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Kale Salad

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We harvested the little bit of Kale that we were able to salvage tonight.  The salad that I make with Kale is delicious!  I actually love it.

Kale Salad

1 bunch Kale

1/2 cup shredded carrots

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup walnuts

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

 

Shred kale into strips, add all ingredients to bowl.  Mix oil and vinegar and add toss with salad.

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Frugal Living

What do you do to save money?  To live frugally? To live a life that makes you happy and feel complete?  Simple living and frugal living are buzz words these days, ideals that my husband and I were raised on.  We have tried  (and have failed often) to live our adult lives this way.  But, for the most part, we live very frugally.  We enjoy the simple things in life and try to appreciate what we have.  Here is a partial list of the things we do to live a frugal lifestyle:

  1. We rarely eat out.  Maybe twice a month and it’s for lunch.  I cannot remember the last time we ate in a restaurant, as a family, for dinner.  Maybe December and we used a gift card.
  2. We reuse and repair as much as possible.  Eric is the best DIY’er I know.  If it needs fixing, he can do it.  If he can’t, it’s not fixable.
  3. I make most of our cleaning products.  All you need is vinegar, water, baking soda, vodka and essential oils.
  4. We use the library.  I wrote a post about the library.
  5. We buy in bulk.  Not just Costco bulk, but the bulk department at the grocery store.
  6. We meal plan.  I try to plan our meals a month in advance.  That does not mean we always follow that plan, but it’s a useful guide.
  7. We rarely go to the mall or Target.  Enough said.
  8. We grow a lot of our vegetables (fully disclosure, this summer has been a dud for that so far).
  9. Eric makes his own beer and wine
  10. We line dry as much laundry as we can.  This can be difficult when the days are to humid or it’s raining.  But, we try.
  11. We use cash, for the most part.  Online purchases require a credit card.

We also do a lot of things that are not frugal:

  1. We have 3 dogs, which means a lot of dog food, vet bills and preventative meds.  They bring us joy though and that is what life is.
  2. We have 3 kids, which means a lot of food, dr bills and college tuition.  They are the reason I am here and make every single day worth living.
  3. We might eat at home, but we buy good food and never regret it.
  4. I don’t use manufacturers coupons very much.  I find that they rarely offer what I would buy and if I would buy it, I don’t need it.
  5. I have a candle obsession, which I am trying to temper by making my own at home.  But the obsession is real.
  6. We have gym memberships that we don’t use enough, but enjoy them when we can.

Life is about balance and I think that for the most part, we live a balanced life that helps us achieve our goals.  What are some of the things you do stay frugal?  I always love new ideas.

 

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Refrigerator Pickles

So far this summer, our garden has not been providing us with as much of a bounty as previous years.  I blame that epic blizzard we had on April 15th!  However, we have been getting a steady amount of cucumbers.  Too many for your typical dinner salad but not enough for a full day of canning.  Instead, I am making refrigerator pickles.

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The recipe is simple.

Refrigerator Pickles

8 cucumbers 4-4 1/2″ long,

1/4 oz fresh dill a few sprigs per jar

cup white vinegar

cup water

2 cloves garlic crushed 

tsp kosher salt

tsp sugar

  1. Wash cucumbers and cut into spears or slices. Pack into a wide-mouth canning jars. Place dill in the bottom of the jars.

  2. In a saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, garlic cloves, salt, and sugar. Bring to a boil and stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

  3. Pour liquid over cucumbers in the jar.

  4. Close the jar and refrigerate for a minimum of 24 hours but preferably 48 hours. Enjoy!

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We Bought A Half Pig

Last weekend we picked up the half pig that we ordered from a local farmer.  The cost for 122 pounds of locally raised, organic pork came to $3.50 pound.  We have a freezer full of bacon, breakfast links, Italian sausage, ham, pork chops, pork roast, ham hocks and a Wisconsin favorite, bratwurst!  It is safe to say that our freezer is full.

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For my local friends, we bought from Melissa’s Farm.  She sells wonderful eggs, her meat is always fresh and the Thanksgiving turkeys are a wonderful, seasonal treat.  In addition to animal products, we often see local honey and maple syrup.  The farm is 4 miles from our house.  We appreciate knowing where our food came from and knowing that the animals were treated humanely.

Purchasing a pig with a daughter who is a vegan and another who is a vegetarian did come with controversy.  I respect their choices and understand their point of view.  I myself was a vegetarian for a while.  As I have gotten older, I have realized that for myself, eating meat is okay.  We make every effort to make sure that our meats come from farms that highlight the buzzwords of the food industry.  Free range, organic, hormone free, antibiotic free, humanely raised and local.  We try.  I appreciate and acknowledge that many reading this may not agree with me and instead agree with my daughters.  My only response would be that I respect everyone’s choice, please respect the choice Eric and I have made.  Okay off the preemptive soap box.

Our box included ham and a ham hock.  Fall is coming and Split Pea Soup season is on the horizon.  Please send me your favorite soup recipes so that I can get the most of that ham hock.IMG_3947.JPG

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Honey Bee Update

Yesterday Eric decided it was time to harvest some honey from the four bee hives that he keeps.  He picked up a two frame honey extractor and all of the other miscellaneous equipment needed.  It’s a bit of an investment but amortized other the years it will pay off. Eric just started beekeeping last year with only one hive and didn’t get much honey from it.  This year he upped his game and has three.  One hive is from a captured swarm in July so we don’t expect to get any honey from that one this year.  One of the other hives has been to say it mildly, crazy… it already has three honey supers on it while the other two only have one each.  Eric obviously chose to harvest the hive with the three supers.  

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Upon inspection of the frames he found that about eighteen frames had capped honey.  He gently bushed the bees off of the frames and swapped them with empty ones.  Since Eric is rather new to this, he readily admits that mistakes were made and lessons to be learned.  

First lesson don’t extract the honey where the bees can find you… He had set up his honey extractor in the garage which is on the other side of our house from the bees.  Everything appeared to  be going well but soon after starting the bees found him.  When I peeked out there to see how things were going he was completely swarmed by bees, thousands of them.  The sad thing about this is all of the bees that drown in the honey while trying to eat it.  Next time he says that he’s going to set up his equipment in the sun room and keep it well shut so that he doesn’t have to deal with the bees.  

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All said he got about four and a half gallons of honey from those eighteen frames.  Unfortunately he also has a small bucket of a mixture of wax and dead bees.  He is going to let all of the equipment sit out by the hives so that the bees can clean it all off for him and then try to recover the wax for me to make candles.  So it was a good harvest of honey and probably in the coming weeks he’ll extract honey from the other two hives.  He wants to have everything extracted before September so that he can prepare to get them ready for the winter.  That will be the topic of another blog post.

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Cinnamon Dolce Latte

This is a delicious latte recipe that I found that is really easy to make! When I first tried it I really enjoyed it. All of the ingredients are basic items that can be found in almost every single kitchen.

I found this recipe off of withsaltandwit.com

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Yields 2

Ingredients

Cinnamon sugar syrup:

1/4 cup of water

1/4 cup of cane sugar

1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon (or pumpkin spice mix, which is what I used)

Latte:

1 cup of coffee

1 cup of milk

Cinnamon sugar topping:

1 tablespoon of cane sugar

1/16 teaspoon of cinnamon or pumpkin spice mix

 

Directions

To make the cinnamon sugar syrup, put the water, sugar, and cinnamon into a sauce pan and let them boil for 2 minutes, or until the sugar is dissolved. Then remove it from the heat and set it aside.

Brew a cup of coffee.

Put milk into a sauce pan and warm it. You can also warm it in the microwave for a couple minutes. Then froth the milk with a frother or put the milk into a blender and blend on high.

Take out 2 coffee mugs and add a tablespoon of cinnamon syrup to each. Then divide the coffee and milk between the cups and put the foam on top.

To make the cinnamon sugar topping, mix sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle on top of the foam.

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Soba Noodle Salad

Last night I made a family favorite, Soba Noodle Salad with Peanut Dressing.

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Peanut Sauce

5 tablespoons  chunky peanut butter

5 tablespoons water

5 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 garlic clove or 1 tsp garlic powder

sricacha sauce to taste

Blend are ingredients in a blender (I use Magic Bullet) until smooth

Salad

1 package edamame

1/2 cup shredded carrot

2 cups chopped cabbage (I used purple)

Soba noodles cooked according to directions

Toss everything into a salad bowl and mix in dressing.  Delicious!

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Native Plants

 

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A couple of years ago I was standing at my kitchen window, drinking my coffee and trying to figure out what was so different about my backyard.  Something had changed, but I wasn’t sure what.  A few minutes later my daughter walked through, looked out the window and asked “why is the grass dead?”  Aha!  Dead grass was the change in my landscape.  I immediately knew that Eric was behind this drastic change.

When I asked what was up, he told me he killed all the grass on purpose because he was going to turn the back yard into a native prairie.  I thought it was good idea, but I wished he would have at least told me of his plans.  He claimed he did, he didn’t 🙂  I definitely would have remembered any conversation that started with “I am going to kill our backyard.”

Fast forward 2 years and we have an established prairie in our backyard.   Eric belongs to a local organization that promotes the use of native plants in landscaping.  He was able to get us started with a discount on plants because of his membership.  Last year was a bit of an investment, but this year I believe he had to replace 2 plants.  Not bad. Thankfully, we do not live in a subdivision that has a rule saying we can’t do this.  We are also fortunate to have neighbors who encouraged us.  I have friends who do not have the options we do with their property due to HOA rules.

There are many benefits to turning your backyard into Native Plant Landscape.  They include the following:

  • Bees and butterflies love native plants.  As I was taking pictures today, a monarch was flying around.  The fact is, if you have native plants in your backyard, you will have butterflies.  It probably goes without saying, our bees love our yard.
  • You don’t mow a prairie.  The plants just grow, allowing native species to thrive.
  • Native plants are beautiful.  Honestly, looking at those plants while sitting on my patio allows me to be truly at one with the natural world in my own backyard.
  • Native plants do not require pesticides or herbicides, keeping the poisons away from your family and pets.
  • You will save money.  Less water and no chemicals.

I am 100% sure that I have missed several other reasons why native plants are beneficial, but you get the gist.

IMG_3903.JPGMilkweed-Monarchs love these

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Give native plants a try.  They are so much better for our planet.

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Chicken Update

The chickens have started to wander the lawn.  They are exploring their surroundings and hopefully eating some ticks!  We have had them for close to 3 months, which I find unbelievable.  Time sure flies, but I guess that is discussion for a different blog post.

It has been a really hot summer for these gals.  We have had temps soar to a heat index of 105, but they have been able to keep cool thanks to the coop they have which allows for shade.

The dogs have been very interested in them, requiring us to keep them inside when they are out of the coop.  The exception to that rule is the puppy, who sits in her little play enclosure just observing.  She appears to be more used to them than the dogs who have been around them for 2 months longer.  I suppose that she is just used to them because she has known of them since she got here.

IMG_3889.JPGEric feeding the chickens.  He uses meal worms to bribe them.

IMG_3891.JPGThree of the girls wandering about.

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I hope that snack is a tick.  I read that chickens eat the ticks and I am counting on that.

The chickens are not the only critters who are active. Our honey bees have been very busy.  Fall should provide us with a healthy honey harvest.  Eric was called on Friday night to catch a swarm of honey bees.  He actually amazes me, he caught that swarm and was stung once.  We are waiting for pictures of that adventure from the homeowner who requested help, when they arrive, I will write a post about it.

On a final note, my daughter Maeghan, celebrated her 16th birthday today.  We celebrated as a family tonight with dinner on the patio.  Her brother and his girlfriend came over to celebrate with us.  It was a perfect night, even if with the mosquitoes.

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Happy Birthday Maeghan!

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We Have Black Raspberries

36791561_10212792806360409_825959779099738112_n.jpgYesterday I was able to harvest our first batch of black raspberries this season.  Don’t these beauties look delicious?  Tonight I will serve them over vanilla ice cream and then I will probably freeze any left over.  Tomorrow will require another harvest.  I don’t think we will have enough for jam, but enough for some ice cream topping and the random fruit salad over the coming months.  Over the next couple  years, we should have blueberries and red raspberries, but until then, these will do!

I spent the last couple days visiting my parents in Green Bay.  My dad and I went to a state park on Lake Michigan on Friday.  He loves to search for rocks and has a knack at finding some real beauties.  He found a beautiful fossil within a pile of rocks.  I don’t know how he does it, but I wish I had paid more attention to this when I was younger and had spent time with him when he does this.  He is 100% one with nature when he is on the prowl for rocks.  I searched for a while and then found the perfect log to sit on and closed my eyes to listen to the waves.  We don’t live by an ocean, but we have a beautiful Great Lake in our back yard that I don’t enjoy nearly enough!  IMG_3870.JPG

On our way back from the lake, we stopped at a local market.  I saw a sign that said “fresh curds” and knew I had to stop.  Cheese curds are in my top 10 favorite foods and I will purchase them when I can find them very fresh.

IMG_3875.JPGFinally, an update on Luna.  She is just the best puppy!  She has settled in nicely and while she still has accidents in the house, I think she is getting the potty training thing.  She goes to the back door and pees there if we don’t get to her.  I think that shows that she is connecting the dots.  Maybe?unnamed.jpg

I should be back on a more regular basis.  As lame as it sounds, my computer has been giving me a hard time.  Eric has put on a band-aid on it for the time being, but it appears that we will need to upgrade very soon.  Happy Sunday!