Saturday, November 04, 2023

At the Cottage ~ November 4, 2023

    Cool weather is finally here in South Texas!  I know I have said it before, but fall is my favorite season.  It is such a respite from the brutal heat of our summers.  I am a little surprised at how early in the year it has come, though.  It is not unusual for us to still be sweating well into December.

    We have not had a freeze yet, but it did get close a couple nights.  I'm relieved because my garden is still going strong.  My zucchini plants are huge and I am getting zucchini from them!

    John's zinnias are beautiful- the star of the show.  We have been cutting them for bouquets to adorn the house.  John is so pleased.

    I had been worried that many of the seeds I had planted weren't viable.  Turns out that they just needed a little cold snap to germinate.  I have carrots coming up.

    And cabbage.

    My little chicks aren't chicks anymore!  I've introduced them to the big girls and they all seem to be getting along.

    Inside, I have been doing a lot of baking.  It is such a cozy feeling to have something delicious in the oven or on the stove when it is cold outside.  The coffee pot is used multiple times a day.  

    I made apple cake for when we had company one evening.

    Blueberry muffins with streusel topping...

    Caramel pecan cookies...

    And finally something healthy: soup!  I love soup and that is going to be my game plan for healthy meal prep during the fall and winter months.  This one was sausage, potato, and kale.

    I know that planning and having something convenient to grab when I am hungry can make or break any efforts towards my dietary goals.  One morning I made a large batch of sausage, egg, and cheese "muffins" for something quick during the week.  They are not pretty but they taste good!

    I have not done much crafting, but I did manage to finish the cleaning cloths I had started.  I ended up with fifteen.  

    I am doing what I can to switch to more reusable things, both for economical and preparedness reasons.

    I am also working towards opening my Etsy shop back up!  I had been praying about it, and then out of the blue, I had a returning customer contact me to tell me how much she loved my work and ask if she could buy some more cards from me.  My shop has not been open in over two years, so this was amazing!  I have some things made- it is just a matter of getting them listed and sorting out some tax things.  To give you a sneak peak, these are the cards she wants...

    What have you been up to?  

    I hope everyone has a good, productive week building up their homes and caring for their loved ones. 💕

Monday, October 02, 2023

Grocery Savings ~ Packaging

    I am back with another grocery savings post!  This is where I pick apart the local grocery store ads to see if the offers are actually deals, or if I can save more money by finding alternatives.  I am seeing more and more that the offers are for junk food, convenience food, or food that I can simply do without.  Sometimes I look at the sales and think, "Who are they kidding?"  Other times, things look enticing at first glance but not so much when I break down the numbers or consider other options.  (You can see my other grocery savings posts here and here.)

    I am pulling from a past ad for today's critique, but it is a good example of what I am seeing, and the principles can be applied to similar offers.  This was from a sales flyer geared towards back-to-school lunches:

Buy a 24 pack of juice bottles (10 oz each) for $16.98, get a FREE multipack of chips (10- 1 oz bags, value of $4.98)

    I think a $5 savings looks pretty good- and others must have, too, because the apple juice bottles were sold out during that sale- but I also know that things in smaller packages and single serves are usually more expensive.  I wanted to see if this would still be the case with the coupon factored in, so I compared these individually packaged items to their bulk-packaged counterparts.

    Individual, single-serve packages-

    24 pack of apple juice (240 oz total): $16.98
    10 pack of chips (10 oz total): FREE
    Total: $16.98

    Bulk (regular size) packages-

    4 jugs (64 oz for $1.98 ea/256 oz total) of apple juice: $7.92  
    14oz bag of chips (crisps): $3.98
    Total: $11.90

    Savings: $5.08

    Buying the larger packages gets you more groceries for less money, even with a coupon!  Imagine the savings if the convenience packages were regular price, or if the larger packages were on sale.  That would easily allow for a one-time investment in a reusable canteen if you are looking at packing lunches.  If you already have one, that $5.08 could go towards more lunch box items, like a large canister of raisins ($4.28), a 16 oz block of cheese ($4.29), a large box of Ritz crackers ($4.68), or a pack of carrots ($1.68) and dip ($2.17) to go with them and the chips you bought!  

    Now let's consider the coupon in comparison with "real food" alternatives.  I would swap out the apple juice for bottles or jugs water (assuming you don't just use water from your tap at home) and whole, fresh apples.  Most of us know we should be drinking more water, and whole fruits are going to be healthier and more filling than juice because of the fiber.  As for the chips, those are made out of potatoes, so we are simply going to look at a bag of whole potatoes.  If we break down the cost:

    Real food alternatives- 

    2, gallon jugs of water ($1.34 each): $2.68
    3lb bag of apples: $3.46
    5lb bag of potatoes: $3.14
    Total: $9.28

    Not only is that still a savings over the bulk packages, that is a savings of $7.70 over the individually packaged groceries, and you get so much more food!  We are looking at 8 pounds (128oz) vs 10 ounces for LESS money!

    I am going to start adding in another option for my grocery savings posts that is from a preparedness/pantry stable perspective.  It is so important that we keep a supply of food on hand in case of emergencies, and I don't think that should be neglected in our grocery shopping!  So for preparedness purposes in our example, I would still buy the jugs of water, but I would substitute the fresh apples for jars of applesauce.  The bag of fresh potatoes can be swapped for instant, shelf-stable mashed potatoes.  Let's see how much we are able to buy if we are spending close to the original cost of $16.98 with the juice and chip coupon:

    Preparedness Items-

    2 gallon jugs of water ($1.34 ea): $2.68
    2 jars (46 oz each/$3.28) of applesauce: $6.56
    3 boxes (13.75 oz ea/$2.56) of instant mashed potatoes: $7.68
    Total = $16.92

    That is a decent amount of food for simply resisting the chips and juice!  Now I want to create a hypothetical grocery list, just for fun, that combines some of our options.  The totals will be similar, but I want you to look at the amount of food you would get for close to the same price.

    Our original option-

    24 pack of apple juice (240 oz): $16.98
    10 pack of chips (10 oz): FREE
    Total: $16.98

    Our frugal, pantry building option-

    3 gallon jugs of water (384 oz): $4.02
    3lb bag of apples: $3.46
    5lb bag of potatoes: $3.14
    1 jar of applesauce (46 oz): $3.28
    1 box (13.75 oz) of instant mashed potatoes: $2.56
    Total: $16.46

    Clearly we get way more groceries for less money, and the pantry has been added to with the second list!  Not to mention that our cheaper option offers more flexibility.  There are so many ways to prepare potatoes:

~Baked: whole, served with butter and cheese as a side or loaded for a main dish. Add seasoned ground beef with beans and top with cheese, sour cream, and green onions for a Mexican style potato and serve with a side salad.  Potatoes can also be cut into wedges, tossed in olive oil and seasonings (salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and rosemary are good options), and baked for homemade "oven fries".  Potatoes can be prepared this way cut into thin rounds also, or baked into potatoes au gratin.

~Boiled: drain, mash/whip, and add milk, butter, salt, and pepper.  Garlic powder, chives, bacon bits, and cream cheese or sour cream can be added if you want your mashed potatoes to be fancy.  To use up leftover mashed potatoes, add an egg and shape into patties before coating in flour and frying. Boiled potatoes can also be left in chunks to be served with melted butter or cream sauce poured over them.

~Fried: cut potatoes into wedges and fry in a skillet for homemade French fries.  It requires some extra steps, but you can even make homemade potato chips!  I have used a tutorial identical to this one and they came out delicious.  Potatoes can also be shredded and fried as hash browns.  I like to add thinly sliced chunks of potatoes to the pan while I am frying bacon or ground sausage for breakfast.  After draining most of the grease, I pour scrambled eggs over the top to cook into a breakfast hash.  Sometimes I add shredded cheese.  Eat it alone or put it in a tortilla for a breakfast taco.

~Potatoes can also be added to soups and casseroles to add bulk.  Or they can be made into potato soup or potato salad!  There are so many possibilities.

    There are options for apples, too:

~Eat them fresh, either alone or with peanut or almond butter.  Lately, I have been topping mine with crushed up Heath candies from the freezer as a treat (I have to use them up somehow 😉).  I make them special for the boys by adding sprinkles instead of Heath pieces.

~Apples can be seasoned with cinnamon and baked, or sliced and sautéed for a dessert.  

~Shredded or chopped apples can be cooked and added to oatmeal or pancakes.  They can also be the feature ingredient in cakes, muffins, and pies.

~To make applesauce, core and slice apples and add them to a pot with just enough water to cover.  (Cores can be set aside for making apple cider vinegar or jelly.)  Simmer until soft.  Drain the liquid, but don't throw it away!  Pour it into a jar and drink it like apple juice, diluting with water or sweetening to taste if necessary.  Put the cooked apple slices into a blender to puree, pouring some of the cooking liquid back in to get the desired consistency if needed.  Sweeten and add cinnamon, or enjoy plain.


    Can you believe all of that came from a juice and potato chip coupon?  With inflation being sky-high, we have to think outside the box to save money.  We have to be smarter than the system in order to stretch our dollars, but it can still be done.  Be critical.  Don't assume coupons are going to save you money, and don't buy a certain product just because you always have.  I know so many people who are frustrated with the rising prices, but their response is to just not even look anymore because there is nothing they can do about it.  Boy, do I understand the frustration, but this is not the mindset that will get us ahead.  I admit that looking at the flyers and going to the store can be disheartening, but in me, at least, it stirs up just enough productive anger for me to want to fight it that much harder.  (I believe there are sinister forces at play, and that this is part of a bigger plan, but that is another topic.)  To quote Pride and Prejudice, as I often do:

"There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others.  My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me."

-Elizabeth Bennet

    Ladies, take courage.  We can win at this.  Pray for wisdom, consider carefully, save where you can, and prepare, prepare, prepare.  I hope this post can help you do that in some way.  Please share any grocery tips and encouragement you may have in the comments-  we can all learn!

Saturday, September 30, 2023

Raised Beds: Part 2

    I finally have an update to show you on our raised beds!  If you missed Part 1, you can find that here.

    After building the frames of the beds, Colton added the sides.  We decided to go with horizontal boards, which we stained and sealed. 

    The insides were reinforced with another layer of wood to keep them from bowing under the weight of the dirt once they were filled.  We then put hardware cloth (wire) in the bottom to prevent gophers from digging up into the beds.

    We lined the beds with more of our free, heavy-duty plastic and added logs and branches to the bottom to help take up space, resulting in less dirt we would have to buy.  The logs will decompose over time and enrich the soil.

    Then, just last week:

    We got dirt!  We had actually called to get this dirt several months ago, but our local supplier is a one man band and his dump truck was broken down.  Some time passed and we thought maybe he had forgotten about us, so Colton called again.  He had his truck fixed and then it broke down again!  So still no dirt for several weeks.  Colton called again last week, and finally we were able to get the dirt.  His truck had only been fixed for two days by the time we got it! 

    The boys were so excited to watch the truck dump the load.  Of course, the dirt was like a magnet and they ran to play in it as soon as the truck drove off.  They have been having fun digging, climbing, and playing in it every day.  Thankfully, children are washable, and playing in the bathtub afterwards is just as fun for them.

    I did not get any photos of the process, but Colton used the tractor to scoop the dirt into the beds.  This saved us hours of work and hard labor.  We did have to do some spreading by hand, but the shovel work was minimal.  This was a tremendous blessing.

    This is our progress up to now.  It feels good to finally be making some headway on this project again!  Next we will be mixing in some compost and raised bed soil, but that will be another post for another time...

Saturday, September 23, 2023

At the Cottage ~ September 23, 2023

    Hello, dear readers!  I do apologize for the unexpected, unannounced blogging break.  It wasn't something I had planned, and it lasted longer than I realized! 

    We are all doing very well.  I just needed some time to get caught up on a few things around the home that needed my undistracted attention.  With various projects going on and new things added to our schedules, I had fallen behind on some of my homemaking tasks.  It feels good to have them done.

    Annabel wrote a post a few weeks ago on stewardship that really struck a chord with me.  I know there are areas in which I need to improve, so these last few weeks I have tried to be very diligent about taking care of what I have.

    I am happy to say that my garden is staying about 95% (totally made up number, but based on my perception) weed- free!  Each morning I am getting out early to tend to this, as well as puttering around and tidying up outside.  Even just little things can become big ones if they are neglected.  I've also been trying to teach the boys good habits by having them put all their outdoor toys away in the shed before we go inside.  I do the same with my tools.

    Before my blogging break, I had cleaned out, organized, and rearranged my freezers.  Now I have done the same with my pantries.  This was a big task, but it looks and functions so much better.  I can easily see what I have and get to what I need.  I am still trying to figure out how I will restock it moving forward in a way that complies with our new healthy eating habits.  I will still have pasta, rice, and other grains on hand for emergency purposes, but those are not foods that are very good for me and eating them comes with not-so-good consequences.  Some food is better than no food, but I'd rather be stocking and eating foods that nourish me, as opposed to making me feel terrible.  Once we have our freeze dryer set up (post renovation), I hope to add lots of dried garden produce to the pantry.

    We have also joined our local homeschool co-op.  I have definitely had to get out of my introverted comfort zone to participate.  At orientation, we all had to go around the room and introduce ourselves to the group and talk about ourselves.  This is a nightmare for an introvert- as soon as I walked in and saw the chairs all placed in a circle, I thought, "Oh no."  But I survived (my heart was racing SO fast, haha)!  And I actually had a lot of fun.  I have since made several friends in the group.  A lot of the moms have gardens, chickens, bees, and other livestock.  Many of them can and preserve food, bake bread (including sourdough), and one even has a freeze dryer!  They are all Christian ladies, as it is a Christian group, so we share a lot of the same values.  I think a lot of us were surprised to have all of these things in common, as I know my interests usually make me the odd one out!  I feel like I have found my people, and my heart is full.  It's funny that I signed up for the kids, but it has been a tremendous blessing for me, too.  Of course, John has loads of fun playing with the other children.  We all meet once a week and really look forward to it.

    Aside from all of this, my regular tasks keep me busy- a good, productive busy.  I am sorry that I don't have many pictures to share - I haven't paused very often this month to take them!

    I do have one, and it is of Ginger "helping" me weed.  I'm sad to say it will be my last one of her, as she has disappeared.  We had a storm several nights ago, and my guess is that she got scared and ran off, as I haven't seen her since.  It saddens me as I got really attached to her.  I know that is part of life in the country- I just wish it wasn't.

    What about you?  What have you been up to this past month?  I'd love to hear!

Friday, August 25, 2023

At the Cottage ~ August 25, 2023

    It was a gardening week here at the cottage.  After getting my squash in last week, I moved on to various types of lettuces and greens.  We have been eating a lot of these, so I am going to be glad when we start harvesting and I don't have to buy them any more.  They are one of the easiest things for me to grow, so it pains me that they are so expensive at the store.

    After I got these in, Colton told me that we were expecting rain on Tuesday.  Rain is so rare and precious where I live, so this sent me into gardening overdrive.  I planted green beans, radishes, beets, carrots, cabbage, and parsnips.  John planted corn and zinnias.  I covered my rows with more wood chips (we are really running out but I think the Lord must have multiplied them for me like the loaves and fishes because I had enough with some left over!) and spread more hay in between.  Ginger helped, obviously.

    Inside, I started my tomato seeds and herb seeds.  I should've done this sooner, but better late than never (I hope).

    What I didn't know was that we weren't just expecting rain- it was a tropical storm!  Not sure how I missed that memo (actually it's because I don't watch/read the news or socialize very often), or I probably wouldn't have planted!  I'm glad I did, though, as we ended up getting a steady, gentle rain that totaled three inches by the time it was over.  This is what I found the next morning:

    That's my squash!  And some of the greens coming up:

    I set out buckets and caught lots of rainwater.  I'm using it for my seedlings and fruit trees, which are still in pots.  Two of our peach trees were completely stripped of their leaves overnight by leafcutter ants, so I'm having to haul them into the shed at night and back outside in the morning until Colton can find the ant colony and poison them.  They are nearly impossible to fight.  All the websites basically say "good luck".  We'll try.

    With all of the planting I did, I thought I should really keep a better record than I have in years past, so I created a gardening journal using one of the binders I bought over the tax-free weekend.  I used free printables from JES (here and here) and these, which I found on Pinterest from The Fairy Printsess.  There are so many free options to choose from that I was able to customize it and get exactly what I wanted. 

    Some of the pages:

    I also included print-outs from my local nursery on planting times for our area and care guides for some of the trees and plants I have.

    While I was at it, I made a weekly/monthly planner using free printables from Shining Mom, which I also found on Pinterest (just type in "free planner printables" and you will get loads of results).  The planner I have used in the past is wonderful but expensive, so this time I am opting for "free".  I was able to get the pages that will fit my needs, and they are pretty!

    I do so much better with lists because it means less for me to remember!  Getting things onto paper means getting them out of my brain, which means less stress about all the to-do's.  I can keep track of my Fly Lady schedule this way too.

    This week I tackled a big task and organized and inventoried the freezers (we have three if you count the one in the fridge).  Now I can see what all we have, what we need to buy, and what we need to use.  Sometimes I open them just to admire my work!  I added the inventory sheets to the back of my planner, along with a master list of meal ideas that we eat and like so that I can meal plan and rotate my stock.

    It was a no-spend week, except for buying apples, which I could not pass up.  There is a discount produce store in the city where Colton works and I always check their Facebook page for deals.  Once we bought a 40lb box of bananas for $5!  We shared them, ate them, froze them, baked with them, and my dad freeze dried heaps for us to eat as snacks.  This time it was organic apples for $1 per pound!  I bought 18lbs of Pink Lady, Honeycrisp, and Fuji varieties.  This coming week I will process them into apple butter, applesauce, juice, and dried slices.  Because they are organic, I can also use the peels for making jelly and/or vinegar.

    I am still working on my wardrobe.  I had ordered some clothes online during tax-free weekend (are you tired of hearing about "tax-free weekend" yet??) when the boys had their shopping spree.  Most of them came in this week, so I was able to try everything on and see what worked and what didn't.  Most of it didn't, which I expected, but that's ok.  I've become very picky about my clothes because I don't want a closet full of things that I avoid wearing for one reason or another.  I'd rather have the money for things I feel good in, so I will keep the pieces I really like and get a nice refund for the ones I don't.  

    This was the view out my window as I tried things on during all the rain: 

    Could there be a cozier scene? 

    Meanwhile, I've been putting more effort into my every day attire with the purpose of looking nice for my family.  I had fallen into the comfy t-shirt and worn out denim skirt trap, and it wasn't pretty!  Here is an example of my recent efforts:

Top: Goodwill
Skirt: made by me about 15 years ago!

    It isn't anything fancy, but I think it's lovely anyway.  Lovely is the goal.

    How was your week?  I'd love to hear!

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Thrifty Thursday #14 ~ Would You Rather...?

    Last week, the boys tagged along with me to the thrift store.  I let them take some of their spending money so they could have a little fun doing their own shopping.  James, who is two, has been especially eager to "go buy sumpin'" with the pocket change his grandpa gave him.  He settled on two toy cars for fifty cents.

    He was so excited over his finds and happily took them to the register, but when it came time to pay, he didn't want to give up his money- he wanted both!  I tried in vain to explain to him that when we want something in a store, we have to pay for it.  We give them our money, and they let us take our desired object.  He clung tightly to his coffee can of change (maybe he inherited my frugal gene), equally insistent on having the cars.  I offered to pay for them as I knew he might be too young to understand, but in true toddler fashion, he wanted to do it himself.  Eventually, the kind and patient thrift store volunteer got through to him and said, "If you give me one of your coins, I'll give you a car."  Reluctantly, he gave her a quarter.  She handed him a car, and the process was repeated.  By the time we left, he was happily carrying his cars and still had plenty of change left over in his jar.

    This got me thinking about what it really means to buy something.  Truthfully, I didn't want to give the nice lady my money either, but it happened that I wanted the items I chose more than the money that they required, so I handed it over (without any theatrics) and made the exchange. 

    Every potential transaction is an act of choosing one thing over another.  Most of the time, we cannot have our cake and eat it, too.  We have to ask ourselves, "Would I rather have the money or the item?"  Our decision is based on what we deem more valuable.  We are weighing the use and pleasure of the object against the time it took to earn the money, as well as other things the money could be potentially spent on.  Which is worth more? 

    Maybe you already know you are willing to part with the money, but you have only a certain amount in your budget and have to choose between two items.  I think we have all had to do this, and the same principle applies.  Naturally you are going to choose which item you want or need more.  

    My Shopping Book has really helped me with this.  I know what my personal allowance is each month, and I'm already willing to spend it, so when I see something I like in a store, I will think, "Would I rather have this item, or an item on my wish list?"  I find this helps me avoid impulse purchases.  The items in my shopping book have already been carefully planned out, and I know for sure that I want them.  Buying something else means putting those other items on hold for another month or more, so I have to make a choice!

    I find perspective plays such a huge role in saving and spending.  Taking this view when shopping is just another tool in our money-saving arsenal.  Do you think weighing your purchases this way would help you save money?

Friday, August 18, 2023

At the Cottage ~ August 18, 2023

    This week flew by so quickly that I didn't once pause to write things down!  Colton started back at his school job, so we have been adjusting to the new routines.  So far, all is going well. 

    I took a trip to our local thrift store to make a donation and, of course, I looked around while I was there.  The boys went with me and took some of their spending money.  Colton's dad gives them pocket change occasionally, and James has been itching to "go buy sumpin'" so I let him take his little coffee can of coins to pick something out.  He settled on two toy trucks for $0.50.  I let John take $3 from his own coffee can (we have very sophisticated piggy banks, don't we?) so that he could pick something out too.  He bought a puzzle, a book, and a caddy for some of his art supplies.  I am thankful that our thrift store has not gone up on their prices as most places.

    I found some things, too:

    The green velvet fabric underneath my finds was also a purchase from the same trip.  It looks to be about a yard and a half of material.  My plan is to sew some throw pillow covers with it.  

    There is a larger Fido jar not pictured, as well as a few books, and a lamp.  I have been looking for a lamp for nearly a year and I finally found one I like for $10.  I plan to make over the shade once I find some fabric I like.  Waiting for just the right thing to come along means I am a slow decorator, but I end up with things I truly like and I save money in the process.

    We also took a big trip to the city for Tax Free Weekend, as planned.  I packed all our food for the day so that we wouldn't have to buy any. 


    This was a concoction using what I had on hand that was diet-compliant for me and Colton.  It is sort of a combo of egg, turkey, and pea salads using homemade mayonnaise.  We ate it on a bed of lettuce and it ended up being very tasty, with the correct balance of protein, fats, non-starchy vegetables, and carbs.  We liked it so well that I repeated it later in the week!  I also packed strawberries for snacks, and sandwiches, appleasauce, pretzels, and cookies for the boys.  Our travel cups plus an extra thermos of ice water kept us all hydrated.

    The stores were not nearly as crowded as I had expected, but it was clear that the rush had happened the day before (Friday), as things were pretty disheveled and picked over.  We were still able to find what we needed.  Colton was able to get work slacks, jeans, and dress shirts in his new size.  He also got a new belt and a new pair of boots.  The boys got some new clothes, too.  It was all tax free and combined with sales, so the day was a success.

    I feel like much of my week was getting everything washed, ironed, and squirreled away in its new home.  I cleaned, culled, and organized as I went.  I started working on my own closet, too, but I still have a way to go.  I do hope to write about it soon, as it has been on my heart lately to prioritize dressing up at home and looking nice for my family.  The desire is there, but putting outfits together does not come naturally for me, so it is a work in progress.

    I finally got something planted in the garden: squash!  We were unexpectedly blessed with rain on Wednesday, so Thursday when the ground was soft, I went out at first light (the only time it isn't a million degrees) and made some rows in the garden.  I got one row of yellow squash and one row of zucchini planted.

    We are low on wood chips and our wood chipper is in for repairs (is it normal for a wood chipper, a washing machine, a water heater, a well pump, and an A/C to all go out in the span of two months, right after having to replace the tires on both vehicles???), so I used what little we had left to top the rows.

    I noticed that my sister-in-law, who is our neighbor, has a big pile of old hay near her house that the animals will no longer eat.   I asked her if I could have some and she said I could take all I wanted.

    The boys and I drove over and loaded up what I could haul and I put that in between my rows.  This will keep the ground from drying out and baking.

    My little chicks are getting bigger.  They are in that awkward stage of getting their feathers and not looking so cute.  I still have six, but half were camera shy.

    My bigger chickens during the morning feeding frenzy:

    Can you spot the two guineas?

    We got ahead in many ways this week, but I think that with the shopping and unexpected expenses we've had over the last couple months, it is going to very much be a "use what you have and make do" period as we replenish what has been spent.  I am fine with this, as I am happy and content to stay busy at home.  I certainly have plenty to do!

    I hope everyone has a lovely weekend...

Friday, August 11, 2023

At the Cottage ~ August 11, 2023

    A little cloud of sorrow hung over my week, as my beloved twelve-year-old cat, Button, died.  Colton got him for me a month after we married, so he was with us right from the start.  He is greatly missed.

    I am very glad to have Ginger following me around the way Button used to.  No, she isn't Button, but her antics amuse and delight me.  She is a good little companion, getting in the middle of everything I do.  I trimmed my mint this week and set some of the clippings in jars in hopes of propagating them.  We'll see how that goes- I think I need younger, more tender cuttings.  Here she is getting a refreshing drink of mint water.

    I also got my last remaining rose bush weeded.  Hopefully I can get that flourishing again.  Ginger thought to help, but she was on the other side of the fence in the garden.  I managed to capture the exact moment that she realized she could no longer fit through the fence like she used to.

    Our A/C went out this week.  It had been making some funny sounds, and finally it quit working.  Colton called my dad, who came over and helped troubleshoot.  He brought a bag of beef for us that he picked up on his way!  And he included some little treats for the boys.  Just pure kindness and generosity. 

    He and Colton were able to figure out the issue but needed a part, which the local A/C repair man didn't have, but he kindly let us borrow a part from his scrap pile to get us by until we could get what we needed (different size).  My dad made some phone calls and arranged for us to be able to get the part wholesale, saving us about $100, and who knows how much by doing it all ourselves.  When we return the borrowed part, I will send cookies as a "thank you".

    I've done a little clothes shopping this week.  I had intended to wait for the Tax Free Weekend, but as I was searching online to see what sales would coincide with it, I saw that one of the children's clothing stores (The Children's Place) was running a good sale, with an extra 25% off when you sign up for their emails.  As a bonus, they were having an early tax-free special for Texas shoppers.  I ended up getting the boys several shirts in their next size up for about $4.50 each.  Shipping was free and I didn't have to fight the crowds!  I also earned some coupons for $10 off my next $20 purchase, so I am very pleased with all of that.  We still plan to go to the brick-and-mortar stores tomorrow, as Colton needs some new clothes and will have to try them on.  I'm hoping it won't be a madhouse, but I expect it will.

    I ventured into town to get some grocery specials.  We usually do our grocery shopping in the next town over, which is thirty minutes away, because our town's grocery store is so expensive.  However, they do run some good sales, so I always check the flyer.  This week, I got a ten pound bag of potatoes for $3, bananas for $0.33/lb, and a pound of ground beef for $0.99 with a coupon.  I may or may not have bought two cartons of Blue Bell ice-cream that were half off.  See?  I do buy convenience foods and treats sometimes ;)  

    Fun fact: We visited the Blue Bell (a Texas company) factory in June with some friends!  I don't have too many pictures without us in them, but here are a few:

A display case in the Blue Bell Museum

Looking out the Museum window at an old ice-cream delivery truck replica

Display case in the ice-cream parlor above the factory

    Photos were not allowed in the actual factory part.  Top secret, you know.  But we did get to see them make the ice-cream and package it from the upstairs observation deck.  The flavor that day was Cookies 'n Cream.  A good time (and ice-cream) was had by all.

    Ice-cream is certainly not part of the gut-healing program I am on right now, so my recent purchases are waiting in the freezer.  Once I finish the program, I am allowed to maintain an 80/20 balance of healthy/not-so-healthy, and boy have I been dreaming of that 20%!  I'm almost there.  This is week 8 out of 13, and I have seen so much improvement.  I had a little setback over a food that didn't agree with me and that reminder of what I used to feel like is enough to keep me from falling off the wagon once the program is over.  I've had a taste of health and energy and I'm not giving that up!  Moderation, Kelsey.  Moderation. 

    I've been saving the supplement bottles from the program since the pills came in glass amber jars.  This week I took the labels off and washed them up.  A tip for getting sticky label residue off is to coat the surface in peanut butter or almond butter and let it sit for a bit before wiping it off.  The oil in the butter is what makes it work, so you might be able to get away with just olive or vegetable oil.

    I think I will store dried herbs in the bigger ones and maybe homemade vanilla in the smaller ones.  What would you store in them?  I'm looking for some ideas.

    I want to show you how big my grocery store lettuce grew in a week's time.  I can't believe it!

    Over the last couple weeks, I have been freezing bananas that get overripe before the boys can eat them.  I flash freeze them on a pan and then put them into a bag in the freezer for smoothies.  Really this goes for any fruit that is past its prime but still good.  The boys love smoothies in the summertime and I feel good about the ingredients and no waste, so it's a win/win/win.  To the blender I add:

    -2 frozen bananas 
    -A few handfuls of frozen fruit such as strawberries, blueberries, or peaches
    -A few generous spoonfuls of plain Greek yogurt, for probiotics and creaminess
    -Milk, to cover

    I don't add any sweetener because the bananas are sweet enough.  I also add Amazing Grass green powder if I have it, which has two full servings of vegetables per scoop.  Hidden in the smoothie, the boys can't taste it.  

    I made extra one day and froze it into popsicle molds.  The boys thought this was the best treat ever!

    Hmmm...maybe I should do a cost breakdown and comparison for homemade smoothies for a Grocery Savings post...

    Upstairs in the loft, I started a few craft projects, but didn't get any finished enough for pictures.  I did get some tidying done up there, which will make completing those projects much easier and enjoyable.  I also got caught up on my ironing, finally.

    I did more deep cleaning in my bedroom, too.  I got rid of the clutter piles that had built up, dusted the rest of the furniture, washed the walls and baseboards, and laundered the bedspread.  One good thing about this heat is that my bedspread dried on the line in no time!

    Everything looks and smells so nice and fresh.  My bedroom feels like a restful retreat again.

    This cabinet holds our bedroom blankets and linens: 

    The frame on top holds a sign that my friend hand-lettered for me.  It says:

"Let the wife make the husband glad to come home and let him make her sorry to see him leave." 

- Martin Luther

    The wooden box was made by Colton's great-grandfather, and the vase belonged to his grandmother.  The vase holds dried baby's breath from a friend's wedding.  The hat, clock, and doily were thrifted.  The vast majority of décor in my home- if not all- has been acquired very inexpensively.

    There are still a few more things I'd like to do in my room, but it is mostly done.  I want to implement the Fly Lady system again, as it worked well for me when I did it before.  Colton starts back at his school nurse job on Tuesday, and John will be starting homeschool in September, so getting a good routine down is going to be crucial for keeping everything running smoothly.  

    I will be taking the week off from blogging as we adjust to our new schedules, but I will be back again on Friday!  I am also going to continue Thrifty Thursday and my Grocery Savings series on Mondays, but they will be on alternating weeks.  I have a few extra posts planned, so this will allow me to squeeze those in, as well.  I do love sharing in this space and appreciate you taking the time to read what I have written.

    I hope you have a wonderful week to come.  Happy homemaking, ladies!