Archive for February, 2012


Spring has almost sprung. I know we’re not there yet, but tomorrow is the first day of March. I’m excited about the impending change of seasons and what it means for my general well-being and my pocketbook.

Yard Sales

While I’m not one to recommend running to every yard sale in the general vicinity on a Saturday morning just to buy whatever, I am into finding specific items that one may need. If you grab whichever Friday night or Saturday morning paper that lists your local yard sales, you will find that many will place specific items in the ad. If you are in need of a large item, such as a dresser, you’ll save a ton if you pick one up at a yard sale, even if you have to refurbish it a little. You can also have your own sale and clean out that attic or garage. I’m itching to do just that. I find if you set a purpose for the money you’ll make ahead of time you always do better because you have a goal to work towards. Our earnings  this year will go towards our budget category of truck repairs/tires. In the past we have used our spring yard sale profit for the summer vacation fund.

Tips For Hosting Your Own Yard Sale

Check to see if your community has any laws regarding yard sales and follow the rules.

Decide what to sell. You can have someone help you with this process if you are sentimental.

Clean up any items that might need it. A lot of times you can get more for an item if it’s spiffed up a little.

Price your items. If you haven’t had a sale in a while you may want to browse a few sales in your area to make sure you aren’t under or overpricing your items.

Figure out a display strategy. Hang clothing on hangers from a clothesline. Plan to borrow tables if necessary. Have outlet and extension cord available to test electric items. Make sure customers have a safe path to walk around and look at items. As you place items on your tables keep the box under the table for large purchases or for easier cleanup after the sale. Figure out how you will cover your items in case of bad weather.

Save grocery bags to use for customers’ purchases.

Ask friends and neighbors if they would like to join in before you place an ad so you can split the cost.

Set one price for pants, another for shirts, etc. and write it on a sign instead of having to mark every item.

If you make and post signs in the high traffic areas of your neighborhood, which I highly recommend, make sure to take them down when your sale is over. They can create quite an eyesore.

Make sure to get change the day before your sale starts. Decide who is in charge of the cash box and keep a close eye on it at all times, or wear a cash belt or fanny pack. Have a pen and paper nearby or a calculator for quick adding.

What kinds of items have you scored at yard sales that saved you a bundle?

We need time to do this and time to do that. Time. There’s never enough in one day. How do you get more? Well, you don’t. We make the best of what we have. Making the best of it. How do you do that? Some chart it and graph it. Some write down schedules on pretty paper and laminate it. Some stick it in a planner, and some stick it on the fridge, on a sticky note. Others have their electronic devices beep at them and display it on a screen.

I’ve tried every which way to manage my time. I can honestly say that nothing has worked yet for this free spirit. Schedules make me feel trapped. Writing down specific goals at the beginning of the week helps keep me motivated and somewhat on track, but I know I have until the end of the week and that is more relaxing to me. I don’t have a set day, hour, or minute for any one chore. Does everything get done? Yes! There are things I know that need done during the course of a week, and I do them. I know this approach won’t work for everyone, but it’s freeing to know that in a world of charts, graphs, and schedules, we can still be who we are and accomplish something in this life.

How do I make the best use of my time?

I take note of things that seem to take up a lot of it and decide whether it’s necessary or important in my life. I take time out of each day to touch base with family and friends on social sites, but I’m frugal with my time when it comes to the games on such sites. Paperwork such as paying bills and balancing checkbooks can be time-consuming, but that can’t be ignored, so I invested in an adding machine on which my fingers can fly as opposed to a calculator. I color-coded my files to make that task easier, and I pay every bill online that I can.

When I’m cleaning I clean whatever I have the tool out for. I’ll vacuum the first floor one day and the second floor on another day. I work top bottom. I’ll go through and dust everything first, then I vacuum. I find this saves time because you don’t have to drag all of your tools out repeatedly. If I’m doing laundry I’ll do another task at the same time in which I would invite breaks. For me that would mean organizing something, paperwork, or a similar job I might find tedious.

When I run errands I start at one end of town and work my way back home. This saves time and money. I have two days set aside to run errands. Some may say this sounds scheduled. I say 48 hours leaves a lot of leeway.

This unscheduled way of life may seem lackadaisical to some. With all of the ways to schedule your day and save time I’ve seen out there lately I wanted to give permission to the free spirits such as myself to unschedule the day. If you are feeling really stressed out and you unschedule and you feel even more stressed, then you know this isn’t for you and you need to tweak your own plan. If you start to feel better and more in tune with your life and still get everything done, you know it may be your schedule that is stressing you out. Embrace spontaneity.

Free-range chicken

There is a poultry farm somewhat close to home that I have been wanting to visit. Their prices seem more reasonable than the organic selection at the grocery store, especially the eggs. Although I haven’t been able to visit yet I am confident in the product because I was able to sample it at another local business.

Here at my house we have been trying to make the conversion to all organic meat and dairy. It may seem simple but there are things to consider such as the source, increase of our grocery budget due to organic being more expensive and other factors, and availability of the product.

Source I want to buy organic meat and dairy, but I want to be sure about what I am getting. Organic beef is available at my local grocery store but it is meat from a different country. Somehow I feel that defeats the purpose.

Increase in Budget We are in a tough spot here financially due to recent medical expenses. I want to continue to feed my family the best food without making the situation worse. I know the deals are out there and I know we can eat less meat to stretch it and make it last longer. We decided not to head out to the poultry farm this past week because gas is almost four dollars a gallon and it just wasn’t in our budget. These are the hurdles we must get over.

Availability I recently noticed at the grocery store the other day that the gentleman behind me in line had all organic items lined up, except for cheese. There does not seem to be a good selection of organic cheeses in any grocery store in my area. You can find a block of this or a block of that, but if you want slices or shredded, forget it. That will be my next quest.

Today I decided to include a link to the local poultry farm. I’ll be able to fill you in more after I visit. I’ve communicated via email with the owner and they seem very friendly. I can’t wait to be able to visit them at the Landis Poultry Farm.

If you have been following my blog you know what’s been going on around here lately. It’s been an unusually difficult time. These past two weeks I’ve had some special requests for sweets. These are not something I would consider healthful, although they do have some good qualities. Last week we went all out and made Tandycakes. Although I gave some examples to healthify this sweet, we made the classic recipe. This week’s sweet will include walnuts, which have many health benefits including being an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. There is nothing healthful about the other ingredients. Both of these recipes are very simple and frugal, using ingredients most of us already have on hand. Next week I have high hopes of getting back into the healthful of things. In the meantime, my husband’s coworkers will be enjoying a treat.

Sticky Buns

2 loaves frozen bread dough (4-5 for a double batch)

Grease pan with butter

Arrange nuts in bottom of pan if using. Tear apart first loaf and put over nuts in pan.

In saucepan:

1 1/2 sticks butter

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

3 tbsp milk

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)

Larger box of vanilla cook and serve pudding Not Instant!

Melt these ingredients together and pour over bread. Tear apart second loaf and arrange on top. Let raise 2 1/2 to 3 hrs or in a warm oven until doubled.

Here are the stages. Keep in mind that I doubled the ingredients and used 5 loaves of bread dough.

 

 

Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 mins. Let cool slightly then invert onto a serving platter.

I made a double batch to be able to share generously. I used a large aluminum roasting pan that we didn’t need for a party and I inverted onto a very large aluminum foil lined slab of wood that I use for the large cakes I make for parties.

I use a 9″ x 13″ pan for a single batch and invert onto a turkey platter.

Meatless Friday

Earlier today I talked about simple pleasures and taking the time to enjoy those things in life. I mentioned having a meatless Friday due to the Lenten season. What I thought would be a simple recipe turned into something more, but only because it seemed as though the flour to liquid ratio was off a bit. I had this recipe for easy pizza crust tucked into my recipe tin. I’m not sure exactly from where it came. Usually recipes in that tin are from family or coworkers. Note to self: Always write the person’s name on the recipe so you can call with questions if it does not go as planned.

Pizza Crust

1 pkg dry yeast

1 cup warm water

1 tsp sugar

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp salt

2 cups flour (which I had to increase a bit to be able to even start to knead it)

Turn oven to 400 degrees F

Prepare pan. I used cookie sheet type pan.

Dissolve yeast in water and add olive oil, sugar, salt and 2 cups of flour. Mix well. As I mentioned above, I needed to add atleast another 1/2 cup flour. Knead on floured surface for about 5 minutes. Let dough rest while you clean up. Roll dough to fit pan. Place on greased pan and poke with fork. Bake 7 minutes. Top with your favorite topping…We used pizza sauce, cheese and mushrooms. Bake another 7 minutes.

My family members were all in agreement that this pizza crust was most comparable to a sheet pizza crust you would buy in the grocery store. It will do in a pinch with ingredients that most will have handy in their pantry. If you desire the more developed flavor of a pizzeria hand-tossed crust, use a different recipe. All were happy with the results though and gobbled it up. We discussed maybe using half whole wheat flour next time and other toppings that might be nice on a different day of the week such as ham, pineapple and banana peppers, bbq chicken with caramelized onions, or taco pizza.

While I’ve been healing from this horrid inflammatory eye interruption in my life, I’ve had time to slow down a little. This has given me the opportunity to open my eyes, no pun intended, to simple things that have gotten my attention lately. Often times we get so wrapped up in life, and we are so busy, that we forget to look around and be thankful for the little things.

This morning I awakened to notice the feel of the soft sheets and the warmth of a down comforter. It was nice to linger there for a moment and enjoy those things without immediately springing out of bed as I normally do. I could still catch the slightest scent of Moonlit Path with its hint of lavender that I had sprayed the night before to help calm my restless spirit more easily to sleep.

After making my way downstairs I’m greeted by two fury pups who want to roam around outside. Most dogs are always happy to greet their owners, of course, but it’s always nice to feel needed. As I sit down to blog I find a playful kitty who wants in my lap. He paws at me, staring up with his big green eyes. He settles in and starts to snore softly. I wonder if I’m his silky sheets and down comforter.

As I am thinking about simple things, supper tonight comes to mind. As we have entered the Lenten season we are doing a meat free meal. Homemade pizza is on the menu tonight and I’m rather excited about it. It’s been awhile since I’ve made my own pizza dough. I have a very simple recipe to share and will post that later this evening.

Look around. What do you see?

 

In my last post I shared some opinions about the unexpected and some measures to take before it strikes. But what about those huge emergencies that are few and far between, but ever threatening? Here are some practical tips to make life a little or a whole lot easier if an emergency strikes.

When you have to get out fast

The Grab and Go Pack

We have one of these for each member of the family. It’s basically a backpack filled with necessities that will last for up to 3 days plus some depending on how much you can carry. What it contains depends on the individual. Think of a day in the life of the individual and decide what should go into the pack. We are all essentially adults. Our packs contain…

A change of clothes plus an extra pair of socks. If you’ve ever been a camper, hiker, or outdoorsman of any type you know the simple pleasure a clean, dry pair of socks can bring.

Hat and gloves

Handkerchief

Waterproof plastic poncho

Hand/foot warmers – the chemical kind that heat up when you shake them

Mini flashlight/extra batteries/glow sticks for young children

Extra contacts/cases/solution/old pair of glasses

Deck of cards or puzzle book/pen/paper

Candle and matches/lighter in a small tin

Multipurpose tool

First aid items

Prescription meds

Sunblock/insect repellent

Toiletries/Those sample bottles you can get for free with coupons are great for this.

Hygiene products

Water

Food/high-energy, calorie dense, non-perishable

Cash in small bills and change.

Copies of important papers such as birth certificates/passports

Contact information for family members abroad, in case you need to get far away from home. Make sure you have addresses, land lines and cell numbers.

Each pack contains what the individual will need. The adult male pack contains some overflow of food and heavier items you may want to add such as a small tarp and rope for shelter, and water purification system or tablets. You could also add a bedroll to each pack, depending on how extreme you want to get.

Animals

We have two dogs and two cats. Both cats fit into the carrier we have, and one is also semi-leash trained. If for some odd reason I would have to choose, I would leave food, water, and shelter outside, and leave the cats outside, even though they are indoor cats. We all know cats are far better at taking care of themselves than dogs. Ours happen to be excellent mousers. Both are neutered males. It would depend on the situation and how long we thought we might be away. If time away would be truly unknown, I would let them out and pray for the best. Of course we would try to take all of them along, and again it would depend on the situation. For all of you animal lovers out there, I love my animals too and I am more of a cat person than a dog person. It’s not that I love my dogs more, it’s that I have far better faith in my cats. I’m not sure what the rules are, or if there are any rules put in place for animals in disaster situations. My decisions would be based on what would give my animals the best possible chance for survival because that’s just how I roll. Because it is difficult to think in an emergency situation it is best to have such things worked out in advance. Our pet bag includes…

Food for the four pets for three days time

Rawhide/milkbones

Water

A frisbee (doubles as food/water dish/play toy)

Tie-out stakes

Copies of rabies vaccination certificates

Collars with all of their tags

Leash with collars hanging beside the door

Disposable litter box on top of or beside cat carrier

We also have two collapsible kennel crates for the dogs that would fit in the back of our truck.

When you have to stay in your home

I always joke that we have enough food in the house to last us six months. It may be a little bit of an exaggeration, but it’s pretty close. It may not be nutritionally complete, but it would sustain us and I do have vitamins around too. Whenever I see cases of bottled spring water on sale I usually scoop one up.  It does not go to waste because we use it to rotate the water in our emergency bags, when we go on an impromptu road trip, camping, on a beach vacation, etc. I always have bleach on hand for sanitation, garbage bags and a portapotty that we have for camping. There are always tons of candles around, a kerosene heater and cans of kerosene, a camp stove with propane, and a gas grill. I always wanted a wood stove but haven’t been able to afford the expense. We are essentially set for any type of emergency that would keep us cooped up for a time.

On the road

We keep a blanket or two in the vehicles for emergencies. If we’re going on a long haul away from home I grab my emergency pack to take along just in case. We have a coffee can, the old metal kind, with tealight candles and matches. This would provide just enough heat to keep you alive if you break down in the winter and/or run out of gas. Remember to crack your windows for oxygen flow. This would not be a good idea if you smell gas, of course. We stick a roll of tp in the can as well, because you never know. The lid keeps everything clean, snug, and dry. It’s also a good idea to keep food and water in your vehicle, non-perishable, of course. I choose high energy items like energy bars, same choices we put into our packs. Don’t forget your standard first aid kit, jumper cables and a small assortment of tools. Where is that duck tape?

I set aside one afternoon to get everything around. It only took a few hours and I had no help from other family members. I did have help shopping for a few items, but you don’t have to go out and buy special items. You can start with what you have. Anything is better than nothing. You could use old school backpacks and those sample-sized items you get when you stay in a hotel. Tuck in an old outfit or sweats that no one likes to wear anymore. It’s amazing how wonderful something becomes when it’s all you have. Handkerchiefs are a dollar and can serve several purposes. Set aside a few dollars a week to add to your food stockpile. This may seem extreme for a few, but it gives me peace of mind. With everything going on in the world today, it can’t hurt.

 

So is the unexpected truly unexpected? I say no. We all know bad things will happen. We hope they won’t, but it’s inevitable. It’s not healthy to dwell on this fact of life, but there are some simple things we can do to be able to rest easier about the uncertain future.

Stop procrastinating. Get whatever needs to be done when it needs to be done. If the unexpected strikes, it’s a lot more difficult if you are already behind on your normal daily chores.

Plan ahead. If possible, work ahead at whatever you can. For me this would mean having blog posts ready to publish. My goal is to be at least one week ahead in the future. This could also suggest that meals be ready in the freezer. That would mean one less basic necessity of life to worry about for a few days. With everything going on in the world today, for our family, this also means to have an emergency pack for each family member and the pets items ready to go at a moments notice. This may sound extreme but it gives us peace of mind. Remember that even a gas leak in the neighborhood could cause an evacuation. It’s also a good idea to have extra food and water in the house, for weather or other emergencies. I’ll elaborate more on this type of emergency preparedness in another post.

Ask for help. Most of us are prideful and want to do it all ourselves. We forget that we are not giving others the joy of giving of themselves. Start with immediate family and branch out. Your spouse and children who are old enough can certainly help you pick up the slack while you are under the weather. When we think we are supermom what message might we be sending our children, especially our sons? I do not have a son, but what might a male child think if he grows up in a household where mom always has it under control and never needs help with anything. Might he start to think that women don’t need help and are supposed to handle it all no matter what befalls them?  This is not a true picture of the world. Shouldn’t they see dad helping mom and caring for mom? Might this teach them to be caring, helpful spouses? Spouses are made for each other to help each other through this life. Some food for thought. Depending on your situation, there are also friends and neighbors who would be able to help. There might also be your church or other religious group who may even be looking for opportunities to help others. Our church’s youth group would find yards that needed tending and do that for whoever called them. Imagine what a blessing that would be to someone who just had surgery, or any illness for that matter. It would mean one less chore to worry about. From that connection and interaction imagine how many other helpful souls might catch wind of how their presence and kindness might be helpful.

Pray. I know there are those of you who will say this should be at the top of the list and those who will argue that it shouldn’t be on the list at all. Being a Christian I believe it belongs on the list. I recently read a book by one of my favorite authors. It’s “Fearless” by Max Lucado. It’s message to me was to give all of my worries to God who promises, according to scripture, to take care of all of the needs of whoever believes and simply asks. I believe in prayer. I also believe that in myself there is the ability to take some measures to make my family and myself more comfortable by preparing for the unexpected. For now I continue to do both.

It’s amazing how pain or temporary loss of one of your main senses can put a halt to the normal, everyday functions of life. Any type of pain makes it difficult to do daily tasks. You end up doing the bare necessities and all of your other grand plans get put on the back burner. My heart goes out to those dealing with any kind of chronic pain or acute, painful illness. You don’t truly understand until it happens to you.

We really needed a yummy, good treat this weekend. It’s been a bad week and it’s well deserved. I didn’t even ‘healthify’ this wonderful classic recipe. I do have some suggestions to do just that though, if you’re interested.

I already had everything in my pantry to make this recipe, except the chocolate, which was an added bonus on the frugality side of things. To ‘frugalize’ this further you could always use clearance milk chocolate that you purchased after a holiday. With Valentine’s day just behind us there were probably a lot of goodies to be had at half price. Not having the time this week, I missed out on such deals. I ended up using Cadbury bars that were on sale instead.

To ‘healthify’ the recipe somewhat, I would use all natural or homemade peanut butter and dark chocolate.

Mix together:

2 cups sugar

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

2 tsp melted butter

1 cup milk

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

Spread into a greased and floured jelly roll pan, sheet pan, or a large cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees fahrenheit for 15-20 mins.

Let cool slightly and spread with peanut butter. The recipe calls for a cup but I believe I used a little more.

I refrigerated it at this point to get the peanut butter to the point where I could spread the chocolate.

Melt 8 ounces of milk chocolate by whichever method you prefer. I used the microwave and started at 1 minute then needed two more 30 second increments, stirring after each. I also used about 10.5 ounces of chocolate and it seemed to be just enough.

This is important! Cut the bars now while everything is still warm and then refrigerate.  If you choose to make these this weekend, I hope you enjoy yours as much as we are ours.  Yum!

The Unexpected

What do you do when the unexpected strikes?

Is the unexpected truly unexpected?

What are some things we can do to head off the unknown?

These are a few questions for me to think about while I go through a healing process. In case you haven’t noticed I haven’t posted daily as promised for the past two days. This is due to excruciating eye pain when I look at the computer screen. Donning my sunglasses I quickly type and propose the above questions. As I heal I will think them over and hopefully have a few interesting answers within the next few days.

Other things I’ll be working on during that time…

Color-coding my files

Visiting an organic poultry farm

This and more when I return. Any questions, comments or healing vibes you send my way would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks for your patience.

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