What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow. ~ Martin Luther

Friday, March 28, 2014

Finances On Friday

I went on my dairy run this week and since I had to get a few non-food items (like dogfood, baby wipes and toilet paper) I went to Walmart.  Two things shocked me.

#1~ While in the cheese section I noticed that the big five pound block of cheese I discovered at Walmart just a few weeks ago was raised $2.00 in price from the last time I was there.  JUST A FEW WEEKS AGO.  $2.00!!

So that was pretty discouraging.  I know that food inflation is a definite problem (and will likely get much worse!)- but that big of a jump in such a small amount of time?  Wow.

I am going to have to really think about how I can combat these inflationary food prices this year.  I hate to expand the garden further (I feel overwhelmed with garden chores by September every year.  To think about adding TO that is daunting...)

~ and ~

#2~ So much of grocery stores is pure JUNK.  Like delicious, yummy, tastes SO GOOD junk.  Jellybeans.  Aisles and Aisles of them. 
Chips- oodles and oodles of them.
Soda- tons and tons of it.

Isn't it kinda ridiculous that there is one baking aisle that includes EVERYTHING you could possibly need to bake breakfast, lunch, dinner, breads, cakes and granola bars and yet there is one whole complete aisle JUST OF CEREAL that you can do nothing with except put milk on it and eat it? 

This is weird, my friends. 

Really weird.

Sometimes I glance at other peoples' carts and do you know what I almost NEVER see in them?  Milk.  Here I am with a cart FULL of milk (five gallons because that is all my fridge will hold) and most carts don't have ANY.

I  must admit- being among the jellybeans and Triscuits and ice cream makes me REALLY, REALLY want them. Like, bad.

 I know that it is just junk...but I kind of want it anyway. 

This is weird too.

    Here are some of my financial efforts for the week...
  •  Quilts, comforters, sheets and jeans went on the clothesline to dry!  Wa-hoo!
  • Made vanilla extract
  • Made a double batch of yogurt

  • Baked all of our bread needs including a lovely marble loaf.  (Purdy.)
  • Attended a (free) knitting class at the library
  • Worked on the cable purse (for knitting class) and Corynn's Easter dress
  • made two batches of (dehydrated) apple chips
  • were given a bunch of clothes and books this past week from friends so I...
  • sorted the bags out into 'keep', 'sell' and 'donate' piles.  I try to get things sorted and make these piles right away and then put in their proper places to avoid getting overwhelmed in clutter.  This sometimes works and sometimes doesn't.  ;-)
  • Boiled  more sap down into maple syrup... (we hit the 1 gallon mark this week!)
  • Took the family to a $9.00 super-awesome, very tickley car wash because I told the children we would after Matt took me to one last year and I excitedly told the kids about it.  They begged for many months to get to go to one until we finally did it.  Cheap thrills.  (And I still have goosebumps on my neck!)  I know~ simple pleasures for simple people.
  • Cut my own hair using this video as a tutorial (loved her right handed trick!):

  • Roasted a turkey (discounted from post-holiday sales) which helped warm up the house on a particularly cold day today.  Used the giblets and neck to make broth to freeze.  This turkey will be stretched for many meals (Three so far!)
  • Made stuffing using bread cubes I had dried previously.  Cut up the turkey liver to add to the stuffing.  Gave the other 'goodies' to the animals to eat.
  • sorted our potato bin.  Got rid of any nasty ones  and set aside some of the very tubered ones (for the garden this year).  Put the rest back in the much-nicer-looking bin for eating.
  • Also sorted out our onion bin.  I admit, I have avoided it ever since I found a few nasty ones on the top this winter.  I bought a huge bag of onions at the store and pretended to forget about the small garden ones rotting up the basement.  Turns out, there are still quite a few beautiful ones to eat.  And I won't be grossed out getting them anymore.  ;-) 
  • was given two leftover used phone cards to use for making any long distance calls.  I never make long distance calls (my poor family have free long distance so they get to call ME if they want to talk!) but just in case...these will be handy.
  • used homemade dishwasher detergent  (Two drops of liquid dish soap and the soap dispenser filled with baking soda.  That simple! And it totally worked!)
  • ordered a 50# bag of cornmeal and 50# ofsoft white wheat berries.  (It was amazing how quickly my wheat berries dwindled when I began making ALL of our bread!)
      The cornmeal cost $21.00 which equals out to be .42 per pound compared a
 24 oz Quaker CornMeal tub from a grocery store for $1.79 which equals $1.19 a pound.
  • Bought two hams for $1.28 a pound.  I hope to find a few cheaper ham sources the closer we get to Easter but I am happy to get meat for less than $1.50 per pound too. I missed my window on Thanksgiving and Christmas this year so I wanted to be sure I got some ham from Easter sales.
  • called phone company to see about lowering our (outrageous) phone/internet bill (that was one of our Booze and Budget goals for the month- talk about waiting until the last minute!)  I found a $7.00 service fee that they took off, was told that we've been getting a 10% credit discount per bill and she gave me $20.00 credited to our account just for inquiring.  Not exactly the savings I was hoping for long term- but it helped and the $20 credit was a nice gesture.  I will seek out some other alternates for phone/internet and see if it would be worth moving to another company. 
How about you?  Any frugal efforts this week?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Yarn Along

I've been excited to post with the Yarn Along this week for two reasons.
1) Amazing book.
2) Lookie, lookie!  I totally did cables!

I was at knitting class yesterday and everyone was done (or almost done) the knitting for their cable purses and I was working away (clearly at the beginning of the project.)  After the 1 1/2 hours of class, I had completed about six or seven rows and one lady piped up

"Good job, Rebecca!  By the time our next class (in two weeks) meets you might have enough for a coin purse!"

I am ridiculously slow,  I know.  But you know what?  I DID CABLES.  (So there.)

The book Song of Survival: Women Interned is just so, so good.  Tragic, heart-wrenching but amazing.  The story of three Dutch sisters and their parents interned in a Japanese internment camp during World War II along with the many other women and children in captivity.  My Dutch grandparents have, over the years, told many stories from their lives during World War II so reading this book felt very personal for me.

Unlike my usual 'reading in the evenings', I carried the book around with me and read it every free moment I had (and even moments I didn't have).  Things were neglected, I admit.

The movie Paradise Road is based upon this book and while I don't expect it to be as good (movies almost never are), I requested it through the library and it came in time to be picked up at knitting class.  I think an impromptu Mama movie night is in session for tonight. 

I guess I should get as much laundry done as possible so I can fold clothes while I watch.

Heaven forbid I just SIT and WATCH a movie, doing nothing else!  ;-)

And because they are so beautiful:


Monday, March 24, 2014

Reclaiming the Lower Pasture

I love Matt.

I love the way his eyes crinkle and shine.  I love his dimpled chin (when his beard isn't hiding it).  I love his man-hands, all strong and thick.  I love his sense of humor and ability to get me to crack up even when I am irritated with him.  I love that he is smart.  And wise.   I love that he knows all this country stuff when I have no clue.  I love that he is handy and that he is hardworking.

I love that he gets something in his mind to do and then actually does it.  Even if it is hard or confusing or tedious or overwhelming.  He just dives in and gets started.

And I love that he lets the children get in the way while he is doing it.  Because every grown up knows~ the children 'helping' you work is actually making more work for you.

A recent idea of Matt's is to reclaim an old, overgrown and abandoned portion of the lower pasture.  It is full of overgrown thornbush and other bushes, branches, trees and random overgrowth. 

I look at the sheer amount of work involved in something like that and say "What the hey- we have nice fields already.  Let's not bother with all that.  That's WAY too much work!"

But he just picks up his cutting tools, clippers and boy paraphernalia and hogs right in.

I love that.

So, the overgrown lower pasture got a nice wake-up call over the weekend. 

"Wake up, land.  Things are gonna be changing around here!"

Plenty more to do, as you can see. 

It's a long process and will probably take a long time.  (Mundane.  Tedious.  Overwhelming.  I say, let's quit!) But every project, no matter how big or small, needs a start.  And this was that good start to reclaiming the land for good.  One branch cut, hauled and piled at a time.  One bonfire at a time. 

After all, says the Mister, "no one but us can get it back to what it once was."

Friday, March 21, 2014

Finances on Friday

Some financial efforts for the week:

* baked all our bread needs for the week, including communion bread for church on Sunday.

* made a batch of croutons from the heels and a botched loaf of bread (the inside was too doughy so I cut up the outside for croutons instead of throwing it ALL to the chickens.) Botched bread resurrected and made glorious.

* Used up all leftovers to use it before it was wasted.

* Saved eggshells and scraps for chickens.

* paid all bills.  Called about a bill in question to have a $35.00 fee wiped clean off of an account which I had paid off.  (Said bill was 1 day late due to a holiday weekend.  pshaw!)

* The account that I paid off was for the windows we replaced last summer.  It was interest-free financing until October 2014.  Generally I like to pay for things in cash.  But it was either wipe out our savings or make payments for free.  Interest-free is a great deal except when you miss the deadline- then you get hammered.  So I wanted to get that bill done and over with ASAP.  I've been paying as much extra as I could toward it each month to get it paid off in plenty of time.  Glad it is over- and with 7 months to spare!

* paid an extra $300 toward mortgage principle (This was a 'probably-stupid' move, leaving us a bit TOO CLOSE for comfort until next pay period but I did it anyway.  The end.)

* made a new batch of Ketchup

* boiled down sap and finished off maple syrup

* started germinating wheat berry seeds to make Easter decorations for the table.  (They are growing SUPER fast! I started them too early!)

* borrowed tons of books (and audiobooks) from the library for education and recreation.

* bagged up some clothes and stuff for Salvation Army

* finally got to the liquor store for Vodka to make some more Vanilla Extract!

* Matt fixed our stove issues for me.  Handy Man.

* I've been looking around for some good deals on new furniture for the living room.  Our couches look nice from the outside but when you sit down on them, you find out just how old they are.  Found a few good options.  Nothing that will land us on the cover of Country Living or anything- but at least Matt and I will be able to sit next to each other without the back falling backwards!  ;-)  I am going to wait (and seek) just a bit longer to see if anything else pops up.  I am hoping to get a pull-out sofa bed so that we can offer a real bed for sleeping visitors instead of an unreliable blow-up mattress.  We'll see.  It seems all couches recline for naps (or movies) but sofa beds went out with the 80's for some reason.  (The onset of the 'guest bedroom', perhaps?)

FAIL FOR THE WEEK: The last gallon of milk, when poured for dinner, turned out to be chunky.  (ew.)  Apparently, I kept replacing our milk while that one hid out in the back. 

Here are a few things I plan to tackle for today:
  •  It is a beautiful sunny high-of-51 degree day!  Quilts, comforters, sheets and jeans to go on the clothesline!  Wa-hoo!
  • Make vanilla extract
  • Order some things online:
    • seeds (so late!  Don't say a word.)
    • spelling books for Corynn (she's finished hers)
    • stove insulation
    • a present for Andrew's birthday
  • Make a double batch of yogurt
  • Bake bread
  • And of course, HOMEMADE PIZZA NIGHT!  (It seemed to take FOREVER to get to Friday!)
  • Work on the cable purse and Corynn's Easter dress tonight (during the movie) and over the weekend.
  • Boil some more sap down.
** I had no new photos to include within this post so I decided to do a "What was I blogging on THIS DAY in 2012" trip down memory lane which is where the above photo came from.  I shouldn't have.  I was taunted by GREEN grass, open windows (?*!*?!), and crocuses...and then, worst of all- written for posterity (and to make this Rebecca ridiculously jealous) were the words "It is supposed to be in the 80's today!"  Yeah.  Makes that 51 degree day I was so excited for, well, less exciting

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real (And Yummy)




Shades of gray looming above hilltops.
Fluttering wings by birdfeeders.
Waxflowers that just won't die.  I got them weeks ago and they persist.  Wonderful, magical, everlasting flowers!


 Penny getting a good brushing in the fresh, crisp air.
A big sister that spoils an almost-twin with a bike 'ride'.
The first shoots of green...thank you, Lord.

~ Yummy~

Soft pretzels with jalapeno mustard


During rest time when Adele' and Judah are in their respective rooms and I am at the computer, I overhear this conversation across the halls~ in which Judah was trying to strike up a conversation when it was SUPPOSED to be quiet time. 
He tries several times (in vain) to get her to talk to him and then says...

" Adyay, don't you love me?" (Judah)
"Yes.  I yove you vewy, vewy much." (Adele)
"Den why won't you TALK to me?" (Judah)

~ Real~

  I finished our first batch of maple syrup of the season!  And like a little girl I must add….”all by myself!”  Technically, I *thought* I had finished my first batch last week but when Gary (my father-in-law and the syrup master himself) came over and saw it he laughed and pointed out several things ‘wrong with it’.

The conversation went something like this:

Rebecca, as I hand over the jar of syrup for oogling: “Look!  I finished our first syrup of the season!”

Gary: “Oh wow.  That’s good. “ 


Gary : “It’s a bit thin.  Did you boil it enough?”

Rebecca, deflated: “Well…I thought so.”

Gary: “And you really should filter it more to get out that sugar sand…maybe I will bring you over a filter.”
Rebecca, out loud: “Oh.  Okay.  I’ll boil it down more with my next batch. And I’ll be sure to filter it better.  Thanks for the advice.”
Rebecca, in her mind : “Leave now, Gary.  LEAVE NOW.  And take your stinkin’ syrup critiquing with you, Mister.”
round button chicken

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Yarn (and book) Along


Well, I finished Adele's crocheted Easter dress.  While it was a quick crochet and is very pretty, I am afraid to say it may be a bit too snug on her. (Even though I did the size up from her own!) How this is possible, I know not.  When I hold it up it seems SO big (too big for my "little" girl!) but when it is on, you can see her little girl belly pooch out because it is so snug.  Belly pooches are still cute on her age so let's pretend it will be cute, kay?  Because I REALLY don't want to have to make two for her.  I doubt she will be able to get much summer wear out of it since it is already borderline too small but I hope she can at least wear it for Easter.  I tried to extend the dress length by adding my own made-up flutter sleeves.  They made the neckline too low so I ripped those out again and made some smaller ones that work better.

For being so quick to stitch up, I sure have had to monkey around with it enough. 

I should be starting on Corynn's Easter dress next but I have a knitting class at the library next Tuesday and must have something to show for these last two weeks, so knitting it will be for now.  We have just begun a cabled purse pattern (I love the look of cables!  I hope I can do them!) using a super bulky Brown Sheep yarn.  This yarn is the real deal people.  Duck yellow.  $18.00 for a ball.

I must say, I've never in my life spent that amount on yarn before (and never will again).  I am more of a "buy it on 50% off sale at Michaels or get the cheapest stuff available and use a coupon" kind of girl.  When I said I would rather go with a coupon to the local A.C.Moore or Michaels, well, let's just say there was peer pressure involved.  'Nuff said.

Needless to say, I think I *must* give this purse away when I finished with it, just so I am not constantly reminded how much money I spent on the dumb duck yellow yarn so as not to appear the cheapskate I truly am.

Feast your eyes on this spun gold, the likes of which I will never have in my possession ever again.


I picked up 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess last week because right around March-ish (without fail) I begin to feel all claustrophobic and cluttery.  The book seemed to fit my need to purge so I borrowed it from the library.  Basically, the author sets aside seven months to focus on seven areas of excess in her life.  The first month was food- in which she ate only SEVEN foods for an entire month.  The second- clothes.  In which she wore only seven things. And so on and so forth.  My favorite was month 3: when she (and each member in her family) gave away 7 things...EVERY DAY. That right there is what I need to do.  (Matt and the kids can start! ;-) )

I like the book, I really like the concept BEHIND the book (because we really are, each of us, so spoiled that we can't even see it) and I've been convicted a few times...but her writing style is such that it seems her main drive in the book is to sound witty and cool.  That can elicit a few laughs here and there but mostly, it's distracting.

Working on anything?  Reading any good books?  Spill it!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Proper Way to Hold Chickens

One hand on top, one hand on bottom (like so) gives them the support they need without the ability to flap their wings.
Holding a chicken is easy work...

...but holding TWO chickens is for the extremely talented. 

I'll leave it up to the pros.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Because I love it...

And I can't help but cry and smile at the same time when I watch it.  Over and over again.

Finances on Friday: Weekend Edition

It was exactly 11:51 last night when I realized that I hadn't posted a Finances on Friday post!  It completely slipped my mind!  Though admittedly, I haven't thought much about it these last few days.
Because of this fellow here:

He took a much needed day (or two) of vacation on Thursday and Friday, giving us all a nice four day breather from his hectic work schedule.  He's been out doing his thing~ clearing overgrown pastureland, building a foot bridge to the sap buckets, splitting wood...you know "relaxing" work like that.  Meanwhile, I've been trying desperately to avoid anything that looks remotely like (even hints at) work.  ;-) 

We even managed to squeeze in a bit of a (much needed) date- which was NOT frugal. Olive garden, my friends, is no DEAL. 

There have been plenty of "splurges" this week anywhere from buying Triscuits, storebought hummus and fancy yarn to the above Olive Garden splurge so don't let me fool you.  It was kindof a bomb week for living frugally.

NEVERTHELESS.  A day late and a dollar short...here are a few things that I can pop off the top of my head regarding finances this past week.

* Went to Sam's Club on my Mom's membership. Bought two 25# bags of all purpose flour, 2 25# bags of sugar (these are the cheapest prices I have seen) among a few other things like minced onion, tomato paste, soup bouillon (sans MSG) and pecans.

* Picked up a few more free buckets from the Price Chopper bakery to use for sap/syrupping.

* Made our first batches of syrup!  We now are the proud owners of 1 quart homemade maple syrup that cost us nothing more than a bit of sweat equity.  (Sweat and syrup shouldn't be talked about in the same sentence.  Ew.)

* Matt bought fencing at a local construction open house, saving 10%.

* Paid bills, including our real estate taxes in one lump sum and by the first date given, allowing us to pay the smallest amount possible.

Matt saved us the most money this week:

* He has been in the market for a post pounder thingamabobber so that we can fence off some pasture this spring.  He was looking into buying one brand new (they run about $3,000) but I begged suggested to him to check out Craigslist first before doing anything rash.  The first time he checked he found just the thing he needed for $875.00... $600 of which he had already had saved up.  We were able to scrounge the rest in order to pay cash for it and save ourselves plenty of dollars.  LOVE Craigslist!  So happy he checked it!

In case anyone wants to do a Finances on Friday "Weekend Edition":

Do you have anything financial/inspiring to share this week? 
 Link up!  
As always~ PLEASE link to your SPECIFIC blog post, not your entire blog. It could be ways you saved or stretched or strategically spent those pennies...or, if you prefer not to be so personal, even inspiration you found online, articles or quotes... but please link to a post about SOMETHING financial! Lastly, please link back to my blog and maybe others would like to share!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A March Project: Maple Syrupping




Since Matt's dad went and got out of the syrupping business, we are on our own in the making of maple syrup from now on.  What with Matt being used to a big-time evaporator and fancy-schmancy tubing and me never having needed to REALLY know how to do it...this year will be a trial run into the small scale, unprofessional backyard maple syrupping year.  The first year of many.  Unless I screw the whole thing up- which could happen.  Knowing me.

We have no professional supplies- with the exception of a few old (but bonafide) sap buckets and spiles that Gary let us use.  We have no hydrometer, no evaporator and HAD no pans to boil in until my kind brother in law gave me the most PERFECT chafing dishes ever.

Until we get a proper outdoor evaporator thrown together built, I thought our first run we would try on our woodstove in the basement.  It is already burning wood to heat our home- so why not?  It's in the basement, underneath of any potential wallpaper stripping. 

But not knowing just exactly what I am doing- we are all taking many trips down cellar to check on the progress of things.  So far so good. 

If you look at the picture with the bucket bedecked tree with a house in the distance...that would be our house.  That's the trek we must make to bring back our sap and we have to ford the ever-growing creek to get there.  The warm weather gets the sap flowing but the creek with it- so we bless and curse the mild weather.  But mostly bless, because crossing a raging creek or not, I am sick to death of snow and cold and splitting wood and burning wood and splitting more wood and running out of wood and hauling wood and just THINKING about wood, in general.

 I know just how Laura felt, it has been a long winter.

Review: ScienceandMath.com

ScienceandMath.com Review

It's been a week or two since my last review for the Schoolhouse Review Crew.  I figured it was about time for a new one...and this one I am particularly excited about.  Up until now I have been given the opportunity to review online resources, which are cool in their own way, but THIS review is about a tangible, feel-in-your-hand, get-in-the-mail resource. (And you all know how much I like getting things in the mail!)  Even more appealing, though, is what this educational 5th grade math tool does.  It stops a math-grumbling 5th grader from grumbling at math time. This is pretty huge in my book, so I have to give Kudos to ScienceandMath.com and their Mastering 5th Grade Math- Volume 1: Essentials of Fractions DVD for doing something I thought impossible....quieting the grumble monster at Math time.

ScienceandMath.com Review

Mastering 5th Grade Math: Volume 1: Essentials of Fractions is a DVD set that includes two discs; a DVD with the video lessons and a second disc that includes the worksheets and answer key for all 16 lessons.  On the second disc, too, is a digital copy of all the video lessons.  The teacher of the program is Jason, who was a scientist for NASA and just seems like such a sweet guy.  (I suppose I shouldn't be reviewing the character of the speaker but I can spot a nice guy from a mile away...) 

See? Nice guy.  You can just tell.

In each lesson, Jason walks the student through each math concept step-by-step and explains clearly what he is doing and why he is doing it while providing plenty of examples of each math concept for the student to fully grasp his instruction.    After the short lesson, the student is given corresponding worksheets to further practice the skills taught.  Here is a list of the lessons covered in Volume 1:

Lesson 1: Review of Fraction Concepts
Lesson 2: Writing Fractions as Words
Lesson 3: Finding Factors of Numbers
Lesson 4: Finding the Greatest Common Factor
Lesson 5: Finding the GCF of 3 Numbers
Lesson 6: Prime Factorization
Lesson 7: Equivalent Fractions
Lesson 8: Renaming Fractions    
 Lesson 9: Simplifying Fractions, Part 1
Lesson 10: Simplifying Fractions, Part 2
Lesson 11: Review of Improper Fractions
Lesson 12: Review of Mixed Fractions
Lesson 13: Writing Mixed Fractions as Improper Fractions
Lesson 14: Writing Improper Fractions as Mixed Fractions
Lesson 15: Thinking of Fractions as Division
Lesson 16: Writing Whole Numbers as Fractions

I do a lot of reading and teaching in our homeschool.  Our children aren't quite at the age/stage where they can be autonomous in their studies so I read history to everyone.  I read Bible.  I read science.  I read biographies.  I read and read and read.  I teach and teach and teach.  And I gotta tell ya, it was a nice break to WATCH another person teach math instead of ME teaching and reading it.  I liked it.  (A lot.)

The one thing that I would probably change is a very small and trivial thing when it comes right down to it, but I'll suggest it anyway.  The worksheets are full of practice problems to do but each problem is so spaced out that you end up wasting a lot more paper than is necessary.  Two pages worth of problems could be nicely spaced into one page with little/no effort.  I notice this especially in this instance, because at the time, I could not print the pictures from our old computer (the disc drive was broken) so I had to take it to the library to print the pages.  At a dime a page.  (THEN it becomes apparent how much paper you use!)  Again, trivial but noteworthy.

Overall, I was incredibly pleased with the program.

ScienceandMath.com provide step by step Math and Science courses for different age levels- from fractions to trigonometry, science experiments to physics.  T

hey offer step-by-step math and science help and learning from grades 4 all the way through highschool so don't let the fact that I am reviewing Mastering 5th grade Math deter you from checking out their other products!

The Mastering 5th Grade Math: Volume 1: Essentials of Fractions can be downloaded for $14.99 (access to all video and worksheets) or by purchasing the physical DVD for $15.99 (which includes both the video and worksheet discs). 

Hey you!  What are YOU doing over here second grader?
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