Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Preparing for Winter

It seems like Todd and I are always planning a couple of seasons in advance.  When we bought our house, we had a couple of trees that were too close to the house.  We had the trees taken down and we have been letting the wood "season" in the quanset-hut at the property we own next door.


Todd gets oak wood from work that comes on a pallet with product that is needed to make what they manufacture.  The oak plans are free for the taking, and we've learned that the oak burns realy hot.  It is a great way to warm up the house quickly and then the wood from our trees keeps the stove nice and warm for hours after the oak has long burned away.

Two weeks ago, Todd started cutting the oak planks to get ready for Winter and stored them all in the Living Room.


On Friday, Todd bought  a new chainsaw to help cut the wood.  We bought one when we bought the house, but it was not powerful enough and quite frankly, a cheap chainsaw.  The one he bought is much higher quality, and according to Todd, it runs like a dream.  It is amazing how easily and quickly a job can get done when you have the proper tools.




We have a bundle of wood in the Living Room waiting for the cool days to come around. Todd is still working on getting the rest of the wood in the hut cut and split to put in our "wood shed" behind the garage.  We can keep warm for an entire Winter on a cord of wood.  We have enough wood to last us several years.
Even though it's alot of work, we like to plan ahead and prepare for the upcoming seasons.

Are you getting ready for Winter yet?  If so, how?

This blog post is linked up with HomeStead Revival's Preparedness Challenge and Barn Hop.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

We're Frugal, Not Broke!

Over the past couple of weeks, our families have made comments about being worried about our finances.  I find this kind of odd considering we are in the best financial shape of our lives!

I think that the reason our families may be worried is because we are so incredibly frugal.  OK, lets be honest here, we may appear to be flat out cheap.  However, we have learned that “cheap” is not always the way to go and we are now consciously making financial decisions based on not only price, but quality as well.

For instance, when we bought our home, we needed a chainsaw due to the amount of trees that needed to come down on our property.  Todd bought the cheapest chainsaw that Home Depot had to offer at a little over $200.  It leaked oil the first season of ownership and there was always a problem with it that Todd had to work on.  Todd bought a new chainsaw that is much higher quality, has a warranty and even came with an extra chain and carrying case for only $150 more than the one we bought from Home Depot.  If it lasts any more than 4 years, it will be a purchase well made.

When we bought our home in 2007, we were b-r-o-k-e.  The repairs that Todd did to our house were done as inexpensively as possible, and we are now paying for it because of the amount of projects that will have to be re-done over the next 3-5 years.  Lesson learned.

We buy our clothes from the thrift store.  The main reason is not because we are cheap, it’s because we are both terribly hard on our clothing.  We are both pretty bad about getting stains on our clothes that don’t come out.  If it’s not our own doing with the stains, it is our horrible well water that discolors our clothing.  We don’t see the sense in buying a new t-shirt or sweater for $10+ when it will be turned into rags over the next year or two. We aren’t the type of people who have the same clothes 5+ years down the road.

Our entertainment includes dollar movie theaters, making our own wine, driving around to look at scenery, visiting friends/family and eating out at restaurants that we know we like and are inexpensive.  Our vacations are inexpensive and focus on experiencing the area, not how much we spend along the way. 

It may appear that we are penniless because of the way we choose to spend (or save) money, but we are far from broke.  We are extremely fortunate to be debt free (except our mortgage), have a small emergency fund in the bank to get us through any unexpected expenses, and we plan for everything else beyond that. 

Do you find people tend to think you are broke because of your frugal ways?

This post is linked up with Mama Dani's Flutter by Friday Blog Hop

Monday, August 29, 2011

25 Weeks 'Til Christmas: Week 17 Puppy Chow

This week's 25 Weeks 'Til Christmas gift is something that my mom and I had from an Amish store the weekend before last and we loved it! It was so good, and I cant believe how easy it is to make!  I plan on making a couple of batches the week of Christmas and putting it in Christmas-type bags with a ribbon.


Photo Credit
 Puppy Chow

9 Cups Chex cereal
1/2 Cup peanut butter
1 Cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 Cups confectioners sugar

Directions:
  1. In a saucepan over low heat, melt the chocolate; add peanut butter and mix until smooth.
  2. Remove from heat, add cereal and stir until coated.
  3. Pour powdered sugar into large plastic bag, add coated cereal and shake until well coated. Store in airtight container.
Every Monday through the week of Christmas will be a new homemade gift idea/project.  Be sure to check them out!  Happy Crafting!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Recipe: Pineapple Upside Down Cake

For my mother's birthday last week, I made her a pineapple upside down cake.  This is a cake that my grandmother always made and is one of my favorites.  When I asked grandma for the recipe, I was surprsiesd at how easy it was to make!

Ingredients:



1 jar of maraschino cherries
Brown sugar
1 can (20 oz) crushed pineapple (drained)
1 box yellow cake mix (or this recipe from Frugal & Simple)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven at 350
  • Spray the bottom of a 13 x 9 glass baking dish
  • Spread about a cup of brown sugar on the bottom of the baking dish (I wing it - we like brown sugar)
  • Scatter the cherries over the brown sugar

  • Pour the can of (drained) crushed pineapple over the cherries.  It may look like there is too much juice, but that is what makes the cake so moist!


  • Pour the cake mix over the crushed pineapple
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes at 350 until cooked the whole way through (butter knife or toothpick comes out clean)

  • Flip the cake over on a foil-lined cookie sheet


  • Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Giveaway: Your Choice of 4" x 6" Sign

Sparing Change has almost hit 100 followers since I started the blog April 1st! As a sign of my appreciation, I am going to randomly select (using random.org) one person to receive one of the following 4" x 6" wood signs (of their choice).  This giveaway will run for 1 week (through 08/31/11: 11:59PM EST)

The choices are:









How to Enter:
  • You must be a Sparing-Change Follower
  • You must leave a comment to this post (1 entry)
  • "Like" Sparing-Change on FaceBook (1 entry)
  • Tell others on FaceBook about this giveaway (2 entry points)
  • Blog about this giveaway and link to Sparing-Change (3 entry points)

Please enter a seperate comment for each entry you make.

Have fun, and good luck!

This blog is linked to Chubby Cheek's Hop Along Friday and HomeMaker By Choice's Blog Hop, Mama Dani's Flutter By Friday and Design It Chic's Blog Hop.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Extremely Large Egg

Several weeks ago, one of the chickens laid a freakishly large egg.  On the scale of eggs, this would be considered an “XXL” in my book!  It is so big, it barely fits into the egg carton!





We have one chicken that is laying smaller eggs, one that is laying medium-sized eggs, and then one that is consistently laying pretty large eggs.  It is fun to go out and collect every day to see what we may have!  I am anxious to see if the XXL egg is a double-yolk or not!  We have had one “twin” in the 100+ eggs we have eaten from our chickens. 

Have you ever had a freakishly large egg from one of your chickens?


Monday, August 22, 2011

25 Weeks 'Til Christmas: Week 18 Tea Cup Bird Feeder

This week's 25 Weeks 'Til Christmas series craft is something that Todd and I made last year for my grandmother.  The one we made used PVC pipe and it wasnt nearly this cute, but close enough.

Source
The instructions on how to make this tea cup bird feeder are from eHow.  You can find the directions by clicking here.  We found our tea cups at a flea market for $1.  We bought a small bag of bird seed to give to my grandma to fill the cup with.  These tea cup feeders are not only beautiful but also useful!  Practical beauty in my opinion.

Every Monday through the week of Christmas will be a new homemade gift idea/project.  Be sure to check them out!  Happy Crafting!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Video: Puppy on the Treadmill

I mentioned that my husband taught our puppy to walk on the treadmill.  This is a video of her taken this evening on the treadmill.

video

In front of her, hubby put a fan. She seems to like a fan blowing in her face while she walks.  She is walking at 2 1/2 MPH and does pretty well!  It kicks her butt after about a half an hour on the treadmill. 

So now, you get to see our "puppy" who is 14 months old and 60+ pounds getting her exercise.  We will use this on days that it is raining, snow on the ground, or just to help keep her out of trouble!  She is a completely different, well behaved puppy when she is exercised!!

This post is linked up with Homestead Revival's Homestead Barn Hop.

Making Memories - Not Getting More "Stuff"

My mother's birthday was last week, and I've decided that instead of getting her something that she wouldnt use (or want) for yet another year, that we were going to go make memories, and memories are what we made!

Yesterday, mom and I went to the Hocking Hills Canoe Livery about an hour away from her home.  We had a blast driving through the hills and valleys in an area mom had yet to explore.  We got to the livery in the knick of time to get on the next bus to take us 5 miles down the road and start our adventure.  This was mom's first canoeing trip, and it was the perfect day to be on the river!



We had an absolute blast on our trip together.  The best part was being able to spend time together enjoying the surroundings and talking with no interuptions.

Sometimes, it's just the simple things that are the most fun!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

10 Reasons I Love Being Debt Free

It has been over 2 months that we paid off our last consumer debt and I am still in disbelief that we have no other debt other than our mortgage.  I have had debt in one form or another since I was 18 years old.  It started with a credit card (to get the “free” t-shirt), a car loan, and my first mortgage at the age of 22!  I was thinking the other day about why I love being debt free, and it looks a little something like this (in no particular order): 

  1. Security in knowing that if anything were to happen, we have nothing compromising our income.
  2. There is more money than month (for the first time in our married life!)
  3. We now discuss (and plan) purchases before making them: no more impulse buys.
  4. No more credit card statements clogging up our mailbox.
  5. Monthly bills are much easier to keep track of when you have only 4 of them (vs. 12!)
  6. There is no way possible to miss making a credit card payment and in-turn get a higher interest rate and penalty.
  7. We are saving nearly $100/month in interest by not having debt payments.
  8. We watch our net worth grow!
  9. We can freely donate to charities and organizations we believe in.
  10. There is disposable income to do frivolous things once in a while.


For those who are looking to get debt-free, this would be my advice:
  • Decide that enough is enough!
  • Check out Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover book from the library
  • Listen to the Dave Ramsey Show podcast: it is very motivational
  • Get started!

This is not a “get rid of debt in 6 months” scheme.  It takes time, patience, hard work and sacrifice.  It took us a year and a half to get out of debt.  Within that time, we made some stupid decisions (like putting french doors on a 0% financing program with Home Depot) but it all worked out.  We hit a few bumps in the road, and I can guarantee that you will too, but you get past them and move on. The relief that debt freedom brings every day is well worth the hard work and sacrifice.

As Dave Ramsey says, “Live like no one else so that later, you can live like no one else.”

This post is linked up with Homestead Revival's Preparedness Challenge and Homemaker By Choice's Weeklong Blog Hop.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Garden Update: I Give Up!

I have had it with the weeds this year, and I have given up on my garden.  We are still picking tomatoes, green peppers and zukes, but I have done nothing else with the garden.  I cant pick the weeds fast enough to get them under control.

This is what we are dealing with:


Looking into the garden - aka Weed Fest 2012!

Green Peppers

Last (barely) Surviving Zuke Plant

So much for wanting to get enough tomatoes to can and make salsa this year.  Maybe next year.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Wounded Chicken

Last Tuesday, out of the clear blue, our 15 month old puppy attacked Blondie, our 5 month old chicken.  Of course, this happened while I was at work, but I guess that is probably a good thing.  Lana got the discipline of her life from Todd (I don’t do well with discipline).  Todd had put Lana in the back yard with the chickens while he was getting ready to go somewhere after I had left for work and that’s when the attack took place.

Our animals have coexisted pretty well since day one.  Lana has been around the chicks since we brought them home, always inquisitive, but never hurting them.  Then Tuesday, she got Blondie, and she got her good.



Todd, bless his heart, always seems to have to deal with the sick or injured animals.  He would have to be at the house when we had the vet come out and vaccinate or medicate our pot bellied pig, Squiggy.  He had to take 175 lb Squiggy to the vet when our pigger got into some rat poison many years ago.  He’s taken care of kittens that we have taken in with horrible infections and wounds, and now, a wounded chicken.

Immediately, Todd went online to see how to address her wounds.  Blondie lost a lot of her feathers, and has a couple of wounds.  After doing a full inspection, he determined no bones were broken.  Then, he went to get antiseptic and sprayed on her wounds (which we found out we shouldn’t have done).   He gave her food and water and quarantined her to a small area for her to rest, wrapped up in a blanket to keep her warm. 

To be honest, we were surprised she survived the first night.  The second day, we put her out in the yard to run around and get some of the stink blown off of her.  She wasn’t too interested in finding bugs or running around. By the third day, she was with her sisters (while I watched her) to see how they did together.  Day four, she laid an egg!  Now, day seven, we are reintroducing her to sleep in the roost with the others.   I am hoping that the other two dont peck at her, so I will be out there at midnight to ensure everyone is OK, and Todd will check again at 3:30AM when he gets up for work!

I will tell you this, it is never a dull moment around here. 
I suppose that comes with owning animals.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

25 Weeks 'Til Christmas: Week 19 Crayon Roll

This week is a great homemade gift idea for kids that I read a couple of years ago on one of my favorite blogs, Frugal & Simple


Source: Frugal & Simple
If you havent read Rachel's blog, I highly recommend it.  There are alot of great money-saving tips and ideas.

Every Monday through the week of Christmas will be a new homemade gift idea/project.  Be sure to check them out!  Happy Crafting!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ask Around Before You Buy!

Todd and I “found” wine together back in 2008.  We used to think that wine was always dry and tasted horrible until a trip up to the Thousand Islands in upstate New York.  We found that there are more than dry, bitter wines! 

Shortly after, we started making our own wine.  The wine we make is sweet and fruity, made from a kit like Orchard Breezin’ or RJ Spagnol.  On average it costs us less than $2/bottle to make.  Equipment is needed to make wine (glass carboys, hydrometers, holding buckets, etc.) but my mom bought it for me as a gift for my birthday one year, really helping to keep the cost per bottle of wine down.

This year, we decided we’d like to try to make beer.  It uses pretty much the same equipment as wine, except we’d need a very large stock pot (5+ gallons).  The Grape & Granary, a wine supply store in Akron, sells these pots for nearly $100.  While at the flea market a couple of weeks ago, we decided that we were on a mission to find a stock pot of this size.  We found one that was actually a turkey frier!  The price: $20.  We had the $20, but when Todd said that it was a turkey frier, I remembered that my father and my grandmother both have a turkey frier!  We passed on the stock pot and went over to my dad’s house. 

Low and behold, my dad actually had 2 stock pots that were exactly what we needed!  Why pay for something that you will only use twice a year when someone else already has one? 


So, we are in the processing of making our first batch of beer.  If it turns out well, we will be making a couple of batches to give away as gifts for Christmas.

This post has linked up with the Homestead Barn Hop!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Happy Birthday Bianca!

There is something to be said for reliable vehicles, and Bianca has been one of them!

I adore my car.  Her name is Bianca (yes, we name our vehicles) and this past Saturday, she turned 5 years old!  I’ve had her since August 6, 2006 even though she is considered a 2007 Toyota Yaris.  This has been the longest I've ever owned a car! 


I decided to get a less expensive car 5 years ago with absolutely NO options.  The Yaris just hit the lots, and to be honest, I didn’t like the little 3 door hatchback.  However, the goal was to get a reliable, fuel efficient vehicle at the best price.  Todd and I were talking about getting the 4 door, but he reminded me of my requirements of a less expensive vehicle with no frills.  So, after going back to the lot at looking at her again, I fell in love with Bianca.
 
You may be wondering how she got that name.  It is because she is white.  In Spanish, white is "blanco."  I didnt like the name "blanco" so I named her Bianca.

Bianca just turned 130,000 miles on Friday in only 5 years of ownership.  She gets anywhere from 38-45 MPG.  In the Winter months when I have my snow tires, she gets around 38MPG.  I have to manually roll up and down my windows and no power seats or anything (oh, how have I survived? *sarcastic*). She is a standard, so not even her shifting is automatic!  I have to put my key in the lock to open the door, even in the pouring rain.  She does have an MP3 jack which has come in handy to listen to podcasts on my hour drive to and from work every day.  I absolutely adore her.

She has had nothing done but new brakes after 70,000 miles and new tires.  We (meaning Todd) changes her oil every 5,000 miles as recommended.  He also gave her a 100,000 mile tune up with new air filter, new spark plugs and a good wax job.  She runs the same as she did 5 years ago, but looks a little more cute.  Todd bought me a spoiler for her one Christmas. 
 
The best part?  She’s completely paid off!
I plan on owning her until she becomes unreliable.  I originally told Todd I’d like to see her hit 1 million miles, but for now, I would be thrilled to see her hit 250,000.  If nothing changes with my driving and employment , that would be in 5 years.

I enjoy looking at cars; however, there is no other vehicle I’d rather have more than my little Bianca.  She has been a great car thus far, and I’m sure she will be for many years to come.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Recipe: Pistachio Pudding

A friend of mine gave me a quick and easy recipe for Pistachio Pudding a couple of years ago, and it has been a staple that I take to cookouts and make when we have company over during the Summer.

Pistachio Pudding

1 box pistachio pudding mix
1 can crushed pineapple (do not drain)
1 Cup mini marshmallows
1 (8oz) tub of Cool Whip

Mix together the pudding mix and pineapple. Then fold in the marshmallows and Cool Whip. Refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.

Monday, August 8, 2011

25 Weeks 'Til Christmas: Week 20 Lavender Sachets

I dont know about you, but I cannot believe another week has flown by!  How are you doing in preparing for Christmas this year?


Photo Credit

This week's Christmas craft idea is lavender sachets.  These can be put in the dryer to make your clothes smell nice and fresh or put into drawers to keep your clothing smelling like lavender.  Lavender is one of my favorite scents, so I look forward to making some of these as gifts as well as for personal use around our home!

You can find instructions on how to make these sachets here on eHow.

As a side note, I have found that the lavender buds can be found in bulk on ebay or etsy.  Until I grow my own (hopefully next year), this will have to do.

Every Monday through the week of Christmas will be a new homemade gift idea/project.  Be sure to check them out!  Happy Crafting!

This is linked to AboutAMom's Wild Weekend Blog Hop, Mama Dani's Blog Hop,  and HomeMaker By Choice's Weekly Blog Hop.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Frugal Project: Outdoor Furniture

Todd and I bought two bistro sets on clearance at Home Depot when we bought our house 4 years ago.  We have had the bistro sets on our front patio where it has been exposed to extreme heat, cold and all of the elements in between!

This year, it started to look really rough and washed out, so we decided to paint it! 

Before:



$7.00 worth of spraypaint and 20 minutes later, it looked like this:


This is what the furniture looked like when we bought it!  One great thing about the spraypaint that we purchased is that it will protect the wood from the elements in the future! 

Quick, inexpensive fix!

This post is linked up with Hop Along Friday, HomeMaker By choice and Boost my Blog Hop!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Chicken Stats

These adorable little chicks were purchased on Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011.


Meet our little layers today:

(From Left to Right) Blondie, Mocha & Latte
Latte was our first hen to start laying eggs.  She started laying an egg a day since July 1st at exactly 4 months of age!
Mocha was our second hen who started laying eggs on July 12th!
Blondie was the last to start laying eggs starting July 14th.

In the beginning, Blondie was my favorite; however, over the past month, I have come to enjoy Mocha’s company the most (please don’t tell the others).  When I’m outside, she usually follows me around and she loves to eat cracked corn out of my hands. 

My brother and his daughter feeding the chickens.

The chickens love to go into the garden and eat the bugs!  I’m glad, too, because we had a big problem with the slugs early-on.  They can mill around the garden for hours on end.


Blondie on Garden Fence
The first 4 months of their existence, they went through a total of 45 lbs of food.  We are currently on a 75 lb bag of feed and a 5 lb. bag of oyster shells, but we are not even close to the bottom of either of these bags of food!

Let’s take a look at the chicken stats (as of 7/31/11):

Eggs to date:  59 
The cost of the chickens:  $14.94   (We bought 6, but one died within a few hours, the other died overnight and a red fox got the 3rd one about a month ago!)
Cost of food:  $51.45 
Price per Dozen: $11.07 

Are the chickens “worth it?”  ABSOLUTELY!  I don’t care if it is costing us a dollar an egg, I love these little creatures.  They are so much fun to watch!  It is relaxing to be outside with them clucking around, and they have such personalities!  Blondie is Miss Priss, Mocha is the lover and Latte is the laid back, seen-but-not-heard-type.  

2 Eggs Collected 07/31/2011 at 9:30AM

When visitors come to visit, they are surprised at how friendly our feathered-friends are.  They don’t mind being held or pet, but you have to be careful when you are feeding them from your hands.  Blondie can get a little ambitious and go for the skin!  No blood has been drawn yet – and I’d like to keep it that way!


This post is linked up with Homestead Revival's Barn Hop #22.

Monday, August 1, 2011

25 Weeks 'Til Christmas: Week 21 Ultimate Caramel Chocolate Popcorn

Where I work, we get gifts from Vendors during the Holidays, and last year, we got an awesome popcorn medley that was incredible!  Naturally, my frugalista friends in the front office and I wanted to find a recipe so we could replicate it.


Recipe & Picture Credit

This is the recipe:

Ultimate Caramel Chocolate Popcorn

Ingredients
  • 18 cups popped popcorn placed in a large roasting pan or bowl for mixing
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar (light or dark is fine)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 container mixed nuts (or your favorite kind)
  • 3-4 oz. dark chocolate
  • 3-4 oz. milk chocolate
  • 3-4 oz. white chocolate 

Directions

  • Melt in saucepan butter, corn syrup, salt, baking soda, and brown sugar. Bring to boil over medium heat. Boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Take off heat and let cool 2 minutes.
  • Pour half the caramel mixture over the popcorn, mixing in carefully, add the nuts, pour the rest of the caramel over the top mixing in carefully but well.. place in large roasting or lasagna pan and place in preheated 200 degree oven for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, melt your chocolates in seperate containers in the microwave. it works well to microwave for 15 seconds at a time, stirring. DO NOT OVERCOOK!
  • After the popcorn comes from the oven, place on two sheet pans, drizzle each pan with equal parts of the chocolate.
  • Place in refrigerator to cool.
  • Break apart and serve in holiday wrappers or containers for gifts or a treat for family and friends. Yield: serves 12
I have several Christmas tins that I've accumulated.  I will be making this recipe and putting it in the tins with a ribbon as gifts.  I would recommend making this before giving it as gifs; however, you may want to do it when you have a group of people over, because this popcorn is highly addictive! Otherwise, you may eat the whole batch of it by yourself!

Every Monday through the week of Christmas will be a new homemade gift idea/project.  Be sure to check them out!  Happy Crafting!