Sunday, February 28, 2010

Day 7 Money Free Week - Review

Day 11 money spent - $0
Fly lady - on hold until I'm back in my own home

While I didn't always enjoy it, it was very freeing to spend an entire week money free. Normally, when I get bored or just want to get out of the house, I go shopping at the thrift stores or book stores. While I am very good at looking for deals, I still often spend money I don't need to just to alleviate my boredom. This week I had to discover other ways to entertain myself. I spent some time just hanging out at the library, I made my own instant oatmeal, I dehydrated lots of food, read several books, and had a couple adventures in creative cooking. Not only did my spending moratorium help us save money but it also helped me in a couple several seemingly unrelated areas of my life. It helped me loose weight because I had to eat at home. I can think of at least three times this week when I was heading home hungry and was tempted to just stop and pick up something to eat but didn't because of the money free week. It helped me get in shape. I was much more active this week than normal. I got out and did things instead of wandering around behind a shopping cart. It built my cooking skills. I ran out of milk on the second day of the money free week and had to get creative with some of my recipes. Going "money free" also taught me a lot about eating from the pantry. Normally I see one ingredient, decide what I want to cook with it and make it happen even if every other ingredient in the recipe has to come from the store. This week, I looked at what was in my pantry and came up with creative combinations thereof. It was actually really fun and I made some outlandish and tasty meals.

What did I learn this week?

-I don't need money to be happy. I was at least as happy as normal this week and maybe a little more.

-The easiest way to avoid spending is to not go shopping. If I'm not in a store I can't buy stuff. (simple and yet so revolutionary)

-I don't have to follow the recipe exactly.

- A good deal is only a good deal if you need what you're buying.

-Free cycle. Need I say more?

- I have a LOT of food in my pantry.

-Both the base and town libraries are great!

-Lots of other stuff I'm sure I will remember later.

It made me smile

Money Free Week Day 6 - Late Post

Money spent day 10 - $0
Flylady - still working on hot spots

This is actually yesterdays post. I spent most of the day out in the Valley again helping my brother paint his house. When we were done, I was so tired and hungry it was a fight not to just stop somewhere and pick up food before the 1hr drive home. I was very stern with myself and came right home. Then I snacked on a bunch of dehydrated apples while I cooked some dinner.

Honey was able to get to a WiFi connection yesterday night so we got to spend some time in a real-time chat instead of just sending e-mails back and forth. It was really nice to get to communicate back and forth.

On my last visit to the library I checked out The Home Creamery. I'm hoping to try some of the recipes once I have some milk again. I'm thinking I might be able to set my dehydrator up to keep the milk at the right temperature to make yogurt. Eventually I want o try making Keffir but I need to find a source of keffir grains first.

Friday, February 26, 2010

"How It All Ends" - A Climate Change Video Worth Watching

Thanks to Rachael over at Happy Doings for this link. Trust me it's a video worth watching and then sending to all your fence-sitting friends and relatives.

Money Free Week Day 5 - I am worn out

Day 9 money spent - $0 (yippe!!! Back on Track)
Day 7 Fly Lady - paused as I wasn't home today at all

I spent today at my sister's house watching my 4 year old nephew (on about 2 hrs of sleep). I am worn out. I wish I could post something fun or helpful but right now my main priority is getting some sleep :)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Money Free Week Day 4 - Homemade Instant Oatmeal

Day 8 money spent - $30 (My sister's child care for tomorrow fell through so I had to get gas so I can get there to watch my nephew. I'm sad that it broke my money free week a little but not that I will be able to help out family.)
Day 6 Fly Lady - working on my "hot spots"

Homemade Instant Oatmeal....seems a little like an oxymoron but I'm always on the lookout for quick affordable breakfast ideas. I like oatmeal but it takes too long for our normal morning routine and I usually only buy the little "instant" packets for camping trips and the like. Since I'd dehydrated so many apples and wanted to figure out some uses for them other than just snacking, I decided to try and figure out how to make instant flavored oatmeal. The obvious choice for my first adventure was "Apple Cinnamon" (plus it's my favorite).

The Simple Dollar and Budget 101 both had decent directions for making your own instant oatmeal packets so I used their recipes as a starting point to figure out a recipe that works for me. The first thing I wanted to change was the use of zip lock baggies to store the individual servings. All those plastic baggies seemed wasteful and I've been trying to get away from storing food in plastic. Instead I decided to make a mix that could be added to regular quick cooking oatmeal to turn it into instant. Below is the recipe that worked for me.

thewholecamera 042

For the Instant mix
(this is made to please my palate so you might have to change the amounts to please yours)
1/2 C Oat Powder (oatmeal that's been ground in a blender to make powder)
1/2 C Dried apple bits (I used the blender for this too)
1/4 C Sugar
1 tsp Salt
2 tsp Cinnamon

Mix it all together in a jar.

thewholecamera 051

When you are ready to make the oatmeal, add 2 Tbsp mix for every 1/4 C Oatmeal (the apples tend to float to the top so make sure to get the whole mix in every scoop). Then add as much water as makes you happy and enjoy.

thewholecamera 059

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Money Free Week Day 3 - Buying Stuff Withdrawal

Day 7 money spent - $0
Fly Lady day 5 - so so but still working on it

I think I'm suffering spending withdrawal. I don't need anything. I'm not going to die if I don't see what's at the thrift store but I still really, really want to go and check. The first two days went OK but it seems like I can't turn around without thinking of something I should run out and buy. Honestly, it's pretty sad. I didn't realise to what extent I was using the thrift stores and just wandering a store and shopping in general as a stress reliever. We are working so hard on getting out of debt but to make it happen I need to curtail my spending (a great deal at the thrift store is only a great deal if what you bought was actually a necessity). I really need to reevaluate this area of my life and come up with a plan. I do not think this kind of relationship with money is healthy so I need to change.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Money Free Week Day 2 - More Dehydrator Fun

Day 6 money spent - $0
Flylady Day 4 - doing OK and my sink is still shiny

Zucchini and Apples
(not together)

Before my money free week started, I picked up some zucchini on sale. Inspired by Sheri over at Green and Crunchy, I decided to dry them and make zucchini chips. (I'm really enjoying my dehydrator and have no idea why it was in the garage for so long)

thewholecamera 028

I couldn't decide which seasonings to put on the zucchini so I tried several different seasonings. Clockwise from the top- taco seasoning, nothing, sodium free Mrs. Dash, Johnny's seasoning salt, and garlic salt (I was pretty light on the ones that involved salt). My favorite seasoning were the garlic salt and seasoning salt. I think because they taste more like potato chips. The chips were great plain but even better with a tiny bit of ranch on them.

thewholecamera 041

Since I had half a zucchini left that didn't fit in the dehydrator, I sliced it up and cooked it with a little olive oil and some spices (Really yummy). I think I'm going to have to add zucchini to our menu more often.

thewholecamera 034

And apples! And more apples! The results of dehydrating a big bag of apples picked up in bulk. I actually should have a couple more jars of apples in this picture but it took me a few days to dehydrate all of them and I wiped out a couple jars while I was waiting.

thewholecamera 027

Monday, February 22, 2010

Day 1 Money Free Week - A Yummy Accident

Day 5 money spent - $0
Day 3 Fly Lady - so far so good

thewholecamera 019

This morning I decided to see if I could use up some of the leftovers and older veggies in the fridge. The idea was to make a soup for lunch. From the fridge I gathered bacon, veggies, leftover Benihana Chicken and then added some of my homemade Chicken stock. I didn't have any onions so I threw in some lipton onion soup mix. I added a wild rice mix with seasonings from the pantry and toward the end I tossed in some frozen peas. I guess the rice soaked up all my stock because the finished product had the consistency of gumbo instead of soup. But it was really, really yummy and I used up some of the fridge debris.

I'm also trying to get rid of a lot of the extra clutter that we don't need and putting stuff up on Craigslist and FreeCycle (depending on the item). I've given away a few things and sold two things so far.

Have you noticed that I've got a lot of self improvement projects going on right now? I've noticed that every time Honey is gone I get in this "fix my world" mode. When honey is home, we stay pretty busy with working on the house and "Army stuff." When he's gone, I can only do so much on the apartment and all the "Army stuff" disappears. Plus, I get kinda lonely. So to keep myself entertained (and hopefully not shopping) I use these times to work on the big projects that are easier w/o honey here.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Let's Try this Again

Day 4 money spent - $20 (food at the Cafe hosting the Pagan Meet up Group and seeds for the Ostara planning session)
Day 2 Flylady - my sink is shiny and I'm dressed to lace up shoes
I haven't done as well as I'd hoped with my spending goals so this coming week (Feb 22-28th) I'm going cold turkey. I officially declare a Money Free Week! No food, no gas, no thrift stores, nothing! I have more than enough food in the pantry to feed me for a month much less a week and I can't think of a single thing I absolutely can't live without in the next week. Let the freedom from money begin!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

My Sink is Shiny :P

Day 3 money spent - $30 (took sister grocery shopping at Costco and picked up a few perishable staples for myself)
Day 1 Flylady - Shined my sink
thewholecamera 004

I've been trying to spring clean my house (keyword - trying). Organizing and cleaning is one of those tasks that overwhelms me pretty quickly. It seems to be a never ending task so it's really hard to get excited about accomplishments when I know it's just going to have to be done again in a few days. I never let my house get dirty but it tends to be cluttered and that drives me crazy.

A friend at our last duty station was a devoted follower of the Flylady system and it seemed to work for her. I've decided to try the system for myself while honey is away and I have the house all to myself. The website has 31 days of baby steps to get you started and develop the habits that are the backbone of the system. Even if the whole system doesn't work I'll probably gain some techniques that will work for me.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Something to Hug

Day 2 money spent - $4.50
Meet Honey the Second
Picture 004

Honey the First gave me this wonderful teddy to keep me company during the various missions that keep him away from home. He made the bear at Build-A-Bear and the outfit came off a stiff uncuddly military bear I'd picked up at the thrift store. The combination of cute cuddly bear and cute tiny ACUs is wonderful but the real kicker is that Honey recorded a message so when I hug the bear it says "I love you Honey." Awwwwww.... Cute and Smarmy.

A Company I already liked just got better

Owner of Multi-Million Dollar Company Hands Over Business to Employees - ABC News

I first discovered Bob's Red Mill when I wanted to make a Gluten Free dessert to take to an SCA feast for my friends with Celiac disease. I was impressed with their variety of Gluten free products and had a lot of fun experimenting over the next few months in making yummy tasting desserts that my friend could enjoy. As we've been trying to eat out less and keep our food at home healthier, I've used Bob's Red Mill products quite a lot (I can get them in bulk at Natural Harvest).
This morning my news feed was headed by the news that the founder of Bob's Red Mill has given the company to the employees. Pretty cool huh? He decided he could never sell the company to someone else and trust they would maintain the principles the company was founded upon. He could however trust the company in the hands of the people who had built the company right along side him.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

And it began with a wimper...

Day 1 money spent - $0

In the days leading up to Honey leaving for another 5 week army trip, we found out we were going to have to replace our roof. We knew when we bought the house we were going to have to replace the roofing in the next few years but this winter has been especially hard and some of the roof issues have come to a head. We came to the conclusion that we're going to have to replace the roof this summer and fix these issues before they get any worse. Since some of the problems stem from having a hot roof flowing into a cold roof, we're going to be changing some of the underlying roof structure while we're in there. Sucks to be us. I'll be honest it was not a pretty sight when we came to the final conclusion. We're entering the home stretch on the apartment and I was really looking forward to having the summer off to work on my garden and plant trees.

Sad, bummed, such is life...

Because we have some major expenses coming up this summer we decided to try and save as much as possible in the next couple months. For the next five weeks Honey is gone and wont have many opportunities to spend money. I'll be here but I'm going to try and eat from the pantry and avoid most spending. The only thing I'm really worried about is gas money. I've already committed to helping my family (60 miles away) with several projects while honey is gone so that's a good chunk of change in gas money right off the bat.

And just to show it never rains but it pours. When I tried to turn on the computer this morning (honey has my laptop again), it just constantly restarted itself. I don't think honey's computer likes me as it did something very similar last time he left as well. So I dug out the 11 year old laptop honey had when we met. (I'm pretty sure the duct tape holding the casing on isn't factory original) It's pretty slow so I'll be cutting back on my Internet time (that's probably a good thing) but I'm going to try and keep posting regarding how my low spending month is going.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Strawberry Kiwi Jam - Yummy


In honor of my newfound canning jar collection I made Strawberry Kiwi Jam last night. The strawberries are ones I froze last summer for just such occasions and the Kiwis were purchased as they don't freeze well and I don't have a good source for Alaska grown ones yet (guess I just might have to grow my own). Unfortunately, I still haven't mastered the art of keeping my fruit from floating but it turned out much better in this batch than in previous ones.

I got the recipie from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Jams, Jellies and Preserves which I checked out from the library. I'm really liking this book. It has great recipies that have been tested and idiot proofed (I need that when cooking).

Saturday, February 13, 2010

My Kitchen has been Overrun!!!

Ok. I think I'm ready to admit I might have enough canning jars.

I responded to an add on Craigslist from an older lady who wanted to winnow down her collection of canning jars now that she was preserving for two instead of a whole family. For a few dollars I gained all these canning jars and she gained more room for her fabric stash. It's mostly pint jars (several dozen) with a few of the quilted crystal 1/2 pint jars and about 20 quart jars. Since it'll probably be a couple years until we have our garden fully up and running, I probably wont use all these jars right away but it's nice to know I'll have what I need when I need it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dehydrator Fun

I recently dug the dehydrator I purchased back when I was in college out of storage and now I can't figure out why I didn't have it out this whole time. I'm terrible about eating my fruits and veggies. However, I will snack on dehydrated apples like they're candy. I was having so much fun dehydrating snack foods I ended up buying a second dehydrator at the thrift store for $5 so I could add the extra trays onto mine and dry more food at once.
Apples I picked up for $0.45 a LB (this is AK people, that price is just short of miraculous). I'm giving the slices a pineapple juice soaking before dehydrating to prevent browning. The apple infused pineapple juice is amazingly yummy after you're done soaking the apple slices.
Laid out on the dehydrator trays.
Waiting, waiting, waiting. My house smells so yummy.
Victory! Apple Chips. I dehydrate the hell out of my apples because I like crisp chips better than the smushy textured dehydrated apples you can get at the stores.
My loot for the last two days. Apples and some carrots that were getting soft for using in soups and taking camping.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Toy Society

This is the best idea ever! The Toy Society makes small homemade toys and stuffed animals and leaves them in random places for children to find. I am going to have to go through my fabric and find some that will work for toys.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Pretty Wally Hangy Thingy

(Yeah, I'm weird. Live with it)

The last few weeks I've been worried about one of my favorite little stores. Good Karma is a wonderful little store run by a young couple. It has such a happy vibe. They both work at the store so they can spend time together as a family and I've watched their daughter grow from an infant into a toddler. They have great ritual supplies and the best essential oils made by local artists with intent. Since mid January every time I've driven by their lights have been off and the store has been closed. They are a small niche business so they usually operate month to month and I was worried that something happened and they went out of business.

Last week Honey and I stopped by one more time crossing our fingers and hoping they would be open. They were. Kinda. The store was lit by candles and they were having a candlelit sale. Apparently, there were some family related financial issues and in taking care of what had priority they were unable to pay the electricity for the shop (But they are still open and will have the electricity back soon!). Honey and I decided it was worth a little spending spree that we would normally not indulge in to help out one of our favorite little shops...Hence the pretty wally hangy thingy...


I've always really liked this wall hanging when they had it in the store but I try not to buy things new unless I have to. Fortunately, the circumstances allowed me to finally own it without feeling guilty for needless spending. Each part is a different Sabbat. You could use them separately or hang them all at once like I have. My MIL got us the copper pentacle in the middle for Christmas (I really did luck out in the MIL department). We performed a little house blessing and protection ritual before we hung it.

The hanging for Imbolc. So pretty.

I also got several new essential oils, a little cauldron, 3" pentacle for our portable altar box, and honey got a nice metal pentacle plaque to replace the resin one he was tricked into buying online (they said it was clay). If you have a chance, send some positive energy toward this wonderful little store and the family that runs it.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

My Card is Here! Happy Dance! My Card is Here!


My Card for the Imbolc Art Card Exchange came! I've been eagerly awaiting its arrival since I sent off the one I made last week. Tami made my card and it is absolutely beautiful. The picture on the front is from a painting she made for her daughter's room. The sun on the inside is from a stamp she carved and she wrote the poem just for me :) I hope Jen over at Chasing Domestic Bliss does this again because it was wonderful fun (hint, hint) but we wont pester her too much about it since she's pretty busy with other projects as well.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Perserverance Pays Off - The Tale of a Food Mill


Last fall my Mother In Law taught me how to make jam and can it. One of my favorite parts of the whole experience was the feeling on connection and tradition that it carried. She taught me like her grandmother had taught her. We used a food mill that her grandmother had given her and had been in turn given by her mother. I loved it.

When I left that day, she gave me the food mill she'd bought before she inherited the family food mill. Unfortunately, it was cracked. She hadn't used it in so many years it had been shoved aside in storage and somehow gotten cracked. We tried to fix it but the first time I tried to use it the crack got bigger and the bowl broke. :( Poor little food mill. I salvaged the bottom pieces with the various sized holes and the metal crank part that pushes the fruit through the holes and put it into storage with my canning supplies for next summer. Throughout the winter, as I slowly gathered my collection of jars for next years canning season from the thrift stores I kept my eyes out for a new (used) food mill.

A couple months ago I found a metal food mill bowl and crank with no bottoms for a couple dollars. I was so excited and brought it home in the hopes I could use the bottoms from my MIL's food mill and make it work. They didn't fit. Now I had two incomplete food mills :( This Monday I found a food mill bowl at the thrift store without any of the other pieces ($0.99). Why not give it one more try? I brought it home. The bottom pieces from the first food mill fit but the crank is too wide for the bowl. The crank from the second mill fits the bowl but the bottom is a little too big for the opening in the bottom pieces of the first food mill. Enter handy-dandy honey (he is going to hate me calling him that) who was able to take a metal punch and make the holes just a little bit bigger so all the parts fit together. Now I have a food mill made from the parts of three food mills :) Am I weird that this situation just tickles me pink? Plus my "new" food mill is still using an element of the food mill my MIL gave me so I get to keep the family connection going. Eventually I might find the parts to fix my other incomplete food mill and pass it on to someone else and keep the chain going.