Monday, August 18, 2014

Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments

I cut branches from the garden to decorate the house.

Two of the boys' posters showed up, and one was rolled in brown paper. I saved the brown paper for other projects/wrapping presents.

The Amazon gift card that I ordered from Swagbucks came, and I was able to order one more poster for the boys' room, and two MP3 songs that the family wanted, plus a little gift for Ezrom (that I am thinking I will wait until Christmas to give to him).

I did do a little shopping for food last week; I bought 14 pounds of frozen sweet peas at .98 a pound. We eat about 1 1/2 pounds at a meal. By buying several pounds at a time, I can save myself several trips to the store.

I dug up and cut off a new euyonomus plant that I started by tip layering months ago. I planted it in a pot that I already had. It will take years to get bigger (it's just a single branch now), but eventually I will be able to trim it as a ball topiary.

We had a bit of rain on two days. I put out buckets and collected water from where it falls off the roof (it rains so little that houses here do not need rain gutters), collecting over 7 gallons of water during our short amount of rain (one time it rained as long as 15 minutes, which is rare for here). I used that to water potted plants in the garden. The rain brought a bit of cooler weather, which allowed me to turn off the air conditioner for 12 hours one night, saving me about $7. I was also able to have it off for several hours each morning when it cooled in the early hours of the morning--an unusual thing that I don't usually do until September. When I turned the air conditioner back on, it was humid enough to collect several more gallons each day from the condensation that dripped from it, which I also used to water the plants. I also had the drip line and sprinklers turned off for a day because I watched the weather and was turned it off in anticipation of rain.

My husband and I watched an episode of a tv show that we like for free on Hulu. Ivory watched a few episodes of Little Einsteins for free on Disney Junior.

I took Ezrom to the library to pick up several Lego books that he had requested. He was so delighted with his stack of library books that he kept giggling as he checked them all out.

I shared several Armenian cucumbers and bunches of basil from the garden with friends. I bottled 26 pints of dill pickles using Armenian cucumbers from the garden, and 6 quarts of grape juice.

The cooler weather and humidity of a few days brought on lots of flowers on my beans at the beginning of the week, and on Saturday I harvested a large amount of red noodle beans, which made for plenty at the table one night.

I made a triple batch of laundry soap.

I bought something from Craig's list for the first time. I was looking and not finding anything, and then, I found it--and it was a fantastic deal!

I found a Thomasville nightstand (these run hundreds of dollars new and on sale) in just the color and size I needed for a table in our library (being a nightstand, it gave me the bonus of storage in three drawers, something I had been wanting, and why I was looking at furniture other than tables). The listing had it at $75; I took it home for $60. I am completely delighted with this find and it is perfect in the room. Buying the piece used saved me a lot of money over buying a new piece of furniture.

What did you do to save money last week?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

This Week's Goals and Meal Plans


1. Clean and organize closet with printer and school papers.

2. Put schoolbooks and teacher's manuals together for the current school year

3. Make sure I have everything I need to start the school year

4. Clean and organize my desk

5. Put away clutter in my bedroom


1. Pick ripe apples and Asian pears in the garden

2. Plant sunflower seeds in garden

3. Plant zucchini seeds in garden for a fall harvest; these should ripen in October

4. Plant more red noodle beans

5. Trim grape vines

6. Trim espaliered apples

7. Cut flowers to bring in

8. Cut basil and hang it to dry

9. Plant peanuts (if I can find a place to try again; they did not germinate last time)


I don't usually list cleaning goals, but I want to make sure I don't forget these this week.

1. Clean glass on oven door (I'm going to try baking soda)

2. Clean oven racks

3. Run a short self-clean cycle on oven (It recommends 8 hours, but it is usually done after 30 minutes. During that entire time the windows have to be open, according to the manual--the smell is quite bad and supposedly toxic, so I only run it for 30 minutes while having the vent fan on and the windows and doors open.)

4. Sweep and mop my bedroom and bathroom

5. Wash hairbrushes and combs


1. Finish hemming my husband's shirt sleeves

2. Add buttonholes to three items and sew buttons on them

3. Sew Scout insignia on Cyrus' Scout shirt

4. Sew arrow points on Ezrom's Scout shirt

5. Look through fabric that I have and decide on some things for some new dresses for Winter


I am working to recover a set of chairs. I'm doing one chair at a time. Last week I removed the double welting and washed the new fabric. This week I hope to:

1. Remove staples from chair

2. Remove fabric from chair and use it as a pattern to cut new fabric

3. Take all stuffing off of chair

4. Strip chair (I want to stain it a dark color, and right now it's more of a pecan)


I do not plan on buying any food this week; we will eat from what we have on hand in the pantry and freezer, and what is ripe in the garden.

1. Order a print of a picture I downloaded (for free from the Getty) for Ezrom's room

2. Look online for clearance shoes/sales for Winter, who is outgrowing her shoes and will now wear larger shoes than I do. (All of my family have wide feet, which usually means I purchase shoes online for the biggest selection and best deals). I may or may not purchase anything this week for her.


1. List items for sale on Craig's list

2. Bump up listing of table and chairs that I already listed on Craig's list

3. List books for sale online and figure out shipping costs (any suggestions for figuring out shipping expenses/how to best list books online for sale at Homeschool Classifieds would be appreciated, as I have never done this before and I don't want to shortchange myself in shipping items).


Here are some of the things I plan on making this week:

Rosemary Olive Oil Bread

Tarragon Chicken Salad (using cucumber and tarragon from the garden)



Smoothies using home-canned and frozen fruit

Popsicles from the leftover syrup that was in the canned fruit

Banana Bread and zucchini bread

Fruit Salad using canned peaches, pears, and grapes

Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

Swiss chard (from the garden)

Chicken Flavored Rice

Cucumbers in Vinegar

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

Rosemary White Bean Soup

Minestrone Soup

Bean and Rice Burritos (I'll cook a big pot of beans and freeze some to use another time as well)

Fruit Crumble

Carrot Cake

Saturday, August 16, 2014

In Lieu of Flowers

I had a chance to peruse a Pottery Barn catalog recently. I know that a lot of bloggers have been making their own version of Pottery Barn offerings, so I looked at it with that in mind, wondering what new projects I would see online soon.

I noticed that it wasn't always the products that make the room appealing. The windows and molding play a huge difference in the way the room looks. The other thing I noticed is that all of the rooms have something green and living in them--and it's usually not flowers.

I love flowers. I would love fresh flowers in every room in my house. Flowers aren't always growing in my garden, however. Sometimes, it's just something green.

And that's okay.

Fresh greenery can help your spirit, too.

In many of the pictures, the green living thing was just branches. It's the same with the interior home pictures that you've pinned on Pinterest. Look carefully, and you'll see the way that simple cut branches can make a room look elegant.

I like to trim my euyonomous bushes and put them in jars, and march them down the center of the table. They are fun in a windowsill, too.

Another super easy option is to cut leafy branches from a tree and put them in a tall vase or jar, and place it on a mantel, on your piano, on a table, or your bathroom counter.

Both of these options are simple arrangements that can brighten your day.

Here is what I've cut from my garden in the image above:

These are euyonomous branches. They look similar to boxwood and I grow them as hedges in the garden. Eventually some will be tall enough to shape into spheres. When they grow taller or wider than you want them, give them a trim and bring them indoors. As long as the water is changed out, these should last three weeks indoors. These ones are contained in a jar that contained sauce from the store (the empty jar was given to me).

This is a spring of jasmine. It's done flowering for the year, but the greenery is still pretty. The vase had a bit of cork in it when I got it (for free) so I think it may have contained bath salts previously. One man's trash is definitely another man's treasure in this case.

This is dusty miller. Our nursery carries two types; the other type has lacier leaves. It's great as a base for flower arrangements, but it's also fascinating on its own. The vase is a store reproduction canning jar, which also was saved from the trash (this piece and the two above came from the same person who saved these jars from her trash for me).

These are flowering plum branches, contained in a vase from the Dollar Tree, which also happens to look just like the one I saw in the Pottery Barn catalog--but for a lot less. I bought three of these, so I can also arrange them in groups. 

These trees are still young. As they grow taller this year, I am needing to take off the bottom branches, so that the branches will start higher on the trees. This is the second time this year I have cut the bottom branches (which these are) to shape the trees into what I want them to be.

Pomegranate branches are an easy trim; the plants like to produce an abundance of them towards the base of the tree, which need to be pruned. These are arranged in a vintage canning jar. Look for canning jars at garage sales and thrift shops at 50 to 75 cents each, or buy a new set of 12 for around 75 cents each.

Apple trees have a good number of small branches in mid-summer. Cut the water spouts--the ones that are growing straight up in the middle of the tree. Those need to be pruned in winter anyway, so you may as well enjoy them now and allow your tree to spend its energy on branches that will produce fruit. These are in a vase from the Dollar Tree. I have them on my entry table, where a tall arrangement works really well.

Brighten your day today with something living from your garden!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments

Armenian cucumber in the garden
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I harvested a few more Armenian cucumbers. I gave two to a neighbor (they each weigh 4 to 5 pounds). I harvested a small handful of tomatoes and a small handful of red noodle beans.

I cut large bunches of basil from the garden to bring in and dry. There is still a very large amount in the garden. I think by the time our first frost comes, I will have dried enough to cover our needs for the year. We use a huge quantity of basil in cooking, and one of my goals this year was to grow enough in the garden to no longer need to purchase it at the store.

I canned 7 pints of dill pickles.

I took care of my friend's garden again this week while she was gone, and brought home loads of tomatoes; we had tomato sandwiches and pasta salad, and roasted tomatoes over pasta during the week, tomato and cucumber salad, plus tomatoes with salt as a side dish.

Early in the week, we had an unusual rain come in, enabling me to turn off the sprinklers for a day. The temperature was 25 degrees cooler as well, so I turned off the air conditioner and opened the windows for two days. At 80, felt like a preview of fall in the middle of summer. The following days had cooler mornings, so every morning I was able to turn off the air conditioner and open the windows for a few hours, filling the house with fresh, cool air (it was a 75º outside in the early mornings). Having the air conditioner off for two days in August is quite unusual. When the end-of the week usage report came from the power company via email, I could see the savings was significant; I saved $30 by having the air conditioner off those two days. The mornings were also cooler than the week before (75º in the early morning, instead of the 84º the week before), allowing me to open the windows in the early morning for a few hours, which also saved me several dollars each day over what I would normally pay.

Using what we had, I did some redecorating in the boys' room. I hung curtains, using a curtain rod I bought 9 years ago for our old house that has been sitting in the garage, and some old curtains that we had been given for free years ago (my husband thought we would use them for making some dress-up clothes, but the boys both said they liked them and wanted them hung, so they were hung).

I took down the pictures they had in there in anticipation of some posters that I ordered from Amazon, using credit that I had. I also used some Amazon gift cards that I had earned from Swagbucks, along with some referral credit, to order some quilts for the boys' beds. It won't be cold enough for the boys to need a blanket for months (we just use sheets here all summer, as it is too hot for anything else on the bed), but they really needed something other than the toddler quilts that their grandmothers made them years ago that were on their beds (Cyrus' blanket was falling apart, which prompted the change). The new quilts are folded at the end of their beds.

When the posters come and they are hung I'll take some photos.

I redeemed points for a gift card on Swagbucks.

I mended several holes in a pair of my husband's shorts.

When I need to order a new item, I try to always order through Ebates, and if possible, to do so while they are having a double cash back time, to ensure a larger rebate. Right now they are having double cash back at several places for back to school sales.

Last week, my 11-year-old glasses broke (the frame suddenly cracked and the lens fell to the floor; I was just sitting at the computer when it happened!) I was able to get a walk-in appointment at Walmart's vision center the next morning for $69. I then ordered a pair of glasses for myself and for my husband (through Ebates first for 4% back) and used a 10% off coupon code I found on Ebates to get both of us a pair of glasses (plus a clip-on sunglasses for my husband) for $26.42 From Zenni Optical, including shipping! (Plus I'll receive .95 back from Ebates. That and the $2.38 I saved using the coupon code is $3.33--enough money for a gallon of milk. I measure all small savings by the number of gallons of milk it would equal.)

For those who are shocked at the age of my glasses, I will tell you that my prescription had only very slightly changed; I had an exam many years back and they said it wasn't enough of a change to warrant a new pair of glasses then, so I had not purchased new glasses.

Wren was invited to a birthday party last week. We made the birthday girl (who turned 6) the necklace above, using Fimo clay (it hardens when baked) and a wax sealing stamp that I've had since I was a teenager. The jump ring and the chain were from several I purchased on Etsy when making Christmas gifts.

What did you do to save money last week?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Our First Family Vacation

My brother was married in California in July. This meant that we needed to make a trip to California and stay one night. The drive is about 5 1/2 hours each way.

We decided to make the most of our time by leaving early the day of the wedding (the wedding was set for 4 p.m.). We left really early, and we took food and water with us (we filled water bottles and two Gotts with cold water, and froze more water and ice for the ice chest).

We had homemade muffins and hard boiled eggs for breakfast in Baker, sitting below the world's tallest thermometer there, where it was 91º at 6 a.m.

We drove all the way to the coast of the Pacific Ocean, and up to the Getty Villa. Admission to the Getty Villa is free, but parking is $15. Reservations for tickets need to be made ahead of time.

We have been studying Greek and Roman history, and our three oldest children are huge Percy Jackson fans, so this was like a field trip, too, for which they were all very enthusiastic. The younger children loved the museum and the gardens, too. Our only regret--that we didn't have an entire day to see everything. The whole family wants to go back.

Renacting Greek stories as shadow puppet vases; that's Ezrom holding Medusa's head

We brought lunch with us (I sliced ham and turkey before hand, made French bread, brought homemade pickles, and made chocolate chip cookies) and we enjoyed lunch in the beautiful weather and shade of some redwoods in the picnic area of the museum.

After we visited the museum, we headed to our hotel to change, and then to the wedding.

When we left the reception and returned to our hotel, we headed down to the hotel pool to go swimming.

The next morning, we had a really delicious breakfast at the hotel (complimentary breakfast), and then we headed to the beach, close to where we had been the day before.

Ezrom dug a huge hole, knelt in it, and asked his siblings to bury him, and told me to go get a camera.
The beach was not free (parking was $14.50) but it had outdoor showers and bathrooms, which was rather helpful before our drive home.

The children were able to see and play in the ocean for the first time.

Our picnic lunch was more of the same from the day before.

After the beach, we drove home. We stopped along the way and ate more from the cooler for dinner: hard boiled eggs, muffins, cookies, and sandwiches.

We were very happy to see that our gas expense came in a 60% less than we had budgeted. We knew that gas was over $4 a gallon in Los Angeles, but we were able to get gas for $3.99 in California and $4.06 on our way home, and we still had a half tank left when we got home. We had no experience with lots of freeway driving with our van, but we knew the city mileage we got was not real high (it is a vehicle that fits all 9 of us, and we paid cash for it (only $500 more than we sold our old vehicle for). We never imagined it would get such good mileage on the freeway, which has left us looking at the possibility of future trips, if we can find a lower priced lodging, such as camping! Las Vegas is at least 5 to 7 hours from anywhere, so knowing that we get decent gas mileage on the freeway is really fantastic!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments

A friends asked me to take care of her garden while she was out of town, and to harvest from it while she was gone. I brought home a basket and a half of tomatoes, a handful of beans, a few small pickling cucumbers, and some small cabbages. I started a batch of sauerkraut with the cabbage. I canned 2 pints and a quart of sweet pickles with the cucumbers.

Left to right: rosemary, thyme, lavender, marjoram

From our garden, I harvested a few figs, several herbs, 7 pounds of seedless grapes, a few apples, and 10 rather large Armenian cucumbers. The cucumbers weighed almost 5 pounds each!

I canned 5 pints of grapes 6 quarts of grape juice,  and 14 pints of dill pickles.

It was much more humid this week than it has been. It is still quite dry here, of course, but the difference was noticeable when collecting water from the air conditioner; most days last week I collected 6 gallons of water a day from the water that drips out those pipes. I used that water to water our potted fruit trees and plants. I also used water from rinsing garden produce and from the last rinse of large bowls to water the pots. (I put a dishpan in the sink to collect the water under the produce I rinsed).

I called the hotel where we stayed for the wedding to have them remove the extra charges on our bill; they charged us twice for parking, and also for a local phone call, which we did not make. They removed the charges, saving me $42.55. I am very glad that I looked over my bill and called them about it.

I used a $10 off $10 coupon at Staples to purchase 10 graph paper composition books for nothing out of pocket.

I also purchased a few more school supplies on back to school sales at Target and Walmart, and used $3 worth of printable coupons for these as well.

I used the shredder to shred the grocery ads that come in the mail to add to our compost pile. We also added lawn cuttings to the compost.

We went to the library, where the children were able to get free used books for reading books over the summer through their summer reading program. We brought home 21 new to us books!

What did you do last week to save money?