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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Family Life

2020 Goals Update

I have really let things fall apart over here in the last 7 weeks.  I recently saw a meme that said something to the effect of “When this is over, will you be a hunk, a chunk or a drunk?”  I plead the fifth!  I need to hold myself somewhat accountable and revisit those goals and see how I have been doing, which I assume is not good.

  1. My number one goal is to get my pressure back to normal.  Several of my goals have been set to help bring it down with the help of medication.
    • I checked my bp last night and this morning.  I continue to be on the high end of normal.  This is an improvement over the high end of high, which I was.
  2. Lose 20 pounds.
    • I have maintained since March 16, my first day of shelter at home.  Since I know people who have gained, I am counting this as a win.
  3. Continue to get 10,000 steps a day in.
    • Nope!  But, I do walk most days.
  4. Go to the gym 3 days per week.
    • This one makes me sad.  I had joined a really nice gym on February 16.  I am not being charged right now.  But, I was going very regularly for a month.
  5.  Eat more fruits and vegetables.  I eat a lot as it is, but it’s time to add more, especially potassium rich produce.
    • I am crushing this goal.  I make every meal at home right now so I am able to achieve this every day.
  6. Try to start trying to meditate at least 2 or 3 days per week.
    • I took a meditation CE class for work.  I realized in that class that a lot of the things I already do are considered meditation.  So, yes, I have been meditating.
  7. Get back into the yoga habit.
    • Nope
  8. Cut down on the alcohol.
    • Are you kidding me?  I am at home, every day, in Wisconsin.  I am not getting drunk, or even tipsy.  But, I am having some wine.   My husband and I have also enjoyed a couple of old fashioneds on our porch on some nice evenings.
  9.  Pay off the house.  We had every intention of paying it off December 31.  A couple of unexpected expenses put that on hold.
    • We are going to hold onto that cash for the time being.
  10. Read 110 books in 2020.
    • This one is easy for me.  I am currently at 44 books read for the year
  11. Read 3 classic books this year.
    • My number of classics stays at two.
  12. More dates with my husband.
    • We were doing this weekly starting in February.  It’s hard to have date night at home with two daughters at home moping that they can’t see their friends.
  13. We have a membership to the Milwaukee Art Museum that I plan on utilizing a lot more this year.
    • There’s always next year
  14. Spend more time outdoors.
    • This has been easy to do.
  15. Throw away 20 items per day.
    • Done
  16. More no spend days.
    • This is easy.  I have been trying to purchase from local businesses right now to help them out.
  17. Spend more time with my friends.
    • I have been doing Zoom chats on a regular basis.
  18. Finish a knitting project I started in November and start and finish another.
    • Done
  19. Learn how to can!
    • I am hoping to teach myself by making dandelion jelly
  20. Go on 2 weekend getaways with my husband.
    • Maybe we can do this in 2021

This is not as bad as I thought it would be.  How are your goals doing with our strange new normal?

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Frugal Living

Frugal Friday

I went back to work for a couple hours yesterday!  It was so nice to be able to interact with people, six feet apart and with masks on, for those precious hours.  The normalcy of it felt it great.  The library is offering curbside pickup now.  Of course with guidelines in place that limit how many people can gather and having an excellent director who cares about our health, only a few of us can be in the building at the same time.  Our hours together are limited.

I missed a couple Fridays, but that’s okay!  I didn’t have a lot to say and feared becoming redundant.  But, I have some frugal wins this week.

  1. Our living room is in desperate need of new furniture.  With a puppy in the house, that is not going to happen.  Instead, I bought some slip covers to put over the dated and truly ugly furniture.  I also bought a cute, but cheap rug.  Everything will arrive in a week.  I plan on spending next Friday redecorating the space with these inexpensive and let’s face it, temporary fixes.  In a couple years, when I have golden retrievers that are older I plan to make a permanent change.  Total cost for all, $110.
  2. I drove to work yesterday and noticed that my tank stubbornly sits at 3/4 full.  Last time I filled up was March 16th.  I am going to top the tank off this weekend because gas is still so low.
  3. My daughter’s college sent us a small, but unexpected refund check for a class she has.  Since she is online now, it was a fee for something that would have been used for an in person class.  It was a small, but nice surprise.
  4. Speaking of that daughter and college.  She was awarded a scholarship!  She is an education major and applied for it in December.  This was off my radar so I completely forgot about it until she told me last night that she won.  Scholarships exist for those already in college.
  5. Our utility bill saw a nice decrease this month.  With warmer days ahead, the heat will be able to be turned off and we will see even bigger savings.

How did you save some cash this week?

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Frugal Living

Frugal Friday

Another week at home.  The days are really starting to get long.  There are times that I am not actually sure what day it is.  My husband and I both thought that yesterday was Wednesday.  Our governor ordered that our safer at home guidelines be extended through May.  It appears that maybe the state will begin the process of opening up in the summer.  The library will be able to offer curbside service in a couple weeks, that is a step in the right direction.  It will be nice to be able to work again, even if it is only limited hours.  School is cancelled though, which means my daughter’s high school graduation is also cancelled.  That one really hurts.

According to a website, my family is saving about $1,800 per month due to being quarantined.  I am not so sure that is correct.  The site took into account going to bars (which we never do) and eating out (which we rarely do).  But, my husband has a commute to work that is about 20 miles a day as does my daughter.  My commute is 4 miles a day, round trip.  I haven’t filled my tank since March 16th and it is still full.  Eric filled his last week and gas was $1.10/gallon.  As of yesterday, gas was .99/gallon.  The last time I saw .99/gallon I was 21 and searching for quarters under the seats to come up with $5.00 to fill my tank.  My how times have changed.

Here is our list of money saving activities for the week.  Honestly, it’s getting really hard to find savings.

  1. I had to take the dog to the vet for an ear infection (don’t worry, curbside vet care).  I had those nails trimmed while she was there and had enough credits for a free trim.  Savings was $25.
  2. We got our stimulus payment from the Orange Cheeto.  We used it to help a local business by buying a share in a CSA.  We decided to supplement our produce this year just in case the garden is not abundant.  I am also hearing that it is possible that the food supply will be impacted by the virus.  Because of this, we want to make sure we have enough.
  3. This one is actually a major heartbreaker.  After 2+ years of Maeghan working and having money taken out of her checking account for a trip to Europe this summer, it was cancelled.  She will be getting a very nice reimbursement into her checking account in a couple weeks.  Honestly, this just breaks my heart.   This trip has been on the horizon since she was a sophomore.  She paid for it with her own money and knew that with hard work, planning and saving, she could see the world.  I hope that some day, she can have another opportunity like this one.
  4. This is my birthday month.  The coupons and offers from merchants are starting to arrive.  My favorite one is always the $25 for Pottery Barn.  I always use it for a reed diffuser.  This year’s diffuser is lavender and was FREE!
  5. After 15 years of paying a violin teacher, monthly, for my daughters, this month was our final payment.  May 1 Maeghan will be done taking lessons.  This is bittersweet, but it’s time.

What did you do to save money while practicing social distancing?

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Frugal Living

Frugal Friday

I missed last week’s Frugal Friday because I was pretty hard pressed to come up with anything since I haven’t actually gone anywhere.  But this week, I had some wins.

  1. Our auto insurance company lowered our premium by 25% for April.  That is actually a really nice savings for us, given we have 4 people on our policy, one being a teenager.
  2. I taught myself how to make a sourdough starter.  I am going to make a loaf of bread today, wish me luck.
  3. I used the rinds and other bits to attempt to make pineapple vinegar.  I was bored and wanted to try something new.  I am actually not sure what I will do with the final product.
  4. I am almost out of actual books from the library, so I have decided to take advantage of the free trial for Kindle Unlimited.  The free trial is 30 days, I am hopeful I will only need it for that long.
  5. I have been using Zoom, a lot, to keep in contact with friends and family.  In fact last night was the first meeting of a virtual book club that I started in response to our state’s safer at home order.  It was two hours of laughter and wine drinking.  We meet again in three weeks.  I can’t wait.  Zoom is free to use.

What you have been doing these past several weeks to save money, while being at home?

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