Sunday, November 30, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments - November 24th through 30th

- I learned to make pie crusts from a friend.  That was one of the few things that I still bought because it was too intimidating.

- I took advantage of the pre-holiday sales and stocked up on canned vegetables.

- I pressure canned eight pints of chili for the first time.  It was so easy that I was able to do it while Mr. B was at work and both kids were awake.  I'll definitely do that again.

- I took the carcass from my mom's Thanksgiving turkey to make stock rather than let her throw it away.

- Since my birthday and Thanksgiving was this week, I didn't end up cooking very much at all.

- My mom bought me Christmas boxes from Joann's at 50% off as my birthday present.  We use them to give pajamas on Christmas Eve.  We had four last year, but given that we want four kids, I wanted to make sure we had six while I knew where to get them.

- We bought a humanely raised turkey after Thanksgiving for about $0.62 per pound after a $10 off deal.

- Mr. B made a beautiful wreath from the trimmings off the bottom of our Christmas tree.

- Though I rather would have gotten it from the local consignment store, we bought Miss F a Christmas dress last minute at 40% off.

- A woman I knew from college came over to take family Christmas pictures for us for a very low fee.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments - November 17th through 23rd

- While I didn't start it this week, our apple cider vinegar is about ready to use.  It has developed two really fantastic mothers, one on top and one on bottom.
- I cooked a cinderella pumpkin that has been hanging around for a month.  I saved the seeds to grow for next year, and I put it in the cold oven to dry because I didn't have counterspace, but I forgot about it and preheated the oven with them in there.  They fused to the wax paper.  Oops.

- Mr. B made a pumpkin cheesecake for us using the pumpkin puree I cooked.  It was delicious and didn't last more than two days in our house.
 - I froze 16 cups of pumpkin in 1/3 cup servings using muffin pans.  One block makes 6 doughnuts with the scaled down one egg version of this recipe from King Arthur Flour.  I made a pumpkin spice latte and one batch of doughnuts with the 1/2 cup that didn't fit in the muffin pans

- Mr. B's work gives their employees turkeys as a holiday bonus. Since we're not cooking this year and our freezer was too full for a whole bird, I cooked it a week and a half before Thanksgiving.  On an interesting note, it was a Butterball turkey, and it is American Certified Humane.  That's not the best certification, but something is better than nothing.

- We ate one leg/thigh of the turkey, then froze the other leg/thigh and all of the breast meat for later meals.

- I made two rounds of turkey stock from the carcass.  The first was combined with the dark meat package above to make a large amount of turkey soup. 

- The second round of stock was used for butternut squash soup.  This is soup I made with some of that stock for freezing.

- The last of the turkey stock was used to pressure can butternut squash.  We've never done this before, but in theory, I can reheat the jar on the stovetop, throw in some sage, onion, cayenne pepper, and salt, immersion blend it, and I'll have the same soup as above.

- I made vegetable stock with scraps I had kept in a gallon bag in the freezer.

- Mr. B made persimmon leather from some persimmons he found growing wild last week.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Big Rocks and the Art of Manliness

For the last few weeks, I've been rather distant from Mr. B.  I'm sure I could blame it on working three nights a week, or having a 3 month old, or Mr. B's work schedule (which I greatly dislike).  But I've been grumpy and distant, either way.  The other day, he was practically begging for attention.  I felt terrible for ignoring him.  We've been talking a lot lately about what makes us happy and what we do that takes up time but gives us no happiness at all.  We ended up stumbling upon this video from The Art of Manliness called Big Rocks. 

I'd always heard the story about filling a jar with rocks, and how much more you could fit in by putting the big rocks in first.  But for some reason, this video stuck with us.  We started a list of our rocks (priorities): big, gravel, sand, and water.

Big Rocks
Family Meals and Rituals
Quality Time for Me and Mr. B
Mr. B’s Work

Clean House
Time with Extended Family
Implementing Homesteading Projects

Researching Homesteading Projects

Brainstorming Homesteading Projects (i.e. randomly browsing the web for ideas)

We also decided to start waking up earlier.  In Mr. B's case, he's already up and out early.  But I wake up between 6 and 8 am, the former if I don't sleep after nursing, the latter if I go back down for some more time.  I knew but never admitted that on days I woke up at 6, I was much happier and energetic.  So I'm committing to waking up at that last early morning feeding so that I can do the things I want to do without the kids around.  If I plan for the big rocks during the bulk of the day, I can get my gravel and sand out of the way in the early morning, and I'm a much happier mama for it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Making the Most Where You Are

We realized the other day that, even if we bought a house today, we'd be here at least until February.  We're fed up.  Miss F can't go nine months with no toys.  She's been driving us (mostly me) nuts.  She has two puzzles, a bag of blocks, and about six little toy cars.  To keep herself entertained, she's been getting into trouble.  She's been hanging on Miss C's swing (many times when she's in it), climbing up on chairs to rip stuff off of our hutch, and begging to watch shows.  We don't let her watch TV other than one family movie a week, but the time that she's spent with family has clued her into Cars, Winnie the Pooh, and Sesame Street.  She begs to watch them instead of having a good time playing pretend with her kitchen or driving her Tonka truck around because she's BORED.

Rather than just cleaning up for our Sunday open house like usual - an open house at which we didn't have any attendance - we first took a new look at our basement.  It's a finished basement, and we set it up as a bedroom to stage the house to sell it.  We're giving up an entire large room in our house to make it look like a bedroom that no one lives in to sell to someone who's not even showing up to see it.  So we rearranged the things we had and ended up gaining a TON of space without even moving out the bed.  We realized we were wasting much of the space in the laundry room and half bath side of the basement.  We took Mr. B's tools and moved them over.  We freed up an entire wall of the "bedroom".  We moved the books up the bookshelf and devoted two shelves to Miss F's things.

We brought back art supplies and trains.   I think Miss F has missed trains most of all.  We'll be bringing her kitchen back soon.  By then, it'll be Christmas, and I'm sure - despite our requests to tone down the presents - her grandparents will be filling the toy gap in no time.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Homeschooling Progress

This year started out ambitiously, then I settled into a routine, and that has now devolved into barely getting anything done. 
The last group of books that I was deliberate about noting.

By this point in the year, we should be on letter L.  The last letter I remember doing both a book and a song for was H, and the last letter I read a book about with Miss F was J.  So I spent Sunday going back into the H-I-J-K group of letters, then we start again fresh with L this week.

Part of the problem was that I have to request the books we use from the library and I hadn't gotten them for one reason or another.  The other problem was that once Miss F saw one or two videos, she didn't want to get off of the computer.  That led to ugly terrible two style tantrums, which I had neither the energy nor inclination to deal with after taking care of Miss C.  But we've brought home our art supplies that had been camping out at my dad's in preparation of an "impending move" that is appearing to be less and less likely.  I plan on making a good art project with the letters we're working on now.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments - November 10th through 16th

This one's short since I haven't been keeping track so well, but I'll be keeping up starting tomorrow.

- Attended the Alpaca and Fleece festival (free admission).  We brought our own food, and we bought gloves and a hat for Miss F as a Christmas present, a hat for Mr. B, and gloves for me.

- An early snow on the 13th shocked the apple trees, so a local orchard was letting people pick your own apples for free.  We filled at least one grocery bag, and that was after it looked like people had raided the field.

- My mom has been storing a turkey that Mr. B got as a holiday bonus last year.  Since Mr. B just brought home this year's turkey, she offered to cook it for Thanksgiving and pay us for it.

- I made emergency bars with Miss F to prepare for the possibility of getting stranded in a car this winter.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Real Estate Treadmill

We've been running like crazy but getting very little accomplished. We've had no one - not one single person - come look at our house since we switched realtors. We're not the only ones, either. Our neighbors put their house on the market just before we switched agents, and they've had very few people come by.
We've dropped our price a lot, first by $4,000 and Thursday by another $5,000. We can only drop it $5,000 more before we start paying someone to take our house, which can't happen.

In the meantime, we've been looking at houses to buy. We found one that could be great. As we wrote the contract, we dreamed of pantries and using the acre and a half of land. We just found out that someone else outbid us.  This is the second contract we've lost. Not only are we unable to sell our house, we're incapable of buying one as well.

We have another open house today, and we're trying to see as many houses as possible in the month of November. I'm trying to be positive, but I'm quickly losing hope.  I feel like we've been running on a treadmill for the last six months, our legs are giving out, and we're starting to stumble.

I'm hoping to start posting more regularly again.  Don't give up on me yet.