Oct 212014

Jarden Home Brands Presents: Pressure Canning Webcast October 23rd 3pm ET

Here is part of an email I received yesterday and wanted to pass along.

Yes you can! If you’re new to pressure canning, our live webcast will help you gain confidence as we show you how to safely preserve low-acid foods. Tune in to get a special offer code for free shipping and 10% off any of our online store items. This webcast will be a real resource for newbies and veteran canners alike.

Mark your calendars for
October 23rd!

If you are new to canning this may be just the thing for you.  It is not too late in the season to still put up produce.  This is also something to keep in mind if you do not have a garden, but happen across a great deal at the store or the market.

To register, click here and fill in your information.  Enjoy.

Oct 202014


Looking for food, beverage or snack ideas for an upcoming Halloween Party but feel like you have no options due to wanting something soy-free, gluten-free, oil-free, corn-free, yeast-free, or some combination thereof?  Look no further.  The FREE Vegan Halloween Recipes E-book contains 10 recipes ranging from Pumpkin Spice Cashew Creamer to Halloween Swamp Water.  You will also find a crockpot recipe, as well as quick spreads and desserts.

Personally, we do not celebrate Halloween at our house.  I was not even sure if I should share this deal, or if that would seem a bit hypocritical to promote something we do not celebrate.  After some thought, I decided to download the E-book and take a look at the recipes before making a decision.  I am so glad I did, as I found a new recipe for a meal I planned to make this week but which needed some updating.  Most of these recipes can be used for get gatherings beyond celebrating Halloween, or even if you are looking for something at home for your family.

I enjoyed the variety of recipes included in this books, as well as the uniqueness of them.  There may be a few you have seen versions of before, but I am confident there are a few you would never have thought to try.

For a limited time, click here to download your FREE Vegan Halloween Recipes E-book.


This post contains affiliate links.

Oct 202014

Weekly Menu Plan May 2013

The end of October is fast approaching.  Not only do I know this by the date on the calendar, but also the fact that my meal plan looks like treasure map with lines going here and there and everywhere.  Arrows pointing to where I moved this meal or that after switching them to different days or not using them, then deciding they would do well later on.  Good thing I am not being judged by the neatness of my meal plan.

I finally got around to making the crockpot tomato soup last week.  It was easy to do and the sherry added a nice flavor.  We will probably have this again, though not for a while.  My family is all tomato-souped out.

There is not a lot on the calendar this week, but there is a lot on the agenda.

  • If all goes well, we will sign the contract to start work on our house.
  • An hour a day working on apples should see a dent being made in the abundance sitting in my kitchen.
  • With the weather still being warm enough during the day, our porch’s painting really needs to be finished.  Last week I did the edges on half of it – this was the first step to redoing the middles.
  • While the kids and I did some yard work this past weekend, not all the jobs were finished: removing the border to one bed, digging up an herb to give to a friend, clearing one small section of another bed of weeds and debris. and the ever present Fall chore of blowing/raking/mulching leaves.
  • (George just walked out of his room in shorts reminding me that we need to …) Bring out our winter clothes and put the summer ones away

In all, I am hoping to have a balanced week of time inside and outside at home, with the majority of my time away from the house being spent at the park.  These are the kind of weeks that make me say, “Life is good right now.  Not perfect, but good.”Ingedients for Chocolate Chipotle Chili #2


  1. Shakes
  2. Cereal
  3. Cream of Wheat
  4. Apple Butter French Toast Sandwiches
  5. Shakes
  6. Oatmeal
  7. Fried Pancakes with Maple Cream Syrup


  1. Eat Out
  2. Dad’s Meatloaf with Tomato Relish, mashed potatoes, peas
  3. Chipotle Chocolate Chili
  4. Spaghetti and Meatballs
  5. Superfast Salisbury Steak, rice, steamed carrots
  6. Salad
  7. (out of the house, lunch is served)


  1. Leftovers
  2. *Healthy Slow Cooked Tikka Masala, rice, green vegetable
  3. Veggie and Cilantro Hummus Sandwiches, chips, apple slices
  4. *Pasta Casserole
  5. Falafel, fresh vegetables and couscous
  6. *Twice Baked Breakfast Sweet Potatoes
  7. New Recipe or leftovers

puff pancakes on plate with strawberries and blackberries and juice

Linked up with OrgJunkie.

For more ideas also check out This Week For Dinner.

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


Oct 182014

Garden Update 2014


The beginning of the week was taken up a lot with phone calls and arrangements, as well as normal life, so not a lot of garden related things happened.  These past few years have taught me that even a little here and there can add up.  Also, sometimes those seemingly large jobs and be broken down into smaller jobs over several days.

Pizza Sauce

Pizza sauce was definitely on the agenda for this week.  It takes about 20 lbs of tomatoes to make 6-7 pints of sauce.  To make the 25 or so pints we use in a year, we need 125 lbs or so.  Thankfully making pizza sauce is pretty simple to do.

However, it is also pretty comparable on price to buy organic pizza sauce once you figure in the price of tomatoes and your time.  If at a point in the future I can not dedicate time towards making pizza sauce, or am unable to have that many tomatoes, this is one area I will begin to look for deals online and at stores.  By making that decision now, I will not feel guilty about it later and will already have a plan in mind.  I like plans.

I processed 100 lbs of tomatoes on Thursday and cooked them down.  Friday night I added spices and processed the jars.  We now have 21 pint jars of sauce sitting on the counter.


Apples also showed up at our house after I was able to buy some at the produce auction.  Paying about $9 per bushel meant getting them for approximately$.21/lb.  These will be used to make applesauce, pie filling and shredded for future use.  We will also eat them as they are – George and Jack seem to have increased their appetites again.  They would be okay with 2 breakfasts, lunch, 2 snacks, dinner and a dessert. Every day.  And still say they were hungry.  With George’s recent increase in shoe size, I am pretty sure a growth spurt is in our near future.  :)

Yard and Garden Work

Today will find us outside most of the day working on all the small projects that seem to appear with the arrival of Autumn.

  • Sweeping and blowing leaves
  • Clearing off the porch of squirrel eaten pumpkin and adding new things
  • Emptying pots of plants that are on the decline
  • Digging up an herb that a friend wants
  • Gathering seeds from the marigolds

We also are going to take up the border of a bed that will be removed soon.  I plan to use the border in another section of the yard come Spring.

I am also wanting to post something on our local For Sale group.  Right now it is collection leaves on our front porch.  Not exactly helpful or wanted.

The garden is not quite ready to put to bed for the year, but will be there soon.  For now, the fence will remain up and the plants in the ground as much as possible.  I am thinking of planting garlic, though really need to get a move on that if I am wanting to do it this fall.



Oct 182014

handful of money

This week held a lot more money saving opportunities than I usually run across.  Total savings was between $2487.16 and $2548.16.  Please do not think this is a normal week for me – looking for savings is a normal behavior for me, I usually do not get this many nor this big of opportunities.

Out of our norm opportunities:

Asked contractor for option to pay for work to be done.  Did they give a discount for paying cash/by check instead of credit card?  Saved us several thousand dollars if we pay with a check. – saved over $2,000

We were given the choice of how to move our gas line: 1. Keep the meter where it is and pay the flat rate plus the per foot rate to move the line, or 2. move the meter and have them wave the per foot rate for the actual gas line, but then pay to have it reconnected inside the house.  Beyond the flat rate, here were the costs involved: 1. $844 worth of work inside the house, or 2. $520 worth of new pipe to be laid down outside and no work done inside the house.  We chose option 2.  - saved $324

Tomatoes in scale

Opportunities more in my norm:

George out grew his shoes a few weeks ago, so I gave him the next size up from our shoe bin. (Brand new pair.)  While getting ready for school Tuesday morning, I found out he needed to go up another size.  Again I went to the shoe bin and got another brand new pair.  I had bought these on clearance for $5, rather than $20.  - saved $15

When I stopped by the discount grocer I inquired on boxes of bananas – they sell these cheaper than if you were to buy a bundle at a time.  He didn’t have any, but offered to make me one using the bananas that were starting to get spots.  I came away with 20.75 lbs of bananas for $3.  This worked out to 14.5 ¢/lb, instead of 49 ¢/lb.  - saved $7.16

Sunday we used a coupon for lunch, and split it between the kids and I (my husband was home sick).  - saved $1

Bought 125 lbs of tomatoes at the produce auction on Tuesday.  I have used 100 lbs of them, costing me $18.  This is harder to figure out savings, because they will be used to make pizza sauce.  The cost of lids was $2.62 (they were on sale) and the jars were free as I already owned them.  The total spent was $20.62

  • If they had been on sale at the store for 99¢/lb they would have cost $123.75. – saved $103.13
  • If I bought 21 jars of all organic pizza sauce, it would have cost $3 per jar, or $63 total. – saved $42.38
  • Saved $42 – $103

Kid in Library

In order to volunteer at our public school you have to have a background check, which costs $40.  As foster parents we also had to have a background check, though our original one was several years ago, too old for the school to accept.  I checked with my local agency, to see if they updated our background check when they re-licensed us last year.  They did.  AND they were willing to give us a copy to give to our school.  - saved $40

This weekend is going to be an opportunity to do yard work.  As I was reviewing what needs to be done, I remembered my peach tree was still in its pot.  If I wanted to get it planted this fall, it really needs to be in the ground now.  This poor tree did not make it in the ground when it arrived in the mail, as winter came early and stayed late.  It was placed in a pot and leaves began to grow, though from the base.  I wondered if the leaves growing were actually from the root stock (the graph) instead of the actual tree, but wanted to give it the summer to come back, if that was going to happen.  Before taking the time to dig a hole and plant it, I called the nursery it came from, told them what happened and asked if the leaves I was seeing were actually the tree itself or the graph.  They confirmed it was from the graph, then offered to send me a replacement tree.  I did not even ask, my call was intended to only save me time and so I would know whether I should order a new tree.  The new tree will arrive this Spring.  To say I am loving the customer service of this company would be an understatement They have always been helpful and prompt in their replies. – saved $30 (I’m not sure on the exact amount, as they are out of stock.  This price is from a comparable tree.)

Saturday morning we stayed home and made a nice breakfast, rather than go to Big Town and eat out.  - saved $28 ($8 in gas, plus price of breakfast $20.)

A penny saved is a penny earned.

While saving this amount every week is not a normal thing for us, saving is a habit we have fallen into.  A habit that is actually beneficial and good, one we like to continue.  At this point, many of these things we no longer thing about.

Saving is also action that makes several of the above items possible.  When a raise comes along, we do not increase our standard of living.  When a little extra money is earned, it goes to the bank or is used to earn more money or goes into the retirement account.

In years past, this extra money was used to pay down our debts,, after meeting our works’ match on our retirement accounts, till they all finally disappeared.  By attacking our debts first, we saved money on paying interest and freed up more funds in the future (now).    Early in our marriage, doing something like paying cash for a home remodel would have been unfathomable. We probably would not have even chosen to do the project. Saving a dollar at lunch or buying items on sale, that we could do. Mowing our own grass and staining our own fence were actions we did rather than hire the local teenager.  I changed my own oil, learned how to cook, we took vacations where gas was the only cost, and earned gift cards to use for holiday/special occasion gift giving.  It was those seemingly small actions back then that made it possible to be in the position we are at to be able to pay cash for the big things now.  It laid the foundation for the habits we are in now.


Oct 162014

cut open toothpast tube collage


After having read God’s Smuggler a few times, I became curious about how much toothpaste really was in an “empty” tube.  This week, my curiosity got the better of me.

The tube pictured above was a travel sized container one of the boys got from their recent trip to the dentist.  There was one last squeeze in there, but I decided to go ahead and open it up.  After taking off the cap, I cut the end off.  Continuing on, I cut up one side of the tube and a little at the top to make it lay open easier.

When I first saw the inside I told the boys there was probably enough there for them each to use it one last time.  I was wrong.  There was more!

So far we have gotten 5 more uses out of it and there are probably a few more left in there at the top.  I would say 7 extra uses would be the limit for this little tube, mainly if you are using it for kids, 5 if for an adult.  That is a lot more than I thought when I opened it up.

Over time we have decreased how much toothpaste we put onto our brushes.  I had begun to realize we were going through toothpaste quickly, but did not know why.  Then I saw a poster at the dentist office saying you only needed a pea sized portion of toothpaste on your toothbrush.  :lightbulb comes on:  From that point on we reduced the amount we used.  It is amazing how much longer those tubes last.

When they do run out though, I make sure to squeeze every bit out.  Seems I have been leaving several uses behind.  While there was not as much left inside as I thought there would be, I was amazed by how far this little bit went.  Since it is impossible to squeeeze this out, it may look like a lot on your brush, but you will want to put a bit more on.

Now comes the question: Will I begin to cut open my toothpaste tubes when they are ‘empty’?  Will to do it each time they are empty or save them up for when we run out of toothpaste?  At $1-$3.50 per tube, toothpaste can get expensive.  With my shopping habits having changed these past 2 years, I am finding my stock of “Free after ECB” toothpaste dwindling.  It has made me aware again of just how much we use over the course of a month.

I do not see my husband being thrilled with this, but I think the kids and I would be okay doing this when out tubes get empty.

Yes, I am raising unusual kids.  I like to think of it as being flexible and willing to try new things.

What do you think?  Is this something you would try?

Oct 152014

Here is a video of a Giant Pumpkin plant, from seed sprout to

Love the time stamp at the bottom, showing how quickly this plant really is growing.  After a while the leave are growing so large, the camera is under them showing a perspective we gardeners do not normally get to enjoy.

Growing pumpkins of this size is a bit different than traditional gardening, but gardening nonetheless.

Oct 132014

Not only is it interesting to see the pumpkins and plants grow over time, but also take note of the how the leaves change through the day. The leaves start out reaching towards the sun in the morning. As mid-day approaches the leaves start to sag a bit, coming back to a more upright position towards evening. This happens both when they are smaller and larger.  It is one method plants use to preserve their water in the warmer times of the day.

This is also a great video showing the a sun dial works – notice the white pipe/pole in the lower left corner. As the sun progresses through the day, the shadow looks like a hand of a clock moving in a circle.

Oct 122014



Craftsy’s 5 Million Member Flash Sale!

Don’t miss Craftsy’s 5 Million Member Flash Sale happening now! Get up to 50% off select online classes for a limited time only! Hurry, this offer expires on October 13th, 2014 at 11:59 PM MT. Shop Craftsy‘s 5 Million Member Flash Sale now and save.

There are so many classes offered on Craftsy’s website, you will have no shortage of options to choose from:

  • Quilting
  • Sewing
  • Cake Decorating
  • Knitting
  • Food & Cooking
  • Photography
  • Embroidery
  • Painting
  • Crocheting
  • Drawing
  • Jewelry
  • Paper Crafts
  • Spinning
  • Gardening
  • Weaving
  • Woodworking

Additionally, they offer FREE mini-classes.  Click here to see the complete list of free classes across all categories.

This post contains affiliate links.

Oct 122014

Weekly Menu Plan May 2013

Last week we tried the plan was to try new recipes.  Of the 4 planned and 1 somewhat spontaneous try only 1 did not actually end up happening – the Tikka Masala.  I am going to put that use it for a meal this week, as I already have the ingredients.  It will probably be on a night when it is just me and the kids as my husband is not a huge chicken fan.

  1. The Coconut Grits Dumplings came out sweet.  The addition of a crunchy outside was a  hit with some and not others.  This recipe actually took a LOT longer than I thought.  The step to bring it to a boil over low heat … yeah, ever try that?  Takes a while.  I ended up turning it to a high medium heat after more than 30 minutes had passed with nothing happening.  And the time of 8-10 minutes for it to thicken did not happen either.  After 15+ minutes I thought it was thick enough to finish thickening in the fridge.  Wrong again.  Put it in the freezer as the natives were starting to circle the wagons.  Finally dished it up on plates and topped it with the bread crumbs (I used Panko crumbs). The left over grits were added to not sweetened grits the next night for supper and worked really well.  In all, I am not sure I will try these as dumplings again, but I do now have a good grits recipe.
  2. The Spinach Farfalle is something we will probably also not repeat.  I thought the flavor was nice and subtle, though the sauce was not nearly as abundant as I would have liked.  My husband said he would prefer to get his calories from something like Malva Pudding.  Apparently my husband also does not like spinach.  I am starting to see a growing list of things being added to: “Things we should have talked about when dating.”  :)  The kids liked this dish, though the fact that they ate it after running for over an hour at soccer could have helped.
  3. The Baby Back Ribs with Spiced Apple Cider Mop were okay, though we prefer our currently used rib recipe of black berry glaze.  That is the thing with new recipes though, you never know when you are going to find a new one you love or like as well as what you are using.  The Spiced Apple Cider Mop ended up tasting a lot like a tomato based recipe and not nearly as thick as I would have liked.  Not sure if this had to do with how I applied it, or just the nature of the recipe.Ribs with spiced apple cider mop
  4. The Eggplant Capontata was my husbands selection.  I am wondering if this is why he liked it so well and I thought it was less than great.  For me, the recipe help way, way too much vinegar.  Almost to the point I could not eat it.  Apart from the vinegar, I liked the flavor and was glad to have meat to eat it with to help subdue the vinegar taste.

Seems like this was not necessarily the week for “WOW!  How did we ever live without these?!” recipes.  We will keep trying and see if we can do better next time.



  1. Shakes
  2. Cereal
  3. Cream of Wheat
  4. Pancakes, fruit
  5. Shakes
  6. Hot Rice Cereal with Nuts and Raisins
  7. Eggs, Toast, Fruit



  1. Eat Out
  2. Outing with kids (take snacks, use “free” coupons for lunch and fill in where needed)
  3. Beef Bourguignon, bread
  4. Grilled Peaches and Pork, grilled flat bread (repeat from last week as we did not get to it)
  5. Sweet-n-Tangy Roasted Pork Loin
  6. Curry Beef, peas, rice
  7. *TRY NEW RECIPE, and Brown Butter Walnut Cake with Gauche


  1. Leftovers
  2. *Healthy Slow Cooked Tikka Masala, rice, green vegetable
  3. Tomato Soup (in the crockpot)
  4. Hot Dogs, homemade french fries
  5. Tangy Black Bean Soup, bread
  6. TBD
  7. Fruit, cheese, jam, and bread with tea

Tomato Soup and Grilled Bread

Linked up with OrgJunkie.

For more ideas also check out This Week For Dinner.

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