Wednesday, January 9, 2013

magic and other updates

I finished straining my yogurt.  Won't do that again because the thicker chunks grossed me out.  I don't think it made that huge of a difference.  Ok I shouldn't say I won't do it again, because I probably will at some point, but I need a better system.  The picture below is how much I got for $1.15.  Not too shabby.

I am still waiting on my first shipment of my yarn of the month yarn! I know other  have gotten theirs but I haven't.  I am waiting patiently.  In the mean time I made a square.  I received a book of different patterned stitches for Christmas and decided that in between projects I would make random squares out of leftover and probably new (at some point) Spud and Chloe sweater yarn.  I made Ava's blanket out of it and it has held up beautifully, even through washes and regular use for a couple years.  I think it has great stitch definition and feels nice to use.  This is my square in the sand stitch.  It is really a cream colored yarn.  The lighting was bad and I take all my pictures on my phone.

Here is the picture of a sweater I made for my friend's baby this summer.  Nice to see what it looks like on a baby.  I really liked this yarn and pattern and wouldn't mind making it again.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


I like to make things into different things.  Like I think it is awesome to turn flour, water and yeast into a sticky growing dough.  It is just amazing to me.  My newest conquest: yogurt.  I set little yogurty bacteria loose in some warm milk and they turned the milk into a fermented gooy semi-solid.  Best part is it tastes good.  My yogurt tastes have changed over the years.  I used to only like the custard style.  Now I don't like the feel of it.  I don't like fat free stuff either because they seem gritty. I really have gotten to like the Dannon All Natural Vanilla.  It is a lot less geletin-like in its consistancy.  The cost of yogurt is usually about $1.00 for a 6oz cup.  Or you can get in a quart for $3-$6, depending on the brand and type.  I have now sucessfully made two batches.  I was worried that I wouldn't want to eat it.  That I would miss all the processessing, but I don't. I actually have been looking forward to my yogurt and granola lunches.

I have seen quite a few sites that make the whole process seem very complicated. I didn't find it to be at all.  I got a gallon of whole milk for $2.39.  I poured half of it into my clean crock pot and put the other half in the freezer.  I put the lid on the crock pot and turned it on high for about 3 hours.  You are supposed to heat it to boiling or 180 degrees.  I have a candy thermometer but I cheated and used Justin's laser thermometer that he has for beer making.  I turned it off and let it cool for a few hours.  (One time I took the lid off to help it cool faster and it formed a skin, I don't think I will take the lid off again.) It cools to 110 degrees and I scooped some of the warm milk up and mixed it with about half a container of plain greek yogurt with live cultures.  I then poured the mixture back in to the crock pot and stirred it up.  I put the lid on, wrapped it in a bath towel and put the whole crock in the oven for about 12 hours.  Next thing you know, you have a half gallon of yogurt.  I froze one container of the original batch for a starter for the next round. 

I have eaten the first batch.  I do NOT like plain yogurt and I don't like it with honey, so that is always an option.  I put in about a quarter tsp of natural vanilla extract and half a tsp of agave nectar to one cup of yogurt.  It was perfect.  I have also used organic cain sugar and it was fine.  No chunks, no grit, just creamy goodness.  I am straining the second batch through cheese cloth.  Apparently all the liquid will drip out and make the yogurt thicker.  I am fine with the original thickness so I probably won't do it again unless other people like it more.  I am just taking that step to make more of an experiment.  So far my only hold up is having containers to store it all in.  I thought I had a lot more mason jars than I really do.

As a side note, the more things I have learned to do or make from scratch the more I think of how many "necessities" and skills the city or suburban life has made obsolete.  For some reason a while ago, I was thinking of what would happen if infrastructure as we know it ended and we were forced to fend for ourselves.  Like you couldn't just go to the store and buy clothes.  You couldn't just go buy bread.  You didn't have money for those things or the money you had couldn't even buy it.  We would be in a bad situation.  It isn't like I want to go stock piling or anything like that, but I do like the little bits of knowledge and skills that I have aquired would make us a little bit more ok.  And then I would be sad about the lack of internet where I have stored all the recipes and instructions on how to do everything...

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The year of the crack down

Brace yourself. This is about to get honest.  Not a woe is me kind of honest, just a real glimpse of where we are at. 

Almost a year ago Justin lost his job.  He was able to get a new job right away and never missed a day of pay.  The new job paid 1/3 less than his previous job.  It had potential for bonuses here and there.  With the economy the way it has been and other reasons, they haven't quite been what had been discussed when he took the job.  Overall this has taken some adjustments at home.  There have also been some unexpected medical expenses in 2012.  It was the year of the medical bill.  I don't think we have ever spent so much in one year on medical expenses. My job also changed this year.  It has been for the better, but it still had us adjust things financially. Our insurance just changed so we will be able to stop accumulating medical debt.  Justin finished is master's degree six months ago so it is time to start repaying loans. Tax rates just changed so our withholdings have changed.  Overall it is a good spot to revamp and make plans.

Debt plan: No more debt.  This plan was actually instituted a couple months ago.  I actually froze our credit cards in ice.  We can't use them.  I don't want to close them out yet because of our credit score.  I do want to pay them off.  I got an app that actually helps keep our debt pay off plan front and center and easy to track.  It shows me different debt pay off options when I enter all of our credit card, car payment and medical debt and when they will be done and which costs the least in interest or which speeds things up.  I paid all of January's bills today.  We have 31 months left! In order to make this plan work we have to stick with it and keep household expenses low to put our money towards the debt.  Our biggest struggle is changing our lifestyle.  I don't think we have an extravagant lifestyle, but we definitely are impulsive and there is no room for that right now.

Student loans: They are a huge looming burden.  Undergrad loans went into forbearance when Justin lost his job and have stayed there.  I just set up a repayment plan for the grad school loans. Adding the extra bill to the already tight budget is a little intimidating.  Ok, more than a little.  A lot.  But in reality, just putting them off forever was not a reasonable option.  It was just us avoiding it.  As soon as I agreed to it, I wanted to take it back, but I was really just nervous.  I know in the end, this is the best plan. 

Private school:  Ava is only in 1st grade.  As much as I hate the idea of her changing schools, now would be the time.  None of us want her to change schools.  I can't think about 2 of them in private school.  I will deal with that when it comes.  We have 2nd grade figured out.  I just can't think about 3rd grade, or 4th.  I have no idea what life will be like by then.  It does seem crazy when I look at everything I mentioned before to even be considering paying for private school for the next 11 years (Rhys included).  It isn't really a logical decision.  Ava doesn't want to change schools at all.  It isn't even about the friends.  She said that she wouldn't have chapel at the public school and she was right.  And then we started thinking of the education level and were reminded of why we chose to start her in private school in the first place.  Justin says we will sacrifice to keep her there.  I knew we would and reality have been.  I guess now it is really put up or shut up time.

Cutting back: The only real wiggle room we have is in the household grocery budget.  We need to get cheap.  Really cheap.  I think it means real meal planning again for me.  I need to consider saving money my job. I also need to figure out a good balance of cheap and healthy meals and make more things from scratch.  I have been earning little bits of money here and there and they have been adding up.  I get free shipping through shop runner.  I shop sales at for things like shampoo and stuff like that and I get cash back through ebates for it.  I actually have a check for $52 coming to me in February. We have also said our only resolution is no fast food.  No eating out unless it is pre-planned and a special occasion for a year.  Convenience eating is really our lifestyle indulgence and it has to stop. 

Earning extra: We are just going to earn little bits of extra when we can.  I am babysitting once a week this spring.  I am selling Thirty-One.  Justin is refocusing on his t-shirts. 

Are we alone in the financial crack down?  I know we aren't. What does yours look like?