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!