"It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all." -Laura Ingalls Wilder

Monday, April 23, 2012

Updates and Laura Love

I feel like I've been posting often an excuse for my absences. This time, I promise, it's a good one. We found a place! It's a very nice mobile home which has been very well kept by it's previous owners. There is an amazing 2 car garage where my husband can have his little shop and we can also fit a couple goats in there (haha!). It sits on almost 2 acres with a beautiful view of the Maine hills. It's zoned rural/residential so we have neighbors but can still enjoy the freedom of having chickens and the like. We are actually under contract and should be closing on it near the end of May. Our home inspection came back and was very good so that takes a lot off our minds. Of course, at this same time of trying to buy a house we've had a few hiccups that have had me running around like a chicken with my head cut off.

In the last post when I said that you should always be frugal and be saving to have that cushion "just in case" I wasn't joking. We've had a couple issues these past weeks for which I'm glad we had that cushion. My husband fell asleep on his way home from work and flipped his vehicle. He is okay, just had to get some stitches, but we now have some hospital bills as well as a new vehicle that needed to be bought. After that all got taken care of we found out my car has a cracked head. Plus, money is flying out of our hands left and right for this whole home buying deal. If we hadn't had that cushion we very well may have had to put off buying a home. It's well and good to tell people that saving is key but another to tell them that it really does help when you need it.

Other than that life has been pretty quiet. The weather is getting warmer and with that comes a lot more time outside and a lot less time spent wasted on the internet. I've been trying to save now more than ever with the time coming closer that we'll be on our own again with "real" bills. I've been trying to stock up on pantry staples each week when I shop so that when we move in our pockets won't be so hard hit stuffing cabinets. We've also taken to hitting the thrift shops and Goodwill a little more often hoping for deals on things we'll need. I've spent my little bit of  "fun" cash trying to complete my set of Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I've got just over half now, after finding another at the Goodwill for 99 cents! Now that I've got the first few Laura books I've started reading them. I am so inspired the more I read. We are so spoiled these days! I know that those times were hard times full of work but I wish so badly I had been born then. Everything seemed so more meaningful but simpler. I've already learned many lessons from these books and I know that if we have children they will be a bedtime staple.

What about you? What have you been up to? Any thrift store scores you'd like to share?

Until next time,

xoxo Stacie

Monday, April 2, 2012

Homemade Granola

The past few weeks have been quiet and for that I apologize. We've been very busy looking at houses and going to loan appointments which is very exciting but also cuts into blog writing time. I'm back for now and during this new post I would love to talk about our newest obsession; HOMEMADE GRANOLA!

I love store bought, don't get me wrong, but it's pretty expensive for the small amount you get. I also find many varieties have way more sugar than I feel comfortable consuming in a food that's supposed to be "healthy".  By buying the ingredients and making it myself I end up making a whole boatload of granola for a pretty small price as well as being able to control the amount of sugar and the like. I'm warning you now if you're a new follower or reader that I am awful with recipes. I never follow them and I never write any because I NEVER measure! I just go by what looks about right and of course, what tastes right.

To start gather up rolled oats, nuts, dried fruit, maple syrup, cinnamon and oil. Seriously, that's it. I used Maine grown organic oats I picked up at my favorite health food store, raw peanuts, golden raisins, and canola oil. I usually throw in some flax seeds too. You could use another sweetener like agave nectar or honey as well and really any nut or fruit you have around. I tend to stick with canola but you could definitely try another oil although I wouldn't recommend olive because of it's strong taste.

Get a mixing bowl and add (these are all approximations, add a little more or less)
2 cups of oats
3/4 cup of your nuts
1/2 cup of your sweetener
1 tsp of cinnamon (go crazy and add cloves and nutmeg too!)
3 tb oil
Optional, 1/4 cup flax seeds

Preheat your oven to 325. After you mix all your ingredients spread the mixture on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, stir, and then bake for another 20 minutes. I usually find that the granola is still a little too "wet" for my liking so I turn the oven off and let it sit in there another 10 minutes. Once the granola comes out of the oven add your dried fruit. Again I don't measure the dried fruit I just add until the fruit to oats ratio seems right to me. Once it's cool put it in your storage container (or dive right in).

This recipe makes quite a bit although I'm not sure how many "servings" it is. My favorite way to munch it is to grab a jelly size canning jar, put in about a 1/2 cup of yogurt (local! handmade!), a handful of organic blueberries, a shake of flax meal, and a handful of granola. I throw on a screw on top and bring it to work as my mid-day snack. You could also eat it with milk as a cereal or alone as a trail mix type deal. This is just a very bare bones basic recipe you can definitely experiment to your heart's desire! I hope you enjoy it!

Until next time,

xoxo Stacie

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Living Within Your Means VS. Beyond Them

I'll say it now; my husband and I are known to be frugal. We went without and made due with what we had to be able to put a sizable chunk of money away to buy a place once he got out of the military. We have always lived within our budget, sometimes on even half our budget. Now that we are seriously looking at homes and have put in our loan application it seems to have paid off! Still, we don't drive the shiniest and newest cars nor do we do much outside of spending time together playing board games and sometimes catching a movie, but we are happy. Sometimes, though, I watch others buy new vehicles and have two car payments, go out for dinner 3 times a week and be okay with not saving and I get a little jealous. Were these sacrifices worth it? Those kind of people will probably still be able to get a mortgage and "get by" with their new toys. But is "getting by" worth it to us?

Call me doom and gloom, but there is a new tide rising in America. With the cost of fuel (and everything else) on the rise "getting by" is going to become harder and harder for people. So what can we do? We can learn to live within our means instead of buying things to make us happy and needing sparkly new things all the time. The media has trained us from an early age to WANT, WANT, WANT but those things never fill that part of us and make us truly content. The old adage "a penny saved is a penny earned" is more true now than ever. That saved penny (and many more like it) may save you from a financial hardship or even help you pay cash for something most others may have had to take a loan out for. That determination to save and the outcome of being able to buy something after waiting and working for it is what should be making us so happy instead of the instant gratification of a credit card swipe (and then the debt that it creates). How empty does it feel to get something without truly earning it? These are the things we need to be asking ourselves if we are to survive in these changing times. 

So take a moment next time you're out shopping and ask yourself, "Do I really NEED this item?", could you do without or have ingenuity and find something you already own to fill that need? Couldn't you look at a second hand shop instead of buying new, thus saving you money? Could you borrow from a friend or family member? Once upon a time we relied on each other to borrow and trade to get by on our farms and homesteads. Not only do you save money by borrowing, you are nurturing that familial or communal bond which is more important than any dollar in the world. 

Until next time,

xoxo Stacie

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Kimchi LOVE

Last night I went to an amazing Kimchi workshop at Urban Farm Fermentory. I've never been before and when I walked in and the smell of fermenting food hit me I knew I'd have a great time. They make Kombucha and a few different blends of hard cider in house, as well as hosting a multitude of workshops. My dad just went about a month ago to a mushroom growing class and he had a blast! We had an "Intro to Kimchi" power point lecture by the teacher, Andy Lindberg, and then dove right in to cutting up and smashing our veggies. Kimchi is really simple and easy to make but totally fun and great tasting.

Dad and I chopping veggies! (Photo credit UFF)

All in all it was a great time and we learned a lot and tasted some awesome ferments. Plus, we got to sample UFF's prototype ginger Kombucha which was totally awesome. We left with a big canning jar full of our Kimchi and instructions to let it ferment for 10-12 days unscrewing the lid once every 24 hours to let the gases escape. I'll let you know when we dig in how they turned out!

Now our jars are hanging out working on turning into something wonderful! Have you ever tried fermented foods? We are big fans of them around here both for the taste and the health benefits. If you don't know much about ferments I highly suggest you pick up the book "Wild Fermentation" by Sandor Katz at your local library. It'll give you a history on ferments as well as the process that creates them and ideas on what to try out at home. I hope you'll check it out!

Until next time, 
xoxo Stacie

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Winter Wonderland

Finally, some snow. It's been a really easy winter so far this year! Here's what I saw through the window this morning when I woke up.

I may complain (often!) that I wish we still lived down south because I hate the cold and snow, but there is something so gorgeous and magical about seeing the mountains and trees. Then I snapped out of my reverie when I had to go clean off my car. Any snow in your neck of the woods this weekend?

Until next time,

xoxo Stacie

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Flippin' Pages

This is what's laying on my bedside table these days.

What are you guys reading?

Until next time,

xoxo Stacie

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Lost Art of the Repurpose

Last weekend we were doing our normal errands and my husband begged me to break down and buy us new bedding. I begrudgingly complied and bought a set on clearance. He's been complaining for awhile now because we have a super awesome down comforter I bought as a splurge to keep me warm while he was in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, he's a space heater shaped like a man and it's been an unseasonably warm winter up here in Maine and is basically sweating out bullets every night. Fine, husband, I suppose I can spend a few dollars to make you happy.

Anyway, that caused a huge reorganization of the space under the bed where I hide our other sheets in a space bag (so classy) and I found that I had kept the sheet that was on our mattress in the moving truck which got all sorts of dirty spots on it. I tried washing it but it isn't salvageable. Oh well, I though, it pains me to throw out this beautiful Martha Stewart fitted sheet, but it lasted us two years. Then, LIGHT BULB, didn't I just see something on Craftsy about making a crocheted rag rug out of an old sheet? You mean, I don't have to throw out this nasty stained sheet but can instead repurpose it into something else I can love? SIGN ME UP!

Sunday morning was spent hunched over on our tiny floor cutting back and forth along the sheet, turning it into  strips I could roll into a ball and use as "yarn". That's the only difficult part, and by difficult, I mean a little bit repetitive and knee crushing. Then I had this GIANT ten pound ball of old sheet. So I made a simple crochet ring, and double crochet increased each row so that I now have this awesome (but small) circle rug!

So I've decided, who needs the flat sheet that matches it anyway? I'll cut that up too to make a larger rug. Then I thought about all the fabric scraps in my stash...I could make one out of those too! The options are endless! You could use old t-shirts, or jeans, as long as all the fabric weights you use in your rug remain similar. 

To think I would have thrown this sheet out to take up space in a landfill somewhere, but instead I have turned it into a handcrafted decoration for our future home with just a little work. What can you find around your house that is headed for the dump that you can turn around and reuse? Next time I'll show you my new use for beer bottle caps!

Until next time,

xoxo Stacie

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Plot Thickens

I wish there was someone to sit you down when you start the process of buying a home and EXPLAIN THINGS TO YOU IN LAYMAN'S TERMS. We've got our pre-approval letter from a woman whose number was given to us by our realtor, who is going to turn around and sell our mortgage before the ink is even dry on the paper. We'd prefer local servicing. We found some great trailers to look at, yet no one told us that trailer financing is a whole different ballgame than home financing. Now that I've read up on the subject I can understand why, but regardless, couldn't someone have TOLD me this? So basically, what we can afford is an old run down house as opposed to a nice sparkly trailer on a nice plot of land. ARGH! This is way more time consuming, confusing, and stressful than I had ever imagined. What the HELL are we EVEN DOING?

Okay, end rant. The husband has secured a part-time position with the post office on top of his full time job, YES! And, if you could quite possibly click on some of my advertiser links if you see something interesting, you too can contribute to the "please oh please let me find my own place to live" fund. I mean, the quicker we find somewhere to live the quicker you'll see lots of annoying before and after pictures! And who doesn't love those?

Until next time,

xoxo Stacie

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A little early V-Day Love

Okay, I'm going to fess up...I love Valentine's Day. Not the whole commercial, Hallmark deal but the fun red and pink hearts and giving presents part. I am a sucker for any reason to give a gift. This year, being extremely tight on finances I thought I'd just give my husband some cookies and a kiss on Valentine's BUT while trolling the web I stumbled upon this art gallery who sells prints by our favorite artist, Kurt Halsey. I figured for 8$ plus 3$ shipping, I could afford to give my husband an awesome one of a kind gift. Now, to find a frame was the difficult part. The nice ones are really expensive and the cheap ones are, well, pretty cheap looking. I figured I'd bide my time and save a little and get him a nice frame. Lo and Behold! My mom cleaned out her closet and found a really cute frame that she gave me. Unfortunately, it was a little too big, but I figured I could make it work. So I brainstormed a bit and decided to glue muslin in the frame to place the print on top of so the background would work with the vintage paper look of the print. I think it came out FABULOUS and now I can't wait for Valentine's Day to hand it over to my husband and see him smile!

Wanna see? Here it is, in all it's splendor.

Another example that you can give great, thoughtful gifts on a budget with just a little imagination!

Until next time,

xoxo Stacie

"I'd be lost without you, I'm not sure I can face this world on my own..."

This song is making my skin tingle these days. Love love love.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Hookin' and Other Fun Stuff

HOORAY! My taxes are done! I got home from work yesterday and after running a few errands I sat down and did both Federal and State. I'm super excited because we're getting a bit more back than I expected which is actually deserved considering that the Marine Corps didn't reimburse us for most of our move. So glad to wash my hands of that, seriously.

On another good note my husband went from unemployed to having two jobs! One in pretty far away, which stinks especially in winter but it will open more opportunities and doors for him farther down the road so we'll make it work for now. Hopefully in a few weeks we can meet with the loan officer and see what our mortgage options are. There is a house right down the road from my parents that is really perfect, basically turn key there's nothing that needs to be done to it, but it's a little higher priced than what we'd like to spend. Maybe since it's been on the market awhile so they'll come down in price. Take a look. I'd like a little more land, but with that amount we could do everything we want so there's no need to have more just to pay more taxes.

Like always, I've been hookin' like a madwoman! I finished these cute slippers along with another yellow and green pair for myself.

Since my mom learned to knit she hasn't crocheted much so she has a half finished blanket she's going to give me to finish, so that's my next project. I still want to make a giant ripple stitch afghan for the bed (like this awesome one) but the yarn cost really just isn't in the budget right now. I still have so much yarn to use up I think I'll just stick with little projects for now. 

I've also been cooking a lot more, which is nice. I budget fifty dollars a week for groceries and almost every week I am under budget. I should probably post some recipes here because who doesn't love cheap good food? I made stuffed cabbage casserole (based off this recipe) and everyone loved it and there was plenty for all four of us and leftovers. Plus, it was super inexpensive and relatively healthy because I switched the ground beef out with ground turkey. I'm so good at being poor! 

Well, that's all that's new in this neck of the woods. Does anyone out there have any cheap recipes they want to share? I'm open to trying new things!

Until next time,

xoxo Stacie

Monday, January 23, 2012

Oh, Mother!

Hey there kids, it's been awhile! Since my last post I've been working and making ends meet on my meager budget, which actually makes me feel good because I can manage to pay all our bills, put money away, do something every once in awhile, and feed my yarn habit at around $800 dollars a month (give or take). It's going to be pretty great once the ol' man finds something. He actually has an interview at the Post Office tomorrow afternoon which is pretty exciting!

I've been hookin' like a crazy person whipping projects out left and right. I'm saving my money up now to buy lots of yarn to make a HUGE ripple afghan to cover our full bed. So I'm trying to use up all my Christmas gifted yarns and bits and bobs so I can justify it. Last night I whipped up two slippers (I'm tackling the edging today) which unfortunately were too big for my tiny little feet. So, now I'm set for my aunt's birthday at the end of February! I'm way ahead. =D

This morning my dad sent me a link to a Kimchi class at the Urban Farm Fermetory in Portland. I am super excited! Only 25$ and you get to take home a jar of Kimchi at the end of the class. It's at the end of February so I may wait and see what's going on with Adam and then sign us both up. My father went to a mushroom growing class there this weekend and said it was fantastic. Plus, they have house-brewed hard cider AND Kombucha on tap. Be still my Kombucha-lovin'-heart. To all those who don't know, Kombucha is a fermented tea drink. I got my dad a kit to make it for Christmas and let me just tell you, the bacterial "mother" (aka scooby) is kinda creepy looking...like a water bound alien life form. But it makes something delicious so it's all good!

See that creepy mother thing on the top? Yikes! 

I'm also potentially turning Adam into a Buffy fan. We have no cable in the room we're staying in so we delved into the DVD collection and decided to start from the beginning. I can't even count the amount of times I've watched the series through, honestly. My friend Cait got me into it when Adam was deployed and now I can't get enough.

How is everyone getting along with their taxes? I've got Adam's USMC w-2 and our 1099s but we're waiting on THREE more w-2s. I hope they get here soon, because I can't wait to build our poor savings account back up from the EAS move.

Well, that's about it folks. Thanks for reading, I know I've been a crappy blogger lately. I just like crocheting more than anything else. =D

Until next time,

xoxo Stacie

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Time to Relax!

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday spent with family and friends and filled with laughter and joy! We had a great time with all of our family (although it was a lot of driving and a lot of visiting) and a great new years playing board games. All of the homemade gifts were a success and I hope to continue this frugal and heartfelt tradition for many years to come. Now that the holiday dust has settled, we can really focus our efforts on our money saving goals and continue to pare down.

I've joined the '23 Day Frugal Living Challenge' (which I've mentioned before) over at Frugally Sustainable and I hope you'll join in the frugal fun! I've just put up a button on my blog as well, so just click that to be brought through to the challenge. I'll also be posting my daily frugal challenge updates on the blog, so keep an eye out for those.

With 2012 upon us I've also been thinking of other ways to bring in income. I was thinking of perhaps starting an Etsy store with some of my crocheted goodies. To any of my readers out there who use Etsy, I'd love to hear your input and advice!

Until next time,

xoxo Stacie