Sunday, September 23, 2018

Purple Sweet Potatoes

Looking back on my posts from last year and they are all about purple sweet potatoes.  We didn't grow any this year and I'm really sad about that.  I just ordered two pounds on Amazon and the price came to $20.87.  Our favorite baked item from last year's crop was purple sweet potato scones.  Fortunately I learned to make them with about 2oz of paste for an entire receipe so I was able to really stretch those sweet potatoes.  Looking forward to these in about two weeks! 

Next year - it's about the purple! 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Garden 2018


In the spring, we knew we'd be moving in 6 months or less and that our summer would be extra busy with the move so we scaled back on the garden to less tomato plants, a few bell pepper bushes, one jalapeno bush and butternut squash.  I think there might be some garlic and potatoes in there somewhere, I guess we'll see when it gets turned in a few weeks.  

My butternut squash was moved to a new location because it's had some mixed history.  In our first year of gardening at mom's house, we planted butternut and acorn squash.  It was a bumper crop on both and we loaded the freezer for a year.  The following year they mixed and produced a disappointing white pumpkin so the next year we skipped all squash.  Our compost bed seems to be a hot bed for repopulating squash because I toss out all the seeds into the compost and I guess it doesn't get hot enough to kill them.  So this year, we started a new bed that had not been cross contaminated with any other squash.  From 2-3 starter seeds, I ended with 10-12 butternuts in various sizes.

Butternut Squash can last up to 6 months in 55 degrees but I don't have a way to keep food at this temperature.  Maybe one day I'll have an extra fridge that I can keep at this temp, that would be awesome because then I wouldn't have to process all my squash by Thanksgiving.

After picking the butternuts at the beginning of September, I give them about two weeks to cure.  This simply means letting them rest in an indoor temperature of around 77 degrees to let excess moisture work its way out, if not completely ripened then I'll set them in the sun until green goes away or under a heat lamp if I'm worried about bugs.  I get super anxious about bugs getting my squash so sometimes have to pick them early to prevent loss.  After curing, I move them to the basement which is around 70 degrees and keep them there for up to 13 weeks.  I don't like going past Thanksgiving because my basement has too much moisture, even with a dehumidifier, and they tend to not last well after that point.

I have 4 basic recipes that I use all my squash on:
* Butternut Squash Casserole - uses 2lbs
* Butternut Squash Pie - 1lb
* Butternut Squash Bread or Muffins - 1 cup
* Butternut Squash Mac N Cheese - 1lb

I bake the squash for 1 hour and 15 minutes, then put the squash (not including skin) into a food processor until smooth.  For casserole and Mac N Cheese, I simply weigh it and put into containers that freeze well.  For pie, bread and muffins, I drain the squash overnight in a strainer to get excess liquid out.  For baked items it's best to work with a more solid squash.  I used to strain all my squash but it takes up so much room in the fridge when baking 2 giant squash at one time!  This helps divide it up better over the fridge/freezer space.

I really should have named this post "Butternut Squash Strategy". 

This is definately a favorite squash and when we don't grow it, I find myself hitting up local farmers quite a bit and it can feel expensive buying 10-12 squash at $3-4 per squash and in grocery stores it's always by the pound.  This year I grew mine from seeds and it's quite satisfing to save  $40 - 50!  

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

We've moved to a new house

When we moved to Maryland 5 years ago, we set our stuff down in my mom's house, which had remained empty for several years after she remarried and joined her husband in his home.  We lived there with the understanding that when he passed away, she would move back.  That time came in April of this year.  It wasn't completely unexpected, he had been in poor health for several years, but he'd always bounced back.  Regardless of our knowledge of his health issues, it still came as a complete shock, that time was here, it was time to move.

A few years ago we had bought a fixer upper in town but we've been unable to get contractors to do the work that needed to be done.  My husband started a new job last year and was unable to do the work he wanted to do, so this needed to be sold.

We spent several weeks after the funeral looking for a new home and the prices began to get out of reach.  120's were snapped up before we could stop and catch our breath.  130's were gone just as fast.  We got into the 150's before getting a call from a friend.

A friend I grew up with was anointed Pastor in the spring of the very church my grandmother attended in a small town in PA, several hours from Hagerstown.  Upon learning we were moving, he and his wife graciously offered to sell their townhouse for the exact number I had in mind to buy.

The summer flew by, we did our trip to Texas, came home and packed the entire month of August.  Our fabulous Violette enjoyed a few weeks in Montana with her grandparents while the rest of us packed and packed until we ran out of boxes.  Our friends moved out and we moved in right on their heels.

So here we are, with our own house again.  Another mortgage payment, our own furniture, street parking, no curtains yet, off-key singing neighbors, saucy teenagers who step out into traffic and dare you to mow them down - it's so much to take in.

I still go back to mom's house to work as my office is in the basement and it's a place of quiet (except the crickets) and normalcy.  I think that's needed when life has been turned upside down.  

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Warning - on vacation and prone to blog catch up

As I dust off this old thing, read through old travel posts to see what I've written about and if there's any useful information for current day, I'm amazed, awed, and thankful to myself for the diligence in writing so much in the past when I obviously had the time to do so - 147 travel posts!  I couldn't remember the details even if I tried. 

Each passing year my posts are less and less but I really never want this to end, until my last day on earth of course.  That said, if you are still following, don't be surprised if I go and "fill" in the blanks here and there with some truly odd-ball posts like "Spring 2018".  I love those because every year I check to see when our crocus' last bloomed and if they are early or late.  I can't explain why but for some reason it's very important to me to check on this every year.

Big Texas Vacation 2018

sorry - post dated

We've done it again, driven 3 days to reach Texas.  Every time I tell someone about this adventure they look at me like I have 3 heads.  Why?  And every year we say the same thing, the cost to buy 6 tickets, rent vehicle once there, yada yada yada  is cost prohibitive so we choose to drive and see stuff on the way.

Somewhere I have a big list of all the things we packed last year, but I couldn't find it and figured we'd work it out along the way.  Subsequently we forgot our blow up mattress which serves as our 3rd bed in hotels when we can only find two beds.  It's exceedingly hard to find 2 beds and a pull-out, as I learned the hard way but we managed to for both nights.

On the return, I'll take our in-law's spare home with us.

The kids all borrowed my travel pillow extensively so may need to bring their travel pillows next trip.

I write these posts in the hopes that I'll re-read them before the next trip and plan accordingly.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Tips for selling on Ebay

You've heard the saying, "One man's trash is another man's treasure".  It's so true with Ebay.  To date, these are some of the things I've sold on Ebay:

1.  Sonic Toothbrush - original value $119, sat in my bathroom for 8 years unused.  Sold for $15.

2.  Apple iPod Touch 4th generation - sat in a box unused for 2 years because the camera and sound didn't work.  I was very clear in my description of what worked and because it's very old, I even listed out all the apps that would work.  I sold it for $10.00 in one day.

3.  MobiGo 2 Games - two games, sold together for $3.75.  I tried going higher, selling separate but when I dropped to this price and put a Buy Now price it sold in a day.

4. MogiGo 2 game consoles - once I found our kids preferred playing with iPhones based on all the free game apps, I decided to sell these on ebay.  They each sold for $35 and 25 last year.

5.  iPhone 4's - we've sold 2-3 of these after the kids moved onto iPhone 5's.

6.  iPod 5's - we sold these 2-3 months after buying them on Ebay because they didn't work with Pokemon Go, apparently iPods don't have the built in GPS needed for that name so we basically resold them for what we had bought them for.

7.  Crock Pot - this was my first item ever to sell on Ebay, but I didn't pack it correctly and had to return the buyers money when one of the handles broke in transit.  I was very sad about that but it was a lesson learned.

8.  Plexus Slim - I got tired of the drink and mad that I had paid so much for it and decided to resell the remaining packets in groups of 10.  Sold in less than a week.

9.  Rodan and Fields - I got tired of using the expensive creams and decided to sell my remaining unopened items and got most of my money back on them.

10.  Unit that calculates gas to mileage usage - I was never able to use it because it didn't work with our vehicles and the model was no longer being produced so I was thrilled to re-sell this for about what I had paid for it!  It just shows that it doesn't hurt to put something out there to see if someone else is willing to pay for it.

Tips:
* Prep your items on Friday because people seem to really like shopping on Saturday
* Forget the auction unless you have an item people WILL fight over, people want there stuff NOW so choose the BUY NOW option and sometimes, even select the box that lets them name a price, you don't have to accept it, but it allows your or the buyer to have choices.  Maybe my item isn't moving and finally one person wants to buy it for a few dollars less, who cares, it's money in my pocket so I say yes.
* Be ready to ship your items they day they are bought, have them packed but don't close the package because you need to add a packing slip
* Weigh your item before selecting shipping, anything under 1 pound will cost a certain level but if more then you really want to get the weight accurate because the cost of shipping goes up and Ebay does an estimate for you so you don't want to get this wrong.  I use a kitchen scale.
* Electronics are the easiest to sell on ebay, I tell my friends, don't leave old iPhones in a drawer to collect dust, just because you can't use it doesn't mean someone else out there will not want it.  Get the phone officially unlocked through the phone service you've had on it and sell it!  It's so easy to do a search on what other models are selling and then price yours accordingly.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

How to be an awesome millennial employee

I've been managing employees for over 15 years and in recent years, I've picked up a few great millennial employees.  Here is a list of what I absolutely love to see:

1.  Enthusiasm - I have one person who's first job out of college is working for me and her prior work experience is an internship with our company.  She is awesome because no matter what I ask her to do, her response is always positive.  I've asked her to go through inventory to find one item and her response is always "sure!".  I love it.  As a manager, I know that sometimes I'm asking someone to do something that's not fun or easy but it's just so nice to work with positive people who don't complain. 

2.   Quick to react - another response I love to hear is "I'm on it!", it makes me laugh every time.  It might not be the way an older worker would respond but it's such an enthusiastic way to respond to a request.  It's always followed by quick action to do whatever I've asked this person to do.

3.  Excitement - I got this response from an intern recently, "yess!! I wanted to do this! cool".  I quite nearly fell off my chair.  As someone who has been in the industry for 15+ years, things lose their coolness factor, and it's just so refreshing to have someone with that energy level who's not intimidated by unknowns and new factors.  I love it.

4.  Questions - if you don't understand what I'm asking you to do, ask questions.  Don't do it wrong just because you're afraid to ask questions. 

5.  Retain what you are taught - I had a girl at one point in my career who couldn't seem to retain important details.  It gets exhausting to have to retrain, reteach and help someone who doesn't want to stop and figure things out for themselves.  This may sound like I'm contradicting myself with point 4 so I guess I should clarify that I like new questions, not repeats of the same questions. 

Friday, May 04, 2018

Why I closed my Acorns account

When we started our financial journey to save for remodeling, I looked into a bunch of apps that were popular on many different financial blogs.  Sometimes I think things are promoted because the blogger gets a kick-back so it's hard to know what is worth while.  I kept seeing rave reviews for Acorns and tried it for one year.  Here are the reasons I finally decided to close my account.

In one year I saved $271.32.  I chose the Aggressive portfolio and Acorns charged $1.00 per month to manage my account.  After one year, my cash out value was $270.39.

Recently I got an email saying they were changing the account fee to $2.00 per month until accounts reach one million.  Considering my first year progress, I think I’d lose more money so I’ve decided to close the account and consolidate my savings in another investment account with Vanguard that will earn potentially more when combined with other funds.  To date I haven’t lost money with Vanguard.

Acorns might be a nice way to spur beginning investors, but you’d probably do better with automatic monthly deposits to a savings account that’s guaranteed a tiny amount of interest.  I’d rather have money saved then lost so the Acorns app just doesn’t work out for me.  I don’t know how many years I’d have to save to come out on top with this app.

Tips for buying anything on Ebay

Follow these tips and you will save yourself grief and frustration:

1.  Always - check out the buyers profile and look for these things:
  • Reviews - if he/she has solid reviews then they care about their business
  • # of items being sold, if he/she has 2 items for sell, then they might not be serious sellers, although I break my own rule all the time when I run out of stuff to sell or don't have time to restock so you can always refer back to rule one 
  • Length of time on Ebay, if it's a new account, the risk is high that the seller doesn't have a clue on how to sell on Ebay
2.  Ebay's Refund Policy - Even if the buyer says they won't take returns, Ebay will force them to if they lie about a product description or just get it wrong.  I recently needed to return a cell phone that was incorrectly marked as unlocked and the seller did not answer my emails in the time that Ebay allows for seller and buyer to settle things so once it got to the review board, they settled in my favor and returned all funds, including shipping.

Based on this, I feel pretty safe to buy on Ebay.