Thursday, July 19, 2012

Buttons, Buttons!

Whenever thunderstorms move in, the computers get turned off. Then, since we usually tend to spend a LOT of time on the computers, we need to find other activities to keep busy.

I pulled out the Shrinky Dinks. This time I thought I'd go ahead and make buttons.

I used one of the patterns on the button tutorial found at Scissors.Paper.Wok. Then I pulled out my 1-1/2" circle paper punch and my regular paper hole punch (1/4 inch?) and started punching out the buttons from the Shrinky Dink plastic.

I have one of those obscenely large packages of colored sharpies (not too badly priced when you used one of the occasional 50% off coupons that Michael's offers)...


...and decided to make a button in every color...except black...and brown...I was sticking with the bright colors this time.


I could just picture them going down the front of a cream colored cotton sundress.

This started to be really fun...and as long as the oven didn't heat up the house too much, I was fine letting The Girl keep on coloring Shrinky Dinks.


She made about a half dozen single-hole charms and LOTS of letter "beads" while I continued making buttons. It was just ridiculous how many we made!


It certainly was a fun rainy day activity!



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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Summer Lull

A year ago, I posted about some possible places to visit in the area like the various county fairs in and around Denver and Cheyenne Frontier Days (going on this week) in WyomingI had hoped we would be able to visit some or all of these places this year since we had the “Pickles” with us for the summer instead of with their grandparents, but I kind of killed that possibility when I suggested we start our Total Money Makover. The whole process showed us how much money we DIDN'T have to blow. Besides, we still have braces to pay for for both children. Oh well. We're only 3 months in it and have a long way to go.

It’s hard at times like this when we want to go out and explore and DO stuff (especially since Summer Vacation Boredom has finally kicked in) but extreme budget restraints keep us from it.

Thankfully, the "Pickles" play together so well despite the 4 year age difference and they have their neighborhood friends to help occupy their time.  In fact, the only time The Boy was REALLY bored was the 48-hour time period when his sister had some sort of stomach bug and he had no other playmate around.

One day, Mr. LH pulled out the ultra cheap, ultra ugly bike we picked up at a thrift store for $4 and rode around the block with them for awhile. They spent a good hour racing down the hill in front of the house.


Their cooking lessons have been suspended for awhile since the house is just too hot for cooking. I should mention that The Girl has been preparing lunch for both her brother and herself almost everyday...even if it's simply macaroni and cheese or Ramen noodles. THAT'S a big change from her skills in the kitchen last year. It usually hits 85 degrees or more inside the house in the late afternoon so most of our meals have been cold (sandwiches, salads, etc) or are made on the grill or in the crock pot (which still puts off a lot of heat but is much more comfortable than stovetop or oven cooking).

The EarthBox garden has been somewhat of a diversion for them.


They've been enjoying the fresh cucumbers and the slow harvest of beans that we have started picking. They absolutely love when a cucumber is discovered that has grown unusually large like this monster cuke we plucked from the vine yesterday.


This sucker weighed in at 1.4 lbs and was 11.5 inches long! I guess the little bit of cool weather and rain we got did it some good! I've had reports from neighbors that their cucumbers (grown in the ground) didn't survive the triple digit temperatures so we've been sharing our harvest with them.

We've also been watching the cherries slowly ripen... 


Hopefully, we'll get most of the fruit before the birds do. I can't figure out what kind of cherry tree we have and don't know when the cherries should be ripe. All I know is they were still yellow with a blush of red on them in September 2010 and they were SOUR! Maybe it was a late season? Last year we didn't get any cherries. This year they already look riper than they did that September.

(update - they are cherry plums)



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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

So How's The Budgeting Going?

We've started month three of our Total Money Makeover. Part of me says "Oh, it's easy!" but another part of me feels the crunch towards the end of the month when there are still a few odd bills that come in late (though they are budgeted for) and the bank balance starts to look scary low or the grocery money envelope has a few less bills in it than I would like.

Of course, it doesn't help that the "Pickles" suddenly needed orthodontics work on their teeth. We put it off for another month to scrounge up the down payment rather than putting it on a credit card. The monthly payments were added into our (already tight) budget. Thank heavens our dental insurance covered half.

Then there were the holidays and birthdays that seemed to come one after another...Mother's Day, Father's Day and Mr. LH's birthday. I was becoming creative with the low budget/no budget gift giving.

The "Pickles" also don't like the idea of NOT going to fun places this summer like the Renaissance Festival or Pirate's Cove, though we scout out other forms of (free) entertainment.


We learned more about the insurance plans we had and altered them where we could. I also called our phone company and changed some plans around, kept all the same services, and saved $17 to $20 off our monthly bill.

We've started going to the library more often...not just for books, but for free movies, too. (We didn't budget anything for entertainment - not even the cheap $1/ per night RedBox movies).

By the time July started, Mr. LH and I had paid off two student loans and one credit card (where most of our Vail trip was charged). We were starting on the larger bills...the ones that were $2000, $7000 and (gulp) $17000. This, I believed, would begin the harder part of the journey...the part where a bill wouldn't be eliminated every month. Their balances would just decrease over time until they were each finally paid off in turn.

Still, ALL of our bills are paid every month so we don't stress, we eat well though the menu isn't as varied as I would prefer and and we don't want for anything we truly need.  I'd say the budgeting is going well.



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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Our July 4th Holiday

July 4th 2012... Hump-day...Mr. LH got a break in the middle of the week and could spend it with us. There were no fireworks displays nearby and nowhere else we really cared to go so we stayed home. We do that a lot...stay home. You might say we're anti-social...

We spent the day doing other things like harvesting basil...


Making & Eating more Fried Peach Pies...



Car Washing...

Grilling...



And of course...eating...





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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fried Peach Pies

Every once in awhile when I start daydreaming of someday owning a homestead (one of my many crazy dreams that I'm not sure I really want), I pull out our beloved copy of Reader's Digest Back To Basics book and flip through. 


On this most recent occassion, I spent more time in the recipe section. I've read this book from cover to cover many times so nothing was new information, but with peaches going on sale everywhere, one recipe held my attention. The Fried Peach Turnover.

You can click on the image for an enlarged version for downloading or printing the recipe
I have always heard about Fried Hand Pies (or turnovers or crab lanterns or whatever you want to call them) in the South...but can you believe that as long as I lived there I never (as in not ever) had one?  Well I bought up a bag of plump juicy peaches and got to work!

Peeled Peaches - the task went surprisingly quick

The dough was a pain in the neck. It was so dry I spent forever trying to make a decent turnover without having a "blow-out". I managed to get 6 turnovers before I got fed up and tossed the dough out. Note: I tried the recipe again later and first sifted the flour THEN measured it THEN sifted it again with the other dry ingredients. It made a big difference in the work-ability of the dough.




After frying them, I sprinkled a generous amount of powdered sugar on top and ate one. It was unbelievably good! The crust just melted in my mouth. The flavors were perfect. It was SO GOOD!

When the "Pickles" tried one, their eyes rolled into their heads as they sighed and munched. They said this was definitely a "make again" recipe.






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Sunday, July 1, 2012

First Harvest

I can't explain the joy I get from finding a veggie buried beneath a canopy of leaves and ready for picking. I can't explain it, but it's there...like this morning when I found my first cucumber, plump and ready.


It's the first harvest of the year and we gobbled it up immediately.


Can't wait for more.



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