Monday, December 5, 2016

PSA: Watch What You're Dissing

As someone who has lived a frugal life by necessity pretty much since I got married at 18 years old 10 years ago, I've gotten my fair share of remarks from people about how we live our life. Many people don't necessarily understand why I do things the way that I do, and I have a relatively tough skin, but I'll admit, certain things can sting, and even if they don't hurt me, they certainly have the potential to be hurtful to others.
Now that we moved into our new house, these types of remarks have increased, and I am writing this post as a public service announcement, because I'm sure many people don't even realize how certain things they say can be hurtful, and I wanted to point out to people about the power of their words.

First of all, I think it is important to realize that you can never really understand why someone else does things the way that they do. Things may seem silly or strange to you, but if you aren't aware of someone else's life circumstances, you may be missing a big part of the picture of why people are doing things a certain way.

For example, and totally not connected to the comments that inspired this post, I've had people assume that the reason why I am on a strict diet is because I am orthorexic, that I have mental issues that cause me to desire to restrict myself and take away all enjoyment from food, when the truth is that it is because I had physical health issues for years that finally were eliminated by removing trigger foods. Simply because they weren't privy to the details of my health situation, they assumed very incorrect things about me.
Similarly, when people make comments about why I am doing things a certain way, or telling me that I should be doing things in a way I'm not, they aren't knowledgeable about my financial circumstances that are influencing the way I spend or don't spend money. I happen to be more open about my finances than most people (being as I run a blog called Penniless Parenting), but even so, I don't share the details of how much money we bring in each month, various expenses we have, and how much money is left over after all that. Therefore, people may not understand why I make the frugal or extremely frugal choices I make, why I won't spend on certain things that would be givens to other people, and why I do sometimes spend money on things people may consider frivolous.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Almost All Moved In!

I want to apologize for my long absence from my blog! We got our keys to the brand new apartment that we bought while in the building stages on Monday morning, and by Monday evening we started moving in... Yes, started...
I was hoping to have a great post to share with you about how we frugally moved, but we ended up paying too much for movers, and they ended up doing a terrible job, and not even finishing the job. I'm not interested in getting into all the reasons of the whys and the hows, but lets just say on Sunday my mom and I brought over two car loads worth of things and put them in the yard, on Monday she and I brought over another load or two, on Monday night movers brought over much of our stuff but not all, on Tuesday relatives helped bring two more car loads of things, Tuesday night movers brought over most of the rest of our things and most of the rest of our furniture but refused to do any more, Wednesday we brought another car load or two over, Thursday another car load, and finally Friday, with two last car loads we brought the last of the stuff to the apartment.
It was horrible to do it like that, having the move spread over so long, but it wasn't by choice, and we specifically paid movers to move things so that we could get it all done at once instead of bit by bit and even so it didn't work out... but at the same time, in a way it was good because I ended up being able to put things away a bit at a time, so by the time we got the last things on Friday, most of the other things were already put away, so we were able to do it in smaller chunks. I certainly wouldn't recommend what we did, but... we aren't moving for a long long time again, if not ever, so at least we don't have to worry about this again!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Moving Day!!

After a whole bunch of snafus, and lots of bureaucracies and technical issues... today I signed the final paperwork, and got handed the keys to our apartment!

We are moving in today! Originally we were going to move in on Wednesday, but for a few reasons we decided to move today instead, so I'm finishing up with the last bits of packing before the movers arrive.

I still have to get my phone line moved to our new place, and then the internet up and running, so I may have more sporadic internet access until I do, so I wanted to update you before the moving truck arrived.

And yes, we found a way to move frugally. Very frugally!

But more on that in another post...

For now, let me go freak out a bit!!!! AHHHHHH!!!! We're finally moving!!! Who ever thought this day would arrive?!?!?!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Taking Advantage of Black Friday Sales

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As an expat American married to a non American, I haven't been doing much celebrating Thanksgiving, since it isn't often done here, but some years I do go to Thanksgiving dinners with friends and family. This year I was invited to one, but wasn't able to go because we're busy packing up our house since we found out this past Tuesday that we are officially getting the keys to the place Monday morning!
We set a moving date for Wednesday and the house is crazy!

Anyhow, people have talked about the sorry state of affairs in my country, that Thanksgiving isn't celebrated here as a country, but this country has imported the so called "worst part" of Thanksgiving- Black Friday. People have issues with Black Friday since they feel it encourages consumerism, but I don't think so...
Or at least it doesn't have to.

Stores in general like to entice people to shop there by making sales, and Black Friday is no exception in this. Impulse shoppers can really hurt their finances if they see things on sale and all of a sudden realize that they "need it" when they would never have purchased it had it not been on sale.
When grocery shopping, if there are things you anyhow would be purchasing and then find them on sale and stock up, you saved money in the long run. But if you buy things that you never would have purchased had they not been on sale, it doesn't matter how good the sale is, that still is extra money that you wouldn't have spent otherwise, so it isn't saving money.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Making a Potty Seat Out of Pallets

I mentioned in a previous post that I suspect that my littlest one, Rose, has high functioning autism like her big brother Ike. Part of what makes me suspect that is her dedication to certain routines, and her refusal to change them.
Rose has been potty trained for at least a year, if not more, but she has this way that she insists on doing things. She usually refuses to use the toilet and insists on using the potty, with a whole routine to go along with it.
She's had her potty for a long time, a pink Hello Kitty one with an insert.
And then she cracked the leg of it, but since I had no interest in buying a new one when she's already potty trained and there's no little ones after her who will be using it in the next little while... so Mike repaired it by adding a wooden leg to it out of scrap wood. But then it broke all the way- another leg completely came off of it, and I figured- why keep on repairing something that is so broken, lets just make her a new one.
Out of pallet wood.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Quick Update On Our New House's Kitchen

Our kitchen that came with the apartment,
before it was finished being installed
In the end we decided to not take the carpenter who came, for a variety of reasons, mostly technical ones, but costs factored in as well. Second hand kitchens won't end up working for our specific space either.

I don't have much time to write now, but I just came back from an Ikea trip with my friend Michelle, the one who is very good with design and beauty. We planned our kitchen and got a price quote, and I'm really excited about what we designed.

The biggest reason I'm glad I went with Michelle is because I have a specific taste when it comes to aesthetics, but I am not always aware of what I want and like, I just know when I don't like something, and then I just start resenting what I have, and not enjoying being around it or wearing it. It happened with my clothing wardrobe, and while that was frustrating, getting a new wardrobe wasn't such a big deal and could be done bit by bit, and without spending too much money. However, buying furniture and choosing fixtures that I don't like is much more costly and problematic to replace.

Michelle came with me and was able to give her professional input on its beauty as well as functionality, and the kitchen is really awesome.

The problem is that the kitchen that came with our apartment doesn't have enough cabinet space to store all my things, but because it is cherry color, we weren't able to find an exact match for it at Ikea. So we decided that instead of trying to match it, we'd pick another color as an accent, and went with a charcoal grey color, similar to the floor tiling

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Homeschooling and Schooling My Children, and Bureaucracy

I realized that as someone who was pretty vocal about my homeschooling and unschooling my children, I've been pretty quiet about our current schooling situation, and wanted to rectify that. For a while, to be honest, I was a bit afraid to say anything because everything seemed very turbulent and up in the air, and I honestly had no idea if our schooling situation would be forced to change.

Where I live, homeschooling is legal. With a caveat.

The law officially is that there is compulsory schooling from the age of 3 until the age of 18 in my country. (Which is something I find problematic for too many reasons to list.) In order to homeschool, you need to request a special exemption from the board of education in your district. Many people do not request this exemption and simply homeschool their children without getting governmental approval. That is what is commonly done here, and what those "in the know" recommend, as by asking for permission to homeschool, you're essentially telling the board of education that you're putting the decision in their hands, but if you show via your actions that you'll homeschool no matter what, they're more likely to approve of your homeschooling and give you an exemption.
So from the time my oldest was born, he and the rest of my kids were home with me, other than when Lee was six and Ike was 4, when I sent them to a semi private school for a year to learn the local language. I never requested an exemption for homeschooling from the board of education.

Roughly a year ago, I got a call from our local truant officer, who informed us that she knows we are homeschooling, and that we need to get approval for that from the board of education, and asked why we didn't get one yet. She informed us of the process to get approval for homeschooling, and tasked us to do that.

Getting Legal Permission to Homeschool

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Ajvar -- Serbian Red Pepper and Eggplant Spread -- Vegan and Paleo

The other day I got a bunch of vegetables free and was trying to come up with space efficient ways to prepare them, which could then be preserved, since I was short on refrigerator space and needed ways to store them.
A friend suggested ajvar, a Serbian red pepper and eggplant based condiment, what some would call a salsa. I'd never heard of it before, but since I love foods from around the world, I had a feeling I'd like this food. I had hopes that my kids, who don't like cooked peppers or eggplant (a sensory thing, I'm sure, because of it's texture) would enjoy it because blending it probably makes the texture more palatable to them. And I was right! Everyone in my family loved ajvar, which is why I'm glad this recipe made enough to put into a few small containers to freeze, in addition to the one we ate right away.
Ajvar is the perfect balance between sweet, sour, salty and spicy, and works great to add a lot of flavor to anything you're eating, whether by spreading it on bread or crackers, as a dip for crudites or chips, or any place you'd use ketchup or salsa, such as on meat or fish, grains, etc...

This condiment is allergy friendly and is great for nearly any diet, including vegan, gluten free, paleo, low carb, etc...

Ajvar -- Serbian Red Pepper and Eggplant Spread -- Vegan and Paleo

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Homemade Wooden Pallet Spice Rack DIY

I grew up in a home that used a large variety of spices. I get surprised when I am in people's homes, and go to cook something and realize that they're missing what I consider to be basic spices. I have to remind myself, though, that everyone's cooking style is different, and I use so many more spices than the average person, so even my "basics" are not something most people have.

Since I've been running my own household, I've never been satisfied with where I've been keeping my spices. In our first apartment, they were on two small shelves in an upper cupboard, and it was hard to see what I needed and hard to access it. Since we moved to our current home, my spices have been stored in a deep drawer, and there isn't enough room for all my spices. its hard to tell what is where, and it's just one royal mess. Some spices came in plastic containers- when they finished, I refilled them, and sometimes filled them with different spices or homemade mixes, and it is all a jumble, with no way to really tell what spice is what, other than by taste and smell...
I decided that in our new apartment, I didn't want to use up a drawer for my spices, nor did I want them in a cabinet. And I definitely didn't want to be using recycled plastic spice bottles.
Growing up, all my mom's spices were kept easily accessible in glass screw top jars on a wooden spice rack on our counter, and I've wanted something like that for a long time, and figured our new house would be the perfect place to switch my spice storage to that system.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Preserving and Preparing Loads of Produce

On Sunday I went to the grocery store and market and got a large amount of produce, much of it free. I had nearly everything I needed (I was a little short on fruit), and my fridge was mostly full. I had plans on going back to the market on Wednesday, since I was teaching a class there on how to shop cheaply, so was planning on filling in whatever was missing.

Then Tuesday night I was gifted with a whole lot of produce. A huge amount of potatoes and carrots, sweet potatoes, eggplant, red and green peppers, hot peppers, cucumbers, radishes, and some citrus fruit. Which was amazing, and I knew it would be enough to last me a while.

Only I got home, and realized that it was too much to fit into my fridge. And it started to stress me out. Because as much as I love a full fridge, too much to fit into my fridge actually stresses me out, because I don't want any of it to be wasted, and I feel an insane amount of pressure to do something with it as soon as physically possible, whether or not I have the time, energy, or inclination, so it doesn't spoil.
And then the next day at the market, though I said I wouldn't bring anything home, I saw them throwing out large amounts of fennel parts and celeriac stems and leaves, and two avocados... so despite my brain shouting "NO!!!" I brought them home.
And then freaked out at all the work ahead of me.

But, over the last few days I took care of the food and cooked and preserved it and did what I could to make sure that the food doesn't spoil before it gets used up. Here's what I did with the food:

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