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 put scallion stubs into water to regrow more.
* I planted the garlic for next year. I planted around 50 cloves that I bought at the farmers' market. I also found some bulbs/cloves I'd missed when harvesting this year. They had all sprouted nicely, so I separated out the clumps and replanted them near the other garlic. That brought me to around 90 plants. Afterwards, I sprinkled some composted rabbit manure over the bed and watered the beds thoroughly. In a few days I'll cover with a good coat of leaves. If you grow one thing in your garden, garlic should be it. It is really easy to grow a year's worth, the seed garlic can be quite affordable (I don't buy special seed garlic; I just look for quality garlic bulbs at the farmers' market), and it is low maintenance. See my guide to planting garlic if you want to try it out.
* I made pasta with sauteed veggies a few times.
* We made stuffed peppers one evening: leftover taco meat, a can of refried beans, onion, garlic, homemade hot sauce stuffed into lunchbox peppers, covered with enchilada sauce and cheese.
* Trucker made spaghetti with polish sausage for dinner one day, with garlic toast made from clearance rack hoagie rolls.
* I dehydrated more boiled beets.
* Trucker helped me dehydrate a lot of sweet peppers. I cleaned and sliced, and he arranged on the trays. It goes so much quicker when he helps. Also food preservation can be isolating, so I love those bits of time with him.
* I made and froze some stock using scraps of veggies.
* I froze 10 bunches of scallions.
* We went out for coffee a few times and used our travel mugs.
* We met up with Daisy, her hubby and baby for dinner at Bob Evans. She gave me a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles calendar (I LOVE TMNT) and an adorable turkey hand-painting from her daughter (which is prominently displayed on my frig). It was so good to get to hang out with our besties. We hadn't been able to go on a double with them in a few months because of work schedules. They are such wonderful people and we always have a great time.
* The local zoo had a "stuff-a-truck" event for the Mid-Ohio Foodbank. Anyone who brought 5 non-perishable food items got free admission to the Wildlights display and free parking. Tickets for county residents are usually $15 each and parking was $10. I stopped by Aldi for instant mashed potatoes, tea bags, coffee, peanut butter and mixed nuts to donate (I got the mashed potatoes since the holidays are here, coffee and tea as a special item; peanut butter and mixed nuts as a shelf-stable protein. I specifically got mixed nuts instead of peanuts because even though they cost more, I figured people at the pantry probably get peanuts more often than mixed nuts). All told, I spent around $15 on food. We had a wonderful evening. The weather was perfect. We enjoyed seeing some animals and especially enjoyed the aquarium. As is our custom, we paid $1 each to ride the carousel. I am like a kid when I get on the carousel. We carried in hot chocolate and coffee, to avoid succumbing to the lure of the overpriced coffee being sold there. Since I would have donated food anyway, the real cost of the date was $2 and gas. Not too shabby.
* We did go out for a decent hike one day. We went about 2.5 miles.
* We went to a local living historical farm. It was a beautiful day and the farm had a lot of activities going on. We got to watch a turkey butchering demo, pet calves, and explore.
* I redeemed my rewards points for cash. I deposited the money into my savings account.
* I signed up for our new insurance on the healthcare exchange. We got a higher subsidy since our income dropped significantly. It ended up making more sense, especially given how high our expenses were this year, to get a better plan. Now, our deductible is a much more reasonable $2200, compared to the previous $13,200. We also will have cheaper a copay on visits and get free generics. This will help so much. While I am nervous about the state of healthcare in this country, I am glad to have it now. Hopefully any changes will take a year to kick in, so we will have coverage until I get covered at my new job.
* Since I finally have a job secured, we went out and got some winter clothes, as well as some items we needed. We are very careful in selecting items that are in good condition, flexible, good for layering and that will not be hopelessly out of style next year. I got: 1 pair of stretchy jeans for work (I am constantly squatting, bending and twisting, so the jeans had to move easily; $1.50 after 50% off sale tag), 3 flannels ($.50-1.99), 1 tan sweater ($2.99; almost exactly like this sweater my dad had back in the 90's. Lesson I learned while shopping: I should have gotten dad to just let me raid his closet), grey hoodie ($4; after one day of wearing a coat in the warehouse, I could see why everyone was wearing hoodies), 1 obnoxious cardigan ($2; it was a total hipster guilty pleasure. I still judge myself for it a bit, but I love it. It is black with colorful stripes. It is awfully good) and a really nice sweat-wicking exercise shirt ($1 after 75% off tag sale). Trucker got: 2 pairs of jeans ($2.99, $1.99. We picked through his pile to get pairs that looked nice and had no damage), a windbreaker for sports-balling next spring/autumn, a nice vest for weddings/special events/acting gigs ($2), 2 high-collar warm shirts ($1.99, for layering) and 1 flannel ($1.99).
* We bought Trucker a new pair of boots since he is down to 1 pair of sneakers (rough, for work), 1 pair of boots (for hiking) and 1 pair of fancy dress shoes (way too nice to wear unless he is in a suit). We found a pair on clearance at Meijer, with an additional 25% taken off. $50 originally, after sale it was $18.
* I used my grocery store points to get $.10/gallon, for 14 gallons.
* Also, I forgot to mention a couple weeks ago. I got a fantastic deal on Trucker's...well, Christmas? gift. We don't usually exchange gifts for Christmas, but later this month, my favorite artist is coming back to town. Trucker got us tickets and said it was my Christmas gift. Well, I've been passively looking for a walking stick for him. He always grabs a random stick when we go out, and mentioned once while we were walking that someday he'd love to have a nice one. I've been pricing them, and the quality I wanted they were $45+. When we took our trip to another city for Trucker's class, we stopped for some cheese in Amish country. There was an elderly Amish man selling beautiful walking sticks. He had single color or duel color sticks. For the duel-color sticks, he glued Maple and Oak pieces together. He ran each piece through a machine that cut this lovely spiral in it, then sanded down the top for easy holding and touched the rough edges to keep it from cutting anyone. It was $13 for the single color and $18 for the duel-color. I had him pick out the one he liked best and he chose a duel-color one. I was happy because it is gorgeous, cost less than half of what I've been seeing for mass-manufactured ones and supported an Ohio artisan. The man's eyes sparkled as we listened intently as he described each step in his process in detail. You can't buy that at Wal-Mart.
* Wondering why we started giving Christmas gifts for the first time in 8 years? See below for a bit of an announcement (No, I'm not pregnant. LOL).
* I composted random things.
* I made stock from bones from the freezer (leftover from meals) and veggie scraps.
* I fed the bunny veggie scraps.
* I helped at Trucker's job a couple days.
* I worked overtime every day, at least a little.
* The new job is...okay. It isn't something I could see myself doing long-term, but for now it works. I'm getting a good workout, and the coworkers are nice to me. So far no one has been less than kind to me, and some have gone out of their way to be nice. I tend to find that when I go to a job; I get along with darn near everyone. So why is the job just ok? I have a lump and an inch long cut on one arm from where someone placed a box in my walk path and I tripped and my arm slammed on the corner of the truck. I have a huge bruise on one arm from a box dropping and pinching the skin on my arm between the shelf and the box. I have dozens of bruises all over my body. It does not look good.
* I messed up my arm at work. For now, I'm putting patches on it and hoping for the best when I go back to work tomorrow.
* Trucker's health issues have gotten worse since the accident. We think it may be because of the lack of physical exertion as he has healed. He is basically back to where he was three months ago. Hopefully, as he is able to be more active, this resolves itself.
* He is showing no signs of concussion and his chest doesn't hurt much anymore. I am so glad he healed so well.
* Trucker's boss and wife gave him a card with a Bob Evans gift certificate for dinner. It bought dinner for us one night and half of our dinner when we went out with Daisy and hubby.
* We enjoyed going to the Wildlights Stuff-a-Truck event. The event filled 4 semis full of food to help feed people in our community. The Mid-Ohio Foodbank is such an amazing organization. They are so involved in the community, from feeding hungry people, to helping teach new skills, to researching diabetes in low-income families, to helping teens get job training. If you are looking for a wonderful organization to donate to this season, especially if you are local, please consider them. They do a lot with the donations they get. Every $1 in donations gives $10 in groceries to hungry families!
* Going on a year ago, Trucker's daughter got in touch with him. I hadn't mentioned her previously, because she had been adopted. We assumed we wouldn't hear from her until she turned 18, so we were delighted when she contacted him. We haven't been able to visit her yet (she lives across the country, and we are waiting until her mom is comfortable), but she calls or texts every day.
Seeing healing come to both Trucker and her in the last year has been absolutely amazing. They have had wonderful, hard, fun and beautiful conversations. She has been able to ask questions she needed answered. He has been able to tell her over and over how much he loves her. She said she wanted to have a relationship with me too, and we talk all the time. She even asked to meet my parents and sisters on video chat. When I told my Dad she had contacted Trucker and wanted to know me too, he cried and then asked, "Does this make me a Grandpa now? My parents were really excited to meet her, and my Grandpa has made it clear he considers her family, too.
We are absolutely thrilled to have such a beautiful, sweet and fascinating girl in our lives. We don't know all that will happen in the coming years, but we are preparing a room in our house (I've picked out an appropriate theme and have whole Pinterest boards devoted to it!), so she will have a permanent place with us, whether she wants to stay a day or a year.
Basically, it has turned our lives upside down and we couldn't be happier. We have spent the last year talking about our goals and how they are changing now. All those things people say about how life changes when you have kids sounds silly when it is other people talking, but I never knew it happened with step-children too. Suddenly, you realize you need a full-time job, health insurance and to get all the debt paid off ASAP. Suddenly Christmas gifts seem a little more understandable. Suddenly you start thinking about whether a move to the country is appropriate or if it should be delayed until after college years. I haven't talked about it much, but I can't have kids. I had been fine with it until about two years ago. I guess some healing is coming to me in this too.