Life on a little urban homestead in the making, with ideas for self-sufficiency, Permaculture, DIYing, organic gardening, food preservation, Chicken keeping, cookery, crafts, thrifting and more...

Jan 31, 2017

How I Grocery Shop

How I Grocery Shop-
I was just reading Margo's post here How I Grocery Shop and it got me thinking. I realized I actually have developed a pretty systematic way of shopping. It's also flexible! Here's the basics of what I currently do, which has evolved over the years...

When our family was younger I used to go grocery shopping with our three girls. I had a system with them, a reward when we got home IF they did a good job. Worked great! My kids NEVER thru a fit in the store, whined or begged! Dave and I always focused on good manners and work ethic. Now with just the two of us I shop primarily once a week on the weekend. I go to a low cost "bag your own" grocery store, with an excellent bulk section. I will point out- we don't eat meat every day, as some do. I don't buy ground meats much (never beef) for instance, except once in a while. Mostly turkey for tacos or Italian sausage for pasta sauce. I'd rather buy whole meats that are lean, with less waste. We eat a certain amount of vegetarian foods, healthier and cheaper. I always have a running list on our fridge for needed items. I go to a "grocery outlet" where I buy artisan breads, coffees, Keurig pods, a few organic frozen lunches and other foods about once a month. We got to Costco once a month (maybe), mostly for cat litter, supplements, and other specific items. I go to Trade Joe's once a month, again just specific items. They are all close to work or home, except Costco. I never use coupons. I just never saw huge savings, but I do buy a lot of what's marked down and I'm a good cook. I also freeze a lot of sale items. I just roasted a chicken I bought at the height of last summer's low prices. I also can/freeze our own fruits/veggies from our home garden. I just made a big pot of pasta sauce with quartered, frozen fresh tomatoes. Awesome! We're looking into buying a 1/4 of a local steer, grass fed/organic thru my hubbies co-worker. I need to have him break down the per Lb. dressed/packaged price to see if it's a good deal or not. My shopping is always flexible, since I may find a better deal on something unplanned, so I can change my menu as needed. I saw a new recipe for a Orange Mustard Pork Tenderloin I wanted to try. I bought pork chops instead, since they're much cheaper here.

Costco can be a bad idea, if you don't shop smart. Many of their food items are actually higher than where I normally shop. Bigger packages aren't always the way to go! They also sell a lot of junk foods. Some items there you can really save on. Sadly they were way behind the trend of selling more whole grain, and healthy foods. I do know our medium-sized chest freezer (from Costco!) has really paid for itself the last several years. I freeze breads, meats, butter, cheese, fruits, veggies, and a few quick dinners. Something like a $5.00 frozen French Tart pizza from Trader Joe's topped with my fresh eggs and a salad is a quick, easy low-cost work night dinner. I buy my Tea's primarily at Cost Plus World Market, better deals, and a better selection. We rarely ever drink alcohol, so nothing spent there. I think a lot of people spend a HUGE amount of money on alcohol sadly. I heard on the news today that the day after the Super Bowl is being considered for a holiday?  Super Bowl Holiday? Wow. Maybe people should drink less and go to work. Unless you're travelling out of state, I don't get it, or plan ahead and take a vacation day. Weird. Anyway those are my habits that seem to work! I'm sure they will continue to evolve over time. What do you do to eat healthy and save money???

Jan 29, 2017

Savory Oats With Poached Eggs, Bye Bye Winter- Sort Of

Photo from

Savory Oats With Poached Eggs-
I'm always on the lookout for new dinner egg recipes. My three girls (aka hens) have been laying really well in the dark days of winter. About 2-3 eggs per day! I found this recipe last week at my dentist's office. It's next on my egg recipe list to try. I'd never thought of cooking and crisping up prosciutto! Recipe here- Savory Oats With Poached Eggs  Here's another version, with rolled oats used instead- Savory Parmesan Oats With Poached Egg  It seems like there are lots of versions out there, who knew! For a dessert I'll be trying Oatmeal Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars No bake cookies here too- 3 Minute No Bake Cookies I have made these but I cut the sugar back.

Bye Bye Winter- Sort Of-
Last night I wrote- Between the dirty/crusty snow, gray skies, and now an inversion, I'm so sick of winter! GIVE ME SOME BLUE SKIES! I wouldn't care if it was 10 degrees, I just need some sun!!! We had a tiny bit of sun more than a week or two ago. It's been so long I don't remember. That's sad. I woke up this morning and the sun was out! Still a bit hazy but I can see some blue sky! Hallelujah!!!

Late day sun

It's time to put away the winter indoor decor. I have enough outside to remind me. No more snowmen! I'm putting back out my normal year-round decor, with some Valentine's Day thrown in. Much cheerier!

Glitter hearts and apples in a vintage jar with Zinc lid

I'm recovering from my fall on the ice at work last week. Elbow's still sore, but knee is better, back is still talking to me. It was good I was wearing a thick coat, padded my fall. Throw in my excellent Chiropractor and I'm on the mend. I have a big batch of homemade pasta sauce cooking with my frozen, organic tomatoes from the summer harvest. It's like a dose of warm weather!

Jan 22, 2017

Home-Style Smothered Chicken, Kodiak Pancakes/Syrup Review

Home-Style Smothered Chicken-
One of my recent goals has been making a big batch of something for multiple dinners, every weekend and without getting bored. My favorite Smothered Chicken recipe is from the same cookbook that has my favorite fried chicken recipe I bought 2 big packs of boneless chicken thighs for $12.00, about 6 lbs. or more.  I doubled the recipe, making several dinners and then some! I used a big lasagna pan. Recipe below-

No time to type it out, sorry

It's simple but very tasty. You could really season it anyway you like, but I like the onion and thyme. I added baby carrots. I served with big cheesy herb biscuits and a kale salad. Yummy!

Kodiak Pancakes/Syrup Review-
I saw this pancake mix at Costco a while back and decided to buy some yesterday. FYI, This is not a paid for endorsement! I made some today, you can add just water, or milk, or milk/egg. Nice flavor, lots of protein, whole grains. $8.00 for a BIG box with three envelopes inside. I like pancakes once in a while but wanted more whole grains, protein, and easy to make, so this is the ticket! I first saw this brand when I bought this syrup a few months back-

Best fruit syrup I've ever had hands down! I'm not a maple fan. Tons of fruits, little else, nice and "clean". Their website is here for more info-

Jan 21, 2017

More Crazy Weather! Got My Hand Back, DIY Low Cost Valentine's Day Farmy Decor

Blue Sky!!!
More Crazy Weather!
After more snow, 3" late Wednesday, it started melting! I fell going in to work Thursday, since there was standing water on ice, not a good combination. Jammed my right elbow, shoulder sore, twisted left knee a bit but okay otherwise. They should have had sand down. Anyway, it's been melting the last two days and we had 40 degrees today and a little blue sky! A tropical heatwave. Chickens have finally been able to come out and enjoy the warm temps. I saw some grass exposed when I put the hens in a few minutes ago. Grass, what's that??? We've had lots of birds out and I saw a Great Blue Heron fly over our house today too-

Google photo

They're seen frequently around our rivers and water areas, so I was surprised to see one over our house. Gorgeous! Must have been a bit off course.

Got My Hand Back-
I finally have my left hand back, all healed up from surgery in late October. No more braces/splints, just putty for strength. My surgeon did a great job. My hand had this going on, bone on bone, ow-

They removed the bottom, worn out chunk and created a "sling" of sutures. The tissue heals around it. No more pain, and only a small incision, 2"-3". I've got good grip strength and comfort. I wear my scar proudly. I'm very aware and appreciative of the fact I had insurance to cover most of this. Some might have had to do without sadly.

Ready for transformation!

DIY Low Cost Valentine's Day Farmy Decor -
Next weekend end we'll be putting away the winter decor, snowmen, etc. I have had WAY too much of the real thing. I'll put some regular decor back out and add some Valentine's Day items. I spied these glitter hearts and I thought- cut off the ribbons and put in a Mason jar. I'll add some raffia possibly, then done! I bought these out thrifting in the last 2 weeks, 50 cents for the box- 

I will cut off the loops, add these to a basket or bowl for another pop of red! Easy peasy. I will post photos when they're done. Just add a few things to what you already have. I could also add apples to my winter decor for next year. I AM READY FOR SPRING!!!

Jan 15, 2017

Slow Cooker Easy Steak and Mushrooms

Slow Cooker Easy Steak and Mushrooms-
I made this recipe today- Slow Cooker Steak & Mushrooms from Nancy's blog, with a little modification. I wanted something I could walk away from, cook this weekend and have some nice leftovers. I'm working on making a big batch of something each weekend. I bought two skirt steaks, since I couldn't find flank steaks. I left out the wine, added more broth and added a little Worcestershire sauce. First broil the meat-

In the bottom of the crock pot below the meat I added a large rough chopped yellow onion, and several Yukon gold potatoes-

Next add the rest of the ingredients, and lots of pepper. I added baby carrots the last hour.

Put on the lid and walk away!

I cooked mine on high for 4 hours, and it was nice and tender. Make sure you cut against the grain to serve, or you will have stringy beef. I cut this up a bit before adding the mushroom mix. I cut into 4" x 4" pieces, then sliced before serving. 

Yum Yum!

Jan 14, 2017

What A Difference Some Rain Makes! Thrifting Scores, Winter Decor

 This weekend

What A Difference Some Rain Makes!
In the last week 2 weeks snow storm Helena blew thru dropping one foot or more of snow. We already had 10"-12" on the ground. It created many problems in this high desert area simply due to the sheer volume of snow. Many didn't make it to their jobs, schools were closed, accidents (many preventable), etc. The city and other businesses stepped up their game and started plowing side streets. That was a big success, however Boise's Mayor announced yesterday it was also a failure to respond more quickly. A learning lesson for various agencies. We had some rain for 2 days early this week, which helped slowly melt some of the snow. There was big fear of flooding, but luckily it stayed below freezing at night during the rain! It's just really cold again, 11 degrees last night. Foggy this morning, but the sun is coming out, and no more snow until Tues. No more huge storms heading our way hopefully. I cleared the area in front of the coop a bit more today. I re-filled the bird bath and put out a big bucket of wild bird food in the backyard. Two huge robins came out this afternoon and got a long drink. Sweet. I'm ready for spring!!!

Mr. Gnome getting some air!

Dave digging out the coop door last weekend

Lovely but too much!

New thrifted top/matching hat

Thrifting Scores-
I have started hitting thrift stores now that the roads are more clear. I found some adorable winter baby clothes for Grand baby Oliver and River. Oliver inherited his cousin River's infant wardrobe, BUT they were all summer infant clothes. I'm filling in the gaps. I found the top above (still with new tags on) and matching hat, new, nice and fuzzy. Another cute winter shirt-

LOVE the details!

Oliver's hat, Cookie Monster?

I found a great 1 Qt. water pitcher for our dining table. Looks to be hand made in a nice glaze with blue flowers, $4.00. We always keep water on the table for meals-

A big Santa mitten, about 12" long, .50 cents :), 1/2 off

For River, fleece cargo pants

Onesie for River

Winter set for Oliver, how cute!

Cute details

And something for Spring, a crib blanket! $1.99

I also bought 2 faux winter wreaths, about 12" in diameter, $1.00 1/2 price! 

Poinsietta, birds and mini-wreath

Winter Decor-
I always keep some fun winter decor out after the holidays are over. I love bringing nature in and it gives something visually interesting from the usual. Here's some of the things I have out currently-

Above our dining room drapes 

One of the new faux wreaths upper left

Jan 8, 2017

Boise Declared State of Emergency/Gratitude, What is Hygge???

This morning, 18 degrees, was 7 below yesterday

Boise Declared State of Emergency/Gratitude-
In the last week Boise's mayor declared a "State of Emergency"  due to unusually high snowfall and accumulation  for this area. Boise is considered "high desert" with a typical precipitation of 10"-13". This is the 2nd worst snowstorm in the area, only surpassed by one 40 years ago. We also had record cold last week. We received almost 2 FEET of snow in the last 3 weeks. 4" yesterday, another 2" today. Since it never warmed up after the initial snowfall, none of it ever melted. The side streets  became almost impassable and many started complaining VERY loudly that the County need to do something fast. They just never ave to deal with this kind of snowfall. They has already used thru their yearly budget, so the Mayor was able to get more state funding. Many local contractors donated time and equipment to start doing the side streets. Bless them! Last Thursday evening after Dave re-shoveled the driveway one of these graders came thru-

Google photo

They did a GREAT job clearing the street, but pushed a bunch of snow back up in the driveway. Dave re-shoveled! Lucky for me my hubby is a workhorse!

Edge of our driveway

Too much snow

My daughter with her new baby was pretty snowbound, so Dave and I went over Sat. and he shoveled while I babysat so she could clean the house. Luckily today a back how with a front loader came thru her cul de sac and got the street. The county won't do those as their trucks can't turn around. We got another 4" yesterday when that storm hit. I felt so S-T-U-P-I-D going grocery shopping in almost blizzard conditions at 1:30 in the afternoon. Parking lot FULL, wait for shopping carts, duh. I should have gone early in the morning. Lesson learned. While I always have food/water/fuel on hand I just needed the normal fruits, veggies, stuff. There has been a major shortage of ice melt and snow shovels in town. There was a run on bottled water, batteries, propane in case people lost power. The FTE, french toast emergency :) Dave scored yesterday by finding some at a Mom and Pop gas station. Crazy what a city can run out of! As soon a stores get it in it'd gone. I spotted snow shovel in a store window out running an errand today. My daughter went in an bought it, the last one. They'd been shoveling with a regular shovel. They had people lined up at their store door when they opened when word went out they had ice melt coming in!!! We don't usually use it much but it was a matter of our being able to get out of our home. Our Subaru Outback did great, but our little Mazda M3 came thru pretty well too! Everyone on the news kept saying "you need 4 wheel drive " for this! NO, YOU NEED TO KNOW HOW TO DRIVE. Slow down, take your time, give your self room.   


More pretty

The coop and hens came thru really well with the heat lamp and heat disc, lots of treats and frequent checks on them. Warm and protected, but they had good ventilation. It started rain this afternoon and was up to almost 40! There's a LOT of concern over flooding, but it's supposed cool down tomorrow. School's have been closed and 2 the large ones will probably re-open tomorrow. We had 2 gorgeous sunny days last week (with bitter cold) so I am tired of the gray. 

Gratitude- I am so grateful we had a pretty easy go of it all in all. All of our home improvements we made since we bought the house paid off. Our newer, excellent furnace kept our house toasty in the bitter cold. Good windows, insulation and doors, ditto. A well built coop, and healthy chickens. Empress Anya our cat slept thru all of it. We had plenty of food, fuel. We had plenty of snow gear- boots, coats, gloves, hats. I didn't have to miss any work, as some did. I was able to drive the Outback to work, I swapped cars with Dave. I have a longer drive with hills. While I had some close calls with idiot drivers, luckily zero accidents on very slippery roads. Our roof came thru fine with no "ice dams", as the news was warning everyone about. Dave. He's such a trouper with shoveling, thankfully. Kids are all safe and sound. We never lost power, TV or computer! All in all, we did have to spend some $$$ on ice melt, but at least we found some! I made a big pot of spicy black bean soup and watched the snow fall last night. Now it's freezing rain and our driveway is a skating rink. We will survive though, life goes on! 

What is Hygge???-
I've had a real fondness for Scandinavian culture for a while. I love the mentality, ingenuity and hardiness of a people that can live in such a harsh area. It's also gorgeous! I also love the Swedish country look and ran across the concept/tradition of Hygge recently. It's now on the official OxfordDictionaryWord of the year 2016-shortlist I found this definition somewhere-

Hygge (pronounced hue-gah) is a Danish word that is a feeling or mood that comes taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary, every day moments more meaningful, beautiful or special.

I think it really speaks to appreciating life, unplugging, slowing down and staying in touch with family, friends and nature. I was doing a lot of this already! Here's a few links and there's more out on Google. I REALLY loved this one- How Living Danishly Made Me Happier- It can for you too and this has lots of good info as well-

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