Anyone that knows me and my cooking, knows that I’m really not good at or disciplined in the area of cleaning as I go. For dealing with this, my husband must be commended, because the dishes often fall on his shoulders. For these, and many other reasons, I like to make one pot/pan meals to cut down on the mess & stress.
Since we haven’t been eating out inside of restaurants since COVID began and we only really order out for pizza, we have cooked at home A LOT and I never thought I’d say it, but… it’s getting old. I’m at the point where by 3 PM, I am wishing food would just appear for my family and that a fairy godmother would come take care of cleanup. I can’t be the only one feeling this way, right?
With the first day of winter right around the corner, I’ve been digging out some hearty soup recipes that we all love and trying to develop some new ones that we can toss into the instant pot, “set and forget”. That said, the groceries are packed with the holidays coming up and I’m finding that they are having a hard time keeping things in stock. Lots of the meats and ingredients I need for the week, when I’m meal planning, seem to disappear before I can put them in my online cart at Walmart or my husband returns home half empty-handed when I send him on a run for my specifics. That was the case this week, which I what lead me to coming up with the soup I’m sharing here today.
The weather is getting colder. A lot of days around here have been highs in the 30s and snow has shown it’s face more than once. A comforting bowl of slurp worthy goodness was just what I knew we all needed. And, if you’re feeling that way too, then this soup recipe is for you! The ingredient list is simple and the tastes are familiar; they marry together in a way that is delectable. Plus, served with 60 minute dinner rolls… midweek, supper time heaven. Disclosure: It does have a bit of heat to it. It’s delightful, but if you’re sensitive to spice, maybe omit the red pepper.
Instant Pot “Colder Weather” Soup
1 Lb ground Italian sausage
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2-1 cup chopped celery leaves
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cans navy beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup white wine
3 cups water
2 cups chicken broth
Salt + pepper to taste
1. Set your instant pot to sauté and drizzle the bottom of the pot with olive oil. Cook your italian sausage and onion together until the sausage is brown & onions are mostly translucent. Add red pepper & minced garlic and cook for 5 more minutes.
2. Stop sauté and add the rest of the ingredients to the pot one by one. Pressure cook for 20 minutes.
3. Serve, topped with mozzarella cheese. And, preferably, with your choice of bread. Bon appetit!
Here we are. In the midst of another rise of the never-ending Covid19 pandemic cases. As you know, if you follow my instagram, I have gone through many ups and downs when it comes to being able to find joy during these unpredictable and tiring times. My lack of being able to remain “present” and finding a sense of purpose in the recent months has reached new levels of unattainability. And, lately, I find myself leaping from idea to idea; grasping at straws trying to keep my mind busy with anything and everything that I can fit into my schedule. Painting my bathroom, trips to isolated book stores far away, amusing myself with imagining and planning journeys to the hippie towns across America, random acts of kindness to friends and strangers, painting a ridiculously hard (and still incomplete) paint by numbers… you name it, it’s probably floated across my mind.
The point is, we all want to feel a little bit of completeness during a time when so little is certain. We want to feel whole where there are voids. And if we can find anything heartwarming, we’ll latch onto it. And what warms the heart more than having a meal with friends and family? Not much.
Unfortunately, at this time, getting together with other humans is discouraged because, well… COVID. Yes, we know it travels, it’s extremely contagious, and you have to move heaven and earth to get people to wear masks… So, dinner parties? Not really much of an option, unless you want to spend time with 15 people and have 72% change of contracting the virus. Or so said an article I read online today. Yet, I have/had been dying to just GATHER. Like, we used to. And it’s brought a number of tears to flow throughout the year, knowing that it’s just not possible. So, I decided to take matters in my own hands.
In the recent years, I’ve developed this attitude like ‘I’m not gonna wait around on other people. If I want to do something, I’m going to. Even if I have to do it alone.” Apparently, dinner parties are included. So, I informed my hubby that I was going to do a faux dinner party, just because and for my family. Decor and all. Just for some kind of therapy.
Now, at first, that was going to include lanterns and 150 paper cranes hanging from the ceiling. I was THIS close to ordering a massive amount of twinkle lights from Amazon and stringing them up. Nearly bought new dishes… Until, I realized that I might be getting a tad carried away. I mean, we are legitimately just trying to get by in these awkward, socially distant times. So, instead, I resigned to save my really amped up ideas for when I can fill my home with more people I love. And, decided my main objective would be to just set up a budget friendly, cozy meal that would feel intimate and a little more rustic than say handmade origami ornaments at each place setting. Are you sensing a theme yet?
I’ve been craving Asian food for weeks and, specifically, missing a restaurant from our home in NC. My fave dish is served there and it’s flawless, along with their coconut cake for dessert. So I looked up some recipes on pinterest for what I wanted and found an overabundance of options. I decided to make the main course and dessert from scratch and accompany it with pre-prepped appetizers and sides. Yeah, I was going a real restaurant style dining here, and wrote up the menu on my dining room chalkboard a week in advance so I’d have something to look forward to. You could, of course, do this week any type of food.
Now let’s talk decor and place settings. I’d like to talk about this in case you are in a little bit of a slump and want to do something simple like this in order to bring yourself and family a little bit of cheer. I’ll go through what I threw together and what alternatives there are out there.
The tablescape, you’ll notice, was rather uncomplicated. I didn’t have time to get flowers or anything and my table is SO long that it’s very hard to find an inexpensive table runner or table cloth to cover it. So, I started thinking about how some restaurants cover their tables with butcher paper and thought, “HELLO, KID FRIENDLY & easy cleanup!” But, rolls of butcher paper were like 15 dollars! This craft paper, gift wrapping paper was $1 a roll at Dollar Tree. I could’ve used the underside if I had wanted it plain, but I really loved the fun polkadot playfulness it gave the table. They also have plain kraft paper available for just under $2 a roll at Dollar General.
I already owned the candle lanterns and candles, which I got from walmart at the beginning of fall from Walmart. I’m linking the candles (which smell divine!) HERE. I haven’t seen the the lanterns since, in-store or online, so HERE are some similar ones. And you could probably also look at places like Hobby Lobby or Old Time Pottery for something similar and inexpensive. As well as the candles.
I simply bought reindeer moss for $1 a bag from Dollar Tree and filled the bottom of my lantern with it, around the candle, for a more woodsy and homey look. And to avoid fingerprints on the glass, I maneuvered it around with a spatula.
I got my snowy trees on a log, tabletop decor from Walmart for like $6, but I can’t find it on their website anywhere. If you can’t find anything in your area similar, you could probably craft it pretty easily with supplies from a dollar store. Or you could purchase a set like THIS from Walmart (below) or THESE glittery gems from Target.
On either side of the trees, I places cutting boards to place appetizers on and flanked them on one side with a beaded garland I got from Amazon earlier this year. I also used four, mercury glass votive holders I found at Dollar General for $1 a piece on each corner. They are adorable and I’ll definitely be reusing them again and again. I found a similar set of 12 on Amazon HERE.
Now, let’s talk about dishes! Mine are by Magnolia (Hearth & Hand) from Target and I got them a little over a year ago as part of their fall collection. They are no longer available, but if you are in the market for new dishes, I strongly suggest checking out what they do have in stock. Such as the beautiful, red rimmed dishes they just came out with!
I used the mixed matched silverware that I already own (I’m due for a new set) and wrapped it with $1 white napkins from Dollar General & found red burlap ribbon on sale to tie it up with. Next time, I may go ahead and spring for some more expensive linen napkins like the ones I’ve found online (below). And if you are having a little fancier of an event with more extended family…etc, it would definitely be a nice touch. You could even do matching ones with your dishes like the photo above.
There are also plenty of nice biodegradable options online. Like these palm leaf plates! Which are a great, more natural, primitive choice.
That’s about it. I would’ve done placemats like these had I thought about it beforehand, so that’s also an option. I also, ordered chopsticks because of the nature of food, that only set me back $6.99. Plus, everyone loves chopsticks! Twinkle lights also came into play all over the room where I could hide the LED battery pack HAHA! Spent $5 on 5 packs of those at the dollar store and they were a nice addition to the cozy, hygge factor. And the candlesticks on the mantel + burning wood stove in my dining room didn’t hurt anything either.
Overall, I spent approximately $28 (not counting all the groceries for dinner) and repurposed a lot of things I already owned. I hope this gave you a lot of ideas of how you can easily create a comfortable, spruced up space for you and your loved ones to enjoy a special dinner despite everything going on in the world right now. You don’t have to have a lot of money to enjoy a nice, memorable evening together- even if you’ve already spent months in the same house. Take the time out to make your life extraordinary!
I have been baking sourdough for a bit over a month now and, while I’m not expert, it’s become one of my favorite pastimes. It’s become a ritual I perform at least once a week, preferably on Saturday/Sunday and I usually bake more than one. Now, I don’t know everything is to know about hydration and everything , but I know that I’ve never had my bread turn out bad. And that means a lot.
What also means a lot, is that I’ve had people from other states beg me to make them bread because they think it’s so beautiful. I’ve had a friend text me and tell me I need to host a Zoom cooking class. And, I’ve had internet acquaintances give me encouraging words. All of that means to me, I must be doing something right with my sourdough boules.
I’ve taken to making between one and three loaves per week and giving away a lot of them as “covid care packages”. So, I thought I might share my bulk batch recipe in order to give you an easy, no-knead recipe you can literally sleep on and come out of it with perfect looking loaves.
I learned basically everything I know about baking sourdough from following along with Sylvia from Feasting At Home. This recipe was adapted from hers and the tips and tricks I picked up along the way. She has an amazing, broken down timeline on her blogged recipe, equipment to have on hand, and some special tips she finds helpful too– head over and check it out!
Now, your first attempt may not be perfect. Mine certainly wasn’t! (See above) However, I feel like, in this technology driven society, it’s nice to practice slow living by taking your time to really develop a craft/hobby or two that takes you away from your phone and computer. Something that makes you feel like you’ve spent you time well. Makes you feel like you’ve really accomplished something.
So, here goes, guys! The recipe is below and it’s a good one! Yield is three boules (or batards), 75% hydration. Whichever you prefer. Bon appetit!
YUMMY, Batch Sourdough
12 cups (leveled) of bread flour (personally, I do not weigh)
6 tsp salt
5.5 cups water (filtered is preferred)
1 cup of sour dough starter
(I love to add sesame seeds, rosemary, parsley, oregano…etc to season when I’m in the mood.)
At least 8 hrs before mixing your dough, feed your sourdough starter and leave it out on the counter.
When ready, add your flour to a large bowl. Mix in spices, seeds, flavorings at this time. Add your starter and water next. (I, personally do not dilute my starter in the water first for this. However, if you are more comfortable with that method, you can mix the starter with your water until the water is cloudy before adding it to the dry mixture.)
Mix all ingredients with your hands (or a wooden spoon if you prefer, but to me the hands are the best tools for this) for a minute or two until you have a shaggy, sticky dough. Make sure the flour is completely mixed in, without overworking and ‘tidying’ the dough. Messy is okay! cover with a wet kitchen towel and let rest 15 minutes. It will loosen up as it rests.
Do the first set of stretch and folds. With one wet hand (put a bowl of water next to you) pull the dough from one side and stretch it upward, then fold it up and over to the center of the dough. Turn the bowl and repeat until the dough gets firm and resists. This helps strengthen the gluten. Cover, rest, and repeat the process 15-20 minutes later. (I do this 3-4 times total, but only two is “required”.)
Proof overnight, at room temp. Cover with plastic or wax wrap or a damp kitchen towel and place it on your counter for 8-12 hours. (68-70F is the ideal temp. according to Sylvia.)
Check the dough in the morning. The dough should have flattened, expanded, with a slight dome to the top.
Flour your Banneton basket (if you have one). If you do not have one, line. high-sided bowl with non-stick parchment paper.
Loosen the dough from the all edges of a bowl with using your wet fingers. With both hands, carefully pull the dough straight up, in the middle and lift it, stretching straight up in the air until it hangs down 12-24 inches and place it back down, gently folding it on top of itself. It will firm up as it stretches and folds. Do this at least 3 times. The third time you lift and stretch, lift it all the way into your parchment-lined bowl/banneton seam side up.
Place the bowl in the refrigerator for uncovered which will firm up the bread, make scoring easier and help boost oven spring. Preheat the oven (for 1 FULL hour) to 500F with your dutch oven inside and lid on.
Place in the middle of the oven for and immediately drop heat to 450F and bake 25 minutes with lid on. Remove lid and it should be puffed and just lightly golden. Lower heat to 450 F, Continue baking 18-20 minutes until deeply golden. Keep an eye on it!
Let it cool for 45 min to 1 hr before cutting and serving. Enjoy! With butter, honey, jam, olive oil & balsamic… any way you choose!
***When you put one loaf into the oven, rotate your next loaf into the fridge. Also, when you go to put the second and third loaves into the oven, don’t change the temperature! Start out at 450 and bake for a little longer time, if needed.
Happy Monday! I hope everyone had an amazing weekend. Maybe it’s still going? My hubby has off of work today and tomorrow… then, it’ll be back to the grind. But, for now, we’ll pretend like it’s Friday eve all over again!
This week was JAM PACKED with my parents being here. And, I have to hand it to my dad and Jon. They stayed out in the heat day after day to work on putting in a new door from our room to the outside and started on the porch we will be able to enjoy. My dad was also going to expertly apply wallpaper to our statement wall in the bedroom BUT, by the time Thursday evening rolled around, we opted for some family time that didn’t involve construction.
Our fishing adventures weren’t very successful, but it was nice to finally spend an evening doing something other than laboring on the farm til dark. Seems like most of May & June were spent doing numerous projects and tying up loose ends (figuratively and literally). While not all of the tasks I wanted are 100% done, it feels like maybe we have moved into the slower part of the summer. Plus, we couldn’t have picked a more beautiful night to spend hanging out at the pond.
On Friday, we ventured down to our local flea market + auction to take a look around. We brought our masks [the kids struggled a bit], but BOY was it HOT and there were SO many people!! We did the best we could to social distance and sanitize. How are you guys doing with that in your areas? Are you finding a lot of people don’t want to wear masks or stay six feet apart?
Didn’t find much at the flea market, this weekend, which was a bummer. I’m a sucker for antiques. But, the Fourth of July drove everyone out and I don’t know if we just got their too late or what. Somehow we always end up there in the heat of the day. Next time, I’m gonna show up bright eyed and bushy tailed at 6 AM and clean house! Haha
Our favorite part lately, though, has been the livestock auction. It’s been hosted online, but if you get there early in the afternoon & throughout the evening, you can survey what they are going to have up for grabs. It was fun seeing the kids pick out all the animals they wanted to add to the farm… all the while not knowing exactly what we would bid on.
Saturday morning came as a surprise, especially to the girls who didn’t get to go with him to pick up the “gifts” we bought. Jon pulled up with two rabbits and two goats, and their faces lit up with excitement. So, please meet… Oreo + Peach. The Holland Lop (black/white) and Mini Lop (chestnut) that have completely stolen our children’s hearts!
Fortunately, they are both does, so we won’t have baby bunnies running around any time soon! They are both silky soft, cuddle buddies and love their fruits and veggies! They are only 8 and 9 weeks old so I really can’t wait to see their little personalities develop more as they grow. Right now, Oreo seems to be the more laid back one. Peach is very lovable, but is also the one who tries to make a mad dash for the woods!
Now, I’m pleased to introduce you to Leia (light gray/brown) and Rey (dark brown/black) our Nubian goats! Of course, Star Wars names just came naturally to our family of nerds and seemed to fit these two sister so well. We aren’t sure yet of their age, since that information wasn’t listed at the auction. So, I’m looking forward to having our livestock vet come out and give us an estimate when he gets around to their vaccines.
Originally, two goats wasn’t on the agenda for this weekend. But, I couldn’t separate these babies! And, I swear our seven year old son is a goat whisperer! These little loves were just chatting up a storm to him at the auction. Leia is a bit more outgoing and playful. Rey is a little more cautious and independent. But, they are both like little puppies and are content to romp and follow us around when we have them out in the yard.
Sunday rolled around and we needed to go out and get some more supplies to make a temporary pen for the goats in the pasture and a few other odds and ends. We walked into Tractor Supply and, as usual on weekends, the kids ran to see the chicks for sale. Of course, this particular Sunday, we went to a different Tractor Supply than we normally do and they had Olive Egger chicks!
I have been looking for an Olive Egger hen [on the DL] for a few weeks, but haven’t found any. I’ve posted ISO’s on Facebook and checked auctions, but with no results. I haven’t “officially” posted anything about our chickens or our coop because we are still in the process of refining our flock. I cannot seem to find Black/Blue Copper Marans ANYWHERE! And I’m all about having a variety of egg color.
We have a few “slots” available right now to round out our flock and, even though these Olive Eggers won’t be laying for a few months at least, I am willing to wait for a good, well-raised hen. So, I talked my hubby (with the kids’ help), against his better judgement, into getting 6 Olive Egger chicks. Our plan, right now, is to raise them and keep one or two. Then, I’ll sell the rest.
If you don’t know by now, I’m actually terrified of chickens. Our [almost] 14 year old does most of the feeding, watering, and changing out the bedding in the coop. He expresses how “cool” he thinks they are very openly. I, on the other hand, can barely open the door to the coop and just hurry to fill up the feeder; even wearing boots up to my knees. My job, mostly just consists of making sure the eggs are collected and/or that our two year old doesn’t smash them on the way back to the house. Which, seems to be her specialty.
I’m hoping that by having these little buddies around, and not being afraid of their fluffy little selves, I’ll be able to train myself to be less scared as they grow into adults. I honestly, fought the whole “Let’s get chickens!” movement as long as I could. But, now that we have them, I couldn’t imagine them not being here. Just need to get past my bird phobia issues!
Side note: I am, oddly, not afraid of ducks. There were two lots of amazingly adorable ducklings, yellow and fuzzy, at the auction. Alas, I couldn’t talk Jon into getting them. I’m crossing my fingers for next summer when we have the pond dug out for the rest of our animals. Help me find convincing arguments! Because I’ve heard that they are loud and messy!
Aside from all the awesome animal shenanigans, the kiddos passed the time fooling around spraying each other [and my parents] with the hose, and jumping into their bathing suits to play and get crazy. I’ve been begging Jon for a pool because these summer days with no A/C, are by no means unbearable but, could definitely be made a little more comfortable with an evening dip! Haha!
Until then, for the past couple of years, our girls have been more than happy to chill out in this galvanized tub. True country gal style, they fill it up and have a “bath” in their “pool”. Or, at least that’s what the littlest sister says! And this weekend, we livened things up a bit by adding some Tubby Todd to the party!
I’ve heard some great things about Tubby Todd Bath Co. over the years. Having four kids, people are always recommending what they have used. Not to mention, I’ve seen a ton of influencers use TubbyTodd on their children. So, when I saw on Instagram that the company had recently released a limited edition watermelon scent for summer, I knew I wanted to get my hands on it!
I bought the summer gift set so we could try out all three products; bubble bath, hair + body wash, and everyday lotion. When they first arrived, I was surprised by the subtle scent and reassured by the plant-based ingredients. I’ll be honest, as with any product, I was skeptical, curious, and excited to give them a try!
When I added the bubble formula to water, that’s when it really started to shine. The smell came through beautifully as the foamy suds started forming. But, I was pleased to find it wasn’t overwhelming. Because of the natural source of the fragrances used in Tubby Todd products, the delicacy of the scent is exactly what it should be. And, I found that you really smell all the notes of each component. I also loved that the bubbles stuck around the whole time. They didn’t just fade away once the kids started splashing.
The hair + body wash was amazing. It’s probably the first time in history that my little Tulip babe has ever enjoyed having her hair washed! She is usually screaming for me to get the soap off her head and stop fidgeting with her. Also, she rinsed her hair (aka dumped a ton of water on her head) and the soap never burned her eyes. I really appreciated that because many of the brands we have tried in the past that have advertised things like “tear-free” have bothered my children anyway.
Last, but not least, the lotion. It’s substantial and not watery. Smooth and buttery, not sticky. And it absorbs without leaving any slippery feeling on the skin. Leaves my babes soft and smelling good enough to eat! I’m very happy with our Tubby Todd experience so far. I can’t wait to keep using these products and I will definitely order from them again. Have you ever used anything from this brand? What are your thoughts?
That’s a wrap for our weekend and the haul of farm animals we added to the homestead over the last three days! Can you believe it?! Sometimes I wonder how we are gonna take care of all this! But, somehow, it always works out. And, these experiences are literally making the lives of our kids so fantastic- especially since COVID came and ruined everything. What are your summer plans?
This weekend on the farm was pretty relaxing. My parents are in town. Pretty much the only people we’ve hung out with since covid… we haven’t seen them in almost 8 months! The weather has been fantastic and, even with the threat of rain, the breezes and mild temps have been something to be thankful for. Making s’mores with the kids and spending the majority of the time outside was just what the doctor ordered.
Here are some very candid iPhone pics 😂
Otherwise, we were very excited and nostalgic because we have weaned our bottle calves!! Seems like only yesterday that we picked them up and brought them home, even though it was mid-April. Back then, we were still wearing toboggans and Carhartts; trudging out to the barn in the cold and [sometimes] snow.
Today is actually the first day that they have been completely off bottles and [so far] it seems like they don’t even notice that we haven’t made the journey out to the barn with their regular milk bar + have only supplied them with feed and hay. They have been doing well during the transition the last couple of weeks but, of course, we have been keeping a close eye on their progress. A part of me will miss playing the part of mama to these babies and seeing the bond that the kids got from caring so intimately for them.
Before committing to the task of raising calves, we (aka hubby) joined a lot of Facebook groups, read books, and did a whole bunch of online research. One of the most important things we learned, starting out, is how valuable it is to get your calves from a reliable source. So, if you get your calves from an auction, you have no idea usually if they have had colostrum from their mother, what bacteria’s they have been exposed to, if they have scours…etc. However, if you get them from a local farm, they will be able to provide you with information regarding their health and wellness.
So, we got in touch will some farms in our area and, fortunately, found one (dairy) that was basically willing to give us as many calves as we wanted for a price that is so low it’s not even worth mentioning. Their bull calves were, obviously, not useful for their field, so we gladly accepted- at first- one. Being that they were about 5 minutes away, it was good for the calf and us because of the low transport time and easy transfer. Within one day, we knew we were going to get more.
Cows are social animals and I couldn’t bare the thought of having one lonely calf. Especially, since we haven’t yet expanded our pasture enough to have other larger animals, like horses…etc. Also, we are still contemplating what species we would like to include here and can reasonably care for. That being said, we knew that several bull calves would be available within the week. And within that time, we acquired two more. Now, I have to insert that, in our livestock vet’s opinion, it is wise to get all of your calves from the same place/herd because each farm/group of cows has its own strain of bacteria and germs that it carries with it. If you calves are all from the same homestead, they are less likely to get ill and contract viruses.
Every person/family decides to do things differently with their calves. If there is anything I’ve learned from reading online feeds it’s that hardly any person does the exact same thing to care for their animals. So, you have to find what works for you.
We started out giving ours two bottles a day; one in the morning and one in the evening. The formula we used was DuMOR milk replacer from our local Tractor Supply, and we accompanied the morning bottles with DuMOR probiotics. We did struggle with a little bit of diarrhea at the beginning, sometimes tinged with blood, and, being newbies, we didn’t really know how to handle it or if it would truly be considered scours. So, we began giving the calves Theracaf electrolytes but, when that didn’t work, we reached out to the farming community to find out what other solutions may be better. An overwhelming amount of people came back with the response to use Spectogard Scour-Chek. That made a HUGE difference, and our calves recovered [almost] overnight. We never noticed them suffering from loose bowels again.
They started gaining weight quickly, although one of ours is a runt. And they are still fattening up pretty nicely. I guess I should’ve mentioned before now, but we have Jersey calves. If any of you have Jerseys, perhaps you have had others comment on our “skinny” or “sickly” they look. If you’re new to bottle calves, like we were/are, don’t let that get to you. If you’re concerned about your calves being too slim or their rate of growth, my best advice is to find a livestock vet you feel comfortable with (ours was recommended by the farm where we got our calves) and have them give the calves a once over. We had some comment on the fact that our calves seemed to be very bony, but the vet had told us already that they were doing 100% perfectly. Also, TRUST YOUR GUT. Just because you might have not done this before doesn’t mean your a dummy. A first time mom still intuitively knows what her baby needs, and shouldn’t listen to unsolicited advice. Neither should you when it comes to your calves!
Early on we started leaving sweet feed and hay/alfalfa out for them to munch on, to get used to the idea of more solid food. They took to it pretty regularly around month two. As well as chomping on pasture grass. Now, these babies are ready to be eating more substantial food full time. We will definitely, however, be providing them with treats. I don’t think the girls could stop feeding them dandelions, if they tried. These calves would wait all day at the fence for just one of those.
Of course, baby cows are mischievous. We’ve had one get caught in the fence and turned upside down, we’ve had them break out of the fence, and they have certainly tried to drag the elderberry bush into the pasture to devour. But, all in all, raising these babes from just days old to, now, three months has been a rewarding experience. Especially for the kids. They have learned a lot of responsibility, a lot of compassion, and a lot about how the ‘circle of life’ works.
Our intention is to take three to the butcher when they are somewhere between 18 + 24 months. I never used to think that I would be able to accept that fact. I always just wanted to have a cow as a pet. But, the longer we have them, the more I realize that to have a sustainable lifestyle on a homestead, it’s just not practical to have three cows chillin’ out on your land for their whole life; 18-22 years! (Now, if I ever get my Highland, that’s another story! haha)
For now, we are just enjoying the process and acquiring a lot of knowledge along the way. If you all have any tips for us starting out this ‘adolescent’ phase with the calves, I’d love to hear them! As well as anything you would do differently at the start. We will definitely be getting more calves after these ones so I’d really appreciate any opinions or ideas. Happy Monday!
If you have multiple kids, I’m sure you’ve heard all of the “Oh my! You have your hands full, don’t you?”, and the “You must be a glutton for punishment”, and the “You know how that happens, right?” remarks that folks will say in passing. If you don’t have multiple kids…then you’re house is probably a lot quieter than mine. Haha. Either way, this post will, hopefully, be able to give you some ideas on how to save some cash when it comes to stocking up on clothes for your children.
Some of these are probably things you’ve already employed. Others may be things you’re hesitant to try. But, basically, this is what works for me and my family, to make clothes shopping for four kids more cost effective.
Now, don’t get me wrong… There are plenty of times I have splurged on specific items. I’m a lover of small shops and handmade, sustainable, grow-with-you clothing. However, if those things were going to be the sole pieces of my child’s wardrobe, I’d be living in a cardboard box. For most of us, it’s just not practical to supply each of our children with completely custom, handcrafted, one of a kind filled closets and dressers. So, let’s jump into it!
Consignment + Thrift
It’s a shame, but many, many people have reluctance to buy anything from a consignment or thrift store. The “previously owned” factor, or “in used condition” description makes them feel uneasy about the quality of what they might find there. Or, they associate the idea of these types of stores with a lack of funds. Therefore, thinking that more money + shopping = commercial retail only and big brand purchases.
This misconception is very unfortunate. I have found some of my FAVORITE kid’s clothes, of the most luxe brands at places like Once Upon A Child. There are hidden gems amongst the crowded racks at shops like this. You just have to be willing to put in the elbow grease and search.
Recently, I donned my mask (because COVID) and went shopping for a bunch of summer clothing components for the kids because it seems like they have all had a growth spurt at the same time. It always seems to happen like that, doesn’t it? And, I can’t imagine how much money I saved by making consignment my first stop that day. For example, my seven year old son is currently very into sport brands and athletic wear. That usually means shelling out big bucks for brands we love, like Adidas, Nike, Under Armor…etc. But, when I dug into the bulk of his size section, I found tons of LIKE NEW items of these exact brand names. And walked away with hundreds of dollars worth for a fraction of the cost.
The other great thing about many of these stores, is that they will buy items your child has outgrown and you can apply that credit to your purchase. Or, they will simply accept a donation of items you no longer have a use for, [like Goodwill] so that you aren’t just compiling a wealth of clothing clutter. If you have been leary of exploring your local thrift or consignment scene, I encouraging you to give it a go. You may be surprised!
2. Online Resale
Okay, this aspect of shopping requires patience; I won’t lie. There is a lot to sift through. But, if you’re willing, to spend the time and effort to look for what you want, you can get a great bargain! Plus, you don’t even have to leave home!
Above are just a few examples of sites I’ve had success with, but there are loads of others with similar ideas behind them and user friendly buying. This avenue of procuring apparel is a go-to of mine for lots of reasons. Here are a few:
You can search for specific brands, sizes, styles quickly; no roaming a store. Just a few strokes of the keyboard. Such as, “Boys 16 Gap jeans”.
Many of the items are sold NIB (new in box) or NWT (new with tags), so you can be confident that what you’re getting is authentic.
Returns are often accepted, and if they aren’t, you are usually able to come to an agreement with the seller. Make sure you read the terms!
You can, many times buy items in a “lot”, which saves you $$ per item. Shipping is often free on these as well.
But, of course, the best thing about these sites it that your can find items at a MONDO discount. Used or new, unless you are buying from an actual “boutique” or “store” hosted by these sites, you can usually purchase for much less than retail value. And, similarly to the last tip, you can sell your gently loved pieces and use that money towards more shopping! It’s like an entire cycle…and it can get addicting.
Who doesn’t use Amazon for EVERYTHING?! If you have found a way to live without it, let me know how! I have an absolute obsession and it gets a little worse every day. My husband can’t even complain because he’s just as bad about those midnight purchases. Who else is with us?
Their tagline doesn’t lie! And, typically, I know that when I order clothing from them for the kids, I won’t be disappointed. And, if a return is needed… they make it SO easy. Biggest tip with Amazon shopping– SIGN UP FOR A PRIME ACCOUNT! Best money spent. Period. Two-day shipping cannot be beat.
Pricing here, obviously for brand new items, will vary based on what brand you’re looking at. But, I have found that lots of things will have a different/lower price than the MSRP. Example: I ordered an Adidas shirt for my son that he loved. It was somewhere in the $20 range on Amazon. When it arrived, the tag said the regular price was $40! Who doesn’t wanna save 50%?!
Also, there are some great shops/brands/items that are amazing dupes for small shop items you may be unable to afford. Lots of cute little jumpsuits, and rompers, and tops that are to die for. Here are a couple of my fave Amazon outfits on my baby girl last summer…
Bottom line? Amazon has everything. If you haven’t bought clothing on there before, go search your vibe. There is great stuff there for the whole family!
I’ve been shopping Zulily for years. If you make an account with them, you will never regret it. They have new sales, every day, on tons of great brands. Major discounts on everything from pj’s to formal wear for little ones. They even compare prices for you.
I have hands down gotten some of my daughters’ favorite dresses on Zulily and the shoes are bomb! Run, run, run and check them out.
From their site: “Maximize your savings by ordering several items. Buy one item, it’s a good deal. Buy more than one item, it’s an unbelievable deal.” Returns are easy and simple, and they let you know the estimated time of processing before you even add something to your cart. I’ve even gotten great home decor and fun play items from them. Do yourself a favor and shop with Zulily! Download the app for an even smoother experience. Plus, then you can check deals from the comfort of your bed.
This is a bit of a no brainer, but reminders never hurt. Look for sales anywhere and everywhere! Some of my favorite places to shop sales are Nordstrom, Old Navy, Gap, Macy’s… Even Target has 30-50% off sections. Even if you can’t find the exact size you need, but they have a size bigger, consider investing in something that your child can grow into. And, if you have two kids of different sizes, but you love the item enough, buy one for each kid. That way one of the pieces will get twice the wear and you get more than your money’s worth.
Shopping sales usually pays off. Especially because the expensive items that are now in your budget were probably never worth the exuberant amount that was being charged for them in the first place. Clothes are made fast and cheap nowadays. Don’t overpay for something if you don’t have to.
6. Hand Me Downs
Because of the forethought of your clever mama, you may have had the experience of wearing your brother or sister’s hand me downs. And while you may have grown to not like it, it was probably the most economically sound thing for your parents to do. Clothes cost money. The more kids = the more money.
I have saved bags and boxes of my older kid’s clothes to pass down to the next. I’ve never been dissatisfied with that decision. And, truthfully, my kids haven’t either…yet. We have even accepted clothes from friends who haven’t had another child to pass them down to. The dress my daughter is wearing below was given to us by my best friend while she was visiting us last year. Her youngest child had outgrown it. My daughter proudly wore that dress until it didn’t fit her anymore.
You don’t have to spend a dime to use hand me downs. And, it might just be me, but I love their sentimental value. You may also be able to benefit those who are in need by giving them things your children don’t wear anymore. It always comes full circle.
So there you have it. The six places I shop the most and the tips that help me make it through without forking over a fortune. Kids are always changing and growing, and ruining and staining! This is what gets us through those fun, messy, beautiful, sprouting times in the most frugal way.
What are some ways you’ve found that help you keep some pennies in the bank while shopping for a large family? Or, if you only have one child, what do you feel like differs about their wardrobe than if you had more? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Hi! I’m Quin and I’m the voice behind The Lone Birch. It’s a pleasure to have you here!
I grew up in an extremely small, rural town in Ohio and never wanted to know anything else. I was content as a child in a relatively untouched place. And, when I say, “untouched”, I mean there was no Walmart nearby. But, eventually, the path of life took a turn and I ended up in a city by the beach, hundreds of miles away, for almost 15 years.
Funnily enough, I met my husband and he, ironically, also grew up in a little area in Ohio. After we got married, we were very keen on the idea of moving back to a simpler place and transporting ourselves into a slower pace. It seemed, like it would never work out, though, due to multiple factors we faced over the years. Until one summer…
Suddenly, our circumstances changed in 2019 and we were able to, very quickly, make the transition from city dwellers to country residents. Foremostly, we wanted to be here to help out my in-laws. But, selfishly, we wanted to be here to raise our four children with a sense of peace surrounding them. To allow them a bit of the serenity of the childhoods we experienced. A chance to chase their dreams through open fields and sunbathed woods, without fear.
This brought with it, the challenge of trying to find a new home. Not just a house, but a place to really thrive. And, that’s when we happened upon our sweet, little 1940’s farmhouse.
It’s always been my dream to have a farm. When I was a little girl, my best friend and I would plan out all of the animals we would have and what we would name them. And, as I got older, that fantasy started to take the shape of a bohemian farmhouse haven. Somewhere special for me to unleash a little creativity and enjoy the absence of complication, I didn’t know then, that I wanted for my unborn children.
This all came to fruition when we found our current home. A quaint farm with a lone birch tree in the middle of the yard… surrounded by many other trees, unrelated. Five acres of green, surrounded by woods, complete with a big red barn. (Photos to come!) We visited this property once before we knew it was the definition of the home we were looking for.
As of now, we have been [officially] back in Ohio for about 10 months and in our fixer upper for about 8 of those. And, since things are beginning to feel more settled- despite these nasty, untold events of 2020- it seemed like a good time to take on documenting more of our adventures and what we are undertaking. I’ve also really been challenging myself, in the kitchen, with house projects, and hobbies, so I am hoping to share those with you. As well as all things #momlife, because navigating two boys and two girls (13, 7, 5, & 2) has me in my feelings!
I’d love to connect with other hobby farmers, mothers, self professed chefs, interior designers, fashionistas, writers, and readers from all walks of life. And, honestly, the connection with others and finding insight into other perspectives, trading ideas, and getting feedback is why I am endeavoring to blog publicly, instead of keep my thoughts to myself. I hope to hear what’s on your mind as well!
Let me know, in the comments, what kind of things you’d like to see included on the blog. Or if you have any questions you’d like me to address in a post.