Sunday, January 14, 2018

Accustomed To The Quiet & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Though there are many wonderful things about wood heat, there's no denying it's a messy business.  From moving the wood itself from outdoors to in-- J has taken to bringing it inside with a wheelbarrow, moving it from copper boiler to stove, and then there's the ash that puffs out and settles on everything.  However, I can't forget a period of time when I was newly separated, and had only the barest of means of keeping warm.  I'm thankful it was brief, and mighty thankful for the wood stove, and a husband who works hard to keep us warm.  On the rare occasions when the electric heat comes on... maybe the wood got wedged in the stove and it cooled off enough for the heat to switch on in the early morning... I'm reminded how thankful I am too that wood heat is quiet, with just the occasional pops and hisses of burning wood.  J & I realized we don't sleep very well when the blower of the electric heat cycles off and on, having grown accustomed to the quiet.

We continue to get orders in our online metal home goods shop, and I'm thankful for that.  Once J fabricates them, I paint the orders, do the final details, and ready them for shipping.  I paid bills online, saving the cost of stamps.  Though I never felt very sick, I believe I ended up with a bout of bronchitis last week.  I'm so thankful I had a bronchial remedy from my herbalist friend, as it saved the day, and quickly.  Hooray for plant medicine, and those who study and share it with the world!  I suppose hygge is a bit passe this year, but I got the idea online to create a hygge box, sort of a care package for a family member who gets the winter doldrums.  Think candles, good cocoa, a pretty magazine, snacks, nail polish, and warm fuzzy socks.  I'm looking forward to gifting it.  Some of what I purchased was marked down at Marshall's, and I picked up the perfect Harry & David wood box for $1 at a thrift store.  I also bought a fitted sheet for .50, a canister I plan to turn into a compost crock for $1, and a Fire King loaf pan for $2 at the thrift store, while supporting the local SPCA.

our frozen pond
There was a reprieve from the cold.  I took advantage of a day in the 40's, did two loads of laundry, and hung them on the line.  It's briefly turning cold again, with nights in the teens, and a possibility of snow midweek.  By next weekend, it will be warming up again.  J & I went to the movies for the first time in years.  I knew this movie would be best enjoyed on the big screen, and it was marvelous.  I gave the correct amount for our tickets, but got change in return.  I guess we got the senior rate, though neither of us is their posted age to get it.  No complaints, though.  We're building our egg supply again, so they've been back on the menu.  Some are boiled for the pups, and some are enjoyed for breakfast.  There will likely be quiche for dinner this coming week.  Some long and short walks were enjoyed with the pups this week.  It felt good to be outside again, and move a bit more.  J's business partner found a sweet bird nest heading to the pond one day, and gifted it to me.  I had not moved the Christmas boxes up to the attic, so it was added to one of the boxes for next year's tree.  A sweet and simple pleasure from this week.  If you've had any sweet and simple pleasures recently, I'd love if you'd share them.  Be well, friends!

Monday, January 8, 2018

A Little Snow & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello friends.  We enjoyed a quiet New Years Eve at home, enjoying some Prosecco, and working on our jigsaw puzzle.  Wild and crazy, huh?  We've since finished the puzzle, and I've boxed it up to pass along.  J surprised me with a new puzzle, this one a map of the U.S.  On New Years, I fixed black eyed peas, collards and rice, and peach cobbler.  J heated up some ham to go with his dinner.  After having the collards and rice a second night, I froze the remainder.  I've been fighting a cold, so made a pot of Garden Garlic soup, which lasted three nights.  I made a kale salad to go with it one night, and warmed some bread.  I've been taking my own elderberry tincture, along with natural store bought items for my cold, and trying to drink plenty of fluids, including rosehip tea and blueberry tea with raw honey.  I also made up some lemon balm & nettle tea with my dried herbs, which wasn't as tasty, but I drank it anyway :o). 

With such cold temps, warm comfort food seemed in order, so another night I made a butternut squash crumble (with vegi bacon & broth), and cabbage and noodles.  There was quite a bit of prep work with this meal, but we did enjoy it.  Butternut squash peelings, herb stems and onion ends went into the broth bag in the freezer.  The cabbage core was saved to chop up for the pups, and ugly outer leaves composted.  For lunches, I made hummus using pantry items and our garlic.  It was enjoyed with cut up carrots & celery (me) & chips (him).  I made yogurt and kefir.  Warm up water was saved and added to the wood stove humidifier, the chicken water pot, and used for flushing.  I found a book on hygge at my library, and requested it.  In the meantime, I'm enjoying some fiction I bought discounted 50% on amazon in December.

In going through Christmas stuff this year as I was putting it away, I organized things and gathered a bag for donation.  I also made a note for next Christmas, letting myself know the only thing I'll need is cards.  I always think I'll remember from one year to the next, but I don't, so I added it to the December calendar.  I did laundry with homemade soap, but used the dryer, as it stayed below freezing.  We ended up getting an inch and a half of snow, which is nothing compared to most parts of the country, but it hung around for days with the cold temps.  I took short walks with the pups, but will wait for the snow to melt to take a long one.  Stopping by Dollar General for an item, I saw their Christmas things were 70% off, and bought 3 packs of holiday tissue paper for .30 ea.  I had gone in to buy a couple of clear shower liners, to staple up outside the chicken's small enclosed yard, which they tend to stay in when there's snow on the ground.  They'll allow light in, but keep them somewhat protected from the wind. We also used a heat lamp on the coldest nights.

Other than milk, and a rare few items, I'd not done much grocery shopping in several weeks.  Though we've got lots of canned and frozen produce, I wanted some fresh.  At Aldi's, I got mandarins, pomegranates, lemons, avocados and bananas.  I also picked up organic bread, tortilla chips and apple juice while there.  The wood stove is being used to heat various pots.  A large pot of water stays on the stove to give to the chickens.  It's poured over their frozen automatic waterer.  I've been taking them a warm mix of grains, old cream, eggnog or milk, nettles and a pinch of kelp each day.  This pot warms on the wood stove while I put my many layers on.  I boiled a pot of small sweet potatoes for the pups on the stove another day.  On sunny days, as it reached the south side of the house, I opened blinds and doors to take advantage of the warmth.

Mandarin peels are being added to a jar of vinegar for cleaning.  Swagbucks goals were made several days.  I wanted to gift a loved one a wedding photo of J & I.  Going through ebates saved 4%; using a coupon code saved another 40%.  The photo ended up being .23 including tax, and I'll use a pretty gold frame I picked up for .25.  So, a .47 cent gift after ebates.  The biggest cost will be shipping it.  I put bulk sesame seeds in pint jars, and J & I vacuum sealed them for the pantry.  I hadn't done anything with the green striped cushaw squashes we grew, and mentioned to J that I wasn't sure what to do with them.  Happily, he said his Mom made a pie from them that he loved, so I got the recipe, and we enjoyed some Sunday night.  The squash, and the lentil soup I made for dinner cooked on the wood stove.  Vegi peelings and bits went into the broth bag.  Our drinking water line (rainwater) froze during the first night of single digits.  J worked on it Sunday, and got it flowing again just before dark.  There appears to be a warming trend on the horizon.  I only managed a long walk (3+ miles) once last week.  I'm ready to get back to them this week.  Stay warm, eat healthy and get some fresh air and exercise.  Those are some of my goals for January.  How about you?

Monday, January 1, 2018

A New Year & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  On Christmas Eve, I harvested broccoli and lettuce.  I made salad to bring to a dinner we were attending at friend's.  Knowing I'd want to be able to relax on Christmas, I vacuumed and mopped the house, and cleaned the chicken coop.  Crossing those things off my list felt good.  On Christmas morning, J made omelets.  For dinner, I made baked ziti, with our tomatoes, garlic and herbs in the sauce.  We also enjoyed bread given to us on Christmas Eve.  As the ziti was baking, we began working on our jigsaw puzzle.  It's been fun entertainment several nights.  I received a few books as gifts, always welcome, but especially during these short days of winter.   Bluebird houses were gifted to me by M, and I'm pretty excited about them.  We need all the pest help we can get.  He made these with predator guards, which is most excellent, as squirrels have chewed the holes bigger, and snakes have made their way into the ones we have already.

With many nights in the teens forecast early last week, I harvested lots of kale, collards, lettuce, broccoli, four beets and swiss chard.  I steamed the swiss chard and beet greens to go with quinoa and yellow squash.  It's the first time I tried this dish with canned squash, and it was fine.  With the squash being much softer than fresh, you barely notice it at all.  I may double up on the squash next time, to use up more of the canned squash.   The collards were frozen, and some of the lettuce shared.  For a little over an hour on Friday, we were without power.  Though it's quiet here as a rule, without the hum of the computer, ceiling fan, and intermittent clicking on and off of the refrigerator and freezer, there was total quiet.  I pulled a chair up to the wood stove, and enjoyed a bit of reading while it lasted.

There haven't been a lot of frugal happenings going on.  I've stayed at home as much as possible, and have been working on paperwork in various forms... some bookkeeping for the guys, the pile at my computer, a stack of magazines sorted through and ready for passing on.  I did purchase 1/2 off gift wrap on the 26th.  At the grocery store, I bought only a gallon of milk.  At the discount grocery, I bought only a .50 pack of  those party squawkers that unroll when you blow them, just in case we're actually awake for the New Year.  I sent out a few cards that Lesley created for New Years.  I'm especially fond of the back side of these.

Like much of the country, it's especially cold here, with very low double digits forecast most nights this week.  As we're often a few degrees colder than forecast, I expect we may see single digits at least one night.  J & I hauled more leaves to the chicken coop, giving them a deeper layer on the floor for warmth.  The bird feeders are being kept full, and water added to the bird baths.  I bought a very soft and fuzzy bed for our farm cat a few weeks ago at Big Lots.  When I step into the shed, I often find her enjoying it.   I'm happy to be joining in with the Frugal Accomplishments community at The Prudent Homemaker today.  May the coming year bring good things for us all.  Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Super Foods & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello friends.  Last week, I redeemed swagbucks points for a $25 amazon gift card.  I did some holiday baking with pantry items.  One was a new recipe, which used some of the coconut flour I bought a few months ago, but hadn't figured out how to use.  The recipe also called for almond flour, which I didn't have, so I blanched and peeled raw almonds before grinding into flour.  I will say I used to make a banana almond breakfast drink, where I soaked the almonds overnight.  They would slip right out of the skins.  This time, I followed a tutorial on making almond flour, and it ended up being quite a time consuming task.  If I do it again, I'll go with the overnight soaking.  It was my first attempt at a from scratch gluten free recipe, and though they tasted good, they ended up flat rather than a ball shape.  I'll try less oil next time.  I ground wheat for my favorite chocolate chip cookies, and made them.  Salad was made using our lettuce, with homemade salad dressing. I checked the marked down plants at Lowe's, and got two six packs of pansies for $1 ea.

My niece suggested playdoh as a gift for my great nephew.  I'd seen some diy recipes on Pinterest, and used this one.  I used various brands for coloring.  I first tried a beet based natural color I'd originally bought for some body care items, but I'd had it too long, and the color had degraded.  I had already open containers of McCormick and Kroger food color, so started with them.  If I wasn't totally happy with the result, I added some Watkins food color, which I learned about and bought this year.  I'm pretty happy with the colors I got.  I bought several cookie cutters to include with the playdough.  Another niece asked for a squirrel buster bird feeder.  I bought that, and J made a lovely shepherd's hook pole for it.

close up
I took advantage of an amazon offer of $5 off $15 on books. I've enjoyed listening to holiday Pandora stations while working at home on holiday things.  I have several holiday stations, so I just switch to another when I tire of one.  A pot of vegetable soup was made using leftovers, our home canned and frozen vegetables, and pantry items.  Homemade bread that was given by a friend and frozen was warmed to go with it.  We enjoyed the soup two nights.  I was very happy to find a pomegranate at the little local grocery store.  It was quite a bit more than the ones I bought at Aldi's before Thanksgiving, but it will be nice for salads I plan to take to dinners this weekend.  While I do enjoy the special foods and sweets this time of year, I crave some healthy food too.  Bringing a festive green salad to the dinners will satisfy that.  Other than the pomegranate, I picked up milk and a bottle of wine I plan to take to one of the dinners.  So far, the only groceries bought this week.

On the Winter Solstice, I gathered greenery and made bouquets for the house.  On walks, I did more meandering off the path, and was rewarded with a few more clumps of usnea, which were added to the tincture jar.  I pulled four gallon bags of vegi scraps from the freezer, and put them in two large pots on the woodstove to thaw and simmer overnight.  This time and the last, I also added pieces of dried reishi mushroom, for its powerful medicine.  I'm not sure why I chose right before Christmas to do this, with everything else on my plate, other than we really needed the room in the freezer and I tend to think I can do more than I can in a day.  Besides reishi, I try to incorporate other super/ healthier foods in my diet as I can.  Sometimes I make maca hot chocolate (this one, though I use local whole milk & sometimes maple syrup instead of dates), other times this bulletproof coffee.  If you can use a nutritional boost too, in this season of sweets and excess, consider giving one or both a try.

I colored my hair at home, with J's help.  This is my third time using Hairprints, and I got the best results so far.  It is quite a time consuming endeavor, taking just about 3 hours, and requiring 6 different applications.  Ah, the price of vanity!  I potted an amaryllis bulb purchased a few weeks ago, for cheer in the dark days of winter, and happened to notice on a walk that a critter had dug up several nice pieces of moss, so I brought them home and placed them around the bulb.  Before my family's Christmas dinner this evening, I canned up the vegetable broth.  I got 17 pints in the canner, with an extra put in the fridge.  After leaving my brother's house tonight, we drove to a neighborhood known for hanging balls of holiday lights from the trees.  It is spread over many blocks, and was a fun and festive addition to the day.  I'm joining in with Brandy's Frugal Accomplishments today.  Wishing you fun and festivities in the days ahead!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Just Goes To Show & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Last week, a friend gifted me a lovely clump of running cedar.  We planted it against the north side of the house.  It may need more dappled light, but we'll see how it fares there.  I prepared a quiche using our eggs, red pepper, garlic and parsley.  We harvested lettuce for a salad to go along.  As we didn't really need anything, I skipped the grocery store after working in town.  There are a few things on my list, but nothing that couldn't wait.  I figure staying out of the store is the best plan if nothing is really necessary now.  I went through swagbucks to make a purchase and used my store credit card, for 3% and 5% savings respectively.  Warm up water was used to water plants and in the humidifier.  J harvested rutabagas.  Now that they've had several good freezes, they taste sweeter and a bit closer to rutabagas than turnips.  I may be able to enjoy eating them now.  He prepared them with bacon drippings for himself, and I fixed a pack of our frozen limas to go with them.

Once we finish dinner, we often sit at our computers.  All the regular lights are turned off, and twinkly lights provide a soft glow in the room.  We weren't expecting a Fedex delivery one day, but some paperwork was delivered by Fedex, so I ran out and sent an order with them, saving me a 30 minute drive each way.  I had 2 orders needing to go by USPS (I always send by the cheapest way, which varies).  A nearby town, Star, has a special Christmas cancellation, so I took my Christmas cards to that P.O., along with my orders.  Just up the road is an incubator for several artistic endeavors, and a gallery housing the work, including glass, pottery and fiber arts.  I'd seen a gift perfect for a family member offered there, so stopped in to purchase it while there.

For a dinner, I prepared bean burritos using our tomatoes, and Brandy's Spanish rice, using items on hand.  Laundry was done with homemade soap and soap gel, and hung on the line.  Swagbucks daily goals were met.  After writing holiday cards, I realized I needed to order address labels.  I found a 15% promo code before placing my order.  In searching for something, I realized how junky some of the drawers in my home had gotten.  I pulled some things out as I went, and added them to a donation box, but definitely need to do some more decluttering.  We've been doing a good job eating all our leftovers.  I'm always open to winter activities that J & I can do during the times of long nights.  I suggested reading before, but we tend to have different tastes there, so never got very far with that suggestion.  This year, I suggested a jigsaw puzzle, and J surprised me with one.  There's a table in my studio that will be perfect for it, after I've done my Christmas wrapping.  I'm thinking it will be fun while drinking hot cocoa or cider, on winter evenings.

We've done the usual composting, recycling and collecting rainwater.  I borrowed season 6 of Call The Midwife from the library, and have really been enjoying watching it in the evenings.  Batches of yogurt and kefir were made.  Needing a few things, I shopped at Walgreens during their 20% friends and family sale.  I bought greeting cards for the next several birthdays, and nuts on sale, and with a coupon and bonus points, was credited with the equivalent of $9 cash back.  I had a $5 off $15 coupon from Big Lots, and picked up a few needed things, taking advantage of it.  On my walks, I typically stay on the path and service road.  In the warmer months, there are ticks, chiggers and poison ivy to contend with.  With those not being much of an issue in December, I decided to wander off the road down at the creek.  Just a few feet from the road, I found some beautiful usnea on one side of the creek one day, and another lovely clump on the other side a different day.  Just goes to show the rewards of veering off the usual path.  I hope you have a week of fun and festivity.  Cookie baking, tree decorating and gift wrapping are at the top of my list.  The mailbox needs the fall bow changed to a winter one, with the start of winter beginning Thursday.  Here's to lengthening days! 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sweetness & Seasonal Pleasures

Hello, friends.  Last week, I went by the natural co-op I'm a member of while in that town for an appointment.  No earth shattering deals there, though I did buy some organic beans on sale.  I did see a half gallon of heavy cream marked down to $5.99, about half price, due to expiring that date or the next, but I wasn't sure what I'd do with it, so left it.  Part of one of our cabbages went into a cabbage and noodle dish, when I got in from work one night.  In the chapel where I do massage work, I found three full taper candles in the trash, which I took home.

It's been another whirlwind of a week.  There was a bit of snow and sleet Friday and Saturday. We spent a large part of the last two days driving, taking care of some business, attending a Christmas family dinner several hours east, and spending time with our granddaughter.  She had her first sleepover with us, which went well.  She and I baked cookies, wrapped a present for her great grandmother, read books, collected eggs, did her first bit of hand sewing, and we all visited a Christmas village, which included a train ride.  We wish we had more influence in her life.  I hope the time she spends with us will instill good values, memories and a few helpful skills.

A few steps into my walk Sunday morning, I found this bit of sweetness on the ground.  A bird nest made primarily of lichens, a couple of my favorite things.  The elements have taken their toll on it, but it felt like a gift even so.  Asian slaw made from our cabbage was brought to the family dinner.  Sunday breakfast of our scrambled eggs, tomatoes and garlic was enjoyed with toast.  We're still eating up some small tomatoes picked green from the garden, a real pleasure in December.  I hope you are well, and enjoying whatever seasonal pleasures bring you happiness.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Supporting Handmade & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Last week, I went through swagbucks and used a $25 off $75 coupon for a Staples purchase.  I'd been holding off buying toner cartridges for the printer, and was happy to find this deal to defray a large chunk of the cost of a 2 pack.  I went through ebates to buy a present.  After working in town, I picked up a bucket of grounds from the coffee shop.  I learned that Walgreens is now a drop off point for Fedex packages, which was great timing, as I had an order to ship.  While there, I took advantage of a buy 3, get $3 Hallmark offer, and received $5 in rewards at checkout.  I'd read the lemonade Kool Aid can clean a dishwasher, and picked up 2 packets while getting a few groceries.  Our dishwasher is horribly stained from our crazy well water, so I really hope it works.  It's worth a try.

I got all the boxes of summer clothes and sheets put up in the attic.  Our first Ameraucana hen has begun laying, earlier than I expected.  Hooray for upping the egg count!    I made broccoli fried rice with our eggs, garlic, and a little of our broccoli mixed in with store bought.  I went through ebates to purchase a gift on etsy.  I love how easy it is to support artists and makers around the world on etsy, this time in Serbia.  For my honeymoon clothing, I made two purchases on Novica, which does the same.  One purchase supported artists in Thailand, the other India.  I did make smart choices, and there was a sale or coupon involved, but what's more important to me is supporting handmade, and knowing my purchase makes a difference in people's lives.  I believe we have a lot of power, in the purchases we make.  This is the world I choose to put my energy into bringing about, rather than just valuing cheap, and helping another Walmart to be built. 

A few weeks ago, I bought a couple of organic pizzas at Aldi's for a crazy low price, something like $2.79 ea.  On a busy day of soap wrapping, a soap delivery and more, I pulled one of them out of the freezer, and made a pear blue cheese salad with our lettuce and homemade dressing.  I had a small frugal fail, and forgot to use a swag up to buy a gift card in time, so lost the equivalent of .50.  Their site was having problems the last day I could have used it, so I gave up and forgot about it.  Now that more eggs are coming in, I boiled some for breakfasts and the pups.  Though it's December, I'm still enjoying the last few weeks of fall.  Around mid-December, we will buy our tree and begin decorating.  Holiday cards and wrapping presents will begin soon, with hopefully some cookie baking too.

show treasures- felted, alpaca, pottery, pysanky, stained glass
lovely nature cards
It was a wonderful show on Saturday.  I've been attending the Handmade Holiday show for 7 years now, and it's such a pleasure to see so many of the same sweet faces, as well as some new ones.  I'd had a request at the show last year for natural deodorant.  I brought some this year, and sold several; also sold out of three soaps, and sold several of my wool dusters.  Happy dance!  There were so many lovely handmade offerings.  I purchased and bartered for several presents and some things I will likely keep for myself.  If you see something above you'd like to know about, just let me know, and I'll be happy to provide info on the talented artist.  Having been involved in show set up and such the past few evenings, when I visited the chickens this morning, they had 8 eggs for me!  I think the younger hens may be encouraging the older ones to get back on board.  At least two of the young hens are laying now.  It's a lovely thing.

detail of the pysanky egg
Orders keep rolling in to our little online shops, so I worked on painting two Berkey stands on Sunday, before heading out for two holiday events.  One was an open house at a small historic home, but sadly, it was closed and dark when we arrived, 25 minutes before they were to have closed.  The other event was one I've wanted to attend for many years, a Christmas service with carols, cider and cookies at a historic church in the neighborhood.  Friends met us there, and it was a sweet evening.  We all ended up back at our house, and had an impromptu dinner, sort of a picnic of egg salad sandwiches, olives, cheese and crackers, and a bottle of local wine.  Definitely not fancy, but a fun time.  Wishing you a wonderful week, friends!