Christmas Break at the Huffstetler House
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We’re back to work after a 17 day break. So what did we do while we were off? We enjoyed some downtime and caught up on things around the house. Here’s a look at what we did.
We were almost out of canned beans, so I cooked two big stockpots of dried beans – one of black beans and one of kidney beans – and added 20 jars of beans to the freezer. By doing big batches, I only have to soak and cook beans a few times a year, and it saves us a ton. The last time I ran the numbers, we were paying $.48 a can for our beans, vs. $1 for a store-bought can, and we get to skip all the sodium that comes with those store-bought cans. A big bonus.
We pulled a bunch of chicken bones out of the freezer, and made broth. I usually make our broth in the crockpot, but this time I pulled our roaster oven out to see how it would do. It’s basically a super-sized crockpot (big enough to hold a turkey).
Since it’s roughly triple the size of our largest crockpot, I threw in enough ingredients for a triple batch, and it worked beautifully. Roaster ovens have a built-in thermostat, so I was able to cook my broth at a much higher temperature than in the crockpot (350 vs. maybe 200, if the crockpot were set on high). This means the broth cooked faster, and developed a richer color and flavor, too.
I have to admit, I didn’t think we really needed a roaster when my husband forked over the $3 for one at a yard sale, but I love it now.
Back in the fall, I paid $3 for a gorgeous pie pumpkin at another yard sale. We enjoyed it as a decoration for a couple months, but it was time to turn it into food. I scooped it out, and cut it into wedges. Then, roasted it in the oven. That one pumpkin yielded three cookie sheets of roasted pumpkin. Crazy!
We already had plenty of pumpkin puree in the freezer, so I cubed the pumpkin, and froze it. We’ll add it to chili and pasta dishes until it’s gone.
This <a “target=”_blank” href=”/beef-butternut-squash-chili/”>beef and butternut squash chili recipe is a favorite of ours. Since winter squash is interchangeable, we’ll definitely use some of our pumpkin to make chili.
We started making our own dishwasher detergent tabs a couple years ago, and we’ll never go back to store-bought. I like to make a bunch over Christmas break, so we’ll be set for a while. This year I made about a six month’s supply. Incidentally, we were in Target the other night, and they were selling dishwasher tabs for $18.19 a container. Based on that, It would cost me $109.14, plus tax, to buy a six-month supply. Mine only cost me $14.40 to make (and that’s factoring in my husband’s habit of using two tabs per load).
We enjoyed a couple 70 degree days at our cabin (it hit 77 one day), so the girls and I went for a hike to collect pinecones. We dry them out and dip them in wax to make fire starters. We rescue old candles from free boxes at yard sales, so I always have a a pile of candles waiting to be melted down for wax.
I usually melt wax in a double boiler on the stove, but this time, I decided to melt wax in an old crockpot, and it was definitely an improvement to my process. I labeled the crockpot, so it will only be used for crafting purposes from here on out.
If you have a wood stove or fireplace, I highly recommend making some. Pinecone firestarters burn beautifully, and they look nice sitting in a basket.
A leak forced us to rip up the flooring in the small bathroom at the top of the basement steps a few months back. Fortunately we had some leftover heart pine flooring that was original to the house, so my husband sanded it down, and got it laid over break. Now, we just need to poly the flooring and put the toilet and baseboards back. Definite progress.
See those two jars? They hold my two newest mix recipes that I’ll be sharing soon. It was great to get some time in the kitchen to work on recipe development.
We made two trips to the Amish grocery salvage store while we were off, and scored some amazing deals. Including this tower of Ghiradelli baking chocolate for $.50 a bar! This stuff sells for almost $4 a bar at our local grocery store.
We also went thrift storing on two different days. January is my favorite month to thrift shop because the stores have just been flooded with end-of-the-year donations. Here are a some of our biggest scores:
A vintage leather jacket for my oldest daughter. It was a steal at $4.99. I have some leather cleaner, so we’re going to get it cleaned and conditioned, so she can wear it.
A commerical-grade drill press for $150. This bad boy will plunge 6-inches. It’s just what we need to drill the holes for the carpenter bee traps that we sell. Such an exciting find for us.
This blanket was a happy Goodwill find. Someone crocheted the blanket; then, crosstitched flowers on it. So, pretty.
We bought an automatic ice maker at a yard sale last year, and we love it. It makes ice in 15 minutes, so it comes in handy at parties and when we need to fill the cooler with ice. It was also super handy when we had a billion family members helping us build carpenter bee traps last May. Well, we spotted a second one at a Goodwill the other day for $9.99, and snatched it up for the cabin. We may not have electricity up there yet, but we’re thinking ahead to when we do, and are hosting lots of friends and family.
My husband spotted this pressure canner at another Goodwill, and scooped it up for $24.99. This same model retails for $224! It looks like it may have been used once. Who knows, maybe I’ll start pressure canning my beans instead of freezing them. It would be nice to free up some freezer space.
We also squeezed in a bit of curb shopping. Someone put all of their yard sale leftovers at the curb, so my husband snagged this working microwave, along with a big stack of DVDs and books (which we enjoyed over break).
Another pile yielded a door for a secret cabin project that I’m working on. I still need a bunch more doors to make it happen, but I’m making progress.
And my husband took a load of scrap to the scrap metal place. When someone brings something to scrap, that isn’t really ready to be scrapped, they sell it in their front office at a bargain basement price. So, he ended up coming home with some cash, plus a shelf and a live animal trap, which we’ll use to catch the raccoon that ate all of my apples and most of my grapes this past fall.
We watched a free movie every day of break (some from our Amazon Prime watchlist, some from Redbox and some from that pile of curb shopped DVDs, and we read lots, too. All in all it was a great break. Now, we’re back to work/school, and counting down to spring break. Only nine more weeks!
What did you guys do over break?
HAPPY NEW YEAR Erin! sounds like you’ve been busy – wow!
question: in your freezer – are those plain ole ball/kerr/mason canning jars? wasnt sure you could put them in the freezer I just got rid of tons of them ’cause I didnt see the need to can anymore for just two people. should’ve kept’em
keep us posted – I love seeing what you do – great ideas on everything! cant wait to see the cabin again…..stay well and warm.
They’re freezer jars. They have thicker walls than regular canning jars, so they don’t crack in the freezer. I’ve gotten to where that’s all I buy. It’s nice having something that works for both canning and freezing, and they’re more forgiving if you accidentally drop one.
You got some lovely things bargain and curb shopping. Have fun with the new pressure canner.