Jana Says

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Home Decorating

Pioneer Project progress update #1

It's been awhile since I reported my pioneer project progress. So let's do that today.

Three or so months into the project and pretty much I can say this: I haven't done much. I do notice a difference in my determination and some internal traits but as far as accomplishing things, there's not much tangible proof, save for making butter, a mending basket, and using my crockpot (which is like my version of a pioneer stove).

Let's break it down.

Gardening

This is my husband's area. He busts his ass weekly, maintaining the garden. He's constantly thinking about how to improve it and maximize the results by weeding and rotating the plants and getting rid of the ones that aren't growing so the good ones have more space (we even have some volunteers from the previous owners but that just makes me think of The Hunger Games so I call those our Katniss plants). He even used grass clippings for mulch, which is both frugal and environmentally friendly. So pioneer win on that one. The plants we started indoors are kicking ass and now it's just a matter of watering and pruning and waiting for things to grow. Then I can start working on some pioneer food things like canning.

This our insane cat hanging out in the garden. Because why not.

Sewing/crocheting

One word–nothing. I have done nothing to improve my sewing. I even set a goal this month to sew a pillowcase and thankfully the month isn't over yet so I can get working on this. If I can get some pillowcases, napkins, and curtains done by summer's end, we'll call that a victory. And as far as crocheting, I am trying so, so hard on this one. I practice, watch YouTube tutorials, and it's just not getting better. I think I might just need to accept the fact that maybe I am not meant to do it. But not yet. I'm not giving up yet.

Homemaking stuff

In the early days if this project, I set a weekly schedule a la Ma Ingalls. I haven't been perfect with it but I'm definitely keeping to a stricter schedule than I had prior to the project, and I am getting more done. There have even been a couple of times I washed, dried, folded, and put away laundry all in the same day. Baby steps, friends. Baby steps. I have been getting better about having a weekly food prep and baking day, running errands on one day, and staying home more. That last part isn't a problem because home > public.

I still have a few home decorating projects I need to start/work on/finish but some of those involve going to a craft store and those places intimidate the shit out of me. I also don't have a tablecloth which is really more a reflection of my laziness than an inability to do things because how hard is it to order from Amazon? I want a tablecloth for various reasons but the pioneer reason is I love that Ma used hers to differentiate between an all purpose table and the dinner table. That's a fun, practical idea.

Miscellaneous

This past weekend we went to a strawberry festival. That's pioneer like, right? We're also trying to do a better job of heating/cooling the house with windows, fans, blankets, layers, curtains, and other non-electric sources. (Except the ceiling fans. Wow, do those make a big difference.) Composting is still in full effect yet I have still not bought supplies to make candles, soap, or beer.

If I had to grade our efforts thus far, I'd give us somewhere between needs improvement and satisfactory. I suppose it's better than we haven't done shit but as far as proving to myself that I could survive life as a pioneer, I'm not making good progress at all. On the bright side, at least I know how to fix it.

I should probably do that.

 

Making life easier FTW!

I have a post/rant planned for next month all about how we tend to romanticize and glorify and extol the benefits of the simple prairie life when in actuality, it really was anything but. For today, though, I am going to talk about how while modern life is not the simple life, there are a few things that help simplify it. Or at least make it easier.

I hope that makes sense.

Also, am I the only one who hears the phrase “the simple life” and automatically thinks of that terrible show with Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie? (Please, for the love of all that is holy, tell me no, I am not the only one.)

I fear I'm digressing. So let's regroup and get back to the point I was trying to make which is that there are some things in my life–and probably yours, too–that can alleviate stress, free up some time, and make life a whole lot easier. Like:

  1. A crockpot. While I do love to cook, there are some days I just don't feel like it. Particularly on really hot days or days that I am exceptionally tired. Unfortunately, my family still likes to eat on those days. (When I worked in an office, my crockpot would have come in incredibly handy had I remembered to use it more.) Anyway. Going out to eat or getting takeout is not a frequent financial option right now so I have to cook. Enter the crockpot. I enjoy the fact that I can take 10 minutes in the morning, toss some raw ingredients in the pot, and let it go until dinner time. Saves time, saves money, and I don't really have to do much. It's basically the trifecta.
  2. Delay start features. On both my dishwasher and my washing maching, there is a delay start function. I love this. It means I can run the dishes while I sleep and don't have to endure the loud, helicopter takeoff sounds and for laundry, I can get an entire load (save for folding) done before my daughter even wakes up in the morning. It makes getting these unpleasant household chores done much more tolerable since a good portion of them are happening while I am asleep. It's pretty ideal.
  3. Auto bill pay. I balance my checkbook once a week and pay cash for pretty much everything. Having auto bill pay means that a) I don't have to keep track of a dozen due dates; b) don't have to manually login to a dozen accounts; and c) can keep to my once a week balancing schedule. It makes budgeting and planning so much easier and simpler and also? No late fees or stupid tax. The only time it becomes a pain is when I have my debit card number stolen (which happened recently) or a card expires. But that once every few years annoyance is totally worth the benefits.
  4. DVR. I don't know if it makes my life easier or just enables my TV watching habit, but DVR is one of my favorite inventions of the last few years. I love the fact that I no longer have to choose between two shows happening concurrently, and I love even more the fact that if I can't watch something, I can record it without having to screw with a machine or a tape. It also means that I can skip commercials (win!) and go to bed if something is on too late (bigger win!).
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  6. Online shopping. Living in the middle of nowhere, it's sometimes just a pain in the ass to get to a store. Also, I am lazy and sometimes just don't want to go to a store. Or the stores don't have what I am looking for (like my latest purchase, Essie I'm Using My Maiden Name). So I shop online. I can pick out exactly what I want, I don't have to contend with assholes in parking lots or in the stores, and I don't even need to wear pants. Plus, Amazon has a feature where you can set up recurring purchases that ship on a set day every month (good for household supplies like paper towels and dish soap) so you don't even have to remember to buy them. They just show up! I plan to utilize this in the future.

I'm a fan of pretty much anything that gets a task done the way I want it and with as little effort as possible. If it's one less thing I have to remember, it gets an A in my book. There are too many things I want to do to spend unnecessary time doing the things I have to.

How about you? What do you use in your life to make things simpler or easier?

42 things to do while watching TV

tv things

The other day, while looking through Pinterest, I saw yet another post spouting off about how TV is awful and a waste of time and the only way to be productive and engaged is if you just turn it off (the superior attitude she gave in the post is a whole separate topic and rant. Honestly, if you don’t want to watch TV, good for you. But please don’t condescend to those of us who do). While there might be some merit to what the post author was saying, I respectfully disagree with her. In fact, I believe there are plenty of things you can do while watching TV so you’re not just idly sitting on the couch (and if all you want to do is sit on the couch, go ahead. It’s your time, your life and you can do whatever you choose with it).

For instance:

Bloggy things

  1. Comment on other blogs or respond to comments on yours
  2. Write a post or two
  3. Optimize posts for Pinterest or SEO
  4. Check for dead or broken links
  5. Create an editorial calendar
  6. Schedule tweets and/or Facebook updates
  7. Create a new header or blog button
  8. Participate in a Twitter chat
  9. Help a new blogger (not sure how? I know a great program you can get involved in)
  10. Revise or update old posts to make them fresh
  11. Give your blog a facelift
  12. Do invoices for sponsorships, freelance work, ads, or services
  13. Finally start that eBook

 
Pioneer things

  1. Crochet, knit, sew, or mend something
  2. Map your garden
  3. Make soap or candles
  4. Prepare food (ex., pickles, bread, applesauce in the crockpot)
  5. Wash dishes
  6. Research essential oils or some alternative medicines that pioneers used
  7. Make homemade cleaners

time

Personal things

  1. Exercise (there are tons of workouts you can do during commercials or while watching a show. Or invent your own)
  2. Pay bills
  3. Fold laundry
  4. Batch cook or menu plan
  5. Read a magazine, a book, or create a reading list on GoodReads (while you’re at it, put some books on hold at the library or borrow some from the Kindle store)
  6. Do some online shopping
  7. Look for coupons (I do this with the Target Cartwheel app)
  8. Make a vision board
  9. Organize your Pinterest boards or actually make a project you’ve pinned
  10. Write out goals or a bucket list
  11. Plan/organize a party or family get-together
  12. Write thank you cards or cards in general
  13. Play a game
  14. Do a puzzle
  15. Create a workout, commuting, or road trip playlist or four
  16. Organize pictures
  17. Groom yourself–mani/pedi, dye your hair, face mask, remove your mustache (no judging here. You need to do what you need to do)
  18. Play with your pet
  19. Text a friend during a particularly interesting show and share the experience
  20. Clean the room you’re in
  21. Purge your closet or drawers
  22. Watch something helpful/educational like a TED talk or documentary 

The pioneers, from what I can tell, valued being productive over being busy. But they also enjoyed some downtime, particularly after a hard day of work. They relaxed with music, storytelling, and games; many of us relax with a TV show or two. But if you’re finding you’re hard pressed to get everything done in a day you need or want to, why not get some of it done while you’re in front of the TV?

What would you add to the list?

The Pioneer Kitchen Diaries: Homemade Butter

It’s been awhile since I posted an actual project update. That’s mainly because I’ve been too lazy to work on any but this week, I decided I’d had enough of that. And also it’s spring break so I figured my daughter and I could kill spend an hour or two working on one.

I went through my Pinterest board of projects ideas and settled on a fairly simple and relatively inexpensive one–homemade butter. The timing was perfect, too, as I’m finishing up Little House in the Big Woods for next week’s book club discussion and Laura painfully details the butter making process. So it worked for ease, theme, and cost.

Since I don’t own butter churn and have absolutely no desire to ever own one, I used the instructions for making butter in a stand-up mixer (which I only have courtesy of my mother-in-law’s hand me down). I opted out of coloring the butter orange like they did in the book because shredding a carrot and combining it with boiling milk sounded like unnecessary work and more dishes to clean. Yellow butter works just fine for me.

Here’s what I did:

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  1. Ingredients–3/4 tsp salt, 1 quart heavy cream
  2. My daughter making a rare appearance on the blog as my helper pouring the cream into the mixing bowl
  3. The butter starting to form and separate from the milk.
  4. The mess that happens even if you use a towel and cover the mixer because towels have a limit on how much they can absorb.

Not pictured: the whipped cream phase that happens before the cream turns to butter, draining the buttermilk through a colander and rinsing the butter. Not sure why this last one is necessary but the directions said to do it and I did. Also not pictured are my disgusting, greasy hands.

After you mix everything up (takes about 20 minutes and you need to check it fairly frequently), you get butter that sticks to the paddle and buttermilk in the bottom of the bowl. Then you drain the milk through the strainer and it looks like this. Right now, it’s stored in a glass container in my fridge and if you have a recipe that involves buttermilk so I can use it up, please share.


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This is the actual butter. After I washed it and rung out what was left of the buttermilk, it was kind of like a butter ball. I left it in a lump as I saw no need to mold the butter into anything fancy because I don’t care about that shit. And aesthetics mean nothing when you make butter that actually tastes like butter. Which I did, y’all.


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This project was amazingly easy, albeit messier than I would have liked. Next time, I’ll still use the towel but lower the speed to prevent splatter and decrease the mess (and by extension, clean up time). And as far as cost, it’s really no more expensive ($4.49 for a quart if heavy cream at Walmart) than buying a pound of already made butter. 

I cannot imagine having to do this with a butter churn. I completely understand how it took them all day to do.  Before I was all “how the fuck did it take them all day? This is so easy! How slow did they move?” But now, having done it myself, I get it. I saw the effort my badass stand up mixer had to put forth to get it done. And just letting it go for the 20 minutes or so before I had to rinse, separate and mold felt like it took an eternity. Having to do it with my own strength and patience? Forget it that. My family would never eat butter.But if you have a stand-up mixer or even an electric hand mixer, I’d recommend giving this a try. 

Oh, and the butter lasts about 4 weeks. I think. I’ll let you know in 4 weeks. 

Have you ever made homemade butter? Did you follow similar directions?

April goals (and a book club giveaway!)

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I’m starting something new. I’ve seen it on other blogs and even tried it once before on a previous site. For some reason, it’s never stuck, but you know what? It’s worth a shot again.

What the heck am I talking about? I’m talking about sharing my monthly goals.

While I’m usually not one to put that kind of information out there, I think that it’s a good way to keep myself and my project on track. I have a tendency to self-sabotage when things are going well and I want to break that cycle. I’m hoping that by sharing my goals with you guys, it’ll keep me focused and also, because I did share my goals, I don’t want to seem like a huge slacker and I’ll actually be productive.

So here we go. For the month of April, I plan to:

  1. Make homemade butter. This was the first pin I put in my pioneer project Pinterest board. I don’t know that it’s necessarily cheaper than buying store made butter but it’s one of the hallmarks of pioneer living. It’s time.
  2. Crochet one dish cloth. After trying and practicing on a crochet hook and the knitting loom, I think crocheting is the way to go right now. It’ll be nice to put something homemade in my kitchen, too (you know, that’s not edible). I also have a goal to make it look nice, not like something my dog made.
  3. Work on my business. Many pioneers were entrepreneurial, and that’s actually something I had going for me before I started this project. I own and operate a blogger mentoring program and this month, I need to finish the site redesign and update the menu of services.
  4. Start our garden. This is more of my husband’s project than mine because he loves gardening. I do not. However, I need to be more involved and this means actually having an opinion on what we grow, how big the garden should be, and assisting in planting. It’s unpleasant but I’ll do it. Pioneers had to do shit they didn’t like all the time.
  5. Participate in the Watch Your Wallet Challenge. I adore the concept of this challenge, hosted by Steph at Life According to Steph and Marla at Luck Fupus, particularly as you get to make your own rules. My rules for the challenge are: no stupid tax (late fees, library fines, etc), only make frivolous purchases using gift cards, stick to my grocery budget, use coupons more often, refrain from buying more craft supplies, and keep up with our 52 week savings challenge.
Life According to Steph
 

There are a few more goals on my list but there’s no need to share them. But what I can share is this nifty button I made for anyone who’s joining the Little House bookclub (it starts tomorrow!) and, below the button, is a giveaway for a complete set of the Little House books! That’s right, one lucky reader will get a chance to win all 9 books! Thanks to Steph, Jenniemarie, and Athena for assisting with the giveaway. Good luck!

P.S. Please excuse the horrible formatting of what you’re about to see. WP is being an asshole or I’m doing something wrong and can’t get it to do what I want. But I think you get the point.

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