Monday, March 26, 2012

Crazy Busy

It's been crazy busy around here lately. But it's also been kind of boring. One day it's all outside work, tilling the garden, working in a truck load of composted manure, playing in the dirt. The next it's indoors and the kids are whining "there's nothing to do!" Boy that sounds familiar! I used to drive my mom up the wall when I said that! Then Dad would pipe up and say, "I'll give you something to do!" Which usually meant chores so I'd scoot outside and go find me something to do that didn't involve cleaning the litter box, or doing dishes, or vacuuming.

Spring is in the air and I've got all my seeds and potatoes and strawberries on stand-by, waiting to be planted. We tilled the garden twice and it looks so good! I love freshly-tilled soil, when it's soft and you just want to take off your shoes and sink your toes in there, but wait, we just tilled in cow poo-- eww! The kids ball up the dirt and throw dirt balls at each other and when I catch 'em, I holler, "cow poop!" which makes them drop whatever they got quick. But I guess soft soil is just irresistible and they soon start their dirt ball fights again. Bath night!

I lost a Buff Orpington hen the other day. She was acting funny the evening before and I carried her into the coop. She seemed alright, shook her feathers and hopped into a nesting box.  In the morning, when I opened the coop, she was dead on the floor. She was one of the original 12 chickens I got 3 years ago. Out of 12, I still have 4 left.

I had to play Doctor to Peter last night.  He was jumping from bed to bed and I guess he slipped and landed on the floor on his chin. Split his chin open, but it wasn't obvious at first when he came to me crying. I thought maybe he hurt his chest or something, so I held him and consoled him, scolded him a little bit for jumping on the beds and "see what happens when you do what you're not supposed to do?"  When he pulled away, there was blood on my shirt. Wha..??   So I looked him over and when he lifted his chin up, the cut was wide open and I could see bone. If I didn't have to be doctor I would have played the fainting patient. Cleaned it, used those special bandages that hold wounds shut, swabbed ointment on it, then slapped a big, honking bandage on top of everything to keep him from picking at it. Gave the boy some pain meds and typical kid, he was back to jumping from bed to bed again.

Trying to take it easy today, keeping him occupied with little projects. I changed bandages this morning and it's closed up and healing nicely. I'm surprised he isn't picking at the bandages yet, but I'm glad he's not. I probably jinxed it by saying that and the next time I see him, the bandage is going to be hanging off his chin or something.

We've been doing the Spring Cleaning thing. It's so true, after being cooped up all winter, that as soon as you can open windows and freshen everything up, you get bit by the cleaning bug. Trying to de-clutter and toss out old stuff. I got the kitchen counter cleared and my side of the closet is organized. Papers sorted and put where they belong. Made new curtains for the living room. The yard is picked up of little bits and pieces. Andrew has been burning away old leaves and overgrowth. It's feeling pretty good around here!

Looking forward to Easter. We've invited Andrew's parents to come down, so I'll make dinner and we'll hide eggs for the kids. I don't dye eggs usually, but I think I'll do that this year as part of a science project with the kids-- using food for dyes.  Red cabbage for pink colors, Tea for brown, curry powder for yellow... It'll be fun. Peter got into the plastic eggs a couple weeks ago, and there were colorful eggs all over the house! Waited until after the kids went to bed to pick them up and put them away (read: HIDING THEM!) and the next morning, Peter pitched a fit when he couldn't find the eggs.  He went from room to room, crying "Eggs! My eggs!" over and over before he got distracted with something else.

The Easter Bunny is well-stocked with candy and goodies thanks to couponing. The girls used to ask why I saved the plastic eggs, didn't the Easter Bunny bring new ones every year??  I told them the Bunny couldn't afford to buy new ones every year, so we leave out the basket and the empty eggs at night and while we sleep, he fills them and leaves a little surprise in the baskets.

Evelyn asked me this year if I believed in the Easter Bunny. "Absolutely!" I told her. I remember making little paper baskets and filling them with candy and eggs, leaving them at the door, ringing the doorbell then hiding in the bushes waiting, watching for my friend Mark to discover the basket! I signed the note, 'To Mark, From the Easter Bunny'.   I asked if she thought the Easter Bunny was real and she thought for awhile and replied, "I think so."  I told her if she didn't believe in the Easter Bunny, he wouldn't leave anything for her. Her eyes got wide and she said she did believe! Made me smile.

I can expect another crazy busy week.. Lots going on this weekend and next. I'll try for pictures next post! Til then.. Happy Spring!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Evil Cashiers

As we all know, I coupon.  I have a big ol' coupon binder. I buy 2-4 newspapers every Sunday. I spend  at least 2 hours every week cutting out and organizing my coupons. I do my "homework" to find the best deals and matching up coupons with sales to get the most of my money. I spend about an hour every day on the internets checking coupon websites and blogs for the latest hot coupons or notifications on unadvertised deals. I do pretty well for the small town I live in and the limited stores I have access to. I go to the next big town over for the bigger stores, like Target, Walmart and the big grocery store that doubles coupons.  In my little town, I only have CVS, Rite Aid, Food Lion and a family-owned food store.

That said, I know most of the people that work at my small town stores. I know which cashiers are easy-going about coupons and which ones to avoid like the plague. One of the stores has a woman that I call the 'coupon nazi' because she is an absolute hard nose when it comes to coupons and often hands some of them back to me, refusing to take them. I don't do anything illegal when I use my coupons. I make sure they are for the right item, the right size, not expired...  Some stores allow you to use both the store coupon and the manufacturer's coupon on the same item. This store does, but coupon nazi won't let me. She won't even scan it to see if the machine takes it or not.  If the machine beeps, then it won't take, but trust me when I say the machine won't beep, but she won't take it.  So I have learned not to go to her when I have a lot of coupons to use.

I am on a first name basis with some of the cashiers and managers and it's a really nice thing, too.  They know me and I know them.  They'll sometimes go the extra mile for me and I always have a smile and say nice things. I know better than to behave rudely and like I said, I do my homework so that when I get to the store, I know exactly what to get and which coupons to use to pay the least amount of money possible.

There's a particular lady that works at CVS. Whenever I walk in and see her behind the counter, I scream inside my head, "Noooooooooo!"  I smile and wave hello, and hope that maybe this time, there will be no problem. Every single time I get her, she gives me attitude about my coupons. She won't take something, or she shakes her head the whole time she scans my coupons. She won't scan my bag tag because I don't have a bag, but I am not using the store's bag, so scan the bag tag! She often has to call the manager over because she has issues with what I am buying or my coupons, or my extra care bucks. She punches the computer screen so hard it shakes. One time she even sneered at me and said, "I never use coupons!"  Well good for you lady, but I have 4 children, a husband out of work and I need to make every penny go as far as I can get it! Maybe if she used coupons, she wouldn't have to work at her old age now.

I went to CVS today. She was there. *sigh*  I wasn't going to get much, so I hoped there would be no problems. No coupons to use, but I did have some extra care bucks and a gift card, so no money comes out of my pocket. I smiled, waved, and said, "How are you today?" as I walked in the store. I browsed a bit, checked the clearances, picked up my items and then went up to her to pay. First thing she did was hand me a piece of paper with a handwritten note on it: We cannot take any expired coupons (not word for word, but that's what she meant). I read it and looked up at her and said, "I never use expired coupons."

"Oh, I just wanted to make sure you knew that. Some people try to use them and we can't take them." She pooh-poohed her hands at me and nodded as if she was just telling me something important.

So what is she trying to tell me? "Well, I don't use expired coupons so you don't have to worry," I tell her. Then I get her to scan my items and I hand over $10 in extra care bucks and a gift card that has a $10 value on it. She looks at them and says she can't take the card, it's too much money. I tell her she takes the extra care bucks, then use the gift card to pay the remaining balance and I take the gift card back with what's left on it.  She tells me I can't do that. I say I can, to just treat it like a gift card. She gives me a look, like "Ok, but I don't think it will work."

Sure enough, she takes the $10 extra care bucks, then uses the $10 gift card and treats it like a gift card and ta-dah! The machine takes out the remaining balance and I keep the card and whats left on it.  She's dumbfounded and I tell her, "Now you know!"

I swear, every. single. time. If I get her, she has issues with me. It makes my husband mad that I come home and tell him, "I got the old lady at CVS today," because whenever I say that, he knows I had a problem with her. It's getting to the point when there is a hot sale at CVS, I choose to go to the bigger town farther away just so I don't have to deal with her. She might not be there that day, but I don't have her schedule, I don't know which days she's there or not. It's just easier to go to the other CVS where all the people treat me nicely.

I know there are some people who don't use coupons at all, others that use them a little bit, and others, like me, who use them to bring a grocery bill down from $65.00 to $10.00.  Just because I shop this way: take the extra time to sit down, do my homework, check the internets for unadvertised bargains, plan my shopping trip, print or cut out coupons, does not make me evil. It does not mean I am breaking the law. I am not illegally using fraudulent coupons or scratching off bar codes or wiping out the shelves. I am simply a consumer that has figured out how to get the maximum value out of coupons and sales. My husband likes to put it this way: The money I save is like a paycheck for all the hours I put into couponing. Well said.

I don't know what her beef is, maybe she is just jealous that I save all this money and walk out with a full shopping cart without having to take out my wallet.  Maybe she's mad that she has to work instead of being at home playing with the grandkids. Maybe she tried couponing once and she didn't like all the work involved or it didn't save her the kind of money she thought it would.  Maybe she buys the wrong newspaper that carries no coupons. Whatever the reason, I wish she'd snap out of it and stop taking it out on me. Maybe I'll have Andrew come with me next time and if she's the cashier, I'll send him and see if she gives him a hard time. Then I'll know if she treats everyone like that or is it just me.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Good Eats: Stuffed Pepper Soup

This is so good you guys! Oh my gosh! This is just like making stuffed peppers but in soup form!!
I've been hungry for green peppers lately, and then, perfect timing! They go on sale 2 for a dollar! Went out and bought 10! Used 2 in some great steak kabobs on the grill when we had a freaky warm day and couldn't bear the thought of cooking indoors. Used some more peppers in omelets on a breakfast-for-dinner night. Peppers mixed in scalloped potatoes. Peppers mixed in cooked ground beef. And now, Stuffed Pepper Soup!

Picked this up off one of those store magazines you get for free by the door, but can't remember when. I clipped it out to try and with my pepper craving, it seemed the perfect time to make it! I've never made stuffed peppers for the kids, but I could easily imagine their reactions to me plopping a soft, mushy, stuffed pepper on their plates and expecting them to eat it. Can't you just hear the "ewwws" and "what's this?" and see those scrunched up faces???  I figured stuffed peppers deconstructed into a soup would be easier to swallow-- in more ways than one!

It's a slow-cooker recipe, but I didn't get started on it until the afternoon, so I just simmered it a few hours on the stove instead. It smells heavenly and after an hour, every single child came in and asked what I was cooking. After telling them what it was, I scooped a tortilla chip into the mixture and shoveled it in their mouths-- instant "yum!"  Come dinner time, I had no problems getting them to clean their bowls! It's *that* good! 

I also made the mistake of doubling this. No need!  This makes a lot! Only a pound of meat? I thought it wouldn't be enough, so I doubled it, and I'm left with a lot of leftovers. But I'm not complaining-- I'll happily eat this for lunch tomorrow! It was just a little bland for my taste, so I spiced it up by adding more black pepper and some steak seasoning spices-- ah, much better!

Here's the recipe, let me know if you make this!

Slow Cooker Stuffed Pepper Soup

1 lb. ground turkey (I used ground beef instead)
1 cup chopped onion
1 tsp. minced garlic
28 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
6 oz can tomato paste
4 cups low sodium chicken broth (I used beef broth)
3 cups chopped green pepper
2/3 cup uncooked rice (white or brown)
2 tbsp brown sugar, packed
1 tsp dried basil
black pepper to taste

In large skillet, cook turkey (or beef), onion and garlic over medium heat until browned. Drain any fat and transfer mixture to a slow cooker.  Add remaining ingredients and stir gently to mix. Cook on low for 8-9 hours. Add water to thin if necessary. 

(my version: cook meat in a big pot, drain fat, add remaining ingredients and cook on a low simmer for 3 hours)


Thursday, March 8, 2012


It's almost that time of year again, when I take things to the children's consignment shop to sell. Friends recently gave us some clothing from their children, so it was time to sort through all the boxes to see what fit, what to pass down from one child to another, save for later, and finally, decide which to donate, use for rags, or sell.

This was an all day job! First I sorted through the boxes and separated by gender, then by size. Working with the girl clothes first, I had Evelyn pull everything out of her drawers and we took out all the too-small clothing, and then let her pick what she wanted from the pile of clothes in her size.  10 short-sleeves, 10 long-sleeves, 10 shorts/skirts, 10 pants/jeans. Repeat two more times for Gretchen, then Sylvia.

Clothing that Sylvia no longer wears is an easy decision-- most of those will go to be sold or donated. Clothes too small for Gretchen or Evelyn will be saved for the next year or two, until they are too small for even Sylvia to wear. I have quite the pile of clothes that are in good condition to sell, and some that I know won't pass the consignment's store inspection, but still have lots of good wear left in them, they'll be donated.  Clothes with holes and bad stains will be turned into rags. There are some bright colors-- I'm thinking of a rainbow rag rug with some of those...

Well, how about that? I actually followed through on my idea and started a rainbow rag rug!! I may do a double rainbow, since this isn't very big and I've only 2 more colors to do-- blue and purple. Using kid-sized clothes presents a challenge, since as it gets bigger, I won't be able to take the color all the way around. See the yellow? I barely made it one and a half times around. It's looking really nice, though-- the colors are kind of muted in the picture, it's much brighter in real life.

I didn't finish going through all the boy clothes yet. I hope to finish that this week.
 Another advantage of sorting the clothes is finding out what we need or are short-handed on.  It's nice to see that I won't have to buy any clothing for at least a year or two, except for shoes. We're well stocked on pretty much all articles of clothing, which is a nice feeling when one's husband is out of work and money is tight.

 We are so blessed to have such good friends that think of us, and lucky in that we don't mind hand-me-downs. We've always practiced what we preached to the kids, about buying used at the thrift stores or yard sales, saving money, and making do or do without. I'm glad to see that the kids are happy with what they have and no gumbling about it being "old" or belonging to some other kid. Thanks for thinking of us!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Hard Lessons

Poor Evelyn.

She had a couple of hard life lessons to learn recently.

First, she took out her anger at her sister and destroyed an article of clothing. Big no-no. Her punishment was an apology, of course, and to also replace that item. So we took them to the thrift shop so Gretchen could pick out a replacement and Evelyn had to pay for it with her own money.

Lesson One.

We went next door to the grocery store to pick up a few items and for some reason, they all seemed to have taken a silly pill which resulted in poor behavior at the store. I hate when they act up like that and all I want to do is to hurry up, pay, and get out of there! Just as we were ringing out, Evelyn gasped and she said she lost her wallet!

Oh, no!

We quickly parked the cart to the side and marched up and down the aisles.  I wish I could say we found it, but no such luck. It was a cute little fabric wallet she made out of yellow cowboy fabric and held all of her dollars, probably close to $25. Went to the front desk to leave a note and a number to call if it turns up. One more check through the aisles and it was time to go.

When we got to the car, I told her I knew exactly how she felt, I once lost my birthday money when I was about her age and I remember checking at the front desk for weeks afterwards, hoping it would show up. I know it was no consolation to her to hear that Mama knows how she feels-- right now she is just so upset with losing it. I told her, in the future, she needs to leave her money at home, hold on to it tightly, or give it to Mama or Daddy for safe-keeping.

Lesson Two.

After we got home, she asked quietly if we could have a bowl of ice cream to soothe her pain. Ok, just this once.  Hopefully, some nice person found it and turned it in. We'll call tomorrow and again in a couple of days to see if it turned up, but I'd be very, very surprised if we ever saw it again.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Got Milk?

 Does this qualify as kitten torture?

(I was nice, I let him have some!)