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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.

Topping:
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.com. 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 Amazon.com 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.