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Monday, February 25, 2013

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Here I am with our onion harvest in May 2012!
I live in central Texas where it is possible to garden pretty much 365 days of the year (smiling broadly as I write this). My husband and I have had a garden the last 14 or so years and I have slowly been working on my front yard landscaping as time and budget allow.

We are working towards the goal of our garden supplying the majority of the fruit and vegetables we consume. My husband has more time than I do to work in the garden right now and has been planting tons of items. We do the planning together and I assist with weeding, watering, and harvesting.

Late fall harvest of okra, green peppers, tomatoes, Chinese long beans, and chard. 


Currently we are growing: potatoes, turnips, beets, radishes, Oregon peas (edible pod pea), yellow and white onions, Romaine lettuce, asparagus, strawberries, blackberries, green onions, a variety of peppers, cherry and Roma tomatoes, fennel, red cabbage, and regular cabbage. We plant our onions in December and when we begin harvesting in May they are softball sized!

My hubby, Joe, pulling onions.

In two weeks we will be able to plant Chinese long beans! These beans are really long-last season I measured one at 22 inches long! We save and dry some of the mature bean pods to have seed for the next season. These beans are great producers and grow from spring until the first frost.

Chinese long beans! I don't have to pick many  to have plenty for our evening meal!



By the time we have spring in full swing, we will also have planted tomatillos, watermelon, cantaloupe, yellow squash, zucchini, butternut squash, pattypan squash, a variety of herbs (thyme, rosemary, basil, mint), and probably at least one new fruit tree (last year we planted dwarf pomengranates and two pear trees in the front yard).


I will continue with gardening info and updates because I love gardening. Tell me, how does your garden grow?


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Super Saver Saturday

Today's Super Saver post is about what we gain by not spending. As I have stated previously, we have a tight budget and we live within that budget. I like to view this challenge as a game that I want to win.

We do not have cable television or Internet at home though we do have six computers. I will allow that to sink in for a moment as you process that strange piece of information. When I tell people this, they look at me as though I just announced that I gave birth to quintuplets (while I do have five children, I had them one at a time, but I digress).

We don't have room in our budget for cable and Internet so we don't have them. We actually have a more peaceful, intentional life without them, in my opinion.  We watch movies and tv shows we deliberately chose to watch by ordering them from Netflix or Redbox. We don't sit in front of the tv scrolling through 100 or more channels of stuff to fill our time. We do have dtv converters on our television sets so that we can watch over the air broadcasting.



When we had the Internet at home, we had one computer and my kids had a lot of arguments over just how long one of their brothers or sisters had spent on the computer. I sure don't miss that!



We go to our library to use the Internet or take our laptops to one of the MANY places that offer free Wifi. We enjoy a trip to Starbucks or perhaps Chik-fil-a if the library is closed. Again, we don't sit on our computers for hours at a time distracting ourselves from more productive activities. We do not have to pay to update our software or clean up viruses when using the library computers as the tech department does that for us. ; )

Our library is very generous with the amount of time available to each patron on the computer-we have up to 8 hours a day! So, if I have a big project to do I can actually do it at the library and complete it.

The nice thing about going to the library or another facility to use the Internet is that I do not have the distractions I do at home. Multi-tasking is great for some activities but I have discovered that I am more efficient by concentrating on one thing at a time for the most part.

So, for us having less really is more. We have gained peace and productivity by eliminating cable and Internet. How about you? What have you given up or done without and discovered that it actually added to your life?




Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Computing problems

I was all set to post a pithy little post yesterday when my computer decided to behave strangely. It showed me a weird screen with a bunch of dire sounding warnings and gave me two choices of things to do. I chose the first and couldn't get out of the loop to use my computer.

I was frantic and worried. I love my little Acer Netbook that I got for Christmas from my youngest daughter! I couldn't wait to go home and have my resident computer expert son take a look at it.

Two minutes after we got in the door, he disappeared into his room with my precious purple baby. Five minutes later he found me in the kitchen and informed me that all was well. Happiness!

I asked him what he did to get it out of the loop in which it had been stuck. He said, "Do you remember where it gave you two choices of things to do?" I nodded that I did and told him I had chosen the first item.

He said, "Yeah, well that was the wrong choice."

Glad he knew what to do and got me back in business!

Monday, February 18, 2013

I Love Couponing!

I do what I call "Semi-Extreme Couponing". I don't get cartloads of items for pennies on the dollar like the folks do on the "Extreme Couponing" show. But, I do get real life great deals that anyone with a pair of scissors, a newspaper, and a sharp eye can get anytime, anywhere they are shopping.

I almost always take my coupon box with me when I leave my house just in case I see a coupon opportunity.  Yesterday I went to Walgreen's to purchase some Arizona drinks that were on sale 2/$1.00 and while I was there I walked the aisles to see what was on clearance as is my custom.

Many people don't realize that coupons can be used on mark down items. I absolutely LOVE using coupons this way as it is a huge bang for the buck!

In the shaving aisle, my Walgreen's had some Gillette Fusion Shave Gel marked down to $2.49 each. That is a very good price as at full price this item is around $5.00 for one shave gel. I got into my envelope marked Shaving Items to see if I might have a coupon or two on this excellent product. I pulled out Gillette Fusion coupons- one that was buy one, get one free and one that was $1.00 off the purchase of one Gillette Fusion shave gel.

End result was that I paid $1.49 for two name brand shave gels. They ended up being 75 cents each and a better price than generic. My husband and sons were really happy to see what I got and my budget was happy too! We didn't need shave gel for a few more weeks but if I had waited until it was needed I would have spent a lot more to get a lot less.

If you haven't tried couponing because you think it will be a huge hassle or it isn't worth it, keep on checking back as I share more on this topic. At the very least, get a Sunday paper this week and see what you can do to spend less on items you are already going to have to buy!


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Super Saver Saturday

I have wanted to go to my favorite thrift store for a couple of weeks now and I finally got to go there today!

Sawyer (my 18-year- old son) needed a pair of gray slacks. We found a pair in his size that he liked. Because all long pants were on sale at half off we were able to get the pants for $2.00! Yes, you read that correctly-the original price was $4.00 and we only had to pay half today.

I also bought a lovely set of books for my 5-month-old grandson, Liam, for Easter. This Brimax board book set titled My First Prayers contains 8 very sweet books and is in a nice little case. It only cost $3.00! I am ecstatic over this find. Take a look at these hastily snapped photos and see if you don't agree.

I love these titles!
Isn't this adorable?

I also bought Liam a baby swimsuit and an adorable Onesie-type outfit for his Easter gifts from his Gigi and Grandpa. 


My son found a movie he really liked for only $4.00 and I purchased a beautiful copy of The Night Before Christmas that will surely find its way to a deserving niece or nephew this coming Christmas.

Some of you may remember my recent post on Valentine's Day where I had a mini-rant about people being unprepared for holidays and how despite a very limited income I manage to provide gifts to make the holidays special for my family. 

Thrifting is one of my best weapons in my quest to provide while living within my means. Try it, you might like it!

I would love to hear about your great deals so please share by commenting!


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Love Is In the Air

Valentine's Day is here once again. I love holidays, probably more than most people but a trip to the store just about made me hate Valentine's Day.

 Last night I had to go to the grocery store to purchase some mundane items: bananas, lunchmeat, cheese, bread. I could barely get up and down the aisles for the massive crowds purchasing helium balloons, bouquets of flowers, and candy.

People obviously had not planned ahead and were in a frenzy of buying everywhere in the store. I did not buy a single Valentine themed item at the store because I had stocked up for Valentine's Day as far back as the day after Valentine's Day last year.


                                                                            
We have pretty limited finances so instead of foregoing giving gifts and making holidays special for my family, I plan ahead. I bought a romantic coupon book last year and kept it for this year for my sweet husband. He was just as thrilled with it as he would have been had I purchased it at full price. After Christmas, I saw some lovely body scrubs, sprays, lotions, and such on markdown at my local HEB grocery store so I bought as much as I could afford in the four fragrances that were available. Guess what my dear daughters will receive from me for this Valentine's Day? 

I have made this activity of acquiring nice, thoughtful gifts on an extremely low budget into a game that I quite enjoy! I encourage you to give it a whirl too. 

Our Valentine's Day was quite happy because we didn't spend what we couldn't afford! How was yours?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Adulthood, part two

My youngest son is graduating from high school in May! I feel like I am graduating too!

I am on a quest to get my home back into an adult status. I feel somewhat like when I moved into my first grown up place and wanted to decorate and organize it for my maximum enjoyment. I think I am entering Adulthood, part two.

I find myself eradicating the Captain Underpants books that are somehow still showing up on the bookshelves in unexpected places. I am not as patient when my daughter leaves my grandson's rattles and baby seat strewn all over the living room.

Just today I turned a bookshelf that was housing some home school curriculum that hadn't been used in four years into a storage for my exercise equipment. My kettlebell, jump rope, free weights, exercise videos, yoga mat, and more are now all housed in one place.

I don't want tons of responsibilities these days...I have elected to work part-time instead of full-time (see my previous post Full Time Job No Thanks). I want to take French classes, write and submit articles, and enjoy an adult beverage in the evening.

Don't get me wrong- I love my five kids and two beautiful grandsons. I just want to enjoy time with my husband and time for myself. Adulthood, part two is something we all should aspire to enjoy and explore!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Gluten-free and Feeling Great!

In 2005, I had an emergency appendectomy. Afterwards, in an attempt to eat healthfully, I began eating Special K, Kashi cereal (7 whole grains), and oatmeal. I did not feel great eating these foods. In fact, I felt downright sluggish, had digestive issues (don't worry I won't go into detail!), and was disconcerted at my results.

True to my nature, I began researching these symptoms. These symptoms and others with which I had suffered from for years such as: migraines, menstrual difficulties,pervasive fatigue, and itchy fluid filled blisters on my hands, fingers, feet, and toes pointed to gluten intolerence or celiac disease.

I decided to eliminate gluten from my diet. My headaches left and haven't returned, I am no longer fatigued, and I feel great. I lost over 45 pounds through a combination of eliminating gluten, exercising, and learning what a portion and proper caloric consumption are for me.

I generally don't spend a lot of money on specialty gluten-free items because they can be a bit pricey. Instead I make food that is naturally gluten-free.

But, for Chinese New Year this past Sunday, February 10, I gave a new product a try. I purchased A Taste of Thai fortune cookies. My daughter, Hannah, who is a fellow celiac, and I thought these fortune cookies were really tasty.

The fortunes inside were really lovely too. I purchased these at my HEB Plus for $3.45.
I highly recommend these for your next gathering where you are planning to serve Chinese food. It really adds to the occasion, in my opinion.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Finding Myself Through Weight Loss in My Forties

In 2009,at the age of 45, I decided to reclaim myself. I had spent the past 24 years focusing on everything and everyone but myself. My reclamation project started with my weight and fitness.

I weighed 175 and at 5 feet, 1/2 inch tall was obese. I started exercising at a Planet Fitness near where I worked walking on the treadmill. The first time I ran I could only manage 30 seconds before breathing so hard that I could not keep running! People, I was in bad shape!

I loved going to Planet Fitness-it is truly the no-judgment zone!. No one bothered me there so I was free to exercise without feeling overly self-conscious. By April 2009 I had lost 15 pounds and was feeling so much better about myself and encouraged that I could achieve the results I desired.

I had fun buying exercise clothes and shoes. I really like the Danskin line of exercise clothes and shoes. They are affordable (a boon to my limited budget!) and attractive. 

Just yesterday I bought a cute pair of Danskin shoes at Walmart. They are black and pink and very lightweight. I am going to break them in by walking a couple miles today.

Anyway, fast forward to 2013. I have lost a total to date of 43 pounds and plan to lose 18 more.

I have discovered Classical Stretch with Miranda Esmonde-White, Yoga with Wai-Lana, and Functional Fitness with Suzanne Andrews. All of these are on my local PBS HD channel! My library offered free fitness classes last summer and I tried Zumba, Nia, and Pilates. I have gotten out of my comfort zone and found the true me once again!

In my weight loss journey, I didn't anticipate that I would not only be healing my body but also my emotional issues. I came face to face with the reason why I allowed myself to be so unhealthy for so long. I cried a lot but on the other side of it I found strength and determination that has carried into every area of my life.

I plan to share a lot more on this topic. I am passionate about fitness, weight loss, and eating well. ; )


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Hanging with the oldies

On Thursday mornings I visit my in-laws for a bit until it is time for me to go to work at 10 a.m. They are both seventy years old and I find their conversations pretty entertaining.

This morning my father-in-law shared the information that the Academy Awards has placed some restrictions on what the actresses can wear to the awards because of the scanty outfits that have been worn over the past few years.

Dad said, "Yeah, like when Jay Leno wore that dress that was showing all the way to her navel."

It took me a second to process this info and I realized that he was a bit confused...

I said, "Dad, I think you mean JLo not Jay Leno."

"Oh, yeah, well I was close," he replied.

I will be laughing about that one all day!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Full Time Job- no thanks!

At the end of August 2012, I was let go from a part-time job I had held for seven years. My good friend, for whom I had worked, discovered that she would have to seriously change her lifestyle which caused her to decide to sell her business.

At first, I began looking for a job. I already had another part-time job but it is tied to the school year so when school is out, I do not receive a paycheck. I went on several job interviews. I received an offer for a job that would have caused me a 45 minute commute during rush hour traffic and a six day workweek.

I was not excited about this at all...

My friend had told me about a company called TaskRabbit. It is kind of like Craigslist meets eBay. People who want jobs done post the jobs they will pay a person to do. The person who wants to do the job bids on what they will charge to do the job. The twist is that the TaskRabbits (the workers) are background checked and approved by TaskRabbit so people have peace of mind when hiring a TaskRabbit.

I have met some really wonderful folks through my TaskRabbit jobs. I generally have at least two jobs through the service each week. I arrange these jobs around my life, instead of arranging my life around my work.

I have recently decided that I am enjoying this new lifestyle so much that I am not going to pursue a full-time job after all.

I encourage you to check it out and get $10 off your first task posting by using my code:

https://taskrabbit.com/PAL/362004