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List a day – favourite tools and supplies

I’m a homeschooling, handicraft mama. My favourite tools and supplies tell this very well:

Homeschooling:

  • Our Epson eco-tank printer. This thing is amazing!
  • A great pair of sharp scissors
  • Binders! Preferably D ring
  • Page protectors – great for using dry or wet erase markers on so your paper doesn’t get messed up! (For homeschooling and crafts)
  • A really good stapler
  • Cardstock!
  • Internet
  • 10 drawer storage cart – great to keep all the day’s work organized (we use a workbox system),
  • Ink pens, I like very fine ones -0.7 or finer! 
  • A really good sharpener

And for crafts:

  • good quality needles and crochet hooks
  • A pair of tiny, sharp scissors
  • Good lighting
  • Page protectors
  • Internet & YouTube
  • Ziploc bags for all the bits and pieces
  • Plastic storage containers that can handle all the yarn, cloth, etc.

Menu planning…

We did it! We bought a brand new car! Now comes the hard part – budgeting so we can actually keep our standard of living.

Like anyone who just made a major purchase, we now have to start watching where our money goes. Things like utility bills, mortgage, car payments, etc are pretty much set in stone, so we can’t touch those. So the best place to start (hopefully) saving money is by planning our meals. No more buying daily lunches for Hubby. This alone can save $600 to $800 a month (in our dollars, not in US funds). This means I need to plan meals so that he can bring healthy and filling meals to work with him.

I spent hours scouring the web, looking for frugal and tasty meals. There were tons, BUT, we don’t live in North America. There are no dollar stores here, no discount stores, and not even coupons! Also, many of those “cheap” meals would cost almost double the price here since things like “tomato soup” and “cream of mushroom soup” are about $17 a tin (that’s about $3 US)! Caribbean grocery stores rarely have sales, and since a lot of it is imported, it can get really expensive. Forget home made macaroni and cheese – I can’t even find Velveeta on any shelves!

So what’s a woman to do? Get creative! We also have some issues with Peanut, who won’t eat meat (with few exceptions), won’t eat veggies, and has an aversion to certain food textures (autism does that!). Hubby also has an allergy to beef, so that eliminates a lot too. We also want to start eating a bit healthier, more veggies and less salt.

This coming week, I made a tentative menu, and I hope it comes in under budget, and tastes good too. I didn’t include any breakfasts or lunches for the weekend, we tend to have an early dinner and sometimes eat street food when we’re out and about.

I pulled a lot of recipes from Mom’s Bistro, and I’m probably going to subscribe to her monthly menus if we like these! Most meals seem to be easy to make, and they look yummy!

I didn’t include lunch for Hubby, since he will hopefully be taking leftover dinners for his lunch. I’ll always plan to put a portion of dinner away just for him! If there is still leftovers, I can freeze them in individual portions so we can have either a leftover day, or Hubby can have a choice of lunch instead of always having yesterday’s dinner. Gotta plan ahead!

One more thing, I make my own bread, usually 4 loaves a week. Two loaves on Sunday, two loaves on Wednesday. I use my bread maker on the “dough” setting to do all the kneading, then split the dough into two pans, let them rise for an hour, then bake in the oven. Yummy home made bread without the hard work! If anyone is interested, the recipe is:

  • 1 1/2 cups of water (or 3/4c water and 3/4 cup milk)
  • 6 tablespoons of milk powder (omit if using milk above)
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 cups of flour (up to 2 cups can be whole wheat, but no more)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 package of yeast

Place in bread maker in the order above, set on “dough” setting, then after the cycle is done, punch it down, divide into two, and place in prepared bread pans (I just line them with parchment paper or wax paper, easy to take out and no mess). Let rise in warm place till double, then bake in 350 degree oven for 30 – 35 minutes (or 20 – 25 minutes if you preheated the oven, I don’t preheat because I let them rise in the oven)

This recipe also makes wonderful buns, and you can also add to it to make herbed bread, or even roll it out, cover it with melted butter, cinnamon, brown sugar, and raisins, then “jellyroll” it to make yummy cinnamon bread!

Here is our meal plan for May 28 – June 3:

Sunday:

Monday:

  • Breakfast: Pancakes (from a mix or from scratch) – make enough to freeze a few
  • Lunch: Hotdogs (for Peanut)
  • Dinner: Chicken, veggie, and egg fried rice (cook extra chicken and freeze it for friday)

Tuesday:

  • Breakfast: Eggs (scrambled for Peanut, sunny side up for everyone else) with toast
  • Lunch: Kraft Dinner (one of Peanut’s favorite foods!)
  • Dinner: Slow cooker chicken tacos

Wednesday:

  • Breakfast: Baked oatmeal
  • Lunch: Mini pizzas on bread
  • Dinner: Sloppy Joe’s (using ground chicken or pork) and homemade oven fries

Thursday:

  • Breakfast: Home made muffins (save some for lunch tomorrow)
  • Lunch: Pasta salad
  • Dinner: Creamy bacon and peas pasta 

Friday:

Saturday:

 

So, I’ll check in as the week goes to give a review of the dishes, and also a breakdown of how much the week’s worth of groceries cost. My goal is to keep our monthly groceries to about $1000 a week( about $150 US), or $4000 a month (that’s about $600 US). So until next time, bon appetit!

 

Dry season is here with a vengance

It hasn’t rained in a while, and there has been a weather advisory for the past week. It’s been well over 35 degrees Celcius (95 degrees Fahrenheit ) for 5 days now. It’s stinkin’ hot!

We don’t have air conditioning, so Peanut and I spend our days as couch potatoes. We sit on the couch, watch Netflix, and point our floor fan directly on us. Even the dog doesn’t want to move from laying down on the cool floor tiles.

We’ve been avoiding cooking as much as possible during the day. Having to cook over the stove or use the oven on is like torture. I just hate cooking in this heat. Plus nobody wants to eat food that I literally sweated over (EWWWWW!!!!).

We’re also planning a major purchase (more details later!) so I am trying to focus on how to create a meal plan so that Hubby can take food to work with him rather than spend $50 a day on lunches or dinners (remember, we’re in the Caribbean, $50 here is about $7 US or $10 Canadian). This means I need to come up with dishes that are filling and can reheat well.

I stumbled across Busy Mom’s Guide to Home-Cooked Meals and for the price, I couldn’t resist! It seems to have some great recipes, and very kid friendly too! I bought it, printed it out, and can’t wait to try it out! It covers breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, Yay!

I also found Mom’s Bistro that offers free monthly meal plans for people on a budget. They come out at the beginning of each month, and sometimes includes recipes too! I printed out the one for April and it definitely has some great ideas.

The only problem is that what is inexpensive in North America can be extremely expensive here. For instance, a tin of Campbells cream of mushroom soup is $1.25 in the USA, but here it would cost $2.54. Snack packs of 4 pudding cups are about $1.30 in the USA, but here they are $3.00! Let’s not even think about applesauce! Heck, even apples!!!

Remember, what is exotic to us is normal here, and vice versa. Here on the island, apples, peaches, pears, etc are considered exotic. Fresh strawberries? better take a second mortgage!

So what’s a Canadian girl to do? I’m used to meals like chili, tacos, poutine, and lots of casseroles with various “cream of ____” as the base. Here, meals like Pelau, stew chicken, and lots of beans and rice are the norm. And spicy dishes, wow do the Caribbean people like pepper!

I’ve decided to try out a menu plan using both the above plans, picking out dishes I think may be yummy, but not too expensive to make. My goal is to keep under $900 (or $135 USA) a week if possible. Let’s see how it goes!

I’ll post my meals as we go, I’m hoping to start either tomorrow or this weekend!

It’s been a painful month

hI haven’t posted in a while, I’ve been battling with a toothache that has lead to a root canal! Yikes! I’ve been to the dentist three times already, and after a month it’s almost done. Yesterday was the first day in a month that I haven’t been in excruciating pain! Next week I go back for my forth and final time for the insertion of the post and crown.

I’ve been living off of Ramen noodles, soup, bananas, and all sorts of mushy foods for a month. I’m craving a great big, juicy, sloppy, messy burger so badly! I’ve lost a bit of weight, but not really enough to notice. haha!

Homeschooling throughout this pain had been a challenge. Some days we accomplished everything, other days we only got the basics done. A few days we just sat in our PJ’s and relaxed, but we made up the time later in the week. I absolutely love the flexibility of homeschooling!

Peanut has been enjoying his time on the computer, he’s become quite the Minecraft expert! I was worried at first about all the time he has put into this game, but then I realized it can be a wonderful learning tool too! He’s learning physics, botany, math, and art, and the best part is he doesn’t even realize it!

He has built pirate ships, houses, pyramids, tree houses, and yesterday he was working on a spaceship! His vocabulary has exploded again, and words like “enormous” “combined” “cobble stones” “environment” and “habitat” have become routine in his ongoing play by play commentary about what he’s currently building!

I’ve been getting ready for my eldest stepson’s wedding. I volunteered to make and decorate cookies for the wedding. I found a store that carries the decorator tips and couplers for the icing, and I may end up getting a few more! Of course the heart shaped cookie cutter I want is sold out (thank you, valentine’s day, haha) but I did find a store that is selling a 102 cookie cutter set that has 6 types of hearts in it! Meringue powder seems to be scarce on the island right now, but I’m hoping that the stores will get new stock soon. I could make the icing with egg whites instead, but I’d prefer the meringue powder. I have to start baking the 120 – 150 cookies starting next week.

 My oldest boys also turned 24 today! They have become such amazing, kind, loving, funny, responsible, handsome men. They are a true joy in my life, and I’m so lucky and proud to be their mom!

So now to say goodnight, since my youngest son wants a bagel with smoked salmon (but he insists he doesn’t like fish!), and I think I hear a cup of coffee with a dash of vanilla calling my name!

Journal and planner addiction.

Image may contain: coffee cup and drink

I may need help! I love journals, planners, diaries. There is something about the possibilities in the blank pages, and the feeling of accomplishment when looking through the written pages already done. I love the illusion that my life is in some sort of order!

I have a planner for Peanut’s tentative homeschool lessons that I plan out every week, another for his accomplished lessons that I record daily after we do them. Why two you may ask? Because what I plan to do, and what we actually accomplish are two different things! For instance, this week was Peanut’s 6th birthday, so we took the day off. I had planned to make up the lost day on Friday. Well, my root canal that was scheduled for 3:30 pm yesterday was bumped up to 11 am. This meant that we lost another day of school! I’ll try to cram 3 days of work into 2 days, but in the end, we may be doing a couple of subjects on the weekend. If I had used only one planner, there would be lots of erasing or white out, and that would drive my perfectionism into high gear. I’d hate the planner, hate the mess, hate the reminder that I couldn’t do what I set out to do when I wanted to do it!

I also have a planner for myself, where I keep track of life events, meals, daily chores, and even keep track of my hydration (yep, I do try to get at least 5 glasses of water a day, tea counts though!).

In the photo at the top is the beginnings of my mini personal planner. Sometimes I have to make my own planners because this island is pretty limited in what is available, and shipping one in costs more than the planner itself! I’ve made four so far, three full sized – one is actually Peanut’s tentative lesson planner, and one half size. I print out the year’s worth of pages, cut them if needed, punch a ton of holes down the side, and bind it with the spiral binder from previously used spiral notebooks that would otherwise be thrown away. Necessity is the mother of invention! hahaha

I have another planner for the house. It has a cleaning schedule, to do lists, menu planning, bill tracker, medicine tracker, pet tracker, seasonal cleaning, repairs, and all the wonderful stuff that is included with taking care of a home and a car. I don’t use it as much, maybe once or twice a month, but it’s come in handy.

Then there is my journal. It’s a place for all my “too afraid to say out loud” stuff. My dreams, my desires, my fears, my failures and accomplishments. I tend to go in spurts writing in it. My current one is a small, spiral bound lined notebook, and I hate it! I’m a lefty, so it’s very hard to write on the right side pages, and the smallness of it doesn’t go well with the normal sized writing lines. I tend to use them as a guide, but will write two lines in one of the line spaces (hope this makes sense!) so it looks messy. I don’t like messy!

And last, but not least, is my writing journal. I use a full sized binder for this one. I don’t like the loose leaf paper though, it’s too thin and reminds me too much of grade school, so I print my own lined paper to use. In this one I try to write every day. I use writing prompts if nothing comes to mind. Why a writing journal?  Because I love the written word. I love how thoughts can flow, meld together and actually create emotions just by writing and reading them! I’ve always wanted to be an author, to write an amazing book, but in my heart I know for so many, many reasons I never will. I’m not important enough, I don’t have anything new to say. But I do like to write. So the writing journal fulfills my love of writing, even if it’s just for me (and the occasional peek from Hubby!)

Oh and I almost forgot, I’m also on a quest for the perfect pen, pencils, colored pencils, markers… I write very tiny, so I love a very fine pen, but haven’t found the perfect one yet. I’ve tried ink, gels, even fountain pens. I like ink best, and there are a few gel pens that are acceptable. I like these Pilot gel pens, but I am still looking for extra fine ones!

Sometimes I really miss Walmart and Staples for all the easy access to supplies. But there is something to be said for being able to write “we went to the beach today, it’s snowing back home, but here it’s 36 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. Water lapping at my toes, and Peanut is happily splashing in the waves as they wash over his feet. Hubby relaxing with a smile on his face, not a care in the world. Island life at it’s best!” If this means sacrificing a shopping spree at a department store, I’m all for it.

 

 

Birthday cake and root canal

It’s been a long, hard month. I’ve been dealing with so much, I feel like my head will explode! A couple of weeks ago, to add to the craziness, my tooth that my dentist filled in October decided that it needs a root canal, not just a filling! I started the process last Wednesday. The dentist removed part of the filling she put in, cleaned out the cavity, and packed the area with antibiotics. She put in a temporary plug, and this Wednesday she began the root canal. It turns out that I need extra anesthetic, and my canals are very fine, long, and very curved. She managed to get two canals cleaned, but the others are going to have to wait for two weeks since the anesthesia was wearing off, and another double dose wouldn’t be a good idea. I’m one of those “lucky” people that is allergic to codeine, so there will be very little pain relief after the root canal, Advil and Tylenol barely take the edge off.

I don’t honestly know how much homeschooling will get done this week – Peanut’s birthday was the day before my root canal, so we took it off. Yep, birthdays merit a holiday with us! I can hardly believe my little Peanut is 6! Where has the time gone? Although it was quiet, we did have a home made chocolate cake. He even got pizza yesterday! He spent most of the day doing his favorite thing – playing Minecraft!

Last week was our scheduled week off, and we did pretty much nothing and loved it! I had plans to pull out the sewing machine and make Peanut some t shirts, then do a deep clean of the bathroom, make pickles with the huge bag of cucumbers, and even get some more work done on the spare room. As they say, man plans, God laughs. The tooth pain was overwhelming, then after my first visit with the dentist the pain in my jaw laid me up for a few days. Plus I’m a bit anemic and hungry too – living off of soft foods like ramen and kraft dinner isn’t the best of diets. 

So this week I am going to try to cram three days of school into one, possibly two days. This will take a lot of coffee, a lot of green tea, a lot of chocolate, and a lot of deep breaths! Wish us luck, we need it!

 

A lazy new year…

2017 came into being as I was sleeping. Yep, sleeping! Little Peanut was curled up beside me, and we were all cozy in our bed. In the back of my mind I heard the fireworks, but the chaos of the night left me too tired to really want to get out of my warm bed and see them. Hubby was at his sister’s house, and barely made it home in time to be with me for the clock to strike midnight. I woke up to his smile, and we sat out on the couch for a while as we chatted about everything and nothing.

Ironically, this has been the ebb and flow of the new year so far. A gentle tide of lazy days and nights, and me trying to ignore the loud chaos that seems to want to invade my life right now. Sometimes I need to let it in, but for the most part, I think I can say this new year has been calm.

We started back our schooling on January 2nd, and because of our break, Peanut was in no mood to learn. Taking a cue from him, I decided to ease up and make the first two weeks of the new year a review. I also changed our math program entirely, and we are now using Mathematical Reasoning Beginning 2, it’s a much better fit for Peanut right now. Plus it’s colorful pages are actually fun to look at and work with!

Hubby was off work for the first two weeks of the year, but after several doctor visits and a minor procedure, he’s up and running, well limping actually, again and back to work. I miss having him around all day. Retirement can’t come too soon.

I’ve been asked a few times about new year resolutions. I honestly didn’t make any. I still have past resolutions that haunt me, hahaha! Lose weight, eat better, learn new skills, give up bad habits, start up good habits, more exercise, less junk food, take up another hobby, go back to school and learn something new, and so on. I don’t need any new resolutions, I need to finally get my old resolutions off to a good start!

I do have a few goals that I’d like to start on this year though. I want to spend some time and train our dog a bit better, have him become a little more obedient and calm. I want to get our house in order, we have a spare room that could easily become a “man cave” for hubby or a bedroom for Peanut, but it needs cleaning and organizing. The house can use some paint, new curtains, and a few small renovations. I hope to clean and organize our bedroom (what I wouldn’t give for a proper bedroom closet!). I envision bookshelves with books, a toy box for Peanut’s toys, a large dresser to put all our clothes in. A wardrobe that fits all our hanging clothes. I also want a kitchen complete with countertops and cupboards. Hot water. A dishwasher! I know all this can’t be done in 1 year, but like my past resolutions, they will be ongoing and will get done when the time is right.

I think the ongoing theme for this year, continuing from the past few years, is gratefulness. I am so overwhelmingly grateful for my hubby. I can’t even begin to express what he has brought to my life. Then there are my children. 5 kids, and 3 step kids. I am blessed. I have also become closer to family and friends that I had lost touch with over the years, and I am so very grateful to have found my way back to them (or them to me).

So this coming year, I guess my “word” is grateful. But as always, the theme is “a joyful chaos”. And interwoven throughout is always going to be some coffee, some chocolate, some wine,maybe a few tears, and lots and lots of laughter.