Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Strawberries and Balsamic Vinegar

We've been enjoying strawberry season here on the Farm.  We don't actually have any strawberry plants here, but we've been to our favorite strawberry farm and picked pounds and pounds of our own.  The difference in taste between a strawberry just off the plant and one which has taken a journey from California to our local grocery is amazing!  I've tasted berries straight from the field in California and they are delicious, too;  it's the whole truck thing that just doesn't cut it in the strawberry department.

Thus far, we've eaten strawberries in smoothies, on cereal, over shortcake, with rhubarb and, of course, just plain.  Yesterday, however, I found a new way to enjoy them  - with balsamic vinegar and fresh ground pepper!

I admit.  It doesn't sound very good, but it is quite yummy.  I am not sure how to describe the taste.  The vinegar just seems to bring out even more "strawberriness" or something.

The recipe is, of course, simple.  We pretty much only do simple around here, especially with fruits and veggies.  In my humble opinion, the less you mess with fruits and veggies, the better they taste.

Here's how to get some strawberry yumminess:

Cut some strawberries into a bowl.  Sprinkle with just a bit of sugar and balsamic vinegar.  Give a twist or two from your pepper grinder.  Stir it up and let sit for at least 10 minutes.  An hour will give the flavors even more time to mingle.  Grab a fork and eat it up!

I know that the amounts in the recipe above are, well, they're pretty much missing.  When I made it yesterday, I used about 1/2 lb of berries, 1/2 t of sugar and 1 T of balsamic.  You'll have to give it a shot and decide how strong you like the flavors. 

These berries would be amazing in a salad with some goat cheese!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Frivolous Friday - Dad Life

Depending on how you look at things, this post can either be late from last Friday or early for this Friday.  I'm thinking of it as early, because, well, the more kids we've had it seems I rarely manage to get something done early.

I love the Big Guy more than words can say.  He is truly a gift to myself and the Young'uns.  Earlier today, he sent me a link to this video called, "Dad Life."  It is hilarious and if you watch it, you'll recognize lots of Dads or parts of lots of Dad you know.

Dad Life from Church on the Move.

After I finished laughing, I went into the kitchen do some cooking and got to thinking about the video and the Big Guy. I know the Big Guy likes mowing the lawn and taking his "entourage" to the park or swimming pool. He'll even admit to enjoying a good DVD aimed at the younger set. But I am sure there are many days when he is left thinking, "Isn't there a bit more? Something a tad more adventurous?"

Often Moms (including me) feel like we're the ones who have it the toughest - the kids, the work, the food, the cleaning, etc. etc. etc. Even if Dads are helpful (and the Big Guy is), we still feel end up feeling so put upon for some reason. But what about the Dads?

Surely, the kids, the work, the food, the cleaning, etc. etc. etc. starts to wear on them as well. Not to mention the less than content and happy wife... A guy's got to want a break.

So, thanks Big Guy! I love you! When you need a break, please take it! I'll do my best to send you off with a warm hug and a smile.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Bit Out of the Ordinary

Today was a bit strange, really good, but strange all the same.

Today all the inhabitants of the Little Farm spent the day in a mall.  Yep, from 10am to 4pm we were in a mall.  Not just any mall, but the Mall of America. 

The Mall of America contains 400 stores, employs about 12,000 people (are you kidding me?  WOW!) and contains a 7 acre park.  I find this all a bit mind boggling.  It is a bit like a small town in and of itself.  Only it's about the trendiest, most commercial small town ever.  Oh yes, and this small town doesn't have a Wal-Mart which actually makes me wonder if it could really be the Mall of America.  I mean shouldn't THE Mall of America have a Wal-Mart?  Isn't Wal-Mart THE Store of America?  (I'm trying to be ironic here.)

We were at the Mall of America for the amusement park.  A generous friend gave us all day passes for 7 people!  Isn't that amazing?  The tickets were won off a radio contest.  So, people actually do win those things.  Spending a day in a Mall, riding crazy rides is definitely out of the ordinary for our family.  The last time we came through this way, we stopped at THE Mall and everyone got to ride like 1 ride each.  That little venture took a huge bite out Nate's college fund.  (just kidding)  It was great fun to see our older and younger kids kicking back on the same rides and having a ball.

Even more out of the ordinary, I went on rides which are considered "thrill" rides.  Yes, I still hit the carousel and the little train, but today I went out on a limb and went on rides with the Big Guy and Nate.  The photo above is one of them.

In my teens and early 20's, I used to venture out on such rides - the ones with big drops, lots of spinning and high velocity.  However, somewhere around the time we became parents, these rides stopped being appealing to me.  I had no desire to give them a go whatsoever.  I'd watch happily from the ground as the Big Guy gave them a turn, but I preferred my feet firmly on the ground.

Today was different.  Not sure of the reason, but I'm glad.  It was fun to be a little daring (OK - I know going on these rides isn't really all that daring, but ...).  It was fun to have a little adventure with the Big Guy and see my oldest son giving me big smiles as I screamed my head off.

As we went up the climb on the first big coaster,  I did two things.  First, I silently scolded myself for not having hit the ladies' room before we got on the coaster.  Second, I made Nate promise not to tell anyone if a word which would have made my Mom run for the soap crossed my lips.  I'm happy to report that my Christian witness remains in tact.  Mom would be proud.

A bit out of the ordinary is a good thing every once in a while.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Best Friends Not Allowed

To be honest, I am not even sure what to say about mind is screaming about a hundred different things all at once.

While listening to public radio today, I heard a discussion about best friends.  Apparently, there was an article in the New York Times last week that stated many schools and child "experts" have decided that best friends amongst kids are a bad thing.  There are schools and camps who do things to purposely dissuade and undermine such friendships.


Here's a link to the article, "The End of the Best Friend."  Go read it and come back.

Are you reeling?

Before I go farther let me say, we homeschool our kids.  So, yes, I am probably a bit out of touch in terms of the whole bullying problem in schools I so often hear discussed.  I mean really, our big bully here at our school is probably our two year old.  She is pretty tough.  However, even if I am a bit out of touch with the school scene, this just seems wrong on so many levels.

I think best friends, or at the very least, a small group of very close friends is essential to kids as they grow up.  If everyone is friends with everyone else, where will kids learn how to be in close relationships with others?  Where will they learn how to give and take or how to share in another's grief or happiness or how to to put someone else's needs above your own in the really tough times?  I could go on and on...

Yes, these are all relational skills the Big Guy and I want our children to learn at home first and foremost.  We want our kids to learn how to be in healthy, loving, Godly relationships with each other so that they'll be ready to have such friendships outside of our immediate family.  Truth be told, being friends with siblings wasn't one of the reasons we started homeschooling, but it is certainly one of the greatest benefits we've seen from homeschooling.  But they've got to learn to find and grow such friendships outside of their family as well! 

How desolate my past would seem had I been discouraged in seeking out special "best" friendships with others!  In fact, had I been so discourage, how desolate would my present and future would seem as well.

I'm rambling a bit...I'd love hear other's thoughts on this...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Farm Report: What A Difference A Few Weeks Make

It is truly a miracle what a few weeks of sun, warmth and rain can do!  God is good.  The garden has taken off and is looking great.

I'll give you a little tour...

Here are the snap peas this morning.  The crazy plants on either side of the trellis are blue potato plants.  Who knew they'd get so big? 

Here's what the snap peas looked like on May 27th.  You can't even see the tops of the trellis in this shot.

Here's a snap pea.  The littlest Young'un has been eating copious amounts of snap peas straight off the vines.  If she's outside and we can't find her (not that a situation like this would ever occur), we just have to look in the garden.  She's in amongst the peas.

The lettuce bed is looking a bit bedraggled.  We've eaten TONS and there's still more to pick.  The plants regrow if you cut off the lettuce instead of plucking out the whole thing.

One of a several plantings of beans.  Carrots are coming in my little lines along the front of the plot.

Same beans on May 27th.

Tomato "walls" growing.  We're giving something new a shot.  Tomatoes are actually vines which is why they seem to climb right out of those wire tomato cages we usually stick them into.  String has been tied around the wooden posts on either side of the plot and the tomatoes will climb up the string.  If it works, picking tomatoes will be a GREAT deal easier!  There also also eggplant and peppers in this plot.

Another tomato wall.  Some seeds have been planted in the empty middle of this plot, but I'm not sure what they are.  Farmer Ron did the planting.  Nasturtiums have the small plants in the foreground.  Did you know Nasturtium leaves are edible and pretty yummy in salads?

A row of sunflowers next to the fence and tomato (not in walls) in the front.  There are also some pole beans next to the fence way at the end.

Here is a list of what's in the ground as of today:
tomatoes - 35 or so plants
peppers - green, red, purple, jalapenos
beans - bush and pole
snap peas
swiss chard
soy beans

Happy Growing!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Frivolous Friday - Just One More

When I saw this photo, my first thought was "What's so funny?"  We've got tons of the classic sitting-on-the-couch-in-a-big-pile-of-family photos.  It actually took me about a minute to find the funniness.  What possessed them to take this photo and who volunteered to be... well, I'm just going to stop there.  You'll have to find what I mean for yourself.

I promise, this will be the last photo I post from Awkward Family Photos.  It really will.  I just can't help it; I love to laugh.

Mega Swag Bucks Day

Search & Win

Have you signed up for Swagbucks yet?  No?  What are you waiting for?

If you haven't signed up - you're missing out on free Amazon or Barnes and Noble or Starbucks gift cards.

Fridays are Mega Swag Bucks day which means you even more Swag Bucks for doing your regular searching on the internet.  Swag Bucks has also started daily polls which take about 30 seconds and earn you 1 Swag Buck.  You can also click through their no commitment special offers and earn a Buck or two.

Signing up is easy, just click here or on the sidebar widget.

Want to learn more about Swag Bucks?  Check out this post.

Happy swaggy searching!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Will it Roast? Potatoes

Cue the music.

Turn on the funky, blinking colored lights.

It's time for everyone's favorite Little Farm game show - Will It Roast?

If you're new to our series you might be asking, "Why roast a vegetable?"  Well, first and foremost, because it makes veggies taste amazing!  It's also EASY and healthy.  What's not to love?
Tonight's contender is potatoes which, of course as everyone knows, will roast.  Potatoes will roast and they'll be delicious doing it.  Any type of potato will roast - russets, red, yukon gold, fingerlings - you name it.  Roasted potatoes are tender and creamy on the inside and crispy on the outside.  They are also a very economical side dish.  Mmmmm

The same basic recipe we used in our other Will it Roast? posts applies to potatoes - Veggies + high heat + oil = some veggie deliciousness.

Roasted Potatoes

Potatoes with skins on, I probably use about 3 lbs for our family
Olive Oil - a few tablespoons
Salt and Pepper
Extras:  onions, garlic, spices like thyme or rosemary

Line a pan with aluminum foil.  (Not necessary, but it makes clean up so much easier and, as such, make your veggies taste that much better.)  Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Cut potatoes into cubes.  They shouldn't be some small diced sized.  Ours are usually on the larger side of bite sized.  If you are using small red potatoes - just halve them or leave them whole if they're really small.  Spread the potatoes out on the baking sheet.  Drizzle oil over them and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.  At this point, you can also add some minced garlic or a slivered onion or both to the baking sheet.  Herbs are also a great addition.  I'd try a single herb the first you do it.  If you want to get really crazy - roast some potatoes and carrots together.  It will probably take about 30 minutes for your potatoes to get those crispy browned bits on their edges.  If you are making a bunch of them, you might want to spread them on two pans.  Your cooking time will also be longer if you up the quantity.  Giving them a stir or two while their cooking is a good idea also.

You're going to love these things!  Eat them with beef, chicken, even burgers.  I've even had salads made with roasted potatoes.  Oh. My.  Yummy.

Stayed tuned for our next episode when we ask - Lettuce, Will It Roast?

Just kidding - lettuce will NOT roast. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Gals Are On Strike!

Have you noticed how slowly the numbers on The Egg Count have been creeping up?  For the past couple of months, we've been averaging 3.4 eggs per day from the four Gals.  However, things have changed.

It appears the Gals are on strike.

When the Young'uns skip out to check for eggs each day, they are coming back sad faced and empty handed.  We've been eking out about an egg a day for the last week or so.


This is only our second year of having chickens here on the Farm, so Farmer Ron and I are not exactly poultry experts in any way, shape or form.  Like most things we do, we figure the best way to learn is by doing, so we got the chickens and we're figuring it out as we go.  We even took this approach to having kids..."Let's just start trying and see what happens."  So far, it's worked well, a bit chaotic, but well.

Not being completely well versed in the way of the chicken, we're at a bit of a loss as to the slow down in egg production.  Many theories have been thrown around the dinner table - a sneaky little neighbor gal, the lack of sun, a shortage of eggs on some other planet (think aliens), a need for the coop to be moved, chicken stress (whatever this might be), a sneaky animal neighbor, chicken cannibalism (we haven't seen any empty shells).  See how may possibilities with which we have to work?

The best theory we've come up with is that the Gals are molting.  What is molting you ask?  Here's your answer, thanks to wiki answers:

Molting is the process of shedding and renewing its feathers. During the molt the reproductive system of the bird is allowed a complete rest from laying and the bird builds up its body reserves of nutrients. It is a natural process, designed to maintain the birds' ability to escape enemies by flight( strong new feathers) and to provide greater protection against cold winter conditions. In most breeds the molt occurs once per year but can actually happen twice in the same year. The molt can last from 3 months and occasionally for up to 5 months depending on the condition of the bird at the start of molt. A good tonic added to the drinking water will help speed this along.

So, we're using molting as our working theory of our lack of eggs.  We really don't have a clue if it's a correct theory, but we're going with it for now and we'll see what happens.  Three months is a long time to keep these Gals if they aren't going to give us eggs since we don't keep them over the winter anyway.  (They end up in our freezer somewhere around the start of December.) 

Will we break the Laying Chickens Union strike and bring in scabs? 

Stay tuned...who knew chickens could bring such drama to our lives?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Edible Landscaping - Amazing!

I found photos online of the Edible Garden at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.  It's fascinating to me in many ways.  For starters, it gorgeous!  It's also very creative.  I love the all of the colors to be found in using plain old vegetable garden plants.  What a great way to create some beauty and feed people at the same time.  Don't get me wrong - I love me some flower gardens.  (I wish I was better at growing and more committed to my flower gardens here on the farm.  Maybe I'll work on them more when I am not growing Young'uns.)  The idea of edible gardens just intrigues me.

We're trying our hand at edible gardening in a couple of places around the Farm - some pole beans growing along the garage and herbs in flower beds.  The Edible Garden at the Botanical Garden in Atlanta went for it in a big way.  They converted an acre of parking lot into a garden that can be eaten along with an outdoor kitchen for visiting chefs to teach classes in.  How fun is that?

Thought I'd share a few photos to get you thinking and also a link in case you want to see it for yourself.

An "amphitheater" of veggie plants with fruit trees along the top.

Same amphitheater - side view.  Veggies in the Round. 

Kevin Gillespie, our favorite chef from America's Top Chef (we were addicted to that show back when we had cable), picking herbs from the wall of herbs.  I love the wall of herbs!

Herb wall - up close and personal.

Find out more at Garden Design.

All the photos are courtesy of Atlanta Botanical Garden.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Best Birthday Cake!

It's my birthday today. I don't want to lose my Mom card, so I won't reveal my true age. Let's just say I am not 40, yet...

In honor of my birth (Thanks Mom!), I thought I'd share my very favorite cake recipe of ALL time. Seriously-this cake is a little bit of heaven. It is especially delicious with some sort of fruity sauce - like rhubarb or strawberry- and some REAL homemade whipped cream on top.

Oh. My. Goodness. It's to die for.

This is not a cake for those who shun fat and calories, but, even if you are one of those type of folks, you should make it anyway. Afterall, you don't eat cake everyday - it's for celebrations! So, you can afford a few extra calories now and then.

Kentucky Butter Cake
(How can it be bad with the word Butter in the title?)

3 c flour
2 c sugar
1 t salt
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 c buttermilk (or 1 c milk "soured" with 1 T vinegar or lemon juice)
1 c butter, softened
2 t vanilla extract
4 eggs

Butter Sauce
3/4 c sugar
1/3 c butter
3 T water
2 t vanilla extract

Grease and flour a 12-cup bundt pan. Do NOT skimp on the grease! Trust me, I of what I speak. In mixing bowl, add butter and whip until fluffy. Add sugar and mix well. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix again until fluffy. Add dry ingredients and milk a bit at a time, alternating between the two, and mix on low speed until just moistened, then mix for 3 minutes on medium. Pour into prepared pan and bake at 325 degrees for 55 - 70 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the middle.

In small saucepan, combine all butter sauce ingredients. Heat over low heat until butter and sugar are melted.

Using the end of a wooden spoon or a long tined fork, poke about 20 holes all over the bottom of the cake (which is still in the pan at this point). Slowly pour the sauce over the cake and watch it soak into all those holes. Remove cake from pan as soon as sauce is absorbed. Just stick a plate over the cake, hold the plate and cake together and flip the whole thing over. You may have to give it a couple of knocks on the counter. You can eat the cake either warm or cold, plain or with sauce, with or without REAL whipped cream.

I just have one birthday request- if you use Cool-Whip, please don't tell me about it. Thanks.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Famer's Markets = Great Deals

The Farmer's Markets in our area have begun. Truth be told, we don't buy a whole lot of veggies at the Markets, because, um, we live on a "farm."

However, we do like to frequent them from time to time. It's great fun to see all the tables loaded with produce! In addition to delicious, locally grown, reasonably priced produce, Farmer's Market vendors often sell gorgeous cut flowers, honey, real maple syrup, meat, cheeses, baked goods, clothing, handmade soaps and jewelry. Throw in some yummy food vendors (love those egg rolls), a band playing and some of the best people watching around - you've got yourself a night (or a morning) out on the town!

The produce is generally cheaper than what you'll find at the grocery store. It is definitely fresher! Plus, you're supporting local farmers and craftsmen when you shop at Farmer's Markets. It's a good thing.

Farmer Ron and I swung by our local Market tonight to oogle at other people's veggies and got a great deal on plants for the garden. We bought 3 eggplant plants and 1 mint plant for a total of $2.00! It hadn't crossed my mind to look for actual plants at a Farmer's Market, but there they were and for a much better price than the local nursery.

Just wanted to throw this out there in case you need a few plants for your "farm!"

Double Coupons, Double Love

Be still my couponing heart!

I know it isn't Saturday, but I couldn't help posting this! We only have one grocery store which doubles coupons here in town. The said store only doubles coupons 2 days per week (Wed. and Sat.) and will only double the value of 5 coupons AFTER your total has reached $25.00. Sounds like a lot of restrictions, and it does require some figuring, but it is still possible to get HUGE discounts.

Today the store, Copps, was having a special Super Doubles Day. Today, you could double 10 coupons with each $25.00 transaction. I'll say it again - be still my couponing heart!

I checked out three, yes three, different times at Copps this morning. Only the littlest Young'un was with me today, so no older kids were subjected to the embarrassment such a number of trips through the check out lines would certainly have caused.

The deals were great!

Trip #1
1 pack Pampers diapers
2 tubs Pampers wipes
1 bottle Dawn dish soap
4 packs of hot dogs
3 men's body wash
1 men's deodorant
Total Spent $16.49
Total Saved $28.04

Trip #2
6 boxes Kellogs cereal
4 bottles of BBQ sauce
3 packs of strawberries
2 gallons of milk
2 packs of cheese
7 lbs of chicken
Total Spent $8.94
Total Saved $53.95

Trip #3
6 boxes of Kellogs cereal
2 bottles salad dressing
3 bags of tortilla chips
2 cucumbers
2 1/2 lb of bananas
1 gallon milk
1 pack of cheese
Total Spent $5.01
Total Saved $37.44

Grand Total $30.44
Grand Total Saved $119.43
Plus, I have a coupon for a free gallon of milk to spend on my next trip!

Are you drowning in your food bills? Groceries are one of the easiest items to trim in your family's budget. I KNOW you can spend less than you are right now! Start searching the internet - Money Saving Mom should be your first stop. This site is the mother off all couponing/frugal living sites on the web. Money Saving Mom has the best deals for stores all over the US listed on her site and update weekly. There is also a ton of other information about how to save money in ways other than grocery shopping on the site.

If you live in the Frozen Tundra, Green Bay Savers is a site to check out, too!

I'm no expert, but I'm happy to share what I know, too. Just ask!

PS- I also swang by Target today and got a bottle of Olay body wash and a 10 pack of Ivory bar soap for $1.50. The body wash will be donated to the Woman's Shelter in town, I was after the bar soap for 15 cents per bar!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Got My Eye On You

Kids say the darnedest...I mean the most convicting...things.

My 6 year old daughter was helping me make dinner last night. I wasn't thrilled about it because, while I know such times together are to be treasured and that cooking is a great skill for her to learn and that having her learn to cook is actually good for my future, sometimes I just want to be by myself in the kitchen. Heck, sometimes I just want to be by myself somewhere anywhere for just a little portion of everyday. Well, I guess I am if you count the alone time I usually have while using the facilities...but I am not so sure that counts.

Anyway, Ellie was learning the fine art of making pancakes from scratch. She was happily singing while waiting to flip the cakes over. She has mastered measuring and mixing, but pancake flipping is a new skill for her and she was really excited about it!

In the midst of her flipping bliss she said with a big sigh, "It's so good for a girl like me to have a Mom who I can watch all the time to learn stuff from."


My sour mood and grudging attitude smacked me upside the head and it was my turn to heave a big sigh.

It's true. She (and the other 4 Young'uns) are watching all the time. I know this, but oh how convicting it was to hear those words come out of my 6 year old's sweet little mouth.

All the time, they are watching (and listening) as I tromp down the stairs carrying the laundry or say something a bit like gossip while on the phone to a friend or clean up the kitchen almost all the way or comment on the rude person at the store. They are always watching what I do.

Conversely, all eye are also on what I DON'T do. They see (and hear) me plunk down in front of the computer instead of spending time with them or yell at their sibling because I am too lazy to get up and deal with the issue at hand.

What a lot of pressure - all this watching! My kids are watching me to see how a life lived to the glory of God should be lived. They are watching the good - like pancake flipping- and the bad. How wonderful for them to see us deal with our not only our successes failures and sin! What an awesome responsibility and privilege!

So, Moms and Dads - take heart! Don't let all the eyes on you get discouraging.

Let's turn our eyes towards Christ and his example and remember, "I can do all things for Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Good Deals: It Pays to Pay Attention

I haven't done a lot of shopping in the past few weeks. It was good to take a break from stores. However, my hiatus from the land of retail couldn't last forever because, well, the shelves would get bare pretty quickly around here and I do like the thrill of the hunt. Providing for my family while staying within our budget is only accomplished by doing some planning, couponing and bargain shopping.

CVS, a drugstore akin to Walgreens, was my one couponing stop for this week. They had diapers for $3.99 per pack (limit 1), which is a great deal on diapers! I wouldn't make a special trip to CVS just for one pack of diapers, no matter how good the deal. However, I knew that I would be out and about and driving by a CVS so I planned the stop. Before I left, I grabbed my coupon box even though the diaper special didn't require any coupons because said diapers were the CVS brand.
I walked to the diaper aisle at the store, grabbed my pack of size sixes and then noticed all sorts of yellow clearance tags sticking off the shelves all through the baby supplies. Apparently, CVS is doing some major reorganizing of their baby aisle, because a large portion of the items were sporting those yellow clearance tags.

Upon further investigation, I noticed two jumbo packs of Huggies diapers in size 6 clearance priced at $4.37! That's $4.37 for a pack of 34 diapers, only 13 cents per diaper - way below my target price for diapers. To make matters even sweeter, I remembered I had some coupons for Huggies diapers in my coupon box in the car. I also saw big packs of CVS wipes for only $1.32 - I got two. Yes, I ran out to the car to get my coupons! I had 2 coupons for $3.00 off a pack of diapers which meant I got 2 jumbo packs for only $1.37 each, only 4 cents per diaper. Running out to the car is worth 6 bucks. Plus, it counts as exercise, right?

As you can see, in the photo, I also picked up some soaps my gals like (clearance price of .69), 10 cans of tuna and 3 shampoos because once I got in the store I saw a few other good deals (and remembered I had a raincheck for the tuna).

All told I spent $15.87 at CVS and got back $6.00 in Extra Care Bucks to spend later.

Is the point of this post to brag about my good deals? Nope. It's to encourage you to pay attention when you are shopping. When you are in stores, there is money to be saved in scanning shelves as you shop, comparing prices and sizes of different brands, and keeping your coupons handy. If I hadn't given the shelves a quick glance at CVS this week, I would have really missed out on a huge savings for our family.

Here's another example of paying attention: At another grocery store last week, I noticed they had rice wine vinegar on sale for $1.49 a bottle, regular price was $2.25. There were $1.00 off coupons around the bottle tops making them 49 cents each. I don't use rice wine vinegar everyday, but I do use it, especially in the summer. So, I bought 2 bottles which will last over a year and saved 80% while doing it.

As always, buying something you don't need and won't use, even it if is a great deal, will never save you money. But paying attention to sales, prices and coupons and buying a product at rock bottom prices will save you a bundle!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Frivolous Friday: Another Akward Photo

Just in case you haven't had a good laugh yet today...

A disclaimer: This is NOT, I repeat, this is NOT our family! Although, I was rather impressed with the idea. We are very fond of duct tape here on the farm.

Thanks, once again, to Awkward Family Photos for this shot. If you ever need a good belly laugh, the site is a sure thing. The Big Guy and I laugh until we cry at lots of the photos.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Here Come the Greens

Isn't this pretty?

Remember those greens we planted a while back that I've been salivating over? Well, they're ready and we've had salad every day this week. Not just any old salad mind you...really really delicious salad. We've been harvesting a little bit of each lettuce - red, romaine, green leaf, the mesculin mix (VERY spicy), arugula, and spinach. They are amazing!

Farmer Ron has saved some garden space and will do another planting of these yummy little things in the upcoming weeks. This way, when our current plants are all done in, we'll have new greens growing and ready to devour.

I'm figuring we spent about $10.00 on the seeds for these plants. A tub of the same sort of organic greens runs about $4.00 at Sam's Club. We've probably eaten the equivalent of 1.5 tubs of greens so far... I think we'll come out on the plus side of this one economically speaking.

Lettuces and such are probably about the easiest thing to grow! If you don't have a big garden space, you could plant them in rows along the front of your flower beds. They aren't just amazingly tasty - they're good looking too!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Making Homemade Cleaning Wipes

Doesn't that title just reach out and grab you?

One of my experiments around the Farm in May was making my own cleaning wipes. You know those Clorox or Lysol cleaning wipes we all have under our bathroom sinks? Well, I wanted to see if I could make some which were cheaper and, if not better, at least as good in terms of cleaning.

The Young'uns use those wipes while cleaning bathrooms and other various messes around the house. With 5 kids, a dog, 2 bathrooms and said kids doing at least half of the cleaning (they use more product than I do when they clean), finding a cheaper alternative was appealing. Plus, I'm always on the look-out for a way to clean things using less harsh chemicals than those found in most cleaning products.

I made the wipes at the start of May and after a month's use, here is the verdict from all involved: they are fine. No one raved about them, but after getting used to the "newness" of them, no one is complaining either. Also, I haven't noticed a difference in the cleanliness of our commodes and such. All in all, I'm thinking this means the homemade wipes have passed the test thus far. (If I was going to be honest I'd tell you I was actually quite excited about them and had to stick the container in the Big Guy's face for him to admire when I was finished making the wipes. I didn't make him come examine the counter I wiped off with my new creation, however. That would be taking it too far for even a good sport like him.)

Homemade Cleaning Wipes

1 lidded plastic container large enough to hold 1/2 of a roll of paper towels (think one of those plastic Flogers coffee cans)
1 roll of GOOD paper towels - like Bounty or Viva (the kind I never usually buy)
cleaning agent of your choice - I used something from Fleet Farm called Jungle Jake, but you could use Pine Sol or whatever you like. (I have a goal to use Tea Tree Oil soon, more on farther down)

1. Take the lid of the container off and lay it on a cutting board or your garage work bench or a surface you won't mind dinging up a bit. Get a sharp something or other (I used an exacto knife sort of thing) and cut an "X" in the top of the lid. The legs of my "X" were each about 1 1/2 inches long. Cut a bit from each of the sharp corners on the inside of the "X" you just cut. If you don't round these cuts a bit, your paper towels will shred when you pull them out.

2. Put the lid aside and put your roll of paper towels on the cutting surface. Use a serrated knife to cut the roll in half all the way through. Serrated knifes are the ones that look as if they have teeth. They are also the only knife to use to cutting homemade bread!

3. When you've cut your roll of towels, stuff it into the container and then ease out the cardboard center of the roll. I had to rip a bit of the cardboard to get it started, but then it came pretty easily.

4. Pour the water and cleaning mixture into the container. For my purposes - general cleaning - I used about 1/4 cup of cleaning solution and 2 c of water. You'll probably want to play with this a bit. The first wipes I made were really wet so I cut back on the water. I'd say start with less water and go up if you need it.

5. Put the lid on and shake gently. Let the wipes sit for several hours so the towels can soak up the liquids. If they seem dry to you, add a bit more water.

6. Stick the end of the towel from the inside of the roll (hint - the part where you took the cardboard out of) through the "X" in the lid and put the lid on. Ta Da! Now just pull out a wipe and you're good to go!

A few notes from my whole ONE month of experience in all this.
-The towels shoud come out and rip on the perforations. If they don't come out easily or rip at a place other than on the factory made perforations as you pull on them, you probably need to make the cuts in the lid wider and/or more rounded

-We tried Bounty towels on our first go round and Viva on the second. Viva seem to be the winners thus far.

Here's the cost breakdown:
2 pack Viva towels $3.46 - .40 coupon + .50 for the cleaning solution = 280 cleaning wipes for about $3.56

This is about 1.3 cents per wipe. If you get a GREAT deal (sale price and coupons) on Clorox/Lysol wipes, you'll pay at least 4 cents per wipe.

My kids said they felt like they had to use more of the homemade wipes to get the job done. With the price different, even if they had to use double the number of homemade wipes, we'd still be saving money - 1.4 cents to be exact. They didn't think they used double the amount though. I know 1.4 cents seems like practically nothing, but eventually practically nothing adds up to dollars and we like saving dollars.

I am planning to try making the next batch using a Tea Tree Oil in place of the cleaning solution. A 1 ounce bottle of the oil costs around $8.00, which seems like a fortune for such a small thing. However, I think I'll only have to use 10 or so drops for each batch so it should last for a long time. Tea Tree Oil is a natural disinfectant, smells good and I love the idea of the kids using natural things while they clean up around the place. I've also thought about trying Grapefruit Seed Crush/extract. I'll let you know which way we end up going because I just know you'll be waiting on pins and needles to find out.