Saving Money–May 21, 2017–A Week of Simple Pleasures

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This was indeed a week of simple pleasures.  It was frugal, too.  We started the week by having Rob grill up chicken and pork.  We put it in the fridge to use for the week, and served it plain, with side dishes and also in tacos shells all week long.

On Tuesday,  Ja’Ana made some excellent pork in the crock pot as well.  Alissa made mashed potatoes.  Paired, they made a pretty happy meal:)  The pork was put in the crock pot with apple juice and a little honey, sprinkled with salt and pepper and 1 onion.  That’s it, and it turned out so tender, flavorful, and delicious.

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On Wednesday, my mom and aunt came for lunch.  My aunt brought the beautiful and pleasantly scented roses pictured above.  We had pork and chicken, herbed roasted potatoes and Marion berry cobbler.  We used the pre-cooked meat from Sunday, and Alissa made the potatoes and cobbler.

By Thursday, the weather turned sunny and gorgeous.  I took the home-schooled girls on a field trip.  They have a project going for Biology that involves some outdoor work.  We’ve been putting off all the experiments/labs that need to be done outside because it’s been so rainy.  I can see we’ll get them done now!  We went down to a park by the Willamette River.  While we were there, we enjoyed the view of the paddle boat that is docked, and gives tours, at the waterfront park.   There is more than one Sternwheeler boat in Oregon This one is the Willamette Queen.

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I was able to do a lot of yard and garden work this week.  I planted flowers, weeded, hoed, planted more veggie starts and seeds, and more.  My mom and aunt liked looking at my yard, and I ended up over at my aunt’s later in the week to see how hers was coming along.  I went shopping a few times, looking for a hanging basket for my Mom that had begonias in it.  I didn’t find one I wanted, but usually found something else that would fit nicely in MY yard:) 🙂    So, I got an empty hanging basket from my aunt that she didn’t need and bought small plants and filled it.  I really like how it came out.  It’s sitting in my yard now, and I’ll get it to her soon.  (She reads this, but is totally in on the plan, so I’m not ruining her surprise!)

One of the most interesting things I have blooming right now is my rhubarb plant.  I never knew they could bloom so largely.  I have always cut off the blooms as recommended before.

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I got a bag of Ritz chips/crackers for free from my Friday download from Fred Meyers.  I also bought  a 1/2 price hydrengia.    It is quite small, but it will grow:)  I’ll try to plant it out soon.

We found the orthodontist is ready to put the bottom braces on Patsy’s teeth.  When checked, the insurance is going to cover 80% of them.  Thank you, Auntie Jan, for looking through all those insurance choices for us last fall!  (She helped us sort through SO many choices)  I knew she’d be the first one to be delighted after putting in the effort for us.  I knew we wanted to choose a choice with orthodontics, because I knew this day was coming.  We are going to have them put on in early June.  He had needed to work on the top teeth for a long time (3 years approx), because she had a tooth that had never come in.  There were braces, then there was oral surgery, a chain attached, the tooth pulled down, teeth straightened around the offender, and more.  I’m excited that we can move on with this project while we have dental insurance.

I took Jake to a park one afternoon for fresh air and exercise.  It was a LOT longer walk then he led me to believe, and I ended up carrying his scooter a long ways.  Thankfully, Rob was in the neighborhood (sort of) and came and got us when we were done, scooter and all, and hauled us home.

The girls are getting dance pictures done this week.  They looked great in their costumes for the upcoming recital!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

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It’s all about flowers for me at this time of year!  We bought those flowers for his mom.  This way, she can plant them wherever,   I hope your week went as well as mine did. What did you do?

Saving Money–Wild Week Edition-May 14, 2017

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Jake wore his firefighter suit to school Friday.  He said it was super-hero day, and chose the fireman.  He knew it wasn’t Superman, and asked if a fireman was a super-hero.  I said they were to me.  (He really, really wanted to wear that costume)  He changed during the day, but I thought it was adorable.

We had a crazy, wild week.  If you’ve been reading this blog for any time, you know that we are quite busy and active all the time.  This week made those weeks look calm and boring!  But, I’m here to say, we we able to keep it quite frugal throughout it all, while having lots of fun in the meanwhile.  I mean, how could I NOT have fun with such a cute fireman?

Monday, I did homeschool then went to work, as usual.  I made Sloppy Joes in the Crockpot, and left them cooking on the counter for the family.  I got home around 6:45, as usual, and gobbled some up, too.  One fun, frugal activity from Monday was taking Jake down to the river to throw rocks into the water.  I could not have paid any amount of money for the amount of fun he had doing that!  I’ve never met a little boy who doesn’t like throwing rocks into rivers:)

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Where Jake is concerned, the bigger rocks were better!

On Tuesday, we went to visit Harnet and Danite with my sister Rosalie.  This time, we met at a park on the Willamette River.  There were ducks and geese to feed, playground equipment, a picnic area, and more.  We kept it frugal by bringing food.  Each one of us 3 ladies brought enough for all of us–we had to chuckle at the amount of food there was!

 

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The girls are really loving getting to know Dinuite.  She, in turn, is loving them and often insists that they are coming, even on days they aren’t.  Her mother, Harnet, is taking classes at community college, working on English and citizenship.  She is getting better and better at English each month and we can really tell a difference when we see her.

We kept it frugal and fun by taking a picnic, old bread for the geese and ducks, and simple, inexpensive toys to keep little Danuite busy.

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I started planting a few seeds on Tuesday night, but couldn’t start until 7 because I was at work, so I had much more to do.  By Wednesday, I was getting nervous.  Rob had spent hours tilling it up and getting the dirt into good shape over the weekend and Monday evening,  and it was going to rain on Thursday.  The girls and I did some crucial bookwork and then ran to Wilco for some starts of both veggies and flowers.  I purchased only what I thought I could get planted before the rain.  The girls helped me and we got the garden planted, and even 1 flowerbed.  I finished late afternoon/evening once they had moved on to other activities.  I was so glad I did.  Once it started raining, it poured, and hasn’t stopped since.

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On Thursday, Gail and Ron took off for a few days to see their oldest daughter, our niece, Caitlyn, graduate from USC.  We took care of the kids.  I’m happy to say that we had a good weekend.

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We are so proud of her.  Her degree from USC is bio-chemical engeneering–whew!  She graduates again at Biola University in a few days–she was in a special program between the 2 schools.  She will have 2 degrees now, one from each school.  Although I’m not exactly sure of the names of all her degrees, I am supremely sure that it was extremely difficult, and I’m so glad she’s made it through.

I will say the weekend was a blur of cooking and cleaning.  Rob and I divided and conquered, and I slept over there 2 nights, and brought Michaela over here 1 night. She doesn’t like to be away from home, so that was a stretch for her.  Jake slept at my house with uncle and cousins 2 nights.

Overall, I was pleased with the amount of cooking I did for everyone, and the lack of  eating out.  It did take a fair bit of planning to make sure we had everything we wanted at the whichever house we were at, but we stayed within our budget with the few items that were eaten out and used a lot of food from the grocery store to keep everyone fed and happy.  I feel like we had a good balance.  We did not pay for entertainment this time–no movies, etc.  We were just too busy with scheduled activities, chores and cooking.   It went well, and the children were terrific!  Now it’s off to bed with me…I’m wiped out!  Fun, but tiring–that’s for sure.

 

 

Saving Money–May 7, 2017

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Alissa has a strawberry bed at her house.  We cleaned it out, put in some new dirt, and transplanted a runner that had grown into a pot nearby into the big box.  She plans to put some herbs and possibly flowers into the other half.

Menu planning was very simple this week.  Last weekend, I grabbed some food at Winco, and thawed some from the freezers, and wrote down some meals I could cook from those foods.  Then, I cooked a bunch of them up, and made the rest as needed throughout the week.  I just erased the meal once I had made it.

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We had quite a few sick kids during the week, and I ended up being busier than normal.  I didn’t even need to cook everything on the list, but it gave me ideas of what to cook, or warm up, with what I had when I was in a super big hurry, which was Every. Single. Day.

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Thankfully, they got better and we were able to take off for our planned 2-family weekend.  We spent the weekend up near Seattle, Washington, and enjoyed our field trip to Camlann Medieval Village, and the rest of the things we did.  Traveling is rarely frugal, and we happily spent some money.  However, we were able to pinch a few pennies along the way.  The main way we saved money was to not eat out for every single meal.  I bought some foods and packed a picnic for the first night’s meal, which we ate at a rest stop.  I also purchased, and packed,  a few of those pre-packaged lunch/snack packs (various brands–like Lunchables), and some of us ate some of those Saturday for lunch.  I rarely buy those, because they don’t have much in them and my crew wants more, but they worked this time.  Since they were from Grocery Outlet, they were really inexpensive.  Breakfasts were a mix between food we took with us, food the hotel provided,  and food we bought, which also kept the price down.  We took tons of snacks and drinks, which kept everyone out of convenience stores at gas stations, etc.  Lunch today was DQ $5 lunch.  We splurged at a nice pizza parlor Saturday night.  I wanted a salad badly, and was pleased to get one there, along with gf pizza for Gail and I, and regular for the others.  It turned out to be a nice balance.  We had a really good time.

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Saving Money–April 30, 2017

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The rain has continued to pour down around here.  Once in a while, it stops, and I am able to squish and slosh my way out to the back yard.  I love how pretty the apple tree looks, blooming cheerily through all the sogginess! We will see if we get apples.

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Lots of cooking got done this week.  Alissa and Ja’Ana made baked gluten-free cinnamon sugar donuts.  They were so good.  There recipe was from the Gluten Free and More Magazine. Yum!  I had gotten 2 donut pans around Christmas time, using a gift card I had, and had not used them yet, so I was glad they used them.  We will make them again.

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These meatballs were a group project.  The girls started them, and I finished.  The carrots were supposed to be grated, but they worked this way.  There are lots of veggies in them (onions, carrots, celery), along with turkey burger, and a little beef burger that was left over from another project.  They were bulked up with gf bread crumbs and 2 eggs.  Then I baked them.  I made spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, using all odds and ends of tomato products in the fridge along with some marinara sauce I had on hand.  Then, I froze the rest for easy meals later.

I cooked for the week ahead.  I made chili and cornbread, cookies, and enchilada casserole.  I have plans and ingredients for more.

We took the kids bowling.  We took Alissa, Ja’Ana, Ja’Ana’s friend, Patsy, Jake, and Michaela.  We used the Kids Bowl Free tickets.  I did not know it was started already, but once I figured it out, we signed ours up and my sister signed hers up, and Rob and I took them bowling.  You still need to pay for shoe rental, but it’s a good deal and a great way to spend a day off of school.   Some of the crew went to the YMCA afterwards.   We also accomplished a couple of errands, and I took Jake to the library.  I was sure glad Rob did not have school Friday.  It took us both!

I used my new white board to keep it all straight, although changes were made as the day went along.  I am so happy Rob finally found one that would work and ordered it.  It’s magnetic.

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Of course, there were french fries involved.  When do we go anywhere with this crew without french fries?  One day those children will turn into french fries:)

My aunt and I, along with a couple of friends, took our kids to the Northwest Children’s Theater production of Robin Hood.  We did the school performance, so the tickets were very reasonable, and we loved the play.  It was a great field trip.

This has been a strange couple of weeks in some ways, mixed with all the fun memories.  It seems like almost everyone is getting sick.  Some people have gotten sick more than once.  Both my aunt and brother-in-law ended up on antibiotics.  Rob’s been crawling out of bed each day and heading to work, then crashing on the couch as soon as he gets home.  Ja’Ana ended up getting a fever at the bowling alley.  We had to take her friend home, and since she had been fighting a bad cold for 2 weeks, I ran her to the doctor. We thought she was better, and I was not excited when that fever showed up.   She now has a virus.  The doctor says she probably has had 3 different things in 2 weeks.  Yikes!  Yesterday, Jake popped a fever.  And, he’s already had the cold for a week.  I had to pick Michaela up from school Wednesday.  She’s been sick for a couple of weeks, and couldn’t make it through her first day back.  Alissa is toughing it out.  Lovana has a headache today.  Patsy had it, but feels good now.  My sister can barely talk, she’s so hoarse from her awful cold.  Do you notice whose name has not been mentioned?  Yep.  Mine.  I’m kind of worried, to be sure, but I’m sure I’ll have enough healthy people to take care of me when its my turn.  Or, maybe I can skip my turn…….

I hope to work in the garden a bit this week.  I’m hoping it dries up enough to do that.  I do have little seeds up, and bought 3 herbs I want to plant.  Fun!

 

Saving Money April 23

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We have enjoyed the last of the Easter food.  This gluten-free angel food ice cream cake turned out wonderful.  I just made the cake from a recipe from Taste of Home, added softened rainbow sherbet, froze, then pale green whipped cream that was lightly sweetened.  After Easter dinner, I sliced it all and froze the slices.  They have been great all week!  I also had some cupcakes my daughter made, that I also froze, and am loving one once in a while.  They were chocolate with caramel frosting.  They were gluten-free, dairy free, egg free, soy free, and… tasted amazing!  We also ate ham, lots of potatoes, etc. from the large meal.  It made cooking and meal planning easy this week.

I stocked back up on produce, dairy, etc.  I had let the fridge empty out in anticipation of the big day.  I went to Grocery Outlet for some of the groceries and got turkey lunchmeat for $1.50/lb, one box of Danimal smoothie drinks for 99c, Pretzel bites for 99c, and some other stuff.  Their produce didn’t look good that day, although it is good lots of times, so I went to another store for produce.  I’ve got to say, the produce was costly, but………..I’ve got to have salads, etc.   I did get a free grocery tote bag from there since it was Earth Day yesterday, when I shopped there.

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My aunt hired the girls to do some yard work.  They are saving for a big homeschool trip next year, and it’s never too early to get started.  Of course, she spoiled them rotten with drinks, snacks, and plenty of pay……What can I say?  The yard looked great when they were done.

Ja’Ana continues to clean house for a lady to earn money for her summer church activities.  She is starting to rack up a good amount in her account there.  She needs several hundred dollars if she wants to do it all.  I’m so grateful that they make this opportunity available to the kids.  Camp, for instance, is almost $300.  She should have a ball, and even more so because she put in so many Saturdays to help get herself there.

Lovana’s job will be ending in a few weeks.  The lady she helps with is failing, and will be needing a different situation.  So, her grown children are taking her back to the country where she was born, where they feel she will be most comfortable.  I think that is touching.  Lovana has saved money, and will be looking for another summer job.  This job has become pretty difficult with the lady needing constant attention even every few hours all day and all night long, and I’m proud of her for sticking it out.

A few things have sprouted in my garden.  I’m watching them with anticipation.  We have eaten more Swiss Chard, spinach and green onions, the only 3 things we have that overwintered.  I’m shocked that the family is eating the chard.  This variety is so much more mild.  It’s pale green.  Last time, they revolted and would not eat it at all–it was the red, orange and yellow kind.

I did a little more yard work on the one nice day when I had a little time.

I exercised down at the YMCA 3 times this past week.  It’s so good that I’m using that membership.

How did your week go?

Saving Money–April 8, 2017

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There are little viola plants coming up all over the place–in the flowerbeds, in the yard, even in the cracks of the sidewalk and the gutter next to the sidewalk.  I left this clump of them in the planter box by the door, and they are growing much more lushly than any of the other, probably from the heat of being next to the siding where the sun shines.  Patsy and I also dug up and moved several to better spots so they will add some color once they get growing in their new homes.  We also moved several daffodil plants to better places.   I trimmed things, removed many weeds and moved some other plants around.

Several times, I was able to work outside in the yard and I planted early veggies in the garden this past week before it started raining again.  In fact, there was a very strong wind storm on Friday–what a strange weather year it has been!  Many trees and branches came down around town, but nothing blew away here, except a piece of plywood, 2 sawhorses. some trash, and the lid to the yard debris bin.  All of that was easily put to rights.  4 schools sent kids home, but Rob’s school did not lose power and he worked all day.

Ja’Ana keeps plugging along with her house-cleaning job, earning $24 every Saturday morning.  At this point, she’s just having that money put on her youth group account, and it will pay for camp, activities, etc.  This is going to help our summer budget tremendously.

Lovana is continuing her job, so is home very little, since she occasionally is doing activities on the weekends with her friends.  It’s been nice for her to be able to buy herself some clothes and pay for some college classes that she started on-line this week.  She’s also saving up money.

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I made blueberry smoothies with some blueberries my Mom gave me.  Ja’Ana made some wonderful turkey-vegetable meatballs, using turkey burger from the turkeys Rob grew back at our old house.  There are still a few packages left.  She made a pesto sauce for noodles to go with it, from pesto I made last summer and froze in an ice cube tray, then popped out into a ziplock bag.  The meatballs were so good, I had her make another batch for the Sunday family dinner.  They are resting in the fridge to be warmed up.

I boiled some beef bones from the freezer and froze the broth for a 4H event that is coming up.  We are going to do a class on outdoor cooking and make stew and some other things.  I’m glad to use some of those bones and free up more space in the freezers for fruits and veggies this summer.

I used Swiss chard and spinach from the garden in a vegetable stir-fry, putting the greens in at the end so they were just wilted. I only used about 2 cups of each, and they shrunk a lot.  I already had carrots, onions, and celery in the pan and used gf soy sauce and a little pesto.  I was surprised on 2 counts: 1)  The soy sauce and pesto tasted good together and 2)The entire family, including the kids ate it without grumping.  The last time I grew Swiss chard, we did not eat it.  It was too strong.  I think that growing this more milder kind has been a good move.

We ate chili, sandwiches, fish, chicken, beans, hot dogs, salads, green beans and garlic, stir fry, celery sticks, and more.  I shopped only for basics and things I ran out of, and used a lot of things from the freezers, shelves, cupboards, etc., and kept the shopping to a minimum.  I didn’t take the kids out for french fries, this week, since a treat ceases to be, a treat if I do it too often.  I did stop in this morning for a 2 lb loaf of cheese for $5.48, milk, and a couple of other things, after seeing a reader board advertising the specials at a store near my house.  I may stop into the same store for another brick of cheese tomorrow since that’s about as low as the price goes around here.

I took Patsy to the library.  I watched Jake for a while today, so I took him, too.  His mom took Alissa to her event.  His dad took Michaela to her horse ranch where she volunteers and rides most Saturdays.  That’s all the parents there were, so Auntie and Uncle got Jake.  He likes the puppets at the library a lot.  He also loves putting money in the parking meters.  I’m hoping to get him used to the library so we can enjoy some of their programs during the summer, when we have lots and lots of time to use up in useful and productive ways that help him grow and develop as a person.  Very few activities beat the library, in my opinion!  So far, I’m pleased at how he’s warmed up to the whole experience over several exposures.  He’s got his mind on baseball right now, and actually had me running around the flowerbed the other day, while I either chased him with a plastic ball, or he chased me, after wildly swinging, and occasionally hitting, the ball with his plastic bat.  It was definitely 3 strikes and you’re out…..when it was me.  When it was him, hmmm…….he wanted how every many tries it took….hmmmmmmm.  Never a dull moment with Jake!  He even recruited Ja’Ana for his game, since we were sadly lacking on team members.  Lots of frugal fun!

Ja’Ana and Alissa are both practicing driving.  Their Driver Ed class started last week.  Ja’Ana has to drive for 50 hours, plus this class,  before she can have her license.   Without the class, it’s 100 hours.  With this class, she can also get a certificate that lets her skip the driving part of the test at the DMV.  She will still have to take the written test there.  Passing this class lowers the insurance cost, too.  I feel like I’ve driven, and driven and driven with her, because it averages out to about 5 hours per week.   Rob has taken his turns, too.  She’s doing great, though and we really want her to pass, so we are doing what we can.  Alissa’s parents are taking her driving as well. So glad they each have 2 parents–we all have all we can do to get this much driving in.  So worth it if it helps them be safe drivers, though!

I’m looking forward to Easter next week–it sure came up quickly this year!  I’ve already got a ham I got on sale and you all know I have potatoes!  So, I already have a good start on the meal.  People will bring things, too, and it will be a great day.

 

 

 

 

Saving Money–April 2, 2017

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We packed “car picnics” several times.  I usually put several food items in the little cooler and put it between the 2 front seats of the van, when we are driving that, and just hand food around as we drive to our destination.  I can think of at least 4 times I did that during the past week alone, saving a minimum of $100 ($25 x 4), and that would be for fast food–not even a regular restaurant.  That could easily run $50 – $60 per time, bringing the savings up to over $200.

We drove the van a lot last week, as the little car was in the shop.  We drove up and got it back on Friday, and it has no more wobbly bearing in the right front side, brand new back brakes (I guess they were really awful–not safe anymore), and the transmission issues from before are all fixed (some cable needed tightening or something).  Also, it doesn’t sound like a ghost is howling in the engine any more.  I guess the alternator went out and the alternator clutch was burning cherry red inside–our good friend and mechanic, Bob, took a picture of it glowing.  I though that there was an awful, new noise that developed on the way to the shop, and I just kept driving and praying and being thankful that we were ON OUR WAY to the shop when it started.  I think that one of the nicest things is putting the car into the hands of one of Rob’s best friends and knowing that he was going to fix it, fix it well, fix everything that needs fixing and nothing more, and not over charge us.  In fact, many, many times in the past, he has vastly undercharged us.   We gratefully paid what he asked, and it wasn’t inexpensive, but I still think he gave us a really good deal this time as well because there were quite a few things that needed done.  I drive so much, I wear things out, so we prefer to get the cars maintained regularly.

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Rob hitched up the van to the trailer and we went down to the coast for a few days.  We decided to get away on a little vacation while he had the time off from work/school.  We used our park pass, so the campground was free, and I was far enough along on my “getting it ready” project that it wasn’t too much work.  I did find a few more things that I need to stock in there, though, so I’ll keep on with that project.  I loaded up a few freezer meals I had made a couple of weeks ago, some groceries and clothes, and we were off.    It was pouring rain, and many campsites were actually flooded and the people could not build a fire if they wanted to because their fire pits were under water. Ours wasn’t, but things were super muddy. We were fine with that.  We have a cozy camper.  I was so tired, I slept a ton, read several library books, watched multiple movies, etc.  I did not even go down to the beach.  We took the girls to the outlet mall and we all picked up a few sale clothing items (except Rob, because they took the only big and tall shop out of there, poor Rob).  We ate out a couple of times, but mainly ate simple meals from the camper.  We only roasted hot dogs and marshmallows once, when the weather cleared off a bit.  We bought seafood in a store and cooked it one evening, since we were at the beach, after all, and Rob’s 2 fishing expeditions were not successful.  He pulled up a few crabs on his crab fishing pole, but they were females.

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Patsy and I did take one short hike during one clear evening.  There is a trail in the campground we were in.

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We enjoyed the flowers and stream we hiked along.

My aunt gave us some food before she left for her vacation– including a few eggs, celery,  and baby carrots.  We ate them on our picnics, and I hardboiled the eggs and we ate egg salad sandwiches, egg salad and plain eggs dipped in salt and pepper for a couple of days.

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We finally got a couple of sunny days.  Patsy and I worked in the yard for several hours.  We transplanted some daffodils from this flowerbed to the front.  We planted some dahlias my sister gave me in the section to the left of the little white fence, and a few out front.  We have hours and hours of yard work left to do, but it was good to get started.

Rob went and got our tillers from my sister’s farm where they were stored.  He did one trial strip in the garden and feels he can get into it before long, if it stays dry for a few days.  Then, I can plant cool-weather veggies.

I was happy to spend so much time with Rob during the week, and really glad to get caught up on my sleep.  I was able to get organized a bit for the week ahead, so I’m ready to go–back on my busy schedule!