Cod, it’s what’s for Dinner

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I had been craving fish for a few days, so I stopped by the grocery store on my way home from work yesterday, and picked up some Cod, and the makings for a blueberry crumble.

I stopped by the meat counter at the grocery store, to see what they had in the way of Fish. Cod was a better price than Salmon, so I got some Cod.

I am a huge chicken and fish person, I definitely would love to live in SE Alaska, do more fishing, and eat more Fish.

For dinner I had cooked the cod I bought, as well as green beans and almonds, and some sourdough bread. It was so good, and filling.

I also made another blueberry crumble. This recipe alone, made purchasing the Salmon Sisters Cookbook worth it. I had also picked up some vanilla bean coconut milk ice cream to go with it. I had used a stick if the melt dairy free spread in place of butter in the crumble topping.

I made a “butter” garlic sauce for the cod. The recipe I had found did call for butter, but I used my dairy free spread in the place of butter to make it dairy free.

There was a time when I used to be able to eat dairy, though I have been dairy free long enough that it is second nature to me at this point. I have definitely learned tips and tricks to substitute dairy free options for the dairy that is called for.

I am definitely wanting to cook at home more, and not spend so much money on “restaurant food”. Between wanting to live in a small town or in the country (preferably in Alaska), making home cooked meals is definitely something I want to get better at. I also believe that cooking at home is more frugal, and cost effective.

I am definitely trying to live more frugally, and as much as possible, do Cash Only, especially for the day to day expenses.

First Week Back At Work

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This week has been a busy one. This week I had my first shifts back at work, after four months of furlough.

Since my last post, I have made a total of six batches of jam. I made a batch of strawberry, a batch of Marionberry, a batch of blackberry, and three batches of raspberry.

This week I also made a blueberry crumble, a lemon jello cake, and a loaf of banana bread.

I have enjoyed making all this tasty good stuff.

I have definitely enjoyed the time I have had to work on my homemaking and homesteading skills.

What I have Learned about Modern Homesteading

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Over the years I had done things like going and doing U-Pick fruit and berries as well as picking berries from the backyard garden, as well as making jam and canning fruit.

The most consistent “homesteading” experience I had was two summers ago, when I was able to get eight batches of jam made from the raspberries I picked from the backyard.

The other day, I had gone for a walk a couple hours after breakfast, so I was able to sit a bit between breakfast and going for a walk. From about noon until a little after 7 o’clock pm, I had only sat down brief spurts to eat dinner while making jam. I had gone for a walk, picked raspberries once I got home, watered the raspberries once I picked the ripe ones, showered, put a load of laundry in the washer, started dinner, switched the laundry, started jam, continued eating dinner, finished up jam, got the laundry from the dryer, folded it, and by then it was 7 pm.

Then I got thinking about how much more work goes into having a farm / homestead this time of year. My walk would have likely been replaced by more gardening, cooking / making three meals a day, feeding animals, collecting eggs, casing after kids, trips into town, loads of laundry, and so much more. It is a busy life, and I do want that kind of life, to be busy providing healthy food for myself and my family. I want to spend more time outside, breathing, fresh country air, being tired at the end of the day from a good day’s work.

First Batch of Jam in Nearly 2 Years!!!

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Over the course of the past couple of weeks, the raspberries have been coming on. I wasn’t getting my hopes up after last year.

Last year, I don’t think we ever got a full pint in any one picking, and I am pretty thorough (I have the scratches on my arms and legs to prove it). So, I wasn’t holding my breath on this year being any better.

So far, I have been mildly surprised, and happy at what I an seeing. Unless some freak weird thing happens, and we get no more raspberries, I should get a few more batches of Jam this year.

Two years ago I was able to make eight batches of jam with the amount of raspberries our bushes produced, the year before that we got several batches of jam as well.

While ai am not holding out to get eight batches like I did two summers ago, if I could get four to six batches this summer, I would be happy.

At this rate, besides a bit of water every so often, the berries are free, as we have had the bushes long enough that they have more than paid for themselves in fruit. In making jam, the only things we actually have to buy are: pectin, lemon juice (if we need more), sugar and corn syrup. In comparison to the cost of fruit, the other ingredients for jam are super cheap. The time and energy to pick berries and make jam is more than worth it, because the final product is better and I have the piece of mind knowing where the berries came from, who picked them, and the conditions they were in until jam could be made.

I wanted another one really bad

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I fell in love with the wild blueberry crumble recipe, it is so good, and so easy to make. I wanted more, so I made another one.

I had gone to Trader Joe’s on Thursday, and picked up several things, including a 2lbs container of blueberries, and a bag of organic lemons. I was shocked at how inexpensive the blueberries and lemons were at Trader Joe’s. I got the 2 pound container of blueberries for like $5.99, which was less than the price of a single pound at Safeway. I got a whole bag of lemons for like $2.99 which was a deal. I also picked up four bags of basmati rice for $2.99 a bag.

While I do like the fact that there are so many grocery stores within a close proximity to where I live, it is definitely overwhelming, and I would trade it for only having one grocery store in town, to be away from the insanity that is city living.

Of late, I haven’t been going out more than I absolutely have to, not really because of the pandemic, but because of how crazy it is here, and this lifestyle isn’t for me. I definitely do better / less anxiety with a more rural and slower pace of life with fewer people and more time spent at home. Moving to Alaska is still the dream / goal that I am working towards.

It’s my time to make some Changes!

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There have been changes I have wanted to make, and give a try. Now that I have been starting to change things up and make changes, and since I am at home for a bit, I might as make the changes and just throw myself into it.

This furlough, for me has been the tipping point, that it time to get things done, and make changes that will put me in a better place to find a new job and move. I have been ready to move for years, but I feel that my debt has been holding me back. Beings that I am furloughed, and collecting unemployment, with the CARES act in place, it is helping me to pay down, and possibly pay off my credit card debt. If I can get that paid off, then I would be left with just my student loans. If I could get my credit cards paid off and start saving money, I would be happy.

The longer this pandemic wears on, and things keep more and more restrictive, the stronger the desire grows to move someplace with a better coat if living, and where I can be more self reliant. Just going to the grocery store these days is a zoo with new rules and regulations every time you go, it is insanity. All the restrictions really haven’t helped my anxiety, and going out makes me anxious more than it did before this.

Even though the holiday season ended in December, and had a few months between then and being furloughed, I still felt exhausted and not like myself, I had no energy or anything. I started taking vitamins and such not long before I was furloughed, and since I have been furloughed I have been able to be in a routine that is more natural for my body, and really start eating better food, I am slowly starting to feel better. I am trying to make choices now to live a healthier more productive life. I am ready to put the city life and money chasing lifestyle behind me.

I am trying to get back to the roots of my blog, and simple homemaking. I am trying to learn how to budget, and live frugally, and that I don’t need a lot of things, or more clothes / shoes than I wear on a regular basis / clothes that aren’t my “go to’s” that I style in different ways. I am not a fan of eating out, or doing things where there are a lot of people.

I was an idealistic, listening to society on the whole needing a career that materialized young adult who was still in college when the recession of 2008 occurred. I graduated college in 2010, and couldn’t find a job for over a year. The past decade I have learned a lot about myself, including but not limited to; I miss having my own space to do with what I wanted, I enjoy working in the earth, and watching things grow then reaping the harvest, I prefer eating home cooked food, and making homemade food.

Working towards Getting Healthy

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Through most of the season I had felt under the weather and had been sick a couple times. I have also been dealing with Bell’s Palsy since the end of September.

I was hoping once the season ended, I would really start feeling better, but I have still been more tired than I should be, and overall feeling unwell, as well as still dealing with Bell’s palsy, and a couple other issues, that I am trying to get resolved.

While, on a subconscious level, I knew that I wasn’t eating as well as I should be.

I have finally gotten to the point where I have had enough, and I am willing to do what it takes to get myself healthy again.

I am still dairy free, limiting my gluten (and breads in general), watching my sugar consumption, especially trying to limit anything with added sugar, and trying to get back to clean eating. I actually enjoyed clean eating, and I didn’t realize how much i enjoyed it, and how good it was for me until more recently when I have been feeling so unwell.

While i still am going to keep this mainly about Homemaking, trying to find and come up with healthy meal ideas that fit with the dietary guidelines I am trying to work within, and make it taste good, all falls under the homemaking umbrella. Don’t worry, this is not going to be turning into a weight-loss or fitness blog.

I still want to eventually live on some acreage, have a good size garden, and raise some of my own meat (at least most of what can’t be hunted or caught, that isn’t beef).

Along with needing to eat better, I am also needing to exercise more, and spending more tome outdoors to exercise. As much as I hate to admit it, this winter has been rough.

Bottle Drop

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If you live here in the US, your pop (soda) cans & bottles have bottle deposits listed on them for some states.

Here in Oregon, we are one of the states that has bottle deposits that we have to pay on certain types of cans, plastic bottles and glass bottles. Our state has a $0.10 bottle deposit per bottle.

The bottles that have these bottle deposits on them are pop (soda/soda pop/coke) cans and bottles, beer cans and bottles, hard cider cans and bottles, Kombucha cans and bottles, single use water bottles, and that kind of thing.

From the time the bottle deposits were started until more recently (like the last year or two) many of the grocery stores had and have bottle return areas. Over time, many of them became quite dirty, smelly and gross. Quite often, when the machines were working you had to contend with street people who collected cans for the money. Returning cans and bottles has always been a less than desirable task. At least in the part of the city I am from, as well as the other nice areas, a lot of people put their cans and bottles out in the regular recycling, because the 5 or 10 cents wasn’t/ isn’t a big deal to them. Up until the last couple years we never really saw the amount of street people come through digging through people’s recycling the night before and early morning of Garbage day. Now it’s crazy. It makes me a bit unsettled, because they are out quite often at the same time I have to leave for work, which is before the sun is up and most people are awake (before 4:30 in the morning). While I know most would leave me alone, it’s hard to tell who would give me issues and who wouldn’t, so it’s unsettling. There was one instance that made me become almost hyper vigilant, on Monday mornings (garbage day on the other side of the road just up from my house) and Friday Mornings (our garbage day). There was one of these people standing in the corner just up from where I live, with his bike leaned against the stop sign, staring at me. I walked to my car fast and got in, and locked my doors. While it did work out OK, it just unnerved me a lot, and made me feel even less safe here than I already did.

That brings me to what I started this post about to begin with. Within the last two or three years, we have had several bottle drop / redemption locations open up here in the city. All the major cities here in Oregon have at least one. Outside of the Portland Metro area, they can be found in at least: Salem, Albany, Corvallis, Eugene, Roseburg, Medford, Klamath Falls, Bend and Hermiston. These are the ones that I know of.

I know at one point they were talking about closing down the individual grocery store self serve bottle machines (the dirty, nasty gross ones, where you have to deal with the homeless street people), and just having the bottle redemption centers, but that has yet to fully materialize.

I finally bit the bullet after the new year and set up a bottle drop account, and went in, got my card and bags. I was surprised to see that they also have self serve machines, which is nice to see. These centers are also kept surprisingly clean. Much cleaner than I have ever seen the ones at the grocery stores here in Portland, the one at the grocery store I went to, in the small town I lived in while in college was kept way cleaner. Though that small town didn’t have the homeless / street people problems that the bigger cities do.

Over the last month, I finally filled my first green bottle drop bag, with cider bottles I have been collecting over the past year or so, as well as pop cans, and San Pellegrino cans from last year. I finally had enough to fill a bag, and took it in.

Since I am still learning the process there was a fair amount to figure out, but I got it figured out, and I am set for a bit. The whole green bag system, definitely does make it easier in the long run. Boxes of bags have 10 bags, and cost $2.00 per box that is debited to your account, and each bag costs $0.40 to process, which is also debited from your account. There is also a limit of 15 full green bags that you can take back during a 90 day period, which isn’t really an issue for someone like me, and my family. There is also a daily amount you can take back through the self service, which is like 350 or 360 cans or bottles per day. Though the daily self services amount rules have been in place pretty much since the bottle deposit / returns have been in existence, or at least as long as I can remember so that is nothing new. While there are some other rules for the bottle drops, as far as how much, how often and frequency within that time period, exist and are available on their website, it is pretty reasonable for the average person.

Getting everything figured out in the beginning and the idea of everything you have to do to get started with the program was a little bit like “is it really worth it?” But now that I have gotten my account set up, gotten my first roll of bags and gone through the process of taking my first bag back, it’s not that difficult or daunting.

I wanted to get things set up an squared away while I still have a bottle drop like 10 minutes from my house. I know I am going to be moving away at some point, and unless I move out of state, I wanted at least this to be taken care of, so all I have to do is update my address and stuff in the system. Depending on where I end up moving in Oregon, I would be making fewer trips to a town or city that has a bottle drop, and now I am at a point where I have everything thing I need to make it so that I would only have to go to one of these towns every few months (which I would be doing anyway, to go do some stock up shopping).

Here in Oregon, the cost to have the bottle drop place process the green bags, is the same as the refund value of 4 cans or bottle, and if you figure the cost of a box of bags divided by the number of bags, is the same as two cans or bottles per bag, you are really only giving them or “losing” 6 cans or bottles per bag, which isn’t bad. I’d just as soon pay the $0.60 total per bag, and save myself the time and hassle of the serve and having them do it. About the only time it’s not quite as cost effective is if you have more 2 liter bottles than anything else (as they take up more room than the average 12 – 20 ounce cans and bottles). When you can fit more than 50 cans and bottles in a bag, it’s totally worth it to not do it yourself, especially when you can drop it off as part of running errands, and you still get most of your money back.

More to consider

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I have been considering ways to cut expenses, and what I can live without. I have also been greatly contemplating ways to work on saving money, and whether what I am spending money on will help me get to my end game, or hold me back a bit from it.

The life I am working toward and feel called to live is more one of simplicity, away from the city life, where I can raise a family of my own, as well as do more to live off the land, and be much less reliant on having to go to town and to the grocery store for food. I am also interested in cottage businesses, and being able to be sustainable from where I live, and that is more unconventional to how I was raised.

I realize that there are those who thrive in the city, and for whom the city is home, and can’t imagine having to grow and raise their own food. That’s fine, and I am not here to shame anyone for how they live their lives. I have just been disillusioned by living in the city and being dependent on grocery stores, when I can taste the difference between home grown / fresh from a local farm and home canned versus store bought. I also love doing it myself. I get a satisfaction at the end of a day from making homemade jam, or the end of a long day canning, or made a home cooked meal with fresh ingredients.

Now that I have far fewer hours at work, and also haven’t felt well for a while, I want to get to a place of better health, and working hard for the life that I know is right for me. I would much rather go to bed tired at the end of a long day knowing that the hard work I put in that day had a greater good than just earning a little money.

As far as cottage businesses go, the things that have been on my mind have been to sell some of the socks I make (that I don’t keep for myself), as well as handmade soap and candles. I definitely want to learn how to make handmade soap and handmade candles.

I also want to purchase American made when possible (like lodge cast iron skillets), when I need to purchase items.

I can live without having Smith Teamaker tea on a regular basis when Stash tea is plenty good enough, and a fraction of the price. I also don’t need to be shopping at work. I have spent more than enough money at work over the roughly 20 months I have been with the company.

Since the season ended, I am back off coffee. I have also made the decision to not drink alcohol any longer, as well as staying away from soda.

Giving up alcohol is not based on any moral sway, it is based on the fact of cost, and the fact that I am not really a fan of the flavor.

It’s the little things that help make it a home

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A couple of the few upsides / advantages / bonuses of working where I do, and the shift I work, is getting to see a lot of the new stuff as it comes in, and helping set it. So that means I get to see a lot of the new stuff first, and am able to pretty much get what I want. Having my employee discount definitely helps me save a little bit of money on the things I do want and get.

Even though I am trying not spend as much at work, which is sometimes hard (though it’s a bit easier now that the season is over), at least I am still able to get and use the $10 shoppers rewards when I earn them and the free coffee for every six bags purchased. So that does help a bit when there are things I do want.

This year, our spring transition has a lot of furniture and home decor for our post Christmas set. It seems to have gone a bit easier than the two sets we had last year.

The other day, I happened to have the cart full of the stuff that went on one of the empty fixtures, which was several vases and plenty of fake plants and succulents.

As I was working, I actually really liked one that I had put together, so I had picked it up. I had a base at home that I decided would be great for the two bunches I wanted.

This is what I had come up with, and I really liked it. My mom also really liked it, and wanted to steal mine, and I was like “no way Jose, even if I let you “borrow” it, I may never get it back. If you want one, you gotta get your own”. So she gave me money, and I got her one of her own.

It’s ever so slightly different from mine (not counting the base), that I can tell them apart, but yet have the same feel.

I love little things like these that help make a house and a room feel way more homey.

That is definitely one thing that I want to do again and more of when I have a home of my own. I did a bit of it in the last apartment I had in college, but as it was a rental and I was a poor college student (I didn’t have a job then), I couldn’t afford much in the way of decorations, but I did what I could. Over the years, as I have had jobs, and found stuff that I like, I have picked it up and been putting it away for when I have a place of my own again.