Early Spring Sunrise Snow on the Silo

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I Was Born Without the Shopping Gene

Don't get me wrong, I love stuff, but thrift store, garage sale, auction kind of stuff. I have tons of stuff, too much stuff really, but when it comes to grocery store, toiletry, even clothes shopping, I quickly loose my enthusiasm.

Yesterday Boogie and I went to town to run some errands. We are, unfortunately, far from self-sufficient requiring a dreaded shopping trip every week or two. Rob once told me that these trips were a "break for me" and I should be "'happy to get out of the house". The unanimous response upon hearing this by anyone who has ever shopped with a toddler is "and how much time did he have to spend in ICU?". I have never really enjoyed shopping much and chasing the Boogie-Monster up and down store aisles leaves me worn out!

The Trip

I try to spend some time the day before with my coupons, sale flyer's and the web to put together the best deals possible by stacking sales, coupons and rebates. While CVS is well known for their rebate programs, there isn't one in my area., yet I've been able to put together some great deals at Walgreens using store and manufacturers coupons coupled with their Register Rewards program. This week, for example, they had some Kotex products for $2.99 each and I had $1.00 off coupons. Now if you buy three of these products, Walgreens gives you a coupon for $5 off on your next purchase (RR) after which my total cost was $1.00 for all three packages. I also found 6.5 oz J&J baby oil gel on clearance for $1.09 for which I had $1.00 mfgr coupons for a total cost of .09 per bottle! Sweet! These surprise clearance items are why I clip coupons that I normally wouldn't use. You never know when you will come across a real bargain. By using the RR, store and manufacturer coupons to purchase items that give more RRs you can compound your savings. My toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo and conditioner, soap and body wash stockpile has been built up using this technique and getting those products for free or nearly free. The site Common Sense with Money has a great 'How to Shop at Walgreens' page that goes into more detail. If you live in an area that has coupon doubling (I do not ), lucky you, your savings just grew! For the investment of a hour or less a week clipping coupons, perusing ads and pairing deals a savings of 50 to 75% is not at all unusual. The key, for me at least, is to buy only what we will use, not be afraid to get a large quantity of a really good deal (like 20 Belgian chocolate bars?) and plan meals around perishables so nothing goes to waste. Sticking to your list is also imperative, impulse buys will do you in every time. In addition, building a stockpile of non-perishable staples allows you to wait for an item to go on sale rather than pay full price and also avoid the last minute run to the store. You always end up spending more on those little trips anyway so stay home and shop in your own pantry!


You can print coupons on line HERE and HERE and HERE

Check out the Sunday Coupon preview to see what is available in the newspaper. Keep in mind there are not usually any coupons on holiday weekends.

You can even buy coupons from The Coupon Clippers

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sure Signs of Spring!

Living right on the cusp between UDSA zones 4 and 5, by this time of year I am ready for spring and all that it brings. Rogue enjoys soaking up the sun in the herb garden. Perennials are beginning to poke up through the thawing soil.




Since the forecast is calling for overnight temps right around freezing, I'm going to leave a few trays of seedlings out in the hoop house overnight to see how they fare. Broccoli, chard, cheddar and purple cauliflower and some lettuce seedlings. Our last frost usually comes around the first week of may, however these crops can handle some freezing temperatures. I also use cold frames and the hoop house to extend the growing season. I have some red potatoes and snap peas planted in raised beds, where the soil is dry enough to work but still cool to the touch, even in the afternoon sunshine. There are still have plenty of seedlings left to start inside.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Easy Venison and Rice Stew

I seem to be infatuated with the slow cooker lately. It's been nice enough to want to get out and get things done outside, but still chilly enough for a nice hot dinner. Using the slow cooker lets me do both! This is a tasty way to make a stew or cook a roast. There are many ways to vary the ingredients to your suit your taste.

I start by browning some stew meat, in this case venison, in some oil. Today I had bacon fat from breakfast so I used that. This recipe works well with beef and pork also.

Then I put about half of a 32 ounce box of Cream of Mushroom soup in the bottom of the cooker. I am using a 'don't add water' variety but if you use condensed soup, either put in one small can or 1/2 a large can. You would then add an equal amount of water to the pot right before you start cooking.

Next add the meat. Then a can of un-drained beans. Red, black, white, navy. To paraphrase the late Justin Wilson, use whatever kind of beans that you like to eat!

Then a can of un-drained mushrooms. Fresh work well too.

Now add a box of rice mix. In this case I've used Jambalaya. If you use a packaged Red Beans and Rice, you could omit the canned beans all together.

Now top it all off with the remaining soup or a second small can, and add the water if you are using condensed soup. DO NOT STIR. Cook on low for about 6 hours, 8 if using a roast rather than stew meat.

The nature of a slow cooker is to leave the lid on. Removing the lid allows a lot of heat to escape and increases cooking time. In this case, however, after about 5 hours I check to see if there is enough liquid to completely cook the rice without scorching. Check the rice to see if it is tender and run a spatula around the edge. Add water or broth if necessary and cook for another hour.

I also made a half batch of Ree Drummonds No Knead Rolls to top it off. She has some really good recipes and I recommend you check out the rest of her site. There is enough stew to freeze for another meal in a week or two. I love it when I can cook once and eat twice!

Barn Owl Nest Box Live Video Stream

Live Barn Owl Nest Box video stream. There are 5 eggs about ready to hatch!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

EGGS, we got eggs!

Way more than a family of three can possibly eat (and yet here I sit trying to decide if I should order more chicks!). I use a light in the hen house at night to simulate longer days in the winter so I have been getting 6 to 8 eggs per day for the last six weeks or so. Fortunately they are very versatile and a quick, easy fix. I learned this trick for making a quick egg salad years ago. It also works well when your eggs are too fresh and won't peel easily if hard boiled.

First, crack the desired number of eggs into a sprayed or buttered shallow, microwave safe dish. I'm using a square glass baking pan I bought at the thrift store for $2 and that includes a wicker carrying cover. A glass pie plate works very well also. Break the yolks so they do not explode, but do not mix.

Microwave for one minute and then gently pull the cooked edges to the center. Repeat for another minute and continue at 30 second intervals until your eggs are cooked. This usually runs about 4 minutes total cooking time, depending on how many eggs you use and the depth of the cooking container.

Do not over stir. You want to make sure the whites and yolks remain as separate as possible. You don't want to make scrambled eggs, though you could use this technique for that if desired.

The cooked eggs should show a definite white and yolk separation.

Using a fork, pastry cutter or potato masher, break up the egg into small pieces. From here, use any egg salad recipe you like. I use salt, pepper, a little yellow mustard and homemade mayonnaise but I know some like pickle relish, onions, celery salt or hot sauce. In the immortal words of Yo Gabba Gabba 'go crazy, go crazy'.

Here are my finished sandwiches on lightly toasted sour dough. I also think that egg salad on rye bread is a delicious combination.

So next time you're in a hurry for a quick lunch or snack, give this technique a try. It's been a great help over the years when I've been in a pinch for time. Let me know how it works for you.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St Patricks Day!

The obligatory Corned Beef Tip is in the crock pot with some of last years red potatoes. The reds from last year stored very well in the root cellar and I will be planting them again this years. I already have a few planted in a raised bed and intend to plant some Snow Peas today or tomorrow. The flat leafed parsley is from a pot that I started back in January when the seed catalogs first start arriving and I'm itching to garden but there is 3 feet of snow on the ground..

I have store bought cabbage simmering on the wood stove in well salted water and I'll bake a quick loaf of traditional Irish soda bread to tie it all together. I leave the core in the wedges of cabbage while they cook as this makes it so much easier to serve them without falling completely apart. Love a good excuse to cook up corned beef and cabbage! Perhaps a half batch of Ree Drummonds' apple dumplings for dessert. I only use about half the recommended sugar and they are still PLENTY sweet, yummy!

Some one have a whiskey (or two) for me! HAPPY ST PATRICKS DAY!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Out In The Country

Let me be clear, I am by no means out in the middle of nowhere.  I live between two of the small towns that pop up about 20 miles or so apart in this area.  They generally have a population of around 700, with a bar and feed store and a few churches, most have a gas/convenience or gas/grocery store.  This is not off the grid with an hour drive to the nearest paved road, but 'in the country' on 'small acreage'.    I'm far enough out of town to be unable to get high speed internet, but that is the only sacrifice of modern technology I suffer.  I am only about 20 miles from the county seat, and about 22 miles from a Wal-mart Super-Center.  While there are hospitals and clinics in the area, my toddlers' need for a Pediatric Opthomologist require an 80 mile drive, each way.  A drive which we made today, to spend all of 10 minutes in an exam room to be told that I need to patch his 'good' eye for 4 hours a day and come back in 3 months.  (Having spent the past 6 months cajoling, begging, bribing and forcing him to wear his glasses and the almost weekly visits to the Optometrist for repairs and adjustment, this seems like mission impossible.)  The upside to the drive is the chance to shop at Woodmans for some more exotic foods and visit a few large craft supply stores.  Today I was lucky enough to stumble upon a closeout on natural color Patons' Classic Wool so I stocked up, though I don't have a project in mind. A girl can't have too much wool yarn, can she?

Tomorrow we begin adventures in eye patching a stubborn toddler.

Monday, March 15, 2010

In the Beginning

Here I am at the unofficial start of this garden season. I have the first wave of Cole crops and some early tomato seedlings started and put potato sets out in a raised bed yesterday. The night time lows are hoovering above freezing so I have been able to put some flats out into the hoop house. Mealtime consists manly of the frozen and canned bounty of last years garden. I still have plenty of canned tomatoes and green beans, squash and broccoli in the chest freezer, and potatoes and winter squash in the root cellar.

I am also beginning my my adventures in blogging, my attempt to chronicle my daily life in rural SW Wisconsin. I do my best to live locally, sustainably and frugally with a few indulgences thrown in. I stay at home with my 2 year old son, Boogie, and have an internet shop, where I sell handmade cloth diaper covers. I'm fond of knitting, love animals and cooking (doing the dishes,however, is a whole 'nuther story!). While I am proud of the choices in lifestyle that I make, I don't believe that I am a zealot in any faction. While I prefer to cloth diaper, there are situations where I use disposables as well. I like to cook from scratch, but enjoy the convenience of canned tomato soup in recipes now and then. While the chickens lay eggs, the goats give milk and the rabbits produce fibre, I also have plenty of unproductive animals to feed. Finally, while I would like my son to have handmade and American made clothes and toys, he still has far too many battery operated plastic toys from China and is a Yo Gabba Gabba fan.

I invite you to join me as I begin this new and exciting stage in my life.