Sunday, August 31, 2014

~End of Summer's Song~

My daughter and I were out on the front porch this afternoon, the cicadas persistent in their loud, constant song.

*Sigh* This summer has seemed so, so short. The longer I live in Michigan, the shorter summer gets. I will hold on to every last warm day possible, but the truth of the matter is, there is a nip in the air that can't be ignored! The leaves are starting to change already, and the garden plants are slowly dying away.

We have crammed so many things into these last two weeks! Things that were promised to our daughter and all of a sudden we realized we hadn't done and the calendar was about to change to September! So we went to the beach, to get ice cream, to mini-golf. In a hurry, hurry! we have to get this into summer! sort of way.

Last week we went to see the Nina and Pinta replica ships with a homeschool group. It was so much fun! And surprising too - the ships were so small! I just cannot imagine them crossing the ocean! And they slept on the decks - not even the captains slept below deck. They were black - a color I wouldn't have imagined them to be (I'm not really sure that I ever thought of what color they should be, but I wasn't expecting them to be black). It was a very fun learning experience, and it ties in perfectly with the start of Classical Conversations since we'll be doing American history this cycle.

And canning! I am ready to hang up my canning apron for the year. ;-) Alas, there are still a few projects that I must make time for, but soon I will call it quits and start gifting tomatoes (raw!) to others. And then fall will bring apples, but there will be a little break between the tomatoes and apples!

I haven't had the time to sit and plan out our homeschool year so that planning will take place this week. I had aimed for starting the first week of September but I quickly realized that it just wasn't happening that way, it would really be pushing it to do so. So I'll get my canning wrapped up, my school cabinet all spiffied up, get my calendar out and plan the year, and be ready to start Kindergarten! 

While I will miss summer, I am looking forward to the new beginnings fall is bringing! 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

~$50 a week: Week 4

Ah. I've yet to shop for this week, but it doesn't look promising. Because: hello, canning! The garden is throwing tomatoes at me and I'm doing my best to make full use of them!

Last week started the downward slide. After a long day of canning on Saturday, we got pizza for dinner. And on Sunday night after church we stopped by McDonald's. At least it didn't come out of the grocery budget. ;-)

Saturday I went to Meijer to get everything I needed for my canning projects. Last night I went back to get the rest of what I needed for my canning projects, and picked up yogurt, cereal, ground beef, and bananas. And then this morning I went back yet again to get canning lids. I'm nothing if not organized. Ha.

I love canning and I always seem to want to do more, more, more! But there are other things that go during this time (like housework and always cooking every meal!). The tomatoes are (hopefully? LOL) slowing down so I think I've got a handle on things now. And? I'm almost to 200 jars!!!

Friday, August 22, 2014

~I can, because I can~

My favorite apron, for canning, of course. I've been busy, busy, busy canning! See my 2014 food page above, but so far the total of jars is 138. Yup, I've been one busy gal.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

~I don't even know where to start~

We had a yard sale (side note: I hate yard sales, both going to them and having them. Never.again.). I went through my clothes that I have stored in the basement. Three bins full of clothes, mostly full because they represented a variety of sizes from when I was losing weight. So I went through them and pulled a LOT of stuff to put in the yard sale (side side note: I sold one dress in the yard sale, everything else went to the thrift store. Next time I'll start with a trip to the thrift store. It's easier.).

Because I was in the middle of losing weight last year, nothing fits me this year. Well, that's not entirely true. I have a bin with these six things in it:

I don't even like three of the six things in there. True story.

I honestly don't know where to start. I literally need everything this winter (outerwear, coats, church clothes, every day clothes, pajamas, etc.)! It's overwhelming to me to even think about it! I found this wardrobe planner, which looks helpful. I just need to print it and start planning!

Any helpful hints?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

~New Vacuum~

I have been saving my Amazon gift cards up so I could buy a vacuum cleaner, but realized it was going to take a while! I asked some friends for vacuum recommendations, and one of my friends messaged me while she was shopping at Costco to tell me that their Shark vacuums were on sale.

I didn't think I'd be able to afford it so quickly after asking for recommendations, but because of the money I've saved from only spending $50 a week on groceries, plus dedicating some of the money from our yard sale toward a new vacuum, I had enough! When Kevin's mom was here we did some shopping at Costco and I purchased it then.

So now I'm the proud owner of the Shark Navigator Lift-Away Vacuum!

Mine is gray, so I'm not sure that I have this exact model. But it's close! I wanted a vacuum that would vacuum not only our carpeted floors but the wood and hard surface floors also. I didn't want to spend a lot on a vacuum that would only work for carpet, because at this point we only have two rooms in our house that have carpet! So far, I've really been enjoying this vacuum! With a flip of the switch it goes from hard surface to carpet. It's a "lift-away" vacuum which means you can use it as a hand-held vacuum. I vacuumed our basement stairs with it and I have to say it was pretty handy! It is a little fiddly to get the "lift-away" part ready to use, but not enough fiddly that it will keep me from using it. The cord is long enough that I can plug it in in our dining room and vacuum the entire house.

I had a cheapo vacuum cleaner before and it never really vacuumed well, even when it was new, and did not vacuum hard surfaces. I set it out on the curb and it was gone within a half hour. It hasn't been returned (haha) but I bet whoever picked it up is pretty disappointed if they've tried to use it!

So there you go - I'm a happy customer! :-) All opinions are my own and I have not been compensated in the least. However, Shark company, if you're listening, I'll gladly try out something like this if you want to send it to me. ;-)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

~Weight Loss~

I am so proud of my husband, I wanted to share his success pictures too! :-) In a little over a year, he lost 100 pounds! It took hard work, a lot of dedication, and many good decisions regarding food choices.

On the very left is his "before, before" picture. In 2008, he lost 100 pounds. In about five years he did gain 50 pounds back, and in 2013 he decided to go for his original goal of 200 (final weight, that is). So from June 2013 to August 2014 he lost 100 pounds!

Yes, weight loss can be done without special pills, "diets", or surgeries. My husband's success is testament to that fact. I'm not saying any of those things are wrong at all! But hopefully it can be an encouragement if you have a few or a hundred pounds to lose, that you don't need anything special to accomplish great things! :-)

Monday, August 18, 2014

~$50 a week: Week 3~

This week it worked out for me to go shopping tonight. I had a coupon for $5/50 at Meijer, so I decided to just go to Meijer this week.

I still have a chicken in the freezer from two weeks ago. So this week I am determined to use that chicken! I look at the things I purchased and it doesn't look like enough for a week (?) but it's all I had on my list with a few things thrown in for good measure.

My grand total was $50.65! So if I don't have to run to the store for anything, then I met my challenge!

This is my menu:
(M) Leftovers
(T) taco salad (I have lettuce left from last week)
(W) roast chicken, rice
(T) potato pancakes (Kevin won't be here for dinner, hopefully I won't need stitches, haha)
(F) spaghetti
(S) broccoli chicken casserole

When I came home, I had to clear the table:

The above produce was what I picked from the garden today alone. Our garden is quite successful this year! When I went shopping, I also purchased necessary ingredients to make salsa. I have a batch of salsa verde in the canner right now!


Kevin's big "4-0" birthday was here and I threw him a surprise birthday party! It wasn't truly a surprise, but the details were a surprise, and he enjoyed it all, so I'm calling it a success! :-)

Since most of the pictures from his day include other people who may or may not want their pictures on my blog, I've selected just a few to share here.

When Kevin arrived, giving me a hug:

Acting "old" with one of the gag gifts:

The cake:

It was a lot of work to pull together a party, and I couldn't have done it by myself! Kevin's mom was here and she provided assistance with shopping and in the kitchen as well as paying for all the food for the party. I deeply appreciated her help and generosity! Also, our youth pastor and his wife helped me with setting up, grilling, and other details of the day.

We had the party at a park (I rented a shelter), and the menu was:
hamburgers with the usual fixings
hot dogs
potato salad
baked beans

and of course! cake! :)

As something fun, I had a "photo booth" and got together some fun props - mustaches, hats, a scarf, leis, etc.  Fun things that everyone could select from and get a family picture. It seemed like it was something everyone enjoyed.

Also, Kevin's sister Rebecca and her husband John rented motorcycles for the day as their gift. Kevin and John rode for about five hours in the morning (that gave me time to get almost everything made and prepped!). After they got back Kevin took me out for a few miles:

It was fun in a scary sort of not-really-necessary-why-am-I-doing-this way. :-)

Saturday, August 09, 2014

~$50 a week: Week 2~

I forgot to give one more caveat for my $50/week challenge: company meals aren't included. And just so you know, we're having company at the end of next week, so my meal plans and shopping don't cover most of those meals. I'm pretty sure I'm through with caveats but I'll let you know if I come up with any more. ;-)

I have been shopping on Saturdays for a few months now. I'll do whatever it takes to go shopping by myself! Let's just say there have been toooo many grocery store shenanigans!

So tonight I left after dinner and before dishes so that meant there was not a clean counter upon which to display my groceries. So here you go:

Exciting stuff, hmm?

I spent $40.41 at Aldi and my receipt from Meijer mysteriously disappeared - but the total was right around $7.50, bringing my grand total to $47.91.

This week was kind of crazy, we had a yard sale and meals didn't get executed as planned. I switched things around, and one night we did do Taco Bell. So because of that we don't have leftovers for dinner tomorrow night so I had to pick up ingredients for tomorrow's dinner along with my shopping for Monday through Thursday.

(S) taco salad
(M) Thai chicken salad
(T) zucchini stir-fry
(W) beans and rice with picco de gallo
(T) roast chicken and mashed potatoes

Breakfasts and lunches will be about the same as I detailed last week.

So there you have it! My shopping is done for next week through Thursday evening (even though I just now remembered I forgot one thing. Oh well! Too bad, so sad! ;-) )

Monday, August 04, 2014

~$50 a week: Week 1~

My groceries for the week, not including the meat I purchased.
It's been a while since I've been shopping at Aldi. I couldn't remember everything they carry (or things they don't carry), so I made my shopping list as best as I could. As I was shopping, I was trying to remember why I stopped shopping at Aldi in the first place! Their prices are so much better than Meijer.

My menu for the week (salad and/or veggies with each meal):
(M) red lentil soup with biscuits
(T) Cherokee casserole (very similar to this recipe)
(W) potato frittata
(T) grilled chicken and oven fries
(F) chili and cornbread
(S) roast chicken and rice

On Sunday we eat leftovers for both lunch and dinner, from Friday and Saturday. This saves me from having to cook on Sunday.

Breakfasts will be hot cereal, granola, and eggs and toast. Snacks (for my daughter) are popsicles, smoothies, cookies, energy balls, and popcorn (I'll make everything I listed). My husband takes leftovers from the night before for his lunch. If there is enough leftover I'll have those, or PBJ sandwiches or eggs and toast (I love eggs! :) ). My daughter isn't keen on leftovers, so she'll have PBJ, and I also have hot dogs I previously purchased, or a "muffin tin lunch".

This week I spent $51.54 at Aldi. I was kicking myself because I figured everything up except the bananas, and since I had what I thought was wiggle room, I threw in a package of grapes at the register. So those grapes put me over my $50 target.

I did have to go by Meijer. I had $21 in rewards to use, and bought canning supplies as well as apples and ginger root. I spent $4.26 out of pocket at Meijer but since this is my game/my rules, I'm counting that toward the canning supplies, not my groceries. ;-)

Week 1 TOTAL: $51.54

I had a lot of ingredients on hand for this week, so I'm sure this will get more challenging as the weeks go by!

Sunday, August 03, 2014

~$50 a week grocery challenge~

I've been disheartened by how much I'm spending at the grocery store over the last six months or so! It seems like I walk through the doors at Meijer and "poof" all my money is in their till.

There are several contributors to my increasing expenditures:
***a daughter with a healthy appetite (which, praise the Lord for that!)
***shopping only at Meijer
***using mPerks rewards (if you spend a certain $$$ amount his month you'll get $ towards your next shopping trip)
***trying to eat as healthily as possible
***eating every single meal at home (it is very rare that we eat out, even fast food)
***trying new recipes which require new ingredients
***more expensive healthy convenience foods (especially snacks for my daughter)

Obviously, some of these items can't or won't be changed. My daughter's appetite? I think that will only get larger! Eating healthily? Nope, I don't want to change that! But shopping only at Meijer? I can change that!

I want to only spend $50 a week on groceries. That might not seem like enough to some people but to others it might seem extravagant. I'll post my menu and receipt totals each week. I'm only going to account for groceries only, not toiletries and other household expenditures. Also, it is canning season and I'm not going to account for grocery items that I'll buy so I can put my produce up. I am, in a way, making groceries, but they're for the future not that week. I'm going to shop as much as I can at Aldi and then hit up Meijer for the remainder of my shopping list.

My game plan is to:
***eat from the food I have in the pantry as much as possible (which is a short-term solution, I realize)
***eat at least two meat-free meals each week
***make more of our snack items and yogurt

So! Think I can do it? Stay tuned!