Weekly Menu for January 31, 2017

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I’ve been away from home a lot lately.  It’s been very fun.  But, now it’s time to get back to reality and get things organized at home.  Yesterday morning, I decided to tackle the menu planning.  I haven’t done any formal menu planning for a while, but trust me, we’ve still been eating.  However, I haven’t been using as much of my frozen, canned and stored food as I would like.  This week is different.

I went out yesterday morning and pulled broth, broccoli, and hamburger from the deep freeze.  I cooked the ham bone I brought home from the retreat, first chopping any little bits off that I could and freezing them for future use.  I then made split pea soup in my Instant Pot with that ham broth.  I still have a lot of split peas from a while back when I bought 25 pounds.  Rob cooked hamburgers with grilled onions for dinner, and saved me some for when I got home from work.  That also used some buns we had.  I had soup for lunch and he took it in his lunch today.  There’s lots left, so I may freeze some.

This morning, I roasted a chicken with lemon and rosemary.  I cut it up for dinner for both our family and my sister’s family.    Then, I cooked a large batch of rice in my Instant Pot, and put the chicken bones in the Crock Pot to make broth.  Chicken and rice is what both families will have for dinner tonight.  I’m eating over there, as I’m going straight to exercise at the Y after work, but left plenty for Rob here.  I made a batch of broccoli soup for lunch, and there is a little left over.

Tomorrow, I’d like to make chicken and dumplings from the broth.  There will be both split pea and broccoli soups available for lunches for the rest of the week, then the leftover chicken and dumplings.  Of course, there is sandwich stuff, salad stuff, and ramen noodles if people would rather have that.  (Some of the kids would, but most of us prefer other choices).

On Thursday, there are some potatoes that need to go, so I’ll do either mashed potatoes or baked french fries.  I’ll do meatloaf with those.  Friday will be leftovers or odds and ends.  On Saturday, I’d like to make a hash brown crust with an egg casserole inside, either for breakfast or lunch and have pizza for dinner. Frozen hash browns were another leftover item that I was given after the retreat.    Sunday, we will eat at my sister’s and we haven’t chosen our menu yet, but everyone will bring something.

With every dinner meal, I will either use home-canned or frozen veggies and/or salad to round it out with plenty of veggies.  I’m not sure if I will bake any desserts or not, it depends on how much time I end up with during the week.  Most weeks, I don’t, but Rob has still not had his birthday cake, due to his tooth issues, and we usually have brownies with football…….Super Bowl is Sunday, after all.

I may change it up a bit, but it’s a good plan and uses things I have on hand, for the most part.  I’ll go get the parts and pieces as needed to round it out. We live so close to stores now, one is only about a block away.  I actually saw a large gap in my freezer, which is great because I have lots of gardening plans for the coming summer!  I’d better keep making room, for sure.

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Saving Money–January 29, 2017

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We enjoyed spending Saturday night at the Oregon Coast.  The waves were breathtaking!

My sister and brother-in-law were helping with a high-school retreat with our church.  So, Gail has been cooking and freezing, organizing meals, and planning for weeks, since she was in charge of the food.  She was cooking for around 40.  2 beach houses were rented–one for the boys and one for the girls, plus sponsors.  She went down and got all the food organized, defrosted, etc.  Ron travelled with the group.  Rob and I watched Jake and Michaela.  On Saturday, we drove down to the beach and joined them with the kids.

The teens were still there when we got there, and I helped put a dinner of leftovers out for them.  They had one last singing, message, etc. and then they were off to home, except our girls, who stayed the extra night with us.  Our 2 families stayed the remaining night, using only one of the houses. They were huge, each sleeping 20 people.  They had over 5 bedrooms, 4 or 5 bathrooms, 2 sitting/living areas, a huge kitchen, hot tub, and a marvelous ocean view in each house.   This morning, we needed to clean them up.  Towels and some linens had to be washed.  The kitchen had to be cleaned up and all extra food packed.  Sand had to be sucked up out of the hot tubs, floors swept, rugs vaccuumed, dishes done and put away and counters wiped.  Piles of trash had to be collected.  We had to do a really good job in both houses, because they don’t usually rent to large groups of teenagers, which is why my sister welcomed some help.  And, we did.  In between cleaning, we had lots of time for wave watching and playing Yahtzee.  Some Veggie tales were watched, along with a Thomas the Tank Engine movie.  That place was stocked with so many games, movies and books–my sister said the teens had a blast.

We ate leftovers for all the meals we were there, and ended up bringing home some food as well.  Things that could be saved for future teen outings were saved, and other sponsors took home a few more portable things.  I was able to bring home some leftover pulled pork, breakfast casserole, a few browning bananas which will be frozen tomorrow, and some gourmet snacks and goodies.  Yum!  We had taken a large picnic lunch on Saturday, so I had a big cooler with me, so that worked out good to bring things home safely.

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I took the younger kids who got left behind to the store.  I let them choose some snacks and junk food to take on our picnic.  It was amazing how much enjoyment they got from choosing their own.  We enjoyed watching the ocean while we ate our lunch.  Afterwards, we took them to ice cream before we joined Jake and Michaela’s parents.  We watched a glass blower for a short time, as well.  It turned out to be an amazingly frugal weekend, because we didn’t eat out, see any sights that charged admission, etc., but enjoyed watching the waves in the luxurious beach house.

Rob broke a piece of his tooth off in early January.  After a couple of unsuccessful attempts to get in to the dentist on a day off, it began hurting badly and he had to take an afternoon off work to get in to have it seen. He didn’t sleep much all week, due to pain.   Our family dentist sent him to a specialist, and he ended up with a root canal.  This man could see him at 7:30 on Friday morning.  I had a diabetes specialist appointment I’d had for months on Friday morning.  We had Jake and Michaela all night Thursday and they were at our house on Friday morning, of course. The plan had been for him to drive us all, keep the kids in the van and entertain them, and come back and get me.  Not happening.  So, I took all kids, including Patsy, to my appointment.  Lovana went with Rob for moral support.  He was worked on for 1 and 1/2 hours.  It was painful, tiring, and stressful for him.  I was in a car with 3 impatient kids, in heavy fog, and got routed around 2 accidents on I-V, and ended up late.  I was so glad they still let me be seen.  Sometimes they don’t if you are late.  I combined another errand with this trip.  I also took those lovely children to McDonald’s, as promised, and felt very happy with the company for existing and have play structures after all that time in the car and waiting rooms.  It made a great bribe for an entire morning of “goodness.”  I actually have great luck with positive reinforcement with the kids.  They were all 3 good as gold during that long ordeal.  It actually took longer for us to get to my doctor’s than it did to drive to the coast on Saturday.

All this to say, we are very thankful that we have dental insurance for the first time in about 30 years.  We still get to pay a lot, but the insurance will cover a large portion.  Since we have paid every cent of my crowns, filings, etc. for all these years, this is something we appreciate more than I can say.

I worked more than usual this week, including 2 overnights for Michaela.  Rob also did 2 overnights for Jake.  I spent one night over at her house with Michaela as she doesn’t like to be away from home very much.  The other night was spent here.  Rob was in so much pain with the tooth issue, that I had to do quite a bit of the childcare, but he hung in there when I wasn’t there.  I also worked a tiny bit more as there were a couple of times that I needed to be over there (at their house) that I don’t usually need to be there.  It will make up for when I was sick at the beginning of the month.

I only needed fresh veggies, salad stuff, milk, etc. this week.  So, I did not buy more than that.  I have lots left for the week ahead.  We had leftovers, plus I cooked a cauliflower for our dinner tonight after we got back from the beach.  Although eating out was tempting, we didn’t do it this time.

It was a great week!

Saving Money–January 25, 2017

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I wasn’t sure I had anything to write about saving money this week, after enjoying our trip to San Francisco.  Then, I realized that I wasn’t the only one who saved money around here!  Rob saved a lot, I saved a little.

Right before I left, I was given most of a large 25 -pound bag of pinto beans.  The top portion had been used, and the rest was not going to be used.  When it was offered to me, I snatched it up gladly.  While I was gone, my husband soaked quite a few beans.  He cooked some and froze the cooked beans in quart-sized zip-top bags.  He made chili in his dutch oven.  He also made baked beans.  Yum!

Rob also cooked a chicken and vegetables in his dutch oven.  He loves outdoor cooking, and is good at it.  After a vacation where I really, really struggled with stomach issues (I clearly got into some gluten-filled cross-contaminated food, more than once), the simple, plain food really hit the spot.  It was so nice to have good-for-me food ready when we walked in the door Monday evening.  I took some of the leftovers over to my sister’s house and made a simple soup for Tuesday’s dinner.  I was working over there that afternoon, and wanted soup badly, so we all benefitted.

He did do a couple of fun things with the rest of the family that were sad to be left behind, such as taking them to Mod Pizza, a place where you can choose your own toppings.  He’d been wanting to try it, and this weekend was a good time.  He also took Patsy to the YMCA, where he used our pass to take her swimming.  We still receive a greatly reduced rate on our membership there, based on our income.  They went to the movies at the bargain theatre, where the tickets were only $4.

Although San Francisco was expensive, and we spent a lot, we saved on a few things.  We did take a few snacks with us.  On 2 mornings, I ate one of my Luna bars for breakfast, along with little cuties.  Several times, my sister and I both had pretzels or nuts we brought for snacks.  She was able to get breakfast at her conference one morning for free.  On our tour, the driver took us to a market where we could buy gluten-free food, which was a little less than a restaurant.  (They were not careful, though, and I got sick–but we tried).  We wanted to buy lunch at the restaurant, but ran out of time.  My sister got us cheese plates on the plane, which were quite reasonable.

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We all shared one room, instead of getting 2.  It worked great.  She was able to write the room off as a work expense, because she was attending a conference for her work, and she had to have the room, and had to be there for her conference, with or without the rest of us.  The girls all refused to share beds with us mothers, instead wanting to sleep on the floor, so we got extra blankets galore, extra pillows, piles of extra towels, and Gail and I each got our own beds.  They say we snore too loud.  I have no idea what they mean, I couldn’t hear a thing while I was sleeping soundly, alone, like a queen, in my bed….

We got passes on our phones where we paid a flat fee and rode the public transportation as much as we wanted while we were there.  It was certainly cheaper than renting a car.  Parking was very expensive and scarce.  We were glad to not deal with it.

So, in the end, I guess Rob saved the day, or should I say week…and kept it frugal here at home, while J and I galavanted.

Our Big Field Trip to San Francisco

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We got back last evening from our biggest field trip of the year–San Francisco!  The trip was a huge success.  Here are some highlights.

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Yikes!  The BART train not only jerks you around, it makes extremely loud noises!

We arrived without any trouble or fuss at the San Francisco airport and then rode the BART train to Union Square, where our hotel was.  My sister was attending a conference at Union Square, so chose a hotel across the square from where her conference was held.  We did not rent a car, but instead, rode public transportation the entire time.  That, in itself, was a big adventure for us. Where we live, most people I know drive everywhere, all the time.  We loaded an app on each phone, and then purchased tickets for unlimited rides on the MUNI system.  It included the cable cars, but not the BART.  Whenever we rode, we just showed our phone.  No paper tickets involved at all and we could hop on and off all we wanted.

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They left their hearts….in San Francisco.  This heart is in Union Square.

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We walked into Chinatown for dinner.  Our concierge gave us a bum steer to a Chinese restaurant that was supposedly gluten-free.  It wasn’t.  We were HUNGRY, so just took off down the street until we found another restaurant that my sister had found on a gluten-free app.  It ended up being a Spanish tapas restaurant, and we ate delicious tapas.  We walked and walked and finally ended up riding a MUNI bus back to the hotel.  We had a great walk through Chinatown, with no rain, and got full!

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Friday morning, my sister went off to her conference, and the girls and I went sightseeing. After eating breakfast, armed with many destinations on my phone, we tried to catch a cable car toward the wharf.  Unfortunately, by this time of the day (late morning), the cable cars were full and kept whizzing past us with the conductors waving their hands at us and saying “catch the next one, this one’s full.”  So, we would walk another block or two, hoping for better luck at the next stop.  We walked for miles, straight up steep hills and down again.  Literally.  Each time, hoping that we would find a better place to get on.  Finally, I realized that the Cable Car Museum was only a few blocks away, so we walked the rest of the way there and went in.

It was wonderful and very informative.  It told history of the area, cable cars, and how they work.  It was also free.

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Michaela loved this museum.   She did not love walking as much as we did that day.  So, after enjoying the museum, a friendly cable car operator sent us to the right place, and we were able to hop onto a car.  We rode the rest of the way to the wharf, to our specific goal, Ghiridelli Square.

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They proceeded to have ice cream for lunch and to buy chocolate!  It began to rain quite heavily, but we had no trouble at all catching a cable car back to our hotel.  We had dinner near our hotel with my sister, who was done with her conference for the day.  The restaurant was in a several-story Macy’s store, which the girls went wild over!

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On Saturday, we had a plan that worked much better.  We got on the cable cars much closer to the beginning of the line, and had no trouble getting a seat.  It did take 2 tries, but we got one.  We rode down to Fisherman’s Wharf again, and continued where we left off on Friday.  Alissa and Michaela enjoyed eating bread at the Boudin sourdough factory.  Ja’Ana wanted an In-and-Out burger, because we don’t have them in our part of Oregon.  We went through the museum there.  Here’s a tip:  If you eat downstairs, you have to pay for the museum.  If we would have eaten upstairs, the museum would have been free.  As far as I can tell, the bread was the same bread either place, but there were more entrees upstairs.  Thankfully, the cost of admission was not expensive.

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We spent the rest of the afternoon on Fisherman’s Wharf.  In the late afternoon, my sister joined us and we walked around some more, and then ate dinner at Rainforest Cafe.  What I love about that place is that they will cook food that I need.  My sister and I are both gluten-free.  So, I asked for plain rice, plain chicken, and plain vegetables.  That’s exactly what I got.  Phew!   My tummy was the happiest it had been all trip.  By the time we exited the restaurant, it was pouring rain and quite dark.

We decided to ride the train to the ferry, then transfer to the MUNI subway train.  Things were not running quite normally, due to a protest march, we were told, but that was a good, easy way to get back.  In reality, it was a little harder than that.  We got to the ferry easily.  Upon leaving the train, we were told to walk 1 block up to the station, go down the stairs, and ride the subway train to Union Square.  So, in the pouring rain, with our umbrellas turning inside out at times, we shoved and pushed our way through the edge of a huge crowd of protesters, waving signs and chanting–some quite angry, but most peaceful, surrounded by a multitude of policemen.  We put the girls between us, and tried to stay together as we threaded our way through the huge mass of people.  Crowds are especially difficult for Michaela, but she was a trooper.  We reached the subway station and waited on the platform for the appropriate train.  The march was ending and the station filled with people.  We crowded onto the train, which became so full that they could not close the doors, there were so many people.  Once we reached our stop, we almost could not get out, but my sister shoved her way through, pulling Michaela.  Ja’Ana followed, then Alissa, then myself.  At one point, tiny little Alissa wasn’t making any headway and I gave her a huge push through a little crack in the people and popped her through like a watermelon seed going through someone’s fingers.  She told me later, she felt she would have never got out of there without that push!  I was able to shove through behind her, and we were free.  We climbed up the stairs, and exited into a deluge of rain.  After walking several blocks, we were delighted to wrap up in blankets and get all cozy and warm in our hotel room.  The girls were still keyed up, so they went to the exercise room, exercised, and then went and got some french fries from the restaurant.  Oh, to be young!!

 

Sunday was the tour my sister had booked for us.  We had a wonderful driver, and we saw many sights, despite the rain that developed.  He took us to the bridge while it was still sunny.img_3975

We had studied some San Francisco history before we went, and the museums and this tour helped solidify some of those facts for the girls.

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We saw the Muir Woods.  There were redwood trees there, and hiking trails.  The trail we tried to hike down was blocked by flooding–it’s been raining a lot there lately.  We still enjoyed ourselves.

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He also drove us around the city, showing us neighborhoods, city hall, and more.  He told us about the hippie movement, and other historic aspects of the city.

On Monday, it was time to come home.  We had a blast, but missed the rest of our families we left behind.  Today, it was back to the grindstone!  Vacations can only last so long, but trust me, the field trip queen (my sister, Gail) is already formulating a plan for the next, great field trip!

 

San Francisco, Here We Come!

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In the dim light of early morning, our luggage looks like an explosion in a clothes factory.  We are ready to go.  Our plane does not leave super early, though, so we will have time to eat breakfast before we go join my sister and nieces.

My sister, Gail, has a work conference in San Francisco, so we are taking Ja’Ana, Alissa and Michaela down there for the ultimate homeschool field trip.  Part of the time, we will all sight-see together.  Part of the time, she will be involved with her conference and I will be the tour guide.  We will all be very cozy in one hotel room every night, and will be riding public transportation instead of renting a car.  For this and other reasons, J and I are each taking only one small suitcase that can be carried onto the plane and one backpack.  We should have plenty of clothes, as we are only going to be gone for a few days.

Rob, Lovana and Patsy will hold down the fort here, and Ron and Jake will hold down the fort at their house.

I have a map of San Francisco in my backpack.  Although I can get that information on my phone, I’m hoping to be able to see a larger version better.  We have downloaded an app for the public transportation system, including the cable cars, onto each person’s phone and purchased a ticket for unlimited riding that can be used for the entire time we are there.  We will just have to have the driver scan the phone, and can get on and off as much as we want.  The hotel is near the cable car line, as well as the bus lines.

We downloaded another app that tells us about many, many sights that can be visited in the city. We have chosen quite a few that would be fun for the girls and I to do.  Most of them are historical museums.  One of the things I have done with Ja’Ana and Alissa this year is study the great earthquake and fire of San Francisco in the early 1900’s.  I hope to see some information about that at one of these museums, as well as some gold rush exhibits.  We will be taking it easy, though, and will see what we see while still having fun, rather than run everyone ragged.  Michaela, especially, can out-walk us all, but needs down-time each day.  So, we will explore, then go back to the hotel and chill out.  Then, the last day, my sister is treating us all to a tour.  We will get on a bus and ride around, seeing sights, such as the Golden Gate Bridge and more.

It should be a grand adventure!

Homemade Corn Tortillas

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A lot of people are doing a no-spend January.  I think it’s a great idea, but am not participating at this time.  I had several low-spend months this year, and am re-stocking  on some things this month.  I plan to have a lower income during the summer, so that’s when I’m planning my low-spend time.

However, today, we ran out of tortillas.  One daughter assured me there were some in the fridge when I tried to buy them, and another assured me they were gone.  They are a)buried deeply in the fridge, or b)indeed gone.  I wanted to make enchilada bake for dinner.  So, I dug out a bag on masa flour from the stockpile and gave it a try.  I love finding ways to use up things I bought for one reason or another, but don’t use regularly.

I looked up several recipes on the internet.  They were pretty much all the same, with extremely minor variations.  I mixed 2 cups masa (corn) flour with 1-1/2 cup very hot water and a 1/4 teaspoon salt.  I kneaded it until it was a ball, then pinched off balls to shape into tortillas.

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Then, I cut a gallon-sized ziplock bag up the sides and made my own “press.”

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I squished the balls with a big pot and some elbow grease.

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Then I fried them in a pan for about 2 minutes on each side.  I used a little oil in the pan.

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Then, I just layered the tortillas with home-canned chile verde, refried beans, and some leftover beef pieces I chopped finely.  After 3 layers, I covered the casserole with cheese and some olive slices.  Now, dinner’s in the freezer for Rob to warm up while I am at work! He has a headache today, and I did not want him to have to cook when he gets home.

These tortillas are thicker than the ones from the store, and have a slightly different flavor.  Still, I ate one for lunch, and they are certainly edible.  I’m pretty happy with how my experiment turned out.

Saving Money–January 15, 2017

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Rob made biscuits and gravy.  He used a packet of biscuit mix I got for 50c at Grocery Outlet.  This way, he can have regular gluten-filled biscuits without contaminating the kitchen, and that is far less expensive than our normal gluten-free biscuits.

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I made the cheesecakes again.  This time, I used a pint of canned blueberries to make the sauce.  They were delicious.  We were having a family get-together for my niece, Rachel.  She is leaving this week for Ireland.  She will be gone for 6 months on a mission trip.  We will miss her, but are very excited for her to have this opportunity.  The first 3 months will be in Ireland and the 2nd 3 months will either be in South Africa or SE Asia.  I’ll be excited to see where she lands!

I used my new Instant Pot as a slow cooker and made vegetable-beef soup. It cooked in 7 hours on low, but could have gone longer without being overcooked.  I was pleased.  My old crock pot would have given me raw veggies after 7 hours.  It was simply not working.  We ate that soup several times this week.  I also cooked some noodles and opened a jar of pasta sauce I got at Winco for $1.19 and several people have eaten that this week.  One night, Rob barbecued chicken and steak from the freezer and we had that for a few meals.  We used some 79c hot dogs, too, some home-canned green beans and jars of fruit, like peaches.  Because I am still recovering from the flu, we wanted easy meals.  I’m not eating much and the girls never do.  So, food is lasting a long time this week.

When I realized that 2 library books had been overlooked when we returned the rest of them, I got on-line and renewed them.  I still will have to pay a fine, but it will be lower than it could have been.

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It’s been really, really cold.  We had another big snow and ice event. Last Sunday, church was cancelled and on Wednesday, it was cancelled again.  That’s pretty rare for our part of Oregon!  Rob missed yet another day of work, due to the schools being closed.  Once the snow landed on the ground, it stayed.  In fact, there is still quite a bit out there after a week.  It’s supposed to thaw this week, maybe tomorrow.  I won’t complain.  We heated our house with wood during this time and have been very comfortable.

I went to 2 estate sales with Rob yesterday, mostly because I was feeling house-bound and wanted to spend some time with him.  I found a few rolls of non-Christmas wrapping paper and a lunch bag for Patsy for a grand total of $1.  Rob got a cast-iron cook book that looks brand new for $2.  He loves making things in his cast iron when we are camping, and sometimes when we are not.

We made camping reservations for the upcoming months.  It costs us $8 per time we go, because we use our foster/adopt park pass.  So, it makes it very affordable.  We need to come up with gas money, but take our own food.  We usually save up a bit of “fun” money, but never spend much.  We always have a blast.  Although the trips are still a ways away, we are getting excited about going.  It feels like forever since last summer!  It’s a good thing to think about when the yard is covered with snow, for sure.