Monday, December 30, 2013

Monday's menu plan

I start my month of skimpy budget this week, even though it's not January yet.

  • Chicken enchiladas with Mexican restaurant-style rice
  • Bierock
  • Homemade pepperoni/veggie pizza
  • Bean burritos
  • Potatoes au gratin with smoked sausage
  • Hot dogs with potato salad and coleslaw

I have most of the ingredients for these meals in my pantry and fridge/freezer, but will need to purchase:
small package of corn tortillas
a couple of tomatillos
small head of green cabbage
one bell pepper
1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. breakfast style sausage (I might have a roll or two in the freezer - I need to check)

I will also need eggs and milk before the week is over. I plan to bake all the bread we'll need. My goal is to spend $25 or less total on groceries this week!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Goals for January 2014

For some reason Blogger will not let me add any images to this post, so I will share a quote from Pablo Picasso without his picture;

"I'd like to live as a poor man with lots of money".

I think I will get into why I feel that way at some later time.

I have made some financial goals for the month of January. These goals are a way for me to challenge myself and to be creative and imaginative rather than spendy. Hopefully at the end of the month I will also be well on my way in making progress toward some good habits. The goals are:

  • Spend only $100 for the whole month on groceries by eating food we already have on hand, menu planning and shopping sales; 
  • have 20 no-spend days in January by grocery shopping once per week, 2 bill-paying days, and combining errands and other shopping on the other 5 days; 
  • spend no money at all on craft supplies by finishing projects I have already started or have the materials for; 
  • check out books and movies from the public library for free entertainment instead of going to the bookstore or movie theater; 
  • find one free thing to do each week to spend time with my BFF instead of doing our usual shopping-as-entertainment; 
  • be diligent about tracking spending by writing down receipt totals and keeping receipts. 
Stay tuned to see what I'm going to do with all the money I save in January!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

the wonder oven

I tried out my newly-made wonder oven today for the first time to cook a pot of dried pinto beans. I:
  • picked through and washed the dried beans,
  • soaked them overnight,
  • drained and rinsed them,
  • put them into my cooking pot with fresh water, a little salt and some pepper,
  • brought them to a full, rolling boil and boiled them for 15 minutes with the lid on the pot,
  • transferred the hot pot and hot lid to the wonder oven,
  • immediately put the cover on top of the wonder oven,
  • and waited about 5 hours.
When I took the cover off the oven and the lid off the pot I immediately put my candy thermometer in to see how hot it was after five hours. (You can see in the picture that there was lots of steam coming off the surface of the water/beans.) It registered 170 degrees Fahrenheit, which is safe according to a food safety chart. I tasted the beans and they are completely cooked with a grand total of about 20 minutes worth of cooking fuel, in this case my gas range.

First try is a success! I will divide this batch of beans into quart size freezer bags and freeze them for whenever I feel like having a bean burrito or some chili for lunch.

Monday, March 11, 2013

menu plan for this week

This week's menu includes:
  • pork loin with carrots, potatoes, and parsnips cooked in the crockpot with a can each of cream of mushroom soup* and french onion soup* and a little water, served with gravy made out of the liquid in the crockpot at the end of the cooking time.
  • barbecue pork on homemade buns* with crispy root vegetable cakes.
  • enchilada soup* with cornbread.*
  • ham and beans* with leftover cornbread.
  • bean burritos* with cheese* and homemade pico de gallo
  • dinner out!
  • a no-cook day with whatever is left over in pantry and fridge that needs to be eaten up.
Today I have been sewing wonder ovens. I am trying one out for the first time tomorrow with a batch of pinto beans that I have soaking in anticipation of this historic event. Lately I've been cooking large batches of beans at once and then storing them with their cooking liquid in the freezer in quart size freezer bags and it's been a lot easier to pull some out for a quick thaw to make burritos or whatever else at a moment's notice. If the wonder oven works properly I will never have to hover over a pot of beans again. Which will be awesome. I have a feeling, though, that using the wonder oven will require some trial and error and practice. Like all cooking does.

*These are or contain ingredients that I keep in my long-term food storage.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

clinical depression?

Or just your average run-of-the-mill slovenliness?

That load of clean laundry has been there since the weekend. And that blanket too. The blanket has been wrapped around my teenaged son every night for a couple of months now, and when I told him to strip all the sheets off his bed so we could wash everything it came out into the hall too.

If you know anything about teenaged boys then you know without further explanation that at this point the blankie can only be politely called "ripe". It doesn't have a fabric care tag and it was a gift from my beloved and I don't want to ruin it by washing it but since it's now basically ruined anyway I might as well just wash it and see what happens, right?

So that pile of stuff has been sitting there for going on 4 days now. I have stepped over it multiple times, even while cleaning (I had to get to the trash can there last night to empty it because today is trash day). I look it at, I know I should fold/put away the laundry and make some sort of definitive decision about the blanket, but it just seems so...well...hard. There is also lots of schmutz around the washer and dryer and all over the hallway carpeting because I haven't vacuumed it in weeks. Because that also seems hard. Because in order to vacuum I'd have to go downstairs and get the vacuum and drag its heavy self up the stairs and unwind the cord and use the attachments and first make sure the desk is cleared off and dusted (so that I don't  just make the vacuumed carpet dirty again) and all the papers are taken out to the garage for recycling and all the other stuff that collects on the desk is sorted and delivered to their rightful spots all of which also requires lots of decision-making. Then actually do the vacuuming. And then untangle and rewind the cord and carry the heavy vacuum back down the stairs and put it away in the coat closet. Doesn't that all sound so hard and difficult and like such a huge job?


That's why I wonder if I am clinically depressed. Because to me "tidying up and vacuuming the hall" sounds like the kind of job I ought to get some kind of prize or award or medal or other significant recognition for doing.

An hour later and it's done. And although you can't tell (because it is a photograph) the washer and dryer are churning away drying the clean blanket (so far so good) and washing a load of white towels (because we've been out of clean dishrags and washcloths for days). I dug in and got it all done and now it looks like civilized people live here. I do feel marginally better and somewhat accomplished which is a minor miracle:

Monday, March 4, 2013

The week, sort of.

I couldn't decide if it should be "last week" or "this week". Whatever. A time frame spanning the last five or so and next five or so days.

Last week I went to a gardening seminary showcasing the "Mittleider" method of gardening. It seems like a pretty good and manageable way of doing things and has some different options, and after much waffling I have decided, partially, which options I think would work best for my values, abilities, climate, geography, available space and so forth.

I have been daydreaming quite a bit about the backyard paradise my backyard could become. Honestly it sounds like a lot of back-breaking and sweaty work. But what about this? What if I did a little bit at a time, experimenting and seeing what works for me in my own yard, and what I can truthfully manage, and let the backyard evolve over time (years?) into something useful, beautiful, productive, and awesome?

What if I don't dig up all the grass this week, get totally exhausted and sore and mad and overwhelmed, and then give up on it?

That sounds very much not like me at all. I'm all about jumping right in with both feet and trying to achieve what is impossible for me and then completely giving up because I can't do everything.

But I think I will try. I gave up on gardening a long time ago, but have recently felt an indescribable urge to get back into it. Maybe I'll just dig up a little bit of grass and see what happens this year. Up there in the picture is my oxalis which is a volunteer plant (it just showed up in our yard one spring) and has survived drought, winter freezes, summer scorching, and neglect for years now. I love it. There are two clumps nearby to each other. That other green stuff in the pic is some wild blackberry vines which are covered in thorns that make an angry red rash when you try to pull them out. The roots are deep and long and extremely strong. I worry that it will never be totally gone from our yard. Every spring more of it comes up.

This week's dinner menu includes beef stew leftover from last week, boiled eggs, cheese sandwiches, oatmeal (with homemade/home-bottled preserved apples), and maybe a pancake/bacon dinner one night. Because my good Mr. Dub is out of town learning all about a new way of fracking there is no need for me to actually make any "real" dinner.

Frugal living pays off. I added it up - even with one son in university and one son on a two-year mission for our church - (which are both on a "pay as you go" plan; no new debt is being acquired for either) we've paid off more than $35,500.00 of debt in the last 12 months. This includes:
  • one of my Pretty Girl's student loans, 
  • two cars,
  • and a home equity loan.
These debts have been paid off in all cases years earlier than originally expected. All that is remaining on our debt is:
  • our mortgage (we have quite a bit of equity),
  • one car loan,
  • and one more of Pretty Girl's student loans (even though these two loans are technically her loans, we are co-signed on them which makes them in reality our loans. Lesson learned - never cosign a loan).
That makes me pretty psyched. Whenever I get sick of scrimping and saving - which has happened a few times over the past year - I look back at the progress we have made in the last year, I re-read Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey and The Richest Man in Babylon by George Samuel Clason, and I get myself back on board with the program. If I can manage to continue on this path we will be out of debt except for our mortgage before the end of this year, and will have enough saved to pay cash for our trip to Argentina next spring. Which thing we really want to do.

I am still feeling a little bit overwhelmed by my life. But I am also still feeling more optimistic and upbeat than I was even a few weeks ago. I am trying to take it easy on myself and not expect that I will be perfect, even when I expect myself to be.

Which makes sense to me, anyhow.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Coming Up For Air

I never blogged about it (let's face it: I haven't blogged about much of anything for a long time) but on Christmas day, 2012 I came down with the flu. I felt pretty awful for a couple of weeks, actually, and it started a downward mental and emotional spiral that I feel like I am just now beginning to recover from. It has been a period of darkness, despair, and grief, with a little bit of plain old-fashioned craziness sprinkled over the top for decoration. I recognized the craziness for what it is. Which is good. And also bad.

Anyway, I am beginning to feel better. I wish I knew that it was a permanent movement in the right direction but I am afraid that it's only a temporary reprieve. My body is now revolting in a lot of ways (vomiting and other gastrointestinal issues, muscle cramps and spasms, headaches, fatigue, sporadic moments of intense pain in different places, etc.) and I think it is due to stress and anxiety but I can't pinpoint where the stress and anxiety is coming from. Nothing is wrong, really, but I feel tense and keyed up and at the same time a great inertia. I read an article about stress which stated that unfinished tasks are a cause of great stress. There is something for me to think about.

Inertia, when used figuratively to describe a person, has as its synonyms idleness, slothfulness, and laziness. Which all sound like very bad qualities to have. And I am trying to ignore and silence the voice in my head that uses very negative and hateful talk against me to keep me down in the pit of my own making into which I have descended. See, I did learn something in therapy!

So I am struggling with some very old, very familiar demons, and they have essentially kicked my big ol' bum for the last two months. (I wonder if it was precipitated by the high fever/delirium of the flu? I don't know, but that's when it started.) These things have spilled out of the arena of my mind and heart, and are manifesting themselves physically at this point. Which is just so great, ya know?

Anyway, I've said more than I wanted to, and my desire on my blog is not to showcase my troubles.

It is still cool and somewhat chilly here, which feels awesome and also a little weird. It makes me want to plant a garden. But I expect summer will arrive with great fanfare and high temps very soon.
  • I am still fighting the good fight against food waste.
  • I am still trying to practice frugal living.
  • I am baking bread once or twice every week
  • I am heating up leftovers and eating them for lunch instead of grabbing fast-food a few times a week. It helps that I am cooking food that I actually want to eat.
  • I am keeping the house mostly presentable if not entirely perfect. Dishes, laundry, picking-up & vacuuming (at least downstairs), and emptying the trash are happening on a regular basis.
The menu for this week is:

  • Sunday-cheesy ham & potato casserole with green salad
  • Monday-leftovers (I had leftover lentil soup with a cheese sandwich and Mr. Dub had a ham & cheese sandwich)
  • Tuesday-beef stew
  • Wednesday-bacon/spinach/feta quiche with fresh strawberries
  • Thursday-leftovers
  • Friday-dinner out?
  • Saturday - taco soup with corn chips and toppings

I have tried a new thing - "homemade" foaming hand soap. Did you know that it is the dispenser that makes the soap into foam and not the soap? In the picture up there is some that I made using Softsoap Citrus Berry Blast hand soap. In my downstairs guest powder room I have some that I made using Bath & Body Works Aromatherapy Eucalyptus Spearmint hand soap, which is to die for.  Here's how you do it:
  1. Get a bottle of foaming hand soap from the store.
  2. Use it all.
  3. Fill the empty bottle a bit less than 2/3 full with hot water.
  4. Add any kind/scent of regular clear liquid hand soap up to a bit less than full. (You don't want to fill it completely full or it will spill out when you put the pump lid back on the bottle. "Eureka!" and all that stuff, you know.)
  5. Put the lid back on.
  6. Swirl it around for a bit until the water and soap are mixed together.
  7. Voila!
That is 2 parts hot water to 1 part liquid hand soap. Swirl gently to combine. I have heard not to use opaque hand soap, like the "milk and honey" type, but just the regular transparent liquid hand soap. I'm not sure why - maybe it gums up the pump mechanism? But I might try it sometime because there is a type of hand soap that I get at Kroger that I really like that isn't transparent. I will let you know if it works.

This way of doing it makes a bottle of hand soap into three bottles of foaming hand soap. It lasts three times as long. And it's a lot more fun!

I am reading Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. I tried reading a couple years ago for book club but couldn't get into it then. I am in a better mood for it now and am enjoying it quite a bit.

All hail the public library!!!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

on vacation

I'm taking a break from blogging for a while. I don't know if this will be a permanent vacation or if I will be back. I find that I have nothing left to say that is fun or funny or insightful, and that I need more of a "real life" life.

I thought about shutting my blog down completely but I'm not ready to do that. Yet.