Saturday, January 28, 2023

January Musings

    It has been a very full month.  We took the side wall off of James's crib since he started climbing in and out of it.  I remember writing about when John did the same thing.  How time flies!  Now I have two little alarm clocks that wake me in the mornings around 6:30.  I can't seem to figure out how to reprogram the time though, and there aren't any snooze buttons anywhere!  But they're cute and they make me laugh, so it's ok.

    The weather has been warm for January, so we have been enjoying time outside.  Here is Button, sure to be an internet sensation:

    He has been with us for twelve years.  Colton caught him for me when he was a wild kitten on the ranch.  He lived with us in town, and now he has come full circle back to the ranch.  He had gotten very sick recently, and Colton agreed to take him to the vet for me- proof of his love because he is not a cat person.  I am happy to report that Button has made a full recovery.  Do you see James's little boots in the background?  He is very gentle with the animals.

    We are trying to sell our little flock of five Silkies.  We bought them by mistake, not knowing what they were.  They were in the clearance bin for $1 with all of the other chicks we bought.  Because that is a steal when it comes to chicks (they are about $4 each nowadays), we brought them home.  I do think they are pretty, but the roosters are mean to my big chickens.  They have plucked all of the tail feathers out of my big rooster!  They also live in our hatching pen, and I want my hatching pen back this spring, so they just need to go.

    I am still trying to adjust to my new diet, but it hasn't been all bad.  We had some good friends give us- yes give us- some steak!  Colton selflessly cooked some of it up for me and I divided it into meal portions for myself.  I really can't complain.

    I've also been eating lots of bacon and cabbage or homemade sausage with Brussels sprouts for breakfast.

    A salad topped with salmon and a homemade Greek yogurt dressing:

    Colton could not figure out why I was adding garlic powder and salt to my yogurt.

    I cheated a couple times with gluten and sugar just to lift my spirits, as I am not allergic to those things- I just have to limit them.  I am about to start an 11 week "gut healing" program and I know both of those things will be off limits.  I start next month and I'm ready.

    Since changing my diet, I have switched from coffee to herbal tea.  I do still have a cup of decaf every now and then, but nothing like the three to four cups of caffeine I had been drinking per day.  On the morning of our twelfth anniversary earlier this month, this is what I woke up to:

    My gift was these tisane glasses, and Colton had set it all up with my tea pot and strainer and lit candles.  Isn't that romantic?  We like to watch BBC's detective series Poirot (from the 90s), and Poirot always drinks his herbal tea from glasses like these.  Now we have our own set.

    I did hit a few rough patches this month, but I found encouragement in an unlikely place.  I was looking at my planner one evening to see what the month held, and I saw the notes I had written to the side of my calendar.  In the beginning of the month, I had prayed over what to fill the blank space in with, and when I read it, I knew the Lord's hand was in it:

    ~ Be inspired by your ideals but not disappointed by reality.

    ~  Count your blessings and focus on God's goodness.

    ~  Let Jesus direct your vision and remember that you have a sacred calling.

    ~  You have many things to care for in your home, but only 3 of them have souls.  They are eternal, and you are doing eternal work.

    ~ When things get tough: run, hide, hope, trust, and cling to Jesus. He is your Rock.

    I hope these thoughts are a blessing to you, too.  What about you?  How was your January?

    I will see you on Thursday for our next Thrifty Thursday post!

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Thrifty Thursday #1 ~ Frugal Resources and Encouragement

"If you want to know how to save a dollar, just ask Kelsey."  
-My father-in-law 

    I still laugh at his statement.  I guess I have sort of built myself a reputation!  But I take it as a compliment, really.  For me, saving money and stretching what Colton works hard to bring home is my financial contribution to our household.  Ladies, it is an honor to be trusted with stewarding those hard-earned dollars!  I love the verse: 

"The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil."
- Proverbs 31:11  

    We should aspire to the same.

    Over the years, I have had a few people in my personal life come to me for money saving ideas.  The problem is that there are so many ways to save, it is hard to limit that to just one answer or conversation!  I thought I would start a series in which I compile some of my tips so that I can have a sort of resource to point people to when they ask.  I will also share the ways that I save during each week to offer up some additional ideas.  I call it "Thrifty Thursday"!

    I know there are hundreds and hundreds of resources already out there, and I am not the first one to do this type of post.  For many of you seasoned savers, these tips probably won't be anything new.  But I figure that even if two artists paint a picture of the same thing, the unique beauty and differences of each one will still leave the viewer inspired.  That is my hope.

    And that leads me to my very first Thrifty Thursday tip:

    Regularly read, listen to, and watch money saving blogs, books, and videos; visit with friends (online or in person) who are like-minded and share the same money-saving goals.

    Perhaps it is just my thrifty heart, but I have always enjoyed reading of the different ways people save.  There is always a chance to glean something new, and even when I don't, I feel encouraged to keep going in my frugal endeavors.  Being constantly inundated with advertisements and lured into comparison traps, we see much of our society spending carelessly without necessarily seeing the negative consequences, and it can be easy to sometimes feel like we are missing out.  Or we might know better but simply get lazy from time to time.  Consuming sound money-saving resources will help you stay the course, focus on your goals, and leave you feeling less alone (and crazy).

    One of my favorite frugal living books is The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn.  Not only is it full of tips, it really challenges you to change your mindset around saving and gets you to see everything through a frugal lens.  That is what really sets this book apart for me.  (Funny story: when I went to check it out from the library, I had to request for the librarian to transfer it.  I guess she wanted to make sure she heard me correctly because when I told her the title, she suddenly looked up and repeated back to me very loudly, "Did you say, 'THE TIGHTWAD GAZETTE?'" And so there I was solidifying my "tightwad" reputation in front of everyone in the public library.  Fun times.)  

    As for blogs, my favorites are The Bluebirds are Nesting on the Farm by Annabel (you can click through her current blog to find her old one as well, which is just as good- be sure to read the comments from her readers, too!); Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth by JES; and A Working Pantry by Patsi.  Each of these contain a wealth of information and encouragement for looking well to the ways of your household.

    One of my favorite YouTube channels is Frugal Fit Mom.  I have only just recently found her, but I'm pretty sure Christine and I could be real-life friends.  I love her personality and humor.  She posts videos on grocery budgeting, pantry stocking, money saving hacks, and more.

    As I find more favorites, I will come back to this post to add them in.  Do you have any resources you recommend?  Please post them in the comments so we can check them out!

    And now for the ways I saved this week:

    I used up tidbits from the pantry (no waste) as we transition towards healthier eating habits.

    I made some banana nut bread for snacks during the week using bananas that were turning brown.  That is not "healthy" per se, but it is homemade and I know and control all of the ingredients, so it passes.  The rest of the brown bananas were frozen for smoothies.

    We were away from home for a couple days visiting my mother-in-law.  Before we left, I made sure to use up or meal prep any of the produce in our refrigerator that might otherwise go bad while we were away.  I packed snacks for the road and I turned our heater off before we left the house.  The forecast didn't predict any freezing weather, so no need to heat an empty house.

    We stopped at thrift stores along the way and I found lots of goodies, mostly books!  I have a weakness for books and have always dreamed of having a home library.  I think I am well on my way.  Most only cost around $1 or $2, some even less.  

    I found several that I will use for homeschooling.  A lot of them will be for when the boys are a little older, but I try to look for educational books when I can.  My favorites are about American and Texas history, heroes of the faith, nature, and things that promote masculinity and boyhood adventure.  Some of these are coloring and activity books that John can use now:

A couple special ones:

And a few for me:

    I was very excited to find the cookbooks, as there are several recipes in each that I can make work for me.  They look good enough that I think my family will enjoy them, too.  The Road to Avonlea set is based off of the Anne of Green Gables film (I know it is a book, but it says these are based off the film).  The entire set was $3 and I couldn't pass it up, as it should be a wholesome, light read for me.  

    I almost passed this next one up, thinking it was a gardening book.  I do love gardening books, but I have enough.  I am glad I pulled it off the shelf and looked at it because it turned out to be a decorating book.  It has beautiful images:

    I found some board games that look fun for when the boys get older:

    Some clothes and board books for James:

    And a few pretty things for the home:

    There are a few books not pictured, some clothes for myself, and glass jars that I bought, as well.  The tea cups pictured above are actually part of a set that came with a tea pot, a creamer, and a sugar dish (only $6 total!).  So you can see I had good success.  I hadn't been thrifting in a long time, so it was fun to go "treasure hunting" along our travel route.  This is one way I have frugally built up and furnished my home over the years, and it is a fun tradition any time we go on a road trip.

    Since we were away from home, that is about all I have to report for this Thrifty Thursday.  I hope you will join me again next Thursday for another tip!

Monday, January 23, 2023

House Beautiful

Banana bread baked during the week, partly devoured by my family 

    It was a rough week trying to find my footing with my new dietary changes.  I spent most of it in the kitchen, and one of the things I learned is that the success of this is going to come down to planning.  My sanity and energy levels depend on it.  By the end of the week, I felt completely overwhelmed, and the rest of the housework had been all but neglected.

    Being the compassionate husband that he is and seeing my weariness, Colton offered to take the boys out for a day of fun on Saturday so that I could gather my strength and recharge from the emotional toll that the stresses of the week had taken on me.  Being the introvert that I am, I very gratefully accepted.

    So what did I do with my time?  Well, I cleaned, decluttered, and organized, of course!  It may sound strange, but doing that really helps me when I'm overwhelmed.  Bringing order to chaos, simplifying, and setting things right- this is what calms my mind.

    I set the tone with an up beat bluegrass gospel CD (does anyone else play CDs anymore?) and opened the curtains, bringing in the natural light.  I put some laundry in the wash and some sweet potatoes in the oven for meal prep, and I happily set to work.

    I tackled some of the things that haven't been working for us.  James, who just turned two last month, has learned how to open the child locks on cabinets and drawers, open his baby gates, and climb out of his crib.  He's a little Houdini, that kid!  (He can also count to 8. Time to call Mensa.)  So I moved things around where he can't get to them, and as you know, that has sort of a domino effect.

    I sorted through John's art supplies, purging some and getting the rest all organized onto shelves and into folders and bins.  He is really into art and creating things and, as it usually happens with creative spaces, things had gotten pretty messy.  He likes to keep all of his paper scraps in case he needs them for a project.  I wonder who he gets that from...

    I got out all of the toys and dust bunnies that had found their way under the china cabinet and tv armoire;  I vacuumed under the furniture cushions; I even got our family photos for this year put into my collected thrift store frames and set them on the mantle.

Thrifted frames ready to be cleaned

    Even though I enjoyed the bit of peace and quiet that being alone afforded me, as I cleaned and puttered, I felt so blessed to have a family to take care of.  All of the things I had tidied were tokens of those who lived there, signs of the life we enjoy together in our home.  Work though it is, I relish making my home a haven for my loved ones.  By the time Colton messaged me to tell me they were coming home, I was recharged and ready to welcome them.

    "Mom, you made the house look so beautiful!" John said, delighted.  

    But I know that what actually makes the house so beautiful...are the people in it.


I have a fun post planned for Thursday, so check back!

Monday, January 16, 2023

Finding the Good

    What do eggs, avocados, spinach, mushrooms, and cauliflower have in common? What about peanuts, cashews, almonds, cinnamon, and black pepper?  Turkey and chicken?  These are all the nutrient-dense, incredibly healthy foods that I have been relying on to help me manage my PCOS.  Fruits like strawberries, raspberries, and bananas in moderation became my occasional sweet treats.  

    Want to know what else all of these foods have in common?

     I'm allergic to every. single. one.

    Oh, yes.  The plot thickens.

    Despite feeling much better after changing to healthier eating habits, I was continuing to suffer what I had thought were panic attacks.  Sometimes, out of nowhere, I'd feel like passing out and then my heart would start racing dangerously fast.  It wasn't until I realized those episodes only happened after I had eaten that I suspected it might be a food allergy, but I couldn't seem to pinpoint which food was causing it, as each meal was different.  And I had eaten those foods all my life without a problem.  Maybe it was all in my mind?

    So last week I made an appointment with an allergist, and sure enough, those "panic attacks" were actually an allergic reaction.  The one that sent me to the ER last year was actually anaphylaxis!  By God's mercy, it didn't kill me.  That would explain why breakfasts like the one pictured above, followed by a cup or two of cinnamon tea, were giving me issues.

    This news was both a big relief and a huge blow.  On the one hand, I now know which foods to avoid, thus avoiding any more dangerous episodes.  On the other hand, it means that a lot of foods that had become staples in my diet (and that I had really come to enjoy) have to be eliminated completely.  This is in addition to the sugar and carbs that I have already cut due to PCOS.  So, my diet has suddenly become even more restricted. 

    Dealing with this and coming up with things to eat has been very difficult.  Besides knowing I can never safely enjoy some of my favorite foods again, there is also the social aspect of not being able to enjoy those same foods with others, having to prepare separate meals for myself and my family, and not being able to dine out or partake in a lot of foods at others' homes.  There is a lot that I will have to learn to navigate.  

    But this seems to be the way life goes, and I can either despair and collapse in a puddle of tears, or I can choose to find the good in it and get to work.  I've already done the former and it hasn't really worked, so now we try the latter.  

    There really is quite a bit of good when I stop and count my blessings:

1.  Man doesn't live by bread alone, and I am so thankful to be able to feast on the Bread of Life any time, day or night, that I need or desire.

2.  I can eat.  Period.  I have the physical ability to eat, and I have access to food- any food I might need to fit into a new dietary plan.  Many people don't have that luxury, especially these days.  My ancestors didn't even have the luxury that I have, even with my "restricted" diet!

3. I won't have any more dangerous attacks!

4.  I will be healthier and stronger and better able to care for my family.

5.  I can still delight in preparing my family's favorite foods.  Even though I can't partake in eating those foods, I still enjoy the process of cooking it and seeing my family enjoy it.  I'm thankful that physical contact with my allergens doesn't seem to cause a problem.

6.  I have a very supportive husband who is doing everything he can to help me heal and to provide my earthly needs.

7.  I don't have cancer.  When they told me last year that I might have cancer, I was willing to do anything, follow any diet, avoid any foods, do any and every exercise possible that would mean even the slightest chance of healing.  Compared to that, this is very minor.  These dietary changes will provide at least some healing, all without a cancer diagnosis.

8.  I can still eat beef, pork, and fish.  Fish is especially healthy.  

9.  I can still eat chocolate!  It has to be without sugar, but I have found that it isn't necessarily the sugar I crave any more- it's the chocolate.  I have found a bar by Lindt that is 100% cacao (no sugar), and two or three little squares of that after a meal satisfies my craving.

10.  We will get to grow much of what we eat in the garden.  This is a dream we've always had, and here's the push that will get us there. 

11.  We will save money by not eating out!

    Even though I need to make even more changes than I had originally planned this year in regards to my diet, my pantry, and my garden, it isn't all bad.  Yes, I will miss some things, but maybe I will find some new favorites.  Feeling better is going to be a new favorite, at least!

    I don't intend for this to become a health food blog (I highly recommend the cowboy cookies I have posted here!), but I think documenting my progress every once in a while is going to help motivate me.  Those posts will be geared towards pantry stocking, eating frugally, gardening, and cooking for my family- many of the things this blog already focuses on- but with a slight twist.  I hope you'll bear with me.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Planning for Spring in the Garden and How I Store My Seeds

    Between the two of us, John and I made quite a large mess of the dining room table- he with his many ongoing art projects and I with my seeds, charts, notebook, pens, and tea.  But it was a rather lovely mess, don't you think? 

    There is nothing quite like being contentedly absorbed in creative plans, surrounded by the things (and people) we find beautiful, interrupted only by the occasional, "Look, Mom.  What do you think?"

    First, I looked at my planting chart to see what needs to be done in January.  I have so many things that I want to plant, but I know I had better not get ahead of myself and just focus on this month.  I then made my list of what needs to be started now and pulled out my seeds to choose my varieties.  I will be trying some new ones this year:

    Would you care to see how I store my seeds?  I saw this idea floating around on Instagram back when I was active and I was immediately "influenced".  

    This is actually a photo storage case, meant to hold 4 x 6 photos.  Many craft stores carry them, but I ordered mine from Amazon as that was the best price at the time.  Always check sales and coupons to find the best deal.

    I labeled each small case with my Dymo labeler.

    The seed packets fit nicely inside.

    This has worked well for me so far, but truth be told, I could use a second one as I have amassed quite the seed collection.  When the seed catalog comes in and my gardening husband is just as enthusiastic as I am, we are bound to get into trouble.  I think looking at seed catalogs in the winter, or visiting the nursery on a fair spring day, is just like going to the grocery store hungry. 

    For my bulkier seeds and seeds that I have saved from my garden, I keep them in an old cookie tin.  You saw it in the first picture and thought I was cheating on my diet, didn't you? 😉

    I have seen some people store their seeds in binders with baseball card holders or in photo albums, which are also good ideas.  How do you store your seeds?  Have you been thinking about what to plant for spring?  I know that is much later for some of you, but it is still fun to dream.

Monday, January 09, 2023

A Healthier Pantry Plan {and a Deal Alert!}

    My pantry is ever evolving based on the needs of our family, and it has seen many changes over the years.  With some new health challenges that have arisen, this year it will be changing yet again.

    I have already made some changes to my diet which have helped immensely.  For me, this has to be a lifestyle change as opposed to a temporary diet, so I am taking baby steps as I learn about which foods nourish my body and which foods are harmful.  This means that what I stock in my pantry is going to look a little different from here on out, and that's ok! We've always wanted to eat healthier as a family, and this is that push that will get us there.  

    As I keep a deep pantry, I still have many of the foods that don't fit into the "healthy" category for me, but I have come up with a plan.  Right now, I am slowly working through those items and incorporating them into my menu, and as they run out, I replace them with healthier alternatives.  

    In my monthly planner, there is a spot for pantry/freezer/refrigerator inventory.  I write down the things that I need to use up (whether for health reasons or because they are nearing expiration) and I come up with my menu based on that.  Yes, it means I am still cooking some of the "off limits" foods, but I am careful to moderate how much of those things I eat.  I find that baby steps are much less overwhelming when it comes to overhauling something like this!

     At the same time, I am working through my freezers.  We have plans to renovate the room that we have our freezers in in a few months, so I am trying to make them easier to move by emptying them out a bit.

    One of the benefits of doing this is that I'm not buying much at the grocery store right now, aside from perishable things like milk and fresh fruits and vegetables and bargains if I find any.  (I'm not going to pass up a bargain, especially if my stock is dwindling!)  It's also showing me just how far the foods I have stocked will get me.  How many weeks or months worth of this or that do I have?  How much will I need to keep on hand once I find alternatives?

    I know that most of the time, healthier foods are more expensive.  This will add a new element of challenge to shopping on a budget.  But I tell myself that buying healthy food is still going to be cheaper than all those doctor bills!  I also believe that health, especially in light of all that I experienced last year, is well worth investing in.  For me, that means better food, as there is a direct link between our health and what we eat.  I've always know it, but now it's a priority (and a necessity.)

    One of the things that is going to help me will be getting the garden going.  We didn't have one last year, and I really miss it.  It hurts me to pay $7 for a bunch of kale when it is one of the easiest things for me to grow!  Woe is me if some of it goes bad in the refrigerator before I can use it!  This week I need to go through my seeds and look at my planting chart and start making my plan. 

    This is going to be a learning (and relearning) process for me.  I will share as I go in hopes that it might help someone else make some healthier changes.  Sometimes we just need a little motivation and encouragement.  Sometimes we need ideas.  If you have ever done a healthy pantry overhaul, please share any tips you have in the comments.  

     And now for the bargain alert that I have to share!  As I said, I am not really buying much at the store at this point.  That is unless I find a deal that fits into my healthier lifestyle plan.  The other day when I was at Dollar Tree, I almost didn't check the food section as I doubted I would find anything good.  But I just can't pass up an opportunity for bargain shopping for the pantry and I'm so glad I looked!  This is what I found:

    Pink Himalayan salt!  A while back, maybe a year ago, they carried this but by the time I found out about it, my Dollar Tree had sold out.  They didn't restock since it was just one of their temporary products.  But now they have it again!

    For a price comparison, I checked my local grocery store. The cheapest Himalayan pink salt they had was their store brand for .24 per ounce.  The salt at Dollar Tree comes to just a fraction of that at .08 per ounce!  (A one pound bag is $1.25.)

    I am not sure if this is at all Dollar Trees or if it was just mine, but I think it's worth a look.  Let us know if you find any where you are!

    Happy pantry building!


Saturday, January 07, 2023

New Beginnings

  Hello, dear readers.  So much has happened since my last blog post.

  This is difficult to write, as when I left off we were joyously expecting our third baby.  Sadly, we lost it shortly thereafter.  We've been heartbroken.

  To say it has been a difficult year would be an understatement. A miscarriage, two ER visits, multiple doctor appointments,  a PCOS diagnosis, and a cancer scare (which thankfully turned out to be a false alarm) made up the bulk of it.

 When we go through difficult things, we hurt and we grieve and everything seems to come to a standstill, if not all crashing down.  It is the way of things and there is a time for it.  

  But there is also a time to press on, and I am ready.  

  "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace."

- Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

  Last year knocked me down, but here I am getting back up.  It is a new year with new beginnings.  I am ready for hope and happiness and delighting in the things I enjoy.  Will you join me?


  Thank you to those of you who have checked on me and prayed for me.  Your support and kindness have meant so much.