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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How to Make Simple Syrup

Simple Syrup is one of my favorite things to make to sweeten beverages such as Sun Tea. It is very simple, very easy to make, but I am so surprised at how many people don't know how!

I prefer it because it is a syrup and blends into the beverage. Nothing against sugar being served, but sugar does not blend in well to cold drinks!

How to Make Simple Syrup


I use one to one proportions so I use 1 cup of sugar to 1 cup of water. You can change that to preferences such as 3/4 cup sugar to 1 cup water. I use a small pan to make my Simple Syrup in.


Add one cup of sugar. I used organic sugar which is brown, but if you want to use white sugar, that is fine.


Add one cup of water.


Over medium to medium high heat, bring the sugar and water to a boil. You need to watch your pan so the syrup does not boil over! I let mine boil for 2-3 minutes.

Take the syrup off of the burner and let cool. Feel free to add it to your beverages! What you don't use can be refrigerated for about a week.

Super simple!

Thanks for reading!
Erica

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sun Tea in a Jar

Tea...I love it cold, hot, and always a bit sweet! Green, red, black, herbal, chai, bagged, loose, and any other kind out there. I love it!

I have been looking for a more friendly way to make, store, and transport tea. I love sun tea, but in Iowa that is not always practical. Nor is having to store a gallon size container in the fridge.

Then I had an idea! A brilliant idea!

I could use quart size canning jars! They would be fit in my window sill and sun themselves to completion. They fit in my fridge much, much better. They are easily transported. They can be drunk out of and reduce dishes. These are much, much cheaper than buying cold tea at the store.

They are awesome!


What do you need:
* a quart size jar (or pint if you want smaller portions)
* a bag of tea
* water

Fill jar with water. Add tea bag. Screw lid on jar. Put in a sunny place to brew. Voila!

Easy! You can do it too!

Thanks for reading!
Erica

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday Frugal Update

This week we did what we could to save money and will continue to keep saving money as well as not spend any money. I did get Easter shopping done, checked out and stocked up on some things from a Kmart that is closing, and bought track tights and shirt for Paige (ouch!).

In the next few weeks, I want to share with you in various posts some of the every day things I do to save money. I do a lot around the house that I don't even think about any more, but may be useful to you!

Jordan went to prom with her cousin/friend at another school. Being money conscious as she is, she knew Mom would not buy another dress (considering her mother is not buying a dress for her prom - she is!). She borrowed a dress from a friend, Shali did her hair, she borrowed shoes from Shali, and used her prom jewelry from last year. She didn't spend a dime and looked awesome! If I had a good picture, I would post it for you!

Dane and I started seeds today in the seed starting pods. I bought the soil and pots a few weeks ago and just now got to starting them. We decided to start peas since we want an early crop of them, some beets for experimentation, and marigolds. All in all, we started 50 plants. We might start more if I can find more little pots in the garage tomorrow.


I got several freebies in the mail. I downloaded several books for my Kindle from Amazon. I also listed a lot of books on Amazon to sale.

I am going through bedrooms and closets on a more serious purging of stuff. I finally decided to have a garage sale with a friend of mine to coincide with the city wide garage sales in May. I wasn't going to have one, but we have a lot of stuff looking for potential homes!

We did not eat out at all last week as a family (I can't really speak for the girls). Yeah! The kids did go out with their dad, grandparents, and aunt/uncle/cousins for their grandparents' 40th wedding anniversary. We did make granola, banana chips, frozen berry sauce, sun tea in a jar, soaked nuts, and used up a lot of leftovers. This week, I am going through the freezer trying to use up the oldest meat in there to keep it fresh.

Last night I fixed a few flashlights. The power was out for several hours and the flashlights make getting around the house easier! Some needed cleaning and some just needed batteries.

We hung a lot of laundry outside last week! The wind and warmth made for great drying conditions! We also shut off the furnace for a few days and opened windows. Love the fresh air! Now if Spring would stick around for longer than a 3-4 days, that would be wonderful!

Thanks for reading!
Erica

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

In A Holding Pattern...

Feels like I am just waiting and waiting and waiting. Waiting for the nicer weather that is now here and hopefully staying. Waiting for the chicks to arrive. Waiting to plant my garden. Waiting to get my yard cleaned up and in shape. Waiting to build my raised beds. Waiting to be outside in my favorite outfit, tee shirts and jeans.

What is a girl to do while she is waiting? Plan, plan, and plan. Spring clean the house. Reorganize bedrooms. Purge clothes and toys. Figure out where to put the day lilies and how to landscape around them. Watch the amount of sunlight around the barn to make sure the blueberry bushes will get enough sun. Decide what to plant in her planters by the driveway: pretty, functional, or both?

Look at lots of chicken coop plans and decide that I don't want to build anything really. I have two buildings at my disposal and have decided that I want to boot the dog out of her dog house in the barn and put the chicks there. I think it was once a place for the milk separator, but it seems like the perfect amount of room for 12-15 chickens and nesting boxes and a waterer and a feeder. I just need to build a run or get a dog kennel for the chickens to run.

Decide if I want any other animals or livestock. I would love to have a calf or two and a pig or two for meat, but I better stick with keeping chicks alive first. I have to remind myself that taking baby steps are good for my sanity.

Research beekeeping. I know where I could put the hives, but I don't know what is all required and if northern Iowa is a good place for hives. How does one winter bee hives? Lots of questions yet.

Research perennial vegetables and fruits. I would like a homestead that provides food most of the year, but to do that means I have to plant with that in mind. I am already planting asparagus for spring eating, but I want to do more. I also need to buy these vegetables first to make sure my family will eat them.

Staying in the holding pattern for a bit longer. So many dreams, so many plans, so little time!

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Monday, April 7, 2014

Monday Frugal Update

We had some big things happen this week in the house...

Rob came down last week and helped to move some of my family to assisted living. We got a free full-size bed, the bedding, and some odds and ends for helping. We set the new bed up in Dane's room and took down the bunk beds. They will be going to Rob's house for the kids to sleep on. We rearranged Dane's room and cleaned out a lot of stuff which has me thinking about having a garage sale. Great weekend to get a lot done! We have a few more things to do and I would like to replace the paneling in his room yet. We shall see.

We are also working on Paige's room to clean it out to get her ceiling fixed. It will have to either be re-plastered or put sheet rock over the ceiling. She had a crack start this last fall that has gotten progressively worse over the winter.

I also got the outdoor clotheslines tightened up and hung three loads of laundry outside on Sunday! I love the smell of clothes dried outside!

Since I had to put new rear shocks in my van this past week, I am putting off car shopping. So far, I have put $700-800 into my van since January and feel like it can last a bit longer. And by putting off the decision, I can save more money for something a bit newer.

I got my raise and bonus for the year from work. I got a $.40 an hour raise and a bonus of almost $1900. That will help the budget tremendously!

I have started setting up reminders in my phone to help me remember to pay my bills on time. This month, that reminder system has saved me $10 in late fees since I usually forget to pay my cell phone bill on time. A lot of my bills are taken out automatically, but I have slowly been quitting this system so I am not hit with unexpected and unpleasant surprises on my bills.

I got another bag of clothes for Dane which consisted on mostly shirts, sweatshirts, and a few pants! Huzzah!

I made granola, two loaves of cinnamon, and plenty of leftovers. I need to get to the store today for the boneless, skinless chicken breasts that are on sale and a staple in most of my recipes. I have several new recipes to try and need these to do so!

I have pretty much gone on a spending freeze for any extras right now. I am finding myself spending money when I should be saving as much as I can, but I have so many things that I want to get done or fixed. I have a grill that I need parts for. I did order the new burners for it last night. We will be visiting a store closing this week and finishing Easter shopping so that will be most of my spending for this week.

Gardening should be starting soon here. I am getting marigolds started and considering starting a few of my other plants for the garden. If the weather continues to be nice, I will have the tree out my next weekend and possibly one of my raised beds built. *Finger crossed* Maybe I will find a chicken coop too by the end of the week! I am very anxious to get my chicks and get started!

Thanks for reading!
Erica

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

$10 Preparedness Challenge: Challenge #1 First Aid

One of the things I have been trying to do in the last few months is a $10 preparedness challenge. I have mostly been challenging myself and proving to myself that anyone on a budget could prep. I have been budgeting $10 every pay period (bi-weekly) to use towards preps.

For you all, I will be going to different stores and cover multiple areas for everyone to see where and how your money can stretch. Even in Iowa, the variety of stores can be change from east to west, north to south. Also, since I am so close to Minnesota, I shop there too. So I will be bring you different stores in the $10 Challenge.

Preps can be anything! Prepping has many, many areas. If you don't want to be considered a prepper, you still need things to be ready for any emergency or disaster.

This particular challenge had me concentrating on what I would consider to be a good start to a first aid kit. I have a couple kits already so this would be additional items to have on hand for me or to start another kit for one of my kids. Either way, you should still have these basics on hand.




This week's challenge took me to Dollar General and I concentrated on a First Aid essentials. This is what I purchased:

Hydrogen Peroxide    $1.00
Cloth Tape      $2.00
Non Stick pads      $2.35
Triple Antibiotic Ointment   $2.50
Gauze pads     $1.00
Band Aids       $1.00
Total     $9.85

This is what I would consider to be a very basic kit or a good start to one. For $10, you can get a lot!
Of course, in the future, I would add to this. I will show you what I would add in future posts!

Thanks for reading!
Erica 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Monday Frugal Update

This week has been interesting. We have been without internet for ten days now. We should have it back tomorrow when the technician comes and figures why the modem doesn't read the router and the router doesn't read the modem. I changed the cable three times with no luck. They think it is the outlet on the modem. We shall see. I had to buy a new router because of it so I hope that is not in vain. I wasn't thrilled about spending $77 for a new one.

Being without internet has been a learning experience for the family. No internet meant the girls could not do homework for school since many of their assignments are done/sent online. No internet meant no Netflix, YouTube, online games, and a lot of boredom for a little boy. Dane actually handled it pretty well until last Saturday, but he managed to stay busy or was kept busy.

No internet also meant a lot more productive house which I will keep in mind and use to my advantage in the future!

Although I was happy that I had data on my phone...

This week we did not eat out at all which is a miracle for how busy we were. Having girls that can cook, leftovers to use up, and making some big meals helped greatly. Planning ahead is the key!

I made two loaves of bread, a batch of granola, a pan of brownies, and a pan of orange-coconut bars to eat. Delish!

We used scrap lumber from another project to button up the dog house a bit and prevent her from going back into the rest of the barn. I need to put plastic over the window since a pane broke, but that should be a big deal.

We did a lot of cleaning and some spring cleaning!

I made my own carpet freshener using an old parmesan cheese container. I filled it with a small box of baking soda and 10 drops each of lime, lemon, and sweet orange essential oils. I loved the smell! The carpet smelled wonderful too!

I cut my own bangs. I also found three shirts for myself at the thrift shop!

Still hanging up the laundry! I used the dryer twice last week for towels and socks (in the same load). I tightened up two of the four clotheslines outside. I will get the other two done this week. I wanted to hang laundry outside on Sunday, but nothing was staying on the line with the gale force winds we were having!

I downloaded several books on to my Kindle for free and signed up for freebies on the web! Can't wait to get the goodies! I did receive a sample shampoo and conditioner in the mail.

Fairly quiet week! I can't wait for spring to finally get here!

Thanks for reading!
Erica