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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 12, 2018

We bought a Town House!

We started looking at properties in May with our trusted real estate agent and the market was moving fast.  Everything we looked at and liked was gone in 24 hours.  We got pre-approved to make things go faster but due to our nature of wanting a night to think and pray about a home we continued to lose out on every property.  Some might have been due to not having a decent down payment, our money was still tied up in the property we bought in 2015 so we only had 3.5% to put down and sellers like to bet on a buyer who will be able to complete the deal.

I had set my heart on 120K as the price we needed because I wanted my mortgage to be just under 1K so that we could afford to make 1.5 payments. 

This is one of the reasons houses were going so fast as we were looking in this low range.  Homes either needed tremendous work, no thanks, already tried that, or they were snapped up extremely fast.  We tried looking upwards to 150K but I was very reluctant to move forward and lost several homes in that range as well. 

At church one day, we let a friend know we were looking for a house and they just happened to be selling their townhouse.  I was really hoping for a bigger yard and stand alone house, but their price was 120K, 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and recently renovated.  I literally had no compelling reasons to say no, in fact, it really did seem like heaven opened this opportunity just for us.  Our friends put us in touch with a fantastic mortgage broker who we absolutely adored working with, Integrity Home Mortgage Byron Reed, these guys were incredibly easy to work with, highly enthusiastic and encouraging.  They made it fun to buy a house.

There is a bit of work to do throughout the home to finish the renovations that our friends did, but it's very livable and we can get these things done over time. 

Monday, September 10, 2018

How we saved 10K for closing costs

Throughout 2017 and at the beginning of 2018 I was certain my mom's husband was going to pass away and this would be our trigger to look for new housing.  We were living in my mom's house, while she lived with her 2nd husband in town at his house and she would of course want to come back to her home.  We saved while paying off loans but it wasn't adding up fast enough.  By the end of 2017 we had $660.97 in Vanguard and I realized my biggest problem was I had pockets of money in too many locations so I decided to consolidate all savings into the Vanguard money market account.  Easy to drop in, easy to take out.

Acorns - I wrote a post here about my experiment with this app, it didn't work out for me, maybe I wasn't aggressive enough but I figured at the end of the day, money will grow faster if it's all put into one location and can grow based on size so this was the first account to go.  Cash out value $270.39.

Jury Duty, Ebay Sales, Unused Medical, Surveys - $1140.45
Most of these are self explanatory.  Unused medical is from saving $200 per month in a basic savings account.  We have Samaritan Ministries which is a cost sharing plan where members pay a base monthly fee, ours is around $450 and this covers other members medical fees.  We pay our own routine doctor visits out of pocket from the $200 per month, this includes flu shots, contacts,  and prescriptions; whatever is leftover at the end of the year goes into our master savings account.

Costco Rebate - $526.33

State Farm savings account - $1067.59

Consolidated another savings account and closed a non-performing E-trade account - $635.51

Side Hustle Account - $1452.38 (from consignment sales)

By this point we were in June and with dividends we had around $5800.  We had already found the house we wanted to buy and were working with a mortgage company so we knew we needed 10K by August or September.  We realized we needed to save $1500 per month for the next three months to reach 10K.  Those last three months were hard, especially as they went through the summer months where we tend to spend a little more on vacation and had to get new tires for the main vehicle but somehow we managed to make it to the 10K mark in time to close on September 12th!

When I look back at the specific amounts that went into this closing cost, it makes me chuckle, who would think jury duty pay would help towards closing costs?  The point is, if you get extra money and don't need it for monthly expenses then squirrel it away in one account that can build more interest.  We made $55.16 in dividends with Vanguards simple money market account in this year.  It's better than what our bank accounts can offer and it built faster the more we had in there.