Friday, December 31, 2010

Frugal Friday - Living Well

Frugal Friday

It's been two weeks since I last posted a Frugal Friday...and I can say quite honestly that I've felt a little ungrounded without doing so.  I guess I just need to write this little post each week to remind myself of all I've done to save money, where I spent money and how I saved while spending it and what choices led to revelations about how to cut corners, make do, etc.

I find that the holidays often mean too much food and that leads to waste.  I have to share that I had to toss a few things this week.  I'd kept a pint of homemade soup in the fridge just in case the kids might want it, but no one did.  And I made too much potato salad, even that even Chance who thinks it's a treat got tired of it, so that and the soup went to the doggies.  With snacks at work, he brought home a sandwich or two each night from his lunch but we ended up with one that didn't get eaten.  I had a small portion of red cabbage that had to be composted and about half a bag of spinach leaves that were inedible.  It was a high week for food waste for me I'm afraid.

Remember I said I tried three new recipes this week and threw two of the them away after.  Well one of those recipes I halved instead of making a full recipe.  I ended up tossing most of those cookies this morning.  They didn't get any better for the sitting around in the cookie jar.  I'm awfully glad I halved those recipes as I tried them instead of making up full batches!

Rhonda sent a reminder through to check coupons and use those that were expiring if they were high value.  So glad that she did!  I had three coupons for free sugar and her message jogged my memory.  Now tell me who can afford to pass up a kitchen staple like sugar when it's free?  I pulled the three coupons and tucked into my wallet to have them with me when we went out on errands yesterday.  It took a bit of doing, and a bit more driving than we'd anticipated but I got my free sugar. 

I made a vow this December that I'd start saving for Christmas and give up that silly notion of mine that I'd "shop a little along all year long".  Well I'm proud as peaches:  I have done just what I said I'd do.  I have my first deposit ready to go into a savings account on Monday when we go into town.  I've planned the amount into our budget for 2011.  It's modest enough we should be able to keep up the deposits without any troubles in even the leanest times this year, and yet net us a sufficient sum for gift giving come time to Christmas shop.

Weather is so changeable here.  Last week it was cold and the wind blustered and blew. Today it's so nice that I've opened the windows to let the house air.  I remember laughing earlier this year after reading an old homemaking book from the 1850's where the advice was to open windows and let the sunshine and good clean air IN, and then found myself reading the very same advice in a 2010 magazine!  Fresh air and sunshine are two of the best known disinfectants and air fresheners.  God created them and man hasn't improved upon them.  Best of all: they are both FREE.

We were given a monetary gift for Christmas by a relative.  Chance and I talked at length about how to use that money.  Truth is, we're in a rather happy position at the moment of not needing the cash to purchase anything for our home or make any repairs.  After a bit we decided that we'd get the most pleasure from adding that money to our vacation fund.  I think we chose wisely, rather than spending it on clothes we don't need or on dinners out that won't be a lasting memory.

To help start the New Year right, I've planned to begin a Pantry/Freezer challenge.  Because of that plan I was pleased as punch when Kay came home bearing gifts from her moving neighbor's:  3 bags of powdered milk and two pounds of elbow macaroni.  I used one bag of the powdered milk right away to make up a batch of hot cocoa mix which went into Christmas gift bags with enough leftover to make a big jar full for our own kitchen. 

It hasn't been that after Christmas shopping doesn't appeal...It does.  But I've not really had an opportunity to get out to do much of it!  I did look over the things at the few stores I went into while grocery shopping and I was pleased enough with what I found.  Two bars of Godiva chocolate for about $.25 each after the clearance price and a hefty coupon, a roll of paper for Christmas that happily embodies next year's theme of Nature's Elegance and two rolls of Hannukah wrap plus a couple of themed gift bags for nearly nothing, colored sugars for $1 for huge containers and two angels that were just what I'd been looking for all these past weeks for $2.49 each.  Oh yes and cards for sending out next year.  I've done about as much after Christmas shopping as I care to do, really.  I think for the $10 spent I did rather well.

Grocery store bargain this week was two one pound packages of ground lamb for just $2 each.  That is an amazingly low price for lamb.  I also bought a quart of eggnog, which I love in my coffee as creamer, and to use in pancakes, French toast batter, to make muffins and such.  It was just $1 and will stretch quite nicely into several lovely things for us.

Fruitcake is a seasonal treat I love and I bought one for just $2.  I sliced and put in the freezer so I could remove just one piece at a time.  Sure wish Kay was still home, she likes fruitcake occasionally, too.

I tried a new recipe for the homemade syrup this past week and I definitely think this is going to be my go to recipe. I found it The Tightwad Gazette   under the title "Pancake Syrup".  It's thick and lovely, not thin as water such as the last recipe I tried.  It made about 1 pint of syrup using a half recipe.    I followed their recipe for Chocolate syrup as well so I'm well supplied with the makings of cocoa now what with the mix I made and the chocolate syrup.

I've saved the carcass from the turkey breast I cooked Christmas Eve.  I don't need more broth, but the weather will turn cold again and when it does I think a pot of Turkey Noodle soup will be just the thing.

Chance gave me money to buy bras early this month and I'd put it off for weeks on end.  It wasn't that I didn't have the time, but the truth is bra shopping is about as enjoyable to me as a visit to the dentist.  There are so many styles to choose from!  I'm glad I put off that shopping, because we decided Wednesday that Thursday was to be Bra Day.  I was anything but excited, but committed to going and looking.  We went to one store, where I found a lovely a price that made me gasp with horror.  However, desperation and all that, I told Chance "I'll buy three and just not think about the cost."  At the register I was shocked when three rang up for less than the price of two.  Turned out they hadn't yet put up the sign stating that all lingerie were 40% off...Love those bargains that are surprises, too. 

We've kept our heater set at about 66F for the most part except on those extremely cold days.  On those days I considered 68F a necessity what with the wind blasting the house and creating nasty little drafts every time the door opened and shut.  I put a kettle of water on the stove to add moisture into the air and that helped it to feel much warmer, too.

I've spent the week going through the January issues of the magazines Mama gave me two weeks ago.  I've started a list of things to practice.  Everything from a tea meant to soothe coughs (made with rosemary) to a note on how to rid dishcloths and shirt collars of that 'sour' smell (sudsing ammonia and no soap in the wash). 

Tax papers are fully organized and awaiting the arrival of W-2s and 1099s so that we can file those taxes right away.  I also looked for and found the tag receipts from last year.  Those are the two tasks that we must deal with in late January and it's helpful to have the info where I can put my hands right upon it.

Living Well

It was lovely to spend Christmas Day in a quieter way than usual, knowing the family would all gather together once more come evening.  I spent the time productively and so enjoyed the head start on New Year's tasks that I felt spurred on to work on little tasks all week long.  I now have a perfectly organized desk, all the tax info and tag receipts ready for the end of next month, my January goals lsited and a good many of my December goals taken care of as well.  I love feeling I've accomplished something.

I could hardly wait for Chance to leave this morning...I planned to mop the floors.  I do so love the aroma of the pine cleaner I use.  It always smells so fresh and makes the house just seem so sanitized somehow.

I worked hard this afternoon.  What luxury to have delicious leftovers I can put on the table for supper.  Heat and eat with a slice of good bread and dinner is done.

Having the windows open has been such a luxury this afternoon.  I've had a special soothing music channel playing and the birds calling outdoors fit right in, making the music seem that much more special.

I've been practicing that lie down for 30 minutes resolution a wee bit this week.  This afternoon when I finished my work and was so weary it was so nice to lie down and stretch out.  I read a couple of stories in The Blue Bedroom by Rosamunde Pilcher, one of which is titled "Gilbert" and made me dissolve helplessly into giggles.  

Almost time to end the day and begin our Shabbat preparations.  I so look forward to this peaceful, restful time each week.  And how especially appropriate that this Shabbat will see the close of this old year and the opening of a new one.  Here's wishing you and your family a year of blessings! 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Coffee Chat - End of Year Review

Well hello!  Come on in.  There's fruitcake tonight and coffee and a warm spot here to chat. 

It does look a bit bleak doesn't it, without the Christmas tree lit up?  I removed the ornaments this afternoon and now the top portion of the tree won't light.  It looked perfectly silly with just the bottom two thirds lit up and that top portion dark, so I simply unplugged it and there it sits.  Just as it is. 

I've been slowly undecorating all this week.  I put the snow couple from the front porch on the dining table and surrounded it with the pinecone picks I bought at the dollar store.  It looks very cozy and nice at the moment, but I'm ready for something 'new' which doesn't of course, necessarily mean something new but does mean something I've not done before, something that looks fresh and pretty.  But I've a whole day to work on that tomorrow. 

Gracious there's so much to share I feel positively as though my brain were spinning.  But I suppose the very first thing to talk about is the new address.  It's like this:  I've been over at Xanga for the past four years and was pleased enough with how the blog worked there...not so much with some of the ads, featured blogs and such that I had to see along the way to my blog and it was virtually impossible to shield my eyes and guard my thoughts when some of the photos were so in my face.  I work diligently in my home to keep such images from my vision through television and movies and guard my thoughts by not reading such things and it's terribly hard to have them shoved in your face on your way into your blog home.  So that is reason #1 why I decided to move the blog.

Reason #2 may sound a bit mercenary but there you have it.  Blogspot offers the opportunity to build a small income through widgets and adsense and a few other venues.  Something that Xanga is less keen on allowing users to do and the set up system at Xanga is  frustrating to the point of ripping out hair and screeching a dozen times over as first one, then a dozen other things, lead to a refusal to allow the posting.  It's not that I think I'll get rich with these things on the blog, but it is a way to hopefully generate something to compensate for my time, if only a bit of Amazon credit to use to purchase books for my shelves and at the same time have a way to allow others to see and purchase the very books I am currently reading, because so often I get emails and comments asking for information.

I talked it over with Kay earlier this week and the upshot of that conversation was that I'd try Blogspot, setting it up and preparing to make the move mid-summer.   But set up went so fast and so smoothly that by the end of the day on Monday, the site was ready and the Amazon widget installed easy as pie.  I'm still struggling with the Adsense thing but that will hopefully come as I learn more about Blogspot.  In the meantime, I have to share that I not only set up this site but a new PennyRecipes site as well in just a matter of an afternoon.  Isn't that awesome?

So.....What do you think?  Isn't it pretty?  And will you come see me now I've moved to a new house?  I do hope so!

I spent time Christmas Day reviewing the year past and working on New Year's resolutions.  I've shared before that I tend to divide my resolutions into categories: Spiritual Life, Marriage, Family, Self, Home and Garden, Finances.  I try to set goals monthly in each area that will promote the overall goal of the year.  And I try hard not to make the repetitive same old goals.  You know, Eat more healthily, Get organized, Lose Weight....The typical New Year's resolutions featured in every single solitary January issue of every magazine currently being published. 

I won't bore you with my New Year's resolutions, but I'd like to share some of my goals for January:
#1.  Spiritual and Marriage are combined this month:  I want to pray for my husband morning and night.  Why?  Because he's going through a rough patch at the moment and it's hard.  There's an important opportunity in front of him, coming up in the next couple of weeks and it could be pivotal to our lives.  He needs prayer for that.  And finally, there's the very nature of his work which is tough as can be at the best of times and downright spiritually and emotionally tough at the worst of times.  An EMT sees the more horrific sides of people's lives and it's hard.  My husband needs the bolstering, the protection and the strength that prayer can give.
#2. Family:  Write one letter to a family member every single weekend this month.
#3. Self:  Lie down and rest for 30 minutes every day.  I've struggled for years with the idea that an afternoon nap or stretching out on the bed was laziness.  Fact is that when you're up at 5:30a and the day doesn't end until nearly 11p, it's a long day by everyone's standards.  I think stretching out and relaxing for 30 minutes, and even napping if it comes to it, will only benefit me in the long run.  I can always use that time to read, listen to a CD of music or a sermon or simply soak in the quiet.
#4.  Finances:  Starting that Christmas fund.  Well this one's started!  I have money set aside for my first deposit.  I'll put it in the account on Wednesday when I'm going through town.
#5.  A combination of Finances and Home here:  a pantry and freezer challenge.  This will hopefully give our account a little boost this month.  We've plenty of foodstuffs on hand and I need the opportunity to get a good idea of the inventory it takes to feed us for a month.  You see, I want to try and eventually have enough food on hand that we could pretty much manage for a year on what we have stored.  I read a handy bit of advice this week on a blog: start with two weeks worth, build up to a 3 month supply, then a 6 month supply and finally a year's supply.  It seemed just the sort of incremental approach I like. 
#6.  Home and Garden:  Get that breakfast room finished up!  There are pictures to be hung, chairs to be cut down and painted but that's it.  I'm that close to having the room completed and I just got sidetracked for the holidays.  Finishing up that project will allow me to get to work on the next project I have planned.
#7.  Plant the daffodil bulbs I bought in early December.  I've got them stored in the refrigerator vegetable bin just now but they need to go in the ground, or at least in a pot very soon.  If it proves to be a rainy month (and January sometimes can be) I'll put the bulbs in a pretty crocus pot filled with pebbles and force them to bloom indoors.

The newlyweds hung around all day long Monday.  Kay was complaining of feeling terribly tired and I thought it no wonder, since they'd gone non-stop since they'd left home Wednesday morning.  They left here Tuesday morning quite early and she called after getting through Atlanta to tell me she really felt very tired.  I know Kay panics a bit when she feels worn out ever since that awful year she spent six months being ill.  However, by the time they arrived home she called me once more and this time she sounded terribly stuffy and said they'd stopped to pick up cold meds and Hot Wings.  Seems my girl was truly tired because her body was fighting hard to ward off illness.

If I'd stopped and thought about it for half a moment, Alan mentioned this past weekend that he'd been terribly tired the last few days of the week...Chance told me today that Alan was ill and he thought we'd better stop by while out running errands and bring him Hot and Sour soup from the Chinese takeout.  I wasn't even aware that Alan had been unwell but when Chance called to ask if he'd like soup, Alan said he'd been to the doctor.  For Alan to go to the doctor is unheard of and yes, he was sick enough to require medication as well.  And we did stop by to drop off the soup and some Vitamin C before heading home.

Do you notice a pattern here?  Both Kay and Alan are huge believers in the power of the spicy to help cure what ails them.   I don't know just where they got this notion from, but it's helpful enough they both repeat it throughout an illness. 

I cleaned house after the kids left Tuesday morning before I left to go do my Big the time I arrived home I was exhausted, so much so that I didn't even put away all the groceries.  I got the cold things put away and fed the animals and sort of collapsed in my chair.  Went to bed that night and slept all night long and a bit later than usual yesterday morning, then took a nap of almost an hour's duration yesterday afternoon after a fairly easy on me day.  This is my remedy to not feeling well: rest, rest, and more rest.  And lots of water, Zinc and Vitamin C.  It works very well for me and I can assure you that today I felt quite my usual self.

Tomorrow my husband will be away from home, working on setting up the sound equipment at our new synagogue venue (even our congregation is moving to a new home!).  I plan to stay right here at home, doing some housework.  I just long to mop floors and get things spic and span before the New Year arrives.  I won't be doing any huge major reorganization or deep deep cleaning but I would most certainly like to have it a little more than usually clean.  It seems a good time now the Christmas decorations are out of the house and the usual stuff hasn't yet been put back on the tabletops and such.

Well gracious me!  I'd no idea I'd chatted so late.  I'll end here, but tomorrow I shall be working on a Frugal Friday post.  I look forward to having you stop by again!  Good night!


Monday, December 27, 2010


I've been building a 'new' house for Penny Ann...It's time to move into a place that will allow me to spread my wings a little and to get away from some of the ads and 'featured' blogs that are disturbing and questionable in nature. 

I haven't made it official yet, but will likely start cross posting both recipes and blog entries over the next few months before making the move a fact.  The rules here are simple: Get  a cup of coffee, have a seat and take a few moments to relax and enjoy.