Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Use It Up

A few posts back I posted my embroidery with the saying "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without" and I want to demonstrate one way I am trying to apply that to my daily life.  In my effort to make strawberry lemonade, I had a ton of excess lemon peels.  At first I was throwing them away.  Then I got to thinking how wasteful that is, and surely I could do something with the peels.  I hopped on the internet and found more than one way to use up the peels.  I made two batches of candied lemon peels and could have kept going.  However, its no good to gain 100 pounds by eating candied lemon peels just because I didn't want to throw out the peels, right?  Back to the internet I went... Fortunately I found more than one non-edible way to use up peels.  I always use vinegar water to clean- its green and frugal.  I now have 2 big mason jars of lemon peels in vinegar to use as a household cleaner (that smells like lemons).  I sliced up the rest of the lemon peels, added some quartered small lemons from our tree, and topped it off with vinegar.  Ill let them sit for 2 weeks and then strain the vinegar out to use for cleaning.  I love being able to use things that would otherwise be thrown out.  Especially if it saves me money by not having to buy a commercial version!  Ill post a picture of the lemon rinds later, as right now they are drying.  I love how happy lemons are!
Check out the huge lemon tree in the background!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sunshine in a Bottle

 My sister works for Driscoll's berries, so we always have an abundance of berries around the house.  We also have a huge lemon tree in the back yard.  I will never get over how many people in California have citrus trees in their yards.  Lemons and other citrus are so expensive elsewhere.  I am trying to take advantage of the abundance of both lemons and berries, and found a recipe for canned concentrate.  The recipe can be found here:  My mom has a juicer, which made everything sooo much easier!  I scraped everything out of the lemon peel and set the peel aside.  I could put the entire lemon in the juicer (I did try to remove the pith with the peel).  I used 5 lbs of lemons, and 2 cartons of strawberries.  Each batch (I made 2) made 12 half pint jars.  The recipe says to add equal parts water to the concentrate when you are ready to use it.  I found that mine is super strong, so I add two parts water to one part concentrate.  The recipe says you could also add seltzer, but that would be more expensive and it is perfectly good without anything bubbly!
 A half pint jar of concentrate would make more than enough for 2 people to enjoy with a meal.  You could even add more water and stretch it further.   This was super easy to make, and cheap as well (if you live in California at least).  Lemons, if you buy them in the store, are $5 for a 5lb bag.  And strawberry cartons were 2 for $5.  So $10 to make 12 jars of concentrate.  Each jar could get 6 servings (at least, without stretching it too far).  So $10 for 72 servings comes out to 14 cents per serving.  Who wouldn't pay 14 cents for some bottled sunshine?  That is definitely in my budget!
I am looking forward to enjoying these throughout the year!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Even gnomes need gardens

I will be the first to admit that this post has absolutely nothing to do with homesteading, frugality or self sufficient living.  It is purely for fun!  Yesterday I was bored and browsing on pinterest.  I decided I wanted to make a "fairy garden" or in my case a gnome garden since I like the idea of gnomes way better than fairies.  So I got out my crafting supplies, some potting soil and ground cover and came up with this beauty.  The mini tree even has lights (with a tiny battery pack).  I made a tire swing from a tonka truck (sidenote- I was at the thrift shop looking for a cheap truck to jack the tires from, and I was all ready to pay.  While I was standing at the register they had a bin of keychains for sale.  The lady behind me was browsing through them and found a can of mace.  Before I could say what it was, she completely pepper sprayed both me and her on accident.  Worst thrift shop trip EVER! I do not recommend being pepper sprayed if you can avoid it...just a hint) Anyways, Everything except the plants and the lights came from used items.  For a little bit of whimsy this project was soooo much fun!  What do you think?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Friday Fiber Fun

 This week I received a surprise in the mail.  I had forgotten that I had signed up for a sock yarn club. How it works is that you pay upfront (or monthly) for yarn to be delivered to you.  I will get 6 skeins of sock yarn in 2013. This week I got the first of my six.  My initial reaction was that I didn't like the hot pink portion.  However once I wound the skein into balls, I think the pink is more subtle.  The yarn came just in time for Valentines Day (although I was no where near finished on the actual day).  I divided the skein into two equal balls and will be knitting this toe up.  I will hopefully have the pair finished in a week or two!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Rat Race

My thoughts for today are nothing new.  I am sure there are a million blog posts and books written, all saying the same thing.  That said, I still feel the need to put my own stamp on the subject. What am I referring to?  The Rat Race of course! 
  Currently while I am in California, I am nannying for two different families.  I can hardly complain about my job, as I get paid to be a stay at home mom to other people's children.  I am there when the kids wake up.  I feed them breakfast and get them ready for school.  I have meetings with the teachers.  I pick them up from school.  I take them to guitar/swim/play practice.  I even take them to the therapists office.  I help them with homework and school projects.  I make dinner.  I make cookies with them (practicing fractions while measuring).  I discipline them.  On some nights I even put them to bed.  While I love my families, kids and job, it does get me thinking.  Some days of the week, my kids can go the entire day without seeing their parents.  Instead they see me.  No matter how fun I try to make it, I am hardly a substitute for their mom. 
  I do not begrudge families where both parents need to work.  I admire those that will sacrifice their personal will for the sake of the family.  But sometimes I wonder if it is necessary.  Is a second income always better?  As much as I wish everyone had the means to stay home and do what they enjoy, I realize that is no where near possible.  I just think there needs to be a balance.  One spouse needs to work, unless you come from old money like those in Downton Abbey.  For the rest of us, we need to work.  I would rather sleep in and knit all day.  Instead I have to be at someone's house at 6 am to prepare school lunches.  In this economy, I am incredibly grateful to have found work that I enjoy, and that fits my lifestyle.  Watching these families function makes me reflect on my past, and look at my future. 
  While living in Maryland, both my husband and I worked.  While my husband (lets call him Sgt G) is an incredibly hard worker and works two jobs- I worked one at a bank.  I felt like I was stuck in the rat race to be sure.  I was on an exercise wheel going no where.  We thought we needed my income to get by, but I am not so sure it helped.  Working at a bank, I had to have a professional wardrobe.  (One thing I love about working with kids now is I can wear jeans and a t shirt).  I often worked 6 days a week (we were open on Saturdays).  With both Sgt G and myself working, the house was never clean.  Neither of us wanted to spend our precious time off doing house chores.  When I got home from work I would typically be wound up and irritable.  I would complain about how we never got a break.  Home from work, to make dinner, eat, watch tv and go to bed.  The only chores I loved were the farm chores.  Often I was too lazy after work to make dinner so we would meet in town and go out, or order pizza (if there was something good on tv).  We would spend even more money to compensate for being too tired.  We ate lunches out because no one had the energy to pack them before work (on top of doing farm chores super early).  To relieve stress I would stop by Starbucks or Panera and grab breakfast and a coffee drink.  No wonder I was packing on the pounds.  I would feel guilty and join the gym, shelling out even more money that we didnt have.  It was a vicious circle.  Work 40 hours a week to bring home an income.  Spend the income (plus some) on eating out, coffee, gym to work off food eaten out and coffee, shopping trips to the mall for a mood booster and recreational spending for the both of us.  Not a fun wheel to be stuck on!
  What if instead of working (since when we crunched the numbers, my income really wasn't being saved) I had stayed home.  Would I have been less stressed?  Definitely!  Would there have been home cooked meals and leftovers for Sgt G's lunches?  Probably.  Could I have taken advantage of the country roads, walked the dogs, and not had to pay for a gym?  Most likely.  Looking back, I could have clipped coupons, and learned to be more frugal and stay home. 
  Now I know this is not the case for everyone.  Some people really do need the two incomes to survive.  I am not telling anyone what they should or shouldn't do.  I simply want to share my two cents.  I would gladly go without many conveniences, without tv or eating out to be able to stay home.  I honestly believe that my relationship with Sgt G would have been completely different if I was not in the work force.  Maybe I would have seen clues sooner.  I would have been available during the day to go to counseling sessions, etc.  Hindsight is always 20/20.  I hope in the future I am able to re-evaluate things.  And I sincerely hope that someday as a parent I will do everything in my power to stay home with my kids.  Forget the expensive toys, kids just want to spend time with their parents- not their nannies.  Even without kids, i fell into the glamor of being able to buy "stuff".  In the end it did not make me happy.  In fact I believe it added to the stress. Going into 2013, I hope I am able to learn from my mistakes.  I hope I don't get sucked in to the exercise wheel and can't get off.  I hope I chose to take the dog on a walk outside in the great (and free!) sunshine.  I hope I choose people over work.  I would rather burn calories in the garden than the gym.  I hope I choose "me" over money.