Housebound and Happy – Year 12

104 consecutive days.

That is my record for staying in the house. That is over a quarter of a year!

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My first time working at home I was pregnant with our third child. It did not go well – 5 months of bed rest. Luke was in kindergarten and Laura went to preschool in the afternoon. I worked in bed.

After Derek was born, I continued working at home for 18 months. The summer was especially exciting with a 7-year-old, 4-year-old, and a 9-month-old!

I got up early and worked before they got up. I worked during nap time. David entertained the kids to let me finish up after dinner. We took it one day at a time.

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My first time being housebound was in 2004. Allergies went out of control and I could not take any more Prednisone. I moved the office home for a few months. It happened again in 2005. In 2006, my job description changed. I worked from home until the end of 2007.

At the end of that year, I stepped down. Three months later, the only antihistamine that worked was taken off of the market. I did not leave the house unless I was on Prednisone.

Three years later, my immunity dropped so low that if someone at David’s work caught a cold, I caught it! The doctor had me leave the house a little at a time to build it back up. But I am with only a few people.

On Sunday, I play with a worship band and I am out for four hours. The same group meets at my home for practice. On Wednesday, I play with another band and am in contact with those 6 people.

This is my new normal. I learned many things over the last 12 years – usually the hard way, lol.

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Breathe

Take deep breaths. Do not give in to anxiety. You can do this. It is temporary for you. You may want to make working in your home permanent.

Water

You will have access to food all the time! Sometimes you think you are hungry and you are just dehydrated. Drink 2 glasses when you get up. Drink another after you exercise. Drink a glass every hour on the hour until you reach your goal. My goal is 11 glasses a day.

When you are properly hydrated, you will have extra energy. You will find yourself doing things in the evening instead of watching TV.

Tap Water

At some point in this pandemic, we may run out of bottled water. Be proactive. Pour a glass of tap water. Do you like it cold, room temperature, or over ice? How can you improve the taste? Filter it? Boil it? Infuse it with fruit or herbs? I filter my water and drink it at room temperature.

Exercise

I don’t enjoy exercise. I have to trick myself into doing it. Make it as easy as possible. I wear a sports bra under my pajamas. When I get up, I drink 2 glasses of water and start my stretching routine. I wake up slowly and am fully awake when it’s time to hit the weights or work on my core. You don’t have to wear “exercise clothes” to exercise. Pajamas work fine.

Get Dressed Including Shoes

Get dressed right away and wear comfortable shoes. Your feet need support. You will get cold if you try to work in your pajamas and a housecoat. Slippers do not support your feet. Dress in layers. You can take layers off as the day warms up.

Journal

Get a notebook and write down events during this time. It helps to process the bad stuff by writing it down. Then list 10 things for which you are thankful. Gratitude fights depression. And perform one “Random Act of Kindness.” Write these in your notebook.

Devotions

I don’t turn on my phone until after devotions. I read the good news first. Psalm is a good place to start. It is in the middle of the Bible and talks about God protecting us. You can read the chapters from the shortest to the longest using my “Baby Steps” Bible Reading Guide, or you can follow the 2020 Bible Reading Guide. I write a post about a verse in that guide each day.

Set Meal Times

Make a schedule. If you have little ones, they will need snacks. Adults need 3 square meals a day. Prepare your food and eat at the table. You will overeat if you are in front of the TV, computer, or on your phone. Eat until you are full and stop.

Measure Your Food

My weight kept creeping up even though I ate a salad for lunch. It wasn’t until I measured my food and recorded the calories that it started going down. Our food proportions are super-size! I promise you will get full if you eat the proper portion from each food group. We are seeing shortages and rationing in some foods. Don’t waste your favorites by eating 2 servings at a time.

Breakfast

Sit where you can look out a window. Watch the birds and squirrels. They are carefree. Notice the plants coming to life after a long winter. I am not in a position to eat outside but you can. Eat on the deck or porch. Watch the sun come up.

Make Special Days

At our house, Friday was Malto Meal Day. Tuesday was Oatmeal Day. Change the toppings from week to week to add variety. Pancakes take fewer eggs and milk than waffles or French Toast. But if you have dried bread to use up – make French Toast. Have a cereal day or cinnamon toast day. You can make muffins in several flavors.

Make a Food Inventory

It doesn’t have to be fancy. Just write down what is in the cupboards, freezer, and refrigerator by category. When you get more food, write the date you bought it down. Scratch the item off of the list when you use it. Make menus from the top of the list. Eat older foods first.

Make Menus

Plan for each meal but be flexible. You can eat last night’s leftovers for lunch. Or set a lunch menu. Mine is a Salad, 4 vegetables; Ham Sandwich, 2 Bread, and 1 Meat; Yogurt and Fruit, 1 Dairy and 1 Fruit. My husband likes a sandwich with cottage cheese or Veggies and dip.

Plan easy lunches: Tomato Soup and Grilled cheese; Chicken Noodle Soup and Peanut Butter and Jelly; Ham Sandwich and a Salad; Soup and a Salad; Egg Salad Sandwich and Coleslaw.

Dishes

Do dishes right after each meal. Our dishwasher broke and I am doing them by hand. There is nothing more depressing than a sink full of dirty dishes.

Natural Alarm

I wake up each morning naturally. I stop eating 12-16 hours before I want to wake up. My belly wakes me up!

Don’t Sleep In

Every time I slept in someone would drop by! It’s embarrassing to be caught in your pajamas. Instead, go to bed an hour earlier.

Make Your Bed

Every day. Then no matter how trashed the house becomes, you still have a nice place to return to. And if you accomplish nothing all day, you have proof that one job was finished. An unmade bed is a dusty bed. Dusty beds fill with dust mites and will ruin your sleep.

Limit Social Media and the News

Don’t check it when you first get up. Let your body wake up, feed your body, and your spirit. Then you will be ready to face whatever comes next. Shut off social media by 8 pm. You need a few hours to detox and relax before you sleep. Read a book. Listen to music. Take a bubble bath. Just wind down.

If you don’t, you may be plagued with insomnia. It’s the worst! Everything is out of proportion in the middle of the night. Do not make any decisions then. Drink a glass of warm milk and read a book. Do not turn on the TV, computer, or your phone. The blue light tells your brain to wake up.

Take a Nap

If you have insomnia, take a short nap 15-30 minutes before 3 pm. You will get a second wind to complete the day. Then go to bed earlier.

Sanitize

I sanitize my kitchen and bathrooms every morning. You can make homemade sanitizer or use what you have on hand. There are recipes online. Don’t forget doorknobs, remotes, and keyboards.

Plan and Dream

What projects would you like to tackle? What are your favorite activities? Make time for those activities each week. Have your children make an “I’m Bored” list. Only they can think of things that would not be boring for them!

Fix Something That Bugs You

I have new valances in the living room. They would not stay together. The street light showed through that space. One day I hand sewed them together. Now when I look at the valance, I love it!

Work on Your Skills

Practice the piano. Shoot baskets. Draw. Embroider. Quilt. Do Sudoku or crossword puzzles. Set up a puzzle on a table and leave it out.

Work and Then Stop

Be diligent starting work on time. Be diligent stopping on time. Do not work all the time. Set work hours and keep them. The work will wait until tomorrow. It’s tempting to keep working on a project in the evening but it is counterproductive.

Don’t Multitask

Do not throw a load of laundry in right before you start working. If you can’t wash, dry, and put the load away before work, wait until after. Keep the evening routine that you used before. It is stressful doing more than one thing at a time. Do one thing, do it well and move on.

Study

Learn something new. Or learn more about your chosen field. You want to keep your mind active. The best way is to learn new things.

Start a Lifetime Project

Choose something so big that it will take the rest of your life? Or start working on a huge project. I saved all the tee shirts from my children’s activities. Some of them are signed by their friends. I embroidered each signature. Then I pieced the fronts of the tees together and made a quilt. It took me 2 years to make a quilt for Luke. It took me 10 years to embroider the names on Laura’s tees!

Declutter

Start at the front door and work your way around the room. Do a drawer, shelf, or wall each day. What can I throw away? What can I give away? What can I put away? What can I sell that I no longer need?

Set a timer and work on it for fifteen minutes. Do just one small area. Don’t drag everything out. “Inch by inch life is a cinch. Yard by yard, life can be hard.”

Spring Clean

As you declutter, get rid of dust and cobwebs. Wipe off the shelf. Would this look better if I painted it? Does it need repair? Do I need it or should I pass it along? Once again, do just one small area.

Plan Your TV Viewing

We got rid of satellite TV. The antennas pull in 12 channels. I review what is on each of those channels before I turn on the TV. I chose how much time I will be sitting in front of it. I try to do something else at the same time: embroider, mend, and read emails or scan Facebook on commercials.

Last night we watched TV for 2 hours. That is how long it took to wash a load of towels. Then I shut it off and went to bed.

Go to Bed!

It’s tempting to stay up late but I always regret it. Set a bedtime and stick to it! You will be healthier for it. If you are tired during the day go to bed an hour earlier.

If You Are Sick

Throw this list out!

Stop the world and get off. Let your boss know you are calling in sick. Go to bed with a pitcher of water and fruit. Nap, read, rest, watch TV. That is the best cure for any virus.

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You need a schedule and you need to stick to it. You can find easy routines at flylady.net. She gives tips and encouragement to declutter your house. At the least, write down everything you do. Put it in the order that works best for you. I am a morning person. My routine may not work for you.

This time with your family is precious. Before I knew it, they were living in their own homes and starting families.

Being a grandparent is indescribable. Your baby brings you a baby to cuddle, love on, and spoil. You see your baby in some of their features.

And you know what? The house still needs decluttering and I need to spring clean. I have more things to get rid of and I have been working on it for years! Give your best to your job, cuddle your babies, and make the house take the last place.

Get outside at least once a day for a few minutes. (I cannot do that. I just keep several plants around to clean the air.)

Check on your great-grandparents and elderly neighbors. They lived through the Great Depression. They have seen a lot worse than this. They aren’t worried about the shortage of toilet paper.

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Kid Tested, Mother Approved Hot Chocolate Mix

How are you spending Black Friday? Have you been up for hours? Did you stand in line in the cold?

I’m decorating for Christmas! I chose this year’s theme last December! There is no way you will guess it! (Actually, in the last three years, only one person guessed my theme correctly and he found a clue I left in a pretty obvious place. Go, Luke!)

Whether you are just getting home from shopping or are in the middle of your decorating, you need a cup of hot chocolate!Homemade Hot Chocolate "Kid Tested, Mother Approved Hot Chocolate Mix" frugalfish.org

I have a recipe for “Hot Chocolate Mix” that every kid will love and every mother will approve. My kids still love it!

“Hot Chocolate Mix”

  • 7 Cups Nonfat Dry Milk
  • 2/3 Cup Powdered Sugar
  • 1 1/4 Cups Dry Coffeemate
  • 1 – 2 pound can of Nestle’s Quick

Mix all ingredients together and store in a sealed container. Use 1/3 cup of mix for each cup of hot water.Jar of Hot Chocolate Mix "Kid Tested, Mother Approved Hot Chocolate Mix" frugalfish.org

Mothers love this mix because each cup is a cup of milk! Kids love it because it is sweet from the powdered sugar and creamy from the Coffeemate!

 

You can top the hot chocolate with one of the following:

  1. Marshmallows
  2. Crushed Peppermints
  3. Whipped Topping
  4. A Scoop of Ice Cream

My frugalfish tip is – homemade is always better! Make your own!

Next week I will reveal my “2017 Christmas Theme.” I’m so excited!

©2009-2017 frugalfish.org

 

Keep Your Veggies Longer

There is nothing worse than a fruit fly infestation. It is one of the main reasons I ordered the “Reusable Produce Mesh Bags.” You take them to the store, put the produce in them and bring them home. The holes are too small for fruit flies. After using them, you launder them in the washing machine.

I found another use for them.

I love salads. My vegetable drawer is full of salad fixings. They are each in their own green bag. I noticed that the broccoli crowns would spoil at the places touching the green bags. I started putting the clean vegetables in the “Reusable Produce Mesh Bags” and then putting it all in a green bag. My broccoli lasted a week longer!

My fruit did not fare as well. Apparently, it caused them to spoil sooner! I guess it didn’t release enough ethylene gas. I keep my fruit in the green bags alone.

Reusable produce bags inside a green bag "Keep Your Veggies Longer" frugalfish.org

Next week, I will show you how I organized my jewelry!

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Same Price for Pork Chops or Roast

We pay the same price for our pork roasts as we do for our boneless pork chops. We pay the same price for 1/4″ chops as we do for 1/2″ chops and we get all of them for under $2.00 a pound!

I know it sounds too good to be true, but it’s not. We wait until a pork loin is on sale. We have paid from $1.59 a pound to $1.99 a pound. (Lower food costs is a benefit of living in Iowa.) They weigh around 10 pounds. When we get it home, David gets to work.

Using our meat/cheese slicer, see here, he cuts boneless pork chops off and puts 4 to a package. He cuts up to the last third of the pork loin. That leaves about 3 pounds and makes a nice sized pork roast. Sometimes, he cuts two roasts and not as many pork chops. He can cut them whatever width he likes.

David Cutting up a Pork Loin "Same Price for Pork Chops or Roast" frugalfish.org

You don’t need a meat/cheese slicer to do this. All you need is a sharp knife! You can even cut thicker pork chops and stuff them! Keep your eyes out for a sale on pork loin!

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No Oven April to October

Tomorrow is a big family reunion. David’s mother had 9 brothers and sisters, who married and had a few kids, and those kids are now grandparents. It’s a pretty big reunion! One cousin always brings homemade berry pie. (I try to get a piece every year.)

Since he has the pie covered, I bring a different dessert. One of my favorites is “Cherry Delight.” The only problem is, you bake the crust in the oven and I don’t like to use the oven from April to October. The last time I made it, I experimented baking the crust in the microwave.

Normally, I cook it for 20 minutes in a 350° oven. This time I cooked it, on high, 30 seconds at a time in the microwave for a minute and a half. It didn’t get brown but the flavor was the same.

Cherry Delight Crust "No Oven April to October" frugalfish.org

Cherry Delight

1 Cup Flour

1 Teaspoon Sugar

1 Stick Butter, cut up

1 – 8 Ounce Cream Cheese

1 Cup Powdered Sugar

2 Cups Frozen Whipped Topping, thawed

1 Can Cherry or Blueberry Pie Filling

Stir flour and sugar together. Cut butter into mixture using a pastry blender or 2 knives. Press firmly into 9 x 13 glass pan. (I used and 7 x 11 pan because my microwave is smaller.) Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or 30 seconds at a time in a microwave on high for a minute and a half.

Mix cream cheese, powdered sugar, and whipped topping together. Spread over cooled crust. Spread pie filling on top of cheese mixture. Chill and serve later. It is best made a day ahead.

Cherry Delight "No Oven April to October" frugalfish.org

I may try lemon bars in the microwave next. Has anyone else used the microwave for their baking?

(Click title to leave a comment.)

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Tricking My Sweet Tooth

I had a high metabolism. I could eat anything I wanted and not gain weight. Life was good until I went to the dentist.

“Which is worse on my teeth, Mountain Dew or Hershey’s Kisses?”

“Both!”

All the fun ended when I hit that birthday beginning with a 4. The metabolism slowed down, and even worse, I had to take regular rounds of Prednisone. When you take steroids, you don’t feel hungry but starving!

I will never forget the day I went to the doctor and the nurse told me I lost 5 pounds. I replied, “It only took 10 years.”

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My mom loved to bake. We had dessert at lunch and at dinner – or is that dinner and supper. Anyway, I liked having something sweet at the end of a meal.

When I stepped down from my job and my clothes no longer fit, I had two reasons to give up Mountain Dew: 1) I couldn’t afford it, and 2) I couldn’t afford new clothes. I switched to sweet tea instead.

I took my coffee with 2 scoops of sugar and 2 creamers for years. I cut back there by using a dollop of whipping cream and 1 teaspoon of sugar. (There are natural sugars in the cream.)

Now that I had my drinking under control . . . ( No, wait, I never did acquire a taste for alcohol – just sugar) . . . I decided to curb my desserts. I switched to eating dessert at lunch and a few pips of a Hershey’s candy bar at supper. That took self-control that I didn’t really have.

I started making homemade trail mix. There are enough M & M’s in it to satisfy my sweet tooth and I measure it out, one-fourth a cup, in snack size bags for portion control.

My biggest weakness – well after chocolate – is ice cream. I loved having a big bowl at lunch, preferably on top of a banana! I started getting ice cream cones and reduced my consumption by two-thirds.

I was also buying yogurt, but it would spoil before I could get it all eaten up. I came up with a plan. I scooped one-fourth cup of Yogurt into muffin tins and froze them.

Freezing Yogurt in Muffin Tins "Tricking My Sweet Tooth" frugalfish.org

Then I removed them from the pan and placed them in a plastic ziplock bag.

Individual Frozen Yogurt "Tricking My Sweet Tooth" frugalfish.org

I put one in a bowl in the refrigerator 3 hours before lunch to partially thaw. Then I make a frozen yogurt cone! It is much cheaper freezing it myself and healthier than eating ice cream.

Homemade Frozen Yogurt Cone "Tricking My Sweet Tooth" frugalfish.org

Last night I made David some green tea. I brewed it on the stove and my son suggested I add honey to it. That could be my next step!

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Combine Leftovers for a New Dish

I hate hot dogs!

I feel the same about bologna. My kids try to trick me into eating hot dogs as a joke. I will buy them and serve them along with several hamburgers. They can have the hot dogs, but I will stick to the burgers.

It’s crazy how those who manufacture hot dog buns do not make the same amount as found in a package of hot dogs. Sometimes, I make mini sub sandwiches with the leftover buns. Last week I had a leftover hot dog bun and leftover taco meat. I combined them to make a taco sub sandwich.

Taco Sub "Combine Leftovers for a New Dish" frugalfish.org

When you have leftover taco meat you can make taco soup, taco salad, burritos, enchiladas, taco casserole, or taco pizza. You can make garlic bread out of leftover hot dog buns, cut them up for stuffing or reduce them to bread crumbs.

Look in your refrigerator. There are probably leftovers that you could combine to make a new dish or a new sandwich!

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Leftover Candy

I grumbled to myself when I saw the Valentine heart-shaped box on the kitchen table. “When will my son ever learn to take his stuff to his room?” When he came home for lunch, he came back to the office and said, “Here, Mom, this is for you!” #eatingcrow

His father brought home an even larger Valentine heart and white roses. (I baked him his favorite – my famous cherry pie.) While he spoiled me by making pork chops, cheesy potatoes (in a muffin tin), and mixed vegetables, I pondered what to do with all that chocolate! I decided to share a few ways to use up leftover candy.

Valentine's Day Candy

Serve It

My daughter gave me a box of Russell Stover’s chocolates on my birthday at the end of October. I put it in the freezer and served it with the other desserts at Thanksgiving.

Bake It

Those “Hershey’s Chocolate Hugs and Kisses” would be great on top of peanut butter cookies or thumbprint cookies. Cut the “Russell Stover’s Candy” up and use in place of chocolate chips or to decorate a chocolate dessert.

Craft It

Two weeks ago, I showed you some Valentine pins my friend Whitney crafted out of Conversation Hearts. Those are a few years old!

Conversation Hearts Pin

Split It

When I got down to the last handful of “Mike and Ike’s,” I split them into single servings. I placed them in a muffin paper and left it in the cup holder of my husband’s recliner. It was an early Valentine!

Candy in a Cup Holder

Accent It

Last week, I wrapped my niece’s birthday gift in wrapping paper covered with desserts and candy. I taped “Mike and Ike’s” over the jelly beans in coordinating colors. I taped “Lifesavers” over the “lifesavers” on the paper. When she got the present she started eating the candy right away. My package was a hit!

Birthday Gift

Candy Taped to Package

Hide It

The last thing you want to do is eat the candy all by yourself. I have a large bag of lifesavers in the ottoman in the living room with the quilts. My hope is that others will eat one or two each time they get out a quilt. If I leave them on the counter, I will eat them all – one at a time. Right now both of my Valentines are sitting on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. Chocolate freezes well, too.

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Rename It

Today I will do my favorite thing . . . tell on one of my kids!

I received a text from my son telling me he and his girlfriend would be there for dinner a few hours later. The only thing thawed out was one cooked chicken breast. How would that feed four people?

“Chicken à la King”

I shredded the chicken breast and made “Chicken A La King.” I have made this dish before and he didn’t like it. Once when I made it, I called it “Chicken and Gravy.” He still wouldn’t eat it.

This time, I said, “You like beef stroganoff, this is chicken stroganoff.” He had three helpings!

Renaming a dish does not always work. David’s grandmother tried to get his sister to eat rice by calling it “Shredded Pizza.” I guess you have to choose a name that is close to what you are serving. “Shredded Pizza” would have shredded pizza crust, not rice.

Anyway, my tip for the day is to rename a dish your child refuses to eat. I don’t have a picture because I finished it off for lunch. (Sorry.) But you can see what the first step looks like above.

Chicken à la King

  • 1/2 Cup Butter
  • 1/2 Cup Flour
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Pepper
  • 1-1/2 Cup Milk
  • 1-1/4 Cup Turkey or Chicken Broth
  • 1 Can Mushrooms
  • 1 Cooked Chicken Breast, Shredded
  • 6 Cooked and Mashed Potatoes

Melt butter; blend in flour, salt, and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until mixture is bubbly; remove from heat. Stir in milk, broth, and liquid from the can of mushrooms. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Stir in mushrooms and chicken; heat through. Serve over mashed potatoes.

Rename it “Chicken Stroganoff!”

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Last Taste of Summer

“Summer-in-October Record Warmth,”

weather.com, 10-20-16

It sure felt like summer at the beginning of this week. I was grateful we have central air and do not rely on window air conditioners! The thing I will miss the most from summer is the fresh strawberries!

My sister, Michele, has a thriving strawberry patch. (I did not get that gene. I planted and killed 2 strawberry patches and the plants that were supposed to grow in a “strawberry pot!”) Michele made jam with just strawberries and sugar. I could eat it with a spoon.

This week I got to the bottom of the last jar. Sigh.Empty jar of jam "Last Taste of Summer" frugalfish.org

I wanted to stretch that jam as far as possible. There were still some pieces on the side. I was making sweet tea and decided to fill the jar with the hot concentrated tea.Tea in jam jar "Last Taste of Summer" frugalfish.org

My last taste of summer was strawberry tea!Strawberry tea "Last Taste of Summer" frugalfish.org

You can see other ways I flavored my tea here.

Another way I am squeezing the last of summer out is by using a fan in my front window to blow the warm air into the back of the house, see here and here. For other ways to delay running the furnace, see here.

What is your favorite summer treat?

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