Saturday, January 31, 2009

Budget Gratitude

Now that I've whined about the budget, it's time for some gratitude...

I have many, many money-related things to be grateful for, but I must mention one in particular that I've thought about many times over the past couple months.

Over a year ago, when a little child's face called to me from a photolisting, I wasn't thinking about money. But here's the cool thing...

Even while I wasn't contemplating money, God was preparing a path for us. In this past year, I have been presented with more job offers than any time since I left my full-time job. In this economy, that's a miracle. How ironic is it that a curriculum adoption year and our child's adoption would intersect at just the right moment?

The jobs fit into my life as a full-time SAHM with a house full of kids. I've had parents close by to back me up with childcare. I've had a husband/kids with willing hearts to take on a little extra work.

God provided for a need before we even knew there was one.

That's cool.

Crockpot Bulgogi

My tastebuds had not fully lived until the day I tried bulgogi. If you haven't yet sampled this amazing Korean beef, or if you're looking for an incredibly easy way to prepare it, head to Denise's Famous Bulgogi (crockpot). I've made bulgogi several times before, but no recipe can compete with the ease of this one...not to mention the incredible taste.

My entire family gives it a 10!

January 2009 Food Budget

Finishing up our January budget. Here's January food...

Groceries (just food):

(Eaters: 2 adults, 3 children--14, 12, 6)

add $43/month for meat (we buy chicken/beef once a year, so adding a monthly amount)

Total for January food at home: $294

Eating out total, January: $53

We also just made a final payment on half a pig. "Happy Pig." (Not sure how happy he is now, in the freezer.) I'm not sure how to include that in our monthly budget as I'm quite sure it's going to last us more than a year. Perhaps even two? We paid $411.25 for 104 lbs of meat: hamhock, hams, sausage, bacon, etc... This week I cooked a 1 lb package of sausage and used it in about 4 dishes--two of scrambled eggs and 2 of spaghetti sauce. Maybe I should just raise our "meat allotment" for the month by an additional $20? That would bring our monthly total to $314. As a side note, this sausage is heavenly! I don't know if I'll buy farm pork in bulk again (due to the expense) but we sure are enjoying it.

As a postnote, can I just say that this is a conundrum for me? I want to buy local. I want to buy from the farmer. I want to buy meat that I know has been raised in "happy" conditions. least in this's expensive. I know it doesn't always have to be expensive. But this, to me, is.

It was good for me to hear about the reality of the farming year. We anticipated paying $3.60/lb for pork. We ended up paying $4/lb. Why? Transportation and feed costs. The farmer told me directly. I like that. Don't like paying more. But like being able to talk to the farmer.

Budget Frustrations!

I am frustrated. With my budget.

I have been working more than ever before. (Hence the lack of posts.) We are still living frugally. Cooking at home. Not buying extras. But our budget does not reflect my extra work hours.


Dumb stuff...

Like the doctor procedure that we checked out ahead of time (to see if insurance covered it), only to have a loophole leave us with a $500 bill. We have appealed, to no avail.

An unexpected and fairly significant car repair bill.

Semi-annual expenses lessons, insurance, doggie flea meds, dental bills...

Final bill for "happy pork" that we put a down payment on about 4 months ago.

I find it very frustrating to be working more hours than ever before, only to find that our savings hasn't significantly increased.

Anyway, if you're feeling the same way, I feel your pain! I find myself constantly wondering how people with less incomes are making it these days.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Cooler Than GEESE!?!?!!!!!!

Today we welcomed several visitors, including 2-year-old TJ. 'LilDude was impressed. After TJ left, 'LilDude said, "TJ is COOL!" And a bit later, "TJ is way cooler than GEESE!"

A bit puzzled, I asked, "Why are geese cool?"

"Cause they can fly."

"Why is TJ cool?"

"He just IS!"

I'm thinking 'LilDude has the makings of an awesome big brother! He was fascinated to learn that TG, waiting in China, is about the same age as our little visitor.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


'LilDude got to write a book for school. The title? "I Love My Family." He wrote...

I love my mom.
I love my dog.
I love my chickins.
I love my cats.

Then, on the back, after it said, "The end," he added, "I hate my rooster."

My sentiments exactly.

I love the way the rooster looks. I like to watch him strutting around. I even like listening to him crow. But the day he starts regularly chasing 'LilDude...then attacking him, making 'LilDude not want to go outside...then attacking Anakin...then attacking much so that I didn't feel like I could collect eggs without taking along a BIG STICK...well, that's the day that the rooster meets "The End!"

I gave him back to the neighbor who brought him over as a chick. She said he'd quickly learn that he isn't king of the coop at their house...with lots of other roosters. She hasn't decided whether he's going to hit the soup pot or not. I miss him. But I'm mostly glad that 'LilDude played outside this afternoon without hesitation.

P.S. We do love the chickens. We've had a couple of SEVEN egg days (from 7 hens) recently.

Unbelievable Lego Win

Wow. Life is amazing.

Anakin and Lizzie's LegoRobotics team won the state competition. The night before the local competition (which they also won), we were all so frustrated by the repeated inaccuracies of the robot that it was highly tempting to just forget it for this year. Never in a million years could I have envisioned this conclusion. And, to make it even more unbelievable, due to a lucky draw, they will be representing our state at the WORLD LegoRobotics competition. It's all more than I can comprehend. It's also hard to imagine that we are adding another huge event with more expenses to our plate. But you don't turn down a "once in a lifetime" like this. We still don't have our adoption acceptance letter from China, so we have no idea when we will travel there, but it should be in a very similar timeframe to the Lego deal. So we'd appreciate good thoughts and prayers that this all comes together in the best way possible. It really is pretty crazy.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Inspirational YouTube Video

Been taking care of a sick little boy so haven't had much time to post. But want to put this up. It made my day! :)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Crockpot Chicken and Chicken Corn Soup

Want slow cooked fast food? Nothing like two crockpot recipes in one week! Here are two family favorites from Fix-It and Forget-It. I make the chicken in the crockpot one day and follow up with the soup a couple days later. Both are wonderful comfort foods. The soup is different from any other soup I make...really a unique recipe.

Frances' Roast Chicken
-modified from Fix-It and Forget-It

3-4 lb. whole chicken
half an onion
1 rib celery
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 t. poultry seasoning
1/4 t. dried basil

Put half onion and celery rib in chicken cavity with salt, pepper, poultry seasoning. Put chicken in slow cooker. Sprinkle with basil. Okay to add a little water (to stretch broth), but not necessary.

Cover. Cook on Low 8-10 hrs or High 4-6 hours. I basically cook it until the chicken starts to fall apart. After cooking, strain and save's amazing!

Chicken Corn Soup
-modified from Fix-It and Forget-It

2 whole boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
a couple cups of chopped, cooked chicken from above recipe.

1 onion, chopped (I used less)
1 garlic clove, minced (opt)
2 carrots, sliced
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 med potatoes, cubed
1 t. mixed dried herbs (I skip if using above's flavorful enough)
1/3 c. tomato sauce
12 oz can cream-style corn
14 oz can whole kernel corn (I sub the two cans of corn with several cups of frozen corn)
3 c. chicken stock
1/4 c. chopped Italian parsley (opt)
1 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper

Combine all ingredients except parsley, salt, pepper in slow cooker. Cover. Cook on Low 8-9 hours or until chicken is cooked/tender and veggies are cooked. (I sometimes do it on High for about 4 hours, but the chicken is already cooked.) Add parsley and seasonings 30 minutes before serving.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Junk Food is Expensive!

Like you didn't know!

Just calculated our food budget for December. Ouch. We buy "special" junk to eat during Christmas/New Years. You know...goodies, sparkling cider, chips, dips, meat/cheese/crackers. All the stuff that tastes good but is horrible horribly expensive for you.

Anyway, the budget wasn't so hot...

Groceries (just food...including JUNK that we normally don't buy):

(this also included food for a couple Xmas parties, but let's face was our taste buds walking down the supermarket aisles!!!)

add $43/month (we buy chicken/beef once a year, so adding a monthly amount)

Total for December food at home: $428

(this is in stark comparison's to November's budget of $295)

Eating out total, December: $41

At least we did better in the eating out department. With all the junk at home, we didn't need to go out and find more! ;)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

How Happy Are You?

After trying to look busy working hard all morning, I became a total slacker took a rest on the couch and watched Oprah. The topic? Happiness. They presented a short quiz designed to measure your satisfaction with life. Here it is:

Use the 1–7 scale to rate your level of agreement.

1 = Not at all true
7 = Absolutely true

1. In most ways, my life is close to ideal.
2. The conditions of my life are excellent.
3. I am satisfied with my life.
4. So far I have gotten the important things I want in life.
5. If I could live my life over, I would change almost nothing.

They also gave background info on several guests and had the audience guess which of them would score the highest on the happiness scale.

Okay, so you read my blog. You know a little bit about me. What do you think I scored? (If you'd like to individually contact me, perhaps I could share what I think you scored. Or maybe you don't want to know! ;)

I'll post my score in the text below. But meanwhile, a few thoughts...

I can't remember a time in my life where I didn't know what I wanted. From the time that I was very little, I wanted to be a mom. Where that came from, I have no idea. I wasn't a big doll person. I wasn't hugely into babies. But I knew I wanted kids. It definitely stands out in the memory because when my best friend and sister were planning on being multi-billionnaires (how'd that work out? lol!), they were teasing me about my "little white house with a white picket fence" containing TWELVE KIDS. They made up the house part. I assure you that I came up with the twelve kids.

As an adult, the desire for kids didn't go away, but some other things did pop onto my radar. I learned that I loved education, teaching, curriculum, and writing. As a college graduate, my vocational desire (beyond having kids!) was to teach education courses at the college level.

I am now doing some version of both...awaiting child #5 (when I wanted 12 kids I didn't consider my future spouse's viewpoint!) and teaching continuing education courses. When people talk about the importance of determining a life purpose, I feel fortunate because I can't remember ever not knowing. For that I am grateful.

The guest on Oprah, a psychologist who studies happiness, also talked about the problem of "destination addiction," a desire to chase something in the future, thinking that the thing "yet to be achieved/gotten" will bring happiness. I don't think I've ever had that. I don't know why. Is it because I don't care much about "stuff?" Is it because I'm just not very imaginative? ;)

Anyway, I scored 35. Apparently, I am deluded very, very happy.

And I am!

But then why do I enjoy being such a whiner? I enjoy calling up my friends or my mom to complain about this or that. It's fun. Entertaining even. Maybe that's the piece required for sanity when you have 12 four, going on five, kids.

Perhaps my New Year's Resolution should be to shut up share my happiness more.

P.S. I've been dying to learn how to strike. Just one testimony to how puny my brain really is how little it takes to make me happy! ;)

P.P.S. So what are your thoughts on happiness??
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