Friday, December 30, 2011

Cover Me, I'm Going In!

This afternoon I'm going to tackle my nemesis room--the study.  That is my main focus for my clean start in 2012 (mostly because I all ready did the living room before decorating for Christmas, and the master bedroom this fall when I moved my sewing stuff into DS2's room after he left for college).

Here are some "before" pictures of the study to show you what I'm facing.

standing in the doorway, facing the south wall

standing in the doorway, facing east

standing near the desk, facing west (the desk takes up most of the west wall)

As you can see, taming and organizing this mess will be no quick or easy task.  So, cover me, I'm going in!  I have to kill the clutter before it kills me. 

I confess, there is another motive too.  I'm hoping that cleaning out this room will convince DH to finish the wall-to-wall book case (with storage drawers/cupboards underneath) for the south wall that he started about five years ago, got stuck in his designing, and left unfinished as just the 'shelf' that all the crap proceeded to accumulate on. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Clean Start

A clean start (also known as a fresh start, but I'm sticking with 'clean' for this post).  Isn't that what we've all wished for at least once in our lives?  The chance to erase past problems, mistakes, or regrets, and start all over again.  A chance to do things differently, better, with a more happy result.

With the new year soon to begin, I've decided to make a clean start, of sorts.

Don't worry, I'm not leaving this little place here.  Not changing my marital status; we're at 18 1/2 and shooting for 20, LOL!  I'm still going to be an involved mom, an ever-present part of my children's lives while they are still at home. 

My clean start is with my house.  It's slid way too far down the slope of disorganization, clutter, and ever growing dust bunnies. It's not like the health department is going to condemn it or anything; no, it's just that I'm a person who thrives on order, and the house (well, more than the house--the garage, the garden, even the barn) has become a stressful chaotic mess.  This hasn't been an overnight thing.  Or even a 'December is so busy getting ready for Christmas' thing.  Nope, it's taken a few years to get to this point, and I'm just not going to let it go any further.  This is my rock bottom of disorder.

It's time for me to take it back over.  I'm the lady of the house.  It's my domain, and I'm the one who gets to set the standard.  My standard is organization.  Simplicity.  Peace.  Not stuff it here, there, anywhere, cuz we're too busy to deal with it.  Not "Mom I don't feel like cleaning so I'm going to stall until you get distracted with something else and  don't notice I haven't swept the stairs all week".   Not things that MIL sent over via Sister-In-Law or DH that DH didn't know what to do with, have a use for, or a place to put them so he abandoned them for me to deal with.

Clean.  Orderly.  Useful. Enjoyable.  Those are the new tenets of this little place here.  This really isn't a home of children any longer.  This is a home with two 40-somethings, a teen about to leave for college (aka pseudo-adulthood) in eight months, and a teen who should be knee deep in her training on how to run a home.  No excuse for dust bunnies, streaky windows, or piles of things stuffed into the room that is supposed to be the study/home office.  No need for toys that never got fixed after they broke years ago, or board games or decks of cards that are missing half their components.  And no need for the things MIL sent that we don't want and will never use, but are keeping just because she gave them to us.

So, between now and midnight the thirty-first, there will be a whole lot of decluttering going on.  Usable things will be listed on Freecycle and Craigslist.  Donations dropped off at Goodwill.  A whole lot of sweeping and mopping going on.  Dust bunny evictions.  Cobweb deconstructions.  The trash bin will probably be full on Monday morning; full of things not re-usable, donate-able, compost-able, or burn-able.

I'll greet 2012 with a clean start.  With some order and structure instead of feeling like I'm always flying by the seat of my pants and getting buried in stuff other people want me to have/take care of.  Hopefully it will at least last until maple syrup season starts in February or early March.  With great will power (and willing daughters and husband), it will become a permanent thing--the next phase of my life: the orderly and relaxing home.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Surprise Sighting

Monday afternoon I sat down to the dining room table for lunch.  I sat facing the sliding door that looks out over the back yard and the field.  I noticed a large black spot in one of the trees on the edge of the woods.  Then I thought I saw a blindingly white spot right above the black spot.

So, I jumped up and got the binoculars (that handily live on the ledge in the dining room, for ease of looking at things in the field).  The binoculars confirmed my thought that the black spot with the white spot made up a bald eagle.  Very rare thing to see at this little place here.  They usually live a couple hundred miles north.

I don't know where this one came from; it was in the tree all ready when I looked out the door.

I don't know where it went; it stayed in that tree for almost an hour, and I got busy with other things.  When I looked out the door later in the afternoon, it was gone.

Very cool. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Frugal Food #10 Soup!

It's officially winter.  And winter is a great time to eat soup!  It's warm, it's hearty, it's comforting. It's easy and cheap to make!  (That is, if you're not opening giant cans of it to give your family a soup dinner.)

Soup is flexible.  You can make soup out of just about anything.  Remember the story of Stone Soup?  That about sums it up.  Throw a little of this, a little of that, a bunch of water and some seasonings into a pot, let it simmer, and viola, you have soup.

Bones are great things to use.  Christmas is coming; are you serving ham?  If so, and you are using a real ham (with a bone) vs 'ham' that has been shaped and formed into a boneless loaf-type of thing, don't throw out that bone!  Use it to make a filling batch of bean or split pea soup in the days after the holiday.

Same thing if you are serving a turkey for the big holiday meal: save the bones (aka the carcass).  Boil them in some water, and you have the base for turkey noodle soup.

Pork bones, beef bones, and chicken bones, all make great soup stock.  Or, go vegetarian and use tomato juice as your soup base.  Or potatoes, milk and cheese for a thick yummy potato soup.

I won't post any recipes here, because
1. I'm short on time and want to get this posted ;0),
2. there are tons of soup recipes on the Internet for those who seek them out.

Seek them out!  Soup is a very cheap meal to make.  Serve it with some form of bread (crackers, rolls, biscuits, muffins, even just slices of buttered bread), and you have a full belly very cheaply.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Look What I Made!

This is especially for those of you with wee little ones in your life.  Here is something I made my niece (born at the end of September) for Christmas.

It's called a "Bapron", or baby apron.

 I got the instructions here:

Super easy to make; even beginner seamstresses should find it doable.  For the advanced sewer, you can make self-bias tape like I did, or you can 'cheat' and use purchased bias tape.  Start to finish, it took less than an hour to create. 

It has a 100 % cotton novelty print on front.

And pale yellow cotton flannel on back.  The bias tape at neckline makes the ties for around baby's neck, while the bias tape at the shoulders make armholes, hence the 'apron'. 

Total cost outlay: probably less than a dollar, as it uses so little fabric.  The print was a discounted 'end' I picked up for less than $2 for about a yard of fabric, the flannel was leftover from a baby quilt I made 10 years ago, and I made the bias tape from the print rather than buying pre-made bias.  I have enough of the print leftover that I could probably make 3-4 more.

(For those that may have noticed, yes, I did cut the fabric wrong--the print is upside down on the bapron.  My excuse is that now my niece can 'read' it when she is wearing it--looking down at it--LOL.  Really, I forgot when I was pinning the pattern to the fabric to check the direction of the print.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Challenges, Again

I haven't posted in a few days.  Okay, more than a few.  About five.  Computer came down with a virus and DH was out of town.  Since I'm not that good with computers (I'm good at Word and other writing types of things, not good at all at fixing or understanding how the computer works), I was not able to fix it.  So, the computer stayed shut down, with the internet button switched off, until DH got home from his most recent work trip and was able to doctor the computer back to health. 

This week was looking to be a busy one.  It was supposed to be Christmas shopping, grocery shopping, finishing making about 7 presents, going out to dinner with DH (since he was working out of state on my birthday), going to the high school band & choir concert both DDs are in, church choir practice, Wednesday evening advent serive at church, having a family Christmas with my parents, etc, etc.  And of course, posting on the blog!  I do enjoy posting.  Well, honestly I enjoy writing, and I blog hoping that something I write will be helpful to someone else.

Anyway, I thought I had this week all figured out and would be able to post at least three or four times in addition to all my homestead, family, and holiday duties.

Then this morning I got news that the guy who works at the horse farm down the road is having some health problems, and was on the way to his doctor.  The last time he had these problems, he was off work for three weeks, and I filled in for him (feeding 2x a day 7 days a week, doing turnouts, cleaning stalls, filling feedrooms, repairing fences, etc).  

Being a good neighbor, (and good friend to the farm owner for more than 20 years), and concerned about the horses, I'm on standby, waiting for the verdict from his doctor and shuffling my plans in order to take care of the daily needs of 11 horses.   And wondering now just how to fit everything holiday related that needs to be done.  Plus not delay my 'date' with DH. 

If I'm MIA from the blog this week, you'll know why.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Holiday Gifts, Edible Style

Giving food as gifts has been a tradition at this little place here.  Actually, from before that.  I remember baking cookies with  my mother to give to friends, neighbors, and teachers when I was young.  My first Christmas on my own, I gave everyone cookies, fudge and peanut brittle because it was about all I could afford (ingredients are cheap, and I had tons of time back then).

Food is a sure-fire gift.  I mean, who doesn't eat?  Who doesn't appreciate free food?  Especially those who don't have the time or inclination (I won't say talent, because I truly believe it's a skill that can be developed through time and inclination) to bake or cook.

If you are looking for inspiration on what to give for the holidays, here are some examples of things that we've given as gifts through the years.  I'll even throw in a few recipes for you :0)

chocolate fudge, chocolate walnut fudge, orange chocolate fudge, peanut butter fudge, toffee, peanut brittle, buckeyes, chocolate dipped pretzels.

None of these are very hard to make.  Toffee is a breeze, taking less than 10 minutes, and only four ingredients.  Peanut brittle takes a bit longer, and I recommend having a candy thermometer to help with the different additions at different temps.

1 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Butter a 9"x9"x2" square pan.  Spread pecans evenly in bottom of pan.  In a small saucepan, heat butter and brown sugar to boiling over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Boil 7 minutes (make sure to time this) and keep stirring constantly.  At the end of 7 minutes, immediately spread mixture evenly over pecans in square pan.  Sprinkle with chocolate chips.  Cover with a cookie sheet.  Let stand 1 minute to soften chips.  Remove cookie sheet, spread the now melted chocolate over candy.  While still hot, cut into serving size pieces (or not, sometimes I forget to do this and end up breaking it into pieces later).  Refrigerate (or stick outside in winter) until firm.

It's that easy.

apple, pecan, pumpkin, rhubarb (using rhubarb from freezer, who doesn't love a rhubarb pie when rhubarb is out of season?)

cinnamon bread, whole wheat bread, asiago cheese bread, herb bread, banana bread, pumpkin bread

Cinnamon bread is really easy to do, especially if you are used to making breads with yeast.  Basically, you make white bread dough (or, I suppose, buy bread dough from the store), roll each 'loaf' of dough flat into an 8"x15" rectangle, sprinkle with a tablespoon or two of cold water, sprinkle over that a mixture of 2 Tbsp sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon.  Starting at one short side, roll dough tightly, sealing seam when you get to the other short side.  Put in a greased bread pan, seam side down, cover with a cloth, rise in a warm place 30-60 minutes, then bake for 25 minutes in a 425 degree oven (bottom rack of oven, please).  When done baking, remove from pan immediately to wire cooling rack.  While still hot, butter the top.

frosted sugar cookies, thumbprint cookies, candy cane cookies, gingerbread men, double chocolate treasures, spritz cookies, pfeffernusse cookies. . .

Double Chocolate Treasures:
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2c rolled oats (Quaker oats, etc)
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  In a saucepan over low heat, melt 1 cup of chocolate chips. Stir until smooth, cool slightly.  Beat together butter & sugar until light and fluffy.  Blend in eggs, vanilla and melted chocolate.  Add dry ingredients, except powdered sugar, then stir in remaining cup of chocolate chips.

Shape dough into 1" balls, roll in powdered sugar, coating balls heavily.  Place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 10-12 minutes.  Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet, then remove to wire cooling rack.

Jar Mixes:
hot cocoa, brownies, cowboy cookies, M&M cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, chili macaroni dinner, stroganoff dinner, chicken dinner. . .the list goes on and on. 

It's amazing all the dry ingredients you can stick in a jar that the recipient can add eggs, oil, etc to, stir together, and bake up at home.  Kids especially seem to love to get these jar mixes because it is an easy way for them to 'cook' their own treats.  Search online for recipes, that's how I got all of mine (with the exception of the dinner mixes, that's something I created on my own to sell at the farmers' market. . .)

Homemade Jams:
strawberry, blackberry, tart cherry (tastes like cherry pie), sweet cherry, peach.

We've also given things like venison summer sausage, and homemade venison jerky (I'd post that recipe, but I think DH would kill me; it's his own top secret creation). 

This year I'm thinking of giving "breakfast baskets": making pancake mix (add eggs, milk and oil later), and giving that with a pint of the maple syrup I made this past spring. If the chickens cooperate (they aren't laying at the moment) I might put farm fresh eggs in there too.  Or perhaps I'll make a bunch of bagels of various flavors and give those along with some spreadable cream cheese. Next year I'd like to try my hand at cheese making, so maybe next Christmas I'll be giving gift baskets of homemade cheese, crackers, and venison sausage.

The possibilities for food gifts are endless. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Free Lumber!

We acquired a large pile of used lumber the other day.  Completely free.  It used to be a deck that a friend of ours, who has a junk hauling business, was hired to dispose of.  Knowing we burn wood, he asked if we might want it (which would also save him from having to take it to the dump).

Of course we said sure, we'd love to have it.  This isn't the first "retired" deck we've gotten ahold of.  Usually at least a third of the wood is salvageable as building material, and the rest can be easily disposed of by creating heat for our home (*note* this is treated lumber, so not burned indoors or in a campfire where people would be in close proximity to the smoke.  Say what you will about polluting the air, but it's either burn it and pollute the air, or send it to the landfill, where it pollutes both soil and water as well as takes up space).

Here are some things we've made out of the previous batch of old deck lumber we were given:

Chairs that can stay outdoors in all weather:

 the "double"

the "single"

Picnic table that seats 6 fairly well, and 8 if you squeeze in:

When you consider that our only cost for these three items were the nails/screws holding the boards together, using reclaimed lumber is totally worth it!  They were also really easy to build; my sons built the chairs at ages 17 & 13, from instructions I found in the book Build It Better Yourself  (Rodale Press, 1977)--that I picked up for 50 cents at a garage sale.  The picnic table DH found instructions for online.

This latest old deck we received seems to have many 2" x 6" x 8'  boards that are in excellent shape.  Really, I don't see a piece of rotten wood in the whole pile, which is rather large.  It appears that this deck was not replaced because it was old/falling apart, but because it's owners were remodeling.  Most of the sections of balustrade are still intact.  I'm sure I can find a use for those :0)  Maybe a cute fence around something.  Or supports for next year's peas.  Hmm . . .putting on thinking cap. . .

The new pile 6' high by about 12' long and 6-8' wide? 
(guessing, and I'm not good at eyeballing measurements--note Old Dog is standing uphill of base of pile)

Free lumber.  It's out there.  You just have to keep your eyes and ears open, and be willing to sort out the junk (and remove a lot of old nails).

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Silver Hair in My Comb

The silver hair in  my comb, it's long.  It has been growing many years.  It's nothing new, it's not a secret, there are many others trying to highlight my once reddish-chestnut hair.  Hair that darkened to a deeper brown through the years and the children, until the silver ones started appearing.

The silver hair in my comb, it's nothing to be ashamed of.  It's nothing to paint over, to hide.  It is who I am.

The silver hair in my comb is a badge of honor.  I've made it through hard times, and I'm still kicking.  I am me, and I'm a fighter.  Tell me my chances of success are slim, and I'll prove you wrong.

The silver hair in my comb is my life in a shiny momento.  The hair raising things I did as a kid.  The more hair raising things I did as a teen.  Those tough early years of marriage and child bearing.  The worries about the risk of losing our fourth baby when premature labor threatened in the fifth month, and having to try to slow down and hold that baby in as long as possible while still taking care of the older three children and DH traveling half of each month with his job.  The subsequent decision, months later when baby #4 arrived healthy and only three weeks early, that she would be our final one.

The silver hair in my comb is wisdom: I have designed and built a house, a barn, a family, a life.  I have advice to share with those women coming behind me that wish to do the same.

The silver hair in my comb is a reminder that I have raised sons to adulthood.  They didn't crack themselves, or their cars, up too badly along the way.  We all made it with all of our body parts, if not quite all of my sanity. They graduated high school on time, no one failed anything, one made valedictorian.

The silver hair in my comb is evidence that I am in the final stages of raising daughters.  Driving, dating, drama.  Sometimes I think the boys were easier to live through.

The silver hair in my comb is a symbol that I am the mother of a Marine. I gave my eldest boy to the government when he was still 17, and I rely on God to keep him safe.  I do not hear from him often, and see him even less frequently.  Those once or twice a year hugs from him are cherished things.  Like our military children, we Mothers of Marines are tough.  Ooh Rah!

The silver hair in my comb matches the ones in DH's beard.  We were young together, and we will be old together.

The silver hair in my comb is not feared; it is revered.  I'm forty today, and boy, have I earned that silver hair.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Belles of the Ball

When I decided to start a blog, I set a few rules for myself.  One of the most important ones, I felt, was that I won't post pictures of people.  This is to protect their privacy.  I mean, sometimes I talk about some stuff that my kids (not to mention DH, extended family, and friends) might not want associated with them, or to be recognized by their friends (or enemies, lol).  And, honestly, I'm usually such a private person that I'm not  wild about gps on cell phones or in cars that enable you (me) to be found anywhere.  I don't necessarily want to be found, if you know what I mean.  But, I digress. . .

Point of the above paragraph is that I'd love to show off my family, but I won't.  Sometimes it's tough not to give in "just this once" and post a picture of a particularly proud mom moment.

Now is one of those times.

Saturday night was the winter formal for the local high school.  Both DD1, a senior, and DD2, a freshman, attended the dance.  I so wish I could show you how beautiful they were in their dresses.

DD2 invited her best friend since kindergarten, who also has the same first name just spelled one letter differently, to come to the dance with her.  These two girls are fresh out of nine years of church school, learning to make their way in public high school now (and going to high schools in different towns from each other).  So it was nice for DD2 to have her bff with her.

DD1 was escorted by her boyfriend of nearly six months, who is also a senior at the same school.   I have some great pictures of them before they left for the dance.  (*sigh*  again wishing I could break my rules, just this once.)

Like a good mom, I waited up for them to return home after the dance (about 11:30 p.m.).  Partly to make sure they were home on time and safely, and partly because I've learned that post-dance is a great time to  bond with my teens.

I'm so glad I did!  DD2 and her bff were giddy, they'd had such a good time at the dance.  BFF was readily welcomed by DD2's new friends and even some schoolmates that hadn't previously been included in that label.  But, even better, I got to see DD1 walk in the house wearing the tiara of the Queen of the dance.  She had her boyfriend had been voted, by the high school student body, King and Queen of the winter formal. 

Now, DD1 isn't your stereotypical high school queen, so she was surprised to be bestowed the honor.  She's not a lithe or petite or particularly perky girl.  Her hair is the same color God chose it to be, no highlights, no bleaching, no dying.  She's stocky and tall, she is opinionated and stands her ground on issues, as well as being a tomboy and farm girl.  Her King isn't the popular, outgoing football player type either.  He's a slim, quiet, soccer player and musician.  But they are both great kids, serious about their studies, and always willing to help others.  Apparently it's not just their parents who think so, it's also the majority of the high school.

Proud mom moment. 

And I figured out how to share a picture of this without breaking my rule.  :0) 

I present to you, the Queen's dress and tiara.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Of Course! (deer hunting)

Firearm deer season ended with November.  Muzzle loading season started the second day of December.  DH has been so busy working all week (and prepping for a work-related trip), that he wasn't able to get out in the woods to hunt until Saturday morning. 

He had spent nearly 4 hours in the woods, not seeing anything come close enough to shoot (good news--we have snow cover and the deer are returning).  After returning to the house, eating a late breakfast, and doing some work-related stuff on the computer (GRRR from the wife who's patience is wearing thin in regards to the demands of his job), he looks out the window to see this:

A nice 4-point, a mere 300 yards from the dining room.  (Sorry for the less than sharp pictures, the camera was at the extent of it's zoom capabilities, and being held freehand vs tripod).

To add insult to injury, this is what happened next:

Yes, that is a second buck, also appearing to be a 4-point.  And they are sparring.  DH is wishing he'd stayed in the woods a few hours longer. . .

And then:

Yep, a third buck, larger, possibly a 6-point, joined the party.  DH ran down to 'hunting camp' (the corner of the basement with the walkout), threw on his bibs, boots and coat, grabbed his muzzle loader, and away he went. 

At which time I lost sight of the deer because they had decided to go back into the woods.  

Saturday, December 3, 2011

On Traveling Husbands

My husband's job has required, through the years, more or less traveling.  There have been some short spells (say a year or two at a time) that he didn't have to travel, but most years he's had to make work-related trips at least twice a year.

Some years, okay, probably half of the last 17 years, he's had to travel more like every other month.  There were about three years straight that he traveled two weeks out of every month for eight months of the year.  This year, his travel schedule has averaged six days of every month; some months nothing, but other months trips 10-14 days long.

Confession: I'm getting burnt out on the traveling hubby routine.  Yes, I'm thankful that he still has a good job.  But honestly, it's tough on family life when the husband/father is gone frequently.  Even when he's home, the whole week before a trip his mind is on that trip; so it's like he's gone even though physically he's home in the evenings.  And the week after he returns, there's usually so much 'in office' stuff (more like cubicle rather than office, lol) to catch up on, those are usually long work days too.  The family feels rather short-changed. 

Others tell us we should be grateful that he has a steady job, which creates rather a juxtaposition of emotions. Displeasure along with gratitude.  Unhappiness along with joy.  We have income, yes, but not so much a husband and father.  What a trade off.

What can a wife do?  She can cut loose and give up the traveling husband entirely, missing out on even those brief times when his mind and time aren't possessed by his job.  Or, she can suck it up, carry on, and hang on to what she's got even if it at times it doesn't seem like enough.
Here are some coping strategies I've used through the years:

1. Make the day before DH leaves on a trip a special day.  Plan a nice dinner (rather than a quickie thrown together one) and everyone eat together even if it means adjusting mealtime earlier or later than usual.  Or, if your budget and desires permit, perhaps go out to eat that evening.  For us, eating out is a rare thing, so that in itself makes a meal out special.

2. The day DH leaves, get up and have breakfast with him.  Even if it means waking up at 4:00 a.m. so he can catch an early flight.  This last little bit of time together can ease the loss felt when he's not around.  You can always go to bed early that night, as soon as the kids are tucked in, to make up for the lost sleep.

3. Plan to eat all the things that you like, but DH doesn't, while he's gone.  One oldie but goodie and easy to cook meal we rarely have when DH is home is tuna casserole.  So, that's something I make while he's gone.  And peaches.  And beets.  Mmmm.  And chocolate ice cream!  If your DH is a big meat-eater, and you'd like to try some vegetarian cuisine, now's the time.

4. Change it up a little.  If we normally eat dinner late because that's when DH is home from work, maybe the kids and I might agree to eat early, say 4:30, and then have a dessert at our 'normal' dinner time.  Or, we might have breakfast for dinner--like pancakes or waffles.  Or, heaven forbid, dessert first!

5.  Watch a chick flick after you put the kids to bed.  You know what I'm talking about: a movie you would like to see but know your DH wouldn't enjoy or want to watch with you.

In other words, instead of seeing this time of separation from your beloved husband as a trial and a struggle, turn it into a special treat.  Something you can look forward to rather than dreading.

Something else we do, now that technology has advanced so far, is to send each other a good morning text, and a good night text.  When you are time zones apart, making talking in person before or after work difficult, a text can be just the contact you need to get through another day apart.  Those early days of his traveling, before even cell phones were common, it might be days before I heard from him.  I might sleep through a call that was coming in at 2:00 a.m., when, several time zones away, he finally got back to his hotel room and had a chance to call.  Or, more often, he would realize how late it was back home, and not call at all.  For me to call him, back then, in the wee hours of the morning there, there had better have been an emergency back home he needed to drop everything for (like when his grandfather died in '96).

Helping kids cope with a traveling dad is something else that wives have to do while their husbands are away working.

Here are some ideas from when my kids were little that might help your kids get through the time that Daddy is gone.

--if possible, and he has to fly to where he will be working, drive him to the airport.  Let the kids see him off and maybe even see 'his' plane away (I used to park on a side road behind the airport and wait until the approximate departure time of DH's flight, then when we saw a jet going up, up, and away we'd wave at Daddy).

--afterward, take the kids and buy them doughnuts for breakfast.  For my kids, this was a special treat as we never went out for breakfast, and rarely had doughnuts.

--if you dropped your DH off at the airport for departure, of course he needs a ride home again.  Even if it's late at night, let the kids go in their pj's to pick up Daddy at the airport.

--make a calendar of the days Daddy will be gone. Each night, make a big X across one of the days on that calendar.

--if your DH remembers, have him take a couple of postcard stamps with him.  When he arrives at his destination, have him take a minute to buy a post card, fill it out to the kids, and mail it.  If he's going to be gone longer than a week, try to send a postcard every 2-3 days, with the last one arriving to your home the day before he does.

--if DH can't call home during the hours the kids will be awake, make sure you give them each a hug "from Daddy" before bed every night.

--if he will be traveling during his trip, rather than staying in one spot the entire time, get a map and track his route day by day.  Tape this to the wall at a height the kids can see it, and let them put stickers on the towns he stays in, or trace with marker or crayon the highways he traveled each day.

--have the kids make a banner to welcome Daddy home.  Hang it in a place he will see when he walks in the door, even if the kids will be fast asleep when he arrives.

Being a cohesive family when the husband/father travels often isn't easy.  But it isn't impossible either.  It's all about being in the right frame of mind.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Frugal Food #9: Use it Up!

Here's a little task for you:  go into your pantry or freezer, and see what you find that you had forgotten you owned.  Remember that stuff you bought on sale a while ago but now is in the back of the cupboard sporting a layer of dust?  Or that great cut of meat you put into the freezer, and lost, that is now nearing the end of conceivably being edible?

Now, take whatever it is you found, and figure out when this week, you are going to cook and eat it.

Use it up!  It won't stay good forever, and what was the use of buying it if you were only going to end up throwing it away?  Eat it! Use it up!

Go back to Frugal Food #8 and re-read it.  Then look up the meal planning post for ideas, if it is a cut of meat you're not sure what to do with.

If this is something out of your deep freeze that is over a year old, don't automatically assume it's no good.  Yes, I know what the government guidelines say about the storage life of meat in the freezer, but nobody is going to sue anyone here, and it's a shame to let good food go to waste.  I really don't think you will get sick from eating meat that was stored 3 or 6 or 12 months longer than what some food chart tells you it should be. In fact, I know from experience that you won't.

We have eaten 2 year old burger that didn't harm any one.  It had a slightly freezer burnt taste, but once cooked into something spicy (like taco meat or chili), that odd flavor was easily masked. 

We have had a stick of venison summer sausage that somehow got to the bottom of the freezer and lay there undetected for a year.  Still delicious, still completely edible after being discovered and thawed. 

A 24-pound turkey raised in 2008 that didn't get cooked until Thanksgiving 2009 is another example of longer than recommended frozen storage.  It was awesome, better than any frozen turkey I'd ever had from the store that was supposedly 'fresh'.

Deep freezes are amazing that way: they have such cold temperatures that things can be stored in them for quite a while without experiencing any deterioration in quality or flavor.  Even now, at the end of November, we are pulling leftover baked goods (cookies, french breads, zucchini bread) from my farmers market booth out of the freezer and enjoying them.  The farmers' market ended two months ago.  Some of the baked goods are starting to get a bit of a 'freezer' taste, so we are eating them up now rather than baking fresher ones.  I'm using them up, and saving $$ on ingredients versus baking new ones.

Your regular part-of-the-fridge freezers don't have quite that ability. So it's doubly important to go exploring in them often and use up anything that has been there for six months or more.

And, with the holidays and their glut of food upon us, it's really important to use up the leftovers in your fridge in a timely basis.  If you still have Thanksgiving leftovers sitting in there, they've probably given up the ghost at this point (I did a search and rescue mission on mine yesterday; 99% of whatever hadn't been eaten by now was sorta fuzzy and smelly).  So, clear those out, and make a point of doing a weekly leftover check from here on out.

Use it up.  Quick, before you end up having to throw it out.  Wasted food = wasted money.  Wasted money = the opposite of frugal.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Finally, Snow. But Still No Deer.

Yesterday was the end of firearm deer season.  But first, we finally got snow to cover the ground.

And cover the ground it did. 

It started as rain Monday evening.  Rained all day Tuesday.  Around 5 p.m. it turned to sleet, then snow.  By 8 p.m. we had a good inch of snow covering every thing. And the power went out.  (It didn't come back on until a little after 3 p.m. on Wednesday, by which time the house had cooled to about 58 in the basement, 55 on the main floor and a balmy 60-something upstairs.)

Wednesday morning, we had a good three inches of snow on the ground.  It was heavy, and bent over small trees and branches.  The north entrance to the woods was impassable.  You can't even tell where the 'road' is in this picture.

The south end was better, at least the road was visible. I went out deer hunting in the afternoon, and took the pictures that follow.  Beautiful blue sky, and temps warm enough that everything was dripping.

At the edge of the field, the woods road was a little bit submerged. 

A little further in, the road was a lot submerged.  Good thing I was wearing my waterproof boots!  It was running too, about 3" deep and moving fast!  About 1/3 the length of the south road was underwater.  This picture is just a small section of that.

I had to duck under several small trees that were bent down to the ground with the weight of the snow.

But, I finally made it back to the stand in the SE.  I noticed along the way, however, that there were no animal tracks of any kind.  Not deer, not turkey, not squirrel, not even birds.  Not good.  What were the chances that things taking shelter elsewhere during the storm of the night before would return now?

Apparently nil. Because I saw nothing last night.  Nothing but snow, and trees. 

All in all, a pretty disappointing sixteen days of deer hunting.  Not a deer seen in about a week, and very spotty for the nine days prior to that. 

Time to switch gears to Christmas prep mode.  With a little muzzle loading thrown in on the days DH isn't home from work in time to go out looking to see if the deer have returned.  One deer in the freezer won't last past March, even with rationing.  We need at least one more, preferably two.  If we're lucky enough to get three more, we'll have the last one turned into summer sausage.