spicy flips out. She will call and call and call for whoever is missing. I hoped by moving two of them at a time (something I really cannot recommend...beating wings and scratching feet and not having a free hand? Nope) that she wouldn't freak out so badly. No such luck. Still, I got all four of them in the front yard right next to the pond.

And they hid in the flower beds. My flower beds have several bushes, and a flower box over the window, so it's hard to reach into. I tried to push them out with a such luck with that either. I left them out there for about 15-20 minutes, and they didn't move a bit.

I give up. I don't want to make them miserable, and they obviously aren't going to eat the duckweed, so I may as well move them back to the back yard. Skinny-boy helps me to round them up, and we carry them to the back. All four of them make a bee-line for the pond and chastise me for moving them.

I scrounge up the broken skimmer, and gather some duckweed. Put it into the back pond for them. And look at the quackers! Happy as clams (or ducks!).

Whew. Way too much effort to try to avoid what I ended up doing anyway. I really need to get that new skimmer!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Making your own laundry detergent

Time to do laundry, yet again. But I am almost out of laundry soap! Time to make another batch of laundry soap.

I know, it's so very weird to make laundry soap at home, but it is easy and extremely cheap compared to buying laundry soap.

Hot Water
1 cup Washing Soda (NOT baking soda)
1/2 cup Borax
1 soap bar

Grate the bar soap and add to a large saucepan with hot water. Stir over medium low heat until soap dissolves and is melted.
Fill a 10 gallon pail half full with HOT water. Add the melted soap, Borax and washing soda. Stir well until all powder is dissolved. Top the pail with more hot water.
Let set for 24 hour.
Use 1 cup per load, stirring soap before each use.

I read on one recipe to use 2 cups of grated soap. I have skimped on the grated soap the last two times I have made it, and it never gelled. I am hoping that if I increase the amount of soap it will gel this time!

This detergent works well, I just shake it before using each time. If my clothes are really dirty, I add a bit of booster to the wash (like Oxyclean or something). I read that you can add regular hydrogen peroxide to the laundry (which is basically all Oxyclean is, powdered hydrogen peroxide)....but I have never tried it! If that works for you, leave me a comment. If it DOESN'T work, leave a comment so others know to avoid it.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Gleaning and its rewards

The beginning of harvest season. I love the produce coming on, the anticipation of peas and beans, seeing the fruit ripen. I go and watch the garden, seeing it's changes, noticing the green tomatoes and onions getting bigger. It satisfies the soul to see the fruits of my labor.

But I don't get all I need from my own garden. I pick berries up at my friends place, freezing some, and making some into jam and syrup for the winter. I start perusing the farmers markets, looking for good deals on things that either aren't growing well or that I don't grow. Part of the fun!

A friend of mine called me on Friday, offering me a deal on raspberries. Now, I don't grow any cane berries, it takes too much space for my yard. And I almost never get raspberries because they cost too dear. Blackberries? Pfft! That is easy, I can find those growing on the side of the road (or at my friends!), but raspberries need special care and are harder to come by. The deal was to pick the field, and I would get to keep half of whatever I picked. Oh yeah, I am all over that deal!

I dragged out Skinny-boy with me to help. We started early in the morning, and I figured it would take about an hour to pick. Oh, dear! Did I ever mis-gauge that one! We were out there picking for two and a half hours. But I came away with huge bowls full of berries, for no cost but my labor.

Then it was off toward home. Thankfully, it was cool this Saturday, so I immediately started making the jam. Washed up the berries, put it in a huge pot. Let it simmer for a few hours, added a pound or so of sugar. After it simmered down for a while, I added some lemon juice to it.

Washing up jars, digging out rings (gotta find those rings that I haven't needed to use since last fall), trying to find lids to match the jars. Then, pouring in the jam ('s much more like syrup. It's not as thick as I would like!) and water boiling the jars for 10 minutes.

All the jars sealed (total score!). Today, I put away all my jam/syrup for the winter time. Except that one stubborn jar that was partial. That one....that is for pouring over ice cream. Skinny-boy has that jar close to gone already. Nice to see the syrup is a hit with him!

Oh, the satisfaction of seeing a job through. From picking the berries in the early morning, to cooking up the jam, to jarring them up. Knowing that I have accomplished something yummy and good for my family.

Plus, eating the syrup over brownies and ice cream tonight? Made it all worthwhile.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Doughnuts are taking over

It all started as a craving. "Hmmm....doughnuts sound good!" Next thought, "Wonder if I can make it in the bread maker?"

Some back story. A few weeks back, a friend of mine was talking about elephant ears. How big, warm, and yummy it was. Ohhh, I needed one! Then I thought "well, you can make biscuits with Bisquick, and you can make elephant ears with the fridge biscuits, I should be able to make elephant ears with Bisquick". Ummm...lemme tell you, you CAN'T make elephant ears with Bisquick. Just does not work. So much for doing this the easy way.

I check out a bunch of recipes. Looking for bread machine recipes for doughnuts. Find a good one and decide to try it. And now, I share it with you!

Bread Machine Doughnuts
3/4 c milk
1/3 c sugar
2 large eggs
4 T melted butter
1 t salt
3 1/4 c flour
4 t yeast
-Mix ingredients in bread machine in order recommended by manufacturer. Set to dough setting. (When working with yeast, I try to make sure all the liquid ingred are at 110 degrees so the yeast works best)
-When cycle is done, remove dough, punch down and let rest for 10 minutes.
-Coat rolling surface with flour, and roll dough to 1/2 inch thick, then cut into doughnut shapes.
-Place doughnuts onto a lightly greased sheet. Let rise for 1 hour.
-Fry doughnuts in preheated oil at 375 degrees (use a candy thermometer). Fry a few at a time, one minute on each side.
-Once fried, drain cooked doughnuts on paper towels.
-Glaze or dust with sugar.
-Makes 24 doughnuts (-ish)

*Okay, that is the recipe I found. Of course, I couldn't leave well enough alone, I was craving a Boston Cream. Ummm, never do things the easy way, eh? I bought a can of vanilla filling, chocolate frosting. Once fried and cooled slightly, I used a knife to make a slit and pocket for the filling. I happened to have a piping set, and filled it with the pudding. Used that to fill the doughnuts and then covered them with chocolate. Hey, since I got the filled doughnut thing going on, may as well make cherry filled for the kids!

Pretty yummy, if you ask me.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Convenience foods, an alternative

Mmmmm....I love me some easy food. Whip it out from the freezer, toss it in the microwave or the toaster oven. A few minutes later, you have food. Okay, maybe not healthy food, but food!

Yeah. But with kids home all summer, and the busy-ness of life, healthy foods kinda go out the window. Needing a solution?

Make your own meat pies! It's old skool, but a good solution. You can fill them with whatever you want, lunch fillings, breakfast fillings, or fruit fillings to make fruit pies.

I am not a baker. Particularly pie crusts. But I found a good recipe that is very forgiving.

Fool-Proof Pie Crust
4c flour
1 3/4 c shortening
2t salt
1T vinegar
1 egg
4T cold water
-Mix together the flour, shortening and salt with a fork until crumbly and well blended.
-Mix the egg, vinegar and cold water in a bowl and add to flour mix. Add more water if needed to make it clump together. When mixed, should be the consistency of play dough.
-Makes enough for two top and bottom crusts.

*I have made this dough a few times, and have never had to add any extra liquid to it. This dough is forgiving, and you can re-roll it if you need to. Be sure to use lots of flour to coat your surface when rolling.

*Today, I didn't have shortening. I did have lard (shocker, but yes, I cook with lard for certain things, like re fried beans), so I used a cup of lard, and 3/4 cup of butter as a substitute. The dough turned out just fine, even with these substitutions.

-I made a sloppy joe mix for some of the meat pies.
-I also made scrambled eggs with potato's and cheese, a bit of cheese to top 'em.
-Lastly, fruit pies with some homemade jam I had in the fridge. I wasn't about to waste any pie dough!

*I used a small bowl to cut circles, put a spoon or two of filling on one half, dipped a finger into water to cover half the circle edge, folded the circle to match the edges and pressed to crimp them. Doesn't need to be perfect! I then put them on a sheet pan in the freezer, freeze them until hard, and then transfer the pies into a freezer bag and label with the filling type.

All told, I ended up with about 25 different small pies. To cook, I heat up the toaster oven to 350 degrees and put one or two frozen pies in for about 10 minutes, checking after 5 minutes to see how they are baking. The fillings are completely cooked, so you are just baking the outside and warming the fillings.

Yes, I spent a few hours making these things today, but now I get several guilt-free meals where I don't need to think about what the kids are eating. And that makes me very happy!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Final count of the potato harvest

Proof of what we yoinked out of the garden.

RV project

He's so proud of himself! It's amazing what kind of destruction he can accomplish in less than 24 hours. Every wife should be so lucky.

Now I simply need to convince skinny-boy that picking up the yard of all the rubbish is a fun chore.

Bringing in the potato harvest

Mmmmm....potato's! This was my first year trying potato's. I was reassured by many people that potato's are easy, plus the red ones are out of my normal budget, so I figured I would try it.

A few lessons learned on the way---next time, I will cut the potato's into smaller pieces. You cut them into separate eyes a few days before planting so the cuts can seal off. I wasn't in the know with that one (it didn't say that on the box!), so I planted each potato whole. Grrr.....that was a waste!

Second....make sure to plan for the hilling that needs to be done two or three times. I should have spaced my rows out farther to give myself more room to hill the potato's up. don't get a whopping number of potato's off the plants. (Which is WHY you should cut them up before planting to make them produce more!)

I had skinny-boy helping with the gathering. Hey, he's gotta work in the yard to earn computer time, so it was win-win. The potato's themselves are beautiful, and I am looking forward to making some roasted potato's tonight with the ones that I accidentally skewered with the pitchfork.

One thing I DIDN'T realize is that the potato plants are done fairly early in summer, meaning I now have room in my garden for new plants. I get to go out this afternoon and buy new starts! SWEET! Oh, the possibilities.....

So, for next year, I think I will grow a much larger patch of potato's, probably double or triple what I did this year, because I know I can replant the same area with other things by early July. Looking forward to it!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

What happened to the RV?!

You guys thought the pellet stove was bad? This is WORSE!

This is my husband's "fun" project. Yes, he did the destruction on purpose. We bought a used RV about two years back, and did a ton of work on the engine. Since then, it's kinda been sitting in the yard.

Hub's and his brother have renovated a trailer several years back. Tore it down to the frame and rebuilt the whole she-bang. So, he was itching to do it with ours. (To be fair, my father did the same thing while I was growing up. I am used to crazy men doing total overhauls of RV's, which makes me more accepting of these outlandish ideas!)

Hub's has been gutting the insides since spring. That took a few months. Two weeks ago, he moved the RV to the back yard and began taking the sides of it off. Yesterday, he collapsed the roof.

My response? I just smile to myself. It keeps him busy and happy (why, I honestly don't know...but I do know it makes him happy). He looks over plans on the Internet, researches materials, talks with his brother and his friends. He can visualize what he will do next, how it will turn out. I love that about him.

Yeah, I know we won't be going camping in it for a LONG time. (I hate camping, so this doesn't bother me at all!)

I will keep you up to date on his project!

Pellet stove madness

Folks, it's getting crazy around my house. The temps outside are in the 90's, but we went out and bought a pellet stove this week. Now, my living room is tore up, stuff all over.

Why are we doing this? Well, hubby and I have been talking about getting a pellet stove for a few years. Our electricity costs have been unacceptable to us for a while now, and the cost of electricity is rising. When you use significantly LESS electricity now than the year before, and the bill is's time to make a change. Plus, the threat of the Energy and Cap Tax (you should google it!) and prices possibly going up due to that, we decided to go for it. At least with a pellet stove, you buy the pellets in the late summer, and there's the bulk of your costs for the winter heating.

Surfing on Craigslist for stoves. Checking prices for new vs used. Researching how to install them. Fun stuff!

This is also a good time for me to reevaluate what is important to me. Our living room is small, and some things HAVE to go to make space for the stove. The treadmill that I have had for over 6 years but haven't used in nearly a full year...time to go. The cabinet that holds my art supplies and candles....gotta go. Weeding through the videos and DVD's to get rid of ones we don't watch anymore, in order to make space for the things I am saving. I actually enjoy this process. It feels good on some level to consciously say "I don't need this anymore. I am getting rid of these things in order to make space for things that I DO need at this time." I do not enjoy how time consuming it is to do this, or having to ask the kids and hubby "do you want this? How about this one?", but I like clearing a shelf for the essence of what is important. It clarifies things for me.

Back to the stove. I am proud and happy to have a handy husband. I am relieved that he researches what he needs, measures 30 times and cuts once. I have trust that he will do the job properly. But, good golly, he gets cranky sorting it out! Hubby becomes frustrated when he cannot easily find the information that he wants, and he mutters to himself about it. He doesn't take his irritation out on me or the kids, but it isn't always pleasant to live with. Fingers crossed that he sorts the issues out soon.'s our newest big project. Just another layer in our attempts to be more self-sufficient here in the suburbs. Now, once we are done with this, I'll see if we can begin working on the solar panels, inverter, and batteries to store energy to run the stove off the grid. That would be totally sweet!

Happy Birthday, America!

America, you are another year older. Has it been a good year for you? Do you feel any wiser?

America, I love you. I am a part of this great nation, and I care deeply about what happens in this nation. But, America, you need to straighten up!

The whole thing that happened in the 80's and 90's....the concept that "greed is good"? What were you thinking?! Did you lose your ever love'n mind?! When you put money ahead of ethics, your neighbors, and future generations, well, things are bound to suffer.

Allowing companies to look at only the bottom line, and ignore the concerns of their workers, the environment, and the community---it only takes a few greedy people to push the envelope. And once one company starts to do that, others will follow.

Removing regulations and expecting that the market will regulate itself. How is that working out for all of us right now? I am learning that, as a group, we Americans don't seem capable of regulating ourselves. Personally, I think that individuals are smart, but as a group, we are followers, and we follow whoever has the most forceful personality. Even if that person isn't looking out for our best interests.

America, I am sad about how things are shaping up. But I do have hope and expectations that things will get better! I am putting my contribution and vote in for things to turn around. I haven't given up yet....but I expect more from you in the future.

Straighten up and fly right, or I will come over there and give you a spanking.