Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mama On A Mission...

For years now I have leaned toward finding a more natural lifestyle, which isn't always easy. It started small, with me learning about my oldest son having dry skin which turned out to be Eczema, which he inherited from me (who would have guessed it, all those years I thought I just had pimples all over... heh.) from learning we had Eczema to educating myself on the best ways to deal with it, I started to discover that all of the "soap" products we had were really nothing more than chemical filled synthetic products, nothing natural about them, it's no wonder our Eczema was constantly flared up! That's how I learned about all natural handmade soaps, and began making them myself.

I grew up on convenience foods (Hamburger Helper and Rice-A-Roni anyone?) and thought nothing of continuing to eat those after I had children of my own. My family was eating loads of just-add-water "homemade from a box" (as my ex mother in law used to say) meals, generally cooked in a microwave. (Have I mentioned I haven't owned a microwave in 4 years? It's amazing to discover you don't really NEED one!)

I'll tell you that for a good 8 years I fed my own family overly processed, highly synthetic, convenience foods, just like 60% of the rest of the Nation***

In the past 5 years that I have been with my husband, I have learned to make some drastic changes. I started to eat healthier, mostly because he insisted, and gradually I began to like some of it... though I was heavily into the coupon game for awhile and most of what you can get with coupons is convenience foods, so that's what I bought.

Around the time I got pregnant with my youngest, who will be 3 next month, I was starting to really get a good grasp on the whole thing... actually paying attention to what products we use, and more recently what we eat. In recent months I've gotten to the point that I absolutely dread going to the grocery store. I walk through the aisles and I can just feel the labels screaming all their obscene nasty chemicals and additives at me. Two months ago when I went shopping I literally stopped in the middle of an aisle looking around and could just feel myself getting wearier by the second thinking about how I KNEW all the crap that was in the food I was buying, but I felt nearly powerless to do anything about it.

Not anymore!

When we got our income tax return we bought half a cow and a pig from a farm down the road. The meat was butchered by two local meat cutters, and cost maybe $1,000 between the 4 checks we had to make out... was well worth it to have a stand up freezer so full of meat that it was overflowing... AND we supported THREE local small businesses in the process. Our hamburgers and roasts don't shrink when we cook them, and our pork chops have fat that gets crispy not chewy... how's that for GOOD products?

The meat tastes so much better than the junk at the store, and in the end cost about the same, we won't have to buy meat again until fall at least.

We also have 2 chickens who started laying eggs this winter... not a lot for a family of 6 but 2-3 eggs a day is helpful! We are getting a few more chickens to help increase the yield and then we can cut out having to buy eggs... yet one more thing we will know where it came from and what went into it and can feel good about eating it! It's also another good source of meat!

We are working diligently on growing a nice sized garden this year, which I've already mentioned here, and Last time we went for a big grocery shopping, we bought almost all fruits and vegetables, which is great and since we didn't have the added cost of meat to consider, I splurged and got lots of fresh ones and as much organic/natural as I could. We did buy a bunch of pasta and pasta sauce, cause lets face it, my husband is Italian and pasta is one of the ultimate comfort foods (go me!).

I've been researching more about MAKING more foods from scratch, and today I convinced hubby that it would be a great investment to buy a pasta machine. He was planning to save up to buy attachments for our Kitchen aid Mixer (Super frugal find from a couple months ago, I'll write about that soon!), but when I got looking at the cost and everything, explained to him that it might be more cost effective to buy a separate machine. After doing some shopping around and him thinking back on his childhood (his grandmother used to make pasta all the time... heck, probably still does!) we settled on an Imperia SP150 and ordered it from Amazon using some gift cards I've earned from Swagbucks (not many because I just ordered a bunch of books for my son who paid me cash in exchange for the gift cards I used)

We also got a 2mm Spaghetti attachment and a Norpro Ravioli Maker and Press.

Pasta is a big thing in our house, though we pair it with lots of veggies, salad, etc. I like the idea of making it myself so I can control what types of ingredients are going in it... and I think that by including the kids in the process they'll become a bit more aware of what they are putting into themselves and hopefully keep the love of making their own food with them as they grow!

***I have no idea what the general statistics are, but I'd wager on it being more than half, lol

Full disclosure: If you click on any of the links that go to above and purchase any of the items I posted, I'll get a tiny reward for sending you their way, I'm all about saving money though so if you can find it cheaper somewhere else,  more power to ya! As for the Swagbucks link, if you sign up through the link, I'll get matching Swagbucks for your first 1,000, which will net me somewhere around two Amazon gift cards for $5 each :)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

So Sad...

Back in December, on Christmas Eve, while preparing for our annual get-together with Hubby's family, he fell down the stairs. It wasn't a typical case of clumsiness, see half of our house is in a perpetual state of renovation, we tore everything out except the outer walls about 4 years ago, and every time we've thought we might get it done, plans have changed. Over time it's become an unofficial storage area. We were storing some things for my sister-in-law when she moved to North Carolina, and when she came up over the Christmas holiday she wanted to take some of her stuff home with her

Best Christmas Gift ever - Dixie, a rescue dog from NC

So in the process of him helping her bring her things down, she tells him to be careful on the stairs because there is some lumber laying on them. He gets cocky, says he's fine, that he's been up and down that death-trap set of stairs hundreds of times. No sooner does he say this, and he steps on the lumber, slides down the stairs, and then can't walk properly for a good month. After having it examined the day after Christmas at the ER and then by an Orthopedic Surgeon we knew that if it wasn't better by the beginning of February, we'd be looking at surgery.

Luckily for him, it was fine by the beginning of February, and after a month of living on short-term disability we were ready for regular paychecks again. No such luck. Work had no work for him, and he had to use the ONLY 3 weeks of vacation/personal time he gets for the whole year so that we could have an income. After that, still no work. Time for unemployment. It is now March 26th, he's been out of work for over 3 months and home with me every day... As a happily married couple, you'd think we'd be driving each other crazy and just about ready to start calling divorce lawyers by now.... not so much... the last 3 months have been the best in our married life, but alas, it had to end sometime... he went back to work an hour and a half ago, and I'm missing him like crazy already...


With him being gone, it will be much easier for me to find time during the day to get  some soap made and work around the house! So thank goodness for the rain today, this momma is gonna be busy!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

I Love Playing Dirty...

Or maybe that should be, I love playing in dirt, lol.

Hubby and I spent this past week working on prepping our yard for gardening... three years ago we had a pretty successful garden behind our house in a 10x35 foot strip, utilizing Square Foot Gardening and raised bed practices. It worked out well, but the following year we stripped siding off the back of the house and lead paint got through the garden area, so we had to relocate.

This was our garden that first year

Over the last 2 years whenever we've tried to grow anything, we've had these nasty ground hogs that have eaten everything! And then last year it was the chickens too! This year we got the chickens moved, and are working on gardening in the side yard, which is bigger than what we grew in 3 years ago, but it's also where the kids play, so in taking that into consideration, we've had to be careful about how we plan to plant. Here are some pictures of what we've done so far:

2ft by 32ft, for Corn and Squash type items - the pallet's create a box for potatoes

16ft x 4ft -for Tomatoes and Peppers - Hot boxed

Lots of other stuff has been going on... I sold some of my leftover inventory from the consignment store I closed this past winter and worked on making some more soap and stuff

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Ohhh, yeah that was SATISFYING

First meal I've been able to eat since Monday, in a reasonable amount of time, with minimal cringing!

I got my left wisdom teeth out on Tuesday morning, and I think I've eaten a total of 5 meals since then... most of my sustenance has been of the liquid and pharmaceutical forms... No pain meds since 6:30am today though and only minor irritation in my lower gums... this is a plus, especially since the day after my procedure I developed an infection on my jaw and was laid up for the next 24 hours severely swollen and in pain, fighting chills and a fever... I slept Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday away!