Monday, July 30, 2012

Big League experience, Minor League Price

I have posted before about the outrageous prices of going to professional sporting events.  While some sports (like Football) are more expensive than others (Baseball), you can still drop a chunk of change on something like a Major League Baseball game- not to mention the time you spend there.  The more "popular" or successful your team, the more you'll spend.  Believe me.

In North Carolina, we are not fortunate enough to have our own Major League Baseball team.  I'm a de facto Atlanta Braves fan because until recently, they were the only team I'd ever seen play in person- not to mention they were the closest!  A quick check on the Braves website shows me parking ranges from $8 prepaid to $15 day of game.  The absolute worst tickets in the stadium are $7 each- which isn't anything compared to football, but remember, these are the worst aka cheapest tickets available. 

For Tim and I to go to a game, we will have already spent $22 on tickets and parking- and that isn't including gas, food when we get there, etc.  If you read the link I posted earlier, you'll get an idea of all the things that can cost you money.

Recently, we've started attending Minor League games.  There are tons of "Farm" teams in North Carolina- the Greensboro Grasshoppers and the Burlington Royals are the closest, with the Hickory Crawdads and the Danville Braves also being viable options.  Four teams we could go see that are much closer than the Atlanta Braves.  Farm teams are basically for future major leaguers (or maybe not)- when a kid is drafted, he goes to play for that team's farm teams and works his way up to a chance in the big league.

Why attend Minor League games?

They are cheaper.  Parking is free at the Burlington Royals Stadium.  We bought a book of 10 general admission tickets for $40- that's $4 a ticket.  Not to mention, the back of each ticket features a coupon for McDonalds- buy a sandwich, get a sandwich free.  Food at a minor league game is significantly cheaper than food in a Major League park.  When we saw the Anaheim Angels play, it cost us $10 for a hamburger from Jack in the Box.  $10 at a Royals game got us 2 chickfila sandwiches, a drink and we had money left over.

Promotions. Tim and I paid $1 for a souvenir program and ended up winning a Free Sports Clip Hair Cut voucher, as well as a Free Car Wash (with lots of "extras"- $17 value on the car wash alone).  Minor League games want you to come see them, so they host trivia contests, do drawings and also do Tim's favorite- free T-shirt giveaways.  We have attended two games and have two T-shirts now- each.  Any day we choose to see a game there is a giveaway of some kind of free items.  Not to mention a promotion on a Papa John's pizza box netted us a free admission- yeah, our $4 tickets are actually going to stretch out even longer because we were able to get in free.  The Greensboro Grasshoppers do beautiful fireworks shows on the weekends of their games.  Check your local teams, who knows what they giveaway or what show they put on.

Access to the Players.  Ok, so they may not be anyone you have heard of, but we have seen the Kansas City Royals' first round draft pick play.  He may not amount to anything, he may be incredible- who knows?  That's part of the fun.  Kids have access to the players and I can't tell you how many have caught or have been given foul balls.  They don't care if the guy who hit it never gets out of the minors- they are just thrilled to have caught a ball.  Ever heard of a guy named Manny Ramirez, the 9 time silver slugger who plays professionally for the Dodgers?  He started his career as a Burlington Indian (before they became affliated with the Royals).  Who knows who you may see or meet!

Fun- and shorter.  Don't have time to spend 4+ hours at a major league game?  Minor League games are usually shorter- not to mention we saw a ton of hits, an error or two and we were just feet from the action! It's a great place to people watch, minor league games are less crowded than major league games and you feel much more "a part" of everything going on.

So consider checking out your local minor league baseball teams.  There is no telling who you may see play "before they were a star" and you get a fun evening out at a cheaper price.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Spice it up

Spices are super important to me when cooking. You can take a few cheap spices and dress up a cheap cut of meat, or you can make that ho-hum recipe really pop.

There are plenty of very expensive spices out there. A simple conversion chart can save you a ton of money when you're out of a spice or else can't stomach the prices of some of the harder to find ones.

Knowing what each spice does and what meat or flavors it complements can help you make better dishes and create your own spectacular recipe.  It can also make you more likely to want to stay home and cook, since if you are a like me, you can't wait to try new recipes.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

We went to see "The Dark Knight Rises" yesterday.  Actually we found a pretty decent little theater that sells tickets before 5:00pm at the ridiculous sum of $4.00 each.  We will be attending more movies this summer, I think!

Anyway, we arrived, grabbed our tickets and headed in to the sparsely attended movie.  That's why I go when I do- I hate crowds.  The rustling of food containers, the slurping of nearly empty drinks- the inevitable talker, nose-blower and small child who won't hush and really shouldn't have been in the movie anyway- yes, that's why I attend weekday matinees.

We settled in and I noticed it- the cracks of light showing around the door of the theater that exits to the outside.  I won't lie and pretend it didn't make me uncomfortable.  I'm not one of those folks that immediately thought "oh no, there was a shooting in Aurora, so it will happen if I go see the movie too", but let's be real.  There are copycats out there and people are clearly crazy.

I noticed myself paying more attention to people who got up to leave during the movie, whether it was for a quick potty break or to get a refill of one of their snacks.  I ran my eyes across them to make sure they looked the same as they had when they left.  I watched a movie attendant come in not once, not twice, but three times during the 2 hour and 45 minute movie to check that door I mentioned earlier- the one that leads to the outside.

It's sad.  A harmless pastime, a way to beat the heat and escape the real world for a while is no longer the safe haven it was.  We find ourselves on high alert, even if you know the odds of the same thing happening that happened in Aurora are very, very low.

This insecurity will last for a while. Then we'll find ourselves slipping back in to complacency- at least until the next big, horrible tragedy.  Who knows what form it will take?  At least for a while, we'll be able to pretend the violence is only something we see on the big screen.

Incidentally, the Dark Knight Rises was excellent.  I really recommend seeing it in a theater.  Just don't be surprised if you find yourself tracking the movements of those around you. 


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Finally got around to it-

I finally got around to doing the "canning chili" that I've been talking about forever.

First, let me say that the tomatoes we purchased at the Farmer's Market were extremely disappointing.  They were super hard and almost all "core"- pale, colorless core.  Thankfully I only had to use one or two to help round out my canning. I guess I'll feed the other four to the chickens.

Tim chopped up green peppers, onions and copious amounts of hot pepper while I dealt with the task of peeling, squeezing and chopping tomatoes.  Again.  He won't do the tomatoes, probably because he was finished way before I was. 

I am pleased with the haul- by doing the work now and taking the time to chop it and can it, I'm going to save the time later on- not to mention money!

There is definitely a sense of pride in cooking or eating something that you had such a significant hand in.  Not only is it my recipe, I grew half of the ingredients myself.  That's why I love to share our salsa to much- 95% of the ingredients in that are home grown.  So when it tastes delicious, it's not because the tomatoes came out of a can somewhere- it's because we grew them, we prepared them, we served them!

I love cooking. 

Now who wants to come clean up?


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Make your own Dog Treats- Peanut Butter

I've got tons of dog treat recipes I'll be sharing as I rediscover them (in whatever part of the house they are hiding in).

This is a great way to save some money and to know what your dogs are eating- no more worrying about treat recalls!  They also make a great Christmas gift to pet lovers out there.

You'll need:
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1/2 Cup of Peanut Butter
1 Cup of Water
3 Cups of Flour

Mix all ingredients together to form a dough. Roll the dough out to desired thickness, then cut as you desire.  You can do fun cookie cutter shapes or simply cut them in to strips or hunks- the dogs don't care.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or so. 

There you go! You just made dog cookies.  I keep them in freezer bags in the freezer because it helps them last longer.  In a treat container you can expect them to last a week or so.  We have three dogs though- nothing lasts a week around here!


Monday, July 23, 2012

Free $2 Amazon MP3 code

If you have Twitter, you can link your amazon and twitter accounts to get a free $2 MP3 music code!  Find the directions on how to do so here.  It's super fast and easy!  This offer is good through July 28th.


Flash Freezing Veggies

I recently mentioned Flash Freezing peppers from the garden, for use later on in the year.  A friend asked me to explain exactly how this works, so here we go!

You can do this either with whole peppers or pre-cut peppers.  Remember, these aren't going to be great for eating plain or in something like a salad, frozen peppers are much better for cooking.

Whole: Wash off your pepper(s) and then pat them dry, making sure you remove as much moisture from the outside as humanly possible.  I like to dry mine off, then let them sit another hour or two- or even a day longer to make sure they are as dry as possible.  I'm neurotic like that.   Trim the stem as much as possible, then place the pepper(s) on a baking sheet.  Make sure if you are using multiples that they don't touch.   Stick them in the freezer.  I usually leave mine for a day.  Take the peppers out, transfer them to a freezer bag and stick them back in to the freezer. 

Voila! They will last 8 months in a deep freezer.  They also thaw very quickly

In Pieces: Wash off your pepper(s) and pat them dry.  Slice the pepper(s) in chunks or rings- whatever you prefer.  You'll be cooking with them later, so keep that in mind.  Sprinkle the pieces on a baking sheet, making sure that none are touching.  Stick them in the freezer and leave them for a day or so.  When you take them out, they may look "frosted"- that's fine, it's perfectly normal.  Scoop the pieces in to a freezer bag and remove as much air as possible.

There you go! You can take out as few or as many pieces as you want if you pre-cut them.  They will last 8 months this way as well.

So there you go! Flash freezing your peppers now can save you significant money later on when they are out of season and grocery stores are charging $3 each for a small one!


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Chili in a Jar

Do you like chili? I know Tim loves my special recipe chili, but I cringe when he asks for it because it's so expensive.

This year, I think I've got that beat though! I plan on canning ingredients for my chili straight from the garden now- then this winter I can simply dump in a few cans of jarred ingredients and not have to worry about making as much of a mess.

For instance- I need 3 cans of diced tomatoes (28 oz. each jar), a green bell pepper and a medium diced onion.  I can go on and can the tomatoes, pepper and onion together now in 3 quart mason jars, along with hot peppers to taste.  They will keep wonderfully well and when I'm in a hurry, I can dump them straight in to the crockpot with no fuss.  That will save the kitchen some dirty dishes, save me time and save us all money, since I have more tomatoes than I can use right now.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Tricking Yourself in to Saving Money #3

Credit Card Rewards Programs.

Proceed with caution with this one.  You have to be able to pay your balance 100% of the time ON TIME or you earn nothing. 

However, if you can do that, if you can pay the bill and reap the rewards, do it!  Try paying monthly bills like your phone, internet, etc.  through your credit card.  That way you can immediately make a payment for the exact amount and you save that cost of a stamp (this goes hand in hand with the save the stamp money tip here). 

We have graduated to charging all kinds of things, from gas and dinners out to bills and vacations.  However, I also have enough in my savings account to make sure I can cover any bill if for some reason I overcharge.  This one is one I really urge caution with, but you can reap excellent benefits if you play it right!

Try putting the cash back rewards directly in to your savings account. Say you earn $20 a month, that's $240 of free money directly in to your savings.  Not shabby at all.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Colorado Theater Shooting

I woke this morning and jumped on some news sites only to discover that a deadly shooting had occurred in Colorado, at the premier of "The Dark Knight Rises".

As more information surfaces about the tragedy, the media begins giving the body count names.  Yes, the "12 dead" had lives, families, stories to tell us.

One such "number" was a 6 year old child.  One was an aspiring sportswriter that had survived the Eaton Centre shooting in Toronto just a month ago.  Jessica Ghawi's last blog was detailing an uneasy feeling that led her to change her plan of eating sushi and shopping, instead scarfing down a burger and then heading outside for fresh air.  Less than 3 minutes later, a gunman opened fire from the same spot she had been sitting.  A victim was found in the same area she would have been, had she gone for sushi instead of obeying some higher instinct.

To survive that, only to senselessly die in a movie theater- it almost seems like something from a movie itself. We can't believe life would be that cruel, to allow someone to avoid a fate only to fall to it a month later.

In the wake of the shooting, many people are crying out how terrible guns are.  They don't want to acknowledge the gunman was also carrying a knife or that he threw in "some type of smoke bombs" and a bomb that "spewed a noxious gas".  Clearly, this is a deranged individual that was intent on hurting or killing people, no matter if he had to do it with a rusty nail and a spoon.  This is no time for a knee jerk reaction, calling for the heads of all gun owners, nor is it the time to try to force people to give up their 2nd Amendment Rights.

But this isn't about politics. Or gun control. Or anything but the heartbreaking tragedy of the families of a group of people who just wanted to be the first to see a movie.

Even as I write this blog, I'm watching the sympathy pour out on Facebook, speckled with the inevitable "my cousin once visited a city in Colorado.  Hope he's ok" type attention-mongering.

This kind of thing makes you worry- makes you wonder if you are safe going to a concert, or a festival- or yes, even going to a midnight premier of a movie.  What else can you do though? You can't lock yourself in your home and wrap your family with bubble wrap- even then you aren't safe.  You just have to realize that bad things are going to happen to good people.  That this didn't happen because God wanted it to, but because some asshole decided to open fire in a theater.  Bad things are going to keep happening and you just have to live your life as best you can and hope that you can get through your years on this earth without them happening to you and those you love the most.  None of us are guaranteed 80 years of stress free happiness- I wish we were.

Today, it's time to just hold on a little longer when we hug, laugh a little louder when something tickles our funny bones and give just a little more of our love to those around us.  If not for the pure pleasure of doing it, do it in honor of those who will never be able to hug their loved ones again.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Oscar Mayer Taste-a-monials Coupon

If you go to the Oscar Mayer Facebook page, you can leave a "Taste-a-monial" and get a free coupon!

"The coupon's value will continue to increase as more people write and share their TASTE-A-MONIAL. And when the program ends, no later than July 22nd, we'll mail you the coupon-which might be worth a FREE PACK!"

Right now it's up to $6.00!


Free Haircuts from JCPenney

JC Penney salons are offering a free haircut for kids in August!  Call or visit your local salon now to confirm they are participating and book your appointment. These will go fast.


Make your own Windex!

I hate to clean, but it is a necessary evil- especially when your dogs like to leave beautiful snot art all over your doors and windows.

You'll need:
1/4 Cup  Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol
1/8 Cup  White Ammonia (you can buy at Walmart and in Dollar Stores)
1 single drop of Laundry detergent
1 Empty Windex Spray Bottle
Tap Water

Pour  the first three ingredients in to your empty Windex Bottle, then fill the rest of the available space up with warm tap water.

I liked to give it a good shake once I have the nozzle back on the bottle. 

Voila.  We're done here.  Enjoy!

Price wise, you're looking at spending right around $0.25 a bottle on your homemade Windex, depending on prices in your area and where you find your ammonia.  Not bad at all! Once again we see a cleaning supply that is mostly water.


Coupons Deals and Freebies

I've started a new tag called "Coupons Deals and Freebies"- this will be solely for special coupons, special deals or freebies (I'm so unique with my naming).  These may come out on the same day as a regular blog post and multiples may be posted each day, though I am going to try to include only the best of the best- don't expect me to spam my own blog every time amazon drops a price by a nickel or a new coupon is released.

I will also be using this tag to share money making scenarios that are time-sensitive. :)


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Canning Time!

Somehow, miraculously, the garden sprang back to life.  The week of  no sunshine, just overcast skies and rain has certainly worked it's magic.  I even saw some baby green peppers growing!  We netted over 5lbs of tomatoes in the past few days- mostly romas.  I can't tell you how many went bad though, apparently some ants took over one plant.  The chickens are enjoying those fruits, so that doesn't upset me as much as it would have in past years.  With so much was salsa makin' time!

I canned 14 half pint jelly jars (8 oz) of salsa, plus three 3 pint jars.   I'm exhausted because that quantity meant I had to pressure can two batches- so I was up until nearly midnight, after starting the salsa making process around 7pm! Thankfully Tim helped or I'd probably still be working on it.  I literally had to claw my way out of bed inch by inch this morning.

While the salsa took care of most of the tomatoes, we do still have extras laying around, as well as extra peppers.

My thought is I'll prepare some pint jars of tomatoes and jalapenos.  That way when winter rolls around, I already have half my work done for making the chili that Tim likes so much- and I don't have to go out and pay out the nose for expensive peppers.   I may flash freeze some extra peppers as well for regular cooking purposes.

What appeals to me the most about canning is...well I guess it's the security.  I feel like a squirrel sometimes, but it's nice to know we have food no matter what- even if it's salsa and tomatoes, you know?  In this wonky economy, that's nothing to sneeze at!  Not to mention you are extending the summer harvest, which is always more than you can eat, and using it in the winter.  No buying greenhouse tomatoes for $2 a pound.  No paying $3.50 for a single, small green pepper.

As the garden keeps producing, I'll keep canning! I recently found canning jars and rings for half what I usually pay at Dollar General.  Hooray!


Sunday, July 15, 2012

All is Quiet

So far, things have been fairly quiet here. 

I mean that in a very literal way.  I finally rehomed the rooster!  Hallelujah, no more sneaking out there at dusk to haul him in to the bunny barn.

Speaking of bunnies, we are having a baby bunny explosion! I had 9 more born today to two different bunny mamas.  I'm very excited to see the little ones grow, they should be excellent show bunnies.  The slightly older baby bunnies are hopping out of their nestboxes and spending a lot of fun time hiding behind Mama whenever I come around.   The even older baby bunnies are learning that I bring food and pet them, so they are learning to run to me.

The black broiler chicks are here, as well as the Americaunas and the Australorps.  We had a few fatalities, which tends to happen in shipping, but so far everyone else is doing great.  These little chicks eat like pigs.  Since the broilers will be ready for processing in seven weeks, I guess they have to eat nonstop.

The garden has perked back up since we had a week of rain and cooler weather.  We picked a grocery bag full of tomatoes the other day and even were able to harvest a few peppers.  I'm planning on swinging by the Farmer's Market for a few green peppers and some cilantro and get started on making my much beloved salsa!

Our weekends are filling up quickly.  It seems like for the next few months, we have something going on every weekend- which is good! It keeps Tim from getting bored and wanting to go spend money to do something.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Update from around the "Homestead"

For the past few days it has been gloriously overcast- the temperatures have dropped from the 100s to a much more comfortable mid-80s.  Yesterday, thanks to the impending rain, it was cool enough that I could open the window of the barn and let some fresh air circulate for the rabbits.  They were appreciative and so were our noses!

The rain is helping cool off the garden- what is left of it.  The super high temperatures and the unrelenting sun have combined to kill some of the plants and wither a lot of the produce on the vines.   I am not sure what is going to make it, but the cantaloupe is at least doing well, so something is surviving.  We are starting to get roma tomatoes ripening.  Unfortunately, the peppers are withered, so I am not sure how well this season's salsa-making is going to go.  In a fit of frustration, I told Tim we may just go to the Farmer's Market next year and buy a ton of tomatoes- it is heartbreaking to put so much work and care (not to mention money) in to a garden and have it burn up in the sun.  Part of the problem is our location, as the people that lived here before apparently felt the need to cut down 90% of the trees.  Way to go, brainiacs.

I am expecting a shipment of chicks in at the end of this week.  They should have been here two weeks ago, but the hatchery royally screwed up my order- I don't even want to blog about my frustrations with that!  We'll be adding 5 Americaunas and 5 Black Australorps for more (and full sized) eggs.  I will probably grow out the eggers a bit, then sell six or so, hopefully to make back a little of my investment.  I will also be receiving 25 Black Broilers- meat chickens.   This is our first attempt at raising a solely meat breed of chicken (I failed once with rabbits due to the doe's inability to kindle).  I am hoping to keep the breasts for regular meals, the legs and wings for specialty nights (like when Tim is really craving hot wings!) and the thighs will go in the crockpot and become dog food.  We don't particularly care for thighs and with the excess of eggs, I'm thinking it wouldn't hurt for the chickens to supplement and stretch the dog food- which is getting more and more expensive, by the way.

In a quick update on the baking soda shampoo:  I switched back to my regular shampoo today and oh my gosh, my hair feels wonderful.  The shampoo really lathered up well and my hair was much less tangled than usual.  The curls are a bit off- I think it's my hair readjusting itself, but it doesn't look bad and could also be chocked up to the humidity in the air.  Overall, I'm a big fan of doing a baking soda cleanse occasionally.  Since I paid around 50 cents for a box of baking soda, it is going to last me forever.  Sounds good to me!

So that is what is going on currently, other than my working on my novel and planning our October vacation.  I've set a deadline of October to finish the novel, so we'll see what happens!


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Make your own...shampoo?

Now I will admit upfront- I've never tried this.  I have taken advantage of so many sales on shampoo and conditioners that I have a ton of the stuff, but I'm keeping this in mind when (if?) I ever run out.

To make your own shampoo, you will need:
1 tbsp. baking soda
1 cup of water

Mix the baking soda into the water until it is dissolved.  Pour on your hair until it is wet and work through with your fingers.  Rinse.

Yeah, that's it.

To make your own conditioner, you will need:
2 tbsp of Apple Cider Vinegar
1 cup of water.

Again, mix it up, pour it on your hair and work through with your fingers.  I've been told the odor of the vinegar (which is very diluted) dissipates as your hair dries, so no worry about odd smells.

So there you have it.  Very cheap, no harsh chemicals and great results (so I have been told). 

You can mix up several days worth at a time in various bottles you can save or purchase (condiment bottles for BBQs, etc).

I decided to give the baking soda a try because I haven't been happy with my hair recently.  Pantene has always been my go-to shampoo, but recently my hair has looked greasy, even if it isn't ( I wash it daily).

After washing one day with the baking soda and using my regular conditioner, I've noticed my hair feels lighter.  The curls are slightly less defined (I often end up with  tight corkscrew curls)- which isn't a bad thing necessarily.   The important part is my hair feels better.  I may go back to my regular shampoo and see if an occasional baking soda cleansing takes care of the issue with the shampoo, but I definitely say give it a try!


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Make your own Febreze

What you'll need:
1/8 Cup of fabric softener
2 tablespoons Baking Soda
Hot tap water
Spray bottle (You can use your old Febreze bottle if it suits you)

Using a funnel, pour your fabric softener and baking soda into your spray bottle. Fill the bottle with hot tap water and shake well.  Voila.  You're done.

How does it work out price wise?  This costs less than a quarter a bottle to make, depending on what fabric softener and baking soda brands you buy.   Meanwhile, we are paying how much for a bottle of Febreze that is mostly water?

Makes ya think.


Friday, July 6, 2012

I think I'm melting

Oh what a world... what a worrrrld.

It's still incredibly hot here.  The peppers and tomatoes are literally blistering on the vines, the grass is dead and makes an audible crunching noise if you are unfortunate enough to have to walk on it and even the dogs don't want to spend more than the few minutes it takes them to do their business outside.

It's only July. 

There are lots of things I'd like to be outside doing right now.  Working on the chicken coop extension, for example.  Cleaning rabbit cages- ok that one doesn't top my "like to do" list, but it needs to be done. I wouldn't mind wandering around a local park with one of the dogs or working in the garden while the chickens free range the yard.

Instead I'm trapped inside.   The sun is relentless, the clouds refuse to even venture in to our little part of the sky and the temperature persists in creeping up towards 100.

And it's only July.

I could be working on my novel or cleaning this cluttered hell-hole I call our house, but I find it much more interesting to blog to you about how bored I am because the heat threatens to turn me into a raisin every time I look out the window.

Poor, poor me.

We are scheduled to get a few days break from the heat early next week.  Looks like I'll have to find new reasons to stay glued to the couch.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Tricking Yourself in to Saving Money #2

Ever hear of a bill jar?

The idea is that you pick a denomination- let's say the 5-dollar-bill. Every time you get a $5 bill, you put it in to a jar.  Some folks then make savings deposits once they hit $50 or so.

I like this idea, but there are two problems with it.

One: You have to have the iron will not to spend that money.  If you can handle knowing you have $45 in a piggy bank in your bedroom without splurging on a nice dinner, a movie or something fun...then it might be a way to go.  Then again, you probably don't have to trick yourself to save money either.

Two: Who uses cash anymore?  That's the biggest drawback I see to this plan. So unless you do the cash-in-envelopes system to pay bills or just use a lot of cash- this one probably won't save you much.