The Season of Change

I’ll just say it right away – I’m still blogging! I am not throwing in the towel; to the contrary – I’m reinventing. Ever since we moved into a little house in an old town, writing under the guise of Apartment Farm just hasn’t quite fit. Therefore, I hope that you’ll join me at Little House in an Old Town, where you’ll find all of the same great content on gardening, cooking, crafting and other homesteading pursuits.

To ensure you don’t miss out, please be sure to follow the Little House in an Old Town Facebook page, and our Pinterest boards. Starting on January 1st, this web address will redirect to the new site, so be sure to update your favorites and feed readers!

The new year brings with it new goals, and the intention is to bring more regularly scheduled content online – three times per week! For those that are local to McHenry County, Illinois I’ll also be offering food preservation classes – be sure to check out the Classes page on the new site for information on how to schedule a session. I’m still exploring the possibilities of offering online classes for those that are not local as well – please be sure to let me know if this is something that interests you! Feel free to reach out via the Facebook page, comments on the site, or email at littlehouseoldtown [at] gmail.com.

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15 Best Books for Homesteaders

If you’re looking to build out your reference library, or are wondering what to give for Christmas presents, look no further – I’ve compiled a list on Goodreads of the 15 Best Books for Homesteaders. I own most of these books myself, and they are invaluable references.

Books

$5 DIY Gift Round Up

I didn’t really used to care too much about having an arsenal of $5 gifts, as we mercifully have small families and I’ve been fortunate to spend anywhere from $20-$50 per person on Christmas in the past. Most gifts end up somewhere in the middle – coupons, sale shopping throughout the year, free Shutterfly codes, knowing what to buy at the dollar store (and just as importantly, what to skip) all help me get a lot of bang for those bucks.

But this year, Little Man is in school, which means teacher gifts are in order – and spending $20 per person for school gifts (I can think of 4 people at school we should give gifts to) will quickly add up! It’s not that I don’t want to be generous – if anyone deserves a lovely, well thought out gift, it’s our teachers. But I think we can still achieve those aims on a frugal budget, so I set out to research gifts that could be put together for just $5 each – and were something a teacher would actually use and enjoy. This is what I found.

Redbox Movie & Popcorn/Candy – Crafting E

movies

Starbucks Gift Card – Longing For Home

starbucks

Custom Notepads – Just Another Day in Paradise (She shows you how to design and make the actual notepads at home using PicMonkey and your home printer, which is awesome – but if you collect free Shutterfly product codes, you can make one through them and pay just the price of shipping – usually around $6 for notepads – if the time is more valuable to you than the money.)

notepads

Drink Mug – Pretty Providence

mug

Target Gift Card – Landeelu

target

Amazon Gift Card – Fabulously Frugal

amazon

Notice a theme here? Most of these are gift cards. People just have so much stuff. And I’ll admit it – I know my son’s teacher in the context of being his teacher – I don’t know what she likes or dislikes personally, what her favorite foods are (or for that matter, is she has food allergies), which cute little kitchen products or hats and mittens she already owns. For those that we know professionally, or are just beginning to know, gift cards are really the best option, because they still show your appreciation, but allow the recipient to choose something that they would truly enjoy or use.

For us this year, I think we’re going to do the Redbox gift set – you can buy a set of 5 codes for just $7.50, and with some popcorn and candy thrown in, it makes a nice gift for under $5 each. I would bet 99% of all people enjoy a good movie, and the Redbox codes never expire. I’m going to do a little twist on mine – I had some wonderful popcorn from the farmers market, so I’m going to package it up a cute jar or box (I have adorable red paper milk boxes I might use – haven’t decided yet), and include some paper bags for popping the corn – I’ll print the instructions right on the bag in a decorative font. And I’ll include a single serving of olive oil (I have packets on hand, but may spring for mini bottles) and some sugar in the raw packets in order to turn it into home made kettle corn. You can find mini olive oils at Cost Plus, or you can order them online from Minimus – they have an amazing selection of miniature food products, as well as health, beauty, cleaning products, games, etc. I’ve ordered from them before and loved them – great stuff for gift baskets, stocking stuffers and camping. And no I do not get any compensation of any kind for endorsing them (they probably don’t even know), I just like them that much.

First Snow

It’s a week before Thanksgiving, and suddenly, we’ve got six inches on the ground and counting. It started just after dinnertime, and it’s supposed to keep right on snowing through most of the weekend. But with a cozy blanket, hot cup of tea, and a good book, I don’t mind at all.

Planning For Charitable Giving

I try not to post about Christmas-related things until after Thanksgiving, as a firm believer that there is an appropriate season for everything. But I do make an exception when it comes to talking about charitable giving, as that takes a little planning. I hate to shock you, but most of us have only three or four paychecks in between now and Christmas, so making sure we’re able to fit charitable giving into the holiday plan is something to be thought of now.

I personally like to make three contributions every year – two local and one international. And I also like to make sure at least one of the three is food. We donate to our local food pantry throughout the year, but donating during the holidays is important too, since struggling families have so many more expenses to cover during the cold months and holiday season.

Our giving this year is falling into pretty much the same pattern as it did last year. These are the three organizations that we’ll be contributing to again this year –

Check Out Hunger – hosted by Woodman’s Markets (a Wisconsin/Northern Illinois grocery chain) I love this program because it’s so easy – you simply add a pre-packed paper sack loaded with groceries to your own shopping order, and pay $6.00. The baggers then run the grocery sack to the donation bin for you. If you’re not in the area, lots of other towns run similar programs, and of course you can always donate directly to your local food pantry as well.

Woodstock Christmas Clearinghouse – run by the Woodstock Rotary Club, Christmas Clearinghouse is a toy donation program for local children in need. (Note that the dates on the link are 2014; they haven’t updated the page yet for 2015). There are donation boxes for new toys all around town at local businesses; Jewel-Osco usually hosts one right by the check out lanes. I pick up toys all year long on clearance and sales and tuck them away to donate during the holidays – I’ve got some Little People, puzzles, books, coloring rolls, Lego Duplo, Hot Wheels and other things for the barrel this year.

Operation Christmas Child – run by Samaritan’s Purse, this is my international donation choice every year. National collection week is this week from 11/16 – 11/23 to drop off your box locally – you can use the location finder to see if there is a drop off location in your community. If not, or if you are putting your box together after next week, you can also mail it directly to their headquarters in Boone, NC. My son and I put together a box every year for another boy in his age group – we include some necessities like a toothbrush, comb and socks, and small toys, coloring supplies, books, and soft toy to snuggle. We like to use a reusable plastic shoe box so the child receiving it has a little “toy box” to keep. A box can be put together with quality items at a good price by choosing careful at dollar stores and Target’s One Spot (or Bulleye’s Playground – whatever they’re calling it now).

Two other organizations that are reputable and beneficial to donate to, in case you’d like other options, are Toys for Tots and Heifer International. Do plan for charitable giving this year if you are fortunate enough to have your needs met – there are so many children that desperately need a warm meal in their bellies and a little joy in their lives on Christmas morning.

Happy Halloween!

pumpkins

The Quest For Health – Finding Time for Yoga

It seems like it was a century ago – every Wednesday night after work I’d go to yoga class. It was 45 minutes of time just for me, where I could breath. I wasn’t a Manager, I wasn’t on mom duty and I wasn’t worried about the bills. I was breathing. It was great.

But that was before a role change at work and a major move over an hour away from where we had been living. And then the four hour round trip commute became a reality… there wasn’t any time left in the day for the luxury of a 45 minute yoga class, and though I love our new town, the park district classes leave a lot to be desired anyway.

As these things usually happen, the lack of yoga, longer commute, poor eating habits and some nasty genetics all lined up into the perfect storm of just being in a really bad spot health-wise. I’ll not go all out about it, but the long and short of it is I really needed to take better care of myself. So we cleaned up the food situation at home and that’s helped everyone. It’s really hard to eat healthy when you’re stressed and tired, and even harder to plan ahead in order to do it when you feel that way. But an hour or two of prep on the weekends pays off and are back to being a part of the regular routine.

There’s not much I can do about the commute, so with better food habits back in play, that just left the question of exercise. I really did miss the yoga. And then I had a light bulb moment, because the answer was literally staring me right in face, sitting on a bookshelf in the living room I walk right by every day – the Yoga Sequencing Deck by Jillian Bobowicz. I’d received it months ago for review from Ulysses Press, and then all that life stuff happened and I lost sight of yoga. I wake up before 5:30 in the morning for work, long before anyone else in the house. And with a four hour round trip commute (yeah, did I mention that?), I had ten minutes tops to make yoga fit back into my life. Hey, it was better than nothing.

The cards are great for making it fit. At the crack of dawn, I can lay out a set of three cards, and take ten minutes to go through the poses in the bathroom when I get ready for work. I like simple, easy poses to wake up with – I usually do Mountain, Warrior II and a High Lunge, and then do them in reverse. It’s a quick way to stretch and wake up gently to start the day. Between yoga and walking a few miles to and from the train each day, exercise is happening once again. And every little bit helps on the quest to stay healthy!