Friday, September 20, 2013

What I'm Working On

So sooner or later Marco and I are planning on starting a family.  That means a lot of things- figuring out what I want to be when I grow up, getting into the best shape we can be, buying a ton of cloth diapers and of course tackling a whole laundry list of to do things from our Home To Do List.

The list is long and fairly boring.  We are mostly just waiting on cooler weather to motivate us into gear, but while it is still hot as blazes outside, I thought I would started working on cleaning out my fabric stash- especially my bags and bags of odds and ends.

It turns out that I had an entire dresser drawer full of scraps of fabric that were too big to throw away but too small to really use.  So I pulled out all the gallon sized freezer bags I had stashed away and started sorting the pieces.  First by shape (long strips, big weird pieces and small weird pieces) and then by color.  It only took me a few minutes to start seeing the piles really come together.

And after a couple of hours "Crumb Quilting" from a great tutorial I found HERE, I found I actually had enough bits and pieces to create three decent sized quilts.

I am going to call this first one "The Quilt I Made While I Thought About You."  It turned out to be the perfect crib quilt size.

This second quilt I haven't named yet. It has actually grown from this picture into a twin sized quilt.  I decided to raid my larger white/cream colored stash and even added a great cream colored eyelet ruffle around the edges.

And finally, I am still working on this piece.  I think I have decided to go back and add frames around each of the separate blocks to also make it stretch closer to a twin sized quilt.  I am still playing with the layout as well.  Of course I will post pictures when it has all come together.

Who knew I had three great quilts lurking in my dresser drawer all this time.  Anyone else getting motivated for big plans?  Maybe my quilting is actually a sign that I'm ready for cooler nights already.  Can I get an amen?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Roasting Like It's Hot

The last few weeks have had one very particular theme at our house:  tomatoes.  As our scales climb ever closer to the 300 pounds of produce mark I am finding more and more ways to preserve our harvest to use later next year.  The easiest most efficient way I have found so far is to roast them in the oven, four pans at a time.  Then I pour the whole pan into freezer bags and away we go.  Who's ready for a photo tour?

First, I washed our tomatoes, cut them in half and seeded them.  I used our melon baller for this.  In fact, I have never actually used it to ball melon, only to seed tomatoes and core strawberries.

After what seemed like forever, or at least 20 pounds of tomatoes I had four roasting pans that looked like this.  Sorry the light is off.  The kitchen lighting is weird.  That's just how it is.

I drizzled a little olive oil on top, threw in some chopped garlic and after about 3.5 hours in the oven at 275* I had four pans that looked like this:

By this time it was totally dark outside and there is no way to not stand in the light and cast a weird shadow.  But you can see how the tomatoes are shrunken, roasted, and starting to caramelize.  Next I labeled 4 freezer bags and poured each pan into one bag.

I push out the air and lay it flat to freeze.  Then when they are all nice and frozen I sit them up for easier storage.  

And that is how I have spent the last two Saturdays.  Anyone else sweating it out in the kitchen in preparation for summer harvest being over soon?

Monday, September 9, 2013

How I Talked My Friend Neighbor into Hosting My Yard Sale

When I half casually mentioned on Facebook that I would pay a person to come host a yard sale for me, I thought I'd get a few likes, a couple of funny comments and the moments would pass.

However, within 15 minutes I had a buyer.  Srsly.

So for anyone trying to play this game at home, here is my step by step instructions to DIY this at your own house.

Thrown together in 24 hours, this yard sale is ready to go!
Step 1:  Have really awesome friends on Facebook

Step 2:  Have a great location to have a yard sale.  Also have plenty of stuff already in piles in your guestroom.

I was told there was a Ph.D in those boxes...

Step 3:  Make sure that your Facebook Friends are already planning yard sales. (I skipped this step, but found out later that this was vital.)

Step 4:  Sweeten the pot by offering to pay not only part of the days earnings, but also homemade pickles and fresh eggs.

A sampling of what I picked while the yard sale was going on.

Step 5:  Be incredibly thankful that you have wonderful people around you and toast to a day's success!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Making a House a Home

The girls moved to their big girl coop last week and the girls are loving the difference.

We added their nesting boxes and some dried weeds/grass clippings we have been saving for a month or so.  It made me realize how much "waste" cutting the lawn and pulling weeds produces.  However I did enjoy the free bedding for the girls.  

They apparently enjoyed it too.

We also upgraded their waterer and feeder to big girl sized self filling contraptions.  This way we only have to fill them once every couple of days and they have access to much more without having to wait on us to feed them every morning.

I did rig up a terribly shoddy run for them but they keep escaping.  

So our next project will be to clip their wings so they can still get some outside time without requiring me to chase them into the neighbors yard (across the garden, over the fence and onto the neighbor's deck to be exact).  

Marco has been on a research cruise for the last week so his next project when he gets home is setting up a real run- with a top- for the girls.  Until then their "outside" time will be limited and only while I am out there with them.  But they are all laying now and giving us three to four eggs a day so something must be working.

Anyone else chasing chickens lately?  In the dark?  While your flashlight dies?  In your pajamas??

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

How You Doin'? In the Garden

Three months ago, before I up and abandoned our blog, I announced that one of our goals for this year was to grow 750 pounds of produce in our own backyard.  Well I'll be honest, I'm getting really nervous about making that goal.  Not because we aren't growing- I've got pictures to prove we're producing- but just because I'm not sure that all of our experiments are going to work exactly like we had hoped.  Namely, our watermelons are not giant behemoths like they were last year.  They're weighing in at around 3 pounds each.  And our pumpkin plants?  Totally forgot about'em and they're still seeds.  But we are chugging right along anyway.  

So what started out as harvests like this:

Yay first harvest of the year!
 And has now come to include a few of these every week:

What up chickens?!
 Has finally led in the last few weeks to harvests like these:

This was 14 lbs of produce.
Our real live total weight so far is just over 200 pounds and that is nothing to sneeze at, I know, but it's not 750.  Thankfully there are still plenty of weeks of warm weather to be had and last year we were producing tomatoes and egg plants right up into November.  We are also waiting to harvest our first potato towers, cantaloupes, and our first cabbages.

I planted our fall crops last weekend- more cabbages, broccoli, and kale.  We'll be adding another couple of potato towers and clearing out the last of the beans this weekend as well.

Anyone else having long nights of cooking tomato sauce or running out for more jars for pickles?  We've been eating all of the 2011 jars from back in the pantry in order to make more room.  I should probably be taking stock of what's in the freezer as well.

Well those chickens don't feed themselves you know, and I've got eggs to collect.  Happy Wednesday everyone!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Student Loans: The Great Payback

If you have ever met me, or have read back any amount of posts, you will know that I am obsessed with money and my student loans.  Well I am glad to finally tell you that the day has finally arrived, my students loans are paid off.

Can we just take a minute here.  I mean really.

You can bet I ate a huge cupcake for dinner after that.  And then dinner.  And then a dairy free soy based ice cream.

So for anyone who may also be struggling under the weight of bad decisions when you were 19, here is a quick breakdown of how I paid off my student loans 6 years early.

First being a VISTA helped- tremendously.  I don't make a lot of money monthly, but at the end of my service I will be awarded an additional Education Award.  That's $5,500 towards my student loans. So technically I still have a balance of $5,500 in my Sallie Mae account, but it's been deferred with no interest on my part. Then when my service is officially over, that extra check will be mailed in my name straight to Sallie Mae.  I make less each month sure, but that money would have been going towards my student loans anyway, so it all works out in the end.

Me in my VISTA getup

Second, three years ago I opened a savings account with paying back my loans specifically in mind.  Every time I had extra cash, or thought I had extra cash (I'll get to that in a second) I put it in that savings account.  Then each month, or every couple of months I would make additional payments to my loans out of this savings account.  These payments never replaced a regularly scheduled payment, they were additional payments.   Sometimes I would wait until I had a huge chunk of change and make one big payment, but sometimes little bits would turn into bigger bits really fast and I would make as many as 6 extra payments a month if I took on odd jobs or something.

Third, I got into the habit of spending money on myself.  When I had money burning a hole in my pocket or I got the hankering to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe, I would ask myself how much I was willing to spend on that item.  Would I feel comfortable spending $200 at Target right now?  Then that meant that I had too much money in my bank account and I would transfer that money into my savings.  Sure it sucked sometimes, but reality checks like that really helped turn my head around and got me to refocus my attention.

Finally, when the going got tough, I got a little crazy.  There for a few months, before I started as a VISTA, I had a goal of putting $1,000 a month towards my debt, and I got a little crazy.  I took on odd jobs, I had two yard sales, baby sat, baked, anything I could think of.  The purging helped me really look at what I was spending my money on, and the selling really helped me reach those goals.  Sometimes you just gotta dig deep and find the motivation to keep going, and if you dig up some cool stuff while you're at it, all the better.

Was it easy?  Nope.  I am very fortunate to have a wonderful husband who took on most of our financial responsibilities while I focused on my debt, and not everyone has that chance.  But slowly, very slowly, I was able to hack away at it.  And now, 4 years and a few months after I graduated with my degree I'll probably never use, I can finally say it's all over.

And now it may be time for a second cupcake...

Friday, August 30, 2013

Something Old Becomes New Again

While I was trying to pay off my Student Loans I took on a ton of odd jobs every month.  Every little $20 I could make went straight into the Student Loans Savings account I set up so that I could make huge payments each month.  One of the projects I took on was recovering this recliner for a client.  I'm not sure why I didn't take actual before pictures, but here is one stolen from the internet:

Credit: here

It actually looked just like that, except more royal blue.  Anyway, it was in great shape and my super sweet client wanting something more feminine and washable for a corner of her bedroom.  So I created this slip cover, complete with ruffle:

Sorry about the blur, this was a quick shot from my phone while I was waiting for the client to come pick up the chair and realized I didn't have any photos.  

Anyway, I loved this project and was so proud that she loved it too.  It took about a week to really get where I wanted it but it was so worth the time and effort.

I had to stop slinging my sewing when I took my new VISTA position, but it's nice to know I have something to fall back on later if I ever need the extra income.  Anyone else picking up odd jobs to save up some cash?