Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Break, Vernal

School got out last Friday (or the day before for Joseph). I was really glad, because I got a terrible sore throat, and now, a runny nose and cough. Katie woke up on Sunday with impetigo on her face, so I consulted Dr. Grandpa and got the appropriate cream to take care of it. Everyone is on the mend. The boys didn't get sick at all as far as I can tell. I haven't been taking care of myself as well recently, so I'm not all that surprised that I got the worst cold I've had in several years. Despite not maintaining my health perfectly, I have maintained my weight, so I think that counts for something.

I finally got Christmas cards sent off and finished shopping for presents. I also got my baking done for neighbor gifts, and we delivered the rest of those last night while looking at Christmas lights. I caught up on sewing and repairs on Monday while my piano was getting tuned. It was so badly out of tune that he had to do it twice!

We found a Christmas tree! We were at D.I. (where else?) and saw that Christmas decorations were 50% off. There was a 7-foot, fully decorated tree that had been sold for charity (like 500 bucks) - and we got it for 25. James had to go back to get it, it was so big. I spent a couple hours un-decorating and then redecorating it. It had too many ornaments for my taste, and I wanted to change the color scheme as well.

We opened our presents this morning since we decided there were too many to take with us to Rexburg. I'm glad we did, since the kids got puzzles and books that I do NOT want to hunt down at Grandma's house. I think everyone was pleased with their presents. Katie's main gift was a dress up box, the boys got transformers and James got a Star Wars computer game that he's been playing nonstop. My main gift was the piano, but I also got a few books and things for the kitchen, like a real scale! I plan on trying a lot of Alton Brown recipes, and they are all measured in weight, hence the scale.

Today is packing and cleaning day. I'm also going to make a cake for Christian's birthday tomorrow. We will travel to Rexburg tomorrow and hopefully have good roads. Since I won't write again until next week for sure...

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Organizing

This past week hasn't been too bad except for this horrible sore throat I have. I think it's the most painful one I've had since childhood. Thankfully, it's just the beginning of a cold and not anything else, so I should feel better soon.

Katie doesn't take a lot of naps these days (maybe 1 hour every 3 days), so I've been using that afternoon time to organize my already-OCD house. James rolls his eyes a little, but hey, I think it's fun. Stuff I moved around:

1. Linens. I put them under the beds they go to instead of up on a high shelf in the laundry room where I can't reach them. I also cleared the ones from under my bed and put them in a bathroom cabinet. I have hopes of building myself a food storage bed one day in the future.

2. Moved all the towels to the small bathroom (what guests use) and rolled them up nicely.

3. Sorted through the 72-hour kit and put it on the high shelf in the laundry room, which leaves 2 shelves clear to fit in a future extra freezer - hopefully next year! I also used a bungee cord and some curtains to cover up those ugly shelves and the litter box.

4. Sorted through all the tools (since I could never find what I needed) and put the small ones in a clear, over-the-door shoe organizer. I even sorted through all the drill bits, stored the extras in the shed, and put the rest in order in a little plastic organizer, which I washed out  in the dishwasher first.

5. Turned Katie's crib into a daybed and swapped it with Kenny's toddler bed. Fixed the rail on it so Katie won't roll out of bed. I can tell she feels like a really big girl now.

6. Inventoried all the food I canned during the summer and made a plan to use it up over the next 1-2 years. I will know exactly how much I need to make next year when the time comes.

7. Swapped children's clothes from cardboard boxes to suitcases that we never use. I know exactly what I have for upcoming sizes, so it looks like I won't need to buy any clothes at yard sales next year. Hand-me-downs are the best! And I even recycled the boxes.

8. Sorted through the board games closet and got rid of a few things.

9. Turned the entertainment center on its side so it lies horizontal instead of vertical like a bookcase. Plugging everything back in is always my least favorite part.

All I can think of now is sorting through our old bills and bookcases. I don't see getting rid of a lot from there, but we'll see. At least it takes my mind off of this sore throat.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Growing a Profitable Garden

It's been a long time since I posted anything about saving money, so I think it's about time! (Mainly, nothing has changed in the past few years in how I do things.)

I've grown a garden for 2 years now and spied on how my neighbors do things. It is possible to grow a garden and not make a penny from it, or it's possible to make quite a bit of profit. I did, and here's how.

1. Find a good spot. In the ground works better than containers. I chose to use square-foot gardening to save space (and my yard is small.)

2. Build boxes (if using) for cheap. We used the boards from an old set of steps to our house before concrete ones were put in. They don't have to be great-looking because they will be filled with dirt.

3. Don't pay for dirt. If there are plants in your area, you can grow a garden with the natural dirt.

4. Don't pay (much) for fertilizer. I use a few small bags of manure every other year, and that's it. My plants grow well. Composting takes some effort, but it also grows healthy plants and is good for the environment!

5. Stay with the growing season. If you try to extend it, you will pay more for cold frames, wall-o-water contraptions, etc. that will make your garden not as profitable.

6. Start from seed or small. I grow everything from seed except for tomatoes and peppers, and I go to the nursery to get the small plants. I have bought 1 or 2 larger plants before when the smaller ones were gone, but the smaller plants did better than the larger ones. The extra 2.50 for the larger plants wasn't worth it at all!

7. Grow things suited to your area. Since I'm in the coldest part of Utah, I've never attempted any tropical plants. The seeds available at the store are a pretty good indication of what will grow here. (I have never seen any pineapple or banana seeds!)

8. Water, wait, and be happy with the results. I tried about 20 different things this year, and all but two grew and produced fruit. I ended up with about 300 pounds of food from a space about 350 square feet. Not bad!

Startup cost: seeds (last several years) ($20) tomato cages ($15) nails to build boxes ($5)

Yearly cost: manure ($10) plants ($15-$20)

Approximate value of the food I grew (in-season, conventional Walmart prices) ($350-$400)

Considering I spent so little on startup/yearly costs, my garden was definitely worth it. That doesn't take into account all the time I got to spend outside, the wonderful Vitamin D, and the best tan I've ever had. I was also able to can about 60 quarts of food. :)

I highly recommend growing a garden, even if it's a small one. The benefits far outweigh the small amount of sweat and money you have to put into it.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Gratitude, Pt. 3

20. James's school gives him an iPad to use. It makes a perfect source of entertainment for my kids in the car and makes the drive seem much shorter.

21. We arrived (and drove home) safely, even though there was a wreck on the way there and a little snow on the way back.

22. I get to visit all 4 of James's grandparents almost every time we go to Rexburg. I'm sad that 2 of my grandparents have passed away and the other 2 live so far away, but I'm grateful for the 4 I have gained.

23. We were able to stick to our Christmas budget, even though it still hasn't increased since we got married. Black Friday can be a blessing, though I am no hardcore shopper. James did the shopping for me, for the most part.

24. We always have enough food to eat. USD gives a certificate for 50 bucks every year, so we were able to stock our freezer and get a few fun extras.

25. We have a warm house to live in. It's been getting the negatives at night, which makes me that much more grateful for a good heater!

26. The snow makes everything look so glittery. It covers up all the dead plants and makes the yard look nice.

27. Our awesome neighbors shoveled our driveway while we were gone. Such a wonderful thing to see when we came home!

28. Our other awesome neighbors took care of feeding the cat.

29. We have a really wonderful ward. Someone left a Christ-centered book for me to use with my family on my front doorstep. I don't know who, but it made my day.

30. Joseph got his first report card, and he is doing great in school. I'm so happy that he loves to learn.

I can't believe November is already gone. Welcome, December! My mood has brightened considerably since October. Maybe it's like PMS - the month before winter is so much worse than the actual winter! :)