Tuesday, March 19, 2013

For the Love of Mason Jars

I am sure most all other homesteaders will agree with me when I say that mason jars can be used for virtually anything!  There are the obvious uses in canning and food storage.  Pinterest has a million decorating ideas for mason jars.  With a few accessories you can add a multitude of new uses too.  Today I want to show you just one of the many ways I use mason jars.  I bought this cuppow lid at the local feed store (or you can check out cuppow.com).  It sits on top of the jar in place of the usual flat canning lid.  Then screws on the ring, like normal and in an instant you have a travel mug!  This is a great way to take water, tea or green smoothies along in the car without worrying about them sloshing over.  If you have kids, then you could do juice (or you can do juice if you don't have kids but just really like drinking juice).  I wouldn't advise putting hot coffee in it, for obvious reasons.  One disclaimer I would add is that it is NOT spill proof.  Just a heads up (speaking from personal experience).  I love that a mason jar is useful whether its dressed up or just basic.  I like that I dont have to store different cups.  We use mason jars for our daily glasses.  I can just grab the lid if I want to go somewhere, thus eliminating the need to have normal cups as well as to go cups.  Whats not to love?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Road Trip Survival Kit

One week from today my husband will be flying out here to California to help me move back to Maryland.  Driving from the West Coast to the East Coast will be quite a haul, especially since we will be towing a trailer.  I am super excited, and in that excitement wanted to make a fun road trip survival kit. I used an empty baby wipes container as its the perfect size.  I decorated the outside with leftover scrapbook paper (to hide the pictures of babies butts- even though they are super cute!) and hot glued scrabble tiles to the lid.  For my sisters wedding, one of the bridesmaids gave us survival bags with a variety of travel size goodies.  I picked the ones that would be useful for a road trip to put in my kit.  Her kit also included single size bottles of alcohol, which would definitely NOT be a good road trip kit item... so I excluded those (and I don't drink anyways, but I am sure hubby wouldn't object to some wine).  Our kit includes gum, toothbrushes, tide to go, lotion, tissues, first aid kid, chocolate among other things.  Normally I would not buy these items individually as I think they are way over priced just for convenience.  In this case, they were gifted to me making the whole kit free!  If you wanted to make one you could use items you already have, or just break down a normal size package of whatever into travel size bits.  For a fun addition I included these "road trip questions" (from here:   http://sissyprint.blogspot.com/2011/09/couples-road-trip-questions.html) I am looking forward to our road trip but sad to be leaving family. 
  I will be posting up until I pack my computer.  I am supposed to be packing today, but keep finding ways to procrastinate.  Making a road trip survival kit is waaay more important than packing boxes for the said trip... and of course after making something, I need to blog about it!  Ok, ok I am off to pack up now.  Enjoy!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

I felt it was a little bit ironic when asked for marriage advice for my sister, considering how Sgt G and I have been separated.  I can't say "well here's what worked for me".  I am not a good example of a perfect marriage (which I don't think exists). I can however say what I have learned and hope they make it work for them.  At weddings people are full of advice- often one liners.  "Don't let the sun go down on your anger" "spend time together" "be each other's best friend" etc.  I don't have any witty advice but I do have personal experience.  So J and M, I hope you cherish each other.  Bumps in the road are going to come.  Maybe sooner than later, but they are just bumps.  The main point is to keep going- together.  Don't let go of each others hands when the going gets tough.  I love you both dearly and yesterday was a truly perfect wedding!

Here is my take on two classic pieces of advice given at weddings.   

Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Your Anger
    Ephesians 4:26-27 is an often quoted Bible verse about anger.  Newly married couples are often told to "not let the sun go down on your anger".  I always assumed that meant literally we had to hash everything out before going to bed.  I don't think that is the point of the verse.  If we step back and look at the entire verse, this is what we see- "Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity."  First, we are told that anger is okay.  As Christians, married or not, we are not guaranteed a perfectly happy life where we never get angry.  Even Jesus got angry.  I believe the point of this passage is "yet do not sin".  Don't do something  you will regret later just because you are angry.  Take a walk, have some quiet time, do whatever calms you down.  There were many nights when I took the verse a bit too literally.  I would want to stay up and solve the problem.  While sometimes that would work, the majority of the time both parties are exhausted.  I thought we had to stay up or we were bad Christians.  The advice to couples to not let the sun go down on their anger is not a hard and fast rule.  I think you should try and work things out that same day, but sometimes you just need to sleep on it.  Everything looks better in the morning (usually).  In the morning, you can get a cup of coffee and sit down calmly to talk about whatever it was that happened.  Maybe the verse can be interpreted as don't let two suns go down on your anger.  Talk about things as soon as possible, but as soon as calmly possible.
Spend Time Together
   Another common advice to couples on their wedding day, is to spend time together.  I completely agree with this!  There is a quote that says "love is a four letter word spelled t-i-m-e" and its so true.  Spend time with your loved one.  I always appreciated that Sgt G would come with me to the yarn store.  Not because he likes yarn as much as I do, but because we could spend time together.  Hang out together, cook dinner together, watch a movie, go on a walk, etc.  I would also challenge a couple to take individual time too. Have a girlfriends night, or a guys poker night.  Its ok to be away from your spouse for a couple hours.  In fact I think it strengthens the relationship.  As long as its not every night, and nothing "wrong" is happening.  Don't leave your husband or wife at home to go drinking with those of the opposite sex.  That's asking for trouble.  Personally speaking, twice a month on Sunday I would go to knit night with my girlfriends.  Sgt G has poker nights once or twice a month.  Neither one of us has to worry about the other while they are away.  Time apart is important because it gives you a chance to miss the other person.  At the end of knit night, I would go home to a husband eager to hear how it went.  That made all the difference.  It doesn't matter to Sgt G how many rows I was able to knit.  He just cares about my day, and I about his.  So, spend as much time together as possible with a few alone nights sprinkled here and there. 

Welcome to the family M!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Sister's Special Day

Congratulations to my beautiful baby sister!  Today she is marrying her love and will join the ranks of married women.  J, I hope that you cherish your new husband and can grow together as a couple.  You are so gorgeous and I wish you the best!
  I will be away from the computer for the weekend, but will leave you with this picture.  My sister who is getting married is the "groom" in the pic.  I am holding the flower basket, and our other sister is in the pink dress. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Bachelorette Party and Knitting?

Typically my purse contains a knitting project.  Something that is small and scrunchable, and easy to work on wherever I am.  This week the purse project is a pair of socks.  I had originally started socks with this gorgeous yarn (http://victorygardenfarm.blogspot.com/2013/02/friday-fiber-fun.html) but I wasn't really feeling the combination of yarn and pattern.  I hate to keep working on something that I am not thrilled with, so I set the socks aside for a bit.  This week I decided to start a different pattern with the same yarn.  I like it soo much better!

   Yesterday was my sister's bachelorette party and my knitting came along.  I don't drink so I had ample time to knit while others were drinking.  You can be a great observer while knitting!  It might be a tad unconventional to knit at a bachelorette party, but I'm not a conformist so out came the knitting.  Mind you I am knitting at the house, not while out to dinner or anything.  

PS Check out the view from my Uncle's house where we had the party!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Barnheart Book Review

During my recent trip to the bookstore, I picked up a used copy of the book BarnHeart by Jenna Woginrich. I had read Jenna's previous book Made From Scratch, loved it so I snatched this one up as well. The book is an easy read and chronicles Jenna's journey to a new state (Vermont) where she rents a cabin and starts a small farm. While at times the book seems extremely romanticized, it does cover many of the hardships of small scale farming. Jenna came up with the term Barn Heart and uses it multiple times in the book. Her definition of Barn Heart is a condition of the heart where you long to have a farm (of any sort) and can't stop thinking/dreaming/planning for it. I think this is an extremely useful term and I completely "get it". I have had Barn Heart since I was young. Before buying our house, I had a really bad case of it, bad enough to turn down prospective gorgeous houses because we wouldn't be able to have chickens on the property. Its what led us to finally buying property in the country. I get it, I really do. One thing that annoyed me about the book, was how easy things seemed to fall into place for Jenna. I am sure that's not really the case. A memoir is supposed to highlight and skim the authors life, so I don't blame Jenna. Its hard to read a chapter where she mentions wanting sheep and in the next chapter she is given sheep by a friend (granted it was a fair trade for fiddle lessons). In real life, things take a lot longer, at least for me. There has to be saving up of money, planning fences, and so much planning. One thing I did like is that Jenna really seemed to do her research before jumping in. She knew someday she wanted sheep and a border collie. So before she even had a sheep dog or sheep, she started going to shepherding trials. She took classes and got mentors. I appreciate that she didn't just take on a new breed of farm animal without the proper research. Jenna is not the type of farmer who has chickens and a compost pile because its cool, trendy or the thing to do. This is her life. She gardens and eats from the garden. She raised a turkey for Thanksgiving (even though she was a vegetarian, she discusses changing her stance on vegetarianism if the animals are raised in the right way). Her farm is her livelihood and passion. If it fails, so does she. When she needed a truck, she didn't go buy a shiny new F250. She got a used cheap truck that fits her perfectly. While the book is a bit romanticized it really lets you see Jenna's heart. I enjoyed following her on her journey. The book makes you want to buy a fiddle and a sheep dog and curl up in front of a wood stove and play to your hearts content. I would recommend it to anyone who might have Barn Heart themselves. I am glad that I found an inexpensive used copy for myself. If there is any interest, we could do a giveaway of the book so that the winner can have their own copy. Thoughts?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Benefits of Nutritional Yeast

Just recently I have been introduced to nutritional yeast. One of the families I nanny for use it on toast for the kids, but call it "cheese". After all, what kid wants to eat something called nutritional yeast over cheese? tricky! My mom is extremely limited on what she can eat and last week tried nutritional yeast in a "macaroni and cheese" meal. She can't have grains, dairy, sugars or meat. So the mac n cheese was good, but nothing like real mac n cheese. Moving on... this morning I decided to try the "cheese" on my toast and all I can say is yum! This stuff is good! Not only does it have a cheesy taste, but it also has many benefits. One serving (I believe is 2 Tablespoons- more than enough for 2 slices of toast) is a complete protein! This is tremendously helpful to my mom who is limited in her protein choices. It is low in both fat and sodium, and a great source of vitamins, especially the B-complex vitamin, as wel as folic acid, selenium, and zinc. Some producers of nutritional yeast offer it fortified with Vitamin B12. It is used by many vegans who are looking for additional protein and vitamins. Nutritional yeast can be found in the bulk section of most health food stores. Luckily we have a plethora of them here in Santa Cruz. Even if nutritional yeast didn't have any benefits, it is tasty enough to hold its own. The fact that it includes multiple benefits makes it extra impressive. If you have never tried nutritional yeast, I recommend you get a small bit to try it. There is nothing scary about it, except the thought of running out!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

I'm dreaming of...chicks!

Happy Tuesday! I can't believe how fast time is flying. At the end of the month I will be back in Maryland and back in my house. Sgt G (my husband) and I were talking about our goals, and our farming goals came up. We realize that we don't want to jump back in with all the animals we had before, at least not while we try and work on things together. We did decide that we wanted chickens. We ordered 25 chicks that will be delivered in April. They are an assortment of egg layers and I can't wait to hear little peeps again! We still have all our chicken equipment, which is one of our reasons for starting right away with chickens. There will not be a huge start up cost other than the chicks and feed. When we left the house, we sold all of our fencing, gates, and goat equipment. I would love to have goats asap, but realize financially they will have to wait. I am hoping that as soon as I get back, we can get a garden started for the year too. We are catching up on mortgage payments, and paying 1.5 payments until we are caught up so the budget will be super tight. My goal is to grow as much as possible to try and cut the grocery budget down. The chicks will not start laying until they are about 5-6 months old so we wont have eggs right away. Hopefully we will find other frugal ways to increase the homestead and save money in the long run. I am so excited to be getting chicks. Sgt G and I had fun picking out what breeds we wanted. Here's a picture from one of my favorites from last year...

Monday, March 11, 2013

Can Learning a New Instrument be Done Frugally?

While Sgt G and I have been separated I have been going to a counselor. She has been encouraging me to figure out who I am, and what I enjoy doing, apart from others. She had me write down a list of things I thought I might enjoy. She challenged me to try some without being afraid of failing, or not liking it after all. Typically I am a all or nothing type of gal (and that's something we are working on too....) Once I decide I want to do something, I buy or procure anything I might need to do it. If I want to learn golf, it would be logical to rent some clubs (or borrow) and take a lesson or two. Instead, I would buy an entire set of golf clubs, matching tees, outfits, gloves, visor, etc. You get the point. My "education" does not come cheap. This also hinders me, because when I am on a budget, I will not try and learn a new skill for fear of costing too much money. This is a character trait I am trying to rectify. I can learn new skills, and stick to a budget at the same time. One of the things on my list that I am interested in doing, is learning to play a string instrument. I feel equally excited about learning guitar or violin. I will most likely never be incredibly good at either, since I have the worst sense of rhythm (which is why I do not dance. ever.) but I am not going to let that stop me. I might not even like it, so I didn't want to invest a huge chunk of money in this endeavor. Once I decided I could try guitar OR violin, I turned to Craigslist. I searched for both instruments and sent a lot of emails. I ended up buying a violin today for a grand total of $40. It came with a bow and carrying case. I will most likely take it to the local music store to have them give it a once over. It seems to be in good condition, has all the strings, and makes noise (music to those who know how to play it, just noise when I try). The carrying case looks like crap on the outside. Maybe the seller's dog got a hold of it? Maybe their cat liked to scratch it? I like to think its beat up because they took it everywhere with them. Sure, I would have loved to go to the music store and bought a $200 dollar violin, matching case and any accessories that looked appealing. Instead I have a ratty case, and a pretty piece of wood and strings. For $40, if I decide the violin is not for me, I can re-sell it and not take a huge loss. If I love it, and need a better instrument later, I will have the chance to save up for a better used one. So my friends, I urge you to look for something used and cheap when you want to learn a new skill. At least until you know if that skill is something you really enjoy. I am all about having quality items, but you don't need to rush out and spend a ton of money before you are sure. I would love to relearn piano (I played as a child due to my mom teaching piano out of our home) but I won't have access to one in Maryland, and even used pianos can be super expensive. Maybe someday I will snag a free one on Craigslist. Until then I will stick with my $40 violin.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

New "About Me" Page

I just added an "about me" page. I thought I would post it here too in case you don't notice it there. This is what I said: I always think "about me" pages are a little excessive, since this whole blog is about me. That said, I will share a little bit more details about my personal life that are non farm related. I grew up in sunny Santa Cruz, California. I always felt out of place. Santa Cruz is a surf, beach town. It is perfectly acceptable to wear flip flops year round (in the rain, they dry out pretty quick so no rain boots for us!). Growing up I didn't like the beach. Instead I favored camping. I obsessed over the Donner Party (I could tell you every person who perished in that tragic event). When my sisters were reading GooseBumps, I was reading Laura Ingalls Wilder. While they watched Pinky and the Brain, I watched Little House on the Prairie. My best friend and I would pretend we lived in the "olden days". Our bikes were horses and had names, and would take us on grand adventures. On cleaning days, when my mom would put all the dining room chairs outside on the patio, we would line them up to make a train. We would pretend we were fancy ladies going to visit some relative. Or a mail order bride going to meet her new family. One of my favorite movies was Sarah Plain and Tall. I wish I could say that was just a stage that I grew out of. Instead the desire to live on a farm, or in the olden days just grew. I went to college in Santa Barbara, California. Santa Barbara is a very posh town that many celebrities call home. While I loved its charm, I hated the attitude of having to live up to a certain standard. My friends would make fun of me when I said that someday I would own a milk cow. I was the one laughing last year when I was trudging out in the snow to milk our goats. After college I moved to Texas (I had this extremely romantic notion of cowboys, line dancing and manners). Texas did not disappoint. Today it remains one of my favorite states, but for different reasons. It was while I was living in Austin that I started going out with my future husband. Fast forward a bit, we got married and he got called to deploy to Iraq. For the first year and a half of our marriage he was half way around the world. I worked a desk job at a local bank, made friends and dreamed of having livestock. I always thought we couldn't have chickens or goats since he was in the military. Fast forward even further and we got transferred to Maryland. We fell in love with the area and bought a house. Maryland has a huge agriculture community, which we both loved. It also has a large fiber community, which feeds into my fiber addiction. I fell even more in love with knitting (I learned in junior high) and delved into spinning on a spinning wheel. One of the many things I enjoy about Maryland is the fact that it has seasons. Santa Cruz and Texas didn't, at least not in the same way. Santa Cruz, is pretty much always 60-70. Sure it has cold days and hot days, but on an average you can get by with jeans, flip flops and a sweater. Texas was always hot. Always. Maryland gets snow in winter, cherry blossoms in spring, fireflies in the summer, and gorgeous fall foliage. The weather is always changing and I appreciate each season for what it is. Winter is just long enough that you don't get too sick of it. And by the end of summer you are wishing it was winter again just so you can get out of the sweltering heat. As much as I love Maryland, last summer my husband and I separated. I moved all my belongings back to the West Coast and have been staying with my parents. This coming March, I will be reversing that drive to go back to Maryland and try to reconcile things with my husband. I don't want to get into too many details about our relationship, but I am extremely hopeful that we can fix what went wrong before. As I type, I am in my childhood bedroom, full of half packed moving boxes. I am eager to get back to Maryland and my husband, but sad to be leaving my family. I hope to once again get farm animals in Maryland and continue what we started a couple years ago. I will continue to blog our successes, attempts and failures. I am so thankful to everyone who reads this blog and hope you are able to get something out of it. I love comments and will try to answer as much and as often as possible. That's my life story in a nutshell.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

More Vintage-y Goodness

Is anyone starting to notice a theme here? While putting away my toaster and stand covers, I found this dresser scarf. I love its simplicity. I think dresser scarves are a thing of the past and I am not sure why. I love them! I have multiple "scarves", in fact I might have more scarves than dressers at the moment. This is one of my favorites!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Extra Income

This month, for a few different reasons (some to be announced soon) finances are super tight. I love my nannying jobs, but needed to take on something extra. Thankfully we have family friends who run the food operations for our local amusement park and D League Basketball team. They were incredibly generous in giving me some weekend shifts. This past weekend I got to work at the Santa Cruz Warriors game. For the night I felt like I was back in high school working at the Boardwalk. The uniform hasn't changed much since then (nor has the food). Next weekend I will be back in the arena serving beer and hot dogs. On Sat morning I am also proctoring a CBEST test for extra income. That is all to say that in the course of one week I will be working 4 different jobs for 4 different people. I am definitely not above taking on extra work when the money gets tight. What are other ways you earn extra money?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Notice a Trend?

The other day I came home from the bookstore and couldn't help but laugh. All of the books I came home with were homesteading/gardening/canning, or something of the sort. At least I am consistent! Now I just need to find the time to sit down and read them! I am trying to find my place in this in between land right now. At least for this month I am still staying with my parents (who have been gracious enough to let me stay here). I can't have bees, chickens or goats here. However, I can read books on the subject. I can study. I can can(did I mention I made over 200 jars of jam for my sisters upcoming wedding? I did...). I can look forward to a time when I can do more of my passions. Until then, I will settle in with a good book and a cup of coffee, and be content with what I can do right now, at this present time.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Canning Orange Juice

Last week my Uncle asked me if I wanted any oranges from his tree. Of course my answer was yes! He has an amazingly prolific tree and was trying to give oranges to anyone who could use them. No one else in my family wanted them, so I was left with 2 large bags of oranges. I devoured the first one as soon as I peeled it. Next I juiced a few for my mom and I in her juicer. She can't have any sugar (other than natural) and luckily these oranges were sweet enough on their own. I then peeled and juiced the remaining oranges, added 1/2 cup sugar and canned the juice to enjoy later. Now I have fresh orange juice and strawberry lemonade in my pantry!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Tribute to My Dutch Roots

Yesterday I showed you my toaster cover.  Today I bring you my mixer cover.  There is something very nostalgic about kitchen appliance covers.  I can't get enough of them!  My dad's side of the family is Dutch.  I found this cute mixer cover in Iowa at an antique store during one of our reunions.  I love the colors, the windmill and the tulips.  It is a perfect tribute to my heritage and I love seeing it on my counter!
(Please ignore the stains, apparently after sitting in storage I really need to clean it!)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Hot Toast Makes the... Butter Fly!

Check out this cutie I scored at the local flea market!  I love digging through vintage linens and came across this gal.  It took me a minute to "get it".  I was trying to figure out why there was a butterfly on a toaster cover.  I have never been good at those mad gab games, and this just proves it. Finally figuring it out, I decided that I would pay up to $5 for it.  I always make a deal in my head before asking the price.  That way I can immediately say yes or no.  When the person selling it said I could take it home for a dollar, I quickly handed over my money and left before they could change their mind.  A dollar?  Ill take it!  There was a similar style stand mixer cover but I already have one that I love, and a girl doesn't need two stand mixer covers when she only has one mixer.  What do you think?  Worth a dollar? (Every time I write the word dollar the famous Honey Boo Boo "every dolla makes me holla" plays in my head....)