Christmas Crafting Starts Now

I woke up early Tuesday morning, before sunrise actually. I enjoyed my coffee and some scrambled eggs. MrB took leftovers for lunch, and I had a microwave meal.

For dinner I tried something I hadn’t done before. I made spaghetti squash in the slow cooker. I took a medium sized spaghetti squash, poked a bunch of holes all over it, and stuck it in my crockpot with just a little bit of water. I cooked it on low for 5 hours. I put some pasta sauce and frozen soy crumbles in a small saucepan to warm. I let it simmer for about 30-40 minutes. I cut open the squash and got the seeds out. There was plenty for us to each eat one side. I also heated up some sweet peas. One day left in September, and it looks like we’re going to do great in our grocery budget challenge. No money was spent on groceries today.


Christmas Budget Challenge

I’ve decided that I’m going to try to make most of my gifts this Christmas rather than buying them. It’s not only cheaper, but has more meaning behind it.

I started a couple months ago with making vanilla extract. I put a 1/4 pound of vanilla beans, split down the middle, in a 1 liter bottle of vodka. I’ve kept it in my pantry where I shake it every so often. I opened it up the other day, and it does indeed smell like the vanilla extract I’ve purchased from the stores. I should have enough to split it up amongst a few people, and perhaps keeps a small amount for my cooking as well. I’ve simply got to find the right containers to put it in.

I’m also making things on my knitting looms. I’ve been loom knitting off and on for almost 10 years. I taught myself how to do it using the booklet that came with the original set of Knifty Knitter looms I purchased years ago. I’m going to make as many hats as I can between now and Christmas. I completed one hat yesterday. I’ll probably be giving this to my step-nephew to wear when he goes with his dad hunting.

This is how it looks when I'm starting out.
This is how it looks when I’m starting out.
First hat completed. Many more to follow
First hat completed. Many more to follow

In the past I’ve done other homemade gifts, and they’ve always been well received. I’ve made coasters out of ceramic tiles stamped with waterproof ink. Another time I made lavender sea salt scrub, and also I made a moisturizing gardeners hand wash. I truly enjoy making things, and I’m going to keep trying to learn more things so that I may use what I learn to make things not only for gifts but for our home.

I am not setting a specific dollar amount on how much I want to spend for Christmas gifts this year, but my goal is to keep the prices down as much as possible. I’ll continue to post updates on where I am in the process.

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Monday at Home

We’re edging ever so closely to the end of the month, and if all goes according to plan we will have stuck to our $350 budget challenge. MrB took leftover chili for his lunch. I ate scrambled eggs, and vanilla flavored Greek yogurt with a little granola added in. It was really good, and I didn’t know how it would taste because I’d never done it before. I have this granola I bought at Costco that has flaxseeds in it. It tastes really good by itself or with milk on it. I had leftover chili for lunch as well. I added in a little cheese and sour cream.

Big win in the weight department. I got back into a normal routine of weighing Monday morning after all the food consumption and not being at home on Monday last week. I was shocked to see that even though I’d still had some days of not eating my best that I had lost 4.6 pounds! I don’t know how it happens like that, but sometimes I’ll be expecting to have not lost or maybe to have even gained weight, and then I’ll get on the scales and see great results. Last week I had gained 0.2 pounds, but in less than a week I’ve lost 4.6.

So for dinner last night MrB decided that he didn’t want any more chili for now, and he turned pasta down, so I ended up spending some of my birthday money to get us a half priced pizza from Papa Johns. I’m definitely going to have to get this kind of spending under control. This month I’ve used my birthday as an excuse to eat out more than I should. We’ll be tightening this area up ASAP!

I’m starting a new challenge of a “Low Budget Christmas”. I’ll get more into what my plans are tomorrow, but I’ve got a bit of work on my hands. I think I can make it work. Stay tuned to see.

Weekend Roundup

Saturday was a very quiet day at home. I woke up before MrB, and did a little reading and enjoyed my coffee. I had an egg sandwich for breakfast. We watched football most of the day, and ate leftover lasagna. It was cloudy and cool, so we both took naps for a little while during the day. We spent zero money on groceries, or on anything actually. The lack of spending made it a productive day to me.


Sunday morning we got up a little early and took the boat out. MrB fished while I read herbal magazines. It was still cool and cloudy so I wore a hoodie over my shirt. The scenery at the river always impresses.

Tennessee River
Tennessee River

Besides reading my magazines, I’m continuing to read “Down To Earth” by Rhonda Hetzel. I’m starting to frame a picture in my mind of how I want to live the rest of my life. I left the professional workplace a couple years ago due to illness, and I’m finally starting to learn more about what I want to do with myself. I’ve been aimlessly wandering thru life for many years. Due to illness, I’ll probably never fully return to the working world, and we’ve recently decided we will be unable to have children. I plan to grab life by the horns, and make the best of each day I’m given. Simple living will enable me to make the best of our home, and what’s in it.

When we arrived home after our fishing excursion, MrB and I were hungry. So he ate more of the leftover lasagna, and I ate a freezer meal. As soon as we finished eating we got to work preparing dinner. He chopped up an onion, and I threw in some garlic and frozen jalapeños. After those had sautéed in some olive oil for a little bit, I put in a pound of red kidney beans I had been soaking. To that I added a can of tomato sauce, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, diced tomatoes with chiles, cumin, chili powder, and some homemade vegetable stock. I brought it all to a boil, and then set it to simmer for a few hours. It turned out pretty good. I topped it with cheddar I had shredded in the food processor and a dollop of sour cream. It was more like a soup than a chili, but we both liked it ok. I also think the beans could’ve used more cooking. I at least know I can sort of haphazardly throw together some ingredients out of the pantry to make a nourishing meal for us. There is plenty left over for several meals.

My chili
My chili

I took a short nap while MrB went to pick up more dog food, and fill his truck up with gas for the week. He also went to buy some wasp spray. I had noticed a couple of times a bunch of wasps hovering ominously in front of one of my living room windows. I forgot to mention it, but suddenly I looked outside and there was a swarm of them (about 10 or so) hovering above the window again. I pointed them out, and when MrB went to look he found a fairly extensive wasp nest absolutely covered with wasps. After he got home he sprayed those dirty rascals after bringing Denver in for safekeeping, as the nest was going to fall right into his favorite place to sit. After a few minutes he went outside, and sprayed the actual nest with the wasp spray. He then put it up on the deck to get rid of. I’m glad he was able to get rid of them!

We spent the rest of the evening watching football, and I read some. I keep up with other blogs using the Feedly program, and I follow so many that I get behind. I have a lot to catch up on, and some days I really don’t feel like being on the computer for that long.

It’s the End of the Week

Thursday was a quiet day here at the house. I had an egg sandwich for breakfast, and leftover peas and okra for lunch. MrB took leftover peas and okra for his lunch. I made quinoa enchilada casserole for dinner. Again I only got a little over one bowlful of it, and the hubby got the rest. We spent the evening hanging out watching a little TV. No money was spent on groceries. I did buy a few of my supplements on eBay. I take a lot of vitamins and supplements.

Quinoa enchilada casserole.
Quinoa enchilada casserole.

Friday was also a quiet day. MrB took enchilada casserole for his lunch. I ate an egg sandwich for breakfast. I sat out on the deck and it was a little cooler than I expected. The skies were gray and it started to sprinkle. It rained for a while, and that made me sleepy and it made Joey sleepy too. I took a nap, and when MrB got off of work he came home, I was already working on a recipe. I decided to try the Betty Crocker Meatless Lasagna that my mother made for my birthday dinner. It turned out pretty good, but I tweaked a couple of things so it didn’t turn out as good as my mom’s. I used all ricotta cheese instead of cottage cheese like my mom. I didn’t have shredded parmesan, so I used the bottle of parmesan that I usually put over the top of my pasta. It still turned out great for my first time.

Joey has been experiencing some arthritic symptoms since he got his vaccinations. We called the vet and they said it shouldn’t be from them. He is having trouble jumping onto the couch. He has not been able to jump onto the bed for several years, but he’s not had trouble jumping onto the couch until this past week. I put him on the couch, and he stayed there most of the afternoon. I’m thinking of getting him some sort of joint supplement to take.

Sleepy Joey
Sleepy Joey

I’m interested in herbs and alternative medicine. I read as much as I can in magazines and online. I already get the Herb Quarterly magazine, but I found another herb magazine called The Essential Herbal. I subscribed last Friday, and I got the copy in the mail Wednesday. I think a big part of self-sufficiency is being able to take care of ourselves health wise. I’m already growing holy basil, feverfew, turmeric, lemon balm, and comfrey. I’ll be learning how to use all these, and I’m going to try to grow even more. I also grow some culinary herbs that have multi-uses. I’m growing thyme, rosemary, and basil. I’d like to grow some oregano.

Wednesday

I started out the morning early for me, at about 5:30. I weighed because it had been over a week. I was nervous that I’d gained a lot of weight over the week because of my birthday. I ended up only gaining 0.2 pounds. I was thrilled that I didn’t fall too far off my Weight Watchers plan. I drank coffee and watched TV until around 10. I got ready for an appointment.

There is roadwork going on, so I had to go on back roads to get to my appointment, but thankfully I wasn’t late. I came straight home afterwards, and MrB headed to the grocery store after work to pick up a few things for the week. While he was there he found some canning supplies on deep clearance. He called me to tell me they had purple canning jars. I told him to buy two boxes of them, and to just surprise me with whatever else he picked up. I don’t can yet, but I store things in jars. I’ve been eyeing some of these purple canning jars all year. He picked up a couple bags of salsa mix, which can be made and frozen. He got freezer jam pectin, citric acid, and pickling spices. I was thrilled with it.

I'm in love!
I’m in love!

I cooked the field peas in the crockpot using a bag full of them and homemade vegetable stock. I added a little water, salt, and pepper. Then I put them on low for 4 and a half hours.

When MrB got home he started frying okra. He mixed a little cornmeal and flour in a zipper bag, and cooked them in a little canola oil. I had really put too many slices of okra in the fridge for cooking at once, but there’s plenty of leftovers. We enjoyed our okra and peas while watching some TV.

We’re quickly approaching October, and we have $11.45 left in our monthly grocery budget challenge. I’m going to get as creative as I can to help us reach our goal.

Vacation at the Cabin

MrB and I left Sunday morning headed to my mom’s cabin in the woods. We stopped to get a little ice and a few drinks. We packed some snacks to enjoy along the way. After a two hour drive we arrived at the cabin.

My mom and stepdad were there, and not long after we arrived my mom started fixing my belated birthday dinner. We had meatless lasagna, fried okra, green beans, and for dessert per my request was a batch of from scratch oatmeal raisin cookies.

Birthday cookies at the cabin.
Birthday cookies at the cabin.

After our dinner we sat around and visited for a while. We all went to bed a little early. Being totally unconnected to cell signal, no internet, and no TV makes you sleepy earlier.

I apparently was allergic to something that is blooming there that isn’t at home, because I started snoring. Poor MrB said it was so bad that he had to go sleep on the couch. It didn’t help that we were sleeping on opposite sides of the bed than we’re used to at home. Also I was facing him, and was snoring right in his face.


MrB and my stepdad left with my stepdad’s boat very early the next morning to go to a lake that MrB had never been to.

I woke up before my mom and looked out the windows for wildlife. I was hoping to see some deer or turkey. My mom and I sat out on the front porch and drank our coffee. We heard some coyotes deep in the woods making their sounds. We had scrambled eggs and cantaloupe for breakfast.

Soon we got dressed for our walk. We headed out to the dirt road, and were greeted by beautiful sights everywhere we went. We saw a lot of wildflowers and pretty creeks.

Wildflowers
Wildflowers

Creek

We were able to get a little cell signal while we were on our walk. It’s very, very spotty. She is on a different cell phone carrier than I am so she got signal at different places than I did.

When we got close to the cabin my mom picked some pears from their tree. I’m looking forward to trying them.

Fresh pear
Fresh pear

After our walk we sat down and I taught my mom how to loom knit. She is wanting to learn so she can make an afghan for the cabin. I have been looming periodically for about 8 years. I’ve made many hats, but not much else. She took to it right away, and did very well for a newbie. While she was working on her first piece I had a smaller loom, and decided to try making a dishwashing scrubby that I had seen made on Youtube. I used this ancient orange yarn that has been sitting in my craft room the whole time I’ve lived at our home. I bought a bunch of yarn at an estate sale when we first moved back to Alabama after living in Florida. For some reason this lady had a ton of orange yarn. I don’t know if she just liked the color or was making hunting attire. All I know is that the yarn is probably from the 70’s or 80’s, and has never been used.

We took a break to have leftovers for lunch. The men had eaten most of the cookies, but there were still enough for my mom and I to have one with our lunch. We went back to knitting for a little while. Soon we decided to shell some peas to go with our dinner. I had snapped green beans before, but had never shelled peas. We went out on the porch and each got a pot and started shelling. After finishing we took them inside and rinsed them. They went straight onto the stovetop to begin cooking. While she started the peas cooking I watched a video I had downloaded to my computer off of Youtube to show me how to finish the scrubby.

Scrubby
Scrubby

Before we knew it the guys were at the cabin. Poor MrB didn’t really have any luck fishing, but he got to experience a new lake and he enjoyed that. We ate dinner, and before we knew it both guys had already gone to bed for the night. MrB and I decided to switch the sides of the bed we slept on to see if that would help my snoring. The night before when we slept, we were turned face-to-face in a smaller bed. So I was snoring right in his face, because I always sleep on my right side.

My mom finished the hat she started. She did amazing for her first time loom knitting. She knows how to crochet and needle knit, so she picked it up very easily. I showed her how to take the hat off the loom and cinch the top of it. I read a little, and then went to bed.


My stepdad left early to fish in a tournament, so it was the three of us hanging out in the morning. I was up and about first, (my stepdad had woken my mother up getting ready to fish very early in the morning, and she had gone back to sleep) and I went outside. It was very cool outside, and there was a beautiful mist rising over the pond in front of the cabin.

Misty morning
Misty morning

I read a little before everyone got up and about, and enjoyed some coffee. My mom woke up, and we visited a little. I woke MrB up at about 7:30, and thankfully I hadn’t really kept him up snoring. He was exhausted the night before due to my snoring and waking up so early to fish all day. After I woke him up he decided to fish in the pond.

I had eggs for breakfast, my mom at cereal, and MrB ate some cantaloupe. He’s not much of a breakfast guy. He went back out to fish while my mom and I cleaned up. He had much better luck fishing the pond than he did on the river. We all decided to walk across a field to a stream to see if we could get to the little waterfall. We walked down to the stream, but realized we couldn’t get to the waterfall by foot. MrB went back to the cabin to get the truck. While he was gone I spotted deer tracks.

Deer tracks
Deer tracks

We got in the truck and drove up the stream to the waterfall. It didn’t disappoint.

SONY DSC

MrB had to back the truck up back down the stream to get us back to the cabin. He then went back to fishing while my mom started some lunch. She made mac n’ cheese, cornbread, reheated the peas, and cooked some frozen veggies in the microwave. We called MrB to lunch, and then we started loading the truck.

My mom gave me some vegetables for part of my birthday gift. These vegetables were from the Amish community nearby. I got sweet potatoes, peas, and okra. I got the three pears from the tree on the property that my mom had picked for me.

We helped my mom clean up and shut the cabin up for the day. We stopped at the gate, and MrB helped her lock it up. While he was doing that I was watching these beautiful creatures.

SONY DSC

We had a rather uneventful trip home. After we settled in a little, we decided to sit out on the back deck and prepare our vegetables for cooking later on. I shelled all the peas, and MrB cut up all the okra.

Beginning to shell the peas
Beginning to shell the peas

We had pasta for dinner, and then MrB cut up some sweet potatoes. He sliced them thin and cooked them in butter and brown sugar. I put all the peas to cook in a ziplock bag. I put some of the okra in a ziplock bag to cook the next day. I then prepared some Foodsaver vacuum sealer bags. I got the remaining okra rinsed in batches, and filled 3 separate bags full of okra to put in the freezer.

We enjoyed some sweet potatoes, and then before long we went to bed. It was a great adventure!

Joey and the Visit to the Vet

The early part of Friday was quiet. I drank coffee, ate cheesy grits, and watched some television.

I took a nap, but I’m going to make it a goal for myself to not take as many naps. We’ll see how well I do on that.

I went downstairs to feed Denver. He was playful and wanted to be brushed. I spent some time with him brushing his fur and scratching his back. He ate some of his food when I was down there. He actually eats less than Joey. Denver is 105 pounds, and Joey is 30 pounds.

In the early afternoon MrB got off work and came home to pick Joey and I up for Joey’s long overdue trip to the vet. We have a wonderful vet who prayed over my dog Cisco when he had to be put to sleep at age 16 due to cancer. That was in 2012, and I still have a bit of a hard time going there. The vet’s office is set up in an old house. It sits up on a hill, and there’s a nice porch out front. Joey is rather anti-social, so MrB took him outside after he snarled at the veterinary assistant. He thankfully didn’t see the office kitty that was strolling around.

He was tested for heartworms, had his nails clipped, and had an overall check. He has a bacterial infection underneath his mouth that the vet said can happen easily in cocker spaniels because of their droopy mouths. He gave us a shampoo to wash him in to get rid of some of the bacteria, and the fungal infection he has as well. He got an antibiotic pill to take twice a day for about a week. We also got six months worth of heartworm preventative medication. No major illnesses were detected.

We came home and gave Joey his heartworm medicine and his first antibiotic. Then we started cooking supper. We worked as a team in the kitchen to make cabbage and egg noodles. I get the egg noodles boiling in one pot, and in another pan I put olive oil and butter. MrB chopped some onions and we threw them in there with a bunch of minced garlic. After that had cooked a while, MrB threw in the thinly sliced cabbage. Once the noodles were finished he drained them, and after the other ingredients had cooked a little bit we added the noodles, salt, and pepper. We used tongs to toss it all together. It was yummy, and it makes enough for plenty of leftovers. For dessert we finished off the little carrot cake I had for my birthday.

We spent the evening watching football, and I spent some time reading things on the Internet.

My Special Day

Well, Thursday was my birthday, and it was one to remember. I woke up at 6:30, and watched a little news while drinking my coffee. MrB woke up a little after I did. We had the boat hooked up, and picked up some breakfast from Subway before heading to a small lake near our home. This lake only allows trolling motors to be used and not the gas powered motor. I had a wonderful time taking pictures, and looking at the scenery.

Lake and mountain
Lake and mountain

The lake is manmade, but according to the depth finder on the front of the boat, it is over 30 feet deep in places. It is surrounded by beautiful mountains and woods.

Peaceful
Peaceful

There were some beautiful birds, including kingfisher, Canadian geese, and herons. Sometimes we get to see a bald eagle, but we didn’t see any yesterday. MrB did a little fishing, and successfully caught one bass. He hasn’t had much luck in that lake, so he was thrilled to catch one.

Early fall foliage
Early fall foliage

It started warming up outside, so we headed home. MrB unhooked the boat, and I talked to my dad on the phone for a little while. We had originally had plans to pick up a free sandwich for me and get one for MrB and take to a park on a mountain to eat. We changed our minds, and my sweet husband treated me to a lunch at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants.

After lunch we headed up the mountain to a nature trail. We sat on a big rocking chair together and took in the scenery. It was so peaceful. There is a small manmade lake in the park, and we walked down to some benches along the edge of the water. We sat on them for a little bit, and then decided to ride around some more.

Covered bridge
Covered bridge

We took a trip to a little store with closeout items. We didn’t find anything we couldn’t have, then we took a trip to a bigger store with closeout deals. It’s similar to Big Lots. I found a few good deals on quinoa, parmesan cheese, dried basil, and a suet cake for my bird feeder. I had to almost be forcibly removed from the big book section of the store. I didn’t buy any books, but there was one there that I really had to force myself not to buy. Book and magazines are one of my biggest weaknesses. I have so many to read that I may never get to them all. There is so much information out there it’s exciting and a bit overwhelming.

We drove back toward home, and MrB stopped at Publix to get a little dinner and a cake. He came out with a frozen pizza, a small carrot cake, and some gelato. When we got home we had some cake and gelato. Later in the evening we enjoyed our frozen pizza. Needless to say I totally blew my diet for the day.

Carrot cake, and cookie caramel gelato.
Carrot cake, and cookie caramel gelato.

I went to get some birthday kisses from Denver. He gave me kisses on my hands. I gave him fresh food and water. Then I brushed his back, and gave him belly rubs. Joey didn’t give me birthday kisses, but he did come up to me to get some love. We watched some football on television in the evening, and I have to say this was one of the happiest birthdays I’ve had.

Discount Wednesday

Bumblebee on the beautifully colored stonecrops.
Bumblebee on the beautifully colored stonecrops.

My birthday is rapidly approaching. I can’t stop it, so I might as well try to embrace it. I signed up for birthday freebies on a multitude of websites a few months ago, and now I’m getting to reap a few of the benefits.

I woke up at 7, and started the coffee. I woke MrB up at 8:30, and then I called my dad. We chatted for a bit, and I spent some time with MrB. He had the day off, so I was excited for quality time.

He took me to an appointment at 11, and after I was done at 12 we headed to Red Robin. I had a coupon for a free burger, and I agreed that for the next couple of days that I’ll use my birthday money to buy a couple meals out. I enjoyed a vegetarian burger and fries. Afterward we went to Yogurt Mountain where I had some cake batter flavored frozen yogurt with sprinkles. I did actually count everything in the Weight Watchers app.

We went to the car dealership for MrB to get the oil changed in his truck. A little later we drove to Dunkin Donuts where I enjoyed a free medium coffee. Then we headed home for a bit. We watched the news, and then decided to get back out of the house. We went to a tackle shop for BJ to pick up something for my stepdad, and then we headed to Jason’s Deli where I had a $5 off coupon. I was able to balance out the really bad food I had eaten earlier in the day with a nice, big salad for dinner. They also have the most amazing unsweetened black currant tea. I did sneak a little chocolate pudding into the meal. I can’t be good all the time!

After eating MrB wanted to look at a couple of stores to see if he could find a replacement for his shoes that are starting to fall apart. He didn’t have any luck. We headed over a mountain to go to the other side of town. It was a beautiful sight to look down upon the valley and the horizon as the sun gave up its last beautiful reddish-orange hues of the day. The town below us was lit in a variety of colored lights.

We went Walmart briefly so I could check to see if that store had any of the new Pioneer Woman pieces in stock. They didn’t have anything there, so we headed to Publix to get a couple things. We picked up a bag of dog food, some organic grapes (part of my birthday treat), and some unsweetened almond milk. So technically we paid more for the food than I’m counting. The dog food is counted separately, and I paid for the grapes with birthday money. The only thing I’m counting as a grocery purchase is the $2.50 for the almond milk.

We headed home, and opened the windows and deck door up to let the cool, crisp air filter in. We have screens on all the windows and the deck door. Great day with my best friend.

Simple Tuesday

I woke up around 7am, and prepared the coffee. After watching some news I woke MrB up. I talked on the phone with my dad for a little while.

MrB made some grilled cheese using the bread I made. It turned out pretty well, but it costs me too many Weight Watchers points to have very often. We spent time watching some tv before he got ready for his closing shift. He took a sandwich to work for his lunch.

After he left I ended up falling asleep on the recliner again. After I woke up I did a little reading, and then watched some TV. I washed quiet a few things that were in the sink. For lunch I had some leftover pasta from a couple days ago.

In the early evening I did some yoga. Then I ate some leftover lentil soup for supper, and then went downstairs to feed Denver. Denver is such a happy dog, and is a delight to be around. He is so playful, and is in love with a black and white small soccer ball that is deflated after an incident with the lawnmower. Even though it’s deflated he won’t play with the new toys we got him. He just carries the soccer ball around in his mouth like a security blanket. I encouraged him to eat his food, because he still had food left over from the morning. I brushed him and scratched his back for a while, before heading back upstairs.

I spent the evening reading and watching tv. I had a snack of baby carrots and pickles. I know that sounds like a strange combo, but it was just some 0 Weight Watchers points items I had in the house.

I have been recording some things on my DVR and watching them when I find myself in the mood for them. I’m recording some of the shows about the tiny house movement. I don’t think I could ever live in a tiny home, because I’m a bit of a pack rat. I would enjoy downsizing though. I am fascinated by seeing all the different kinds of tiny homes though, so I watch the shows I find.

I went to bed around 9. I tried to read some, but I just got too sleepy.