Apr 232014
 

calendar coffee computer

This week looked promising on the calendar:

Sunday – return home from visiting family

Monday – nothing

Tuesday – apply for new social security numbers for our “new” kids, do a bit of shopping in Big Town while there, help out at church

Wednesday – nothing

Thursday – meeting in the morning

Friday – nothing

Saturday – get together

Not too bad, every other day was free so if something came up, I had a day between to rejuvenate.  Then life actually happened.

messy bedroom

Monday – no school so all kids were home.  The one kid in particular like routines, not to the extent of to the minute, but changes throws this one off.  No school is a major change in routine so the day started out … rough.  It finally got better.  This is also one of the evenings when my husband has school, so except for the lunch hour, I was on my own all day long.  ”Long” is a great descriptive word for this day.  We switched clothes as the seasons are changing.  Also did 6 loads of laundry, including the three potty accidents one kid decided to add because they were too lazy to get up and go … finally wasn’t allowed to wear any more bottoms, which solved the issue … mostly.

Tuesday – realized I had a borrowed truck in my drive way, meaning I could pick up that item in Big Town that I had decided against getting because it couldn’t fit into my car.  Also, remembered this was the morning of getting together with some other moms.  Since the social security office didn’t open till 9 and the other store did not open till 10, I decided to add even more goodness to the day.  So it became a day of:

  • 9 a.m coffee shop get together
  • 10:30 arrive at social security office and entertain accompanying preschooler for an hour before being called up, at which point I produced special, never-before-seen toys from my purse so I could talk while kid played
  • 12 noon stop by bank
  • 12:15 stop by CVS where the Easter Clearance called to me
  • 12:45 explain yet again to the cashier and manager that the “clearance” items were ringing up at twice what it should be costing me
  • 1:00 leave CVS with the correct amount being deducted from my bank account and much grace extended to accompanying preschooler
  • 1:15 arrive at last store to pick up large item
  • 1:30 take kid to a fun fast food restaurant (this kid was doing amazing for all that had happened so far in this day). We had a gift card, so this is where we went to eat.
  • 2:00 head back to Small Town
  • 2:30 stop at hardware store in Small Town to pick up additional item that was actually cheaper than in Big Town.  Also picked up some sealer for porch swing, which was a Christmas present from my parents and the reason we had switched vehicles with them for a few days.  They weren’t able to make the trip up and back this week and we couldn’t fit this in the back of my car.  Meeting halfway on Thursday was a compromise that worked out for all of us.
  • 2:55 home to unload and get kid off bus
  • 3:20 get neighbor’s kid off bus (this neighbor was supposed to help me out today but it switched and we ended up being the helpers, isn’t that what neighbor’s are for?)
  • 3:50 leave house to head to church, 4:00 go back home for forgotten driver’s license
  • 4:15 leave house 2nd time, 4:50 arrive at church 20 minutes late and more in the way than actually helping but the little kids thought it was great fun and they were hot stuff
  • 5:30 leave church, 5:45 decide to make “quick” stop (don’t laugh too hard) at Menard’s for Free After Rebate items
  • 6:15 (so much for a “quick” stop) go to grocery store in same parking lot to get milk and a few items (really, it started off as a list of 2 things!)
  • 6:45 head home!!

Supper was a bit of this and that I grabbed from home before we left and eaten in the truck after leaving church and while in Menard’s – apples, peanut butter cracker sandwiches, Fiber One gummy snacks (thanks to Checkout 51 and Ibotta rebates), and individual packages of nut and more gummy snacks picked up from somewhere.  Not exactly a balanced meal, but I was not in the mood for spending even more money.

helper hammering in landscape edging

By the way, the more I’ve gotten to know the people at our local hardware store, the more I really appreciate them.  When we moved to Small Town, we bought an older home.  It is over 90 years old now.  Several projects kept me busy those first 6 months or so.  Often I found myself going to the hardware store almost daily, asking questions, picking up this forgotten item or that “I didn’t even know I needed one of those till I was in the middle of something and realized what I was doing wasn’t working” item.  Yes, it is sad when the people at the hardware store constitute the majority of the people you interact with over the course of a week.  Okay, they were pretty much the only people I talked with, except my husband, for quite some time.  The good part, they got to know me and are just good people.  It is run by a father/Son duo who have been here for … a long time.  I love our Small Town.

Wednesday – house was a disaster after Monday’s clothing marathon, and Tuesdays in and out dashes.  Decided to take on hour or so to pick it up then go outside.  5 hours, lunch, and a new dislike for PDF files that will not save entered data later we made it there.  At which point I promised we could “go play in the sandbox once Mommy finished staining the new porch swing”.  {sigh}  It took a bit longer than I thought, about 3 hours longer.  The porch swing has been completely stained though!

Thursday – this looks to be on par with the beginning parts of this week.  Drop off at school, then 30 minutes to make a stop by a yard sale and be at meeting.  10:30 I need to leave and drive 2 hours to meet my dad and switch vehicles, eat lunch and drive 2 hours back where I will hopefully meet the bus.  I have a 30 minute grace period in all this traveling.  If I miss the bus, my wonderful neighbor (the one we helped out Tuesday) will be there, but I am aiming to be on time.  (Laughter is good for the soul, so don’t hold back at this point.)  I think this would be a great time to go to the park or have a “movie afternoon”.

Friday – local city-wide garage sale is happening.  I have several items on my list to search for this year and hope to find several.  Make cake for tomorrow.

Saturday – get together at the local park.  I need to set up so I have NOTHING planned this day except making breakfast and lunch for the family, then setting up.  That’s it.  Nothing complicated. … Hopefully. …  I’m even keeping it simpler by making cupcakes instead of an actual cake.  And using some of those Easter clearance finds instead of coming up with something on my own. … Besides it is at the park and with friends. … Now I’m starting to get nervous.  This sounds way too easy.

bag of cookies label

This evening I had intended to finish writing up a post I had started, but really just felt in the mood to curl up with a coffee, a blanket and a movie.  Then guilt kicked in, “I really should write a post”.  I decided to do the blanket and coffee, but also to share with you a bit of my week.  Why?  Just to show that I too am human and often fail at my goals – particularly the one to “simplify my life”.

This week is anything but simple, though I have gotten rid of 75 articles of clothing, taken care of four pieces of paperwork that have been lingering, and chose to spend time with friends .  That last one took quite a lot of convincing from my internal ‘Mary’ to do, rather than rush off in a very ‘Martha’ way as is my habit.  So I guess the week has not been a complete failure.

Apr 212014
 

tea kettle steaming

When we moved into our current house several years ago, we chose to add hook-ups for our washer and dryer in the garage.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, and for the most part it has been easier.

  • We only have to walk down four carpeted steps rather than 10 narrow wooden ones.
  • The garage, without a car in it, has more room than the basement may have given.
  • The garage does not get water covering the floor in the Spring time.  The first Spring in our home we had a layer of water flowing to sump pump.  While it has not happened to that extent since, it is a normal part of life in our neighborhood.
  • The garage is brighter.
  • The garage is closer to the clothes line outside, though we use the dryer mostly.
  • I can let the kids play outside while I work on the laundry.
  • The washer and dryer are not located right underneath our bedrooms.  (We don’t hear them running if I start a load at night time.)
  • The access to the basement stairs is through some narrow doors, onto a narrow landing – there is not much room to move.  I am not even sure if we could get our water and dryer down there, and don’t want to risk falling down the stairs to find out.

In all, I am glad we decided to put it there.  Some people thought it was an odd decision, but it works for us.  Most of the time.  As I learned the first winter, there is one down side.

  • When it is below freezing for more than a day or two, the washer freezes up.  This has a lot to do with the fact that garage door doesn’t close all the way.  It is like having an open door when the wind blows.  We can not replace the door without doing some work to the opening, as there is not enough room on each side to attach a new door.  The joys of an older home.

The first time this happened, I had no idea why it was not working.  It took many try and a lot of pondering to figure out what exactly caused it to do this and how to handle it.  Over time, I figured out which parts tend to freeze first and how to handle those before trying the more complicated methods.

The rain pipe from the washer is usually the first place water freezes.  This pipe is along an outside wall, it makes sense that it would get cooler first.  The solution for this is easy – boil water in the tea kettle and pour it down the drain about 10 minutes before wanting to do laundry.  It melts the ice and all is right with the world again.  (It took a several times, and a lot of water on the floor, for me to figure that one out.  I thought it was happening inside the washer till I saw it happen.)

pots of boiling water to do laundry

Then next part to freeze up is the actual workings inside the washer.  Sometimes all it takes is putting boiling water in the tub of the washer and a blanket around it to help melt the frozen parts.

heat lamp on washerOther times external heat is needed.  This is currently the only heater we have to use.  There is a safety setting that turns it off it it is tipped over.

While this is great for warming up your feet or a small room, it does not do a quick job.  Once the washer gets to this point, you can count on having to wait a few hours before you can use the washer.

This may seem like a complicated process to go through, and it can be, but in the majority of winters since we have lived here this process only needs to be done less than a handful of times each winter.  Last winter I am not sure I had to do it at all, and if I did it was just to pour boiling water down the drain pipe.

This past winter however was a completely different story.  We went months when the temperatures did not get over freezing.  If they did, it was for a few hours during the day, after a night of very cold temperatures.  For the most part our laundry was getting done on one day every other week or so.  The kids were encouraged to wear their sweatshirts several times, their pants until mommy said they were allowed to put them in the dirty clothes, etc.  Being winter, it was not like they were muddy or overly dirty anyway, so this was not such a huge inconvenience for them.

If the conditions were right to be able to do laundry, everything else I had planned for that day took a back seat.

Finally, my husband in all his wisdom (and tired of seeing his wife work so hard just to do laundry) proclaimed one Saturday that he was going to the laundry mat … all of 6 blocks from our house.  (Now, why didn’t I think of that?!)

The first time he went, he washed and dried the clothes.  After doing so, and coming home, he shared his realizations with me.

  1. It is expensive to do laundry at the laundry mat.
  2. Our dryer works just fine and we can save money by bringing the wet clothes home.
  3. Maybe we should move the laundry stuff to the basement.

I agreed with him on the first two (having already realized #2 before he left, and thought he had too.) but not the third.  ”Why should we make my life more difficult for 90% of the year, and potentially sprain an ankle, just because of a few weeks of having to take longer to do laundry?”

I suggested we look for a smaller washer to put in the basement for those few times during the winter that the one in the garage is not working.  So, now I am keeping my eyes open for a small used washer.  I have a price range in mind (mainly how much it would cost us to do laundry at the laundry mat several time during a winter.)

So what is it that I am thankful for?

  1. I am thankful to have a washer to have this “problem” at laundry time.
  2. I am thankful to have a garage that keeps my washer out of the elements and constantly connected to a water source.
  3. I am thankful to have a washer that is connected to a water heater, so I do not have to always heat water if I want it for laundry.
  4. I am thankful, now, to be able to do laundry without having to defrost the washer.
  5. I am thankful for having the option to add a washer to another part of our house.
  6. I am thankful for having the hook up for water and electricity for that second location already in place.
  7. I am thankful for having the funds to make buying another washer an option.
  8. I am thankful for having a husband who was willing to take laundry to the laundry mat for his wife (so she would not have to go with kids in tow).
  9. I am thankful the funds available to look for a used heater this summer at garage sales, to hopefully make the garage warmer this next winter.

These things may not be earth shattering evens to say “Thanks” for, but they are things that are not guaranteed.  These are things that I choose to be thankful for, rather than complaining that for two or three months it was difficult to do laundry.  I am pretty sure there are people who would love for this to be one of the biggest problems they are having to deal with on short-term basis.

What are some of the things you are choosing to be thankful about?  Is there something about which you need to change your perspective?

 

Apr 202014
 

Weekly Menu Plan May 2013

 

Breakfasts:

  1. Traveling
  2. Traveling
  3. Eggs, toast, fruit
  4. Cinnamon Loaf
  5. Shakes
  6. Oatmeal
  7. Eggs, hash-browns, toast, fruit, meat

Lunch:

  1. Traveling
  2. Traveling
  3. Beef Bourguignon
  4. Chipotle-Chocolate Chili, cornbread muffins
  5. Pulled-pork burritos
  6. Superfast Salisbury Steak, rice, peas
  7. Pizza

Supper:

  1. Traveling
  2. Breakfast for Supper
  3. Bree’s Lentil-Tomato Soup
  4. Curried chickpeas, rice
  5. Tomato Soup
  6. Pulled Pork Egg Rolls
  7. Leftovers

large pot of water on stove

Cooking large batches of something usually sounds like a good idea.  When I tried it with rice, though … not so much.

brown rice uncooked

I found myself with 4.5 lbs of brown rice in my pantry.  While I like brown rice, I do not always like how much longer it takes to cook than any of the white rices.

This is where the idea came of cooking it up ahead of time.  I had done this before on smaller batches and it worked well.  I would freeze the cooked rice, needing only to reheat it with a tablespoon or so of water for a few minutes in the microwave when I needed it for a meal.

large pot of rice cooking

At the point of having added 3 pounds of rice to the pot I realized I had misjudged exactly how big of a pot I needed.

large pot cooked brown rice 3

Thankfully all the rice cooked up fine … but then it came time to cool it off and bag it up for the freezer.  Once the pot was cool enough to divide up the rice, the middle of the batch had become to difficult to spoon out. The rice at the bottom was soggy. It would have actually saved time to do this in smaller batches, perhaps 1 pound at a time.  My husband actually would not eat the rice.  I had to use it over a few months, mainly when it was the kids and me or when I had something else planned for him to eat.

Lesson learned.

 

Linked up with OrgJunkie.

For more ideas also check out This Week For Dinner.

Also check out Confessions of a Homeschooler’s  April’s Monthly Meal Plan.

This post contains affiliate links.

Apr 192014
 

dd

clematis vine on trellis

clematis vine growing on hydrangea bushTo say this clematis is an active grower would be an understatement.  Every year I cut it back aggressively, and every year it come back, plus more. I no longer worry about being careful in trimming during the summers.  It gets trimmed when and where needed.  This is not necessarily a delicate plant.

While the seeds and petals make a mess, the vine itself makes a great privacy screen during the summer.  It becomes covered in small white flowers which insects seem to like.  This would make a great screen, cover or addition to your garden if you have the room or are willing to trim it weekly.

Not all clematis flowers are the same color.  Here is a great collection of varieties.

Apr 182014
 

trench in garden for onions

We have had several warm days of late – 60′s and 70′s.  The evenings have been cool, but usually above freezing.  Usually.

row to plant onion sets

A month or so ago a local farm store has onions sets on sale for $.99 per pound.  I picked up about 2 lbs.  Now, 2 pounds may not seem like a lot, but onion sets are not large.  This equated to a few hundred.

I knew it was too early to plant them, but I also knew that if the weather warmed up before most people thought it would then I would be ready.  If these were planted too early and didn’t come up, then I was only out $2.  It was worth the risk for me.

planted row of onion sets

Saturday of last week was a nice day, in the 70′s.  The day before I had put the fencing up around the beds and sprinkled Deer Scram around, to help keep out rabbits and possibly squirrels.

I had a few minutes to do something with the garden, so chose to plant the onions sets.

It was a little early, I knew I was running a risk of still having cold weather.  The tipping point was knowing that if I didn’t do something with these, they would mold in the bag and I would lose them all anyway.  At least if they were planted, I had some chance of getting a return.

In the end, over 400 were planted.  (I lost count after 350, but know that I planted more than 50 after that.)

Sunday it rained, nice summer-ish type showers.  Still warm.

Monday it rained and was cooling off.

Monday night … it snowed.

We are not talking feet of snow, but enough to still be on the roof tops the next morning and put a layer of precipitation to be removed when I got in the car to leave.

The cold lasted at least one more day.

Will these survive to come up or will they have frozen into onion-set-popsicles?  Only time will tell.

I knew I was being antsy planting so early, but I knew the risk and was willing to take it.  Sometimes it pays off, and others become lessons to remember in the future.

******************

On a more positive note, the strawberry plants are looking good.  I only lost one, and that was to a squirrel last fall I think.  Pesky rodents like to plant buckeyes in my raised beds.  The more I get to know them, the less I like them.  (Squirrels that is, not necessarily buckeye trees.)

Apr 172014
 

calendar coffee computer

Last week I talked about organizing your seeds and keeping track of your seed starts once you have actually accomplished that task.

“But I haven’t even started those.  I am so far behind!” you might be saying.

Well, today is better than never.  While it may be too late to start tomato or parsley seeds, in most Zones it is not too late to begin planning your garden.  Where I am, our last frost date has not even occurred.  If you are wanting to garden this year, but already feel behind this post is for you.

If you are brand-new to gardening I would suggest you start small, with a few of the easier to grow plants.  Take your time to research and ask around, find what grows best in your area.  The extra time will pay off in the long run with better results.

list of plants for garden seed transplant

First, you will need to grab a pen and paper.

Secondly, list all the plants you would ideally like to grow in your garden.

garden plan and cilatro seed packet

Thirdly, draw up a layout of your garden.  This does not have to be fancy or to scale.  The layout  in above was when I was expanding my boxes and trying to lay it out better.  I took more time in making it.  The year after I picked up a scrap of paper, drew rough shapes and listed things in columns rather than squares.  I understood the column meant those plants were going in that order.  Do what work for you.  You can take time later to make it pretty.

weeks before first frost seed starting

Last Frost Date marked on calendar

Next, grab your calendar and mark the average last frost date.

First Frost Date Marked on Calendar

first frost date and 2 weeks before on calendar

Now mark the average last frost date.

After those two are done, go back to the list of plants you wrote out earlier and note when each needs to be started (weeks before last frost).  If there are any you still have time, and want, to start put a note beside the name.  If you will need to buy a transplant, note it.  I used ‘S’ and ‘T’ respectively – seed and transplant.

There you have it, you have now planned your garden.  It may not be 100% perfect.  It may not be pretty enough to brag about on Pinterest, but that was not the goal.  The goal was to plan it out.

seedling list 2014

Now for the fun part, getting your hands dirty.

Does your garden need to be marked off?  Tilled?  Amended?  Make notes of those needs also at the bottom of your list.

Do you need to start seeds now?  Make a list of what it is you will need, then go get it.

If you are already feeling behind, this is your chance to jump back on the wagon and enjoy the rest of the ride.  Don’t put off longer the things you need to do or else you will find yourself too far behind to catch up this year.

Enjoy gardening!

c

 

 

Apr 162014
 

Today I’m taking a break from looking down and am going to look up – to the sky. Sunday afternoon, while looking for skip counting songs on YouTube, I clicked on a video about our solar system.  No, it had nothing to do with skip counting and everything to do with a young one who is into space right now. That particular youth was at my elbow and wanted “my turn”, so solar system here we come.

After a few videos I came across one about learning the planets names.  That video led to a few more, which ended with me seeing this video. The initial appeal was that it included Pluto, then the term ‘dwarf planet’ created a curiosity that my mouse clicking finger just could not resist. Off on a learning adventure we went. (Other might call it a rabbit trail, but it was very much worth while so I decided it was an Unintended Adventure.)

Since the YouTube video above was posted in 2010, there have been new discoveries.  From PRI’s Science Friday on April 9, 2014 - The discovery of a new ‘dwarf planet’ expands our view of the solar system

What?! There are more?

So what is a ‘dwarf planet’?  If these things are out there and I never knew of them, I need to start learning.  NASA gives us 10 Need-to-Know Things About Dwarf Planets.  On the same site, different tab, they also say:

“According to the International Astronomical Union, which sets definitions for planetary science, a dwarf planet is a celestial body that:

  • Orbits the sun.
  • Has enough mass to assume a nearly round shape.
  • Has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.
  • Is not a moon.”

There are currently 5 recognized ‘dwarf planets’, one of which is Pluto.  Well, at least I no longer feel bad about leaving Pluto out of the list of planets.  Seems he has other friends with which to socialize.

Diagram of the solar system showing Pluto and Eris' eccentric orbits.

Scientists expect to find more dwarf planets beyond the orbit of Neptune. – image from NASA.gov

And in case you are thinking that ‘dwarf planets’ are a new thing, let me clarify that the first one was found in 1801.  How is it just now that I’m hearing about these?  Why were these never mentioned in school?  Yet another thing I have found that did not make the cut.  Though it does support the saying that you should never stop learning.

I really enjoyed the drawing showing the ‘old solar system’ and the ‘new solar system’.  It is not the solar system which has changed, but our view. Breaking News Alert: The World Is No Longer Flat!!

NASA Supported Research Helps Redefine Solar System’s Edge - here is a NASA article from March 26, 2014 talking about the newest found member, 2012 VP113.  The nickname of this new potential ‘dwarf plantet’ is “Biden” after our current Vice President.  It appears that those at NASA does not think the few ‘dwarf planets’ found so far are unique, only that these are the ones so far observed.

At this point I had to stop because my 30 minutes of computer time ended 3 hours ago, though most was spent on YouTube looking for educational videos.  The links I included have so much information, if you do nothing else I encourage you to click and read them.  I won’t take 3 hours I promise.

 

While some may be tempted to trumpet the accomplishments of mankind, and I am by no means belittling the hard work and many hours put in my those who made these discoveries or those who made the equipment which allows us now to make these observations, what this really makes me realize is how BIG and GREAT our God is, how pompous we humans can be to think we have it all figured out.

Apr 122014
 

sorted seed packs labeled according weeks

When it was time to write up last week’s garden update I couldn’t find any of the pictures to go with the  post.  I search and searched, though both my blog’s pictures and my computer.  I looked on my phone, on my desktop, on … well, there wasn’t anywhere else to look.  I searched every folder on my computer, the one I use to usually write blog posts.  In the end, I gave up, assuming they were lost forever in digital-land.

Wednesday night, while looking to create another collage for a completely unrelated post, I noticed an oddly named folder within my blog pictures folder.  Guess what I found.  Yup.  They were right there in a folder that was created, but shouldn’t have been, and named with a few misplaced keystrokes.  {sigh}  At least this reassures me that I do not have photos missing from my blog.

Starting my own garden plants is something I started doing 7 or 8 years ago.  At first I focused on tomato plants, starting about 10 of them.  I had just learned about heirloom plants and was interested to try a few, but did not want to pay the higher cost of buying transplants.  The set up was not fancy – a pan with some small pots of soil in a sunny window.  The new adventure was a success, in my book, and I was hooked.

Each year since, my seed starting adventures have looked a bit different than the years before.  I learn from previous years, take into account what life is doing at that time, and what my garden will look like.

This year I was determined to not get behind.  I also wanted to use up the seeds I already owned and not buy more.  In January, I did a quick look through the pile, noting there were several seed packets for tomato and pepper plants.  These were the two plants I really wanted to start, and they needed to be started 8 weeks before our last frost date.

When February came and it was time to start those early seeds, I knew they were there.  I sorted through the pile, putting the ones I wanted on top.  A quick sort resulted in a pile that was in a rough order of what needed started first, second, third, etc.

Somewhere around the third time of looking through the pile, I knew this system of organizing was not going to work this year.  There were too many seed packets of various sizes and bulks to keep it all straight.  I was spending too much time looking through the pile, making sure I hadn’t missed anything, finding things I had missed, and feeling like I was not prepared.  So I grabbed a pen and paper and made a list.  On two different pieces of paper I put the headings (weeks before last frost) – 8+ weeks before, 6-8 weeks before, 4-6 weeks before, 3-4 weeks before, 1-2 weeks before, and in ground after frost.  Under each heading I wrote when each particular plant needed be started.  (Some packets said on the back of them when to start the seeds.  Others I had to look up in a book I own.)  In all this activity took me less than 10 minutes.  It would have gone quicker, except I started daydreaming about gardening – after all, there was about 6 inches of snow outside at this time.

To each heading I also added the date range for my planting zone.  With one quick glance I now was able to see what needed to be started and when.

List of when to plant (

List of when to start seeds 2

While the list made me feel more organized, it didn’t actually do anything for the pile of seed packets I had in the drawer.  I still had to search for what I was looking for.  The first round of seeds had been started when I found some tomato seed packets I had missed.  My organization needed to take on another step.

There was a stack of old ice cream buckets sitting on the end of the counter were my seeds were being started.  I grabbed the stack and began sorting.  When I found the need for more containers, I picked up some baskets that were nearby.  While this will never win any awards for beauty or style, it keeps the packets organized and can be stacked to take up less room on the counter.

Into each container I put seed packets that were to be started at the same time.  Each container was then labeled, either on a tall packet or on a sign taped to an edge.

Basket of seeds 2

Basket of seeds 3

Basket of Seeds 4

Basket of seeds

I now had a quick way to find which seeds needed to be started.  The current bucket was on top of the pile.  When I went to start the next set of seeds, I would grab the bucket on top and get to work.  No more need for sorting packets and referring to the calendar.

When it came time to actually start the second round of seeds I new I needed a way to label each row.  After all, most varieties of tomatoes look the same until they start to put on fruit.  I again took the most basic of approaches – pen and paper.  I’ve tired other methods in the past, but have found wooded sticks to mold and fall off, signs to get knocked onto the floor, containers labeled with permanent marker to be used for other plants, and by memory to just not work.  If I was growing one variety of everything, then labeling would not be needed.  That is not the case this year, so I needed to label my plants.

On the side of each tray, I wrote a  number.  This corresponds to the number on the pieces of paper.  Each line on the paper represents one row of seeds in the container.

I made sure to not have the patter of seeds started in the flat look like another.  This means I did not start a tray full of tomato seeds, where I could not tell which end was which.  So one flat has chives at one end but not another, while no other tray has chives on the end.  Again, this isn’t fancy but it does the job well.  I am able to move the trays without worrying about their order or orientation.

Seed starting charts

View of seedling table

How do you organize your seeds and seed starts?  Do you use a different method which you have found works for you?

Apr 112014
 

mason jars

After spending all the time canning produce from your garden or elsewhere, the last thing you want to happen is to have jar go bad and not realize it till you “smell thing funky” when you go to your pantry.

Take a few minutes to look over the jars you have.

Are they all still sealed?

Do any need to be wiped down?  If so, do it now before you forget.

If any have gone bad, dump the contents and sanitize the jars.  Check for chips before storing them till they are needed again.

Apr 092014
 

Matthew 6 26

My husband and I love numbers.  We may not always view them, literally, the same way but we both like them.  They are fun.  Okay, so not everyone agrees.  We don’t even agree that the other spouse is viewing them the right way. :)  I’m not a fan of philosophical debates which  makes it a good thing there are people in the world who love that kind of thing.  Otherwise who knows what kind of world we would be living in.  We can’t do it all, so thankfully God divided up the responsibilities.  

So, money.  In an all too common conversation the other day we were talking about the amount of money we spend each month.  This was not an argument, we actually enjoy looking and analyzing our cash flow. I remember fondly the times, as a new married couple, where we would sit down to enter our expenditures and income, then look over the progress we made or didn’t make.  We would then talk about ways we could achieve the goal we wanted.  I loved seeing the pay-off-time for our debts shorten as we payed more on our debts than was required.  Even if it was only shortened by a few days or weeks, that meant less money going to someone else and the sooner we would actually own our stuff, instead of the bank owning it.  Yes, we may be slightly not-normal in this case, but I’m okay with that.

 

The recent conversation was the result of a Wall Street Journal article about a spending limit placed on former USB trader Tom Heyes.  The limit was set to $400 a week.  My first thought was, “Poor rich guy.  Only $400 a week. Life is tough.”  Then I wondered how much that was per day?  per month?  I began to view this number differently.  What exactly is $400 a week?

  • $57.14 per day
  • $1,732 per month (assuming 4.33 weeks per month)
  • $20,800 per year

grocery store food

Well, now the numbers look a bit different.  $400 is nothing to sneeze at my any means, but it may not go as far as you would think. While you can get a lot of $1 items from the local dollar store for $400, it doesn’t always stretch that far in other areas:

  • Assuming gas is $3 per gallon (which it isn’t here), if your car’s tank  holds 15 gallons it will cost you $45 to fill, leaving you with $12.14 to spend the rest of the day.
  • $400 is about half of what it costs for my auto insurance (more than one vehicle), then let’s not forget home insurance (if you own one), life insurance (if you have a policy), etc.  I just lost more than a month of the $400/week limit.
  • A new set of tires cost me $354 last year (one tire blew out so we replaced two of them.  A week or so later one of the ‘old’ tires got a nail in it.  It would have saved us money to buy a full set, but we weren’t looking to buy a new full set all at one time.  This year we had issues with the tires, due to alignment or such and had to replace them.  There was a prorated refund because they didn’t last very long, so that was another $$ bill to pay.  Yes, you can save by not owning a car or just owning one instead of multiple.)
  • Eating at home, we average around $20/person/week on groceries and $13.5/person/week eating out, bringing the act of eating to about $33.4/person/week.  (Okay, WOW.  I didn’t realize it was so high.  We have lowered our eating out costs this year by $174 per person, but the cost of groceries has increased.  Still, I see an area where we/I can improve in the upcoming year.)
  • We pay the local teenager $20 to mow our yard, which he does about one time per week during the summer bringing the monthly total to $80.  Family pool pass for the summer is $90, or $22.50 per month.  Netflix is $18/month.  These are all things that cost the same, whether you are single or have a family of many.  The total?  $188, or almost half on one week’s $400 allotment.

See how the view changes the amount?  What else can $400 do:

  • Sponsor a Compassion International child for 10.5 months.
  • Give the gift of 1 water buffalo and 2 sheep, or the gift of clean water AND a bountiful harvest gift basket through Heifer International.
  • Support a teen in your community, or through donation, to a program like Missionaries Across America.
  • Put together several backpacks with school supplies for students at your local school who many not be able to afford them.  (This could go even further if you strategically shop the back to school sales.)

calendar assortment

After mentioning to my husband the article and how much Mr. Heyes was restricted/allowed to spend, he mentioned how much we spend each month on average. This is not a new number too me, so it wasn’t initially surprised by  his comment.  It did not seem like a lot for our family, until I broke it down into rough weekly and daily numbers.  The both of us were a bit surprised.  While we may not spend $50/$70/$90 each day, it does average out over the course of a year.  The auto insurance gets paid in a lump sum, making that month’s numbers higher.  Another month the home insurance is due.  We may not need tires this year, but may have the water line to the house break, the furnace go out, know a young couple just starting out who would really be blessed by a monetary gift, or decide to take that extra trip to see a family member whom we don’t get to see often.  It could even been as simple as taking advantage of promotions on gift cards at the beginning of the year, a sale on meat another time (and not keeping an eye on the grocery budget, though I would never be guilty of that … see spending note above), eating at the nicer restaurant instead of the cheaper but just as delicious one, having to spend $20 on a new pair of shoes rather than $5 for a still-good second hand pair for the growing feet in the family, or paying for a babysitter so we can go on a date or to a function the kids can’t come to (or pet sitter for the pet in your home).

library book sale 2

Taking a difference stance, seeing things from a different view (yearly/month/weekly/daily/hourly) can shine a different light on numbers, giving them a new meaning.

  • When we were paying off school debt I looked at things in the per month format – how many months are left and  how many did we cut off from the length by paying the extra $5/$10/$20/$100/$1000 this month?
  • My favorite way to look at our retirement savings is on a per-day view.  How many days of retirement are being saved towards for every day of working?  This puts a very in-the-future, abstract number into a more manageable and immediate view.
  • How many hours does my husband/myself have to work in order to make the money for this purchase? (This was a huge motivator for me not to eat out when I was in school or working outside the home.)

I would like to challenge all of you to take a step back today and think about one area of your financial life in a different way.  Then come back and leave a comment about what you learned or saw differently.  Did viewing it per year/month/week/day give you a different feeling about the numbers?