Wednesday, April 26, 2017

This Week...Beyond Money 4/10 - 4/16

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.

This week was our ten-year wedding anniversary. I am so thankful for Trucker's presence in my life. He is my best friend and a great partner. I couldn't ask for more. 

* I'll confess, I'm terrible about taking care of the front gardens. I haven't mulched them once since we moved in. Needless to say, they looked terrible. A big problem was that that first year we lived here, I was very intense about weeding, but didn't realize that the entire front garden was filled with poison ivy. I'm terribly allergic, so the terror of touching it has pretty much kept me from doing anything there since. Last year, I sprayed some round-up (I know; however, it is much too rampant an invasion for someone with my level of allergic reaction to try to dig up all of those roots). I killed out a good portion of the poison ivy, but of course, the surrounding flowers are gone as well. This year, I decided to get it looking good again.
* I bought 19 bags of brown mulch at Menard's. It was on sale for $2.25/2 cu ft. I had a lot of rebate cards, so I got all 19 bags, 1 bag of grass seed (to reseed where I had to spray round up on the poison that had spread into the sod) and 3 bags of organic fertilizer (the same kind we used at the farm; usually $8/bag, on sale for $2.29) for free/no money out of pocket.
* I wasn't perfect about the mulch, mainly because I'm still terrified of the poison ivy that I know is lurking under the soil, just waiting for me to expose a bare ankle or a wandering elbow so it can strike. Gotta watch out for that jumping poison ivy. I basically went around and mulched somewhat carefully around the plants I wanted without touching anything (Trucker did come out and help me with some parts that were particularly poison ivy prone last year). Then I filled in around those plants, covering some that i wasn't too keen on. I raked in some flower seeds in the blank spots ($.25/pack from the dollar store). I don't expect they will do wonderful, but they are cheap enough to get and I'm really just looking for the bare minimum effort.
* I harvested herbs from the indoor garden.
* I went back and got 8 more bags. I used 5 more to finish the main front gardens, and have 3 bags leftover to fill in spots as weeds grow and to start on the next projects. I want to also mulch down the corner of the yard/driveway to the tree in the front yard. There are a lot of flowers growing around that area, so it is hard to mow it properly without decapitating blooms. I'll also mulch around the back of the house and along the back fence line.

* We made stir fry one evening. We used a leftover pork chop, 1 1/2 medium onions, 3 ribs celery ($.69/bunch at Aldi), 2 carrots ($1/lb at Aldi), several cabbage leaves ($.29/lb during St. Patty's; rather than cut at the head, I remove individual leaves and the head lasts a very long time), a handful of green beans ($.99/lb on sale) and served it over rice cooked in homemade stock.
* Trucker made steak one evening for dinner. We saved about 1/3 of it for another meal. He also served canned wax beans and mashed potatoes. I made a quick appetizer of  pepper poppers (I mixed the last of a package of cream cheese, some salsa, hot sauce and cheese, piped into seeded and frozen jalapeno and padron peppers, then baked til the peppers were soft).
* The next night we used the leftover steak to make tacos. I sauteed onions, sweet peppers and garlic scapes, then added the steak and seasonings. I added half a can of refried beans. I served in tortillas with sour cream, tomato, pickled peppers, pickled beets and pepper jack cheese. We only used about 1/3 of the meat mixture. I added the rest of the can of beans, the last of a jar of salsa and a generous dousing of hot sauce. I will use this for work lunches in the coming week. To prepare ahead, I put sour cream, cheese and pickled veggies in containers and pulled a pack of tortillas from the freezer. I'll bring all this to work and leave it in the cooler.
* One evening after we spent the whole day cleaning, we ordered a pizza. We had rewards points that were expiring in a couple of days that got us a free large 3-topping pizza.

Food Preservation:
* I froze some extra raw hamburger that I didn't end up needing for the party.
* I froze some of the party leftovers for a taco soup later, when we aren't sick to death of tacos.
* For our party, I was able to use a lot of food from the freezer. I'll have to remember to always throw a party as a way to use up items to make room for the new growing season.

* Instead of going out for coffee one day, we stayed at home. The weather was perfect, so we ate dinner outside, then grabbed our laptops to work out on the patio. The air was crisp and there was a gentle breeze. It was absolutely perfect. Trucker pointed out that each time we have our coffee date here instead of going out, we save $3 (approximately, since we sip on whatever we have at home). If we do that twice a week for the next six months, we will save over $150. Also, I found myself much more at ease since it was a lot quieter.
* We went out for pizza after spending the whole day working on the house. I used a coupon from our entertainment book, making it $7 with tip.
* We went to a free event at a local theatre.  A locally based stage actor made a documentary about his experiences on the road. It was quite entertaining. Afterwards there was an ice cream social, serving ice cream from a local maker. We had a really nice evening.
* We used the library for books, audio books and movies.
* For our anniversary, we had a nice date. We went to a local German restaurant, for which we had a coupon. We got the buffet since it was about the price of a meal and were able to try lots of yummy dishes. Afterwards, we went downtown to the park for a free ballet dress rehearsal. We got to listen to the director, fencing consultant and some of the dancers talk, as well as watch several of the dances from Romeo and Juliet. We finished up by heading north to a local meadery (since Trucker had never tried mead), and took a stroll around the neighborhood. It was a lovely evening.
* We had a party at our house to celebrate our anniversary. We had my parents, sisters and grandpa as well as many of our friends over. I made an absurd spread, as I do. We had a taco bar with ground beef, al pastor, cilantro lime rice and Mexican pinto beans. For sides, I made pan fried corn, cheese dip (with tortilla chips and corn chips), and stuffed peppers. For toppings, we had two kinds of lettuce, tomato, olives, raw and sauteed sweet peppers, raw and sauteed onions, two kinds of cheese, salsa, cilantro, limes, and sour cream (full-fat and fat-free). I had slices of radishes and cucumbers for nibbling. I made cookies using mixes from the pantry (usually I prefer to bake from scratch, but there was not enough time and the mixes had been purchased for pennies) and bought churros from Aldi. I had soda, homemade iced tea, coffee and horchata to drink. I made a slideshow of the best photos from the last 10 years. It was filled with important, sweet and absurd photos and got many laughs. My parents brought corn hole and hillbilly golf. The forecast had called for rain, but it ended up being a lovely day. We had so much fun catching up with old friends. We really have the most lovely group of friends and I love getting to see them. A couple of our friends drove from over 3 hours away! I added up the cost of all the food and, once you subtract the things we didn't use, it was basically the cost of going out to eat twice.
This photo pretty much sums up a good majority of our

* We went on an amazing hike on one of my days off. We first hiked for a bit at a state park. We got to watch a family of Canadian geese for a bit. It was pretty muddy, so we took off for a national park, Hopewell Culture. It is the site of a lot of burial mounds. There is a museum on site filled with artifacts from the mounds.
* We went for a couple mile walk at a park near our house. We usually walk into the woods then down to the river to explore, but this time took the trail in the opposite direction. We got to enjoy a swamp and the sunlight was the perfect balm for my soul.
* We went hiking several times. One time was at the Audubon. We loved watching the herons coming in to roost, the fish swirling about, the turtles basking in the sun. This time of year is perfect.

* I took my car to my cousin to fix an exhaust leak. It wasn't terrible, but would need done sooner or later. Since I drive so much, I'm trying to keep ahead of the game to prevent a breakdown and subsequent call-off. He charged $40 to fix it.

House and Home:
* I did a little touch-up on the paint in Panda's room. I still have a lot left, but it is getting there.
* I had a lovely mustard footrest that I got at a thrift store for $1. The bottom was coming undone and it was leaking a little dust. Instead of throwing it away, since I really liked it, I decided to put some fabric on the bottom. I couldn't find any material in the scrap bag (because when I decluttered, I threw away most of the scrap bag...I knew I'd need it if I did), so I hit the rag bag. I was able to use two rags cut from an old t-shirt. I super glued one to the bottom, then cut the other into pieces to cover the rest of the bottom. After the glue dried, I trimmed away the excess. So far it is working great.
* I used my generic magic erasers to clean up the bathroom. They are amazing for removing soap scum.
* We made another donation to the thrift store.
* Trucker moved some shelving around and we were able to get the kitchen better organized.
* We made a huge amount of progress on the house. Over the last couple of months, we have drastically reduced our belongings and eliminated clutter and organized everything else. We painted Panda's room and touched up paint throughout the rest of the house. We organized our bookshelves, kitchen cabinets and tools. We fixed things that needed repaired, threw away things that were beyond repair and donated or sold many things that we no longer needed. We mulched the front garden and killed most of the poison ivy (I hope!). I think the house looks the best it has since we moved in. Most of it was a result of Trucker's endless efforts. He is such an asset.

* I picked up a shift and took a no-pay day. We have some non-production days scheduled (when we can work on projects or take the day off without pay or using a call-in day). I took the day off (and scheduled a doctor's appointment, allowing me to hoard my days in case of emergency) and have scheduled off the next one in two weeks as well. I then worked an extra shift on the weekend, so I got paid overtime. I worked a 9-hour shift, so I essentially got paid for 13.5 hours. Basically, once you consider the commuting cost I save for the shift I didn't work, it is the equivalent of working 7 hours each of the no pay days, but I get an extra day off.
* I packed my lunch each day. I have bought a lot of items at the salvage grocery that are perfect for tossing in my bag as I run out the door.

Gym visits this month: 17
Trucker: 11
Me: 1
* I've been drinking flavored seltzer a lot instead of high-calorie beverages. I need to get a water purifier because our local water tastes bad, but for now this works. I get it for around $.05/can at the salvage grocery or $.50/liter at Aldi).

* Trucker spilled water on his computer. We have it in rice for a few days to hopefully get it working again, as he had three books almost ready to publish that weren't saved to the cloud. I did buy him a laptop just in case (if his old one works, we will use as a backup or give to Panda). I shopped around online, then we hit two stores in person. We ended up getting a basic one. It was the third cheapest, but the others had no disk drives and very little storage space. As it was, we decided those features were worth the extra $25.

* Daisy gave me a few jars of homemade flavored vinegar. I can't wait to try them! I am thinking of using with my greens and to make salad dressing. For our anniversary, she gave us a beautiful bronze wine cooler/ice bucket and some items she made for our house. She is an amazing friend.
* Daisy's hubby looked at Trucker's computer when they came over and was able to help him get to his files! He is a lifesaver! We were both so distraught about the possibility of losing months of work. We are so relieved.
* We were really touched by how many people came over for our party. Nothing is as wonderful as being close to friends.
How was your week?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Use It Up: Egg Shells

Many things are tossed into the garbage can when they still have lots of good life left in them. Use It Up will be a section on how to use this "trash" to make new, useful items for your home. I'll try to give a variety of projects so that you'll find some that are useful for you.

This time of year, we go through a lot of eggs. Since we like to avoid sending things to the landfill unnecessarily, I've been looking for ways to use them up around the house and gardens. I generally compost them, but there are lots of other practical ways to use them up.

Compost them. The high-calcium egg shells are perfect for composting. Don't rinse them out, as the membrane contains a fair amount or organic matter. Crunch them up before adding them. Powder them before adding to worm bins.

Use as a soil amendment for the garden or for houseplants. Blossom end rot in tomatoes, eggplant or peppers is caused by a calcium deficiency, so a healthy handful of crushed egg shells will go a long way in prevention. Tip-burn in cabbages can also be caused by low calcium. For houseplants, soak egg shells in water for several days, then use to water the plants to give them a little boost. You could also use the water used to hard boil water to water house or garden plants (after it cools, of course)

Apparently deer hate the smell of them and will leave your garden alone if there are egg shells lying around the beds (being in the city, I don't have enough of a deer problem to properly test this). Leave roughly crushed eggshells lying all over the soil so that cats will not walk through your garden (and hopefully not do anything else!). As they break down, they will also increase the calcium in your soil. After some reading, I discovered that the traditional wisdom of egg shells murdering slugs is a myth!

Some people use them as seed starting containers and then plant the whole thing. I personally haven't had luck with this, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth a try.

Feed to chickens/ducks/geese as a calcium supplement. Dry them in a slow oven for a few hours, then crunch them up well. You don't want the shells to look like egg shells, lest the poultry attack their own eggs.

You can also add some crushed egg shells to a dish near your bird feeders to give the wild birds the same supplement.

Use as an scouring powder for cleaning pots and pans. Place egg shells and water in stained thermoses or coffee mugs. Allow to soak overnight, swish around for a bit, then wash as usual.

Throw some down the garbage disposal to sharpen the blades. You could also chuck some egg shells and water into the blender and run to sharpen dull blender blades. Then dump the contents of the blender on the garden, houseplants or compost bin.

Keep a couple egg shells with membrane in the kitchen strainer to catch more particulate from going down the drain.

Use to make a bathtub or tile scrub.

Use to make side walk chalk for the kids!

When you are cracking eggs, if a bit of shell falls in, use a large piece of shell to fish it out. This was the quickest way to remove those little pieces when I was a baker (and would sometimes crack a hundred eggs in a day).

Add to the mix when making stock to up the calcium levels. I don't bother to remove the membrane or rinse out egg residue. I'll be cooking my stock down for 8-24 hours, so I'm sure any pathogens will be dead. I compost them with the plant material after straining (some people don't think it prudent to compost anything with a hint of "animal" to it, but I haven't had an issue).

Soak egg shells in vinegar for several weeks, then strain and use the resulting high-calcium vinegar just as you would regular vinegar. This vinegar can also be applied to irritated or itchy skin. It can also be applied to bug bites.

You can also boil the eggshells in water (or save water from boiling eggs) to use in place of regular water for a bit of a calcium boost. Just use in recipes as normal.

Add to your coffee grounds before brewing. This makes the coffee less bitter, and then together can be used in the garden.

Add to your water kefir to give them their daily multivitamin. Kefir grains will break down the egg shell over several days, leaving behind a pretty gross looking membrane, but all of those minerals will now keep your kefir strong and healthy and the resulting beverage will be better for you. I have found that my grains would reproduce more when fed egg shells regularly.

Make a powdered supplement. Dry the egg shells in a low oven for a few hours. Powder in a coffee grinder or blender. Make as fine a powder as possible. You can put in gel caps, or mix into smoothies or recipes. It will be a bit gritty, so take that into consideration when deciding how to use it.

This supplement can also be given to pets.

Mix with egg white and use as a face mask.

Apply the membrane to torn cuticles to aid in healing.

Powdered egg shell can be used as an exfoliant for hands, feet and knees.

Cover cuts with the membrane and wrap to aid healing.

Place the membrane over pimples to bring them to a head or over splinters to draw them to the surface.

Place the membrane over a broken blister.

Do you have any other ways to use up egg shells? Comment below and I'll update the list (giving you credit, of course).

Sunday, April 9, 2017

This Week...Beyond Money TWO WEEKS 3/27 - 4/9

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.
* There are mason bees in the bee hotel. We are really excited.
* My spider plant is about to have babies!
* I harvested fresh herbs almost daily. This is great! My sage plant looks like it could be heavily harvested for drying.
* The garlic looks good. A couple of weeks ago I found several garlic shoots in the grass. Apparently I dropped a bulb of garlic during the harvest last year. I dug them up, separated them and planted them with the rest of the garlic. They seem to be doing well.

* I made another batch of homemade hamburger helper for work. I make this frequently because it is easy and reasonably healthy. I make a triple batch, but use less hamburger than a single batch. I make up the bulk with loads of vegetables, whatever I have in the freezer or that needs used up. It always has an extremely high volume of alliums (onions, garlic, leeks, scallions, garlic scapes). I use less cheese than required and cut the milk with stock.
* Trucker made steak, fried potatoes and green beans one evening. The next night we made stir fry with leftover steak, random vegetables from the frig/freezer and leftover rice.
* I made grilled pizza again to use the other half of the pizza dough. I topped with leftover bacon, leftover steak, caramelized onions (frozen, free from the farm), sweet peppers (frozen, free from the farm) and mushrooms (manager's special, only on mine since Trucker is allergic). I served it with a small salad (I purchased the lettuce at Kroger. It was a baby head sold at the same price per pound as larger heads. Since it is just the 2 of us, we have a hard time getting through a large one sometimes, so we save money by not wasting. The lettuce head cost around $.50).
* I made popcorn to snack on.
* We stopped at the salvage grocery. We spent around $50 total and got a heaping cart full: organic cereal ($.50/box), random items for work work lunches such as packages of crackers (worked out to $.05-.20/pack; these sell in the vending machine at work for $1), 2 cases of coconut latte drinks (they aren't fantastic, but they are incredibly refreshing on hot days at work; $1.99/12 pack), spring roll wraps ($.10/pack), mac n cheese ($.25/box which makes it cheaper than making from scratch), salsa and enchilada sauce ($.50 each), mayo ($.10/jar), packing tape ($.50 roll), popcorn ($.50/14 oz; the pantry is officially restocked) and instant horchata mix which I love for summer and plan on serving for a party later this month ($.10/big bag).
* I made bean burritos one evening. I sauteed some garlic scapes (frozen, free from the garden as an edible trimming) in a little grease, then added some water and dehydrated peppers (free; farm seconds) and cooked until the peppers were rehydrated. I dumped in half a pack of taco seasoning and a can of refried beans ($.50 at the salvage grocer). I served in tortillas ($.50/12 pack from the salvage grocer) with a little cheese and sour cream. I also pan fried some padron peppers (free, seconds from the farm) and corn (frozen when I found it on sale for $.10/ear), well seasoned with some zesty seasoning ($.10 from the salvage grocer) and cheese powder (Amish grocer) with a little buttermilk ($.99/half gallon on manager's special; usually I would use sour cream or milk, but I used what I had on hand). I had just a little of each left, so I mixed them to use for work lunches.
* I made breakfast Saturday morning: buttermilk pancakes and fried eggs. I had half of the batter left and didn't want to make too many extra. I put it in a little freezer bag and tossed it into the freezer. Now I can just toss it into the frig to thaw, then clip the corner and have virtually effortless breakfast.
* I made another batch of stock. I reused the marrow bones with fresh veggie scraps. I added some herb stalks as well and it came out quite fragrant. It didn't gelatinize, but it will make a suitable soup base.

* We went out for ice cream using BOGO coupons from our entertainment book.
* We went out for a couple coffee dates, travel mugs in tow.
* We went to another gallery hop. We had such a lovely time. We ended up buying a piece, the first time either of us has purchased from a gallery. It was a beautiful piece done by a student at the art school near us. It was very reasonably priced and we were happy to be able to support a local artist. The show goes through the end of the month, so I will post a photo once we can pick it up.
* We went to the Big Book Sale at our local library. They were having a bag sale. You saved $3.50 if you brought your own bag, bringing our cost to $5 for tons of books. I got a few cookbooks, some homesteading books that were on my wishlist, a couple books on string theory and two audio books for my commute (including Wicked Bugs!). Trucker got several as well.
* My cousin got married. She was a lovely bride. I am trying desperately to get my sister and her incredible boyfriend engaged. I successfully got her to catch the bouquet (which I got photographic evidence of and told everyone was legally binding). When it came to the garter toss, the guys all stood in a half circle and watched it drop to the ground. I ran over and grabbed it and threw it at my sister's boyfriend. Should work, right? :) I took some photos at the end after the photographer had left. I got some good candid photos of my grandpa talking with my cousin about his and grandma's wedding. It is so nice to be with family.
* One day we walked around the antique mall. We spent $1 on a book for Panda, but otherwise nothing. We had a lot of fun and found some really weird things.
* We read a lot from the library. I am especially enjoying audio books on my way to work.
* We went on a double date with Daisy and hubby. We went out for pizza at a local joint during happy hour, then went to the theatre downtown for a free symphony performance. It was a lovely show, as always.
* My mom took me out for dinner one day. We had a great time talking and laughing. We went grocery shopping together as well.
I love the naturalized Grape Hyacinths.

* We went for a 2.8 mile walk at a metro park a few miles away. It was a rather warm evening. As we neared the end of the loop, we entered the pine forest. The sun was setting and shining through the trees and the scent of pine was intense. It was perfect.

* I mended a few items of clothing, including a house dress I love.
* We got our taxes done. Phew. So glad to have it done and over with (finally). We went to the same place as last year. They have a policy of not increasing your fees beyond 10% of last year's. Since we had a series of job transitions, business and health insurance switches, it would have cost almost $1000, so with the discount we saved over $500. We try to work it out so we get a tiny refund. A large refund just means you gave them an interest-free loan for the year, whereas owing at tax time is not fun.
* Trucker got some cat litter on auction for cheap. We have been finding really good, less dusty litter for the price of the cheap stuff.
* I returned some items to Menards that I didn't need. Since it had been awhile (several months...oops), I got a check to use in-store, which is fine with me since we are working on fixing up the house.
* I used a Menard's rebate to cover half the cost of a new grill cover. I still have about $60 left between the returns and other rebates.
* I redeemed my rewards points on my credit card to pay down the furnace. I made a double payment on a credit card.

Waste Reduction:
* I got rid of a purse that I have had for 7 years. It finally wore completely out. I am always satisfied when I use an item to its end.

House and Home:
* I touched up the paint in the stairway.
* I touched up some little dings in the walls from moving furniture. Whenever I notice a ding, I'm never in a position to take care of it. Finally, I grabbed the spackle and walked around the house examining all the walls. I'll touch up the paint later this week.
* We spent the better part of an afternoon working on the house together. We played some music on Spotify, sipped some tea and talked while we worked. I was astonished by how much organizing we got done. We work well together. Trucker is a fantastic partner and makes even the boring stuff better.
* Trucker rearranged the store room to free up a shelf to move into the kitchen. He put all the big kitchen appliance, such as dehydrators, slow cookers, and popcorn maker on it. This was really helpful. Previously many of those items were on top of the cabinets, so whenever I wanted to use them, I'd have to climb onto the counter (short people problems). This will be quite handy. I may line the tops of the cabinets with some of my less frequently used cookbooks.
* Trucker bought us a lot of paintings at auction. We will sell a few of them. One mixed-media piece is perfect for Panda's room. It is a musical piece with sheet music incorporated. The color even perfectly matches her room.

My grandpa was so happy to see
another grandchild get married. He
was joking and running around
hugging grandson-in-laws and laughing.
I love seeing him this happy.
* I am enjoying my job a lot. I have so much fun with my coworkers. They are really just the most lovely, kind, helpful people you could ever hope to work with. Whether it is helping with paperwork when I'm on a busy job or sharing recommendations for home repairs, they are quick to offer help. They are so fun to talk with. One of my coworkers and I have had an ongoing, in-depth conversation about the zombie apocalypse.

* Trucker got an extras part in a major movie. They had him go up north this week to get fitted. We are really excited. It's not a speaking role, but it is still his first movie. Filming is next month.
* Trucker is almost finished with another book.
* I contacted my loan officer to explore options for our eventual move. With the murder rate in our city getting very high, we are wanting to expedite our transition to the country.

Total gym visits in March: 25
Gym visits this month:
Trucker: 4
Me: 1
* Trucker's health has noticeably improved since he started going to the gym. He is even able to run now. His breathing seems to have improved and his muscle tone is better. I'm so proud of him for continuing to work so hard at his health.
* My shoulder was hurting a lot, but I started working it out again and the pain is better. I'm still super sore by the end of the week, but the pain is gone by mid-day Saturday and I'm good after that. Hopefully with continued work, I will be good as new soon.

* Daisy got a lovely gift for Panda's room. She found a lovely, large painting at a thrift store. It is beautiful and I'm so touched at how she wanted to do something special for her. Panda is going to feel so loved.
How was your week?

Monday, March 27, 2017

This Week...Beyond Money 3/20 - 3/26

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.
The grape hyacinths are back! It's really spring!

* I (finally) placed my seed order. I go in with my dad and sister each year so we all save on shipping and split some packets. My varieties for this year: Sweet Pickle (peppers, also known as Christmas Tree), Salad Bowl (loose-leaf lettuce), Red Sails (loose-leaf lettuce), Thai Oakleaf (loose-leaf lettuce), Kentucky Wonder Pole (beans). Dad and sis got Cherry Belle (radishes), Bloomsdale (spinach), Silver Queen (sweet corn), Cherokee (popcorn), and Homemade Pickles (cucumber). I will buy some seedlings this year since I don't have a good setup for growing them this year. I also want to use up some of my old seeds as well as the outrageous surplus I bought at the dollar store a month ago.
* I cleared out all of the dead plant material from the front garden beds, being careful to avoid  spots that may still have poison ivy (I'm relieved to say, that after immediately coming in, tossing the clothes into the wash, showering and scrubbing my hands and arms excessively, I seem to have escaped unscathed).
* I took care of the compost for the year. Most of the material had broken down quite nicely, but not all. I dumped one of the bins directly onto the garden bed that has had the least amendments added. I put all of the dead plant material from the front into this bin. Since I couldn't compact it, it came to almost the top of the bin. I'd forgotten to drill holes in one of the bins last fall, so when I opened it, I found a soupy mess. I shoveled a lot of the soup into the bin with the the plant material. Once it was empty enough to move without sloshing onto myself, I moved it to another garden bed and dumped it out. The third bin was the one we were currently adding to. I shoveled the un-composted material into the first bin to continue cooking; as the compost breaks down, I'll have space for more material. I used the rest of the bin to cover the remainder of the two beds. Later, I'll spread out the rabbit droppings to cover that bed and possibly half of another. I was overall rather happy with the compost. It was rich and, with the exception of the soupy bin, had great texture. It got me excited again to compost.
* I loved being able to get out into the garden again and start working. I was delighted to see that two little rosemary plants appear to be alive still, although I don't know how they could have survived the sub-freezing temps we had a handful of times.

* I made a massive batch of colcannon with potatoes from Aldi ($.20/lb), cabbage from Kroger for a St. Patrick's Day sale ($.25/lb), carrots from Aldi ($.99/lb), onion from Aldi ($.33/lb) and milk. Trucker fried up a batch of bacon. We used about 3 oz in the colcannon and saved the rest for other meals.
* Trucker made me breakfast one morning when he hadn't been able to sleep the night before. He made eggs and served with leftover colcannon and rye toast.
* I stopped at the store for a few items. One I needed was bulk popcorn. I always hit the clearance section first. Lo and behold: a 4 lb bag of popcorn for $1.99 (the best I usually find is $.99/lb). I also got a large can of clam chowder ($.79), some marrow bones (over 2 lbs for $1.39), ground hamburger for $2.39/lb and asparagus for $.99/lb.
* I made stock from the marrow bones.
* Trucker made tacos for us one evening. It was amazing. I could eat tacos every day. Trucker isn't as crazy about them as me, so I took the leftovers to work with me. I kept the container in the work frig and carried a bag of tortillas in my work bag! It was perfect and made my mornings easier since I didn't have to pack a lunch. I also couldn't be tempted by cafeteria pizza since I had a good meal (I'll chose tacos over pizza any day).
* I made vegetarian stir fry one day served over rice cooked in stock. The stir fry was a use-it-up type dish: onions, carrots, radishes, loads of cabbage, mushrooms (manager's special) and scallions (frozen, free seconds from the farm). I made extra to use for lunches.
* The next morning for breakfast I heated up some of the leftovers and served an over-easy egg on top for my breakfast. Trucker doesn't do leftovers for breakfast like I do. For him, I pan fried some colcannon and served with two over-easy eggs and a slice of bacon (leftover). Quick, easy and cheap.
* I made grilled pizza one day. We have some whole-grained, packaged mix ($.10 from the salvage grocery). It isn't amazing, to say the least. It is also incredibly filling since it is whole grain. This time, I made a batch, then used half as much dough for each pizza as usual. This ended up being perfect. The bland crust wasn't as much a distraction as usual and the texture was better. I pressed the crusts into cast iron skillets, then cooked til golden, flipped, and cooked the second side til golden. I assembled the pizzas (leftover sausage, leftover bacon, caramelized onions from the freezer and black olives) and placed them directly on the grill grates. This was amazing. I also grilled a pound of asparagus ($.99/lb from Kroger, around 1.75lbs). I am trying to make a more concerted effort to get a high level of vegetables in our diet (I've slipped since leaving the farm), so I check the sales prices at the grocery store and we eat a surplus of whatever is cheap.

Food Preservation:
* In looking at my stores, I have realized something. Now that I am crazy busy, I am much more likely to use frozen items than dehydrated items. My freezer stores are largely empty (there's some tomato sauce, greens, carrots, beets and some scallions), but my dehydrated stores are mostly intact. The main reason for this, I think, has been that Trucker makes meals for me when I'm working, and he is intimidated by dehydrated veg so he uses fresh. When I do cook, it is usually quick meals like stir-fry or pasta dishes for which I can simply dump frozen items into the pan. I had anticipated making more soups this year and I think I only did twice. I'd thought dehydrated items would be dumped in the slow cooker with stock and ready when I got home, but I'm too rushed in the morning to do so. This year, I will concentrate more efforts on freezing food as a convenience, given that I'm gone 60 hours a week for work.

My sister's cat had kittens. It has taken unbelievable willpower
to resist bringing home a little brother or sister for Ray.
* We went out with our film club to see The Founder. We all went out to dinner first. We had a BOGO coupon and meals were $8. The movie theatre is a second-run theatre, so tickets were $1.25 each. Unfortunately, we were told that it will be converted into a first-run theatre next month.
* We watched movies and read books from the library.
* We did a number of coffee dates. Once, we got a free coffee with our rewards card.

* We enjoyed a 3.8 mile walk at a local park. It wasn't the most thrilling park, but we had a good time. We enjoyed bird watching and watching an adorable squirrel with a nut in its mouth running around the trail like crazy.

* I picked up my car from my cousin. He replaced the belts, water pump, back rotors and brake pads. Parts cost $200; he charged $60 for labor.
* I picked up my earnings from the cancer thrift store/consignment. I've made $10 so far. It isn't much, but I would have otherwise donated the items anyway. Any items that don't sell become property of the thrift store. I love being able to support this cause while clearing out the house.
* We stopped at a thrift store that was having half off on sleeveless shirts. I tried on dozens, but found none that fit, were comfortable, fit with my overall style and were not too similar to items that I already have. I have become very picky about clothes, mainly because I have a really hard time getting rid of items once I own them so I am being preventative. I did, however, find two dresses, both half-off tags. One was a really nice asymmetrical dress that will be perfect for going to concerts. The other is a more fun, summer dress. I paid $5 and $2, respectively.

Waste Reduction:
* I used veggie scraps in my stock. I also tossed in some egg shells for a little calcium boost. I saved the marrow bones to use for a second batch. This batch won't be as tasty, but will still have a decent nutritive benefit. I'll use the less flavorful stock to cook rice rather than to make soup, where good flavor is more imperative. If I do decide to make soup, a few beef bouillon cubes will make a passable broth.
* We composted some things, mainly coffee grounds and the strained veggie scraps and egg shells from stock making.

House and Home:
* Trucker rearranged our bedroom. During the winter, we like to sleep on an inside wall away from the windows so we can keep the heat lower since we aren't exposed to drafts. Now the bed is right in front of one of the windows were we can enjoy that breeze and keep the air conditioning costs lower. Plus, it is always nice to have a fresh arrangement.
* I went through some of my clothes and set aside several pieces.
* Trucker sold some bulky items on OfferUp.
* Trucker found a toilet roll reserve holder on auction. It is made of metal star fish and perfectly matches the room. It was usually $20, he got it for $1.50.
* One day while I was at work Trucker did the first coat on the trim in my stepdaughter's room (hereto called Panda, because she isn't just some stepdaughter). On Sunday afternoon, we did the second coat of paint on the walls and worked on painting door frames and the window. It is starting to come together. When we went thrifting, he found a beautiful little shadowbox display that will go perfectly. I am so excited. What I want most is that when she sees the room, she knows how much we love her and want her in our lives.

* We were let go early each day this week.
* I packed a lunch each day, except one.
* This was my last week of small paychecks.

* Awhile back I shut down my Etsy store. It was taking too much time for the return. This week, I guess it became official. I started pricing my Etsy items for the antique booth. Clear em out.

Gym visits this month:
Trucker: 16
Me: 6
* I took a mental health evening. After I got home from work, I went straight up to bed, getting out only long enough to take a bubble bath. I felt much better the next day.
* Starting towards the end of last week, I've been pretty sore. Everyone says that when you start this job, you can barely walk for a couple months and I have been fit as a fiddle the entire time. Now it has hit me.
* Trucker was going through his comics and set aside a dozen or so to give my coworker. He is an amazing dad to two little boys and one of them loves comics.
* My sister wanted to do something special for Trucker for his one-year anniversary for quitting smoking. She got a calendar and put 365 stickers on it, one for each day he didn't smoke. She bought him some nice coffee and the ingredients for a chocolate cake, which my cook/baker sister made. It was so kind.
* My dad gave me some gym equipment to use at home to help with my soreness. It is a duplicate of a machine he uses that has helped him a lot for the last few years (this one was given to him by my brother-in-law). I'm excited to try it and see if it works for me too.

How was your week?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

This Week...Beyond Money 3/13 - 3/19

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 more herbs from the indoor garden. I really do love having instant access to fresh herbs whenever I want them. The oregano plant was looking pretty rough for awhile, but has exploded with new growth. The basil plants are barely growing, but I can harvest occasionally. The sage plant is pretty huge.
* Two pepper plants are alive and two are dead. One of the live ones put on a heavy load of flowers. I picked them off this time, but I think it will do well this season.

* Trucker made pasta for dinner one night. He added leftover sausage and onion to the sauce. Served with garlic toast made from bakery manager's special bread.
* We made popcorn for snacking.
* Trucker made BLTs one evening. He used bacon we got on manager's special for $1.29/12 oz, iceberg lettuce (aldi, $.99/head), tomatoes (aldi, $.99/lb) and jalapeno rolls (manager's special, $1/8 pack). While BLTs are best in summer, it was still a lovely treat. We saved half the bacon to use in other meals.
* I found eggs on sale at Aldi for $.69/dozen. I bought two dozen although I had two dozen at home already. When I got home, I used boiled the older two dozen. We used those for snacking and breakfast.
* One day I made goldenrod eggs and used about 8 eggs. This time, I sauteed half an onion in the bacon fat before making the roux so I could pretend the meal had some redeeming nutritive benefits.

* We stayed in and watched movies from the library and napped one evening. After everything that has been going on, it was perfect to get to finally relax.
* We went out and shot a couple games of pool one evening. I'm not very good, but want to learn. Trucker was patient in teaching me.
* We went out with my sister and her boyfriend for coffee at Panera. We brought our travel mugs to get a discount. We had such a good time. They are a lot of fun, and we have good conversations.
* We went to Half Price Books with half off coupons. We each got one book. Mine was Gene Logsdon's The Contrary Farmer. He got a philosophy book by an author he really enjoys.
* We took my parents out for ice cream. There is a local place with my parent's last name, so I thought it would be fun to take them there. We had two BOGO coupons, so we each paid for one of them. Total cost: $10. Not too bad for four people and we had a great time laughing with them.

* We stopped at Dollar Tree for a few essentials: a couple two-packs of toothbrushes since we have no more in storage, some pain-relieving patches ($1/20 vs. $9/60 at Kroger the day before) and some items to add to work lunches.

House and Home:
* Trucker decluttered a lot one day. He put some large items out to the curb and posted curb alerts online.
* Trucker fixed a slow drain in the bathroom sink.

* I worked some overtime to make up for lost hours.
* I packed my lunch each day.

Gym visits this month:
Trucker: 12
Me: 5

* While our car was being worked on, my parents let me borrow my dad's truck. On the way home from work a couple days later it broke down on me. I was able to get it into a parking lot and Trucker picked me up. My parents came out the next day and we fixed the truck with Dad. They brought mom's van out in case we couldn't get the truck running. While it was very cold and a bit frustrating (it was a broken serpentine belt), Trucker kept teasing my dad and we would laugh until we were almost in tears. It was kind of nice.
* We helped my sister and her boyfriend figure out some financial things to help them get ready for grown-up life. I am so insanely proud of those kids. They are being incredibly responsible to cover all their bases before moving out.

How was your week?

Monday, March 13, 2017

This Week...Beyond Money TWO WEEKS 2/27 - 3/12

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 fresh herbs from the indoor garden.
* It looks like the two thyme plants in the outdoor planters are coming back. One held up well over winter, but the other had gone quite brown. However, they are both looking nice now. I am waiting to harvest them until the cold spells are through.

* We had an easy (to prepare and on the stomach) meal of tinned chicken soup (manager's special; large can for $.49) and toast (bakery clearance, $1.50/big loaf).
* I made popcorn for our snack one evening.
* I went to the salvage grocer when I was in town visiting family. I got some great deals: Kraft mac-n-cheese for $.25/box, instant flavored grits $.10/box, toilet paper $.99/4 pack, kombucha $1.99/24 pack, tortillas $.50/10 pack, chai tea concentrate $.50/quart, espresso $8.99/5 lbs, some nice dish soap $1.50/large bottle and organic cereal $.99/box.
* I made a giant batch of homemade hamburger helper. I used one pound of ground beef, 2lbs of elbow macaroni, a large onion, a bag of diced sweet peppers (frozen, free seconds from the farm), a bag of leeks (frozen, free seconds from the farm), half a bag of scallions (frozen, free seconds from the farm), the last of two bags of cheese, the last of the sour cream and milk. I made a lot extra to use for lunches during the week.

* We went on a couple coffee dates, using travel mugs.
* Trucker's 40th birthday was this week. I took him out for an adventure. We went to the Mansfield Reformatory, where Shawshank Redemption was filmed. Tickets were usually $12 each, but I got a Groupon for $11 for two. When we got there, we had the option of adding an audio wand for $5 (BOGO), making our cost $8/person. They said it was 25 degrees colder inside the cell block than outside, and it was 33 degrees outside. Fortunately, I had some work clothes in my car, so I grabbed my work shirt, an extra flannel, jacket, work hat and my cut sleeves from the trunk. We bundled up and were reasonably warm. We bought a pair of gloves since it was so cold ($5 well spent, and we are going to give them to my step-daughter as we like to send her little gifts from our adventures). We got to learn some interesting little facts about the prison's history. We had a great time exploring and taking loads of photos (1000 between us). Before we knew it, 3 hours had passed. It was positively frigid, and I'm sure we would have spent another couple hours there if it had been warmer. I can't wait to go back!
* Afterwards, we went into town. We got pizza at a local spot ($11 for a very filling medium), walked around a book store and antique store, then got coffee at a local spot. It was a really lovely day.
* We enjoyed a couple evenings of movies from the library and popcorn.
* The day before his birthday, we went out to eat with a big group of our friends. We had a really great time.
* We went out for ice cream with a bit one get one free coupon he got in his email for his birthday.
* I took my grandpa and mom out for breakfast one day. It was great to spend a couple hours talking with them.
* We went to the gallery hop. The first Saturday of the month, an entire neighborhood becomes an art fest. The galleries offer refreshments, pop-up galleries show up in banks and street performers line the streets (as well as a group of people in raccoon and bear costumes...). It was a great, frugal night. There is something magical about walking around with other art lovers and checking out new talent.

* We went out on a couple hikes. On one, we ended up walking through some flooded areas. We were over halfway through the loop and couldn't get through another way. It ended up being pretty incredible. We found four deer lying close to the trail. They watched us for a bit, then ran off, but walked just ahead of us for awhile. Later we found a freshly killed deer. It looked like a coyote got her. It was a quite interesting little hike.

* I bought Trucker's birthday gift on Etsy. Awhile back, I found a Friday the 13th clock. I wanted to get it for him then since it is one of his favorite movies, but it was quite expensive. I looked around at several different websites and found one that was much cheaper than the original find. It is also made to order, so I was able to chose the material, paint and clock hands. He loved it. I liked being able to support a small-scale artisan rather than a big chain.

House and Home:
* I bought a used laundry basket for the bedroom. We have plastic ones in the laundry room, but nothing upstairs. I wanted something nice and this is perfect. It will look nice and help me keep things looking organized.
* We spent a couple hours together organizing the store room. We consolidated a lot.
* We took more items to the consignment store.

* I took two bereavement days and had one sick day. The day I was supposed to be back from bereavement, there was a problem at the factory and we didn't run. I've missed 4 days in two weeks. We will have a couple weeks of small paychecks, but we will make it.
* I packed a lunch each day I was hungry and didn't buy a single meal at the cafeteria.

Gym visits this month:
     * Trucker - 8
     * Me - 2
* Welp, we got ourselves a bit of food poisoning. I had to call off of work (and thus lost my attendance bonus), but we are well on the mend. We felt pretty crummy for a couple days, but honestly, the 30+ hours straight we spent in bed was kinda nice. I mean, obviously, food poisoning is a pretty awful thing, but we survived! I was thinking that even though we were sick, we were able to spend a good amount of time just lying in bed talking, watching movies and cuddling. To be able to do that pleasantly, it means that we are fortunate to have such companionship with someone we like so much. We have a bed, with warm covers, and indoor plumbing! We are financially stable enough that, although it is frustrating, we can survive the loss of income. If that is one of our crummiest days, it is a good life.
* We were rather active, except when we were sick.

* Trucker's grandma died. She basically filled the role of mother after his mom died when he was 10, so it has been especially hard on him. She was an amazing woman and the best mother-in-law I could have asked for. I was granted bereavement given the situation and we were able to go out for two days. We packed food for the road and got free breakfast at the hotel, so we only had to pay for one meal. We got a hotel outside of the city for about half the rate if we had stayed closer.

* My coworkers were happy to see me back at work. They told me a few times over the next couple days how much they'd missed me. They all signed a card for us.
* My mom came with us on our trip out of state for the funeral. That meant a lot to all of us.
How was your week?

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

This Week...Beyond Money TWO WEEKS 2/13 - 2/26

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 forgot to water my house plants for a bit and may have killed a basil plant. The rest seem to still be okay.
* I spent a good amount of time flipping through seed catalogs deciding what varieties to grow this year. I am not going to go as all out as usual, and may look for more lazy methods, but I am excited to grow. Trucker has said he will help me work it this year since I'm working so much more than usual.

* Trucker found an online auction for a restaurant going out of business. He got a HUGE box of oyster crackers, another large box of saltines, and a box of 4 giant bags of decaf coffee. Each box was $1!
* I made a big pot of beans for the work week. I used the last of the ham, two pounds of beans (pinto and kidney), 1 large onion, sauteed, 1 little freezer bag's worth of leeks, and a mix of random spices and condiments (I had a bottle of BBQ sauce that was almost empty, so I added a little of the cooking liquid and shook it up). I plucked some fresh herbs from the indoor garden to top each serving. It was quite nice.
* Trucker made pork stir fry for dinner one night, using broccoli (on sale $.99/lb), celery (half a bunch, at $.69/each at Aldi), baby carrots (half a bag, $.69/1 lb bag at Aldi) and onion. He served it over white rice.
* We had popcorn a few times as our snack. I love the air popper! There are fewer widows and we use so much less oil!
* Trucker bought a loaf of rye sourdough bread on manager's special (large loaf for $1.50). We enjoyed big slices toasted with butter and fried eggs for dinner one day.
* Trucker made me French toast for breakfast one morning. It was amazing. He made extra and cut them into dippers for a work-day lunch.

* We went out for a coffee date.
* We went out with a new friend. She taught a philosophy class Trucker took a few months ago. We had a wonderful time and have already been making plans for thrifting and biking.
* When we went out of town for an audition, we stopped at a local coffee house to read for awhile.
* We enjoyed cuddling and watching movies from the library on a couple of lazy evenings when I was exhausted after work. Trucker surprised me by checking out Fern Gully, one of my childhood favorites. It was great to watch it and seeing the origins of certain parts of my personality. The Lorax and Fern Gully were two of my favorites, and as an adult, I have always been conscious of environmental impacts of wanton consumerism.
* We found out about a health talk and free dinner in the suburbs at a restaurant I'd wanted to try. It was put on by a chiropractic practice. It was quite entertaining and informative. The dinner was good. We each had the Angus burger with blue cheese and jalapeno-pineapple glazed bacon on brioche bun with french fries and caesar salad. We got to meet some new people and had a really nice time.
* My parents called one day to say that they were in town with my aunt. The hospital had a ceremony for all the people who had died from cancer at their hospital in 2016. After the services, they met up with us for dinner. It was great to get to talk with them.

* We went out for a walk at a park near our home. We did a 2-mile loop, with a few diversions to check out the river. It was perfect weather and we had a wonderful time. We didn't see any animals, but the wild garlic and onions were everywhere! I am always excited when I see that! Another day we did a mile loop on the other side of the park.
* We took a quick, 1 mile out and back late one evening. We may have gone out a little too late, as it was getting dark by the time we got back to the car, but we needed it. We got to see lots of deer along the tree line. It is so magical to watch them.
* One day it was 74 degrees which is terrifying, really, for late February in Ohio. However, we decided to get outside since it was so nice and sitting inside worrying about the future wouldn't change a thing. We went to another metropark near our house. This one is relatively new, so it was still fresh and interesting. We enjoyed walking through the woods along the river. We got in a good 3 miles.

* I needed new jeans, since all of the comfortable and nice pairs I had had been worn to death. I went to a decent thrift store. I got three pairs: $2.99, $1.99 and $1.25. They are all comfortable, fit with my current style and in good condition. I plan to get rid of a few pairs this week, particularly the ones I find uncomfortable or frumpy.

House and Home:
* At the auction, Trucker also got a newspaper stand. After cleaning it, we will use it as a place to store our sheets and pillowcases.
* We bought a really awesome gate at auction. We will likely eventually sell it, but for now it
* We painted the walls in my step-daughter's bedroom. It is a fantastic shade of blue (her favorite color) that is absolutely perfect. A common problem I see with smaller rooms is sticking to white or very light shades, so the room has no character. That is almost as bad a problem as having it too dark and seem smaller. This is a great in-between color and once the furniture and decorations are in, it will be perfect. I remember when we moved in, we didn't have time to paint the living room. It was a dark olive color that I thought looked bad, but once we got our stuff in, I realized that it made my favorite painting pop in a way that no other home had. I am so glad we didn't paint it, as we would have chosen a light color that would have lost that coziness I adore about our living room.
* We spent a whole evening at home working on organizing. We got something to sip on, played Spotify, cleaned and took frequent breaks to laugh, talk or hug. It was a really nice evening.

* I filled out my forms for background check and had my physical. Now comes the hard part...waiting for the phone call (it can take several months or longer).
* Trucker quit his job. He is so upset and hated to make things complicated for his boss since he liked him so much. However, given his spinal health state, he had no choice. Let the healing begin!

* Trucker bought us a safe. It is a heavy duty one that is fire and water safe. The regular price was $100, he got it for $20 at auction. We have another that is not as good, but we can use the heavy duty one for the most important items and less important, but still valuable items can be kept in the other one.

* I am feeling really good about the new job. When my stepdaughter came into my life, it got me thinking about what exactly I really wanted for my future. Before, I'd always had this vague idea of simply wanting to be happy with Trucker. However, since that is such a vague concept, it is hard to grow. I started really thinking about the specifics. Basically, I came up with: enough money to not have to be scared all the time (although certainly a six figure income is not necessary), good health insurance as we age, freedom to explore, travel and try new things, and stability. Beyond that, a lot is still flexible and vaguely thought out. However, this job will provide a living wage, health insurance for both of us (some changes in the political world will likely make this cost more, but at least I won't be facing the loss of health coverage), 4 weeks of paid vacation and 15-17 paid holidays a year mean that I will still have time to travel and live, and while the job is less stable than it was when my dad started 35 years ago, it is still more stable than any job I've had previously.
* Trucker is going to be in his first movie! He is an extra, but this director often pulls out extras he likes to give them roles. He is really excited.
* He also auditioned for a commercial and said he felt it was his best audition yet. I am so proud of him.
* Trucker took an acting class at the art college. It cost more than any class he has taken before, but was an in-depth class put on by all of the big people in the industry in the state. There were a lot of casting agents in attendance as well. He said he took lots of notes.
* We went to the booth a couple times and reworked displays. We have noticed an increase in sales since Trucker has been able to go up more often.

* The doctor at my physical said I was in great shape and had an incredibly flexible spine (I stretch so much at work in any spare moment that my nickname is Stretch.) She also said that she was proud of all the changes I've made to prevent future ills. It is great to know I am on the right track.
* My resting heart rate was in the upper 80s years ago before I started running. At the physical, it was 74, so I'm doing something right.
* When we went out of town, Trucker insisted on driving (a total of 4 hours on the interstate) so he could make himself get comfortable behind the wheel again.
* Trucker ran with me in 3 or 4 short bursts while we were at the park. He said that by spring he wants us to be jogging together. I really hope this happens. I am always happier with myself when running regularly and I think that some light running would have a great benefit on Trucker's pulmonary and cardiovascular health. (Update: each time we go out for a walk/hike, at some point he takes off running and we go for a short jog).
* Trucker got a Planet Fitness gym membership. We looked into options and decided that this will be a good expense for us. Of course, you don't need a gym membership to get in shape, so it was something we delayed doing for awhile. Here is why we decided to do it: Trucker is at home alone all day while I'm at work. I'm gone for 12 hours a day, 5 days a week (soon, possibly 6). He is struggling some to adjust to being alone so much, but won't go out anywhere because he doesn't want to spend money. We are hoping that the gym membership will help by getting him out of the house and the exercise will help him with mood and motivation. The gym membership is $20/month (and a $40/year fee, so essentially $23.34/month). It is just 2 miles from home, so hopefully he will be able to go often to get out of the house. He has done so much in the past year to improve his health, despite some challenges and now that he isn't working at the auction house, he wants to make sure he doesn't lose fitness. Of course, he won't push himself past his limits. The perks to the membership are: unlimited gym use at any location (so he can use it when we travel as well), unlimited use of a massage chair (this will be nice as he continues to heal from the accident), and free hair cuts (at $12/month for a hair cut, this drops the effective price to $11.34/month. Also, he is able to take 1 guest a day for free, so I will basically get a free membership. My time is very limited these days, so I wouldn't go by myself anyway. We plan to meet up after work some days, and one day each weekend start our morning out with a brief workout. I am excited to be able to run without fear.
* Trucker is still going to the chiropractor. He was going 3 times a week for 3 weeks and will go twice a week for the next two weeks, then monthly after that. He seems to be improving physically, and it seems that is helping him emotionally.
* We learned a lot at the health lecture/sales pitch. I don't know that we would go to that practice, but we get a good amount of information to think on. Since then, I've been more conscious about my posture, and how it changes throughout the day (my posture is perfect the first quarter of the day, then diminishes as the day progresses) and have been stretching even more. We have had some discussions about when in particular we struggle with depression most. One thing we noticed was that we both tend to struggle more on days when we work at home on the computer, regardless of whether we are online and thus being exposed to the news. We talked about posture and whether hunching over as we work impacts us. I know if we go out for coffee and work on our computers, I don't struggle as much with the mood issues. However, when we are in public, I don't slouch as I do at home. These are very interesting things to consider.
* I made a silly goof that had me incredibly stressed out for a bit. The day before my physical and drug test, I pulled an Elaine Benes. I ate a lemon poppy seed muffin for lunch. As I took the last bite, the scene flashed in my mind. I pulled up a government website that said that poppy seeds....can totally make you fail a drug test. Oh no! My boss ended up calling medical and they said I didn't have anything to worry about since I hadn't eaten enough. Phew, but sheesh.

How was your week?

Monday, February 13, 2017

This Week...Beyond Money TWO WEEKS 1/30 - 2/12

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 found seeds at the dollar store and bought tons. They were $1/4! I got: radishes (4 types), basil, thyme, oregano, dill, cilantro, parsley, sage, eggplant, kale, spinach, mustard spinach, chives, scallions and several packs of flowers. Even if germination isn't great, at that price, it was worthwhile.

* Trucker was having trouble sleeping one night and decided to get up around 2:30. At 4:00, he woke me up with breakfast in bed: scrambled eggs, toast and coffee. It was the absolutely perfect way to start the day before heading to work.
* One evening, Trucker made a quick dinner of pasta and tomato sauce with onion. Another, we ate slow cooker lasagna from the frig.
* I made popcorn for a snack. I flavored mine with a zesty dip mix that was really good ($.05/ pack at salvage grocery; I use about 1/8 the packet each time).
* I found some manager's specials: a huge ham for $14 (usually $18), cereal for $1, pasta for $.50.
* Trucker made me a lovely dinner one evening: leftover ham, green beans (from storage), baked potato and salad. It was so wonderful to walk in and get to eat a yummy dinner.
* Trucker bought some manager's special muffins for me to use as work breakfasts/lunches. It was such a sweet thing. I am constantly thankful for him.
* We stopped by a salvage grocer. We found some great bargains: $3/12 oz decaf coffee, $1.50 for 12 oz coffee or coffee/chicory blend (5), 10 packs of zesty dip seasoning for $1 (I use this for my popcorn), 2 large cans of crushed tomatoes for $.20 each, 3 cans of pigeon peas for $.20 each, 5 bottles of BBQ sauce at $.25 each, 1 bottle of tartar sauce for $.25, a 2-litre of Nicaraguan soda for $.79 (we don't often have soda at home, but when we do I like to try something different), 2 jars of caviar for $4.98 each (the price has gone up at this salvage grocer, but we still consider it an acceptable price for a luxury item we enjoy and stretch), 2 bottles of magic shell chocolate sauce for $.50 each, 4 jars of pasta sauce for $.99 each ($1.25 is the sale price of the thin, weird store-brand pasta sauce; this sauce was a moderately good brand), 3 jars of pickled peppers for $.79 each, 1 can olives for $1.19, meat tenderizer for $1.99, 2 jars of dijon mustard for $.50 each and 1 can corn for $.50. We have found that sometimes items are much higher than at regular stores, sometimes we can get nicer brands for the same price as cheaper items are Aldi, and sometimes we find outrageous deals. The important thing is to know our prices well enough to know whether to stock up, or even buy an item at all.

* We went on a few coffee dates.
* We met up with some of our friends one evening. We had a wonderful time talking with everyone. When I was at the farm, I worked every Tuesday evening, so we weren't able to go out with everyone. I'd forgotten just how refreshing these evenings are.
* We went out for sundaes McDonald's one day, $2.79 date.
* We took a day trip. I had to go out of town for a job interview. Trucker decided to come out with me. Sometimes part of the interview can happen in the morning, then more happens later in the day, so he didn't want to miss out on our entire day off together. He went to a Tim Horton's for the 3 hours I was in the interview and read a book. After I got back, we went to a small town that I'd been wanting to visit with him. We explored two antique stores and a thrift store. Trucker got a pair of pants for $2.50 and I got a bunch of cookbooks to read. We used our Entertainment book to get BOGO pizzas at a local shop ($10 for two). It was a frugal trip and we had a great time, as we always do.

* One evening we went for a stroll in a historic neighborhood and oogled elaborate porches, stained glass and landscaping. It was ridiculously warm for February  (almost 60) and it had rained earlier so the air was fresh.
There really aren't words.

* Trucker bought some shorts at a thrift store for $2-3 each pair. He is now set for summer clothes. He also got a t-shirt for his daughter (as a gift later this year; new with tags $5). I got a flannel for $.75.
* I used the rewards balance from buying the furnace to pay down the credit card. The return was around $50 back.
* I bought a popcorn popper at a thrift store. Ours broke years ago, so I've just been making it on the stove top. That is all well and good, but we are concentrating on our health more now, and stove top popcorn uses a fair amount of oil to pop, and then we add butter so our flavorings of choice stick. I decided I wanted to get an air popper to save calories/fat. I found one for $2. The handle on the measuring cup is broken off, but it seems to work okay.

House and Home:
* Trucker painted the ceiling in my step-daughter's bedroom. Next step is the walls and trim. Then we can start setting it up!

* I packed a lunch each day I worked.
* We have some extra days off scheduled for the year. They are optional days off. If you chose to work, they have you do some pretty boring work, but you get paid. We talked about it and decided that i will take most of them off. It has been a rough adjustment to me being home for 60 hours a week after working a half mile from home, so this will give us somegood time together. Also, I am.earning more than I have in a very long time so even with a small loss of income, we wil be ok.  It really comes down to the whole 'whoever died regretting they didn't work more?' thing.
* I had a job interview for a better position at my company. It went well and I have a conditional offer. It can take up to a year before you get the position, or it can happen in two weeks. We will see. If I do get the job, it is more money, but I go to second shift. If I don't get it for awhile, I'll make less money, but get more time with Trucker and get to keep my team longer. Either way, I win.
* My dad and I helped Trucker out at his job (his boss was out of town and said he could hire other help if need be) since it was so overwhelming and he was hurting.

* I took a free Krav Maga self defense class. My friend is training to be an instructor and he was helping with the class. It was a great way to get a little training and start building that muscle memory. The class happens every month, so I plan to go more often.

* Trucker is struggling a lot with being extremely sore from his job. His work load has tripled and at this point is far beyond his sustainable level. We will get him into a chiropractor. He also talked with his boss about the reality of how he feels after his accident. Hopefully the job situation improves.
* He has also started dealing with the emotional side of his accident.The first month after the accident, he was bed ridden. The next month he was struggling physically and trying to get back into life. Only in the last couple of weeks has he been really facing some of the mental aspects of the ordeal. He's struggling with driving (although he is driving now) and thoughts resulting from coming close to death. I am encouraged that he is working through things, even if it isn't easy.
This doll obviously has evil intentions.
* Updates...Trucker went to the chiropractor and got his x-rays and, well, things aren't too good. He apparently has a broken jaw (How? I don't know. They said it has healed wrong), his spine is a bit of a wreck, his hips are off, and he has arthritis in his neck and back. They don't want him to go back to work because of how messed up everything is after the accident, and now two months of extreme strain from the job. So, for now, we have him set up on a chiropractic schedule and I'm going to research arthritis care. We have more work to do, but I think we are at a good place. Trucker was having a really hard time, and seems to be better now. I think knowing the cause of the pain and knowing that there are things that can be done to help has to be encouraging after being afraid that he was always going to be feeling like this. My mom is awesome and is making phone calls to friends of hers with arthritis who have been able to recover their quality of life.

* Obviously, we have some real changes coming financially due to Trucker's work situation. However, we have had a good talk about finances and frugal tactics to implement.  He will also work more at business things now that he has time and hopefully that will make up a good portion of the difference. I also have another job lined up for him if/when he recovers.

* My dad came out to help us at Trucker's job one day.

How was your week?

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Veggie Snack Box

Trucker and I are both prone to rampant snacking. Generally this is when we are either bored or hungry but too lazy to cook anything. During those times, it is all too easy to grab chips, candy or cookies. And we all know how easy it is to snarf down a while tin of Pringles in one sitting (just me?).
Daikon and watermelon radishes,
celery, purple/orange carrots
As a preventative measure I've started prepping vegetables for easy snacking. This takes the effort out of prep during those lazy moments. Simply cut everything into an acceptable snack-sizes pieces. I like to do this while doing meal prep since I already have all the tools out and am in a groove. It takes an extra minute to wash a few extra stalks of celery or chop a couple extra carrots into coins.
Tiny French Breakfast radishes can be kept whole after trimming

I use whatever I grow or whatever I find cheap. At farmer's markets and farm stands, the best bet is to get whatever is in peak season. If everyone has it, the price will be lower than if it is an early harvest. Aldi often has great bargains on produce (I often find $.25 cukes). A "foodie" grocery in my area is kind of pricey, but they have outrageous produce bargains to get you in the door (things like $.50 bunches of radishes). Sales at the regular grocery store can yield good results. If your store has a manager's special produce rack, definitely check it out; just make sure the items aren't too far past their prime. Also check the prepped produce section. I often find fantastic prices this way and the work is already done! Buy items however they are cheapest. Sometimes I find that baby carrots are half the price per pound compared to full carrots; other times it is the opposite. Sometimes the cleaned, topped and bagged radishes are cheaper than the bunches with tops; other times I buy the bunches and use the tops in my cooking greens. The important thing is flexibility. Use whatever is cheapest that you like and get a good variety so you get a broad spectrum of nutrients.
Hakurei turnips, purple carrots
white radishes

We use a wide variety and the mix is always changing: radishes, celery, cherry/grape tomatoes, carrots, sweet peppers, hakurei turnips, cucumbers, certain summer squashes, sweet peas, young green beans (this was my favorite snack as a kid on the farm. My parents always planted the green beans next to the corn. My friend and I would hide in the cornrows and sneak the beans as soon as they were a few inches long. My parents never knew why all their beans did well except that one row, every year), broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, fennel, mushrooms, baby corn, scallions, kohlrabi, winter squash (I still don't know why more people don't snack on this raw. It has great texture and incredible taste), parsnips, or even chioggia or touchstone beets (don't use the traditional red beets as they stain everything, including your fingers).

Cherry tomatoes, vine ripened, are the ultimate snack food.
I keep most items mixed together in a container in the refrigerator. The exception to this is tomatoes. I refuse to use tomatoes larger than a large cherry since those require refrigeration after cutting and refrigerated tomatoes are an abomination. Tomatoes are washed and then kept in a cute shallow bowl on the counter.

It is more convenient to grab one of these containers and head back to the desk rather than to get a bag of chips (which I conveniently keep at the very top shelf near the ceiling so it can barely be reached without fetching a step stool). If we are going to take a road trip, we grab a large container and will easily hit our 3-5 servings by the time we arrive at our destination. Sometimes we will pile a bunch of items on a plate and watch a movie, while munching on crunchy snacks that aren't loaded with salt and fat. It also helps if I am making dinner in a hurry. The veggies are all chopped to roughly the same size, so it is nothing to toss into a skillet to saute and  serve over rice or pasta, toss into stock for an easy soup, or toss with olive oil and seasoning for a quick side of roast veg.

Our epic date night snack while playing board games:
 lunchbox peppers, Hakurei turnips, purple carrots,
 pickled Jimmy Nardello peppers, watermelon radishes,
cheddar cheese,  some caviar we found for a whopping $1.99
at the salvage grocer and  some store brand crackers.
This has helped us get a lot more produce into our diet, while at the same time reducing the unhealthy snacks that are too easy to indulge in. I've also found that since we use items we grow or find cheaply, it is much cheaper than any other snack food. We love the convenience and knowing that we are actively creating a healthier future with lower medical bills.
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