For me, a life beyond money is making choices so that you can live the best possible life, regardless of your income level. Obviously, you have to make a living, but there are many ways to improve your quality of life without increasing your income levels and correspondingly your expenses. This regular post will be some of the ways that we improve our quality of life beyond just trying to make more money.
* I harvested a pound or so of herbs from the garden: basil, parsley, marjoram, oregano, greek oregano.
* I harvested peppers, tomatoes (harvested once they had a blush on them, then ripened on the counter), and okra.
* I made a huge batch of slow cooker caramelized onions.
* I made eggplant Parmesan using free Fairy Tale eggplants from the farm (bug-bitten bits cut out).
* I made slow cooker lasagna, but I wanted to make a healthier version. I basically eliminated the ricotta (and by that I mean I forgot to buy it and didn't realize until I was prepping the meal so I pretended it was for other reasons), trimmed back the pasta and mozzarella and drastically increased the amount of veg. So basically it wasn't anything like lasagna except it had lasagna noodles. It was still amazing. I layered in between the layers of noodles: caramelized onions, eggplant, sauteed peppers and onions with minced garlic, and a single layer of leftover ground sausage. I poured in 2 jars of tomato sauce and topped with a single layer of mozzarella cheese.
* We had popcorn as a snack a few times.
* I made sausage gravy and biscuits for dinner one evening.
* I made an ice cream pie one evening. I had a couple of premade Christmas cookie dough rounds left in the box (manager's special for around $.25) and not enough ice cream for us to each have a serving. I thawed the cookie dough and pressed it into the bottom of a small pie plate and baked until it was golden. Then I softened the ice cream and poured it over the cookie. I dropped in a couple spoonfuls of Nutella (manager's special) and swirled it in. I froze until it was solid. It was enough for 4 servings of dessert. I'd certainly make it again for a special occasion, but not frequently because it was way too much sugar.
* I went to Aldi and got some great deals: $.89/dozen eggs (bought 2), $1.59/gallon milk, $.44/lb banana, bran flakes ($1.69/box)
* Trucker made steak for dinner one evening. We also served sauteed kale with leeks and garlic and fresh sliced tomatoes.
* I froze more sweet and hot peppers.
* I froze more leeks.
* I dehydrated basil, parsley, marjoram and greek and regular oregano from the garden.
* I froze two more ice cube trays worth of caramelized onions.
* I made and froze another quart of tomato sauce.
* I dehydrated sweet Italian peppers, okra and eggplant.
* My mom came out to visit me for our birthdays (our birthdays are 11 days apart; my twin sisters share a birthday with her). I took her out for tacos at our favorite hole-in-the-wall taqueria. Afterwards, she took me to the zoo. She buys a family pass every year and gets to take 2 guests in each time. We had a wonderful time and laughed a lot. She is so much fun to be around and I'm so glad to get to make these memories with her.
* We went out for a few coffee dates.
* We stopped for Happy Hour at Diary Queen and got $2 frappes. We went hiking afterwards, so it's all good, right?
* We had Trucker's boss and his wife over for a cookout one evening. We made taco burgers with tomato, onion, jalapenos, black olives and hot pepper sauce mixed in. We also had grilled fairy tale eggplant, padron peppers, sweet peppers and onion. For dessert I served grilled banana splits with vanilla ice cream (on sale for $2.50/half gallon), goat's milk caramel (manager's special), whipped cream (from Aldi) and cinnamon. We had a great time.
* We went hiking at metro parks several times. The weather has been absolutely perfect for getting outside and exercising.
* One harvest morning, a couple of my coworkers and I were harvesting kale and collards before the sun rose. After a bit, the first pink hues were flooding the sky with a peppering of little puffy clouds. One of my coworkers cried out, "Look at the sky!" and we all stood silent for a moment. It was magnificent. I wouldn't trade this summer for anything.
* I made stock from bone and veggie scraps.
* I saved the stalks from dehydrated herbs to add to homemade stock (they were already dehydrated, so I just tossed them in a jar).
* I composted a lot of things, especially brown and dry items.
House and Home:
* I put another pair of shoes (too tight of a shoe box) and a jacket into the donation box.
* I took 4 boxes of items to the thrift store. This included some items that we'd bought for the antique booth when we first started, that frankly, were amateur mistakes.
* I bought a dry erase board for the kitchen. I've been wanting one for awhile, but hadn't found a decent one at a good price. This one is simple but nice. It was in the clearance section at Meijer since it was a "back-to-school" item: $5.59. I will use it for us to keep track of our ridiculous schedules and shopping lists.
* Trucker got a frame for a Punisher drawing I bought him as a gift. He loves the Punisher. Usually a drawing like this costs $50, but this one was on sale for $12 at this funky thrift/novelty/hunting shop we found in a small town. He had priced frames and the cheapest he had found for the size he needed was $20. We went shopping and found one on sale for $10.
* I brought home loads of freebies from the farm. I rescued some "seconds" onions from the compost pile. I had to cut out about half of them to get rid of soft parts, but still got loads of onions for caramelizing.
* Trucker brought breakfast for his coworkers each Sunday and also sent me with muffins for my coworkers one day.
* I took home a fair amount of seconds: leeks, kale (lacinato and green), beets, radishes, a couple small watermelons and loads of peppers.
* I worked hard at the booth to rearrange things and straighten up for the party.
* Trucker continues to play softball with his league every week. He has also started doing a little bit of running so he can play better. I'm thrilled and hoping that he falls in love with running so he can run with me. I miss running a lot. I still go running about every other week, but then something happens or someone harasses me. It's taken the fun out of it. I need a dog or a partner to run with now.
* One evening after work, I went home and just slept. I napped for a couple hours, woke up, ate dinner, and then went to bed for the night. I woke up feeling so refreshed.
* Trucker's boss invited me to have lunch with them at his job. His boss' wife brings in a lunch every day for the three of them plus her mother. They are so sweet to him and I had a wonderful time laughing and talking with them.
* I started a box of items to donate to the food pantry at my job. We conducted a survey and found that, while most people were very happy with our food selection, we needed to distribute items such as hygiene items and pet foods. These items can't be purchased with WIC or SNAP benefits, but are still basic needs. When I was talking with the pantry coordinator (for an upcoming post), she mentioned that some people might appreciate coloring books and crayons for the kids to enjoy while waiting. The box I have started so far includes: dozens of travel soaps (I got them from a thrift store. They were 3 for $.25 and then there was a 70% off sale, making them less than $.03 each), a few coloring books (purchased for $.25 or less at thrift stores; I checked to make sure no pages were colored in), crayons ($.25 on back to school sales) and some malta beverage ($.15 each; I purchased a bunch when I found a good price, but Trucker didn't like them). Once the box is full, I'll drop it off when I visit the office.