Monday, February 27, 2012

Christmas 2012

I gave everyone two whole months off without having to think about Christmas.  The time has come to start planning for this year’s Christmas to help make the season much less stressful and much less of a burden on the pocketbook!
I will tell you, I had fun making gifts for everyone for Christmas last year and I am planning on doing it again this year.  I already have big plans on what to make for certain people on our list, and I am looking forward to getting started. 

A friend of mine and I agreed last year to make homemade gifts for each other, and she gave me a huge bag full of homemade goodies.  Let me tell you, the gift was awesome! I also enjoyed giving away apple pie in a jar, jams, applesauce, wine, margaritas, beer and the like. 

Homemade Strawberry Margarita

Homemade Wine

Apple Pie in a Jar & Applesauce

Homemade Beer

On this list this year for homemade gifts:

  • Brandied Cherries (I will wait to start until cherries are on sale)
  • Homemade Vanilla  Extract
  • Infused Vodka
  • Infused Olive Oil
  • Homemade tortilla chips and salsa
  • Homemade spaghetti sauce
  • Crochet gifts of some sort (still trying to learn how to crochet!)
  • Activity Book to give to my dad ,his wife, my niece and stepsister to do something every month or every other month together.  I was thinking ice skating, sledding, zoo, etc.
  • Homemade root beer (I would love to learn how to make it for my stepfather.  He goes through IBC root beer like it’s going out of style!)
  • Jam (different flavors this year)
  • Apple Pie in a Jar
  • Applebutter
Have you started to plan your homemade Christmas yet?  If so, what are some of your homemade gift ideas for this year? I’d love to hear about them!

This post is linked up with the Homestead Revivals Homestead Barn Hop #51!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

No 'Poo Experiment: Week 1

Last week, I wrote about wanting to experience the No ‘Poo Revolution for myself.  I will admit, I was nervous after reading others experiences going No ‘Poo and the complications with super greasy hair while going through the transition the first several weeks.  I am pleased to announce that so far, I have had no problems transitioning from shampoo to baking soda (No ‘Poo). 
These are my results after one week:

Side View


From what I’ve read, others use 1 Tbsp baking soda mixed with ¼ cup warm water.  For me, I used 3 Tbsp baking soda and 2 Tbsp of warm water.

I mix up the water and baking soda to make a runny paste.  I then take my fingers, grab some of the paste and massage it into my scalp.  I get in the shower and do what I need to do, waiting to wash the baking soda out of my hair until the very end (allowing the mixture to take care of any oil in my hair). 

I have read that people use apple cider vinegar on the rest of their hair (not the scalp – it can make it too greasy) as a conditioner, but I haven’t had the need for apple cider vinegar at all.   

Previously, I would wash my hair 5-6 times a week.  With the No ‘Poo method, I have been washing my hair every other day with the baking soda mixture in hopes that I will never have to experience the greasy hair or itchy scalp.  Once I get through the “transition period” of 3-4 weeks, I may wash my hair only twice a week, but that is only if this method continues to work as well as it is right now.

I really cannot tell the difference in my hair using this method versus shampoo.  I don’t feel dirty and my scalp does not itch at all (whereas it does after 2 days using shampoo).  Here’s hoping that the results remain the same into week 2!

Just as an experiment this week, I am going to try using peroxide and/or lemon juice to see if I can highlight my roots without having to dye it.  I will definitely post my findings!

Have you ever gone No ‘Poo?  If so, what was your experience?
If you have never gone No ‘Poo, will you consider it in the future?

Monday, February 20, 2012

8 Tips to Save While Traveling

I have a guest post over at Financial Excellence.  If you would like to read my article about ways we save money on traveling, please head on over and read the full post!

Traveling doesn’t have to break your wallet.

There is no better time to start planning vacation destinations than very early in the New Year when snow is still on the ground and the thought of a getaway warms the soul.

My husband and I love to travel and experience new destinations as much as possible. We have traveled to at least three new destinations each year of our marriage creating many great memories. Financially, we are able to do that by being smart while we travel and cutting back while on the road. The following are a few tips that we use consistently while we travel to save money while enjoying ourselves to the fullest.

Again, head on over to Financial Excellence to read our rules for traveling on a shoestring.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The No 'Poo Experiment

Missy over at Graceful Little Honey Bee, posted on her blog several months ago about her journey to go no ‘poo.  I had never heard of anything like it, and wondered what my hair would be like without any hair products.

Admittedly, I {heart} Garnier Fructice shampoo.  I have been using it alongside other brands for the last 10 years not to mention I use hairspray every day.  My intent is to determine whether or not my hair will become healthier and lightweight without all of these products in it.  I have seen in several blog posts that at some point, you may be able to go without washing your hair ever again once your hair get to its “natural state.”  I think this would be great, but I am curious to see if I can get to this point or not.

Clean Hair With Shampoo View From Top
(Yes, I need to touch up my roots!)

Clean Hair Head-On


  • Baking Soda
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Water
The baking soda is supposed to help with the grease whereas the apple cider vinegar is supposed to help nourish the hair.

Here is to a journey over the next couple of weeks to determine what this “No ‘Poo Revolution” is all about.  I will be documenting the good, the bad and the ugly!

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Story of Us

Being Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be nice to enlighten readers on the story of how I met my Prince.  I would also love to learn about how you and yours met as well if you care to link up below.

Once upon a time, in a land far away…
If I were creative enough, I could write our story in this manner, but I’m not.  So I will tell you in my own words how I met my husband.
Todd (my Prince) and I met (online) in December of 2005 through a website by the name of plentyoffish. Cheesy, right?  It doesn’t matter. This is our story.

I was the one who wrote to Todd, and he did not respond back in a timely manner.  So what did I do? I messaged him again!  Word on the street is that he thought I was a bit crazy.  Well, I was (and still am a bit nutty!)

Once he finally wrote back, we found that we had a lot in common.  We both were extremely family oriented, we had the same mannerisms, he was just as corny as I was (maybe a little more,) he got my sarcastic humor, we both used peroxide as mouthwash, and we both drove the same make and model vehicle.  You know, the important stuff! *grin* Late January 2006, we met face-to-face.

After 6 months of dating, Todd proposed in a gorgeous suite overlooking Niagara Falls.  Shortly after the proposal, fireworks went off…literally.  Niagara Falls has a fireworks display on the weekends in the summer.  We walked outside and saw the great show overlooking the Falls. 

Ten months later, we were married in a private ceremony with immediate family only at a gorgeous B&B in Amish Country before going to Alaska for our honeymoon.

This may sound like everything was all roses (I prefer lilacs,) but what the fairytales don’t tell you is about how difficult it can be for two completely different people to come together as one.  The first three and a half years of our marriage were tough.  I’m not talking about spats over who left the kitchen cupboards open or the toilet seat being left up.  I’m talking really hardcore marital issues in which we talked about the “D” word.  With some help of a counselor, we were able to work through our differences, and we are on the road to our 5 year wedding anniversary in almost 3 months!  I have been reading marriage books over the past 4 months, and one question from The Five Love Languages was, “If only people ______, there would be less divorce.”  My answer was (and still is) tried!  It is so easy to call it quits when things get tough, but it is so much more difficult to actually do something about it and try to make the marriage better. 

I think about all that I would have missed out on if we called it quits a year and a half ago.  Having someone there to take care of our pot bellied pig when he was sick, and someone to cry with when Squiggy passed away three weeks later. The time and energy Todd put into trying to nurse Squiggy back to health warms my heart just thinking about it.  We would have missed out on some pretty awesome trips to Warren Dunes State Park (MI,) Miami, Presque Isle (PA,) Orlando and going to the 2012 Detroit Auto Show.  We would have missed raising a puppy and chickens together!  We wouldn’t have had the experience of nearly being hit by fireworks on the 4th of July and camping in the back of the Rondo together.  I would have had to have gone to the hospital by myself when my niece was really sick and when my father had medical issues.  These are just a few moments that popped into my head – there are hundreds more.

But in the end, I have realized that I am one lucky ogre (I {heart} Princess Fiona) to have a Prince that goes along with my crazy ideas, treats me well, is hard working, extremely loving, and family oriented.  As the saying goes, “The worst days with you are better than the best days without you.” 

Here’s to a wonderful Valentine’s Day with lots of love and happiness!

This post is linked up with MrstoMama.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Cost of Gardening (January)

I have always loved going over to Get Rich Slowly every year to see how their garden is doing, how much they’ve spent on the garden and how muchthey’ve harvested.  I have decided that seeing as one of our goals this year is to grow enough of our favorite veggies to last us throughout the fall, winter and spring, I should probably know how much we are spending on the garden as well as how much we harvest to determine whether or not it is “worth it.”  We will not be computing how much time we put into the garden.  To me, putting in time is a given, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make this year’s garden a success! 

A couple of weeks ago, Todd and I started purchasing items for the garden.  The first purchase is not something we are going to count in the numbers for the cost of owning a garden.  We will use this in many other ways around the yard and house. It is the Dump Cart.

I had been promising Todd a new wheelbarrow for 2 years now.  Ours is old, rickety, and when you try to move anything of weight, the handlebars buckle and the whole load goes everywhere.  I have been promising him a new wheelbarrow with two wheels up front because he has carpal tunnel, and the standard wheelbarrow is hard on his hands.

The Dump Cart is so much better! It has a weight capacity of 1200 lbs, and it is so easy to use, even I can pull gravel, dirt or mulch around the yard with ease!  I cant wait to get it out there to weed the beds in the spring!!  The price: $129.00+ tax at Lowe’s.  Again, we are not counting this, but it may come in handy when we are spreading chicken droppings or even manure in the fall.

Todd found these two tools for the garden.  They were $2.99 each, but I had a 15% off coupon on our whole purchase, making each of these $2.54/each.  Apparently, the ones I bought (really inexpensively) last year were children’s tools!  No wonder they bent when I tried to dig in the soil!

Tools: $5.08

I purchased two packets of seeds with a friend from Gurney’s.   They are expensive, but I have found the seeds to be very high quality.  From Gurney’s, I got a packet of spinach seeds as well as yard long green beans!  I have been enjoying the book entitled Vertical Gardening by Derek Fell from the library.  The book provides you varieties of vegetables that grow easily upward instead of in rows in the garden.  The book recommends the yard long green beans so I wanted to try them out.

Seeds from Gurney’s:  6.98

Todd and I also went to WalMart and picked up a lot of seeds!  We got:

  •  Spaghetti Squash - 1
  • Pie Pumpkin - 1
  • Hot Peppers - 2
  • Onions - 3
  • Snow Peas - 4
  • Cucumbers - 3
  • Brussel Sprouts - 1
  • Spinach - 1
  • Herbs - 1 of each (Cilantro, Rosemary, Oregano & Dill)

Seeds from WalMart: $23.23

Total Spent on the Garden (January): $35.29

 Because we are going to rent a tiller to make a new spot for the garden this year with better sunlight and soil, the garden is not going to be “cheap.”  We will most likely put up a fence to keep the deer (and crazy puppy) out. Not to mention making trellis’ and vertical skyscraper poles to grow the vegetables vertically.  And last, but not least, I like to purchase my tomato plants as seedlings in May.  I will most likely be getting a flat or two in the upcoming months.

I have to keep in mind that some of the expense is because we are pretty much starting “fresh” (pun intended) this year.  In upcoming years, there will be less of the startup costs to have a beautiful garden. 

I am getting really excited to get my hands dirty.  Are you?

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

Monday, February 6, 2012

Simple Living: Meals

Several weeks ago, I noticed that my meals have been lacking in a big way.  I have had no creativity, and I’m lucky if we get a meat, potato and vegetables with dinner.  I have been making the same thing over and over again, and it’s been very dull.  I am very fortunate to have a husband who loves to cook.  With his rotating schedule, I get several days throughout the week of not having to worry about what’s for dinner! 
I have found a few ways to resolve my recent lack of cooking inspiration all while keeping it simple and saving time.   This is what I’ve found:

KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)

I have big dreams of making these extravagant meals for my husband with ingredients I’ve never heard of and have never tasted before in my life.  I can picture it in my mind: a nice salad, a great meal, some biscuits or rolls on the table and a glass of wine with dessert afterwards.  The truth of the matter is that this is not going to happen!  Yes, sometimes it does when I have all day to prepare it, but on days I work, it’s not!

I am the queen of 5 (or 6) ingredient dishes.  We have our usual favorites, but it is time to add to that list of meals.  I can somewhat achieve my dream of having a really nice meal by making these types of meals in the morning before work, heating them up before hubby gets home and whipping together a small salad. 

There are a lot of resources online that will give you hundreds of recipes with five ingredients or less.  This link shows how many websites have 5 ingredient recipes listed on them.  But I must admit, this one is my favorite for the simplicity.  Many of these recipes require items that are staples in our house, which is why I love them!  No extra (unnecessary) trips to the grocery store to pick anything up!

Don’t forget to check out your local library to see if they have any simple recipe books that you can take out and experiment with the recipes. 

Also, in the line of simple meals, I love to buy roaster chickens.  Not only are they inexpensive per pound, you can you get a meal out of the meat (you can cook it in a crock pot and it falls off the bones!) and afterwards boil the bones to make your own chicken broth.  Add some onion, carrots, celery, left over meat from the chicken carcass and at the end, some egg noodles, and you’ve got yourself a great bowl of chicken noodle soup!  Or chicken and rice soup, whatever you prefer. If you don’t want to make chicken noodle soup, still boil the bones and freeze the chicken stock for recipes calling for it in the future (without having to buy it in the store!)

Use a crock pot

Really, there is nothing easier than throwing dinner in the crock pot and leaving it until dinner time.  I found a great book called Six Ingredient or Less Slow Cookers by Carlean Johnson.  Now this is my type of cooking!  6 ingredients and in a crock pot!  It’s kind of like that commercial, “Fix it, and forget it!” 

I think I’ve used the crock pot more in the past two weeks than I have in the last year.  It is a great way to create something different and not have to stand over the stove all day to make it. 

Crockpot meal at 7:30 AM

Dinner is ready at 6:35 after I get home from work!

Make a double batch & freeze it

After deciding that a recipe is a “keeper,” make a double batch the next go-around.  Immediately freeze the extra portion and thaw it out in a few weeks when it is time to make a meal.  There is nothing better than having a delicious, homemade meal even if it was made a few weeks or a few months ago!

If you only have pieces parts…

There are times that I put off going to the grocery store until we literally have nothing in the fridge but mayo and orange juice!  When the pantry and fridge is looking sparse, try SuperCook and put in the ingredients you have in the cupboards.  It will come up with new recipes using the items you have in your home! I have used it many times to come up with a new recipe with the very little we may have in the cupboards.


Have fun with it

I love to cook, but at times, I dread it.  I like to cook when I want to cook, not when I have to.  It seems after making a few simple yet delicious meals, I become more adventurous.  Remember to set aside a portion of each meal for future use.  There is nothing better than opening up the freezer to decide “What’s for dinner?”

I have taken out the following books from the library and they have already provided several meal ideas for me.  They include:

  • Fix-It and Forget-it 5 Ingredient by Phyllis Pellman Good
  • Once-a-Month Cooking Family Favorites by Mimi Wilson

Happy cooking!

This post is linked up with Mom's Best Nest Flock Together Blog Hop!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Planning for Chicks / Our First Year Owning Chickens

For those who are thinking about getting chickens when they become available at local TSC stores and hatcheries within the next month, this has been our experience with the chicks (including how much it cost per dozen eggs in the first year.)
From Left to Right: Blondie, Latte and Mocha

It is hard to believe that we’ve raised chickens for the past 11 months.  Around this time last year, I was checking out every book from the library on how to raise chickens and trying to learn as much as I could to ensure healthy, productive hens.  Now that we’re 11 months in, I realize how simple it is to take care of these wonderful creatures.  They have become part of the family, and we absolutely love having Blondie, Mocha and Latte.

 The first two weeks were the toughest with the chicks.  Out of 6 chicks, we lost 2 within 24 hours (I think one was sick when we got it and the other was a freak accident.)  As chicks, you have to make sure they are nice and warm with a heat lamp until they begin to get their feathers.  I told Todd on a couple of occasions that I could watch the chickens grow!  They grow up so fast! 

3 Days Old

A Couple of Weeks Old
 We took care of our chickens indoors for over a month until they were getting too big for the large container we had them in.  This is partly due to me being overly cautious as well as waiting for the construction of the chicken coop to be complete.

The chickens were so happy to be moved outside! For a few weeks leading up to the move to being outside permanently, I would take them out in the garden and let them run around eating bugs and getting acclimated with the weather.  In the beginning, they would follow me around the garden everywhere I went.  They didn’t want to venture too far away from mother hen (me!)  But after a few weeks of preparing them, we moved them outside into their chicken coop and they have been happy chickens ever since!

Hanging Out in Chicken Coop
Shortly after moving them into their chicken coop and letting them roam free while we were away at work in a half acre fenced yard, we lost one to what we think was a red fox that had been in our area.  Chicken feathers were found a couple of days later a little ways out from their enclosed area.  We were sad, naturally, but I’m glad we haven’t had that issue since.  We are now down to 3 chickens.

First Egg Laid in Coop
July 1st, one of our hens laid her first egg at 4 months of age (only two weeks after switching them to layer feed.)  I was so excited!  By the end of July, all three hens were laying an egg a day consistently.  To date, the chickens have laid 561 eggs which equate to 46 dozen and 9 eggs eggs!  We have spent $117.31* on the chickens and their food in this time making each dozen of eggs cost us 2.51/dozen!  Last July, the cost per dozen was over $11!

In the state of Ohio, it is law that chickens must be purchased in increments of 6 because they are a flocking bird; however, that may be different in the state in which you live.  You can call your local TSC and inquire about the minimum you would have to purchase.  Our chicks were $2.49/each and they are the golden sex link breed. We really love this breed because the chickens are smaller in size (about 5-6 lbs) and produce nice big brown eggs.  I have read that when it gets cold, the production of eggs may slow down; however, we have had only a few days of 2 eggs versus 3 with the cold weather we’ve had over the last three months.

Rare Occasion the Chickens Are Out in the Snow
Left to Right: Latte, Mocha and Blondie

I {heart} Chicken Butts!
(this was taken before the 4th chicken was killed by red fox)
 We tend to have a dozen eggs on hand at all times with the 3 chickens we’ve got.  We just love these little layer’s personalities and have had so much fun learning and getting to know each and every one of them.  We would love to get 6 more chicks in March, but we have no need for 9 eggs/day!  Maybe in 2013, we will add to our brood.  Until then, we will continue to love and laugh at the ones we’ve got.

Last year, my goal was to learn about how to care for chickens, and quite frankly, it was pretty easy to do.  Chickens are resilient (except when predators get to them) but entertaining and rewarding when they start producing!  This year, I was toying with the idea of learning how to maintain a beehive.  Instead, we decided to forgo the expense of bees and focus on producing enough vegetables to sustain us through the fall, winter and spring from our garden!

Are you planning on learning something new on the homestead this year?   I want to hear all about it!

*Please note, this is just the price of the 6 chickens and the food.  This does not include the chicken coop, which was built for around $200.  The coop will house our three current chickens as well as new chicks in the future for many years to come!