A Little Chaotic

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These past few weeks have been barely controlled chaos for our families. Heart surgery in one, broken pelvis in another, then I’m having trouble with double vision. Just a lot of medical stuff. Some of it is still up in the air, but I’m confident that we’ll get it figured out.


Sewing

I wrapped up sewing classes a couple weeks ago. My final project was doing a quilted bag with a zipper.

Quilted Zipper Bag
Outside of the zippered bag
Inside Quilted Bag
Interior of the bag

I had finally finished my four training courses. I feel like I can learn to do a lot of things, and I’ve asked the really sweet sewing teacher if we might get together some, and do informal classes. I feel very grateful to someone who has taught me a life skill. Sure I paid a class fee, but you can’t ignore a wonderful personality with a giving spirit. She called to check on me after I told her I was having some double vision. The girl that was taking classes with me had to leave early for work the week before, and the instructor wanted to know if I’d like to come work. I told her that I really wasn’t supposed to drive alone, and that I wouldn’t have a ride in on time.

At my final official sewing class I earned my own pair of scissors that I got to pick out. Earned ScissorsIt’s kind of hard to tell in the picture, but it’s basically pink and white flowers.

I also got this cute paper:Sewing Machine LicenseIf anyone in the Huntsville metro area is interested in taking classes thru her, let me know. I highly recommend her, and her price really isn’t bad at all for what you are getting out of the class. I look forward to getting together with her and sewing on our own projects.

At home I had originally decided to sell my dining room furniture that is never used, and get rid of a piece of a red sectional couch that we had as an intact piece at one time until my dog named Cisco tore it with his toenails a few years ago. BJ said he thought it would be better if I had my sewing studio in the basement. We hardly ever use the basement for anything other than tornado warnings and to store things. I have some items that I can sell, so I intend to do that.

We have a plastic folding table that I will be using which is long enough for me to put my little countertop ironing board on.

Iron
This is a Black and Decker “Classic” iron. I saw it advertised as one of the highest recommended for new sewers.

I had BJ buy some white pegboard from work. He hung it above my sewing station where I would have the best way to reach everything on it. I ordered some pegs, and after they arrived I decided I could hang my thread from the pegs. A tiny curtain rod balanced between two pegs holds my scissors, and will hold another of my rotary cutters. I bought a little lamp off of Craigslist, and got an LED lightbulb for it. It’s going to work out just fine. We’re still working out the details of how fabric is going to be stored, but we’ve got a couple of ideas.Sewing Room Progress 2

 

I have gotten a few adult coloring books, and as I was flipping thru one I happened to see a sewing machine shaped sort of like the old Singer brand machines. I decided to get out my colored pencils and make a little art work for my studio.

All my things are ready, now I just have to get some ideas of what I’d like to try to sew.


Dinner Date With My Hubby

BJ and I love to go to fun new places, especially local ones. There is a new general store/game room/restaurant/bar downtown. It is near Washington Square, which has a neat vibe about it.Washington Square

There was even a neat mural in this alleyway.IMG_2445 2

BJ and I went into a couple of boutique stores around the corner from where we parked, and then we went in the the White’s Mercantile which houses an arcade and this bar. Pints and Pixels is the name of it.IMG_2444 2

BJ was in hog heaven when we went in. There were 80’s and 90’s era video games all over the place. Music from the 80’s is being played, and on their television screens are the videos from those songs. IMG_2452The restaurant housed here is another location of a place BJ and I have been to many times over the past few years. The table decor was plastic bead “sculptures” of the flowers that come up out of the pipes in the Super Mario Brothers game. IMG_2448The waitress gave us each 3 coins to play games with. I went first. I picked out Donkey Kong, Mortal Kombat, and Pac Man.

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After our black bean burgers, BJ and I got up to leave, but he wanted to play NBA Jam. I indulged him, and played a little. He had fun. BJ Playing

After eating we went downstairs to the Mercantile store and looked around. They had some neat, but expensive things there. I did get silly, and try on a hat, but we didn’t buy anything.

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The Garden

My straw bales are doing very well, and before we know it, we’ll have zucchini and summer squash. Luckily if we can’t eat it all, I’m going to learn how to can it. I also have several tomatoes coming up. I put some crushed eggshells on them the other day for calcium, and I have some more to put on there today. IMG_2465

IMG_2468My poor herbs just don’t seem to be doing too well. I’m going to have to figure out a plan B on some things. Summer has sneaked upon us. I can’t wait for my first homegrown tomato sandwich. Now that’s good eating!

Parkway SunsetAs I say good evening to you, I hope you all have a wonderful weekend.

 

Last Week and Memorial Day Weekend

Continuing My Exciting World of Crafting

Patriotic Pillow

I made this patriotic pillow in class this week. We worked again on buttonholes and buttons. With my Singer machine, it has a 4-part buttonhole maker. It takes a little bit of work to make it work just right, but it’s still doable. I used the same pillow insert as I did with the project last week. I picked out this beautiful blue and white striped fabric covered in stars. Luckily my sewing instructor had some great red, white, and blue buttons in her basket. It’s going to take a lot of practice to get the buttonholes down, but I think I’ll eventually become proficient in it. It’s not so hard to machine sew buttons, it’s just tedious to get it lined up just right.

Both of my parents had birthdays this week. I made my mom a little bookmark with a white and yellow polka dot fabric. It had a brown button on the top. Then I made her a rice pack that she can use either warm or cold depending on the need. I made my dad a houndstooth rice pack accented with red and white thread to pay homage to his love of University of Alabama football. He’s been using it for shoulder pain.

Daddy's Rice Pack Cropped

Yesterday afternoon I decided to make a cool pack for myself with some brightly colored flannel I have. It ended up longer than I intended it to, but it’s ok. I added peppermint essential oil to the rice. After I finished stitching it up, I put it in the freezer to use on my head when I get headaches.My Rice Pack

I’m saving a lot of patterns on Pinterest that I’d like to try. I’m on the search for buttons and thread to accent my pieces.


Health

This has not been the best week for health for both family and myself. I personally suddenly started having vision problems a few weeks ago. I had also started having trouble when walking with my right foot dragging.

My right foot was dragging initially when I had a spinal cord illness called Transverse Myelitis in 2012. It’s not doing it all the time, and I thought it may be a problem with my low back. I went to the neurologist who ordered an MRI of my low back.

A little over a week and a half ago, I noticed my eyes were hurting and having some dryness. I made an appointment with my eye doctor. He seemed to think I might have some thyroid troubles and that it was what was causing the eye pain, blurred vision, and double vision. He mentioned a thyroid disease, so I contacted my primary doctor. Before I went to him, I found some information showing a condition that can occur with those who’ve had transverse myelitis, and I want to rule it out. I have an MRI of my brain this coming week, and if it doesn’t show a neurological problem, I’ll be going to an endocrinologist to see if there is a problem with my thyroid.

 

 

Week in Review

Crafting in My Blood

I’ve always enjoyed doing crafts. I’ve bounced around doing different things over the years from cross stitch, plastic canvas, and a little scrapbooking. I must say though, now that I’m learning to sew, I’m finding it to be as enjoyable as my loom knitting. I’m still going to work on learning to crochet, but slow and steady wins the race. I’m in no hurry, and I know there will be a lot of imperfection before I get to a level that I like. I guess I’m sort of an instant gratification type person. I want to be able to do it right now, and do it flawlessly. In the real world, we all know, this doesn’t work. So I am practicing.

This week in my sewing class we learned how to make buttonholes with the machine and how to use the machine to sew buttons on. I accidentally left my power cord to my sewing machine at the house, so I had to use one of her machines. It is a Singer like mine, but it’s much more sophisticated. My machine is really meant for the beginner.

I brought a smaller square pillow to class I’d gotten at the thrift store for the day’s class. I learned how to make a cover for the pillow that can be changed seasonally. I turned out ok, but I think I’m going to add another buttonhole and button to it.

Pillow Cover

I love buttons, and I’ve loved them since childhood. My grandmother had a metal box with a lid that she kept all her old buttons in. They fascinated me endlessly. I stayed with her many summer days over my childhood and very frequently I would get that box, and dump its contents out onto the floor and look at all the cool buttons.

A few years ago I went into an antique store, and saw a jar of old buttons. I couldn’t help myself, and ended up buying it. More for sentimental reasons than anything else. I couldn’t sew at the time, but I still wanted those buttons. They’re stored in this cool old glass jar. I’d like to find a lot more vintage/antique buttons to put on things I make as I go along.

Jar of Old Buttons


Grow, Garden, Grow

Our straw bales finally have seeds that have been planted, and little seedlings are starting to come up. This thrills me to no end, because I couldn’t get to the garden last year.

StrawBalesEarlyGrowth1StrawBalesEarlyGrowth2It’s looking better every day.

I planted some herbs in my cinder block bed, but so far I haven’t seen any growth. Keeping my fingers crossed that it will turn out well.


The Generosity of Others

I never cease to be amazed at the kind generosity of others who are strangers to you. In this world, we so often hear the negativity spewing from every direction. In the past few weeks I’ve had three acts of generosity given to me. First there was the lady who gave me a large supply of nice fabric.

This week I posted on a Freecycle page on Facebook that I was looking for small jars. My intention is to sort different colored buttons in them. I got a message from a lady who said she had 14 baby food jars that she was going to use for a project, but never got around to. I had BJ go and pick it up off her porch after work.

Then I’m a member of another group on Facebook that I was an admin for for a short period of time. I decided it was a little too much responsibility to monitor a group. I’m still a member of the group. It’s a worldwide group called Buy Nothing Project. It is targeted for “hyperlocal” giving. It is encouraged to be more friendly and open than most freebie sites. The group I’m in only includes people in two zip codes of my town. I placed a request for jars there as well. I wrote a lady whom I had talked to previously about getting yarn, but we never got the details worked out. She wrote me, and said that she had a ton of jars that I was welcome to come get, and that she would give me some yarn as well. BJ drove me over to her house, where she invited me in. She gave me a box and started filling it with jars that had once contained food. In the end I wound up with two full boxes of jars and lids. Then she walked into another room and gathered some yarn up for me. It was so cool of her to not only give me the stuff, but to freely invite me into her home.


What’s Next?

I’m going to be learning yet another skill this summer, and that is canning. I have always wanted to can vegetables for my garden to enjoy year round. I have a glass top stove, and had always been told I couldn’t use a canner on it. I finally decided to contact Whirlpool to see if my particular oven was safe to can on. The emailed me back in a couple of days, and said that I could can on it. The only precautions were to make sure the stove eye I used to can on got a chance to cool down before doing anything else, only one canner on the stove at a time, and that the pan should be no more than 1/2″ over the diameter of the largest stove eye.

This means that I can now learn how to can my vegetables. I already own a water bath canner. I also have my grandmother’s older pressure canner, but I think it needs some replacement parts. Now the search will be on for finding good deals on canning jars and supplies. We’ll see how it goes.

Keeping Busy

It’s been a little while since I’ve written, but things have been a bit crazy around here. We’ve had some family and personal health issues. Things are slowly improving in that area, so fingers crossed that it will continue to get better.

New Hobby

I started sewing lessons a couple of weeks ago. I am learning from a wonderful woman named Becky. She is very patient, and makes it seem so much easier than I thought it would be. There is another student taking class at the same time as me. We’re enjoying learning.

First Sewing Project

This is my first sewing project. It is a rice filled bag that can be put in the microwave to heat it up, or put in the freezer to cool it down. I picked out the fabric, and made sections which I filled with rice that I’d added lavender essential oil to. I was so proud of this first project. I made a second pack while I was still in class. I filled it with orange essential oil.

Rice Pack

I made this smaller size rice pack at home later in the week. I gave it to my friend Rachel who just gave birth to a beautiful little girl.

Drawsting Bag 2I made this drawstring bag last week in class. I picked out the fabric and the ribbon. I’m not sure what I’ll carry in it, but I’m sure I’ll find a use for it.

Me Sewing

Becky sent me this picture of myself from my class. I’m always so excited about learning when I go to class.

I have really gone crazy trying to come up with sewing supplies. I get my mind set on a new task, and I get a little OCD. I found a few deals in thrift stores. I went to garage sales and estate sales looking for things. I’ve found some great fabric and a few different things. I posted on a Facebook group that I was looking for sewing supplies. A lady who lives a couple towns over met me one evening, and the amount of fabric was amazing. She just gave me a huge plastic tub and a garbage bag full of different kinds of fabric. Then she also gave me a bag full of accents to go on projects. I’m always in awe at the generosity of people.

Sunday afternoon I decided to try my hand at another bag, but a small one this time. I found some pretty gray fabric and decided to use some light purple ribbon for my straps. The fabric was a thrift store find, and the ribbon was from the Dollar Tree.Small Bag

At the beginning of the week I decided to use some of the fabric I received free to make a slightly larger bag. I’m having some trouble sewing in a straight line, but I know that comes with practice. Yellow Gray Bag

Yesterday our sewing class was about using the sewing machine to sew on buttons, and making buttonholes. I accidentally forgot the power cord to my machine, so I used one of Becky’s machines.

I had gotten a pillow from a thrift store. The pillow was decorative with lines of colorful thread going in straight lines across it. I took the stitches out, and it left me with a clean slate. I washed the pillow, and it was ready for class.

In class I watched in awe as the machine I was using made a button hole with hardly any effort from me. It was a little tricky learning to machine sew the buttons on fabric. It’s more of an issue of moving the button just a little to get everything lined up and then it’s super easy. I mostly finished my pillow cover, but I may still add a button.Pillow Cover


Garden

BJ and I are starting to get some growth in our straw bale garden. I’m so excited to be participating this year, because of foot surgery last year I couldn’t get downstairs to get to my garden. I had to view it from our deck.

We have planted a few things in our 8 straw bales including zucchini, summer squash, butternut squash, lots of tomatoes, different kinds of peppers. I also planted some of the herbs in the big flower bed. I haven’t gotten any growth in the holes of the cinder blocks yet.

I won’t go photo overboard, but here is some of the early growth in the garden.

I plan on planting some more things in buckets like kale, collards, spinach, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, and garlic. Maybe a few more things. I’ll hopefully get the center of the flowerbed planted with flowers. I have so many flower seeds, it would be a shame to not use them.

I contacted the manufacturer of my stove to see if I could can some of the produce from my garden. They wrote me back and told me that I could as long as I didn’t do marathon canning, used a pot that’s too big for the stove eye, or tried to can in two pots at the same time. I’ve never canned in my life, but I have quiet a few of the supplies to get me started.


Life Skills

I hope to learn as many old school life skills as possible. I don’t want to become Amish and sew all my own clothes or anything, but there are too many skills that over time have been forgotten. I enjoy learning, so I intend to spend my time learning as many things as I can. In the end, it will lead to a simpler and hopefully more budget friendly life.

A Slice of This Week’s Activity

Improvements Day by Day

I’m happy to report that I’m basically migraine-free at this point. After trying everything under the sun to get them under control, and living with a daily migraine for a solid year, it appears that the secret to my success has been traditional Chinese medicine.

I’ve been getting acupuncture for a little while now, and at first I was desperate for anything to work. I have tried medications, massage, herbal supplements, and Botox. None of them provided lasting relief until I started acupuncture with Dr. Ly. I was trained in Western medicine, so I wasn’t sure if it would work, but I am so happy that I can now function without chronic headaches.

To assist with the acupuncture I was instructed to eat as few processed foods as possible, eliminate most of the oils from my diet, and I was given Chinese herbs to take before and after meals. I am also supposed to eat a fruit before every meal.

I’m a believer in alternative healthcare, and I have plans to learn a lot more about herbs, aromatherapy, and using nutrition to heal the body.

My New Exercise Routine

Garmin

I have started walking at least 5 days per week. I usually walk in my neighborhood, but if BJ is fishing somewhere, I usually try to walk wherever we are.

I got a new fitness tracker. It’s the Garmin Vivofit 1. I measures activity, sleep, calories burned, and works with my MyFitnessPal app to monitor how many calories I’m consuming.

I bought it off of eBay. It is a refurbished model, but it has a 1-year warranty. I wear it all the time, except in the shower, even thought it’s water resistant. I’m also getting some cute wristbands to change it up every once in a while.

I have an internet streaming device attached to my TV called a Roku. I found out that I can stream Youtube videos onto my TV, so I’ve added a ton of different exercise videos on there. Yoga and walking indoors are some of the things I’m using. This way I can keep finding new videos, and won’t get bored. I’m thinking I’ll cancel my subscription to Gaia which is what I have been using for yoga videos. I do want to watch a couple documentaries before I cancel though.

Ready to Sew

I’ve been so excited about my upcoming sewing classes that I’ve been looking everywhere for beginner patterns for me to try. I finally got my new sewing machine delivered.Sewing machine1I was like a kid on Christmas morning opening up that Amazon box. Does it mean that I’m getting old that I find something such as a sewing machine so exciting?

My Pinterest account is now filling up with patterns and tips for sewing. Wednesday I begin my one-on-one classes with a lady who lives here locally. I couldn’t contain my excitement, so I took it out of the box to look at it more.Sewing machineSlowly Getting the House in Order

I’m by nature a very messy person. Wherever I sit in the living room, or anywhere really, I develop a debris field around me. I feel like Pigpin from Peanuts. If there’s a flat surface, I will lay something on it. It actually drives me nuts, but when I start trying to clean I get a feeling of being overwhelmed by it all.

In an effort to declutter, I’m starting to sell a few things online. I have a bit of a magazine collection problem, so I’m going thru the magazines and using my flatbed scanner to scan articles that are interesting to me. I am putting them into my computer, and I’m digitally organizing them. I’m not only trying to declutter my physical space, but my digital things as well. I have an external hard drive that I put all my pictures and files on. I totally organized the files/pictures in a way that made more sense. Deep down I am an organizer, which is true to my virgo astrological sign.

It will take a long time to get the house the way I want it, but I must remember that I’ve been cluttered for a very long time. I realize it won’t happen overnight.

I will be posting updates on my decluttering progress as I go along.

 

Working Towards Goals

Rose
Rose from the rosebush in front of my house.

Learning

I’ve been wanting to learn to sew for a very long time. I didn’t take Home Ec in high school, and I’ve been hoping to find a way to learn. I found the website of a local lady who teaches beginning sewing in her home. I just happened to come upon a sale on Amazon for a Singer sewing machine that was a whopping $100 off normal price. I had some savings I had been holding onto for something special. I decided to buy the sewing machine, and I should get it by Monday of next week.

I wrote the instructor, and asked about classes. We decided that I would start taking classes next Wednesday morning. I will take 2 hour classes each Wednesday for a month. I’m so looking forward to it. I’m always seeing things I’d like to make.

I feel like learning a new skill like this could help me in a lot of ways. I can repair our clothes, and make all kinds of things. I’ve already saved some patterns online to work on once I learn and practice.

Budgeting

I sort of let the budget slide off the rails around Christmas, and I’ve never picked back up to follow a sensible budget. The biggest thing we spend money on is food and eating out. It’s now time to tighten the pursestrings, and get things whipped back into shape. Before Christmas I was sticking to a $350/mo groceries. I’m going to try to make as many of the convenience type foods as possible. Also I’m working at becoming a more proficient cook. I’ve been looking for new things to try all the time. Variety makes it less likely that we will go out to eat. I also want to make sure I have leftovers or things for BJ to take for lunch at work. 

As much as I’ve studied frugality and thriftiness over the years, I would’ve though I’d be an expert at it by now. Still, I somehow always find myself wanting this and that. I’m not exactly a compulsive shopper, but occasionally I’m a careless shopper. I’m hoping that I can change that for the better as I learn more about self-sufficiency.

Blackberry blooms
Blackberry bush that appeared in my front flowerbed.

Working on Self-sufficiency

There’s enough information out there online about self-sufficiency to make your head spin. There are so many things to learn that you have to pick and choose which skills are most appealing to you. Also something I have a hard time doing is to stop reading about it, and actually get out there and do it.

Sandwich loaves

Undeterred by my last semi fail at grinding my own wheat, and making a loaf of bread, I found a new recipe and tried again. My goal was to get a loaf of bread that made slices that BJ would be able to use to make sandwiches for work. I found an interesting recipe online so I decided to try it. This time I used the hard white wheat berries instead of the red. I also watched a video of a lady grinding her wheat in a Vitamix dry container like I own. She said that it really works best to only grind up 1 cup at a time, and turn it all the way to high then let it run for one full minute. I needed 6 1/2 cups of flour for this recipe so it took a little while to grind it all up. I would dump each cupful of ground flour into a mesh sieve that would filter out the bigger chunks of wheat that didn’t get ground up properly. In this recipe I used 4 teaspoons of yeast, 1/3 cup of coconut oil, and 1/3 cup of honey. I let my mixer do the kneading for me, and it turned out beautifully. I made two loaves, and they are the perfect size for sandwiches! BJ sliced one loaf up for me, and I’m going to vacuum seal the other loaf for later use.

Another thing I like to do is save all the scraps from my vegetable cuttings. I put onion skins and pieces, the ends of zucchini, and random scraps of whatever vegetable I’ve been cutting up into a gallon Ziplock bag. It stays in the freezer until I have enough to fill my crockpot. While I was working on my bread, I filled my crockpot up with the frozen pieces, and then covered them with water and a dash of salt. I set it on low for 9 hours, and let it do it’s magic. When it’s done, I get canning jars, a canning jar funnel, and a fine mesh sieve to get just the liquid into the jars. By doing this I’m making my very own vegetable stock that can be used for lots of things like cooking rice or beans in. I put them all in the fridge for now, but I plan on putting two of them in the freezer for future use. I ended up with three quart-sized jars full of stock.

Homemade vegetable broth

It’s simply a blessing to be learning skills that are useful to our home and budget. I will continue reading books, blogs, and magazines on the topics that will help me build my skills.

 

 

Life at Home

Whos Up There
Whatcha doin up there?

Garden

It’s getting closer every day to the time when I can plant all the seeds I’ve acquired. We’re in the process of fertilizing the straw bale gardens. It has about 5 days left until we can put our soil on the top. You can technically plant transplants or plants that are already growing into the straw bale. You just make a bit of a hole in the soil and straw. I prefer to start with seeds, because they are cheaper to start with. If you would like to learn more about straw bale gardening, I recommend Straw Bale Gardening by Joel Karsten. Amazon has an updated version of the book that was published in February 2015. I have an older version, but it is still relevant. In the book you follow a 12 day process of alternating amounts of fertilizer on one day, and then watering another day. I’m hoping they do really well this year. Dirt In Flowerbed We finally were able to get fill dirt to add to our flower/herb garden. BJ went to get a pickup truck bed full of the dirt. He brought his truck into the backyard, and we shoveled dirt out of the truck into the middle of the flowerbed. Yesterday, BJ added compost and vermiculite to the dirt. It is supposed to rain soon, but as soon as the dirt is a little dryer I’ll start putting dirt into the holes of the cinder blocks. It won’t be long before I’m able to start planting all my seeds. I’m so excited. Now if I could just deal with that pesky pollen!

BJ’s “Honey Do” list keeps growing, poor guy! I decided I’d like a bench to sit outside and enjoy the yard. He can get pallets basically for free from work, so I’m looking up plans of different benches and chairs made from pallets. I’ve already told him that I’d like a greenhouse in the back yard, and he wants to build a small storage building to store the mowers and garden implements in.

Denver Stretching


 

Reading

I have a ridiculous amount of books to read, but I always seem to be acquiring more. I found a larger local used bookstore that has a pretty good selection, but their prices are a little higher than I’d like to pay. My favorite spot to get used books is the “Friends of the Public Library” bookstore. They have a lot of cool books in a small space, and the prices are amazing. I also buy a ton of ebooks on Amazon for my Kindle app. I honestly don’t think I’ll ever be able to read all the books that I’ve downloaded. I have a bunch of different wish lists on Amazon, but I have a physical book list, and a Kindle book list.

Due to the migraines I had been having, I was having a very hard time with concentration. The headaches are almost gone now, so I’m able to focus much more easily. I found a book at the library bookstore that was on my Kindle wish list. Online it is $20 for a new book, and the digital addition is $13.49. I found this book for the outrageous price of $1.00. I have started reading it, and I’m enjoying it so far.

The book is called Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes, if you’d like to check it out on Amazon just click here. So far the book seems to focus not on homemaking as a duty of non-working women staying home and slaving away in servitude of a husband. This book highlights that homemaking is something for everyone single, married, male, female, young, or old. The main idea is that over the last couple generations, we have lost many of the essential skills to be as self-sufficiency. As I read thru the book I will update on my feelings of what I’m reading.

Book

The book is inspiring me to work harder at having a self-sufficient lifestyle. It’s amazing how much money BJ and I have wasted on non-essential items. I want to maximize our savings budget, and learn things that are useful. I’m seriously considering taking a beginner’s sewing class. I have been wanting to learn to sew for years.


 

My Self-sufficient Trials and Errors

When teaching ourselves new tasks realizing there is a high probably of failure is something that I’ve struggled with. I’m working to learn more and more every day. I absolutely love to learn, and there’s so many chances to learn every single day.

I had a trial and error with baking some bread this week. I bought a dry grinding container for my blender that breaks down wheat berries. I had gotten a bag of both hard red wheat berries, and hard white wheat berries. I had been hesitant to take the plunge to grind the wheat and make bread with it. The blender ground up the hard red wheat berries beautifully, my only problem is I didn’t feel how ground up it was until I had already started using it. I think next time I’ll make sure it’s ground finer.

Grinding Flour I let the yeast rest in hot sugar water for 15 minutes, and then I poured in half of the flour. My second mistake was that I didn’t allow the flour to be incorporated enough. Next time I’ll mix it longer. Then I put in the other half of the wheat in the mixer. It never seemed to have the consistency of my prior bread doughs. Perhaps the gluten wasn’t being properly stretched. I probably should have let that mix longer as well. I turned it out onto a floured board and kneaded it a little. I let it rise for an hour in an oiled bowl. I could actually hear it making a crackling sound as it was rising. At the end of the rise I was supposed to punch down the dough, knead it a little and turn it out onto a floured board. I cut the dough in half, and put each loaf in my silicone bread pans. I let them rise for another 30 minutes, and then I stuck them in the oven. I always cut a slice off the end off one of the loaves to test it out. It was just ok, it didn’t taste as good and didn’t seem to be too dense.

Bread Dough
Bread Rising

I’m ok with there being some trial and error as long as I’m learning.

As I try to master the art of homemaking, I will be updating here.

 

 

I Haven’t Forgotten

 

Rose
Rose from our front flowerbed

I really haven’t forgotten about the blog. I’ve just neglected it. We’ve had a whirlwind of activity around here in the past few weeks. There have been many changes in our family’s lives in both scary and exciting ways. My father-in-law had a massive heart attack, and after several scary days of waiting, his body healed enough for the doctors to put a stent in an artery that was 99% occluded. He is on the mend, but he has two more arteries that need stents. Those will be done after more healing occurs.


 

Princess

Princess2

When I was 18-years old, I moved into BJ’s parent’s home. I lived in the basement. One Saturday I came home, and there was a little fluffball of a puppy. BJ had gotten this sweet little dog for me from the local flea market. We named her Princess, and she was so much fun. She slept in the bed with me at night while she was little. When BJ and I moved into an apartment in 2000, I had to leave Princess with BJ’s parents. Before long they moved further out into the country and Princess had plenty of room to run and play. She was so fast and smart. She was part border collie, and part jack russell. She would run beside your car as you drove up the long driveway, and she could keep up with us while we were going as fast as 25mph. She lived a very long and happy life. She always recognized us when we came to visit my in-laws, and would try to “talk” to us with little noises. As she aged she finally lost her sight to cataracts and appeared to have lost her hearing. A couple weeks ago we went to my in-law’s house, and I noticed I didn’t see her sitting in her normal spot by the kitchen door. My mother-in-law didn’t want me to know, but Princess was missing. Apparently she wandered off, perhaps to cross the rainbow bridge on her own. It is so hard to believe after so many years that I won’t see that sweet pup when I go to my in-law’s. She was one of the first major gifts BJ got for me, and it was like the end of a chapter or our lives to realize she is now gone forever. We searched for her in the dark, and the family had searched the day before. She will forever hold a piece of my heart as my Princess, the thing BJ calls me each night as we say goodnight.

Princess
Princess a few months ago with a coat my mother-in-law got her.

 

Plants and Spring

Bluebells
Bluebell flowers BJ got me.

Spring has now made it’s appearance after a rather mild winter. All the seeds I’ve been looking at for months, are close to being ready to plant. We should be getting a truck bed full of dirt soon to fill the large cinderblock flowerbed. That will be filled with different flower seeds. I’m ready to fill the holes of the cinder blocks with herbs. We have started this year’s straw bales. You prepare them for 12 days before putting down a layer of soil on top, and then you are ready to plant your vegetable seeds. I had originally wanted to do 10 bales, but the bales are slightly expensive so we decided on 8. To prevent the avalanche of straw during the middle of the growing season like last year, BJ cut up some wooden pallets, and held them in place with pieces of rebar.

Straw Bales 2016

There will be T-posts on each end, and several levels of wire strung across to each T-post to use as a trellis. We’re also planning on putting something on the ends of the straw bales. Side of Straw Bales

I will be growing some things in buckets too. This past weekend I planted dahlia bulbs in medium size flower pots. I stuck them on either side of the patio paver walkway near the main flowerbed. I repotted some plants I had in the kitchen. BJ had gotten me a couple of beautiful pots that I used.

I put my jade an aloe in the pots, and I had another pot with an overgrown mother-in-law tongue that had a lot of dead leaves. I dumped it out, and sorted out the green growth, and then centered it in the pot.


Moving Forward

As long as I can remember in my life I have always looked towards the future, and what my plans and goals are. It catapulted me thru college so quickly that I had a master’s degree in nursing by the time I was 23. Many things in my life have changed over the years, just like they do in everyone’s lives. I am looking at life in a different way than what I had planned for years. Although things will be very different than what I had envisioned before, I’m still hopeful. On April 4th, BJ and I celebrated the 18th anniversary of us becoming a couple. It has been wonderful having him in my life, and the vision of us spending our lives together remains the same. Our ability to grow and change together as time goes on keeps us strong.

My thoughts about my personal future is that I’ll be taking time to learn many things and devoting time to my health. I will be studying things that will improve our self-sufficiency like gardening, sewing, herbalism, homemaking, and maximizing our finances. There are many things I am interested in, and of course there isn’t time for everything, but I’m dedicated to doing the most that I can. Like the quote in my craft room says, “Bloom where you are planted”. I want to make the most of each day ahead of BJ and I both.

 

Catching Up

Purple

The weekend after I visited my mom I spent mostly hanging out in the craft room. I was feeling a little down, so Saturday night BJ took me to Big Spring Park to enjoy the fresh air and beautiful night.

Gorgeous Night

This park is always pretty, but that night it was especially magical looking. The spring is full of koi fish, some are absolutely huge. There are lots of ducks to feed. We walked some so I could get a little exercise. I stopped to take in how pretty the city looks at night.

Big Spring Park 1

Night Out


The week started out with BJ working closing shifts. I went for a walk in the neighborhood Monday afternoon. I had gone to get acupuncture and then some groceries. I hung out in my craft room listening to music.

Tuesday night we found out that my father-in-law had had a massive heart attack. I had actually been the one to talk him into going to the hospital. He thought it was just heartburn. I had missed a few days earlier and his family doctor also thought it was something like heartburn.

Wednesday morning we found out how serious my father-in-law’s heart attack had been, and we drove to see him in the ICU. It was a very scary time with a lot of worried family members. Since I have a medical background I did a some translation of what the doctor and nurses were saying to the family. We stayed at the ICU waiting room with the family until the last visiting hours. We came home to let Joey out and to feed Denver.

Thursday morning the rain was pouring. A few days earlier I had noticed a spot on the ceiling of my craft room that looked like it had some water damage. BJ went into the attic, and didn’t see any signs of a leak. He figures that the rain at another time had blown under the soffit. While he was up in the attic he found a box of wedding momentos that I had been looking for. I’m so excited, because some of the things in there will be used in my shadowbox displaying some items from our wedding.

Tiara Later in the day we went back to see BJ’s dad. We got to see our nephews that live part of the time in Boston. One of my nephews I hadn’t seen in a couple of years. We didn’t stay too long because the weather was going to get bad. I have a phobia of tornadoes, and as we were leaving the hospital the tornado sirens started sounding. I found the radar on my phone, and then pulled up a live stream from television of the weather. It was just north of us as we travelled home. The sky was so ominous looking. We finally made it home safely, and I was feeling less anxious.

Friday morning BJ went fishing with my stepdad, and I worked on some product reviews. I began having a headache, so I fell asleep a couple of times in my recliner. In the afternoon my dad came to visit. I stayed home while BJ went to visit his dad who had been moved to a regular room, because he was slowly improving. My dad and I went out to eat, and I had some vegetarian chili with cornbread, and my dad had a different kind of chili.Doggie BookendsI had requested that my dad bring these doggie bookends from my grandmother’s house to me. I don’t know exactly how old they are, but I know for sure that there are pictures from the 50’s of them in my grandmother’s house. I’m so excited to be able to use them in my craft room. I’ve always loved them. My bookcase is full, so this will hold books on top of a plastic shelving unit. I have too many books.

Saturday my dad went to buy us breakfast. I’m not supposed to be eating anything processed, but I do good the majority of the time. I had an egg and cheese biscuit. BJ woke up after some well deserved sleep. After eating and hanging out a little while he went to go buy a few of the straw bales for this year’s garden. We had originally planned on doing 10 bales, but due to costs and the fact that we have other projects going, we decided on doing 8 bales this year instead. We had 5 bales last year. I’m going to be growing some things in buckets and flower pots, plus we’ll have the big “H” shaped flowerbed of cinderblock. All the holes will be filled with edible herbs and maybe some vegetables.

We went to Jason’s Deli for lunch. We all ended up eating salads. When I started acupuncture the Dr told me to cut out as much oil as possible. I asked his staff what kind of dressing to put on my salads, because I usually put high fat ranch on them. They told me to use honey mustard instead. I found out that I really like the taste of it on a salad. I have made a couple this week using soy “chicken” strips that I cooked from frozen in a skillet.

Big Salad

My dad stayed for a while in the afternoon with us. He loves his grand-doggies and he took this picture of Denver getting one of his natural beef stick treats.

Happy Denver

 

We went out for a little dinner at Which Wich and drove thru downtown before heading home. BJ mostly watched basketball on tv while I looked at things online. I was sleepy by 8:30. So I went ahead and went to bed.

 

Visiting

Thursday morning I was packing, and getting ready to go to my mom’s house. She has a hurt foot, and my stepdad was going on a fishing trip, so I wanted to help her out.

While drinking my morning coffee I visited with BJ for a little bit, because he was going into work late. I finished packing up the car, and we left the house at about the same time.

I drove over to another town to meet my dear friend Rachel. She had her 2 year old daughter and her mother-in-law with her. We met at Moe’s, and my diet went off the rails for that meal. I had a yummy bowl with rice, black beans, tofu, mushrooms, onions, pico de gallo, sour cream, guacamole, and a little shredded cheese. I also ate chips and their tomatillo salsa. It was so great to see them. Rachel is about to give birth to her second daughter. I originally met Rachel through the church we used to attend. She moved closer to where she grew up, and I don’t get to see her very often anymore. She’s a busy RN at the hospital and a mom, so life is pretty busy. Her mother-in-law is so sweet, and it was a pleasure to visit with her as well.

After eating, I gassed up the car and hit the road. It took me about an hour to get to my mom’s house. My stepdad was there to help me unload my stuff. I must’ve looked like I was moving in. I had a heavy computer bag with several things in it, a suitcase, a bag full of food, and a huge storage bin filled with my yarn and all the components needed to work on both my knitting looms, and for my mom to teach me to crochet. I had kiwi and frozen steamed vegetables for dinner. After dinner I spent time with my mom visiting, and working on my loom. I have been very slowly been working on making hats for the homeless. I finally finished one that night, and I couldn’t have been happier. I snapped a picture, and went to Facebook to share the picture with the couple who had donated that yarn to me.

FinishedHat2

I’ve got some more yarn in the same color to start another one. I got sleepy, and ended up going to the guest room about 8:40. I was going to do some reading before I went to bed, but I was just too sleepy.


 

I woke up off and on thru the night, and finally woke up about 5. I went downstairs and started some coffee. I sat and watched the news until my mom woke up about 6:30. By then the sun had started to shine, which was a vast improvement from the really hard rains from the day before. I had driven thru patches of rain so hard I had to slow down to about 25mph. I stepped out to get the newspaper and bring the garbage bin back down to the house. It was much cooler than it had been the day before.

I cooked scrambled eggs for us, and got the food ready to put in the crockpot for our lunch. We ate our breakfast, and then we sat in their recliners in the middle of the living room. While my mom was out of the room taking her vitamins I started on a basic chain stitch for crochet. I learned to do a basic chain when I was much younger, and wasn’t even sure if I’d remember it, but I did. I had never really learned how to do any actual crochet.

We spent a little time watching television and I got online for a little while. I started getting a migraine. I had one the day before, but I assumed it was from the cold front coming thru. When I get a migraine concentration is hard for me.

For lunch we had a soup made from quinoa, great Northern beans, diced tomatoes, kale, onion, vegetable broth, and some spices. It had cooked about 4 hours on high, and I put the kale in to wilt for the last 15 minutes. I brewed some black currant tea, and soon I got the table ready. We enjoyed the meal, and I’m going to keep making it at home because it really is that good. You can find the recipe for this soup at this blog. I have tried several meals from this blog, and so far they’ve all been great.

After lunch my mom started showing me how to crochet. I had this gigantic plastic crochet hook, and some #6 bulky yarn. I seemed to have gotten the hang of it. I’ll just need lots of practice. So far, I’m really pleased with how I did.

First crochet

I will use Youtube videos to help me learn some of the other stitches. It’s something else I can do besides just working on my loom, but I still have a lot of other things I’d like to try on my looms.

I started loading my car. I got the leftovers of the soup, and my mom gave me some free-range eggs which thrilled me greatly. I left about 5:30 to start my trip home. I do not see very well in the dark and prefer not to drive out in it, so I wanted to give myself ample time to get home in time.

I arrived home, and BJ helped me unload the car. He had gotten me a Subway sandwich to eat, so I sat down for dinner. I was feeling very drained from the headaches, so I went to bed about 8:30.