Sep 172013
 

Weekly Menu Plan May 2013

 

What?  Oh, you didn’t see this up this morning.  Well … you are so observant! You earned a gold star.   This time it was because of procrastination.

The meal plan has actually been put together since Saturday.  Then my husband suggested a movie (the kids were all asleep), I suggested made-at-home cappuccinos and an impromptu date night was in order.  How could I say no?  So, the meal plan wasn’t posted on Sunday.

Sunday we left the house for church and didn’t return until 6:30, at which point supper had to be made and bed times quickly followed.  I fell asleep around 8:30.

Monday involved canning tomato jam and beginning to paint the porch ceiling.  That night, this is the procrastination part, I mentioned to my  husband that season 2 of “Call the Midwife” was now on Netflix.  Instead of doing the correct thing and turning on a manly, things exploding movie so I would go post the menu plan and do the dishes, silly man turned on the first episode of season 2.  I was hooked.  He went to bed.  :)  I did show some restraint and not watch a second episode.

This morning was taken up by processing about 25 lbs of tomatoes into sauce and beginning the cooking down process, a trip to the produce auction, lunch and then a doctor’s appointment that took over an hour longer than it should have.  Back home to clean up the tomato mess from this morning, put a snack on the table, pick up some before my husband came home, and find out what was for supper.  It was at this point that I decided the dishes can wait a bit longer and I really need to come post the menu plan.

And I wonder how it is that the weeks have flown by.  It really seems like everyday is taken up by this or that and nothing that I had planned on getting done is actually getting done.  Well, except the canning.

Breakfast:

  1. Fried Pancakes with Maple Creme Syrup, bananas
  2. Cereal
  3. Eggs, toast
  4. Perfect Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins
  5. Shakes
  6. Oatmeal with diced apples
  7. Traveling

Lunch:

  1. Eat Out
  2. Salad
  3. Eat Out (Subway with gift card)
  4. Sticky Blackberry Barbecue Pork Ribs, grilled potato slices with salt and vinegar, steamed carrots
  5. Pulled Chicken with Apple-cucumber slaw, fried potatoes and onions, vegetable
  6. Chipotle Chocolate Chili, peanut butter sandwiches
  7. Traveling

Supper:

  1. Leftovers
  2. Pizza
  3. Watermelon, soup?
  4. Curried Chickpea Yogurt Dip, veggies, watermelon
  5. Salami Sandwiches, watermelon
  6. Leftovers
  7. Traveling

There you have it.  This week’s menu.  I’m trying to use up what we have in the freezer, one week at a time.  So far it hasn’t been too bad and is going a lot better than when I planned it a whole month at a time.  As for the watermelon, we got it from the Farmer’s Market last Saturday.  The leftover watermelon that was in the refrigerator was put into a bag and added to the freezer.  It will be turned into Watermelon Sorbet at some point in the future.  What ever is left of this melon at the end of the week will join the ‘leftovers’ already in the freezer.

Weekly Goals collage May 2013It has been a while since I wrote out my weekly goals.  Instead of dividing them out by categories, I am going to list them according to how I hope they get done this week.  I have three days of no where to go, which I hope translates into getting these items done or greatly progressed towards their completion.

  1. Can tomato jam
  2. Paint porch ceiling
  3. Can remaining tomatoes (from last week)
  4. Scrap porch floor
  5. Paint porch floor
  6. Scrap porch railing
  7. Make and freeze one batch of muffins
  8. Make and freeze 3 months worth of one of this week’s soups
  9. Start and finish laundry (put away as it finishes)
  10. Read 1 hour to the kids – I realized that this is something dropped once the school year began.  They seems to really miss it.

There you go.  #1 has already been done.  #2 and #3 are started.  If I can keep up the momentum tomorrow, then the rest of the week should follow and these will finally be completed.

It has been a while since I’ve done a freezer meal session.  My Wednesday breakfasts are sorely repetitive because of it.  It used to be so easy to go grab a muffin from the freezer.  Now I have to make french toast or do cereal because I didn’t plan enough time that morning to actually make muffins.  And there are just so many yummy ones to make.

What is your favorite muffin recipe?  Do you prefer to make them fresh, freeze the batter to bake fresh, or freeze muffins already made?

 

May 042013
 

 inside of freezer

After April’s “eat what is in the freezer” month, I realized that my freezer was just plain unorganized.  Add to this the times I set out to make a meal, or several, only to find that jar of sauce that I thought was in the fridge actually wasn’t anymore, and chaos was slowly starting to creep in.  Organizing my pantry was a big help, but it needed to go further.  So I did a little searching.

Mom’s Budget has several printable lists that I found very helpful.  Specifically I printed out the Freezer Contents List and the Freezer Cooking Prep Worksheet.  I took a look at the monthly menu planner, but realized the space was not big enough for me to write in all three meals for the day.  If you only plan one main meal for the day, then it might work for you.

Crystal at Money Saving Mom posted how she plans her freezer cooking and provides some free planning worksheets.  I like how she laid our her steps to show others what she does.  She is a much more organized person than I, which means I can learn much from her experience.  For example, my shopping lists are not exactly works of great penmanship.  There are sometimes arrows and small numbers (how many of something I need) or items marked off.  So I appreciated that she included the note about rewriting your list if it starts to get messy.  At least I know that she too has to rewrite her list sometimes.  Even if I don’t plan to use her actual forms (so I don’t have to keep printing them off) I am going to keep them on hand to remind myself how my lists should be laid out.

Once a Month Mom as has a OAMM Freezer Inventory Worksheet available.  It is a Google document.  The list has room not only for meals that may be in your freezer, but breads, fruit, meats, snacks, etc.  If your freezer is like mine, this may be what you need as it has more room to include items, not just meals.

 Labeld bags for freezer cooking

Now that I have myself on the right track, I decided to plan some cooking times (another post as this is getting long).  Not only do I like once a month cooking (OAMC), but I like to do several of the items for up to 3 months.  This works for us as we tend to eat a dish only once per month.  An example is Sweet-and-Tangy Roasted Pork Tenderloin.  I had some pork tenderloins and chops ready for the freezer, but wanted to go ahead and make them into something.  In about 15 minutes time I had 5 of these put together and in the freezer.  That meant 1 time of getting things out and 1 time cleaning up.  I save myself about an hours worth of time by doing this – 5 times of potentially doing something -1 time of actually doing it =4 times of not having to do it x 15 minutes = 60 minutes of saved time not having to do something.

Other recipes that lend themselves to multiplying are soups.  It is usually just as easy to make a soup doubled, or tripled, as it is to make it once.

lentil tomato soup in freezer container

When is doing OAMC for multiple months a bad idea?  Here are a few:

  • limited freezer space available
  • budget with no extra money to use
  • none of the ingredients are on sale (but might be by the time you want to make this again – then I would make and freeze one meal’s worth)
  • a new recipe that you haven’t tried and don’t know if you will like yet (ask me how I know this)
  • you are moving soon

When is doing OAMC for multiple months a good idea?

  • you see the next few months being busy (harvest time anyone?)
  • you found a sale on XYZ and need to preserve it (sometimes it is easier to make that ground beef into a meal rather than just freeze it as a lump)
  • there are going to be several pitch-ins or parties coming up
  • there is extra money in the grocery budget now, but may not be in the near future
  • life is already hectic and you need to take something off your plate (pun intended) – not only is cooking prep taken care of, so is menu planning
  • you are looking to break the habit of eating out
  • you are trying to teach several kids how to do this and it is just easier to have them all work on the same recipe at the same time
  • you are okay with planning ahead several meals for next month
  • you have the space

Ingredients for Chocolate Chipotle Chili

I haven’t always done this, and don’t usually think of it as OAMC.  I tend to think of it as “once less time I have to do the dishes”.  For me, that right there is a great motivator.  And so that I am being clear, I don’t want to give the impression that I do 28 different meals for 3 months.  It tends to be 5 – 10 recipes that are made for the upcoming three months, as well as multiple bags of pre-cooked ground beef and/or pre-cut chicken.  Right now those recipes tend to be:

  1. Bree’s Lentil-Tomato Soup
  2. Crockpot Black Bean Soup or Tangy Black Bean Soup
  3. Dad’s Meatloaf with Tomato Relish
  4. Chipotle-Chocolate Chili – from “Don’t Panic – More Dinner’s In The Freezer
  5. Herb Crusted Pork Chops – from “Don’t Panic – More Dinner’s In The Freezer
  6. Superfast Salisbury Steak – I freeze the steak like you would hamburgers and bag up the sauce separately
  7. Sweet-and-Tangy Roasted Pork Tenderloin
  8. Hamburger patties
  9. Butterhorns or muffins or quick breads
  10. meatballs (uncooked)
Chipotle-Chocolate Chili

Chipotle-Chocolate Chili

When I first started doing this, I wasn’t even menu planning yet.  However, I knew that an extra bag of ground beef made supper a lot easier, in case I had forgotten to think ahead – spaghetti was my back up those days.

Do you plan meals or ingredients ahead and freeze them?  Why or why not?

 

Apr 152013
 

 Fluff pancake batter

Breakfast:

  1. Crepes, fruit, juice and coffee
  2. Cereal
  3. Eggs, toast, juice
  4. Bread pudding
  5. Shakes
  6. Apple Oatmeal
  7. Eggs, toast, bacon
Tangy Black Bean Soup in bowl
Lunch:
  1. Eat out
  2. Breaded pork chops, roasted sweet potatoes and bacon, green beans
  3. Black bean soup, corn bread
  4. Curry beef and vegetables, rice
  5. French dip beef, side salad
  6. Hamburger /brats, french fries, corn on the cob
  7. (at a conference with the whole family)

light supper of tea and tomato cheese on toast

 Supper:
  1. Sweet and sour chicken, rice, green beans
  2. Leftovers (fruit salsa & crackers, fruit cups/yogurt, spaghetti noodles & ketchup, cheese cubes, etc.)
  3. Salad
  4. Salami sandwiches, tea
  5. Sandwiches (PB&J, jam and cheese)
  6. Date Night / leftovers
  7. Tomato soup, croutons
Eating out of the freezer has been nice in that we are having more of our favorite meals.  These happened to be ones I have made ahead and put in the freezer.  Several of these I have been able to make three month’s worth or even just an extra one for the following month. There is still more in there than I thought would be by this point.  I guess I hadn’t realized how much food I had in there.  I’ve also added a few thing to the freezer.
For example, Wednesday morning we are having bread pudding for breakfast.  This was made with a loaf of bread from the freezer and other ingredients I already had.  So, while that loaf of bread is no longer there, a pre-made meal is.
The Easter ham is another example.  The extra ham from Easter was taken off the bone and frozen.  Then the ham bone was combined with one I had in the freezer and I made ham broth.  So there is no longer a ham bone but I do have a bag of sliced ham for a meal, a bag of smaller pieces for sandwiches and a bad of shredded ham to make ham salad sandwiches with.  I also have about 10 cups worth of ham broth frozen.
I has also been nice to have more time to focus on work outside and not having to worry about spending more time in the kitchen making new recipes.  Today I was able to defrost pre-breaded pork chops and use bacon and green beans from the freezer.  The sweet potatoes were onces that were in the pantry from last month.  If I had been more on top of things it really would have just taken me 30 minutes to make the meal.  As it was, I was distracted and trying to do 3 things, literally, at once.   Even just having the step of the chops being pre-breaded was nice.  I did that two months ago.  Not only has it save me from this step twice since then, it also wasted fewer bread crumbs by not having to toss the extras every time.
Have you found anything in your freezer/pantry that you forgot was there?  Have you planned any meals this week around something that has been pushed back or moved aside?

Linked up with Healthy Branscoms OrgJunkie

For more ideas also check out This Week For Dinner.

Also check out Confessions of a Homeschooler’s April’s Monthly Meal Plan.  If this is a new concept to you, take some time to think it over.  Imagine only having to sit down once a month to menu plan, rather than 4 or 5 times.  It worked for me, perhaps it will do the same for you.

In case you didn’t know, the button below describes me to a “T”.  Sad, but true.  It doesn’t take a lot to make me happy.

Photobucket

Apr 112013
 

I know these are a bit over do, but I wanted to go ahead and post them anyway.  A picture is always worth a thousand words.  Besides, I like pictures.  I especially like showing you pictures that don’t involve a mess I made or am trying to clean up.

Cleaning the bathroom grout:

Before – notice the dark gray lines?  They are supposed to be a light beige or cream color.

bathroom tile floor before cleaning

Bathroom tile before cleaning 5

 

After – now that is much better.  Not the exact shade as what is under the tub (and hence never walked on), but it is much closer.

Bathroom tile after cleaning 2

 

The hardest part of cleaning the grout was the toilet.  Bar Keepers Friend ended up doing giving me the best results.  Of course that was after trying 3 other things first.  =)  I promise I will never let it get like that again.  Especially now that I realize just how easy it is.  The handheld steamer and a scrub brush really do wonders and no chemical is needed.

Vent Covers:

Next came repainting a few of the vent covers in our house.  Being that our home is over 90 years old, there are at least three different styles of covers found through our home.  These are my favorite as they are decorative, not just utilitarian like modern day covers (which we also have some of), and are sturdy.  Due to time costraints I was only able to do three of these, though I have plans to do the rest at some point in the near future.

To the left of the covers, in the top photo, you can see the bottom portion belonging to two of the covers.  These attach to the tops by screws and the whole thing sits down into the duct opening.  This means you can see these very well.  After pulling them out I realized they needed a cleaning.  After trying a few things to wipe them out with while dry I found a S.O.S. pad to be the best.  I easily and quickly picked up dust and knocked off any trash or loose debris that had fallen through.  When it came time to paint I decided to paint these also.  Over time rust has started to appear on these.  Not only did a new coat of paint make them look really good, it also added a layer of protection.  The bathroom one really needed this extra layer as the added moisture in there had pretty much rusted the whole thing.  Due to these being made of more sturdy metal than just regular aluminum  like the ones you find today, the whole structure was solid.  I oiled it and added two coats of paint to all sides.  The rest of the vent cover bottoms got a coat of paint on the centers but not on the bottom sides.

Vent covers ready to be stripped 2

 

As the stripping chemical starts to work, the paint begins to bubble up and pull away from the metal.

Vent covers with paint stripping on them 2

 

I’m not sure why, but apparently at some point in the past someone had painted this one a particular shade of green.  It reminds me of Kelly Green.  Really …. why …. oh well.  Someone after that apparently thought the same thing I did which would explain why it was brown when I started (see the photo above).  I also found a spot of pink on one but that was all, a spot.  It seems that the layers, oldest to newest, went this way: black, green, brown.

Vent covers after first coast of paint stripping 2

 

It took two coast of the paint stripping medium and steel wool to get most of the paint off.  The first two covers were taken to the car wash to use a power sprayer on.  This was the get the smaller pieces out from among the detail.  Need an exercise to practice your patience?  Try removing paint from items with detail.  Small detail that is hard to get even a tooth brush into.  After that I stopped by the hardware store and picked up some steel wire brushes.  That is what I used on the third, and final, cover and it worked so much better.

And in case you weren’t sure, make sure to wear gloves, not let this stuff get on you, and be aware that it will eat away at plastic if you should happen to spray it on something by accident.  (I learned that the first time I was stripping something when we first moved into the house.  The CD player still works, but it has some scars from the experience.)  Keep kids and pets away.  Also, eye protection is probably a good thing if you tend to splatter stuff.  I think it would be a good idea when using this stuff even if you don’t tend to splatter things.

Below you see the covers devoid of paint and drying off in the sun after a good hosing down.

Stripped vent covers 2

 

This happened to be a wind day, but was one of the few nice (sunny and above freezing) days we had in a long time.  It was also going to turn cold in the following few days.  Sometimes you have to make due with what you have.  Besides, I know from previous experience that a light spraying of spray paint of concrete will eventually wear off.  I thought I did pretty well till I noticed earlier this week that we have faint rectangles in our concrete.  This also explains the mysterious black spots on some of the toys (see them in the photo below) I saw the other day.

Vent covers with first coat of new paint

 

I finished these and installed them before my husband could see them.  They look so sharp and neat now, rather than old and messy.  Exactly what I was going for.

Removal of weeping cherry tree:

Somehow I forgot to take a before photo.  The dirt you see in the bottom of the picture below is actually the part of the yard where grass was shaded out by the limbs of the tree.  No grass would grow there, but weeds did just fine.

It took about 4 days of cutting on this tree before we finally got it removed.  The first day I cut off all the limbs and piled them up.  (I have since moved them next to the compost pile and am slowly chopping up the limbs and adding them to the pile.  Larger pieces are being piled behind the structure to dry out for use as future fire wood.)  The next three days saw me working on the trunk with a hand saw.  I cut a bit each day.  The angle was hard and I would start to get frustrated.  It as at that point I would stop.

The stump is hard to see in the picture below.  It is the light spot in the upper middle of the photo.  The tree had a diameter of 5 – 6 inches.  Not large, but it sure was solid.

 

Weeping cherry tree removed

 

The kids had fun kicking the tree trunk to watch it move back and forth.  I let them do this at first to see that it wouldn’t move.  I told them to push as hard as they could and of course there was no movement.  The second day it moved a little.  The third day, of cutting on the trunk, the whole thing would vibrate quite nicely.

I ended up making a  hinge as there is a root on the left side of the picture below.  Cutting downward actually saved me time.  As I got closer to that point, coming from the right, I knew I was really close.  The tree was moving more and starting to shake.  For the final strokes I had the kids push and pull the tree.  They thought it was so need to “knock a tree over”.  The trunk was quickly confiscated and has a new life as a ‘couch’ in their ‘house’ under the limbs knocked down by the major snow storm.  I told them they could do with it whatever they wanted, as long as it stayed out of the road.  Since it is so heavy, I honestly don’t think they could do much moving with it.

 

Weeping cherry tree stump

 

With the tree gone I was able to plant two blackberry bare root plants.  Here is one of them.  It isn’t much to look at but I have high hopes for them.  Besides, it would be nice to have some landscaping do something besides just look pretty.

Blackberry bush bare root transplant

 

I don’t have a picture of the final soup I made, but we had it last week and it was so good.  The search for a trashcan is still on going.

  1. Spackle stairway walls
  2. Prime spots to be painted (from previous replacement of door and window frames)
  3. Paint spots around door and window frames
  4. Repaint Horse post by street
  5. Strip vent covers in bathroom and kitchen
  6. Repaint bathroom and kitchen vent covers
  7. Seal pots and paint with chalkboard paint (to be used with herb plants on the deck)
  8. Add outlet cover for washer/dryer
  9. Add outlet cover for outlet on front porch
  10. Check credit report
  11. Replace light fixture in stairway
  12. Remove weeping cherry (to create a place for blackberry bushes)
  13. Put out a bird bath
  14. Buy new kitchen trash can – work in progress
  15. Organize and label kitchen pantry
  16. Move clothing totes to back of crawl space (instead of right in front), add shoe rack and rod to hang winter coats
  17. Divide out future clothing sized into clear totes, label
  18. Put camping stuff in tote(s), label
  19. Clean bathroom grout
  20. Seal bathroom grout
  21. Make and freeze 4 different soups, 3 months worth each
Mar 092013
 

My project choices the past few days have really helped with my momentum.  Honestly, the the public accountability hasn’t  hurt either.  The first day involved making a list of all your projects and what needed to be done to complete those projects.  Day 2 of 30 Days, 21 Projects found us doing a quick project, something we already had everything to do and knew we could get done in one day.  For me this was checking our credit scores.  Thankfully there was not a lot of wrong information, though there were disputes about a few small things.  Day 3 was a bit harder, at least for me as it required going an purchasing something I didn’t have yet.  This also turned out to be a bit harder than I thought since they didn’t have what I was wanting.  Day 4 held a very large project.  I felt as if I had been working up to this one.  This project took much longer than the rest and was more physical than the first 3 days. Day 5 found me going back to an easy project.  The house needed a bit more attention.  I also talked about this during Day 3 – looking ahead.  The discussion was about grouping your projects so that not all the larger projects are being done at the end.  Not only is this so your list doesn’t “feel” unbalanced, or heavier at one end than the other, but also because many of us have other obligations to attend to.

Yesterday’s project was to buy, and install, a bird bath.  On Day 3 I had gone to buy a trash can, but was unable to find what I was looking for.  What I did find out though was the store would let you order items from the store and use a coupon.  After looking online I found a birdbath from there that I liked.  Since I had a few spare minutes in Big Town, I stopped by the same store yesterday.  The bird bath is ordered with a coupon and using a gift card.  The coupon saved me $6 and the gift card made it possible to pay nothing out of pocket. Yes, it is purchased.  No, it isn’t installed as it will take 3-5 business days to get to my house.  I am going to mark is a “work in progress” so I at least know I am still working on that one.

Today, Day 6, I’m ready to tackle another larger project.  Since the weather outside, and hence our wall inside, is still cold that disqualifies painting or yard work.  Instead I am going to work on organizing my pantry.  Everyone’s pantry is different and provides different challenges.  The last house we lived in had a great pantry.  Double folding doors, easy access, at the end of our galley kitchen and against an inside wall.  I would say it was near perfect for me.  Then we moved.

Our current pantry. I actually had to take a few steps down the basement stairs to get far enough away to take this picture.  You can see most of the shelve in the pantry area.
 

I love our house.  I really do.  However, our pantry has a lot left to be desired.  I am pretty sure it was an after thought.  Let’s start with the location – at the top of the basement stairs, right inside a narrow door from the kitchen and bordered on the other side by a narrow door to the outside.  Until this winter that particular outer door had major gaps around it and was by no means a deterant for the cold/hot weather outside. Yes, it did lock, but you if you stepped into the pantry area and closed the door to the kitchen behind you, while leaving the lights to the basement off, you could clearly see the sun shine all the way around the door.  Previous attempts by me to fill these gaps had helped but did not quite do the job.  Finally this winter I had a great idea – use the same thing you put on the bottom of doors to stop drafts.  Off to he hardware store I went.  Not only did I find what I was looking for, but it was in the color I wanted (white) and it did a great job.  The particular items I found did not need to be screwed on, but instead had a sticky backing.  These worked so well that the temperature in the pantry area is finally decent.  I don’t think it has been below freezing all winter.  Yeah for our food stored there and for our heating bill in the rest of the house.

This is the normal calming, uncluttered view of the  pantry floor.  This is the first thing you see when you open the door to the pantry or to go down to the basement.  This is also the way, from inside, out to our deck.  We don’t go that way much.  Can you guess why?
 

Okay, enough about the location.  Let’s talk about layout.  There are shelves.  They vary in height.  They also vary in how deep they are.  On the far side they will hold one can with just a bit of room leftover.  On the other side you can get 4 or 5 cans deep.  Some of the shelves sage a bit in the middle.  This means that you may be able to put a quart jar on the right side, but by the middle or the left side the space is too short.

Over time I this space has become a hot spot for items heading to the basement.  One thing in there I know for sure of are pictures from VBS … from the beginning of Summer 2012.  Oh, and an alarm clock.  And a fire extinguisher  while the one attached to the wall is out of date.  Yet there are no cans of peas or apricot jam or tomato paste because “there isn’t room”.  This means I have to walk down steep steps into the basement for these items while other useless, pointless items take up valuable space. 

The bottom two shelves currently hold a lot of non-food items: crock pots, salad spinner, emergency candles, different vinegar, adult snack stash (hide it in plain sight and they don’t know where it is – hint: it is the box with the blue lid, the front package that everyone can see never changes)

Here is a closer, though darker, picture of the middle shelves.  There really is a general order to things, though my husband can’t figure it out.  Guess that means there really isn’t much of an order to things.  The very top shelf does hold jams and jelly, then canned goods with tomato products being on the far left.  As we go from there the organization starts to break down very quickly.  It soon become more of a “if there is space, but it there” kind of organization.

So what is it about the pantry I want to change and what do I want to leave?

I don’t want to change the flooring or the wall paper.  Yes, both are old, but are in decent shape.  Also, I would rather spend my money in other spaces of the house right now.

What I would like to see are a lot of the non-food items go to the basement, especially the things we only use every so often.  I would like to see label.  I would like to see the groceries for this week in the pantry so I don’t have to walk to the basement multiple times for a meal, or for a meal at all.  I would rather go down at the beginning of the week and restock the upstairs pantry and use from it as the week goes on.  I want my family to be able to open the door and know exactly where to look for something.  I want to be able to, at a glance, know what we need more of.

Lists of my 21 Projects:

  1. Spackle stairway walls
  2. Prime spots to be painted (from previous replacement of door and window frames)
  3. Paint spots around door and window frames
  4. Repaint Horse post by street
  5. Strip vent covers in bathroom and kitchen
  6. Repaint bathroom and kitchen vent covers
  7. Seal pots and paint with chalkboard paint (to be used with herb plants on the deck)
  8. Add outlet cover for washer/dryer
  9. Add outlet cover for outlet on front porch
  10. Check credit report
  11. Replace light fixture in stairway
  12. Remove weeping cherry (to create a place for blackberry bushes)
  13. Put out a bird bath – work in progress
  14. Buy new kitchen trash can – work in progress
  15. Organize and label kitchen pantry
  16. Move clothing totes to back of crawl space (instead of right in front), add shoe rack and rod to hang winter coats
  17. Divide out future clothing sized into clear totes, label
  18. Put camping stuff in tote(s), label
  19. Clean bathroom grout
  20. Seal bathroom grout
  21. Make and freeze 4 different soups, 3 months worth each

And in case you couldn’t guess it, showing all of you the messiest parts of my house and the projects in progress is not my most favorite of things to do.  I would rather be showing you the wonderful tulips that are starting to come up.  Or the red bird that hesitantly goes to our bird feeder in the mornings.  Or the wonderful snow falling outside.  Those are all pretty things.  Things that look orderly and everyone can ooh and aah over.  But, I am trying to keep it honest and real during these projects.  And that means showing you my pantry that has slowly slid into disorganization or the bathroom upstairs that had wall partly de-wallpapered.  (Which by the way I forget what they looked like now that they are wonderfully painted.)  I hope you are able to understand the non-perfect state of my house as I work to get it back in order and projects finished that were put on hold for a bit.

What I am pretty sure that all of you can understand is my desire to have these all done before gardening season starts.  It can’t be too far off.  Like I said, tulips are starting to show.  So, I am going to end today’s post with some pretty pictures from last year:

Mar 082013
 


Today, I want to encourage you not to let Perfectionism get the better of you.  If you are like me, often perfectionism is the reason things don’t get done. “I don’t have the right storage box.  I don’t have the color of paint, the exactly right brush, the right shoes, the right _____”.  Just yesterday is a great example of how I have not let perfectionism get the better of me, though I was tempted to do so.

Life is starting to get the better of me.  I have had three days of out of home activities, all of which have happened during the day time.  Add that to an already restricted schedule (I have very small blocks of “free” time during the day) and I am doing good to not be behind and have a completely messy house.  Yes, the laundry spent the night in the washer.  I knew better than to dry it and let it wrinkle over night as I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get to it last night.  I was right.  There is also a load of socks in the dryer (they don’t really wrinkle) and a load of clean towels to be folded in my room.  However, the rest of the house looks decent.  Not perfect, but decent and I would be okay if someone came over right now.  (Thank you, FlyLady.)

Yesterday my project was actually two projects rolled into one.  I wanted to separate out my future sizes of clothes, the ones we will be growing into in the next year or so, and move all the totes and extra shoes to a different place in the crawl space.  I also wanted to add something upon which I could hang all the extra coats, both the ones not needed right now and the ones that are not currently the right sizes.  These are so bulky that this seemed like a better option than trying to fit them all in a storage tote.  To this activity I also added in a weekly goal – sort out outgrown clothes and extras of current sized to share with someone else.  It took a while but it is all done.

To do and finish this project I knew I needed a few more totes than what I already had or could re-purpose.  Before going shopping I looked online to get an idea of prices and which may be the best store to go to.  After looking at a few sites I had a good idea of the price range.  Then I decided to look at the stores here in Small Town before going to Big Town and the larger stores.  Usually the stores here in Small Town are more expensive.  However, I remember seeing some on clearance and sale recently and hoped they would still be there.

I had to drive all of 1.5 miles to the store, instead of about 30 to Big Town.  That right there saved on gas and time.  Even if there was nothing there, I would have at least known and not wondered the whole way to Big Town. A 3 mile round trip costs about $0.36 and 10 minutes worth of driving time.  A 60 mile round trip costs about $3.63, plus 80 minutes worth of driving time.  Thankfully the store in Small Town had what I wanted, and they were on sale. Add that with a coupon I had and I saved 70 minutes driving time, 50% off the price of the totes (about $22),  and $3.27 in gas.  It was very much worth the 15 minutes spent online looking at store prices.

Side note: in the photo above the clear totes were the style I had been using to store clothes.  The blue tote is one I had bought previously on sale.  The black ones were the totes I bought at the store in Small Town.  I was looking for clear totes and had planned on using the blue tote for storage of camping supplies.  Here is a lesson in frugality – even though the totes on sale were not the color and style I wanted, they were on sale enough to make it worth my time and money to change my plans.  I am storing clothes.  It doesn’t matter what color the totes are!  It would only have been my perfectionism showing itself if I had insisted upon spending twice as much money so that all the totes matched.  If that was the case, then this project would, again, not have gotten done.  And if it bothers me that much as time goes on, I will look for clear totes at garage sales or store sales and pick them up later.  I am always find thing to use storage totes for – extra storing canning jars or sugar and flour, for example.

Today I don’t have as much time as I took to do yesterday’s project.  Again I am going for a quick project – buying a bird bath.  I have an idea of what I am looking for, but nothing specific in mind.

The bird bath does need to have a stand, or pedestal, as the location I want it to be in does not have something from which to hang it.  It also needs to be high enough to be seen over the rose bushes.  The previous owners planted some lovely miniature rose bushes in the yard.  I am assuming they had places a stature in the center as there is a stack of concrete blocks and the head to a statue there.  During the summer you can’t see the blocks, but I always felt a little bad that such a great focal point was going to waste.  So today, that is my goal – to find (and possibly put out) a bird bath.  If I am unable to put it out, I can at least have it so that in a few days when the weather gets warmer it can be placed outside.

Lists of my 21 Projects:

  1. Spackle stairway walls
  2. Prime spots to be painted (from previous replacement of door and window frames)
  3. Paint spots around door and window frames
  4. Repaint Horse post by street
  5. Strip vent covers in bathroom and kitchen
  6. Repaint bathroom and kitchen vent covers
  7. Seal pots and paint with chalkboard paint (to be used with herb plants on the deck)
  8. Add outlet cover for washer/dryer
  9. Add outlet cover for outlet on front porch
  10. Check credit report
  11. Replace light fixture in stairway
  12. Remove weeping cherry (to create a place for blackberry bushes)
  13. Put out a birdbath
  14. Buy new kitchen trash can – work in progress
  15. Organize and label kitchen pantry
  16. Move clothing totes to back of crawl space (instead of right in front), add shoe rack and rod to hang winter coats
  17. Divide out future clothing sized into clear totes, label
  18. Put camping stuff in tote(s), label
  19. Clean bathroom grout
  20. Seal bathroom grout
  21. Make and freeze 4 different soups, 3 months worth each

Did you link up on Day 1’s post?  If not, it isn’t too late.  Next week I’ll have another link up available so you can share your updated posts at that time.

How are your projects coming?  Have you been able to mark any off your list?

 

Mar 072013
 

 

Today is Day 4 of 30 Days, 21 Projects and by now things should be moving along a bit.  You have an organized list, a list of items you need for the projects, have completed one quick project and one other project on your list. Great job! You have started gaining momentum.  Keep it up and things will start to seem a bit easier.

I find myself getting excited about the next project I want to work on.  Having completed two so far, the list doesn’t seem as daunting as it did at first.  Today, get started on a larger project.  This may be something that will take a bit more time, or something that may have a larger impact once done.  Remember, we don’t want to save all of the “large” projects till the end of the 30 days.  It is okay if this project takes more than one day.  This is why there are more days than the number of projects, some projects just require a bit more time.

The weather here is still cool, so I am still unable to do any outside projects.  Inside it shall be.  I have a bit more time today than yesterday, so I am actually going to tackle two related projects.  We recently were blessed with clothes from a friend whose kid had grown.  They were exactly what I was needing (what was on my “to look for” mental list for garage sales) and saved me so much money by not having to go buy.  Actually, they filled the quota for one whole size group!  There were so many I was even able to pass along several.  This got me to thinking that others may also be blessed by me passing along some of the clothes we have out grown but which are still in totes in our basement.

Right now, all the “new” clothes and the ones we have outgrown are stacked beside the totes as I have been unable to get into them.  This is due to how they are placed in our basement.  They are accessible  so not really an issue when the seasons change.  However, they are a pain if you have to get one out to put one or two items into.  See, currently they are lined up so that they are only one tub wide, with stuff stacked around them.  They are also in the crawl space, whose floor is a bit above waist high for me. Not exactly easy to reach in and pull them out till I find the one I need.

Lists of my 21 Projects:

  1. Spackle stairway walls
  2. Prime spots to be painted (from previous replacement of door and window frames)
  3. Paint spots around door and window frames
  4. Repaint Horse post by street
  5. Strip vent covers in bathroom and kitchen
  6. Repaint bathroom and kitchen vent covers
  7. Seal pots and paint with chalkboard paint (to be used with herb plants on the deck)
  8. Add outlet cover for washer/dryer
  9. Add outlet cover for outlet on front porch
  10. Check credit report
  11. Replace light fixture in stairway
  12. Remove weeping cherry (to create a place for blackberry bushes)
  13. Put out a birdbath
  14. Buy new kitchen trash can – work in progress
  15. Organize and label kitchen pantry
  16. Move clothing totes to back of crawl space (instead of right in front), add shoe rack and rod to hang winter coats
  17. Divide out future clothing sized into clear totes, label
  18. Put camping stuff in tote(s), label
  19. Clean bathroom grout
  20. Seal bathroom grout
  21. Make and freeze 4 different soups, 3 months worth each

Update: I had forgotten to update you on the search for a kitchen trash can.  Yesterday I thought I would be successful in my endeavor   No such luck.  The store I stopped at had only one can in the size I wanted, and it was the wrong shape.  The reason for stopping at this particular store was that I had a 20% off coupon, a gift card, and it was a home store.  After asking at check-out I found out that the coupon could not be used over the phone or internet.  It could however be used to purchase items in store that were only carried on the internet.  So, while that project didn’t turn out the way I wanted, I still am working on it.  Surely  there is a circular  60 liter trash can whose lid raises UP when you step on a foot pedal.  If anyone knows of such a thing, please, please PLEASE leave me a comment.  (Yes, that is me begging you.  I have no shame in this search.)

Feb 282013
 

Favorite gardening book of the month:

 

Favorite non-gardening books of the month:

 

Twenty-Five Cent Dinners for Families of Six

Yes, this is an older book.  It was written in the late 1800’s and was actually the author’s second book on the subject.  After writing “Fifteen Cent Dinners for Families of Six” the author found that some readers were a bit more well off but still not wealthy.  These readers were interested in being good at pinching pennies but had a bit more leeway in their budgets.  They could afford a few more indulgences, like coffee and tea with their meals.

I really enjoyed reading this book, not only for some money saving ideas and recipes (though I’ll pass on the brain and ___ pudding), but also for some of the comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Currently reading:

 

Read this month:

Feeding Wild Birds with Garden Plants: 3 (Specialty Garden Series) [Kindle Edition] by Dave Sandersfeld

I so wanted to like this book. However, it only took a few pages to get the feeling that I was missing something.  I even went back and read the brief description of the book and checked the title page to make sure it all lined up.  The format just did not work for me.  There were too many quotes, links to other websites, and the beginning felt more like an advertisement for becoming an environmentist than a book on feeding birds.  I stuck it out hoping it would get better.  

Near the end I finally found what I was looking for – a list of plants and their benefits for birds.  There were several in the list that I hadn’t thought of planting for birds.  Once I thought of them, though, they made sense.  There were also a few that I would shy away from, but I tend to like natives more than non-native plants.  Even if those plants are not invasive.  I’m not a purist, so don’t check the landscaping in my  yard, but natives are my preferences. 

In the end, I’m not sure I would recommend this book if you are wanting a reference book.  It is not a bad read if you are starting out and wondering why anyone would want to feed bird.  Or even if you are just being introduced to the idea.

 

 

 

 

The How to Book on Creating a Beautiful Container Garden: The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Container Garden all will Envy / The Planting in Pots System … to Plant in Pots & How to Plant in Pots)

This was a quick read, at least for me.  A lot of the science was stuff I knew but didn’t necessarily know how to apply to containers.  Jonah seemed to cover all the topics well, with recommendations and comparisons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Make and Freeze Recipes (Eat Better For Less Guides)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simple Hearty Soups from the Stockpot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Simple Tips To Declutter Your Basement: From Cluttered to Clean (Happy House Series)

 

5 Simple Tips To Declutter Your Basement: From Cluttered to Clean (Happy House Series) [Kindle Edition]

This is more of a booklet than a full fledged book of 100+ pages.  In other words, it took me about 30 minutes to read through it, not several days.  The tips reminded me a lot of tips I’ve read elsewhere, just used in reference to your basement.  I liked the first question asked, “Exactly what do you want to accomplish?”  Basements are as varied as the people who own them.  They are used for different things, and even that can change over time. Knowing where you want to end up will help you start heading in the right direction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kitchen Organization Made Easy: Creative Kitchen Storage and Pantry Storage Solutions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ready or Not (Aggie's Inheritance)

 

Ready or Not (Aggie’s Inheritance) by Chautona Havig

This was a reread from last month.  I enjoyed going through it again as I was able to pick up on some details I missed the first time.  I also realized that I laughed at the same funny moments.  Am I really that predictable?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Keeps (Aggie's Inheritance)

 

For Keeps (Aggie’s Inheritance) by Chautona Havig

As with the first book in this series, this was a reread.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here We Come (Aggie’s Inheritance) [Kindle Edition] by Chautona Havig

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listen for the Donkey Bells

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brother Enemy (Promise of Zion #4)

Feb 262013
 

I hope you all are not tired of all the series I’ve been doing lately.  With winter still being very much here there isn’t a lot of day to day activity in the garden to report on.  Instead there has been a lot of getting ready for the 2013 garden season.  This has meant creating a garden calendar and getting all the indoor projects done.  Once the warm weather comes, I would rather be focusing on outside rather than stuck inside doing these things.

Redoing the front flowerbed and the bathroom were the two largest projects on my list.  The next is redoing my raised beds.  This will happen very soon, but not just yet as I need to gather a few more materials before beginning.  The next large project on my list would be adding wood chips and edging to other beds in my yard.  At this moment the ground is too frozen to do that.  Since those two projects can not be done now I have been seeing all the little projects that have been either left unfinished or just put off.

Starting March 4, I plan to take 30 days to tackle 21 of those projects.  Knowing that things usually take longer than I plan, I am giving myself an extra 9 days (30-21=9) to complete all the projects.  Some of these projects are garden related (adding a bird bath, for example) while others have no connection with gardening (repainting vents, for example).  What they do all have in common is that they have been put off  over and over.  Not because they will take a long time, but because there has always been something more urgent or pressing or maybe there was just a good book I “needed” to read.  Whatever the reason, now is the time to get them done.

Are there quick projects you have also been putting off that you would like to do?  Start thinking about what those things are now and join me in reducing our to-do lists.

Day 1 will involve making a list of the projects you plan to work on and what materials you may need.  You might want to start working on those steps now, especially if you  have to do some research on the projects.  For example, I just recently found the paint I needed for one of the projects on my list.  The reason I found this paint was because I was inquiring about something to use on the metal strip around my bathroom when I was working to finish the bathroom remodel.  Up to that point I knew I wanted to do this project but had no idea how to go about actually doing it.    Maybe you  have a similar obstacle in your way.  If that is the case, take the next few days to see if you can’t find a solution.  Do you need to call someone for advice?  Look on the Internet?  Find a book?

I will also be providing a link up on Day 1 so that you can share the projects you are working on with others.

Feb 072013
 

This post contains affiliate links.use-it-up-apples

One of the items on my goals list for this week was to do something with the apples I had.  Last fall I got three or four pecks of apples.  At the time I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with them.  That was fine as I didn’t have time right then to do anything.

In December I noticed that there were several going bad in the bunch.  However, we were getting ready to leave for three weeks. Processing apples wasn’t exactly at the top of my list.  Yet, every time I went out to the garage I would see them and start feeling guilty for not having done anything with them.  Last week I decided that this was going to be the week.  They were put on the to-do list.

While trying to decide what to do with them, I was looking through a new ebook I had of muffin recipes.  Toward the back there was one for apple muffins.  AND I had all the ingredients.  Okay, now I knew what I was going to do.  At least, I knew one of the things – make muffins for the freezer for future breakfasts.

In making my menu last week I also saw that I had a recipe for Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Apple-Ginger Sauce.  This recipe called for apple jelly, which I didn’t have.  Apple jelly … apples …. apples I need to do something with.  I remembered having seen a recipe for apple jelly that used the peels and cores.   A quick search online resulted in the directions for doing just such a thing.  Okay, there was my second thing – apple jelly.

I’m skipping ahead a bit here in the story, but I think you all can handle it.  After making all the muffins I needed and wanted, there were still a lot of apples left.  In searching for “apple jelly from peels” I also came across a few other ideas for uses for apples.  Some of these sounded like something we would do – adding apples to oatmeal and shakes, especially.  The remainder of the apples were peeled, cored and diced.  The diced pieces were put into bags, 2 or 3 apples worth in each.  These were labeled and dated, then stuck in the freezer.  They are ready to be pulled out and use.  All 22 bags of them. So that was my third thing – dicing and freezing apples for future use.

After making the first batch of apple muffins, and finding they were a hit, I went on to make four more batches.  Two of the batches I added toffee bits to, as I didn’t have chocolate chips.  These were a great addition.

I had some helpers when making the four batches.  It was fun.  I took videos.  The conversations and “logic” were priceless.  It also took a lot longer than it would have otherwise.

Dessert for supper that night were mini-muffins I has also made.  I ran out of pan but had a muffin or two worth of batter left.  I have two mini muffin pans, so I grabbed those.  They are the perfect size for a bit sized muffin.  Everyone enjoyed fresh apple-toffee muffins.  Even more so the helpers as they knew they had helped to make them.

After all the muffins had cooled off, they were placed into gallon sized freezer bags, labeled with what they were and the date, then placed in the freezer.  These will show up at least once a month for the next 4 months.  They will also be making an appearance when we stay with family over Easter weekend.

As a side note, an added benefit to making jelly or canning anything in the winter is that I tend to not mind the extra heat and moisture in the kitchen.

In all I think this was a great success.  Next time I won’t wait months to use apples.  I now have a plan for the future.  Apple butter, apple jelly, apple muffins and diced apples for oatmeal and shakes.

 

Do you have anything left from last year that you need to do something with?  Did you freeze something to “use later” but haven’t done anything with yet?  What are your plans for these items?