Sunday, March 17, 2013

Spring cometh.  Woohoo!  It's that time of year again!  Time for my naturally tan best friends to begin impressing the world with their nut-brown-ness.  Time for my skin's paleness to shock the world.  Time for them to go on hikes and to airshows.  Time for us to close all windows and batten down the hatches, for Nathan's allergy season has begun.  Long story short, we're a bunch of pale, puny pathetics.  Yes, I talked to my dear friend, Paula Miller last night (and this sad litany is all her fault ;o)!  See below!  This pic is five years old, and yes, she still looks amazing.  And we hate her ;o)  That's why I had my dog kill her chicken.  Ha, so there!

Actually, I love, love the spring.  I have grieved for years that poor Nathan can't enjoy the beauty that's out there with me, so God gave me Kathryn.  She oohs and aahs with the best of them and would hike all day in the woods if I let her.  And just so I don't forget that they have another parent, God gave me Alex.  Who is a great indoorsman like his fatherAlex has suffering through the requisite hikes and gardens down to a fine art.  (Nathan has learned to suffer in silence- his mother probably beat that out of him :o)  Alex sweats, gets bitten by bugs, and (I think) trips himself on purpose for a good skinned knee or two.  All the pollen in the air means happy bees, beautiful butterflies, extra showers, forbidden spaces (pollen-filled hair on pillows makes for long nights), wiping down the dog, Claritin D, questions at the pharmacy regarding my methamphetamine factory (really?!), daffodils!!!   An illustration of how Alex feels (2010), but no longer how he acts (Thank you, Lord!)...

And now Kathryn...

And me... that would be the poem.  The reason I am wandering lonely as a cloud would be because Nathan is sneezing somewhere in a darkened room, and I haven't washed the pollen out of my hair yet, so the room is locked. 


I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Oatmeal and Amazon

We have a few favorites around here.  In the cold cereal department, I save money by combining coupons with B1G1 deals at our local Publix.  (I think Kroger's up north has similar policies).  When our faves are on sale, I stock up.   This will get me boxes of Frosted Mini-Wheats, for example, at around $1.50 apiece.  Since I started throwing a pinch of salt into the freshly opened milk jug, I haven't had to throw out any sour milk. 

We also eat several hot cereals:  steel cut oats, buckwheat (both me ;o), and grits.  These are cheap, cheap considering that a very little makes a whole lot.  I like McCann's quick-cooking steel cut oats, and find buying both the oats and buckwheat in bulk through Amazon makes the most "cents" for me.

Quick-cooking steel-cut oats should take no more than 5 min in the microwave to cook.  OR, for the same health benefits and a great arm workout, you can buy the regular steel-cut oats that you stand in front of and stir for half an hour.  Um, no.  The buckwheat cooks in 3 min. in the microwave, as do the Wal-mart brand of instant grits.  Cheap, cheap.  Soothing and great choices if you have to need to add extra fiber to your menu.  Note:  Oatmeal bubbles more than the others in the microwave and needs a deeper bowl.

Muffins are another favorite.  These get cooked in large batches and frozen.  (In our house, if you are freezer safe, dryer safe or dishwasher safe, you are a FRIEND!)  A zap in the microwave and they are still delicious!  Kathryn loves pumpkin chocolate chip muffins year round.

Smoothies are a great way we save money, and I still sneak in extra nutrition for the kids.  I buy bananas when they are on the "we ordered too many; these are overripe and already have gnats around the bag" stage.  Mere pennies.  Peel, halve and freeze.  Pop a frozen banana, 1 c. milk, a dash of vanilla flavoring, (and I throw in a scoop of vanilla protein powder for my munchkins) in the blender, and voila! a shake that they love!!!  It makes just enough for two kids.  I do this so much that my blender lives on my countertop now.  If I only have under-ripe bananas, then I stick one in a paper sack with an apple overnight, and add a couple of ice cubes to the recipe.  I drizzle a bit of dishsoap inside the dirty blender, fill it half-way with water, and turn it back on.  Self-cleaning!

On my next post, I'll include the recipe for the muffins and my favorite smoothies, too!

*Speaking of Amazon, it is one of our family's methods of choice for saving money.  Nathan's addiction to books spurred this decision on.  He has a layman's library that many pastors would give good money for ;o)  We pay $70 a year for Prime Membership, which provides us with free 48 hour shipping for a year.  It's ridiculous how quickly this pays for itself.  I often buy things cheaper on Amazon than I ever could at Wal-Mart.  If you can wait two days for the product, you don't have to waste gas/time/money on an extra trip to the store.  What do I buy from there?  Well, recent orders have been:
1.  a pair of tennis shoes for me(the size and brand that makes my feet happy):  this saved me from running around town looking for that specific type of shoe and was cheaper to boot (no pun intended)  I go through at least two pairs of year pounding the treadmill.  Nathan says that's ridiculous, but I seriously wear them out.
2.  a small cast iron griddle (cheaper than the store)
3.  a small rolling cart- homeschool expense
4.  rubber shower door sweep
5. 3 pack toner for the printer (far, far cheaper than the store)
6. frontline-type flea treatment for our Schnauzer from a wholesale supplier (80% cheaper than the store)
7. hot cereal

*Some of the above I got for free.  We use an Amazon credit card on all our in town purchases, and accumulate points in their reward system.  I often just save them up and let that be the bulk of our Christmas budget.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Making Life Simpler & Cheaper:  Homemade Pancakes/Waffles

OK, when's the last time you got out of Walmart with less than $100 in your buggy (yes, I still say 'buggy'- after all I was raised here ;o) ?  The cost of everything, just about EVERYTHING, is continuing to climb.  A few years ago, I read a book which said the provider of the family is responsible for the money coming in the 'front door,' and the family manager is responsible for keeping it from sneaking out the 'back door.'  I'm continually trying to improve how I do things to make life better for us w/o increasing the cost.  And this year, I'm specifically trying to eliminate unnecessary waste- those back door leaks.  I know you've got some tips you've learned to help you along the way, as I have I.  Hence the upcoming micro-posts.  These will be miscellaneous ways I save money/time.  I'm also interested in healthy living (which you will NOT be able to tell from THIS post- haha!), so there will be some of the those things, too.  Please, please share your money saving /time saving ideas with me, too!!  These recipes are from my frugal Momma- they must be cheap, b/c we ate a lot of them growing up ;o)

Micro-Post #1
Make it Homemade:  Pancakes and Syrup

1 1/4 - 1 1/2 c. self-rising flour
1 c. milk (skim does fine)
1 egg
4 Tbsp. canola oil
(Use the smaller amount of flour for a fantastic Belgian waffle, a little more for a pancake that won't run too thin).
Mix with a fork. Cook into yummy pancakes in some melted butter/margarine.   For those who may not know, a pancake is ready to flip when it bubbles across the top.  And tub margarine doesn't work for frying pancakes in.
 ******White Lily- this is something I do NOT go generic on- on sale, they occasionally fall to $1.98 a bag, and I stock up- it's the southern cook's standby!  "Any Southerner worth his pie crust knows that White Lily is the only flour worth stocking in the larder." -Richard D. Story, New York magazine- thanks to Jan Karon for that affirming re-quote!*****

Homemade syrup (I've even converted a few Aunt Jemima users with this recipe ;o)
1 c. light brown sugar
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. water
1 tsp. maple flavoring

Mix and heat on low on the eye (that's pronounced aye- as in aye, matey and means "burner").  This is a word that Nathan can't believe I still use ;o)  Do NOT let this boil over, as high-sugar content mixture will ruin a flat-top stove's finish.  And if you don't have a flat-top, it'll still be a huge mess!  This can be saved in the fridge and reheated repeatedly without problems. This syrup's texture is not thick and gooey (although I suppose you could cook it down to that).  We like it hot and runny!