Tag Archives: frugal

My Journey of Faith, part 6.

My Journey of Faith-6

 

We lived in Missouri for 5 years, and had many experiences, good and bad.

  • Three children were born to us, a girl – then two boys.
  • Cliff’s dad passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack at age 45.
  • We built a small house mostly by ourselves. It was on my mother-in-law’s property.
  • Cliff started a small rock-laying business on the side.
  • Then he started a leather tack business in our living room. (still going today!)
Building our tiny house! 2005

Building our tiny house! 2005

It was during this time that I grew a lot in the areas of patience, self-control, and unselfishness. Not that I am perfect by any means, (!!!) but the day-to-day responsibilities of being a mother and a wife taught me a lot.

Making ends meet when we lived on $400-500 per week, struggling to pay dental bills and vehicle breakdowns and appliance failures. Thanks to my naturally thrifty nature, and my mother’s example, I often made 20.00 last for a weeks worth of groceries for the two of us. The babies were always breastfed and the toddlers – well, you know how little they eat! :)

Our little family back in 2005.

Our little family back in 2005.

We ate a lot of beans and potatoes, and Cliff shot a deer or two every fall. Often neighbors would give us extra deer they’d shot. One fall we bought a pig and butchered it. That was a huge treat! I cured the bacon myself, to save on butcher house costs. It was great! The Lord blessed us tremendously during that time. I found a man who had lots of grapevines he didn’t use, so my friend and I would go pick bushels of grapes and can the juice. I bought ‘seconds’ of apples and peaches and canned them. I had a generous neighbor who gave me her extra green beans to can, and corn to freeze.

My sister and her husband; Marcel.

My sister and her husband; Marcel.

One year we went on a vacation to Idaho to visit my sister and her family on a ranch. When we got back, my garden was destroyed by the neighbor’s goat herd! I felt pretty defeated, but we made out ok. It was a lot of work gone, though!

I gave birth to several of our children at home, and midwives are not covered by insurance, even if we would’ve had it. (we didn’t) We paid for years for our babies. ($4,000 was a common rate) With one of our sons, we were blessed to be able to trade work towards the cost of the delivery. Cliff worked on their house in the evenings, in trade. (The midwife was a friend, so we were very thankful.)

I say all this – not for pity – but to share the goodness of God who never leaves us, and always provides for us! Always!! Along with learning to be a mother, I was learning to trust God. It was hard, financially. We were always tight. But I grew up like that, so it wasn’t new to me. In fact, I didn’t know any other way to live.

Such a good daddy!

Such a good daddy!

It was difficult having 3 babies so close together, too. Each time, I got pregnant when my baby was 11 months old. So the three of them were all 21 months apart. At one point I had a 3 year old, a 1 year old, ย and a newborn! I get quite sick when I am pregnant, so there were many days where I would lie on the couch, nauseated, while my toddler(s) got into mischief. I had two babies in diapers, twice.
As a kid, I had always been my dad’s right-hand-man, so to speak, and never did get along very well in the house. So the transition to a full-time homemaker was a learning curve. The constant stream of dirty dishes, the constant exhaustion from being pregnant and having toddlers, the ever-needy children, the endless laundry and cooking that needed doing… it all wore on me.

My first two babies.

My first two babies.

Cliff and Andy.

Cliff and Andy.

I loved being a mother, but I had to learn to pull on my big girl boots and just do it. My mother was very practical, and she raised us to have emotional control – which I am ever so thankful for! I knew the only thing to do was get up and do what needed doing.
I can tell you; you don’t need afternoon wine, or chocolate, or me-time, or girls’ nights or anything else our self-inclined society tells you. You need a reverent fear of God and His Word. You need to take control of your thoughts and put to death your selfish desires, and do what needs doing. “I die daily,” the Scripture says. (1 Cor 15)
Death isn’t fun! Death isn’t easy! Death is hard and painful. But the result is sweet acceptance and submission to God’s will. In my case; the raising and nurturing of a family. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with me-time and chocolate. Those things have their (limited) place. But please don’t turn to things to replace what God wants to do in you. He will mature you and grow you in ways you never knew possible, if you are willing to be purified. Seek God, above all! Read His word daily. Die to Self, live for Jesus. God is able to give you ALL you need, I can assure you.

When our 3rd baby was very young, our church went through an upheaval. Due to uncontrollable (by us) circumstances, we were left without a church. It was the first time I felt a bit lost and betrayed. We wanted to serve God, and know Him. Why would He jerk out the church from under us? Why would He leave us hanging, so to speak? I was confused. I wanted to move to Pennsylvania to a church where some of our friends were. I didn’t want to look for another church! I sure didn’t want to sit alone. But sit alone we did – for a while.

Then one day, Cliff was talking to his cowboy friend (my sister’s husband) on the phone. When he hung up, he asked me: “How would you like to move to Colorado and work for Marcel on his cattle operation?”

Of course I wanted to! They talked some more, and I wasn’t sure if it would work out. Maybe August, they said?
It was July, and I had the prettiest garden ever. The tomatoes were just starting to ripen when we got a call. Marcel (my bro-in-law) was taking a trip and needed someone to watch the cattle while they were gone. Could we come out in a week?

Cow country.

Cow country.

Well of course we could! We packed up our belongings and stuffed them into the front of the horsetrailer. We packed the truckbed and minivan full, too. There was just enough room for three carseats. We loaded our horse into the back end of the 4-horse trailer, and headed out one evening. Like any parent of small children – we knew if we travelled at night, they would sleep a good portion of the trip. Since we had a 5 month old baby, we knew it would be best if he was sleeping a lot of the way, since we both had to drive.

I drove the minivan and he drove the truck & trailer. We drove all night, stopping once for a short nap-break for me. I was so tired. I fought sleep so bad! When the sun rose, we were in CO and the scenery had changed. So that was better. I stayed awake pretty good for the rest of the trip. We pulled in to my sister’s place before noon, and I was sleep-drunk. But the babies were awake and hyper by then, so I sat in the cool grass and watched them play. The dry desert air of Pueblo was invigorating!

We lived in Pueblo for 9 months. Cliff rode and did care on yearlings with his brother-in-law. I thoroughly enjoyed living close to my sister, for the first time since I’d been married. We did everything together! We went shopping, canned peaches, did laundry, even went on a double date once, when our men found a sitter for our assorted toddlers! ย ๐Ÿ˜€ It was a special time in our lives. I had missed my family, and this living-a-mile-apart was so special.

Cowboys roping and doctoring a yearling.

Cowboys roping and doctoring a yearling.

Round-pen work.

Round-pen work.

It wasn’t easy… as inexperienced ranch hands, and working for a small outfit, we didn’t earn much at all. (1,200/month, plus free housing) The cost of living was higher in CO than it had been in MO. Gas had skyrocketed to over four dollars a gallon, and we were still driving junky vehicles that broke down a lot. Those nine months were the toughest, financially, that we have experienced, to date. I won’t bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say that it was hard. But you know what? God is a good Father. Often, just when money was due, we somehow got the money. We were given food and hand-me-downs, and we never went hungry. Again, I learned that God always provides, that He will always take care of you.

Horsey rides are the best! (Jenni)

Horsey rides are the best! (Jenni)

Your faith can grow in these situations, more than when you are ‘sitting pretty’. But let it be known that being poor is NOT romantic! I have had several people in my life, different times and places, ask me “how it feels?” And, that they think it would be kind of sweet and fun to be poor… “Just working hard together!” “Growing in faith!”

Huh.

Please don’t tell me that lack of money is somehow desirable. All that tells me is you’ve never tried to decide whether to pay your electric bill or buy food. You’ve never gone 6 months with the same razor because you couldn’t afford a new one. That you’ve never looked in your purse and scraped together enough coins to buy a jug of milk. There is nothing – let me repeat – NOTHING romantic about being poor. If you think there is, you probably haven’t been poor enough! ๐Ÿ˜‰ It is definitely a faith-builder, but I would never ask for poverty.

Cowboys

Now I want you to know – we enjoyed life! We weren’t trudging along, depressed and worried constantly. We had our worries and troubles, almost daily, but we were living and working on a ranch, and that was our dream! We worked and played and went to church on Sunday. We didn’t eat out, go to movies, or heat all our bedrooms, but we lived just fine.

Country roads...

Country roads…

Speaking of church… at this time, we were attending my sister’s church most of the time. Not because we were particularly drawn to it, but because it was convenient. We visited several other churches in the area, but nothing really caught our attention. We didn’t know what God had for us.

We prayed about it, and sometimes I felt discouraged, because it seemed like we wouldn’t ever find a church that was right for us. We wanted something with life and vision. We didn’t just want to go to church on Sunday – we wanted to be part of a church family, one that wanted to follow Christ passionately! We kept looking.

Balsamic Chicken Recipe

Balsamic Chicken

I bought a family-sized package of chicken drumsticks on sale, and wanted to make them tasty and yet easy. Right now I have 3 kids I am homeschooling, a 3 year old, and an infant, so I don’t have much time to peruse cookbooks or experiment. I wanted a new fun flavor, though, so I came up with this simple marinade, and it was an instant hit!

I didn’t take time to let it marinade – it was close to lunch, so I just popped it in the oven right way. But marinating it a few hours would only improve the flavor, I’m thinkin. I baked them for most of the time in a normal oven, but the last 30 min or so, I turned on the convection roast feature in my oven, to get the skin crispy and brown. If you don’t have that feature – just turn on broiler for a few minutes – watching closely so it doesn’t burn.

Balsamic Chicken
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 6-8 servings
Ingredients
  • One family pack of drumsticks. Or a full 9X13 pan of preferred chicken pieces.
  • 3 TBL soy sauce
  • 3 TBL Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Pinch ground red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Place chicken in a baking pan. I used a 9X13 cake pan. Chicken shrinks when baked, so squish it in there tight!
  3. Mix sauces and spices together and pour over chicken.
  4. Bake, covered, at 325 for 2 hours.
  5. Optional: broil the last 10 minutes to brown the skin.

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How to make photo albums.

how to make photo books online

I am going to share with you the way I get my photos out of digital storage and into my house. I’ve had many “how do you make these beautiful books?” questions, and today I am showing you step-by-step how I do it. I am not a techy person, so if I can do it – you can too!

Technology is an amazing invention, but sometimes it gets in the way of tangible memories. For instance, how many SD cards, thumb drives, or discs do you have laying around with 1,000’s of photos on them?

I know.

Problem is, we all think that we will ‘someday’ get them printed. Well good luck with that! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Life gets in the way of doing the work. Plus we’re not quite sure how, or where, to print them. Aren’t photo albums outdated anyways? Why not just put them on a digital photo album? Oh yes. Scrolling through a couple thousand photos on your laptop – with relatives and friends hanging over your shoulder – is so exciting! Right?!

Let me tell you, my kids have enjoyed so many quiet hours, paging through our photo books. It is fun for them (and everyone else) to pick up a photo album and look back at ย the previous years. I like to keep them on in the living room in a visible spot, so guests can entertain themselves. They are great conversation starters, too!

I will walk you through how I do it, and then give you a few extra tips later. Don’t be overwhelmed by the length of this post – I just give detailed instructions. If you are familiar with copying/pasting photos, it will be a breeze! :)

Here you go:

1. Soon after the beginning of the year, (I do it in January) go back through the previous years’ photos on your computer or phone roll, however you store yours. You do have them uploaded, right? ๐Ÿ˜‰

2. Go through them with a pen and paper, writing down the number of each photo you want. Try to pick only the best ones. You really don’t need 5 photos of your new car. One will suffice. (You’ll thank me later!) I have my photos organized by month, so I do it one month at a time. You do whatever works for you. I realize not everyone has as many photos as me! I have a photo addiction.

3. Once you have the numbers written down, go back and select the ones you chose. I have mine on a Windows desktop — sorry I haven’t figured out the Mac photo thing yet! Anyways, to select multiple photos, you hold the Control ( Ctrl ) button down as you select the ones you want. Once they’re all highlighted, right-click on one of the highlighted photos, and ‘Copy’.

4. Start a new folder for the book photos. Title it appropriately; 2015 Book, or something. Now paste your copied photos into that album. Repeat until you have the best photos from your whole year into that folder. Now go through it and make sure you really need 469 photos! :) If there’s a few you can cut – do it. Whew! The hard part is done! Even if you have to take a day or two for a break, you now have the best sorted out. Just like yearlings ready for market.

5. Go to an online photo printer like Mpix, Snapfish, or Shutterfly. Sign up for a free account, and upload your photos. If you’re tired of working on photos by now – use their autofill method. If you are like me – spend another couple hours placing the photos just perfectly with the correct captions for each! Save it when you’re finished. No – save it after each page is done! I hate losing work!

Frank getting ready to help gather cattle.

Frank getting ready to help gather cattle.

Extra tips:ย 
Ordering:
You can go ahead and order it at this point. But I like to sign up for their emails and wait on a discount code. I have never paid full price for an album yet. Not sayin’ they aren’t worth it – they definitely are! But when you are on a cowboy’s wages, you learn to be frugal.

Where to start?!!
Start with one year and spend 30 min per day going through them and marking the ones you like, uploading them, and placing them in a book. 30 min per day will get a year done in less time than you think! And just think: a few days of this and you will have a nice album to enjoy forever! Just stick to it. You are an adult. You can do things you don’t enjoy. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’m so behind I’ll never catch up!!
See, I know how discouraging it is! Let me advise you: keep at it until you are caught up. Do one year per week, or whatever, then let that frustration remind you next January to get right on it! :) You can do this! You just have to sit down and do it for a few days. I missed last year, so for the first time, I have 2 years worth of photos, plus a Florida vacation, multitude of brandings, and miscellaneous events to catch up on. I’m predicting it will take 4 books to catch up. Yuck. Next year you can bet I will get it done in January!

It will break the bank to buy all the books I need!
OK, calm down. Remember I said wait for a coupon? Well, many of these are ‘buy two get one free’, or something like that. And they send a couple per year. So here’s what you do: You make them all right now. DO NOT WAIT. When you get the coupon email, you often have 3 days to use it. You will always be busy those 3 days. So you do not stop till you have made all your books and are 100% caught up. THEN you save them in your account, and wait to purchase till you have a coupon code. I mean, how easy is it to log in, select the book you want, and checkout? But if you think you will wait till you have the coupon, to make the books… well, you won’t do it. Trust me, I know! I let a lot of coupons go unused the past two years, because I didn’t have a book ready, and didn’t have time to make one! So learn from me. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Phone photos
Phone photos actually print off ok as long as they are small. Don’t try to make a phone photo an entire page spread. OK is a relative term… of course they aren’t very great quality, but if the phone photo of your child kissing mama is the only one you have – by all means include it! 30 years from now you will be glad you did. Bonus: if you have mostly phone photos, you can fit a lot more in a book! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Isn’t Snapfish awful quality?
It’s not Miller’s Lab, that’s for sure! But hey, I am not rich enough to pay premium prices on photo books. Sometimes you have to sacrifice quality to get the job done. Don’t worry what people think. It’s better – a thousand times better – to have a finished book in hand, than to be snobby about quality that you will never afford. We are a ranch family – we don’t make a lot of money. (and no, this blog makes no money either!) So far, my friends who look at my books are always surprised when I say they’re made at Snapfish and Shutterfly! I am not endorsing or reccomending any site in particular – just telling you what I have done. Hey, if you only do Chatbooks, at least that’s something! (I will probably unfollow you on Instagram, but do whatever works for you! ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) NOTE: I am more and more dissatisfied with the ‘cheap’ photo printing places. I guess getting quality prints does spoil a person! But I still say – do whatever you can do.ย 

Cost?
Depends on how many pages, what size book, etc. I usually do the 8×11 books with a 50% off coupon, so they run around 15$ each. (on snapfish) But sometimes I make a 11×14 which is really nice! The coupons usually specify page count, like 20 or something. Pay attention to fine print.

Here is a Shutterfly code:ย https://invite-shutterfly.com/x/1Y1MYXย This will get you a free 8×8 photo book. Plus I will also get one if you use this link. ๐Ÿ˜‰ (new customers only)

OK, I need to get back at it – I still have 2 books to make…
Let me know if I forgot something, ok?
And tell me – do you get your photos printed?

Easy Pizza Sauce

pizza sauce

Pizza sauce is a staple at our house. We use it for our Saturday night pizza, but also for spaghetti, tater-tot casserole, etc. I love to can my own, but I haven’t been able to save my tomato plants from the deer for years, now. So I have to buy it. But I am a very frugal grocery shopper! I dislike paying a lot of money for staples. So I came up with my own frugal alternative.

I have a Sam’s Club membership, (worth it just for staples, when you have 4 growing kids!) so I buy the large cans of tomato sauce (6 lb 10 oz) and add my own seasonings. I am notorious for just throwing stuff in, but since a friend wanted this recipe, I did measure this time, and I think it’s pretty close. :) But it is very adjustable. Add more or less of any spice you like ย – make it how you like it.

pizza sauce

I just stir it all together and then ladle into jars (leaving a 1 inch headspace or more) and store in the freezer.

The can of sauce costs 2.77 at my store, and the spices are minimal. It makes about 4 normal size pasta jars full. I usually spread it between 5 jars, though, so the sauce has room to expand as it freezes.

Easy Pizza Sauce
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 can tomato sauce (6 lb 10 oz)
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 5 teaspoon onion powder
  • 5 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 5 cloves fresh garlic, minced (or 2½ teaspoons garlic powder)
Instructions
  1. Mix all together.
  2. pour into 5 jars.
  3. store in freezer.

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