Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Downtown House - Garden One Month Update

It's been one month since we laid grass seed, the cheapest way to get a green lawn.  I couldn't see buying sod for a small back yard.  We had to dig out all the concrete, sand and rock that was in there from past walk ways that extended far beyond what we wanted.  We are trying to put as little money into the yard as possible because there are other more priority items needed inside the house and elsewhere so we've re-used found stone, brought over stumps and white fence from my mom's house, painted an old ladder and bought a few select plants that we wanted.  The prior owner left 6 bags of mulch that we've used throughout.  We've spent a little more than $100 on plants and seeds.

I know we've bought at least 10 bags of dirt for approximately $1.80 per bag for 40lbs:
$1.80 x 10 = $18

The plants were 3 for $10 and we bought these:
* 2 Jalapeno's
* 3 Bell Peppers
* 2 Tomatoes
* 1 Acorn Squash
* 2 purple flowers
10 total = $33.3

2 bags of grass seed at $8.88 each = $17.76

3 hanging plants for $2.00 each = $6.00 (they were originally $24.95!!  We brought them back to full flowering within a few weeks of watering every day.)

3 packets of seeds = $10

1 fancy plant that's missing from the photos below = $16.85

3 mums = $5.00

1 lavender = $3.33 (it died already)

1 hanging plant = $3.33

1 violet plant = $3.33

2 free plants for doing work on the church property!

Lettuce - free from mom's garden

Total spent = $116.90

I've been working since March to get seedlings to take off but I've had very little luck, which is surprising because last year I used the same grow light and had great success with butternut squash, but it was in the basement of my mom's house and more humid so maybe that helped.

Here is a link to how the garden looked on May 25th. 

And now for current photos!







We've had the flamingo's and aloe plant since Florida and rubber tree and amaryllis for many years as well.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Downtown House - Garden

I needed something for my acorn squash to climb because I don't want it traveling all over the yard.  Pinterest suggested ladders, so I found an old rickety one that my dad used for years and repainted it!






This is how small the plant was when I finished the ladder end of May.

Now check out my acorn squash!  I've added a hanging plant for color until the acorn is ready to travel over the ladder.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Frugal Living - May Edition 2019

We really blew our budget in May!  Too many trips to Farm and Family along with Lowes for home improvement supplies.  I tell myself it's an investment into the resale of our home so chill out on the budget for a bit.  In all actuality it was more the trip to Luray that squeezed us tight but I don't care, we've worked very hard in other months to budget so it's fine to miss the mark on savings for one month.  We still follow our rule of paying all bills within the month so as long as that's followed I can rest easy at night.

One thing we'd like to look into is a pull along camper that sleeps six.  We've been talking about it for several years and we finally have a vehicle that can pull one.  We're getting tired of expensive hotels and still not having enough room to sleep six and with growing kids we are having a harder time finding rooms big enough; many hotels will advertise a suite but it's still too small for three beds.  I told husband whatever is not invested is free to use for a camper so he's on the hunt.  Let's see if he can manage to find something before our trip to Texas!

We think it will save us in the following areas:

  • Food - eating out is expensive and I can only pack so much in a cooler, which is cumbersome to drag into a hotel and ice down every morning which gets many foods soggy.  We are up to $60 at Cracker Barrel and $35 at most fast food places.  With three days on the road, we can easily spend several hundred dollars on food before we reach Texas.  
  • Hotel rooms are costing us over $100 per night, many campsites are half this price or less.
We think these areas might cost us more:

  • More gas in pulling a camper
  • It will probably take an extra day to reach Texas because we can't go as fast
  • We will probably need to fix up a used camper, hopefully not too much
  • There are always unseen costs with a new to us purchase
In addition I'm looking for more than savings.  I find it very stressful to take 4 kids into a hotel room after a full day of driving and expect them to stay quiet.  Hopefully they can let loose a little more with a camper, at least we're not sharing walls with another family.  We are also tired of taking a huge pile of stuff into a hotel, unloading, reloading the next day and doing it three days in a row.  

Not sure what stress may come with a camper but right now it sounds like a good transition for us.


Monday, May 27, 2019

The Natural Bridge, VA

The Natural Bridge does not involve much walking to get to the bridge, it's about a hundred stairs to get to the bottom and then a short walk to the bridge which you walk under.  I think for the cost it's worthwhile to take the entire hike to the end waterfall, even though it's very far away and not easy to see.  There is the Monacan Indian village along the way that has people doing various jobs who teach their craft.  We found that very interesting.  In total we walked 3.7 miles! 







Sunday, May 26, 2019

Luray Caverns, VA


My brother invited us to go with him to visit Luray Caverns.  We're both sure we went as kids but neither of us can remember it.  Our dad used to take us on lots of road trips so we remember the places we went regularly but memories are starting to fade.

One of the reasons I blog is for my kids to have a road map of their childhood - "Hi kids!", if you are reading this one day! 

Luray Caverns is quite a vacation destination for the area, they have several free museums and a really fun rope park.  Thankfully they have free parking and plenty of it!  We brought lunch and ate at the picnic tables before going in.  













We walked 3 miles!

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Downtown House - Garden

Our backyard is a small square lot and I don't think it's been domesticated in many years, there was a path but it had overgrown so badly it needs reset in most places.  While digging up the mess of weeds that served as grass we found a toilet brush, bricks, glass, rebar, and tons of small bits of trash.  These photos are after a few weeks of clean up, I look forward to sharing photos after the grass comes in, fence rebuilt, and plants have grown more.

Our canoe is in the process of being patched, this area still has some home improvement supplies that need to be brought into the house, there is a dog house and a board covering holes in fence.  Once this area is cleaned up, husband plans to put in a shed in this back corner.


In this area, we've added 4 tomato plants along the fence, lettuce next to the gnome and there are ferns behind the mushroom ready to come up.  I'm not fond of the tire with pot in the middle so this will be removed soon.  


This area is our stairs to the basement so we need to get this cleaned up so we can actually use the stairs, but there is no shed to put the lawn equipment, and basement is full so hard to imagine putting things down there.  Most of this will go into the shed once it's built.


This is the area in front of the porch, we put stumps from mom's house to serve as shelves for my amaryllises.  We plan to plant grass in the dirt area.


Friday, May 24, 2019

Strawberry Picking

I have fond memories of picking strawberries with my mom and brothers when I was a kid, so when my cousin invited us to go with her, we jumped at the chance.  I pulled out the kids giant Easter buckets and a few ice cream containers.  The patch was surprisingly full, sometimes they only have very small hard to find berries.  I tried to educate 4 kids on what to pick but they were dazzled by the biggest berries regardless of bad spots so we ended up with some not so great berries but overall they did pretty good. 

I was astonished at the amount we all picked in 30 minutes - 22lbs!  At $3.00 per pound it was $67.89!  Egads.  Next year we're taking smaller containers!!

We cut up enough to take to a church evening picnic and froze the rest because we were going away for Memorial Day weekend.  I kinda wish I would have had time for one fresh strawberry pie!


Cousin with my youngest

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Downtown House - Entrance 2

Our front door is a mess.  The only logical solution would be to replace the door and framework to match the rest of the house, but we've already used up our house improvement budget for this month, and the backyard fence is more urgent due to holes and that it's a big summer job, so I decided to patch and paint.  Some holes can be filled with wood putty, small nail holes with spackle - I'm so confused at the number of nail holes in this door.  There have been several different locks installed over the years, each with a different hole made.  There is some serious wood damage in some areas but the overall door is solid and secure, so here goes my attempt to make it better for the interim.  


This small wedge was placed here when the wall next to it was fixed.  I used putty to smooth the two pieces of wood together.


For this hole, I couldn't think of a way to fit putty into it as there was no base, so I elected to just paint over it.


The large hole at the top of this photo was filled with putty, each nail hole filled with spackle and additional hardware removed.

Extra nail removed, nail holes filled and extra hardware removed.


This is where you can see prior lock systems and severely damaged wood, I can't fill all of this in, but I'll do my best to make it look better.


Extra hardware.

 

This is the entire door which taken in normal lighting doesn't show all the damage seen in close up photos.


Here is the door after I've painted the trim with three coats of white and filled the hole at the top window, painted the door one coat and added a curtain.  


There is a 1" hole where I removed some old hardware, we plan to fill it with a cut dial rod.  The hole below the handle is filled with putty and will take a week to dry then I can paint it.  The door needs about 2 more coats of paint and I plan to remove it from the hinges and paint it really well.  I hope when I'm done it looks nice enough to not see the damaged parts easily.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

What will my final words be?

Recent deaths in my orbit have shocked me.

A blogger who I've followed since 2008 lost her husband to cancer, he was a dad to three teenage daughters.  Having lost my dad at 32, I feel even more sad and devastated for this family because at least I had mine until my early 30's.  I can't stop thinking about them. 

A co-worker lost her dad to a fast moving cancer recently.  They had only 2 or 3 weeks with him before he passed away suddenly.  I was able to use my personal experience from losing my dad 15 years ago to help my co-worker by encouraging her when he was alive and then suggesting she stay an extra week after he passed away.  She was set to come back to work right after the funeral, I know people don't think clearly when they are grieving, so I gently suggested it would be perfectly fine if she stayed an extra week, I'm glad I could be helpful in her time of need. 

Our neighbor passed away last Friday.  A few days before dying, she was screaming profane language at her grand kids.  Her voice carried across the street and into my yard when I was hard at work in the garden, making it hard to enjoy the spring weather.  Usually I would head back into the house when she'd start screaming as it had become a regular occurrence.  Then suddenly on Friday the street was filled with ambulances and fire trucks as her son and family sat outside crying.  All the little kids she had screamed at were outside playing, all under 5 and oblivious to what was going on.  I should also say at this point she was wheel chair bound, and being home alone with that many little kids who don't listen well would be incredibly stressful.  I deeply regret not going over and offering to help.  I didn't expect her to die suddenly.  It is shockingly sad.

The next day Rachel Held Evans died.  I have no connection to her other than we shared the same first name.  When she first came on the Christian scene I took interest in her writing until she pivoted so far left that I had difficulty relating but I always admired her ability to ask tough questions even when I didn't agree with her theology.  I'm completely devastated that she left this world at 37 with two small children left behind. 

Tomorrow will be 15 years since my dad took his last breath.  Being surrounded by death and coming up on this anniversary has not made me melancholy, I've just been feeling a more urgent need to do more for people. 

I don't know how much time I have left, but I'd like to use it for good.  I'm trying to send out encouraging messages to those in my orbit and I hope to be remembered as someone who reached out when people needed encouragement. 

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Downtown House - Entrance 1

After writing my very grumpy post about our downtown house in spring, I felt galvanized to do something about it.  First we dug up the back yard weeds, then reorganized the stone pathway on a 50 degree day, which was fortunate timing because it was hard work resetting the pathway.  Next we planted grass seed; directions suggest 45-60 degree weather is best so I guess our timing is spot on.

Indoors, I began repainting the banisters and entry to front room.  Our predecessors had left the house I would say 90% re-modeled but there are many small tasks that need done.  The sell price was adjusted accordingly so it's fine.  I just needed to get myself from winter hibernation to spring over-achiever mode.

I started by painting the banisters at the bottom of the stairs - one area that's hard to pick up from is another persons vision for the house.  So we have conversations like - what do you think he had in mind for this area with a bunch of over spray on old wood?  Our conclusion - he had planned to paint over everything.  So I began the thriftiest way possible - using up paint left in the basement.  First baseboards around the entrance, that was an easy choice.  Next banisters in Cyberpunk to match other parts of the house.  I like it, but the kids hate it.  Who knew kids could be so opinionated.

I moved onto the wooden entrance to the front room that had a hurried white coat of paint applied.  Husband suggested gray for the center and white on top and bottom.  I'm still not sure I like the white on top but I'll leave it for a few weeks to see if it still bothers me later.

I forgot to take before photos so here's the after:





Monday, April 22, 2019

Frugal Living ~ Earth Day 2019

Isn't it wonderful how living a frugal life often goes hand in hand with environmental goals?  By making many foods from scratch, you save money and buy less metal and plastic containers!

Here are some of our frugal/environmental habits:

  • Make homemade yogurt 
  • Make homemade iced coffee
  • Use dried beans to make multiple meals, I've written about black beans and pinto's
  • Plant a garden from seeds, not starter plants that come with plastic pots but if you really must buy a starter tomato plant, then at least keep the plastic pot and reuse it for as long as possible
  • Wash and reuse zip lock bags, I can't bring myself to stop buying them completely but I can and will make myself wash and reuse them.
  • Cut out paper plates - sure they are convenient but wouldn't you rather have that money in the stock market gaining compound interest until retirement?  Oh yeah, I've been reading Millennial Money's Financial Freedom book.  Side note - I've even tried buying what are called compostable paper plates but we know from personal experience they take forever to break down and we end up throwing them in the trash which is just very sad.  It's a completely unnecessary cost so we've banned buying paper plates this year.
  • Compost all degradable food wastes, we live in the city with a very small backyard and we are still committed to this habit.  How does this save money?  We don't have to buy dirt for our garden!  My butternut squash are a testament to how big and happy food can be when it's given composted dirt.
  • Shop at Aldi - it will force you to bring your own bags and not use plastic shopping bags just because they are there and convenient.  Aldi is cheaper than Walmart so it's kinda a no brainer in the frugal world.  
I'm not a hard core "no plastic" kind-of-girl, but I do want to do my part in cutting back on our trash contribution to the planet.  I love that it goes hand in hand with our frugal goals.  

Other areas we are looking for savings in both cost and environmental:

I'm psyching myself up for canceling our Prime membership to Amazon $119.  It's set to renew in June or July.  I keep thinking about the cost to the environment to ship often times one item I have to wonder if it's worth it to me to continue.  I also am not sure it's really saving us that much money and we never watch anything on Prime streaming or use the Prime reading options.

We are also considering consolidating our Costco runs to every two months.  We love Costco, but it's a 30 minute trip and we currently go once a month.  Next month we are going to see how it goes to buy for two months.  

In summary, we would like to wish all a Happy Earth Day and Happy Savings Day!  :)

"Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship." Benjamin Franklin

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Homemade ~ Vanilla Chia Avocado Smoothie

Husband and I used to work for Smoothie King in Florida, and a short stint with our friend in Pittsburgh when she owned "The Juice Shop" so we've got some mad smoothie making skills, lol.

This is a green smoothie, without the horror of spirulina - if you like it then just disregard this entire recipe because this is for those who want a green smoothie without puke inducing spirulina.

Ingredients:

  • 5 cubes of ice
  • 1/4 avocado ripe enough that you can press a finger gently into it and cut easily with a knife, if it's too hard then wait a few days, hard avocado is never a good thing
  • 1/2 banana - fresh or frozen (although frozen will help make your smoothie colder)
  • 1 Tablespoon Nesquik Vanilla powder - I only specify this brand because other vanilla powders are very expensive, this can be found at CVS (oddly enough not found on Amazon).
  • 1/3 cup Oregon Chai Tea sugar free, I've found this at my local Walmart or homemade Chai
  • 2/3 cup Milk (I use 2% but use whatever milk you prefer)
  • 1 handful of spinach 
Blend until smooth.

I don't taste the spinach and since I'm not big on salads, it gives me a dose of greens.  I have a cheap blender and it manages to blend the spinach so well there are no chunks.  This is a 16oz smoothie.