October 31, 2010

Would you buy this update.

Last night the movie Titanic was on t.v. and I always seem to start to watch that movie 3 hours into it.  Last night I started watching it from the beginning.  Unfortunately it ended at 11:00 p.m. and when I went to bed and fell asleep I dreamed that that stupid ship was sinking over and over again.  When 6:00 a.m. rolled around, I was awake so I decided to get up and go to Hy-Vee - not to shop, but to see what this sale was going to look like from the parking lot.

When I got within 5 blocks of Hy-Vee every car that turned in front of me was heading in the same direction.  When I turned the corner to the Hy-Vee grocery store I saw a line of people trying to get in the store, a line of people trying to get out of the store and a couple of forklifts trying to get more stuff in the store.  The parking lot was full and cars were spilled over into adjoining business parking lots.  I drove in front of the store and there were people pushing and pulling two carts at a time.  They had loaded up on 4 hams, 4 turkeys and had 24 - 12 packs of pop.  It was unbelievable. 

I noticed license plates from out of our county and it dawned on me that even though the store opened at 6:00 a.m. that the majority of these people had been in that parking lot for at least an hour waiting for the store to open or worst yet standing in line. 

Now to the point of my post.  Why would people do this?  When money is tight, people will stand in line for a good deal but I calculated that without the pop, this was not in truth a great deal.  I see this all the time when I go to the grocery store and there is a sale on pop.  People are loading their carts with packs upon packs of pop - whole cart loads full.  Sometimes two cart loads full and it is as if pop was a staple just as flour and sugar are. 

I drink coffee and coffee is pure coffee.  I add a little sweetener to it but at least I know what is in it.  Pop is a rare treat in our household.  Our refrigerator does not have a water dispenser on the outside so I keep a nice container in our fridge of water for anyone to have to drink. 

Take the pop out of the equation and it wasn't a good deal for our family. As Debs said in her comment "it's not a bargain if it's something that you don't really need or use."

I looked at my price list from last November and I was able to get a whole turkey for around 40 cents a lb. and turkey breasts were on sale for around 99 cents a lb.  Ham was anywhere between 99 cents a lb. and $1.50 a lb.  If I am careful it is possible for me to get a 4 lb. boneless ham for $6.00 and a 15 to 18 lb. turkey for around the same price.  It will cost around $12.00 for these two items.  Pop will be on sale again for $2.00 a 12 pack (and some times $1.50 a 12 pack) if I would want to purchase it.  So 6 - 12 packs of pop will then cost around $12.00.  Total price - $24.00 for these items and less as I think I will be able to get the ham a little cheaper. 

OR I could be totally wrong.  Food prices have gone up, but turkey and ham tend to be loss leaders at Thanksgiving and I can always rely on the two weeks before Thanksgiving and the week of Thanksgiving as being the best time of year to get a good deal on turkey and ham.

People get caught up in the sales flyers and in this sales flyer it said that this was a $57.42 value.  That would be true if you paid top dollar and I mean top dollar for these items. No one would pay that amount of money for these items.  So, watch those prices and really take into account if a sale is really a sale or not.  And as a side note, in our area the best deals for your Christmas ham is right before Thanksgiving.  I have noticed this over the past several years that hams are on sale at their best price right before Thanksgiving. 

Again, armed with a little knowledge can save you big at the grocery store.

October 29, 2010

Would you buy this????

Our local Hy-Vee grocery store is having a special "while supplies last" sale on Sunday, October 31st.  I'm curious to see what other people think of this sale. Here is the deal:

Buy six - 12 pack cans of Coke products, a 5 to 6 lb. Hormel Boneless Cure 81 Ham and one 10 to 12 lb. Jennie-o Turkey for only $19.99. 

I'm not sure if I want to get in on this sale.  For one, I would have to get up at 6:00 a.m. when the store opens as you know there will be a ton of people trying to take advantage of this sale.  I talked to someone that works at Hy-Vee yesterday and they are anticipating a large crowd.  As a rule, I don't buy pop as I love it and would drink a 12 pack in about 5 days.  Although I drink diet pop, it still isn't a good idea for someone who loves pop.

As to the ham, this is a good top quality ham that usually sells for $2.50 a lb. Turkeys will probably be on sale at Thanksgiving for 50 cents a lb. or less.  

So, would you get in on this deal if you were me?  I'm leaning towards no.  Since I don't buy pop, why would I buy it even when it is cheap?  On Tuesday we have a cross country banquet in which my husband and I supply the ham.  It is for about 160 people.  If we have leftover ham, I will be freezing it for meals so do I need another ham?  And last, I am sure that I will be able to get a big turkey on sale for less than 50 cents a lb. as we get closer to Thanksgiving.  Last year I spent 39 cents a lb. due to the economy being really bad and I hardly think things will be better this year. 

This is my thought process, but I am curious as to how others think.  I am not downing the consumption of pop, I just don't buy it as I know how quickly I would consume it and water is a better choice for me.  But, ham and turkey are on my must stock up on list for the holidays.  What do you think?

The Fence is Done!!

I finished painting our picket fence on Monday.  It was the last day of beautiful 70 degree and sunshiney weather.  Since then the temps have dropped and we have turned the furnace on. 

So, here it is.  I know it is hard to notice a difference because it is taken from a distance but what a dramatic difference in the way it looks when you stand on my back porch.  It looks so clean and new and the light yellow matches the trim on our house. 

Notice Brody peeking his head over the fence on the left.

I started this project back in late August and it took me almost a month to scrape both sides of that fence - a total of 400 feet in all. I couldn't work two days in a row because of my back. (Although I didn't take pictures of the entire fence for this post, this fence goes around most of our property.)
Then it took me about a month to get it painted.  It took me longer to paint than I expected as I had to work around my two painting buddies - our dog, Griffey and our son's dog, Brody.  As I moved down the fence they would move with me, laying down on either side of me and then I would have to get them to move as I moved down the fence.  Of course both of them got some paint on their fur.  Brody still has a little paint on the tip of one ear, and Griffey has some paint around the tip of her tail.  She kept wagging her tail next to the fence while she was watching me.

Also, we had several, about 20 pickets, that were rotted. My husband made a template and then was able to make some new pickets out of one by two's using his jig saw to make the picket design at the top.  He did a great job. 

I had one more painting project that I had on a wish list - not a necessity but it was on the wish list in case I had the time.  That was to paint some of the fish scale shingles over our diningroom window and livingroom window.  I can always do this in the Spring.

So, 6 gallons of paint later, it is done.  I am taking a 10 day break from painting projects as I need to deep clean my poor neglected house.  Then, I will start patching the plaster walls in our livingroom and will be painting those walls.  Somehow I think that will be a slightly easier project as I don't have to worry about the weather in order to paint inside.

I have warned my family that this year for Christmas the only decoration going up is the Christmas tree as I want to keep painting into the hallway, diningroom and the kitchen. 

October 28, 2010

Meals from the Pantry

Maureen left a comment on my pantry post as to if I would be posting some of our meals during this time.  I thought I would get a head start as I started eating out of the pantry and freezer last weekend.

I made some potato soup on Saturday night and after it cooled I put it in the fridge to warm up after church for Sunday lunch. I took half a bag of hash browns from the freezer and used them to replace the 6 cooked diced potatoes in my recipe.  I shredded some carrots and cooked them in a small amount of water and drained the water.  I put some additional water in the pot and cooked the hash browns.  I drained the potatoes in a colander and kept the potato water.  In the meantime I melted some butter and added flour, salt and pepper and cooked til bubbly.  To this I added some onion powder, salt, pepper, a pinch of the nutmeg and 2 cups of milk and the potato water.  After this mixture was slightly thickened I added three slices of american cheese, the carrots and the potatoes.  I had some little smokie sausages in the freezer and I took 1/2 a package and diced them and added them to the soup and it simmered for a while.  Then I cooled it and stuck it in the fridge for the next day.

On Sunday I warmed up the soup and then I made some Apple Salad.  I took 3 large apples from my stash of bargain apples and I diced them and added a few raisins. I then made a dressing from Miracle Whip with a little sugar and thinned with milk and poured over the apples.  I had some Italian bead in the freezer and sliced it length wise and spread with some butter on both sides.  One side I sprinkled with a little garlic and the other side I took some grated cojack cheese and sprinkled over it.  I sprinkled both sides with Italian seasoning and I put the  bread in the oven to warm and brown while the soup was simmering.

For dessert I had baked a homemade yellow cake with an almond icing.  Hey, it's Sunday so I always make sure there is dessert for Sunday. 

On Monday night we had pancakes and sausage with some fresh pineapple.

Tuesday was vegetable soup night.  I took the container of leftover broth, meat and vegetables that I keep in the freezer and I warmed it on the stove.  I added a handful of frozen mixed vegetables, 1 can of beef broth and two bay leafs and we had some great soup.  I made some grilled cheese sandwiches to go with the soup.

Wednesday night was spaghetti and garlic bread night.  I had some fresh fruit available also.  It was a quick meal as I was gone for the majority of the day.

Tonight I made salisbury steak and gravey. I took 1 lb. of hamburger and 1 lb. of ground turkey and mixed them together. I added some onion flavored crackers that had gone stale, some ketchup, onion powder, a little mustard, 1 egg and a little milk.  I formed them into patties and fried them on the stove.  When they were done I removed them from the pan and added 1 can of cream of mushroom soup to the broth in the skillet and 1/2 an envelope of onion soup mix and a little milk.  I heated this to a low boil and returned the meat patties to the skillet.  In the meantime I made homemade mashed potatoes and cooked some frozen broccoli. 

I was interrupted half way through cooking this meal by about 45 minutes and by the time I got back to cooking, I forgot to open a can of peaches to serve with our meal.

We have enough leftovers tonight for tomorrow night's meal.

So we had simple meals from items from our freezer along with some fresh produce.  These are the kind of meals that our family will eat and enjoy.

October 27, 2010

Working towards a 6 Month Food Supply

The past 3 years have been hard on a lot of people as we have all felt the effects of a recession. I read newspapers and I watch news programs. I even listen to the farm report every morning. From listening to all of this information it was easy to come to the conclusion that we will not be out of the woods for a long time. The economy is recovering, but slowly. In our area we are hearing of new lay offs and cut backs in hours for workers. These are businesses related to the housing industry.

There is one thing I learned from my dad when his company would go on strike or he would be laid off for a period of time and that is not to give in to your circumstances and there was always something you could do. A lot of what you could do was tied to what you had already done – planned ahead to prepare for the lean times. My parents would buy a side of beef or hog and stock the freezer with meat. They had a garden and everything was canned or frozen for the winter.

I have taken that philosophy of preparing for lean times and adapted it to my own life. I don’t buy a side of beef or a hog, but I do purchase meat in bulk when it goes on sale. I don’t have a garden, but I do purchase frozen fruits and vegetables along with their canned variety when the prices are very low. I purchase fresh fruits and process them into jams and jellies.

I began seriously stockpiling about 9 months ago and I have been conscientious about using the food from my freezer and pantry. It has been a goal of mine to have a 4 month supply of food on hand and to maintain it. I have done that. In August I decided to change that goal to a 6 month supply of food and to maintain that. I use what I have on hand and replenish those items when the sales roll around. In working up to having a minimum 6 month supply on hand at all times, I have to be sure to rotate the food so nothing expires before I can use it. For example, I like to keep on hand about 20 cans of tomato soup at a time. Right now I have 15 cans. I use this to make my own salad dressings and I use it in recipes. 20 cans is usually a 6 month supply. However, tomato soup is always on sale now through Christmas, so if I can continue to get it for 25 cents or less, I will work towards a 6 month as long as the expiration dates go beyond that.

Since most canned goods do not expire for two years or more, I have been able to maintain an 18 month supply of certain items.

In the past two months our grocery stores have had a lot of loss leader sales on meat and cheese that have enticed people into their stores. I was able to purchase chicken hind quarters for 39 cents a lb. which I would cut into thigh and drumstick pieces that would normally sell for 99 cents a lb. on sale. Shredded cheese went on sale for $1.00 for an 8 oz. package. Hamburger ranged in price from $1.38 lb. to $1.73 lb. depending on the amount of fat. Good quality ground turkey was on sale for 99 cents a lb, and sirloin tip steak was at the low price of $1.50 a lb. Chuck roast went on sale for $2.25 a lb., boneless ham was 99 cents lb. and cuts of boneless pork were $1.50 lb. and sometimes even less. Yes, there were grocery price wars in our little community and because I knew my prices, I snagged some great deals and stocked up.

One other item went on sale in August and September that totally blew me away. It was spaghetti sauce. I was able to get name brand spaghetti sauce for between 50 cents and 60 cents a jar. Pasta was on sale also for as low as 50 cents a lb. Since I cook meals for people in our church, I usually make a pasta casserole and these are the key ingredients along with mozzarella cheese.

As far as non food items, I hit upon some deals on name brand laundry detergent that brought the price down to about $1.50 for a 32 load size. I use this when I don’t have time to make my own. I have plenty of dish soap and dishwasher detergent along with laundry items also.

And then the sale of all sales – Ziploc plastic food bags and containers. I was able to get ziploc bags anywhere from 7 cents a box to 25 cents a box depending on the sales and the coupons I had. I use these bags along with the Ziploc containers to transport food that I prepare for people in our church who are sick or recovering from surgery.

Over the past few months there were lost leader sales on deodorant for $1.00 or less and I usually had 50 cent or $1.00 off coupons and I found some great sales on 12 double rolls of toilet paper for $4.75.

In maintaining a large supply of food, it takes a small amount of work to organize and label cans with expiration dates so that food is used up before it expires. I keep ongoing lists of what is in my pantry and freezer and I post these lists so that I can simply mark off what I have used and I can add to this list when I make purchases. As long as I keep this up as I go, it doesn’t take a lot of time.

Right now I am low on items such as vegetable oil, vinegar and whole wheat flour. At this time of year I always stock up on baking supplies and I will continue to purchase flour and sugar over the next several weeks when they are at their lowest prices for the year. The only other two items I stock up on in November and December are turkeys and hams.

Now is the time for me to reap the benefit of my home food supply. Even though I am not quite at a 6 months' food supply, we are in need of some extra cash.  Christmas is coming, we purchased a shed, we have had car repair bills and Senior pictures were expensive. I am certain that our furnace may need some work on it also.

We will be eating from what I have on hand for the next few months and it will be interesting to see how quickly items get used up. Many items that I have in my pantry such as canned tomato products and vegetables have expiration dates of 2012 and 2013. When you look at my list (I will be posting it very soon) and see 30 or more cans of something, keep in mind that they will not expire for a few years and the reason I have a considerable sum of one item is that I purchased those cans at an absolute bargain price.

This week we will begin to eat from the freezer and pantry and while I don’t have a rigid goal of how long to do this, I want to get my freezer down to half of what is in it now. After all you can’t just toss stuff into a freezer and freeze it for eternity. The same is true for the pantry. You can’t just buy stuff, label it and put it on a shelf and never use it. I will need to purchase dairy products and fresh produce each week.

When my freezer is at least half empty, I will evaluate the money that we saved and will start to look at any sales and determine if the sales are good enough to start rebuilding my supply or I will get it down lower before I stock up again.

It has taken several months for me to build up my pantry and freezer to where it is now. In the beginning I would buy 5 cans of something when there was a sale and then when the next sale came along I would increase to buying 10 cans. I have entered all of my grocery receipts into an Excel spreadsheet and I not only know how much I paid for an item such as hamburger, I know when some items such as flour and sugar are on sale at their lowest price of the year (during the holidays).

So this has been my journey. It is definitely not for everyone and it can be overwhelming for some. I do it because I enjoy tracking prices and finding good deals. I also enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that if anything should happen, we have plenty of food on hand to feed us while directing money not being spent on groceries towards an emergency money need.

I have posted the contents of my food supply as of today, October 27, 2010.

Contents of my Pantry

A portion of my pantry
Contents in my Pantry as of October 27, 2010

1 Bottle - Cocktail Sauce for Seafood
2 Bottles - Heinz 57 Steak Sauce
1 Bottle - Italian Salad Dressing
3 Jars - Pickle Relish
2 Bottles - Mustard
2 Bottles - Cookie’s Barbecue Sauce
15 Jars - Peanut Butter
1 Jar - Coconut Oil
3 cans - Non Stick Spray
½ gallon - Pure Maple Syrup

31 cans - Green Beans
2 cans - Yellow Wax Beans
5 cans - Peas
35 cans - Corn
5 cans - Pumpkin
41 cans - Pork n Beans
3 cans - Kidney Beans
11 cans - Chili Beans
13 cans - Sliced carrots
6 cans - Whole potatoes
4 cans - Mixed Vegetables
7 cans - Sliced beets
5 cans - Diced beets

7 cans - Tuna

1 jar - Chicken Gravey
1 jar - Beef Gravey

1 jar - Applesauce (50 oz. jar)
6 cans – 15 oz. - Mandarin Oranges
4 cans – 10 oz. - Mandarin Oranges
2 cans – 20 oz. - Crushed Pineapple
3 cans – 20 oz. - Pineapple Slices
2 cans – 20 oz. - Pineapple Chunks
2 cans – 20 oz. - Pineapple Tidbits
2 cans – 15 oz. - Pineapple Tidbits
2 cans - Tropical fruit
3 cans - Sliced Peaches
5 cans - Fruit Cocktail
2 cans - Pink Grapefruit
1 can - Pear Halves

56 jars - Spaghetti Sauce
4 cans - Pizza Sauce
18 cans – 8 oz. - Tomato Sauce
1 can – 6 oz. - Tomato Paste
15 cans – 15 oz. - Tomato Sauce
31 cans – - Diced Tomatoes
7 bottles – 40 oz. - Ketchup
7 bottles – 24 oz. - Ketchup

10 cans - Chicken Noodle soup

15 cans - Tomato Soup
1 jar – 25 count - Beef bouillon
1 can - Cream of Celery Soup
3 cans - Cream of Mushroom Soup
10 cans - Cream of Chicken Soup
10 cans - Progresso Ready to Eat soups
11 cans - Beef Broth
10 cans - Chicken Broth

3 cans - Sweetened condensed milk
2 jars - Butterscotch ice cream topping
4 cans - Whole cranberry sauce
3 cans - Jellied cranberry sauce
6 cans - Cherry Pie Filling

3 coffee canisters - Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips (By coffee canisters, I use the large 33 oz. coffee canisters to store items in)
1 Mason Jar - Dark Chocolate Mint Baking Chips
½ coffee canister - White Baking Chips
1 coffee canister - Milk Chocolate Chips
1 coffee canister - Butterscotch Chips
¾ coffee canister - Cinnamon Baking Chips
1 Mason Jar - Peanut Butter Baking Chips
1 container - Cocoa
1 pkg. - Reese’s Pieces Candy – for baking
1 container – 9 oz. - Cashews
1 container – 11 oz. - Mixed Nuts
2 coffee canisters - Mini Hershey Kisses
1/2 coffee canister - Regular sized Hershey Kisses
3 Bags - Caramels
3 pkgs. - Toffee Bits
1 pkg. - Melting Chocolate
9 bars - Unsweetened Baking Chocolate
3 bars - Semi-sweet Baking Chocolate

6 canisters - Coffee

3 pkgs. - Chocolate Pudding Mixes
2 pkgs. - Vanilla Pudding Mixes
4 pkgs. - Assorted Jello

1 box - Graham Crackers
1 box - Flatbread Crackers
5 pkgs. – 12 oz. - Oyster crackers

5 boxes - Scalloped Potato Mixes
5 boxes - Macaroni and Cheese
6 pkgs. - Chicken Flavored Ramen Noodles
3 pkgs. - Oriental Flavored Ramen Noodles
4 pkgs. - Beef Flavored Ramen Noodles

2 – 1 lb. bags - Egg Noodles
9 – 1 lb. bags - Rigatoni pasta
2 – 1 lb. bags - Rotini pasta
1 – 1 lb. bag - Farfalle pasta
11 – 1 lb. bags - Mostaccioli pasta
6 – 1 lb. bags - Penne Rigate pasta
1 – 1 lb. bag - Shell Pasta
5 – 1 lb. bags - Elbow Macaroni
2 – 1 lb. boxes - Linguine Pasta
5 – 1 lb. boxes - Fettucine pasta
16 – 1 lb. boxes - Spaghetti

4 jars - Homemade Apple Pie Filling
3 jars - Homemade Blueberry Jam
11 jars - Homemade Strawberry jam
7 jars - Homemade Peach Jam
9 jars - Homemade Peach Pineapple Conserve

Some - Rice
Some - Dried Kidney Beans
Some - Dried Split Peas
Some - Dried Northern Beans

2 small canisters - Cornmeal
10 – 4 lb. bags - Granulated Sugar
3 small boxes - Corn muffin mix
9 boxes - Brownie Mix
16 – 5 lb. bags - All Purpose Flour
1 – 5 lb. bag - Whole Wheat Flour
3 – 2 lb. bags - Powdered Sugar
24 – 2 lb. bags - Brown Sugar

1 bag - Marshmallows
9 boxes – 10 ct. - Hot Chocolate Mix

2 large canisters - Oatmeal
77 boxes - Assorted Breakfast Cereal
7 boxes - Granola Bars

Contents of my Freezer

Contents in my Freezer as of October 27, 2010

51 lbs. - Hamburger
5 pkgs. – 2 ½ lbs. ea. - Chuck Roasts
4 – 1# pkgs. - Sirloin Tip Steaks
2 pkgs. of 2 each - Sirloin bacon wrapped fillets
1 pkg. - Split Chicken Breasts
1 - Whole Chicken
2 Breasts - Boneless Chicken
14 lbs. - Ground Turkey
12 - Chicken Thighs
7 - Chicken Drumsticks
1 – 3 lbs. - Rump Roast
10 pkgs. - Bacon
1 pkg. – about 2 lbs. - Spiral ham slices
6 lbs. - Ground Ham
3 pkgs. – 2 lbs. - Sirloin Pork Roasts
4 lbs. - Ground Pork
30 slices - Pork Loin
6 lbs. - Breakfast sausage

18 ½ pkgs. - Hot Dogs
1 pkg. of 4 - Bratwursts
3 pkgs. – 10 count - Chicken Breast Patties

1 lb. pkg. - Tater Tots
1 – 5 lb. pkg. - French Fries
1 small pkg. - Homestyle Noodles

6 pkgs. – 1 lb. ea - Corn
8 pkgs. – 1 lb. ea - Mixed Vegetables
11 pkgs. – 1 lb. - Broccoli
2 pkgs. – 1 lb. ea - Stir Fry Vegetables
1 pkg. – 1 lb. - Broccoli, Rice, Cheese combination
3 pkgs. – 1 lb. ea - Rice and Mixed Vegetable

1 individual pie - Chicken Pot Pie
3 individual pies - Turkey Pot Pies
15 pkgs. – 1 cup ea. - Blueberries
5 – 1/3 cup pkgs. - Swiss Cheese
2 containers - Parmesan
22 – 8 oz. pkgs. - Mozzarella Cheese

3 individual - Apple pies
3 individual - Berry pies
8 small containers - Peach, Pineapple conserve

Contents of the Freezer above my Refrigerator

Contents of the freezer compartment bove my refrigerator as of October 27, 2010

¾ pkg. - Miniature Marshmallows
3 pkgs. - 1 cup ea - Black Raspberries
2 pkgs. - Pizza Sauce
¾ of a 6 oz. can - Tomato Paste
½ can - Cream of Chicken Soup

1 quart pkg. - Spiral ham pieces
1 quart pkg. - Ham broth
2 – 1 gallon pkgs. - Ham Bits with broth
5 patties - Breaded Chicken Breast patties
1 ½ pkgs. - Smokie Links

½ cup each - Frozen corn, mixed vegetables, green beans, California mix
2 cups each - French fries, tater tots
3 – ½ cup pkgs. - Sliced celery
1 cup - Red Raspberries
2 pkgs. - Banana Puree (3 bananas each)

1 cup - Pumpkin Puree
3 ½ pkgs. - Cranberries

5 - Homemade biscuits

7 - Hot dog buns
3 - Hamburger buns
1 loaf - Sandwich bread
1 loaf - Italian bread
1 quart bag - Bread for croutons

5 ½ containers - Whipped Topping

2 Boxes - Frozen Waffles
1 pkg. - Deli Thin Sandwich buns

1 lb. - Pecan Halves
2 jars of yeast

Stockpiled items in my Refrigerator

Stockpiled items in my Refrigerator as of October 27, 2010

8 pkgs. – 8 oz. ea. - Sharp Cheddar Blocks
9 pkgs. - 8 oz. ea. - Shredded Mozzarella/Cheese Mix
7 pkgs. = 12 oz. - American Cheese slices

13 – 1 lb. pkgs. - Butter
12 – 1 lb. pkgs. - Margarine

40 lbs. - Apples (To be made into apple butter for our use and for Christmas gifts – purchased for $8.00)

Non Food Items in my Pantry

Non Food Items in my Pantry as of October 27, 2010

19 rolls - Paper Towels
16 pkgs. of 12 double rolls - Toilet Paper
4 pkgs. of 4 single rolls - Toilet Paper
4 ½ 250 count pkgs. - Paper Napkins

40 - Boxes of plastic Ziploc bags
Numerous - Ziploc storage containers

1 box – 80 count - Tall Kitchen Garbage Bags

36 Bars - Bath Soap
6 Bars - Face Soap
8 bottles - Men’s Bodywash

4 tubes - Crest Toothpaste

23 containers - Deoderant

6 bottles - Shampoo

7 containers - Shaving Cream

3 boxes – 80 count - Fabric Softener Sheets
2 - 60 load size bottles - Liquid Softener
1 - 40 load size bottle - Liquid Softener
8 – 32 load size bottles - Name brand laundry soap
11 bars - Fels Naptha Soap
1 box - Washing Soda
½ box - Borax
4 jugs - Bleach

25 bottles - Bathroom Spray - purchased for 25 cents or free with sales and coupons

October 24, 2010

Pictures from my Canvas

Tonight I am going to help our Associate Pastor with the Middle School youth group.  We are going to be baking dozens and dozens of cookies for our church and I can only imagine the mess, and the fun.  I've been trying to do some more volunteer work now that I am more settled into staying home full time.

I've also been trying to finish up some painting projects outside and I need 3 days to get the jobs done.  It looks like the weather will be in my favor this week and then I will be spending a week deep cleaning my house.  It needs it.

All of my posts on painting the fence brings me to sharing about painting our house and what it takes to paint the details on a house such as ours.  

My house has become my artistic canvas.  This week I painted two windows which I never got to the last time we painted the house.  They are on the south side of the house and are blocked by trees so aren't really noticeable.  To give you an idea of what it takes to paint a house like ours, here is a closeup of one window.  There are five colors in this picture and you can see the thin stripes of yellow that I have to use a small artist's brush to paint. 

Here are the spindles: 

As you can see in this picture there is a small brown stripe towards the top of the spindles that I have to use a 1/8" wide brush to paint. 

Here are the porch posts:

Again, more details and striping.

All of this work to get this affect:

It's all in the details, but is it worth the work?  For now it is.  I love how this color scheme came together when we painted it a few years ago and when we go to repaint it, it won't be as difficult as we simply paint the same color on the old color.  The previous house color was a light grey with white and maroon trim.  I was constantly referring to a paint chart as I was painting the spindles or as I told people I was painting my house by numbers.  Remember those paint kits?

As time goes on I know that we will not be able to continue to paint the house like this and I do believe that we will have to hire out the 2nd story to be painted and leave the first story to us.  If we continue to live in this house until retirement and after, we will have to make the decision on whether to have the house sided.  It is a hard decision for me to make as I know the siding will cover up the beautiful millwork of the house, but it just may happen.

In the meantime, and as long as I am able, I will continue this color scheme as I enjoy it.

BTW - I haven't forgotten about my post on the living off the contents of my freezer and pantry.  That will be coming soon, I promise.

October 21, 2010

Painting and the Pantry

Are we having fun yet??
As everyone knows, I have been working on painting projects outside.  The fence is almost finished.  I just have the three gates to paint, which is a little time consuming to paint around the hardware.  My husband made new pickets to replace the ones that were rotted and they have been painted.  So, why haven't I finished the fence?  I ran out of paint on Tuesday.  In the days of old when I was working, I would have rushed out and bought another gallon.  Not so now.  Sherwin Williams is having a sale starting tomorrow and I can certainly use the 30% off coupon I have on that gallon of paint.  It was worth waiting a few days. 

In the meantime I have been painting trim on two windows on the south side of the house.  There are 5 colors of paint on the window trim and I should have taken a picture.  Perhaps tomorrow.

I want to be done with the fence and those windows by Monday.  Then, if the weather holds I can finish the easiest of the outside painting projects which is to paint the the overhangs over the dining room window and the living room window.

It is looking pretty good out in the back yard.  It's amazing what a coat of paint will do.  Also amazing is the foot traffic by our house watching me work on these projects.  In the end it will have taken six gallons of paint to paint the fence at a cost of $32.00 per gallon.  It was expensive but far cheaper than replacing that wooden fence with vinyl fencing @ $100 per 6 feet. 

Yes, all of you have followed me on my painting journey.  While it has been work, it has also been very cathartic.  I have listened to pod casts on my MP3 radio and beautiful music.  I have at times just painted without the MP3 player and let my mind wander and think.  While my back has hurt most of the time, I have enjoyed the peace, quiet and alone time. 

When these outside projects are done, the painting continues inside but that will be a little different type of painting - faux painting. Also, while I have been working outside I have been pondering some different designs to paint on the ceiling of the living room.  Could be interesting and if I don't like it, I can paint over it. 

In the meantime I have also been working on putting a post together listing the contents of my freezer and pantry.  It is time to reap the rewards of stockpiling.  We have many expenses coming up over the next few months.  We have paid for 1/2 of our son's Senior pictures and tomorrow I pick them up and pay for the balance.  Then there is our 30th wedding anniversary in November and Christmas of course.  So, I will be making up the majority of our meals from the freezer and pantry and will see how many weeks of meals I can come up with and supplement with fresh produce and dairy products.  The only items I will stock up on over the next few months will be flour and sugar. I always stock up on those items at this time of year.  Oh and if I am able to clear a space in the freezer I also love to pick up two turkeys at Thanksgiving. 

October 18, 2010

How Long Does it Last?

My family hasn't noticed yet, but they will before too long.  I have been marking on certain items the date that I open them.  Have you ever wondered how long some items last?  That is a big factor when determining the price of an item and whether you want to try your hand at making it on your own.

Two years ago in order to prepare to go to one income, I began some couponing.  There were a lot of coupons for cleaners and when I was able to use a buy one get one free coupon for an item on sale, I stocked up.  A lot of it was all purpose cleaners, laundry soaps, softeners, dish detergents, bar soaps, body washes, 12 packs of toilet paper, paper towels and more.  As certain things have run out, I have been making my own cleaners, cutting back on paper towels, have been making my own laundry soap and yet, I was wondering how long every thing lasts in order to compare it to what it is truly costing me.

For example, does it pay to take a name brand dish soap and either dilute it down or mix it with a generic alternative in order to stretch it?  Does it last longer?  How long does shampoo and conditioner last?  Do the store brands last as long as the name brands?  Do bar soaps last longer than a body wash in the shower?  Will my son ever pick up his clothes off his bedroom floor or perhaps he is saving steps by calling the floor a hamper?  I digress.

Yep, a lot of pondering is taking place while I am working on our fence.  I'm coming close to being done.  Why is it taking me so long?  I work on it every other day as I have chronic back pain.  When I spend the entire day working on this project I usually end up in pain by the evening and have to take it easy the next day.  It's just something I live with as it is my "normal."
Getting back to the subject of this post.  I started to take a marker and write down the date I opened a bottle of fabric softener, (I do love liquid fabric softener), dish detergent, the automatic dishwasher detergent, shampoo, all purpose cleaner, my homemade laundry soap, and, well you get the picture.  I also wrote down on each bottle the price I paid for that item. 

My goal is to get a handle on what I am spending on the non food items that I need to purchase for our household, to figure out how long I can make each item last and to also compare how long the homemade versions last.

My grocery spending is well in hand and I have been able to lower the amount I spend each week. Now I am tackling those non food items by coming up with good homemade alternatives and using a reduced amount that is called for on the products.

For an upcoming post I am working on a list of all the items I have in my freezer and pantry as I am going to commit to eating out of the freezer and pantry over the next several weeks in order to save for Christmas.  This should be fun.

October 15, 2010

A little bit of this and that

Won't be seeing these flowers til next spring.
Our son and daughter in law closed on their home today so we are helping them move.  This week I have been continuing the saga of painting all 400 feet of our picket fence and am nearing the end. 

While painting I have a lot of time to think about anything and everything.  A lot of times I think about recipes and things to make over the next few weeks.  Last month I made a recipe of pastry dough that called for butter.  I bake pies all the time so I am not afraid to handle pastry.  The recipe called for 2 1/4 cups of butter, 6 cups of flour, salt and water.  I mixed it up but when I went to roll it out it crumbled and no matter what I tried it fell apart.  I grabbed the entire bowl of that pastry and formed it into one large ball, wrapped it in plastic wrap and threw it in the freezer.  I was really mad as that was a lot of butter, over a lb., that I had just "wasted."  I threw it in the freezer to buy me some time to figure out what to do with it.

This week while painting I started thinking about that ball of rich pastry dough in the freezer and I came up with an idea.  I can take that mixture and turn it into cookie dough.  So I got out my recipe for Snickerdoodle cookies and modified it.  I added baking soda, cream of tartar, eggs and sugar to the pastry dough and I turned it into cookie dough.  I formed the dough into teaspoon sized balls and rolled them in a cinnamon and sugar mixture and baked them and I had Snickerdoodle cookies.  They turned out great and I was able to resurrect that baking disaster into a baking triumph.

One week ago when I was at the grocery store, I was picking up some sale items in the frozen food section.  I stopped to visit with the manager of the frozen food section.  She asked me if I had noticed the big unadvertised half price sale that was in one of the freezer bins.  The manager explained that at the distribution center when a box is opened because a fork lift pushes over a box of frozen food or if they open up a box and a few of the packages are damaged, they take all the undamaged assortment of frozen food from those boxes and mix them together, divide them up and ship to several of their stores to be sold at a greatly reduced price.  Wow.  I went over to that frozen food bin and I was able to get packages of 5 count blueberry bagels for 50 cents, Green Giant Broccoli Steamers for 75 cents and I had coupons for 50 cents off two packages, whipped topping for 50 cents, 5 lb. bag of french fries for $2.00 and 10 pack of chicken breast patties for $2.00.  My freezer was stuffed before, but now it is gorged.  So, it looks like I need to make a run to that grocery store on Thursdays to see if there is an unadvertised frozen food sale like this.  It doesn't happen every week, but it is worth checking into on a weekly basis - at least after I use up a lot of the food I already have in the freezer that is.

This week I have come into contact with two individuals that both use the homemade powdered laundry soap recipe.  Both had complained that while they do like it, they don't like that it doesn't entirely dissolve in the wash and sometimes remnants of the soap can be found on their dark clothing.  When I used the powdered recipe, I always kept a clean glass jar on top of the washer. I filled it with hot water from the washing machine and poured the powdered soap into the jar and shook it up until it was dissolved and poured it into the washing machine.  The result was that the soap was always dissolved even when I washed everything in cold water. 

Tomorrow we will continue to help our son and daughter in law with moving but I am also hoping I will be able to have some time to paint. I should be able to have the fence done by Sunday.  It has taken me a long time because I have a bad back and I suffer with a lot of back pain.  Yesterday I painted for 6 hours and last night I had a lot of pain and it was hard to move around.  I took the day off today to recuperate.  So, hopefully tomorrow I will be almost pain free and ready to paint again.

My freezer and pantry are "gorged" with food and it is my goal over the next few months to eat out of the freezer and pantry.  We can use the extra money for Christmas and to pay down bills.  I will only be purchasing perishables from the store each week and some holiday baking supplies when they go on sale. 

It has been an incredible week as the weather has been perfect - in the 70's and 80's.  This week it will be more likely in the upper 60's which is still perfect for this time of year.  I may get all my outside jobs done before winter arrives after all.

October 12, 2010

Food Prices Going Up

In the past month in our area of the U.S. being Iowa, I have noticed two basic commodities that have gone up in price.  They are sugar and butter.  Last month I purchased 1 lb. packages of butter on sale for $1.69.  The regular price was $1.99.  Last week butter went up to $2.99 for a 1 lb. package.  I have two 1 lb. packages of butter in my fridge and although I used to bake with butter, I am reserving those packages for table use.  Instead I have purchased margarine to replace butter in baking for now.  I was able to buy name brand margarine on sale last week for 50 cents a lb. which was a good deal. 

I would purchase 4 lb. bags of sugar when they were on sale for around $1.50.  This usually happened every 4 to 6 weeks.  Now the best sales price has been $1.99 for 4 lbs. with a limit of one purchase.  Well, I can't replace sugar in baking but I can reduce a little bit of it.  Instead of 1 cup of sugar in a cookie recipe I can use about 2 tablespoons less and it won't affect the taste of the cookie, but I might need to add a little more flour for the missing "bulk" in the recipe. 

Then, I opened up this morning's newspaper to see that the price of corn per bushel has gone up. This is really good for the grain farmer, but bad for meat prices.  Now, before anyone thinks that I am anti-farmer, I am all for the farmer getting a fair price for the commodities that they produce.  I am just saying that we need to be prepared for rising costs on meat.  The reason for the rising price is due to moisture damage to the corn plants from this year's flooding.  Livestock producers will be paying a higher cost for feed for their animals and therefore we will be paying a higher price for meat.  This also may account for the higher price of butter.

Right now my freezer is jam packed and stocked with a lot of meat I bought on sale over the summer.  I have a general rule of not paying more than $1.99 per lb. for cuts of beef except for hamburger. I generally try to pay no more than $1.75 for ground beef, depending on the fat content.  Also, I try not to pay more than $1.50 per lb. for ground pork or cuts of pork.  Being as we live in Iowa which produces a lot of pork, that is generally easy to find.  As for chicken, I purchase chicken hindquarters on sale for 39 cents per lb. and then cut them apart into thigh and drumstick pieces.  Then I try to pay no more than 99 cents per lb. for bone in chicken breast and $1.50 for boneless chicken breasts. 

If I watch for sales I am usually able to find the above meat products at my goal prices.  However, that could be changing and I will need to "test" the market to see what may be new goal prices.  It will be interesting to see how quickly the prices go up as the article just came out in today's paper.  If it is like anything else, prices will probably go up right away.

As for sugar, right now until Christmas, holiday baking supplies go on sale and usually sugar is right up there with those sales.  I always buy a lot of sugar, flour and other baking ingredients at this time of the year.  In fact, I usually buy a 6 to 9 month supply.  This is the time of year when those ingredients are at their best sales price and I always make sure that I take advantage of these sales.  My best guess is that I will now look for 4 lb. bags of sugar on sale for $1.99 and will make that my new goal price.

What is a homemaker to do?  Continue to be diligent and saavy.  I have made adjustments to using margarine in my baking over butter.  Years ago I always used margarine but switched to butter when I had more money in our food budget.  I know, a lot of people will be saying that margarine is not good for you because of the hydrogenated oils but then again butter was a saturated fat.  I preferred butter because it contained cream and salt.  Also, cookies aren't very healthy in the first place.  They are a treat so in my opinion it is one of those gray areas in cooking.

Also, I am very careful about using up leftovers in our house and avoiding any type of food waste.  I work very hard to prepare meals that my family will eat and enjoy and stay away from any ingredients that they don't like.  An example would be sweet potatoes and green peppers.  I am the only one that likes those items in recipes so I don't make anything will those ingredients in them. 

In the newspaper yesterday they reported that for the second year in a row, there will be no cost of living increase in Social Security checks to individuals.  For many people this is their primary source of income in their retirement years.

In the end, our family will adjust to the higher prices but other families may not be so fortunate.  I would expect that with the lack of a cost of living increase in social security checks and with the rising cost of food, there will be more and more people turning to a food pantry for gaps in their food budget. 

October 10, 2010

Weekend of Projects

I have already posted that I bake 8 to 9 dozen muffins on Thursday for my husband's cross country team to have for breakfast on Friday morning.  Our dog and our son's dog have learned that when my husband comes home from practice at 7:30 a.m. and they see him getting out of his truck with a big rubbermaid bin, they know that that bin contains some leftover muffins.  Here is how my husband is greeted:

Now comes the sit and shake before the treat is given.

That is how the weekend began.  With two dogs begging for a leftover pumpkin muffin and then it was back to:


The fence is about 200 feet and I am 2/3's of the way through painting the outside and then I will work on the inside.

Griffey and Brody, my painting buddies.

Saturday was bust up the concrete steps and pour new concrete steps. Our oldest son was on hand to help. 

Mixing up the concrete

Now we have to wait a week. 

Then today after church. . . . . . .

More painting.

I feel like that Paul Simon Song "Still Crazy After all these Years," except my version is "Still Painting After all these Years."

October 08, 2010

Helping Others

It reached 84 degrees here today and I have to say that I am loving this weather.  We haven't had any rain in two weeks and the ground is hard and dry, but after all the rain and flooding this summer, I am not concerned in the least.  This is great painting weather.  Yes, the painting of the fence continues.  But, the fence is a total of 200 feet in circumference and since I am painting both sides I have 400 feet of fence to paint. 
Today I was painting the outside of the fence next to the sidewalk.  Several people walked by during the day and would tell me I was doing a great job.  I would stand back and look at the fence and say, "Yeah, I am doing a great job."  Not that it matters to anyone except me. 

There is a retired couple in our neighborhood that walk by in the late afternoon.  They have been watching me scrape the fence and were thrilled that I had finally reached the painting phase.  I took a break and we visited for about 10 minutes about my dog, the fence and we even talked about marriage.  Then as they walked away they told me "you're doing a great job."  Their compliment meant the most to me because both of them look like they have done some painting in their lives so they are good critics and judges. 

When I am outside working on a project I end up seeing a lot of people.  It is kind of uplifting to have a conversation with someone that lives a block away from you and you really don't know them except for seeing them walk by your house daily.  

This morning I picked up some groceries and as I left the parking lot I noticed an elderly lady with a cane walking down the sidewalk and carrying a bag and her purse.  I pulled up next to her and said "Mam, I know you don't know me and I don't know you, but may I give you a ride home?"  She looked at me and looked at her bag and said "yes."  She got in my car and I drove her to her house that was about 4 blocks from the grocery store.  I opened the door for her and helped her out and to the door of her house and said goodbye.  She thanked me.  As I drove away I realized that I should have given her my name and phone number in case she ever needed a ride again.  I am sure that I will see her again as this is a small town. 

When I was a little girl my mom would take two elderly ladies from our church to the grocery store.  We called them Grandma Bentley and Grandma Schuler.  Seemed like any old lady was called Grandma to us.  I would go with Grandma Bentley throughout the store and my older sister or my mom would go with Grandma Schuler.  When these ladies became more home bound we would stop by their apartments and they would give us their grocery list and the money and we would buy their groceries for them. 

So today, this little old lady kind of reminded me of Grandma Bentley and that little voice in my head told me to stop and help her.  She tugged at my heart strings. 

I know that in this day and age it took a little bit of trust from this elderly lady for her to get in my vehicle and let me help her home.  I must have an honest face or in the alternative, she looked pretty tired.  In the end, it is all about taking care of each other and taking care of our elderly neighbors and friends.  Perhaps I will have the opportunity to help this lady again and I will be able to exchange my phone number with her.  I am praying that this will happen.

It seems that with the busyness of our lives, we need to stop and be a friend to the elderly.  What is their day like?  Do they live alone and have to walk to the grocery store and back every few days?  Are they lonely?  Something to ponder. 

October 06, 2010

Treasure Friendships

Monday night I went to bed with a stomach ache and yesterday I woke up with a stomach ache.  I was light headed and had a headache.  So I did what any woman would do, that doesn't have young children that is, I sat in the comfy chair in the living room and fell back asleep, woke up at 10:00 a.m. and decided I had to get up. 

My husband told me that I have been over doing with all of the outside work and that I am probably worn out.  My house is in disorder. I need to clean but would rather spend my days outside getting the work done.  Winter is just around the corner and the weather is phenomenal right now.  It is in the 70's and sunshiney and that is the forecast for the next 7 days.  After that, who knows, so I have been pushing myself.  Also I have been isolating myself at home in order to get the work done.  I can go days without seeing or talking to a friend because I have been so focused on the projects that I must get done before winter. 

So I proceeded with caution and did a couple loads of laundry and started to pick up the clutter.  Then, the doorbell rang.  It was a friend I hadn't seen in a while.  Now imagine your house in disarray, dusty, somewhat dirty, laundry baskets with unfolded clothes in them and a pile of dirty dishes in the sink and around on the kitchen counter.  Clutter is everywhere.  I opened the door and let her in.  I knew she wouldn't judge and would understand my situation.  So we sat at the diningroom table, drank a cup of coffee and caught up on what was going on in our lives.  This friend is a farmer's wife and she understands the need to get projects done, especially this time of year.  So, we have made a commitment to get together after I am done with my painting projects and my hope is that we can go away for a day trip somewhere.  In the meantime, we will have the opportunity for quick cups of coffee. 

This friend was the medicine that I needed.  I have been tied down to this house for a long time and I haven't been getting out enough.  The weight of everything that has to get done before winter has been weighing heavy on me.  In the meantime I will work on the projects and take some time out for me. 

I think God sent this friend my way so that I could spend the time connecting with another woman and take my mind off of all the things I need to get done.  Lesson learned.  Friendships are important to the mental health of women in general and to the stay at home wife/mom, those friendships are even more important.  I need to cherish those friendships and even when I am busy, take the time to connect with a friend.  I cannot isolate myself when I have a lot to get done.  Instead I need to take coffee breaks with a friend every now and then just like I did when I was in the workforce.  All work and no play does not make for a fun day or life.  

October 04, 2010

I can do this!!!

Yesterday I finally faced a project that I have been putting off.  I was a little intimidated about this project:  tuckpointing.  Yes, I finally faced my fear.  I dug down about 1 foot below the foundation of our house, dug out the loose and crumbly mortar, cleaned it out and then mixed up the mortar.  I was told that when you mixed up the mortar it should be the consistency of cookie dough. I was wondering if they meant chocolate chip or sugar cookie dough.  I had borrowed some masonry tools as I didn't want to purchase them.  I took the mortar and pushed it into the cracks. It's funny what you can do when you need to improvise.  I ended up using an old spoon to help push the mortar into those cracks to get it packed in there, then I smoothed it out best I could.  You are not supposed to get mortar on the face of the bricks so I had to be careful not to get the mortar goop, as I called it, on the face of the bricks and if I did I had to wipe it off right away with a rag.

I just had to tuckpoint the bottom four rows.

I should have taken a before picture but I don't want to remember what it looked like.  There are a few other spots that can wait until next year.  This was the worst and it needed to be done before winter.  Now I need to do the same thing to the inside brick walls of the basement.  Not the entire basement, just one wall needs to be looked at and mortar applied where needed. 

Bottom line, it was easy but time consuming.  Why was I afraid?  I didn't want to know how bad it was below the surface.  That was pretty silly but sometimes we want to hide our heads in the sand and not face things. 

It took about 2 hours to dig down around that small portion of the foundation, clean out the old mortar and make sure it was dust free and dry.  Then it took a while to mix the mortar and apply it.  This was messy, but it was the fun part too.

So, I learned a lesson.  Don't put off those projects that seem intimidating.  You can do it and best of all when you step back and see a job well done, you know that you can push on and do other projects too.

Today I finish scraping the fence and then tomorrow I finally get to do the fun part, paint it.  Hopefully I can keep the dog away from the fence otherwise we will have a black lab with yellow stripes.

October 02, 2010

Homecoming 2010

Here is a picture of my husband and me walking with his cross country team in the Homecoming parade on Thursday.  We're the "old" people wearing the shorts. The building in the background is the County Courthouse and it is a beautiful building.

Picture provided by K. Allsup of Oskynews.org - Thanks K. Allsup!!

It was a gorgeous evening.  I'm smiling because I get a big kick out of walking around the town square in a parade in a small town.  You wouldn't see anyone doing this in my hometown back in New York!

The Shed - My Hubby is Happy

Well, after a one week delay, we finally finished the shed today.  Doesn't my hubby look happy?

He has wanted a shed for a long, long time.  We researched all different kinds of sheds and priced them all.  Finally we thought about what we would put in the shed  - our lawn mower, weed wacker, bikes in the winter, my clothesline poles, clothesline and pins and lawn chairs.  The goal was to get as much stuff out of the garage so that about the only thing we would keep in the garage was my Kia Sportage, basketballs and the storm windows in the warm weather. 

This shed is the heavy, duty plastic type and it will serve us well.  It is 10 by 7 1/2 feet.  He built a floor for it and it is attached to the floor.  We ruled out metal sheds as they rust over time.  When we priced the cost of building a shed from wood, we ruled it out due to the cost.  It was more than double what we paid for this shed.  Last but not least, it was on sale and we got a good deal. 

It was a family affair building this shed.

Those boxes were heavy.

Place Part A in Part B

Oops - I think we're missing some pieces!!!

My oldest son and wife.
My daughter in law helped me scrape the fence while the "men" worked on the shed. 

This is the original spot where we started to build the shed.  Then as we were building it we realized that this spot wasn't going to work and also that some pieces were missing.  My husband called the company and they shipped the missing parts and they were here in two days. 

In the meantime here is what it looked like sitting in our backyard.

Yep, a half built box of a shed sat like this all week long until we could work on it today.  I kept waiting for some neighbors to ask me what we were building.  I was going to reply "a half built box." 

On Thursday our college football player neighbors helped us move this to the final spot and all is well.  Building this will be full of memories such as our sons working with their dad to put it together and the two of us finishing it today.  It was fun to scrape the fence with my daughter in law and her and I laughing at watching the "men" working together to get this project finished.