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

Monday, November 14, 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:

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Cauliflower Leaf Chips Recipe - Vegan, Paleo, and Delicious

I mentioned the other day that I was in the market and got a huge amount of free cauliflower stems and leaves, as they simply toss the lower part of the cauliflowers since people aren't interested in buying them. In fact, half of my upper shelf in my fridge right now is filled with cauliflower parts, and that is after already cooking up a lot of them in various ways. I had a lot of produce that I needed to deal with, so I was looking for some cheap and easy ways to use up my cauliflower leaves.
I decided upon cauliflower leaf chips and they came out deliciously, while being very easy and cheap to prepare.

Like kale chips, these are cauliflower leaves baked until crispy, so that the leaves crunch like potato chips. The difference between these and kale chips (other than price, of course) is that these have a thick midrib in the middle, which, in my opinion, is the tastiest part!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Homemade Prickly Pear Scrap Wine Recipe- DIY Foraged Alcoholic Beverages

I've written before about how I enjoy my alcoholic beverages, but have a problem with the price tag. My first recent experiment with making my own hooch, after a break of a few years, was simply using the only fruit I had available in the house at the time- tangerines and a lemon, and it tasted good and was super- easy to make. However, after I made that, I had an even better idea.

Prickly pear season is winding down where I live. We can buy them cheaply in the grocery store in season, but even better- we can forage them, because the prickly pear cacti are very prolific. (They can be foraged in many parts of the world, even more temperate regions.) Quite a few neighbors of mine have them growing in their yard and invite me to come pick as many as I want, since they are scared to go near them, as they are afraid of their tiny near invisible thorns, called glochids, that cover them.

So I forage as many as I can, but, I'll admit, the glochids are off-putting to me too, since I am pretty good at avoiding them but am not 100% perfect that way. But because of the glochids, every prickly pear fruit I pick is precious to me, because it took a lot of effort.

The way I handle prickly pear fruit so I don't get glochids in my hands is by poking it with a fork and then using a sharp knife to cut off both ends. I then use the knife to score the skin from end to end, and then pull apart the outer layer using two forks, exposing the delicious soft and glochid free flesh inside. While this is a very effective way of ensuring that I don't get near invisible thorns stuck inside my flesh, it pains me to see just how much of the prickly pear ends up in the trash or compost, especially after the hard work to forage them. I've heard of people who remove all the glochids and dry the peel into a leather of sorts but I'm not daring enough since I don't trust myself to have removed all the glochids..
But one day it hit me- use the scraps to make my own tasty and cheap hooch! Lo and behold my prickly pear scrap wine was born. Not to worry, it is glochid free!

Monday, November 7, 2016

My Latest Super Frugal Shopping Trip

And... I'M BACK!!!
I feel like shouting from the rooftops, because I am officially back in the game! After about a month of frugal slacking, since I've been so busy finishing up my cookbook so I can get it out already that I haven't been able to do my usual frugal and extreme-frugality things, I'm ready to kick back into gear!

The past few weeks, friends have been posting pictures of their latest frugal shops from the market where I often go to get my super cheap and sometimes even free produce, and each time I saw those pictures, I'll admit, I got envious, since I missed the open air market, not just the hustle and bustle and experience of shopping there, but also the amazing deals I got there, allowing me to get produce that otherwise would be above my price range.
Yesterday, I finally went back and oh boy, was it a good shop.

But first, I went to a grocery store that has some cheap gluten free breads and such, where I like to go to stock up. Since it is far, I try to do a big shopping trip each time and hope that it lasts a month. After that, I went to the open air market.

Here is what I bought:

Total for my entire shop?

For the record, that includes over 3.5 lbs of two types of cheese, 4 packs of not so unhealthy hot dogs, 32 cans of tuna, tomato paste, 2 bottles of olive oil, ~4.5 lbs of jaggery, and ~56 lbs of produce... among other things, so just over $90 for all that is amazing even me!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Frugality, Winter, Moving, Planning, My Book, and More

Packing has started!
As I mentioned in my last post, on the 31st of October, my book was due for submission to the Back to Basics bundle. I was working crazy hours on it, staying up and out of my house working with my layout and graphics person, until the wee hours of the morning... but I did it! I finished my book and submitted it on time!
Since then, I'll be honest, I've just been in recovery mode. Cleaning the house that fell apart during that time... somewhat. But mostly just trying to catch up on sleep, and vegging out, and decompressing. Trying to pretend like I have no responsibilities once I have no looming book deadline. However, that isn't quite true since I will be moving soon, but more on that in a minute. A decent chunk of my time that isn't being spent on cleaning and cooking has just been spent on hanging out on Facebook, watching movies, and Pinterest. I needed that after the stress of the last few weeks.

So... moving. We had our second to last inspection of the house, and the last inspection next week. We still don't know yet when we're getting the key- originally we were told by the 15th, but now we were told that perhaps later, on the 21st... I'm really hoping that it won't be that long, since I'd like to be able to find people to take over our lease starting December, and people like to move in on the first of the month.