Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Birds (Chickens) and the Bees...

Well they had to learn sometime...

Today Anakin and 'LilDude were playing out in the 50+ degree sunshine. (Gorgeous, btw!) 'LilDude observed the rooster "attacking" one of the hens. Jumpin' on her and bitin' her and everything!!!! So he went to "save" the hen.

The rooster went on a slight rampage after 'LilDude. Anakin rescued him. They both ran breathlessly up to the house, "Mom! Come here! Quick!" to tell me about the attack rooster. I explained that when a rooster is interrupted in the process of making baby chickens that he probably isn't very happy and, yes indeedy, he will probably chase you. It was an eye opening moment for all.

Dog Days

I've never considered myself a dog person. Although we had a dog growing up, he was outdoors and I was thought to be allergic, so I never spent much time with him.

Four kids later...

I think Lizzi started asking for a dog about as soon as she could talk. Almost two years ago we finally relented. We found ourselves in the same boat that Obama mentions...although we would have just as soon picked a mutt from the pound, allergies forced us to look at more $$$ dogs. We finally selected a mini labradoodle. For the longest time, I tried to keep her relegated to only certain areas of the house. To me, dogs were still outdoor creatures and not something that just wanders the house.

Well, Sara the dog proves that even I can change.

Sara has gradually taken over the house. I regularly trip over her while making dinner. But I never have to pick any food off the floor. We vacuum more often. But I always have a soft doggie to warm up my legs while I sit on the couch. And...I love this...when one of the kids is sick, Sara is quick to find them and snuggle in while they rest. Tonight, 'LilDude came down with a fever of 102. (Likely thanks to a visit to the pediatrician on Monday for a flu mist. After consulting with a few people, I'm guessing that it's more likely from the germs he picked up on the visit than it is from the actual vaccination.) I just put him to bed with Sara snuggled in to keep him company. Even when 'LilDude isn't sick, she often likes to go to bed with him, if only for a little while. He appreciates not having to go to bed alone.

We love you, Sara!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Meal Plan Monday

My first Meal Plan Monday post!!!!

What's for dinner this week?

Monday: Curried Sweet Potato Chowder (see previous post)

Tuesday: Easy Curry with Rice (More With Less cookbook), broccoli, apples

Wednesday: Meatloaf, Frugal French Fries, Squash and Apple Bake

Thursday: Thanksgiving Dinner @ Mom's. Bring Butternut Squash Casserole.

Friday: Chicken & Veggie Stirfry (More With Less cookbook)

Day 48, Curried Sweet Potato Chowder (93...Free!)

In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, sweet potatoes are usually a pretty good deal. I just picked up 4 for $1.75 (3lbs @ .58/lb) at our local grocery. Not a bad time to stock up. Since sweet potatoes rank #1 among veggies, you really get a lot of nutritional bang for your buck.

The following recipe for Curried Sweet Potato Chowder comes from our church camp. I liked it so much I asked for the recipe. The odd amounts are no doubt the result of reducing a camp recipe to a serving size of 8.

Curried Sweet Potato Chowder

2/3 onion, chopped
1 1/2 T. oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t. curry powder
4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 1/8 lbs chicken broth
5/8 lb coconut milk, unsweetened (I used about 2/3rd of a can)
dash ginger, to taste
dash pepper, to taste
dash salt, to taste

In soup pot, cook onion in hot oil over medium heat. Add curry and garlic and cook until onion is tender. Add sweet potatoes, chicken broth, coconut milk and ginger. Bring to boil. Reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 10-15 minutes until sweet potatoes are tender. Cool slightly.

Remove half the mixture from pot and in small batches, place mixture in blender and blend until smooth. Return to soup mixture in pot. Add pepper and salt; heat through.

Serve with peanuts and raisins for toppings, optional.

Day 47, Another Free Online Photo Book! (93...Free!)

On Saturday, I mentioned that I made a free photo book through Snapfish. Today I found another offer. SimpleMom outlines an offer through Inkubook where you can design your own photo book online for free. You just pay postage. See the SimpleMom site for details and promotion code.

And if you're waiting for your toddler/older child to arrive home, consider making an Adoption Welcome Book.

Day 46: Sweet Vegetables Using Butternut Squash (93...Free!)

My favorite international recipes generally come from Extending the Table...A World Community Cookbook. I recently tried one from Indonesia called "Sweet Vegetables." This sweet, creamy vegetable sidedish tasted exotic...and yummy! Coconut milk isn't cheap, but all the vegetables are from home. I'm on a mission to use butternut squash! ;) Here's my version of the dish...

Sweet Vegetables (Indonesia)
from Extending the Table

In a saucepan, bring to boil:

2 c. coconut milk
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. onion, diced
1 t. ginger root, minced
1/2 t. ground turmeric
2 t. salt
diced jalapeno, to taste

When boiling, add 3 c. cubed butternut squash. You may substitute up to half the squash with green beans. (I used beans directly from the freezer.) Simmer until squash is tender.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Day 45, FIVE egg days! (93...Free!)

The last two days we've gathered FIVE eggs a day (from our seven hens). Friends have mentioned that their chickens are reducing egg production as the days get shorter. It seems that some extra light makes a big difference. We have a timer set on a 40 watt bulb in the chicken mansion to go on at 4 am, off at 7 am. That 3 hours seems to matter. We're also totally free ranging them for a good share of the day. We let 'em out of the coop to wander. They are tame enough that they seem to come back to the coop when we go out there. I love it that they are eating stuff other than purchased chicken feed! ;) They eat a lot!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

My 6-year-old poet!

Today 'LilDude decided that he was going to write a poem. This was all his idea. He gathered his pen and paper and lay down on our cold, concrete front step and looked out at the trees. And wrote.

Day 45, Adoption Welcome Book (93...Free!)

A week or so ago, Snapfish had a coupon offer to get a free 8 x 11" photo book for the price of shipping. The book is regularly $29.99 and shipping is $6.99. I decided to try it.

I made a book to welcome our new family member. The book basically shows "a day in the life of" our family. We plan to take it along and spend time looking at it with him while we're still in China...using it to acquaint him with our home, family, routine, etc... Feel free to use the concept to make your own book to welcome a child into your family. Here's the text I used with notes on the photos I used.

1. It's morning! (shows house photo)
2. Time to wake up! (each family member waking up in bed)
3. Mommy cooks eggs. We eat breakfast. (photos of each action)
4. We feed the chickens. Gather the eggs.(related photos)
5. We feed Sara (dog) and the cats.(related photos)
6. We get ready for the day (photos of brushing hair, shaving, etc...)
7. We go to work and school (school bus, car)
8. At home we work and play. (related photos)
9. Sometimes we play inside. Then we go outside. (outdoor/indoor photos)
10. We play. We work in the garden. (related photos)
11. Grandpa and Grandma visit. We go to Nana and Poppa's. (photos of them)
12. On Sunday we go to church and see our friends. (church, friend photos)
13. We like to go on trips. It's fun to ride in the motorhome. (related photos)
14. We go camping.(related photos)
15. We go to the mountains and the beach.(related photos)
16. But it's nice to come home. (interior home shots)
17. It's fun to swim. And play ball.(related photos)
18. (photos of all siblings)
19. We love you, _________! (family photo)
20. Welcome to the family! (photo of child)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Day 44, Frugal and Gluten Free??? (93...Free!)

Some of us were discussing food budgets on a family forum. One of the things that came up was the high cost of gluten free bread. When we learned that 'LilDude needed a gluten free diet, bread was high on my list of concerns. We've naturally cut waaaaaayyy back on bread...especially sandwiches. But we still need some sandwich bread as well as bread for toast (to go with eggs.)

Gluten free bread is about $5/loaf...a SMALL loaf. It's about the same for gf bread mix. So I bake. About once every 4-6 weeks, I make 4 loaves of gluten free bread using The Gluten-free Gourmet Bakes Bread. My favorite recipe is the "Basic Featherlight Rice Bread." To me, the taste and consistency is closest to that of wheat bread. It's a delicious bread...crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. And it smells delicious when baking.

The bread does not bake up very high. (If it's supposed to, I've never figured it out!) But the size is perfect for 'LilDude. Two slices of this bread make what looks like half of a regular sandwich. If he's really hungry, I make him two sandwiches since they're small.

After the bread cools, I slice it and freeze in zippered bags. I put two piece of bread face-to-face and lay them that way in the bag so I can easily pull out enough for one sandwich at a time.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Day 43, Crockpot Beef Stew (93...Free!)

I usually make beef stew following the recipe that came with my crockpot. It's good, but with some modifications I tried yesterday, it was the best beef stew I've ever made. I was particularly happy with it because pretty much everything came from the garden...always a plus! ;) Here's what I did...

Beef Stew

1 lb stew meat cut into small pieces
1/4 c. flour (gluten free for us)
1 t. salt, or to taste
1/2 t. pepper, or to taste
1 1/2 c. boiling water
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
1/2 t. paprika
4 carrots, sliced
4 potatoes, diced
1/2 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, sliced (with leaves, chopped)
2 t. Kitchen Bouquet (opt.)
1 - 2 c. corn

Place meat in crockpot. Mix in flour, salt, pepper, stirring with meat to coat. Add 1 1/2 c. boiling water and stir. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours. (I did this part first thing in the morning.)

After 4-5 hours (around lunch time), add all remaining ingredients EXCEPT corn. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or til veggies are cooked. Add additional (boiling) water toward end of cooking time if you want it more "soupy." Add corn in the last 30 minutes of cooking, enough to heat it up. Green beans are another great addition.

Note: If you can't add ingredients in the middle of the day, it works to do it all day on low heat. I just think it turned out better when I cooked the meat for awhile before adding everything else.

Free Hannah Overton

If you haven't seen this 20/20 show, I highly encourage you to watch it. It's available to watch in 3 parts on YouTube.

It made me feel ill. It could have happened to any parent...particularly a parent of an adoptive child with special needs. To summarize, a child died of salt poisoning and the mother has been convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

The child clearly had undiagnosed attachment/trauma issues. He also had Pica. The day he died the mom nodded off for a few moments (she'd been in a car accident and was on bedrest with a pregnancy). Soon after she got up, he had a major tantrum and vomited. He seemed cold and she put him in a warm bath, thinking he was getting the flu. 90 minutes later when he still didn't seem okay, they took him to urgent care. At urgent care's doorstep, he went into convulsions and basically went into system failure. They immediately took the parents into questioning and WOULDN'T ALLOW THEM NEAR THE CHILD EVEN AS HE LAY DYING. He died the next day.

She says that he had huge food issues (confirmed by others.) That day, he tantrumed over wanting more soup. He had two bowls of soup that was flavored with a Cajun salt seasoning. In order to end his tantrums, she gave him a sippy cup of water, tinged with a sprinkle of the same salt flavoring in the hopes that he'd stop tantruming. If you know anything about RAD (reactive attachment disorder), you know how bad the "tantrums" might be.

Later they found out he'd been poisoned with salt. Experts say that they believe that when she nodded off to sleep for a moment that he got into the salt and ate a lot of it (because of the Pica.) The prosecution wanted to say that she force-fed him that much salt, which she denies. An expert says that he has investigated multiple cases of foster children with pica ingesting large quantities of salt and poisoning themselves.

They had a videocam in his bedroom for safety reasons...which the prosecution gave as proof that she was a bad parent. (I don't get that...why would videotaping a child to make sure he was SAFE be a BAD thing?) They also tried to show how much a monster she was by showing his bed--a sheet of plywood. But the day before, he'd gone into a rage and smeared feces all over his mattress and sheets. (Another RAD behavior.) They hauled the mattress out to clean it and had him sleep on their floor in a sleeping bag that night. They burned the sheets because they were so badly soiled. All of this the prosecution used to show how "monstrous" they were. By watching the story, it's pretty obvious (if you know anything about RAD) that they were trying the best they could to cope with some pretty severe behaviors. But they desperately LOVED their son and wanted only what was best for him. The mother had no idea that the child was near death. It's beyond me that anyone could think Hannah would purposely force feed him salt. The Pica theory makes sense. And the experts say that even medical professionals don't recognize the symptoms of salt poisoning when they see it.

She is now sentenced to LIFE IN PRISON. Her husband is trying to keep up their five other young children at home. (The youngest born while she was in prison.)

I frankly found it terrifying and unbelievable. BTW, in order for her to get a life sentence she had to be found guilty of one of two things:

1. purposely trying to kill him with salt (not proven at all)
2. purposely withholding medical attention when she knew he was dying.
(Even the expert said that with the rarity of salt poisoning, even most DOCTORS wouldn't be able to identify it. They jumped all over her for not getting help sooner. I'd say 90 minutes is pretty fast for "flu like symptoms", wouldn't you??)

When they interviewed two jurors, neither appeared at all sure of herself.

The whole thing is disturbing and bizarre. Like I said, it could have happened to any parent. Justice was not served.

If you are touched by her story and want to help, go to the Free Hannah Overton website and ask how you can help.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Day 42, 4 Egg Day!!!! (93...Free!)

Can't believe I ever complained about these chickens. Today we got 4 eggs (from our 7 hens!) We started giving them some time outside their chicken mansion yard, so maybe that's making them particularly productive. ;) Whatever the case, we like it!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Day 41, Christmas Cards (93...Free!)

Christmas cards and postage can be expensive. With envelopes, they use a lot of paper. Many get tossed after the holidays. It's time consuming to send them. And sometimes they seem unnecessary...especially for those that you see all the time.

I've been reading A Simple Christmas. One idea in particular caught my eye.

The author, Alice Chapin, describes how a church congregation (or other group that regularly meets) could save money by posting ONE Christmas card from each family on a bulletin board for the ENTIRE congregation rather than individually giving cards to every family. She then suggests using the money saved for a known financial need...either a charitable cause or a "project".

It seems that this could be applied to a lot of groups. For example, a playgroup (that regularly meets in one facility) could post cards in one location and use the money saved to purchase new supplies for the playgroup or to help a struggling local family buy Christmas gifts. Monies could be used to buy books for a library, stock a food pantry, or purchase warm clothing for local homeless.

In the case of some of the more elaborate photo cards, this could add up to quite a bit of money. Let's say that 20 families participated, each posting 1 card and donating the money they would have spent to distribute 19 cards. If each card costs 75 cents, that's:

19 cards/each family doesn't purchase x 75 cents/card x 20 families participating = $285

$285 could do a lot to purchase supplies for a group or to help a local family in need.

Lizzi, my 13yo, wrote a skit to introduce the concept to our congregation. Her 8th grade Sunday School class is raising money to buy warm clothing for homeless teens in our town. If anyone would like to modify the skit to fit their group, it's here for the taking! ;)

(Two kids standing center stage)

1: I wish I could do something to give the homeless kids in _____ a merry Christmas!

2: Me too. But with the economy like it is, I can’t spare anything.

1: I wish there was a way for us to earn money for those kids.

2: Yeah. Well, you know how we give Christmas cards to pretty much everyone in the congregation?

1: Yeah, so?

2: What if each family put one card on this bulletin board, and gave the extra money they saved by doing this to the homeless children in _____?

1: That would work, but I don’t buy Christmas cards! Think the adults could help us? comes one now...

(#3 comes walking fast through door, muttering to self about x-mas letter.)

3:Dear Friends and family. This year has gone by without much of anything happening. No….. that won’t work. Dear Loved ones, I hope this Christmas finds you and your family safe. Ugh.. that’s too boring, everyone says that. I’m never going to write a good letter in time!

1: Um, excuse me?

3: No time to talk! What’s a good opening for the perfect letter? Oh, never mind.

2: Do you have a moment?

3: No one has a moment during the holidays!

1: We’re raising money for homeless children in _____, would you like to donate? It only takes a litt-

3: I don’t have time! Let’s see, Jimmy turned 3 this year, I could put that down…..

(3 walks off stage, still writing)
(kids shrug.)

2: Oh! Here comes someone else!

1: Let’s ask them!

(#4 comes in, arms full of envelopes)

1: Wow! That’s a lot of cards!

4: Yes, and I still have to address them all!

2: Would you like to donate your change to give the homeless a merry Christmas?

4: I would love to dear, but I have to get these cards mailed! I have to send one to ________ (list a dozen names known to the group), oh and then there's ____________ (list names until exited off stage),….

2: Whoa.

(#5 comes in, has an order form for cards)

2:What’s that you have?

5: The order form for my Christmas cards

(kids look at each other and grin.)

1: Are you interested in making homeless children happy this year?

5: Yeah, but what can I do?

2: What if we told you that there is a bulletin board up at church where you can put up one Christmas card, and everyone could see it?

1: Then you can donate the money you save to help the children in ______ without a home!

5: Okay!

(#6 comes in, carrying a bag of cards)

6: Hey guys! What’s going on?

5: These kids had a great idea! We can put up one Christmas card at church, and give the money we save to charity!

6: But, I already bought my cards!

1: You can still donate if you’re feeling charitable!

2: Maybe, 10% of what you spent on the cards?

6: Great!

(5+6 walk off, whispering excitedly.)
(1+2 walk up to microphone)

1: At _____ high school alone, over 50 kids have been identified as homeless. We can let them know that someone cares. By giving one card to the congregation, rather than giving individual cards to each family, you can not only save money, but time, stress, and brain cells. Not to mention paper.

2: I mean, _______ doesn’t change from Sunday to Sunday!

1: And _______ has looked the same for the past 15 years!

Starting next Sunday, we will be at the bulletin board to collect your cards and--if you like--your donation. They money you donate will be used to buy warm clothing and supplies for homeless teens in our town.

All: Help us put the Christ back in Christmas!

Day 40, 3 Egg Day! (93...Free!)

It's our first 3 Egg Day!!! We're cluckin with happiness! ;)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Day 39, Storing Tomatoes (93...Free!)

I've got good news and I've got bad news...

The bad news is that we tilled up our green tomatoes. Then I read about how you can save green tomatoes in newspaper for months while they slowly ripen.

The good news is that my parents still had some tomatoes, so I tried it. They are ripening!

The bad news is that they taste (at least so far) like store-bought tomatoes. Not like a garden tomato.

The good news is that at this time of the year, they are my only option. (I'm not buying store tomatoes!) So I'm grateful for them anyway. ;)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Day 38, Cabbage Salad (93...Free!)

In my effort to eat in season, I've been on the lookout for cabbage salad recipes. I want a fall/winter alternative to the traditional green salad since lettuce isn't a winter crop in our area. (Although I'm currently trying to push the limits in my covered, raised bed...I'll let ya know if it works.)

My family is big on Asian flavors so when I saw a recipe on Owlhaven for Asian Salad dressing recommended for use with cabbage, I gave it a try.

I made it yesterday afternoon. 'LilDude and Anakin cruised through the kitchen (this was about an hour before dinner), hoping for something to eat. I popped a piece of cabbage in each of their mouths. They grinned and each sat down to "snack" on a bowlful of this salad. I cut one small cabbage into thin shreds for the recipe and it was gone today. Needless to say, it was a hit.

Please visit Owlhaven to see the original recipe. I tweaked it slightly...

Asian Salad Dressing

* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root (I used 1 t. ground ginger)
* 1/3 cup olive oil (or sesame oil is even better) (I put several large glugs of sesame oil at the bottom of a 1/3c. and then added olive oil til full)
* 1/3 cup white vinegar
* 1/3 cup soy sauce
* 3 tablespoons honey (I used 2 T. agave)
* 1/3 cup water

Mix well in a covered container. Heat slightly in a glass container in the microwave (w/out lid) in order to mix in the honey. I didn't heat it as much as recommended in the original recipe because the agave blended in pretty well without much heat.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Day 37, Eating in Season (93...Free!)

I've been thinking a lot about food. And about a comment that someone recently made...that you save money by what you DON'T buy. We often think of clipping coupons to save money. Or shopping sales. Or getting the best deal. But really, when it comes down to it, we do the best financially if we don't spend...or don't buy.

But you have to buy food, right? Well, unless you're completely self-sufficient you do. But there are still things we can do. We can avoid buying unnecessary items--pre-packaged foods, prepared foods--and things that are...


Ever think about how much extra we pay to indulge cravings for apples in early summer? Strawberries and lettuce in winter? Oranges in July? It adds up. And off season foods aren't as good for us anyway. They've likely either traveled thousands of miles (with pesticide residues from out of country, unregulated), or they've sat in storage for months, losing nutritional value. The quality of food depreciates too. I just read an article in this week's paper talking about how apples don't bake well after spending months in cold storage.

I used to dislike the idea of eating in season. I thought I'd get tired of whatever was seasonal. But I'm changing. I enjoy eating from the season. Somehow it makes me feel more in harmony with the earth. In spring, we ate berries til we could eat no more. In summer, corn, beans, tomatoes.

In our household, eating in season often means not having to buy at all. At the moment, we're enjoying apples off our two trees. Butternut squash. Garden carrots and cabbage. Every bit we eat is one bit we don't have to buy.

I know not everyone has a garden. (This is for you, Ans!) But I've noticed that our raised beds and our pots produce a fair amount of food.

Here's my first attempt at CELERY. It's actually done better this fall than it did all summer. Maybe it's a cool weather crop? Whatever the case, it's producing pretty well at the moment. Since celery is one of the dirty dozen, I'm happy that it's finally producing.

We've switched to Fall/Winter crops in our raised beds. I'm currently trying to grow spinach, lettuce, kale, mustard, bok choy. We had our favorite kale salad with the thinnings today.

If you have space for even one backyard pot, it might be worth giving a few seeds a try. 'LilDude and I recommend it. He and I spent the afternoon outside, getting our share of vitamin D. And dinner was worth the effort. Tacos/rice/beans (with canned garden salsa and tomatoes from garage storage), cabbage salad (I'll post that tomorrow), sweet squash, and frozen blueberries. Satisfying sigh. :)

Cost of Food at Home

Someone on the Holt forum posted the "Official USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels, U.S. Average, August 2007." It's quite fascinating. According to that data, the monthly "low-cost plan" (the lowest amount) means we should be spending $899/month for our family to eat at home. (In August 2007, that is.) Ouch.

Day 36, Snacks at School (93...Free!)

We don't eat a lot of in-between meal snacks. It's just not a habit we've ever started. During our homeschooling years we ate breakfast, lunch, dinner. No snacks. Now, with two kids in public school, it's a little different. Especially in kindergarten.

Kindergarteners are expected to take a snack each day. Thankfully, they are not allowed to bring drinks and are instead encouraged to use the water fountain. If drinks were required, I would invest in a BPA free water bottle and send it with water each day.

As far as snacks go, we've been able to send a healthy, gf/cf variety and not break the budget with pre-packaged foods. This year I've sent sliced apples, cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, bananas, dried fruit or nuts, pretzels, crackers, cereal, muffins, popcorn...none in snack packaging. Popcorn leftover from Sunday night snack time is one of the favorites. I usually put the snack in a small tupperware container (I have one with a turn lid) and it's always made it home.

What do you do for school snacks?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Day 35, Grocery Bill (93...Free!)

In an effort to eliminate unnecessary spending, we started recording all our expenditures last month. I've always thought that our food bill was low, but I wasn't sure exactly what it was. Here it can decide if it's low. :)

Groceries**, Oct. 2008
(currently feeding family of 5 at home, including one who is gf/cf)
**includes food only--no household supplies

Meat (2008-09 year)
I'm a little unsure as to how to account for this except to take the total and divide it by 12 months. We buy locally grown, primarily grass fed/free range meat and freeze it. So far this year we've purchased chicken and beef that should last 12 months (or more.) We have a down payment on half a pig that is to be butchered in December, but I don't have totals for that yet.

Chicken (20 birds, 100 lbs)


225 + 290 = 515 / 12 = $43/month (might be less if meat lasts more than 12 months--the beef certainly may)

So, with the meat addition, our Oct food bill was $366. Or just under $12/day for our family to eat. Not bad.

I tracked "Eating Out" separately. Last month we spent $76 on eating out. This includes pizzas and Chinese food we brought in, and all other restaurant meals. Obviously there weren't many. :) I'm pleased with this number and it's already made a difference in our expenditures this month. On Sunday, family members expressed interest in going out for a sit-down meal. The group included our family plus my parents. I conservatively estimated our cost at more than $50 for the group. When I mentioned that this was 2/3rds of the total "eating out" budget from last month, we agreed to stay home.

I'm very curious to see if the food budget holds steady this month. I would anticipate it being slightly higher during the holidays, but we'll see... We're certainly beating the recent KFC challenge (see the commercial?) to spend $10 or less on a family of 4 for dinner...I thought that smelled a little fishy. Chickeny?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Another Chickie Got the Hint!

Since we had one egg yesterday and one egg this morning, I assumed that one hen was laying. But we just found Egg #3!!!!!!!! Hallelujah! More than one of the Chicken Mansion Mommas got the hint!!!! :)

Seriously, this is FUN. ;)

Day 34, Miracles Continued... (93...Free!)

You've been holding your breath, waiting to find out what was inside THE egg, haven't you??? Well, here it is! Beautiful and currently baking in a gf coffee cake in my oven. :)

And the BEST NEWS??? The Chicken Mansion chickens laid Egg #2 this morning!!!!!!!! Maybe they'll make it a habit? (Only 6,998 to go!!!)

Are you amused by how little it takes to make my day??? LOL. ;)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Day 33, Miracles Never Cease!!!!! (93...Free!)

"Hey, Girls!!!!!!"

"What's that thing in the doorway??? Never seen the likes of that around here!"

Miracles never cease!!!!!

1st Egg!!!

(One down, 6,999 eggs to go in order to finance the
Chicken Mansion.)

Christmas Music!

In college, my roommate and I used to get in trouble with our dormmates for starting to play Christmas music too early. Today I had a lot of sit time and thought it'd be fun to hear a little Christmas music while I worked. I was astounded to find that there are a LOT of stations to choose from.

Enjoy! (or ignore me if the idea of X-mas music this early repulses you!) ;)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Day 32, PB Popcorn Snack! (93...Free!)

We don't eat a lot of dessert around here. Neither do we buy many snacks. But this delicious recipe from More-With-Less is one that we pull out occasionally for our traditional Sunday popcorn "dinner". Enjoy!

Peanut-Butter Popcorn
-from More-With-Less

Pop enough corn to make 2 quarts.
Cook to a rolling boil:

1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. light corn syrup* or honey

Remove from heat and add:

1/2 c. chunky peanut butter
1/2 t. vanilla

Pour over popcorn, stirring to coat.

*I don't like using corn syrup. This is the only recipe I use it for. And, actually, I ran out of the stuff about a year ago and have found that honey works fine.

P.S. This would be a great, inexpensive Christmas treat. Yummers! ;)

Where Do Your Old Electronics Go???

Anyone else catch 60 Minutes this week? If not, you might want to check out "The Electronic Wasteland" reporting on the immense numbers of used electronics--computers, etc--that are being shipped to China where the heavy metals (particularly lead) end up contaminating the country...and the people who live there. The story shows how what is sometimes advertised as "clean recycling" in the U.S. may not actually be...

Beauty of Fall!!!

Enjoyed taking a few photos this week. Just wanted to share...

Friday, November 7, 2008


This mom of soon-to-be-5 is ALONE for 4 hours this morning!!! I don't remember the last time I was ALONE. I hardly know what to do with myself. ;)

Off to attack a long-forgotten work pile...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Day 31, Sock Exchange (93...Free!)

In the process of organizing photos (I'm only 3 years behind), I ran across a picture from a past Christmas. That year our extended family had a sock exchange. Each person brought one pair of socks to enter in a white elephant game. We had great fun with the variety:

* sock coin purse
* an old, ragged sock (in which someone hid $10)
* organic materials
* fuzzy socks
* socks with toes
* bright, decorated socks of all kinds
* woolen hiking socks

The game portion of the activity was hilarious, good for all ages (including my then 92-year-old Nana)...and everyone left with something that they were really going to use. Just one more idea to have fun with Christmas gifts!

Day 30 Exercise on a Budget (93...Free!)

15+ wheelbarrow loads of leaves. Any questions? ;)

It was a joyful afternoon. 'LilDude had a friend over to play. They played and played and played. A balmy wind was blowing. The boys eventually abandoned their sweatshirts and got filthy dirty leaning off the swing and scraping their backs on the ground. They laughed loud enough to wake the neighbors.

Sara the dog had an equal amount of fun, racing in figure eights through the leaves. After spending a rainy week indoors, she thought she'd died and gone to doggy heaven.

It was a beautiful, leaf-raking afternoon. Joy all around.

We'll sleep good tonight. :)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Bee-bim Bop!

One of our favorite books, Bee-bim Bop!, uses playful rhyme to depict a child and her mother making this Korean dish. It's a cute, cute book with directions for parent and child to make Bee-bim Bop! together. If you need a book idea for the 4-8 crowd, we highly recommend this one! :)

Bee-bim Bop!!!

Mix it! Mix like crazy!
Time for Bee-Bim Bop!

P.S. EVERYONE in our family LOVES this dish. Highly recommended recipe for kids AND husbands. ;) Here's a link with a recipe, but it's better with the story. ;)

Putting the Suitcase Down

All political partisanship aside, the results last night made me tear up several times. To see the excitement amongst the crowds. To hear McCain's gracious concession. To hear Obama speak of hope. To see tears in the eyes of Civil Rights leaders...people who risked their lives for their beliefs. It was a beautiful thing.

As I write, I'm listening to The View. I was curious to see how the opposing sides would comment. I listened to Elizabeth Hasselbeck (who campaigned for McCain) passionately say that this is a victory for America. She alone made me tear up.

But then I heard Whoopi Goldberg say something that made me cry for multiple reasons...
"I always thought of myself as American, but last night I felt like I could put my suitcase down finally. ...People have always said that anybody can be President. ...[But] this is a moment when you realize that you have become the fabric of America."
I rejoice for her. But I am sad for my boys. I am sad that I cannot say to them, "You can be ANYTHING you want to be." I cannot say, "YOU can grow up and be President." Because they can't. 'LilDude, born in another country, a country he lived in for less than six months, is not eligible. How do you ever look a child in the eye and say that? When will the day come that he can "put his suitcase down?"

Feeling teary for his loss and for others' newfound gain.

November Blessing

November Strawberry ?!?!
Just picked this one! ;)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Day 29, No More STUFF!!!! (93...Free!)

The other day, a good friend and I were talking about "stuff." You know, the unwanted items you receive...for birthdays, for shower party favors, for Christmas; everywhere we go, we are handed more stuff. It fills our cabinets, our kids' rooms, our garages, our junk drawers. Today I made a quick stop at a local store and was overwhelmed by the amount of stuff that retailers are thrusting at us, begging us to buy in early November...with CHRISTMAS MUSIC in the background to put us in the mood for holiday buying.

In our family, we're trying to minimize "holiday gift stuff" by setting a $20 limit per person. That really helps. But even with a $20 limit, it's still sometimes hard to know what to give people who really have everything they need.

A few years ago, I turned to the idea of consumables. If I give/receive gifts that can be consumed, we end up with a lot less stuff...and with some pretty fun/creative gifts. Here are a few examples:

1. For one exchange I bought a sheet of cartoon stamps which ended up being one of the most popular was "stolen" several times during the exchange game. Everyone can use stamps and there are a lot of fun ones out there.

2. Kid stocking stuffers
  • character bandaids
  • TicTacs
  • gum
  • TAPE (yes, scotch tape! My young kids LOVED tape and wanted to use it all the time. When they received their own, they could use it whenever they wanted.)
  • art supplies-paper, pens, glitter glue
3. Other "big kid" gifts:
  • Pringles potato chips
  • Other special chips or treats--my husband got SunChips one year and everyone was jealous. I've also bought kids their own boxes of sugar cereal or packs of character "fruit" gummies.
  • Sparkling Cider or other sparkling juices
  • Starbucks bottled drinks (teen gift)
  • scrapbooking supplies
  • camera film
  • stamps (Star Wars and other characters)
  • special hot drink mix (my kids love Russian tea)
  • decadent chocolate
  • lotions
  • bubble bath
As you might imagine, the items I listed are NOT purchased in our household any other time during the year; it wouldn't have nearly the same effect if these items were part of our daily life. But since my kids are "deprived" :) the rest of the year, this stuff is pretty interesting to them.

If you have other ideas, I'd love to add to my lists. :)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Day 28, Book: A Simple Christmas (93...Free!)

Since More With Less is one of my favorite cookbooks, I picked up A Simple Christmas (by the same publisher) after reading the description, "Hundreds of ways to bring Christ and joy back into Christmas in the spirit of More-with-Less." If you're looking for some ideas, there are several used copies on Amazon for less than $1.

Off to read... ;)
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