Summers Bounty

We’ve reached peak garden season here. Not only our own but also goodies from friends and neighbors. I happily take homegrown fruits & veggies if someone is giving them away.

Some we eat right away if it’s not something we are growing. Even if it’s something we grow I’ll often take it because our garden size is limited by deer. I’d love a larger garden than we have right now.

I usually keep fresh produce fresh until it starts to approach over ripe and then I’ll preserve whatever it is. Right now I’m freezing quite a few tomatoes, zucchini, bell peppers and yellow squash.

We eat squash at least three times a week right now but still have some left so I have been washing, chopping into chunks and throwing them in a ziplock freezer bag. I do the same with tomatoes- wash and just throw them whole into a bag skin and all.

I keep a gallon bag of each in the kitchen freezer and just keep adding to it until it’s full. Once it is I put it in the chest freezer and start a new bag in the kitchen freezer.

This way I can in minutes save more summer produce for winter use. It is usually done as I’m prepping veggies for dinner anyway.

The yellow squash I will use when I make broth which I do about twice a month. The butternut I’ll use in muffins or breads. I make this yeast bread a few times a year.

Squash Braid

It’s very mild no overt squash flavor, it’s rich but light and such a pretty color.

The tomatoes will be used in broth but also is a wide variety of sauces, soups, stews and chowders. I just throw them in whole and let them cook down. The flavor punch a home grown tomato adds to a fall or winter meal is so good.

The Bell Peppers I do chop/seed and then put in a freezer bag, but the hot peppers I dry and then keep in glass jars.

Don’t be overwhelmed when your garden is at its peak and if you don’t garden yourself it’s a good bet that you have a friend or neighbor who would love to share in their bounty.

Home Cooking Week #32

Other than Friday night when I was not feeling like cooking we did pretty good this week cooking dinner. I pushed through and made a super simple dinner Friday and figure even if I used some frozen pre-made fries at least we made the burgers

Friday: Hamburgers & Fries

Saturday: Grilled Chicken, Parmesan Roasted Asparagus, Rice & Corn Bread

Sunday: Chicken Pot Pie- I make my own pie crusts for these and I made a double batch because this is a very labor intensive recipe so there is a pot pie in the freezer for a dinner on a future busy day.

Monday: Beef Fajitas

Tuesday: Chicken Fried Steak, Mashed Potatoes with Cream Gravy & Corn

Wednesday: Fend for yourself night

Thursday: Homemade Sloppy Joe’s which I failed to take a pic of but did make a double batch and put one in the freezer.

Morro Bay

This was a cute little town and marina, the main attraction is “The Rock” and the bay. We wandered for a bit in the town and then drove over to see how to get out to the beach and rock.

There was a ton of parking though I’m sure it can fill up on a busy day and we had easy access to the three different sides of the park

The first side is dramatic cliffs adjacent to a beautiful wide sandy beach. It’s just a few steps down to get to the sand vs the long tall staircases you find along a lot of California’s coast. You can safely swim here with caution.

These adorable little guys were everywhere

We enjoyed a nice walk and took a zillion pictures of the Rock enjoying some really great light

Then we headed over the the side that faces the town and enjoyed views of the town and marina from across the water. We were lucky to see multiple sea otters feeding and even seals. The water was so clear and there was also abundant bird life.

More beautiful cliffs and then we were able to get down a steeper cliff to access a bunch of small beaches all in between giant boulders.

We continued around and stopped short in wonder that the site of thousands of cairns that people have been building.

It was a rock hopping climb through the area as we worked our way to the water again.

This third side faces the open ocean and no one should get into the water on this side. But it was great to watch the crashing waves, more feeding sea otters and we could see where tide pools would be accessible at lower tide.

We sat and watched the sunset for at least an hour before heading back home and another early bedtime after a long but fun day.

Home Cooking Week #31

I’ve been focused on eating down our freezers this week, I have way too much food that’s been in there for a while now. This has forced me to be little creative a few times this week but needs to be done.

The garden is also really producing so we are eating lots of squash, tomatoes and peppers ect…

Friday: Beef Stroganoff, Pasta & Green Beans

This is very much a comfort food dish and favorite of hubby’s-it’s sirloin, seasoned and browned with garlic, onions & mushrooms. Then topped with a sauce of sour cream and cream of mushroom soup. Not high cuisine by any means

Saturday: Grilled Sirloin with Onions, Garlic & Mushrooms, Roasted Zucchini & Yellow Squash & a Baked Potato

Sunday: Chicken Wings, Carrots & Celery

Monday: Salisbury Steak, Mashed Potatoes & Carrots

This was actually what I call a bonus meal-I made the seasoned patties in a large batch and then froze several meals worth. This way I just defrost, brown then add the onion gravy and side dishes for a really quick dinner

Tuesday: Pulled Pork Sliders & Baked Beans

Wednesday : Beef Tacos

What makes these great is frying store bought tortillas for the shells vs using pre-made taco shells. The freshly fried corn tastes so so much better

Thursday : Grilled Pork Loin, Squash

I totally made up this squash dish. My garden is in high gear and I have an over abundance of squash, zucchini, tomatoes and bell peppers so I sliced them all up-added onion, garlic, sautéed in olive oil and then added some canned corn. It really came out good and leftovers are a great vegetarian lunch

Dropping Our Oldest at College Avila & Pismo Beach

Covid has really disrupted life for our kids, especially our oldest so far. We did our part to be responsible with lock downs, virtual schooling and vaccinations.

After missing out on the 2nd half of his senior year and his first year of college from home we headed down to San Luis Obpisbo to drop him off and spend a little time exploring the area.

With Covid none of us had been there before though hubby and I had spent a night in Paso Robles 9 years ago on a trip driving Highway 1 from San Diego to San Jose.

Dropping him off was hard. I mean we are happy for him and this is what he should be doing at this stage but it’s still our oldest leaving the nest. He is a basically responsible kid, well as much as any his age.

Hubby and I were in one car pulling a small trailer and he drove his car down. One of his new room-mates convoyed with us since his parents couldn’t come down until the following week.

We moved him in that day and man is college move in day chaos. I don’t quite remember it the same way lol. After seeing what they all had brought (it’s 5 boys sharing an “apartment” with private rooms and shared bathrooms without a kitchen-just small appliances and mini-fridges) we hit Target for what we hadn’t purchased ahead of time.

Dinner was at a cool little taco place around the corner from his apartment and then it was an early bedtime for the parents at least.

The next day we picked him and another of his roommates up and took them grocery shopping. Then we dropped them off to get more settled and we went to check out first the Avila Beach area which was pretty but no access to the water

Then we continued on down to Pismo Beach (a zillion people) and finding it to be way to packed for our comfort we headed to Moro Bay instead.

Ahh yes this is what we were looking for a beautiful natural area with a tenth of the people.

We took so many pictures I’m breaking it up into two posts. I can’t believe our kid lives 15-20 minutes from here. Poor kid might get more parent weekend visits than he wants it is gorgeous!

Not An Emergency

We had an expensive week. First our oldest took a ball to the mouth and broke a front tooth. Yup this is why I expect unexpected medical bills. And yes it’s the same kid who rang in the new year with 5 stitches on his hand

Thankfully we have good insurance through my job but this still cost us $727 to have it crowned because he already used his insurance allotment of $$$ for the year we still get the discounted price. Poor kid got my teeth, he always maxes out his benefits every year it seems.

Then he was driving down the road and his car horn started blasting, windshield wipers going he pulled over and a disconnected his battery. That didn’t stop it but a Good Samaritan stopped and helped him pull fuses to get it to stopped.

We have roadside assistance so had it towed home and plan to get it looked at if hubby can’t figure out what is wrong with it and do the work himself. So we are back down to 3 cars for 5 drivers.

Two years ago this would have been a disaster for us, but in getting our finances in order we paid for the dental work out of our regular budget

Replacing the 5 year old battery didn’t fix it so it went in for diagnostics. It’s obviously some kind of electrical issue but we have exhausted our knowledge and needed a professional.

We ended up spending $1,100 to fix the car. It’s cheaper than buying a new one and it fixed all the issues we thought were unrelated but actually were.

Now we have a much more reliable car to leave our oldest with while he is at college. I had some money leftover from my most recent bonus we had not allocated yet so we didn’t have to dip into savings to fix it. He should get at least another couple years out of the car now.

What I can’t get over is the lack of stress this caused me. Sure it’s inconvenient and we spent some money in a decidedly non-fun way but we have the money to do what was needed. The reduced stress has been a priceless benefit on the road to FI

Home Cooking Week #30

I was able to stay on track and away from eating out pretty easily this week. I got over my cooking rut by trying a few new recipes and by restocking some of the more specialized ingredients in my pantry. Having a short work week and more time always helps too.

With our oldest off at college now I really need to cut back on the portions I cook. One less teen boy in the house makes a big difference!

Friday: Pinto Beans

These are one of my favorite foods and I make them from scratch. I start with making the chicken broth which gives this a rich and healthy base.

Then I clean and soak the beans for a minimum of 24 hours-rinsing frequently. On the last rinse I swap the water for chicken broth and add ham, onions, garlic, salt, cumin, tomatoes (canned or fresh) and either green chili or jalapeños. Simmer on low for 5-6 hours.

Saturday: Sirloin Steak, Broccoli & Pasta

Sunday: Shrimp Scampi with Garlic/Sage Gnocchi. Banana Pudding for dessert

Monday: Teriyaki Chicken, Pot Stickers, Rice and Vegetables

Tuesday: Chicken, Roasted Cauliflower, Potato Salad & French Bread

Wednesday: Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas. I make a double batch when I cook these and have one for dinner and freeze the other for a future dinner

Thursday: Leftovers

Recycle & Re-Use Ceiling Fan Edition

An item that I have noticed is often given away for free is ceiling fans in working condition. People decide they want a new one for its looks rather than its function.

Free fan now installed in our bedroom

The thing is it’s incredibly easy to update the look of a ceiling fan with just a can of Rust-Oleum looks like metal spray paint that cost $5-$7 depending on if you buy it at Home Depot or Amazon. It comes in different finishes and colors so you can paint it to match your decor no matter what your taste.

Take the old fan down, remove blades/bulbs ect.. and paint the fan housing and blades. Allow to dry and re-install. It’s not all that much more work if you are replacing a fan-you have to take the old down and put up the new anyway.

If you are not handy or are in a hurry you can just take off the blades and bulbs/glass shades and then use a Cone of shame dog cone to put around the still installed ceiling fan and paint it that way instead. You could also use paper and create a wide circle around it taped on the ceiling

This is possible if you are careful, have a steady hand and understand how to use spray paint correctly. That last one sounds silly but there is a method to it.

Then just paint the blades, let them dry and re-install them and the bulbs/shades. These items are all held in place with just some regular old screws and don’t require turning off a breaker. If you can use a screw driver you can do this.

In our current live in flip we have painted 3 perfectly good but 1980’s looking fans and have picked up two more free or cheap and painted and installed them. So the cost of replacing/updating 5 ceiling fans has run us maybe $40 instead of $500+

This fan used to be white before I painted it

I’m still keeping my eyes peeled for more free fans, I would like to install at least two more in our house and we have the 3 rental properties that we can hold onto others for replacing broken ones.

Our rentals are in an area where ceiling fans are prized by tenants due to the climate. So we will also look at installing fans in rooms in our rentals that do not already have them on their next turnover.

We also are about 1-2 years away (I hope) from starting to build at a developed property we already own and have been snapping up free materials for that as well. We have storage at the property and plan on dropping stuff off there that we will use.

We don’t want to take up room in our house (I hate clutter)so when we pick up a free fan or other item that we don’t plan to use at this property I disassemble it and pack it away in our attic. I clearly label each box with what it is and where it will be going. Then we place it in the area of the attic set aside for stuff going to that location.

Every time we travel to one of our properties we take a quick look and see what we can take with us. This way we don’t pay to store or transport this free stuff.

August Debt Pay Down, Savings & Net Worth Update

Huge celebration this month with the pay off of one of my 2 student loans! I’ve dragged these things around with me for literally decades now and I cannot believe I’ve finally killed one off!

What’s even better if we stay on track this month I’ll pay the second one off as well! I cannot believe it!

These numbers include principal payments on the mortgages and any other principal payments to debt. They do not include interest paid or any “living” expenses

Debt Paid Off: $2,505.61

Added to 401k: $2,222.65

This includes the employer match/dividend reinvestment and varies month to month due to a bi-weekly pay schedule and bonus income that pays out 2-3 times a year in June, July and December.

Added to After Tax account $100

August Net Worth Update:

$1,456,818.40 Assets

– $535,173.69 Debt ($527,247.99 is mortgages)

= $921,644.71 Net Worth

Increase from last month of $36,294.71

As always lately-I’m like a broken record….the majority of these gains were in real estate but $4,828.26 was added to savings or debt pay down .

*I have over time slightly changed how I calculate debt pay down and what is included to make the numbers more accurate. I’m still learning 🙂 I am not going back and changing old posts to reflect this.

Home Cooking Week #29

I have felt like I am in a cooking rut lately. This happens from time to time….I get bored with cooking what feels like the same dishes over and over.

I think a lot of it is that it’s been so hot and with fires creating horrible air quality we haven’t been able to open up the house at night so I’ve avoided using the oven not wanting to heat up the house.

It’s also no fun to grill outside when it’s hot & air quality is hazardous. Deciding what to make was easier this week because it’s cooled down and the air quality has improved drastically.

Friday: Chicken Stir Fry

Saturday: Homemade Fried Cod & French Fries

Sunday: Leftovers or fend for yourself

Monday: Brazilian Beef Ribs, Corn on the Cob & Baked beans.

Brazilian-Style Beef Ribs

New recipe so I made as written. Caramelized exterior, rich tender inside

Tuesday: Spaghetti, Garden Salad & Garlic Bread

Wednesday: Italian Grilled Pork Loin, Roasted Garlic Brussel Sprouts & Baked Potato

Thursday: Kids request night-Homemade Sloppy Joe’s & not Homemade Tater Tots.