Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Garden Plan

So I decided to go with a container garden this year.  I am a little sad, because this will mean less plants and no onions, cantaloupes, etc.  We're keeping it simple this year, just some tomatoes, peppers and lettuce if I can find it.

I've decided to do something a little different as far as planting the tomatoes go- to keep my costs low, I am going to try planting in the 50lb rabbit feed bags! A picture tutorial will follow.

If this works, I save the costs of buying all those containers and I won't have to do any weeding! Not to mention it will be a little something extra that the bunnies will be helping with, since they are already going to provide the bulk of the soil I'm planting in! Might as well use their feed bags to further assist in the planting!

Now the biggest problem is going to be how to keep the chickens away from the ripening fruits and veggies this summer. :)


Friday, April 26, 2013

Recipe: Toasted Sesame Chicken

It's been a while since I posted a recipe.   This one is SUPER easy, super quick and very good!

You'll need:
Campbell's Skillet Sauce- Toasted Sesame with Garlic and Ginger.
1 tbsp. Vegetable Oil
1 medium yellow onion
1 pound of chicken breast
Angel Hair/Thin Spaghetti noodles
Salt to taste

A quick word on the Skillet Sauce- at the store near my house, the one that is very expensive, these run $3.00.  However, you can find a $0.75 off coupon here.  Right now, the store in my area that doubles coupons is running triples, so I can get these for $.75.  Keep an eye out for deals, to save yourself money.

Start your noodles as you normally would.  Make however much you want for feeding the number of people in your family.  I always tend to make too much.

Put the tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large skillet and get that heating up. 

Slice your chicken in to strips, then place them in the skillet.  Cook them until they are mostly done, then remove them and set them aside.

Cut your yellow onion in half and slice some rounds. I made mine around a quarter of an inch thick.  Cut these in half (or cut your onion in quarters, then do your slices.  However you do this, do it!).  Toss the onions in the pan and lightly caramelize them.  You don't want your onions cooked to death at this stage, so err on the side of not cooked enough, rather than too done.

Toss your chicken back in the pan with the onions, then pour in your Skillet Sauce and mix it all up.

Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer and cover the pan for 5 minutes.  I checked it once about halfway through to stir again.

Your noodles should be about done by now, so go ahead and drain them, then put them on your plate.  Simply scoop some onions, chicken and sauce on to your bed of pasta, add a little salt to taste, and voila! A quick, cheap, easy meal!

This one is really customizable.  Add in less chicken if you want, or more onion.  Consider other veggies that you think will compliment the flavors in the sauce.  This would also work very well with rice.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Ring, My Precious-

So recently, Tim lost his wedding ring.  In typical Tim fashion, he managed to fling it from his finger while wiping dirt on his shorts (I don't know why he was doing that either) and also in typical Tim fashion, he was 100% certain it was about five feet to the left of where it actually was.

After crawling around on my hands and knees for hours in the grass that desperately needed to be mowed (thanks mower guy, for getting upset when we asked you not to scalp the lawn and now doing a "I will cut the tip off each individual blade of grass approach) and literally cutting the grass with scissors (or pulling it up by the handfuls) we gave up for the night.

Ultimately, it took another hour, this time with a metal detector, before I found his ring- and it was a near thing then as well.

Yesterday, I had to make the hard decision to "bench" my rings. After the weight we have lost (around 35 lbs for both of us), they don't fit.  For some reason, yesterday was particularly bad, as they nearly flew off in spectacular fashion at least a dozen times.

I guess I'm going to have to decide if I want them cut down and resized, or if I think a ring guard will suffice.  I have heard the ring guards can be immensely uncomfortable, but I also worry about permanently resizing the ring, only to end up unable to wear it if I gain weight back (which I am not planning on doing, but you know how plans go sometimes.)

Oh well, at least I will know the rings are safe and sound for now, not ready to leap off my finger at any given point in time, never to be found again.

It just feels really weird to be without them.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Cheap Plants

With it being planting season, there are tons of places you can go to find cheap, healthy garden plants!

Try your local High School- many FFAs have greenhouses on campus and look to sell plants at rock bottom prices to raise money for their club.  It's a great way to support your community and save money.

Prison Farms.  Yes, Prison Farms.  There happens to be one near me and they offer the best prices around.  Like the FFA, it helps keep the money in your local community and helps pay for programs that give prisoners life skills. 

Farmer's Market- another local place to try for great prices! You can also find a wide range of plant varieties here.

Craigslist- You never know what you may find here! Perhaps someone started 15 tomato plants, expecting half to die.  Now they have more than they need and will happily sell them off at a buck each.  It's worth a look!


Free Bruegger's Bagels on April 25th!

We’re proud to celebrate our anniversary alongside Children's Miracle Network Hospitals as they celebrate theirs! Help us honor 3 decades with 3 free bagels at participating bakeries. While you’re getting your bagels, please consider donating any spare change to help support kids treated by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals each year.

Go here to download and print your coupon for three free Bruegger's Bagels on Thursday, April 25th!  The coupon is valid from Open until 2pm.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Coupon to Christmas (12 Months of Christmas Post)

It's April now.  How ya hanging in there?  If you haven't started considering Christmas, go back and read the 12 Months of Christmas posts to catch up.

 Now is a great time to gather materials if you haven't already.  Consider craft stores like Michaels, AC Moore, Hobby Lobby, etc.  Each week they come out with some new, awesome coupon- 40% off 1 regular price item!  50% off 1 item, 25% off your whole order including clearance.

Why pay full price for items you need?  Is there a person in your life that loves to bake cookies?  Why not put together a cookie basket- include cookie cutters, a cookie sheet, mixing bowl, sprinkles, etc- and buy each item with a coupon!  Save things like sprinkles for closer to Christmas, but there is no reason not to buy the non perishable items earlier.  Simply make note of what you bought. 

Maybe you want to crochet your sister a scarf.  Find a pattern, figure out how much and what kind of yarn you need, then look for "no dye lots"- you can buy a skein at a time at 40% off.  If you need 3 skeins at $5 each, you will spend $9 buying them with coupons separately, rather than rushing to get them all at once in early December because you waited too long.   If you have a friend or two that you often go out with, maybe they will be willing to buy the yarn for you with a coupon and money you provide (most craft places accept printable copies or take them right off your phone).  

Know someone that wants to learn a craft? Put together a crafting basket the same way- one piece at a time, with a coupon!

Even if you want to skip all this homemade stuff, keep your eyes out for coupons or sales run in your stores.  Have a Vera Bradley fanatic in your household?  Their outlet often posts great sales.   Bath & Body Works lover around? Pick up their favorite scents with a coupon such as "Get a Free Signature item with any $10 purchase" or during their semi-annual sales.

Coupons are your best friends as long as you don't wait too long.  Even in December, there are still great deals to be had, but beware of buying something just because it's on sale or overspending because of a great deal. Keep in mind, if you bank on the sales at Christmas, you may spend more in time and gas than you save trying to find hot items.  If you must shop the toy/electronic sales, try to limit who you need to buy for to just a few people, rather than leaving your entire list to the last minute.  This gives you the opportunity to shop the deals, without setting you up for marathon shopping weekends.

Catch up on all the 12 Months of Christmas posts here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Another Sad Day

I had a "12 Months of Christmas" post scheduled for today, but in light of the events in Boston yesterday, I have rescheduled it to post tomorrow.

There are no words to describe the tragedy in Boston. I feel like lately there have been entirely too many posts like this- too many innocent people caught up in something terrible as they try to go about their daily lives, or spend what should have been a fun day out with friends and family.

Prayers are going out to those whose lives have been impacted by such a senseless act. 

Now we wait to see if this was a "homegrown" act of terror, or an outside force :(.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Free Sample of Cat Food

Get a free sample of Fancy Feast Delights with Cheddar when you like Tidy Cats on Facebook and fill out the form!  Remember, if you don't have a cat, you can always donate it to a shelter or to a friend who does have a cat!


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Spring Cleaning

Despite it being an absolutely gorgeous day outside, there were some chores that absolutely needed to be taken care of. Oh well, every day can't be a play day.

Tim headed outside to clean rabbit cages.  We've had a request to purchase rabbit manure for gardens, so he had to sacrifice a little extra time to bag up the poop.   The dogs got to spend a lazy day playing outside and the chickens got significantly more free range time.

While Tim was working on rabbit cages, I decided to tackle the house.

I hate to clean.  Hate it.  Usually my approach is get a bit done here and a bit done there and ultimately I spend hours piddling around and not getting much done.

I decided today to tackle one room at a time.  First up- the dining room.  We don't sit at the table that often, so Tim tends to toss his junk on that table and go on about his business.  It took quite a while to sort through the junk and throw it out, then put the useful items in their proper place.

I did some dusting, which I also despise, and spend the next 10 minutes sneezing around the house.  Ughhh dust.

I found some old blankets tossed in a chair that the cats had been sleeping on- they went into the washer and are being dried now.

I spent a good hour cleaning the garage (also a site of "just toss it and forget it) and setting up the new heavy plastic shelves I bought from an estate sale yesterday.  Then I gathered up all the various boxes of mason jars for canning season and moved them out to their new home on the shelves.

All in all, I spent 3 1/2 hours working on the garage and the dining room. There is still plenty of cleaning that needs to be done, but I think I earned a bit of a break!


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Free Can of Rise & Shine Cat Food

There is a simple way to get a free can of Friskies Rise & Shine Cat Food this morning!

Simply go here and upload a picture of your cat to enter their sweepstakes to win free cat food for a year.  Just for entering, you can print a coupon for a free can of Friskies Rise & Shine Cat Food, a 60 cent value.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sneaky Girl-

One of the Ameraucana hens has been escaping the coop several times a week. We couldn't figure out how she was getting out or why.

Yesterday, she disappeared completely after we opened the coop to let the girls out to play.  We couldn't find her, so we figured she was hiding and would get lonely and be back soon.  After two hours, I began to really worry.  We had been outside the whole time and hadn't heard the sound of anything attacking the flock.  The dogs were out with us and they hadn't alerted us to anyone in the yard- she was just gone!

I began walking the property, looking under every bush, the deck, the barn, etc.  Finally, I saw a flash of gold and brown- could it be her?

It was! She was asleep under a bush in the front of her house.  She had greeted me at the front door one morning when I went to work, but it had been almost a month before and I didn't really think too much about it.  

I crawled through the bushes and picked up my sleepy girl- then almost dropped her again.

She had been hoarding eggs in the bushes! When all was said and done, there were twenty eggs in her little nest.  Who knows how long she has been hiding them.  She wasn't happy that she was taken away from them and she's been even less happy today because she is no longer able to get loose. 

I am so relieved we found her!  She is definitely our favorite of the standard hens and I was so worried.  Now we should see an increase in eggs we are collecting as well.


Monday, April 8, 2013

By the work of my hands

I came home from work today to find a beautiful day waiting for me.  I had been trying to decide what my project was going to be today- whether it was going to be cleaning the garage, decluttering the house, etc.

What ultimately won out was the reorganization of the chicken coop.

Tim and I took down the walls to the coop and moved them about a foot to the right, which repositioned their little house (which is too heavy to move hehe).  The coop was originally cobbled together from two different sizes of fencing, with a sloping roof.  We took apart the smaller walls and put them to the side, then removed all the chicken wire from the inside of the larger fencing.

While the walls weren't connected, we took the opportunity to scrape out floor and change the shavings on the floor.  Then we put the walls back up and spent ten minutes trying to wrangle the girls back in to their new home.

It took us around an hour to get everything torn apart, cleaned and put back together, but it looks so great!  The hens are all traumatized, but once they get over the shock of things being- *gasp* different, I think they will be happy.  They currently have a few small patches of grass growing in the coop from where we shifted it, but I won't hold my breath that it will last past today.

The smaller walls of the coop are currently residing in our garage.

It is very satisfying to see the new area, cleaned up and looking nice.  It's immensely satisfying to work with your hands and get things done.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Saying Goodbye

The hardest part of having a hobby homestead, or having pets, or owning animals of any kind, is that we have to say goodbye to them all too soon.   No matter how much lover and affection we shower on them, they will be gone before we are and it's heartbreaking.
Pot as a young pullet.

Today we had to say goodbye to Pot, a black bantam cochin hen. She was only 14 months old, but developed a prolapsed uterus. I researched the problem as best I could and based on my findings, decided that the best thing for her was to euthanize her. Unfortunately, as a young hen in the prime of her productive life, the problem could occur every few days- or several times a day, even if we were able to fix it to begin with.

That's no life.

The hardest part of being with animals is loving them, naming them, then holding them for one last time, knowing you are about to forever put an end to them. I can tell myself she had a good life with us, she was loved and cared for. I can tell myself that she could have just as easily passed away as a day old chick, or lived with someone who neglected her, that a good short life is better than a long bad one, but in the end- a short life is still short.
Pot & Kettle- the day before Easter, 2013
It is important to remember that sometimes, the only gift you can give your beloved pets and charges is mercy.  So I hugged Pot close one last time, stroked her neck feathers while she murmured to me and whispered a quick "I'm sorry".  Then we let her go.  Not because we wanted to, but because it was what was best for her. 

It's part of life, but oh, I hate it so much.  I hate saying goodbye.  I hate even more making that decision, or having to be the one that ends the life.  I don't think it's something I'll ever get used to or take lightly.

Still- maybe there is some comfort in knowing that she couldn't have been loved any better, or missed any more.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013


I've been guilty of neglecting this blog lately.  With having been sick, coupled with the various other hobbies I have, it's been pushed to the back burner.

I've been working a lot on working my Thirty One business lately.  It's been paying dividends for sure.  In addition to my paycheck in March (which was a HAPPY pay check!) I ended up winning two contests.  One was from the lady directly in my "upline" (aka, the lady I signed up under) and I won a $65 purse! I also tied in her second contest for having someone sign up under me, though the prize went to the person I tied with- quite rightly, I thought.

The second prize I won was second place in the Director's contest- and I won a set of $35 cosmetic bags in my choice of color.

So, I ended up adding $100 in free products to my paycheck in the month of March! Woot woot :).

Add the extra money coming in from Thirty One to my couponing, rebates, surveys and the fact that we no longer have to make payments on my car and I am feeling pretty good right about now- knock on wood, of course.  We all know life has a way of knocking you down a peg when you start to feel too good, but right now I plan on enjoying it!