Saving Money–October 30, 2016

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Fall is here.  I got much enjoyment this week looking at the gorgeous fall colors that are appearing all over.

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2 days after taking the other picture, Alissa’s dog pulled her down the slope beside the same tree!  I guess you could call it a free slide?  A free fair ride?  Either way, she was unhurt, laughing, and I hauled her up the hill, safe and sound.

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My aunt gave me this vase.  It complements the different wood tones in our house, but is not made to fill with water.  An insert would need to be used if water was put in it.    I put some fall-themed silk leaves and flowers in it.  I got them from the $ store so it made an inexpensive fall decoration.  Later, I can put some other flowers or decorations in it for different seasons

I made lasagna, spaghetti, teriyaki chicken, salads with lettuce from our garden and purchased lettuce, used 2 green onions from our garden, rice, and more.  I’ve started using up a LOT of home-canned and home-frozen foods, with the idea of finishing up what I have during this winter so I can can fresh next summer.

I used a gift card I had at Bob’s Red Mill and got one-to-one flour, tapioca flour, potato starch and other items I use in my gluten-free baking.

I used the rest of my October grocery budget on a trip to Costco.  I bought a few cases of food to keep my stockpile up, including pineapple and manderin oranges.  I got butter for a little over $2 per pound (bought a 4-pack), a huge bag of corn chips, large bag of broccoli, mushrooms,  brown and white sugar, and some treats like jalepeno-artichoke dip and chocolate chips.  I feel great about what I got for my money and am stocked up for the week, as well as some stockpile items.

We’ve been building fires most days to heat the house up.  Today, a friend delivered a trailer of wood he cut and saved from our old house!  How thoughtful and kind.  We will unload and stack it this week and return his trailer next week.

I will pack lunches for Patsy and Rob as usual this week and have some menu plans involving  a ham that was in the freezer.  I’m going to attempt to make Brazilian Cheese Bites.  They were out of my budget at Costco–$12.99 for 64 pieces.  I found a recipe and hope that they turn out.  I’ll let you know!

 

 

International Field Trip Near Home

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Last year, I promised Ja’Ana that her homeschool year would be filled with many field trips.  I was not able to deliver on that promise, due to all that happened with Rob’s job, moving, etc.  This year, I am determined to make that happen for her and Alissa.  So, I am calling for ideas from the whole family.  The response has been terrific.

My sister, Rosalie, has a friend who came from Eritrea, a country on the NE part of Africa.  She arranged for us to go with her to visit last Wednesday.  Ja’Ana and Alissa Googled Eritrea, a country we really had never studied before and Ja’Ana read interesting facts to us all the way up I-V.  We had been warned by Rosalie that her friend was going to cook for us, and that we should bring some food as well.  So, the girls decided to make peach crisp and cut up veggies with ranch dressing.

They were served huge plates full of Eritrean food that Harnet had made!  There was flatbread made from teff and barley flour, a spicy red sauce with chicken and hard-boiled eggs in it, and some greens cooked with bits of meat.  The spicy sauce was very SPICY!  I was EXTREMELY proud of both girls.  They were very polite and ate as much as they could.  Ja’Ana actually enjoyed almost all of it, and Alissa liked some of it, but they never blinked an eye.  I love the spicy chicken, so it was no hardship for me to eat it, and I enjoyed it very much.  The greens were good, too.

Later, Harnet made us coffee.  I though she was making a pot, and told her not to make me any, I didn’t like coffee.  OOPS!  That’s not what she meant.  I quickly changed my tune.

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She set up this coffee-making station in the living room and proceeded to roast coffee beans, grind them, and make coffee!  It was very strong, highly sweetened, and I drank my little cup-full.  I was touched by the trouble she went to for the girls and myself.

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Harriet’s little girl, Dinuite, loves Wo-Wah (Rosalie).  She calls her something like that.  The girls took her a little doll and a couple of balloons, and by the end of the visit, she was warming up to them as well.  But she LOVES Wo-Wah.  Of course, Wo-Wah loves her too, and they played for quite a while together.

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After eating all that food, the girls helped sort out some clothing that had been given to the little girl.  They helped pick out the things that were the right size and would be useful to her.  As you can see, she decided to wear some of it on the spot!  Then, she put on the coat and boots Wo-Wah brought her.  She wore them for the rest of the time.

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All-in-all, it was a great day.  The girls got an insight into a country they had never studied before, and a little glimpse into the food and hospitality of the people who live there. They learned that in some places conditions are not as nice as they are here.  They learned about a place where the army can draft you, keep you for how ever long they want to, and not pay you.  They learned about people who wanted to come to America because they could have a better life for themselves and their children, and that it takes amazing courage and incredible perseverance to do that.

I had a wonderful time getting to know Harnet a bit–I’d only met her one other time before.  It ended up being a long day, because we got back in time for church so went directly there, and then I took both girls home afterwards.  I got a lot of mileage out of that tiny cup of super strong coffee–although I told Rosalie that I was going to have no problem sleeping, it took me until 1 a.m. to go to sleep.  Hmmmm.  Guess I won’t be taking up Eritrean coffee as a habit!!!

I am very thankful to Rosalie for arranging this interesting, informative day, and to Harnet for her hospitality.  It was an authentic experience that no amount of money could ever buy–and we felt very special to have been able to enjoy it.

Saving Money–October 23, 2016

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Eggs were on sale for 99c/dozen at the store 2 blocks from our house.  So, tonight, when we had company, I served up deviled eggs, soup, veggies, rolls they brought, and ice cream.  I was so happy to easily serve 14, a nice practice run for Thanksgiving, where there will be only a few more than that.  It was great to see our friends.   Different sets of friends are slowly making it down to visit us in our new home, and we are super excited to see them when they come.

I got milk for 99c for 1/2 gallon, corn chips for 88c per bag and a few other items at Fred Meyers.

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During the summer, my sister had Ja’Ana and Alissa dig up a flower bed for her, removing many bulbs.  She shared a bucket full with us.  On Saturday,  Patsy planted a bunch of them near the sidewalk.  There is nothing but a big blank area that gets really dry in the summer, so it will be perfect for bulbs.  There are still some left, but a lot got planted.  It should be a lovely splash of color for absolutely free.  Rob got a lawnmower and mowed the lawn for the first time since we moved here, so things are looking good.  We’ve had such a lot of stormy weather and were glad to get a nice day.

J had a chance to go with the youth group to remove a tree that had fallen in the recent storm.  The kids were paid into a fund that will be applied towards the next youth group outing they want to attend.  Win-win!

I worked a lot last week, which will translate into a bit more $.  This week will be easier on me, and I have a lot to do around here, so that’s ok.

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My sister was able to come do school with the girls one whole day.  Of course she wants to be as involved as she can with her daughter’s education.   Get a load of those expressions!  The girls clearly didn’t know what to do with both of us teaching them at the same time:)  Truly, it was awesome.  I was able to show her what they were doing, and how to do it, and she did some of the reading while I did laundry.   We are settling into routines now.  My brother-in-law started geometry and conversational Spanish with the girls last week and they are off to a great start.  I have assignments to help them do Monday, and he will work with them after work on Tuesday and give us some more to have done by Friday.  They have both done Spanish before, so he is talking to them at length (like an hour at a time) and giving them little assignments to do in-between when he works with them.  I’m keeping Language Arts, History, Vocabulary, and Biology going.  Also, I’m handling the Home Economics.  We are all working on field trips, Rob included.  Between us all, these girls are going to get educated!  Even if it kills them:)

Rob’s job keeps changing a little each week.  The first child he was originally hired for has moved on to another school.  We are happy that they kept Rob on at the same school.  For a while there, we were not sure if they could.  So, they changed him to another child, and then another.  He also rides the bus with yet another child, and this one gets on near our house, which saves him gas money.  He is still getting used to what he is supposed to be doing, but is getting the hang of it more and more each day.  He still has a job, and we can’t wait to get paid for the first time in a long time.  So, that’s going well.

 

 

How to Tie Up Blackberries

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When we moved into this new house, we were delighted to find berry bushes growing in the garden.  They are a blackberry of some sort, probably Marion berries, according to the old owner’s daughter.  They were growing up against the fence, and clearly had not been trimmed for a while.  Since there were quite a few chopped off pieces on the ground on the neighbor’s side of the fence, we concluded that he probably did not care to have them growing through to his side.  Also, we could not access the back side of the berries.  So, we decided to move them a couple of feet out away from the fence.

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We started by digging up clumps of new, fresh vines.  They were a nice bright green color, and we left the old, gray-brown ones to be taken away.  We tried to make sure there was a nice clump of roots on each one we kept, and some even had a new bud growing.  Rob, Lovana and myself all had plenty of turns digging.  Once a good start was dug up, we planted it in the dirt and laid the vines out away from where we were working.  What we did not want or need, we put in the yard debris can.  We anticipate that the roots of the old vines will send out new shoots and we will need to kill them, but it sure looks great now.

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A week or two passed, with plenty of rain to keep them alive.  Rob went up to my sister’s farm and grabbed a few fence posts we had stored there, and got some wire.  Today was nice and he pounded those fence posts into the ground and strung the wire between the posts.  He put several posts in the row, about 5 feet apart, and strung a low wire and a higher one.

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Then Patsy and I tied them up with baling twine.  We tied each group of berries up to the lower and higher wire, and whenever the vines were long, tied them into a circle, using the wires to support them.  Next spring, they will fill out and make a nice barrier between us and the neighbor, be where we want them, and easy to pick.img_3455

It looks amazing!  As we were doing that, Rob was over on the left pounding in a few more posts for some raspberry plants I dug up at my old house.  My aunt kindly kept them all summer under her automatic sprinklers.  I got 6 good root “clumps” from my pot.

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He strung wires for them, too, and I planted them.  They are really small after a summer crammed into a pot, but we will see how they do.  I have high hopes.

We both felt really good about getting these jobs done.   I don’t think I’ll harvest much next summer, but in a couple of years………YUM!  (The berries in the background are a project for another day–they are everbearing raspberries that were here–I need to trim and tie them up, and Rob needs to put in a better wire and maybe some more posts.  They don’t have as much flavor as my old berries, so I am super happy some of mine survived.)  It was great to get a nice day on a day we did not need to work.

 

 

Saving Money -October 16, 2016

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I found the cutest “bug” recipe on Taste of Home.com–it’s called “Mounds of Bugs” and made a great project for Jake.

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I really wanted to do this project with him, but did not want to break the bank.  I bought 1 bag of Mounds mini candy bars, and did not use them all.  I bought a few Six-let candies and M and M candies from the bulk section at Win-Co, instead of bags of each.  Instead of the curved pretzels called for in the recipe, I used some stick pretzels I had already instead of buying the curved ones called for in the recipe.

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Ja’Ana and Alissa spent Thursday afternoon making caramel corn for the 4H bake sale.  Patsy, J and A all went to the event on Saturday, and helped sell the baked goods from many clubbers around the county.  While they were there, they made Chex Muddy Buddies to help the wonderful smells to fill the hall, then sold the Muddy Buddies.  The money helps buy ribbons and other supplies during the fair, and some other great uses.  I felt great about our contribution.  Everything the girls took sold, and they were able to raise almost $60 just on what they brought.  I don’t know how much was made, but I was told it can top $1,000 and sometimes reach $2,000.  I was amazed.  It was a great start to our 4H year.  They worked hard in the wind and the rain, and I treated them to the $5 lunch at Dairy Queen afterwards.  I don’t know why, but our family usually gravitates to DQ for casual special occasions.  I think it must be the ice cream–we love it!

I finally went shopping.  I spent a bunch, but stayed in budget.  I’m really stocked up on lunch supplies, veggies, etc.  Now that Rob is working, we run out of lunch meat sooner than before.  That’s a great reason to have to buy more!  Even though school lunches aren’t very expensive, we save money each time he packs one instead of buying one.

I took the cousins and my kids to the YMCA to swim on Friday, as no one had school.  The director of membership had graciously let us put the cousins on our account when we signed up because Rob told him they were with us so much, so all the kids got in with the membership.  Alissa brought a friend, and I was fully prepared to pay for her, but they said she could be our guest that day.  Wow!  They had fun!  I did too.  It was fun to use my old van to its full potential.

When Jake was trying to negotiate his way to McD’s, I ran into Safeway and bought granola bars and Capri Suns for the kids to eat and not “starve to death” before we went to my house,  saving a bundle.  I figured that with 8 people, it would be between $45 and $60 to eat lunch that way.  I am happy to report that they all survived until they got to my house and ate!

We have been sleeping on a pair of old sheets since the move.  The same pair.  And it ripped in 2 places because it is so old.  BUT, we knew we had more in the shop.  AND, we knew we had seen them.   We could not find them and became stubborn and would not go buy more.  Just because.  So, we were sleeping in torn sheets.  Pretty sad.  Rob spent a couple of hours going through bins this afternoon and….drum roll, please….he found them!  So, it’s sleeping in the lap of luxury tonight.

Our electric bill is much, much lower than it was at our old house, probably due to the reduction in size.

Our camper has been repaired, under warranty, and we now have a new air conditioner. Despite a huge rain/wind storm, Rob was able to move it back to my sister’s farm before it got too windy.

We’ve built a fire a few times, now.  I’m looking at another rainy, cozy week here this week.  Bring on the homeschool. It’s time to teach those girls how to make soup and they are going to cut out their aprons.  It will be a great week.

 

 

 

 

 

Basil Pesto

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The other day, I made pesto from the last bits of basil in the garden.  I do it a little differently than some others do.  This recipe started from Taste of Home’s Basil Salmon Recipe, but I’ve changed it up quite a bit.  For one thing, we don’t use pine nuts.   We like more parmesan cheese.  I’ve even tried cutting down the amount of oil used, but that one did not work.  It takes it all.

Here’s what I do:

4-1/2 cups basil leaves

10 Tablespoons olive oil

5 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons lemon juice

6 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Place all ingredients in food processor.  Pulse until it is all incorporated together.  Taste.  Add more salt, pepper, cheese, etc. that you want, to taste.  Freeze in an ice cube tray.  Once frozen, pop the frozen cubes into a zip-top bag and keep in freezer until ready to use.  Makes 1 ice cube tray full.

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We use it on fish and chicken, in salad dressings and dips, and pasta the most.  Ja’Ana and I love it!

 

Cousins by Love

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These two have been fast friends since they came into each other’s lives.  Alissa came to live with her mom and dad when she was a very tiny baby.  Rob and I got the privilege of spending many, many days and nights with her as she grew up.  When she was about 14-15 months old, I agreed to watch her and her 2 older sisters while their parents went to Mexico for a week.  Little did I know……

We had applied to adopt again and had  been waiting about a year for our new child/children.  We were open to a single child, or a sibling group.  Since they are supposed to choose 3 appropriate people for each child or group, we had been to “committee” a couple of times already, and someone else was chosen to be their parents, not us.  Ouch.  But, that’s how it works.  We got another chance to possibly be selected for Lovana, who happened to have a younger sister who may or may not be freed for adoption soon, and were asked if we wanted to take the risk.  Of course, we said yes, and our file was presented.  We were denied on the basis that we were not black and the children were.  Our caseworker was livid!  That was not only unfair, it is illegal.  It is a federal mandate that no child could be denied a home based on race.  Because it was so wrong, they took it back to committee and to the top of the state.  We were successful the second time.  Guess what week was chosen for transition week?  You got it!  The same week I had agreed to watch the 3 nieces.

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It was a long, exciting week.  I was extremely busy, to put it mildly, with 2 toddlers (one of whom did not know me at all), a very shy 5 year old who turned 6 the day after we got her moved in, my 2 special needs boys, my autistic niece, my other niece, and my other, older children.  (Probably 2 out of the 3 as I believe the oldest was away at college by then-  I can’t remember)  It is a blur, but there were 9 or 10.  There were lots of visits going back and forth to get the girls acquainted with our family, and had been for a week before, but this was the week to do an over nighter, then have them stay a couple of nights, then have them move in.  It was Easter week, and we were hosting, and Lovana’s birthday was on Easter that year.  We had no control over the timing.  I was not sure I was going to survive, and certainly relied on the Lord’s strength.  I have rarely felt such relief as I did that Easter Sunday morning when I had them all lined up on the back pew, dressed in their finest new Easter clothes, on time for church to start!  I bought an ice cream cake (so rare most of my kids had never had one), and the family all pitched in with the dinner.  It turned out great, even though you are never supposed to overwhelm the new child with a lot of family too soon.   Or move them when it’s right around their birthday, or some other huge anniversary.

In the end, something beautiful came out of that chaos.  Something happened I could have never foretold.   Ja’Ana and Alissa took ahold of each other’s hands and held on.  At an age where children don’t usually play together, they were inseparable.  They became best buds and have gone camping, to plays, parks, amusement parks, Disneyland, the Redwoods, the beach, and mission trips together. Through the years, they’ve hit a few growing bumps in their relationship, but through it all, have remained bonded for life.  Years ago, they dubbed themselves “the twins separated at birth” even though they were 6 months apart and really didn’t resemble each other very much:)

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Now they are forging a new path together.  No, it’s not golf with their science experiment, although they did seem to be trying that today, too.  They are embarking on a grand adventure of learning together.  The homeschool class at my house doubled this week, as we gladly welcomed Alissa to our party.  Because, when those 2 get together, it often turns into a party.  Alissa’s mom and I have some really fun stuff lined out for them this year, and I’m here to say we are off to an excellent start.  Today was very fun and educational.  Their Auntie Rosalie surprised them with gift cards to McDonald’s, which were burning a hole in their pockets.  So we went there on the way to the pond.  They gathered pond water for an upcoming experiment, and that is just the beginning.

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May they always stay so close.