January 31, 2010

I Love Aprons!

I love aprons. When I see an apron I get that good ole fashioned home feeling. Sometimes I feel that I must be a dying breed as hardly any women I know wear an apron.

If you watch a food show on the food network you never see one person wearing an apron. Okay, perhaps on Iron Chef, but that would be the only exception. When did aprons become a symbol of cooking weakness?

I have always worn an apron in the kitchen. When I was a small child wearing an apron meant that I was being like my mother. Before helping to bake cookies my mother would tell me to go get an apron. My mom kept her aprons in a drawer in the china cabinet in our dining room. Opening that drawer you would find a colorful menagerie of assorted gingham aprons. All of them had either been made by my mother or my grandmother during my mother’s engagement. Those aprons had been pressed and folded neatly and placed in the drawer. Yes, they had each been starched and ironed.

Those were the days of having two separate laundry days. One was for washing and one was for ironing. Monday was wash day and Tuesday was ironing day. My mother would start to teach us to iron when I was around 10 years old. We started out with pillowcases, tea towels and sheets. Yes, can you believe we did that? You would rarely do that now if ever. I am considering resurrecting ironing sheets in my household because they do make them softer and when a sheet is ironed it is easier to fold and keep in a linen closet.

My mother would slowly work us up to ironing the aprons. She had a special way to iron the aprons that she would teach us and we had to do it her way. After doing the initial ironing of the apron you had to iron the apron strings. Then you had to fold the apron in half lengthwise and run an iron over the fold to make a crease, fold it again lengthwise and run the iron over that fold. Then you folded the apron strings neatly and then folded the rest of the apron so the end result was one nicely folded, starched and ironed apron. My mother always started each day with a cleaned, starched and pressed apron.

There was an immense amount of pride taken in doing laundry and ironing back then. My mom would be mortified if we wore anything that had a stain on it. She had a special basket of stain removal concoctions and she always managed to get the stains out. She would have also been equally disapproving of wearing something that had not been ironed and free of all wrinkles. We did not have a lot of money when I was growing up but our clothes were always clean and pressed.

The last time I visited my mother she handed me a sack. I opened it up and there were her aprons. She no longer used them. She is living in a very small apartment and she has one apron that she keeps on hand.

The aprons that she gave me are the ones I used along with her when I was a child. They are made from different bright colored gingham. On each apron she cross stitched or “chicken scratched” a different design.  I recognized each and every apron and I was filled with nostalgia. One apron I did not recognize and my mother told me that it was an apron my grandmother had made for “special” as grandma would have referred to it. Special meant when company came for a special Sunday dinner. It was never used as an everyday apron.

My Mother's Aprons

More of my mother's aprons

Grandma's Special Apron

I will not use these aprons in my kitchen but I will display them one at a time around my kitchen. They help me remember happy days of childhood when I couldn’t wait to grow up and be a wife and mommy and cook in the kitchen using aprons of my own.

I was so delighted – really I was – to receive the book “The Apron Book” by EllynAnne Geisel.   It is a nostalgic look at aprons, complete with pictures of some very old aprons. I am obviously not alone in how I feel about aprons from days gone by.  The book also includes some patterns. It is a beautiful book of pictures and stories – wonderfully written that will conjure up great memories of days gone by.

I have two aprons that I use. They are a butcher chef’s design. I like that they cover the entire front of my body so that I can get messy and I don’t need to worry about getting anything spattered on my shirt. The apron protects me. Also my aprons have two pockets. I not only wear an apron when I am cooking but I also wear an apron when I am cleaning or working around the house. When I don an apron I get serious about the task at hand. The pockets come in handy and again the apron protects my clothing. When I am cooking and need potatoes I go down to our basement and I pick out potatoes and onions and place them in the front of my apron, bring up the ends in order to carry the potatoes up the stairs of the basement to be deposited in my sink for cleaning. I do this when I am cleaning when I am collecting items that need to be put away.

One of my aprons

I have plans to make aprons and I have purchased some patterns. I love the retro designs as they make me thank of grandma’s kitchen. Grandma wore an apron that was more like a smock over her dress. She wore that apron from the moment she got up until she went to bed. It was her uniform and it protected her clothing. Grandma didn’t have a lot of dresses to wear and she took great care of what she did have.
                            McCall's M5643  and McCall's 3979

                                               McCall's M5358

Aprons can be stylish and pretty and they are very practical. So when did aprons become a thing of the past? Not by me. I love history and the past and that is why I am drawn to aprons and what they represent to me: home, family, good times, homemade goodies and a time when life was simpler. Yes it was simpler. Okay, I know that grandma also lived without refrigeration and used a wringer washer that made chores harder and the chores took longer. But grandma didn’t have to worry about the battery on her lap top draining, about power going out (she didn’t have any), she didn’t have to worry about what her kids were looking at on the internet nor what was on t.v. Grandma lived peacefully with a day filled with chores and the satisfaction of having a home, family, putting on an apron and preparing a simple meal, cleaning up afterward and hand washing the dishes. While she was cleaning up from a supper meal the family would be in the kitchen chatting and talking about their day and the life on their small farm. There was none of the present day “electronic” distractions. It was simply conversation centered around daily chores and housework. It was a simpler way and to me an apron is an example of that life.

January 28, 2010

Focus Group on Healthcare Reform

Last week I participated in a Focus Group on Healthcare Reform.  First of all, I was surprised that focus groups really do exist.  You know what I mean. 

The focus group was meeting at our local college library and supper was provided.  Okay, I don't get dinner out that much anymore and for that matter dinner out with a bunch of other women rarely happens, so I was looking forward to it.  Oh yeah - and I wanted to see what the other women in the group were going to say about Healthcare Reform. 

Let's face it, there are so many different issues coming at us from the government these days - stimulus packages, healthcare reform, budget cuts, raising of taxes and more and I finally had an opportunity to reflect my opinion at a focus group. Never being one to stick my head in the sand, I have always done my best to keep up to date on current events and I do a lot of research on different issues.

There were a total of 9 women including myself participating in the group and I knew every one there except for the facilitator.  The next two hours were spent in a discussion on healthcare reform and it was spirited at times.  One woman took issue with another woman who was on disability and getting her healthcare through Title 19.  Woman A felt Woman B really should be able to work and get her own healthcare policy as she didn't appear too disabled.  Other women took issue with me on my view point and so on.  We had a woman who was a small business owner, a cancer survivor, a Wal-mart employee, two minister wives and one woman whose husband had been fired at the age of 58 represented in this group. Yes, it was testy at times but the facilitator kept us on task. 

When the meeting was over and as we left the room one major thing happened.  We left our feelings on healthcare reform behind in that room.  Woman B needed a ride home and the first one to offer her a ride was Woman A.  They both were laughing and chatting on the way to Woman A's car.  The women that took issue with me on several points asked me about my kids and such and we were all laughing and having a good time as we exited the library.

In the end, I had a stimulating evening of "sparring" and learning.  I now understand other viewpoints.  I may not agree with them, but I do understand their situations and where they are coming from.  It was wonderful to see old acquaintances and to connect with other women.  We disagreed on so much but we remained friendly and respectful to each other.

And best of all - I got paid $60 to attend the focus group.  Now that is the icing on the cake.

January 27, 2010

Favorite Movie - The Magic of Ordinary Days

This Saturday, January 30th at 8:00 p.m. - Eastern Standard Time on CBS, the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie "The Magic of Ordinary Days" will be airing.  This is one of the movies on my favorites list and you must watch it.  I rented it on Netflix two years ago and then I bought it. 

The movie stars Keri Russell and Skeet Ulrich.  This love story unfolds during World War II.  Livy (Keri Russell) becomes pregnant by a soldier and her minister father arranges for her to marry a man, Ray, (Skeet Ulrich) that she has never met.  The movie begins with Livy being sent on a train far from home.  She is picked up at a train station by an elderly minister that has helped to arrange the marriage.   Livy meets Ray for the first time minutes before they are wed and then finds herself living on a remote farm far from her family.  Also, Livy is college educated and was working on her masters degree at the time she became pregnant.  Ray is a beet farmer. 

Livy doesn't plan on staying for long, only to give her baby legitimacy within the marriage.  BUT -- she didn't plan on falling in love with Ray.  Mare Winningham stars as Ray's sister.  This is a very brief synopsis of the movie.  It is a definite must see.  Best part is that you can watch it with your daughter. 

Menus for the week of January 18th

Here is what we ate last week on the Pantry Challenge.

Monday - Rump roast (browned and slowly braised til fork tender), served in its juices over rice with mixed vegetables, carrot salad and bread

Tuesday - Vegetable beef soup made with leftover rump roast and frozen soup fixins from the freezer, cuban bread

Wednesday - Chili mac casserole, tossed salad, bread

Thursday - I was gone to a meeting and so was my DS - my DH ate leftovers

Friday - Roasted turkey breast, stuffing, broccoli, tossed salad, bread and homemade applesauce

For dinner on Saturday I made homemade pizza that was topped with chopped turkey and some bacon.

For lunch on Sunday we had pancakes, sausage and a fruit salad.  The other meals on the weekend are leftovers or sandwiches and for breakfast I have plenty of cereal on hand along with toast and eggs.

We eat simple meals.  That is what we like - always have and always will.

Pantry Challenge - January 23rd shopping

I almost forgot to post my update on the pantry challenge.  Here is the result of last week's shopping.  I spent a total of $26.14 which brings my grand total so far for January to:  $140.67.  There is $9.33 left in my budget of $150 for the rest of the month - being this week.  I can do it easily. 

Last week milk was on sale for only 88 cents per half gallon so I bought enough for this week.  The $9.33 will go towards fresh produce.  Since I already know of a day that one store marks the fresh produce down, I will shop there that day for any produce that we need.  Cantaloupe is on sale this week and so are bananas which are in my budget.  I have salad mixes on hand along with carrots and apples.  We have plenty of orange juice in the freezer. 

I have really enjoyed this challenge.  At the beginning I knew that I could easily fall prey to overspending if I didn't have a plan prior to shopping.  I went armed with a list and I told myself that I could not deviate from the list unless I came upon a sale that I knew would not happen for at least 6 months.  Then and only then could I buy something extra and I still hoped that I would come in under budget.  It has all worked out and I have a great sense of satisfaction in this accomplishment.

I still have quite a full freezer and pantry.  Beginning in February I am going to have a grocery budget of $65 per week. This amount will allow me to buy what is needed along with getting some extra items for the pantry.  My goal is to keep rotating my pantry by using what I have and adding more items as they go on sale.  Thus I should be able to maintain a $65 a week budget and I would hope some weeks come in under budget.

January 26, 2010

What will we tell our grandchildren?

I have been thinking a lot lately about this "Great Recession" that we are living through and specifically what we will tell our grandchildren about this time in history.  My grandmother and my mother lived through the Great Depression and when I was a child I asked what it was like.  I can remember the majority of the stories that they told.  Grandma's phrase "gather up the fragments and use them up" has come to my mind many times over the past year.

Here is my story that I will tell them.  How in August of 2007 when we were on vacation the news was just breaking about the subprime mortgage market collapse which over time led to a stock market crash (2008), banks closing, widespread unemployment, foreclosures, families being kicked out of their homes and moving into tent cities and so on.    I could name more.  Ultimately due to a significant decline in income (due to the recession) the small law firm I worked at closed. 

That is the basic story.  The story within the story is as follows:  the reading of the newspapers in August of 2007 and the uneasiness I felt which led to a major debt reduction plan.  I had never been quite so motivated to tackle our debt especially after reading articles in the Wall Street Journal and hearing experts predict the possibility of what was next.  By the fall of 2008 we had reduced our debt considerably, had some money in savings when I realized there was a great possibility if the economy didn't rebound soon, I would be out of a job.  It would seem that the experts had been correct in many of their predictions. 

We didn't put our heads in the sand but continued to get prepared by working on debt, not adding debt and putting money into savings.  By the time I lost my job in July 2009, almost two years after the news broke about the subprime mortgage market collapse, we were in good shape financially speaking.  Because we had prepared, I had choices.  I could stay home or try to find another job.  I chose to stay home.  We had taken the steps necessary that we could live on one income if we had to or wanted to. 

We did not throw up our hands and deny what was going on.  We didn't go out and spend money wildly so that we would feel better by owning something new.  We remembered the recession of the early 1980's and the stock market crash in 1987.  Both times we were employed and didn't lose our jobs and really saw no change in our lifestyle.  This time was different.  This time we saw more widespread unemployment, more foreclosures and such.  We could feel a sense of dread or fear.  Fear is good if it motivates you to make a positive change in your life.

So the story I will leave with my grandchildren is that we should always be prepared for the possibility of a time of famine in our lives - yes just like Joseph in Egypt.  We should all be prepared.  Live below your means is a good thing.  Ask yourself constantly when you are shopping "Can I afford this?" and then remind yourself "that you have everything you need."

When a crisis arises, don't panic, don't stick your head in the sand and say all is lost.  Instead step back and take a good look.  Trust in God and use the commonsense he gave you.

January 23, 2010

Frugal and Delicious Soup

Back in 1982 I read an article from a women's magazine on saving money.  I still have that article in a folder.  Those were the days before the internet and Amy Dacyczyn.  When an article appeared in a magazine on frugal living, I tore it out and filed it away for future reference.

Last fall I pulled out some of those old articles and started re-reading them.  One idea popped out at me and I have since put it into action.  I keep a container in my freezer that holds about 6 cups.  Into it I put leftover vegetables and broth.  Let's face it, we all have some vegetables leftover at the end of a meal that consist of perhaps 1 1/2 servings.  I used to put these into a container and stick them in the fridge where I would find them weeks later and would throw them out.  Now I take the leftover vegetables from a meal and dump them in this container in the freezer.  This will not work with leftover vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower.  If I am using canned vegetables for dinner or in a recipe, I always pour the vegetable water in this container also.  If I am making a roast and there is some leftover broth and meat, into the container it goes.  I have also added some limp celery and onion to this container.  You get the picture.

Then when the container is full I make vegetable soup.   I thaw the contents and dump it into a pot and survey how much "base" soup I have to work with.  I always keep canned broth on hand so I normally would add 1 can of beef broth to this.  Water and bouillon or soup base can be used in place of the broth.  Then I squirt in some ketchup, around two tablespoons or the same amount of tomato paste or tomato sauce.  Regarding the ketchup, if I have some in the bottom of a ketchup container I add a little water and shake it up and pour it into the pot or into the freezer container for later use.  This gives the soup a nice flavor. 

Usually the container has enough leftover vegetables in it so I usually don't have to add any to this mixture.  If there is not enough beef in the "base" mix I usually have a small amount of a frozen cooked roast beef  (again leftovers from a meal that would be about 1 1/2 servings) or I simply brown 1/2 lb. of hamburger.  To all of this I add 2 bay leaves and I let the concoction simmer slowly on the stove so the flavors can marry.

The result - homemade and frugal vegetable beef soup.

The above picture shows beef leftovers from a rump roast that we had for dinner the night before. 

A rump roast is a tough cut of meat.  However I am able to get it be pretty tender.  I cut the roast into about 6 chunks, dip them in a mixture of flour, pepper and garlic salt.  Then I brown these chunks in vegetable oil.  I remove the meat to a plate and then brown a sliced onion in the same pot.  I add the beef chunks with some water and I slowly (and I mean on a very low heat) let it cook.  The result is a tender beef that I serve sliced, with the juices, served over rice or with mashed potatoes.  We had this on Monday so with the leftover beef I made soup on Tuesday. 

My DS hates most vegetables but he loves this soup.  I love it as I do not waste any vegetables and broth that in small amounts do not appear as something you would think of keeping, but put together can be transformed into a tastey soup. Having this container in my freezer is very convenient. 

I served cuban bread with the soup this week.  If I choose not to put meat into it and just make a vegetable soup, I serve grilled cheese sandwiches along side it.

This soup always turns out great.  The one piece of advice I would give is to let the soup simmer for a while before you decide if you need to add other seasonings. I have added a little italian seasoning before for a different flavor and it was very good.

I remember a phrase that my grandmother used and it was "gather the fragments and use them up."

My family looks forward to this soup and it does not taste cheap.  It is flavorful and we never have leftovers of this soup.

January 22, 2010


I am beginning menopause.  When I would hear other women talk about menopause I always heard horror stories.  It is reminiscent of women talking about birthing their children.  Seems like the stories always make it worse than it actually is. 

I have had hot flashes.  They are not that bad.  I have had mood swings.  No different than some days of PMS. 

Growing older (notice I didn't say old) has never bothered me.  My mother is 80 years old and is very active.  She enjoys her life.  My mother-in-law is 71 years old and is still working, travels a lot (internationally) and she enjoys life also.  Both of these women always dress very nice, wear nice makeup and look younger than their years.  When you have women that are close relatives that age gracefully, then you yourself do not fear getting old.

As women we put others before ourselves.  Perhaps it is that nurturing thing that we do so well.  I had been putting off going to the doctor for several reasons, none of which are good.  Now that I am on my thyroid medication I have noticed a major difference in how I feel.  I have to eat my words - I must have been sluggish as I am now feeling pretty good.  Honestly I don't know when I have felt this good - perhaps it was last summer when we were on vacation or most likely it has been years.

Staying home at this time in my life is turning into an ideal situation for me.  Going through menopause for some women can be a rough time.  Being able to be home in order to take care of myself is perfect.  I can sleep in, if I need more rest.  If I am having a "moody" day, I can take a bubble bath.  If I feel blue, I can go for a walk.

I know there are women that follow my blog that are young moms and I know that you don't have the luxury of going for a walk when you want to nor to take a bubble bath without little ones knocking at the door.  It is hard for you to envision a time when they will be teens or young adults. 

Don't wait until you are 50 years old and start to take care of yourself.  I am embarrassed as to how I put myself and my health second to everything else.  I got caught up in keeping house, cooking and baking and laundry and I wore myself out.  At least I have a doctor who recognized fatigue, anemia and suspected a problem with my thyroid.  It makes me laugh to think that I sat there after my exam and said how much I love being home (and I do) and that my life is so much better than a year ago (and it is). 

The long work hours at the law firm transferred into trying to do too much at home.  My life of not being rested and packing too much into one day was a normal life to me.  Now that I am on my thyroid medication, iron pills and a special vitamin pill I honestly and truly feel the best I have felt in a long time, possibly years.

Take care of yourselves ladies.  And if you haven't had your annual exam, make that appointment. 

January 21, 2010

Storms and being prepared

Back in 1999 with all of the Y2K talk I prepared my family by buying 1 large can of Dinty Moore Beef stew and 1 liter of water.  That was my answer if the worse case scenario occurred.

Yesterday we were hit with an ice storm.  Fortunately we have power.  Many don't. 

We have had ice storms in the past and I don't believe this one is the worst.  It is just a hastle.  The sidewalks and streets are glazed with ice and even though we live a few blocks from the nearest grocery store there is no way I would want to walk that distance on ice.  My Kia Sportage is stuck in the garage as the branches on our birch tree have bent all the way to the ground under the weight of the ice.  One branch is hanging down on the driveway in front of the garage door.  When the ice melts the branch will return to its normal shape high above the ground. 

Thankfully my husband's truck was parked no where near the birch tree and we will be sharing that vehicle for a few days.  Actually when a woman drives a pickup truck in Iowa she gets a little more respect from other drivers.  It is a Midwest thing.

We are prepared in case of a power outage.  We have oil lanterns and plenty of batteries for flashlights.  We also have a lot of candles.  I have always had a plan B for power outages should they occur.  During an ice storm if the power goes out it can take the power company a few days to repair the damage. 

Our kitchen and diningroom have an open floorplan.  There is a small doorway off the diningroom to a hallway.  There is a large pocket door entryway on the other side of the dining room which faces the livingroom.  If we are going to be without heat for a long time I can pull the pocket doors shut, put a tension rod in the other doorway and hang a curtain.  This blocks off the kitchen and diningroom from the rest of the house. 

We have a gas stove and even though I cannot light the oven manually (prohibited by the owner's manual), I can manually light the top burners.  I would never turn on the burners and let them burn without anything on them.  Instead I have put kettles of water on the stove to boil slowly.  These kettles will heat these two rooms somewhat and give some also needed moisture. 

As to food.  I have found from prior experience that if I keep the door to my deepfreeze close, it will keep the food frozen for 48 hours.  That is the longest I have ever had to do this.  If it would be longer or if I am worried about the food remaining frozen, I can resort to the "outdoor" freezer. 

Yes, this is a large plastic bin that we store our lawn furniture cushions in during the summer months.  Since it is very cold outside I can put any frozen food in this container and the food will remain frozen.  This also holds true for refrigerated items.

I have a pantry stocked with basics such as flour, sugar, canned goods and so on.  We would not need to go to the grocery store for anything.  I have evaporated milk and dry milk on hand if we run out of milk.  I believe my family would prefer to drink water than dry milk reconstituted in water, but I have it if we need it.

Do not forget about the pets.  We have a dog and a cat.  Both eat special food and our dog has to take some medication daily.  I always make sure that we have both on hand at all times.  Although I am sure that our dog would love to eat a beef roast if we were out of her food and I know our cat would love eating tuna out of a can for a few days. 

My role as homemaker means I must be prepared for these types of situations.  The night before the storm, the grocery stores were packed with shoppers and the stores did run out of some items.  I didn't need anything.  Many times when we have been hit by a bad storm, trucks cannot make deliveries to grocery stores for a few days thereafter so there will be some shortages.

It's a good feeling to know that I have enough supplies on hand for us to weather any storm.  It could be a snow storm, ice storm, thunderstorm or for that matter a financial storm.  Yes, a financial storm.  I have plenty of food on hand (along with toilet paper and such) to last us a few months.  If something were to happen to us financially such as a job loss, major household expense or illness, I could direct the money I budget for food to that expense. 

My husband's answer to snow storms and ice storms is to move.  Yes, he is always talking about moving to South Carolina for some reason.  I did tell him that he would probably get out of snow removal if we lived there but I'm not so sure that I would want to weather a hurricane.  It is a tradeoff.

If you do not have a preparedness plan for your family, I would hope that you would consider one. I have just touched on a small chunk of what we do. We also have a weather radio, a supply of bottled water and medications along with a first aid kit.

I trust in God to help us get through physical storms and other storms in our lives.  I also use the common sense he gave me to be prepared for emergencies.

January 20, 2010

Are you feeling sluggish???

Last week I went to the gynocologist for my annual exam.  Actually it had been 18 months.  I complained about a side ache on my left side that I had been experiencing that was getting worse.  They were more concerned about other things.  So after a lot of tests here is what the results have been so far.  I have hypothyroidism. 

I went to see my primary doctor yesterday so that he could prescribe the necessary drug.  He asked me the following questions:  Have you had any weight gain lately?  Yes - two lbs, but hey I did eat a lot of goodies at Christmas.   Have you had any night sweats?  I doubt you would consider night sweats when your electric blanket is set at too high of a setting.  Have you had any chills?  It is January and we live in Iowa.  Enough said.  Is your skin dry?  Again, it is January and we live in Iowa.  Are you feeling sluggish?  Well, I didn't think so as I exercise a lot (in fact I have increased my workouts) and I had even walked to his office. 

I am anemic.  My periods are irregular and guess what - I am beginning menopause.  Oh and I have a bladder infection.

Everyone is surprised that I am not feeling "sluggish" and tired all the time.  So today after thinking about it a lot I have decided to take it easy and work on some small projects.  It is killing me.  I want to rip the wallpaper off the wall and start patching plaster and painting.

Frugality does not come into play with my health nor my family's health.  I do not enjoy my annual checkups but I still go.  So if you have not made an appointment and you are past due, call your doctor and get it scheduled.  Don't miss the fun that I had. 

Oh and as to the side ache - they think I have been exercising too much and I may have pulled a muscle. Just in case I am going to have an ultrasound and I have scheduled my annual mammogram in a couple of weeks also.

In the meantime, I will take the iron pills, multi vitamins, synthroid and amoxicillin.  I have pronounced myself old, but I am not sluggish!!!

Money transformation

I'm not sure when this happened but this week I noticed that I don't like to spend money.  This is a major thing for me. 

Maybe it's the pantry challenge that has me staying within a grocery budget this month.  I have been tracking my spending and am determined to stay in that budget.  When I felt I needed a new binder for my household notebook I went looking for a new one at the stores and couldn't find one that I felt was sturdy enough.  I could settle and spend $6 for a "durable" binder that really wasn't that durable.  I just couldn't bring myself to do that. 

When we closed the law firm I was able to recycle some binders that were over 15 years old.  It is remarkable how well binders were made back then.  I know.  I make it sound like they are over 50 years old.  The binder that I pulled out of the box was sturdy, but ugly.  A piece of cloth and some batting is transforming that binder into something pretty.

Or perhaps it was when I was at the grocery store and I was reaching for our favorite salad dressing and saw it was close to $5.00 for a 1 qt. bottle.  I didn't buy it and came home and googled the name and found a great copy cat recipe that I can make for a whole lot less. In fact we enjoy it more than the original. 

I believe strongly that the reason I think through my spending is due to two things:  contentment and not feeling deprived.

Today is a good example.  We are in the midst of an ice storm here in Iowa.  The trees are coated with ice and there is a good possibility that we will lose some trees and also lose our power at some point today.  The roads are treacherous and the news broadcasters are saying if you don't have to go out, then don't.  I am warm (for now) in our house, drinking my second cup of coffee and delighting in the fact that I did not have to get up early and go to work in this mess of a storm.   I am very content being at home full time and I wouldn't jeopardize that by breaking the budget due to overspending.

As for not feeling deprived, I did feel deprived 23 years ago when I stayed home for a while with our oldest son.  He was 1 at the time and we didn't even live paycheck to paycheck - it was worse than that.  I could only buy the essentials and then I had to think about if it really was an essential.  Over time I felt deprived because I was never able to spend a dime on something fun.  We were constantly living under a cloud of financial doom.  If the car broke down, we didn't have the money to pay for it and so on. 

Today I can go out and buy a dvd, cd or book if I want and we can still pay all of our bills and put money in savings.  I don't feel deprived in the least since I know if I want to buy something such as a dvd, I can.  The contentment comes by knowing that I can wait until the price is right or after waiting I may not want to purchase the item after all.  I have a plan set up for my "fun, non-essential" spending.

I enjoy owning history dvd's.  In December I was able to purchase the HBO dvd set "John Adams" for only $17 and I received free shipping.  It was on my list of wants for several months but I did not want to pay the asking price of $50.  I double checked the price today and it is $20 so I still saved $3 and also saved on the shipping.  I can rent dvd's at my library or through my Netflix account and I do. However there are some dvd's I want to add to my library. 

Everyone has something in their life that they like to spend their money on.  For some women it may be scrapbooking or craft supplies.  With a spending plan you can budget for some of these non-essential wants and still incorporate crafting or hobbies into your budget. 

I have made changes in my life and I now have a plan for spending money.  Before I just bought whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.  At least I have a plan now and I am able to wait.  Even then when the price is right I re-consider it.

January 19, 2010

Inspiration Piece

I love history.  I would say that the time periods of 1900 to 1920 and 1940 to 1950 are my favorites. 

My father served in World War II and he saved a lot of his military gear.  It wasn't until the HBO series Band of Brothers was produced that I became a student of World War II history.  My father was 4F when Pearl Harbor was bombed and he instantly went to 1A by February of 1942.  He served in the South Pacific and he prayed daily that God would watch over and protect him.

When I was employed, my office at the law firm was decorated with World War II memorabilia.  I have close to 15 World War II posters and I also have several reprints of important newspapers. 

Perhaps it is not just World War II but also World War I.  I am intrigued how the average citizen made do during these war times.  Do not misunderstand me. I do not glorify war.  Instead I look to these time periods for inspiration in the way I live my life.  During World War I and II there was rationing.  How did homemakers feed their families decent meals? 

When I think of that time I think of families living in fear of receiving a dreadful telegram about their loved ones; about how they pulled together to help each other out; and how women made a home while their husbands were overseas - all while working full time in the war industry.  They made it through. 

Enter my Inspiration Piece:

This is a 1940's dinette and it came with two chairs.  One chair broke a couple of months ago and I am using a folding chair in the mean time.   I purchased this set for $40 about 7 years ago.  It came with a tiny leaf so it can be extended.  When I purchased it my only purpose was to put some sort of breakfast eating area in our small kitchen.  This fit the bill.  It will cost $250 to get two new chairs for this table and I am saving up.  I will either go with red or yellow.

Enter the Inspiration Piece that really got me thinking:

I was at a store that was having a major sale one day.  I had never owned a good mixer and the price was very low.  I choose this color as it reminded me of the colors in my grandma's kitchen.  Grandma was caught in a time warp of the 1940's when I was little.  In fact her kitchen remained that way until she sold the house in the 1970's.  This beautiful pistachio green mixer started me on a hunt. 

Over time I have been given several of my grandmother's kitchen items.  I have also been able to find replicas on line.  Slowly I am adding to my collection.  I have purchased metal glasses, mixing bowls, and several linens.  I have dishes and more in a closet upstairs.

I found this fabric online to be used to make curtains over my kitchen sink, table cloth and napkins and anything else I can think of.

This year I will be taking off the horrible navy blue and pink wallpaper and will be transforming my kitchen - to a point.  I am not going to paint my kitchen cupboards as they are made of cherry wood and they are beautiful.  I will replace the knobs with glass knobs.  I want to paint the walls for now and then start decorating with the memorabilia.  We have about a 2 1/2 foot gap between the top of our cupboards and the ceilings which is ideal for displaying antiques and such.

As time goes on our vinyl flooring will be replaced and so will the sink and countertop.  I can live with it for now.  Actually I believe once we get the walls painted and perhaps the ceiling fixtures replaced the room will really have the "feel" of what I am going for.

This style is not for everyone.  I call it "period" decorating.  For a woman who loves history it only makes sense to decorate a portion of her home in a period decorating style.  As to the pink and navy blue wallpaper in the kitchen - it is from the previous owner.  I could never figure out what to do with the kitchen so I left it up there until I got inspired.

Who would have thought that the dinette table that I bought at a great price would be the inspiration for decorating my entire kitchen.

January 17, 2010

Menus for the week of January 11th

As part of the pantry challenge I am posting what we had to eat the previous week.  Last week was a rough week for me as I wasn't feeling well and I was glad that I did have some things in the freezer to use up.

Monday - We had my dad's favorite meal.  We call it "Dad's Meatballs and Gravey."  It is basically a meatloaf mixture but you use seasoned stuffing mix (such as Pepperidge Farm) for the bread in the meat mixture.  The sauce is a mixture of mushroom soup and onion soup mix.  I had both on hand but if I didn't I can whip up a homemade version of it.  Of course with something like this you have to have mashed potatoes, green beans and a salad.  I also made some cuban bread to go with the meal.

Tuesday - Leftovers.  My DS didn't mind the leftovers as he loved what we had to eat on Monday.

Wednesday - Thankfully since I had been to the doctor that day I was able to pull out a casserole from the freezer - Chicken Dumpling casserole that we had with a tossed salad and fresh pineapple.  I love casseroles that combine a meat, vegetable and bread in the same recipe. 

Thursday - A humble homemade pizza and tossed salad.

Friday - Our DS was out of town at a Debate tournament so my DH and I dined on leftovers. 

As to what we eat on the weekends:  Saturdays are usually leftovers or sandwiches and today for lunch we had Pork Burgers on homemade buns.  Pork burgers are simply unseasoned ground pork cooked like hamburgers and it is a big deal here in Iowa.  We also had baked beans and I had some tater tots in the freezer that I needed to use up.  For supper tonight it will probably be breakfast with eggs or waffles or whatever sounds good to everyone.  I have bacon and sausage in the freezer that I can pull out.

Again breakfast is either bagels, cereal or toast.  Lunches are leftovers, sandwiches, soups or salads.  Our DS eats at school.

I have been on an antibiotic this week and I am tired so we opted for simple meals (except for Monday when I was feeling great). 

Pantry Challenge - January 16th shopping

I decided to stray from the pantry challenge this week.  My goal is to still stay in the $150 budget for groceries this month but try as I did I could not resist stocking up on some items that went on sale this week. 

Kraft shredded cheese in 8 oz. packages were on sale @ 5 for $6.00 AND at the checkout I received a coupon for $5.00 off my next shopping trip to that store compliments of Kraft.  Somehow spending $6.00 now to save $5.00 later was an absolute no brainer.  We use a lot of mozzarella cheese.  The same store had ground beef for 99 cents a lb. with a 10 lb. limit and Frosted Flakes (14 oz. boxes) on sale for 99 cents (two box limit) and I had a coupon for $1.00 off two.  Canned petite diced tomatoes were on sale for 39 cents for a 14 oz. can.  I go through a lot of these in many recipes so I bought 20 cans.  I have not seen prices like that on tomatoes in a few years.  Half gallon jugs of orange juice were on sale for 99 cents. Bananas, eggs and salad fixins were at low prices also.  My DH was happy that I purchased 24 bottles of Vitamin Water for 20 cents a bottle.  Those are good deals. 

Hy-Vee grocery stores are now having a one weekend a month of "Red Hot Deals." The cheese,  ground beef, orange juice and cereal were all part of those deals. In the future I am going to pay special attention to my grocery spending during the month so that I have enough money set aside for these weekend deals.

I realize that the whole idea of the pantry challenge was to use up what you have on hand and refrain from stocking up thereby keeping your grocery bill low this month.  I just couldn't help myself. I am still on budget and will keep to that $150 budget for the month.

So this week I spent a total of $50.44 on groceries and thus far my running total for the month is $114.53.  Actually I have $5 more I can spend if you take into account the $5.00 coupon I have towards my next shopping trip.

What this has done for me:  I have reduced my grocery spending considerably and have still been able to take advantage of stockpiling deals. I have taken more care to analyze the grocery ads and stay on a budget.  I have supplemented my savings by making my own bread, rolls, hamburger buns and such.  For lack of a better word, I feel empowered that I have been able to reduce my spending and save money. 

This month we have had some out of pocket medical expenses to pay and while I had hoped that the money I had saved would actually go to savings, it is nice to have the extra money to pay bills too.

January 15, 2010

Losing a Baby

In an earlier comment I mentioned that my daughter had died shortly after her birth. I thought I would take some time to write about that. Perhaps it is because of the earthquake in Haiti and watching the news and seeing the people that are in such grief over the loss of life. We are holding our breath as we sponsor a child through Compassion International and he lives in Haiti. We pray that he is okay.

As my mother has told me, I have always wanted to be a wife and mommy. When I got married in 1980 to my DH we both wanted children. I was pregnant by our 3rd anniversary and the pregnancy was proceeding very well except that I had morning sickness all the time. That was annoying to say the least.

On a Monday night we were home and had just finished entertaining some company. I felt some pressure so of course I thought I had to use the bathroom. Well, my membranes ruptured. I was taken by ambulance to the University Hospital and Clinics in our state. The ultra sound showed that I was at 26 weeks. The hope was that if they kept me on bed rest in the hospital for at least 6 more weeks that I would be able to carry the baby to a point of survival. However, it was not to be. Two days after admission I went into labor and within 2 ½ hours Kelsey was born. She weighed about 1 ½ lbs and she lived for 3 hours.

When you experience a loss like we did you are forced to look at your future differently. From the moment I found out I was pregnant the future showed children to complete our family. Then I was faced with a change in the future. There was a good possibility that I would not be able to carry a child to the point of viability.

Grief for me is described as a deep pit that you have to crawl out of. I turned 25 the week after Kelsey died and I was receiving birthday cards and sympathy cards in the mail at the same time. Both of our families lived several states away from us. I did not have the luxury of family living nearby. I did have the ladies of our church though. They came in and cleaned our apartment and washed all our clothes prior to my being discharged from the hospital. They came to visit daily and brought food. My mother in law called me daily also. They helped me heal.

Slowly over several weeks I worked my way through my grief. In the end I worked through the stages of grief and began to heal. Going to her grave was very difficult for me but I felt drawn to being there. As her mother the only thing I could do was to make sure she had flowers on her grave.

I went back to work one month after she died and I had to face women in my office who were pregnant. I had to face women in my church who were pregnant. I couldn’t go to the grocery store without seeing pregnant women. Life goes on.

In 1985 our DS was born 6 weeks prematurely. He only stayed in the hospital 1 extra day. He is now married. Our youngest DS was born in 1993. He was full term. Medical technology had changed so much over the years. I was so blessed to have my two sons.

I am the mother of three children. One happens to be in heaven right now. Every March 1st I get a little lump in my throat on that day and then I look around at all that I have and I know that I am blessed.

The month that Kelsey died a new book had just been published entitled “Empty Arms” by Pamela Vredevelt. That book was my saving grace. I read it from cover to cover and couldn’t believe how I could relate to everything in it. It was written by a woman who had experienced a stillbirth. Over the years I have given copies of that book to parents who have experienced the loss of a child via stillbirth, neonatal death or miscarriage. I recommend it to anyone that has a family member or friend that has experienced a loss. By reading this book you will be able to understand the feelings and the emotions of bereaved parents.

I have a few mementos of Kelsey. I put together a scrapbook right after I got home from the hospital. We have two pictures of her. Putting together that scrapbook was my therapy. Every year on March 1st I get out the scrapbook, not to relive the pain of that time in my life, but to remember God’s love for me. He gave me her for a reason. It was because of her birth that it was discovered that I have a birth defect that prevents me from carrying a child full term with medical assistance. There was no way for any doctor to know this until I had Kelsey.

As I think of it, Kelsey went straight from the pain of this world and straight into the arms of Jesus.

January 14, 2010

Mending and a Movie

In the spirit of the t.v. show "Dinner and a Movie," I am spending this afternoon tackling my large mending pile.  If I don't get this done the clothes will either be out of style or out of season.  So this afternoon will be spent with a movie from Netflix and a needle and thread.  The picture is just a portion of what needs to be mended.  There are buttons to so on, seams to repair and hems to fix and socks to darn. 

Yes, I darn socks.  I have several pairs of those soft knitted footy socks that I love to wear around the house.  It only takes about 5 minutes for me to take some soft complimentary yarn and repair them.  I love those socks and it is worth my time.  Someday I will learn to knit so that I can make my own.  Knitting is on my list of things to learn.

My DS will be happy to see that I have finally fixed the hem on his flannel lined jeans.  Last week when it was sub zero weather he could have used those jeans.  Oh well, winter isn't over here yet.

Probably the biggest motivation for me to get this done is that my favorite coat dress needs a button replaced.  No I haven't gained weight.  Buttons are never sewn on correctly at the factory.  I love wearing that dress with some black pants.  It is oh so warm and I do look good in it.

In order to get my mending done I will need a few afternoons over the next two weeks.  Perhaps when I picked out a movie from Netflix I should have picked a trilogy.

Blogger Awards

Stacy at Moderate Means has passed along some blogger awards to which I am a recipient.  I must say that I was blessed as I am new to blogging.

First, is the Sunshine Award. As Stacy has explained The Sunshine Award is awarded to bloggers whose positivity and creativity inspires others in the blogworld! (Some days I wonder if I fit this requirement - well okay, we won't count the PMS days.) To accept the award, put the logo on your blog and pass it on to other bloggers. Link the nominees within your post and let them know about the award by commenting on their blog. Share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award.

First of all just the word “Sunshine” in the middle of a dull gray January day makes a person feel giddy.

Second, is the Happy 101 Award. If you are not feeling happy, you need to sit down and make a happy list.  I guarantee this will transform you.   I could list more than 10 and will probably do this later after I read my Bible. Also, since I started this blog last fall I have received a lot of happiness from other women. Staying home can be lonely some days and my blog and the blogs that I follow bring happiness into my life.

So, here is what I am happy for (not in the order of importance):

  1.   A good cup of coffee
  2.   My family – especially my DS who when I was a little blue yesterday gave me a quote from the musical “Spam-a-lot” which made me laugh;
  3.   My Kia Sportage that started up each and every day in the sub zero weather
  4.   My sewing machine – oh the possibilities of what I can make
  5.   My relationship with God
  6.   My husband - life with him is fun
  7.   My Anne of Green Gables DVD’s - that is Anne with an "E"
  8.   Food, shelter and my needs being met
  9.   Living in a small town in the Midwest
10.   Peanut Butter Granola Bars

I am giving both of these awards to two bloggers that I have been watching since I have stayed home permanently. They are:

50’s Housewife and Little Bits From My Home to Yours. Both of these ladies are Christians.  Their blogs are fun to read and they inspire me in my new role as a full time Homemaker.  So ladies - thank you for your gift of blogging and for giving me the tools and inspiration to aspire to be a good homemaker, wife and mom. 

Sunshine and Happiness describes both of these bloggers and I am priviliged to honor both of them with these awards. 

Doctor's Appointment and Worry

Later today I will be posting my blogger awards.  I wanted to post something about yesterday. 

I had not had an annual exam at my Gyno for 18 months and was able to get an appointment yesterday.  Normally like clockwork I go once a year for a checkup.  I have had some aches in my side and I am also at the beginning of menopause.  Ugh.  I see a nurse practitioner in the OBGYN group that I have gone to for years.   There are some concerns and more tests have been ordered plus a consult with a doctor within the group.  I go to the lab for the blood tests this morning.

I had a 35 minute drive home from the doctor's office yesterday and immediately I started to worry all the way home.  Of course, I am one of those individuals that worries about everything and I instantly think of the worst case scenario.  My first thought was that when I die someday I will have to make sure that my best friend picks out what I am to wear in my casket as my husband has no sense of fashion sense and he has some color blindness.  Yes, this is my sick humor.

The odds are that perhaps I will need some minor surgery - perhaps I have a cyst.  But I am a worst case scenario person who wants to be prepared at all times.  When I was pregnant with my first child my water broke when I was 25 weeks along.  I was taken by ambulance to a University Hospital and two days later she was born and died.  I demanded from doctors that they be honest with me at all times.  They were.  Her chances were less than 10% chance of survival and I credit my recovery with the fact that they were honest with me. 

The following year pregnant with my son I was hospitalized with premature labor.  It was stopped and I was put on bedrest.  He was delivered 6 weeks early.  Again, during the hospitalization and throughout that pregnancy I demanded honesty about the baby and me.  I knew that I could hope, but that I was in a high risk pregnancy and had to be prepared at all times. 

This morning I sat on my couch watching the news.  The situation in Haiti is terrible and here I was wondering about my health.  Bottom line.  I will get the lab work done today, call the doctor tomorrow if I am not feeling better to see if they can see me sooner for a consult OR I will end up at the E.R. this weekend at the local hospital. 

I am my best advocate.  I am rarely sick.  For me to not feel well, and with knowing that there are some concerns by the nurse practicioner, is foreign to me.  I haven't had a health concern since my second pregnancy.

I know my body and waiting 3 weeks (consult appointment is Feb. 5th) seems ridiculous if something can be done now.  Worry can rob me of joyful days.  This is the last thing my family needs right now.  They need for me to get the meals ready, laundry done and get this home up and running better.  Our home needs to be more of a sanctuary due to other stressor's in my family's life. 

My DH's job is IMO - in the toilet right now.  He has a job, but new management is treating not only him but several employees terribly.  They can get away with it as there are no other jobs to be found right now.  Add to this stress the fact that his health insurance went up $32 per paycheck which we must now absorb into our budget.  Granted if I am having health problems I am grateful to have health insurance. 

I want to be feeling better and be healthy so I can concentrate on home and family.  Now I'm rambling and it is time to get to the lab for the blood tests.  Yuck -- I absolutely hate blood tests.

January 12, 2010

So, do you still like being home?

A week doesn't go by when I am asked this question at least twice.  It is getting a little old. The question is bad enough but the tone in which it is asked is unsettling.  It's like they are saying "Are you done having your vacation and ready to go to work?"

If I had a small child at home no one would give it a second thought and it would be acceptable to be at home.  But no, not a 50 year old woman whose youngest child is in school.

As I recall back in the 70's when I was in high school the women's movement was going at full force.  I remember everything was about choices.  Women should have the right to choose ....  (fill in the blank). If a woman wanted to be a lawyer, she should pursue that dream and should also be paid the same as a man.  If a woman wanted to start her own business, go for it.  Well you get the picture.  I remember then that if a woman wanted to stay home and take care of her family it was starting to be frowned on by other women.  The difference is that society as a whole still accepted a women's role as homemaker and really expected it also. 

I remember the case of a school teacher that was pregnant and forced to quit her job as soon as she started "to show."  It's hard to believe that a situation like that ever existed.  I don't ever want to go back to that time and the way women were treated.  In the early 1980's I had a secretarial job.  Every morning the V.P. of the company would ask me "how's your sex life?"  To complain would mean being fired and I needed that job.  I would just smile and say nothing.  Can you imagine if that was done today?  I am grateful for the changes in our society and the acceptance that women can work in any career.  But does society really believe that?  Remember the title of my post? 

Fast forward 30 plus years and now it would appear that women my age should be in the work force contributing not just to the family income but more importantly to a retirement fund.  I am looked at as an uncontributing member of the family. I don't believe this.  My husband doesn't believe this. 

Since I have been asked the "So, do you still like being home" question I have also had six women that are my age make the following comment:  "I wish I could do what you are doing."  They always say this to me in a quiet voice as if someone from some women's committee somewhere will jerk them by the collar and scold them.  These women are in the following careers:  a bank president, a lawyer, accountant, human resources director, teacher and an administrator. Maybe I'm a trend setter in my area.  Maybe I am the first in my group to stand up and say "Yeah, I know I can have it all and I don't want it or I don't even want to try anymore." 

"So, do you still like being home?" damn right - pardon my French!!!

An award -- me?????

Stacy at Moderate Means has given me and some other bloggers  "The Sunshine Award" and the "Happy Award."   I will be posting more about this tomorrow and will be passing these awards on to other fellow bloggers.  I was very surprised and it truly made my day. It warranted a call to my husband who was working out of town today and then when my 17 year old son came home from school I could hardly wait to tell him.  Actually both thought it was kind of cool.  Sooo - thanks Stacy and I will post all about it tomorrow and my blogger award recipients.

January 11, 2010

Housekeeping Notebook - Honest Critique

My present Housekeeping Notebook is not working.  I lost control/quit using it at the end of November around Thanksgiving as I was gearing up for the holiday season.  In my post back in November I noted two things:  "if you don't tailor it to you and try to use something that someone else has made up then it won't work."  Bingo!!! I had found some forms online that I began to use and for the most part it was working but it wasn't personalized to me.  Yes there were places on the forms for me to write and plan, but the forms were black and white and stark. 

Yesterday I spent the afternoon and evening making up my own forms with clip art that I liked.  Each form was my very own creation made by me for me.  I have monthly calendar inserts; weekly planning sheets; daily to do lists with places for appointments, household tasks, work/project tasks, personal tasks and dinner plans all on one page; cleaning schedule; laundry sheet (recipes for laundry supplies and such); weekly menu planner; baking day planner; grocery list; Bible study notes; monthly expense log; needlework/sewing project planning sheets; home project planning sheets; memorabilia project planning sheets; organizational project planning sheets; ongoing to do lists; and a fitness/food journal.

My next problem was the pink notebook/binder.  I had dropped it a couple of times and the binding was splitting.  I taped it back together with packaging tape until I had come up with another plan.  It was junk, but hey it was free.  Going to Wal-mart looking for a heavy duty binder is like going to "generic, boring" land looking for something special.  You know you are not going to find it but still part of you hopes that something special will be there.  Okay, I am getting a little too emotional about a binder.  I didn't find anything special, but it was worth a try. 

I looked around the house and I had some binders leftover from the law office.  One is a large 2 1/2 inch dark gray super heavy duty binder.  Oh yes - it really speaks to me and says "come hither and organize with me."  Yeah right.  It is ugly.  I am determined and am up for the challenge.

I purchased some old fashioned floral fabric on clearance.  I really think it is pretty and it is something I would have paid full price for.  As a sidenote I told my DS that I had bought this fabric to make curtains for his room.  He believed me for a moment and got upset.

I plan to take that gray notebook and transform it.  I have some quilting batting upstairs and I will pad the notebook and cover it with the fabric.  Then it will be beautiful and it will be something that I will want to have sitting out on my kitchen counter or table and I will actually use it.  Also this notebook is a heavy, weighty binder and it will last.  

I see the Housekeeping Notebook as a tool for me to use to be able to meet my goals, get organized and be more efficient.  Basically I want to get my housework done and have time to do other things.  I think getting organized is like losing weight.  You have to be ready, otherwise you will fail. Last fall I threw something together in a pinch because I overreacted to an almost missed appointment.  I wasn't ready to get organized.  Well I am ready.  Now if I can just find my pinking shears I would be able to get started on that fabric cover tonight!

January 09, 2010

Menus for the week of January 4th

Being on a Pantry Challenge makes you think about all the food that you have on hand and the best way to serve it to your family.  In the past I have been extremely poor at using up leftovers.  They sit in the fridge and get pushed to the back and eventually turn into a science experiment and get thrown out. 

I have been making a conscious effort to use up leftovers or to freeze leftovers for later use. Here is what we had to eat this week. 

January 4th - My DS's 17th birthday.  We had sirloin filets (purchased in the fall on sale), baked potatoes, tossed salad and of course birthday cake and ice cream.

January 5th - Homemade scalloped potatoes with smokie links on top; Steamfresh peas; tossed salad and of course - leftover birthday cake and ice cream.

January 6th - Oven baked BBQ bone in chicken breasts (I make my own BBQ sauce), leftover scalloped potatoes, corn, tossed salad (Normally I serve corn bread with this meal but I forgot to make it.)

January 7th - Leftover chicken; oven fried sweet potatoe fries; broccoli salad  (There was not enough corn to eat tonight so I took the small amount and tossed it into a container I keep in my freezer to use for soup making.)

January 8th - Spaghetti with meat sauce, garlic bread, leftover broccoli salad.

I also baked bread this week so the honey wheat bread was available at supper also.  For lunches my DS eats at school, my DH eats sandwiches from whatever we have on hand.  I had a package of O.M. bologna in the freezer and pulled it out and he ate that this week.  Otherwise he eats ham, turkey or PB & J sandwiches with some chips and fruit.  I eat a tossed salad for lunch or Progresso soups that I purchased on sale last month. 

For breakfast we eat toast or bagels or cereal.  I eat oatmeal with raisins and some brown sugar.  On a few occasions I get up early and have made eggs, waffles and such but since my son now has to be at school at 7:00 a.m. for early bird classes, I have not been doing this. 

Our meals are simple meals.  I try to have a salad at each supper meal whether it is fruit or a vegetable salad.

The only leftovers in my fridge are some spaghetti and sauce; garlic bread and some broccoli salad.  My DH and DS will be going to a basketball game tonight so I will be eating these leftovers for my supper.  They will enjoy a meal of fast food - which is a treat. 

My stockpiling over the past several months has paid off with a freezer loaded with meat and a pantry that is well stocked.  I will continue to spend little especially this month to meet the challenge and I will also continue to be a strategic shopper.

Pantry Challenge - January 7th Shopping

Week Two shopping on the pantry challenge was a success due to shopping in the middle of a snowstorm.

This week as I expected there were no good sales on baking supplies, canned goods or meat.  I did a lot of stocking up on these items in the fall.  One store did have a sale on bagels which are a big staple in my running DH's diet.  The day I shopped for groceries was the same day that we had a snow storm and near white out road conditions.  I live here in town and the grocery stores are only a few blocks away so it wasn't any trouble for me to get to a store.   I knew that the one grocery store that marks down produce would be having those mark downs due to the bad weather and people staying home and not shopping.  Well, as anticipated they did.  I spent a total of $33.71.  Here is a picture of what I purchased and I have decided to detail what I spent on each item.  (As to the background, yes I am peeling off the wallpaper in the kitchen to eventually paint the walls.)

Dole Salad Mixes ($1.44 each), marked down zuchinni (49 cents), marked down mushrooms (49 cents), marked down red and green peppers (99 cents), marked down bunches of broccoli (39 cents per bunch); Sara Lee Bagels (sale for 99 cents); fresh pineapple ($1.99), cantaloupe ($1.58) Clementine tangerines ($4.99); cabbage (33 cents lb.), ruby red grapefruit (4/ $1.00); Buddig deli meats ($1.00 after coupon); pasta (77 cents); tomato soup (3/$1.00); Chinet comfort cups (free with a coupon), salt (39 cents), Hawaiian bread (day old - $1.49 and then used a $1.00 off coupon), Nestle cocoa (2/$1.00), ziploc containers (3/$2.00 and then used a $1.50 off coupon), Italian bakery bread - 69 cents; Potato Chips ($1.50); Cottage Cheese (99 cents); American Singles ($1.69 on sale and then used 50 cent off coupon), Grapefruit juice ($1.50). 

Well that is the total.  We have eggs and milk on hand and I will probably need to go and buy some more milk on Monday.  I appreciate that one of the grocery stores in town does mark down the produce for quick sale.  Because of that we have had a lot of fresh vegetables and salads.  Clementine tangerines are so good and I enjoy when I am able to get them.  Many people wonder about nutrition when you spend less on groceries.  I think I have been able to provide my family with fresh fruits and vegetables without breaking the bank.  Of course it does help to have a grocery store in town that does mark down produce.  The trick is to balance the mark down produce with the produce that is on sale at a good price and to make sure you get those items used up before they spoil.  When I am at the grocery store I can easily adapt our menus to what is on sale.

So far this month I have spent a total of $58.75. My budget is $150.00 for the month. The cost of living here in Iowa is a lot lower than other areas of the country and I know that with planning and will power I will be able to stay within our budget. 

January 08, 2010

Two Roads Diverged in the Middle of My Life

I have been feeling somewhat blue in the past few days.  We have had another snowstorm and school was cancelled yesterday and today.  The temp is below zero and here I am in my bathrobe at the dining room table typing this post.  Peanut butter dog treats are in the oven (we ran out last night).  I am warm, I have clothes, food and shelter - yet I have this feeling deep down in which I wonder if I am going to make it or not living on one income and being at home. 

This feeling is temporary - perhaps it is hormonal.  My DH's job has been stressful and frankly if given another job opportunity he would leave.  We lost 1/3  of our income last year when I became unemployed and now I am wondering if I should have accepted a couple of the job offers that came my way last summer?  The job market is totally dried up now and I should not spend time second guessing my decision to stay home. 

I never felt much financial stress when I was working as my income was the cushion income in case something happened.  Tuesday of this week I was in the upstairs of our home and the sunshine was spilling through the windows brightening our bedroom.  I looked up and I thought I noticed some "old" moisture spots and a small crack in the gabled ceiling.  We know our roof is going to need to be replaced in the next couple of years but now I was thinking - oh no, it is going to need to be replaced this year.  This sent me into a little bit of a spiral.  Add to this that my DH's job is not going well, and I got one big case of the doubts - perhaps a pity party is a better way to describe it.

I don't believe that being home full time for 5 months is enough time to actually determine if this is what I want to do long term.  Too many decisions are made during an emotional time and I know that deep down I want to keep trying. 

This morning on the "Today Show" on NBC they interviewed Gretchen Rubin who wrote "The Happiness Project."  As I was listening to the interview I understood the epiphany she had experienced regarding her life and the changes she wanted to make.  I had such an epiphany in September 2008 and that was that my life was too hectic.  I owned an old house that I wanted to restore and never had time to get anything done due to work.  My youngest DS was going to college in a few years (now 18 months away) and there were many things I had left to teach him and to just enjoy being with him.

When I lost my job and had a couple of job offers I saw that I did have two roads to choose at that time.  Who was turning down job offers last summer?  People were unemployed and many were desperately seeking a job.   But I decided that instead of continuing the way I was continuing I would take a road that was being less travelled at this time.  I had a choice and I chose to stay home. 

No one has a perfect, happy life.  Stuff happens - snow storms, loss of income, health problems, stress and such but we do choose what to do with these situations.  My question to myself today is this:  am I going to let circumstances in life steal my joy?  Or am I going to accept that life does hand you lemons, move on and keep working at what I find that I really do best - being home and becoming a homemaker.  I have been given a great opportunity to be home.   If I were to be offered a job today and accept it I would always wonder what would have happened if I would have given myself more time. 

I can't control how my DH's boss treats him.  I can't control the economy.  I can't control the fact that our roof has reached the end of it's life.  I can't control the majority of things that happen in my life but I can control how I react or don't react to these circumstances.  I can continue to watch the pennies, nickles and dimes and save up the money we will need for a new roof. 

It is true what they say - that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.  I am making a conscious decision today to be happy and be grateful.  I have more resources than the majority of people in the world have.  I have the love of God along with my needs being met.  I have a wonderful family and most of all the love of a great man.

January 05, 2010

Living with a Big Black Dog

I always have felt overwhelmed before Christmas and then after Christmas. This year the time prior to Christmas was relaxing due to the fact that I was home full time. I was able to get everything done during the day and I even wrapped all the presents days before Christmas.

Actually I was concerned about putting the wrapped presents under the tree as our dog, Griffey, cannot be trusted with any kind of paper product. One day she took hold of the toilet paper in our bathroom and started to run around the downstairs tee peeing everything in sight. Then she started to eat her way back. I am starting to wonder why I am baking her dog biscuits when I could probably just stuff her dog toy with toilet paper and she would be happy. Every teacher should believe that dogs do eat homework.  Our son has turned in slightly chewed up assignments before.  I have even gotten over my fear of opening her mouth and sticking my hand down her throat to retrieve something she is eating.  If it isn't paper, it is plastic bags.  If it isn't plastic bags, it is food she is not supposed to have.

When we sit down to eat at night she will lay down next to my husband's chair but we are not fooled.  We know that someone will end up being the weakest link at some point.  Not every night, but it does happen.  She can quickly jump up and grab something off the table and eat it before we can do anything about it.  And then there is the "magic cloth".  That is what we call the bread cloth that we use to cover the rolls or bread in the bread bowl.  She has learned that if she pulls on the "magic cloth" that bread or rolls will fall out.   Someone must always remain at the table while someone is either putting the food on the table or taking it off. 

Then there was the time that I set bread dough to raise out on our back porch during the summer. I thought the dog was in the house, but she was in the backyard and I didn’t notice her. About 30 minutes later I went outside and saw the eaten up bread dough and the dog was running around the back yard belching yeast and her tummy was growing. We gave her 1 teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide (as recommended by the vet) and about 10 minutes later she upchucked everything. Okay I hope no one was eating, but I couldn’t let her digest all that bread dough. She has eaten a wash cloth before and we used the same remedy. 

One time she ate a bag of Hershey Kisses that I left out.  I can't believe I did that.  I discovered this right before I went to work.  I took her to the vet and they took her into a room and gave her some solution to make her throw up.  Then the assistant came out to talk to me.  I started to hear all this noise of cabinet doors banging coming from that room and I asked if they left Griffey in there alone.  They said yes and I said never turn your back on the ocean or a big black dog.  They opened the door and she had managed to open the cupboard where all the dog treats were and she had eaten a lot of them.  Griffey knew where they hid the treats.  So they took her outside and told me they wouldn't charge me for all the dog biscuits she ate.  Good thing.  She spent the day at the vet for observation.

Over the years that dog has eaten many things but my most embarrassing incident with her was while we were out walking at noon one day. First of all, if you do not like to hear someone talking about dog feces then do not read on. Well, here I am walking her on a main thoroughfare of town when she decided she needed to “do her business.” I had a plastic grocery bag with me so that I could clean up her mess. Well there she was humped over, and she acted as if she was constipated. She kept trying and I was getting impatient and people were passing in their cars and I was pretending not to notice anyone. Then I looked down and there was a long string like thing coming out of her. It was pink or should I say pinkish…. I recognized it as the apron tie from the apron that she had chewed up a few days earlier. Now when a dog is “constipated” they will stay in that humped position until they are “relieved.” They will not walk and try again later. So there I was and I realized that she wasn’t going to move with this “pinkish apron tie” half out of her. I sucked some air, said a few choice descriptive words and then I took the plastic grocery bag and yanked the apron tie out of her. I swear the dog breathed a sigh of relief and then we went on our way.

Two days later a friend saw me and said she had heard a story about a lady helping a dog relieve itself. So much for living in a small town.

This morning she did her ritual of pretending to be sleeping. Then as soon as my husband went upstairs to get ready for work she ran and found some paper to chew on. I swear she doesn’t do this when he is around as he is the “Alpha Male” in the house. I take issue with that.

All the things she did to terrorize me when she was a puppy are but a memory.  When I was living it, it wasn't so funny.  I had to keep the doors closed to the bedrooms and bathroom and I had to constantly be vigilant to see where she was and what she was doing. 

Bottom line, I love her. I can say that now as she is sleeping on the floor next to me while I am typing this. She looks up every now and then and then sets her head down and sighs. Never, never, ever did I think back 9 years ago when she was a puppy that we would still own her into adult hood.  But here she is and when she does "meet her maker" some day, it will be very sad in our household.  We have talked about it and my husband does want another dog after Griffey and I think we will always own another dog.  But does it have to be a puppy?  Isn't there a place for a geriatric stray dog to live out it's retirement years?

OMG - Yesterday's post

Did yesterday’s blog put you to sleep? OMG – I should never write late at night. It was like I was writing a police report and “just the facts mam.”  That was horrendous.  I will never do that again and will instead keep a food journal on my computer.

Bread dough is raising at the moment and I will post something later on how my schedule at home (or perhaps too loose of a schedule is not working).  It will not be too late though or I may end up with another sleeper.

January 04, 2010

Our meals on the Pantry/Grocery Challenge

It's getting late and I wanted to make sure I posted what we have had to eat the past couple of days.  I will warn you that it may be rather boring but it is primarily for me as I want to keep a record of what we ate this month.

Saturday, Jan. 2nd we ate leftovers. My DS and DH left in the afternoon to drive to a basketball game and didn't get home til late.  They ate at a fast food restaurant.  I dined on eggs and toast.  I love eating breakfast for supper every now and then. 

On Sunday I made up a batch of chili and put it in the crockpot to simmer while we were at Sunday School and church.  I used ground pork instead of ground beef.  I do that every now and then and the flavor is a little different but just as tastey.  When we got home from church the chili was ready and I made some grilled cheese sandwiches.  It makes a large amount.  We like to dip the sandwiches in the hot chili.  We also had some mandarin oranges.  Later on in the afternoon I baked chocolate chip cookies.  I have about 4 large coffee cans full of chocolate chips that I purchased over the holidays.

I froze the leftover chili into two separate packages.  One will make nice leftovers for my DH and I when our son is gone some evening.  The other half I will use to make chili mac before the end of the month.  Chili mac is simply chili stirred into macaroni or other pasta and heated in the oven with some grated cheese on top.  I take leftovers and freeze them for use in later weeks.  My DS does not like leftovers. If I freeze them and serve them again in a couple of weeks he doesn't consider them leftovers.  Go figure.

Breakfast is cereal or whatever anyone wants to fix for themselves and Sunday suppers are usually leftovers.  My DS had some Kraft Deluxe Mac and Cheese for supper last night. I like having the evening off from cooking a meal.

Today my son turned 17.  I had some bacon wrapped sirloin fillets in the freezer purchased last fall on sale ($1.67 each).  When these go on sale I stock up for special occasions.  We had these along with corn and baked potatoes.  I forgot to put the tossed salad on the table and well, I was a little embarrassed that I forgot it.  We had birthday cake and ice cream for dessert. 

During the day for lunch my DS eats at school.  My husband is home for lunch 3 days out of the work week and packs his lunch the other 2 days.  He either eats leftovers or has a PB & J sandwich (he loves these) or a meat sandwich, tuna salad sandwich or egg salad sandwich.  I have either soup or a salad at lunch.

I always have apples on hand and this week we have bananas also.  I also have plenty of carrots and salad mix on hand.  We have juice along with canned oranges and other canned fruit for anyone that wants them.   In the winter I generally prepare what my mother referrs to as "winter salads."  These are carrot salad, coleslaw, waldorf salad or a simple tossed salad. 

I am not a gourmet cook.  I am a simple cook that can make a meal out of leftovers from the fridge.  I try very hard to have on hand fresh fruit and vegetables and fruit juice and always milk and cheese.  My family only eats basic fresh fruits and vegetables and nothing exotic, which is fine with me.

Tomorrow I will be baking bread as our beloved dog, Griffey, was able to get a loaf of bread off the counter and she ate it wrapper and all. Darn it!!!

It is very, very cold here and by the end of the week they are predicting temperatures at minus 10 degrees without a windchill.  I am spending my days doing housework and checking all the water faucets to make sure that the pipes don't freeze.   This is homemade soup and stew weather and I am sure that we will be having these sometime this week.