Seeing these little guys everywhere!
The Ziploc Vacuum is now one of my new favorite things!!  I have wanted a vacuum sealer for quite some time now but I've avoided getting one because of their price.  Well... this weekend we did our grocery shopping for our month's menu and I wanted to try freezing some prep work (chopped up vegetables) as a lot of my friends do.  So I went ahead and bought some vegetables in bulk at Costco and then we went to Walmart for some other essentials and I went to go get some freezer bags knowing I was going to freeze some veggies.

Well on the bottom shelf this Ziploc Vacuum caught my eye!  I had not heard of it nor have I seen a single commercial for it.  I honestly have no idea how long it's even been out but because it was so inexpensive my husband suggested I give it a try because I was so excited about it.  So we brought it home and I immediately began chopping.  I cannot believe how easy using this thing is!!!  Take a look!

I chopped up my mushrooms...
Pulled out a bag... they look just a tiny bit different than the normal ones.
I put the mushrooms in the bag and sealed it like normal at the top.  Then you just put the little pump on the big blue circle and start pumping...
And Voila!  It sucked all the air out of the bags and the mushrooms were so tightly vacuum sealed... I couldn't imagine a machine doing any better!  Not to mention... you get a tiny workout!! :)

Now I'm not saying I don't still want a vacuum sealer one day... the reason I wanted one in the first place was because I saw an idea on Pinterest on how you put chopped up lettuce in jars and then vacuum seal them shut and the lettuce stays fresh and crisp WAY longer than normal.  So for that specific purpose I'd still like one but for everything else... this little hand pump works wonders!! 

I was concerned with the whole freezing in plastic so I DID do some research.  I could not find any red flags for doing so... especially when you're putting room temperature or slightly chilled items into the bags and not hot items.  Also... Ziploc is my go to brand because on each package they specifically state that their products are BPA free! 

So with this new method of mine I see a lot less work for me during the week when I begin dinner, a lot less middle of the week grocery runs for one or two fresh items that we need to complete dinner, and a lot less food being wasted!!! I LOVE it!!!
and forget not
that the earth
delights to feel
your bare feet
and the winds
long to play
with your hair

~kahlil gibran
I've posted in the past about menu planning for your family... Well we are still doing it and it's working GREAT for us and saving quite a bit of money.  The way we do it is MUCH more simplified than I think the way most people do it.  We have a different meal for each day of the week and just continue that exact week throughout the whole month... So basically we what we have is the following:


Veggie Fajitas w/ Beans & Rice


Veggie Tacos w/ Leftover Rice


Black Bean & Caramelized Onion Quesadillas


Spaghetti w/ Salad and Bread




Grilled Veggie Sandwiches w/ Chips & Baked Beans


Mushroom Stroganoff w/ a Potato Dish
For the most part we've kept each month the same... which I know some people would consider somewhat boring but our goal is mainly saving money.  Month to month we may change a meal or two but for the most part we enjoy what we have planned out!  Another benefit to keeping the same meals week to week we can buy in bulk at Costco and things last well into two months most of the time with the occasional weekly trip to the store for the fresh ingredients.  Oh and on Fridays we usually make some yummy and sweet baked goods for weekend desserts.  This method works for us and we love it! 

However... if you want more variety I found this EXCELLENT blog where she not only plans an entire week of menus for you but she also gives you the shopping list for that week as well!!  When money is better for us to where we can change our menu on a weekly basis I'll definitely be using this method, although I will probably be throwing most of my own recipes in there.  For those of you who would do the same she has a cute printable to write out the week's menu and shopping list.  I haven't tried any yet but when we do decide to switch up a meal or two I'll probably look on her list of recipes to see what she has!  So here's the blog for those of you who just want all the planning done for you!  A great idea!  Oh... and on a side note... a friend of mine takes a couple of days (typically a weekend) and cooks up the weeks meals and freezes them.  This is very intriguing and I may try this after doing some more research! I'll definitely share with you if I do!
Okay... I think I've finally come up with a schedule that will really works for my Lil' Man and I!  Let me first say that where I've gone wrong in the past I think is being too detailed.  Don't get me wrong... you'll notice my homemaker's schedule is quite detailed but it's not hour by hour... it's more by time blocks.  I found that if I scheduled out sections of the day it would be easier to follow.  For example... for the morning block, I know it starts with breakfast and whatever we do afterwards just has to be done and ready for the next block of time by 10:30.

I've also scheduled days of the week for certain activities or outings... leaving two days of the week free for any outings that come up such as playgroups or last minute errands.  I've also listed my night time routine which includes my shower.  I've found that if I shower at night, I can "prep" my hair in a way that makes it already styled when I wake up in the morning... Sometimes I put my hair in rollers and when I'm really feeling adventurous I'll do pin curls, but the easiest thing I do, which gives me great results is the sock bun

Something else I want to point out are the Ten Minute Cleanups... out of all the things that I've seen regarding cleaning schedules this one REALLY works for me.  I set my timer for ten minutes and I do everything as quickly as I can.  In order for this to work well for you... it might be necessary to do one real good deep clean on the house.  That way... the three ten minute cleanups a day will keep things tidy!  I'm still using FlyLady but I'm tweaking it a bit by adding the daily missions into my Ten Minute Cleanups... That way different parts of my house get their cleanups without me having to figure it out. 

Keep in mind... Even though I laid this out in detail... nothing is set in stone.  As a homemaker with children you have to do what you have to do when you have to do it.  For me... this is extremely helpful because I am a blue print type of gal and I need a schedule like this to look at and follow on a daily basis in order to be productive.  Otherwise I'll find myself sitting on the couch letting my Lil' Man watch tv as I surf the internet... yeah bad I know.  So it's necessary for me... but that doesn't mean if a day comes where things need to be switched up a bit that I say no way because I have a schedule to follow... no not at all.  I go with the flow and do what needs to be done... but for the typical, non-eventful, every day sort of day...it's the perfect guideline for me.  Not to mention I'm sure as time goes by I'll be switching a few things around... for example I'm planning on fitting going to the gym in there somewhere but I need to figure out more details on classes I want to take etc and figure out how to work those times into the schedule. 

When I first became a homemaker shortly after my son was born I was sort of left clueless on how to balance my day.  I searched and searched for a routine or schedule like this and was never able to find anything... So I hope that this helps someone.  You do not need to follow it to a T but if it helps you to organize your thoughts and create the perfect schedule for yourself then that will make me happy.  So here ya go... check out my Homemakers Daily Schedule and take what you need!
For those of you who didn't see my Facebook feed update we were able to visit an alpaca farm yesterday!!! It was SO much fun and so incredibly informative!  I know I've said it already but if you are thinking of getting some farm animals and have never owned the breed of animal you are considering... I highly recommend going to visit a farm with those animals.  This couple who had these alpacas were so kind and answered all of our questions no matter how small they were and urged us to keep contact with them and continue to ask questions... which we definitely plan on doing!!

Now on to the alpacas!! They were ADORABLE!!!  So entertaining, so beautiful and magickal... we know for sure now that we want to own a few someday.  I know we have a whole lot more to learn but just from what the farmers told us, they are fairly easy to maintain.  Especially when we want so few and not a large herd.  They eat hay and pellets twice a day, get sheared once a year and at the same time get their teeth filed and twice a year they get their nails trimmed.  They aren't cuddly towards their humans but that's exactly how it should be.  If you love on an alpaca too much when they are a baby, they could possibly grow up not being able to tell the difference between you and another alpaca and would treat you as such which could be dangerous.  So... don't expect cuddly creatures but they sure aren't that shy either! They came right up to us and ate right out of our hands when they gave us pellets.

We had a great time and we've made some new friends that are willing to help us understand the ropes in all areas from owning land to owning alpacas.  We are so grateful that there are such kind and caring people out there willing to help amateurs like us!  Take a look at this video of the alpacas!
These empanadas that you see here... well... they're perfect.  They are mouth watering, can't have just one, made to perfection.  And I have my mother to thank for them and their recipe.  There's a long story behind the effort we took in perfecting this recipe and in order to fully appreciate these delicious empanadas you need to hear it...

It all started when I was about... ten years old.  We lived in Tucson, Arizona and every once in a while my mom and I liked to go exploring... just driving around to places within town we've never been before and seeing what shops we could find.  Well one day we decided to trickle into the South Side of Tucson... from a distance we saw the steeple of a beautiful church and wanted to take a closer look.  So we drove closer and closer and finally arrived right in front of the church.  Down the road from that church we noticed a tiny strip mall... and I mean tiny... maybe I shouldn't even call it a strip mall... it was only three shops all connected.  The largest of the three shops was a butcher of some sort with the words Meat Factory right in front... I can't remember exactly what the shop was in the middle... for some reason I want to say it was some type of hair salon... and on the left was a bakery.  My mother LOVES bakeries and likes to see what they all have... so of course we park and go in. 

This was a Mexican bakery... and I remember they had large cakes for every occasion which was probably their biggest selling item.  They had these Mexican breads that my mother loved that almost look like buns in the shape of sea shells.  Then we saw the empanadas... now we had empanadas before from several different bakeries and they were all just okay... in fact... I didn't really like empanadas all that much.  They had cherry and pumpkin I believe and my mother bought a pumpkin one for each of us... we went and sat in the car and ate our empanadas.  Oh... My... Goodness... they were the most delicious pumpkin empanadas we had ever had in our lives!  My mom went back in and bought a dozen to take home with us!  We went home and everyone agreed that they were as delicious as we thought and we knew we'd be returning to that bakery. 

Now this side of town and this bakery were EXTREMELY far from where we lived... so it ended up being a couple of months before we couldn't handle it any longer and needed to go and get some more.  Well guess what.... we had NO IDEA where it was!!!  We obviously knew how to get to the south side, but the south side was fairly large and of course we had no idea even what the name of that bakery was!  So we're driving around where we THINK it might be and we're having no luck whatsoever in finding it.  Then all of the sudden guess what we see off in the distance... THE CHURCH STEEPLE!!!!  We remembered that we had gone to that church and that it was just down the road from it!!  I'm actually laughing out loud right now as I remember this because of how excited we got and we're shouting to each other... "The church! The church!!" LOL!!!!! As though we had found buried treasure... well to us... it was!  So we make our way to the church and take the same path we took that very first time and there it was... those three little buildings all connected... the meat factory, the salon, and the bakery.  No wonder we didn't remember the name of the bakery there WAS no name on the building!!  We must had just looked through the windows the first time and noticed they had baked goods.

So we walked in and bought another dozen so satisfied that we had found it.  We might have asked at that point what the name of the bakery was but I don't remember and neither does my mom it was so long ago.  We wouldn't go often, again because of the distance, but we always found it because of that church.  My mother ended up moving across the country to Atlanta and I stayed in Arizona and went to the University of Arizona.  I think once or twice I went by myself since being at school placed me closer to that side of town and came home with half a dozen pumpkin empanadas that I enjoyed all by myself :).  After about five years my mother moved back home and we decided it was time to make another run for our delicious treats.  As we turned onto the street where the three little shops sat, something didn't seem right... as we got closer our hearts sank... they had closed... for good.  We didn't know what to do!  We had even went into the meat factory (the salon or whatever it was never seemed to be open when we were there) and asked them if they had just switched locations and they knew nothing.  Not for many long years would we ever taste as delicious pumpkin empanadas as we did from that bakery.

We would go and try some out from different bakeries over the years and I went back to "not liking" them... they just didn't even compare anywhere else.  Until now... My mom came to stay with us while my husband traveled out of town for a long period of time and when she got here she said... "I'm going to perfect empanadas for us"... So she got started... day after day she'd have another batch ready and I was the taster.  They were all good but batch after batch I'd say "Nope too crisp", "Nope too chewy", "Nope, nope, nope"... She had the filling down pat right from the get go... it was just the dough we were figuring out.  Then one day... I knew it just by looking at them... "THOSE are going to be it!!" I said.  Just like she always does she raised one questionable eyebrow saying "How do you know you haven't even tried them yet..." Oh but I was right... They... Were... PERFECT!!!    It took her about four batches to get there... going through tons of different cookbooks combining different ingredients from different books mix matching all of them and finally coming up with her own.... of course not measuring a SINGLE ingredient except by the palm of her hand (just like her tortillas). 

So I grabbed a pen and paper and said "Hurry!  Tell me the ingredients at least so you don't forget!" and we listed everything down and then she made another batch and we dissected it measuring out each ingredient after she threw it in the bowl.  LOL.... Now that I think about it I could only imagine how strange we must look... My mom pouring an ingredient into the palm of her hand and throwing it into and bowl and me scooping it all out of the bowl putting it into a measuring to see how much it is.  Ay ay ay!  We're crazy! LOL!

So that is the story of our perfect empanadas... If you decide to make these for yourselves please remember this story and remember how much love, time and effort was put into them.  Also as you measure out your ingredients, remember these aren't EXACT... In fact... if you want them as PERFECT as ours... I would make each measurement just a little below heaping.  Don't level off the flour, sugar, etc... make it all a little heaping.  I hope these empanadas are as enjoyable to you as they are for us.  These are truly from the heart.  So here it is... My Mother's Empanada Recipe.
So I'm not sure I ever shared with you what exactly we are looking forward to when we get some land.  The number one thing we want to have on our mini farm, besides chickens of course, are Alpacas!!!  We fell in love when we first discovered Alpacas and decided that we want to start out with about three and spin their fiber into yarn!

It's nothing we are hoping to make a profit out of... it's just something we want to do for the love of doing it!  Yesterday my husband and I did some research on local Alpaca farms near us and we discovered a handful!  He called one of them today and left a message and our hopes are that we can volunteer there so we can learn as much as possible so that we are better equipped with knowledge and confidence to own Alpacas one day!

If you are like me and are only in the dreaming stages of owning your mini farm or homestead... how much are you doing to learn more about the things you love?  Even if you feel you'll NEVER own a piece of land to own livestock... there is no reason why you can't go and volunteer on a farm that raises what you have an interest or passion in.  Most of the time farmers are more than happy to educate and accept a helping hand!  Why wait another day to start living part of your dream?  Start making the magick happen NOW!
Okay so I know I've made a few posts about my clothesline already but I've learned some things in the few weeks I've been using it and I want to share them in case anyone can benefit from them.  Now for those of you who have been doing this a while these might sound like obvious tips but for someone new, like I was just a few weeks ago, a list like this was exactly what I was hoping to find and didn't... So here we go!
  1. Wear an apron:  Or have some place to put your clothespins... I've seen the bags that hang on the line and I know some people pin them on their clothes they are wearing... but so far NOTHING has worked as well for me as my little half apron with a large pocket in the center to get a clothespin out or drop one in when I'm taking clothes off the line. 
  2. Hang clothes inside out:  Now I can see someone not wanting to do this if there are any stains they are hoping the sun will bleach out OR they might see it as too much work when it comes time to take the clothes down... having to turn them right side out again.  Well... you see... I have an issue with bugs.  Yes... I want a farm, farm animals, and a garden and I hate bugs!!  I can't help it... call me crazy!  So I found myself shaking out my clothes and turning them inside out giving another shake then back again just to triple check that there were no bugs!  Then I said "Ah ha!" I'll hang them to dry inside out then when I take them down I just give a shake, turn them right side out and voila! I'm satisfied!  Keep in mind too you may not have a spider/bug problem if you're using T poles but my clothesline is hung between two trees.
  3. Hang clothes upside down:  I don't think I hang a single piece of clothing right side up... it makes for better drying to let sleeves and waistbands and such fly in the wind.
  4. Fold Over: Every article of clothing I hang, I fold over the line just a wee bit for the clothespin to grasp... if you put the edge of the clothing flat against the line and pin it... a gust of wind could take it right down!
  5. For quicker drying: Pin the piece of clothing from end to end as wide as the article of clothing.
  6. For more room on the line: Drape the articles of clothing... pin each side of shirts closer together with the body of the shirt draping in the middle.  Remember doing this gives you more line but lessens the drying time.
  7. For soft towels: Hang them on a windy day!  I've noticed when my towels are out to dry on a windy day, they end up being as soft as they are when they come out of a dryer!
  8. Turn the towels: I've noticed that when I turn my towels they dry quicker... remember the "fold over" tip a few numbers up... well this makes for that part of the towel not to dry as quickly as the rest so when I feel that the hanging edge of the towel is dry I turn it upside down and re-pin it from the dry edge to let the damp edge fly in the wind and quicken the overall drying time!
  9. Play music:  Make hanging your clothes out to dry fun and relaxing!! There's nothing better to me than being outside on a beautiful day blasting some good 'ol county music while my son plays and I hang our clothes on the line!
Now I didn't list some of the MOST obvious tips such as using a laundry basket (and a cart if you have one)... but what I'd love is to have everyone add their own tips in the comments that maybe I didn't mention!  There are so few of us clothesline folk... we gotta stick together and help each other out!