Saturday, August 9, 2008

winter

both carocoknits and laura from my imaginary blogspot have recently posted about preparing for winter. i have been thinking about winter as well, but i admit, with the exception of insulation installation and exterior painting we want done before the wet and cold seep in, the mental planning i have been doing has been in the form of holiday planning and gift giving. i guess all of you in our lives who read my blog will now be informed we are having a creative christmas this year. i have some projects currently underway, some completed, and some planned for a little close to the actual holiday, but this year, we are keeping the holidays simple and hopefully sweet. doing so has meant being organized and thinking carefully about each person and what we think might really be appreciated or at least appropriate. i am excited by working on projects for others and just by keeping the holiday as homemade as possible.

grocery challenge, week of 080308



so how is the grocery challenge going for those of you who joined me?
i have already determined that it is unlikely that i will meet my goal of $275 for the month for groceries/household/toletries, but i will keep trying. here is why, in no particular order:
  1. i forgot to budget for my brother, who will be with us half the month.
  2. i forgot that going to the lake means buying some items i wouldn't normally buy due to no power up there. (for example, i bought a number of prepackaged foods i don't normally buy and i had to buy disposable overnight diapers for lala. i had already bought disposables for finn. both are normally in cloth, although lala only needs them for night time.)
  3. bulk dry milk powder is hard to come by and we are almost out. when i find the kind we like in bulk, i will be stocking up, and that will take a hit.
  4. i am able to, but simply unwilling, to give up a few grocery treats, such as wine. yet.
here is what i have spent so far and what it bought:
a melon, a big bag of carrots, sweet potatoes, organic strawberries, organic nectarines, organic red lettuce, organic romaine lettuce, mushrooms, bell peppers, bulk wheat germ, grapes, onions, and tofu.
$19.99 produce market

package of overnight diapers for lala
$13.04 long's drugs

lasagna noodles, 8 avocados, 2 chocolate bars, 8 prepackaged individual size organic applesauces, 6 bottles wine, pint half & half, can black beans, box of Os cereal (price went up!), package of fresh italian sausage, dozen eggs, 5 organic bananas.
$41.80 trader joe's

from costco, so think bulk sized: flour tortillas (wish they carried whole wheat flour tortillas!), 3 blocks monterey jack cheese, block (6lb!) mozzarella, salsa, 3 #10 cans tomato sauce, 2 gallons organic milk, cottage cheese, spinach, 3lb organic strawberries, bagged frozen veggies, wedge gran padano (cheaper than parmigiana), and a case of tomato paste.
$99.48 costco

6 jars baby food, 1 box baby cereal, 1 package teething biscuits, 1 package fig bars
$14.01 local natural foods market. can you believe that little cost so darn much? no wonder i don't buy it anymore! (it is all for the lake.)

total spent by 8/10 = $188.32. ummm. yikes.

here is what i listed we could eat. here is what we actually ate:

sunday: B: oatmeal with nectarines for breakfast. L: garden burgers on whole wheat bread. D: shrimp/veggie stir fry for dinner.

monday: B: oatmeal with strawberries. L: stir fry leftovers for M, mom treated me to burrito. D: salad, fries, and shake during mamma night out (MNO) for me, pork and veggies for M.

tuesday: B: egg and toast (hm wheat oat bread). L: stir fry leftovers, hardboiled (hb) egg for M, quesadilla, beans and rice with homegrown tomatoes for me. D: whole wheat pasta with hm red sauce (using leftover ravioli fillings and leftover marinated onions, and homegrown tomatoes that were pureed and frozen), romaine salad. pork for M.

wednesday: B: egg and homemade (hm) toast. L: pasta, hb egg, cottage cheese for M, bean and rice burrito and veggies for me. D: red leaf lettuce salad with tuna, crumbled blue cheese, veggies, and hm dressing on it. melon on the side.

thursday: B: hm granola. L: beans and rice, cottage cheese, hb egg, and carrot for M and carrots and corn tortilla quesadilla for me. D: hm pesto pasta, romaine salad w/ homegrown tomatoes, sausage for M.

friday: B: egg and toast. L: beans and rice for me, thai chicken salad for M. D: pasta with portabello mushroom and blue cheese, spinach salad with strawberries.

saturday: B: egg and toast. L: chicken salad for M, hm burrito for me. D: hm pizza.

(this was really helpful for me as, ummm....notice a trend with me and beans and a dinner trend of pasta? that one package went a lonnng way. seriously, though, i did note that we were not balancing our proteins and whole grain carbs as well as we usually do/used to do.)

finn's foods were consistently homemade baby cereal, hm yogurt, home cooked and pureed veggies and fruits, hardboiled egg yolk, tofu, and Os cereal. i do use some organic formula mixed into cereal for him (pediatrician recommended for mild anemia), but all the formula i have used has been given free to me. (note to parents...sign up for free samples and/or ask your pediatrician for samples if you need to use formula for any reason.)

lala's foods are consistently smaller portions of what M and i eat (she is not a vegetarian) or preschooler sized 4-part meals of carb (noodles, rice, bread, oats), protein (cheese, chicken, tofu, egg, peanut butter, nuts), fruit (all sorts), and veggie (all sorts...favorite is broccoli. can't beat that!)

image from: http://www.wrap.org

frugal is the new black

so says msnbc.
thanks BAM for the link.

Friday, August 8, 2008

how now milk cow?



i have been trying to purchase certain foods organically (see the daily green's dirty dozen). but my budget is starting to stumble on milk. i paid $5.49/gallon for organic 1% milk today at costco, and that is cheap. the only beverages routinely available in our house are milk and water. sigh...

what are you doing about rising food prices? what foods do you worry most about?

image from: http://school.discoveryeducation.com/clipart/images/milk.gif

Thursday, August 7, 2008

a day through a tightwad lens

last week i blogged my entire week from a frugal perspective. i thought it was too darn long, so it is saved in my blog list, unposted. how about frugal snippets? today was the first time i drove the car in the last 3 days. since i was finally getting into the car, i figured i had better make the most of my gas, so the kids and i left the house early and picked up 2 freecycle items, did some grocery shopping at trader joe's, went to the library for story hour and to turn in the kids' completed summer reading program cards, and then stopped at a neighbor's for chicken salad she insisted would go bad while she was out of town.



so we did spend money (groceries....more on that at the end of the week when i do a grocery budget check in), but we got a load of stuff free. (and i packed a snack bag so i could safely tell lala "no" to things at the grocery store.) we got 2 containers of chicken salad (M will eat it), an EcoMetro guide (super score, these are $20 in the store), a "new" sun shield for my car window, and summer reading prizes. each kid got to choose a book from the book cart (lala chose for finn) and coupons for the following: a personal sized pizza, an ice cream cone, entry (or discounted entry) to the ice rink, 3 local science/natural museums, and fairyland!
scores!



we came home to host granny for a visit and lunch, quiet time, and this afternoon we'll stick close to home, take a walk, and do some home chores. those will include basics like taking dry laundry off the clothes line and folding it (i have 2 big mountains worth. i always procrastinate folding laundry), washing cloth diapers, making a Costco shopping list, and pulling together ingredients to make the 2 big dinner dishes (lasagna and enchiladas, and sides) and the breakfast items (oatmeal, quick bread, and granola) i am responsible for during our family vacation. i also need to make a sewing items list. basically, it is a get-organized afternoon!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

ants!

please recycle recently posted (with huge response) about ants on her blog. the local ants must have read the post, because they showed up at our house. i tried my frugal, enviro friendly remedy yet again and poof! they are gone.
honey and borax, with enough borax that you aren't just feeding the colony. mix the two in a dish and put it as close to where you think the ants are entering as you can.

the lake


every year since i can remember (since before i was born?), we have gone up to a family friend's very rustic cabin (think: outhouse, no power) with my family. this year, that trip is the week after next. my excitement plummeted today, when, for the third year (the length of time M has been at his current job), he was told he can't have the time off after all. the past 2 years, he has managed a weekend with us, let's hope he can this year, too. so i am just posting out of frustration for M. he has been coming up with my family since we were in high school (he and my brother are best friends), so i have so many memories of him there, and it seems unfair that we can't seem to make new ones as a new little family of our own. and crap, the guy hasn't had a real vacation (other than our camping trip last april) in 4 years.

photo: M and lala at the lake her first year (she was 11 mo at the time and i laugh as i realize finn is not only bigger currently at 8 mo, but is just as mobile!)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

hide and seek muffins and friends

for her birthday last year, lala received a copy of pretend soup from grandma and nonno, and it recently became a favorite book of hers, even for bedtime reading. today, we had little friend JGH over for a baking date.


we all had a wonderful time!


hide and seek muffins:
1.5 C flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/4 C sugar
2 eggs
1 C milk
1/2 t vanilla
4 T melted butter
12 medium sized strawberries
2 to 3 T sugar for the strawberries

break and beat the eggs, melt the butter, mix and add milk and vanilla.
mix milk mixture into flour mixture.
pour lined muffin pan cups half way full of batter.
roll strawberries in sugar and press a strawberry into the center of each muffin.
bake 15-20 minutes at 375 F.

happy 8 months (already?) to F

(and happy 9 mo to SKM!)


in a onesie made by GCW for his big sister


testing out his new (to him) pack n' play (for napping) with guidance from his sister


last nap/sleep in his bassinet.


bunny boy

happy birthday JMC!

joining the 4 year club today!

Monday, August 4, 2008

grandma



happy birthday, mom!
my camera battery conked out right before photos of grandma blowing out the candle on her cake, so i have to rely on the photos from her camera...which i don't have. here is one from echo last summer. 2 good hikers and fat, preggo me.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

meal list 080308

okay, for the week of august 3....
today we had garden burgers (i need to find a good recipe for making my own) and nectarines for lunch and shrimp and veggie stir fry over rice for dinner. there was enough leftover to pack a container for M's lunch tomorrow. we have quite a bit of leftover rice.

here are some dinners we can make with what we have already (i am no chef and we don't eat with abundant variety, but meals are healthy and usually tasty!):
pork/fish and rice, vegetables, applesauce
bean burritos/tacos/tostadas
pizza
pasta or lasagna (we have some marinated onions and leftover ravioli filling, which will be great on pasta or on pizza, above)
baked pasta casserole
minestrone and quesadillas or grilled cheese

today, i defrosted homegrown tomatoes (pureed and frozen), beans, pork, and homemade applesauce (good with the pork and good baby food).

i am a vegetarian (no red or white meat), M and lala are not. beans are our staple. we buy them in bulk and always have some cooked up (and frozen). we also always have some assortment of frozen veggies on hand (the ultimate kid friendly convenience food. lala's favorite food is broccoli.)

lunches usually consist of leftovers and/or some bean based dish. we are striving to do a food/fitness plan that has us eating 6 small protein/whole carb meals a day, so if i only list lunch, the lunch may have been eaten over the course of a few hours and/or been small and supplemented with a hardboiled egg, cottage cheese, or some other protein heavy small food.

lala's food is the same as ours or a simple, small meal of carb, protein, veggie, fruit.
finn is a new eater and his repertoire is small. hm yogurt, hm baby cereal, some basic veggies (pureed), some basic fruits (pureed), and Os cereal.

okay, so in reading my dialog, above, i realize it sounds like i cook 4 different meals for 4 people. i don't. or maybe i do in a way. i tend to cook in bulk, so, for example, on a night M has chicken, it is because i cooked up a big batch of him and lala. there is generally enough for several meals for the 2 of them.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

great news!

my mom met with her doctors this week and although she does indeed have a tumor in her lung (for which surgery will soon be scheduled), the tumor in her abdomen turned out to have been a gastro tumor, which they were able to remove entirely. it appears she won't even need chemo for this particular cancer. she is healing well from the surgery and is doing wonderfully. i think so much of this has to do with all the wonderful and generous well wishes and good thoughts.

about that $275

okay, so about my august budget of $275....
i should mention that for us, our grocery budget includes health and body items (but not prescriptions) and household items (like laundry soap...which i rarely buy anymore).
it will also include all our meal contributions to a family week away (on a lake with no road access, so we have to boat/paddle in all our food). and we have some food stashed in the chest freezer.
i am going to try and plan meals (or at least a list of meals we can eat with foods we already have) each sunday for the week ahead, and then i will post what we actually eat.
and i bought our first groceries for the month. we stopped at the local produce market (the one i love and have learned is the cheapest!) i spent $19.99 on: a melon, a big bag of carrots, sweet potatoes, organic strawberries, organic nectarines, organic red lettuce, organic romaine lettuce, mushrooms, bell peppers, bulk wheat germ, grapes, onions, and tofu.

Friday, August 1, 2008

oh, oh oatmeal!


carocoknits posted about this lovely whole grain oatmeal wheat bread and these tasty oatmeal cookies. i made both today. healthy and delicious!
i also made a chocolate cake for my parents' birthday celebration and a batch of yogurt. i used my recipe for the yogurt, but want to try carocoknit's recipe next time.

edited to add: M came home early and was dying to make ravioli! (he is the good chef - who enjoys it - but i am the regular cook.) so he did!

(and yes, per my post below, i will post meals for the month as i go!)

planning a food budget



and the key word is planning.
i have been lacking organization and have not been planning ahead when shopping and preparing meals. not only have i not prepared a meal plan for the week, each week, but one of the things that has eaten into our budget the most are gatherings for which we have needed to bring food or guests we need to serve food to.
according to the USDA food plan from 2007, a thrifty food budget for our family of 4 would be $474.50 per month. (the low, moderate, and liberal plans would have us spending $596, $728.20, and $902.40, respectively.) i am embarrassed to admit we spent more than the thrifty amount in july, but our budget goal is lower than this, so here i am being honest and starting over for august onward.

so my goal is to plan ahead. each week, i need to look at the calendar for the week ahead, come up with some doable meal ideas for our family (dinners are the biggie for us, as we are fairly routine with breakfasts and i try and make extra dinners, so we eat leftovers for lunches) and to make sure i leave time to make nice foods for occasions when we need to serve or bring dishes.

here goes...it is august 1. if i post this, i have to actually try to stick to it. since we went way over our budget for july, i am going to try and come in well under, so my goal is $275. think i can do it? i am not so sure, but i will give it a shot!

image from: http://www3.babson.edu/images/groceries_3.jpg

Thursday, July 31, 2008

click click shopping done


i have been thinking about how i shop these days. i have been slowly edging time into my routines for things i enjoy again. one of the things that hasn't made it back in is thrift store and yard sale shopping, despite the lovely summer weather. and i miss it! the lack of it is partly due to time, partly due to my desire to drive less, and partly due to my need to purge, not acquire, and used stuff is so tempting whether we need it or not!

i realize i (the person who is semi-trying to do The Compact) met a lot of our shopping needs at Target last week, to the tune of a higher price. but sometimes i am willing to pay for convenience and i am not normally a new retail therapy kinda girl. (the store that sees the most new item, non-food purchases is Costco, where we buy underwear and the basics like that!)

without real life thrift shopping, i have been meeting many of our needs with craigslist and freecycle. occasionally eBay.

but when it comes to online shopping, the world is at our fingertips. how do i save even more? search for your item through a price comparison website like my simon. find online coupon codes through flamingo world. and shop through a upromise account to have a percentage of your purchase go towards your child's (or your!) college fund. (upromise even allows family members' shopping sprees to go toward your child's account, but i haven't convinced anyone else in our families to sign up yet.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

snaps of joy





i was reading something someone else wrote about blogs. that so often we see only the most joyous part of a person's life/day, because that is what so many people choose to blog about. here are a few photos of joy, because i have now come to the end of a very rough afternoon (the kind where as a SAHM, bedtime cannot seem to come soon enough) and i not only need the reminder, but i also realize i am generally a more real blogger and that sometimes i don't post enough about the joyous moments.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

recipes a la nonna A

these are tasty, easy, and nutritious recipes from my grandma (nonna A)

impossible pie
(a crustless quiche. here is my homemade biscuit mix recipe.)
2 C chopped broccoli, lightly steamed
1/2 C chopped onion
3/4 C Bisquick
1.5 C milk
1/2 C chopped green pepper
1 C shredded cheese
3 eggs
1 t salt
1/4 t pepper

grease 10" pie pan. mix broccoli, onion, green pepper, and cheese in pie plate. beat remaining ingredients in a bowl until smooth, pour into pie plate. bake until brown and knife comes out clean, about 40 min at 400 F. let stand 5 minutes before serving. serves up to 8.
nea's notes: i have successfully use a variety of vegetables. my most recent pie had 2.5 C defrosted frozen veggie stir fry mix instead of broccoli and onion, although onion and bell pepper have a delicious balance to the egg. also, i only ever use my homemade baking mix.


blackberry* cobbler
*i use whatever fruit i have on hand.
1 quart (4 C) blackberries (or chopped fruit of another variety)
2 C sugar
1 C flour
1 stick butter
1.5 t baking powder
pinch of salt
2/3 C milk

stir berries/fruit and 1 C sugar. set aside. make batter of flour, 1 C sugar, baking powder, salt, and milk. melt butter in baking pan (9x13). add half the batter into pan, blend with butter. put berry mixture on top of batter, then top with remaining batter. do not mix. bake at 350 F until crust is golden brown, about 45 min.
nea's notes: you may want to use less sugar, depending on the fruit. 2 C makes it very sweet. you also may want to use less butter.

Monday, July 28, 2008

pesto, frugality, creativity, and other summer things


look what erin at frugal living has to say about rain barrels. definitely on my want and our 'to do' list.

read a Simple Mom interview with Amanda Soule, author of the Soule Mama blog and a book about being creative with your family. (i would love to be as creative and make things as simply fun and beautiful as she does, but i don't think it will ever happen.)

today only, download a FREE copy of Money Management by Tawra Jean Kellam

and the basil above? in my garden. here is my pesto recipe:

2 C basil (or, for a little something different, any green herbs such as, mint, arugula, or cilantro)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 C pine nuts (you can omit, as they are pricey, or use other seeds or nuts)
1/4 to 1/2 C olive oil (consistency varies to taste)
1/4 C parmesan, grated
salt to taste

combine in the food processor until smooth. freezes well. serve over pasta, chicken, seafood, veggies, on pizza, or use as a dip.

nonno


happy birthday, dad!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

use less stuff

lurkers come out of hiding!
i will give this copy of use less stuff to a randomly selected reader. just leave a comment between now and august 17. (lurkers or regular posters welcome! if i don't already have it, please include your email address.)

dang it, people

lay off, would you? this must be the age of verbal reamings for M and me. we are not malicious people. quite the opposite. we are kind, caring, well intended people who are trying to get by, raise our kids right, and enjoy each day. we are not trying to make your life miserable and in verbally abusing us, you are screwing up your kharma.
now back off.

(M was working on the house this evening and adding to other verbal attacks, our neighbor (again) yelled at him for making too much noise. jeez, it was barely even our kids' bedtime and the whole darn house will fall on his house if he doesn't back off and let us work on it!)

we can't seem to do right by anybody. oh well, at least we still like each other. :)

what is frugality?

according to merriam webster's dictionary, frugality is:
characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources


and per merriam webster's thesaurus, other words for frugality include:
economy, husbandry, providence, scrimping, skimping, thrift; and related words include:
conservation, saving; miserliness, stinginess; discretion, prudence

to me, frugality is an entertaining challenge. the thrill of the hunt for a good bargain. a way to use money as a tool to the best of our ability. a means to a goal. it allows us some security and flexibility. it is a way to help the earth conserve environmental resources. it is not about stinginess (as noted in the related words, above). in fact, we are generally far spendier on others than we would be on ourselves.

where am i going with this? this is a jumping off point for me to remind myself what M's and my goals are. in the past 4 years, M and i have slipped further from the thrifty couple we used to be. the addition of a fixer upper and first child to our full time work schedules meant more expenses and fewer DIY activities. now, however, we have one less income, one more child, and still have the fixer upper, so re-discovering our frugal roots is mandatory. add a poor economy and a hurting earth and it seems critical that we do our little part.

during the month of july, we have gone back to tracking our spending. i have been completing our spreadsheet and so far, we have a few clear leaks. the biggest of these is our grocery budget, so my first goal, for august, is to see if i can get this down. one of the hardest things for me is meal planning. odd, i know, because if you know me, you know i tend to be very organized and schedules work well for me. so that is my first goal....to better plan our food purchasing and consumption.

wish me luck!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

granny


happy one-day-belated birthday to M's mom!

update on my mom


my mom has been sprung from the hospital! she came home yesterday with a column of staples up her abdomen. her prognosis looks good, however, and although we don't have pathology reports back yet, the surgeon did not think it looked like ovarian cancer. (that does not mean it isn't another type of cancer, just not ovarian.) she had 3 inches of intestines removed along with the planned hysterectomy, so she is taking foods lightly now.


thank you to everyone who has called, emailed, visited, offered food, sent flowers, gifts, and well wishes. it has really meant a lot to all of us, especially my mom, who has had the most positive kick butt attitude about this.

Friday, July 25, 2008

notable and quotable


Amy Dacyczyn says "frugality, without creativity, is deprivation."
so don't forget to have fun while watching those pennies! what did you do today that was economical? i spent money today, but it was all planned, i stuck to the list, and i combined errands. thanks to LH for letting me shop child-free due to our baby trade fridays!

lala says, "i am so glad we have finn!" (melt a mamma's heart)

and she says:

lala: "what a pain in the butt!"
me: "a what?"
lala: "pain in the butt!"
me: "who did you learn that from?!"
lala: "you!"

oops!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

mei tai completed


i finished the mei tai (asian baby carrier) that i had intended to make early in my pregnancy with finn (i.e. a year ago)! i know most people swear by the ergo, and we have one, but i always reach for my mei tai first.

i should be more thrilled than i am. it did not come out as well as the one i made for lala 2 years ago. i love that one and use it all the time, but the leg spread has been too wide for finn. i have carried him froggy legged until now, but he really has been ready to spread his legs out. now he can, although if i were to start over, i wouldn't rush the sewing at the end (where all my noticeable mistakes are, and there are a lot, although none affect the integrity of the carrier, just my pride). i would also make it narrower at the bottom and wider at the top. it didn't occur to me to do this until it was done and i put him in it.



here are the ones i made, the dark one on top is the new, smaller one, and the one on the bottom is the original bigger one. (can you tell i love stripes?) if you want one and sew, i used this man-tai pattern. if you don't sew, check out kozy carriers.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

poof! reset!




the first 5 months of finn's life, i was clearly struggling to find the ground under my feet. each day was a new set of challenges, always overshadowed by complete exhaustion. thank you to those of you who are parents of young children and who so recently remembered the newborn stage and were able to tell me that 6 months would be a marker to look forward to. for me, a shift came at 5 months, probably in good part because we got lala mostly potty trained and finn mostly sleep trained. those first months were also raw for me, as i was simultaneously adjusting to being a SAHM. (i am still missing working outside the home, but that is another post.)

the past 2 months have since brought a stair step of changes, as though i am ratcheting forward toward our ideal life. both major and minor events both propel me and force me to stop and take stock.

i am not even sure what it was, but today has been another 'take stock' day. i spent the morning at home doing all my usual boring wednesday chores. (wednesday is my weekly chore morning, for anyone who cares about the mundane activities of a parent and homeowner.) something felt different, though. i was taking pleasure in the nooks and crannies of my garden, the way the sunlight fell behind finn, making it look as though he had a halo, and the remainder of my sewing project waiting for me.


it felt good to recognize pleasure in the little things, because sometimes (often) we move too quickly and try and do too much to focus on them. and it somehow renewed my determination to economize our household a bit more. i have been a lot of talk and little action on this front. it was too easy to buy that $2.25 sherbet cone (you can buy a half gallon for that!) for lala when she was unbelievably good through a long a series of errands and somehow that box of unhealthy sugar sweetened cereal just slipped into my cart.

what do you all care? probably not much, but it is my long winded way of saying i have had (yet another) frugal epiphany and while we are still budgeted to enjoy little luxuries like lunch out and the occasional date night, i am back to paying more attention to our spending and saving, and i am going to blog more about it. it is possible to live nicely and less expensively, and with food, gas, and just about everything sky rocketing, everyone (even those of you who much prefer not to think about money) probably needs a little dose of saving in style.

about my soapbox


i realize i come and post these environmental tirades from my soapbox and then have trouble practicing what i preach 100%. okay, even 80%. looking around my own home, i see chemicals we could do without, products we should do without, and products and materials we should substitute with something healthier and more earth friendly.

so now, as i purge my 5 items a day, i am carefully thinking about what i will replace them with. in some cases, the answer is frugal (try cardboard and mulch to squelch blackberry vines instead of round up) and in some cases it is more expensive (replacing some of the kids' cups and toys with safer models).

my latest bit of health research has been on plastics, since finn is putting everything in his mouth, and on skin products, like the sunblocks i have been using on the kids. the washington post had a great article with links to all sorts of resources for finding the safest plastic products, one of the best of which is HealthyToys. the environmental working group (great resource!) has a database for searching the safety level of hundreds of health products. and of course, lucky me, my dad is a phd chemical engineer, so i also get the inside scoop!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

yum, cheeseboard pizza at home.

1 T dry yeast
1.5 C warm water
2 T olive oil
1.5 t kosher salt
3.5 to 4 C bread flour

in the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the yeast into the warm water until dissolved. let stand 5 minutes. add olive oil, salt, and 2 C of the flour. using the paddle attachment on low speed for 5 minutes to form a wet dough. switch to the dough hook, add 1.5 C more flour, and mix on medium speed for 5 minutes. add the remaining 1/2 C flour a tablespoon at a time to form a soft dough with a nice sheen. it should be sticky, but not wet.

form the dough into a ball and place in a large, oiled bowl. turn dough to cover it with oil. cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft free place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

adapted from the cheeseboard collective works

update on my mom

so, my mom came through surgery really well. she looks great, although is in some pain, controlled a bit by medication. she cannot eat or drink and will be hospitalized through the week, but overall the surgeon thinks her prognosis is better than expected. yayayay. now we wait for results...

Monday, July 21, 2008

okay, positive thoughts

alright, let's have a surge of positive thoughts down the wires and satellites, please.
my mom is currently in surgery.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

#1 reason to be a vegetarian

maggots

remember when...?

oh, the perfect kind of blog game for me, the person who gets so stuck on "i can't believe how quickly time flies. do you remember when....?"
(seriously, though, can you believe it is mid July?)

i digress...

krista has this little game on her blog. let's try it on mine.

"Leave a comment on my blog of a memory that you and I have had together. It doesn't matter if you've known me for a short time, or a long time, anything you remember! Next, re-post these instructions on your blog and see how many people leave a memory about you. It's actually pretty funny to see the responses. If you leave a memory about me, I'll assume you're playing the game and I'll come to your blog and leave one about you. On your mark...get set...blog your memories!!"

Friday, July 18, 2008

here we go...

so far, 2008 has been a year of processing, forgiving, new joy, recovery, and new fight.
i have posted before that we (M especially) got into energy and emotional debt over the course of last year. he was in such a bad work environment (one person, caused problems for others, got demoted in the end), he almost got fired for the time he took off during his dad's last days. despite this, he balanced everyone and everything marvelously. i learn a lot from him.

we ended the year with the arrival of a healthy baby boy and so began the healing and renewal of life in 2008. his dad would have liked finn. we figure his dad met finn before we did.

so, enter cancer, again. my parents got so little of our time and attention last year. mom, this was not the best way to get it. you could have just asked if you could come over for a visit. sorry...just trying to add a little levity to a crappy topic.

my mom goes in for her first surgery on monday. it is this surgery that will remove the cancer in her abdomen and determine the extent of her cancer. please keep her and my dad in your thoughts, because positive thinking is a very important part of staying healthy. she has been feeling well enough, just tired, and has handled this all with grace. that said, if you are local and want to make a food dish for my folks during the next couple of weeks, please let me know. i am organizing that for them. my mom will be in the hospital most of next week, and it won't be until the following week that we know "what next" with her treatment.

she knows how to gear up in style, though. she and i are going to lunch and the spa together tomorrow. have a nice weekend, everyone.

look who's sitting!


chugging away, filling the hours and days

time for my never ending to do list update. this is for no-one but me.

  • all the usual house chores (laundry, cooking, cleaning, child related activities, shopping, frugal activities, gardening, etc)
  • schedule financial planner
  • sort out 401k allocations
  • remove medicines from medicine cabinet
  • schedule legal appointment
  • finn's newspaper clipping (need to get to main library)
  • declutter: CDs, garage, shop
  • paint red wagon
  • research schools and/or a possible move doing, making good progress
  • transfer home videos to DVD
  • sew: mei tai doing!, fleece sleep sack, kitchen shades
  • keep selling car parts and other decluttered item doing...just did ebay listings
  • web searches doing
  • exercise doing almost daily, yay!
  • more house projects: re-landscape, finish stucco, gate onto deck stairs, mini earthquake retrofit, insulation, paint exterior, finish exterior door trims and thresholds, finish interior trim (hall especially), hall cabinet, install whole house water filter

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

hobbies



do you know what we did last night? M worked on the car some more and i worked on a sewing project. time to work on hobbies we enjoy? god, this must be a record.

nice and simple

this has to be one of the nicest comments a stranger has made to me in a long time. thank you:

"Every time I read this blog I get such a positive sense of family and love and all those good things a person cherishes. Thank you. J"

i found this commenter's blog via yet another blog, both blogs of which are journeys in simplifying. J's adventure is the most organized and well thought out attempt to downsize, i think he should write a guide! (well, i guess he is. his blog!)

Monday, July 14, 2008

weekend






yesterday we had the first 'just us' family-of-4 day that we have had in ages. and it was lovely. we are introverts who manage to get overloaded with personal, home, work, and family obligations, so fmaily time felt good. M finally got time to work on lala's cougar (dang, i didn't get a photo of the engine hanging on the crane, up over the hood of the car) and i did some gardening.
we both got kid-time. and then M and i just laid on the bed and talked after the kids were in bed, something we don't often get to do as M works late or we have projects that need to get done. a lovely at-home date.

(explanation of photos: M and kids' response to "look goofy!" and the plants from our neighbors that i put in after i pick axed out ivy and weeds.)

Friday, July 11, 2008

the self-reliant individual


here we are in a recession. things look glum, don't they? insurance is high, fuel is high, housing is unstable, food is high, our environment is screwed, and the outlook is generally bad.

the CEO at M's work was let go with no advance warning earlier this week, so his work environment is unstable too. (as if 13 bosses in 3 years and currently having 5 people to report to wasn't already unstable.)

so here i go again, reviewing our budget and just making sure he and i are on the same financial wavelength. (we are.) what is this teaching us?

this is teaching us that we need to be good financial educators to our children. i hope, through our examples, our children will learn how to handle money. to use it as a tool and not be scared of it. to be self-reliant individuals. our parents taught us how to make the most of the money we have. they did it through actual guidance, but also by not giving us every little thing we asked for. surely, this was in part because they didn't always have the money to give us every little thing we asked for, because as a parent, i now see how difficult it is to resist giving our children everything they want. we don't, because we don't want them to learn they get things just by holding out a hand, we don't want to spend all our money on short-lived kid junk, and we don't want to fill our whole house with kid junk, but the pleasure children get from material "gimmes" is so transparent.

that pleasure is still so easily garnered from non-material things, too, though. you should have seen the pride and pleasure on lala's face when she paddled the canoe earlier this week.

the kids teach us in return, too. in not giving them every thing they reach for and whine for, we give them time and focus on the fun, little activities that are abundant with little kids. it reminds us that we aren't depriving ourselves, we are being creative and resourceful, so that when the going gets tough, our first reaction to a recession is to meet the challenge, not be scared of it.

while i dream one day soon of owning land and being more self-reliant as a family, of M having a job he truly loves (he doesn't hate his current, job, but he only half-heartedly loves it), and mostly, of M not having a commute, we know why we have chosen the path we have and are proud of how far we have come on our own by working so hard to do so.

she's writing!


my big girl can write her own nickname now! her first time on a magnetic board, so i had to take a photo, since there is no piece of paper to keep!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

the ten year nap


my mamma friends and i agreed to read this book together. LH suggested we take notes. as if that would mean my comments on the book might actually come out intelligently. yeah, right. and then i thought...well, i could blog about it.

what a topic- appropriate book. the ten year nap, by meg wolitzer, is a novel about several women who leave high profile jobs to become full time moms, and somehow, 10 years later, are still out of the workforce. we see every type of personal relationship, which leaves the reader a bit dizzy, and quite honestly, feeling glum.

although the author is clearly a good writer, the book jumps from person to person, starting so slowly that i almost gave up on the book, then ending quickly, and not necessarily satisfactorily, although i shouldn't have expected a clean ending given the tangles the story collected along the way.

it may have left me feeling glum due to my own personal perspective of life right now, but probably in part because the issues the characters were dealing with and how they handled them were very realistic. human nature isn't always that appealing. i didn't like the image of SAHMs this book gave, but i wondered if SAHDs could relate, too. and all that said, LH and TLM both found the book a bit depressing as well.

curious to hear what the author had to say on npr ?

and the one quote from this book i have to include here is exactly what i have been trying to express for months. from page 80:

"women who were worked were exhausted; women who didn't work were exhausted. there was no cure for the oceanic exhaustion that overwhelmed them. if you were a working mother you would always lose in some way, and if you were a full-time mother you would lose too. everyone wanted something from you; you were hit up the minute you rose from your bed. everyone hung on you, asking for something, reminding you of what you owed them, and though the middle of each school day or workday seemed to be open and available, this wasn't the way it felt."

somehow i feel like i should highlight and send fireworks up over that quote above. i mean really. exactly how i have felt lately.

i will certainly say this book left me feeling so grateful for how wonderful i think my husband and kids are and as this novel is about motherhood, it reminded me (again) how lucky i am to have such a fabulous example of motherhood from my own mom, whom i use as a sounding board often, and who has never expressed anything but pride in me. the book did, however, make me feel as though i am being cautioned about what could lay ahead...

image from www.barnesandnoble.com

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