Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Homemade Dishwasher Soap Revisited

A while back I posted about making your own natural dishwasher detergent. We have been using this exclusively for nearly 2 months now so I feel like I can report back.

Sadly, I have to say that I am a bit disappointed with the results. Often, the powder turns into a gelatinous mess and gets stuck in the detergent cup. Then the dishes don't get so clean and we have to remove the old detergent and try again. I did discover that using white vinegar as a rinse agent does seem to help prevent this a little.

Another thing that I discovered is that the citric acid that the recipe calls for can get expensive. I have not been able to find a really cheap source for this. I did try the recipe's alternative which was 2 packages of lemon flavored kool-aid mix. This seems to add to the whole icky blob stuck in the detergent cup. Next I decided to just leave this ingredient out all together which seemed to work just fine for the most part.

Several times I nearly broke down and just bought some commercial dishwashing detergent, but I really like the idea of making my own. Not only is is cheaper, it is convenient to be able to mix up a new batch at my convenience when I am getting low (eliminating a run to the store), and there is one less chemical concoction sitting in my cupboards.

This morning I stumbled upon another recipe for dishwasher soap. This one uses Borax and washing soda. I think I may just give this one a try and see how it compares. This article also includes other uses for Borax and washing soda including a link for homemade laundry detergent.

If you try any of these recipes, be sure and comment and let me know how it goes for you.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Pajamas

Here is a little of my Christmas show and tell that I promised. One of my big handmade projects this year was to sew PJs for each of my 5 kids for Christmas. We have a tradition of giving the kids new pajamas each Christmas Eve. It is the one present from us that they get to open. Usually I just buy them, but with finances tight this year, I thought maybe I could save some money and make them special by sewing them myself. (BTW credits for the scrapbook page can be found here.)

I got this idea one day when I was at Wal-Mart. I found this cute flannel kitty fabric that just cried out "Anna" when I saw it. So I found an inexpensive, easy PJ pattern and bought the fabric.

Patrick's Pjs are from the same pattern, but the gown is shortened to a shirt and I made pants with it. The fabric was actually 2 fleece blankets that I found at Menards for $3.88 each. That worked out to be cheaper than I could even by fleece fabric on sale at the store. He has been practically living in these since Christmas Eve.

The girls' nightgowns are made from some Noah's Ark print fabric that was in my stash. Note that these gowns match the nightgown I made for Abi's birthday doll as well as some of the fabric used to make the quilted sleeping bag.

Here are my goofy children modeling their new duds on Christmas Eve. Elizabeth's nightgown was also created from 2 fleece blankets like Patrick's. I did cheat on the big girls' sleep pants. I found the set of 2 pair at Sam's Club for cheaper than I could sew them.


I think perhaps Elizabeth is the only sane one in the group. What do you think?
I have to admit that with all that has gone on in our house, I was down to the wire to complete these. I finished Elizabeth's and Anna's on Christmas Eve morning. I was thankful that I used the same simple pattern for all of them because I had it practically memorized by the time I got to theirs.
I am off to an OB appointment today for a non-stress test. Will share more later.
Have a great day!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Not there yet...

Back to normalcy, that is.
I got all the children up and made sure they had clean clothes for church, but Rachel didn't stir when her siblings started making noise. After getting everyone else ready including myself, I woke her up to get her ready only to discover that she seemed feverish, stuffed up and has a weird rash all over her body. So, Barry took the rest of the gang to church and I am sitting here at the computer trying to figure out what my daughter has. It could be a bunch of things: roseola, fifth disease, rubella...I don't know. None of them are all that terrible for her. Rubella could be bad for me being pregnant if I was earlier along, but I'm not and I am fairly certain that I have been tested and am immune to it.

This is not so bad. Rachel is loving the one on one time and I get to stay home and relax. Perhaps this is just a little gift from God giving me a day (or at least a morning) of rest.


I'm craving normalcy...whatever that may be for an 8 month pregnant homeschooling mom of 5 who's just been through a fractured elbow, explosive stomach flu that has rocketed through her family of 7 during a 4 day power outage as she prepared for and celebrated Christmas.

My head is still kind of spinning. I did not get all of my handmade Christmas items done and I had to give IOUs, I have an intimidating mountain of laundry piled up, and my house looks somewhat like a tornado went through it. I am at a loss as to where to start catching up on it all. My body still does not feel 100% and I have lost the energy and stamina to get much done. I am praying for that nesting urge to kick in. Perhaps from that I will get the strength to push through this all.

Even the weather around here has been far from normal. Just a week ago our temperatures were below zero with wind chills below -20. Yesterday, the temperature reached 67 degrees. 67 DEGREES! It's a shame our power loss wasn't during this weekend instead of last. We would have been a whole lot more comfortable!

Yesterday, I decided to download some of our Christmas pictures off of the camera and scrap a page. I chose this photo not because it was typical of our Christmas necessarily, but because I think it shows a bit of normalcy that I am craving. This exchange between my two daughters is so typical for them. Anna purposely annoys her sister and Elizabeth gives her that dirty look. Deep down I know they love each other, but they are not so great at showing it at this phase in their lives. (Credits for the page can be found here.)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I feel like I have been kicked while I was down.

I keep thinking that I should write an update here about what is going on, but I am finding it hard to be upbeat and positive even though I know I should be. I last reported how thankful I was that our power had been restored. I was SO thankful!

Then, we went to a Christmas party Saturday afternoon/evening. That was fun until we went to leave and my two year old threw up all over herself, the floor and then me. Ugh! My mind is thinking about how this will probably run through the whole household and I am going to have to deal with puking for days. All I wanted to do is get home and bathe my daughter, shower myself and launder our clothes. As we approached our road, hubby says, "uh oh, I don't see any lights on our street." Sure enough, we had lost power AGAIN. I called the power company and they were saying that it would be on my Christmas Eve night. I just wanted to cry! Luckily, there was still hot water left and Barry powered up the generator so I could at least give Rachel a bath. Poor thing, she is still too little to know not to puke all over herself, so we were up until about 5am dealing with changing PJs and bedding every 1/2 hour or hour. Then she finally fell asleep soundly. Of course, Abi woke up at 7am throwing up. [sigh] The sickies have run right on up through the ranks and it has not been fun, especially with no way to do laundry.

To make matters worse, it was freezing cold outside with horrendous winds and sub-zero windchills. We ran a kerosene heater all night on Sunday and woke up to a house that was 43 degrees. We each had at least 6 heavy blankets on us a piece so we stayed warm as long as we were in bed. All the kids huddled around the gas fireplace and the kerosene heater and we made due. Then the generator stopped working. No more water and no more space heater! I sat there depressed until my sweet BIL and SIL invited us over to their warm home with power up the road. They had dealt with the same sickness and so we didn't have to worry about spreading germs. I can't tell you how wonderful heat, and warm showers feel after going without for days.

They must have been our good luck charm, because that night, the power came back on. Yeah! Our house is now warm and toasty and we have water! The stress must have proven too much for my body and now I am sick. I have so much to try and catch up on and no energy to do it. I keep thinking that maybe by tomorrow I will feel human again and be able to get lots done and save our handmade Christmas. As it stands now, I have gobs of unfinished presents. The bad thing is most are for kids and I fear that I will have nothing to give them on Christmas day.

I am praying that this is it. No more bad stuff needs to be dumped on us. I don't know that I could take it - I am beyond overwhelmed. Right now as I type a new batch of freezing rain is coming down. I am praying with all my might that it doesn't take down anymore power lines. No one deserves that. Hopefully, by tomorrow I can write a more uplifting post. Hopefully, by then I will feel more uplifted.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Yesterday morning we awoke to a world that had been crystallized with ice. Freezing rain had fallen all through the night and left an inch thick layer of ice on everything. As lovely as it looked, it was also pretty devastating to trees and power lines. At 6am our power went out due to a downed power line up the road. Electricity is one of those things that you take for granted until it is gone. For our household it means not only no lights and appliances, but also no heat and no water because we rely on a well with an electric pump.

Within a few short hours our home's temperature had settled to a chilly 57 degrees and I was worried we would be frozen out before power was restored. With over 150,000 homes in our area out of electricity, the power company was estimating ours would be restored by 1pm on SUNDAY. We are actually sitting pretty well. We have a generator so we can periodically run it to get some water and a bit of heat. As inconvenienced and uncomfortable as we were, I couldn't help but think how much worse it could have been. We used to live in a drafty, uninsulated, old farmhouse. I kept thinking how awful that would be. We had an adequate supply of food, water and shelter to get by. God was providing, even though it wasn't smooth sailing.

Thankfully, there was a crew out last night to fix the line and we now have power! I can't tell you the gratitude that I feel. There is nothing like doing without for just a little while to make you appreciate the things that you have. I am so thankful to be sitting in my warm home with my hot coffee in front of my computer at this moment. I say a prayer for all of those who are still struggling without power.

The other day I wrote about struggling through Christmas. I really feel like God is teaching me and growing me through all of this. Just when I feel like things are starting to take a turn for the better, some new difficulty presents itself. I keep finding myself saying, "It just is what it is." Things have been tough lately for no definitive reason and there is no use sitting around belly-aching about it. All we can do is the best we can do and rely on God for the rest. Deep in my heart I know that He is watching over us and we are still in His tender care. He has opened my eyes to how much we have to be thankful for. So, I guess I have to say that there are blessings hidden amidst the trials and I am so thankful for that.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's Christmas and I am at the end of myself

It has been a crazy week. I woke Monday morning, tired and achy and feeling a bit overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by Christmas, my immense to-do list paired with my lack of energy, my lack of finances to throw at my to-do list to simplify things, and my stack of bills. Bills not for fun Christmas things but expenses associated with having a home and running a business that all seem to fall due during the last couple of months of the year. It saddens me that this is what Christmas is. At a time when I should be filled with joy over what we are celebrating, I am instead overwhelmed and stressed. I find that I am at the end of myself.

There have been many negative things that have been happening this week. I am feeling under the weather and my body is fighting off something. My sinuses ache with pressure, my one eye is bloodshot as if some sickness has decided to settle there and my body is tired and achy. Whose to say how much of that is from sickness or pregnancy. Then Monday night, I pulled a doosey. There were about three flakes of snow on the ground and I managed to slip and fall, injuring myself. Thankfully, the baby seems just fine. I, on the other hand, hurt my elbow. The x-rays showed fluid on the elbow which the ER doctor said is usually a sign of a fracture, although he couldn't actually see one. So my right arm is in a sling for a couple of days. Hopefully it will then feel well enough to start using gently. It is a struggle to accomplish anything with only one arm and I am not a lefty. Everything seems to take me three times longer than it should. So, that's the negative.

On the positive side, though...I have amazing people surrounding me. My family has been so helpful at a time when I feel helpless. They have been my extra hand without complaint. My dear friend who is incredibly busy herself took the time to make a wonderful dinner for our family and bring it out to us, braving the slippery snowy roads to do so just so I wouldn't have to struggle to cook one-handed. Also, before this week even began, my dear sister-in-law wrote me the most encouraging heartfelt note over the weekend. She said she did it because of God's nudging. I am so thankful she let herself be nudged because, obviously, God knew what kind of week I was heading into. I can't even begin to say how touching it was and is to me. Through all of the bad, the good shines through. I know that God is using this time to grow me although I don't thoroughly understand how right now.

Last week I was chatting with my mom. We had been discussing some of my handmade Christmas projects and the lack of finances that has necessitated them. She said, "You are getting to experience the true meaning of Christmas." I didn't think too much about it then, but this has been stuck in my head all week. And I wonder, what really IS the true meaning of Christmas? Is it the giving of one's self? Is it a warm fuzzy feeling or is it in actuality a struggle.

Thinking about the very first Christmas, it was very much a struggle, wasn't it? There's a young couple traveling for days on foot and donkey to appease a foreign ruler, circumstances out of their control. This is at a time when Mary should have been home resting and making preparations for a baby. A baby that she believes is the Saviour of her people. I'm sure her desire was for everything to be perfect for His entrance into this world. Instead she is laboring while bouncing around on the back of a donkey. I'm sure she is desperate for a place to rest and the only place that can be found for her is in a stall amidst the animals - surrounded by their muck, smells and their filth. A merry Christmas, indeed! But in this horrible situation, God brought forth the greatest gift of all time, His own son, the Messiah.

So, I sit here pondering these things, thinking about Christmas and what it really means. I think most of us have this image of what a perfect Christmas is supposed to be. It is an unreal scenario where our perfect homes are decorated festively. Perfect gifts are wrapped beautifully and nestled under the tree while we gather with friends and family and have warm fuzzy feelings galore. How many of us actually get to this place? I might have glimpses of it, but in actuality, I am usually running around stressed and frazzled throwing mediocre, overpriced presents into gift bags as we race off to another Christmas function.

So, what should Christmas be like? Maybe it is finding grace in the midst of struggle; blessings in the midst of trials. Perhaps, it is remembering the difficulties of that very first Christmas and the joy that it birthed. I think it is opening our eyes and seeing God at work through all the muck surrounding us. Perhaps it takes coming to the end of ourselves to look around and see that God is right here with us through it all. I think that would be the true meaning of Christmas.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Handmade Holidays

It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention. I believe that. Because our funds are on the short side, it has necessitated that I become a bit more inventive as to how I am going to come up with the many gifts we have to give this year. With 5 kids the gifts add up, not to mention that one of them has a birthday this month, too.

So, I decided that this year as going to have to be a mostly handmade Christmas. I have a rather large stash of fabric and craft supplies that I have collected throughout the years. I figure if I use that as a base for my projects, I can eliminate a lot of cash outlay. This little doll in the photo is the perfect example of that.

I have been working on some felt play food for my daughter for her birthday this year because I know that grams and gramps are getting she and her younger sister a play kitchen for Christmas. But as I looked at what I have made, it looked pretty paltry, so I decided I needed to come up with something else. I got the idea that she would love a special little doll and set forth to find inspiration on the web. I LOVE the internet. Within a half hour, I had not only found inspiration, but a pattern, directions and a video showing how to make this little cutie. I had the doll pretty well put together that afternoon out of some of my scrap fabric.

That evening, I was reading Bend the Rules Sewing which I got from the library. There are instructions to make a cute lap quilt. The light bulb in my head went off and I decided that I would make a quilt for the doll. I used the same fabric that I used for the doll along with some scraps of fabric from the nightgown that I made for my daughter for Christmas. I have never made a quilt before and this was so much FUN! I am glad I that my first quilt was doll size because it was great to see this come together in just one afternoon. It is pictured here with the binding only partially finished. I machine stitched one side on and hand stitched the other. I am going to turn this into a cute sleeping bag for the doll because my daughter is really into her own sleeping bag right now.

I have enough fabric scraps to make the doll some PJs that will match my daughter's and I am also going to make my daughter a little tulle tutu and a matching one for the doll. I just know that she is going to love this. And the best part? The only thing I purchased for this was the quilt batting and stuffing. Everything else, I already had, so it only cost me my time. LOVE that!

I'll have to show it all off here once it is all done because I am pretty excited about it. If you are wondering about the doll pattern, it can be found here on the Martha Stewart site.

I have LOTS of other projects in the works, and it is my plan to start showing them off here as I get things done. Some I will have to keep hidden until after Christmas, though, because my older children actually do read this blog. (So nana boo boo, I am not showing you girls anything!) So do some of others that I am creating for, so I suppose that I will have to watch what I say!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Motherhood, Christmas and Sniffles...Oh my!

Motherhood, Christmas and Sniffles...Oh my!
Lately my time and energy has been stretched. The tasks of mothering my children as well as carrying this soon to arrive little one, preparing for a mostly handmade Christmas, and wiping the inevitable running noses that have invaded our home have taken just about all that I have.

So, I have not posted to the blog in a bit. Even if I could find the time, I feel like I am lacking the mental capacity to compose a sensible post. My brain is full of to-do lists and projects, schoolwork and laundry, cooking and cleaning...all of the stuff that fill my days to capacity.

In my quiet time this morning I was reading from a wonderful blog that I have recently stumbled upon called Holy Experience which is written by a God-seeking mom of six. She has been blessed with the gift of prose and is able to write the deepest thoughts in such a beautiful way. I have thoroughly appreciated so many of her posts, perhaps because she and I reside in a similar place - not physically but emotionally and spiritually - seeking to serve God through this process of motherhood and life.

Today, I was reading an older post called Strange Disappearance of SAHMs which discussed the idea that even though we may choose to fore go the paying workforce and stay at home to raise and nurture our children we are not stay-at-home-moms. Instead we ARE workers, employed by GOD Himself, working in a sacred domain. I think this so important to keep in the forefront of our minds. Society tends to place little value on those that do not earn a monetary wage. We are JUST housewives or stay-at-home-moms. But there are many days when I think it would have been so much easier to join the workforce and have a career. The 9 to 5 workday sounds so much simpler than the chaos I struggle to bring order to each day. BUT, I don't think it would be near as rewarding. What could be more rewarding than to feel the warm breath and soft skin of a newborn sleeping at your breast. Or the sticky hands that gently caress your cheek and as the words, "I love you Mom." are uttered. Or seeing the fruit of your labors as your child makes responsible choices and seeks God of their own free will. I don't believe any amount of money could be worth more.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

It's a.....BABY!

It's a baby. It appears healthy. And that's all we know. After taking a family vote, we decided not to peek at this little one's privates and wait to be surprised as to whether this little blessing is a boy or a girl.

This ultrasound was actually done last month (11/4), but I am just getting around to scanning these photos. I honestly do not know where the time goes. Barry joined me for this and we had the opportunity to count ten little fingers and ten little toes, so at least that is taken care of already. I know that I am prejudiced, but isn't this little one adorable! I can't wait to meet him or her in just about 7 weeks.

I had been feeling pretty good for a while. The extreme tiredness I always struggle with during the early weeks of pregnancy had passed and I began to feel like a productive human again. I fear that this blissful pregnancy period is passing because I have been starting to feel tired and achy all the time. It is probably is somewhat due to being extremely busy lately and also fighting off a sinus infection. I guess this big ol' pregnant body can only take so much.

As we head into the busy Christmas season, I would really love to get my mojo back and feel like I can keep up with all there is to do. We are cutting back on our decorating this year. I keep telling myself that anything I get out will just have to be put back away in a month. I am sure I will not feel up to hauling much more than this big ol' belly by then. As it is, my abdominal muscles and my back are aching quite a bit already. BUT, when I look at these pictures, I know that it is all worth it. The discomfort is a short lived thing and soon I will be holding this special little creation in my arms instead of my belly. What a joy that will be!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sharing a SALE

Just thought I would pass along this great sale at Cottage Arts. Check out all the fun stuff that is on sale!

Cookin' with Gas

I'm cooking with propane gas! Like my stove uses. Sheesh! What were you thinking?
I'm gearing up for a fun Thanksgiving with my folks tomorrow by putting together some casseroles and baking some pumpkin bread saving just the food items that aren't as good prepared ahead like mashed potatoes and cranberry challah bread.
I realized that I did not have my sweet potato casserole recipe in my holiday planning notebook. So, since I had to type it up, I figured I would do it cute. I used a few things from my days as a digital scrapbook kit designer. Even though I did this fairly quick, I think it is pretty fun.
I decided that I would share this as a little freebie to anyone who is interested. You can download a PDF version of this here.
I am off to finish my cooking and do a spot of cleaning, too. I hope everyone enjoys their holiday of celebrating and giving thanks for our many blessings.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Book Review: "The Total Money Makeover"

The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Several months ago I read Dave Ramsey's "Financial Peace." I really enjoyed it and found this newer book, "The Total Money Makeover."

I have to admit that books about financial matters tend to bore me. I know that managing my finances is important, but I find it tedious and uninteresting. However, I found Dave's book interesting and motivational.

In his book, Dave Ramsey lays out a plan to get a grip on your finances and take control over them (instead of letting them control you) and gain some financial peace. This plan is logical and fairly simple in concept and shows you how to become debt-free, stay debt-free, plan for the future, and be able to give to others.

After reading this, I knew that this was a plan that my husband and I should follow, so I convinced him to read it, too. I am happy to say that he feels led to pursue this, as well, and together we are creating a plan to eventually become debt-free. It won't be easy and will require making some tough spending decisions, but we are choosing to "Live like no one else now so that we can live like no one else later." as Dave would put it. The sacrifices that we make now, will give us financial peace later.

I also appreciate the fact that although this book is not overtly religious, Dave mentions his faith and his motivation to share his blessings with others.

If you are in a place where you feel like your finances could use a tune up, this book is a very worthwhile read and I would highly recommend it.

View all my reviews.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"Just be good for goodness' sake!"

"Why believe in a god?

Just be good for goodness' sake."

That's what the new ad campaign set to run in our nation's capitol is proclaiming. It is sponsored by the American Humanist Association. So who are these people? Here is what it says on the why believe in a god website,

"Many people imagine that the only way to be good in this world is through
belief in a god. But is that really necessary? Must we be bound by moral
dictates set down in “sacred” texts written hundreds, if not thousands of years
ago? Must we accept the authority and judgments of “spiritual” leaders and
religious hierarchy? Does religious faith offer the only lens through which to
judge life’s events?
The answer to these questions is no! There is another
way for us to approach life. We can have ethics and values that aren't set in
stone. Our ideals and principles can evolve over time to reflect our
ever-changing and increasingly complex world. Yet, we can be confident of the
decisions that we make, not because someone told us what to do but because we
relied on our own careful reasoning and emotional reflection. We can live a life
that accepts and appreciates the world as it is, without needing to see
supernatural explanations behind every event. This is a positive and uplifting
way to live.
This way of life is called humanism. Humanists use reason and
the tools of science to better understand our world and the best way to live in
it. Humanists understand that compassion for fellow human beings, as well as an
acknowledgement of their inherent dignity and worth, must form the basis of our
interactions with each other. Humanists are free of belief in any god or
afterlife. We must make the best of this one life that we have. "

There is so much in this that does not make very good sense to me.

"We can have ethics and values that aren't set in stone. Our ideals and
principles can evolve over time to reflect our ever-changing and increasingly
complex world."

So, this must mean that there is nothing that is constant. We can change our minds as to what is right or wrong depending on whatever is happening in the world and what our moods are. Are there are no absolutes? Is there nothing that is black and white? Is right and wrong based on the current scientific theories which change almost daily? I don't agree. There have to be absolutes. Our morals should not change with the breeze. I believe that there is a constant. That constant is God and His creation.

I guess I am NOT a humanist because as I read this, these verses came to mind:

The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, their
deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. Psalm

How great are your works, O LORD, how profound your
The senseless man does not know, fools do not
understand, Psalm

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher
than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah

Of course, these verses are from the bible; therefore, any good humanist would discount them. As for me, I do not understand how you can look at the natural world that surrounds us and not believe that there is a God. The intricacies of nature could not have just happened, they had to be designed by a Creator. We, as humans, cannot even begin to understand all of the details and workings of nature. The more science discovers, the more we realize how little we know. It seems that only a fool would rely on his "own careful reasoning and emotional reflection" when "judging life's events."

"Humanists are free of belief in any god or afterlife. We must make the
best of this one life that we have. "

This makes me just sad. This life - the one lived in these mortal bodies - is lacking and leaves A LOT to be desired. I have this hope that there is something more, MUCH more. That hope relies in my faith that after my time in this world is complete, I will move to my REAL home with God where pain, suffering, and sadness are replaced with love, peace, and joy permanently. I can't imagine that THIS here and now is all there is. How depressing!

If you want to know more about this hope that I have, feel free to ask. I'll tell you all about it. Just leave me a comment here or e-mail me at scrappintrishATgmailDOTcom (replace the AT and DOT). I can tell you, it's not about being "good." It is about whose team you are on.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hanging out my shingle...

It is official - I am now an etsy girl. If you aren't familiar with Etsy, it is like a giant online craft bazaar where you can buy just about any handcrafted item you can imagine. It is a blast to just sit and browse there. For a person like me, who has this innate need inside them to create, Etsy is a perfect outlet. Right now I just have a few items up in my store, but you be certain there will be more to come. I have placed a little widget on the right hand side of the blog here that shows my newest items for sale. You can always contact me with special requests, too.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

CHEAP EATS: Oriental Oats Recipe Update

Monday I posted about one of my favorite cheap eats, oatmeal. I included a recipe for Oriental Oats that I had found in my Le Leche League cookbook, but noted that I had not tried it. Well, it was a busy week and one evening I found myself wondering at 5:30pm what we were going to have for dinner. That recipe popped into my mind and I decided to try it.

I began mixing up the recipe although I wasn't exactly sure how it would actually turn out because I had never cooked anything quite like it. You mix rolled oats and eggs and cook them while you stir fry up some veggies. We used onion and broccoli because it is what I had handy. Then you add the veggies, some broth and soy sauce into the cooked oat mixture and cook it until the liquid has been absorbed.

This was a HUGE hit with my family! This actually shocked me because as I was cooking it, I kept getting grilled by my hungry children: "WHAT are you making? WHAT is it called? WHAT are you putting in that?" I explained it as best as I could and figured if they were hungry enough they would it it regardless. So, imagine my surprise when they couldn't get enough of it! The oat/egg mixture gets somewhat chewy and reminded me of the consistency of ground beef in the finished dish. Thank goodness I made some rice to serve this over or we wouldn't have had near enough. I will be doubling the recipe next time because my kids pigged it down. Even Patrick who is not real big on rice and stir fry type dishes really liked this.

Because of our recent budget constraints, I have been trying to make more meatless meals, but my family, especially hubby, sometimes feels cheated with these. I was really happy to find a dish that satisfied everyone and is very economical to make. I figure that entire meal only cost $2-3 to feed our family of 7. It also was balanced with carbs, veggies, and plenty of protein. Although meatless, it included eggs as well as the combination of whole grains and veggies which creates a complete protein. In all actuality, this cheap eating is probably going to help our health as well as our wallet.
Here is the recipe again:

Oriental Oats

2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
4T. oil
2 cups chopped or sliced mixed onions, sprouts, mushrooms and broccoli
3/4 cup water
1 T. soy sauce

Combine eggs and oats in a bowl; mix well. Cook in 2 tablespoons oil in skillet for 3 to 5 minutes or until dry and separate. Saute vegetables in remaining oil in small skillet. Add to oats with water and soy sauce. Simmer until liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally. May add 1 cup chopped meat. May substitute butter for oil; may substitute broth or stock for water and soy sauce. Yield 6 servings. (From "Whole Foods for the Whole Family" LeLeche League International)

Monday, November 10, 2008


What do you think of when you hear the word oatmeal? Pasty stuff in a bowl? Cookies with raisins? Perhaps granola?

A Healthy Choice
I know there are many people who do not think very highly of oatmeal, but oatmeal is a very healthy food. Oatmeal that we buy in our local grocery store is rolled oats. The oats grains are processed by running them between heavy rollers to "flake" them. Therefore, oatmeal is a whole grain food.
Whole grain foods are vital to a healthy diet. The 2005 American dietary guidelines recommend that we eat 3 serving of whole grains each day. Whole grain foods differ from refined "white" foods in the fact that the germ and bran are still intact. Refined white foods (white flour) have these parts removed. Studies show that whole grains reduce the risk of heart disease, help in weight management, and are a better choice for those with diabetes.
Oatmeal is naturally free of sodium and cholesterol and low in fat. In addition to this, it is a great source of water soluble fiber which functions to lower blood cholesterol levels.

Old-Fashioned vs. Quick Oats
When you visit your local grocery store, you will most likely see two kinds of plain oats on the shelf: Old-Fashioned and Quick-Cooking. Old fashioned are plain rolled oats, while quick-cooking have been processed by partially cooking them, drying them and packaging. I personally tend to steer clear of these. The are less nutritious and cook up to the consistency of glue. Their advantage is that they cook quicker. Old-fashioned oats only take about 5 minutes to cook anyway, so the time savings is minimal.

What To Do With Oatmeal
The simplest way to eat oatmeal is as a cooked cereal. About 1/2 cup of oatmeal equals a serving. For each 1/2 cup serving use 1 cup water. Place water and oats in a pot. bring to a boil and simmer for a few minutes until it is the desired consistency. I let it cook about five minutes after the water boils. If you like really chewy oatmeal, wait to add the oats until after after the water has come to a boil.
Now you can eat it just like this, but we like to add a little sweetness and fun to our bowl of oatmeal.
Things we like to add are:
  • Sweeteners (sugar, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup)
  • Fresh fruit (berries, apples)
  • Dried fruit (raisins, Craisins, dried cherries or blueberries)
  • Milk or cream
  • Apple butter
  • Jam
  • Cinnamon
Now, if you want a real treat, make sure you prepare extra and make Fried Oatmeal. Take the plain leftovers and pack them into a loaf pan and place them in the refrigerator. After a few hours, the oatmeal will have gelled into an unappetizing loaf. Don't be put off by this. Pop it out of the pan, slice it and fry it in a skillet with plenty of butter until the outside is all crispy. Serve it with maple syrup. Fried oatmeal is a delightful treat that my kids love. My oldest is not a big fan of oatmeal, but gets excited about it when she sees that I have made extra to fry up the next day.
Now, what if you just don't have time in the morning to prepare this? There are a couple a options you can try. Oatmeal can be prepared ahead the night before so it is ready to eat by morning. One simple option is Slow-Cooker Oatmeal done in the crock pot. If you are looking for something more elaborate and dressed up from your crock pot, Christmas Morning Oatmeal sounds delightful.
If you are desiring the simplest and most frugal method to make your oatmeal ahead of time, try the Thermos method. For a personal serving of oatmeal on the go, measure 1/2 cup rolled oats into thermos. Add 2 cups boiling water and close. The oats will be ready to eat any time the following day.
Another idea for quick oatmeal on the go is the instant version. You can go out and purchase those expensive sugary packets at the grocery store, or you can make your own with 1/4 cup quick cook oats, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and a pinch of salt in a zip-lock baggie. To eat, place this in a bowl with 1/4 cup of water or milk and microwave for 60 seconds. To jazz up the flavor of your packets, add some powdered milk or non-dairy creamer, cinnamon or other spices, raisins, or other dried fruit.

Another wonderful way to use oatmeal is to make granola and granola bars. Now you can buy these from the store, but the homemade version tastes great, is healthier, and costs way less. What's better is that you can make it using what you have available in your pantry, saving you even more. Now, because we have allergy issues with nuts in our house, I spent some time trying to find a good granola recipe without them. That is actually kind of tough to do, but I found this recipe for Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal that the whole family LOVES. I have come up with a basic recipe for granola that you can use what you have on hand.

Trish's Basic Granola
Mix together
Dry ingredients:
3-4 cups old-fashioned oats
1-2 cups dry add-ins (nuts, coconut, seeds)
Mix together
1/4 cup oil
1/2 sweetener (This can be a combination of honey, pure maple syrup, white or brown sugar. If you use sugar, you will need to cook this on the stove until the sugar granules dissolve. I like to to use 1/4 cup honey and 1/4 cup maple syrup and skip the heating step.)
Add syrup to dry ingredients and mix through thoroughly. I usually end up using my hands for this. Spread out on a jellyroll pan (cookie sheet with sides) and place in a preheated 350 degree oven. Bake for 20-30 minutes stirring or flipping the granola occasionally.
Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Add up to 1 cup extra goodies which may be a combination of raisins, dried fruit, or chocolate chips.
Enjoy! We eat this like cold cereal with milk or plain as a snack.

If granola bars are more your speed this is my favorite recipe I have found: Playgroup Granola Bars. These are delicious and don't hang around long in this house.

Oatmeal in Baking
If you do a search on my favorite recipe site,, for "oatmeal," you come up with oodles of cookie recipes. Oatmeal cookies are wonderful, but you can use oatmeal in so many other baking projects. I have found that you can substitute 1 cup of oatmeal for 1 cup of flour in almost all of your baking recipes. I have tried it personally in muffins, breads, quick breads, and cookies. I imagine that it would also work in cakes and pancakes, too. I think it would be delicious in an applesauce cake. This is a great way to sneak in some whole grain goodness to baked goods using white flour. Usually the oats don't even get noticed, but if they do they don't affect the overall taste and give things a nice texture. We are especially fond of them in muffins.

Beyond Breakfast
Now, you may be thinking that oatmeal is just for breakfast and baking, but they can even be incorporated into dinner. Whole, unrolled oats called oat groats may be cooked and served in place of rice. Oat groats can be usually be found at your local health food store. Locally, I have a natural foods coop store that sells them in bulk. To cook oat groats, use 2 cups of water or broth to 1 cup oats. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 40 minutes. Here is a recipe for Oat Groat Pilaf I found, but have not tried. A couple other dinner items I found online were Oatmeal Soup and Scot Oatcakes.
While perusing my cookbooks I also came across this unique recipe. It sounds like something my family would enjoy and I plan to try it.
Oriental Oats
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
4T. oil
2 cups chopped or sliced mixed onions, sprouts, mushrooms and broccoli
3/4 cup water
1 T. soy sauce
Combine eggs and oats in a bowl; mix well. Cook in 2 tablespoons oil in skillet for 3 to 5 minutes or until dry and separate. Saute vegetables in remaining oil in small skillet. Add to oats with water and soy sauce. Simmer until liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally. May add 1 cup chopped meat. May substitute butter for oil; may substitute broth or stock for water and soy sauce. Yield 6 servings. (From "Whole Foods for the Whole Family" LeLeche League International)

Just How Cheap is Oatmeal?
I can purchase a 42 ounce container of store brand old-fashioned oats regularly for $2.99 ($1.14/pound). Occasionally, I can get it on sale for $1.99 (76 cents/pound). I can do even better buying it in bulk at the health food store where I can get it for as low as 69 cents/pound. Even the organic oatmeal is only 89 cents/pound there. If you figure that one serving of oatmeal is 1/2 cup (40 grams) dry oatmeal (1 cup cooked), you can get over 22 servings per pound of oatmeal. That is 22 servings for just 69 cents or just 3 cents per serving! Isn't that amazing?

If you are trying to cut your food budget, don't forget to buy the oatmeal. It will be easy on your pocketbook, good to your body and delightful on your tongue. Oatmeal is truly CHEAP EATS.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


I think I have shared that finances have been becoming tight around here. I have been trying really hard to pinch every penny and make every dollar stretch. Sometimes that can make you feel a bit discouraged. Then God opens your eyes. Yes there are those who have more, much more, BUT there are many more who have oh so much less. Mere existence is a daily struggle.

I have been reading with interest some blogs that are part of a project by Compassion International. In an effort to let others see first hand what they do, they sent a handful of bloggers to the Dominican Republic to give them a tour and let them write about it. Check out some of the blogs and their photos. They really bring it home. As I sit in my nice, cozy home with my pantry full of food and plenty of clothing for my children, I can't help but feel blessed. This blessing is from God alone. It is only by His grace that I am a mom sitting here in the U.S. with my needs met and not a mom sitting in this shack (see photo) scrounging for a meager existence.

God has also been opening my eyes to the struggles of those right here. There are those that are fighting to get by in my own town. They can't seem to find a job and are out of money and a about out of hope, as well.

Although my own struggles are real, they pale in comparison. My heart is filed with gratitude for what I do have. I have been blessed by a loving husband, 5 (and 1/2) beautiful, healthy children, a roof over my head, and plenty of life's necessities. I lift up humble hands to God in Thanksgiving for that. I also ask Him to open my eyes and give me His heart and show me how I can make a difference in His name.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Book Review: "I Capture the Castle"

I Capture the Castle I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
I Capture the Castle is a fictional story written from the viewpoint of a young woman writing in her journal. It takes place in a run down old castle in the middle of the English countryside. Her family is in difficult circumstances because their father has not earned any income in years and they have sold everything they can just to get by.

I am trying to decide what I really think about this book. There is a part of me that liked it and a part of me that is just left wanting more. The book began slow for me, but I was intrigued by the setting of an old castle in the English countryside as well as the simpler time the story took place. There is a certain wistful romance about it all even in the midst of the troubles the characters were encountering. I tend to think that this is why the book is as popular as it is.

However, because we were privy to the innermost thoughts of the main character, Cassandra, through her journal writings, I expected to see more depth and spiritual growth within her. Generally, hard and trying circumstances, such as she was facing, would force a person to grow and mature emotionally. I didn’t see as much of that as I would have liked in her. That goes for the other characters, as well.


The Characters:

*Cassandra seems intelligent and capable. I often wondered throughout the story why she spent the majority of her time only lollygagging around daydreaming and writing in her journal. Surely there were things she could have been doing. It seemed that she let Topaz and Stephen do the lion’s share of the household and garden work for her. She never seemed to make much effort to try and better her circumstances.

*Sweet Stephen was someone you had to love. He had such virtuous characteristics. He was hard working and loyal. It was so disappointing to see him taken advantage of.

*Rose played the part of the air-headed, self-centered sister well. She did not contribute any depth to the story.

*Topaz was difficult to understand. We never got to really see the depths of her thoughts and her actions were just a mystery to me throughout most of the story.

*The father. I don’t even know what to say about the father. He may have had some spark of genius in him, but his self-centered ways definitely squelched it. He was to blame for all of their poor circumstances, yet he took no responsibility and went about his days seeking only to please his own needs and everyone else just coddled him and let him. Well, that is until they locked him in the tower. ;-)

*The Cotton brothers. I don’t fully understand them either. It seems to me that they would have taken one look at this crazy family and ran. But they kept coming back. Something drew them to the castle and this family. Because of this I kept looking for the redeeming qualities in the characters and trying to put myself in their shoes.

At the end of the book I was really looking for some big emotional growth, in the characters. Rose remained flighty and self-centered. The father at least matured enough to finish a book and hopefully step up to his duties of supporting his family. Cassandra was the one I held out the most hope for. I suppose the fact that she did not run off and marry Simon showed some strength of character, but it was disappointing to find her at the end of the book in nearly the same place physically and emotionally as she was at the beginning.

Overall, there were parts of the book I really enjoyed. I think most of those are when I could get swept away in the romance of it all. Ultimately, the book left me wishing for more. The romance faded away and I was left holding a book wondering if it was worth my time to read.

View all my reviews.

Friday, November 07, 2008

CHEAP EATS: Cutting the cost of food

This is a little introduction to an ongoing series of blog posts called, "CHEAP EATS." In these I plan to discuss specific ideas for feeding your family well, but cheap.

Last week I talked about frugality and living within our means. I discussed that there are expenses in our budget that are fixed amounts and there are areas in our budget with some wiggle room. These are our discretionary expenses. One big area is food. Now, we all need to eat so this expense is not going away, but there can be a lot of variances in how much we spend in this area. On one extreme, you could eat 3 meals a day in a nice restaurant and spend a fortune to nourish your family. On the other hand, you could eat watered down gruel for your meals spending mere pennies a day and barely subsisting. My goal is to find a middle ground that works for my family, keeps them happy, well fed, and does not break our budget.

To cut the costs of feeding our family, we seldom eat out. On the occasions that we do, we choose places that we have found give us the most bang for our buck and also drink (free) water. Beverages in restaurants cost a fortune, often $2 a piece. With a family of 7, that would be an additional $14 to our meal!

The best way to save money on food is to prepare your meals at home. Even processed heat and eat type meals from the grocery store are usually cheaper than eating out. To save even more money, skip the processed foods altogether and cook from scratch. Although this is what I try to do most of the time, I will purchase processed foods when I find them reasonably priced and when I know that I am going to be particularly short on time. Having a few quick, throw together meals in my freezer or pantry may be just the thing that saves me from the temptation of eating out or driving through somewhere and bringing it home.

Because of the size of our family, our food budget can easily get out of hand if I am not careful. I have been striving to find ways to purchase food economically, but in addition to that, I have been seeking ways to use simple, inexpensive ingredients creatively to make cheap meals that everyone in my family enjoys and are good for us, too.

Keep your eye out for future installments.

Next up "CHEAP EATS: Oatmeal."

Thursday, November 06, 2008


i have it.
Originally uploaded by Pocket Farmer

As the presidential election is past and I troll around the blogosphere, I am amazed by the amount of people out there putting so much HOPE in one man. Obama has been built up to be this messiah and deliverer of the citizens of America. I keep hearing how he will change the world and there will be no more violence and war, no more struggling for money. It is as if many believe we will now enter Utopia – heaven on earth.

If Barack Obama is truly all that, he should have no trouble with a Democratic congress on his side. There is no reason why he cannot make America over into his vision of a perfect nation. I hate to burst bubbles here, but I don’t believe it will happen. He will make changes, but it will not be heaven on earth. He is no messiah. There is only one true Savior and that is Christ Jesus. He came and saved us from sin and evil by giving his life for each of us. He alone is the true change-maker. It will not be until Jesus Himself returns that there will be heaven on earth when He reigns as leader over all.

In the wake of what many are calling an historic election, there is one thing we all need to be doing whether we are happy or sad with the outcome. This is PRAY!

The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for
everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.

He wants not only us but everyone saved, you know, everyone to get to know the truth we've learned: that there's one God and only one, and one Priest-Mediator between God and us—Jesus, who offered himself in exchange for everyone held captive by sin, to set them all free. Eventually the news is going to get out. This and this only has been my appointed work: getting this news to those who have never heard of God, and explaining how it works by simple faith and plain truth.

Since prayer is at the bottom of all this, what I want mostly is for men to pray—not shaking angry fists at enemies but raising holy hands to God.
(1 Timothy 2, The Message)

God Himself has overseen every aspect of this election. He is sovereign. He is in control. He can and will use those in power for His good purpose. Let us daily lift holy hands to God in prayer and reach to HIM for our hope.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Re-Purposing Clothing Discards

Here is the ultimate in recycling. Take unwanted, bargain box, discarded clothing add a bit of creativity and create adorable outfits. That is what Amy Quarry does. I was so inspired by her blog and her shop. What first caught my eye were these "warmies" like the ones pictured here. I think they look especially cute under the dress. I have lots of little dresses for my little girls, but since we live in Indiana, it gets too cold in the winter to go bare legged and I struggle to find durable leggings that don't cost me a fortune. I am inspired to try and figure out how to create these for my own little girls from clothing we already own but no longer wear. This would be the ultimate in frugality, not to mention being "green."
There are also many other cute items that Amy has come up with. If you want to be inspired, check out this post along with her Etsy shop. She has created aprons, handbags, and dresses from used skirts. There are leggings, skirts, and hats created from one old sweater. So creative and inspired! Check her out!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

For years now, I have been a big fan of using the dishwasher tablets (Electrosol Powerball) for my 3 loads of dishes we do each day. This began because I was encouraging (read: making it one of their chores) my older daughters to load and run the dishwasher. At the time, they were 10 and 7 years old and I didn't really trust them to measure out the powdered stuff accurately and not spill it everywhere. The tablets are nice because there is no measuring.

Well, that was about 4 or so years ago and we have been hooked on these ever since. I generally get them at Sam's Club for the best price, but lately they haven't had them. Even with watching for sales and using coupons, they are expensive and I keep running out before I can find another good deal. When you do 3 loads of dishes per day, running out of soap is a bad thing.

Recently, I discovered a recipe for homemade dishwasher soap here. After my daughter came to me yesterday and informed me that we were officially out of dishwasher tablets and the dishwasher was bursting-at-the-seams full, I decided to pull out this recipe and give it a try. So far we have only done 2 loads with it, but it seems to be just as good of a job as the Electrosol tablets. I suppose it will take a bit more time to decide if it is really just as good. According to the article where I found it, this is a much cheaper alternative to storebought dishwasher detergent. They claim that Cascade brand costs $0.22 per load. I can only assume that this is the cheapest form - probably the powder. I haven't done the math myself, but they say that the homemade version only costs $0.08 per load. That is a substantial savings!

Here is the recipe:


In a plastic container with a firmly fitting lid, mix:

  • 1 cup borax (20-Mule-Team Borax, available in any supermarket)

  • 1 cup baking soda

  • 1/4 cup salt

  • 1/4 cup citric acid (available in brewing stores among other places--if you haven't tracked it down yet but must try this formula, use two packets of Lemonade-Flavored Kool-Aid, ONLY lemon, or you'll dye your dishwasher! and ONLY unsweetened Kool-Aid!)

  • 30 drops citrus essential oil--lemon, grapefruit, orange, tangerine, or a mixture

Put all of it in the container, shake it up.
To use, put a tablespoon or so into each cup of your dishwasher.

I will add that you can also find citric acid in with the canning supplies at your local Wal-Mart or hardware store. I decided not to use the essential oil. This was for two reasons: I wasn't sure where mine was and it is expensive. I suppose that if you used the lemonade flavored Kool-aid, you would still get that lemon fresh scent. I also just realized that I forgot to include the salt when I mixed mine up. It still seemed to work, but I will try it with the salt, too. Luckily, salt is a cheap additive and if it improves the recipe, well worth using. I can buy a big box of it at Sam's Club for under $1.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Book Review: Margin

Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard A. Swenson

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Overall, I really got a lot out of this book.

The premise of the book is that we are living in a society that for the most part is stressed because we are living beyond our means in the areas of our emotional, physical, time, and financial capacities. "Margin" is that space between what our limitations are and how far we push ourselves. In general, most of us tend to spend more money than we have, commit to more activities than we have time for, our push ourselves beyond our physical and emotional limits.

When we consciously decide to step back and live with margin in all areas of our life, our stress levels decrease and we have more peace. We also allow room for God to use us. If we are stretched to (or beyond) our limits, there is no room to follow God's call.

I really appreciated the chapter on contentment. I really feel like we are always overextending ourselves because of a lack of contentment. We may purchase something because we think it will make us happy, or push ourselves to do more because we think it will bring us fulfillment.

I did have a bit of difficulty getting through the first part of this book which spends a bit of time quoting statistics about society to prove that we are overcommitted, stressed, and depressed because of a lack of margin in our lives. Personally, if I didn't already believe that, I wouldn't have picked up this book, so I could have skipped a lot of that. It is worth pushing past that and onto the rest of the book.

"Margin" has made me think and evaluate and pray about the choices that I make each day. I want to consciously live with a certain amount of margin in my life because I want the peace that comes from that. I also really want to be available for God to be able to use me wherever He desires. I don't think there is any greater calling and purpose for us.

View all my reviews.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

How To Be More Creative

In an effort to boost my frugal skills, I pulled out a book I read years ago and loved, "The Tightwad Gazette" by Amy Dacyczyn. In it, the author has published articles from her 6 years of Tightwad Gazette newsletter. There are some wonderful and some kinda far fetched ideas in it, but all of them are good for consideration if your goal is to cut back expenses. Amy has a unique way of looking at things.

One article in her book that I particularly love is titled, "How To Be More Creative." When trying to cut expenses, often there is a creative way to do things differently that costs little or no money. I love being creative. Many people tell me that they are not creative. I don't believe this. God, the author of creativity, created us in His image; therefore, we must have inherited a bit of that creativity. Everyone has a spark of creativity in at least one area of their life.

Here are 10 steps that Amy maps out on the path to creativity in her article:

#1: "Realize that you are creative and nurture this creativity in your daily life."

#2: "Give yourself mental space. " We tend to fill our lives with mental clutter. This is the background noise of the TV or radio, the unproductive chats on the phone, etc. Look for times in your day when you can turn off the noise and just think. This can be during some of the mundane tasks of housework (doing dishes, folding laundry). I also have made it a habit to often turn off the radio in my car. This is a perfect quiet time to think things over. Another thing that I do is carve out a quiet time in the morning before the rest of my family awakens. I use this time for bible study, prayer, and planning out my day. Often I will just sit with a notebook and brainstorm ideas for a particular situation. I love what Amy says about this, "When someone says, 'I'm just not creative like you,' I reply 'No, I just thought about it longer."

#3: "Never compare yourself to others." There will always be people more creative than you out there. There will also always be less creative people out there.

#4: "Put the problem into your mental computer." Your brain is always thinking and churning, even when you sleep. If you are trying to come up with a great idea, think about it and let it rest. And remember to give yourself a couple of months of "mental back burner time."

#5: "Brainstorm" Discuss your ideas with someone else or write ideas down. Discuss or write ALL your ideas, even the ones that sound stupid. Sometimes it is just a twist on one of these ideas that works.

#6: "Find a springboard, a starting place." If your goal is to save money, this may be what cheap or free resources you have available.

#7: "Do not share your creative ideas with anyone who continually tells you they are dumb." This is pretty self-explanatory. You don't foster creativity by demeaning it.

#8: "Practice." The more you practice the habit of being creative, the easier it will become to be creative.

#9: "Avoid negative stress." Stress and focusing on only the negatives squelches creativity.

#10: "Start small. When you bite off more than you can chew, you set yourself up for failure." Be realistic in your goals.

I highly recommend reading "The Tightwad Gazette." It is full of wonderful ideas and much food for thought. I originally read this shortly after having my first baby and was working full-time. I soon realized that I was not cut out to be a full-time working mom and this book helped give us the courage for me to quit my job. This was a big leap of faith as I was on mandatory over-time and making a higher income than my hubby AND I was carrying our insurance. I began implementing some of the ideas in this book and we survived.

Now, that we are at a different stage of our lives and realizing that we need to tighten our belts, I am rereading this. I have changed a lot in the last 15 years and our family situation has changed a lot, as well. This is causing me to read this with new eyes and new thoughts and I am really enjoying it.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Book Review: The Answers Book

The New Answers Book The New Answers Book by Ken Ham

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a good book and I found it very informative. Most of the information is easy to understand and made me think about the origins of the world in a way that I had not thought about much before.

As a product of the public schools, I was raised to think that evolution was fact instead of just the THEORY that it is. I think students need to be taught that evolution is a theory and be shown that there are other valid theories out there, too. We need to remember that there is a difference between scientific fact and theory. Facts are verifiable evidence. Theories are ideas that scientists come up with based on those facts. Theories are not proven. If they could be, they would be considered facts.

This book uses scientific facts and shows that they validate the bible - specifically Genesis which includes the creation and the flood. It also shows why evolution theories and the bible are NOT compatible, while at the same time showing that scientific facts do not contradict what the bible says.

View all my reviews.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Time Vs. Money

This is another article in my series about frugality. We have already discussed some general ideas to improve our cash flow in our home. If our budget isn’t balancing and there always seems to be more month left than there is money, then income needs to increase and/or expenses need to decrease. I know from experience that this easier said than done.

I want to look more closely at areas we can cut spending in our homes. As I was thinking about some of these areas such as minimizing eating out, not buying convenience items, watching for bargains, it brought to mind something that I have discovered throughout my years as a wife, mother and keeper of my home.


Yes, I know this is nothing really profound. Most of us have worked at one time for an hourly wage and understand this. But this is really important to remember in terms of caring for our homes and trying to save money. Most things that we can do to save money require an outlay of time on our part. Let me give you an easy example. It is much faster and easier to drive through somewhere and pick up dinner to take home than to go home, plan a meal, prepare it and clean it up. The difference in cost, however, can be staggering. The differences do not stop there. In most cases the home cooked meal is a much healthier alternative for our family, as well.

I can think of many areas where the cheaper alternative requires more time:

*Convenience foods vs. From scratch foods

*Shopping department stores for new clothes vs. Bargain hunting at garage sales, thrift stores, and rummage sales for decent used clothing

*Drying clothes in a dryer vs. Hanging clothes outside on a line

*Shopping for what you want at the grocery store vs. Studying sales flyers, clipping coupons, and planning meals based on weekly bargains

*Store-bought bread vs. Homemade bread

*Store bought gifts vs. Handmade gifts

*Using disposable plates vs. Doing dishes

*Disposable diapers vs. Cloth diapers

Think about it. Anything that is a convenience item or cuts the time it takes you do something, requires that time from someone or something else. Restaurant or take-out food takes no time for you to cook, but someone else had to spend their time and energy doing it. Using a dryer requires the time and energy from the dryer. You had to spend money for the dryer and spend money for the energy to run it.

Everyone’s lifestyle is different and there may be conveniences in your life that are well worth the cost. You need to weigh the costs. If you have a job that pays you $30 an hour, it would be silly to spend your time doing something that saves you $5 an hour instead. However, if you are a stay-at-home mom and you can find some convenience you can give up that saves you $5, but costs you an extra hour of your day it may be well worth it. Because I am one, I know that stay-at-home moms are not just sitting around on their fannies eating bon-bons and watching soaps all day, but there may be areas in our day that we can be more efficient with our time and therefore do more things ourselves to save a few dollars.

I know from my own experience, I can be much more efficient with my time and my money when I am not over-burdened with commitments, especially ones that take me away from the home. Look at your commitments. Are there things you could easily give up even temporarily? We are a homeschooling family and have found that there are an abundance of worthwhile educational opportunities available for homeschooled children. Many of them are for low or no cost. One has to remember that each requires an additional cost of TIME. I consider how much time the activity is going to take away from home and at what time of day it falls. I weigh this against the educational value of the activity. If an activity takes me away from home, has benefit to only a small percentage of my children, and lands just before or during the dinner hour, I probably won’t even consider it unless it is something really special. This is because I know it will disrupt the whole household and make preparing a healthy, inexpensive dinner from scratch very difficult. The time-cost would be high.

In striving to be women of God, we need to remember that God created us to be help mates for our husbands. I know that this is not a popular idea in society. This does not mean that we are to be submissive doormats under our husbands’ thumbs. It does, however, mean that we are not a drain on our spouses, but instead, an asset.

“A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.” Proverbs 31:10-11

This may be by having a job outside the home and bringing in a second income, or it may be by spending our time working at home to conserve the one income that our husband brings in.

I plan to discuss in later posts some ideas for saving money. Some may sound great and others may sound totally unreasonable. Remember that time is money and count the cost. You need to trade one for the other. It is up to you to decide what you value most in each situation: your time or your money.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


fru gal 

economical in use or expenditure; prudently saving or sparing; not wasteful: a frugal manager.
entailing little expense; requiring few resources; meager; scanty: a frugal meal.

frugality. (n.d.). Unabridged (v 1.1). Retrieved October 25, 2008, from website:

I have been thinking quite a bit lately about frugality. I know that I am not alone. The news media has been doing a great job sensationalizing the state of our economy and striking fear into the hearts of many. I, personally, do not listen too close to the news. It's not that I am burying my head in the sand, hoping that by ignoring everything around me that I won't be affected by the state of the economy. But, you have to realized that it is the media's job to get us upset about the news. That's what keeps you paying attention to them and, in turn, making them money. The media will take the facts and play them out to the worst possible scenarios because we are putty in their hands if we are fearful of what will happen next.

But what is fear? It has been said that fear is the opposite of faith. I tend to agree with this because if I am trusting in the Lord, who is the all-powerful creator of the universe, what do I have to fear? He promises to never leave or forsake us. (Deuteronomy 31:6, Deuteronomy 31:8, Joshua 1:5, 1 Kings 8:57, Hebrews 13:5) Because I believe this with all my heart, I tend to listen to the news with only half an ear. I need to base my decisions on what God directs me to do not on what the media says.

With that being said, though, I have been looking at our personal finances with concern. Due to having a growing family, our expenses have a tendency to grow faster than our income. I think that there are many families out there who can relate to this completely. When your budget becomes unbalanced and your outgoing expenses are more than your incoming income, there are only two things you can do: Increase your income and/or decrease your expenses. Let's take a look at these options.

Increasing Income

Are there any ways to easily increase your income?

Here are some ideas:

Ask for a raise. Depending on your job situation you may need to discuss the possibility of a raise with your boss. Some jobs have an automatic yearly review and usually that includes a raise if your performance warrants this. Many jobs, however, don't do this. My husband realized that he had not been giving much of a raise since he started his position at his job although his responsibilities had increased substantially. He did a bit of research to find out what the average income was for someone in his field with similar responsibilities and discovered he was underpaid in comparison. It took a bit of nerve and a lot of prayer, but he approached his boss and addressed this. It paid off and he got a nice increase which we were very thankful for.

Prayerfully consider if this is a step you should take. It is something that needs to be done carefully because you really don't want to alienate yourself from your superiors at work. I also want to caution you against an attitude of bitterness in your job. If you really believe that you are being underpaid and your boss does not agree, you have two choices. You can seek employment elsewhere, or you can decide that your current position is still your best option. Then you need to be thankful for the job opportunity that the Lord has given you. Do not allow bitterness to enter your heart. It does no good, but instead eats away at you and makes your life miserable. I even have had coworkers that have allowed this attitude to cause them to make very foolish decisions that ultimately cost them their job.

Work harder. Some jobs allow you some flexibility in your hours and the option of working overtime. If this is the case for you or your spouse, consider putting in a few extra hours each week. Another consideration if you work on commission is to work a bit harder or longer hours to increase sales and therefore income. It is important to keep in mind how being away longer hours affects the rest of your family and how your household functions. This may not be a wise option if it puts too much of a strain on family life. The family needs to come first.

Increase prices. If you own your own business and finances are tight, it may mean that it is time to review expenses and decide to raise your prices. Our family just recently addressed this. We own rental properties and had not increased rent for three years. After looking at expenses and the market rate for similar apartments, we decided that a rent increase was warranted. No one has scoffed at it and moved out because we are still very competitive in our area.

Declutter and sell your stuff. Look around your house. I bet you can find a few things that you no longer use or need that someone else would value enough to pay for. Sell them. If you live in the right area, have a garage sale. Market it well and you can make a nice sum of money for just a few days work. Another option is online auctions like eBay. Before listing, do a search to see if others have sold similar items and if people are bidding on them. Then you will have an idea of where to set your starting bid and what you can expect to sell it for.

Start you own business. Nearly everyone has a skill that could be used by someone else. Are you crafty and can make items to sell? Do you have a service you could offer to others? Brainstorm ideas. What are you good at? Look at your personal strengths and your passions and see how these could be used as a marketable product. Keep in mind that starting any type of new business takes work and it takes time before they become very profitable. Once again, you need to consider how this will affect your family. There is much info available on the internet and at your local library concerning starting a business.

Consider the second parent taking on a job outside the home. I saved this one for last because from my own experience, it was not a good thing for our family. Trust me, I know how hard it is these days to survive on one income. That being said, I think that much consideration should be giving before deciding that a second parent should take on a job outside the home. If you have children, they have to be your priority. You have to consider how working will affect them. Unless all of your children are in school full time and you can find a part-time job that fits into those hours, having mom take on a job means that the children will have to be in the care of others for at least part of the day. It is important to consider how your expenses will increase. Taking on a job probably means having the additional expenses of:

  • daycare

  • needing to dress better and spend more money on your appearance

  • transportation expenses such as more money for gas and additional wear and tear on your car

  • conveniences such as dinners out or carried in because there was no time or energy to cook

When you calculate these additional expenses, how much money are you actually making? I did the working mom thing for the first 6 months of my oldest daughter's life. Besides nearly costing me my sanity, we had a lot of additional expenses that we could eliminate when I quit my job. About this time I discovered the Tightwad Gazette. In it, the author, Amy Dacyczyn, discussed her decision to quit her lucrative job as a graphic designer and take on a frugal lifestyle instead. She very carefully calculated how much she made versus her additional expenses due to the fact that she was working. She figured that she was barely earning over $1.00 per hour after expenses.

I am not here to be judgemental of working moms. Oh my, no! I know how hard it is to be one and know that I do not have what it takes to do it successfully. I just want those of you out there considering this as an option to count the costs involved - ALL the costs. This includes the cost to family life. In my case, I was doing the working mom thing while my hubby was a traveling salesman and was gone most of the week. I was truly in the role of the single mom during he week. I nearly had a nervous breakdown. My heart goes out to those of you who are forced into this situation. This is not an easy thing to do.

After saying all that and being somewhat negative about a second parent (most likely mom) taking on a job, I know there are family situations and job situations that make this a very viable solution to helping out the family budget. A very good friend of mine fell into a job working as a teacher's aid at her daughter's preschool during the very same hours that her daughter attends. It is an ideal situation for her to help out the family budget without putting a big strain on family life. Prayerfully consider your options in this area. You never know, God may surprise you.

Decreasing Expenses
Now let's brainstorm a few ideas as to how to decrease expenses. This is probably easier to do than increasing income.

First, list expenses. Make a list of everything you spend money on and don't leave anything out. Depending on how you normally keep track of your money, this can be pretty simply or really difficult. Use a basic budget sheet such as this one, to help you remember to include everything you money goes to.

Define "wants" vs. "needs." This is an area that may be difficult and an area that may cause some disagreements in your household. Look at all the items you listed. Are there any of these that you could do without. One area that we have discussed quite a bit in our home has been cable television. I believe it is a want. Many in my family have trouble with that. Oh, they realize it is a want, it is just that they really want it. We decided to keep it (at least for now), but go a cheaper route. This saved us $65 each month. Another area that can get quite expensive is cell phones. Analyze your plan and see if you can cut back to a cheaper one or even give up the cell phones. Another alternative that many are choosing is to give up their land line phone and just use cell phones. This eliminates an entire bill each month.

Note discretionary spending. The next thing to do is to note which things in your budget that could be considered discretionary spending. What does this mean? Well, some things in your budget are fixed expenses like monthly rent or your mortgage payment. They do not vary month to month and you can't change them. Other things in your budget have some play. These would be things like how much you spend on groceries, eating out, clothing, or even Starbucks. These are not areas of spending that you can necessarily eliminate, but you may be able to cut back in considerably. This is also where looking at "wants" versus "needs" is really important. Do you really need to stop at Starbucks or could a regular coffee from home suffice? Do you need all the clothes that you purchase or could you cut back or even buy them used from garage sales and resale shops? Do you need to eat out? Cooking at home is much cheaper. Can you cut back on groceries by buying fewer convenience foods or cheaper cuts of meat? Each of these questions is a whole discussion in itself.

Perhaps this has given you some food for thought. I hope to continue the discussions on frugality by having future posts about how to cut expenses is several of these discretionary areas. These are things that I have been looking very hard at lately in our household. Pinching pennies has become a new hobby of mine and I have been learning a lot which I would love to share.

Have a great day and spend it wisely!