Saturday, May 26, 2012

Its all about the tomatoes baby!

I have been waiting months for my tomato plants to get growing in the green house. Finally they are able to be planted so I had to prepare my garden beds. Which included the following

-Dig up the garden beds by hand with a shovel. Did this about every two weeks.
-Add some farm manure and mix all the soil.
-Dig up the garden beds again and add in organic compost.

Yes I could of used a tiller and it would of been done much quicker. But you have to have a tiller to do that which I do not. So elbow grease it was! After about an hour it was all mixed up and ready for my starts. Whahoo!

I planted every single tomato I could into this bed.  This bed gets the most sun which should be a boost for the tomatoes.  In front of each tomato cage I planted a mixture of things including kale, lettuce and chard.  I want to take advantage of every single square inch of my garden.  Still trying to determine if I want to plant anything up the middle or not. 

I thought my tomatoes would take up both beds but it didn't turn out that way.  So I dug out all my pumpkin seeds and thought I would give them a shot.  Most I have taken from pumpkins of our past or they are old seeds. So know knows what will grow and what won't.  Wouldn't that be funny if they all grew? Well to my friends and family-you know where to get your pumpkins!

It was a nice warm night out so I set up their garden dinner table out. We keep a pink glass dinner set in the green house for such an occasion.  Stir fry was for dinner so they ate that and had lemon water. Chickens were in the back yard so they wouldn't bother the girls. Any food in front of the chickens is fair game to them. Even the dogs raw chicken and rice. Yuck!

My oldest daughters best friend came over for the night. They too enjoyed dinner outside.  My husband and I enjoyed a quiet dinner inside. Yeah for us! Plus no messy clean up.  All left over food on the girls plates was fed to the chickens who enjoyed it very much. 

I should be just about done with my garden now. I have a few things that need a little more time getting bigger so they will stay in the green house.  This year the garden is all about the tomatoes.  I want to be able to make my own tomato sauce and can it.  Nothing beats a garden tomato sauce! Plus we grew way too many beans last year and my kids are sick of them. lol

So how is your garden? What are you growing a lot this year?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Family vacation the frugal way

Its been a while since we took a vacation.  Our last vacation is just a memory because once we got back from Yellowstone someone stole our laptop and all our pictures were on there. We were so sad.  So once a friend offered his Sunriver Oregon vacation home to us we took him up on his offer.  This lovely home has 3 bedrooms, full kitchen and even a hot tub. Woot! Best part was its totally free! We did have to drive 4 hours to get there so the only cost out of our pocket was gas. I packed all the food I could so we would not have to eat out. When we arrived I went to the local store and spent $50 on fresh items for the week. Even on vacation I found some deals.  They had spotted banana's 29 cents per pound and I snagged every single last one of them. Any left over is used for banana muffins once at home. Also found some sausage for $1 and organic tea for 50 cents. Woot!
The next morning daddy made pancakes for all the kids.  We packed banana's and water and headed on out.  First stop was The Hole In The Ground. Took a while to find it because the dirt roads are not marked well. Think POWER LINES people! When you finally come upon this it doesn't look real. It was so quiet and felt like we were alone on this earth.

Around the rim there are plenty of large rocks that our girls took advantage of.  Whats not to love about climbing rocks? Duh! Oh and any rock within reach was thrown in the hole. That was a pattern on our trip. Total cost for this-FREE!

Just a few miles near The Hole In The Ground was this beautiful place.  Fort Rock is the most amazing thing I have seen so far. Once again your brain doesn't register how real this place is. 

We hiked the entire center of Fort Rock.  This is on the outer right side of the rim.  Looks like were on top of the world. I say "were" but really its just them.  Sorry but mommy is afraid of heights and there is no way your getting me out there!  Kids had a blast and we were pooped out.  We drove back to our vacation home and I made dinner.  I made Mexican Rice which we all turned into different things.  So much hiking made us a hungry family!

The next morning daddy once again made pancakes for breakfast. We filled our bellies and headed on out for another adventure.  Another great way we saved money was to just stay near the vacation home and take advantage of what the place had to offer.  A big playground was a welcoming sight for our girls.  The vacation home had 2 bikes and we packed our kids bikes to use.  Sunriver has amazing bike paths that are the safest I have ever biked on. 

We rode along the river and stopped once to toss some sticks into the river.  (See what I mean?).  Passing by were people walking their dogs to which my kids had to pet every single one of them.  Most dogs were wet from swimming in the river.  Yeah for smelling like a wet dog! Ugh.

Then we biked on until we came to this bridge.  Kids loved this bridge because no vehicles were allowed on it and they could ride over it as many times as they wanted.  I loved it because it was right by our vacation house which meant the end was near. We were pooped! We rode back and I made dinner.  We had mashed potatoes with white sausage gravy which was all homemade.  Served corn and pea's along with it. It was so hearty and good.

The next morning breakfast made by daddy was scrambled eggs with toast. We needed another hearty breakfast because we had planned a great hiking day.  Tumalo Falls is only about 20 minutes from our vacation home.

After a short 5 minute hike we came upon a landing that perched over the side near the falls. Nope, not going to get me on that thing.  Kids loved it but we made sure the little ones hunkered down and held on for life. 

We kept hiking up past the falls and found some snow.  What a welcome that was! Kids didn't get to see much snow last Winter so they played in it for a few minutes.  Yes they even made snowmen lol.  I was happy it cleaned our shoe's up!

Hailey was excited to find some amazing soil. I love this child! It would of made wonderful soil for our garden for sure.

The creek was beautiful and a pleasure to our ears.  Hailey made rock formations along the river, the twins threw as many rocks as they could in the river and Alyssa tried to make a few dams.  It was warm, beautiful and a retreat for my husband and I.  We stayed here for about a half an hour just playing.  Total cost for this hike-FREE!  We decided to have lunch at the Bend Brewery.  We only allowed ourselves one meal out and this place had a ton of good reviews. Plus the hubby and I enjoy a good local beer! If you ever find yourself there you must order the fish and chips. OMGoodness these were the best I have ever had in my life.  And their fries!!!!  Total cost-$55  We decided on eating lunch out because breakfast and dinner would of cost us way more.  Lunch specials are a great way to save money. Dinner was made at the vacation home. I made pasta with sausage and a red sauce. Pretty simple but very hearty. 

The next morning my husband made breakfast again.  Pretty sure it was pancakes lol.  We filled up and headed on out for another adventure.  This time we drove to Lapine Oregon and ended up stopping by the Lapine State Park. Here we found the largest ponderosa

We hiked for a little while and came upon this tree.  I can see why someone wanted to put this place here.  It was so quiet and beautiful.  This tree is called The Wind chime Tree.  "In memory of those we loved and lost" was written on the tree.  Flowers at the bottom and wind chimes all up and down the tree.  Words cannot describe the feeling we had while standing there looking at this. Peaceful comes to mind. 

In the day use area we headed down the trail and found the Deschutes River.  I'm pretty sure this place is packed during the summer because it had amazing bathrooms with showers.  We packed sandwiches, banana's and tea for lunch.  The kids played in the rocks and sand while I checked out a blue thing in the water which I swear was a body but ended up only being a blow up thing. Thank goodness!

And no vacation day trip would be complete with daddy trying to dunk his daughter.  He didn't really do it but it was funny to watch. We traveled back to our vacation home and I made dinner.  Ended up making a strange combo but it was good.  Spaghetti noodles with white sauce/sausage and lots of veggies. I needed to use up produce and this was the perfect meal for it. 

The next morning we all ate left overs for breakfast.  Anything we didn't eat up from the days before had to go in our bellies.  Also drank up all the milk and juice so I didn't have to pack that.  Then daddy took the kids on a bike ride so I could clean house and do laundry before we left.  We had decided to leave a day early because we missed our home (and I missed the chickens lol).  They rode to a near by horse ranch and were able to pet the horses.  I was happy to have some alone time to clean.  I cranked the music and cleaned the house in about an hour.  Once they came home we finished cleaning up and headed out for the 4 hour drive home. 

As you can see we saved money a few ways. Here is a run down of what we could of spent and what we did spend.

Could have spent

Lodging-$200-$300 per night which would of cost us $800-$1,200
Food-$50 per meal which would of cost us $600
Gas-$170 we took our truck and gas prices are crazy right now


What we spent
Food-$50 for one meal, $50 for fresh items and homemade meals about $5 each in total cost us $60. Total-$160

Our total bill was $330

Our totals could of been less if we drove a car but our car doesn't fit all 6 of us.  Our truck also allowed us to get places that car wouldn't (The Hole In The Ground).  So to us the truck was the best option.  Also we could of just not eating out at all the one time so we could of saved another $50.  But the kids enjoyed it and I wanted a break from cooking and dishes! One problem we encountered was there was no curbside recycling.  They had a drop off but it was located on the other side of the community.  Also we missed our home items like our percolator which we didn't bring. The coffee machine had a reusable filter but it didn't taste the same.  Also forgot to pack our fabric napkins but the only person who used one was my husband.  One paper napkin isn't bad though!  Last but not least this house had cleaners that we not Eco friendly what so ever. It's not my home and wanted to be respectful and clean very well so I had to use them.  Next time I will pack my own. 

It was a great much needed trip for all of us.  We spent the whole time in nature which makes us extremely happy.  We spent the whole time together as a family and the twins only had 2 melt downs. We only had one set back and that was the fact that one of the twins left her pillow in the vacation home.  Our friend will be at his vacation home in a week and will bring it back for us.  Otherwise no major bumps in the road and it was a smooth trip that saved us a ton of money. 

I would like to thank my friends for helping this trip happen.  My friend Tanya watered my garden for me and I am forever grateful for that.  My best friend Dulcimer came and fed our dog and cat while we were gone.  This is a huge task because our dog only eats raw meat/rice/raw eggs and most people would be grossed out by it.   So thank you Dulbs!!!!! Another tip-I feed her cats on her vacations and she does the same for me. Barter!!!  And a HUGE thank you to our friend who lent us his home.  Not only did this save us money but it helped us have some family time.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your kindness.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Recycled Foot Traffic

Running has always been therapeutic for me.  Just me and my iPhone on the go.  When I run all I hear is my music.  No cars, no people and no kids tattling on each other. Nothing! Ive been running for many years now just as a way to relax and enjoy the weather.  It wasn't until 2010 that I decided to run in a race.  I quickly signed up at a gym and started my training.  After a few weeks my feet started to bother me so I bought a good pair of shoe's (not naming names but it started with an N).  This quickly started to add up to too much money out of my pocket. Then I needed some clothes to train in. You see where this is going? Running can be expensive.

As I trained I would visit my mom and dad often.  Dad was going through chemo from cancer so I would visit them often.  He was proud of me and I was excited to tell him how far I ran that day.  After months of training I was ready for my race.  Here I am with my running buddy and good friend Michele.  Look how cocky I look. I was here to race. Bring it world!

After a few miles I started to get crazy.  It was hot...muggy....and I started to run behind people to draft behind elderly people.  The whole time I was thinking to myself "If they can do it then I can".  Two hours and forty five minutes later I crossed the finish line crying like a baby. I did it. I did it by myself and for myself.  My legs were killing me and I could barely drive my car home.  Why? You see my friend I trained in the gym 100%.  And if you ask any racer they will tell you to train outside along with the gym.  Streets are much tougher on your legs than a treadmill.  Lesson learned.
Total Expenses
Race cost-$65
Shoe's-$80 (that was half price too)
Gym 4 months-$120
Total cost-$285

Since I was feeling pretty sure of myself I decided to sign up for another race.  This time it was only 6.5 miles.  No training in the gym and once again I dragged my buddy Michele with me. 

At my last race I saw people wearing cute outfits and funky socks.  This time I was going to do the same.  So we went old school and were ready to rock. 
Can you tell I was excited? I'm afraid of bridges and was scared to do this race.  There was beer and pasta at the finish line......bring it on!!!!  I used my same running shoe's but did purchase a few things.

Race cost-$39
Head/wrist bands-$20
Funky socks-$18
Total cost-$77

The following year was a rough one.  My father passed away in November 2010.  My grandfather and grandmother also passed away that year. I was a mess and couldn't concentrate on training at all.  Music I loved so much would bring up memories and I would cry uncontrollably while running.  After a few months I decided I would run anyways. This time I would run for my father. Team Songster! Songster was my dad's last name and he needed to be represented! You see my dad isn't my DNA dad.  My mother married him while I was in high school.  Her 3rd time around finally paid off. He was a keeper.  My DNA father was in and out of my life and not around when I needed him. I was what you call baggage. Around enough to call me "daughter" but not enough to be my "father". Alcohol and cigarettes were his children. My father John was everything to me. He was and will always be my father. DNA or not! Love him and miss him more and more every day that goes by.

The night before the race I almost cut the tip of my thumb off. I should of gone in for stitches but it was late and I didn't want to go in.  So I tapped that sucker up and kept my head focused on the race.

And of course I dragged someone else with me. This is my friend Tanya and as you can see she is just as crazy as me. Here we are at mile 6.5. 

Run cost-$65
Total cost-$125
No gym membership this year because I trained in the streets! Guess who wasn't sore this year? ME!! I literally could of ran home after the race. I was feeling that good! Plus I live within 10 minutes of this race lol. 

You might be asking yourself why do we run. Why?

Well there area a few reason's why we run.  I run for the love of running.  Oh and good food is also a motivational tool.  Beer also works.
These are pretty damn cool.  I have two of these pretty things that I hang on a mirror I look into each day. Just a friendly reminder that I can do anything I set my sights on.I also run to help others.  All the races raise money for different charities.  That feels so good knowing my race money is helping others. 

Here are a few tips and tricks I have come up with along the way.

Buy used training clothes. Instead of going out and purchasing expensive training clothes, why not look in thrift shops? I found SO MANY running clothes for a fraction of the cost if I would of bought them new.  If you can't find what your looking for how about asking friends and family if you can borrow theirs? If that doesn't work then look for good sales or outlet shops.  There are so many ways to save money on clothes. All my clothes you see in those pictures? Yep they were bought second hand!

Sign up for races early. Most races offer a discount if you sign up early in advance.  So keep your eyes peeled for this!

Train outside. You set the time, distance and go anywhere you want and when you want.  This is completely FREE!  Or have a friend with a work out room? Run with them!  Just make sure to train on real streets so you can get your body ready.  Trust me on this one.

There's an app for that.   There are so many apps for routing your runs.  Keeps track of time, distance, minutes per mile and even song selections.  My personal favorite are  MapMyRUN and Nike+GPS.  Both are completely free!

Get a buddy. Running with someone makes your time go by faster and you focus less on how much you hurt.  It's my favorite way to train.  Love my running dates with my girls.

Shoe's shoe's shoe's. I cannot stress enough how important the right pair of training shoes are to a race.  My first race I assumed you needed name brand mainstream shoes. NOT!!!! (yes Nike I'm talking to you).  The second year I decided to head into Portland Running Company. I learned that I run on my sides of my feet which is why I hurt the first year I raced.  To correct it they suggested a different brand and style of shoes that would correct this. OMG were they right.  My feet have been thanking them ever since. 
From their web site-
"Bring your old running shoes if you have any. We will check your wear pattern and watch you walk or run to check for foot motion (overpronation/underpronation or rolling of the foot in or out), which can lead to injury."
You will feel a bit goofy running in front of people but get over it and go get yourself the correct shoes for your feet.  Be sure to check out any Eco friendly options too! They have them all!

H2O. You don't need energy drinks, fancy colored "hydrating" drinks or anything along those lines. Just good plain water will do ya.  I did invest in a BPA free hydration belt.  This way I can run as long as I want and not have to worry where the nearest water fountain is.  Plus I can keep my iPhone in there for my music addiction and ID in case I get hurt along the way.  Or coffee/snack money for my stop at my favorite coffee joint Black Rock Coffee which is along my running route.

If you live in the Portland Oregon area and want to try out a race just send me a email.  I'm always looking for running partners.  Running can be expensive or frugal.  Just get out there and have fun with it.  And always TREAD LIGHTLY!!!!

Monday, May 7, 2012

DIY Mint Tea

Its not only good for making tea but its also a beautiful plant.  There are many different varieties of mint so pick one that you love the smell of and add it to your herb collection. Make sure you plant somewhere that the mint cannot travel out of.  Side walk dirt area's are perfect.  Mint will send shoots everywhere and spread like crazy. 

Mint is used for calming and almost has a sedative effect. It is packed with menthol and the vapors can relieve things like sinus and chest congestion.  My favorite way to relieve my allergies is hot mint tea. Ahh its yummy!  It also relieves digestion problems, nausea and excess gas.  Having mental fatigue or headache? Yep mint helps with that too!  Lets not forget its packed with vitamin A and C. 

Mint also can be used in the kitchen to add a great fresh flavor to meals.  Google it! It also can be used as a bug repellent.  Keep a few potted mint plants in your garden to keep bugs away from your garden.  Do not plant in your garden because the mint will take over.  Mint grows very well in pots and they can be moved around easier. 

Mint mouthwash anyone? Take four tablespoons of mint in one quart of water and boil for about 5 minutes.  Let cool and set in the fridge over night.  Once chilled you can strain out the mint leaves and keep in the fridge.  Use just like any other mouthwash!

Want to freshen up the air in your home? Simply pick a few sprigs of mint and rub them a few times to release the oils.  Set these sprigs on window sills and open your windows to let the air come in.  The air will bring all those fresh oils into your home. I like to sit my mint near our fan too!
Need I say more? is how I harvest mint.

1. Pick mint leaves.  Make sure only to take the top three to four leaves because they are the newest growth. 

2.  Put in a dehydrator and dry according to the dehydrator directions.  No dehydrator? Lay on brown paper (paper bags work well) and in a dry and sunny spot in your home.  Simply let sit until dry and crispy.  Must be completely dry or will mold when stored. 

3.  Put dry mint in a mason jar and store in cold dark spot. 

4.  Make tea as usual and enjoy!

Here we have my daughter helping me pick mint yesterday.  My girls just love going to the garden and getting treats. Mint is a favorite of theirs. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Pineapple Mango Salsa

Easy salsa perfect for spring or summer!


-organic bagged mango 10 oz $2.49
-organic bagged pineapple 1lb $2.39
-organic jalapeño (wasn't charged...)
-organic small onion chopped .25
-organic cilantro 1/2 bundle .50
TOTAL $5.63

This made enough to have one fresh container and one for the freezer for later on. Even if I was charged for the jalapeño it would still cost me less then $6 to make. To buy already made fresh salsa it would of me $5.99 per pound. This makes about 2 pounds. So I'm citing the cost in half by making it myself.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

DIY Banana Carrot Muffins

Ive been making these muffins for many years now.  My kids love these for breakfast or just snacks. They are easy to pack in lunches as well.  I love them because they are healthy and very filling. Use what you have and can afford.

Banana Carrot Muffins

4 eggs
1 cup sugar (I use 1/2 cup white 1/2 cup brown sugar but use what you want)
1 cup of oil your choice (I use 1/2 cup peanut oil 1/2 cup olive oil)
4-5 banana's mashed (older the banana the better. More flavor!)
2 cups shredded carrot
Mix well in mixer

4 cups flour (I use unbleached organic)
4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
Optional-nuts, flax seed, etc.
Mix into wet ingredients

Pour into muffin papers. You can spray the tin with olive oil if you wish to skip the papers.
Bake at 350 degree's for 30 minutes or golden brown.

Yields 2 dozen large muffins or 4 dozen small ones for people with little kids.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My Inner Diva...Literally. My Diva Cup Review

Are you stuck in the cotton rut? Tired of having to buy expensive tampons and pads? Sick of having to change your pads/tampons all the time? Ready to ditch the toxic torpedo's and surf boards?  Then you must try out The Diva Cup!

Conventional tampons and pads are made from bleached cotton.  You can read about all the toxins here. From dioxins causing cancer in animals to TSS or toxic shock syndrome. Its just not good and down right scary stuff.  Bleach in your hoo hoo anyone?  But lucky for you there are lots of other natural options out there! Can I get a woot woot? Awesome.

One step in the right direction is to switch from plastic (DISLIKE!)  applicators to paper.  The next step would be to stop using main stream products and switch to more natural ones.  You can get unbleached products easily now days but be prepared to pay a higher price than your already high priced toxic options.  Paper tampon applicators and paper packaging is a step in the right direction.  But it's still disposable and you will need to buy products each month.

I have to admit that the price tag was what prevented me from trying The Diva Cup.  Why pay $30-$40 for something when I can just pay $5 for unbleached tampons?  Well there are a few reasons why its worth it. First of all my investment will pay itself off within 3-4 months. And second I no longer will be tossing my monthly waste into any landfill.  As an added bonus each Diva Cup comes with a cute little fabric bag. Yes its the little things in life that make me happy.

It took me about 2 periods to get this thing down to a skill.  You simply take this bad boy, fold it up and insert it. Sounds simple huh? Well its really that simple. Sorta.....

I found that inserting it wasn't the problem.  The tail of The Diva Cup was....uncomfortable for me.  I ended up clipping most of the tail off and have not had any discomfort since.  So change things, ways to put it in and keep at it until it gets comfortable for you.

Taking it out and cleaning it is a WHOLE new project.  Make sure you use a bathroom near a sink.  Now days newer houses have bathrooms that are bigger than my bedroom.  My house is from the 1960's and is rather small so I have no problems what so ever.  Just remember this when you go looking for a bathroom to change it. I have a routine when I change it.

1.  Squat and go treasure hunting for it.
2.  Pull it out slowly and empty it into the toilet.
3. Wipe your hoo hoo area well so you can get on the move.
4. Waddle over to the sink and wash it out.  I use a natural soap and hand wash it good making sure I rinse it very well.
5. Waddle back to the toilet.
6. Insert Diva Cup
7.  Flush and pull clothes up
8.  Wash hands very very (did I say very?) very well. 
9. Done!
The Diva Cup has their own instructions as well.

"The Diva Cup is latex free and is made from top quality silicone, a material that has been used in health care applications for over 50 years. This silicone is not the same type of material used in breast implants. No chlorine, dyes, colorings or additives of any kind are used." This information plus more is found here.

There are two different models to choose from.

Model 1. Pink and purple box is for women under 30 who have never delivered a baby vaginally or cesarean.

Model 2.Blue and purple box is for women over 30 and/or have delivered a baby vaginally or cesarean. 

Two sizes because you don't want any leakage. Everyone of us has had a experience where we have leaked and were mortified. Get the right size to prevent this. 

Cleaning-I clean my Diva Cup any time I change it. I use a natural liquid soap (Meyers) and wash it for a good minute or two and then rinse it very well.  When I'm done using it for the month I simply put it in its pretty bag and put it in the medicine cabinet.  For a good chuckle head on over to The Crunchy Chicken and read her comments about how to clean The Diva Cup.

IMPORTANT-If you have a heavy flow period in the first days of your period then you will want to change it late at night or early in the morning. Heck or both! I am one of those people and usually get up in the middle of the night to change it.  Otherwise when you wake up the next morning and will find yourself running to the bathroom as fast as you can. Its not fun, trust me. If you have a low flow then no need to follow this step.

My review-After using The Diva Cup for 3 months how I can honestly say I will never ever purchase pads/tampons ever again.  This is hands down the best product I have ever used.  Ive tried making my own tampons from sea  Ive tried crocheting my own organic cotton tampons....epic fail.  I purchased organic cotton tampons/pads.......went broke in the process and not to mention the guilt trip I gave myself.  No longer do I have to feel bad about my period and its ecological impact.  Now go buy one and give it a try!

You can find The Diva Cup online here, here , here or here.

Head on over to your local natural or organic store. My local Whole Foods carries them for $40. Yikes!  But keep an eye out for sales because you want to keep your hard earned dollars in your own state to keep them workers working!!

Azure Standard has them for only $19.75 (as of May 1st 2012...check prices for yourself to see current price). They are 35% off this week. If your new to Azure Standard go sign up for free and call their customer service to see if your near a pick up location. 

Note-The Diva Cup did not send me this product or pay me to review it.  I paid for The Diva Cup out of my own pocket and these are my personal thoughts on this product. I also am not getting any advertising credit from any of the web sites you find in this post. 

Also note-Sorry to my friends and family.  A little too up close and personal with my hoo hoo.  My apologies lol.