Saving Money–Week Ending Feb. 28

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I found some zucchini in the freezer, marked ‘9.  I don’t know if it was really that old, or if I was lazy when I froze it, but it was perfectly fine.  I made a batch of brownies from an old mix I had in the pantry and stirred the drained zucchini in.  They turned out good.

The single way we saved the most money this past week was the amount of help we got from friends and family with the sorting and moving.  If we had to hire the amount of help we got, it would have cost us hundreds of dollars.  We were able to move 2 huge loads over to my brother-in-law’s.  When my husband offered the one man, who is a relative stranger to us, gas money, he declined, but agreed to take an old wood splitter Rob did not need anymore.  It needs work, but the man seems delighted.  No one else wanted anything.

I found 8 small glass bowls in the attic.  Why were they there?  What was I ever thinking?  Who knows, but I was planning to buy some for the camper.  Even at the dollar store, they would have been $8.  I also found some glass casserole dishes in the basement that I have not used for a long time.  My mom and I cleaned them all up, and I will choose what will fit into the camper, and donate the rest.  I will need more glass/casserole dishes than I use when camping, since we plan to stay in the camper for a few weeks between houses.  I have many offers from friends and family to come to their houses and cook casseroles, etc., if I want to and then just warm things up in the camper.  I may do some of that.  I also may have Rob barbecue everything outside, or give the kids sticks over the fire, when we are at a campground.  I do have a teeny, tiny oven in there and some burners, so I plan to cook a bit in there, as well.  There is a small microwave, and I prefer glass to warm things in.  I had some very old plastic bowls in there, but now I won’t.

We contacted a realtor, who was highly recommended by a friend.  We will have her out Tuesday to discuss things.  I hope that the immense amount of cleaning and sorting will meet with her satisfaction, but she will probably give us lots of tips to finish up the job.  I hope to get a higher price, obviously:)  We are wanting to get this on the market as soon as we can.  As Brandy, The Prudent Homemaker, pointed out–the sooner it sells, the sooner we can stop paying payments on it.  As the payments are very hefty, that’s what we were thinking, too.

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Piles of trash were burned, saving garbage fees.  The red car in the background has been inoperable for quite some time.  Rob and my nephew, Steven, got it going, and Steven took it home on Saturday.  He has the parts, which Rob paid for, and will fix it for free.  The door has been smashed in on the side, and he thinks he will be able to get new doors as well.  One of the girls will probably end up with it for a first car when Steven gets it fixed up.

We sold a few more things on e-bay.  They were not costly, but one interesting one was a cut thunder-egg rock Rob found in the shop.  It sold for around $3, and the buyer paid shipping.  I think sometimes we take things for granted, because we have had them for a while.   I remember my mom had one on a little shelf and I always loved looking at it when I was a child.   Rob and his dad loved rock hunting, and so we do have more of them to enjoy.  I’m glad someone else can enjoy this rock.  He wasn’t sure when he put it up on e-bay if anyone would want it, so it was a nice surprise.

My aunt helped Patsy cover a pillow form I found, while sorting, with flannel for her camper bunk.  I already covered another one for Ja’Ana.  I hope to find another form and make one for Lovana, as well.  I think if they can prop up on their bunks, or have pillows for lounging on the floor while watching tv., they will feel more cozy.  I got some new sheets at Macy’s on a very good sale for the camper.  Ours have holes in them out there, and I am replacing them.

Rob went to get the camper back, but it needs one more thing done, so he came home empty-handed.  Hopefully, it will be done soon.  I’d really like this huge pile of things out of my bedroom.  They belong out there.  Almost all of the work is warranty work, but one thing we will be paying for, because we want it done.  It is less expensive to just leave it there until it’s done completely.  There was a seal that was leaking, and that would be tragic if we didn’t get it promptly fixed.  Water is not our friend in a camper, except in the faucet and bathtub:)  By catching it early, and them fixing it under warranty, we saved thousands of potential dollars worth of damage and repairs.  I’m so glad we are year-round campers and took it out over the Christmas break and found this problem before any significant damage was done.

We were able to clean the basement out and make a place to stack storage bins.  We saved at least $200 by not having to rent a storage unit for those things for another month, at least.  We are finding that storage units are costly.  We have never had to rent one before.  One place, that is less expensive ($189/month for the biggest unit), is full.  Another one is around $229 for a little less space.  Yikes!  That will add up quickly.  All the more reason to be thankful for the things we can store over at my brother-in-law’s.

We had a simple birthday dinner for my sister today.  We spent very little on the food and presents, but enjoyed the time together immensely.

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My niece, Alissa, found some candles in the drawer, and lit them up for her mom.

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Jake was watching eagerly because he wanted his mom to wish for little toy cars for him when she blew out her candles.  Silly boy!

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Menu Plans–February 28, 2016

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Today, I decorated the cake for my sister’s birthday.  We were supposed to have it last Sunday, but there were sick children, so we postponed until today.  As you can see from the pictures, I cut out a heart shape from waxed paper.  Then, I set the cut out heart on top of the iced cake and sprinkled the cake heavily with edible glitter.  After removing the heart shape, I placed the outer piece of waxed paper on, and sprinkled the heart cut-out with red glitter.  It was simple and looked nice.  We had lasagna my aunt made, beans, salad and this cake.  I took some roasted hazelnuts, as well.  We gave her some tea that her children helped Rob buy when they stayed here a couple of weeks ago.  It was just a simple, family birthday party, one of the every-day kinds of moments that actually mean a lot to me when I come to the end of a day.

We ended up being given a meal from a friend on Monday.   We actually ate 1/2 on Monday, and then ate the soup on Tuesday and Wednesday both.   So, I never did make up some of the meals I planned last week.  I love having the plan, though.  On the days when food doesn’t unexpectedly drop into my lap, it is good to have a plan:)

Sunday night:  We have some leftover pizza to eat.

Monday:  Chili (already made up from Saturday, just needs to be popped in the Crock Pot-busy day)

Tuesday:  Turkey burger meatballs.  I tried a sweet and sour pork recipe and there is an awful lot of extra sauce.  So, we will pick out the remaining pork pieces and eat them, and I will pour the remaining sauce over meatballs Tuesday.

Wednesday:  Soup in Crock Pot.  Probably turkey rice or vegetable beef.

Thursday:  Everyone going in different directions.  Leftovers–grab as you can!

Friday:  Lunch:  I have another sister and aunt coming to help with the big project.  I need to make extra soup on Wednesday to feed people for lunch.

Dinner:  Baked potato bar.  Rob and I are going to take the girls and spend the evening at some  friends’ house.  We are taking dinner, and spending time with their 6 children, ranging from ages 5 to 12 or 13.  They will be home around 9:30.  We will take a few games to play with the kids.  It should be a blast.

Saturday:  Leftover soup or baked potatoes.  Truthfully, Ja’Ana is heavily involved with a rummage sale for her upcoming mission trip, both Thursday evening and all day Saturday. It is an hour from our house, one way.  My niece is involved in a special Olympic-type basketball tournament, which she would like me to attend–2 hours from home.  I have no idea how Saturday is going to pan out.  I may be packing lunches.  I may be buying hot dogs or some such junkie food.  First, I need to decide how much of that I’m going to do, what Rob is going to take care of, and see how much energy I have after being so busy Friday.

Both on Friday and on Saturday, the new crock-pot I got for Christmas failed to cook the food by lunch time.  This is much different from my previous one, which cooked things really fast.  Of course, it was shorting out and probably wasn’t safe, but I’m having trouble adjusting.  On Friday, I had to make an entirely different lunch for the helpers and we had the crock pot for dinner.  On Saturday, I had to remove the chili and boil it in a pan, and it was still a little underdone, and I felt bad.  So, I need to keep experimenting, and allowing more time for cooking.  It actually caused me to feel pressured to have to scramble for food on days that were overwhelming to start with, and only made more stressful when I didn’t have food to feed these helpers.  So, I will cook the soup all day on Wednesday, and just re-heat it on Friday, and hopefully, I’ll get this new appliance figured out.

Another Moving Update–Feb. 27

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The process of sorting, weeding out, burning, and donating continues.  We had quite a bit of time on Thursday, Friday and today, Saturday to work on this project.  We also had several people help us out this week, and we are very thankful.

On Thursday, we focused on the basement.  It consists of 3 small rooms.  It is musty, full of spiderwebs, and molds easily.  The first room has some old carpet in it, but the other rooms are rocks and stone with a little concrete poured down in places.  The original house was built in 1925, so I call this my “Nancy Drew” basement.   I keep my canning down there.  There were also things like old water coolers, an old clarinet, old fishbowls, Christmas decorations that were no longer used….and so forth.  There was a place where one of the children started putting dahlia bulbs in peat moss and then decided to stop, leaving a huge bunch of screens, peat moss, etc.  There were lots of cardboard boxes and other debris from the years.  This is a picture of the first room, with all of the empty jar removed.  We cleaned that room entirely, and packed up all of the empties.  Then, I moved the full jars from the second room into this room and filled the shelves.  The second room is now mostly empty.  There is a 3rd, super small room that holds the water heater, and a little area where previous owners kept their canning.  It won’t be very hard to clean out.

On the opposite side of the room, that you can’t see in the picture, we put a pallet for cardboard boxes of empty jars.  We also started bringing bins down and stacking them to the ceiling.  The bins are filled with things that will go into storage, and putting them down there buys us a little more time before we need to rent a unit and opens up more space in the house to look better for showing it.

By Thursday afternoon, the basement was about 80% finished.

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On Friday morning, very early, 2 young men came over.  They took all of this trash, plus more down to the burn pile.  It was from the basement and other places.  They climbed up into the attic above the garage, and hauled everything down.  My garage table was full, and the garage itself was full to the brim.  I could hardly walk, and actually felt so overwhelmed, it was not good, because we have so many empty boxes in there right now.  BUT, those wonderful young men took many of those bins from the attic right down to the basement (things like Christmas decorations that I had put up there the way I wanted them) and I started going through the other boxes. They took more bins that were ready to go as well, and it started to clear out.  Rob set them to work taking  more unwanted items out of the basement and other places and putting them into the van to donate. My mom and aunt showed up, and started helping clean and sort.  The boys took off, having given us as much time as they could, and Rob loaded up the rest of the van for the charity thrift shop and took off with it.  By the end of Friday, the garage was navigable, and more items in the house were packed or donated.

This morning, another crew of men, including my nephew, showed up at 7 am to work on moving some of Rob’s shop to storage at my sister’s house in an old semi truck trailer that they have.  They got 2 entire trailer loads over there.  Rob had them help load another bunch of un-needed stuff into the van and I finished filling it up and he took it off and donated it this afternoon.  I worked with Lovana on several boxes of her things, and they are taken care of.  Lovana and Ja’Anas’ rooms are both very close to being ready to show.  Patsy’s is not.  My friend Tamara and her son Cameron came over for several hours and we worked on the school room some more, and Cameron put sleeping bags into protective bags and carried them and a few more bins down to the basement.  The schoolroom was a huge task, due to having so much stuff from so many years of homeschooling.  It is getting close, and I have 4 more boxes to take and try to sell at the used book store.

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The front room is finished.  I just need to keep it looking good, floors swept, etc.  I have much to do, still, but we are making huge amounts of progress every week.  We hope to have it ready to list within the next week or two.  We have a bunch of people who want to help in a couple of weeks.  We will probably have them do some yard work and a little painting.  I cannot express how grateful we are for all of the people who are helping out.  Although I do feel overwhelmed at times, I am actually feeling pretty good about the amount of things I am getting rid of, but am starting to wonder if I am still keeping too much.  When you see the stack of bins and think about how much more you still have……it’s kind of sobering.  I figure I’m letting at least 1/2 of my things go–I guess time will tell if that’s enough.

Use-It-Up Update–Feb. 25, 2016

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My project is moving along nicely.  Last night, I was able to finish re-filling the cleaned freezer from last week and empty another one in the process.  I found these berries from ’13 and ’14 (pretty icy and old), this mystery green soup (?) and those chicken thighs that look pretty freezer-burned.  Today, I will serve the green stuff for lunch, make berry crisp for the weekend helpers that are coming to assist us with sorting and moving loads to storage, and see if the chicken is salvageable.  I found some terriyake marinade in the fridge that I can dump on the chicken if it looks save-able and hopefully kill any off taste.

So, now, another freezer has been standing empty, thawing out, all night, and I will wipe it out and turn it back on this morning.  Then, I will start filling it up from another freezer, and so forth, until I have done them all.  I’d like to do one per weekend, until I’m done.  I should have an empty one to not turn back on at the end, but we do have pigs almost ready to butcher, so, I guess we’d better keep eating if I want that to happen.  I am pretty determined to not move or keep quite so many freezers.

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This is my garage fridge, nicely cleaned and sorted out by Patsy (with assistance) last evening.  She was in a cleaning mood.  I’m not one to argue with that, so while I worked on the freezer, I showed her how to remove everything, and wipe up the mess that was in there.  It was pretty bad, as this has been an extra fridge for us, and has been used for stuffing all of the bulk purchases, garden produce, etc.  Some jam had spilled all over the shelf, and she got it cleaned up.  There were other piles of yucky sticky stuff in other places, including under the drawers.  We both scrubbed part of it, but she sure did a lot.  I’m proud of her.  Now that my house fridge is broken, I wanted this one cleaned out to maximize it’s usefulness, since it is my main fridge now.  The one in the house is cool, so I am using it for lettuce, ketchup, etc.  Things like meat, milk, leftovers, etc. are going out in this one.  So handy, I know, trotting back and forth:)  The plan is to bring this one in, but we are so overwhelmed with the sorting/packing/storing things for the move, we just haven’t done it yet. So, between things from the back of this fridge, and some really old stuff from the freezer, we got a good-sized bucket of slop for the pigs, a freezer that will be ready to re-fill this morning, and a nicely-cleaned and organized fridge.   A little girl got a good lesson on how to clean a fridge, and that’s worth a lot to me, as well.

Food items I have used this past week include:  frozen fish, green beans, drinks I found while cleaning the garage, the items in the picture above, canned pears, canned potatoes, some bacon that was frozen and looking old (but was fine), and leftovers (quite a few).  We also got quite a bit of bread out of the freezers.  Rob served it for meals, and I threw some of the really bad stuff in the pig bucket I was filling.  When we are given bread, I put it in the freezer, but sometimes we don’t eat it all.  I’m not out anything, as it was free.  I was also ruthless with bowls of ???? that I found lurking in there. If it looked freezer-burned, I threw it into the pig bucket.  I’m sure somewhere in the past, I thought I’d want that leftover, but that time is past.  Now, I know that these freezers will be in relatives’ garages in-between houses, so I want to keep meat, produce, and frozen cheese and butter as my top priorities.  I still have a tremendous amount of meat to deal with, and want every bit of it, as we will not have the opportunity to raise our own meat again for a while, at least.

 

How To Help When Schoolwork Is Hard

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We homeschool Ja’Ana.  She is in 10th grade.   There are a lot of things that are easy for her, like cooking, sewing, music, and dance.  There are some things that are hard, like math.  The sad thing is that math is hard for me, too.  So, what’s a mom to do?  Especially when the time has come for Algebra?

Because all of the home-making areas, and music, and language arts are my strong points, we can sometimes get into trouble when it comes to math, when you add up my weakness with her extreme reluctance, due to how difficult it is for her.  I’ve taken some steps to make the process less painful for us both.

First, I bought a math curriculum that has cd’s with explanations for every single problem–Teaching Text Algebra.  I am aware that it is less difficult than Saxon, for instance, but it is just right for us.  In the past, I went through other Algebra curriculums with other children, and had to start from page one and do the entire book to be able to help them do the problems when we got farther into it.  I was hoping to not have to do that this time, and so far, so good.  This is especially important because no one has reached the Algebra level for quite a few years, so I am super rusty on the concepts.

I have actually used this brand of curriculum for a few years with her, and love the fact that the Algebra is now self-correcting.  So, if she punches an answer into the computer, it tells her if it is right or wrong.  Then, it will show how to do it, if necessary.  I use that feature at times.  I also am willing to look back at the explanations in the book, and carefully study the examples, and use them to figure out how to do the problems.  I have a brother-in-law who is a math professor, and have asked him if I get really stuck on something.  The fact is–you can’t teach something with any kind of confidence if you don’t understand it yourself.  So, the first step is to make sure I understand the problem.

The most successful method I use with her is to sit side-by-side with her, with each of us having our own pad of paper.  I have her read over the first problem and see if she knows the answer.  They are usually true or false.  Sometimes the wording is tricky and we need to discuss what it means.  After she is confident on what it means, it is usually easy for her to decide if it is true or false.  I would love it if she would listen to the explanation on the cd., or even read the explanations in the lessons, but she is usually in a big hurry and doesn’t really do that very often on her own.  When I am sitting there, I make sure she has done that.  I often need to re-word things into a way that she can understand more clearly.

Then, we both work each and every problem.  When we are done, we see if we agree on the answer.  If we do, she punches it into the computer.  Hopefully, we are right.  If not, we re-do it, using more of the examples in the book, or the explanation given.  One of the problems we have is that she was having so much trouble getting the right answer when she was doing it on her own, that she seemed actually afraid of punching the answer into the computer, for fear of getting it wrong.  I’m trying to get her to see that  learning how to do the problems is what matters, not the final score.  I’m also working with her on the fact that everyone makes mistakes, including me, and that’s ok.

On the story problems, I draw pictures to try to illustrate them.  That seems to help most of the time.  When it doesn’t, and all else fails, there is the explanation on the cd–our lifesaver.

After a chapter is done, I give her a test, with no help from me, except making sure she understands the questions.  If she cannot do the problems, we re-do the chapter, with me correcting it with the answer key because the computer grade book is already full.  I don’t care if we have to do it 3 times, I want understanding more than speedy completion of a book. After all, the reward for finishing a book is a harder book, and if you don’t understand the easier book, you have no hope of doing the harder one.  I also don’t care if one book takes 2 years.  With my children, my goal is slow, steady progress, coupled with understanding.

When she works hard, I heap her with praise, letting her know how proud I am of her.  When she get a problems right, and I don’t, I point that out and praise her.  She clearly can see for herself when she’s wrong, so I matter-of-factly say “let’s try again, boy that one is hard” etc.  I try to remember that doing a school subject that is very difficult for her, or any child, is the same as asking me to do something very hard and foreign to me, such as re-build a car engine.   I’m just glad she is attempting Algebra, even though it’s hard.  This method is working for now, and we both feel less like screaming with frustration:) Even better, she is understanding things she was not sure she could accomplish, and that’s got to feel good to her.

Menu Plan–Week of Feb. 21, 2016

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Sunday:  Leftovers from fridge.  We did not do the family meal, due to ill children.

Monday:  I crushed up cornflakes from a box that has been around a long time, and will coat the fish with them.  Crunchy Fish Nuggets with Lemon Tartar Sauce from the American Heart Association Quick and Easy Cookbook is the recipe I’m using.  I confess I ate the green beans already after I took the picture, so I’ll get out another vegetable tomorrow.  This is very quick to make after work.

Tuesday:  Roast in the Crock Pot.  I will either do the pork or beef, whichever one I find on top or at the front of the freezer.  We have a couple of appointments on Tuesday, one is in the late afternoon.

Wednesday:  Leftovers.  I have green chicken chili, and turkey-rice soup and I work late that day.

Thursday:  Lovana’s choice.  It’s been Mexican food for the last 3-4 weeks, so I’m guessing Mexican…..?   Who knows, I might be surprised.  I chuckle because when my mom wanted me to cook, I would take the leftover roast beef from Sunday dinner and make French Dip–every single Monday–as my meal.  She though I was being difficult because she wanted me to practice cooking lots of recipes, but I really, truly, loved French Dip and still love it to this day.  So, I just let her make Mexican every week, my only rule is that we have to have the ingredients in the pantry or freezer.

Friday:   My mom and aunt are coming to help me clean, sort, etc.  I want soup in the crock pot for lunch and will serve leftovers for dinner since we have a late afternoon caseworker visit.  (Truly no pressure about getting the house pristine–this is our dear Nicole who has been out of the office for 3 months–she’s coming to see Patsy–not the house, and we are eager to see her.)

Saturday: Pizza.  We didn’t make it this week, so still have all the toppings from last week.

Sunday:  Family dinner. Since this week’s dinner was cancelled, the lasagna was frozen down there, the cake is frozen here–I will still make beans and salad.

As I was explaining to Patsy, the menu plan I write is mostly for my own benefit.  It helps me to have it written down in a place where I can refer to it easily.  When I have a busy week, like this one’s shaping up to be, it keeps the whole week moving more smoothly.

How I Get a Layer Cake Out of the Pan

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The only time I make layer cakes is for birthdays, and that is only when the birthday person wants cake.  I may make other desserts, if wanted.  When I do make cake, I want it to come out of the pan easily. I’ve had a lot of trouble with that in the past. Here’s how I do it now.

First, I trace around the pan, using waxed paper and a pencil.  I cut out the circles I traced.

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I spray the pans with Pam spray, and stick down the waxed paper circles, and then spray the pans again, over the waxed paper, and along the sides.

The recipe I made this time was a chocolate cake recipe from a cookbook Lovana has, named “A Passion for Baking” and I just substituted an equal amount of Bob’s Red Mill One-to-One flour for the all-purpose.  This recipe has sour cream in it, and seems to stay moist, but does not goo up or fall apart. Every recipe does not translate into gluten-free as nicely as this one.

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After cooling for a few minutes, it is very easy to invert the pans onto a wire rack and the cake falls out easily.  If needed, I run a knife around the edges to loosen them, but the waxed paper keeps the bottom from sticking.  Then, the paper is peeled off and the cake is flipped right side up on another cooling rack.

These 2 layers were frozen as soon as we realized that the planned birthday dinner for my sister had been cancelled due to an ill child.  No use spreading that love around.  We will do it next Sunday.  I was very thankful I had not frosted them yet, they will keep better unfrosted. When I do frost it, I will make a cocoa powder, powdered sugar, butter, vanilla and milk frosting.  I’m already looking forward to next Sunday.  Yum!