Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Christmas Stocking Number 2

I finished Walt's stocking this morning! I love the country, homespun look of it. Some small rusty bells or other rustic embellishment would be cute hanging from the bottom of the cuff. I will be on the look out for something when the Christmas decorations are put out in the stores.
 

Here's Eli's from an earlier post this week. I plan to look for tiny snow flake ornaments to hang from the bottom of the cuff for a little more embellishment, aka, bling. :o)


What a blessing to have 3 grandsons this year.


Also, what a blessing it will be to already have these made and not to be trying to make them at the last minute!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Planning for Christmas 2013 - Christmas Stockings

I woke up during the night last night and realized that we need two new Christmas stockings for the two new grandsons that were born this year!!! I have a tutorial that I wrote a few years ago that I pulled up HERE.


I have lots of printed Christmas fabric, but didn't want that look for some reason.  Most of it seemed too "busy" with all the snowmen, Santas, reindeer, etc.  So, this is what I came up with for Eli. I used some snowflake flannel fabric bought on clearance a couple of years ago and recycled denim for the cuff.   Total cost, less than 50 cents!


For Walt's stocking I am using some red and green homespun with a tan corduroy cuff.  I'll show you it when I get it done.

Have a wonderful day!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Slice of My Life

I haven't done a "slice of life" post in ages.  Here are a few pictures from the last month.

These are the toes of my daughter while in labor...


The goal was "to have a baby".


The baby's bed was waiting for him...


It was barely visible, but this is Eli's rainbow.  I often see rainbows when important events have happened or are about to happen. This one was seen on the way home from the hospital after Eli was born.


Wow, who is this kid?

Bread machine, potatoes, onions, pickles, Mama's kitchen stuff.


Recent sunset seen across the way...



This rose was just set out after being rooted under a mason jar and already had a bloom on it.  This picture was taken when we got home after Eli was born.


This is my Grandma Rose which I have never seen bloom any other time except May.  During August, it had 3 blooms.


Recent quilting:




Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Saving Money On Health Insurance

Health insurance is a tough area to save money in.  You've got to have it and its expensive!  The policy that I have started out pretty low, back when I was 34 years old.  It has gone up every year as I have gotten older and now is 4 times as much per month!  This is not the best policy in the world either.  I have a large deductible for hospital stays.  But, I do have a co-pay for doctor visits and the insurance pays for yearly tests such as a mammogram and eye exam. 


Hospital Attire

Recently I got an email from my insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, containing an offer to earn a $50 gift card, so I jumped on it!  To earn the gift card, you have to go to the BCBS website and complete a health assessment.  I did this and while there discovered that through September, if you do certain activities you can earn up to a $120.00 credit on one month's insurance premium.  Yep, I am definitely working on that one!

While this offer is wonderful, its only a one time offer.  When you look at the big picture, since I am spending a large amount each year on insurance, $170.00 is just a drop in the bucket!  But, its something, and that's better than nothing.

While writing this post, I tried to think of ways to save money on health insurance or at least maximize its benefits.  There's only so much one can do, short of dropping it altogether.  But, here are a few ideas:

1.  Its definitely worth your time to visit your insurance company's website to check to see if there are any offers that could save you some money.  Sometimes, if you lose weight, exercise more, quit smoking or complete health assessments, there are monetary benefits.

2.  Know what your policy pays for in order to get your money's worth.  If you know your policy, you can take advantage of yearly exams, etc. that are covered.  You can also avoid those unnecessary things that your policy does not pay for.

3.  Check around for better deals on insurance plans.  I'm not interested in changing plans, as I've had the one I have for over 20 years.  But, even within your current insurance company, there may be a better deal.  A search on the Internet revealed that Health Savings Account type policies can save a substantial amount of money.   Each person would have to weigh the pros and cons of any policy they are looking into.

4.  If you can be added onto a spouse's policy at work, it might be a big savings.  When we checked into doing this, the extra premium for me was just as much as I was already paying.

5.  Working for an employer with good benefits, such as health insurance, would be excellent!  I do not have this option.  I do have good benefits, but not health insurance.  Looking for a new job at this point in my life is not something I'm interested in doing either.  But if you are looking for a new job, finding one with insurance  benefits should be a priority.

6.  Stay as healthy as you can!  Taking good care of yourself with diet, exercise and preventative care will save money now and later.

7.  Increasing your deductible can reduce your premium.  Its a gamble, but if you put the money saved aside, you would have it for the deductible if you ever had to go into the hospital.


Sunrise  seen from a hospital room.
Well, those are just a few ideas that I have.  At least we can be alert for ways to save money on health insurance and not just blindly pay the premiums.  If I put so much energy into saving on groceries, wouldn't it make sense to work on saving money in an equally expensive area of life?





Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Stuffed Peppers

My bell pepper plants finally made it!  They had a rough start when I first planted them during our cold, wet and windy spring.  Then I planted green beans around them.  The beans grew big and shaded them from the sun and so they didn't grow much.   Once the beans were done and removed from the raised bed, the peppers finally got there chance to show off.


I picked these with the intent to make stuffed peppers.  After washing them, slicing off the tops and cleaning out the seeds, I cooked them in some boiling water for about 10 minutes.  Then I stuffed them with a meat mixture similar to meatloaf.  I didn't really measure the amounts, but I used oatmeal, a small can of tomato sauce, diced onion, onion powder and garlic powder.



This meal includes a meat, green vegetable and potatoes.  It was good!

 


I really enjoy being able to go out and pick a bell pepper whenever I need one.  They will bear until frost.  Pepper is one of those vegetables that can be left on the plant for a while, so I just pick them as needed.  As long as they are on the plant, they will be fresh. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Lessons Learned From a Mini Emergency

I've done several posts recently about being ready for emergencies.  Saturday we experienced a mini emergency. 

I was happily working on a coffee cake.  The oven was preheated.

Folding in the beaten and stiff egg whites.

The lights started flickering and kept flickering.  It was pouring rain outside.  I looked out the  kitchen window and saw that the light pole down the road was leaning and there were sparks of fire at the top of it.



The power completely went out and the picture out the kitchen window escalated into this:

 
Someone crashed into the power pole and it was a major operation to get the pole straightened and the power restored.  The power was off for 5 hours.


Like most people, without power everything comes to a standstill at our house.  What started out as an enjoyable day, staying inside while it rained, turned into a test of our patience!

I wasn't sure what to do with the pan of cake batter ready to go into the oven.   Oven wouldn't work, and the refrigerator door needed to be kept closed .  I had put off finishing a baby quilt that I needed for a baby shower the next day until the afternoon.  hmmm.... sewing machine won't work without power.

Oh, well, nothing to do except make the best of it.  At least we weren't involved in the wreck and didn't have to stand outside in the rain directing traffic, or be the repairmen working on restoring the power.

I didn't get lunch made before the power went out, so we ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and chips.

We couldn't watch TV, so we got out the battery operated radio and listened to some beach music.

We sat on the front porch and watched all the commotion going on, traffic backing up and the rain.  No cars were allowed to go by our house and the view directly in front of the house was a peaceful one.


The power being off for 5 hours is just an inconvenience.  But, it reminded me how much we depend on electricity.  I was so glad to have plenty of bottled water and food that could be eaten without a stove.  But, in this mini emergency, we could have just gotten in the car and driven somewhere until the power came back on.  Would have been a good time to go see a movie, go shopping, or visiting.

I considered this to be a trial run for an extended power outage.  It really made me think.

The coffee cake survived the power outage too!  I put the pan of batter in the refrigerator and then kept the refrigerator door closed until the power came back on.  Then I threw it in the oven.  My crumbly topping sank to the bottom, but it tasted good anyway.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Some Yummy Comfort Food For Eli's First Visit

I made some BBQ meatballs and my daughter's favorite mashed potatoes in honor of her first visit to our house with the new baby.

The meatballs are very similar to meatloaf, containing oats and finely chopped onion.  After forming the meatballs, they are placed on a cookie sheet in the freezer for a few minutes to make them easier to handle.  Then you dredge them in flour and brown them on both sides.


I mixed up the sauce in one of my vintage mushroom themed bowls.


This is what they looked like before being baked.  I didn't get a picture of them after being baked, because there was too much excitement going on.


My girl loves potatoes anyway you cook them.  These were very rich with lots of butter, cream cheese, milk and seasoned salt.


The recipes can be found at the Pioneer Woman's website.  POTATOES HERE. and  MEATBALLS HERE.

Here is what my almost six year old grandson's food looked like.  He didn't care for the meat and potatoes, but he ate all the grape tomatoes and the grilled cheese sandwich.   


I always make sure I have things like tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelon and pickles on hand for him!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Stock Up Deals at Food Lion This Week

The only grocery store options I have near me are Food Lion, Piggly Wiggly and Walmart.  My favorite is Food Lion, so I tend to just concentrate my efforts there.  If I can figure out what is a good deal and really stock up when the prices are their lowest, I can do just about as well at one place as I can at the other.  I realize that Walmart price matches, so that might be an option I would want to pursue at some point.  Piggly Wiggly has the best meat prices, so I'm thinking of doing a meat stock up shopping trip there occasionally.

There is a great stock up deal at Food Lion this week that I want to share with you.

Buy 5 select My Essentials or Food Lion items get $5.00 off instantly. There is a limit of 5 items per shopping trip.  Since I am near a Food Lion about 6 days a week, I intend to do this deal several times.  All of these items would be excellent items to donate to a food pantry or to stock up our own pantries with.

These are the items that you can choose from and the final price AFTER the $1.00 is subtracted from each item.   

My Essentials Peanut Butter - $1.00
Food Lion Snack Mix - $1.00
Food Lion Tortilla Chips - $1.00
My Essentials Salsa - $1.00
My Essentials Snack Crackers - $1.00
The 2 pound large boxes of My Essentials Spaghetti - $1.00
My Essentials Grape Jelly - 77 cents
My Essentials Strawberry Preserves - $1.00
My Essentials Tasteeos or Shredded Wheat Cereal - $1.00
My Essentials Raisin Bran or Crispy Rice Cereal - 97 cents
Food Lion Instant Oatmeal - $1.00
My Essentials Pancake Syrup - $1.00

One of the Food Lion Internet Coupons for the week is 75 cents off any cereal.  Combine that with one of the cereals included in the above deal and you get a box of cereal for 25 cents or 23 cents.  CLICK HERE to print the coupons.

Some of the other coupons that would be good to use are : 75 cents off any juice, 40 cents off My Essentials Tuna, 55 cents off turkey bacon, and 50 cents off 48 count My Essentials Tea Bags.

I always scan my MVP card at the machine when going in the store.  Lately I've gotten several coupons good on the store brand of pantry staples, such as butter, pasta, sugar, ketchup, eggs and bread.  I always go ahead and use these which helps me stock up on staples at a great price, even if its only one item at a time!

One other item I plan to stock up on this week are the 24 ounce bags of Pictsweet vegetables on sale for $2.50.  These are the larger bags.  If you have ever grown, picked, shelled and froze butterbeans (lima beans to the non-southerner),  like we did when I was growing up, you would know that $2.50 for a big bag of them is pretty good.  I would gladly pay $2.50 per large bag, in exchange for not having to pick butterbeans on a hot July day and then have to shell and freeze them!  I like the lima beans because you can pour out the amount needed and keep the rest in the freezer until needed.  They are good in vegetable soup, cooked with smoked sausage, or alone as a side vegetable.  I am assuming this sale applies to other vegetables, but I'm not sure which ones are included.

The 12 pack of Cottonelle double rolls are $6.99 and a $1.00 off coupon is supposed to print at the machine at the front of the store.  I don't know how many sheets are on these rolls, but if you are loyal to Cottonelle, this might be a good deal for you.

*** NOTE ... I am in no way compensated by or affiliated with Food Lion.  I only did this post to share good deals with the few people who read my blog who might benefit from it  What I think is a good deal, might not be a good deal to you.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A New Cooking Adventure

I've been trying lots of new recipes lately.  I've stocked up my spice and baking supplies.  I've made new recipes for old favorites, as well as some I've never made before. 

I used a different recipe for some old and new favorites like:

Sloppy Joes
Patty Melts
BBQed Meatballs
Beef Stew
Blueberry Crumb Cake
Mashed Potatoes
and Key Lime Pie:


Pies... I'm not too experienced at making them.  I plan to make more as summer ends and fall and winter arrive.   There are lots of areas of cooking that I'd like to become more proficient in! 


This Key Lime Pie was delicious!  But as you can see the crust was a little crumbly and if you look reeeeally close, you will see little chunks of lime rind.  I don't have a zesting thingie.  When you try to zest a lime with a cheese grater, you get larger pieces!  But, you know what, it was still delicious!


So, on my shopping list is a zesting thingie.....

I want to make a coffee cake next.  But, all the recipes call for chopped pecans.  Have you seen the prices of pecans at the grocery store?  Zowie!  This fall, we may be able to get some from around here, since lots of people have pecan trees.  But, until then, I'll just omit the pecans.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Toilet Paper Fairy has been!!!

The way manufacturers package and label many items, its very hard to figure out what is a good price!  This drives me crazy when shopping for things like toilet paper, laundry detergent and ice cream.  Things that once all had the same number of ounces or sheets, or loads, now have different ones.  Some items that used to always be a pound are now 12 ounces.   Its so easy to be tricked into thinking you are getting the best buy by reading all the junk they print on the packages.  My advice is not to pay any attention to anything, except the bottom line:  How many ounces, sheets, etc. does this item have?  Then compare brands and sale prices.


In the bedroom closet.

After staring at all the prices and number of sheets on toilet paper in the grocery store one day, I vowed that I would get to the bottom of this quandary, with toilet paper and the many other items that we all use.

It doesn't matter to me if it says double rolls, or anything like that.  What matters is how many sheets are on the roll.  Once you decide which brands you like, then do a comparison based on the number of sheets.
In the laundry room.
Here's what I figured out so far:

Most brands of toilet paper have 264 sheets per roll.    One exception is Scott Extra Soft "Mega Rolls", which have 400 sheets.  The Scott Extra Soft regular rolls have 264 sheets.  But, you have to look at the fine print on the package to see how many sheets per roll your favorite toilet papers have.

I like Scott Extra Soft, Charmin Basic, Angel Soft and Cottonelle.  I do not like the very thick brands.  They seem to stop up.... the plumbing.   I don't like the Scott 1000 sheet rolls, although they used to be the only one I bought.  They are a great buy, but they are too thin to me, now that I have grown accustomed to the Extra Soft ones.

At any rate, here are the prices that I try to get on toilet paper.  Some of these can only be achieved if I also have a coupon, but normally I do have coupons.

Any toilet paper that has 264 sheets per roll:  The lowest price I've found is 33 cents per roll.  But anywhere between 33 cents per roll and up to 41 cents per roll.  Of course, 33 cents per roll prices equals STOCK UP TIME!

The Scott Extra Soft Mega Rolls with 400 sheets per roll:  50 cents per roll.  These are often on sale for $6.99 per 12 pack and I usually have a $1.00 off coupon.  If I see these on sale for less than $6.99 and I have coupons, this would equal STOCK UP TIME.

Just remember, you have to check to see how many sheets are on each roll of what ever toilet paper you are buying, whether or not it says "double rolls", etc.

I intend to out smart those manufacturers by sitting down with a calculator and a list of the prices, ounces and other sizes of items we buy regularly, and figuring out what my stock up price is.

Recently, before I became "enlightened" as to the details of toilet paper prices, I bought some Scott Extra Soft toilet paper and thought I had gotten them at a real steal.  When I got home I realized they were the 264 sheet per roll size and not the mega rolls.   I got fooled once, but not again!

I hope this will be helpful to you!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Looking Out My Back Door.....

August.   Summer is still going strong, but there are hints of Fall.  This is the view to the right of our home, while standing on the back door steps.  Tobacco, a lone crepe myrtle blossom, and in the distance, corn.

The corn in the distance is turning brown, a sure sign of Fall.

To the left are corn and some country neighbors.

 
Looking up.  Must be time for the geese to be on the move.  I just happened to have my camera in my hand, and on, when their honking alerted me to their arrival.


In this view, a barn is peeping over the corn.

A Barn.
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

In The Farmhouse Kitchen - Day 4 - Thursday - Thrown Together Meals

Meal planning definitely saves time and money.  But, sometimes you have to just throw something together when cooking.  I guess a form of meal planning would be to have a list of meals that can be "thrown together" from what you have on hand.  At the bottom of this post is a list of possible ones.

Here are a couple of examples from my week.

Underneath all the cheese and Fritos in this bowl are delicious chili beans.  They are thick, FULL of hamburger, and wonderful for dipping with the Fritos.  The recipe is another one from PIONEER WOMAN, called FRITO PIES.  I was intrigued by her method of serving the chili in a Frito bag, but  instead of putting the chili in a bag of Fritos, I put the chili in a bowl and poured the Fritos around the edges.  That bag idea sure would be neat at a picnic or when tailgating though!

T
Chili Cheese beans Fritos
The reason I felt like this meal was thrown together is that even though I tried very hard to make a good meal for my hubby, unfortunately, he had to work very late that day.  The beans had been sitting in the pot on low for hours.  They got thicker and thicker.  They were not nearly has good as they would have been if eaten on time.

O.K, they were still good to eat, but by the time hubby got there I felt like I was just throwing them in a bowl with chips and cheese and saying, "Here you go!".  I wasn't too proud of my efforts at cooking.  I know you've been there before too.  You know how it is when you put your heart and soul into a meal and then it sits there for hours before its eaten.  The meal doesn't look or taste as good and you feel like someone has let the air out of your balloons!

And poor hubby ate leftover chili cheese beans for a couple of days!

Here is a weeknight meal from a couple of days ago.  We had bananas, tomatoes and leftover bacon that really needed to be eaten.  So we had banana sandwiches and tomato and bacon sandwiches.  It sure was good, but definitely a "thrown together" meal!


Banana Sandwich and Bacon and Tomato Sandwich with lots of black pepper
Sometimes a meal that is just thrown together turns out surprisingly great.  My mother used to say that she could always "knock up" something to eat from what she had in her cabinets. 

I decided to brainstorm "thrown together main dishes and sides" that can be made on the spur of the moment.  Here are a few:

Peanut Butter Sandwiches and canned soup, or your own frozen soup.
Pimento cheese on celery
Grilled Cheese sandwiches
Canned vegetables (corn, peas, beans)
Frozen Pizza
Chef's Salad
Breakfast for Supper (Fried or scrambled eggs, toast with jelly)
Vegetable soup using canned vegetables and hamburger
BBQ Chicken using bottled BBQ sauce.
Any meal that you have frozen
Meal Starters from the freezer, like frozen browned ground beef, can produce a variety of meals (tacos, spaghetti, chili, lasagna)
Baked beans
Pasta Salad
Meatless spaghetti using jarred sauce
French Bread or English Muffin pizzas
Baked potato Bar (potato baked in microwave) (toppings:  cheese, sour cream, butter, baked beans,etc.)
Canned clam chowder - Add extra potatoes, clams and milk.  Eat with saltines.  YUM.
Boiled eggs (deviled, in a salad, or alone)
BLTs, or BTs, BLs or LTs (LOL)
Any meal that uses fresh veggies from the garden (cukes, tomatoes, peppers, okra, etc)
Canned biscuits
LEFTOVERS!

I bet you have your favorite "thrown together" meals.  Tell me please.... I need more ideas.

Anxious For Nothing - A Bible Study

I thought I would share a new On Line Bible Study that starts Monday.  Its based on the book, "Anxious For Nothing" by Max Lucado....