Thursday, October 30, 2008

Day 27, Chicken MANSION! (93...Free!)

The story had an innocent start...

Let's get a few chickens. Have some free-range eggs. Simple, no?


Then the story turned into a tale of riches, untold bazillions spent, and living the good life. No, I'm not referring to Wall Street. I'm referring to THE CHICKEN MANSION.

Our chickens are now living a life of opulence in their new home. I don't even want to think about how much this project cost. Why am I posting it on "93...Free?" Perhaps I can save you from a likewise fate. Next time you start dreaming about chickens, consider the cost of the project from beginning to end. Or, perhaps, check to see if the "builder" has the same budget in mind that you do. ;)

Here's the whole enchilada.

Here's where we'll collect eggs. Eggs??? What eggs??? Chickens in million dollar mansions don't lay eggs. Seriously. They aren't laying eggs yet. The million dollar chickens haven't laid a marble yet. Oh, but their systems work great otherwise. They are pooping up a storm!

Inside shots of la casa rico. They have a heat lamp, their own electrical outlet, and locks on their doors (if you live in a mansion, you need locks!) Me thinks me chickens are living better than me. Ai-yi-yie!!!!!!

Someday, when I come to you and ask, "Where did my 401K disappear to?" and I try to blame it on Wall Street, someone remind me that my 401K is probably sitting in my backyard, covered with chicken you-know-what.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Day 26, Mashed Potatoes for Breakfast?? (93...Free!)

In the spirit of trying to do better with breakfast, I tried a new recipe this morning using leftover mashed potatoes. These hash browns are easy and worth making again. We ate them alongside scrambled eggs. The only difference I'd do next time is attempt to make the onion pieces tinier.

Lizzi and School

Several months ago I did a series of posts (see April archives) about Lizzi and her entry into public school. As you'll recall, she went to public school kindergarten and was then homeschooled in grades 1-7 before returning to public school at the end of her 7th grade year. We deliberately timed her returned in order to prepare for entry into a public high school in another year.

Although I dearly loved homeschooling her (and continue to homeschool Anakin), I haven't regretted Lizzi's decision to return to public school. She is thriving. One thing in particular is worth noting...

After having the same teacher for seven years, Lizzi LOVES having other people teach her. And the best thing? She cares a LOT about working hard for these people and showing them her absolute best. From the beginning, her language arts teacher took notice of Lizzi's writing abilities and worked hard to point out her strengths and challenge her weaknesses. Lizzi is interested in working for this teacher in a way that I haven't experienced. It's not that I, as her former teacher, did anything wrong. It's not that Lizzi, as a homeschooler, was in any way inadequate; to the contrary, she was a very, very good student. But there is something about working for a stranger (or shall we say, a non-Mom) that has inspired her to new heights. For that, I am thankful.

But this also leads me to another reflection...

Lizzi loves her classes and works very, very hard for her teachers. BUT she quickly noticed that her peers do not have nearly the interest in school that she does. In general, she does not perceive them as being passionate about learning in the same way that she is. She believes the difference is homeschooling.

Over the years, the greatest thing I hoped to instill in my children (educationally-speaking) was a desire for knowledge and the tools to gain new understandings. I wanted them to "learn how to learn." You know the doctor adage, "first do no harm?" The greatest harm I figured I could do as a teacher-parent was to extinguish my children's natural love for learning. Thankfully, Lizzi's love for learning seems to have entered public school with her. With any luck, it will continue for the rest of her life.

Oh, the Joys of Public School...

This morning the news was on (my first mistake) while 'LilDude was eating breakfast. As usual, it was all about the election. 'LilDude pipes up, "I'm voting for McCain."

Since he recently declared his vote for Obama, I asked, "So why are you voting for him?"

"Cause Cole said if Obama wins, he'll kill babies."

Eyebrows raised, I ask, "Who is Cole?"

"A first grader."

"So why does he think that?"

"His sister told him."

The joys of public school...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Preparing to be a BIG Brother

Since I know several adoptive families read my blog, I thought some of you might enjoy hearing about what we're doing to prepare 'LilDude for his new role as big brother.

We purposely waited a long time to add to our family. 'LilDude needed time to be the youngest and to soak up all the Mommy time he possibly could. Years ago, our adoption therapist said that she thought that he might be ready by age six or so. Turns out (at least so theory :), that she was right.

'LilDude continues to be thrilled by the idea of a little brother. One thing that I mentioned to him seems to have stuck. In passing, I remarked on the fact that littlebrother will probably think that our family looks strange...all of us, that is, except 'LilDude. I noted that 'LilDude looks like the people that littlebrother is used to being around but that the rest of us might look a little scary to him. 'LilDude caught on to this idea right away...

"He'll be used to black hair like mine?"

"That's right." 'LilDude grins.

Since I brought it up, 'LilDude has mentioned it several times on his own.

Tonight we prepared a mini photo album for 'LilDude to take to school tomorrow. He gets to lead in sharing time on Tuesdays and this is "P" week, so he is taking PICTURES of his brother to share with his class. He carried them to bed so he could look at them again while I read a story aloud.

Day 25, Chix/Turkey Vegetable Soup (93...Free!)

You know the criteria by now...if 'LilDude asks for 3rds, the recipe gets blogged. :) Tonight the kids all enjoyed "Chicken Vegetable Soup" from Simply in Season. 'LilDude had three helpings despite one concern...

"Mom, there's a bug in my soup."

I didn't doubt it since I'd just brought the broccoli and kale in from the garden, but I asked anyway, hoping it was pepper. "How do you know?"

"It has LEGS."

Lizzi consoled him. "That's okay. Bugs are just protein. People in other countries eat bugs all the time."

That satisfied 'LilDude.

I hope you enjoy it, legs or not... ;)

Chicken (Turkey) Vegetable Soup
-modified from Simply in Season

The recipe calls for a 3 lb chicken, cooked, with reserve broth. I just cooked a turkey, so I used that meat & broth.

3 c. carrots, diced
2 c. celery, diced
1-2 medium onions, diced
1 medium parsnip, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced

In large soup pot saute the above in 2 T. olive oil. Add a little water for steam.

1/2 t. ground red pepper
salt/pepper to taste

Add the 2 above ingredients and cook over medium heat until vegetables are tender but not mushy, 15 minutes. Add water to chicken/turkey broth to make 12 cups. Add to soup mixture along with cooked chicken or turkey (cut into bite-sized pieces.)

2 c. broccoli florets
2 c. kale, chopped
1/2 t. dried dill (or 1 1/2 t. fresh)

Add, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer to blend flavors.

Note: We had leftover rice in the fridge. 'LilDude LOVES rice and added some to his soup. The cold rice helped to cool the hot soup. The kids also added Parmesan cheese or grated cheddar if they wished.

BTW, I don't think I'd ever eaten a parsnip until last year. I really like them. And in a recipe like this, they provide a little sweetness that's not-to-be-missed. Now if I could only figure out how to grow them.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

'LilDude Would Like to Announce...

"I am going to be a big brother!!!!!"

New little brother is 2 1/2 years old. We don't have "LOA" (letter of acceptance from China) yet and won't for several months, so at this point that's all we feel free to say in a wide public forum. Well, that and a couple more things...

* 'LilDude says (and I quote), "I'm excited and I can't wait to go to China to pick him up!" He also said, "Are you going to hold ____ while you wait for me at the bus stop?"

"I might. What do you think about that?"

"Great! Then Terri (the bus driver) is going to say, 'Who is that?'" [Then laughs like he has a terrific secret.]

'LilDude is thrilled to pieces about the whole thing. I couldn't have asked for a more open, accepting reaction.

* The new I - 800 a process is horrendous. But God must have intervened because it wasn't nearly as horrific as anticipated. So thank you to God and our Social Worker who also helped to speed the process along. I think working with China will be a breeze after working through the U.S. process. The U.S. process wasn't very user friendly.

* Prayers are most welcome from anyone who would like to intervene on our little guy's behalf. A speedy process would be in his best interest.

With much excitement...

Off to nest... ;)

~a truly Rich Momma! ;)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Math Lessons

If you are a homeschooler or a classroom teacher, here are some great math lessons to action! :)

The Eyeballing Game

Here's some cheap entertainment... ;) It's called The Eyeballing Game.

"Some people are bothered by pictures on the wall hanging slightly crooked. Others may not even be aware that something may be amiss.

If you are somebody who is into woodworking or construction, its good to be one of the people who notice when things are crooked. But I suspect the ability to notice that things might be just a little off square, off centre, or not quite straight, varies greatly. I thought it would be fun for people to try to test their abilities to see if things are straight or crooked in a little game.

The game works by showing you a series of geometries that need to be adjusted a little bit to make them right. A square highlights the point that needs to be moved or adjusted. Use the mouse to drag the blue square or arrowhead where you feel it is 'right'. Once you let go of the mouse, the computer evaluates your move, so don't let up on the mouse button until you are sure. The 'correct' geometry is also shown in green. To avoid the need for extra mouse clicks, a mouse button up counts as the move being finished, so be careful."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Day 24, Christmas Presents (93...Free!)

We started a tradition last year; family members who planned to gather on Christmas Day exchanged names, keeping their selected person a secret. (Well, they tried to keep it a secret. I'm the one who goofed. I was in charge of the drawing and several times I accidentally let a hint or two slip about who had whose names. Anakin and Lizzi decided that they would take over this year so as to not let that happen again! ;)

Last year the drawing included our family of six plus my parents and my sis/bro-in-law--ten total. Each buyer had to spent EXACTLY $20. To the PENNY. Adults and kids alike had a blast trying to figure out how they could milk the most out of $20.

I was somewhat concerned about how 'LilDude (then 5yo) would receive the idea. He was the age closest to what most people equate with TOYS, TOYS, TOYS and Christmas. Lizzi drew his name and was thrilled with the challenge.

She was able to buy a shockingly large amount of gifts with her $20. She bought:

* a StarWars Jedi costume (on sale at Goodwill right before Halloween)
* a new lightsaber
* one of the large Fisher Price dinosaurs (used, Goodwill)
* a dinosaur book (used, Goodwill)
* a new Lego set

'LilDude loved it; in actuality, it was probably the best Christmas he's ever had. I think he was relieved to not be overwhelmed by "stuff" and the expectations that go along with it. (Sometimes just having to thank people can be overwhelming for young children.)

On Christmas, we took time to have each person open their gifts slowly, one at a time. It was fun to see what $20 could buy. And I loved the fact that it wasn't all about the kids. Sometimes I think children are under the impression (perhaps correct!) that Christmas is all about THEM rather than being about the birth of Christ. As a young, teen babysitter I was once asked to babysit several days after Christmas for a family with several kids. I was astounded to arrive and see one very long wall STACKED with toys, many of them still in their original boxes, unopened. The children had received so many gifts that they hadn't even finished taking all the toys out. And when I showed interest in investigating the pile, they didn't care; it was TOO MUCH STUFF. When kids are treated equally, that tends to eliminate the overemphasis on gifts and commercialism, focusing the meaning where it should be. At least it did for us. ;)

The kids are already talking about it and planning for this year. The excitement is much higher than it used to be when they were showered with gifts.

Last year, we only did two things for gifts--this and "family gifts," consisting of several very inexpensive and/or used items that we either purchased or were given to use in a garage game room. This year, we will again only do two things--the $20 gift exchange and family gifts, this time consisting of items we need for our trip overseas.

What are you doing?

Day 23, Crockpot Green Beans and Sausage (93...Free!)

If you didn't catch this crockpot recipe for Green Beans and Sausage several months ago, take a look. Everyone at our house loves it. It's easy, inexpensive, healthy, and yummy.

Kindergarten is Hard Work

'LilDude talks about math...

"I can count to ten hundred. I mean one thousand. I just have to take lots of breaths."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Duh Moment for Mom

So it seems there was spitting yesterday at recess. In this particular incident, 'LilDude was the recipient of the spit; he didn't spit on anyone. But since there have recently been some moist morsels flying around our house, I took the opportunity to have a conversation with him. Preventative measure, ya know?

Me: Even if the other kids are spitting it is not okay for you to do it too.

He looks at me incredulously and says, "MOM! I am a GOOD KID. I wouldn't DO THAT."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Day 22, Squash & Apple Bake (93...Free!)

Here's another delicious recipe from my mother-in-law. It's economical...but the best thing is that kids (and husbands!) will EAT IT! ;) Again, our cost was pennies...using our home-grown apples and squash.

Squash & Apple Bake
-my mother-in-law

2 lbs butternut squash
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. butter/margarine, melted (I used much less and just dabbed pea size chunks over the top)
1 T. flour (I used gluten-free)
1 t. salt
1/2 t. mace (or less)
2 baking apples, cored and cut into slices or chunks
raisins (optional, but yummy)

Heat oven to 350. Cut each squash in half. Remove seeds and fibers. Peel squash. Cut into 1/2" slices. Arrange squash in ungreased baking dish, approximately 7"x 11".

Stir together dry ingredients (with raisins if using them). Arrange apple slices/chunks on top of squash. Sprinkle dry ingredients over all. Drizzle with butter. Cover with foil. Bake 50-60 minutes or until squash is tender.

Note: This is the only recipe I have that I use "mace"'s a spice. I keep a tiny container in the freezer. I would think that a similar amount of cinnamon or a reduced amount of nutmeg would also work. Maybe even pumpkin pie spice. ;)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Day 21, Family-Friendly, Frugal FRIES! (93...Free!)

One of my best sources for yummy, frugal, kid-friendly recipes is my mother-in-law. My husband grew up in a family of six who survived some pretty tight economic times. The following recipe for french fries is one that my kids ask for...and there are never any leftovers! Tonight, I'm using potatoes that my dad grew (THANKS, Dad!) and the kids helped him to dig, so our cost is pennies.

Crispy Potato Wedges
-from my mother-in-law

3 large potatoes, washed, peeled and cut into fries
2 T. olive oil
1 T. grated Parmesan cheese (opt.)
1/2 to 1 t. paprika (I generally sprinkle til it looks good)
3/4 or less t. garlic salt
1/2 t. dried thyme, crushed
1/4 t. pepper
salt to taste

Place cut fries in a bowl. Toss with olive oil and sprinkle with other ingredients while stirring. Spread fries out on a cookie sheet. Bake uncovered in a 375 oven for 45-55 minutes or until fries are tender. Serve with ketchup.

Note: My mother-in-law makes wedges by cutting each potato lengthwise into 8 wedges.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Day 20, The $2,362.00 Question (93...Free!)

By North American standards, we are not overindulgent parents. Neither are our children deprived. Usually I feel pretty confident in my ability to maintain that balance. Not today.

I am stuck. If anyone has advice, I'd appreciate it. Here's the story...

For several years, Lizzi and a few friends have been talking about the "8th grade trip." An aunt of one of Lizzi's church friends started the tradition of taking nieces/nephews on an educational field trip to the East Coast at the end of 8th grade. Friends are welcome to come along. We never said she could go; neither did we say she couldn't. I did, however, always sorta assume it would happen. I completely trust the chaperone. She'll be traveling with friends, girls from church. It's an educational opportunity. And it will be a lot of fun.

Now that we have the particulars, I'm not sure what to do.

The trip costs $2,362.00, not including souvenir money. We would also likely have to pay an additional $200 or so for "travel insurance" in case the organizers cancel. At the moment we are saving for a big, overseas family trip that Lizzi admits is a higher priority. It's not that we absolutely can't afford to send her; it's more like we aren't sure that it's a good idea under the current circumstances. On the other hand, to not go means that she misses out on an opportunity that most of her friends will be attending, so she's sorta the "odd man out" if she can't go. It's also an exciting educational opportunity and being the bright, motivated kid that she is, I know she'll get a lot out of it.

Lizzi's Nana offered to have her clean house in exchange for money toward the trip. Lizzi had Thursday and Friday off school and didn't take the opportunity to use her time that way. She said that she was waiting to see whether or not she was going first. I'm not sure how to feel about that. But in the spirit of not nagging, I didn't push her.

Lizzi desperately wants to go, but she is not whining or insisting. She's a very good kid. She understands the problem. But none of us are very clear about what's reasonable under the circumstances.

What would you do?

Reading Aloud During Advent

Looking for inexpensive Christmas traditions to start this year? Here's one idea...

The availability of children's Christmas books is astounding. As the season approaches, I'll be posting some that you can easily check out from the library. But there is one that you'll probably need to purchase, albeit very inexpensively.

Jotham's Journey is a "storybook for Advent" that was first published in 1997 and was out-of-print until recently. It is a fast-paced, adventurous tale of a 10-year-old boy, Jotham, that becomes separated from his family during the year that Jesus is born. During his search to find them he encounters "thieves, robbers, and kidnappers." (This is NOT a book for the very young!) The author very skillfully stops the story in the middle of intense action each night, leaving kids begging for more.

Each night of Advent, a portion of the story is read along with a very short devotional. Suggestions are included for making an Advent wreath and lighting candles for each night of storytelling.

Unless you can time it perfectly at your local library, it's necessary to own the book because it is read every night throughout the Advent season. The title is newly back-in-print and is an inexpensive Advent purchase.

If you do a little research, you'll find that Jotham is followed by two other related titles--Tabitha's Travels and Bartholomew's Passage--each designed to be read during subsequent Advent seasons. They are currently out-of-print and very expensive. Both books are scheduled for re-release in the Summer/Fall of 2009. If you don't own one, they will soon be available at minimal cost. If you do own one, now's a good time to sell them!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Day 19, Saving Green Tomatoes (93...Free!)

Well, I thoroughly messed up on this one. Last weekend, we tilled our garden and dozens of green tomatoes got munched. It's starting to freeze here at night and the plants were looking rather sad. I know about green tomato relish, fried green tomatoes, etc., but I didn't really want to mess with it in the midst of all the other wrap-up canning I needed to do.

This morning I read Owlhaven and learned that you can store green tomatoes for a long time, wrapped individually in newspaper. She says she hopes to use them 'til Christmas. I wish I'd have done that!!!!

Kids & Rights Vs. Privileges (follow-up)

In the interest of an update, let me publicly say that my kids have worked very hard to help out since we had this discussion. Yesterday, they dug potatoes at Nana and Poppa's and then they came home to help me harvest all the grapes, a job that I've normally done alone. Lizzi and Anakin cut back vines and picked. 'LilDude helped to wash them for the juicer. I was very grateful for all the help and was so happy to be able to relax together in the evening over pizza and a few old Brady Bunch episodes from the library.

I regret not giving my children the opportunity to prove themselves sooner. They are coming through in a mighty big way.

Thanks, kids!!!!!!!!!!!!! I appreciate your help!!!!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Kids & Rights Vs. Privileges

Normally, my #1 job is being a stay-at-home-mom. In the last two months, however, I have taken on several contract jobs that have demanded a lot of prep time and quite a few days working away from home. In the midst of this I was hit full-throttle with food preservation season; for me, August-September are usually the biggest freezing/canning months. I've put up:

* dozens of boxes of frozen corn
* 90 lbs of blueberries (my parents picked half of this for us since we were on vacation at the height of blueberry season--THANK YOU!!!!!)
* dozens of bags of frozen green beans
* frozen broccoli
*frozen zucchini
* 21 qts salsa
*36 pts tomato sauce
* 8 1/2 qts dill beans
* 12 qts grape juice
* 24 qts tomatoes

Needless to say, I'm pretty wiped out.

During the last two months, I've become a bit frustrated by the amount of time (on top of my other jobs) that I've needed to spend "reminding" my children to do their jobs. It seemed that if I didn't nudge them, the dog didn't get walked. Or bathed. (Am I the only one that notices when the dog starts to smell DOGGY??) Regular jobs (like cleaning bathrooms or vacuuming), would get done...usually...but only to minimal standards. People would "forget" about sweeping stoops or watering plants or taking out the compost. I was sick and tired of listening to my own naggy voice.

And then my friend helped me to remember something that I knew, but in my busyness and frustration I'd forgotten...

I was reminding them, but I was not allowing them to experience the consequences of their forgetfulness. DUH MOMENT!!! No wonder it wasn't working. No one cared. All the reminding in the world was getting me nowhere. All the responsibility lay with me and none lay where it belonged...with THEM.

This reminded me of a very wise email a friend and mom of eight kids wrote. She talked about "rights" vs. "privileges." In our family, children have rights: food, clothing, shelter, safety, love, etc... Pretty much everything else is a privilege. The traditional movie/popcorn night is a privilege. Staying up past bedtime is a privilege. Going out to eat is a privilege. You get the picture...

So I sat my children down and explained to them that I was very tired of reminding them. That nagging was not my job and I didn't plan to do that anymore. I printed new job charts for them and they (not me!) recorded what their daily/weekly responsibilities are. I explained that in order to participate in weekend fun that every item had to be accounted for at the end of the week. One child asked, "If it's movie night and you start the movie, can we go do the job we forgot and then come watch?" No, I explained. You cannot make up missing a day of walking the dog. The dog needs that daily exercises. If you miss jobs--jobs that help to keep this family flowing--then you are welcome to spend movie night considering how you might budget your time better the following week. Fun time is a privilege, not a right.

And the best thing about allowing them to experience consequences of their behavior now? They are still kids. Consequences aren't big. In a few years, as adults, the stakes are going to get a lot higher. I'd much rather have them learn to be responsible by missing a few movie nights than by missing a few house payments.

Day 18, Spices (93...Free!)

Today I refilled spice containers. I buy spices from bulk bins (Bob's Red Mill, Winco, various co-ops) and store them in the freezer to keep them fresh until needed. On the odd occasion that I can't find bulk spices and have to buy a new bottle, I'm always astounded to see the price difference.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Day 17, Use It or....??? SW Chicken Lasagna (93...Free!)

...throw it out???

How many times have you come home from the grocery store, bags filled to overflowing, just to have to turn around and toss items from the fridge that you didn't finish? It would seem that if we could use what we have first, we might end up saving money.

To that end, I've been looking for a website that can help me to use up ingredient odds and ends. Today I had the remains of a Costco sized jar of spaghetti sauce...about 2 cups worth, but not enough to make spaghetti. A jar of salsa needed emptying. Jalapenos from the garden were waiting for use. But I didn't want to use sour cream or any "cream of _____ soups." So I used this website, entering the ingredients I had on hand and dictating the foods I did not want to include. It gave me several recipes to choose from including one for Southwestern Chicken Lasagna, which uses corn tortillas. It was delicious! And a nice gluten free alternative to standard lasagnas.

Day 16, Delaying Purchases (93...Free!)

When my children were small, I was an avid garage saler. It didn't take long to figure out that just about anything I could ever need--or want--could be found at garage sales. I started to make garage sale lists...that's right, garage sale shopping lists. On the lists went things that I needed but didn't absolutely have to have immediately. When the kids were little, almost all their clothing and shoes were purchased at GS...and much of my own as well. (Just last week my neighbor stopped to admire my Birkenstocks...purchased about seven years ago at a GS for $2.) In the last few years, I haven't had as much time for GS, but I make similar lists for used store shopping...Goodwill and the like.

Which brings me to my latest story of saving money...

I regularly use paper lunch bags for probability lessons in the math classes I teach. While paper bags aren't that expensive, I don't like the "use once" concept even if it's something that can be recycled. It just seems like a waste of resources. But after a pair of kiddos has finished one probability game with a lunch sack, it's pretty much a goner. In the last class I taught, kids needed to replace sacks in the middle of the game because they worn thin so quickly that pieces were falling out the bottom.

So I decided that it'd be awesome to make little cloth bags that could be used repeatedly and washed in between groups of students. The more I thought about it, the more the idea grew...

"Oooooh, and they could be CUTE. I could use fabric with math print! That would be adorable."

Adorable...and EXPENSIVE.

As anyone who sews knows, material--especially CUTE printed material--can run upwards of $10/yard. I found several great options on the internet...all expensive.

So the material went on my wish list. And lo and behold, here's what I found for $1/yard at a benefit auction this last Saturday.

The slightly humorous part of the story is that this was an auction to raise money for a Christian humanitarian organization. I don't think there was a person in the crowd who would have known what to do with the game pieces fabric except for a crazy teacher wanting to make bags.

It just reinforces the idea of delaying purchases whenever feasible. And you know what's interesting? Sometimes I'm able to cross things off my "list" just by virtue of delaying a purchase long enough to realize that I didn't actually need the item in the first place.

Funny how that works. ;)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

She's Living My Life...

I had to laugh. I ran across this blog tonight, quite by accident.

We emptied (or almost emptied) the garden on Saturday. I've been preserving ever since. Tomato sauce. Tomatoes (that was today...14 qts). Applesauce. Green peppers and jalapenos for freezing. Pesto.


More later.

How Will You Spend Money This Christmas?

A challenge for you to consider...this is a video worth watching!

P.S....anyone know how to use the embedded link from YouTube without getting the optional 14 videos posted automatically after you watch the first one? I first embedded the link. It worked fine (you got to watch the right video), but then it automatically gives you an assortment of 14 other videos to watch that have some of the same titles...and they include stuff I don't want to feature!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Day 15, Gifts from Other Gardens (93...Free!)

When I first started canning/freezing, I quickly noticed something... When folks found out that I was taking the time to put away food, they were quick to offer items from their gardens and orchards. Sometimes it was overflow...they were done with their own food preservation and had more than they needed. Other times it was extra that they didn't have time or energy for. Over the years I've received apples, pears, cabbage, lettuce, and plums. When our garden got bigger, I began to do the same, giving away extra green beans by the bagful. Today my husband took several cabbages and a bag of peppers to work and came home empty-handed.

Last week I mentioned in passing that our basil hadn't done well this year and that, as a result, our pesto supply would suffer. On Sunday morning, a friend showed up at church with a large grocery bag of basil. Lizzi picked the leaves off while she vegged in front of the t.v. on Sunday afternoon. I made pesto, freezing it in blobs on a cookie sheet, then putting the chunks in a zippered bag. Last winter I had an abundance of pesto and learned that it's not just good for pasta; added to soups and casseroles it flavors the dish with an indescribable taste of summer.

Day 14, Breakfast Blitz! (93...Free!)

**Edited to say that I plan to keep adding to this post so check back for more breakfast ideas... ;)

I whined about this awhile back, but just in case you missed it...


It's every man, woman, and child for him/herself. (And it would be every dog for herself if Sara the dog knew how to unscrew her doggie food container.) Generally speaking, most people grab cold cereal with milk. Although we try to limit ourselves to cereal at or below 10 cents/ounce, that is becoming harder and harder to find. Anakin loves cereal and usually fills his bowl to overflowing...with Dad and Lizzi close one box of cereal doesn't go far. In additional, the nutritional value of most cereals is quite unimpressive.

So what's a family to do???

PLAN! I'm ready for a plan! I implemented it yesterday and have succeeded for TWO WHOLE DAYS. ;) I figure if I post it here, I'm more likely to stick to it, so here goes...

I made several categories of breakfast foods. Each day of the week, I plan to select an item from a different category. You'll recall that 'LilDude needs gluten/casein free food, so you'll notice that the list is geared in that direction. On the few selections that include gluten or casein, I'll modify for him.

Eggs (w/ toast & fruit)
  • scrambled
  • over easy
  • hard boiled
  • breakfast burrito w/ homemade salsa
  • quiche
  • egg skillet breakfast ( recipe below)
Hot Cereal
Cold Cereal

I'll continue to add to the list as I think of new ideas. If you have good breakfast recipes that can be gf/cf modified, I'd love to know about them. Here's what we've had so far this week:

Monday: Egg Skillet Breakfast
Tuesday: Baked Oatmeal
Wednesday: g/f biscuits (& spoonful of peanut butter) w/ fruit
Thursday: Baked Oatmeal
Friday: Scrambled Eggs/salsa, toast

Egg Skillet Breakfast
I diced a small zucchini and a green pepper. I fried these in a skillet along with small chunks of sausage. After the veggies were tender, I added scrambled egg mixture (enough for our family, eggs beaten with a small amount of rice milk) and cooked until done, turning several times. I added cheese after removing 'LilDude's portion from the pan. Served with salsa, optional.

Baked Oatmeal
2 beaten eggs
4 c. oatmeal
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. olive oil
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 c. rice or almond milk
2 t. baking powder

Mix all ingredients together. Put into greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Serve with milk. Optional: add chocolate chips or dried fruit before baking.

My kids LOVE this dish. This morning, Anakin had seconds and asked if we can have it more often.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Day 13, Low-Cost Mexi Meal (93...Free!)

In the beginning, 'LilDude's gluten/casein intolerance appeared to make our food budget go up because we were paying for specialized flours, mixes, etc. that were new to us. Over time, however, we realized that we were also giving up "convenience foods" that, while momentarily easier to cook with, were sometimes expensive and low in nutritional value. I could no longer make enchiladas with canned cream of chicken soup. Forget the boxed mac-n-cheese. No more 3-cheese lasagnas. Sound tough? Well, actually it hasn't been nearly as hard as I anticipated.

We quickly discovered that dishes from other countries were often naturally gf/cf...Thai noodles, Korean Bee-bim-bop, stirfry, and even Mexican food. While Mexican food often uses cheese, it easily becomes an option that can be omitted in individual portions or the entire dish if necessary.

An inexpensive meal that our family enjoys is tacos. I use one pound of ground beef, seasoned with chili powder, and then add a full can of refried beans, mix, heat, and serve. Each person adds his/her choice of toppings: shredded lettuce or cabbage, tomatoes, salsa. Those without casein issues add cheese or sour creme.

I add a side dish of "Rice Guiso" from the More With Less Cookbook. (Now do you believe me when I say I use this cookbook a LOT??!!) ;)

Rice Guiso (my version, original recipe in More With Less)
Serves 3-4

Heat in heavy saucepan or covered skillet:

1 T. oil

some chopped onion
some chopped green or red pepper
1 c. rice
1 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper

Saute briefly. Add:

1 3/4 c. water
2 T. tomato paste

Cover, lower heat, and cook very slowly about 30 minutes or until rice is tender.

You have to avoid peeking so the steam doesn't escape...but you also have to be careful that it doesn't stick. It might take a little experimenting.

Mother Warriors

I just finished Jenny McCarthy's book, Mother Warriors. In the book she describes several parent's journeys to get help for their children with autism. Time and again she and the other parents in the book are told by professionals that things like dietary changes are worthless, even "dangerous." They are told that autism is a permanent condition and that alternative therapies are a waste of time.

McCarthy goes on to describe how these parents ignored the professionals and did everything they could to heal their children. McCarthy writes,

A Mother Warrior Is...

A mother who hears there is no hope for her child and, instead of retreating and mourning, breaks down walls, weaves her way through obstacles, follows her intuition even when people tell her she is crazy. She is a mother who believes in hope. A mother who believes in miracles and is able to carry on with strength and determination, even when her partner doubts her and offers no support. A mother who never gives up when she keeps hitting dead ends. These are the women who will continue to open the door so future generations of kids don't have to suffer. These are the mothers with hearts of gold and shields made of the strongest armor.

I know in my heart that someday this era will be marked as an era when a group of parents fought the giants to help save their babies and future generations. Margaret Mead, the late great sociologist, once said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

I haven't been closely involved with the autism movement, but I know many, many mother warriors through the adoption community; mothers who are working to heal their children from debilitating attachment/trauma issues that are so often inherent with adoption.

I encourage you to read this book and look around you...chances are you are also surrounded by warrior parents...who each and every day are fighting for the physical and/or emotional health and well being of their children. If you know one...or two, or ten, or hundreds, ...take a moment to tell them just how wonderful you think they are!

YOU ARE WONDERFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This book reminds me so much of the journey that we've been on.... My son's conditions have never been physically life-threatening, but they did consume almost every moment of every day for several years. We, too, were told that this was not curable, that we were wasting our money. I'm here to say that the professionals were wrong.

Carry on, parent warriors everywhere!!!!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Day 12, Garden Harvest (93...Free!)

We woke this morning to a frosty ground and frozen car windows. This afternoon we scrambled to get the majority of the garden harvested. Tonight I'm making another quadruple batch of tomato sauce, but the ingredients (now canning in a boiling water bath) barely made a dent. I need to can a "few" more tomatoes, it looks like. ;) If anyone has good recipes for butternut squash/pumpkin (esp. gluten/casein free), please post. We have a "few" of those, too.

Day 11, Readers' Thoughts (93...Free!)

I've had a couple people comment on some of the 93...Free! posts. Here are some hints from other families...

First, on school yearbooks...
A friend told me that our local school sells yearbooks the fall following the year they come out for half price or less. So, for example, a yearbook from spring 2008 would be selling at the school in fall 2008 for a significant discount. If you're desperate for a yearbook, that won't work. However, if you have a young child and feel like yearbooks are optional, it might be worth putting if off and checking the school office the next fall. That's what I'll probably do when 'LilDude is the only child in our family still attending our elementary school. I don't think a yearbook is necessary for a first grader, but I wouldn't mind having one for half price.

On medicine expiration dates...
Based on what I heard (second hand from a medical professional), I'll probably save a lot of our expired over-the-counter medications. Obviously, that's a personal call and people needs to decide what's best for their families, but I heard enough to consider keeping meds a while longer. I suggest checking with medical professionals and asking them the question if you're interested.

On "Entitlement" and instilling contentment in children without all the emphasis on material possessions, etc...

An anonymous reader posted a comment after that entry. I LOVE what she has to say. Sometime I'll write about birthday parties. We've tried to get creative in that department.

Here's what the anonymous reader's worth repeating!

This is actually a core family value for me. I think about it all the time and I work on it all the time.

I've done a number of things to try and instill this value in my kids.

1. No birthday party or Xmas excess. I don't do birthday parties where 20 kids each bring a $20 gift. We do family birthdays and a limited friend thing -- with the exception of a single party my 10 yo had at age 6 where we invited all 9 girls from her daycare class to a pottery painting place. This party marked the end of daycare days and she still talks about it.

2. We inherit used clothing (or buy used clothing) and inherit some great used toys. My kids are fine with this.

3. The school my oldest attends has a large socioeconomic range, with a trend towards families of modest means. This has created a peer culture that is remarkably free of consumerism. So, I have nothing to counter at home. School friends live simply ... and so do we.

4. We spend a lot of time together just hanging out as a family or going to community events together (that's very cheap and models that you don't have to spend money to have fun!)

5. I had a friend give my oldest $20 for her birthday each year in small coin denominations, to buy scholastic books. The intent was to provide a math activity. The bonus was that it gave an opportunity to teach about getting value for your money (NOT buying the books with the gadgets which are much more expensive for gadgets that are poor quality) and also NOT buying this month (if nothing really appealed) so you would have more money the next month if there was something you really wanted but was more expensive.

6. I talk about money decisions I make in a kid friendly way. E.g. They see me research what to do before deciding on a new mortgage, a new investment etc. If they want something frivolous and I say "no", I explain that you have to make choices about how to spend your money and that that wouldn't be a good choice (and why).

7. I'm explicit. I tell them, "Love is more important than money".

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Crisp Cucumber Salad

Several years ago, my friend, Elizabeth, came for dinner. She selected a cucumber from our garden and created the most delicious cucumber concoction I've ever eaten. She recreated her "recipe" for me. We've made it numerous times since. It's inexpensive (esp. if you have garden cucumbers), tasty, and easy to make.

Elizabeth's Cucumber Salad

Peel and slice 1 cucumber.

Crush 1 clove garlic onto cucumbers.


1 T. olive oil
2 t. red wine vinegar
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/2 - 1 t. dried basil (to taste)

Stir. Let sit 15 minutes. Stir again. Serve.

Polydron Plug

I recently had the privilege of teaching 4th-6th grade TAG (talented/gifted.) If students finished the current activity, they were invited to "choice time." Many children chose the polydrons. They were quite fascinated by this math manipulative that can be used to create any number of geometric structures. Age-wise, they are quite versatile; 'LilDude's kindergarten class owns a set. So if you're looking for something new to "play" with (and get a little learnin' in on the side), this might be an option to explore.

In the last several years, we've done less with individual Christmas gifts and more with "family gifts." If you have grade schoolers, this is a nice option. BTW, I don't make anything from mentioning Polydrons; I just like 'em. ;)

P.S. You might find it ironic that a post on something for sale follows a post on buying/entitlement. I don't. ;) I'm not against buying. I'm against buying to excess things that stretch us beyond our means. We'll be buying Christmas gifts. But only a select few. :) More on that later.

Day 10, Entitlement (93...Free!)

Growing up, we didn't stop in at McDonald's if we were running late. We didn't grab a pack of gum or a bag of M&M's at the checkout counter. We didn't routinely go out to eat and we never stopped at the department store's snack counter for a treat. It just wasn't a part of our lives. If we asked for a toy at the store or wished aloud to stop at the gum machine or the mechanical horse, the reply was always, "Well, did you bring your money?"

In the last twenty years, it seems that people have gone from thinking of "Happy Meals" as extras to thinking of them as a routine part of life. We're somehow entitled to that daily cup of Starbucks or a mega-sized Jamba Juice. Why? Why are we entitled to all these "extras"--no longer extras--that really aren't that good for us...and are costly??

So often, our sense of entitlement results in us living beyond our means. Our kids aren't entitled to Happy Meals...and neither are we. Our pocketbooks would be thicker and our waists and homes would be leaner if we stopped buying things that we don't need. It takes very little to be truly happy.

This whole post actually came about because my mom and I were talking about the current economic crisis. She said that she is thankful that our family is content with so little...we aren't big on "things." It's true. Now I am led to consider ways of passing that feeling of contentment to my children.

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Day 9, Movies, Sick Days, & Borrowing (93...Free!)

Although he is slowly getting better, 'LilDude is still sick. He's been home from school two days and won't return tomorrow since he still has a low grade fever.

At our house, kids don't watch much t.v. But when they're sick, that guideline goes out the window. I'm happy for anything that will distract them.

We don't have cable. Our t.v. is upstairs in our family room and since 'LilDude wants to be close to the action (downstairs) when he's sick, that also eliminates regular t.v. So it's movie time.

I don't like to own many movies. They take up space. And, although they don't cost a tremendous amount individually, they can add up. I have picked up a few inexpensively from used library sales, garage sales, etc... We've received a few as gifts. And we've bought a few favorites. (The Waltons for me!) But when kids are sick we quickly run through the gamut of our video library.

That's when it's so nice to:

1. Borrow from the library...although that takes a drive into town, potentially carting along a sick kid.

2. Borrow from a friend! I can't tell you how many times I've been grateful to be able to trade movies with my neighbor. She owns some. We own some. When kids are sick, it's awesome to be able to swap. Lizzi was sick a few weeks ago. She put in a call to our neighbor and I was met at the bus stop by kids carrying armloads of movies.

I like that... Save a little money. And make better use of what you own by loaning it out. What can you loan a friend?

Just to get you thinking...

I borrow a huge stainless steel pot once or twice a year to make large batches of spaghetti and tomato sauces. A friend borrows my big enamel juicer (stovetop) so that she can make grape juice once a year. It's awesome to not have to own/store every large appliance/tool.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Day 8, Medicine Cabinet MELTDOWN!!!! (93...Free!)

I am very grateful that some of the wisest people in the world read Rich Moments. I need your help.

'LilDude stayed home sick today. High fever. I generally follow my pediatrician's guidelines and let fevers do their thing...but when it went over 104, I decided enough was enough...and headed to the medicine cabinet, where it looked like a tornado (or a family of six) had plowed through.

Our children's fever medicine was past its expiration date. It wasn't terribly old, so I went ahead and gave it to him; thankfully, it worked.

After 'LilDude was situated, I emptied the cupboard, determined to only put back things that were up-to-date. I did. My medicine cabinet is now basically EMPTY. I said goodbye to sinus tablets, allergy pills, antacids, aspirin, nasal sprays, anti-diarrheal meds, Tylenol, pink tummy liquid, children's cold medicine, samples of geltabs and PM cold medicine and caplets.

I hate the waste! I hate to waste money. I hate the inconvenience...of buying once and now having to buy again...and maybe not having what I want in the middle of the night when someone is sick. I hate the fact that our water is being polluted with disposed meds.

Do YOU keep medicine past expiration dates? How long? What is okay to keep and what should be thrown away?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Your-Way Wraps

Tonight's menu...FAST food, "Your-Way Wraps." Each person made his/her own wrap, selecting from the following:

tortillas (corn and whole wheat)
black beans
chopped tomatoes
chopped red peppers
grated cheese
steamed broccoli (slightly steamed in small chunks)
Ranch dressing
green beans (to eat on the side)
sliced tomatoes (to eat on the side)

My only guidelines? "Eat some veggies!"

And my poor husband. He put his wrap together only to have it snatched from under his I could take a picture. "I want to eat it while it's hot!"

Me, focusing, "It'll only take a sec!"

I took a couple photos. Handed him back his wrap. He says, "Let me see."

"My pictures? I thought you wanted to eat while it's hot."

He looks through my digital photos. "It'll look better if you take it at a more upright angle." He hands his plate back.

He did eventually eat. :) It might not have been quite as hot, but I did get a better photo. Thanks, honey! ;)

Day 7, You Wash What??!! (93...Free!)

Lizzi came home from soccer practice, rather amused. Each player brings her own snacks from home. After this particular snack time, Lizzi was one of the only kids left in the area and the following conversation ensued...

Soccer Coach: Lizzi, pick up the snack garbage.

Lizzi looks around.

Lizzi: But none of it's mine.

Coach looks at all the wrappers on the ground.

Coach: What?

Lizzi: My mom doesn't buy pre-wrapped snacks.

Coach: Oh. Well, you probably tossed your bag then.

Lizzi: No, I didn't. I put it in my backpack to take home. My mom washes all our bags.

Coach: She does what??

Lizzi: She washes the bags and we use them again.

Coach: Oh. I never thought of that.

Lizzi: And if we have plastic to throw away, we collect it and take it to a plastic recycling center. [Thanks, Lisa!]

Coach: I didn't know you could do that.

My "Bag Washing 101" training began at birth, I believe. I have washed bags all my life. I don't think the object was ever frugality (although it certainly saves $) as much as it was saving the landfill from excess waste.

These days, we wash all zippered bags in hot, soapy water, and reuse them. I turn them inside out and set them upright on a clean dishtowel to dry or hang them (esp. large ones) from magnetic clips on my fridge or over my oven (when it's off!) If a bag is used to hold meat, I dispose it.

I used to wash all breadbags. With 'LilDude's gluten intolerance (we buy bread for the rest of the family), I've taken to recycling the bags so as not to cross-contaminate his food.

Lizzi mentioned a big money-saver in our home...we don't buy pre-packaged snacks. Manufacturers charge a huge amount to do the packaging for you. I don't need that help, thank you. ;) We buy larger boxes or bags of items (pretzels, crackers, dried fruit, etc...) and individually package them as needed.

And wash the bags when we're done. :)

Honestly, I'm more disturbed by all the packaging waste that comes with snacks than I am by the lost money. If I had to, I'd pay more to prevent all that garbage from ending up in the landfill. Luckily, it's actually the other way 'round. :)

Oh, and whenever possible, we don't use bags at all. 'LilDude brings a snack to kindergarten everyday in a dishwasher-safe plastic container. He's been great about returning them to his backpack everyday. So far this year, his snacks have included grapes (backyard), cherry tomatoes (garden), crackers/cereal/pretzels (gluten free), dried fruit, nuts, etc...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Let's talk CHRISTMAS!

Okay, so I know it's a bit early. But any day now, our senses are going to be bombarded with messages telling us to buy, buy, buy. Walk in any store from October to December, and you'll see Christmas (or at least the retailers' image of Christmas), plastered everywhere.

At first I thought it'd be easiest to keep my Christmas posts on a separate blog. But my life is already complicated enough, without further complicating it. So I'm going to post my Christmas reflections here.

Are you excited about the coming Christmas season? Finances a little tight? Or maybe you are looking for ways to de-commercialize Christmas and focus on the real reason for the season? For the next several months, let's consider what it takes to make this season enjoyable...all without breaking the bank!

If you are planning to make this a FUN and FRUGAL Christmas in your home, please add a comment below with your blog address and I will add your blog to a list. That way, we can check in with fellow bloggers to see their preparations for Christmas.

To jumpstart your thinking, consider the work of Advent Conspiracy. Here's a blurb from their website:

"The story of Christ's birth is a subversive story of an upside-down kingdom. It's a story of promise, hope, and a revolutionary love that is still changing the world to this day. So, what happened? What was once a time to celebrate the birth of a savior has somehow turned into a season of stress, traffic jams, and shopping lists. And when it's all over, many of us are left with presents to return, looming debt that will take months to pay off, and this empty feeling that we somehow missed its purpose.

Is this what we really want out of Christmas?

What if Christmas became a world-changing event again by turning our focus back to the birth of Christ? What could happen to your family if this focus was celebrated in loud, bold and totally unexpected ways? What if you could actually trade your season of stress for a season celebration and unbelievable memories with your friends and family? What if all of this could save a life at the same time? It can.

Welcome to Advent Conspiracy"

Day 5-6, Water Heaters! (93...Free!)

What would a discussion about saving money be without at least a mention of large appliances?? They may be boring, but they're expensive, so they count! ;)

Last week, our water heater went on the fritz...more specifically, at our house the water came:



2. BOILING HOT...and I mean BOILING. While attempting to do dishes one night, I royally scalded my hand.

Apparently, in water heater-ease, our water heater was desperately trying to say, "My elements are DONE!!" It didn't take too many sinks of burning dishwater and freezing showers to figure that out.

I was immensely grateful that dh was able to look at the water heater instructions and fix it himself. When trying to save $, it helps to have a handy husband. (Handy wives are great too, but I don't happen to be one!)

He also saved money in the tool department; when he realized that he needed a large socket wrench (bigger than any we own), he made two phone calls, lucking out on the second call. He borrowed the wrench, saving himself a trip to town (gas!) and the $10 or so that the tool would have cost. This was new. Usually, he'd be quick to jump in the car and drive to town for any tool he needed. It was awesome watching him slow down, consider the expense, and make an effort to borrow rather than buy. Do you try to borrow instead of buy whenever it's a reasonable option?

Our only out-of-the-ordinary expense came in buying the replacement elements. He drove about 20 miles to buy the replacement, using the trip to make several other stops (to make it worth the gas money.) But once he got home, it was obvious that he'd been given the wrong another 40 mile round trip to get the right one. The clerk's mistake cost about $8 or so in gas. Bummer.

On trip #1, dh stopped to do our MAJOR grocery shopping, bless his heart. We've always made an effort to combine trips, but these days it seems that I don't go out unless I have a significant list of stops to make. We only do a major shopping trip every couple months, and stop at local stores to replenish perishables like milk. This trip was a large expense, but we shouldn't have to do another one until closer to the holidays.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

'LilDude Grows by Leaps & Bounds

Last week, 'LilDude was invited to the Principal's Recognition Breakfast. He was nominated by his teacher who said, "'LilDude has shown good leadership qualities in our classroom. He is kind and respectful to his classmates and his teacher. He completes his work neatly and quickly each day." At the breakfast, he wasn't quite sure what all the hoopla was about. But several times since then, I've watched him quietly go over to the fridge where his award is posted. He touches the paper and reads it to himself. He has worked so, so hard to overcome his difficult start in life. He has probably also felt the pressure to compete with siblings that are years older than him. For 'LilDude, that piece of paper is proof that someone besides Mom and Dad recognizes his inherent value.

At the beginning of the year I told 'LilDude's teacher that it took most of last year to feel comfortable in preschool and that he was apprehensive about this year. Yesterday at school the teacher took me aside to ask me how he was feeling about the year. He loves school. On a daily basis he talks about how fun it is...well, most of the credit goes to playing Spiderman at recess...but that's to be expected when you're 6. During nighttime prayers he's often prayed, "Thank you that I get to go to school tomorrow."

The teacher said that she wanted me to know that she really meant what she said on his award. She said that 'LilDude is the leader in her classroom. The day he was sick she felt like the classroom wasn't the same, that it was missing a crucial person. She went on to say how other kids look to him to know how to function in class. I told her that his preschool teacher wouldn't recognize him as compared to last year.

All this to say...never, ever underestimate the power of a human being to overcome life's difficulties. All of us have a tremendous capacity to grow & change given the right tools.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Family Friendly Meal: Chinese Meatballs

Anytime 'LilDude asks for thirds, I consider it a recipe worth sharing! ;) Tonight we enjoyed Chinese Meatballs from the More With Less Cookbook. I have used this cookbook for years but didn't discover this particular recipe until recently. I love it for several reasons. Kids like it. Husbands like it. It uses lots of garden produce. It's gluten/casein free. And it's an "all in one"...protein, veggies/fruit, and grain all take part in the single dish.

Chinese Meatballs
Serves 8 (at our house, that's probably pushing it :)

Cook rice or noodles to serve 8.
Prepare and reserve ready to fry:

1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 green peppers, sliced
1 large onion, sliced (I left out this time)
1 1/2 c. frozen peas (I used frozen peas/carrots)
2 large tomatoes, cut in wedges
1 1/2 c. pineapple chunks, drained (reserve juice)

Season, shape into small balls, and fry:

1 1/2 lb. ground beef (I used 2 lbs.)

Combine and pour over meatballs:
3/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. vinegar
3 T. soy sauce (I use gluten free)
1/2 t. ginger
juice from pineapple
2-3 T. cornstarch

Allow sauce to thicken, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.

In separate skillet, stir-fry veggies in small amount of hot oil until crisp-tender, adding tomatoes and pineapple last. Serve on large platter with rice or noodles in center, meatballs around, veggies over the rice, and sauce over all.

Note: I choose to mix the meatballs/sauce and veggies before serving. Then it's only a matter of scooping the meatball/veggie mixture onto rice.

I found a garden curiosity when I was preparing dinner. I cut open a red pepper and discovered a baby green pepper growing inside. The "baby" tasted like a regular green pepper.

Day 4, Work Clothes (93...Free!)

I walked into a store today. Always dangerous territory. ;) Clothes were 60% off the last marked price. I bought two shirts. (paid $7.99, regular $24, and $9.19, regular $28) Lizzi also bought one for herself with a gift card she's been saving. While the discount was significant, it was still money out of our pockets.

The fact that I felt the need to buy the shirts leads me to an interesting much does it cost YOU to WORK? For the last 13+ years, I've been a stay-at-home-mom, occasionally doing editing/curriculum work at home...generally sitting at the computer, sometimes in my jammies. But recently, I've taken more jobs in which I have to leave the house. People actually SEE me. I often present in front of groups where I'm expected to look professional. A year ago I realized that my wardrobe--mostly jeans and sweatshirts--wasn't going to cut it. A friend took me shopping and helped me pick out a couple outfits. I hoped that this would be enough. Usually it is. But when I have a lot of consecutive days in one place, I'm forced to consider more than 2-3 ensembles. ;)

Luckily, my contract work covers transportation, meals, and most other needed materials. If it didn't, I'd have to reevaluate the money in, money out ratio. I recommend reading Shattering the Two-Income Myth by Andy Dappen to help you consider how much a second job actually "costs" your family.

Today I was also grateful for health insurance. Yesterday, Lizzi ran into the garage, the concrete surface wet from rain. Her flipflops flopped her into the air and down onto her tailbone/back. She was in tears and unable to catch her breath for a long time afterward. Today, we called our regular chiropractor and learned that his new insurance agreements no longer include our company. It would have cost $150 or so. He referred us to another chiro in town that was covered...thankfully, only a $20 co-pay. But we'll pay another $20 on Monday for a recheck to make sure all is still in alignment. I'm grateful, but realize that without insurance (as it is for so many others), the expense could be overwhelming.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Day 3, Music Lessons (93...Free!)

Here's one expense that I don't consider an "extra." Things would have to get really tight around here for us to cut out music lessons. We currently have one child in guitar, two children in piano, and one child in community orchestra. Today we pay the monthly guitar bill. I am so, so pleased with Anakin's continuing love for the guitar. Without question, his instructor feeds that interest. The only way we're currently "saving" on music lessons is that Lizzi gives violin lessons to 'LilDude. Sibling bonding, ya know? ;) In the past we have used instructors that were young and less musically educated and therefore, cheaper. Currently, the kids are at a high enough level of music instruction so as to eliminate that as an option. That's okay. We'll skip going out to eat and take music lessons instead. ;)

P.S. on Day 2...picture day results...
I didn't buy any photos for Lizzi. She'll get a yearbook and I'll do my annual backyard photo shoot with all the kids. (Last year, I took digital photos and made extra copies at 17 cents each to hand out to family. They turned out studio-quality, IMO.)

I bought a class picture for 'LilDude for $8. For $1.50 more I could buy 6 photos of him. I paid the $1.50. [Roll eyes.]

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Day 2, School Pictures (93...Free!)

The easiest way for me to not spend money? Not go to the store! I don't have plans to go anywhere today, so that part is easy.

But I have a problem tacked to my fridge. Two order sheets for school picture day tomorrow. School pictures, blah! They never turn out well, yet I feel like a bad mom if I don't order some. Last year, Lizzi didn't like the ones she brought home at all and was only too happy to return them to school. But I feel like I need to at least order a class photo for 'LilDude. At $8, I don't consider it cheap.

Last fall, I took a lot of photos of the kids in our backyard with the fall foliage. They turned out great...nice enough to frame for the living room. So maybe an $8 class photo for 'LilDude, a yearbook for Lizzi (already purchased that at the beginning of the year), and some photos in the backyard???

Hmmmmm. What do YOU do about school pictures???

On-Line Election Game for Kids

Here's an election game for kids to play on-line. Anakin and I played this morning. He won! ;)
Related Posts with Thumbnails