Saving Money and Weekly Update–July 23, 2017

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I got a big bag of very ripe bananas for $2 at the store and had my most excellent helpers cut and bag them for the freezer.  We will make smoothies from them.  Each day that Jake stays with me I have him do one “helpful” chore and one “fun” chore.  This was definitely the fun one–he loved cutting with the knife!  Because it was a table knife, it was low-stress for me, as well.  After all, there is no wrong way to cut a banana chunk as long as it’s safe!!

I worked a lot this week.  Most of my family was gone until Thursday so I had the time to devote.  I also tried to do a few fun things with Patsy alone after Jake went home, so one evening I looked on the internet and found a blueberry patch that wasn’t far away and we went blueberry picking.  We got 4 lbs., and they were only $1/lb.  Sadly, the crop was almost gone, or we would have picked more.  I did freeze a few of them, and several baggies from our bush.  I harvested and froze a few more raspberries and some more Marion berries from our bushes.

I canned green beans.

I kept my niece and nephew all night last Sunday, and took them and Patsy to the zoo Monday, using my zoo pass.  I took food for us to eat at lunch, and clearly announced ahead of time what I was planning to buy for them (a shaved ice or a soda) and declared that if anyone wanted more, they should bring their own money.  It worked well.

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They knew they were getting a treat, and could choose which they wanted, and it took away the anxiety for them.

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As part of the summer reading program, we attended a Lego party at the library.  Jake was given a baggie of Legos to build with.  There were also tables where wheels, baseplates or specialty pieces could be procured.   After the kids finished building their creation, there was a librarian with a microphone and the child could describe what they built, and place their item in a place of honor on a table.

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He enjoyed himself.

 

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Another day, I took a stale loaf of cheap white bread, and let them feed the ducks at a park.  Imagine our surprise when some nutria showed up for their share!

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There was 1 mama and 5 or 6 babies.

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There was also a trip to a park one day.  You can’t beat the swings!  I noticed a splash pad there.  We might do that another day, when we are prepared with bathing suits.

I bought several items of clothing and shoes for the girls.  I don’t buy a ton of things at the beginning of the school year. Instead, I buy them things all year long when they need them.  It had been a long, long time since I had purchased shoes for them, so I was delighted to get the shoes they needed  off of the clearance rack, which worked out to at least 1/2 price.   Patsy got 3 tops for 1/2 off the lowest marked clearance price (gotta love Fred Meyers), and Ja’Ana got shorts and capris for around $12 each.  I was also able to get them each a p.j. set.  We are heading out for a mission trip before too long, and I wanted them to have something that was decent, matched, no holes,  fit well, etc. for the trip.  We will be sleeping in churches part of the time and at the mission compound, the restrooms are across  a courtyard, so they may be seen in these p.j.’s if they have to take a “walk” during the night.  The sale was excellent, so that helped.  I got them each a $2 pair of flip flops for showers, etc.  Rob got J a couple of skirts for the trip at Goodwill.  I still have a few things to get Patsy before school starts, but I think I’m about ready for the upcoming trip.

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The garden is full of produce.  Early this morning, I slipped outside to pick a few beans for our family Sunday dinner, which I hosted today.  Well, one “bean” let to another, and I ended up with 2-1/2 gallon ziplock bags of yellow and green beans.  I gave 1 to my sister, we ate the 1/2, and my aunt and I quickly snapped, blanched and froze the other bag for her freezer.  Rob and I got 14 pints and  2 quarts frozen Thursday, so I didn’t need them.  She ended up with several one-cup portions.  It was great to find a use for them!  I also cut lettuce and picked a few cucumbers and snow peas.

It was a very busy week, but we got a lot done, which is awesome!

 

Canning Green Beans and a Garden Update

This morning, I got up early and started picking beans.  I got SO many, just like I was hoping to.  At 9, my mom and aunt showed up to help, with Jake and Michaela in tow.  While out in the garden, I took the opportunity to pick a few cucumbers, snow peas, zucchini.  Things are coming along nicely.

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The bucket is full of beans, and the other veggies are just resting on top.  I had no time today for anything else, but tomorrow I’m going to see if there are enough cukes for a couple jars of pickles.

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My pollination issue has been resolved:)  There are probably about 15-20 zucchinis forming!

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These are Carmen peppers.  They are a sweet pepper, and are the first to turn red at my house.  I usually grow them from seed, and was delighted to find a few plants of that variety that I could buy.  They’re not ready yet, but are coming along.

Some of the seeds I planted for the late summer garden are up.  The bush peas are up, and the snow peas are just starting to poke up.  Beets are up like crazy, but the pole peas are nonexistent.  The seeds may have been too old.  I will plant a few more things after these beans are done and pulled out, like yet another row of lettuce.  The little cabbage plants are starting to take off.   Right now the garden is full.

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Before he left for camp, Rob set up this camp stove for me to use in the outside covered porch and got me a full tank of propane.  This house came with a flat-top stove, which is not recommended for canning on.  So, I’m learning to can a different way–outside, and with propane instead of electricity.  There was a lot of juggling things around, scurrying in and out of the house setting up things, and generally figuring out the new way of doing things.

My snapping crew kept snapping steadily while I washed jars, filled them, added 1/2 teaspoon salt, filled with water, put on lids and rings and began processing.  Then I put my mother on a chair in front of the canner to keep it at a steady 11 pounds of pressure.  She had to continually adjust the propane level to keep the pressure consistent for 25 minutes for quarts and 20 minutes for pints.  We always watch it the entire time.   It’s the safest way.

Michaela and Patsy helped snap and then Michaela helped Grandma by timing the length of time needed with her phone.

Aunt Janet kept snapping.  All morning long.  Jake asked to go to the Dollar Store to get the prize he had earned by doing his daily activities.  All morning long.

By lunch time, we had them all snapped and into jars.   By 1 o’clock, we had 2 loads cooked and cooling.  After a quick lunch, we all dispersed to our respective errands and I finished canning them when I got back.  From the Dollar Store.  (We also did a library activity, and some other things, so I didn’t actually finish until about 8:30 pm)

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At the end of the day, I have 21 quarts and 17 pints, all cooling on a table outside.  I’ll let them cool all night and wash and put them away tomorrow.  I am very pleased with the amount we got.  I could not have done it without all my helpers.  I’m so thankful for their help.  It was a long, satisfying day.

 

Saving Money and Weekly Update–July 16, 2017

 

IMG_4910Sometimes, part of saving money is earning money.  It was time for me to roll up my sleeves and get back to work after being on vacation for over a week.  Because Rob, Lovana and Ja’Ana went to high school church camp on Thursday, and Patsy was at camp until Friday, I had some extra time to devote to Jake.  So, I’ve worked over 8 hours for the past 5 days.  Patsy joined in when she got home. This is the two of them in front of the largest Black Cottonwood tree in the nation.  It’s at Mission Bottom State Park.

It was a good thing I had spare time, because his mom and dad had a huge job in front of them, along with my sister going to work several days.  (Brother-in-law is a college professor, so is off for the summer–but he was gone an entire day, helping transport the youth to camp, and worked on the project all day, every day).  They were told only a few days ago that the contractors were showing up Monday morning for a huge remodel they have had planned for quite some time.  It was “we are not sure when we’ll start”—then “actually, we’ll be there Monday at 8.”  So, their entire kitchen had to be emptied.  And, the family room.  And the living room.  And the dining room.  But, wait.  The garage had to be totally cleaned so that there was somewhere to put it all.  And, a little kitchen and living area set up out there for them to use during the remodel.  What a job!!!  They have been working every spare minute since they found out.  When they left my house around 3 today, they were going home to tackle it and finish it–no matter how long it takes.  I kept both Michaela and Jake for the night tonight.  We are heading for the zoo first thing in the morning.

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I’m planning another post on how I’ve kept Jake busy while helping him learn.  We’ve been working on handling money, reading, chores, and more.  We’ve done too many things to put down here right now, but one highlight was a classic car show we happened upon.  It was in a church parking lot and was entirely free.  He LOVED it!  The purple one was his favorite.

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So did Patsy.  I was so glad we stopped.

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We had a family BBQ today, here at my house.  I bought a $1, 2-litre container of seltzer water, and Patsy made lemonade from bottled lemon juice, sugar and water.  We got some Bugles for $1, and a package of Paw-shaped Cheetos for under $2 at Winco.  I made lettuce salad, since I have so much growing in the garden.  I also made garlic green beans from the beans I picked.  Others brought fruit salad, potato salad and ice cream.  I barbecued.  Yes, me.  Rob is not here.  Amazingly, it turned out!  Because I don’t barbecue, as a rule, I checked it too many times, so it took longer than usual, because I was lifting the lid too frequently.  At least nothing burned.  I did a package of drumsticks, with just Lowrie’s seasoning salt on them.  I marinated 3 chicken breasts in home-make teriyaki sauce.  Last, I bought a bag of frozen, easy-peel shrimp and made kabobs with them.  I put home-canned peach-mango salsa on them for about an hour and barbequed them for only about 5-6 minutes.  Of course, there were a few hot dogs for Michaela.  I purposely made extra and sent it home with people.  Even with all that meat and shrimp, I was well under $20 for my part.  That gives me a huge sense of satisfaction.  It tasted great, we had a great time of visiting, and we could hardly have fed 2 people at a restaurant for what I spent.

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Although we were celebrating birthdays, we decided to keep it simple and not have cake.  We enjoyed ice cream, a true summer treat.  Since lots of the family members are away right now, it was a smaller-than-usual crowd, but we had a really nice time visiting.

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My mom liked her gift.  We all went together on it to get her what she wanted.  (It’s an overnight bag).

I harvested some green beans from the garden.  I had hoped to can on Saturday, but there weren’t enough ready.  We have it planned for Tuesday.  My mom and aunt, Michaela, Jake, Patsy and myself can all be here Tuesday morning.  It’s  a tradition in our family to have bean-snapping parties.  I can remember many times in my childhood with my grandmas, sisters, my children, and myself all snapping and canning like crazy all day long.  It is always more fun to do big jobs together.  I will not have enough ripe beans for an all-day party, neither do I have a family large enough to eat that many beans anymore.  So, I planted fewer beans than I used to.  We should still have lots of fun.

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I also harvested and used zucchini, cilantro, green onions, lettuce, broccoli (or should I say Lovana ate it–oh wait, I got about 6 tiny flowerets–she ate the rest–I’m talking all the broccoli from 5 bushes)  That’s getting to be a family joke.  I really don’t mind.  I mean, come on, the girl’s eating veggies!  I got a few snow peas, too, from the new planting that’s just starting.  A few of the new seeds I recently planted are popping up now.  I hoed and weeded in the garden.

We have been going to the summer reading programs at the library.  So far, we’ve checked out books, gone to the movie “Sing,” watched a juggler, and received several prizes including a ticket for ice cream, a Trail Blazer game, a fair ticket, a ticket for a free book at the party at the end of the program, a bookmark, and a child’s meal at Izzy’s with purchase of an adult meal.  Both Patsy and Jake have also received tickets for their efforts and may win another prize, but also may not–there are a few raffled prizes available.

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He got to “plant” a flower for his efforts in the summer reading program.  I hope your week went as well as mine did!

 

 

Gluten-Free Cashew Chicken

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I found the recipe for cashew chicken that I promised to post.  I made it for dinner tonight and remembered why I loved it so much.  So, here’s to Jeannie–cashew chicken over rice

I started with a recipe from Taste of Home, and have changed it up over the years.  Here’s what I did today.  This recipe is very flexible.

Mix:  2 cups chicken or turkey broth

1/4 cup cornstarch

3 Tablespoons gluten-free soy sauce (we buy it by the gallon at Cash and Carry)

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Stir those ingredients together, and set aside.  This is the sauce that gives the stir-fry a great flavor.  Stir it one more time right before pouring it over the veggie/meat mixture.

Cut up vegetables and chicken and put into bowls, piles on a cutting board, whatever you want.  It just works better to have it all cut up before you start.  You can vary the veggies according to what you can grow, or get on sale.  Today I used:

2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into very small pieces (Mine were diced into about 1/4-1/3 inch pieces)

1/2 medium onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

Celery sliced thinnly (today it was the center of a stalk that needed used, other times I might  use 2-3 sticks)

4 large mushrooms

1 cup snow peas ( I would have liked 2 cups in there, but that’s what I had today)

1 bunch broccoli, cut into flowerets (it was 1 medium-sized bunch)  I also cut the stem into small pieces and added that in.

2 cloves garlic, minced

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I put a small bit of oil into a frying pan and cooked the chicken and onion for about 4-5 minutes, until the chicken was looking almost done.  Then, I added a little more liquid (some of the mix I made above, or plain broth.  If you use the mix, take from the top so you don’t get any cornstarch at this point.)  Then, I added the veggies in the order of hardest first, and softest (or anything that needed to stay crisper)last.  So, today I had carrots, celery, broccoli, mushrooms, snow peas and minced garlic.  If you have a different assortment, it will work.  Others I like in there are zucchini and summer squash, peas, and bean sprouts, to name a few.  The sauce is very important and it gives any veggies that great flavor.   I let it cook for a bit, stirring often.   After the veggies were crisp, but getting tender, I poured in the mixture.  I continued cooking and frequently stirring until the mixture thickened.  I did not let the veggies get very soft, just crisp-tender, because that is how my family likes them.

I made white rice to go with this, and it sopped up the marvelous sauce nicely.  I sprinkled some cashews on top of each portion after it was plated.  This would have been enough for 4 normal people, but 3 of us very hungry people ate it all.  It would be easy to stretch this, by adding more veggies.  It is tasty and healthy.

 

 

 

 

 

Saving Money–Weekly Update–July 9, 2017

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This week, we enjoyed a brief visit from our niece, Rachel, who has been in Ireland for several months.  She headed back yesterday, and made it safely.  We will miss her (again) but are so happy she gets this opportunity.  She is on a YWAM (Youth With a Mission) base in Ireland, doing an Arts and Media track.  During her time there, she did many things including training, traveling to SE Asia with her group and, among other things, helped make a video for a donut shop, and did a peace walk along the border of Ireland.  The walk was over 200 miles long.  It was very interesting to hear of her adventures.  I don’t even begin to pretend to know all the things she did–our time was too short.  But, we did have a lovely family barbecue in her honor.  It was so much nicer to eat here at our house, vs. a restaurant.  There was so much more time to talk.  Rob barbecued both chicken and steak.  People brought things to share.  Yum!

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One of my orchids bloomed.  The bloom is small, but beautiful.  I have another one that looks like it may bloom in time, as well.

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Patsy made a bouquet to liven up our outdoor living area for the barbecue.  Our flowers are blooming well in the flowerbeds and the garden is growing madly.  We have tried to trim off the spent blooms to keep the blossoms coming.  We are also watering frequently because it’s been pretty warm.  Thankfully, we have a well for watering, so it doesn’t cost much.

I have cooked many things this week.  I made lasagna, chicken soup, tacos, barbecued chicken and steak, and lots and lots of salad.  I froze a lasagna for later, and also individual servings of both the lasagna and soup for both Rob and I next week.  We had lasagna one day, and tacos another day, then had the leftovers of both today after church.    I cut up a cauliflower and a lot of carrots to make it easy to cook them at mealtime.  I am thinking I will do that more in the fall when I’m working a lot into the evenings because it made it so easy.  I made the sauce for the lasagna from home-canned tomato products, frozen hamburger and a bunch of Swiss Chard I picked from the garden.  I had Patsy make apple crisp from some home-canned apple pie filling.  I am still working on using the remaining items that I have in my canning cupboard.

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Rob is taking the camper to help with high school camp, starting on Thursday.  I will be home because Patsy goes to camp tomorrow and returns Friday.  So, I want him to have a couple of small things frozen in the camper that he can just warm up if it’s not convenient for him to go over for the evening meal on any evening.  He has to park about 2-3 blocks away from the group, because that’s where the camper can be hooked up with electricity, water and sewer.  This is adventure camp, and the kids will be rafting, rock climbing, and more.  He will be transporting them to the top of the rafting course, and picking them up at the bottom and things like that.  He will also be helping in the kitchen as needed.  He will NOT be suffering in his air-conditioned camper or in his own camper bed, at night, as the teens will be camping in a school field in tents.  In fact, he is taking his fishing pole, and hopes to fish a bit while taking the kids their lunches, etc., or after he drops them off, or when he picks them up…….or all of the above;)

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The garden is producing a lot of lettuce and we are trying to eat it most days.  We have used both of the zucchini the bushes have produced.  There are lots of little ones forming, but I am having some pollination issues, so some are not growing.  We are getting a little broccoli every few days.  The snow peas are done now, and I pulled the bushes.  I have a small baggie of snow peas still in the fridge, and there is another short row that is blooming so I won’t be out for long.  The green beans are making little beans–it will only be a few days now until I eat some.  I will also can a lot soon. The 3 tiny tomatoes were eaten with tacos today.  I was able to plant more seeds in all of the blank spots that opened up when I pulled out the peas and bolting lettuce.  I figure that anything that can get ripe in 8 weeks will be ready in mid-September.

I’ve been able to take the opportunity this week to get a few things done that were hanging over my head.  I am now done grading and scoring all of the home-shool work from the past year.  I turn the grades in on Tuesday, and the girls will take a test.  Then, I will be able to get busy planning next year’s work.  I’ve done a lot of yard work and weeding in the garden.  We mowed the lawn. (It was a group effort.  Patsy and I took turns pushing the lawn mower on the easy parts and dumping clippings, Rob moved things out of the way, and did the tricky parts). I used the clippings to mulch the blackberries and one area in the flowerbed.  I’ve done a bit of organizing and sorting in the house, although there is much more I had hoped to do.  I may get a little more done this week, but since Jake is coming back from his family vacation tomorrow so I’ll be back to work, and the green beans are going to need to be canned before long, I will do what I can do.  I plan to take a small area each day and see if I can get it organized.  The garage is next on my list.  It’s become a dumping ground again and the food shelves have been stirred into disarray by hungry bears (I’m sure that’s who did it!)

We did quite a few more things this week, like visit Harnet, celebrate the 4th, and enjoy the garden.  How did your week go?

 

Garden Update–July 6, 2017

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I have so many green bean blooms coming on the bushes, it’s almost scary:)  I can see teeny, tiny beans forming, so I know I’ll be canning in a week or 2, and canning….and canning…..  I’m excited.  I like canning, and did not get to can last year.

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I got 2 ripe Sungold tomatoes, and 3 small Glacier Ultra Early tomatoes, but that’s it.  There are no more that look like they are even remotely ripe, but there are lots of green ones forming.  I will still buy tomatoes for a while, but the day is coming when I’ll be eating and canning those as well.

I had zucchini in a stir-fry for dinner tonight.  I’ve picked a small one and a very misshapen/half rotten one, but was able to salvage the rest.  There are lots more little ones coming along there, too.

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I’m getting a few raspberries and blueberries every few days. I have a few cups of raspberries frozen already. The Marion (black) Berries are starting to ripen.  There won’t be very many this year because we moved the entire patch last fall, but we will get a few.  I can pick wild blackberries this year.  Today, when we mowed the lawn, I took  the grass clippings and mulched the Marion Berries with them.  I’ve been able to keep them weeded out, and want them to have a good chance to get a foothold this year—-weed-free with plenty of moisture.

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I left 1`bolted cabbage.  Then, I chopped off the bolting part to experiment with it.  It started forming some tiny little heads.   I’ll see if anything comes of them.  Thankfully, my sister told me she will have cabbage to share.  I did plant 6 little plants for a crop in the fall.  Hopefully.

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We have harvested broccoli from each of the 5 plants that survived.  We’ve had it one time.  Lovana has eaten the rest.  The heads haven’t been super big.  Although it’s a lot of broccoli, it’s nice to see her eating veggies!  I still have side shoots coming along.  I’m not sure if I will try a fall crop of broccoli.  I will see how my time and energy holds out.

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I’ve been able to weed quite a bit in the flowerbeds this week.  There are still lots of weeds to pull, but it’s nice to see some progress.

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The nasturtiums have begun to bloom and I’ve cut many, many old, spent blooms off of the dahlias and roses.

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Rob put some systemic rose food and black spot deterrent on the roses, and I can see a little bit of difference in them.  They still have a long ways to go, though.  I did mulch a couple of them with grass today, and have put ashes on them as well.

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It’s been pretty hot, so we have watered a lot.  We are very thankful for the fact that there is a well here on our lot and the watering system is connected to it.  We have one of the greenest lawns on the block for that reason.  There is no way we would water so much, except for vegetables and a few flowers, if we had to pay for all that water.  It’s a real blessing.

 

 

 

 

 

A Fun, Rewarding Day

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My sister, Rosalie, and I, Patsy and Ja’Ana started yesterday off with a very pleasant breakfast with my mom.  It was her birthday.  It was also Rob’s mom’s birthday:)  It’s always been funny to us that they both have the same birthdays.  He was able to go visit her later in the day and they had a nice visit, which he enjoyed very much.

After breakfast, my mom was off to have lunch with my aunt, niece and nephew.  We all teased her that she would be rolling home for dinner last night!  Then, the girls, Rosalie and I headed up to see our friends Harnet and Danait.

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Little Danait looked so cute in the dress I sewed, and you can see the one I made for Patsy on her.  I haven’t been able to sew very much lately, and I enjoy it a lot.  It was fun for me to see how much both girls enjoyed their dresses.  Donate kept looking around for Alissa, since she knows and loves her, but had a great time with Patsy and Ja’Ana.   Ja’Ana texted Alissa and A sent a photo, which seemed to satisfy Danait.  They took her outside for a while, played with her, and kept her busy.

In the meanwhile, Harnet had cooked her wonderful food for us, and after we had lunch, we ladies had a great time visiting, and working on some paperwork that needed to be completed.  There were 3 separate (LONG) forms that needed to be completed, and several documents to be gathered.  We also had to stay at the apartment, waiting for an inspector to come inspect, and then we would be free to go gather the rest of the documents we needed.

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So, we sorted papers and mail, quizzed Harnet endlessly for the answers that needed to be filled in on the forms, wrote them in, figured out what we needed, and visited and looked at pictures in-between.  The girls kept Danait busy, which we were very grateful for.

Finally, the inspector came, tested the smoke alarms, window locks, etc., and went on his way.  It was almost 4.  We were worried that we would not have enough time to gather all that was needed, so we divided and conquered.  I took Harnet and we roared from place to place, gathering documents.  Rosalie took the girls to a splash pad at a nearby library to have fun.

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We had success!  The places we went were not busy.  Everyone treated us like queens, offering us water and cheerful smiling help.  The whole time we were laughing and giggling like girls.  I think Harnet was so relieved to be getting this important paperwork done so smoothly and was so happy that Danait was able to be having such a good time while she did the work.  She was also getting a kick out of the fact that she had made her special coffee for us, and hyped me up pretty good on it!  I was pretty tired until I drank so much:)  She thought it was pretty funny.

While we were at the library, I explained about the summer reading program and we got Danait signed up.  We were also able to make a dental appointment on a day that Rosalie and I can be there to watch the little one while mama gets her teeth cleaned.

It was one of those feel-good days for me.  I got to spend time with both family and friends.  I got to feel like I helped someone get some very important things accomplished and I had a lot of fun while doing it.  I am getting to know Harnet as a person, and I feel like we are getting to be friends.