Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Weeks Frugal Accomplishments aka Losing Ground (sort of)

March 23 - 29

Wednesday:   Maceo had a touring company performance today.  It was quite some distance away and the theatre drove them to the location in a van.  They would have to eat lunch on the road so Maceo packed himself a couple of peanut butter sandwiches and almonds.  He was going to return to town at the same time as Keegan would be arriving.  I was going to have Dad pick him up but he opted to walk to the gym to work out then just hang out downtown through rehearsal and such.  He packed protein shakes and stuff to get him through this time.
Bishop was sick today and spent the entire day in bed.  The only up-side to this was that I didn't have to figure out the logistics of getting him to science group and pottery while having to be available to pick Keegan up at the airport.
I donated a large bag of items to the thrift store and will have this documented as a charitable donation for next years taxes.
I did swagbucks.
I had purchased two more corned beefs on clearance.  Herb put one of them in the crockpot with another cheapo cabbage.  This will make for some nice meals in the future.
I picked up Keegan from the airport.  She was very hungry so I took her to a charming tea house for a bite to eat.  Going out to eat is not something we will be doing a lot of after Keegan leaves but we will splurge while she is here.  Here is where I am losing some ground; however, I did set aside some money in anticipation of this visit.  After the tea house I treated her to a happy hour beverage at Sonic.  This is truly a treat for her as Sonic is not something she has ready access to back home.  I used the gift card to buy the discounted beverages.

Thursday:  The kids and I went to the movie theater to watch Beauty and the Beast.  We went to the matinee to keep the cost down; otherwise, it was budgeted for as this was planned for well in advance of Keegan's visit.
Herb found leftover ham in the freezer.  He made ham and eggs for breakfast then used some of the ham in some homemade macaroni and cheese.  Herb also cleaned out the cheese drawer of the fridge and found lots of cheesy remnants that he then utilized in the mac and cheese.  Herb is very resourceful and much appreciated.  However, he does struggle with preparing reasonable portions.  For today's mac and cheese he used more than a pound of dried macaroni, this is feels a bit like losing ground.
Herb was particularly resourceful in the preparation of a sweet treat.  He made very delicious apple cream cheese puff pastries using what we had on hand.
I did a lot of swagbucks.
Herb made progress assembling some of the raised beds.
Maceo had a friend who was moving and was wanting to sell his bench press and free weights.  He was originally asking for $110 but agreed to sell it to us for $75.  This may not seem like the best time to make such a purchase but it was something on our "to purchase someday relatively soon" list so I agreed to the purchase.  As a bonus, the friend gifted Maceo some protein powder and other supplements.  They alone were probably valued at $75.
  Bishop is still not feeling well which means he hasn't really eaten all day.  We did make a late night run for apple juice.  I think I may need to stock up on some juices for occasions such as these.

Friday:  Herb made some white beans and ham.
Herb began making a broth and he placed the remainder of the ham in it.
He had leftover filling for pastries so he made more.  It was good that he used those leftovers but it did feel a bit like losing ground as he used up all the puff pastry that I had on hand for Keegan's birthday meal.
Herb did some yard clean up.
Maceo had his final two performances of the school touring company's Seuss Stories.  I went to both shows.  Keegan and Bishop joined me for the second show.  Truly delightful entertainment...and free!
Between the two shows some family and fellow performers came over to the house.  They ate their sack lunches and snacked on some Boo Berry cereal that I gifted them.  I had purchased it at Halloween but the boys didn't care for it so I shared and it was greatly appreciated.
Herb ate beans for dinner and the rest of us splurged on a special dinner at a creperie.
Maceo went to a friends house to watch a movie.  It was a little bit of a drive but still cheaper than other forms of entertainment.  Keegan found her entertainment in the form of going to watch an old friend perform at a bar.
I did some swagbucks.
I watched an episode of Call the Midwife on Netflix.  I think we are making the transition to life without cable quite nicely.

Saturday:  Today was Herb's birthday.  The most important aspect of our family birthday celebrations  is the family dinner.  For this birthday dinner Herb and Bishop each made half of a brisket - a friendly competition.  Herb had purchased this brisket while he was still stationed in Kansas and we opted to save it for this meal.  It was so worth it.  The side dishes were coleslaw (using our 79 cent cabbage), collard greens (only 99 cents per bunch and cooked using the ham bone from the ham that Herb dug out of the freezer the other day), a Greek style marinated vegetable salad (we were almost out of red wine vinegar so Keegan used some pomegranate vinegar that was just sitting on the shelf and it was very good), and sweet potato biscuits (these went over very well and will definitely be made again).  For his birthday dessert Herb chose pineapple upside-down cake.  When he requests this I have a very simple, very old-fashioned recipe that I typically use but he gave us permission to try something new if we wanted to.  Keegan and I chose to make this Vintage Bourbon Caramel Pineapple Upside Down Cake and, oh my word, it was sooo good (an airplane size bottle of bourbon contained precisely the proper amount of alcohol and Keegan was sweet to purchase it and we didn't have cardamom so we substituted equal parts cinnamon and nutmeg for it).  This dessert definitely had a significant WOW factor and really didn't cost that much to prepare.  For our beverage, we served lemonade (made from frozen concentrate and only costing 99 cents).  Overall, the meal was very delightful and delightfully inexpensive.
His birthday gift from Keegan was a jug of beer.  The liquor store down the street has this deal where you can purchase a jug for $5 then fill it with one of several different beers on tap (varying prices).  They then seal it up tight with CO2.  It will remain good unsealed for 90 days and is equivalent to about a six pack.  The jug can then be refilled with whatever beer they have on tap at that moment and they have an app that allows you to stay informed about the types of beer available.  He loved it and will enjoy the beer adventure as we budget in refills.
The boys and I got Herb some plants for his garden beds.  We got some cabbage plants and onion sets.  We placed some of the cabbage plants in little pots and used those for the dinner table's centerpiece.  I intend on helping him plant them tomorrow.
Herb shares his birthday with our grand-nephew, Maddox.  Keegan and I went to his birthday party.  This allowed Keegan to get to visit with all of the extended family, and meet Ollie JeanMarie, all at one time.  For his gift we dug into my gift stash.  We chose a Leonardo de Vinci kit.  I had purchased this kit a couple of years back hoping to do some of the projects with the history group.  When we chose not to use it I thought it would make a perfect gift for a niece or nephew and it did.  I also opted to give gifts (for them to open later so as not to steal the thunder of the birthday boy) to two grand-nieces whose birthday parties I didn't attend.  Their gifts also came from the stash.  One was given a book full of Ancient Egypt related craft projects (acquired in much the same way as the de Vinci kit) and the other was given a pack of fairytale crayons (purchased on clearance at Kohl's and with a coupon).  I wrapped them in packaging that I had on hand.  Two of the packages were placed in brown paper bags with handles that I saved from some store purchases.  The other was wrapped in a Valentine's bag that was purchased on clearance nearly a decade ago.
Today was a good day!

Sunday:  Bishop wanted to cook something special for Keegan before she left and this boy loves to try fancy schmancy stuff.  I had to go grocery shopping in order to make this happen.  I didn't exactly budget in another trip to the grocery store but I did still have some money from our "Keegan is visiting" entertainment budget so I utilized that.  The investment definitely paid off.  he made a marinated short ribs on a bed of polenta with roasted garlic and peppers.  It was amazing.  Additionally, not all of the groceries were used.  We will probably get another couple of meals out of those groceries.  In fact, he already has more ribs marinating.
Although an endeavor like this may blow the grocery budget it seems a little more economical when you take into consideration that it also serves the purposes of entertainment and education.  Bishop really enjoys creating culinary delights and even Herb got in on the action becoming his sous chef.  Also, we do give Bishop educational credit for these endeavors.
While at the store I picked up three bags of soil so that Herb and I could finish the raised beds.  I consider this part of his birthday present   Herb's birthday gifts ended up costing $31 but, if we are successful, will give so much more back.  Herb spent a good portion of the day assembling the second raised bed.  He has not gardened before, this is a new experience.  He was thrilled with his efforts.  I assembled the third bed and planted them all.  I planted beets, Icicle White radishes, French Breakfast radishes, kale, swiss chard, cabbage and red cabbage.
It was a day well spent!

Monday:  Keegan and I went to Panera and split a breakfast sandwich.  We needed something to tide us over until the big birthday fete.  I took home pumpkin muffins for the boys.
  Keegan took Bishop to a friends house.  This friend, Thomas, is a rapper who produces his own music; this is an interest of Bishop's.  Thomas showed Bishop his equipment and shared a computer program with him.  Additionally, he showed interest in being Bishop's mentor.
The main event of the day was Keegan's birthday party.  I was very pleased with the party and it was really quite economical.  I chose a Beauty and the Beast themed French dinner.  We made coq au vin (which cost less then $8 to make and leftovers remained for another meal), vol au vents with a chicken filling (this cost about $9 and provided an additional snack this evening), salad (just used what was on hand including a blush vinaigrette dressing that was expired at the food pantry) and fresh baguettes ($3).  We served lemonade (frozen concentrate that cost $1) poured over strawberry ice cubes (these probably cost me less than fifty cents to make; I simply used the small strawberries from the package I used to make chocolate covered) and champagne (we bought it for New Year's Day but didn't drink it then).  The champagne was chilled in a bowl of floral ice cubes (free using violets from my backyard)  I made a chocolate cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting and chocolate ganache.  I decorated the cake with a dark chocolate rose petal covered sail and brown sugar meringues ($12).  The cake was part of the dessert buffet that included palmiers (I made these for about $4), golden chocolate covered strawberries (I paid $2 for the strawberries, $1.50 for the chocolate on clearance after Valentine's and edible gold spray bought with a 40% coupon at Hobby Lobby for about $2.25), European cookies ($6) and little heart-shaped cookies (leftover from Valentine's.  I spent an additional $18 on some decorations, otherwise I utilized beautiful things that I had on hand.  Beautiful!!!
In a heart-shaped bag that I purchased on Valentines clearance a decade ago I tucked a Belle pencil (purchased on Valentine's clearance this year, a fabric rose made by a friend of mine, a beautiful dish towel (gifted to me by a friend and in turn shared with Keegan) and, finally, a U.S. Army class ring that belonged to Keegan's dad.  I am slowly giving the kids some of their Dad's belongings, his treasures.  It's a good gift!
A couple of childhood friends of Keegan's wanted to go out for coffee.  Instead Keegan invited them over for champagne, coffee and tea and anything off of the dessert buffet.  It was a LOT of fun!  It was a stupendous use of our leftovers!
Keegan and I got to view the rehearsal of Jesus Christ Superstar.  The director of the show invited her to watch Maceo perform since she won't be here for the show and she hadn't seen him perform since he was a boy.  It was amazing.
All the money spent for the day was for breakfast and milk and water - not bad expecially for such an amazing day!

Tuesday:  Keegan braided Bishop's hair this morning before she had to leave.  This buys us a little time before we will need to pay for his hair to be done.
I took Keegan to the airport.  I may not have made made the most frugal of choices when it came to parking; I chose not to drop her off curbside but to park and walk her in costing me two dollars.  Saving money isn't always the right choice.  Some things enrich our lives so much that they are worth the bit of cash that is expended.  It may seem odd to point this out when I only spent two dollars but every bit of money is meaningful, particularly during this time of transition with little income.
The rest of the day was largely spent at home, until the evening.
We ate leftovers for breakfast.  Herb made pasta carbonara for lunch.  I had leftover pasta for dinner and made cheese omelettes for the boys.
Herb has started a compost pile and is researching gardening.
I watched an episode of Call the Midwife.  The boys showed me how to stream Netflix through the PS4 so that I can watch shows on the television instead of my computer.
Maceo had rehearsal.  Meanwhile, Bishop and I went to the Moxie, our local independent theater to watch a screening of The Stanford Prison Experiment which was followed up with a discussion led by a psychology instructor.  We paid $12 to participate and we, in turn, received 3 1/2 hours of entertainment and education, time and money well spent.

Wednesday:  While Keegan was here we produced a wide variety of foods for birthdays, etc.  Now that our special guest has left our plan is to be very diligent in utilizing the leftovers.  This morning Herb was off to a good start.  He made corned beef has from the corned beef that he prepared in the slow cooker last week.  It is hearty and tasty.
Bishop and I went to science group while Maceo hung out with friends prior to his evenings theatre events.  He gratefully accepted the friends offering of pizza for lunch knowing that he would treat him in the future.  After the gym he drank his protein shake and took his vitamins.  He will have to buy himself a bit of dinner.  Bishop and I ate out with friends after science group and before he had pottery.  We went to a buffet and we had water to drink keeping the cost fairly low.  I contemplated not having any lunch but I caved in once I was there.  I do regret that choice.  That is a bit of a setback (so much for utilizing all those leftovers) but it does remind me that Bishop and I need to prepare for our busy Wednesdays.
For dinner Bishop did prepare the ribs that were leftover from Sunday's meal and that had been marinating since then.  This sort of meal has me feeling as though we are living in the lap of luxury.
Herb used the bones and all the leftover juices to begin making a broth.
The last piece of birthday cake was eaten.
I planted lettuce and mesclun in pots before the rain set in.
I watched a couple of episodes of Call the Midwife on Netflix (ok, maybe I binge watched it) while updating my blog and such.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Fete d'Anniversaire!!!


My sweet girl turned 27 a week ago.  She was at her home in L.A. for her actual birthday but given the fact that her visit was right on the heels of her birthday we wanted to throw her a birthday party here at home.  One of the events that we purposed to do while she was visiting was to view the new Beauty and the Beast movie together.  So, I decided to use Beauty and the Beast as the theme for her birthday party.  I didn't want the party to be childish or kitschy.  I wanted it to allude to the film while being elegant.  I think I accomplished that.  It was a beautiful birthday celebration!

Chocolate cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting topped with a dark chocolate ganache topped with dark chocolate, roses and brown sugar meringues.

A dessert buffet with a nod to Cogsworth and Lumiere.

The buffet included palmiers and gold chocolate covered strawberries.

Bishop made Vol au Vents with a chicken and white wine filling.

A nod to Mrs. Potts and Chip.

Champagne chilling on a bed of floral cubes waiting for a birthday toast.

Bon Anniversaire, Keegan!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

A Duo of Birthday Celebrations!!!

Today ...what a day!
Today is my husband's birthday and my grand-nephew's birthday - birthday buddies!
So we have a duo of birthday celebrations!

First, Keegan and I went to Maddox's party.
It was a sweet party.  
It had a shark theme. 
 The kiddos made the shark picture decorations.
And there was a "tape the fin on the shark" game.

Barbie seems to be in peril.  Dontcha love it?

It was a great time for Keegan to visit with the extended family.
Birthday candles were forgotten so we improvised.

It was also a great time for Keegan to meet the newest member of our family.
Keegan meet Ollie.
Ollie meet Keegan.

Some serious bonding took place.

Love it!

The second celebration involved a family birthday dinner for Herb.
Bishop and Herb each barbecued a half of a brisket.
 They were each different and each quite tasty.
We also served a greek marinated vegetable salad, collard greens and sweet potato biscuits.
And for dessert Keegan and I made this divine Pineapple Upside Down Cake.
 Herb made his wish and blew out his candles.
Then came the gifts.
Keegan gave him a refillable jug of beer.  It is so cool.
Our centerpiece seen below alluded to the gift from the boys and I.
We gifted him garden plants and soil and assistance with the raised beds.

It was a delightful day!
Happy birthday, Maddox and Herb!!!