November 22, 2014

Letting Go - Let's Declutter

I want to begin this post by thanking everyone for their kind comments regarding my father in law. He broke his hip a little over two weeks ago and he is doing very well.  We are thankful.

I continue to delve into the vintage home economics books that I purchased and I think that around the end of December I will be ready to share what I have learned.  I am gleaning a lot of great information.  It is as if I am talking with my grandmother, great grandmother and great great grandmother via these books.

There are blogs that talk about vintage home keeping and I love to look at a few but I as an amateur student of history, I enjoy doing the research myself and apply it to my own life.  I have always thought that we need to elevate the career of homemaker and we should treat it as seriously as we do any other career.  So, this is my continuing education for my homemaking career. 

5 years ago I journeyed on this path to frugality.  At that time I was frantically learning to live on less as that first year was beyond living paycheck to paycheck.  It was a day by day existence.  So what happens when you live that way for awhile?  Answer:   You tend to hang on to stuff as you never know when you could use it.  You keep thinking that you will make a big mistake if you give or throw anything away. After all, you might need it later on.   After 5 years you end up with a bunch of stuff that you need to get out of your house. 

This fall I decided that it was time to be ruthless and go through the house and sell, donate or throw stuff away.  Many of the things that I have been holding onto are things that I haven’t needed for several years.  Also, I feel as if the clutter is overwhelming me.  Now it isn’t visible to many people.  It is clutter in closets, the basement and our upstairs smaller bedroom which is serving as a “junk” room.  But I know it is all there and I just want to get rid of stuff and get organized. 

It is very easy for me to get side tracked when I am sorting through items so I am taking 45 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon to get the job done. 

For now I am tackling 5 areas of clutter:  Books;  Craft supplies;  Sewing and knitting supplies ; Holiday decorations  and Clothes.

This week I tackled our book collection.  My husband is an avid reader and while I love to read, I haven’t had much time to devote to it lately.  He reads fiction and I read non-fiction.  As of last week we had 4 tall book shelves (5 shelves on each) filled with books.  We also had 4 small book shelves (2 shelves on each) filled with books.  That is a lot of books that we have collected over the years.  One evening we went through them and made a pile of the ones that we no longer wanted.  The majority of these books were my husband’s and he said that since he had read them, he didn’t need them anymore. 

We have an organization in town that accepts donated books year round for their annual book sale.  I would rather donate the books towards a non-profit group than sell them myself.  The best part is that this organization makes it very easy to donate books.  They have a warehouse building where you can call ahead and they will make sure the garage door is open and you can simply arrive, open the door and drop off the books.  I also gave some books away to some of my neighbors. 

We are now down to 3 tall bookshelves and that is it.   Two shelves hold the remaining books and the last one will hold baskets or boxes of my craft and hobby supplies.  The rest of the bookshelves I am giving to my sons and to a neighbor.  With the books gone, I won’t need the bookshelves.  I am already excited about the simplicity of less furniture and stuff.

It’s hard when you downsize financially to let go of stuff.  You worry that you may need something and you don’t have money to replace it.  In the 5 years that we have been living on 1 income I have never had to replace anything I gave away.   Let it go.  It will bring more joy in your life to surround yourself with the meaningful items than to surround yourself with a lot of clutter.  

November 13, 2014

Take Pride in Your Home.

What follows is a post I wrote the other night -- I had to go to my in laws yesterday when I planned on posting this, so I got a little behind.  This post is a little "scattered" as I was having trouble concentrating.  The point I want to make is to enjoy your home no matter where you live. The humblest of homes can be the ones filled with a lot of love and happy times. 

No matter if you have a lot of money, or are barely getting by, take pride in your home.  Your home could be a little 1 bedroom apartment, a small rented house, a starter home that you are purchasing or your dream home.  It doesn’t matter where you live, take pride in it.  Don’t look at what other people have or where they live.  Don’t put down where you live, it is your home.  Don’t think about what you don’t have or wish you have, this will only make you unhappy. 

I have lived in small apartments, a one bedroom rental house that was a little dilapidated, a little two bedroom ranch that we bought to the old, old house we are in now.  I am happy because we are able to live on one income and have a life beyond my being tied down with a full time job outside of the home.
One of the biggest killers to a budget is envy.  I totally understand why God warned us of this in the scriptures.  If you think about it, envy causes people to purchase a lot of things that they can’t afford or need. 

You’re invited over to someone’s home for coffee or a meal and it is beautiful.  Not only is the kitchen state of the art, but the entire house is just beautiful with hard wood floors, woodwork and the beautiful lighting.  You are shown from room to room and you admire all of the furnishings and little art pieces.  You have a wonderful evening and then you drive home.  All the way home you think about that beautiful house and how if you could only have the same house, you would be happy and not want anything else in life.  You pull into your driveway – there is no garage.  You get out and kick at the gravel on the driveway.  Why can’t we at least have a paved driveway?  Then you walk through the yard, onto a creaky porch and as you reach for the door handle, you look up at the door and it has peeling paint on it.  Goodness, can’t we even afford a decent door?

Yep, I know the scenario well. I have lived it, yet I moved beyond when something happened.  I had some friends with beautiful homes that worked so much that they rarely spent time at home.  They had a lot of stress in their lives because they worked constantly and didn’t have much free time.  They were busy running their kids to all of the dance classes, sports events and much, much more.  Families became worn out and relationships became fractured.  In the course of a couple of years I saw friends get divorced.  I’m not saying that new homes cause marriage problems, but their decision to “own” high end homes, cars and furnishings, along with giving their children everything they felt they should have, led to living far beyond their means  and the stress that came with it. 

I learned that it doesn’t matter what others think about where you live or what type of home you own, it only matters to you.  When it comes down to it the one thing that everyone must learn is to ignore the envy and move beyond it. 

Also take pride in your home.  I’m not saying be prideful.  I’m saying that we need to take care of what we own and in so doing create a warm home environment for your family.

We purchased our house in 1997 and have a lot of work to do on it.  Most of what I have to do is remove decades old wallpaper and then repaint it.  There are floors to refinish and one room needs the paint stripped off of the wood trim.  It is very time consuming, but I have the time to do it.  When the kids were living at home and when I was working full time, I didn’t have the time to renovate.  When you live on one income you can purchase an older home that is very affordable.  Then you work on it a piece at a time and make it into something beautiful. 

We have had to buy big ticket items for our house this year.  In March we had to replace a furnace and the central air conditioner.  In September the water heater had to be replaced.  We had to put on a new roof a couple of years ago.  Next year we need a new front porch floor.  I’m not sure if we will be able to do it on our own and may have to hire it out.  No matter, we are still ahead than if we would have bought a new house back in 1997.  Even after 17 years a new house could have needed a new furnace and the things that we have replaced in our old house.  Not only is our mortgage low, so are our taxes.  Purchasing this old house way back then was the best decision we ever made.  It was because of this old house that I can remain home.   We do not know a lot about remodeling or home repairs.  We learn as we go.  Thank goodness for the internet and You Tube.

When you don’t have a lot of money, you can still make your physical structure of a house, into a home.  Even if you rent and can’t paint a lot of things, the best thing you can do is keep that little home of yours neat and clean.  Less is definitely more and the simplest of decors, can be the best.  Too much stuff or clutter of knick knacks can make a space look over the top.  Worn couches and chairs with worn areas or spots can look very inviting with a quilt thrown over them.   I have had to repair upholstery myself with a needle and upholstery thread.  One couch we had years ago was getting so worn on the fabric that I purchased a skein of rug yard in the same color as the upholstery and wove it in and out to cover up a worn spot. 

I am always amazed at the simple things in a home that make it look so pretty.  Dollar store votives, on a mirror with a little greenery is so pretty on a counter.  Pretty valances in a kitchen made from a fabric remnant can add a pretty little touch.  A little doily under a picture on a side table, looks so homey. 

Don’t get caught up with what you think people think of your home.  It doesn’t matter what they think as you are the one living in your apartment, rental house or purchased house.  Don’t buy more house than you can afford and in fact go one step further and buy far under what you can afford.  Better to purchase a home under your budget than to over extend yourself and be unable to enjoy the life God gave you.

November 11, 2014

Back to Almost Normal

My father in law had surgery last Thursday evening and came home on Saturday.  My in laws live about 1 hour away from us.  I have been driving to their house a lot over the past week.  The joy of being home is that I am available to my family when they need me.  It was the plan all along when I decided to be home that I would have that luxury.

My husband is one of 5 children in his family.  The rest of the siblings live all over the country and are making plans to come and visit their parents and help out.  My in-laws have 2 acres of land on which their house is built on and my father in law is a Master Gardener.  The next two weekends will be work weekends getting their property ready for the winter.  I will also be going to their house at least once a week to visit and see if there is anything they need me to do.

Now it's back to my home and my homemaking goals.

Yesterday the temperature was in the upper 50's so I washed windows on the outside of our house.  I didn't get to all of them, but made it to the ones that really mattered.  I was running out of time so I decided that the windows in the main living areas were my priority.

While I was sitting with my in laws in the hospital, I started to knit on a round loom and turned out some simple knitted caps.  I had never done this before and decided that since I would have a lot of sitting and waiting time, I might as well put my hands to good use.

I have a lot of homemaking odds and ends going on right now.  Reading the vintage home economics books, decluttering my house, keeping up on the normal daily housework AND getting ready for a new puppy.  Yes, as if my life isn't busy enough, we will be getting a golden doodle puppy in December.

Back in September we made the decision to add another dog to our family.  We already have a labra doodle.  I contacted the breeder that we got Molly from and was fortunate to find out that they had a litter of golden doodles on the way.  The puppies were born on October 21st and Decker will come home on December 10th.  Why the name Decker?  Because my husband is a runner and not just a weekend runner, he has been a runner for over 40 years and he runs several miles a day.  He has run 12 marathons and runs many, many races during the year.  Molly runs with my husband at least 2 miles out of his 6 to 7 mile daily runs.

So, nothing like a deadline to get my home keeping act together as when that puppy gets here, I will be spending my time housebreaking and going through obedience training.  Getting a puppy just before Christmas is not the ideal time, but when you have a great, reliable local breeder that has just what you want, you take a puppy when you can get it.

Now, this blog is all about living frugally and homemaking so where does a new puppy fit into this? Over the past 5 years we have paid off some of our debt and can afford another puppy.  A new puppy will also keep me more balanced with my bouts of depression and more importantly, our other dog, Molly, needs a companion.  It is my goal that over time both of our dogs will be able to be trained to be therapy dogs.  BUT -- owning and training a dog is work, work, work.  Dogs don't just behave because you show love to them, you have to have them go through obedience training for a well balanced dog.

Molly and my husband after running a 5K race
They came in second.
Tomorrow's post:  Take Pride in Your Home.

November 08, 2014

Taking care of Family

My father in law fell and broke his hip last week.  He had surgery and I am helping my mother in law right now.  My in laws live a little over an hour from us.  I hope to be back posting sometime next week.

I'm so glad that I don't have a job outside the home as when a family crisis happens, I have the luxury to stop everything and help.

November 01, 2014

Decluttering - Do it now!

The past 7 months have sidelined me as a housewife.  I spent from March to late August directing the Summer lunch program in our community.  During that time I did minimal housework – only what was absolutely necessary.  When the program was over, I was faced with a house that needed my attention ASAP.  It was, and still is, overwhelming.  I got sick a couple of weeks ago just when I was starting to make a little head way on the housework.  So after 1 week of a sinus infection that went into a second week of being sick with bronchitis, the house was really in bad shape. 

How many of you have houses that are disaster sites right now?  Yeah, I was very busy this spring and summer but the fact remains that I wasn’t doing a very good job at keeping my house in order to begin with.  If I had, it would have been much easier to maintain when I was busy or better yet, easier to delegate the cleaning. 

My husband is a dream in that he not only loves me and supports the different volunteer roles I take on, he doesn’t criticize when things get out of control at home.  He usually throws in some laundry, empties the dishwasher, vacuums and picks up without saying anything.  He just sees what needs to be done, and does it.  My problem is that I don’t like it when he does that because he works a full time plus job and he deserves his down time in the evening and the weekends. 

So to sum up:  not doing a very good job of maintaining a house leads to a disaster when you get busy which leads to guilt when someone tries to help you out.  Yep that’s me - sidetracked, guilt ridden with a case of attention deficit thrown in. 

When I was sick I spent a lot of time resting on the couch.  When you don’t have small children at home you get the luxury of resting when you are sick.  During that time I made a mental plan for changes.  I am not perfect and my home will never be perfect, but there are definitely some new habits I needed to work on.

The first thing I tackled when I felt better was to work on the main floor of our house.  If I were to keep certain rooms always picked up and relatively clean, I would feel a lot better.  These rooms are the ones that you can see from the front door:  living room, dining room and kitchen.  The downstairs bathroom is my bathroom so since I use it all the time, it is neat and clean.   I decided the minimum standard in my house is that these rooms are kept picked up (even if they aren’t clean).   As to the two downstairs bedrooms (one is now my sewing room), those have doors I can close, so they are not included in the minimum standard.

Next up, decluttering my house.  Yep, I’m not deep cleaning from top to bottom, until I get rid of the stuff that I need to get out of my house.  Why would I dust and clean stuff that I am going to give away anyway?  I have determined that in my home there are the following categories of clutter:  clothes, shoes, books, c.d.’s, outerwear, kitchen gadgets, lamps, furnishings, decorating items, holiday décor, and exercise equipment. 

I have been spending 45 minutes in the morning and 45 minutes in the afternoon 3 days a week going through the clutter and making a pile of stuff to give away.  That is all I can devote to this project and still keep me from being side tracked.  On the days that I declutter I take the items and pack them up, put them in my car and immediately take them to a thrift store to donate.  I don’t keep them until I have one huge room full of donation items.  I have found that if you get rid of the stuff each day, then you don’t struggle with second thoughts of keeping the items and you don’t have a big pile of stuff that you have to walk around. 

The more I declutter, the more I am coming closer to a goal of a neater house.  Once the decluttering is done, the seasonal deep cleaning will begin.  What is my motivation?  I have a mental picture of my home after the clutter is gone.  I see a home that is neat, orderly and simple.  My basement won’t be filled with boxes upon boxes of holiday décor and exercise equipment we don’t need.

Now is the time to go through your home and declutter.  Goodwill and other thrift stores get more and more customers over the holidays.  Go through your decorations and if you haven’t put up certain items in a few years, then quit storing them and get rid of them.  Get rid of the winter clothes in your closet that you know you won’t wear this season.  Many organizations are looking for donations of winter coats at this time of year. 

I have been feeling such freedom in giving away items I no longer use or need.  I know that each day that I spend decluttering brings me closer to my dream of an easier home to maintain.  

October 14, 2014

Down with a Sinus Infection

Yep -- I have been sick for a while with bronchitis and now a sinus infection. Don't worry -- I haven't gone away and neglected blogging.  I have finally become smart in my 50's and realized that rest is the best way to heal from sickness.  In the meantime, I am reading when I am not sleeping.  I will be back soon.

October 07, 2014

A Healthy Peanut Butter Energy Bar Alternative

I make these and keep them in the fridge for my husband and I to use in place of an energy bar. When I am hungry right before I plan to work out to an exercise dvd or go for a long walk, I eat one of these.  They are very, very good.

Peanut Butter Bites


1 cup oats, old fashioned or quick *
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/2 cup ground or milled flaxseed
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Form into bite-sized balls and store in the refrigerator.

Optional Ingredients:  flaked coconut, nuts, chia seeds, pumpkins seeds, chocolate chips.

* I used Bob's Red Mill 5 grain Rolled Hot Cereal.  It contains whole grain wheat, rye, barley, oats, triticale and flaxseed.  I was out of steel cut oats, otherwise I would have used them.  I also added 1 tablespoon of chia seeds.

October 06, 2014

Good Ole Fashioned Homemaking

So, it has been a little over 5 years since I became a stay at home wife.  In that period of time I have tried and failed on different ways to “keep house.”  What I longed for I never seem to be able to attain:  a clean, orderly home that has been refurbished and decorated with the beautiful things that I have collected over the past 10 years or so.  I never seem to be able to keep up on the laundry or make a menu plan and stick with it.  It shouldn’t be that difficult, but I haven’t been able to stick to it. 

In the past 5 years I have gone through 2 major bouts of depression along with anxiety/panic attacks which then ushered in menopause. Those were some interesting years and I am glad they are behind me. 

My dream has kept eluding me because of a flaw:  I am a procrastinator along with having some attention deficit problems.  I can get side tracked easily but if I can sit down and make a plan, I can stick with it until the plan needs to be tweaked.  Then I get frustrated and want to give up. 

Well, about a month ago I started to think about how my mom kept house and how my grandmother kept house.  I was trying to figure out how they did it.  My mom told me how she divided chores and spread them throughout the week.  She made sure the downstairs was kept looking nice, especially the entryway, but didn’t worry so much about the upstairs.  My grandmother, on the other hand, cleaned her house every day.  She lived in a very small farm house which was heated by a coal stove.  She mopped floors everyday along with dusting and cleaning everything.  I think the main reason she did this was due to the fact that when she was a child, she had no home.  She lived on the streets of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her siblings and they had nothing.  To get married, have a family and a small house was the world to her so she took very good care of her home and belongings as she wanted them to last. 

My mom brought up a point that is different for my generation and that is that we are sidetracked by technology that interrupts our day.  Wow, this is very, very true.  I am always checking my phone for messages and I always have the t.v. on while I am working which means I stop to listen to something that “invites me in” to stop and listen.  My mom used to clean while listening to the radio.  My grandmother cleaned to listening to herself sing. 

After 5 years of not attaining what I wanted to attain to be as a homemaker, I decided that it was time to really sit down and have a heart to heart with myself as to what I want to be and if it was attainable or not.  I decided that it was attainable and that I really, really wanted to have the kind of warm, clean home that my grandmother had.  I also want the peacefulness that comes from having order in my home, albeit not to the level of scrubbing floors every single day, but finding a happy medium that I can actually do.   I want what my grandmother had:  a routine that led to a peaceful and orderly home.  It brought her happiness and I was always happy in her home and surroundings.

In thinking this over, I realized that I can have what my grandmother had if I am willing to make some changes in my life.  I need to keep a schedule not just for homemaking but for time for friends.  I got into the habit of accepting an invitation to coffee on the spur of the moment when the laundry was piled up and then I would find myself getting side tracked for the rest of the day.  Now I am starting to schedule in those coffee times with friends and that is working so much better.  I am finding out that my friends would prefer to do this too. 

So, how do I attain my vision of being the kind of homemaker that my grandmother was?  Well, grandmother died in 1985 so I can’t ask her, but I can look at homemaking books from her era to get a glimpse into what it was like to be a homemaker in the 1940’s and beyond.  I have started to collect old Home Ec. Books and I have been reading them.  Remember when Home Ec. was considered a science?  I still consider it a science.  Look at a Home Ec. book from the early 1900’s up to the 1960’s and you get an idea of how a woman took care in the keeping of her home.  Being a homemaker is work if you really want to do it right.  It means that you properly clean and keep the home clean all the time.  You serve nutritious meals and you take proper care of clothing and such.  If you look at the time involved in the role of homemaker, it is definitely a full time job.  I am embracing it.  This is my calling.

Here is a picture of my Home Ec. book from 1971 when I was in 7th grade.  I found it on Amazon.  I also purchased Home Ec. books from 1915, 1940’s, 1950’s the 1980’s. 

I am really enjoying the book from 1915 entitled “The Science of Homemaking.”  Homemaking was taken very seriously.   It was important that the housewife not only keep a home clean for presentation, but for sanitation.  There is so much information in this book regarding cooking, nutrition, cleaning and sewing that is relevant today.  

So, here is what I am doing.  I am gleaning as much information as I can from these books and I will be implementing these homemaking guidelines in my own home.  I am homeschooling myself in the proper way to keep a home.  If I were to tell some people this, they would laugh and think I was crazy.  But, for me, it is like choosing being at teacher or an accountant for a career – this is my career – this is what I want to do.

I want to be a better homemaker.  I have goals and dreams and yes, they are centered around my home and family.  In order to be better, I need more education.  I truly believe that I am going to be able to settle down, read and glean as much as possible from these books.  Change does not happen overnight, but I am motivated and most of all, I want this.  More than anything I want to be successful as a homemaker and I want to make this house more of a home than a house.

I’ve had the career outside of the home and I was successful.  I was known for being a great employee and hard worker.  I would rather be known for being a great homemaker, wife, mother and grandmother.  I want to be known for my hospitality and for being happy and fulfilled.  I am on my way.  

October 04, 2014

I'm Back

The Summer Lunch Program that I directed has been over for 6 weeks.  I spent the first month in meetings to discuss the program and what we would like to change for next year, filing reports with the State and getting feedback from volunteers.

I have spent the rest of my time trying to get my house in order.  I didn't do a lot of housework this summer and my house was a disaster.

I have missed blogging and sharing my life with all of you.  This week I will share more with you about the Summer Lunch program.  However, tomorrow I want to share with you about my latest collection:  old Home Ec text books from the early 1900's through the early 1980's and how I am taking the advice of these books in the managing of my home.

It's good to be back blogging.  I have missed it a lot.

July 05, 2014

Why I've Been Gone

I haven't blogged for months and I owe everyone an explanation.

I have been focusing on feeding hungry children in my community.  I am the Director of our local Summer Lunch program which feeds children throughout the summer.  We are focusing on those children who receive free and reduced lunches throughout the school year and go hungry during the summer.

This has consumed all of my time since February.  I supervise over 140 volunteers, make up the menus, buy the food, keep an ongoing inventory and take care of all of the bookkeeping.  So, this is why I haven't been blogging.

I have found my passion in serving the children of our community.  The program that we are going through to provide the food is the USDA Summer Lunch Program.  We must comply with their guidelines for a healthy meal for the children in order to receive reimbursement from them.  We have focused on feeding them lunch and our lunches consist of milk, whole grain breads, lean "whole muscle" meats such as turkey breast, non-processed cheeses such as provolone and cojack and fresh fruits and veggies.

An example of a lunch menu would be a turkey/cojack cheese sandwich using Sara Lee whole grain white bread, milk, fruit salad of watermelon, strawberries and sliced grapes; and for a veggie - a tray of fresh green beans, sweet pepper strips, carrots, cucumber strips and grape tomatoes.

Many children have never seen the fruits and veggies we are serving and someone questioned the cheese - why it wasn't wrapped in plastic.

The program ends August 15th which is the Friday before school begins in our area.  Then I will be back to focusing on my home and blogging.  I have been going to bed at midnight and getting up at 6:00 a.m. for the past several months in the planning process, fundraising for start up costs and handling all of the paperwork and documents necessary to run a food service program.

So, that is what I have been doing and I will be happy when I can go back to focusing on my home.  My husband and I are empty nesters and he has gladly put up with quick dinners, an untidy home and doing his own laundry and clean up.  It has been well worth the messiness of my home in order to feed children who would go hungry during the summer.

February 04, 2014

Update on Diaper Rash

Ryan's diaper rash is gone.  It's nice to see pretty white, pinkish normal skin on his bottom.  My DIL took Ryan to the doctor and he prescribed a prescription cream for his bottom.  It did appear that he had a yeast infection.  Ryan had the "perfect storm" that led to his rash:  ear infection; prescription for an antibiotic to treat the ear infection; and he was cutting teeth.

After applying the prescription cream twice a day, we saw a difference within a day.  However we still had to deal with the rash hurting him when we were cleaning him up after he soiled his diapers.  The other problem was that he had horrible runny diapers.  His bottom was still raw and yet we had to get it clean so it would clear up.  I continued to use soft flannel homemade wipes on his bottom and then I applied Vaseline all over his bottom and genital area.  He screamed and cried and then when I was done, I stood him up and he hugged me and put his head on my shoulder.  I had a lot of tears last week.

Since he was already getting a prescription cream in the morning and the afternoon we decided that it was best to go conservative throughout the day and just use Vaseline.

Well the rash cleared up by the second day and when he was at my house yesterday I had one happy little boy.  He had been sick and then he had the pain of the rash and cutting of the teeth so he hadn't been himself for a long time.  Ryan spent the whole day happy.  He smiled, he played, he giggled and he was feeling so good.  I had a few errands to run and he waived and smiled at people.

We had a great day and it was one of those days that you treasure.

Thanks for all the advice on the rash.  Many of these ideas I will be using on him in the future.

February 02, 2014

SNAP menu - Working on it.

When I took up the challenge of coming up with food choices or menus for living on a food stamp budget, I struggled with where to begin.  The reason:  I probably know more about making things from scratch and stretching a food dollar than a lot of people.  Why?  Because I took the real Home Economics class in the early 1970's where the first thing we learned to make was muffins from scratch.

What else did I learn from the good ole Home Ec class?  Sewing, cooking from scratch, cleaning and generally an economical way to run a home.  This kind of training went out the door as women went to work in order to help support their families and they needed faster tools for doing things:  i.e. processed foods.

Getting back to my own food stamp challenge, I have decided to do two options.  One for me and with my knowledge of stretching a food budget and one with someone who has not had the same background and training and uses convenience and processed foods.

With a $50 budget ($25 per person in my family) I will use that money to purchase what a person with my knowledge could make into menus.  Since going on a SNAP budget means that we will probably have had hard times and I will have used up most of the items in my cupboard, I will be making up my grocery list with hardly any food at home in my pantry.

Plan B will be using convenience foods to fill the menus for a person who doesn't cook much and doesn't have the same cooking schools that I have.

For both plans I may add an option of getting a small amount of items (i.e. a few cans) from a food bank.

When the food ads come out, I will be using the ad for this week to make up the menus. In fact I may do these budgets for a couple of weeks using the successive food ads.

This was my stumbling block in getting this challenge done.  I was struggling with the "Rules" of the challenge.  Doing this challenge with a Plan A and a Plan B is just the ticket for my getting this research done.

Let's Hear a Yea for Menopause!

I made a promise to myself last fall and that is that January and February were going to be wonderful months for me.  Why?  The last 3 Januarys and Februarys have been horrible for me.  They were filled with depression and anxiety and I found myself spiraling downward each year.  This year was going to be different and it has.

I continue with the drug therapy that I have been on since last April.  Lexapro has been a wonderful drug therapy for me.  It works and best of all it works for me in small doses.  I do experience some anxiety but it is what I call "normal" anxiety.  Normal anxiety to me is the anxiety you feel when you are going to be late for an appointment.  Abnormal anxiety for me was having anxiety caused by a small thing such as our dog barking a little and then it would go from 1 to 10 in seconds leading me to full blown panic attacks.  

Along with the drug therapy I am careful as to what I eat and I get sleep and exercise.  AND I am now into full blown menopause.  Now that I have gone through 1 year without a menses I can now say I made it through to the other side and being in menopause is not so bad.  In fact, it is a blessing!  I don't have to buy tampons or pads anymore or experience cramps and that monthly yuck feeling.

I used to think of menopause as being something an old lady gets.  I don't consider myself as being old at 54.   However, I must say that 54 was old to me when I was in my 20's.  What it all comes down to is am I happy or not?  If I am happy it shows in the way I take care of myself and this reflects in my general health and well being.

I am not the same 50 year old woman that my mom was some 30 years ago.  I work out, I watch what I eat and I am getting involved in volunteer activities in my church and community.  I don't dress like my mom either and I don't dress like a teenager too.  Yep being 50 is not like being your mom's 50.  It is what you make of it and I love it.

If I have a hot flash every now and then, I can deal with it.  In fact, it has been kind of nice to have a hot flash with all of the cold weather we have been having, but I am sure come summer it might not be so nice.

I started my period at the age of 11 and ended it at the age of 53.  That is 42 years of dealing with PMS, cramps and buying tampons.  I'm glad it's over and I'm ready to move on.  

Cleaning my Area Rug - 1 Year Later

It has been more than a year since I cleaned my area rugs as posted in this article.  These rugs never smelled from the ammonia of the pet urine since I cleaned them.  I'm so pleased.

I didn't get around to doing it last summer but beginning this summer I am going to take all of my large area rugs and simply wash them outside with cold water from the hose.  The plan is to use no soap of any kind and simply "rinse" the dirt away.  Then it will take a few days for them to dry hanging over the deck rail.  Note to self:  check the weather forecast before I do this.

Water does the job quite well and is better for the fibers of the rug and for our health also  It just goes to show that sometimes a conservative way of cleaning is much better than using a lot of chemicals.  I had to use the store bought cleaner to get the urine smell out, but from now on it is going to be water.

January 29, 2014

Dealing with a Grandson's Diaper Rash

My little grandson fell asleep a few minutes ago, so I thought I would steal some time away to write a post.

I am caring for my grandson today and he has a horrible diaper rash.  He is cutting teeth and recently had an ear infection.  His parents have him in disposable diapers.  Today I took the big risk of letting him run around diaper free to get air to the infected area.  (He is 11 months old and started walking 3 weeks ago.)  He liked it so much that I hope that he doesn't think that this will be the normal routine at Grandma's house.

I have taken some flannel fabric and fashioned little diapers to keep on him.  They are loose so fresh air can get to his sore bottom.  This has only helped a little and while we have been putting a good quality and highly recommended diaper cream on his back side, it isn't getting much better.  So Ryan is going to the doctor today and hopefully the doctor will prescribe a prescription diaper cream.

My grandson, Ryan, is my only grandchild and he is the son of my eldest son, Mike.  When Mike was around the same age he developed a horrible diaper rash.  Caring for Ryan has brought all of that back to me.  It is hard to clean the infected rash as it is very painful for a baby.  I have taken pieces of flannel and soaked them in warm water with a little soap and carefully cleaned Ryan.  It is still painful, but not as harsh as baby wipes.  Even the alcohol free wipes bothered him.   Try and get a diaper clean while the child is screaming because of the pain and it will bring tears to your eyes.

I have put him in a warm water bath, but he won't sit down so I let him stand while I drizzle warm soap water over his butt and genitals.  Even still, he cries from the pain.  Then I pick him up, wrap him in a towel and let him rest on my lap.  By the time I smear him with the diaper cream and a fresh diaper, he is exhausted and so am I.  He rests his head on my shoulder and I rock him until he is ready to get down.

Rocking him brought to mind the old hymns of the church that I grew up knowing.  I have sung to him "What a Friend we Have in Jesus,"  "Trust and Obey" and "Just a Closer Walk with Thee."

It is a labor of love to care for him and I am especially thankful that I can give him the extra care and attention that he needs at this time in order to conquer the rash.

This is what it is all about.  I thought I would only care for him 2 times a week, before he was born.  Then I cared for him 4 days a week and now 3 days a week.  My daughter in law has found a wonderful babysitter for Ryan to go to 2 days a week, so I can get a break and so Ryan can interact with other children.

The sad part about Ryan being sick is that my daughter in law's mother died in July last year.  She was in her 50's and she had a long struggle with cancer.  I try very hard to help out all I can with Ryan and I also try hard not to butt in.  It is a balance.  But I can't help but think that when Ryan is sick that my daughter in law wishes that she had her mother to call on for advice.  It always makes me sad to think that she lost her mom shortly after Ryan was born.

 My goal is to pick up the slack, be respectful and not offer advice when she doesn't need it and be there when she asks for it.  It is a balance.

When Ryan's other grandmother was in hospice I promised her that every time I kissed little Ryan that I would always give him two kisses, 1 from me and 1 from her.  I also promised her that I would always tell him about her and that he would always grow up hearing from me about his Grandma Carol.

January 19, 2014

Stretching Dishwasher Detergent

I have a dishwasher.  I didn’t grow up with a dishwasher nor air conditioning but I find it kind of funny how my parents got both after I was grown and married.   Maybe it was because my sister and I helped with the dishes and air conditioning was something that most people in our community didn’t have when I was growing up.

I do love my dishwasher for one reason – it tidies up the kitchen pretty quick.  I may have a lot of dishes to clean, but putting them in the dishwasher gets them off the counter and out of the sink and makes the kitchen look better.  However, if a dishwasher didn’t’ come with the house, I probably wouldn’t own one.    

Dishwasher detergent can get pretty expensive.  I tried store brands and I tried the homemade recipes.  The store brands worked fine  but was still kind of pricey.  The homemade recipes made my dishes look cloudy and this version didn’t clean them as well.

My solution:  combining the name brand with the homemade version.  About every 6 weeks Cascade or another name brand dishwasher detergent goes on sale for $3.99 for a 75 oz. box of powder or 75 oz. bottle of the gel version.   I usually have a coupon that I can use.  I can get the store brand for about $3.00 for the same amount.  I have been mixing the name brand with the store brand to extend it, but lately I have been mixing a homemade version with the store brand or name brand and I like it much better.   

Here is my version of Dishwasher Detergent

1 - 75 oz. box of Dishwasher Detergent (Name brand or store brand, whatever you prefer)
1 cup salt
2 cups of Borax
2 cups of Baking Soda

Mix the above ingredients together and keep in an airtight container.  I use an old ice cream bucket or you could use two old plastic coffee containers. 

I am a believer in finding the least amount of product to get the same results as using the recommended amount.   I use 1 tablespoon of this mixture in my dishwasher and I use white vinegar as a rinse agent.

I have seen a recipe on the internet that includes the salt, borax and baking soda along with a cup of “Lemi Shine.”  The problem is that the Lemi Shine is over $3.00 for a small container so I felt it wasn’t worth the price.  The cost would exceed the reason for making my own homemade version of dishwasher detergent.

Once a month I run a cup of bleach through the dishwasher WITHOUT any dishes in it to clean it out.  I also take a old toothbrush to clean out the dirt and grime that can accumulate between the door and the seal of the dishwasher.  Baking soda and the toothbrush works really great.

The result:  a cheap version of dishwasher detergent that does a great job of cleaning my dishes and keeping them spot free AND an equally cheap version of dishwasher cleaner.  

My Eyes Have Been Opened

(This post has been 2 weeks in the making.  I have written from the heart on this one and instead of going back to proof read what I have written, I am just going to post it.  If I were to go back and proof it, it would take me another hour or so and I want to get this posted without putting it off.)

I’m surprised I have anyone following me after a very, very long time of not posting.  I have been sent down a rabbit hole ever since I started researching living on SNAP food benefits.  I began to try to figure out what an average family would get, how they would make that stretch for 4 people and that led me to doing a lot of research. 

You see, it’s not as simple as I thought.  I thought that I would get the SNAP amount, the amount of people in the family, perhaps do a scenario where they were unemployed and had small children, but that wasn’t enough for me. 

Little did I know that this small project would open my eyes to a problem in my community, state and country.   I have found out through me son, who is a teacher, through other teachers, through grocery store managers, clerks at stores and law enforcement that there is an incredible amount of people living in poverty in my community.  It is getting worse every year. 

My son is in his 4th year of teaching high school, the last two years at his alma mater.  He graduated in 2003 and has told me that in 11 years since his high school graduation the student population has changed a lot in that there are more and more kids that live in poverty as compared to when he was a high school student.  It has increased by a great margin.

I always knew that there were people that were poor in our community, but I never realized how many people in our community live with hunger every day.  I have heard stories from school bus drivers where kids have gotten onto their bus asking the bus driver if they had any food OR where the kids on the bus were worried that the bus might be late and they may miss breakfast at school.  In one school district near us I heard about the football team that wasn’t performing well, because the players were hungry because of not having enough food in the home.  A local woman got involved and then got her church involved in getting proper food to these athletes and starting a weekend backpack food program.
In a small community of 11,000 you would think that you would be more aware of the level of poverty and hunger, but I wasn’t.  In late November and December and early January the local newspaper published articles regarding local charities.  I clipped the articles and put them in an envelope.  I read more and more online articles about the 50th anniversary of LBJ’s war on poverty and I came to one conclusion:  in the 1960’s and early 1970’s we did a lot of work to end poverty, but the problem is back and it is worse than ever. 

No matter what you think about people living in poverty, the one thing that should make you shudder is that children are hungry all the time and not getting the proper nutrition that they need to do well in school and life in general.    Children don’t have a choice in their circumstances.

It’s not that I have had my head in a hole, I just didn’t realize the magnitude of the problem and how many people in our community go to bed hungry.  I am presently doing more research as to the numbers of singles and couples making minimum wage that are termed the “working poor.”
I began reading books on hunger and poverty in America, watching documentaries on Netflix and from the local public library.  I shared what I learned with women at my church.  This led to 5 of us forming a group to research the hunger needs of women and children in our community.  We made a list of local charities and have been conducting interviews. 

I am learning about the Working Poor and how our local Food Pantry is not open during hours when they can access it.  I am learning about food deserts and all sorts of things.  I have studied the history of food stamps and have watched with sadness recently as more and more benefits have been cut. 
Education is power.  I am enrolled in an online class on children’s nutrition on Coursera.  If you are interested in free online classes on all types of subjects google Coursera or EdX. 

So I am taking this knowledge and using it.  For the past 4 ½ years since being home I have wanted to do something with my life that really mattered (not that being home and taking care of family isn’t important) but I wanted to give back to some kind of organization or movement.  I wasn’t able to find anything that made me want to give my time and resources to, so I have created one.

The bottom line to our research is that kids in our school district are coming to school hungry and staying hungry over the weekend.  We are looking at a backpack program to send home food on the weekends.  High schoolers are hungry when they go to school and although most of them qualify for free breakfast they won’t stand in line to get breakfast because there is a stigma OR it isn’t enough to get them through the morning.  We are thinking about breakfast on the go where we put granola bars, a piece of fruit and some milk or juice boxes in a sack, have them come by our church parking lot and we hand them these sacks to eat prior to school OR providing a hot breakfast once a week for all high schoolers in our community.

Then there is the problem of the lack of nutrition in the school lunch program itself.  This led me to studying how the school lunch program began back in the 1940’s and how it changed from providing good nutritious meals to heat and eat junky food that kids have become used to eating over the years . 
This sabbatical I have been on has been the best thing I could have done.  It was a God thing how it happened in that God put some women in my church that I didn’t know very well in my Sunday School class, we got a discussion going and we found out that we had the same interests in fighting hunger and ending poverty. 

Also, I am back.  I missed posting but I am glad that I took time off to educate myself.  I will post after our group meets at the end of this month to report on their interviews with local charities.  I myself will be interviewing the local school superintendent and food service director. 

And as to the living on SNAP benefits, my research has led me to doing interviews with people that are doing just that and struggling.  As I get more information from these people, I will report on how they are doing it or not doing it.