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I'm Back...Again

Posted by Angela Diaz on May 31, 2015 at 9:45 PM Comments comments (0)

So yeah. Here I am again still trying to get my blogging back on track.  Sorry for the holdup.  I've been having technical difficulties.  I had lost all the pictures in all my past posts and couldn't access my website online.  I've been so frustated.  Just to make sure I don't lose my precious blog, I'll have to make sure to post at least one entry a week to keep my site active (not that I was told to do that, but I'm sure that's what the problem was).  It seems to be all fixed now and I'll try to get some pics on here of my latest projects/adventures/experiments.  There doesn't seem to be enough hours in a day to get things all done.  

I'm going to be signing off and hopefully my next post will be a lot more interesting.  I didn't expect my blog to be working today since I've checked it a few times last week. Since I found it to be in good working order, I thought to just drop a line and hopefully prevent it from getting all wonky again. 


Laters

I'm Back!

Posted by Angela Diaz on May 24, 2015 at 3:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Finally I can get back to blogging! Sorry for the long absence.  My crap laptop was constantly on the fritz so I decided to just not bother with it anymore and wait until I could get a Mac.  Now, I know that frugal people don't usually go and get thousand dollar laptops.  Don't worry, I didn't.  I got a manufacturer refurbished older model Mac for $240 bucks on E-Bay.  This lovely thing is so awesome and is great for its intended purpose, namely blogging and surfing the web.  I got this a few weeks ago, but since I never had a Mac before, I had a bit of a learning curve to overcome.  I'm still not Mac-savvy, but I'l get by for now.  

So what have I been up to? Well, my oldest daughter had a baby and that makes me a grandmother! I have to say that being a grandmother is waaay greater than I ever thought it'd be.  I absolutely love my grandson.  I feel so incredibly blessed.  I've expanded my garden a little bit (I'll get to the pictures in the next post once I figure out how to put pictures on this laptop and get them on this blog. I've also decided to leave my job in 48 months (or less).  I'm putting smackloads of money in index funds and mutual funds.  I've kept my cost of living so low, that I can actually keep my current standard of living with only $1,200/month (that includes some spending money believe it or not).  I haven't decided yet on whether I would pursue a different full-time job doing something that I love, work 20 hours/week, work only seasonaly (like during the non-growing winter months), work temp jobs so that I'm always doing something different, or just not work at all for a time.  I think I won't work during the first six months of my being off work.  I plan to leave at the end of May 2019.  That means I'll have my whole summer off and all the holidays that come after that. Then, maybe January of 2020 when I'm starting to be bored out of my mind, I'll look for some type of employment. Maybe full time seasonal, temp, or part-time.  Either way, I'll have about 7 years worth of monthly expenses saved up and compounding that I can pull from when I need to.  I've come to the conclusion that life is too short to be working at a place I'm not passionate about.  Doing the same thing, day in, day out, looking out my window on beautiful spring or fall days wishing I could be outside.  Stressing myself out because by the time I get home, I only have about 3-4 good hours to cook dinner, clean up, tend the garden, and get things done. My weekends are spent catching up on household chores rather than having fun or relaxing.  If you've never read the book Radical Homemakers, you need to check it out and you'll know exactly what I mean.  What I'm sacrificing to work a full time day job is not worth the cost.  Time away from my children, stress, overload and burnout, consumerism, junk, convenience and fast foods, etc. I'm taking back control of my time, my values, and my lifestyle.  

I've learned some new frugal and urban homesteading things, have tried new projects, and expanding my knowledge in herbal/natural home remedies, cooking, sewing, etc.  I'll hope to get everyone caught up on these experiments as I get some pictures taken and on here. Wait till I post the upgrade I made to my bike so that I can ride with my grandson! It's so cool! He'll be one year old already in mid-July. Time flies! Well, I'm heading out to the garden (I call it Eden) to take some pics and see if I can post something later on with the garden update. Laters!

Easy Delicious Deviled Eggs

Posted by Angela Diaz on April 12, 2014 at 6:30 PM Comments comments (0)

     I'm known for my deviled eggs. Everytime there is an office party or potluck, I bring the deviled eggs. Every family holiday get together, I bring deviled eggs.  It's my thing. I always bring these for two reasons: 1, they are very cheap and easy to make 2, you can't go wrong with deviled eggs! Everyone loves them. They are always a hit. Always!

     I'll be sharing my very easy recipe on how I make deviled eggs and if you're like me and buy dozens of eggs at a time in bulk (because you get a better price that way and eggs are so versatile and healthy), then you will always have most of the ingredients to make this and any party that pops up won't necessarily have you running to the store and spending money. (who wants to spend money anyway, ugh). So here it is:


Ingredients:

Eggs

Mayonnaise

Paprika

     Boil the eggs. Peel. Cut them longways in half. Dump the hard yolks into a bowl or whatever. NOTE: Many years ago I got this deviled egg holder for less than five bucks.  I use it every time I make these and makes transporting them a breeze. Definitely worth the couple bucks.

     Now put some large spoonfulls of Mayonnaise in with the egg yolks and using a fork or hand mixer, mix it up. Keep adding Mayonnaise and mixing until you have the consistency and taste you want. I then use a plastic baggie or ziplock bag and put the mayo/yolk mixture into it. I snip the corner and use that device to squueze the mixture into the egg halves.

     Last step is to sprinkle paprika onto the eggs. All done! Now your dish is the talk of the party and you didn't spend much time or money on it!


     I just simplified your life and made you popular. You're welcome.

I Found a Little Free Library!!!

Posted by Angela Diaz on April 4, 2014 at 7:25 PM Comments comments (0)

     For scoots and giggles I decided to take a different route home on my bicycle.  Right in my neighborhood just a few blocks from my home I found a Little Free Library! It was so neat! I've heard of this concept and seen examples online, but have never seen one in my own neighborhood. The neat things about these little libraries is you just open the little door and take whatever book you want. If you have a book you'd like to donate to the Little Free Library, you just put it in there.  After you read the book, you can return it...or not. No late fees, no due dates, no checking in and out. This is community at its best.  These Little Free Libraries run entirely on community. It's a wonderful way to keep book circulating in a community. 

     I made a point when I got home to put some used books in my bicycle bag. The next time I passed through there I placed some books in the library. Though there were no books in there at that time that I was interested in borrowing, it made me smile to browse through their little selection and it made me just as happy to be able to donate some books.


DIY Citrus Vinegar Cleaner

Posted by Angela Diaz on April 4, 2014 at 7:10 PM Comments comments (0)

     My latest DIY experiment was a succes, so I have to share it. I generally use a vinegar/water solution to clean many surfaces. I do this because it's cheaper, and because it doesn't expose my family and our environmnet to toxic chemicals. There is also a lot less waste when you're not buying all kinds of cleaners in various bottles and containers.

     l decided to try out a citrus-scented vinegar cleaner solution I found online.  It's very easy to make. All you have to do is stuff orange peels in a jar, fill with vinegar and let sit for a few weeks or more.  I used old spaghetti jars.

      After the orange peels have sat in the vinegar for a few weeks, using a strainer, pour the citrus-scented solution into another container filtering out the orange peels.  To use, put the citrus solution in your spray bottle, dilute with some water (maybe 75% solution to 25% water, or 50/50, whatever you like). Now just spray on surfaces and clean.  I like this because it doesn't smell like pure strong vinegar when I clean. It does have the nice citrus scent.  You can also use this same method to make Lemon-scented cleaner; just use lemon peels in place of orange peels.


Smelling Supermarket Produce

Posted by Angela Diaz on March 30, 2014 at 9:55 PM Comments comments (0)

     I thought I'd drop a quick post to relate my most recent experience at the supermarket.  I was looking for a few items in the produce department to add to my stir-fry.  Not sure what prompted me to do this, but I began smelling the produce.  I grabbed all kinds of things, spinach, radishes, carrots, broccoli, etc.and guess what? None of them smelled like anything. No distinct scent at all. I didn't have allergies or a cold that day. My sinuses were clear. Why didn't I smell anything at all in the whole produce department?

     When I was picking my half-share box of vegetables during my lunch break and bringing them to my office, my whole office smelled of fresh earth and...well freshness.The vegetables were so strong and wonderful smelling. If there were a scented candle with that scent, I would buy it. It smelled like I just came in from my own garden with mud on my boots and just pulled up and picked wonderful deliciousness from my garden.

     I challenge anyone to walk around their large grocery store and take the sniff test. Are you finding anything that smells nice? Even the herbs didn't smell strongly.  I rubbed some leaves between my fingers and had to sniff hard to get a faint whiff of the herb. I mean, WOW.  I can't even express how I felt when I walked out of there. That experience made me more determined to give my garden my 100% this year. 

     I was going to plant winter veggies, but I think I'll give my garden a break after the fall harvest. I'll find a local horse farm and collect up a load or two of free manure and give my garden a special rest and manure treatment while I continue to support my local CSAs winter share.  The supermarkets are selling garbage they call "produce". Well, my days of purchasing that cardboard stand-in for real food is nearing its end.

Radical Homemakers; This book Changed My Life

Posted by Angela Diaz on March 29, 2014 at 10:40 PM Comments comments (0)

     If there's one book that I would recommend anyone read, it would be Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes.  This book has put into words everything I think and feel about my lifestyle choice and my desire to pursue homesteading.  This book makes one want to quit their job immediately and focus on the important things in life. It brings to light how we are being almost brainwashed by corporations to live a certain lifestyle, buy certain products, work certain jobs, etc. 

     Radical Homemakers is a book that covers everything from eating locally and/or home-grown fruits and veggies, to the subject of health insurance, living a better life by working less or for less money to pursue happiness, coming together as a community and supporting one another, etc.  Hayes gives us so much history on how homesteading was a way of life and everything changed when men started going off to work and then women began following suit.  Hayes did tons of research and even toured throughout the country interviewing 20 people who were pursuing this radical homemaking lifestyle to one degree or another.  One might be living in an apartment in the city, another might be living on their family farm, another might be a stay at home mother with a working husband, one might work part-time or not at all.  These folks come from all kinds of backgrounds, married, single, with kids, without kids, older, younger, etc.  There is someone anyone can relate to.  I borrowed this book from the library twice and read it front to back twice.  I have to return it back on Monday, but I went onto Amazon and purchased a used copy for me to keep.  Once I get it, I will read it yet again, but will highlight some of my favorite parts of the book that really spoke to me. 

     I know some think I'm crazy. I've been called a hippie, I've been called Amish, and I've been told I should have been born a century ago.  Reading this book helped me feel like I am not the only one out there that sees that our system is corrupt in all kinds of ways.  That living a meaningful, and happy life has nothing to do with having a lot of money.  People think I'm lucky that I have a job that pays well and has great benefits, but I can't help but feel like a trapped prisoner. I can't say I really enjoy or am passionate about what I do for a living. It's a job and it pays the bills, but there are so many other things I would rather be doing. Like working on my garden and putting up good, fresh, organic food for my family.  I am currently on a plan to pay off my mortgage in three years (or less if possible) and then pay off my student loans the following year. In my eyes, I have five more years of working full-time before I call it quits and pursue my true passions. A lifestyle that enables me to have more time with my family, work a part-time job year-round doing something that I love, or maybe just working full-time during winter months when not much else is going on.

     Radical Homemakers shows that it is possible to live your life the way you feel you should live it. That you can raise your children the way they should be raised and with your beliefs. That money is not everything and actually can hinder growth.  That we can be producers and not consumers. That we can be good stewards of our environment and resources and help others as well.

     Final words: READ THIS BOOK!!!

Started My Gardening Season

Posted by Angela Diaz on March 29, 2014 at 10:15 PM Comments comments (0)

     Well, finally we had a little break in the cold weather last weekend and I jumped on the opportunity to run outside and get som gardening done.  My yard looked like a horrible wreck all winter long and I just ached for all the horrendous snow to melt so that I can get some things started. Here's what I got done:

1. Planted 3 raspberry and one blackberry cane

2. Planted 2 blueberry bushes

3. Planted my garlic cloves

4. Repaired three of my raised beds. One or two sides of three of my raised beds have fallen down. I made these about five years ago with non-treated wood planks. Should have used cedar. It's more expensive, but doesn't rot as quickly. Still, for the few bucks these cost, they lasted five years and will serve me well this season too.

5. Fluffed up the soil in my garden beds (tell you what...the soil is so soft, rich and dark!)

6. Cut the branches in pieces that were pruned off my apple tree in January.

7. Tilled up about 10 x 10 foot area of my yard and removed the weeds.

8. Repaired some of the nets on my trellises and set up two of them. The other two still need some parts of the net repaired and then they'll go up too.

     Overall, it was a very productive day and I felt very accomplished.  Here are more some things I would like to add to my garden this year:

1. Cherry tree

2. Peach tree

3. Jerusalem artichoke bed

4. Grape vine

     If all goes well, I will have apples, plums, peaches, cherries, grapes, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries fruiting every year on their own.  What an accomplishment that would be.  I've never grown blueberries, raspberries or blackberries before so I hope what I put in will do well.  I've also never grown grapes before. I'm starting off with a concord grape vine this year and if that goes well, I'd like to get two other grape varieties.  I will achieve ultimate stardom (in my own eyes) if I can build a hen house and have about three egg-laying hens. Technically, I'm not allowed to have hens in the city, but I'm going to see if I can get away with it.  The only way I'll get in trouble if one of my neighbors rats me out, but I don't see why they would if the hens don't cause a ruckus.  If they wanted to complain about something, they should have complained about my barking pit-bulls by now.

     I did all this last Saturday.  This weekend I was hoping to build my grape vine support (planning to use two split-board posts and two 11-foot long split board rails).  Unfortunately, it's raining all weekend, so I didn't get anything done. (sad face). 

     I have so many new projects and learning experiences planned this year.  I'm already trying to grow new things (I'll post the success or failure of my experiments).  I'd like to take food preservation to a whole new level.  I want to learn to make jams and jellies and can them, learn how to use a pressure canner to can green beans and corn and such, and learn to make new recipes with my bounty.  If I get blueberries, for example, I'd like to make a blueberry pie.  I don't eat pies, but maybe it'll taste better if I make it myself from what I grew in my yard.  Kind of like how I don't like apple sauce but when I made it, HOLY COW! It was delicious! Maybe I can even learn how to make raspberry tea from the leaves of the raspberry vines (if that's what you make raspberry tea with).  One thing about urban homesteading is that this never gets old or boring. There is absolutely always something new to try or learn to do.  Every single thing I learn to do on my own not only saves me money, but it's always healthier for my family and more sustainable for our environment. It's a win/win/win thing. I can feel 100% good about what I'm doing.


Finally Finished With All the Apples!!

Posted by Angela Diaz on February 10, 2014 at 7:55 PM Comments comments (0)

     Okay I have the final numbers.  I bought three bushels of apples for $36 and this is what came out of it:

2 1/2 gallons plus 48 ounces of apple cider

19 pints of apple sauce

5 pints of apple slices

6 whole apples to pack in lunch

     I must admit, that was a whole heck of a lot of apples and apple processing! Would I ever do that again? You bet. It was so worth the cost.   My favorite apple cide made by a local farm costs $6/gallon (if you're lucky).  My apple cider was just as good (if not better).  I learned a lot with this experiment:

1. When I went to the orchard outlet, I was curious to find out how they still had amazingly fresh apples months after the harvest.  I asked an employee and they said they keep their apples in a very large refrigerator at 30 degrees.  In a normal household fridge, your eggs, milk, and just about everything would freeze at that temperature. Apples don't freeze until about 25 degrees so keeping them just above their freezing level preserves them for a long time. How cool is that!?

2. I learned how to make some pretty amazing applesauce that everyone seemed to love so canning them in half-pint jars was a bad idea. My first batch of applesauce was 12 half-pint jars.  By the end of the week they were all gone. Evidently, with apple sauce this good, a half-pint jar is a single serving size.

3. I learned how to operate a juicer and make apple cider. I also learned that it was just as good when it thawed out from its frozen state.  Sometimes the apple cider seemed too tart or too strong.  Adding some water until it tasted right was fine.

4. I found a new tasty apple I had never tried before. Cameo apples are comparable to my favorite apple, Honey Crisp.  Cameos are very crunchy and sweet.  Honey Crisps can be hard to find and expensive.  I will absolutely be purchasing a bushel of Cameos for fresh eating later.

5. I learned that if I plan to make more apple sauce and apple cider again in the future, it's wise to invest in a cranking apple peeler, corer, and slicer. I spent hours peeling, coring and slicing apples. It would have all been done in half an hour tops if I had the right equipment. I am so getting one of these before I do this again:




Making Apple Sauce

Posted by Angela Diaz on February 5, 2014 at 9:00 PM Comments comments (0)

     Making apple sauce was so much easier than I thought. To be honest, I don't like apple sauce. I made it because I know that my kids will eat it, but I was quite surprised by how my apple sauce came out and I really like it!  Having control over the ingredients and the texture makes all the difference in the world!  I used three kinds of apples, Cameo, Pink Lady, and Stayman. 

     I washed, peeled, cored, and sliced enough apples to fill a large pot.  It's important to remember to put the apples in a container of cold water with a few tablespoons of lemon juice to keep them from becoming discolored while you work on peeling and cutting the rest of the apples.

     Put about an inch of water in a large pot. Put all the apple slices in the large pot (without the water they've been soaking in!) and let cook on medium/high heat.  Stir the apples every minute or so and use a potato masher to help them along as well. They will get soft and mushy as you stir and mash.  When the mash is at a desirable texture, add some sugar and cinammon to taste.

     At this point I already had my canning equipment ready to go.  I had my bath canner full of boiling water and the jars sterilizing in it.  I also had my jar lids and bands in a sauce pan simmering.  Now, don't use this as a guide to canning. Please refer to the Ball Book of Home Preserving or other resources for step-by-step directions.  Anywho, I took out the sterilized jars, ladled the hot apple sauce into them, covered them with the lid and secured with the bands. I placed them in the water bath canner for twenty minutes, took them out to cool and listened to the cute little 'POP' sounds of the lids securing themselves.

 

     This was my very first time making apple sauce and it's been an absolute success. My kids like it, I like it, and I even had a few of my coworkers try it out. I've gotten some feedback on how good this apple sauce is, but my favorite one was "This is the best home-made applesauce I have ever tried".  That says a lot.  I know it's better than store-bought, but saying that it's better than some other home-made applesauces is a pretty big deal since this is my first time.  I'm very happy with how this all came out.


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