Thriving In My Thrifty Week–Sept. 15, 2018

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Last weekend, while we had the camper out, some friends dropped a trailer of wood by.  It was chopped, split, and dry.  We are so thankful and grateful.  I’ve been stacking it in the back shed several times this week, but am not quite done because there’s a lot.  Isn’t that wonderful?    When we got home, Rob backed the camper up as much as he could, but will probably need to hitch it up and back it in a little more once the wood is out of the way.

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The canning continued.  I did more tomatoes, pickles, plum sauce, salsa, and froze my unexpected crop of green beans.  I think they ended up yielding around 6-8 pints–tons for bushes that were supposed to be done!  When I did the salsa, I didn’t quite have enough tomatoes for the entire batch, but too many for a 1/2 batch.  So, I added about 5 cups of chocolate cherry tomatoes from the garden, and it worked beautifully.  It has just the right amount of zip, which makes me happy.  It varies so much from the peppers you use.   I’ve been getting a few raspberries every couple of days and have been freezing them as well.

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I gratefully accepted tomatoes from both my sister and aunt.  All the dribbles and dabs are starting to add up to the 50 pint goal I have.  I’m over 1/2 way there now, and I just picked a large bowlful yesterday evening from my garden, and Rob picked a few from my aunt’s.  Thankfully, they hold for a few days after picking them.  I also picked Italian prunes (plums) from my sister’s house for the plum sauce and she gave me apples and pears for eating while I was there.  I have now robbed all the peppers that were ripe in her garden, and almost all from mine.  I’m glad things are getting used.

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I pulled up more carrots. They sure got huge this year.  There is about 2-3 feet of row left to pull, and then we will have eaten them all.  I put them in the crock pot with a roast and some potatoes this time.  We’ve had that twice this week so far.  It is so good–reminds me of my childhood where we had roast almost every Sunday after church.  I also cooked some chicken, we opened some of the soup I canned, plus there was one jar that did not seal from the chicken-rice soup I canned this week.

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I have not bought very many groceries for several weeks now.  Today, I made up for it.  I found wonderful sales for Tillamook cheese for $4.99/loaf–must buy 3 (are you kidding?  Thrilled that I could have 3!!!). Eggs for 96c/dozen, cereal for 99c/box, grapes for 96c/lb, several free items like French bread, a lentil pasta kit, some random drinks, a snack bar, and then many, many assorted items I had ran out of or just wanted because they were good deals and we would eat them, such as refried beans for $1/can for really busy nights when I run out of my home-made stash, a little sugar, some brown sugar–mundane, everyday items.  I used a $5 off $50 coupon at Safeway.

People have given us bottles and we drink beverages. Here in Oregon, bottle deposit is 10c/can or bottle.  Over time, we have taken the empty bottles and cans to Bottle Drop and had the money put onto my card.  For the first time, I used my Bottle Drop card in a store.  They have a program where they give you 20% extra at certain stores.  So, I redeemed $50 worth, and got to spend $60.   That was $10 in absolutely free groceries and the $50 felt free, although it wasn’t, as you pay bottle deposit on most beverages you buy, even water, here in Oregon.

These 2 stores (Fred Meyers and Safeway) were my goal for today.  We did Grocery Outlet a few days ago for the few things they had there that we use.  I also did Natural Grocers for a couple of things I needed from there.  But today was the big shopping trip.   I loaded coupons onto my store cards.  I took coupons from the displays when available while shopping.  I loaded Ibotta rebates onto that app. I matched the store coupons to the Ibotta rebates to find items that were very low cost and some were even free.  Then, after shopping, I submitted the receipts to Ibotta, gaining around $17 in rebates and bonuses.  So, today, I paid around $140 for what the receipts say was over $300 in groceries and will have around $17 coming back when I cash out that app.   (Of course, $50 was for returned bottles, but I’m still very pleased.) It did take a long time to do all that, but now I’m set again for most items for quite a while, I think.

We cooked for the college aged kids at church on Tuesday.  We were way, way below the set budget because we made tamale pie and used dried beans that I cooked and froze for this reason ahead of time.  I used our garden cucumbers and cherry tomatoes on salad made from purchased lettuce.  I got another bunch of zucchini, so made a squash/onion medley, which surprisingly got eaten up.   I made a fruit crisp and Rice Krispie treats for dessert. (I only did both because I was using up some frozen fruit that needed to be used and thought I needed more dessert, which I actually did not, but you never know)

We had 6 doctors’ appointments between Rob, myself and Patsy.  We made it to all of them on time, and the insurance covered them, which is a huge blessing to us.  While I was at mine, I got my flu shot and found out that my blood sugars were in a better place than they have been for quite a long while.  I’ve been working hard at it, and can always do better, but was very encouraged by that news.

I did exercise class twice, using our membership at the YMCA.

I bought some items for Patsy that were sorely needed at a sale at Macy’s and saved a large amount from regular prices.  I got myself a few things as well, using a gift card from my birthday.  And, no, we will not be modeling some of these items or showing pictures of them, but, we are still very happy to have them for such a low price.  To get a certain discount, I had to use my Macy’s card, which I promptly paid off then and there to make sure we did not end up with a bill we don’t need right now.

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Pickled Peppers in the Pantry Are Not a Necessity–But I Canned Some Anyway!

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Every few years, I can just a few jars of pickled jalapeño peppers.  I have some teeny, tiny jars I use for this purpose.  Today, I went up to my sister’s house and picked her jalapeño peppers, since the pathetic crop I got has mostly been used when I made salsa the other day.  Last time, the directions were simple.  Put peppers in jars.  Cover with vinegar.  Can.  The recipe I found this year was a little more complicated, as in mix vinegar, water and salt, pour over, can for 10 minutes in a hot water bath canner.  It still was mostly vinegar.  When I use them, it doesn’t seem to matter that they’ve been canned in vinegar.  I just fish out the peppers and add them to whatever I want to spice up.

I only use them for a few things, so these 8 jars will easily be enough for the year.  In the past, I have added one small jar to a large pot of chili that needed a little zip.  Another time, I’ve used them to heat up salsa if I was making a small batch.  Another thing I do is to add one small jar to a large pot of beans when I’m making refried beans, especially if I’m out of peppers I have frozen or in a big hurry.  There have been a few other things that escape me that I’ve done with them.

I’m happy and thankful that my sister shared, as this was the year I ran out after not doing it for a year or two.  Some years, the jalapeños are so loaded.  Not this year for either one of us.  It was great to get a few to spice up our winter!

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I added both Serranos and Jalepenos to the pickles I made this morning, along with some red pepper flakes.  They ought to be spicy and zippy!  This batch has the most peppers in it than any I have made so far.  Every time I think those cucumbers are done, they give me a few more.

The beans also surprised me by giving me quite a few yellow and green beans.  They were supposed to be done, but I didn’t get the vines pulled, and they re-bloomed, and the rest is history.  I froze them tonight.

Tomorrow, we have several doctor’s appointments.  Before and after those, I have some tomatoes I need to deal with.  My sister sent a bunch home, and I have those I picked a couple of days ago.  I’m still not where I want to be with tomatoes, so I’m delighted to have them.  I don’t think I’ll grow the San Marzano Gigantic-a again, though.  They are late to ripen, and are cracking and molding easily with this little bit of rain we have had. Maybe they will taste so good it will be worth it, but I’m not sure.  I’ll decide next winter:). In the meanwhile, there are those, some Willamettes and some Glaciers still chugging along, and I’m getting a bowlful every few days.  When I add contributions from my aunt and sister, I think I’ll soon be where I want to be.  When you think that there are 52 weeks in a year, and I use tomatoes at least once a week in cooking, often more if you count salsa and other products I make, well, you see what is motivating me to keep scrounging them up!

Thriving in My Thrifty Week–September 9, 2018

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Down at the coast again–crazy, I know!  We took one last quick trip camping at the beach this weekend.  We were fortunate enough that Lovana had the ability to get time off and go along, so we took her down there.  She hasn’t been able to go at all this summer until now.  It was a whirlwind trip, and we are back home already.  Because I knew we were going again, I was able to leave a lot of things in the fridge of the camper last week. I left clothing enough in there for this time, and things like my embroidery were also just left in there.  After we returned this afternoon, we really cleaned it out of perishable things and things I would want.  I’m also going to wash some bedding, and actually got in the bunkhouse where the girls sleep while we were down there, and cleaned out a lot of cluttery things and wiped off the window ledges, etc.  That’s not necessarily frugal, but it counts as a feel-good moment, for sure:)

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We went clamming in Yaquina Bay, where Patsy skunked me–getting 11 clams while I only got 5, and mine were smaller:). We just cleaned and froze them, and another meal of clam chowder is on the horizon in the future.  Rob went down with us, and he did get one.  It was a different kind, and he dug for it in a different area while we were raking for ours out further.

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Before we left on Friday afternoon, we had a busy, productive week.  Patsy started school, and Rob and I worked many, many hours with the kids, as they are now on vacation and we will not work with them this week at all.  We got the chore routine going, by having the kids do them several days this week.  Rob took Michaela to her volunteering.  I took her to the zoo on Jake’s first day of school.  She had so much fun.  We went to the tigers 3 times, some other things twice, and skipped several animals entirely.  A cheetah decided to sit down by the viewing window, and Michaela sat there for at least 15-20 minutes, just enjoying the big cat.  I took food with us, and we re-filled the 2 water bottles purchased at the zoo in years past.  If you take the time to wash them and bring them back, they will re-fill them with soda for $1.   We also got one order of fries for us girls to share. (J went with us.). I used our zoo pass for admission.  It was a frugal, fun day.  It was so nice to have a relaxing day after all the canning I had been doing before and after watching the kids.

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I pre-cooked and prepared some of our food for camping so it would be easy while we were there.  I made it super easy, and just used the jarred sauce and didn’t even add meat this time.  We used up parmesan cheese packets that I’d had in a ziplock for ages.  They were from when the older girls ordered pizza at some point.  Lovana took us out to lunch yesterday.  It was a nice treat, and we ate the food I took the rest of the time.

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Before my sister’s family went on vacation, I was over there working with the kids.  My brother-in-law kindly offered me all the rest of the perishable food that would go bad while they were gone.  I got 2 sad bananas and made banana-coconut bread for the trip.  There was cilantro and 2 halves of white onion, so I added garden tomatoes and peppers and made Pico de Gallo.  There were corn chips in the camper, so we ate it with them.  There were some limes, so I juiced them out and froze the juice in tiny containers for when I have a recipe that calls for them, after I used what I needed for the Pico.  Rob saved them a fortune by taking them to the airport and he will pick them up.  Parking is quite expensive up at the airport.

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Rob made stuffed zucchini one night for dinner.  It was great, and a welcome meal after coming home from work.  The zucchini has slowed down to a nice level of production, and we enjoy having it in more moderate quantities.

My aunt passed a few tomatoes on to me, and I got 5 more pints with what I had on hand from my garden, plus hers.  I hope to get another small batch of pints this week, as well.  Little by little, I’m coming to the end of the canning season.  I still have a few more things I want to make, though, like salsa, salsa verde from the remaining green tomatoes once the season is over, maybe taco sauce if I can find a good recipe, some dried herbs, etc.   My focus is still on using the fresh items as much as possible while they are available, but we have started popping open a few jars.  That’s what they are for, and I’m glad to have them.

How did your week go?  Did you have any “feel-good” cleaning moments or save money in a creative way?

 

Thriving in My Thrifty Week–September 2, 2018

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This is one of my favorite times of the year.  The canning cupboard is getting full, the garden is winding down but still producing, and the weather is cooling down.  There is still more preserving to do, but a lot has been accomplished.  It won’t be long until I turn my energy to other projects, like cleaning!  There are some areas in the house that have been neglected, for sure:)

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We spent a few deliciously cool days down at the beach, camping.  While we were there we went crabbing, clamming and fishing.  Since we already had our licenses, were able to camp for free using our park pass, and took our food with us, we spent very little extra money.  It was very restful, which is good, because we hit the ground running once we returned home.

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We purchased albacore tuna from off the docks and canned it once we got home.  We got 40 assorted jars, mostly 1/2 pints.  We caught both crab and clams.  I made clam chowder, ate crab, and froze the rest.  There is just a little bit of each in the freezer, and I need to use them quickly, as they don’ t last very long.

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Before we left, I picked peaches at my sister’s and she gave me some pears.  I put them in the drawers in the fridge, and they lasted just fine until I got home.

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I bought grapes for 99c/lb at the beach and brought them home, since they would have been off that great sale price once I got back.  Marachino cherries were purchased before we left, in a big container at Cash and Carry.  They are much more reasonable that way.   I was all set to make fruit cocktail once I got home.  I also made crushed tomatoes from the ones that had ripened while I was away.

Not long ago, my rickety pear tree in the back yard just fell over one Sunday afternoon.   I was able to pick a few now-ripened pears from it where it lay, and use them in the fruit cocktail.  I cut a bunch of branches off, and will put them in the weed bin once it has been emptied.  It is full now.  The tree is being removed little by little, and then Rob will chain-saw up the trunk for firewood. Ironically, we have not harvested good pears from that old tree until now:)

I also got one load of beef broth canned.  There were two packages of soup bones in the freezer that I wanted to put into a more usable form.  I still have some broth and all the bits of meat to deal with in the next couple of days.  In the next couple of months, our beef farmer will be calling to let us know that our 1/4 beef is ready.  We need to make room in the freezer for that over the next few weeks.

We watched several library movies and I read 2 books I had downloaded for free onto my Kindle before I left for camping.  Once home again, Rob took Jake to the library to pick up some books that were on hold and also took him to garage sales while I canned.  In the afternoon, since I was pretty tired from canning, I read several chapters to Jake of a much anticipated book, since it had arrived at the library!

Jake did not go camping this time, as his big sister took him to Disneyland.  Yes.  Really.  She did.  They had a blast and he arrived at my house yesterday looking like a character from Star Wars–a starfighter in full regalia.  He was so cute, but not in a mood for pictures, so I respected his decision, as hard as it was!

I grabbed a few more school supplies at rock-bottom prices, once I realized I needed a few more of certain items.

I did not have time to grocery shop on Friday, as I normally do, and I did not get time yesterday, either.  I will hang on to the weekly money for later in this week, or save it.  We have plenty to eat for now.

What did you do to save money this week?

 

What Did We Eat? August 31, 2018

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We had a wonderful get-away camping at the beach.  Other than one sandwich Patsy and I grabbed at Subway, we cooked all our meals in the camper.  We tried to keep things easy, except for a few special meals.

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One morning, Patsy and I went down to the bay and we were able to get these Cockle clams.  I turned them into the clam chowder pictured above.  We have enough frozen for one more batch in the near future.  It was our first time hunting for these kind of clams, and I got some extremely helpful advice from a man down on the beach, who showed us how to get them.  You are supposed to rake them, but we did not have a rake, so we scraped our shovel along the sand, and Patsy was even raking through the wet sand with her fingers, and we found over 20 between the two of us.  They seem to be found more frequently in places where the seaweed has been deposited by the tide.

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We went crabbing off the docks in Newport twice.  Thankfully, we found great parking spots that were very near the dock, and didn’t have to carry our gear very far.  The first day, we got these two and the second time we got one Dungeness and kept a couple of Red Rock Crabs just to give us a little more meat.  I had crab salad and just plain crab, and froze 2 small packages for the near future.  Rob fished off the docks while we waited for him to pull up the traps, but caught nothing.

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We did foil dinners in the fire one night.  The meat, carrots and potatoes turned out great.  The zucchini turned into mush.  I threw it away.  There were no takers for that one.  I had picked every single tiny one before we left, hoping that they would not take over while we were gone.

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The acorn squash turned out great!

The rest of the meals were salads, lunchmeat and cheese, corn from our garden, lots and lots of tomatoes and cherry tomatoes, and hamburgers one night for dinner.  Breakfasts were eggs, sausage one day, cereal, and fruit.  Most days, we threw some food into our little cooler and just ate out of that wherever we were when lunchtime came–dock, jetty, etc.

We had a great time, and ended up the week by purchasing tuna off the docks to can,    It was an unusual menu compared to what we more commonly have at this time of year, but I love seafood and will remember for other times when we can’t catch anything.  .

 

 

Thriving in My Thrifty Week–August 25, 2018

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I finished up all the applesauce, using apples from the tree in the back yard.  I canned or froze all the peaches I had picked.  Every few days, I canned a few more jars of pickles, as the cucumbers got ready. I put a little jalapeño pepper in each jar, to make them a little spicy.  Yum!  I got a few jars of tomatoes canned, as well.

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Patsy and Rob had a wonderful time with friends, over in Eastern Oregon, rock hunting.  Rob was able to drive up to places he wanted to be so he could manage without much walking, a necessity these days.  They found obsidian and thunder eggs.  They camped, using the park pass.  Our friends’ boys went fishing, but didn’t catch anything.  Still, everyone had fun.  Before they left, they tore the van apart and fixed something that needed fixing, and were on their way for a fun weekend.  I stayed home and canned.

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Patsy finished up her sunbonnet.  She has had this project in progress for a long time, and decided to do some sewing this week.  I am very happy that she is showing some interest in improving her sewing skills again.

We both worked on some embroidery.  Rob went to Walmart and got some more flour sack dish towels, which I stamped with new patterns to embroider.  The towels are in a big bundle and cost around $8 for 10 towels.  I like using those because they dry dishes very well, are inexpensive, and are easy to embroider because they are not thick.  I am starting to gear up for gift giving.  I love giving towels as gifts because they are something everyone can use, even a person who seems to have everything they need already, and I can put a personal touch on the gift.

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The campers ate well while they were gone–both families took food–the food from their planned list plus more, so there was lots left over.  Rob brought home several things, and we used them in meals for a few days.  We are eating garden produce daily.  Some days our meals are predominately veggies, since we have so many right now.  We have had zucchini (which is slowing down at last), lemon cucumbers, regular cucumbers, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes,  corn on the cob, lettuce, snow peas, green beans, onions,  various peppers, green onions, potatoes, and fruit such as strawberries and apples.  I have picked peaches from my sister’s and she has given me some pears someone gave her.

I did some major grocery shopping at last, starting at Fred Meyers.   I got on-sale items such as a watermelon for $3.99.  I got some broth for 69c/carton from the Whoo-Hoo rack, but otherwise found nothing there that I could use.  While there, I did check the clearance clothing, which was 50% off the lowest clearance price, and grabbed Patsy a sundress that she will be able to wear as a jumper.  I then grabbed a $6 white t-shirt for her to wear with it.  A hoodie I bought did not fit her, so Rob returned it yesterday.  He also got back $6 they had erroneously charged me for a second t-shirt (I only got 1, but they charged me for 2).  When I pair the jeans Rob found at a thrift store, and the new items we have been getting here and there, I think she is in pretty good shape to start school.  I never buy a whole new wardrobe for school, but she will have a few new tops and a couple of new dresses to wear.  Then, I will look for bargains throughout the year. I bought school supplies, as well, and hopefully got enough for the whole year at these rock-bottom prices.  I got my free Friday gum and a few other sale items, and then moved over to Safeway, where I used a $5 off $50 coupon.

I got some chicken for 88c/lb.  I got some free pureed fruit ( not realizing it was baby food—-free being the reason I got it) and froze it for smoothies.  There was also a free bottle of kombucha I was able to get for Rob.  It is an acquired taste, and I haven’t acquired it, but he does like it and wants the health benefits that come with it.  One of the $5 Friday items was Bandon cheese, so I got 2 loaves.  Bandon is owned by Tillamook, so is similar and is SO good!  I got the shrimp that was $5/lb as well.  The rest was just basic, everyday food that I needed for meals.  It was nice to be able to focus on buying protein, knowing I had all the veggies I could possible need for the week.  I’m still hanging in there with a lowered grocery budget, knowing that sooner or later I will need to do a Costco run.   I used Ibotta for a few of the groceries, and qualified for a $3 bonus.

It’s nice to know the canning is winding down.  I love doing it, but have been spending quite a bit of time at it.  There will be more tomato products to can, still, but they are not all ripe, yet.  I have peaches and pears that I want to make fruit cocktail from later in the week.  I have many other projects in mind that I want to work on when I have a bit of a break from the food processing.  There’s never a dull moment around here!

 

 

Thriving in My Thrifty Week–August 19, 2018

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I was planning to take a nap this afternoon.  Instead, I canned Improved Elberta peaches.  They were picked only yesterday, but I checked on them after church out of habit, and was amazed that some of them needed to be processed!  I decided to do slices this year.  I still have some jars with halves left over, and slicing these will make people think they are getting something different:) :). I also froze a couple more trays of the Veteran peaches.

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I made a peach crisp with the blanched peaches that I did not need to fill my jars.

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I made chicken soup and broccoli cheddar soup this week.  We mainly ate soup this week, along with leftovers.  I cooked a chicken, too, and we filled in with hot dogs and sandwiches along with many garden vegetables.

I was very busy with food preservation and also spending time with a family member who was in the hospital.   Rob ended up doing most of the work hours this week, and Michaela’s dad took her to her events this week so us girls would be more available.  We all took turns going down there to spend time, and were delighted when the issue was resolved with a good outcome and the patient went home.   I will say the fact that the hospital was only about 10-15 minutes from my home helped a lot.  They sure treat people well there–one different thing from times past is that meals can be ordered at any time according to when the patient wants it.  The nurses were very attentive, so attentive in fact, that they did things like weigh the patient in the middle of the night, give a bath at 11 pm, and other crazy things!  Yikes.  Good thing they finally did what needed to be done and sent the patient home so they could actually get some rest!  Seriously, we are very thankful for the good care that was received.

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We did take Jake and Patsy down to the beach Wednesday afternoon, as had been promised before the other situation arose. I made it as easy on myself as possible as my week was so busy.  We took them to a place where a tiny river went into the sea so it was safe for them to play.   They dug in the sand for hours.   The “boy team” of sand castle builders made an amazing sandcastle.

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This was definitely the winner of the boys!

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Here is the winner of the girl team–a sand volcano.

The winner of the boys and the winner of the girls both got to go to Dairy Queen.  The fighting was pretty bad until they finally caught on that they BOTH were going to be the winners!  Silly kids.  I’m still laughing.  Rob and I grabbed a fresh shrimp cocktail from a seafood shop near Dairy Queen. It was so good!

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Because I was at the hospital during the morning before we went, I didn’t gather anything from home except the sand toys, books to read in the car and Rob grabbed extra Jake clothes.  Upon arriving at the beach town,  Jake and I ran into a little market and grabbed the cheapest loaf of bread they had for the sea gulls after he mentioned how much he was looking forward to feeding them.  He loved the store for whatever reason, and even told the cashier how much he loved the store.  She was surprised, but pleased at his fervent enthusiasm!  It might have been the fact that we bought Bugles and candy along with the bread….hmmmm…

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After about 3-1/2 hours of digging, I had a willing volunteer to wash off the sand toys.  We got him changed and went to another rest area, in search of a bathroom with soap in it.  He decided to wash out his cup at the second place in one of those outdoor foot washers, and soaked his pants again as he was standing in front of the faucet.  So, we got him changed yet again. Of course, there was the Dairy Queen visit, as well.  It was getting late, so we just took him home and kept him for the night as Rob needed to take him to the library summer reading party the next morning while I went down to the hospital some more.

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He loved the free party–his prize for all the reading we’ve done all summer.  He also received a free book.  Patsy helped Rob corral him.  It was super crowded again, and he had fun for a while before the crowds overwhelmed him.   Then they went home.

Rob and Patsy took off for a weekend away rock hunting, camping and fishing with one of Rob’s best friends.  I stayed home to get a few things done, mostly food preservation.  Now is the time of year to get that done.

My sister gave me peaches, corn, tomatoes and a handful of green beans from her garden and orchard.  I got several veggies from my garden, as well.  I used some apples from our tree to make 7 quarts of applesauce.  I love that I got free apples from my own backyard.  The tree did basically nothing last year, so I did not expect any this year, and it was a pleasant surprise.

I ordered 4 new shirts from Macy’s on super clearance.  They came yesterday and are exactly the same style I’ve had before, so I expect they will fit well.  I got free shipping on the order, due to a promotion they were having the day I ordered.  I simply have not had time to physically shop much lately, either for groceries or clothes or anything else, saving me quite a bit this past month.

In the past 5 weeks, I’ve spent about $150 on groceries.  $60 was spent today when I realized that I had no choice but to go shopping after church if I wanted Rob to feel welcomed home after his trip.  I could have him offered nothing but peaches and tomatoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but we’ve stayed married for over 35 years for a reason:). I know better!  This next 4 weeks won’t be much worse, unless I go on a Costco run.  This is possible because the garden is producing so well, and I have a good stockpile.  I will need to restock sooner or later, though, but it’s been nice while I’m so busy to not have to shop.

Well, the weary campers have just walked in the door, so I’m going to hug them and go to bed!