Thursday, November 24, 2016

Frugal Snacks: English Toffee

Every winter, I read over my copies of The Tightwad Gazette I, II, and III. They revamp my commitment to frugality, give me new ideas and help me think more creatively about my daily doings.

While I was rereading them, I found a recipe for English toffee that for some reason I hadn't tried, and wow! I can't believe I haven't been making this before!  It is unbelievably easy, frugal and delicious. Here is the basic recipe, along with ideas for changing it up a bit for variety. This is a great, easy snack to whip up for dessert, for company coming over or to give as a gift.

* 1/2 cup butter
* 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
* 1/2 cup chocolate chips (or shaved chocolate of any sort)
* Optional: nuts such as almonds, walnuts, peanuts, etc, chopped.

Grease a 8x8" baking dish (or use whatever baking dish or pie plate you want. Bigger will give a thinner toffee, smaller will give a thicker hunk of candy). If you want to add nuts to the toffee, sprinkle them on the bottom of the dish.

Over medium heat, cook the butter and brown sugar, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula. Remove from heat immediately once it starts to smoke (7-9 minutes). Be extremely careful not to spill this super-hot mixture on anyone as it will burn like the dickens. Don't allow to cook after it starts to smoke or it will burn. Immediately pour the toffee mixture into the baking dish. Spread with the spatula as needed to cover the bottom. Add chocolate chips to the top and cover with a plate or cookie sheet so the chocolate will melt. Once it has melted, spread smooth with a knife or spatula. Garnish with more nuts if you want.

Allow to cool completely. Once cool, break into pieces. You can score the toffee while it is still hot to try for more even pieces, but I never bother.

This stuff is addictive and lovely. It is a great gift item. For me the cost is very affordable. I buy butter when it goes on sale for $2/lb, so the cost is $.50. I buy brown sugar for $1.50/2 lbs. Each pound contains about 4 cups, so the cost is around $.14 for the sugar. For the chocolate, I used some semi-sweet baking cocoa squares that I got at the salvage grocer for $.99/4 oz. I used half of it, so that cost $.50. So not including nuts, I spent $1.14 for a batch of candy.

Variations and ideas (Use plain toffee without chocolate if desired):
* Don't add chocolate to the top. Once toffee is cool, break into pieces and dip into melted chocolate, either completely or just half for pretty presentation. Or you could drizzle with dark, milk or white chocolate (or with some of each).
* QUICKLY drop the hot toffee mixture into circles on a baking sheet for pretty round candies that can be decorated with chocolate, nuts, etc.
* You could use sprinkles on the melted chocolate for decoration.
* Use small broken pieces as an ice cream topping.
* Add broken pieces to milk shakes for a Blizzard type dessert (Heath candy; caramel apple, etc).
* Pour toffee and then chocolate over saltine crackers.
* Add coconut and/or dried fruit.
* Pour into candy molds for adorable gifts.
* Make into candy bars.
* Add bits to brownies or cookies or to decorate a cake.
* Pour over pretzels and peanuts.
* Add M+Ms to the top of the melted chocolate.
* Add to cookies or shortbread
* Add to homemade ice cream
* Add bits to the top of a caramel apple cheesecake.
* Add bits (without chocolate) to banana bread
* Add bits to biscotti (or use to garnish after dipping in chocolate)
* Add bits to caramel popcorn.
* Use bits to garnish chocolate dipped pretzel sticks
* Use bits to garnish cake pops
* Add to caramel apple scones
* Add bits to cinnamon roll filling

This is an easy introductory recipe to candy making, so feel confident. I've made it a dozen times and only once did it not work perfectly (and that time I was trying to quadruple the batch, so I think that was the issue). It makes a perfectly delicious and frugal gift.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

This Week...Beyond Money 11/14 - 11/20

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.

Food Preservation:
* 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).

Waste Reduction:
* 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! 

How was your week?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

This Week...Beyond Money 11/7 - 11/13

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 couple peppers from the indoor garden.
* I fed the bunnies some seconds produce. One rabbit HATES fennel, and the other likes it.

* One day for dinner, we lay in bed and nibbled on cheese and crackers (nice cheeses from our last two trips and store brand crackers, hakurei turnips, watermelon radishes, Dragon carrots, lunchbox sweet peppers, candied Jimmy Nardello's peppers and vodka lumpfish Xavier (we found it at a salvage grocer for only $2!). I served with a bottle of sparkling pomegranate soda ($1.50 at Big Lots). it made for a fantastic and cheap date night in, complete with backgammon and talking.
* I made colcannon.

Food Preservation:
* I dehydrated lots of sweet peppers.
*I dehydrated boiled beets.

* We went to the library's book sale with Daisy. it was the last day so it was a clearance sale: everything you can fit in a huge bag for $5. In addition to getting items to sell, we got some books to give as gifts, I got a couple programming books. Trucker sneaked in a couple gifts for me: the complete series of my favorite British tv show and a big book of 5 of M.F.K. Fisher's books. afterwards we went to Starbucks for their bogo special on holiday drinks.
* Trucker and I had a coffee date at Starbucks for their bogo sale.

* We used the car's tags for the van. For title, taxes and tags transfer, it only cost $56. I was expecting much more than that.
* I paid an extra $150 on the credit card.

Waste Reduction:
* I composted random things.

House and Home:
* Trucker has been working on little projects throughout the house.
* Trucker moved around our paintings and it looks great. He also got a fantastic tapestry in a ridiculously gawdy gold-colored frame at an auction awhile ago for $7. His research indicates late 1800s, but we hesitate to think we got that good a deal. At any rate, it looks incredible and the frame alone is worth way more than $7 just from the sheer size of it. He hung it in the bedroom where it really makes a statement on the far wall. He moved the painting that was on that wall to the exterior wall and got rid of the awful sunflower print I hated. Now there is only one repop piece in that room, a rather jolting seascape that we both are bothered by, but like. The house is coming together! Absolutely nothing makes me happier in home decorating than good artwork. Over the years, we have built up a rather impressive collection, to the point where we can rotate pieces and have themes in different rooms. Not including my pieces (which as soon as we moved in, Trucker hung along the stairs and hallway), we have around 25 original paintings, and a few choice prints.
* We stopped by the hardward store for some winterizing materials.

* This was my last week at the farm. It was heartbreaking. I made it out without crying all week, but by the end of the weekend my heart hurt. I gave cards to everyone at the farm and they gave me a lovely one. The boss took us out for fancy pizza at a restaurant we sell to. It was a nice way to end the season, although I miss them already.
* I took home a fair amount of seconds: sweet peppers, beets, radishes, turnips , scallions, carrots, kale (curly and lacinato), collards and Swiss Chard.
* I got a new job. It is working as a package handler for a shipping company. It is not my dream job. It is also part time, however, there are a couple redeeming factors. First, if you just show up every day, they give you a $125 bonus EACH WEEK. It is 2.4 miles away (I keep complaining that my commute is now six times as one feels sorry for me), so the wake up time isn't awful and I will be out no later than 10 AM on a bad day (and sometimes much earlier). I'll get overtime during the holidays; all hours over 5 in one day are overtime. So all told, it may be okay. Also, since it is union, after a year, we would get health insurance. Especially given the fact that we are worried about losing our plan, I need to do whatever it takes to get us covered through a job. The other benefit, should I stick around, is that they provide education benefits: $2600/semester up to $25,000 lifetime benefit. Not a shabby part-time job.
* I worked a few days for Trucker's job. I like his boss/boss's wife, so it is a fine way to spend some time. We have a lot of fun for being at work. One day as we unloaded the truck, we found some 90 lb weights, so I was running around with them. When I took my farm physical test, I struggled to lift 50 lbs. Now I can carry 90 lb weights across a warehouse. That made me feel tough as nails.

* Trucker took a free acting class put on by a casting agency he has worked with. The class was two hours away. We drove up together and I dropped him off. I went to a Panera and got a coffee (with travel mug) while I waited.

* Trucker is doing much better. No signs of concussion anymore. His chest is feeling much better as well, 2-3 pain level.

* I asked my boss if I could pick some extra produce for one of my clients that I had been close to. She is one of the most incredible people I've ever met, and I was bummed I missed her the last week of the farm stands. I wrote a card for her. I stopped at the grocery store and got her a pack of ham hocks to go with the collards. It was so great to get to see her. She sent me home with a piece of pumpkin pie from our pumpkins that was "big enough for you and hubby". I am going to miss her presence in my life each week.

How was your week?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

This Week...Beyond Money 10/31 - 11/6

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 several hot peppers from the indoor garden (what with my insane schedule, I haven't been able to pick off the flowers fast enough and next thing I know, I have full-grown peppers!).

* One evening Trucker made pork chops and green beans for dinner. The next, I pan-fried the last two pork chops and served with candied carrots (a mix of orange, white and purple from the farm; free seconds), Colcannon ($.15/lb potatoes-2, a bunch of green curly kale, free from the farm), pan gravy (using the leftover milk from dipping the pork chops and a pinch of flour) and half a mini bagel each (I didn't have bread, so I made do with some mini-bagels in the freezer; $.29/bag of 24, so about half a penny per serving). It was amazing.
* I forgot to grab milk and bread at the grocer, but knew if I went back I would get a lot of stuff. So I made milk from the nonfat powder I had on hand (given to me from my mom; her friend got them with her diet plan, but hates it) and used a bag of mini bagels from the freezer. When we need to save money, substitutes, hacks and make-do's are the key to avoiding spending.
* I went to my salvage grocer. My deals this time included: chai tea concentrate ($.39/quart), evaporated milk ($.10/can), flavored instant grits ($.10/box; basically just wanting to have some on hand for lazy days when take out is tempting), a variety of organic cereals ($.25-.50 a box), toilet paper ($1.49 per double-roll 4-pack; 100% post-consumer recycled material...*cue bathroom jokes about recycled toilet paper*), seltzer water ($1.99/50 cans in a case), gatorade ($.59, Trucker loves having gatorade on hand and it helps him drink less coffee/beer, so it is a totally fine beverage)
* I have been lazy overall in cooking this week. Basically, most nights I have just cooked some tortellini, then tossed with sauteed onions, peppers and greens (what I've gotten free from the farm) and either mornay or tomato sauce.

Food Preservation:
* Once Trucker was allowed off of bed rest, I slowly eased him back into things (when I left the house, I think he pushed himself harder, but he is a grown man, so I can only do so much). One of the early things I let him do was help me preserve food. We assembly lined our peppers. I cleaned and sliced the peppers. He sat and assembled them on trays. He took a few breaks, but it helped me a lot and got him out of the bedroom.
* I made two types of hot sauce. One was made with Bangkok Thai chiles and has the most intense orange-y red color. The other was a use-it-up sauce made from Jalapenos, Black Hungarian Hot Wax, Serrano and Padron peppers. Basically, everything in the frig that wasn't a bright cheery red. Honestly, it looks pitiful but is tasty enough.

* Since Trucker has to limit screen time, we've taken to cuddling in bed while I read science-fiction short stories aloud. It is such a peaceful way to pass the time, and there is nothing that quite compares to him falling asleep in my arms while I read to him.
* We also play sorry or backgammon every night. Somehow he has kicked my butt every time. We were joking at the hospital that he had "hit his head and now can speak perfect Swedish". Now we are saying that with his accident, he has gained incredible board game skills.
* We have been going out on walks almost daily to get him out of the house. He gets so stir-crazy stuck at home, so a little .5-1.5 mile walk means the world to him, without being a big stressor.
* I took him out for Baskin Robbins one evening since we had a BOGO coupon.
* We went out to the Audubon to read one day instead of going to a coffee house for our coffee date. We brought our own coffee and read on a park bench.
* I took my sister out for coffee after the viewing. We hadn't been able to hang out for a long time, so it was nice to catch up. I had a free pastry on my rewards card, so we split that.

* We went on walks most days. Trucker was having a really hard time being stuck at home all the time. To keep him from being so bored he got online, I took him out to a park just down the road. We would walk for 5-10 minutes and stop long before he got tired. It was fantastic to see the fall colors and sunsets.

* I sold the car. First thing after work on Monday, I started making my phone calls. I arranged to sell the car to a local auto-parts store for $100 (higher than the $75 I was quoted everywhere else) with free towing from the impound lot to their location. We arranged that they would drop the car out front so I could get tags/personal items when I got there after work. The fees to get the car out of the impound lot was $125. Since the accident happened on a Friday, and I took care of it on Monday, I did't have to pay the $56 storage fee. They also said after I paid the fees, I had 24-hours to have the car removed. I went out to the car and took out Trucker's personals. I won't post the photos because it is pretty graphic. The woman said that when she saw it, she was certain that no one could have survived that. They dropped it in the back and a couple of the guys took the tags off. I think they didn't know I'd seen the car and didn't want me to have to face seeing the car where perhaps a loved one had died. I wanted to get some personal items out of it, and she walked out with me. I was so touched by her kindness and the kindness of the few guys I talked with there. I do so love seeing the goodness in people. I brought them donuts one morning to say thanks.
* I will use the tags from the car on the new vehicle.
* I got Trucker's cell phone because as I have to go back to work/out of town, I need to be able to check on him. He got on my parents' family plan for $15. His phone was $7 a month, but since he got it that week, he gets a $7/month credit, so it is free with a 24 month contract. While we will have to pay off his phone on the old plan ($120, but we still would have had to do so before getting him a new phone on that plan), he will save $65 a month for the same amount of data and a slightly better network. He has a Samsung now, instead of the iPhone he had before, but he says he likes his new phone.
* I got a $16 check from the insurance company to pay for medicine and ice pack for Trucker.
* I deposited my $100 check from the car and my mileage checks from work into savings. I'll try not to touch them, but it is good to know I've got that little bit extra.
* I realized I have more in savings than I thought I did. I vaguely remember making a large deposit at an ATM intending to make a few car payments to get ahead, but then wasn't able to transfer the money over the phone. So I wrote another check to pay in person later. The amount was more than our mortgage payment, so it is fantastic to know that I have that emergency-fund. I'd already prepaid the mortgage a month, so we are set on that for a bit.

Waste Reduction:
* I composted lots of things.

House and Home:
* Since Trucker has to limit screen time, he has taken to tidying up and taking care of some organizational tasks. It is looking great and I'm thankful for him.
* I will say, this whole thing has given me renewed gratitude for Trucker. For the first week, I took care of most of the housework, which has traditionally been his realm (I generally work more outside the home, and he takes care of more home tasks, mainly because I am inept at them). He really takes care of a lot of things. I will definitely be more mindful in the coming weeks because I frankly don't know how he does it.

* I worked 3 days at the farm. One day was a short day. I got to take home a few seconds, but not as many as I used to.
* I worked one day at Trucker's job. I love his boss and boss's wife, so basically it is a fun way to get a workout (and workout I did!).
* I have a job lead. Find out next week if it is going to work. If not I'll be hitting a job fair. A friend is a manager at a restaurant where I used to work; she said if I need to I can always work there for as long/short as I need as much as I need. So kind of her.

* We have definitely had a major setback. It will take us quite awhile to get back to where we were, but we are scrappy. We have always been able to get through horrible things, as long as we are together. Already, we have rather seamlessly slipped back into our old methods. Reading at the park, instead of at a coffee house ($3.19 savings), ate from the pantry instead of buying groceries, getting utilities lowered. We really are a great team, and I'm sure we will get through. I mean, back during the recession, we made a combined $1250 a month with $850 in rent and somehow were never late for a bill. We can pull some rabbits out of hats.
* We made some good sales at the booth, fortunately.
* I know this sounds silly, but one of my friends works in the field that I was considering going into. She contacted me to see how we were doing, and we got to talking. She said that I should definitely look into online learning opportunities and go from there, rather than jump into an expensive education. It encouraged me a lot. I still don't know if I will ever make this particular career change, but this gave me back a glimmer of hope, a bit of a feeling that maybe there is a good future out there.

* Trucker is recovering well, thankfully. His head was grotesque the night of the accident. Over the last week, he has gotten all of the glass out and the main cut/scraped area is now clean, smooth skin. He says his pain level is down from the 8-9 it was a few days after the accident, to a 4-5, as long as he doesn't laugh or sneeze. The main source of pain still is the chest from the seat belt. His brain is pretty sharp, but he is getting back into the swing of things slowly. Perhaps not as slowly as I wish he would, but better than I thought he would. I have been giving him supplements to aid healing, multivitamin, iron supplements (to help with previous health issue; slightly higher dose after the accident since he lost a lot of blood), and feeding him very well. I like to credit my careful diet moderation and supreme Neosporin application techniques for his quick recovery.
* I've been binge eating, which is apparently how I deal with things now. I know it isn't healthy, and towards the end of the week, I got it more under control. Hope to do better next week. I think my will/brain just broke this week, and I'm pretty much ok with doing whatever it takes to make it through this, and later I'll deal with the other complications. Rationalizing, sure, but considering most days it is hard to get up and deal with all the things I have to, I am okay with that.

* Still waiting to see how this all pans out. I've had a couple of really rough days, but overall am ok. Ever since the accident, my life is running from work to errands to home for thousands (or so it seems) of phone calls to more errands. I basically go into robot mode to get it all done because there is no time to think, no time to feel, just do. This is punctuated by hours where I collapse and sob. The realities of what has happened breaks my heart and terrifies me. We have been through some scary and hard times before, but this has been different. Every time I leave or hang up the phone with him, I overthink every word I say. I am terrified my last words to him will be "Goodbye" instead of "I love you." It has been crippling in a lot of ways. He is going through lots of intense emotions. Coming that close, being cooped up indoors, restricted actions, not being able to work or drive, it has been rough on him. He is usually pretty good to a point and then isn't. I've been trying to be mindful of what he is going through. Even if I am exhausted, I try to always take him out for a bit when I get home, since he has been cooped up inside with no personal interaction. Also I am trying to find that fine line between careful reminders to nagging.
* The night of Trucker's accident my cousin died. I made it to the viewing one evening, but not the funeral because Trucker was still needing to be attended to. It was an hour+ drive away. It was so hard seeing my uncle, aunt and cousin deal with this unexpected tragedy. It seemed that the entire family is experiencing a period of unrelenting struggle. We were all drained and heartbroken, but were there for each other, in a beautiful way we always are.
* I have one more week at the farm. I am heartbroken. Not much more to say beyond that.

* Trucker's boss sent me home with a free office chair that was returned (for having no arms...but it seems perfectly fine). His wife sent me home with four bags of chips that Trucker likes. I gave them a few cans of seltzer that I got for cheap.
* My parents bought a van for us. Their friend was selling a decent 20-year-old van for $900, but he accepted their offer of $700. He cleaned it out really well and it runs nicely. They said we can pay them back when the job/medical situation gets figured out. They really saved us because it would have limited where I could work if we had to go back to one car.
* My coworker wanted to make us dinner, but she isn't feeling 100%. She gave us a gift certificate for a chain restaurant. The meals there are enough to feed the both of us, so it is enough for 4 dinners. It was so kind of her.
How was your week?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

This Week...Beyond Money 10/24 - 10/30 TWO WEEKS

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 has been a rough week for us. Trucker had a car accident. He will be okay, but it has been rough. He hit the median on the highway and flipped the car a few times before landing upside down. Somehow he managed to get himself out of the car and was walking around. He got someone to let him use their cell phone to call me. He ended up having to have a 4-inch Y shape sewn in the back of his head (we think from when he unbuckled and fell into the broken sunroof) and has a concussion. No internal injuries/bleeding and just a lot of tiny cuts from broken glass and two lacerations that could have used a stitch of two but he said he'd prefer not). He has some swelling, but it seems to be controlled with ice. We aren't sure yet what will happen, and are taking it one day at a time.

I went out to pick up a hot pad and his meds. When I came home it really hit me how close I came to not hearing him cry out my name as soon as I walk in the door. So for today, he sleeps, and I sit next to him and hug him often (but not too hard because he is still sore).

I have forgotten a lot of things that have happened over the last two weeks, but will do the best I can.
* Some of the electric infrastructure was replaced in our area. They had to drive some big machinery into the yard, and right over my garden. It tore down everything and compacted the soil some, but it will be fine.
* I bought garlic to plant. I went to two farmers markets pricing things. Most places were selling garlic for $2-3 a bulb. I finally found someone selling satisfactory heads for $.50 each with volume discount. I got 14 heads for $5.
* I harvested bits of herbs to use in cooking from the indoor garden.

* I made tomato soup from scratch using tomato puree I put up earlier this season.
* Trucker made lunch of fried chicken, soup and salad.
* We had popcorn as a snack a few times. We don't load it with butter, and use random seasonings. It is a frugal and relatively healthy snack. Certainly better than chips.
* We ate some salvage grocer squash soup with toast.
* We made tacos. I reserved half of the meat before seasoning to use for another meal. I used a bit of enchilada sauce, as this is much cheaper than using seasoning packs for us. We served with lettuce from the farm, homemade pickled peppers and radishes (am I the only one that LOVES radishes with tacos?), homemade Hungarian Hot Wax pepper sauce, salsa (salvage grocer), black olives and sour cream. The tortillas were from the freezer; I'd frozen several packs when I found them for $.25/pack.
* A couple nights later I made enchiladas and cleaned out the frig a bit: leftover meat, refried beans, random veggie leftovers, the last of a jar of salsa, etc.
* I've been making hot black cocoa instead of coffee lately, and lemme tell you, it is amazing. I use unsweetened black cocoa. It has a fantastic flavor and I much prefer it to coffee or hot chocolate. I add just a hint of brown sugar and use straight hot water, no milk.
* We had baked sweet potatoes (free from the farm) with butter, salt and pepper for dinner one evening. Perfect.
* I found tortellini on sale for $.75/box. My stock up price is $.99, so I bought 12 boxes. We had it for dinner one evening with mornay sauce and sauteed vegetables (onions, garlic, peppers, kale and spinach, all free from the farm or garden).

* We went out for a coffee date with travel mugs and free refills. We got a free pastry, using our rewards card.
* We checked out books and movies from the library.
* We took a road trip last week. Last year Trucker ordered tickets for a conference. Tickets were usually $65 each, but he got them for $30 each. We got a hotel from ($120, special for $57, and earned a night towards a free one). We packed loads of snacks and drinks from home (salvage grocer or homemade) and a tub of veggies to snack on (celery, radishes, hakurei turnips, cherry tomatoes, carrots). We brought a thermos of coffee so we only had to stop one time on the way there. We ate a good breakfast before leaving, and packed PB&J sandwiches. We left early Friday and got to the conference by 1. We enjoyed the conference, then we were on our own for dinner. We found a hole-in-the-wall place selling sandwiches for $7 each. We each got a sandwich and shared half. Afterwards, we found a bar that had $1 beers, so for $17, we had our dinner out. After dinner was a debate and some socializing. The next morning, we had breakfast at the hotel (omelets, waffles, sausage, cereal, fruit and juice) and then went swimming. We got a nice little work out and got to stretch our limbs a bit. On the way home, we passed through Waukegan, IL: childhood home of Ray Bradbury (my favorite author). We got to see his childhood home, the library that inspired Something Wicked This Way Comes, and the Ray Bradbury park. We found the ravine that I suspect was what inspired The Lonely One. In that story, women are being murdered in the ravine that cuts through the quiet little town. When we got to the bottom of the ravine, we found a woman's shoe! Spooky! For dinner, we stopped at a Panera Bread. We had a free you-pick-two on my card, so we split that. Coupled with snacks in the car, it sufficed. Overall it was a very frugal trip and we had a blast.

* We both got our hair cut when the salon was having a sale. It cost $6.99 each instead of $13.99. We tipped well, but it still was a bargain. We were both satisfied with the quality of the cuts.
* Trucker's cell phone disappeared during the accident. He still owes $120 on it. He isn't under contract, so I will likely pay off the cell with my card and get him on my family's plan. The cell will be free with a two-year contract and will cut his bill from $80 to $35. He currently can't receive phone calls or texts, which I guess is fine since he isn't supposed to use screens for awhile.

Waste Reduction:
* I composted some random things such as dryer lint and pasta boxes (plastic window thrown out, but cardboard torn up).

House and Home:
* We worked together to organize some rooms upstairs. Trucker worked on the storage room (for items we plan to sell) and I worked on a room that we are converting into a secret-special-project (hopefully soon I can announce; but no I am not pregnant!)

* I worked extra hours to make up for day off.
* I took home seconds: arugula, peppers (sweet and hot), eggplant (Thai and fairy tale), turnip, beets and carrots.
* I worked Trucker's shift one day so he could recover, but his boss wouldn't have to handle the pickup all by himself. I also wanted to make sure Trucker had some money coming in.

* Trucker got a clean bill of health in regards to the issue going on all summer. This happened a day and a half before his accident. So frustrating. Hopefully he recovers with no lasting effects. I'm very nervous and over-analyzing everything trying to make sure I don't miss something and have him get very sick. I've never cared for anyone going through something similar, so I am completely out of my league. Fortunately, one of my friends is a MD and Trucker's boss used to be a firefighter and an EMT before that, so I've been hassling them a lot.
* My diet has been crap. I've basically been comfort eating since the accident.

* We still have no idea what will happen with the medical stuff. Taking it a day at a time and trying not to worry about it before we know what is happening.
* We went to an open house for the school I was thinking of going to and both came away with a bad vibe. If I'm going to pay through the teeth to go back to school, I need to be sure I am making a good decision. I'm disappointed, because I've been enjoying my personal education, but know without a degree or some sort of education, a career is unlikely.
* This was my last full-time week at the farm. I will work part-time for another two weeks.
* After that, I will be starting a part-time job. It should pay enough (maybe?) until I figure out next steps. I am considering whether to just go back to the factory and have done.

* It was really great to see how everyone was there for us during this time. From my boss who drove me to the hospital and called later to check on him, to his boss who called this morning just to make sure he was still okay, to my parents who drove over an hour each way to sit with us at the hospital, to all the friends wishing him well and offering to help.
* Steve's boss sent me home with a bag of cat food and his wife sent me home with bags of chips.
How was your week?
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