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Archive for August, 2012

One of Those Days

August 30th, 2012 at 11:07 pm

You ever have one of those days where you don't feel like you accomplished anything, but you actually did a fair amount of stuff when you start thinking about it? Yeah, it was one of those days.

I spent the morning canning and now have an additional 10 pint jars of tomato sauce on my shelves (total of 17 canned, but we ate one already, so 16 on the shelves). I have the apples picked for making and canning a batch of applesauce tomorrow. My only cost will be for the sugar and cinnamon and that will be negligible. Apple sauce requires very little sugar and just a touch of cinnamon.

I picked a gallon of blueberries. I reorganized and inventoried one of the freezers. I read for an hour, took the kids to the library, picked up DD's new glasses, made three meals, and wrote for an hour. Why does a day like this feel like I did nothing at all? Clearly I wasn't as lazy as I feel I was.

Tomorrow I am setting up the September budget spreadsheet and finishing transferring everything from the checkbook into the August budget spreadsheet and will be updating the HSA spreadsheet with all of the medical payments made in the last two weeks. I'll also be balancing the checkbook.

I may or may not get another batch of tomato sauce going in the crockpots, too. We'll see how I feel after making apple sauce. I am thinking about buying some local Asian pears (easier to peel) to make pear sauce with, too, since DS is allergic to apples. I wish he wasn't allergic as I have all the free apples I can use.

At least pears are in season though, so buying them to process right now is inexpensive. Pear sauce can be used in any recipe that uses apple sauce to replace fat, too, with identical results. Apple sauce and pear sauce only take about 4 hours in the crockpot to make so I could do one in each crock and still be able to process both batches in one day. If I can find a really good deal on pears, I may can some wedges as well. DS really likes pears.

I need to go through the book lists WAVA has tomorrow. Right now I'm leaning towards My Side of the Mountain for one of the required 7nth grade reading books, but not sure about the other one yet. It's a long list. I am so mentally unprepared to homeschool DS this year. Fortunately they are running so far behind in the enrollment process, we likely won't be starting until mid-September. We'll make it up during one of the weeks off at Christmas and during the incessant days off that the public school system gives, but we tend to ignore.

I do wish things had turned out so that he would have been happy in public school this year, but with his concussion still not fully healed it's really not the right place for him. I still have to take back the viola he checked out over the summer and talk to his music teacher about if she knows of anyone who gives lessons, since most only teach violin. (I do have a viola he can use. He wasn't big enough last year, but has grown into it). If not, he'll take piano lessons instead.

Plastic Bag Ban--Inconvenience Means Buying Less Stuff

August 29th, 2012 at 06:15 pm



Bit of a rant, sorry. On August 1st my city enacted a plastic bag ban, where you either need to bring your own bags to the stores or pay 5 cents for a paper bag. At first I thought it was just for the grocery stores. This pretty much did not concern me as I have been using reusable canvas or burlap bags for some time.

I also use reusable produce bags when I remember to grab them.



The stores still have plastic bags for produce, meat products, bulk bin items, and bakery or deli items, and they sell things like garbage bags and ziptop bags, so it's not a full on ban.

The thing that I did not realize at first was that it was for all stores in the city, including department and clothing stores. Now this I did find to be inconvenient when we were shopping for back to school clothes and school supplies. Most department stores have rules about bringing bags in. So do most mall stores. They are so worried about shop lifting they don't like you to bring any bags in. So if you have a cart that's not bad, but if you're hitting up a bunch of the regular stores and buying any amount of small things it starts to get difficult. And I don't like going back to my car after every purchase.

I do not like being forced into buying a bag, even if it's "only" 5 cents. You know my thoughts on "it's only" thinking. I don't like being nickled and dimed. It's the principle of the thing. I have a lot of mixed feelings here, because even though I don't much like plastic bags and will use totes when I can, I was always careful to reuse plastic bags when I got them. The big ones (which I rarely ever had, mostly at Christmas time) went in place of my kitchen trash bags and the small ones went as liners for garbage in the bathrooms or bedrooms. Now I have to buy them for the small cans and I'm frugal enough to resent buying new plastic as opposed to reusing plastic. At least this is making my actually recyle my toilet paper tubes and put the hair from the hairbrush in the compost bin. I am making every inch of my plastic bags count now.

It is a major hassle to come out of a store with a big pile of clothes and no bags. It is a major hassle to come out of a store with three pairs of shoes and no bag. It is a really, really major hassle to come out of a store with a year's supply of school supplies and no bags. I did put them in my reusable totes once I got them to the car, but I was frustrated with it. I mean, what happens when it is pouring down rain in another month and I need to make some purchases of things I don't want getting wet?

I think that I will end up buying less things in my city because of this. I am not an impulse shopper anyway, but I will rethink every purchase because of the inconvenience factor. This is a good thing as it will cut down on spending. I will likely do future larger shopping trips in the next county when we are down there for other reasons, which will mean thinking things through a bit more because I won't want to waste trips.

If this bag ban is making me buy more outside of my county, I wonder what it is doing to other shoppers. My county is highly retail oriented since shooting itself in the tax base and driving out the living wage industrial jobs about a decade back. It is a border county so it relies a lot on Canadians coming across and shopping here. But if I were doing that, I'd take the extra 30 minutes to go to the next county which also has a lot of retail. I think we're going to see a drop in the county's sales because of this. Even though intuitively it makes more sense to pay for the paper bags (at the stores that even have them, many do not) then to pay for the gas, the inconvenience factor and the "must pay for it" factor on the bags will cause a stubborn resistance.

I am trying to get over this stubborness, because I do know it is better for the environment. I just really don't like being told what to do. I came to my use of reusable totes at the grocery store on my own. I'd like the choice to do that otherwise. Or else the big stores need to get over their fears of shop lifting and let me bring my totes in. I guess my feelings on this are a...mixed bag. *snorts*

Very Cost Effective, Easy Egg Flower Soup

August 29th, 2012 at 03:12 pm

I don't have a lot of energy this week. Part of it is that I've been battling some kind of stomach bug off and on since coming back from vacation and part of it is putting food up for the winter. Today I made a very cost-effective lunch for my family that took me all of ten minutes, which is about what my brain could handle. Serves 4 (3 ladelfuls per bowl, DS had two bowls). You do need 3 hands for this or a way to prop the fork up later.



Egg Flower (or Drop) Soup

1 quart (4 cups) of chicken broth
1 bunch of green onions, chopped
5 eggs
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp white pepper (or black if you don't have white, it's just for aesthetics)
1 tsp corn starch (optional, for thickening, it didn't seem to make a difference to me so I will leave it out next time)

In a bowl take 1/4 cup of chicken broth. Mix in corn starch. Set aside.

Mix eggs well. You want them very runny. Set aside with the fork you used to mix them.

In a pot combine chicken broth, scallions, ground ginger, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Boil for one minute.

Have someone hold a fork over the pot or somehow prop it over the boiling broth. While stirring with one hand slowly pour the egg through the fork. Do not stop stirring while you pour. This creates the ribbon effect. Otherwise you will just end up with blobby eggs in the soup. Stir hard for one minute after you are done adding the egg, then add the broth/corn starch mixture and allow to boil for one more minute while stirring gently. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to taste (I added a bit more salt. This is by nature a blandish soup so salt is necessary.). Soup is done.

This soup probably cost me about 25 cents. That is because the green onions came from my garden, the eggs came from Mom's chickens (free), and the broth is stock that I made previously (and froze) from leftover chicken carcasses and vegetable peelings that I had saved in my freezer. But even if paying for it, it wouldn't have been too expensive and is a nice, high protein lunch.

One variation on this is to add peas and carrots. I didn't have any, but a cup or so would have been a good addition while adding about 50 cents to the cost of the soup. Just use the canned kind and boil for a couple minutes longer before adding the egg.

Pricing it out:

$0.39 for 1 bunch of green onions (farmstand price)
$0.85 for five eggs (based on a $2 dozen)
$1.99 for 1 quart of chicken broth
$0.15 for salt, pepper, ginger, corn starch (which is likely on hand anyway)
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$3.38 for four servings or 84 and 1/2 cents per serving.

Of course if you make your own practically free broth from leftover chicken carcasses and vegetable scraps and peelings you save from other meals, you will bring this down to $1.39 or almost .35 per serving. Not bad and surprisingly filling (from the egg).

Bits and Pieces

August 29th, 2012 at 01:07 pm

I sent for another $5 gift card to Amazon from Swagbucks today, so that should show up in a week. I have gotten $25 worth of free gift cards this month. This is the first month I've managed to do that in. Not bad for 10 minutes worth of effort in a day (if that).

I've qualified for a couple of the good surveys at ACOP this month. Will probably have a decent cash out next month.

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I have two crockpots full of tomato puree cooking down into sauce. I have decided I don't care that it takes longer, it's hands off and that makes it easier for me. The whole house smells like tomato sauce.

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I just found out that my mother invited two of my nephews up to stay next week. Starting on the first day of school. There has been the whole long summer to do this and she invites them up the first week of school? And the first week of homeschool for DS? Sometimes I don't think she thinks things through. My nephews are supposed to be homeschooled, but my sister is...lazy about it. Oh, they do get educated, but not on any kind of a schedule. This is just going to make things ten times harder for us. Oh, well, it's not like I can do anything about it. This is part and parcel of living in someone else's home.

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I hope our house sells fast and we come out of it with a good down payment. I really want to not be subject to Mom's whims. I feel like the dang thing is never going to get on the market, though. They were supposed to paint the outside of the house last weekend and the inside this. For whatever reason it didn't happen and now they are planning to paint it this weekend. The weather is supposed to be good for it, but I'm not sure about how much longer.

And for some reason or other they seem to want to paint the outside first. Even if it rains. This is not a good plan in my mind. *sighs* Since they are fitting us in around other people there is not much I can do about that either.

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We have close to $800 worth of eyeglasses to pay off in the next 3 months (same as cash, fortunately). If it isn't one thing it's another. Our vision insurance only covers glasses every 2 years instead of the industry standard of every year for lenses and every 18 months for frames. They do cover one eye doctor visit per year though.

Unfortunately both kids' prescriptions have changed so much that there was no way of putting it off for another year. Fortunately DH and I are not having any problems with ours and can wait another year. Personally I think insurance companies should take into account changes in the prescription and if there is a valid change, then pay for it or some of it, regardless of how long it has been. Just wanting different frames sooner is not valid, but the eyes changing enough to make a major difference is medical and should be covered no matter what.

Next payday I will finally finish paying the dentist for DH's crowns. Yesterday I made another $500 payment to DS's doctor. That leaves us owing them two more payments, or a total of $1000 left. Ugh. But no interest. I think I'm putting half of next year's tax return straight into the HSA next March.

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I borrowed $300 from the freezer fund which will be replaced over the course of next month (I hope). I needed to buy school clothes and supplies before school actually started and with all the extra medical I've had to pay from DS's head injury this summer, I couldn't budget enough for it. It was either that or take it out of the emergency fund, which I couldn't justify. That is okay, though.

Fortunately DS didn't need much because he's homeschooling, but he did need fall appropriate clothing as he has grown way, way too much since last fall to fit into anything he had. And DD had to have non-marking sole shoes for PE separate from her regular shoes. She has PE all year though and at least her feet have stopped growing. She should be fine except for snow boots (which can wait a few months) and she can always use mine if she has to. DS will need them if we have a bad winter, though. And DH said something about needing new work boots soon. It never ends.

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We got 3 duck eggs today. We were pretty sure we had 2 males and 2 females, but now it's looking like 3 females, with Patches being the one male. Because ducks don't lay more than one egg a day.

The Weather Has Turned

August 28th, 2012 at 09:02 pm

One of the ducks laid a doozy of an egg today. In the photo here it shows 3 duck eggs of normal size and the extra large one.



The small duck eggs are still bigger than large chicken eggs. I should have put one in the bowl for comparison, but didn't. You can see the mottling on the shell. It really makes them look more dirty than anything, but this is with them clean. We are getting 2 duck eggs about every other day and 6 to 8 chicken eggs every day.

Although it has been pleasant during the day, our temps are around to 67 to 70 degrees during the day with a breeze, and about 61 to 63 at night. I'm not so sure what my tomatoes are going to do with that kind of weather. I found 3 volunteer tomato plants in a place where I'm not sure tomato plants have ever been planted, but when you have escape chickens and cheeky squirrels running about the place, things grow where nature plants them sometimes. Two of them have green tomatoes on them and they are not the same variety.

A stupid slug ate my bell pepper that was almost fully red. I hope it got major heartburn. I mean, seriously, a slug in August? No fair. I am finally getting flowers on some of the slicing cucumber plants. Still no sign of actual broccoli heads on the broccoli plants though they are full and lush plants. At least it is a cold weather crop so going into cooler weather is not a bad thing for it. I think they may have been some of the longer maturing varities. I didn't pay attention when I planted them and obviously I should have.

The green beans from the first planting that I had thought were done, surprised me by producing a bit more and there are some flowers on it still. I left the plants in because they are good at fixing nitrogen in the soil and got a surprise second harvest.

Today I noticed some blackberries ripening. The blackberries seemed to have been done two weeks ago or so, but maybe there are two varieties in there. The birds planted them so we don't know. It's only on one end, so there won't be much, but a few for fresh eating. And the raspberries are putting out again. I didn't realize it, but Mom says they produce twice. A big crop in July and then a smaller crop of much bigger berries, but not so plentiful, in late August/September. Huh. I knew they had strawberries that produced two crops in the summer (even if they call them everbearing, it's more like two crops, really), but not raspberries. I doubt I will pick them, though. The kids will for fresh eating.

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I made a very large chicken today for lunch. 5.65 pounds. After we ate some I pulled all the remaining meat off the bones and threw the carcass in the freezer with another one from before for future stock. We will get several lunches off this bird this week. I ran across this blog post today of how to get 22 meals (well, servings) off one organic chicken spending a total of $49 (which includes the cost of the chicken). An interesting read and gave me some new thoughts. I'm good at stretching a chicken, but this certainly gave me some ideas. It's here if anyone is interested: [url]http://www.squawkfox.com/2011/01/31/1-chicken-22-meals-49-bucks/[/url].

Meal Planning for the Week

August 27th, 2012 at 03:15 am

We haven't made it down to the farm yet this month and it's probably going to be a couple more weeks before I do make it there. I am trying to use up every bit of what we do have in the freezer as well as use up some other things, like bags of rice that are cooked but frozen and some veggies I overbought. Also trying to keep up with the food coming from the garden, so the menues will reflect that this week. I need to bake bread tomorrow. DH goes back to Alaska tomorrow.

Monday--
Spaghetti with homemade sauce (I have a bunch of tomatoes, an onion an some garlic to use up, not to mention fresh basil)
Homemade garlic bread
Meatballs (half beef, half pork)
Melon
Birthday cake

Tuesday--
Beef and broccoli stir-fry (will be throwing in fresh green beans and yellow zucchini as well as the broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and celery that need using up in the fridge)
Brown rice
Melon

Wednesday--
Lamb de Provence (sounds fancy doesn't it? It's ground lamb patties mixed with herbes de provence)
Fresh green beans (boiled with a slice of bacon)
Fresh bread with homemade jelly
Peanut butter cookies made with duck eggs

Thursday--
Fried chicken
Fried potatoes
Cole slaw
Berries

Friday--
Homemade pizza with Canadian bacon, pepperoni, red bell pepper, onion
Cole slaw

Saturday--
Bacon cheeseburgers on homemade buns
Homemade French Fries
Cole slaw

Sunday--
Beef pot roast (last one in the freezer)
Corn on the cob
Salad
Drop biscuits with homemade jam

Alternate dinner in case of laziness--Tacos.

Lunches will come off the roast chicken I made today and a meatloaf I will make when it runs out (we have a lot of eggs to use up this week!) and veggies from the garden.

Breakfasts will be eggs of some sort (probably omelettes with Canadian bacon, green onions, bell pepper, and cheese) and then kohlrabi or cucumber on the side. DS will likely have pancakes as well (he makes his own now).

Found a Possible House Today

August 26th, 2012 at 02:39 pm

I mean, we're not ready to buy and we're not going to buy right now, but that doesn't stop us from looking and this one would fit our needs in more ways than I expected.

First off it's nearly 3000 square feet with a separate living area MIL apartment set up. And it's on .62 acres, and partially fenced. So it would be perfect for raising and butchering rabbits or chickens in the city without freaking out the neighbors and still have space for a large garden and maybe a hoophouse. It has a creek bordering the property, but nowhere near the house, so no fear of flooding, and we could fish in season.

It has the right number of bathrooms. It has a small wood lot for the fire. It has the right number of bedrooms. It has a huge kitchen. It has space enough to not feel closed in and a place for me to write. It has a good garage. It is in the right school districts. It has a hot tub! (Not a necessity, but nice). And best yet is the asking price of $225,000.

So what's wrong with it? It's ugly. I mean...UGLY. It was built in 1951 and looks every inch of it. Heavy dark wood panelling in a couple of rooms. Heavy brickwork in a couple of places. And an aluminum roof. Yet the potential is huge. Most of it is cosmetic. There is almost always sheetrock under panelling. And bricks can be painted. And we could have a little farm in the city. It's a big enough lot we could raise miniture goats for milk if we wanted to (we don't, but we could!).

It is ugly enough that it may set there for a good long while. Maybe even until we are ready. But even if not, this house shows it is possible to find what we are looking for. I want to drive by it in person just to see if it is really as ugly as it looks. They don't show a full outside shot in the photos.