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Frugal Friday

I missed my Frugal Friday list last week.  I had a good excuse, I spent the day with my sister in law and her kids at Cave of the Mounds in southwestern Wisconsin.  If you live in the area and have never been, put it on your bucket list, it’s an amazing place.  We had a really nice day and it was a welcome break from the overwhelming heat wave we were experiencing.  The caves are 50 degrees, it felt like heaven.  Afterwards, we stopped for lunch at a local brewpub (I bought my husband a growler, which I always do when I go brewpubs) and had a nice conversation and time with her kids.  It felt like a perfect summer day.

The garden is finally showing signs of life.  I think the combination of late spring, torrential rains and then a weird heatwave has those little plants confused.  But, I recently spotted a flower on one of my eggplant and the squash seem like they are ready to do what they do best,  provide more fruit than any family could possibly eat.  It might be a late harvest, but I do believe that we will have a respectable amount of veggies to get us by for several weeks.

We lost a hive due to whatever is getting the world’s poor little honeybees.  Eric harvested that honey and wax.  The honey will not be suitable for sale or for toast or tea.  But, it will do well in baking, beer or mead.  However, the wax is gorgeous.  I am going to be able to make at least 2 candles from it.

Now time for the Frugal Friday list.  I will roll together 2 weeks rather than one this week.

  1. My daughter is able to bring home leftover pastries from her job that have not been purchased.  We have a freezer full of breakfast foods that we have been enjoying a couple days a week.  I am so happy her employer allows them to do this rather than it going straight to a landfill.
  2. My parents gave us a gift card to a local restaurant as a thank you for watching their dog.  We used it last weekend and had a fabulous meal.
  3. My husband and daughter went to another super hero movie, paying for it with a gift card.  I think he has officially used up his movie cards with Avengers now being in the theatre.
  4. I signed up to receive dog food from chewy.com.  They mailed me an offer I couldn’t refuse.  Dog food is so expensive.
  5. We did a little bit of Christmas shopping on Prime Day.  We usually buy holiday gifts from local merchants.  But, there were a couple of electronics that we wanted to purchase.

What did you do this week to save some cash?

 

 

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Frugal Friday

I can’t believe it’s another Friday and time to go through a list of things we did to save some pennies this week.  Let me start by saying we had an unexpected expense last Friday.  I took my car in for maintenance only to find out that a pothole cracked an axel on my car.  Ouch.  It was not as expensive as I would have thought, so that was a win, I guess.  I like to think it was avoidable, but with the winter we had, I am betting we are far from the only family to be dealing with car issues caused by potholes.

  1.  My son and I went to see Toy Story 4.  He is 21, but we needed to finish that series.  I spent the better part of 3 years listening to Toy Story play in our VCR on a daily basis.  To say that Buzz Lightyear was his hero would be an understatement.  Anyway, we went before 12:00 pm on a Saturday, so tickets were $5.00.
  2. I scored 2 loaves of bread at a bakery for $2.00 per loaf.  They are normally $8.00 per loaf.
  3. My daughter’s birthday was on Tuesday.  The store gave me $20 off for her gift because it was for her birthday.  That was totally unexpected.
  4. A friend gave me 3 absolutely gorgeous houseplants from her mother’s house, free of charge.  She just wanted them to go to a home where they would be taken care of.
  5. I used up the last of my shampoo in a plastic bottle and started using a shampoo bar.  Preliminary results are good.  So far, I like it.

What did you do this week to save some money?  Remember, being frugal doesn’t mean doing without.  It means saving so that you can enjoy the things that really matter without worrying about money.

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Our newest plant

Books, Uncategorized

Summer Reading List

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It’s finally June, which means that it’s time to compile a Summer Reading List.  Below is a list of books that I have already read that I highly recommend.

  1. Becoming by Michelle Obama – There is a very good reason why this book is well on it’s way to becoming the best selling autobiography of all time.  I listened to her story on audiobook and highly recommend doing that way.  Her voice telling her story is the way to go on this one.
  2. Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – This is my favorite fiction of 2019.
  3. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides – Another suspense book that falls into line with the “Gone Girl” genre.  These books are starting to become really predictable, but not this one.  The twist at the end was shocking.
  4. Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid – This is a fun book written like an interview about a rock band from the 70’s.  It’s a quick read and can be very funny.  This would be the perfect read on the beach.
  5. Run Away by Harlan Coben – I love anything written by Harlan Coben and anxiously await his latest book every year.  This one is not a disappointment.
  6. Lights All Night Long by Lydia Fitzpatrick – I really enjoyed this debut novel.  It’s a great coming of age story about a Russian foreign exchange student in Louisiana.
  7. The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin – A great story about 4 siblings are the effects of there tumultuous childhood.
  8. The Lightkeeper’s Daughter by Jean Pendziwol – I read this for bookclub.  It’s a very easy read, but a great story that takes place in Canada.  Everyone in bookclub really enjoyed this one.
  9. The Gown by Jennifer Robson – This books tells the story of the women who made Queen Elizabeth’s wedding dress, but it is so much more than that.
  10. My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing – I just started this one last night.  But, already really invested.  The couple in this one is a special kind of crazy.  I am confident this one will not disappoint.

I have a list of books that I want to get through this summer as well

  1. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante – I recently watched the series adapted from this novel.  It was a great series, so now I need to read the book.  I avoided this one because translations rarely give justice to the story.  Now that I have seen the series, I am ready to give it a chance.
  2. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro – This is my June bookclub book.
  3. The River by Peter Heller
  4. Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly
  5. Save Me The Plums by Ruth Reichel
  6. Wunderland by Jennifer Cody Epstein
  7. When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton
  8. The Favorite Daughter by Kaira Sturdivant Rouda

What are some books that are on your summer reading list?  I am always looking for new titles.

 

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My Birthday Girl

Today I spent the day with my middle child,  Hannah, to celebrate her 20th birthday.  Her actual birthday is on Sunday, but we wanted to take a day for manicures, lunch and shopping.

Hannah has had a tough year.  In April she was diagnosed with Grave’s disease.  The last 9 months were filled with doctors appointments, labs and experimenting with a wide array of prescriptions and doses.  She was a trooper, rarely complained and completed 2 successful semesters in college while feeling pretty crappy. In all honesty, she dealt with the situation much better than I did.  As a parent, it is so hard to see your child struggle.  Her symptoms seemed to come out of nowhere.  It started with the a phone call from her at school saying “I need to go to the ER” and ending with a life changing diagnosis.

Because her heart symptoms were severe, she underwent radioactive iodine on January 2 to “kill” her thyroid.  Once she enters hypothyroidism, which will be a life long diagnosis, she will go on Synthroid.  It sounds extreme, but in her case, it was the only choice.   The radioactive iodine lead to 5 days of isolation because she was literally radioactive.  Since the thyroid absorbs the radiation, for her to be around other people would have put their thyroid at risk.  Again, she dealt with it like a trooper, rarely complained and just asked for food on a very regular basis!  To prepare for the treatment, she had to eat a low iodine diet for 3 weeks which eliminated cheese from her diet.  As a Wisconsin girl, cheese is very important.

She was released from isolation earlier this week.  She spent her time packing up to go back to college, spending time with her boyfriend and spending time with us.  We ended the week by celebrating her birthday, which felt like a perfect reward for enduring a long 9 months.

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My girl enjoying a birthday cake.

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Moving Forward

I am in a lot of Facebook groups that focus on frugal living, non consumerism, hygge and housekeeping.  Since January 1, it seems like the main topic of conversation in all of those groups is the Netflix show about organizing your life and getting rid of your stuff.  I feel like the only person on the planet who has not watched it yet.  I refuse to watch it at this point out of principle.  I have enough guilt, I don’t need somebody telling me that getting rid all of my stuff will make me happy, I am very happy as it is.  As with all things in life, moderation is key, even minimalism.  It feels like another trend that will lose its steam and something else will take it’s place.

Instead, I am choosing to just let life lead me where it will.  Keeping my to do list short and attainable and allowing myself to savor the season of winter with its promise of coziness and warmth.  It’s a cold night out there tonight and I plan on ending this day, in my unorganized room, reading a book.  Tomorrow is always another day.

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My 5 Favorite Books of 2018

I read 80 books in 2018.  Some were great, some terrible, but most were actually good.  I have compiled a list of my 5 favorites.

  1.  The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin: This one is my top pick for the year.  I had the privilege to meet the author at a Jodi Picoult event in October.  The story asks the question, do you have control over your future, or is it predetermined?  I feel pretty confident that we will be seeing more books from this Wisconsin author in the future.
  2. Heart Spring Mountain by Robin MacArthur: Three generations of women tell their story in rural Vermont.  The story begins when Vale returns to her home after Tropical Storm Irene to search for her mother.
  3. My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Otessa Moshfegh: A woman who decides to spend a year sleeping in 2000.  Actually a very sad story about a woman who needs to escape her depression.
  4. The Boy At The Door by Alex Dahl: This book from Norway tells the story of a mysterious boy who turns up in a small Norway town and the woman who takes him in.  I love books from Scandinavia, they have an eeriness to them that I don’t find in American books.
  5. Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer: This one is just for fun.  Imagine Barack Obama and Joe Biden as super sleuths in Washington D.C. and the surrounding area.  I laughed a lot and felt an odd comfort reading about them as a team again.

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Self Care

I recently finished the book Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty.  It was a 5 star book, in my opinion.  As an author, she never fails to write great books.  That however, is not the point to what I am writing.  There was a line in the book, that I am paraphrasing, that has had me thinking.  A character had a heart attack and a nurse said that they always know which men will improve their health after such an event based on the condition of their facial hair.  A man who takes the time to groom himself is a man who will embrace the healthy lifestyle needed to survive.  The character immediately shaves her legs and for those who have read the book, takes a healthy lifestyle to levels of absolute crazy.

When I finished the book, I shaved my legs.  I also realized how true that statement is.  Self care and a healthy lifestyle should be the cornerstone of everything we do.  I know that I am guilty of indulging a bit too much on everything.  I don’t exercise nearly enough and I will let stress get to me more than it should.  Yoga, a form of exercise and relaxation, which I actually love doing, is nothing more than an occasional activity for me.  I also have been told a number of times that I need to start strength training.  I love it when 21-year-old personal trainers tell their 40 something clients that we are losing muscle mass due to our age.  I know that, I just hate doing it.  But, I should listen, she is just trying to help.  I will get on a treadmill, but tend to walk at a leisurely pace, I don’t actually think that is the point of a treadmill.

I think I need to really decide what kind of activities I love that will lead me to a healthier lifestyle.  I would love to hear what others do.  Is it yoga? Pilates? Hiking? NO RUNNING though.  The only time I will be seen running, a bear will be behind me.  I read over and over again that you have to find a form of exercise you love in order for it to truly stick, so I need to hear what people do, that they love.  I hate for this to sound like I am making some kind of resolution.  It just so happens that I finished the book December 30th (I think), so the timing is coincidental.

 

IMG_3870My dad walking on the beach on Lake Michigan.  His favorite self care ritual

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My 2019 Goal

mug and teaThis year for Christmas, my mom came through.  A mug and a box of tea.  This simple gift told me that she really knows me, understands what makes me happy and appreciates the activity that brings me the most calm.  A cup of  tea while reading a book.

Very few things in life bring me as much joy as reading a really good book.  I am a bit embarrassed to admit that when my children were little, I remember telling them to find something to do so “mommy can finish her book”.  This is no longer a request I have to make, but I would probably continue to do that if I had to.  Reading calms my nerves and relaxes me after a long day.  It is an escape when needed and takes me to places I have never been to.

2018 was a really stressful year.  As all families, we had our sources of personal sadness and stress, but those are not what I am speaking of.  The world as a whole has been a stressful place.  As an American, I am constantly on the edge of fear, never knowing what certain leaders, who shall remain nameless, will do.  I worry about the world we are destroying for our grandchildren.  I am not embarrassed or ashamed to say that these worries have stolen more than a couple of hours of sleep.  I tell myself I can’t do anything about what happens, so I shouldn’t worry.  Funny how that doesn’t work.  I am also very aware that we can all make a difference if we work together and make individual choices that will encourage change.  At this point, our awareness of the choices we make might actually make a noticeable difference.  Do I believe that one person choosing to enact Meatless Mondays will change the world?  No.  But a million people making that choice will.

My goal, not resolution, for 2019 is to calm these worries.  I plan on reading more positive books, enjoying a bit more tea, spending precious time with my family and friends and living in the moment.   I will continue to make lifestyle choices that I believe are healthy for the environment and will vote with my dollars.   That is really all I can do.  But, setting all that aside, I will continue hope that 2020 brings my nation a change of guard that might calm the worries of the last 2 years.

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Potato Leek Soup and Lavender Cornbread

Recently I decided that Sundays would officially be soup night in my house.  Winters are long and cold and nothing tastes better than soup on a winter’s night.  Tonight I made Potato Leek Soup.  It was creamy, delicious and not at all fattening (that’s a lie, I love butter).

Potato Leek Soup

3 tbsp salted butter

2 leeks

1/2 cup celery

3 pounds golden Yukon potatoes

4 cups chicken broth (I used Penzey’s chicken soup stock base)

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

1 tbsp dried rosemary

salt and pepper

 

In stock pot, heat 3 tbsp butter.  Saute leeks and celery in butter about 3-4 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add chicken stock, rosemary and potatoes, boil  until potatoes are soft.  With immersion blender, blend to desired consistency.  Add whipping cream.

Potato Leek Soup

 

I also made Lavender Cornbread.  This recipe was made up and had it been a disaster, it would not be on this blog.  Instead, it turned out perfectly.

Lavender Cornbread

1-1/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup corn meal

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 cup buttermilk

1/4 canola oil

1 egg

1 tbsp dried lavender (I use Penzey’s lavender)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a skillet.  Combine the dry ingredients.  Stir in milk, oil and egg.  Once mixed, add lavender.  Pour into prepared skillet.  Bake 25 minutes or until golden.  Serve with honey and butter.

Lavender Corn Bread

This meal made the perfect Sunday dinner for a cozy night.

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Time Sure Goes By Fast

It has been several weeks since I have written.  Life has a way of getting in the way of our best intentions and before you know it, 6 weeks have passed.  Without getting into details, several things have come up which needed my attention.  We seem to have reached a point of quiet, so I can get back to the projects I wish to try, the recipes I can’t wait to make and my desire to enjoy the short days and long nights ahead.

Tomorrow is Halloween!  It was on Halloween night 1997 that I went into the hospital to have my first baby.  To the frustration of my doctor, my husband and myself, he did not make his appearance until November 4th!  It was not actually 5 days of labor, I went in at about 11:30 pm on Halloween and he was born just after midnight on the 4th, but 3 days was long enough.  Thankfully, his sisters did not need as much time.

We all say time flies, but I truly cannot believe how fast 21 years have gone by.  I remember when my son was a couple weeks old I was sitting on the couch with him and was watching Oprah.  A guest said “cherish your babies for as long as you can because they grow up so fast.” I looked down at him, tired, still in a lot of a pain and thought “there is no way this time is going to go by fast.”  Exhaustion has way of making you not see things so clearly.  Fast forward 21 years and here I am with 3 kids, 2 who are adults in college and one who got her driver’s license 2 weeks ago.   I am less than 2 years away from being an empty nester and while that makes me sad in a lot of ways, it also makes me excited about the future.

I have a bucket list started with all the things I want to do.  It has some of the obvious things, go to Paris.  But I also have read the book “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace.  That will probably prove to be more difficult than going to Paris.  Have you seen the size of that book?  I have never seen the Northern Lights or been to New Orleans, both things that I have added to my list.  So much to do and just not enough time or money to do it all.  I am going to try to start knocking the easy stuff off now, we all know that tomorrow is not promised.  Accidents happen and sometimes we lose loved ones without notice.

I would highly recommend adding a bucket list to your journal so you have an idea of things you want to do on our one trip on this planet.