Thursday, June 30, 2011

Home Economics

The cost of food is second only to the Mortgage in our household. It's quite difficult to buy healthy, nutritious foods and stay within a sensible budget. I would LOVE to buy all organic foods and never buy another thing that came in a box or a can. I suppose, that is possible for some - but for me, there are financial and time constraints that prevent an all inclusive, militant Natural Diet.

Around the new year this past December, God started working on me about what I was buying and where I was shopping. Our family was spending over $800 per month at the grocery store. I was shopping at a premium grocery store and buying organic whenever possible. While I justified this as a health benefit - I was spending outside our means.

Last night I went to the local discount grocery for milk, bread, cheese, cereal and fruit for the last time of the month. I came home and added up the receipts for the month of June and was pleased to find that my efforts got the food bill down to just over $500 last month! Here are the things I did to cut the cost, but keep the healthy nutritious foods.

1. Angel Food Ministries - This program has a variety of food "boxes" that can be purchased online and picked up at a local distribution sight. You can buy month by month with no obligation. Sometimes there are a lot of pre-packaged meal items, which I try to avoid, but on a whole, I've been rather pleased with the variety and quality of the food.

2. Stop the Big Haul - I used to shop one day per week and get everything. We would also make a trip mid-way through the week for apples, milk, bread, bananas, diapers.... Since we were going twice a week anyway, I decided to just shop 2 or 3 times per week and hit different stores with a sale going on.

3. Give Up the Gottas - I don't know about you, but there are certain foods I just "gotta" have - or at least I thought that I did. Things like yogurt, protein bars, and electrolyte replacements are things I had to have a certain brand and flavor of no matter the cost. I've had to either change my mind a bit, or not eat it the weeks it isn't on sale. And it hasn't killed me. Also, showing the kids that I can make the sacrifice, has encouraged them to try different brands and flavors of things they like.

4. Home Cookin' - Eating out is so convenient, and if you hit Subway it can be cost effective and fairly nutritious. But nothing is as cost effective or good for you than making it yourself. I sometimes think that if I don't have the energy to make something outstanding for supper, I should order out. A take out dinner for our family can easily cost $35! I can feed our family for TWO DAYS on $35. I had to change my thinking, and when I was to tired to cook - accept that sandwiches, or cereal, or scrambled eggs would be just fine. No complaints, yet!

So, those are a few things that I've been doing to cut the food bill. I actually experienced a bit of anxiety in the store over this. I shopped last night and spent $60 on fresh fruit/veg, cheese, bread, milk, crackers, etc. I realized that in a few days all that food would be gone and I'd have to do it all over again. Our children are only 12, 9, 4 and 2!! What on Earth will the food bill be like when they are 17, 13, 9 and 7!?!

I keep praying over our spending and trying to make right choices. If God is in it, it can't fail!




Friday, June 24, 2011

Dear Dad

My Dad and Mom's Engagement Photo 1973
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My dad passed away in December 1998 after battling lung cancer for almost 2 years. Our oldest son was born that year, Dad saw him a few times but the cancer had spread to his brain by that time - so I'm not sure if he really saw him.

Lately I've been having dreams about him. He's there, but he's not. I see him at a family function, but can't get to him to talk to him. I find "evidence" of him working on stuff at my house (he was a carpenter), but can't find him anywhere. Something is going on in my brain, and I s'pose I need to get this off my chest. So here it is...

Dear Dad,

I miss you. I wish you could meet our oldest son now, you would really like him. He is extraordinarily bright and would be able to talk Sci-Fi with you all day. He loves to read and is now playing baseball! Our oldest daughter would surly have had you all wrapped up. She is a little snarky and so very pretty - just the way you like them.

Life has been very busy in the last 5 years - I finally got married to a man who loves me very much. I met him at church, can you believe it!? He treats me like a princess and loves Liam and Alahnnah more than anything. We've had TWO more babies and bought our first house. You would be SO in love with our new babies!! Susan is 4 now and follows Alahnnah around in word and deed. Cameron is a boy's boy - he LOVES any sport that has to do with a ball and builds towers out of blocks all day.

Dad, I love you so much. I wish you could see me now. I am finally okay. I quit smoking and have even lost weight. I sometimes think of what you would say if you could tell me you were proud of me. I go for long runs sometimes and when it gets really hard, I think of you. I am training for my 3rd Half Marathon - pretty crazy, huh?

Rick is working for Don this summer and getting a dose of construction work. Dad, he is such a wonderful kid. I try to tell him about you so that he doesn't forget. Every chance I get, I mention you - our Dad. I keep your memory alive by telling the kids about you to. I make sure to pass down your jokes!

I think about you all the time. It used to be every day - but life gets busy, and you've been gone so long. Every time I hear a circular saw, smell sawdust, or see an old guy pouring a concrete driveway or working on a roof, I strain my neck trying to see you. I wish you could come over to my house and "bug" me about what needs fixed.

The biggest news is that I am a believer in Christ Jesus, now! I realized that no matter what I did, I still needed Him. So that means that I will get to go to Heaven when I leave this place, and I will get to see you again! I'll bet you will be wearing a t-shirt, blue jeans and a cap. Your ice blue eyes will be shining and you will hug me tight. I'm pretty excited about that.

Well, that's all for now. I have to go and make lunch. I can't wait to see you again, right after I meet Jesus - you understand.

Love,

Annie Kay



Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy Joyous and Free

What do you think of when you look at this picture? Admittedly, I think "MESS!" Sometimes it's hard to get out things like finger paints or a whole bin of blocks because I'm just not in to the big clean up!

I don't really know that much about anything. With children, I just try to do the right thing and hope for the best. I'm a big kid at heart, so having 4 children and a few daycare kids is fun first. My kids range in age from 12 to 18 months, so it's hard to plan universally appealing activities. Most of our day is spent in what may be categorized as "Free Play" or "Provider Directed Learning."

I see a big push for keeping children busy. Most children are enrolled in pre-school at age 3, Mom's that are home with kids are busy hauling them from the park to the zoo to the playground. At home there is a feeling of guilt on the part of the parent if every moment is not spent reading to, or playing with the child.

Trust me, I know the value of keeping children busy! Six or seven kids can run right over you and stomp on your ashes if you don't keep them busy. But I do see a marked difference in children that are constantly entertained, and those that are encouraged to go out in the yard and play with some sticks.

With all of the available screen time, we are already at risk of raising people who need everything now. Could I gently put forth that we don't need to constantly entertain them, as well? I'm not saying that a parent should ignore their child...entirely...but we could afford to break it to them that they are not the center of the universe.

A sorry side effect of all this scrambling to make Little Susie or Little Johnny happy, is no time for proper exercise. One of the major excuses that I hear among parents is the feeling of guilt when they take an hour away from their children to exercise. I get it. But the time we take "away" from our children, we GIVE to our grand children.

I guess I may have grown up differently than some of my peers. Both of my parents worked full time, we went to daycare and when I got old enough, I walked home from school with my little sister and watched her til my parents got home. We learned to entertain ourselves, and my Mom always made it a point to include us in any shopping trips or days off that she had because she knew time was precious.

I don't remember going to the pool, the zoo, or the playground with her. We were involved in one sport or music activity per year and I don't remember ever missing a sit down supper because of an extracurricular commitment. Mom read to us, helped us learn to ride our bikes, made us mow the lawn, took walks with us, and the best thing in the week was helping her clean the house and then go grocery shopping on Saturday morning.

I still remember how she would act like the shininess of the bathroom fixtures was hurting her eyes and how good I felt to be a part of HER world.

Anyhow - just me talking here. If you want to run around and spend all your time impressing your kids with how many times you can get in and out of the car, go ahead. I'll be at home, under a home made tent of sheets and kitchen chairs with a dogpile of toddlers on my head. Later we plan to ride big wheels through all the ant hills on the sidewalk - double points if you get an ant to stick to your tire.

Maybe I'm lazy, crazy, or all of the above. Maybe I need to get with it and get my 4 year old cracking on some ballet lessons before she passes her prime. Maybe I should grow up.

Maybe not.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Fennel - what?

If you've ever seen this stuff in the store, you may have wondered just what to do with it. That's me, always. I am fairly adventurous, and try to buy things that I don't know what they are!

Today it was Fennel.

Here's a copy of the recipe I used this evening. I only had 2 large bulbs of Fennel, so I substituted with a pound of sliced mushrooms. Yes, it really did take SEVEN cups of broth (I used chicken bullion). This made an enormous stock pot over half full of Risotto. I have a family of 6 that put a good dent in it, but we did have left overs. Give it a try - and let me know how you liked your first fennel experience!

FENNEL RISOTTO
  • 4 bulbs fennel
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cups uncooked rice
  • 7 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley, if desired
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  1. Cut the base off of the fennel bulbs, and cut a cone shape into the base to remove the core. Slice the fennel vertically (lengthwise) into 1/4 inch thick slices.
  2. Melt butter in a heavy-bottomed stock pot over medium heat. Cook onions and fennel in butter for 2 minutes. Stir in the rice; cook for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until lightly toasted. Stir in 1 cup broth; continue stirring until liquid is almost completely absorbed. Repeat this process with remaining broth, stirring constantly. Incorporating the broth should take 15 to 20 minutes in all.
  3. Stir in cream, 3 tablespoons Parmesan and parsley, and cook until rice is done and risotto is thick and creamy. Season to taste with black pepper. Divide risotto among 6 bowls, and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Courtesy of www.allrecipes.com

Saturday, June 11, 2011

It's Good to Be Queen

Yesterday, I played Queen for a Day. Without much preparation, I took off before most of the kids woke up and spent some time doing what I wanted to do, on my time table.

I went to the gym and ran 5 miles. I suppose I could have braved the rain, but as Queen, I opted for a more civilized approach. After dressing and putting on full make-up and hair (after all a Queen must look her best), I went over to Barnes & Noble for coffee.

I like to order a small coffee there, then doctor it up a little with some non-fat milk and Turbinado sugar. They don't yet have Stevia, bummer. I sat there and read my book, nearly finished it to. No interruptions!

I then walked over to Scheel's for a little look-see with all the time in the world. I looked at all the nifty bikes, the gear, and of course the clothes. While Scheel's has everything you need for any sport you choose, their prices are YIKES. No way I'm paying $44 for a tank top to sweat in. I did, however, feed my Purple Passion by grabbing a new running cap. I started running in a hat about 6 months ago, awesome. Sweat stays out of my eyes, my hair isn't flying around like Animal from the Muppets - and they look great.

After that, I went to Shopko to get a birthday present for our soon-to-be 4 year old. I can't believe how fast time passes. I looked around at the clearance stuff and generally poked around...in a royal way.

I debated as to what to have for lunch. I love, love, love Mexican food. I do believe that I have some south of the border DNA, I could eat it every day. I don't care for Spanglish food, though...so I didn't want to waste money at a sit down rip-off, er, restaurant. I ended up at a local authentic Mom & Pop called D'Leons Taco Rico. I always order a Shrimp & Crab burrito and eat it with tons of the home made HOT sauce.

On a normal day I would have never eaten that whole burrito. Those things are $5 and honestly as big as my forearm. But on a Royal day, anything goes. Oh, man, I was SO full - but it was so good.

I made one more stop on the way home for an additional small gift for the birthday girl. I was happy to get home, and even happier that my husband had the little ones down for a nap and the dishes all done!

Refreshed, revived! Ready to return to the regular.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Big Salad

I may have overdone it today!

Face Palm



It's been a hard week. Our 12yr old was gone on a mission trip and came back Tuesday, it's been 100 degrees each day, oh - today it's 50 and RAIN - and I think my *nearly* 4 year old finally cracked up.

No, one FacePalm just won't do.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ouch


Ouch.

This has been me lately. Around the first of April I had a cracked tooth extracted. Pretty emotional for me, really. I work really hard on good health, and loosing a tooth was a tough blow. It hurt me for over a year - had I gone in for a look much sooner, I may have only had a crown. I waited long enough that it cracked clear down to the root.

Had that tooth pulled on a Wednesday and ran a 10k on Saturday. It wasn't that bad, really. Pretty sore for a few days, and I didn't really want to get any cereal or granola back there for a bout a month or so.

One. Clear in the back. No big deal.

Well...now it seems there are a more. It's never a good sign when Doc takes a look and says "Oh...yeah...THAT'S a cracked tooth." An x-ray proved it, and it sounded like a ton of money coming from that doctor. Since the new one is in the middle, you can't just pull it without doing damage to the others around it.

So I asked -

"What if I just have it pulled? Maybe have one of those implants put in? Wouldn't that be more cost effective - in the long run - than a root canal, a pulpectomy and a crown!?"

Surprised at my suggestion - the doctor admitted, "Yes. Cracked teeth are the hardest thing to deal with. You could have endless procedures and still end up with an extraction."

Sold.

Pull it.

That's my logical mind speaking. My heart is crushed. I feel so badly to be losing my teeth. When I stopped smoking, 6 years ago, I started taking much better care of my teeth. I had gingivitis and endured surgical procedures and frequent visits to a Periodontist over the years. I even FLOSS!

Boo.

Oh well.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Servanthood

I guess it took a little Kutless to remind me of what I really am.


Sometimes I get a little down about my day-to-day. I'm sure nearly everyone does! I stay home with our children, I babysit a couple more here and there. A couple of years ago, I decided that I wanted to even home school our older kids.

This tends to put me in a position of servitude. Ever hear your mother say "I'm not the maid!" That's how I feel. A lot. I'm sure most people feel unappreciated at their jobs. Really, the only difference is that I don't get to close the door on an unfulfilling workday and go elsewhere.

I was making a Race Day play list and I came across this song. Great Kutless tune. What it reminded me of, is of what a whiner I've become lately. Wah-wah, poor me. Cleaning up after everyone, cooking all the meals, wiping butts, cleaning clutter. Sob. Whine.

The most important Man in history set out to save, to teach, to serve. Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, humbled himself to appear in flesh. He lived, toiled, even felt hunger and loss. What makes me think that I am any better than the one who created me? Is not the role of a servant to be sought after? Revered? Celebrated?

I admit, I felt a little sheepish when I started to think about it. Humility is learned, you know. We are all born wanting it ALL and screaming loud and long to get it. It's through life lessons, and lessons from God that we learn that the very best place we could be is in one of service.

Don't know if I will be doing any dances while I clean the toilet, or thanking my tiny residential ingrates for leaving their shoes in the living room...but I will try to be a little more grateful for my role in the Kingdom.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

No Excuses

I know that eating green stuff can be scary. For me - it's the "how the heck do I cook that!?" part that is a stumbling block.

BEHOLD - the answer to my problems! These veggies are clean, cut and ready to dump in the pot. Also, there are recipes on the back of the bags. Could it be much easier? We eat what's on sale around here, and most varieties of these bagged beauties rotate sales each week.

So this week - bags of spinach were 4/$5, Cut N Clean Greens were $2.69, and the sliced mushrooms were on sale for $1.49.

So, no excuses - fresh veg is affordable and easy if you want it to be.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

America the Beautiful

I received a package today from Amazon.com. Wow - what a wonderful country we live in! Me, a home schooling, babysitting, mother of 4 can shop and have the things I need delivered to my door. I can even get it at a bargain basement price!

My ball glove came, hooray! Our 12yo son is playing his first year of little league and I've been trying to play catch with him to help his ball handling skills. We only had one glove, so I ordered one that has some pink laces in it. He, he... I'm not real swift at it, but I'm sure I'll get better!

Hanging out at the ball field sure has a way of making you love this country. Just having the freedom to sit out in the open air and relax for a couple of hours in the evening is a blessing! Seeing the Mommas and the Daddies clapping for sons in matching pants and shirts, listening closely to Coach, hustling for the ball and sometimes hitting a double - WOW!

As I looked around the ball park, it really struck me how fortunate we are. The park that we were at was built in the last 20 years, the bleachers, restrooms, and concession stand are all new and in working order. No professional teams practice there - it's ALL for entertainment! For young people and their families to come and enjoy the game and the summer. Of course, our taxes pay for this park - but wow - what a SURPLUS we must have to afford something as EXTRA and UNNECESSARY as this.

As we played on the lush green grass outside the field and munched on ice cream from the UNL Dairy Store, the sun just shone brighter, the wind smelled sweeter. My kids couldn't have looked cuter, my husband better. The Lord never more loving.

Those who have traveled far from mercy can find grace in the day-to-day. Even a Little League baseball game can remind me how fortunate I really am. Forgiven. Loved. Blessed.