Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Gary the Gecko

Last night Jim undertook some major yard renovations. It entailed removing some half buried railroad ties and hacking away lots of blackberry vines. Carina and Kaden (my youngest two kids) enthusiastically offered to help (the older two looked at Jim like he asked them if they wanted to amputate their right arms - "uh, no, I don't think so, Dad"). During the excavating the kids made two discoveries: first, that excavating is really hard work and they didn't enjoy it as much as they thought they would. Second, they discovered a gecko. Actually, it is probably a salamander or some such creature but they thought it was a gecko and named him Gary the Gecko.

They quickly lost interest in the excavating (after all it is really hard), and worked on building Gary a habitat instead. They filled a toy dump truck with water for his swimming pool, got him leaves to eat, sticks to crawl on and gave him a grand tour of our back yard. "Look, Gary, this is the mud pit you can play in! This is the garden you can eat!" Kaden told everyone that this was the "best evening of my life."

They really wanted to keep him but after much coaxing by their mother, they agreed to return Gary to his rightful home - the blackberry patch on the butte. After they said their goodbyes, Carina walked him up and placed him on the ground, with two leaves as a parting gift. "This is the worst night of my life." said Kaden. "I miss Gary."

Now the pressure is on to find a gecko in a pet store and adopt him. "Can you Google 'gecko' and see what they eat?" "Can you find a pet store that sells geckos?" Anyone know of a cute gecko looking for a home?


Monday, April 28, 2008

Good Stuff

I made some granola today. I love making homemade granola, it makes me feel so domestic! I feel like I'm making something healthy and wholesome for my family and I'm using my food storage and getting something for a lot cheaper than I could get it at the store. Homemade granola is easy, here is the basic formula:

7 cups dry stuff - oats (use at least 3 cups of these), wheat flakes, whole wheat flour, flax meal, soy flour, oat bran, wheat bran, dry milk, nuts, spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc), coconut, etc.

1 cup wet stuff - oil, honey, melted margarine, peanut butter, corn syrup, brown sugar (add 2 TBS water for every 1/2 c. of brown sugar), vanilla.

Mix the dry stuff together in a big bowl then drizzle wet ingredients over them (you can heat the wet stuff up to make it easier to pour). Stir them together until there are no more powdery spots. Pour this whole concoction into a large pan that you have sprayed with Pam and stick the whole thing in the oven at 300 degrees. Stir every 15 minutes or so for about an hour or until it is golden brown. Let it cool and then eat. After it is cool you can add dried fruit (raisins, dried cranberries, dried apples etc.).

My family loves this stuff on yogurt, on ice cream, as cereal, and to snack on straight out of the bowl. Since I'm using whole grains I think it is ok. The whole grains cancel out the sugar and calories from the ice cream, right?


We're Staying Put!

After long, long talks and lots of thinking, praying and flip-flopping, we have decided to stay in our house. I am surprised how at peace with this decision I am. I expected to be disappointed (even though, in the end, I was the one who really pressed to stay here) but I'm really not. I think the idea of having extra money, paying off debts, building savings, and being able to do some fun stuff with the kids was the motivator in the end. It also helps that we figured out where to put in the raspberries!!

I'm not really sure why but I've been really feeling passionate about, for lack of a better word, "being a good steward." I feel like we only have one earth and I need to do my part to care for it. I need to not be wasteful and decrease my "footprint" on the earth. At the same time, I feel like the Lord has blessed me with a nice life, my husband works hard and we have everything we need so I should be a good steward of that also. Jim and agree that we could afford to buy a new house with land but we wonder if we should afford it. In the end we decided that it was much wiser to stay here and use that extra money for other, more important, things. Besides, when we went and looked at houses, we realized that the house we really wanted was the one we were living in! Not all the children are happy with our decision but we are hopeful that once they see what the extra money will allow us to do, they won't be as disappointed.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Making Decisions is Hard

This whole house thing is hard! There are so many things to think about. Our home right now is beautiful (especially since we fixed it up to sell!), but it just doesn't have enough land and it has neighbors right next door. The houses we looked at the other day had great land and no neighbors right next door but some of the houses weren't as nice. Plus, our house is walking distance from the elementary, middle and high schools, our church, Safeway, Taco Bell, Walgreens, etc. It is a two minute drive to my dad's house, 15 minutes to my sister's and really 15 minutes from anywhere else I'd want to go (library, movie theater, bank, Winco, fruit store etc). If we move out to the country it will be 15 to 20 minute drive to anywhere! And a 40 minute drive to some places. Nothing will be within walking distance - except the garden and the barn! But, I can have chickens, grow berries, fruit trees, grapes, huge vegetable garden, live in peace and quiet in nature. How do people decide these things!??!?

On a slightly different note, I went to Walmart yesterday to get contact lens solution (the cheapest place to get it by far!). And I got $13.11 in groceries, too. We had baked potato soup for dinner with homemade rolls last night and it was yummy!


Monday, April 21, 2008

Grocery Shopping Week Two

I did really, really well at the grocery store today. At Winco I spent $47.07! Whoo-hoo! My biggest expense was $5.48 for a two pound loaf of cheese. I got lots of fruit and veggies - including a beautiful pineapple for $2.98. That is a little more than I usually will spend on pineapples but these were huge and gorgeous and I was weak! Safeway had boneless skinless chicken breasts on sale for $1.69 a lb. and I bought two 4 lb. bags for $13.52. I am going to do some "mega-cooking" next week so that I will be able to pull quick meals out of the freezer and not mess up the kitchen so much. Plus, if I can make 8 or 9 chicken meals when it is $1.69/lb then it saves me money over paying $2.99 or whatever.

I was very proud of myself today. Kaden went to school early and so I ran to the grocery store by myself. I really, really REALLY wanted to go through some drive through and get some fast food. I even rationalized on the way home that since I had done so good at the grocery store I could "afford" to zip through Taco Bell or Burger King. But I was good and held off and came home and fixed myself some lunch. I'm so glad I did! Taco Bell would have been cheap - probably $3.oo or so, but I was even lower than that! I made myself an artichoke heart, roasted red pepper quesadilla and it was FABULOUS! I roasted the red pepper myself (it was .59) and I have enough left over for at least one more quesadilla maybe two. The artichoke hearts were on sale last week for .88 a jar and I didn't even use half a jar. With the cheese and the tortilla I figure I spent about $1.00 and it tasted better than Taco Bell (well, that may be stretching it a little - I love Taco Bell!). But I was very proud of myself.

So, for dinner this week will be:

Jim's Favorite Potato Dish (potatoes, cream sauce, cheese topped with cornflakes - comfort food!)
Vegetable Pie
Homemade Soup and rolls
Pesto Pasta
Chinese Chicken Salad
Beef Topped Bean Enchiladas (a freezer meal)

I'm also going to do a bunch of baking this week and stash it in the freezer. Muffins are especially good because the kids can just grab them for a snack or to take in their lunch boxes. Plus if I'm going to spend 30 minutes putting together some muffins I might as well make three dozen!

And we are going to see some houses today!


Friday, April 18, 2008

Two things exciting happened today. The first is that I called the realtor and set up a time to come and take pictures, measure rooms and officially get this house on the market! He is coming on Wednesday and I'm excited, nervous and stressed out all at the same time! We still have some small jobs to finish (i.e; touch up paint, some yard work etc) and lots of cleaning/organizing. The weather is not cooperating this weekend for yard work - we are expecting a freak cold snap with possible snow! In April! But we can get all the inside stuff done.

The other exciting thing was my steal of a deal at Albertsons. They have a variety of Quaker products on sale 10 for $15, if you buy ten you get $3 off making them $1.20 a piece. We got boxes of Cinnamon Life cereal, and Quaker Oatmeal to Go Bars (my oldest daughter eats these for breakfast on the way to school everyday!). So I got 10 boxes of cereal and 10 boxes of Oatmeal to Go's for $24! Yeah me! This will, of course, be added to my totals and almost puts me over the $100 mark for this week but I won't have to buy cereal for the rest of the month and I can be a little more frugal next week (no cookies or chips!).


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

So Far So Good

Well, I'm back from the grocery store (actually we did the storage unit, library, bank and grocery store - grouping my trips these days to save on gas!), and I did pretty good. I spent $72.74 on groceries today. And I even splurged a little and bought some potato chips and cookies (they were both on sale and the cookies were less than a dollar but I don't normally buy these anyway. Homemade cookies are cheaper and healthier and chips are better left out of my house! Chips are the one things I have no self control over!). If I can do this well next week that will leave me $50 for Costco and I'll still be under $100 average for the weeks! Yeah me.

So, what are we having for this $72.74? For dinners this week we are having:

Chicken Crockpot stuff over brown rice, applesauce and salad
Chinese chicken salad and breadsticks (homemade)
Lentil Rice Casserole, steamed veggies and homemade bread
Orecchiette alla Rustica (out of Family Circle magazine, new recipe), breadsticks
Crepes with berries and hashbrowns
Homemade soup and pan rolls

Lunches will be leftovers for Jim and I, cheese and crackers, granola bars, fruit. bagels and cream cheese and leftover breadsticks for the school kids and PB&J, oatmeal, yougurt with granola, or soup for Kaden.

Breakfasts will be cereal, oatmeal, toast (from homemade bread from dinners), one-eyed Egyptians, or smoothies (bananas, frozen berries, misc. fruit and 100% juice, frozen).

Snacks are leftover bread stuff, bagels, fruit, cookies, muffins (homemade), GORP, etc.

We are eating good for less!


How Low Can I Go?

A article in our local paper today made me say "Hmmmm. .. . ." and also "that's crazy!" The article is about four families who were asked to lower their food budgets. These families started out with ridiculously high food budgets, but their "lower" budgets were way over what I would spend, too! For example: a family of three, mom, dad and 3 year old son spent $200 a week on groceries and $150 a week eating out!! My question is after spending $200 a week for three people why would you need to go out and eat? So they have lots of room to save but they only cut it down to $135 a week on groceries and $40 eating out. They did cut a lot from their budget but could they have done more?

I have a family of 6 - me, my husband and four kids including two teen age girls who run cross country and track (and eat an amazing amount of food for their little tiny size 2 bodies!) and beat myself up when I go to the store and spend $100 a week on groceries. Why can't I do it for under that?? I should be able to do it for less. I got really lazy while I was going to school. It was just easier to buy some convenience foods than cooking from scratch. But my excuses are lame and I just really need to try harder.

So, here is my personal challenge to myself: I want to average under $100 a week this month for food. This will include grocery store, Costco trips, and eating out. It will not include laundry detergent, dish soap, toilet paper etc, or popcorn at the Saturday matinee (that falls under entertainment and not food - it has no nutritional value anyway!). I will save receipts and post my progress here just to keep myself honest. I'm starting today. Good luck to me!


Monday, April 14, 2008

You know you're an Oregonian when . .

You know you're a real true Oregonian when you love the rain! The last three days have been dry and relatively warm here in the Northwest but that all changed today. The clouds rolled in yesterday afternoon and at about noon today it started to rain. I grew up here in Oregon and I can honestly say I love the rain. Something about being inside my nice warm home while the rain splatters against the windows and pings on the fireplace insert makes me feel so secure. I feel cozy and sheltered. When people talk about "cocooning" - making a safe, secure, cozy place out of our homes so that we have a place to shelter from the outside world - this is the feeling that I picture. My home is in order, food in the cupboards, warm cat by my side, what more could I want? The only thing missing is all my family out and about in their lives -work and school. When they come home and we are all accounted for, then I will feel as if all is right with the world. Well, once I make us all a cup of cocoa!


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Lazy Sunday

Yesterday was a wonderful day! The weather was warm and beautiful and we got so much accomplished. The only bad point was that Jim hurt his back and is hobbling like a really old man today! Hopefully, it is a temporary tweak that will work itself out with time and TLC.

I got my whole garden planted yesterday afternoon. I'm doing a really scaled back version this year because we don't even know if we will be here to harvest it all. The raised beds, however, look much better when they are filled than when they are not. I wanted them to look like gardens and not boxes of dirt! I planted flowers (marigolds, petunias and snapdragons) and veggies. I did veggie starts of basil and tomatoes and did seeds for chives, green beans, peas, lettuce, spinach and carrots. I'm very hopeful that I won't get to taste any of these!

Today is Sunday and I'm taking the rest of the day off. I taught Sunday School this morning and I'm tired and cranky! I'm going to curl up and read a good book and maybe bake something this afternoon - brownies anyone?


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Sunny Saturday

Today is Saturday and really, really sunny! For the first time in almost 6 months we are going to be over 65 degrees today. And probably over 70! Since we have so much to do to get the house ready to sell, we will be spending the day working - hopefully outside most of the day. We do, however, have rooms to paint and a storage unit to fill so it won't be all outside!

Wish me luck because it is going to be a long, long day!!


Friday, April 11, 2008

New Chapter

Just shortly before I graduated I received a letter that would pull me up short and cause me to really look at what I wanted with my life. I was rejected for the Master of Fine Arts program at Pacific University. I decided that what I probably wanted to do was go back to my original plan and get my Master of Teaching and teach elementary or middle school. The problem was that I needed to make that decision right now. The deadlines for this year were just a week or two away. After taking a day or two and talking with Jim I decided to wait a year and go next year. This gives me time to recover from the whole college thing for awhile and spend some time with my kids. It also gives me time to really decide what I want to do with the rest of my life.

In the meantime, Jim and I have decided to move. We (really, I) have always wanted some land - just an acre or two. With prices being a little lower right now, the time is now! Our house will go on the market next week and then we'll start really looking for our dream house.


In which I announce I'm a college graduate!

As of about 3 weeks ago, I am officially a graduate of Portland State University! Going back to school to finish my degree was something I was always going to do "someday" and that someday is now! I think I'm going to "walk" in June even though it is an incredibly long ceremony and costs a bunch for cap and gown. I worked hard for this and I'm going to go out in style!