Frugal Living

Frugal Friday

Good morning from sunny Wisconsin.  It has been an absolutely gorgeous week.  Summer is finally here.  Our gardens are bursting already, the bees have been very busy and the chickens are doing what they do best, wander around aimlessly.

We continue to stay close to home.  I know that the Trumpster has declared that if we would just stop testing, the virus would disappear (honestly, you can’t make this stuff up).  But, that doesn’t seem like rational science to us, so we are going to continue to hunker down.  I have resumed running errands, always with a mask and social distancing.  I also go to work, but the library director has made sure that we operate safely at all times.  I feel safe at work.

We had some frugal wins this week.  Here is our list.  What did you do to save some cash?

  1. I bought a flat of strawberries and made some jam and froze the rest for future use.
  2. We have been eating a lot from the backyard already.  Lots of salads, pestos and eggs.  Our CSA has already started to deliver and I have been very good about making sure that we eat everything from the box.  I haven’t thrown anything away yet.  I did give the kohlrabi to the neighbor.  Because kohlrabi is gross.
  3. I have been making sun tea with my backyard peppermint.  It takes a lot of mint to make a tasty tea, but it’s worth it.
  4. We have started having Sunday dinners with my son, his girlfriend and my daughter’s boyfriend again.  Sunday afternoons spent on the patio with a cool cocktail and an early dinner.  We have a lot of laughs and it’s free.  Last weekend we played some card games as well.
  5. It has been warm, but we have avoided turning on the air conditioner by keeping the drapes closed in our bedrooms and running the fans.  We are not opposed to turning the air on if needed.  But, because it has been getting cool at night, we haven’t seen the need.  Yet.

It was a really good week around here.  After months of feeling blah because of the world situation and feeling a little claustrophobic, things turned around.  I don’t know exactly what tipped things in the right direction.  But, here we are.  Happy Friday friends.

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Frugal Living

Frugal Friday

What did you do to save money this week?  Here is our list of money saving things that we did.

  1. Our first CSA box will be delivered today.  It’s a good variety of vegetables that will get us through the week.  We have our greens and asparagus from the garden that will supplement the CSA veggies.  The cost of the CSA is $30/week.  We will buy very few, if any vegetables from the grocery store now until the fall.  I will make exceptions for tomatoes and avocados.
  2. Our seafood box from Sitka Salmon Shares came on Thursday.  This is not a frugal buy, but so worth it, in my opinion.  Sitka Salmon Shares provides quality, sustainably harvested seafood.  It is delivered to your door from fishermen in Alaska.  They send enough every month that our family has enough to feed us seafood once a week for an entire year.
  3. I won a seafood seasoning spice mix from an online contest.  Enter those contests!  I win stuff on a semi regular basis.  It’s always fun to get those packages in the mail.
  4. We signed up for a complimentary subscription to Starz. We have seriously gotten addicted to Outlander.
  5. I finally ventured out of the house to Walgreens and took advantage of several buy one get one free specials.
Books

Book Review-The Audacity of Hope

Since the president of the United States has decided that a worldwide pandemic is the time to create more distractions for the American people, I felt that reading The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama would be the perfect antidote.  It is no secret, I love Barack Obama.  I think he was a great president.  He is eloquent, well educated and appears to be a very caring man.  When he led the United States, the world respected us.  The United States was a leader.  Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

I don’t like to use my blog for politics, as I know it can be a polarizing topic, especially in these times.  BUT, the last couple weeks have been, for lack of better words, a shit show in this country.  I have yet to even figure out what Obamagate is.  Since Trump cannot actually give us a clear definition, he doesn’t know either.  Face masks have become some really strange political symbol that has resulted in murder here.  But, the most shocking thing, Trump suggested people ingest bleach, yes bleach, to treat COVID.  What the actual F—?   Anyway, here is my Goodreads review of The Audacity of Hope.  After reading it, I felt that yes, there is hope that once this over, we will return to normal.

Five stars! The Obamas deserve nothing less than five stars on anything, in my opinion. But, that set aside, like Michelle, Barack has a gift for writing and speaks with eloquence. His ideas in this week, while they predate his presidency, are as relevant today as they were in 2008.

I listened to this on audio. I felt a odd sense of comfort hearing his speak. He is a man with empathy, great intelligence and aware of his faults. I miss the Obamas in the White House and the sense of safety I felt when he was our president.

Disclaimer: I will not respond to and will delete any disrespectful comments.

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Books

Book Review-The Red Lotus

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This was a timely book to read during the COVID pandemic. I won’t give spoilers, but the story is about a potential pandemic due to  biological warfare. The book was released on March 17, 2020.  I wondered while reading what the author thought about the timing of it’s publication.  I know that for myself, I had been told we would be off work for the foreseeable future and that home would be where I needed to stay.  It was a bit of an eerie read from that standpoint.

Alexis goes to Vietnam, with her boyfriend, Austin for a bike trip. While there, Austin dies and questions arise as to why they were really there. It becomes clear that a bike trip was only a cover for something very sinister. Austin is not what he appears to be and neither is his inner circle. I found myself questioning every single person Alexis came into contact with upon her return home. No one is above suspicion.

Like always, Chris Bohjalian has a fascinating story to tell. The Red Lotus, like The Flight Attendant, has a flawed female protagonist that you find yourself liking, in spite of her bad decision making. Five stars!

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Frugal Living, Recipes

Sourdough Waffles

I had some leftover sourdough starter and being a person who hates to waste food, I decided to make some waffles for this rainy Sunday morning.  They aren’t pretty, but they sure were delicious.

Sourdough Waffles

1 cup of sourdough starter

3/4 cup warm water

1 cup flour

2 eggs

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp sugar

1tsp baking soda

cooking spray

Whisk together starter, water and flour.  Add whisked eggs and stir.  Add salt, sugar and baking soda and stir together.  Cover and let stand for about 20-30 minutes.  Heat up waffle iron and grease it.  Pour a ladle full on your iron and cook until golden brown.  Made 4 waffles for us and they were delicious!

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Frugal Living

Frugal Friday

Happy Friday friends!  I woke up at 5:45 this morning to a relatively sunny sky and the birds were chirping.  Summer is coming!  Our heat is turned off and the windows will be wide open today.  I LOVE this time of year.

We had some frugal wins this week.

  1. When my daughter started middle school, I put $25 in her hot lunch account, in case of an emergency.  Monday morning, I woke up to find a $25 deposit into our checking account for money never used.  She did in fact use some of her money. But it appears that her brother who graduated in 2016 and sister in 2017 did not use all of theirs.  So, after everyone graduated we got our money back.  I know, $25 isn’t much, and it was forgotten.  But, it was a nice extra surprise.  Proof that my kids really did not like hot lunch.
  2. I used reward points this month to apply to credit card payments.  Those rewards were over $100.
  3. I perfected my bread recipe and made jam.  My daughter made a grilled goat cheese and rhubarb jam sandwich.  She told me it was the best sandwich she has ever had.
  4. We will be staying home now, more than ever.  The great state of Wisconsin lifted the safer at home measure with absolutely no guidelines.  So the drunks, who put Wisconsin on the map, flooded the bars on Wednesday.  Those of us who followed the rules, will now have to start this entire thing over.  Yes, editorial comment mixed in with the knowledge that hey, now we can save more money.
  5. We got word that my senior won another scholarship for her fall semester.  We won’t know the total until the scholarship ceremony.  Every cent counts.

What did you do to save this week?

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Frugal Living, Homesteading

I Know How To Can

I decided that it was time to check another thing off of my 2020 goals list and taught myself how to can last weekend.  I learned that it is not nearly as hard as I thought it would be and not nearly as scary.  It happens to be very easy and the final result was tasty jam and jelly.

I decided to start with a free product.  So, I picked the dandelions in my front yard and made the number one thing that I see pop up this time of year on the facebook homesteading blogs I follow, dandelion jelly.  The final product was a delicious jelly that tastes a lot like honey.  I will probably never make it again.  It’s very labor intensive because the dandelions have to be picked and then the petals pulled off.  It took a very long time.   It did give me a valuable learning experience though.  I was able to teach myself, without the fear of ruining perfectly good food, like strawberries.

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Dandelion jelly.  I know that the rings are rusty, I bought new ones.

Yesterday, I went to a coworkers house and picked rhubarb that she was giving away.  I decided that would provide another valuable learning experience without much of a financial investment.  This was very easy jam to make, as it took a fraction of the time the dandelion took.  That includes that commute time halfway across Milwaukee and back for the rhubarb.   The result is delicious.  I hear it tastes great with cheese, I can’t wait to find out.

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With strawberry season coming up, I plan on making a big batch of strawberry jam.  At that point, I should be ready to preserve that garden bounty.  Fingers crossed that we have a better garden season this year than we did last year.  Have you acquired new skills or hobbies during your time at home?

Recipes

Bread Machine Sandwich Bread

I finally did it!  I perfected my bread machine recipe.  It took so much trial and error.  Loaves of bread were turned into french toast, bread crumbs and barely tolerated as I tried to figure why I could not get it rise perfectly.  Eric, our family bread maker, tried to give my advice, which I refused.  I wanted to do it on my own.  Last night, I pulled out of the bread machine a beautiful and tasty loaf of bread.  With the help of  many websites, I have my recipe.

Bread Machine Sandwich Bread

1 1/2 cup whey (I used the whey from our homemade yogurt)

3 tbsp honey

3 tbsp butter

3 1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp salt

2 1/4 tsp yeast

Warm the whey, honey and butter to 110 degrees, make sure the butter is melted.  I used the microwave, but the stovetop would work to.  I used our candy thermometer to closely monitor that temperature.  Put the liquid in your bread machine.  Add the flour, salt and yeast.  Use the whole wheat setting on the bread machine.  This is a longer cycle, but it worked best for me.

I use a bread machine because I am not one of those people who find kneading bread soothing.  Honestly, I am just not that patient.  I wish I were.  The bread machine gives me the best of both worlds.  Homemade bread without the elbow grease.

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Frugal Living

Frugal Friday

Is it just me or the weeks flying by faster then ever?  I don’t get it, it seems like they should be crawling along.  Here is our frugal round up for this week.

  1. Our auto insurance premium went down 15% for May.  With things opening up, I predict that by June we will be paying our regular premium.
  2. We made a lot of homemade food this week.  On the list was hummus, yogurt, bread,  bread crumbs, rhubarb crisp, salad dressing and soup.  I have all the ingredients for homemade corn tortillas.  I plan on trying to make a batch this weekend.  We have reached a point where no food can go to waste.  We have plenty and I know, grocery stores remain open.  But, the reality is that the food supply chain is going to have some problems.  We all need to be aware and get back to from scratch cooking, if possible.
  3. We have garden fresh asparagus!
  4. I signed up for another audiobook service through the library.  It’s called Hoopla.  Check to see if your library has it.  You can get books, movies and music for free.  The books are recent and no wait.
  5. The 2020 bees have arrived.  We will have two hives this year.  As always, we hope for lots of honey.  But the real reason Eric cares for the bees is to save them.  Now more than ever, they are at risk.  News of the murder hornet could have been saved until the plague subsided.

It is important for me to note that while I continue to try to save where possible, I have been spending more than I normally do at local businesses.  They need us now.  While we have not done take out, I have purchased in other areas.  Those businesses include a local soap maker, a local olive oil store, a distillery, florist, bakery, pretzel company, ice cream store (2), grocery co-op, a CSA, spring roll store, yarn store, book store and local artisans.  This money stays in my community and helps my neighbors.  Sure, I have also done a fair share of spending on Amazon (which I know is terrible) and Chewy.com, this spending proves that I have work to do on keeping my dollars local.  I will continue to do what I can.  I know that this will be over and while life will likely never return to the normal that we are used to, it might turn out to be better than what we had.

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Books

April Book Reviews

I have done a lot of reading for the last few weeks.  More than usual.  One of my job requirements as we sat at home was to read and write book reviews.  That is a job description I can get behind 100%!  For the most part, I read some really good stuff.  There were a few disappointments, here and there.  We are now offering curbside service, so I am able to work at the library several hours a week.  I won’t get as much reading in.  Honestly though, to be told to read and get paid for it fulfilled my lifetime goals.  Here is a list of what I was able to read while sheltering at home.

  1. The Boy From the Woods by Harlan CobenHarlan Coben never fails to impress with his mysteries that provide twists and turns throughout.  When 16 year old Naomi goes missing from her New Jersey home, Wild, the boy from the woods, is called on to help find her.  With help from an attorney, a police officer and a 16 year old boy, Wild sets out to find out what led up to Naomi’s disappearance.   What starts out as a missing person case, that seems to have a simple conclusion, actually turns out to be far deeper and darker than it appears.  Several members of the community are somehow linked to her disappearance, without even knowing it and all in ways you can’t see coming. Be prepared for a shocking end.  I didn’t see this one coming. It was also pretty clear to me, that a sequel is definitely in the works. Five stars. 
  2. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid – If you liked Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, you will really like this book  as well. Like Little Fires Everywhere,  Such A Fun Age forces the reader to confront their biases on race and socioeconomic class.  Emira is a black woman who is the babysitter of young Briar, the daughter of Alix, a social influencer.   After an incident at a local, high end grocery store, Alix becomes strangely obsessed with Emira and Emira’s white boyfriend.  Alix becomes determined to help Emira, no matter what the cost is, thinking that she is somehow improving Emira’s life. Emira on the other hand is not interested in help, she has her own issues to deal with.  This book leads the reader to the conclusion that sometimes in our effort to be a good person, we reveal our true colors. In the case of Alix, that proves to be the case.
  3.  The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra – I wasn’t sure about this book when I started it. It was not on my TBR list.  Since my list is so long, I was apprehensive about adding something I wasn’t already interested in.  However, I recently started a virtual book club in response to the safer at home order.  This was the first pick, so I was obligated to read it. I really liked the book, a lot in fact. It’s a series of short stories dating back to the rise of communism and ending with contemporary Russia. While the book is series of short stories, all of the characters somehow tie together.  The first story and the last story, bring the entire series full circle, leaving the reader satisfied. I am giving it a rave review.  But, I was the only one in the book club who liked it.  I gave it a strong 4 stars on Goodreads, everyone else either gave it 1 star or didn’t even finish it.  The rating on Goodreads seem to follow that pattern as well.  It seems to be a book that elicits strong emotion.
  4.  The Missing Sister by Elle Marr – I don’t think that I could recommend this book without letting the reader know that the ending is disappointing.  It is actually a fantastic idea for a story. She had all the elements.  A series of crimes, a missing identical twin sister, and string of suspects all in Paris.  But, the ending was ridiculous and getting there was somewhat painful. It did not flow. The main character was extremely unlikable so I found myself not caring about her or her Paris adventure at all. I think the author is a talented writer and like I said, the premise was good.  I read this book because it was free on kindle and once I committed, I really wanted to know how it was going to end.  To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.
  5. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – The Underground Railroad is the story of Cora, a slave from Georgia.  Cora escapes one night with two other slaves and finds herself on the Underground Railroad.  The story is told as though the railroad was an actual railroad.   We follow Cora on her journey as she is pursued by a slave hunter determined to catch her.  This book is brutal and honest.  The American slaves lived a life of extreme horror and brutality that we have an obligation never to forget.  Five stars without question. 
  6. The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by – Amy has been given the opportunity to live in New York City for the summer while her ex husband takes the kids.  This book is what I would call every mom’s fantasy (in my case I wouldn’t want the husband to be an ex, just willing to let me go for 3 months).  During that time, Amy learns a lot about herself.  I enjoyed this one, but wouldn’t give it more than 3.5 stars.
  7. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett – A man goes to a baptism party, uninvited, and two families are torn apart. Commonwealth tells the story of Burt and Beverly and their six children. Their’s is a blended family that effects all six children, the spouses they abandoned and their marriage which was doomed from the beginning.  This is done with brilliant story telling and characters who are constantly evolving. I forget about female authors who have these wonderful stories to tell that are not just a series of mysterious twists and turns. This one did not disappoint.
  8. Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo – This one was both creepy and grisly. Not a book that I would normally enjoy due to the intense violence. But, the writing was very good and the story was compelling. The main character was likable, but had very real flaws. She made mistakes as a police officer that she acknowledged and paid for dearly throughout the book. I did figure out who the killer was just before the big reveal. Five stars without question. 
  9. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David GrannThe Osage tribe was the wealthiest group of people, per capita, then anyone else in the world in the 1920’s due to their oil rights. That kind of wealth brings out the absolute worst in people. Mix in the American government’s belief that Native Americans could not possibly handle their own finances. Add the extreme greed of the 1920’s and you have the ability to commit crimes against humanity with very little fear of punishment. This was the case in the Oklahoma until the FBI investigated. The case was finally resolved by Tom White, an agent who had morals and integrity. He saw the case to the end, or though he thought. An additional investigation in the 2000’s found that the horror the tribe endured was far vaster than originally believed. 
  10. The Wife by Alafair Burke – Another mystery that seems to follow the Gone Girl formula.  But it works! I was hooked from the start and found myself starting and finishing this book in one afternoon.   Angela is married to Economics professor, Jason.   A student accuses Jason of inappropriate behavior and what starts out as a misunderstanding, turns into a full-fledged scandal.  Meanwhile, Angela is dealing with a significant trauma from her teen years.  Angela has secrets of her own, which in retrospect, make Jason’s trouble seem insignificant.  This one is full of twists and turns throughout.  I was honestly shocked by the big reveal.  I  did not see it coming.  That says a lot for the authors story telling.  Five stars! 
  11. When I Was You by Minka Kent – I was really excited to get this book, as I really enjoyed Minka Kent’s book The Stillwater Girls. Unfortunately, this one was not a worthy encore to her previous work. I was very disappointed. Like Stillwater Girls, Kent is writing about a type of amnesia. It seems to be a part of her formula now, which could get old. Mix in identity theft and a handsome doctor, and you have no idea where the story is going to go. With this one, it didn’t go too far. To be honest, I thought the main character, Brienne, couldn’t realistically be as unaware as she was in this book. It was far-fetched at best.  The author did have a really good idea though. It was just taken in a really odd direction, that made no sense in the end. I really can’t recommend this one.
  12. The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand – This is the first Elin Hilderbrand book that I have read. I really liked it! I had no idea that it was a mystery when I picked it out. For some reason, I thought that the majority of Elin Hilderbrand books were romances. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it had the elements that I love in a good book. Those being a good plot, likable characters and a mystery with a lot of suspects. I am always so happy to find a new author that I can start to read. Elin Hilderbrand will be on my list for future reads.
  13. The Chain by Adrian McKinty – Wow, what a rollercoaster ride this one was! Imagine getting a phone call that your daughter has been kidnapped and the only way to get her back is to kidnap another child. That is exactly what happens to Rachel one morning when her daughter, Kylie, is kidnapped on her way to school. This starts a heart stopping quest to get Kylie back.  With the help of Kylie’s uncle, Pete, they find themselves as links in something known as The Chain. Once they are in, they can never get out. This was such a great idea for a story. Five stars!

That is 4 weeks worth of reading, the job requirement started on April 1st. No way May’s list will be this long.  Happy reading!

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