Friday, July 21, 2017

Pickling, Baking, Shopping, and Plumbing?

What do pickling, baking, shopping, and plumbing have in common?

That is how I spent my Thursday.

Mama gave me enough squash to try a small batch of squash pickles.
If they taste as good as the brine did, they'll be great.


She also brought me enough cucumbers to make a small batch.
In the past, I've had limited success with homecanned pickles.
My freezer pickles are great, but the canned ones are so so at best.
This time I tried a new to me recipe that used a different technique than I've been using.
Hopefully these will be good, too.


My husband's birthday was earlier this week, but we decided in advance to wait and celebrate at the end of the week.
I started his favorite hamburger steak in the crockpot.
For dessert, he requested apple pie.
I'm afraid I am horrible at pretty crusts, but they usually taste good.


In the mix of all this, someone came to fix the guest bathroom toilet.
It had started to lightly run water all the time.
While he was here he snaked the upstairs bathtub drain for me.

I also ran out to pick up groceries -- we didn't need much.
I had to have more sugar for canning and some onions for the pickles.
The rest was just to replace things we had used up over this month.

And that is how I spent the bulk of my day.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Looking a Season Ahead

Life is a weird mix.  I try to live in the present, but always keep the upcoming seasons in mind.  

Sometimes it is literal seasons.

Today I was up well before the sun and I canned 7 quarts of dark red kidney beans in anticipation of big pots of chili this fall.

(I was cooking chili anyway for a family get togethr and decided I may as well soak enough beans to do a canner full.)

 
We're also looking ahead to other seasons of life.
 
Our daugther starts classes at the university this fall.
Because she won't be able to run home during the day, we are planning meals and tweaking the budget to give her maximum fleixibility.
 
As we get another year closer to retirement, we are looking ahead to that season of life, too.
We're trying to decide if we will stay in this area or move closer to my son's family.
We're not worried about any concrete plans until we see my daughter through her master's degree so we have time.
However, I have begun to price real estate in a couple of areas we are considering.
We're researching tax rates, proximities to medical care, and a host of other things.
 
It may be summer now, but this morning in my head I am seasons away.
 

 

Pocket Money

I sold two tatted cross bookmarks.
Red was the requested color and both were exactly the same.
These are approximately 6.5 inches from bottom to top (not counting the dangly bits LOL).
I know this photo isn't great, but they're still drying from the starching.


I don't really charge a lot for them, but the funds will help pay for my next project.
Or perhaps I'll invest in some threads and make up some more crosses.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Successful Day


It took me 2 1/2 hours, but I finally accomplished my afternoon goal.
I had to put it together in that tight space at the end of the pantry.  
If I had put it together in the open I would have had to move the big shelf to get it in there.  NO WAY 😜 
Then I moved all the canning a few jars at a time to it and inventoried it while I went.  
While I was doing that my bread was ready for the oven.
(We have fresh cinnamon swirl bread and a loaf of plain bread.)
   Then I got all the cookbooks back on the cookbook shelf.
As I had been canning I had been temporarily moving my cookbooks to a box and putting the canning on the shelf.
I'm glad to have my cookbooks back out --
Yes, I do have a serious cookbook habit --
And all the canning is in its home.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Busy Hands

Pretty much everyone knows the saying about idle hands.  Well, I've been doing a good job at keeping out of trouble.  


I've crocheted and lightly starched a Victorian Fans Collar.  
I have my pearl buttons ready, but my eyes are tired so I am going to sew one on tomorrow.


When I finished crocheting the first collar, I hopped right onto a second one.
This is a "Daisy" patterned collar.
It has been starched and only needs a button as well.
This collar is going to my pen pal, who lives in Rhode Island.
This beautiful lady and I both share a love of Victorian things.


Since I was up extremely early today (Monday), I had finished all my chores today by 9:00 AM.
Needless to say after I finished starching and shaping my collars, I still had some time on my hands.

Another darling lady (and pen pal), who lives in Pennsylvania, has been on my mind.
I wanted to send her something, but I was kind of tired of crocheting.
I pulled out this beautiful shaded pink thread and tatted her a cross bookmark.
It is starched and ready to go.

I have one more thread project going -- a bookmark for my penpal, who lives in Texas.  
We all met via a group for ladies who love Victorian history.



Monday, July 17, 2017

Chocolate Frosting -- Grandmama Style


This simple frosting is the one I associate most with my childhood.  My grandmama almost always made a thin sheet cake and frosted it with this.  I do make mine a little thicker than she made hers.  (This is not the hardest fudge, but somewhere between.)

   Sift 4 cups of powdered sugar and set aside.    

 1 stick of butter
 4 tablespoons of cocoa powder
 1/3 cup of whole milk  

 Melt butter over a low/medium heat in a saucepan.  Whisk in cocoa powder and milk.  Bring to a boil (stirring as you go) and remove from heat.  Stir in sugar.  

 If you are frosting a layer cake this will do a large sheet pan.  If you are making a layer cake it will give generous layers of frosting.  Be forewarned, you need to be ready to frost your cake as soon as you finish mixing in the sugar because it starts to set up quickly.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

2nd Week of July

Use it Up:

So far we've been doing well on the "use it up" front.  Other than a watermelon for immediate consumption, and 2 boxes of crackers and cereal for the pantry storage, we haven't done any grocery shopping.

Meals have included things like: baked potatoes topped with cheese and pepperoni, barbecued meatballs served over rice, pancakes, scrambled egg/bacon/cheese wraps, a hamburger helper type dish, fresh baked biscuits, lasagna, BBQ porkchops, etc.  We've had various fruits and veggies to round those out.  Snacks have been an assortment of chips, popcorn, crackers, etc. We also celebrated my daughter's birthday with a cheesecake made using food storage ingredients and cream cheese, which I try to buy in bulk because it holds up quite well in the refrigerator.  I baked a cake and used food storage items for that as well.


 On the frugal front -- 

 I've played with printing my own stationery.  I've yet to decide if it is more frugal, but I do like the process. 
I've done some light canning and saved the water for my plants.

 We've planned birthday meals and desserts from items on hand.

  I also bought two books on Amazon for 30 cents each, but I did have to pay shipping, which was still a great savings over buying them new.  

 I'm continuing to try to keep the a/c turned up during the day.  It is getting harder as the heat index hits triple digits.  I am also being quite diligent about only using the dryer for towels.  

 We've used up several odd bits of cleaners that were in bottles.

 We washed and detailed our cars. I checked out a book from the library.

 I've been working on a shawl using leftover yarn from a project completed more than 10 years ago, and I am down to finishing the edging.

 I harvested my basil and green onion.  (They're dried now and in my food storage.)

We had our annual eye exams and while we were out I doubled up on trips to pick up a few household items.  I'm currently looking into whether I can order my new glasses online or if I will need to head back to my usual place.        

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Early Mornings

After pretty much a full day and night's sleep thanks to allergy medications, I was wide awake at an early morning hour.  I decided to take advantage of the coolest temps of the day to bake a cake. These are never the prettiest, becuase the frosting sets up quickly.  However, the taste is fabulous if you like old fashioned frosting.  Growing up this was the only kind of frosting I ever remember my paternal Grandmama making.  It is what I think of when I think of cake.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Publix Review

Publix is new to our area and still in their grand opening.  Even though I am not officially buying groceries, I had to be out that way for an appointment this morning.  I walked in to see what they had.

Unfortunately the first thing I smelled when I walked in was their seafood department.  I should have known to turn around and walk out.  Instead I told myself I would just avoid that counter and be fine.  I hadn't made it out of the store good before I was having difficulty breathing.  I've spent the day in a drug induced haze and 9 hours later still am having some respiratory issues.

Needless to say Publix is off of my shopping rotation permanently. However, I did buy some cereal and some crackers that were B1G1.  The cereal was my daughter's favorite and the cracker stores I had in the pantry were pretty much depleted.  I toyed with baking my own, but it is just too hot.

The store is beautifully arranged and the prices are a little on the high end, but everything seemed high quality.  So all in all, I would say if you have one near and try to shop on a budget -- definitely do cherry picking of their sales.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Birthday Girl (and Recipe)

I cannot believe my baby is 20 years old today.
The years are flying by so quickly.

She's swamped with school work as her summer semester nears it end.
As a result, we aren't having an official family dinner, but everyone is gathering for dessert.

This is our first attempt at a brownie swirl cheesecake.
(Full disclosure, I buy brownies mixes for somewhere around $1 each.  My boxes are about double the size called for.  I simply baked the other half of the batter in muffin tins while I baked the crust.  I let the muffins finish while the crust cooled since they took longer.)


Brownie Swirl Cheesecake
(With my notes in parentheses)

1 (8 oz) package of brownie mix -- see comment above photo (I used a mocha brownie mix)
2 (8 oz) packages of cream cheese, softened (I used one reduced fat and one full fat.)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup of milk chocolate chips, melted (in the future, I will drop this to 3/4 cup)

Prepare brownie mix according to the package.  
Spread into a greased 9 inch spring form pan.
Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes.  (Will not test done.)
Cool for 10 minutes on a wire track.
Meanwhile, mix cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla well.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
Pour over the brownie crust.
Top with melted chocolate and swirl through the cream cheese filling.
Bake at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes or until center is almost set.
Run a knife around the edge to loosen.  
Let cool completely on a wire rack.
When cool, refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Serve as is, or with your choice of whipped cream and fruit.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Weekend and Watermelon

Over the weekend, we went to visit family and had a wonderful time.  We managed to keep the trip pretty frugal so that was an added bonus.  

 My week is shaping up to be quite busy, but I had to take time today to process a few items for the food storage.  We bought a huge, home grown watermelon this weekend.  1/2 of the rind made 3 quarts of pickles.  (I canned the other jar of brine to use either with dressings or perhaps to make some refrigerator pickles using cucumbers.)  Then I used 6 cups of the flesh pureed to make watermelon jelly.  I ended up with 10 jars.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

July Goals and June ReCap

I just realized I didn't formally write down my July goals or recap my June.  I'm blaming it on not feeling well, but in part I've just been busy, too.

 June -- I didn't finish the blue and white cardigan....I am close, but still not there.  I didn't keep to the food budget due to life changes.  I didn't sew the dress....I know, but I have been productive...lol.  What I did do was pack for road trips, keep the electric bill down, and finish my library book.   At first, I felt like I hadn't accomplished a lot.

In hindsight, I did do a lot of things that were not on my list.  I did some canning.  I traveled with my family.  I attended some events.  Celebrated birthdays.  

However, I have a project in the works.  I managed to complete the reading and notes on 7 research books.  That is where a lot of my time went.   I pretty much did all the things listed 4 days a week because this is the month that my husband has Friday's off....and I've spent every weekend with him.  So while not perfect, I am call June a success.  

 July's goals are pretty simple:
 1.  Try to keep the electric bill down as much as possible and still have air conditioning.
 2.  Continue to do some selective canning and dehydrating.
 3.  Work on using the freezer storage down.
 4.  Celebrate two birthdays -- my daughter's and my husband's.
 5.  Continue my research and the online course I am taking.
 6.  Continue to perfect using the sun oven.

Friday, July 7, 2017

July Challenge Meals (July 1 - 8)

We have all agreed that we absolutely must eat down the freezer supplies.....so July is the month. 

Saturday July 1
 Breakfast -- homemade chocolate chip waffles with syrup
 Lunch -- leftover pulled pork on brioche buns with cole slaw
 Supper -- barbecued chicken, baked macaroni and cheese, cole slaw
 Snacks -- brownies, popcorn

 Sunday July 2
 Breakfast -- cereal with soy milk/milk
 Lunch and Supper -- clean out refrigerator day
 Snacks -- graham crackers, brownies

 Monday July 3
 Breakfast -- egg, cheese, flour tortilla wraps
 Lunch -- yogurt
 Leftovers Supper -- fried chicken (cooked enough for lunch for the next day), string beans with potatoes
 Snacks -- graham crackers

 Tuesday July 4
 Breakfast -- blueberry pancakes
 Lunch -- fried chicken, squash with onions, cucumbers in vinegar, string beanss with potatoes Supper -- homemade pizzas (one pepperoni and cheese, one veggie with mushrooms, bell pepper, etc.)
 Afternoon tea -- tea and biscuits as a nod to our British heritage
 Snacks -- popcorn, cookies, ice cream  

 Wednesday July 5
 Breakfast -- don't laugh....I pulled out a hodge podge of leftover veggies from the day before.  My daughter had cereal.
 Lunch -- homemade pizza leftovers
 Supper --  everyone fixed a plate of hodgepodge leftovers.

Thursday July 6
Breakfast -- eggs with cheese
Lunch -- cereal (long story)
Supper -- crockpot barbecue meatballs, string beans, potatoes

Friday July 7 (Road trip)
Breakfast/Lunch -- I baked 8 biscuits and fried ham to go in them.  Extras are for on the road.  I also packed snacks from food storage.

Saturday -- We will be out of state and I have allotted for at least one meal out during the trip.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Adding to the Stores


Mama gave us some fresh produce.  
I canned 8 pints of string beans -- one didn't seal and is in the refrigerator.
I also canned 7 pints of corn.
(I had enough string beans for 10 pints, but saved some out to go with our supper with plans for leftovers the next day.)

She also gave me squash, okra, avacados, and cucumbers.
All of those became part of our 4th of July celebration.


Monday, July 3, 2017

The Last Week of June (Frugal Happenings)

Sunday -- I wasn't feeling well.  Fortunately I had cooked extra hamburger steak the day before.  We mostly used it for meals.  The extent of my cooking was to bake a cake.  My husband and daughter had been hinting for some time that they would like one.  I wasn't ill enough to sleep so I spent most of the day reading.  I actually finished reading one book and read two other history books. I woke up about midnight feeling a little better and I did pay the bills.  I'm excited to say that even with summer heat I've been able to keep our utilities below $200.  They were just below $189.  Of course, we have not hit our hottest months yet.

 Monday -- I picked up a Sam's Club order.  There was only one food item -- a package of beef for the freezer.  All the rest was cleaning, pet care, and household supplies.  I try to do this twice a year if possible although some things I do have to look for quarterly.  By timing it with sales I was able to save over $79 on things we normally buy and use.  Running two households either requires duplicates or items big enough to split in half.  Sam's Club works well for us on that.  I also make a point to order online and just do pick up at the store whenever it is possible.  This helps me make certain I don't do any impulse purchases.  

 Tuesday -- I spent the day down -- with a migraine combined with a stomach virus.  We kind of ate whatever we could find.  I didn't do a lot of anything.  

 Wednesday -- I was feeling some better.  I bleached all the surfaces I could bleach, washed my bedding, and stayed in.     

 Thursday -- Perfect day to test the solar oven again.  I baked brownies and made a batch of beans and rice.  We went to the thrift store and I bought 1 skirt, 4 blouses, and a purse.  $21.34. The blouses are all neutrals and will go with anything.  The purse was $1.99.  I had been using a backpack because I have to carry so many epi-pens, sugar testign supplies, etc.  This bag even has a pocket that is perfect for my epi-pen pouch. 

 Friday -- We had to go to Aldi to pick up milk and soy milk, while I was there they had chicken breasts (large packages) marked $4 off.  I came home with four packages for basically the price of two.  We also went to Ollie's, and I picked up a few household items.

 Saturday -- Company over for supper.  Kept it simple.  One crockpot with BBQ chicken and one with mac and cheese.  A hot day and I would have normally grilled out, but they were calling for early evening thunderstorms.  I'm serving leftover slaw, a veggies, and some homebaked brownies.....that we baked early in the morning while it was still cooler.