Thursday, December 4, 2008

Turkey - the Inexpensive Meat

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner at my brother's home, but one of the things we always miss is no leftovers. My brother's grocery bill is gigantic next to what ours is when we make a dinner. They end up with so many leftovers that end up being thrown out, as they can't eat them all. Sadly - it seems like they aren't the only ones that do that. I've heard over and over on the list that people spend a huge amount of money on dinner, and then don't eat all the leftovers or give them away because they won't eat leftovers.

When we make a turkey dinner, we spend a minimal amount of money. We bought a turkey this year to have a "late" Thanksgiving dinner here. On Monday, I made turkey, stuffing, gravy, garlic mashed potatoes, corn and cranberry sauce. The turkey was a little over 16 pounds and cost $4.41. The stuffing was in our pantry, since I keep it on hand for making frozen meat balls and chicken dinners. We buy it in bulk, and I can't remember how much we paid for it. We were given the potatoes from a friend's garden, plus we had our own garlic and corn. The cranberry sauce was homemade, and we purchased a big 3# bag of cranberries for under $5 at Sam's Club. I used between 1/4 and 1/3 of the bag plus one cup of sugar. Our dinner for the 4 of us cost under $10.

Tuesday, the guys took turkey & swiss on homemade rye bread for lunch when they went hunting. My daughter and I had turkey dinner for lunch - yummy!! While the guys were out, I made Turkey Carcass Soup and used everything we had on hand... a couple of pieces of celery, 2 1/2 onions, 3 carrots, 1 turnip, 2 mushrooms and 2/3 cup barley (or rice if we don't have barley on hand), plus some herbs and spices. I roasted the bones first, then cooked them for 3 hours in water and any broth that we had left over that we didn't use in the gravy the night before. The guys ate their fill and were very satisfied after a long day outside.

Yesterday, the guys took more turkey & swiss on rye and we had soup for lunch. We made Deep Dish Turkey Potpie for dinner - and we used 1 cup of cubed potatoes, 1 cup sliced carrots, 1 cup frozen peas, plus a white sauce flavored with chicken boullion and pepper. This was covered with a bisquick (or bisquick clone) dough and baked. No leftovers of that.

Today, we will have the rest of the turkey dinner for lunch and will probably finish off what is left of the turkey meat. That makes a total of 6 meals (plus snitching) from one $4.41 turkey. Usually I'll freeze the meat but the guys asked for all the turkey meals. Since we had different ways of serving the turkey, they don't get tired of it. My husband says he's sad we'll be finishing up the bird today. He would love a few more sandwiches out of it. Next time....

We have less than $20 out of pocket - including the turkey - for all 6 of the meals. That's less than 1/5th of what my brother had into the dinner they had for 9 people for one day. Sadly - they threw a lot of that out!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hump Day

Finances. What an interesting word. It makes everyone react - like it or not. With a bad choice or an emergency, it seems even though you feel you are prepared, things can change in just a day or two. With this in mind, a savings of some type is a necessity and not a luxury.

We have cut back in many places, and we have been diligent and haven't spent money on anything but necessities. With the holiday coming, we decided to start shopping a little early, and since we've been very good, we thought we'd go a little extravagant and buy a Nintendo Wii as an early present for the family. (this has been something we've been considering for a long time). I swear as soon as we pulled it out, things started going downhill in the finance dept. Talk about buyer's remorse! It was such an unusual purchase for us, that even the credit card called to make sure that we really purchased it. LOL

We will probably have to dip into our savings this time. It's amazing how even a carefully planned purchase when you know you can afford it can turn into a mistake. I know a Wii isn't that expensive, but the $500 we laid out for it would have helped greatly in the situation we now are facing. In one week, we've ended up with a few surprises that were unanticipated and costly.

No, I'm not complaining, but mentioning it so that it might be a lesson to someone else. This time of the year causes impulse buying and everyone I know spends more than they intended to, because it's Christmas time. I know I had always been taught it's better to give than receive, but I honestly believe that giving is meant to be of oneself more than material things. Holiday anticipations for me were more focused on my family getting together more than the presents. I was always so excited to see my cousins that lived out of state. We'd have a fantastic time playing and running around. Sure, the presents were great, but when I think back to my best memories of the holidays, it focuses around all the wonderful times we had together. There aren't many presents that I remember, no matter how much they cost - they just don't stand out in my mind. My family and friends, on the other hand, did.

Excess - Be Gone!

I've been going through books and things that we no longer need since the kids have gotten older. I remember saving things for the someday - and now that someday has past, and the kids don't have an interest or have outgrown those things. Many of the books were posted on PaperbackSwap and to my surprise, quite a few were on other's wish lists, so I sent a lot out these past couple of weeks. Yay! They are gone and now my credits sit and wait to be used for new goodies. I have requested a couple of nice additions to my cooking library - one a Mr. Food cookbook called "Pizza 1-2-3", and the other was a Taste Of Home book called "Mom's Best Recipes". I am also getting the last 2 books from the Left Behind series. It's been so long since I read the other books in the series, that I'll probably have to start all over again. That's ok - I love snuggling under the covers in the winter time and reading before bed.

I also sent books and magazines to Freecycle and the thrift shop. Everything that I posted on Freecycle went FAST. We also cleaned out the closet and donated all the outgrown coats. I'm working from room to room, and weeding the unnecessaries out. I'm finding that too much"stuff" makes me unappreciative and downright grumpy. I get irritated with clutter. The older I get, the more I don't like it.

On the Needles

I'm currently knitting a pair of socks for DS for hunting. They are nice and heavy wool socks that he loves. He claims they keep his feet so much warmer than anything we've purchased at the store. One sock is finished and I need to cast on the other. I must get moving on them, as it will be hunting season in just a little over a week.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Having Fun!

We had a great week with putting up food and getting things ready for winter. The garlic is in, the garden is ready, and most of the food has been put away. I still have a bit of squash and sweet potatoes to do.

I canned 6 quarts of pumpkin to try. I've read opinions on canning it, and some people swear by it and others don't like it and prefer to freeze it. The Ball Blue Book does not recommend it, but the guide from the Cooperative Extension has it listed. So, I tried a batch to see for myself.

I'm also planning on putting up some canned kidney beans using Garden Gnome's method. When I used the directions from the guide I got from the Cooperative Extension, the beans became thick and exploded and not in any type of juice like you'd buy in the store.

Taste Of Home Cooking Schools

We went to one of the Taste of Home Cooking Schools last week. We had a blast. Hubby and our son went along with us this year. This is the third year my daughter, my brother's girlfriend and I attended, and a first for the guys. My son met a historian/author that was promoting her book at the vendor show, and he got one of them signed by her. She also invited him to a some meetings that her society has, and an archeological dig to boot! He was flying on cloud #9 all night. He's been corresponding with her since the show. Cool, eh?

The show was nice but we ended up with terrible seats. We went early (like usual) to get the good seats, and instead of filling the middle first, they went across the rows from side then middle than side. Where we were, the audio was terrible and we couldn't really see the instructor, but instead the screen. DH and DS were on the inside end, so it wasn't so bad for them. In fact, DH won a nice prize of a bottle of oil, a bag of spices and baguette wrapped in a Christmas print towel. It was a nice surprise! DH thought it was cool :)

Our gift totes were nice and filled with items from the vendors as well as a few things from Reiman Publications. The one thing that confused me though, was they gave the recent issue of Taste of Home magazine. Well, almost everyone subscribes, so that seemed a waste. I wish they would have given another of their cooking magazines instead. But all in all, it was worth every penny we spent to go. (like every year!)

Even though I've cooked for a long time, I always find some great hints and come home with a little more knowledge than when I went. My best lesson was that chefs and profession cooks burn things, too - but they call it carmelizing! LOL

My brother's girlfriend gave me a wonderful surprise when we got back. She bought me the Taste of Home Winning Recipes recipe book, and it's fantastic! That is going to be one well used book in my kitchen library!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Getting Ready for Winter

l.- pickled garlic; middle-broccoli soup; r.-pumpkin pickles

It has been busy here around our little "homestead". We've been getting ready for winter, and putting up some food as well as putting the garden to bed. It's been a long week, but quite productive, although there were some disappointments along the way.

As you know, there is a critter we are trying to catch in out basement. He has been very happy were he is, and won't be caught. I guess I can't blame him - all that yummy food we've put away for winter has made it a warm haven for him. Until we catch him, we've got pumpkins, squash, 'taters, etc. all around the house in places I'm not happy with at all. It's made it difficult, so I'm canning and freezing things to get them out of here. I hope we can catch the invader soon, as I'd rather put things back down in storage than to have to preserve it all. It just tastes better fresh IMHO.

I did up some broccoli soup - 16 pints total. I opened a new box of lids, and it appears they weren't good, as the same amount of lids I got out of the new box was the same amount that didn't seal. We are only putting away 9 pints now. I know that I can reprocess them, but I don't know how it will change the flavor. Instead, we just had soup for dinner for the next two days. In my 20+ years of canning, this has never happened. Guess I was due for some humble pie :)

A good friend of ours sent up some extra garlic he won't be using, so we now have a nice 7" square priority mail boxes FULL of cloves that have been removed from the garlic head. These were ones that didn't pass his inspection to replant. With all that extra garlic (on top of what I have from my garden), I have a lot to experiment with. We've been eating garlic in everything these days, and now we've even tried pickling the cloves. I only did a test batch of 2 half pints, as I have no idea what to expect from the flavor. (from Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving pg. 160)

I also tried a test batch of Pumpkin Pickles. (from Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving pg. 163) Everyone is anxious to try these, as the syrup the are packed in tastes yummy. The book said that it made 5 pints, but I ended up with 6 pints and a little extra syrup. We have very little waste from pumpkins, as we roast and eat the seeds as well.

The garden is now getting ready to be put to bed. We have part of it done, but still need to get out and finish it. We've covered the garlic with horse manure, straw and a nice big pile of Maple leaves. They will be nice and cozy over the winter. We put in 120 Bogytar, 108 Siberian, and 36 Bavarian Purple - all hardneck garlic. I'm hoping they do well. They went in a little later than I would have liked.

We also prepped our onion and pea beds for spring. They have been turned, and layered with horse manure, straw and some leaves as well. When spring comes, the manure should be pulled down into the soil by the worms over winter (in theory) and the straw will mark the rows. The leaves are piled on deep to hopefully prevent the soil from freezing solid, and will allow it to be workable in the spring. We'll pull both the leaves and straw off to allow the soil to warm a few days before planting. We'll be putting in 2 types of peas - a sweet pea and Carlin peas. The Carlin are a dry pea and is traditionally used for Pea Porridge. (Remember the ditty "Peas Porridge Hot, Peas Porridge Cold?")

The tomato cages are cleaned up and put away, and we've pulled all the stakes up that held the cages. Our cages aren't the flimsy ones you buy at the store, but are made from a roll of 4" x 4" fencing that is 4' high. We also picked more rock that decided to pop up during the season. Those things produce better than my veggies do!

We still have to finish off the garden, but all the time we put in now will save time in the spring, when we are anxious to get all those little seedlings in their new home. We also won't have to worry about getting the beds turned to get the earliest veggies in, as they will be ready to go. So many times we've run into problems and have missed putting in the earliest crops. We are trying to prevent that next year.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

October's Stock-up, Winter Storage & Frugal Mussings

I requested my RiteAid rebate yesterday, after making sure everything qualified. I always file online, so I know before hand if everything was correct. I have relied on the store's shelf postings in the past, and have found that they are not always accurate. Our grand total on the single check rebates this month is.... $144.22!! That does not include the $21.00 in coupons I used as well, so not only did I get $144.22 worth of items for free, but I was paid $21 to take them!!!! It still blows me away that I actually can end up with items we need and use for free or better than free.

I'm somewhat bummed, as we found our winter vegetable storage had been raided by vermin. Those critters had a great feast on my pumpkins and other veggies that I had put away. Those that weren't touched are now all over my kitchen waiting to be canned or frozen now. I had expected to be able to use fresh into the winter, but now, plans have changed. I have to figure out a better plan for storage for next year.

I've been using my crockpot quite a bit lately. We've been running to appointment after appointment this month, and the crockpot has been so convenient and has saved us a lot of money. We haven't had to eat out, and that has been wonderful! I don't like fast food, and it seems the kids don't like it much either. The other bonus is, according to the First Energy Corp. the crockpot only costs .02/hr. to use! They have a PDF that shows costs of using appliances, etc.
If the information is accurate, it only costs me 20 cents to cook a meal in the crockpot. I wonder how that would compare to our gas stove in cost of energy - especially when we paid $5.10/gal. of propane.

Today is the first day I've had to use the dryer since Mother's Day (May 11th). It's been raining a lot and hubby's clothes just can't hold out until our next nice sunny day. It's almost killing me to put the stuff in the dryer!! I'm still going to hang clothes out as much as possible, but I also know that I'm going to have to use the dryer more. That's going to put a spike in our electric bill. :(

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Halloween Candy Warning

Please be careful on what candies your children are getting and eating. This is just so scary...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Broccoil Soup

Baby What's Cooking?

Broccoli crowns are on sale at our local grocery store, so I decided to try the Broccoli Soup recipe in my Fagor "Home Canning Cookbook" to see if it would be something I'd like to stock on the shelves for this winter. I canned my first batch of 4 jars, let it stand for a few days, and then we ate it. The verdict: Everyone really liked it! In fact, the kids LOVED it and have asked for me to put up "tons" of it. LOL It's a really nice recipe, good alone, or if you want broccoli and cheese, just sprinkle some cheddar on it and let it melt - just yummy.

Broccoli Soup

1 1/2 pounds broccoli, whole
1/2 onion, peeled and chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons margarine or vegetable oil (I used butter)
1/4 cup uncooked white rice
5 cups vegetable or chicken broth (this came out to 3 cans 14.5 oz size)
Tabasco sauce to taste
Salt & Pepper to taste

Cut broccoli florets from the stalks. Peel stalks and slice into 1-inch pieces. Saute broccoli, onions, and garlic, in butter. In a large saucepan, combine the sauteed vegetables with the rice and broth. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer gently until vegetables are very soft. Puree soup in blender. (I used my Braun handheld and blended it in the pot). Return to stockpot and add the Tabasco, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Cook for an additional 5 minutes. Ladle into jars, leaving a 1 inch headspace. Cap and seal. Place in pressure canner with 2-3 inches of hot water (or amount recommended for your brand of pressure canner). Process for 40 minutes at 15 pounds (Fagor's HIGH setting).
Please note: There is no conversion for those at higher altitudes in this book. I'm just below 1000 ft. above sea level, so I don't have to worry about it. For those above 1000 ft. above sea level, please contact your local Cooperative Extension Office for advice on safe times and pressure settings.

I'm planning on doing a quadruple batch - possibly 5x. I'm getting 9 pounds of broccoli, so I will definately have enough plus some for eating fresh. Think the kids will be satisfied with a few pounds less than "tons"? LOL

Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy Columbus Day!

Here it is, almost the middle of October already. This is my last school year with my son home, and it's going by so quickly. Friday, he went to visit one of the universities he's interested in attending. He came home excited and so full of chatter. He has a couple more universities he wants to look at before he makes his final decision, but right now he's really leaning towards this one because of both the course of study they offer and the small college atmosphere. DH went to Penn State, and said he wished he would have more of the atmosphere they found at this university. I guess that means that DH approves of our son's choice :)

We buy our milk at a local dairy that uses no growth hormones and raises their cows as naturally as possible. When we go to the dairy, we pass by a few farm stands and a local produce stand, and up the road from the dairy is a nice Mennonite food and dried goods pantry where I buy such wonderful items as farina in bulk. This week, my husband and son went on the milk run, and on the way back, they stopped at the produce stand to get some apple cider. The carry the unpasteurized apple cider and will refill your jug for $1 less than shelf price. Then they stopped at one of the farms that I get pumpkins from. I asked them to pick up two, and told them they should run close to $1.50 for a nice sized pumpkin. Two is a decent amount for us, especially since I also put away squash for using like pumpkin. Well, they came home with 2 plus 3 additional ones since they were only $1 each! I guess they are hinting they want me to put up a little more this year :)

I have put the new pressure cooker/canner to work. I tried corned beef and cabbage in it. I liked the taste, but the meat texture was different than doing it the conventional way. The vegetables, on the other hand, had a nice flavor. I also canned some broccoli soup this weekend. Since the pressure cooker is only 10 quarts, I can only put in 4 jars. It's nice when I have just enough to do a batch, or to test a recipe to see if I really want to stock the shelves with a large canner full. Since broccoli is on sale this week, I'll be trying the soup tonight to see if the family likes it. It will work in nicely, as my daughter has her annual dr. check today, so we won't be home until almost dinner time. It will just be a quick heat and we'll have ham & swiss on homemade bread along with it.

I dug out the old sourdough pancake recipe that my mother had received with her first Herman. The people that gave Mom the starter introduced us to the world of sourdough when I was little. Sadly, there was no internet or any real sources for finding recipes that worked with Herman, so Mom got bored with the couple of recipes that we had, and found that Herman was not worth the work of keeping him going. I'm so much more fortunate, as I have the world's cookbook at our fingertips!

Mom's Sour Dough Pancakes

1 cup flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 cup sour dough starter
1/2 cup milk

Mix all ingredients together. Cook on greased or buttered skillet.

Another sour dough recipe Mom made a lot was for cookies. I should pick up some peanuts and make these with the kids sometime.

Sour Dough Chocolate Chip Peanut Mounds

1 cup sour dough starter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup soft butter
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3 1/2 cups flour
2 cups salted peanuts
6 ounce package chocolate chips

Cream together sugar, shortening and butter. Add eggs and vanilla. Comine with sour dough. Mix well. Sift together salt, baking soda, and flour. Add to sour dough mixture. Fold in peanuts and chocolate chips. Drop the dough by teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. Flatten dough with bottom of glass that has been greased and dipped in sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Gardening Season is Almost Over

Since my last post, all it seems we have done is run from appointment to appointment. I think about half my days of October are filled with one obligation or another. The children (or should I say teens) had their vaccinations yesterday, and they're a bit under the weather today. I decided to let them sleep in today, and will give them an easy day of it today. DS received 4 - 2 in each arm, and DD received 3. I hope DS is back in his game tomorrow, as he has an open house tomorrow at the college he is interested in attending. They have a whole day of tours and lectures planned.

After a long day of trying to get the doctor's visit and shopping done, we came home beat on Friday. I missed the weather report and never gave it another thought, and went to bed. We had a hard frost, and lost most of our garden. The only things left are cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and horseradish. My Egyptian onions (walking onions) have done well and I have quite a few babies sprouting. I can't wait to be able to have enough to finally use!!

Now, for some really great news.... My update about Macy's @ Amazon....

We spent many hours on the phone with Macy's to try to get our order straight. Actually, my sweet husband took over and spent most of the time on the phone with them. We were promised 3 different times that they were going to ship out the pressure cooker and there would be an email stating that it was coming. There was never an email, and when we'd call back, there would be the run around again that they never offered that item!! Well, DH had a screen shots of the ad that he sent to them.

Now, there was no more argument, because there was the whole add - including the seller's name of Macy's with the price. (Thanks Barbara for sending the link!! I had no idea that you could do a Google Cash look-up.) Well, this one actually convinced one of the supervisors that we weren't making it all up and she told hubby that she would see if she could find something that was comparable. On Thursday afternoon, she called back and said that she found something and would be shipped out and we'd get an email confirmation. We never got one. On Friday, I found that Amazon LLC. had the same set listed for $34.95 with free shipping, so I spoke to my husband and he said I should order it, as he wasn't expecting Macy's to hold up on their end of the bargain (again).

The same day that I ordered from Amazon, they shipped the package out and it was due here on Monday! YAY!! I patiently waited Monday afternoon for the package, and instead of getting one, I received 3!! There were 2 packages from Macy's plus the one I was expecting from Amazon. Macy's sent a beautiful Fagor double boiler with steamer, a cookbook, and a Fagor pressure cooker. These were a much nicer replacement than I ordered, so we called just to make sure the shipment was correct. YES!! I now have 2 pressure cookers, and 2 canning sets, plus so much more. It was difficult getting a correction to our order, but it did happen - but gosh... there was a lot of time and frustration doing it, however, my husband says it was well worth it. :)

The Big Grocery Trip

We don't shop like "normal people" or so I have been told. I take that as a big compliment :) Our shopping trips are well planned out, with the seasons, coupons, sales, and refunds/rebates. This week, we had to use a 15% discount on a grocery trip that came from using our grocery store shopper's club card. We paired up the sales with coupons, and took advantage of the 15% on top of it all. When we were finished shopping, we had $500 worth of groceries for $302, plus we got a couple of kickouts totalling $27 off our next shopping order. This was not $500 worth of prepackaged foods, but good staples, like meat, veggies, eggs, baking needs, etc.

One example of a good bargain for us was Classico Pasta Sauce. I don't grow enough tomatoes to make my own yet, so I buy spaghetti sauce (for now). The Classico was on sale for 2 for $4. If you purchased 12 of them, you received a kickout for $10 off your next grocery order. I had a $1.50 coupon plus we used the 15% off on top of it all, making the Classico 91 cents a jar! Mind you, I am counting the $10 off the next order in, because I wouldn't have gotten it, if I didn't buy the sauce. It's kind of like an instant rebate, if you know what I mean.

CVS & RiteAid

Last week we did great at CVS and RiteAid. In fact, everything that was free after rebates and kickouts was there (unlike this week!) and we actually had a few items that were money makers for us. No matter how many times I get things at these two stores, I'm still blown away by the fact that we now can get many of our health and beauty aids for free!

One promotion that CVS had that was neat was, if you purchased $20 worth of certain products, you'd get $10 off the purchase of an Iron Man DVD. I didn't pay too much attention to it, though, because my husband went to K-mart to get some tools and received a $5 coupon towards the purchase of an Iron Man DVD. We went to K-mart on Friday to get it. I had expected that to actually be cheaper than CVS, but the DVD was $24.99 AFTER the coupon! I went to CVS and spent $5 more and came home with some much needed items, including the batteries that we were going to get at K-mart on top of the cost of the DVD. Believe it or not, the batteries were the same price as those at K-mart.

Taste of Home Cooking School

I didn't make the 10 mile yard sale. sigh..... Instead, I stayed home on Saturday and waited to be able to call in for tickets to go to the Taste of Home Cooking School. Our local paper sponsors the show, and they have one day that you can call and get them - and only a few hours to do it. I so wish they would do it a different way, but I guess this works for them. This will be our third year going, and it's always a lot of fun. It does cost $10 but we get a nice tote bag filled with all kinds of samples, a Taste of Home Cooking School cookbook, plus lots of other goodies. Before the show, you can sample lots of yummy foods and there are vendors set up to visit. Usually my brother's girlfriend, my daughter and I go, but this year, our whole family is going. I'm really surprised that my huband and son want to tag along. I guess they are curious after hearing all all our talk and raves about the show. With 2 more bodies in our group, we will have that much better of a chance at winning one of the lovely prizes they draw for. (ok, so I'm being VERY optimistic!) If you have the chance to go to one, please consider it. They are worth the ticket price in just the things you bring home!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Homemade Mixes

Homemade or from scratch foods and mixes can normally be made for a fraction of the cost of the convenience foods you find at the grocery store. Not only are they cheaper, but they are better tasting and you know what ingredients are in them. Look at a cake recipe and you can easily pronounce the ingredients. Now pick up a cake mix. Can you pronounce the ingredients - let alone know exactly what they are?

There are numerous mixes listed on the web, including some of my own favorites. Although there are lots out there, you really don't need to follow a mix recipe to make your own. Pull out your favorite cake recipe. You can mix all the dry ingredients together, put them in a baggie or other air tight container, label it, and put it away for the next time you want to make a cake. Now all you need to do is pull it out, add the wet ingredients, and your finished making a scratch cake with the ease of a mix! You can do the same with pancakes, brownies, etc. Just use your imagination.

Breakfast is usually the most rushed meal during the day, especially on weekdays. According to a report on Good Morning America this morning, store purchased cereals can contain up to 50% it's weight in sugar! It's so easy to make some wonderful homemade granola that you control the sugar and the ingredients to fit your family's needs and preferences. Maybe you like the ease of instant oatmeal. Did you know that you can just put one part quick oats to two parts milk in a bowl and microwave it - and it's done about as quickly as instant. If you like the flavors, add raisins and cinnamon, brown sugar, maple syrup, dried fruits, nuts.... the sky's the limit. Save some time by measuring out and putting a serving in a baggie with the dried fruits,nuts, & flavorings of your choice (no wet ingredients). Make enough for a week, and you'll have the ease of the packets for a fraction of the cost.

Maybe you love pancakes or waffles. On the weekend, you can cook up a batch, cool them, then stack them with a sheet of waxed paper between each one. (pancake, waxed paper, pancake, waxed paper...) then put in a container and freeze. During the week, you can pull out the amount of pancakes (or waffles) you want and just warm them up in the microwave. Waffles can be warmed in the toaster. If you have problems with the pancakes sticking together, put them single layer on a cookie sheet, then freeze for an hour or so, take them out and stack with waxed paper between each one, put in a container and freeze.

Start looking at the recipes you use most. Ask yourself if you can measure out and pack some of the ingredients ahead to save you time. Just by doing this, you'll be buying less convenience foods from the store, and making more from scratch in the same amount of time, with the wonderful taste of homemade. And the best part - you're saving money to use elsewhere!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Macy's Saga Continues

There are times when saving money isn't easy, and in this case it appears it much more of a pain than it's worth.

I stated in my past post, Macy's had agreed to send me the missing part of my 12-piece Fagor Cooker/Canner set, and that was the main part - the 10 quart Cooker/Canner! I had not received any type of confirmation in my email that they were sending it, just a note from customer service that the problem was resolved. The more I thought about it, and the more postings I saw on my canning list about how Macy's told those that had the same problem I did, that they wouldn't send the canner because it wasn't sold that way, the more I concerned I got. Amazon themselves now had the same set listed for $10 more, but with free shipping, I would have gotten it cheaper.

I decided to call to get my tracking number and make sure it was on it's way, since I didn't get any type of confirmation that the canner part of the set had been sent. I was told that they never sold them as a set and that they have marked on my account settled with a note that I was ok with the just the canning kit. HA!! Why in the world would I want a canning set that fits a Fagor if I don't have a Fagor? We went through all the songs and dances that it was a miscommunication from Amazon, blah, blah, blah, and they weren't sending anything else. I told them I would believe that, however I have their shipping confirmation saying they sent the 12 piece set and not the 7 piece that I received. She told me that the price way too low for both, and I shouldn't expect all that for under $30. We went round and round and I wasn't giving up, especially when she brought the item up on Amazon and it was at $89, which means I really lost out. I stood my ground as long as I could, then handed the phone off to my husband. He got no where with her, asked her position in the company, and then asked for her supervisior.

Well, to make a very long story short, after over a 1-1/2 hour phone call, we are supposed to be getting the canner set now. They requested the delivery confirmation emails forwarded to them as well as a few other things. After they got them, they finally agreed to send it. Oh they are sly ones too. At first they were only sending the canner. No glass lid or any of the things that it would be packed with - like they were going to open the box and just send that. Hubby caught that and made sure they were going to send all the items with the canner. Then, he has asked for confirmation, delivery tracking numbers, etc. and when we would expect them. So, we should be hearing from them today. If not, he will be back and breathing down their necks.

We are not out of the woods yet - not until I have the canner in my hands. I am just amazed at how they run their business. I have never in my life dealt with anything like this company. I'll tell you, I will be so glad when this is all over. Buying an item shouldn't be this painful! I'll be keeping my fingers crossed!!!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Trying New Breads - Sourdough & Sun Nut

Herman is now ready to use. His last "baby" feeding was yesterday, and he is now mature! This morning I had to decide which recipe I would use for our first official sourdough item. I had a few picked out, and then realized that the bread was low, so I found a sourdough recipe for our bread machine. So far, it looks good, and smells great! It will soon be baking in a few minutes. I can't wait to see how it turns out!

Sourdough Bread for Bread Machines

1 1/2 cups starter
1/3 cup milk
3 tbsp. melted butter
1 1/2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
3 cups flour
1 tsp. active dry yeast

Add ingredients in the recommended order for your bread machine. Set for 1 1/2 pound loaf. After bread is finished baking, allow to cool in pan 10 minutes before removing.

On Saturday, I tried another new recipe for my bread machine. I'm always looking for a healthier version to bread - something that will give some extra vitamins, minerals, fiber, etc. This one looked very interesting, and would have to have extra vitamin B because of the sunflower seeds. It turned out yummy - especially toasted!

Sun Nut Bread (from Electric Bread page 112)

1 1/4 cups water
2 Tbsp. dry Milk
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. honey
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
3/4 cup wheat flour
2 1/2 cups white bread flour
3 tsp. active dry yeast

Put all ingredients in your bread maker in the order according to manufacturer's instructions. If you use unsalted sunflower seeds, add a pinch more salt. Program your bread for white, but after the first kneading, allow to rise, then restart the machine again. This will give it an extra kneading for a finer texture bread. This makes a large 2 pound loaf.

One of Those Weekends

Did you ever have one of those days that everything goes wrong, or at least seems to? That was my weekend. It started Friday and so far hasn't changed for the better.

Friday started out nicely - I got my blogging done, kid's morning lessons, and thought all was going well. Then the mail arrived and a book that I was looking forward to receiving arrived with a broken spine. It was apparent that it was damaged in the mail - even though it was well wrapped and even bubble wrapped. They must have caught the corner of the spine on something and snapped it right off! I bet that book has an amazing story to tell about its travels to here! The really sad thing is, the book was in new condition and every thing else is pristine, except for the ripped off top of the spine.

Then my 12 piece Fagor 10 quart pressure canner/cooker with canning supplies was to be delivered. I waiting all day for it and when Mr. UPS came, I was doing the happy dance. I ran out and got the box only to note it was too small and too light. In the box was only the home canning kit, and nothing else - no cooker, no note stating that the item would be shipped separately, nothing except a bill stating that the canning kit was the cost of what I paid for all of it.

I got online and checked with the Amazon website to find out what to do next. It said to contact Macy's through their email and not the store. I did that and have yet to receive a response. My next step was to find their phone number and call. The customer service rep said that I did indeed only order the home canning set and that was all, and I said sorry, I'm looking at the receipt and it states as 12 piece set. I received a 7 piece set and also their confirmation from the said they were sending a 12 piece set out and when it was sent with a tracking number. The line went silent for a bit, and he said he'd need to call the warehouse. About 5 minutes later he came back and said they were expediting a canner/cooker out and I should have it in 5-7 business days. I sure hope so. I know many of the people on my canning list are having the same problem. I hope they get it straight soon. I could really use the canner now.

Saturday rained all day and things just didn't seem to get done. Everything seemed to take twice as long or just not get finished. I think it was just the weather - or at least I'm blaming it. LOL

Yesterday was just plain interesting. Hubby awoke to what he thought was a gun shot. He said he laid listening and dozed back off. When we got up, we had no internet connection, and up the road from us was what appeared to be an accident. They were redirecting traffic past our house and it looked like an electric pole was sheered off. The poor guys from the electric company spent almost the whole day in the pouring rain setting another pole and fixing the lines. Not a job I would like!

When I finally got to get online last night, I had 3 books requested from me at Paperback Swap, but when I went to print out my postpaid labels, I found that the printer ink was out. Grumble!!! So, I have to wait until tomorrow to send them out.

Yes, I'm glad Monday is here

One of Those Weekends

Did you ever have one of those days that everything goes wrong, or at least seems to? That was my weekend. It started Friday and so far hasn't changed for the better.

Friday started out nicely - I got my blogging done, kid's morning lessons, and thought all was going well. Then the mail arrived and a book that I was looking forward to receiving arrived with a broken spine. It was apparent that it was damaged in the mail - even though it was well wrapped and even bubble wrapped. They must have caught the corner of the spine on something and snapped it right off! I bet that book has an amazing story to tell about its travels to here! The really sad thing is, the book was in new condition and every thing else is pristine, except for the ripped off top of the spine.

Then my 12 piece Fagor 10 quart pressure canner/cooker with canning supplies was to be delivered. I waiting all day for it and when Mr. UPS came, I was doing the happy dance. I ran out and got the box only to note it was too small and too light. In the box was only the home canning kit, and nothing else - no cooker, no note stating that the item would be shipped separately, nothing except a bill stating that the canning kit was the cost of what I paid for all of it.

I got online and checked with the Amazon website to find out what to do next. It said to contact Macy's through their email and not the store. I did that and have yet to receive a response. My next step was to find their phone number and call. The customer service rep said that I did indeed only order the home canning set and that was all, and I said sorry, I'm looking at the receipt and it states as 12 piece set. I received a 7 piece set and also their confirmation from the said they were sending a 12 piece set out and when it was sent with a tracking number. The line went silent for a bit, and he said he'd need to call the warehouse. About 5 minutes later he came back and said they were expediting a canner/cooker out and I should have it in 5-7 business days. I sure hope so. I know many of the people on my canning list are having the same problem. I hope they get it straight soon. I could really use the canner now.

Saturday rained all day and things just didn't seem to get done. Everything seemed to take twice as long or just not get finished. I think it was just the weather - or at least I'm blaming it. LOL

Yesterday was just plain interesting. Hubby awoke to what he thought was a gun shot. He said he laid listening and dozed back off. When we got up, we had no internet connection, and up the road from us was what appeared to be an accident. They were redirecting traffic past our house and it looked like an electric pole was sheered off. The poor guys from the electric company spent almost the whole day in the pouring rain setting another pole and fixing the lines. Not a job I would like!

When I finally got to get online last night, I had 3 books requested from me at Paperback Swap, but when I went to print out my postpaid labels, I found that the printer ink was out. Grumble!!! So, I have to wait until tomorrow to send them out.

Yes, I'm glad Monday is here

Friday, September 26, 2008

Cheap Clothes

Everyone knows that places like Walmart sell clothing at quite affordable prices. I was thrilled when Walmart came in to our area. The prices were good, but the clothing didn't hold up very well. We had quite a few trips returning new clothing that after it was washed and worn once, would rip out in a seam or other problems. I was getting very frustrated, especially when we were getting men's dress clothes, and they weren't holding up at all. Poor hubby had more than one seam give at work! We finally decided we couldn't afford Walmart any longer, and went to the mall to see what we could afford - not expecting much.

To our surprise, we came home with some beautiful dress pants for my husband - and they cost LESS than they did at Walmart! Now most of our clothes shopping at places like JCPenney, Macy's, Bonton, Sears, etc., and all at the same price or cheaper than Walmart.

Have you ever really looked at the ads that come in the paper? Have you noticed the sales that they all advertise? Those sales can really save money! We went just before school, and my daughter brought home Arizona brand jeans for $8.50 a pair. Their regular price was $34 each! I came home with a very feminine and super soft nightie, some new panties for my daughter, and a few other things that were all 75% off.

Before you say that the sales only pertain to off season items, listen to this great bargain... My daughter wanted a feather down coat so badly. Of course, you know that they are very expensive, and over our budget. We looked for a coat for her at yard sales, but the girl is a Jr size zero, and it seems that no one has that size at yard sales. JCPenney's had a sale on their coats last fall, so we went to see what we could find. They had a percentage off, plus when you spent a certain amount of money, you could use their money off coupon that was in the flyer. We found a feather down coat that fit my daughter perfectly, and with the percentage off, it was VERY affordable, and in our budget! But, the money off coupon couldn't be used, because the price brought the coat down too much - just $2 under the coupon requirement. We browsed the store and found a bra in my daughter's size that was marked down to just a couple of dollars, poking it just above what we needed. We left the store spending about $60 for a beautiful coat and nice bra after all the discounts. One year later, the coat is still as beautiful as the day we bought it, even after washings. :)

I found a gorgeous swing coat with a removeable lining at JCPenney's quite by accident last year. We took a trip to another store to pick up a Pirates of the Caribbean T-shirt for my daughter for her birthday. While we were there, I stumbled on the coats, and couldn't believe the markdown on them. They were regular $180 and were on sale for $29. I really needed a new coat, and this one fit the bill - especially with the removable lining! My husband was quite impressed with it, and actually commented on it. (he normally doesn't - he's not a clothes kind of guy)

If you are lucky enough to have a second hand shop near you, make sure you stop in. We've found numerous bargains at our Good Will Store and American Rescue Workers Thrift store. My weakness are those sweatshirts that have birds printed on them - usually snow scenes with them or maybe a bird feeder, etc., and they are expensive. I won't buy them no matter how much I love them, however, I have found some that look like they were never worn, and only $1.50 each at these stores! I found a Quacker's Factory jacket - still with the extra buttons and tags on it for $3 and we've found Tommy Hillfiger jeans for $1.

I didn't really mention yard sales, as everyone knows the great bargains that can be found there. However, if you are looking for something in particular, you may not find it right away. With the cost of gas, yard sales aren't always a good choice for us. We live in the country, and they are few and far between for us. It also seems that with the economy going south, there weren't as many near us this year. There is one we look forward to, though. It's a 10 mile yard sale that happens once every year. We do go to that one, as we usually find something that makes it worth going to.

So the next time that paper comes stuffed with all the ads, take notice what is for sale. Don't forget to look at the early bird sales - sometimes you can get some fantastic deals! However, if you need to travel a distance, make sure you figure in your cost for travel. When we go to the mall, the round trip costs us about $20. It's not worth saving $10 but spending $20 for fuel. We usually stack all our errands to do at once. It makes the trip worth it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Store Sales Determine Dinner

Grocery Cart Challenge

In our home, we don't go by weekly and monthly menus, as I see others do. Instead, we go by what items are on sale at the grocery store, and match those items up with what we have at home in the freezer or on the pantry shelves.

This week, Polska Kielbasa was on sale B1G1F (buy one get one free). I won't buy it when it's at regular price of $3.99/lb., but at $2/lb., I had a couple on the grocery list for my husband to pick up. Yes, you did read that correctly. My husband does the grocery shopping most of the time, because the store is practically on his way home from work. We save quite alot in gas this way.

I'm using one of the Kielbasas tonight in a yummy soup that is quite inexpensive to make - especially if you get all the veggies out of your garden! I'll post tonight's dinner and recipes, so you can see that although we live cheaply, we don't skimp on our meals. We'll be having Sausage/Vegetable Soup, homemade bread, and Amish Cake for dessert. The Amish cake uses buttermilk, and now that we have homemade buttermilk**, it's less expensive to make! No one will be leaving the table hungry :)

Sausage/Vegetable Soup (from the Thrifty Cook p 186)

1 lb. Polish sausage, sliced
4 c. shredded cabbage
3 c. cubed peeled potatoes
2 c. chopped celery and leaves
2 c. sliced peeled carrots
1 c. chopped onion
2 qts. water
8 oz. can tomato sauce
2 tbsp. vinegar
1 tbsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves, crushed
1/2 tsp. pepper
4 beef bullion cubes

Combine all the ingredients in a 6 quart or larger kettle. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer 35 to 45 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Makes 4 quarts. Since this recipe makes quite a bit, you can always freeze the leftovers (if there are any!!) for a later time or for someone's lunch.

Homemade Bread

1 1/4 c. warm water
2 tbsp. honey
2 tbsp. butter
2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. powdered milk
1 c. quick oats
2 1/3 to 2 1/2 c. flour
2 1/2 tps. yeast

Put ingredients in breadmaker in order of manufacturer's recomendation. Set for 1 1/2 pound loaf on medium crust.

Amish Cake (from Amish Cooking cookbook p. 103)

1/2 c. butter
2 c. brown sugar
2 c. buttermilk
2 tsp. baking soda
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. vanilla

Cream the butter and brown sugar. Add the buttermilk and soda, then the flour and vanilla. Bake the batter in a greased and floured 9" x 13" x 2" baking pan at 375 degrees F. for 35 minutes or until toothpick poked in center comes out clean. Spread the following topping over the cake after it is done (and still hot). Return it to the oven and broil until bubbly or for one minute.

6 tbsp. soft butter
4 tbsp. milk
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c nuts (we use pecans)

The cake is an extravagance - especially since there is so much sugar in it, but how can I refuse when my husband asked so nicely? :)

**Note: For the homemade buttermilk recipe, please see Tuesday, September 23's posting to make your own. Not only is it about half the price of the store, but it really does taste better. Now that it costs the same as milk, I'll now be baking more with buttermilk.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Happy Herman

My Herman has been sitting happily in the fridge since the 12th. He's had 2 feedings so far, and will be ready to use on his 3rd feeding on Sunday. The family is impatiently waiting, as they know what kind of goodies will come out of our starter.

If you'd like to make your own Herman, here's the recipe I used:

Herman Starter (sweet sourdough starter)

2 cups all-purpose flour (I used unbleached)
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups lukewarm water, divided
3 Tbsp. sugar

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water (no warmer than 115 degrees). Add remaining water, sugar, salt & flour. Mix thoroughly in a non-metal container. (I use a glass gallon pickle jar.) Cover loosely with Waxed paper or cheesecloth and let set on the counter for 24 hours and bubbly. If it isn't bubbly yet, let set on the counter for another day or so until it is. Temperature of your home will have a lot to do with how fast Herman bubbles. Stir each day.

When Herman bubbles, move him to the refrigerator, where he will now reside. When he goes in the fridge, this will be counted as day one. Each day, you will need to stir, re-cover and refrigerate for the next 5 days. On the 5th day, feed Herman the following:

1/2 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup flour

Stir until smooth. This is Herman's first feeding, and this is what you will feed him from now on. This is counted as day 5. You will continue to stir, re-cover and refrigerate as you did before, for 5 more days. On day 10, you will feed Herman again. Stir each day again for 5 days. On the 15th day, you will again feed Herman. He is now ready to use for rolls, breads, etc.

Herman will live for a long time in your fridge - or until you get tired of taking care of him. He will require a stir every day, and a feeding once a week from now on. Every once in a while, take Herman out and transfer him to a new clean jar, to keep him healthy.

I'll post recipes that use Herman in the next few days.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Homemade Yogurt

My children love yogurt. They each have at least 1 cup of it a day. As the price of it continues to go up, and the size continues to get smaller, I've decided a while ago, that I would try my hand at making my own. I stumbled upon a yogurt maker at the thrift store. It was one of that has 6 little individual cups and you plug it in and let it set for a few hours. It's great and all, but making that amount was really keeping me making yogurt almost every day. That turned out to be one of those things that made grocery store yogurt more appealing as time went on. Yes, I'm a back slider - I went back to the stuff at the grocery store because it was easy.

Then I came across these videos from LearningHerbs is a wonderful place to learn all about herbs and their uses. I purchased my Herbal Kit from them when I started exploring herbs, and it was worth every cent I paid! Anyhow, I saw that they did a series on making yogurt and yogurt cheese - so I HAD to watch them. I was thrilled to see that they use a different method than those little cups, by using jars and a cooler to make the yogurt in. Now I can make the yogurt in quantity, and I can also use the yogurt to make a cream cheese like product as well. I'm really looking forward to trying it out. Now I just need to order my starter. (Yes I know I can just use the store bought plain with active cultures) but I want to use a starter that has more types of bacteria for health benefits.

Homemade Yogurt Making Part 1

Homemade Yogurt Making Part 2

Yogurt Cheese

Homemade Buttermilk

I decided on trying a few recipes, and one of them was for homemade buttermilk. I asked my husband to stop at the grocery store on the way home to pick up a quart of buttermilk to use as a starter. I was not pleased to see how much he paid for just a quart. It cost more than double what milk costs. When I saw that, I knew my decision to try making it was justified.

Today, I will be following the recipe that Candy posted on her blog, and am anxious to find out how it turns out. She has been making it for quite some time and is very pleased with the results. It will be nice to be able to make a better tasting and more healthy alternative. The milk we buy comes from a local dairy that keeps their milk as organic as possible. It is hormone free and the cows free range and are supplemented with home grown food when necessary. Not only is the milk superior in flavor and better for us, but is also cheaper than the grocery store.

There is so much to be said for buying locally. When our garden doesn't produce everything we need, we visit our local farmer's market or local farms. Many grow extra in their garden, and have little stands in front of their homes offering their excess. The best part is, they don't charge much at all. Last year I didn't have room in my garden for pumpkins, so I stopped at one farm and got 2 nice sized pumpkins for 75 cents each. I put away a few bags of pumpkin puree for some great baked goods for wintertime. I would have paid about the same price for one can of pumpkin at the store.

So, if anyone tells you that growing and preserving your own foods isn't worth it, don't give them any heed. Yes, it can be time consuming, but the product you put up yourself is far superior to what you can buy in the store, and it costs so much less - just a little of your time.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Another Bleak Economy Report

The news reports another government bail-out... Not to worry - this will help us. After hearing the "no worries" reports for the last two years, I'll tell you, this doesn't give me any warm and fuzzy feelings.

We purchased some heating oil this past week and dished out almost $450 for 125 gallons. I still have a hard time knowing that just a few short years ago, for less than what a tank full costs now, we were heating our home and domestic hot water for a whole year!

Then there's the gasoline issue. We are faced with about a $300 gas bill every month. Most of it is now travel for hubby to get back and forth to work. That's a pretty big chunk out of his pay each month. We have considered moving closer to work or possibly a "new" car, but so far, we can't justify saving a couple hundred a month to carry a mortgage. The new car is a consideration, but still won't save us enough to justify a payment. Now if we can find one that actually gets great gas mileage, then it might get a second look.

I'm so glad we got out from under the debts that hung over our head a couple of years ago. It was for the thought of moving, and saving some money. No way did I think it would be for survival in these interesting economic times. While I listen to others complain about how terrible life is, I can honestly say that it's not really taking a tole on our quality of life.

Years ago, we learned how to live within our means. While others were going out and buying all the cool things that came out, we plugged along with the things that still worked well, but were far from new. As much as we'd like to have one of those huge new cool TV's, our 19 year old 19" color TV still works well.

The washer that I purchased back in 1989 was a used washer, and worked well for us with just a minor repair here and there. Last year, we new it was time to look for a new one. We were blessed with a front loading washer that came from FreeCycle. According to the poster, the washer was checked by a repair man, and would cost a lot more than they wanted to put into it, so they posted it to the list with the information they were given. My husband is handy, so he checked the price of the parts, and knew he could fix it for just the cost of parts, so we contacted the poster and picked it up. That washer was an easy fix for hubby, and we've been thrilled with it ever since. That washer saves us on laundry detergent, fabric softener, and water. We use about 1/4-1/3 the detergent that we used before! Same with the fabric softener.

We still use our credit cards - but we pay them off at the end of the month. There's a wonderful advantage to that, because cards like Discover PAY us to use their money for a month. We get a cash back of at least 1% of our charges. No big deal, you say, right? Well, if you use their cashback they give you and purchase gift cards from their partners, you can end up with an even bigger pay out. We use our cash back to buy our printer ink from Staples and buy our dinner out at Olive Garden. By using the Discover card, we do this for FREE. We do put everything we purchase on the credit card, and that means we must budget it so that we don't go over what we can pay at the end of the month, but it's no more work than budgeting it in cash.

I was asked to speak at a Christian seminar to tell others how we stretch our budget. The man that asked us was blown away with our methods. To me, they are nothing, but to him they were amazing. Maybe I should start posting to share our "secrets" with others? Would you like something like that? Just let me know, and I'll be happy to share!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Our First Frost

We had our first frost Thursday. Friday morning at 6am our thermometer registered at 30 degrees F. We covered our tomatoes and peppers but had hoped that there wouldn't be any frost yet. Guess that was wishful thinking.

I've been canning tomatoes and put up some corn for the winter. I don't know how the cabbage will fare. I've been battling cabbage worms and those dang things are winning. I swear they multiply more than wire coat hangers do!

Today brought a wonderful mail delivery: "The Weather-Wise Gardener" by Calvin Simonds. What a fantastic looking book. It was printed in 1993 by Rodale Press and like all their books, it is just full of information. I've only had a chance to read the introduction, and can't wait to get some time tonight to really start reading it.

I found a wonderful purchase on today. It's a Fagor 12 Piece Pressure Cooker and Canner Set that they are offering for under $30!! This is normally and expensive item - alone running about $100 plus all the other goodies that come with it. I've heard a lot about this set on my canning list, so I decided to purchase it. I have a huge Mirro Pressure Canner that will hold over 20 pint jars, but there are times I'd love a smaller one for those small batches of soups or stews to can. Not only that, but it is to do double time as a cooker, and being 10 quart instead of the 6 quart cooker that I have, will be more geared to our family needs. It's due to arrive by Thursday - and I just can't wait!
I started a Herman last weekend, and it had its first feeding since it was created. Two more, and I'll be able to use it. Hubby can't wait to get some good Herman food again :)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Harvest Time

Time is just flying right by. I can't believe it's already September. The summer was here and gone, and somehow I think I've missed it! The garden is doing OK - actually not bad for getting in late. We're harvesting tomatoes - yummmmm. I don't think there is anything as delicious as a tomato fresh from the vine, sun warmed and eaten right out there in the garden. Too soon, those delicious tomatoes won't be available until next year. Sigh....

Last week, we were blessed with a couple of feedbags full of corn. Not only did we have a lot to eat, but we also froze 29 fat quarts. What is a fat quart? Well, it's one of those Ziploc quart freezer bags that is stuffed so full that you can barely close it. With that in mind, we actually have more than 29 quarts, but that's the amount I need to feed the family for a meal.

DD's birthday has come and gone, and I made her a cross stitch picture of Captain Jack Sparrow in sepia tones. The pattern came out of the UK magazine The CrossStitcher. It is stitched on 28 ct. Monaco. She just loved it!

We spent our last weekend of the summer enjoying the wonders of PA. We went to the PA Grand Canyon and hiked the trails and just enjoyed the beauty and peacefulness of the park. It amazed me how quiet it was, even with all the people there. There is no way to describe the beauty of it - just wondrous!!!

Today started our 13th year of homeschooling. I still can't believe it was 13 years ago that we decided not to put our first child on the school bus. Now we are looking at his last year. How did he grow up so fast? I was blessed to have all the children home and watch them grow. I can't imagine how much I would have missed with them getting on a bus and going to school. I feel I missed so much as it is!! Now he is looking at colleges and planning on taking the next big step in his life and leaving. He's excited and looking forward to working towards his chosen career path. Seeing how comfortable he is with the thought of college, we know we've done our job of preparing him to leave.

Monday, July 21, 2008

It doesn't seem possible that it's been almost a month since my last entry. Life here has been busy, but I didn't thing it was that busy. So much for my time management skills. LOL

DH has been doing job searches, but hasn't come up with anything that he really wants to do. He's trying to match a job and a location, and at times it seems to really frustrate him. I wish I could make things easier, but I know that this is something he really needs to do on his own. One thing I know for sure, is he's concerned he may make a mistake with his choice. He's stated that this is such a change and it worries him some. I guess all will come together when it's supposed to.

My youngest brother has been bugging us about selling our house to him for years. He claims he adores it and really, really wants it. Finally we all got together and sat down to talk - seriously about him buying it. It sure would have made things easier for us. DH & I had talked about selling it to him under market value, and was ready to offer a good deal. He informed us he would pay us X amount - and no more. We were stunned, as it was below the amount the house was worth more than 20 years ago! He got really snotty when we said no - that we needed more. He basically told us it was a crap hole and that there was no way we'd get anything more from him. HUH? Well, he got up and left and we haven't heard anything from him since. I'm sorry - family or not, I'm not going to give it away. We've done up-grades on the electric, put in 2 types of heat - indoor oil and an outdoor wood boiler. Then we've done over a couple of rooms, new plumbing, new roof, painted the house, some new appliances. I mean - I know it's not as much as it could have been, but we were concentrating on paying off the place and getting out of debt. But honestly - did he really think we would "give" it to him? Brother or not, we have to get at least our investment back out of the place. I really believe that he thought we were going to be stupid and sell it to him at an unheard of price, then he was going to put a couple of thousand into it and turn a nice profit on it. Well, when we didn't appear to be as stupid as he thought, he got angry. Sigh.....

Oh well. On to more interesting things... I've been working on my Bent Creek Monthly Snappers and am almost caught up. I'm working on June, and have almost 1/4 of the border done. Sadly I ran out of some thread, so I hurried and placed an order at Needlecraft Corner. It should be here in a few days. Darn it - I really thought I had all the threads I needed. I must have miscounted them somehow.

We have been in need of a new bath mat, but I haven't wanted to pay what the stores are asking. I pulled out my leftovers from dishcloth and washcloth knitting, and made a "rag rug" looking type of bath mat. DS says it's ugly, but I told him it will work - and that's all that matters :)

I finally finished up part 4 of the Marquoir's Story Sampler. It has gone back in the box for next time it comes up in my rotation. It is going to be a gorgeous sampler when it's done!

I also finished up my Moonlight Slipper Socks and am looking forward to picking out another pattern to knit soon. I scanned them - but the scan just doesn't do them justice.

I also have put a couple more "bars" on my Log Cabin Afghan. It's quite bright and a great way to use up scraps. It's been really too warm to work on it though. The temps have been in the 90's and humid. That makes it just unbearable to knit a blanket.

Well, that's all for now. I'm off to make dinner....

I'll post pictures of the other projects soon. The camera batteries are charging, so no photos to post today.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Standing At the Crossroads

For a long time, we've prayed about leaving this home for a new one. We've been searching for more than 10 years for the "right" home that has never come along. We have made offers, but for one reason or another, they fell through. I guess that it wasn't the right time, and looking back now, I see that it all leads up to we weren't meant to stay here in this area.

With the cost of living going up, we really can't think of sustaining ourselves on this small piece of property. We can raise chickens and a garden, but can't supply the chickens with food or raise enough for for ourselves. Being in a northern climate, we can't supply ourselves with heat. We still need to purchase so many things. We are at the mercy of Corporate America, no matter how hard we try. This place has been a good place to learn from and make mistakes, but it is now time to move on.

We are hunting for some wooded land with an existing home. We don't want to be part of the break-up of land and building a new home. If we did that, it would be easier, as we could find the land quite quickly. Now, just to match a job, an affordable place and what we need up all in one area.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Alien Strawberries

Well, the berries didn't do anything overnight. There was no juice leakage - nothing!! They still are the consistency of leather, so I decided to make strawberry rhubarb jam out of those we didn't freeze. The jam turned out nicely, but thick because of the lack of juice. I've decided to mix the strawberries with other fruits to make jams and other things out of, to hide the lack of taste and juiciness of these pathetic berries. Sigh... I feel like I wasted a lot of time and money with these. There's no good homemade flavor to the strawberry jam - heck it rivals the store stuff. The Strawberry Rhubarb Jam at least has a nice rhubarb flavor to it, so all is not lost, and we really stretched the rhubarb as well.

I hope to find another place with better berries before the season ends.

Strawberry Picking Time!

It has been so very hot and humid here over the last few days, that it was difficult to want to get up this morning and go out to pick strawberries. We decided to leave here at 5:30am to beat the heat. We traveled over 30 miles to get to the berry farm, and we were so looking forward to getting done quickly and back home.

It took us over 2 hours for the three of us to pick 24 quarts of strawberries!! They were already well picked over, and those that were nice and ripe were bug eaten. With three of us picking, it should have been no time to get out of there. When we got home, I started to make jam, but found the berries were unusually hard and not juicy at all. They didn't have the flavor and even after sitting, we ended up with no juice spots. I cut up some berries for tonight's dessert - strawberry shortcake. I sprinkled the berries with sugar to draw the juice and they sat all afternoon. When we pulled them out for dessert, there was NO JUICE!! What is wrong with these berries?!! I've picked and put up berries for years and have never seen anything like these things.

I'll be letting the rest sit until tomorrow. Hopefully they will ripen more and get a bit softer. Right now, they have the feeling of a store bought peach - just plain hard!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Restful Weekend

Memorial weekend was very restful for all of us. The kids went with DH camping, and I stayed home to take care of the animals and catch up on work. I got a ton of things done, and actually even had time to cross stitch!! The nicest thing about the family all gone was that I didn't have to stop what I was doing and make dinner, or take care of other things. I could go as long as I liked, and boy, was it productive!!! The kids said they had a great time, and DH enjoyed himself with the kids. He doesn't get much alone time with them, so it was extra special for all of them. It was also a great excuse to have a fire, and DH and the kids love to cook and sit by an open fire.

While the crew was away, I got all caught up on laundry, and with the nice weekend, I could hang it all out. Oh, there's nothing like bed linens dried on the line. The sheets smelled so good when I crawled into bed. I not sure if it was the great smell or just being tuckered out, but I fell asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.

I also got the end of our winter squash out of storage and put up. I can't believe how well they all stored! All of it is now in the freezer, except for the 3 cups I put aside to make pumpkin muffins and pumpkin dinner rolls with. I was finishing up at 11:30pm, put the squash aside to put in the fridge to use up the next morning, and don't know how it happened, but I never put those 3 cups of squash away. SIGH.... It all had to be tossed. The chickens didn't mind one bit, though. They cleaned it all up. Between those birds, the dog, the cats and the compost pile, we don't waste a thing! It was still such a disappointment not being able to bake those pumpkin muffins, though!

I did have some R&R, even with all the work I got done. I had pulled out a XS pattern that I had kitted up a couple of years ago. I've been wanting to start it, but like everything else, something kept coming up. Finally, I decided it was just time to sit down and do something for me :)

This is "Full Winter Moon" by Katherine Moser of Brown House Studio. Stitched on an unknown 32-ct. linen using the recommended DMC and Stranded by the Sea colors.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Free Razor from Old Spice

My son signed up for one of these razors, and he's looking forward to trying it. I thought the offer was just too good not to share.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Free Starbucks Coffee At Home Sample

I received a free sample of coffee from Starbucks on Saturday. I was surprised because it wasn't a small sample, but a whole pot! Sunday morning, we tried our new coffee with the Peaches 'n Cream braid. What a treat!!!

My husband likes a dark, rich flavored coffee, so I chose the Sumatra for our sample. It was described as a deep and earthy flavor. It has almost a smoky flavor when we tasted it black (plain), but with a creamer in it, it's flavor changed and it was really good and rich.

This is definitely worth a try. If you'd like to get your own sample, go to Starbucks Coffee at Home and wait for the page to load in. Then click "Explore our Coffees" and then click on "Enjoy a Complimentary Sample".


My Latest Read

Did you ever buy a book with hopes that you are really going to learn something that will change your life and make it a little better, or a little easier? I came across the book, "How to Survive Without a Salary" by Charles Long, and had some high hopes, especially since DH's job is far from secure at this point. Both DH and I read the book together, and anticipated that we'd soon learn something new: maybe learn something to help with our finances, where we could cut more, and more importantly how to live without a salary... With each page we turned we had hoped for something enlightening to come. It never did.

We didn't find anything new, nor that we haven't tried before. Mind you, if you are starting out on the path to financial freedom, or are looking for ways to cut back, this book has a lot of good ideas and advice. I wouldn't rush out and buy it, though, but would suggest getting it from the library first.

Food Storage

With my searches through youtube, I came across many great places to learn about food storage. The ladies of the Latter Day Saints really have some great systems. I was amazed on how things were put away, and how they organized and kept track of what they had. Their system is something to look into. I have also come across some wonderful information from the Survivalist community as well. Mind you, I'm not saying that I endorse either group. I just find their food storage information very, very useful and enlightening.

One of the things that I had heard on one of the videos that I watched (or maybe it was a radio broadcast) was, if one had stored food back last fall, especially corn, rice and wheat, just look how much money one could be saving now! Yah, I know I'm kicking myself some for that. I put aside looking at how to store the grain for other things, and never got back with it. Now our family is paying dearly for that mistake. We used to pay $6.90 for a 25 pound bag of flour last fall. Now it's over $17 for the same bag from the same supplier.

One Year Supply

When you hear that someone like the LDS ladies has a one year supply, what do you think of? Do you think of groceries? Beans and grains? Maybe all those MRE's that the military uses? For me, I had just figured it was groceries and maybe a few other things. Some of the ladies I saw had a mini store in their basement. I'm not talking about just groceries, either. I mean - everything one would use in a year, it was all there. It was fantastic! Some of the things that they stored, I really didn't know how one could do it. I will definitely be looking more deeply into how they are putting some things up.

My Goal

We have things put up for hard times, but we lack in a lot of areas. My past entries show how we are getting some things for nearly free, free or better than free, and those things are being put away to build up a stock. One example of what has been put away is toothpaste and toothbrushes. I have 10 toothpastes and 9 toothbrushes in a box on the shelf. All were free or better than free. I'm going to try stocking my shelves that way.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Wheat Storage

I have been looking at different places on the net to find information on wheat storage. One of the best finds I had was on This man did a 3 part series on food storage, and has answered a bunch of questions for me. He also did a 2 part follow-up that also needs to be viewed. I had no idea that grains could be stored so long!

The forecast for this week calls for rain showers every day. I put my laundry in last night hoping I could miss the rain and hung out my first load a little after 6:30 am. I got quite lucky, and had things out until noon, when we got hit with rain. Things are mostly dry, so I have the damp items hanging around. I can't tell you how much I had missed the smell of things hung out to dry. Now, I can't wait to see the difference in our electric bill!

We are already on our last loaf of bread, so I took the rest of the morning to make some Honey Oatmeal bread. I used the recipe that I used for my bread maker in a previous post. I doubled the recipe and baked it in 2 large bread pans at 375 degrees F for around 35 minutes. They came out nice. I read that if you cut 2 small x's in the top of the bread, you won't get air bubbles and you'll end up with a nice rounded top. I tried it, and you can see the result for the rounded bread. HA! One went up - one went out. Now, we'll see if I ended up with any hollow spaces.

Now that our "official" school year is over, DD took the day to get out all her summer clothing and sort through them all. She pulled out what no longer fits, and some that were out of style, she decided to keep and revamp them - giving them a new look. She's been at the sewing machine all day, and has done some creative things to them. Other things, she altered to fit her better. She's my fashion diva!

It has been a really nice, productive day at the homestead. :)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Saturday Bread Baking

Yesterday turned out to be a nice day to bake bread. The morning was cool, and it was supposed to rain, so I wasn't planning on working outside. DH asked me to make muffins, but being low on milk and not being able to get it until Monday, made it pretty much impossible. The dairy only bottles milk on Mondays and Thursdays, so we wait until those days to get milk. It's a fresh as it gets. Thursday wasn't a possibility, because of the kids' evaluations, so we just decided to stretch it out instead of buying commercial milk.

I felt badly that DH wasn't getting his muffins, so I asked if he'd liked something like a Danish instead. Would you believe he had no idea what I was talking about. I felt just awful that all these years I was married to him that I never made him anything close to a Danish. What's worse is - my grandmother always made all kinds of yummy things, and I never did for my family. Well, that just had to change!

First thing I did was start 4 loaves of wheat bread. We ground the wheat - making it half red and half white hard wheat. While that was sitting in a bowl to rise, I did the dough for making a sweet dough braid filled with homemade preserves and cream cheese.

Peaches 'n' Cream Braid

Place the following in your mixer using the dough hook:

1 1/2 cups very warm water (110-120 degrees)
3 Tbsp. dry milk powder
2 cups unbleached flour
2 Tbsp. yeast

Mix on low until combined. Add:

3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. sea salt
3 eggs
3/4 cup oil

Mix until combined and then add unbleached flour - 1 cup at a time (up to 6 more cups). Add until you end up with a soft workable dough. Knead for 2 minutes with KitchenAid on #2 or on medium speed with another mixer for 5 minutes.

Turn out dough on a lightly floured surface and divide into 3 equal parts. (Weigh to get more accurate sizes). Roll each on into a 9" x 12" rectangle. Spread 1/3 of filling (see below for recipe) and approximately 1/2 cup of an all fruit peach preserve (really any flavor works with this recipe - we used homemade peach jam on 2 of them, and some homemade strawberry rhubarb on the other.) Make cuts into dough at 1" intervals along the long side of the rectangle - keeping about 1/2" away from the filling (this prevents leakage). Fold and overlap the strips diagonally over the filling in a braid-like fashion. Let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes to an hour. This braid doesn't raise much until it goes into the oven, where it will make a lovely size bread. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until done. Drizzle with a mixture of Confectioner's sugar, a little milk and a couple of drops of almond extract (make it a pretty thick spreading type consistency) while the braids are warm. You can also sprinkle with toasted sliced almonds.

Filling Mixture: Blend 8oz cream cheese, 1/3 cup sugar and 1 Tbsp. lemon juice until smooth and creamy.

After I set aside the braids to rise, I shaped the wheat bread into 4 1-1/4 pound loaves. They rose and baked just in time to put the braids in. They all turned out lovely, and while I was getting things set up to take a photograph, the crew came in hungry for dinner, and spied the bread. So much for a photograph this time! LOL

**Graphic from **

Friday, May 16, 2008

Baking and Loving It!

The new KitchenAid mixer had become my new love. I have been putting it to the test, trying out new recipes and all I can say is that we are going to have a long and happy relationship.

We have been spending a lot of time finishing up the school year. The kids had their evaluations on Thursday, and all went very well. When they took the time to look at their portfolios, they were surprised at how much they really had accomplished in a year. When not working on school, I was working with our budget and coupons, and spending the rest of the time in the kitchen experimenting with new bread recipes.

The first recipe I made was the cheddar cheese cracker recipe from the manual that came with my KA. To say they turned out YUMMY is an understatement! These were fantastic!!! My husband was not looking forward to crackers since my last batch that turned out OK, but didn't stay crisp. This recipe put out a nice size batch, and my sweet hubby has asked me to make them again - soon.

Crispy Cheese Wafers

3 cups shredded extra sharp Cheddar Cheese
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon cayenne

Mix cheese and butter in bowl - using flat better to mix. Mix on low for about 45 seconds to combine. Beat on medium for about 30 seconds, or until well blended. Add flour and cayenne, and mix on stir for 45 seconds or until mixture forms a ball. (or stir in by hand - or low with another beater)

Divide dough in half. Wrap one half in plastic wrap and place in fridge. On floured surface, roll remaining half of dough to 1/4" thick. Cut into squares or desired shapes. With floured spatula, place on large, lightly greased baking sheet. (prick with fork if desired). Bake at 375 degrees F for 10-12 minutes or until set. Let stand one minute, then transfer onto wire racks to cool. Repeat with remaining dough.

We tried these at different points of "doneness": Baking until set - with hardly any color change, then with them being a bit golden, and some a darker golden. The lightly golden had the best flavor according to DH and myself, the darker golden was DD's favorite, and the one with hardly any color change was DS's favorite.

I also tried my hand at making French bread using Garden Gnome's recipe and instructions for making it in the KitchenAid. We were pleased with the results, but I have not found the exact bread I'm looking for yet. The search will continue on this one. I'm looking for more of the classic taste. DH was still very happy and ended up taking part of one for his lunch. He took a hoagie for lunch and said it made a nice tasting roll for it.

**Public domain image from United States Dept. of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service. Photo by Scott Bauer.**

Monday, May 12, 2008

My Family Is a Blessing

There are days that I sometimes wonder what life would have been like had I decided to go back to work and be the career person that all my old friends encouraged me to be. They thought I was wasting my time "sitting at home and playing house". They thought I should get back to having a "real job" like they did. I think about those "helpful suggestions" and look at my family, and know that I did the right thing, and stayed home to have my "real job" just as the Lord had intended. It was difficult watching my friendships dissolve, because our beliefs and points of view were so different.

I am truly blessed with such a wonderful family, and I know every time I look at them, I've done the right thing staying home and home schooling. Seriously, I don't think I gave a thing up to be home, but instead I've gotten so much more than I ever did from working outside the home.

This past week is just one example that I'm truly blessed. Thursday was my birthday. My husband took off work, and he and the kids let me sleep in, while they made breakfast. I was treated to sausage and gravy over biscuits, scrambled eggs, toast, orange juice and coffee. The whole day I was not allowed to do anything, but just relax and enjoy the day. While I was relaxing, they made me a chocolate cake (from scratch) with peanut butter icing. Then they made a tomato, garlic, and onion pizza for supper. YUMM!!! After the yummy cake, was present time. DD gave me a set of earphones for my MP3 player. I accidently cut the wire on my other ones last year while I was gardening. My DS gave me a certificate for the movies and it had to be a movie of my choice - not one the whole family would like. If I couldn't find anything at the movies, the certificate stated that I could buy 2 DVD's of my choice instead. :) DH gave me a box that contained a repair kit for my new headphones just in case I decided to cut the wires again. (HAHAHAHA!!!) In the bottom of the box was shipping info for my gift that hadn't arrived yet, with no clue what it was, except that it was in transit. For the evening treat, we played Mario Kart and watched and Indiana Jones movie. I had a fantastic birthday - one that made me realize how much Iwas appreciated and loved!

Friday, my birthday present arrived, but the kids scooted it in the house before I could see it. DH wanted me to wait until he got home to open it. When it came, it was very obvious what the package held, and they didn't want me to have any hint of what it was. It was a long wait until DH got home, as I am so childlike when it comes to surprises - I love them, but hate to wait to get them :) Oh, but the wait was sooooo worth it! I was absolutely stunned! DH bought me the mixer of my dreams...

A Kitchen Aid Professional 600 series (6 qt.). It has a 575 watt motor and mixes like a dream! The first thing I made was Cheddar Cheese Crackers from the Kitchen Aid book that came with the mixer. They were so easy and tasted so good!! To make it even sweeter, all has not arrived. There is still an ice cream maker that will be sent to me when the rebate form is sent in!!

You would think that things couldn't be any better, but Mother's Day came, and again, I got treated to a great breakfast. We had pancakes, sausage, orange juice, and coffee. For my Mother's Day gift, everyone went out and put up a lovely clothes line for me.

YAY!!! Now, I will once again have freshly dried clothes. I have missed this luxary for the last few years. How could my week get any better? By having dinner made for me. We had some of the best home grilled burgers!! The kids did a wonderful job cooking - with just a bit of help from DH. We were all so full that we didn't even eat dessert, but instead had Bible study, then played Mario Kart. I'm sure if anyone went past our house while we were playing, they probably thought we were nuts - all the squeals that came from all of us while we played. Mario Kart has got to be one of our family's favorite games. It was sad that the weekend had to end. I haven't had so much fun in a long time

Today I was hoping to be able to wash and hang clothes out on my new clothes line, but I woke up to a nice rainy day. Instead, I spent the day going through some boxes from the attic. Out of everything I've brought down, I've decided to weed out about 2/3's of the stuff. So far, I've been successful. I've listed a bunch of books on Paperback Swap, and have a box full of stuff to give away on FreeCycle. I decided that I was going to go through things as if we were moving away. If it's not worth taking to a new home, why am I keeping it?