Sunday, April 14, 2013

Cooking Creatively

"Cooking Creatively" is using up what you have and getting creative with your menus.  I read something, somewhere, about investing in your food and stock pile; and thought that was a great idea.  I should be putting away food for the future and not wasting any of it.  Kind of like putting money in a savings account.  Banking my food purchase in the freezer.  Love it.

At Easter, I made the traditional Ham with all the fixins and because it was close to my son's birthday, I baked his favorite cake - Italian Creme Cake.  The recipe requires a cup of buttermilk which left me with the rest of the half gallon. (Note: the leftover ham went in the freezer for a later date).

Out of the rest of the buttermilk I made:  Sorry, I didn't take any pictures, but will in the future.

Buttermilk Pancakes - about 4 dozen, which we ate a dozen of right off the grill.  They were so good.  The rest I put in the freezer.  Yesterday I took a couple out and warmed them in the microwave.  Again, they were so good.  This is a keeper recipe, and I will do this again.  I will watch for buttermilk to be marked down.  You can also freeze the buttermilk and thaw it in the fridge at a future date when you have time to use it up.  Once the pancakes are baked, you need to let them cool, then place them on a cookie sheet and put in the freezer to flash freeze for about an hour, then pack them neatly into freezer bags.  I used smaller freezer bags and put 6 pancakes in each.

Also on the Cooking Creatively menu was Buttermilk Shortcakes.  I play Bunco once a month and this month I'm hosting the game and my dessert is going to be Strawberry Shortcakes.  This also was an excellent recipe and so good.  I got 30 Shortcakes and put them in the freezer.  I separated a dozen out into their own bag labeled Bunco to grab when I need them.  These you can just let cool and put them in freezer bags right into the freezer.  No flash freezing first.

Update on My Life

So sorry I haven't been here for months.  The New Year came and went and somehow I find myself in the middle of April.

Well, things have changed around here financially and such.

Here's a review.

Stopped getting my late husband's social security because my youngest baby turned 18 in December.  Which means I had to kick it into gear and find other income streams.  I started back in a law firm and worked there for 10 weeks.  What a nightmare.  The two other people in the office where married to each other and it was very awkward.  But, those 10 weeks of income helped pay the bills, so I am thankful.  So now I work for a home health care provider, babysit the children next door about 10 times per month, for an hour in the morning, clean a business (I would like to have more cleaning jobs), and soon to start at my seasonal job.  I also have been doing crafts (Bunny Run Cottage Crafts), which will be series of posts, and have opened an Etsy store and will be setting up at some flea markets and craft shows in the future.  All of these combined, along with what my husband gives me, keeps a steady stream of income coming our way.

I also re-examined some of my bills and made a few phone calls to get my cable/phone/internet bill reduced and my insurance bill (home-owners and vehicles) to be automatically deducted later in the month.  I had too much money going out at one time and needed to adjust them, so half is now being paid the first two weeks and half is being paid the last two weeks of the month.  I also couldn't pay a couple credit card bills.  Dave Ramsey says they should be the last to be paid when times are tough.  I only stopped paying on three of them.  One of them whom I did talk to a representative with, made a deal with me.  They matched my payment for one month and cut my interest rate in half, so I took the deal.

We are making ends meet and I have re-adjusted my budget plan.  I have written it all down and keep excel sheets for all my expenses and income streams.  I have also gotten more creative with our food budget, which has been a lot of fun.  I will be starting a new series of posts for cooking creatively - more like going back to the olden' days when you used up what you had on hand.  So fun.

Now, if the weather would break, so I can get outside a little more...  I have a craft show to get ready for.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Getting Organized

My goal is to get through these bins and get decorated for the Christmas Season.  I also wanted to thin out all of my Christmas Decorations and only keep those that I will use in the future - to make my life more simple.

Along with getting my shelving unit reorganized so it looks more like this one below.

Yes, it is a far cry from this beautiful pic above, but I am focused and will work on it so that once January comes around, I can be more organized, once I put all the Christmas Decorations away.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Monday Menu Planning - Thanksgiving Week

I did some Thanksgiving decorating around the Cottage.  I put together these greenery pots by my entryway and I especially like the mistletoe hanging over the door.  Mmm kisses.  Thought I would spray paint the big feathery looking foliage a silver when I change it over to the Christmas Theme and adds some bulbs into the greenery.  A lot of the pots in the top pic will be put away.  Some will be used to add more greenery for the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year Holidays.

On to the Menu.

It is one of those weeks where you know you have to plan a menu because if you don't, your fridge and freezer are going to be overflowing, and you will not have anywhere to put any leftovers from Thanksgiving, which is what we eat for Friday, Saturday and Sunday - leftovers.

Monday - Burgers, Fried Potatoes, Homemade Mac and Cheese.

Tuesday - Chicken, Baked Potatoes, Salad.

Wednesday - Soup and Sandwiches.  Prepping some food in the afternoon for Thanksgiving

Thursday - Pretty traditional for us.  Breakfast Casserole or Quiche, then Cheese/Cracker Platter, Veggie/Dip Platter and Spinach Dips/Chips Platter for snacking throughout the day while watching the parades on t.v. and then the big reveal:  Turkey, Dressing, Sweet Potatoes, Cheesy Potatoes, Green Bean Casserole, Corn, Ambrosia Salad and Desserts. Yum, can't wait.

Friday, Saturday, Sunday - All creative leftovers, some shopping and decorate the house for Christmas.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Holiday Plan 2012

It is upon us.  The Holidays.  Thanksgiving is in a week, two of my children's birthdays are in December, Christmas and all it's parties, and New Years Eve.

Time to plan the budget, use cash, coupons and not add to my debt.  Here is a synopsis as to what needs to get done over the next 5 - 6 weeks.

Thanksgiving - Traditional Turkey dinner.  Shop for menu items.  Turkey (given to us from my husband's work), stuffing, green bean casserole, cheesy potatoes, sweet potatoes, ambrosia fruit salad,  rolls, desserts, hor d'oeuvres, for snacking throughout the day and a breakfast casserole or quiche.

Birthday No. 1 - Daughter - Make an Ice Cream Cake, order pizza and bread using a coupon, make salad. Paper plates from the dollar store.  Gift.  Have some family over in the evening hours.

Get baking list together and purchase items for goodies.  Bake ahead and get into freezer to pull out when needed.

Bunco Christmas Party - Make 11 gifts for bunco ladies (potpourri), $15.00 exchange gift and dish to pass (ideas:  veggies and dip, cheese and crackers, dessert platter).

Put together edible gifts for neighbors, post-lady, cleaning jobs, some nieces and nephews, etc.

Extended Family & Friends Christmas get-togethers.  I usually do a lot of baking and keep cheese and crackers on hand to make up platters for these events.  Plus, having $5.00 and $10.00 gift cards on hand from places like Starbucks is always a good idea, in case there is a gift exchange.  I also have items in my gift closet, that I have purchased for free or cheap with coupons throughout the year.  I, fortunately, have points accumulated from and swagbucks to send away for some free gift cards.

Christmas - Make a list.  Use my cleaning money to buy the gifts for my family every week.  Decorate Thanksgiving weekend for the Christmas season.  Found some great inexpensive ideas on pinterest.  Love pinterest.  Need to make a trip to the woods to find cut some greenery.  Put together Christmas week menu and start purchasing items at the grocery stores with coupons.  Address Christmas cards and get in mail by the 15th of December.

Birthday No. 2 - Son - Make Brownie Trifle, order pizza and bread using coupon, make salad.  Paper plates from the dollar store, Gift.  Have some family over in the evening hours.

New Year's Eve.  Something fun for dinner, hor d'oeuvres, rent a movie and try to stay up and watch the ball drop on t.v. Lol.

Above all, Enjoy the holiday season, family and friends.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2013.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Water Softener Repair

I bought my cottage 13 years ago.  My cottage was built in the 1930's and after I bought it, I put on two additions, a new furnace, central air conditioning, a new well and changed over most all the electrical to a larger panel.  It came with a Culligan Water Conditioner which worked awesome up til now.  Well, in the past month, although it is going through all its cycles, it doesn't seem to be pulling the water through the salt/brine tank.  I have not had to add any salt for a while now, which means it isn't working correctly.  I absolutely need a water softener because I am on a well in an area with a lot of iron.  So I also use the Diamond Red Out Water Softener.

Enter youtube.  Yes, I result to youtube for many things.  Music, simple living, homesteading, baking, canning, couponing and repairs.  Youtube is a great place to get information.  There is no doubt someone out there that has done already what I want to do or learn about.  Love it.

Found a great video, the same Culligan Softener as mine, and it told how to change the venturi valve, which we were able to locate, pull out and clean.  Plus, it explains how the whole softener process works.  Now, I know about a lot of things, softeners not so much.  It also talked about cleaning the brine tank, which I didn't do.

After cleaning the venturi valve, we waited a couple weeks to see if that was the issue.  Nope.  So, I broke down and called the Culligan man's phone number posted on the softener.  He came out the next day.  Of course, my softener is so old that he can no longer get parts for it, but he did say that it is running through its cycles and it could be one of two things.  Clean the brine tank to see if that will help or get a new one.  Well, a new one cost $1475. and a reconditioned one cost $1075.00.  Neither of which are in my budget at this time.  Not to mention, it is the holidays.  I don't think my family wants a water softener for Christmas.

So, I decided to tackle cleaning the brine tank, by myself.  Here is what it looks like.

The first photo shows the shovel in the tank.  That is how I had to get the salt out of there, so I could unhook it, take it outside to dump and clean the outside out.

When I finally got down to the bottom, well close to the bottom, there was a 2 1/2 inch salt block, hard as a rock from over the years of use, caked in the bottom.  Well no wonder, the water was unable to get into the float tube to regulate the water.  I had to break it up with the shovel just to get it out of there.

So I cleaned it out, put it back together and low and behold, the whole system worked great.  I will now make it a spring and fall cleaning chore (added to the list) to keep this softener working, while I add a new water softener line to my budget plan, for the future.

The Culligan man also told me to change the softener pellets I use.  He said to go with a solar salt, the one in the blue bag and get a bottle of iron out.  You add a cap full of iron out to every bag of salt you put in the brine tank and that should take care of my iron problem.  I have two bags of salt left.  Not sure if I am going to use them up first or just go get the other salt mentioned.

Anyhow, there was no service fee involved and I saved myself a lot of money by doing some maintenance with prayer to get the result I wanted.  Now I will save for a new one, which hopefully won't happen for another 13 years.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Car Repairs on the Cheap

My child was involved in a car crash with three other vehicles, the instigator leaving the scene of the accident.  Boo, but my child is okay, thank goodness.  That is such an aweful feeling when your child calls you to tell you they were in an accident.  Well, we only have PL/PD on this vehicle that we have kept running for years.  It is always running up and down the road, with two kids in college, technical school and holding jobs, it needs to stay running.  It is a Neon and awesome on gas, like 30 some miles to the gallon.

After looking it over, it ended up needing a Radiator, two headlights, two indicator lights, the frame pulled back out in the front and the hood smashed back down.  Afterall, the car is paid for, so keeping it is the only option.  As I called around to the parts stores, it was going to end up costing us almost $500 to replace what was damaged.

We decided to take a more frugal approach and went and checked around at some junk yards.  Sure enough, we were able to find the headlamps with the blinkers attached and paid only $47.00 for them both.  Brand new they are $99.99 each  for the headlights and $69.00 each for the blinkers or $340 total.  Wow, what a savings.

My husband was able to bend the frame back out and replace the the headlights and blinkers.  Then we took the Radiator back to where we had purchased it from earlier this year.  Thank goodness, they warrantied it, so we only needed to buy antifreeze for another $12.00, so a total of $59.00 to put the Neon back together.
He smashed down the hood the best he could and it is now running up and down the road again.

It took him an entire weekend to fix it and I am so thankful that he is such a handyman.  Here is what it looks like now.  Sorry for the snow.