Please return to your seats. We’re about to land!

I have finally been approved for the new place to live! Yeah, it’s a small 2 bedroom apartment but it’s about to be mine!!! Due to a series of unfortunate events, my rental history is less than stellar. This place is willing to take a chance on me and I so appreciate it! MiniMe and I have been living with family for the last few months for which I am eternally grateful. Beauty came to stay with us last week and may or may not be moving with us. She is almost 19 and has so much going on in her live that it’s hard to watch sometimes. Her mind changes daily, sometimes even hourly about just about everything! MiniMe is very excited to have her own room again and even more excited to have her bed. I am just excited to have my “stuff”. As much as I appreciate my family letting us stay there, it’s just not the same as having your own stuff, ya know? Moving should be interesting however. I’m currently using crutches because on Saturday when I was at work a table top fell over on my foot. It’s not broken but it’s bruised and still pretty sore. It’s all good tho. A couple of Beauty’s friends recruited themselves to help us move. Teenage boys are great for that! I have been mentally going through my storage unit figuring out what I’m going to be getting rid of. Our last place was a 4 bdrm/2 bath with a storage shed off the patio and lots of closets for storage. This is a 2 bdrm/1 bath with less  closets and a little storage closet off the deck. My Ethan Allen coffee table that my mom gave me will probably have to go. The livingroom is about half the size of my old place so figuring out a way to make everything fit will take some creativity. I have found some cool ideas on Pinterest that I think will help with the storage issue in the small bathroom. I also picked up a couple of small 3-drawer cabinets that I’m going to make into something cool.

So many things floating in my head right now I’m pretty sure this whole post seems disjointed and odd. But, that’s just how my mind works sometimes!

My Thankfulness Post

This is it. I decided that I’m only going to do one big post rather than the “Day 17 I’m thankful for dishsoap” thing a bunch of my Facebook friends are doing. Ok, actually not all of my friends are thankful for dishsoap. In fact, for the most part, my friends that are doing the Facebook Thankfulness project are actually thankful for some pretty good stuff.

Ok, here goes…

I’m thankful for my parents. They gave me life. Even if my mom did cry for 4 months because she thought she was going through menopause. I’m thankful that I had my daddy for the first 12 years of my life. And I’m thankful 14 years ago my mom found a man to love her and take care of her.

I’m thankful for my siblings. My brothers and sisters have been there for me through the many ups and downs in my life and I feel unbelievably blessed to have them in my life.

I’m thankful for my girls. I’m still trying to come up with something to call them on here so as to provide them with some privacy. I can’t use initials…they both have exactly the same initials. Very smart of me, I know. For now I’ll continue to call the youngest one MiniMe (since, well, other than the hair color and the eye color she really does look exactly like me at that age. Poor kid!) but I’m thinking “Beauty” is a good name for her big sister. My girls are 6 years apart. Beauty is going to be 19 here in a few short weeks. She is my 5’9″ blonde, blue-eyed vision. She has not had an easy time of it recently and I worry about her constantly but I know that I did my best to raise her right and I have to trust God to take care of her now. MiniMe is my constant challenge. I believe she will do great things in life. Providing we can get through the “tween” and teen years… As much as they drive me crazy sometimes, they are my whole world. They make me smile, cry, scream and laugh, often all at the same time. I love you girls and I’m so glad God chose me to be your mom!

I’m thankful for my employers. I know, I know, everyone right now is thankful for their jobs because so many of us are out of work and struggling. But I truly am thankful for the opportunities I have been given not just at my current jobs but at all the jobs I’ve worked at. I learned something from each one and all of those experiences have made me the person I am today.

I am thankful that through various connections I was able to get a new (to me) vehicle a couple of weeks ago. I’m also thankful that this morning when I got $60 in gas it pretty much filled my tank as opposed to only giving me half a tank in “The Beast”. Through one of those connections I may be able to sell the beast too! Yay me!

I’m thankful for a bunch of other stuff like

  • Having a place to live although we are currently “houseless”
  • Having the freedom to say what I think when so many people are so oppressed.
  • My friends – I have a couple of really amazing friends that I know I can count on when times are tough. What more can a girl ask for?
  • I’m thankful that I get 2 days off in a row this week. Normally I work 6 days a week but this week, with Thanksgiving tomorrow and one of my jobs is closed and the other I’m not scheduled to work at, I get to rest! I’m pretty sure I’m not going to do the “Black Friday” madness but that’s not official yet. Last year I worked at Walmart on Black Friday. To put it simply, THAT SUCKED! I mean, I was grateful for the extra pay but leaving my family so I could be there for all the local crazy people who were standing in line for hours and hours just to get a TV that went on sale for a better price after Christmas was just dumb.
  • I’m thankful for all of our military  and their families. Not just today, but every day!
  • I’m thankful for the team at Cakewrecks for their amazing talent. Not just Jen and John (ThoJ) but also Sharyn and mel and zoomom and TLC and Haiku Joy and all the rest. You guys make me smile and often times make me snort coffee out my nose. Pleasent visual, no?

There are so many little things I’m thankful for that I could list but you have likely heard all of them somewhere else so I’ll just stop now.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Changes

This year has definitely been a year of change in our family. My oldest is going to be 19 (!!!) in about a month, MiniMe will be 13 in just a few weeks! Beauty (the oldest) got a car, unfortunately it has a blown head gasket so she can’t drive it, even tho she still has to make the payments to the bank. We had to move out of our apartment and MiniMe and I have been staying with my brother and sister-in-law for a few months. I really appreciate them so much. My oldest hasn’t been staying with us, she’s been staying with friends for now but she recently told me that she’s realizing that she’s not ready to be on her own yet and asked if she could live with us again. I am proud of her for realizing her limitations and I’m glad that she came to me rather than continuing to struggle. I’ve missed her a lot and I worry about her all the time.
This week I was able to purchase a new (to me) vehicle! Yay!!! I’m very excited to be able to drive on the freeway again! I was driving a ginormous Chevy Conversion Van that gets 10 mpg (if I’m lucky!). I didn’t drive it on the freeway because I seriously couldn’t afford the amount of gas it would use. Last night the girls and I went to look at an apartment. It’s small (2 bedrooms) but we could make it work. I have been mentally going through my storage unit getting rid of things that I know I won’t have room for anymore. That’s ok with me! I have moved more times in the last 3 years then I have in the last 15! I lived with a horrible landlord for 10 years because I really really didn’t want to have to pack up everything and move. This apartment is back in the small community where I want to raise my family and although the location is historically not great, they have a new on-site manager who is making it her mission to clean the place up. We’ll see how it goes. Maybe our Christmas present this year will be having a home again!

I’m working in a field I never thought I would be working in but I’m enjoying it and learning a lot. After the first of the year I will be upping my hours and getting medical insurance! YAY!!! Having a chronic health condition but no insurance makes life very difficult sometimes. Lucky for me, I have an amazing doctor and he’s been very willing to work with me over the last couple of years.

My parents are now both in a nursing home. The just moved recently to a different one and we’re still dealing with some bumps along the way but I’m hoping it will work out better for them in the long run.

I’ve been spending a lot of time online reading different blogs about all kinds of different things. I can lose hours on Pinterest  looking for ideas to decorate small spaces or finding really yummy recipes. I’ve actually made a few of the recipes I’ve found on there and they totally lived up to the expectations. Bonus!!! I even found a couple of blogs that inspired me to try making my own yogurt! I’ve found lots of food blogs and DIY blogs and am feeling all kinds of creative. Now, if I could just find the time/space/money to do all those cool things we’d be getting somewhere…

What kinds of changes have you experienced this year?

Greek Yogurt – my way! **Updated!**

**UPDATE 1/25/13**
I make this about once a week (I get about a gallon of yogurt every time I make it) and my most recent batch was seriously the best one yet!
**Changes**
1 quart Half and Half
1 pint Whipping Cream
4ish Cups Whole Milk (I just add enough to fill the crockpot almost all the way)
1 cup store-bought yogurt with live cultures

Pour Half and Half and Whipping Cream in crockpot. Stir. Add whole milk until almost to the top of the crockpot. Turn crockpot on high and cover. Check occasionally and stir with a plastic or rubber utensil. A digital thermometer works really great at this point. I have one that I picked up at the DollarTree that is strictly for yogurt! Bring the liquid up to 105 degrees then shut it off. (I actually let it get this hot on accident but it totally worked!) Put the store-bought yogurt in a bowl and add the warmed milk to thin it out as below. Wrap it up in the towel and heating pad as below and let sit overnight (about 12 hours). Pour into a resealable container and refrigerate until cold. It will be thick when it’s warm but will thicken even more when it’s cold.

It’s not fat-free but it doesn’t have all the extra added chemicals that store-bought stuff has. Plus it’s about $5 for everything!
Try it and let me know what you think!

I’ve been trying to make homemade yogurt. My first attempt ended badly. My second attempt was a little better but still really thin and runny. Well, today I had a major success!!!

TaDa!!! I’m very excited! Here’s the recipe I used if you’re interested…

Greek Yogurt – My Way

Ingredients: (I used a 4 cup crock-pot so if you use a bigger one you will need to adjust your liquid ingredients accordingly.)

  • 1 Pint Half and Half**
  • Enough milk to make 4 cups (2 cups I think?)**
  • 1/2 of an individual serving size store-bought yogurt with active cultures (About 2 Tbsp) You could use either plain or vanilla. I used Tillamook French Vanilla Bean. YUMMY!!!

That’s it! Seriously! Ok, now here’s the hard part… I used a plastic spoon for all of the stirring. Not sure if metal or plastic makes a huge difference but it’s what I used.

In crock pot heat Milk and Half and Half to 103 degrees. (I used a sterilized thermometer) Once the liquid reaches 103 degrees turn off the crock pot and unplug it. In a small bowl mix the store-bought yogurt (starter) with a couple of spoonfuls of warm milk until it’s really thin and runny.

Pour the thinned yogurt starter back into the warm milk and stir gently to get it all mixed in.

I have a really warm place to put it (on top of the furnace) so I just wrapped the whole crock pot in a thick towel and set it on top of the furnace and left it overnight. If you don’t have a warm spot (around 90-95 degrees) you could set the crock pot on an electric heating pad on the lowest setting and wrap the whole thing in a thick towel or blanket to keep it warm. Let it sit 12 hours (I let it sit overnight). I think you could let it sit even longer if you had to and it would be ok but I’m not sure about that yet. I’ll try it next time and update then.

After 12 hours or so remove it from the warm place and pour it into a resealable plastic container (I happened to have a large Cool Whip container I’m using) Put it in the fridge for a couple of hours for it to get cold.

It should be thick when you first uncover it but it will get even thicker when it’s cold. We had some for dessert tonite and I just had it plain with a tiny bit of sugar. MiniMe added sliced strawberries and a couple of frozen blueberries with a little more sugar to hers.

It’s that easy! Seriously!!! You really should try it! I’m guessing if you had access to raw milk you wouldn’t need to use the Half and Half but I don’t so I have to improvise.

As far as making a larger batch I think the main thing you would increase is the milk. You might want to add a little more starter (store-bought yogurt) and maybe a little more Half and Half or even just a small container of whipping cream. A couple of sites I’ve seen recommend not using “Ultra-Pasturized” milk but that was all I could find and it worked out just fine.

I plan on experimenting more so I’ll update when I try some other variations.

**UPDATE**

I made this again last weekend but changed up a couple of things. I used my 5 qt crock pot so I could make a larger batch. I used 1 qt of half and half and the rest milk. I left a little space at the top but that’s up to you.  I also tried the heating pad method and it worked perfect. I just placed the whole crock pot not just the insert) on top of the heating pad and wrapped it up in a towel. I put the towel down first, then the heating pad, then put the crock pot on top of it so I could wrap the whole thing up nice and snug. I still only let it sit for 12 hours but I think I may try for a little longer next time. MiniMe is seriously loving it with frozen blueberries and strawberries! She adds about 1/2 tsp of sugar to her serving and is already telling me I need to make more!

 

Working class?

I was just reading an article and it basically gave the difference in wages and a few other things from the 50’s and compared them to todays prices. According to this article minimum wage was .75/hr. That works out to roughly $125/month before taxes. Average rent was $45. In my state, todays minimum wage is $9.04/hr which works out to $1500/ IF you are working full-time. Most employers around here are not hiring for full-time because then they also have to provide health insurance. Average rent for a 2 bed/1 bath apartment is $850. A 3 bed/2 bath apartment jumps to $1200. That’s not anything special either! Neither of those would include a pool or any other special amenities. Sometimes they don’t even have a washer and dryer. I live in a moderate sized county in the Pacific Northwest corner of the United States. We have a University with enrollment of almost 15,000 students. We also have a Community College and a Technical College. The 1 bed/1 bath apartments around the university rent for at least $600 a month.

I am currently working 2 jobs making just over minimum wage at both jobs. I work 6 days a week, almost 50 hours a week. I am living with family trying to save up enough to get a small 2 bed/1 bath apartment. One of my jobs will be offering me health insurance after the first of the year. I currently spend almost $200/month in gas for “The Beast”. Hopefully that will go down very soon (like possibly tomorrow!!!) when I get a different vehicle. The apartment I’m looking at right now is a very small 2 bdrm/1 bath for $655/month and it doesn’t have a washer/dryer so I’ll have to add quarters for laundry into my budget. After rent, phone, power, gas and food are paid for, I’ll be left with about $200 a month. That doesn’t include vehicle insurance (which is required in my state) or any medical bills not covered by insurance. That doesn’t include any of the millions of things the school convinces my child she must purchase.

The point of this whole post is that I don’t understand just who these people are talking to when they think that “being broke” means you have only have $500 a month to spend on food? Seriously? I’m lucky if I have half that amount! It would be nice if someone actually wrote articles that more accurately portray the low-income/working class lifestyle.

Success!

After 3 attempts, I finally found success making homemade yogurt! Yay me! It’s thick and creamy and way yummy!

In other news, we have officially started “Birthday Season” in my family. We have 10 birthdays between November and December. A few years ago we had a party every weekend for 4 weeks straight. My oldest is the last in that run and by the time hers came along we were all so sick of cake that she asked for “Birthday Pie” instead 🙂

People say “Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year!” Heck, there’s even a song about it! But you know what? In my house we have a different “most wonderful time of the year”! BACK TO SCHOOL!!!

My sister

Today is my sister’s birthday. The same sister I posted about with the “Walnuts in my crotch” thing. This is the sister that basically raised me. I am the youngest of 5 children. There are 12 years between myself and the next to the youngest so it’s like I’m a whole different generation. My sister is the middle child and was 14 when I was born. My parents owned a restaurant at the time and weren’t home much. A lot of the responsibility for me fell on my sister. When I was about 6 my sister moved out and lived in the neighboring town 17 miles away. She taught me her phone number (3-3-“Oh, what’s that other number”-4) so I could always call her when I needed her. I don’t remember there ever being a time that I called her and she didn’t answer. Realistically, I’m sure she wasn’t sitting by the phone just waiting for me to call her but that’s my childhood memory at work. I remember when our parents went on vacation and I got to go spend 2 weeks with her. I remember when I was little she used to make all of my birthday cakes. She’s an awesome artist! I remember when I was 13 I spent the summer taking care of her and my nephew as she was pregnant with my niece and having contractions for 4 months so she was on complete bed-rest. I remember when she travelled 400 miles to see me graduate from college. I talk to her almost every day. Even tho she lives far-ish away from me I still know that if it came right down to it and I needed her, she would be here no matter what. I would do the same for her.

So with that, I love you Hope! May you have the best birthday ever!

Love, your baby sister

 

Scary! Boo!

So the other day I was reading the Cakewrecks site and there was a post with different Halloween themed cakes. Holy Hannah I love that site! Jen, John and all the rest are hilariously funny! The comments have made me spit coffee more then once!

Anyway, one of the cakes featured in that post has a spider web thing and above that it says “Scary Boo”! So last night I took MiniMe to the nursing home where my parents are living now and she got to trick-or-treat there. It was great! The weather here was pretty ugly so I wasn’t looking forward to walking around in it. She ended up with a whole bucket of candy and we didn’t get wet or cold at all and we got to brighten the day of some of the residents that don’t get many visitors. It was awesome.

The best part for me was that I followed her around saying “Happy Scary Boo Day!”

It.Was.Awesome!