12.31.2008

Pictures from PA

We're back in Ohio, tired and loaded down with all sorts of PA Dutch treats. Just wanted to share some of the highlights of our trip with you..















From the top:
*Hanging with poppop, talking cars.
*Andrew and his cousin Gianni "playing nicely". :)
*The owners of a tiny pretzel oven in downtown Reading - proof that Walmart isn't about to take over the world yet!
*Andrew standing on a smoldering part of Centralia, PA - there's a coal mine on fire under the town, it's been burning since the 50's (so I'm told), and the town has been all but evacuated. Andrew thought it was WAY COOL.
*And, lastly, Andrew and my oldest friend, Joy, in Chocolate World at Hershey Park. They were teaching the kids how to work in the chocolate factory, making kisses. Again, Andrew had loads of fun!

12.26.2008

Greetings from PA!

Well, we got through the 8 hour drive this morning. It's funny how your home town looks different every time you return (especially when you return as infrequently as I do). What used to be a bit of a second-class city has turned into a bedroom community for Philly. And traffic sure reflects that statement - a few years ago it'd take half an hour to get to Dietrich's Meats. Today? Close to an hour. So, while the neighborhoods have grown here, the streets systems have yet to catch up.

Andrew's having the time of his life, he's discovered his nanny's treasure trove of old Super NES games. He's currently banging away at Mario Paint. I don't care, as long as he's quiet.....

Nanny and Poppop are thrilled to see their grandson. At least, when they're not wondering where his "Off " switch is. :)

Hope you've all had a great Christmas. :)

12.25.2008

The Piqua Lucky 14 - the sequel

From the Troy Daily News:

Co-workers sue lottery winnersPlaintiffs say oral agreement was breached

The 15 city of Piqua employees who struck it rich earlier this month by hitting the $207 million Mega Millions jackpot allegedly breached an oral agreement with at least four other co-workers who did not take part in a lottery pool at the city's street department, a lawsuit filed Tuesday on behalf of the four co-workers states.

The four co-workers who did not put money in the office pool, Doug Harter, Israel Carnes, Tammy Wright and Jon Litchfield, all of Piqua and city employees, argue in the complaint they regularly took part in the lottery pool, but weren't able to contribute to the office pool that won the jackpot because they were out of the office.

Furthermore, there was an oral agreement between all of the workers that if the jackpot was hit, they would all share in the proceeds. In addition, a dollar bill would normally be contributed to the pool for the four other workers in their absence, according to the lawsuit.

Harter, manager at the street department, claims he was not in the office on the day the lottery pool money was collected because "he was at home cleaning to prepare his home to host the department holiday party for co-workers."

"The plaintiffs are rightfully entitled to the proceeds of the winning ticket," the lawsuit states.The lawsuit, filed with the Miami County Clerk of Courts on Tuesday morning, contained three counts, including breach of contract, promissory estoppel, and conversion.They are seeking, collectively, $41 million in damages, plus interest.

A jury trial is requested.In addition, a supplemental motion filed with the lawsuit requesting a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction asks a judge to prevent the winners from spending any of their lottery winnings.

The lottery winners, 14 city workers and one relative, claimed their winnings at a press conference held last week at the Fort Piqua Plaza. The group pooled their dollar bills together every Tuesday and Friday for five years in hopes of striking the Mega Millions jackpot and each walked away with $6.33 million, except for one city worker who put two dollars in and gets $12.66 million.

Attorney Jack Hemm, who represented the lottery winners, had no comment when reached, except to say "a litigation team" from the law office where he works, Dungan & LeFevre in Troy, would be representing "a majority of the winners."

Erick L. Bauer, a Dover attorney who is representing the four workers, was out of the office Tuesday afternoon and could not be reached for comment.The combined, after-taxes amount of the winnings totaled is $101,327,359, lottery officials said.

Money really doesn't make you happy.....

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Please, have a blessed Christmas. Remember why we celebrate the birth of Jesus, because He is the King of Kings, who gave himself as a human sacrifice for our sins. Please take a moment and say a special prayer for the Lamberths, a member of their family was in a tragic accident a few weeks ago and they're anticipating a Christmas miracle. Also, please remember that Christmas is a special time of giving, but that we need to be helping the less fortunate all year round.

I'll be out of town between Christmas and New Year, so it's probably going to be quiet here on Mumblings. So have a safe holiday. :)

Merry Christmas, all. God bless.

12.24.2008

Dear Santa,

Okay, I guess I owe you a gigantic apology. All this time I taught my son that you're not real, that Christmas is about Jesus Christ and not St. Nick. But apparently you're very real. Not only real, but moderately strong.

I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the giant sack of canned goods you left on my porch this morning. 50lbs worth of peanut butter, pasta, canned soups, mac & cheese, baked beans, and the like? I mean, I could barely move the sack! You must have arms like Popeye!

Because of you, we will be able to make lots of casseroles with cream of mushroom soup. We'll get our daily intake of fiber with those Bush's baked beans. Winter will be a much more pleasant environment with peanut butter sandwiches and Kraft mac & cheese for Andrew. Your gift will continue to benefit us throughout the season, and we will fondly remember this as the Christmas that Santa brought us food. Bless you!

Your new fan club president,

~emily

What Does Andrew Want For Christmas?

How blessed are we?

12.23.2008

Our New Kitchen

My friend Brenda came over and helped me recover our ugly, stained cream-colored kitchen chairs. The results are just stunning! She even used her serger to finish off a piece of fabric as our tablecloth. What a difference! It looks so great with our Meditteranean green/gold paint job. Gorgeous!

12.22.2008

I Get By With a Little Help from my Friends...

This morning was just the best time I'd had in so long! It's the first day of winter hiatus here, and our little foursome (Brenda, Shari, Christine, and I) gathered all the kids here for brunch & cookie baking. What a great time! We all found some new recipes to try - french toast with banana syrup, breakfast casserole, sausage gravy over homemade buttermilk biscuits, homemade cheese danish, oh, it was most awesome. No fighting among the kids (all 7 of them), my house is as clean now as it was before they arrived, and we got to wish each other Merry Christmas without scrambling for gifts/cards for each other. I'm so blessed to have a great group of friends, all generous souls, supportive, reliable, just all around great people. What a perfect memory to tuck away.

The starting ceremonies to the best Christmas ever....

12.20.2008

The Piqua Lucky 16?

This past week, a whole slew of coworkers from Piqua, Ohio (7 miles north of beautiful Troy) won the megabucks. $207 million. Lucky guys? Really?

And you know they're just the talk of the store right now. All of our delivery drivers have suddenly got this insatiable urge to run to the c-store next to us and buy scratch-off tickets. A sucker bet, to be sure. But they've seen a glimmer of insane luck strick close to home, and they want a piece of it. Apparently it will make all their dreams come true.

I don't agree. I've been acquainted with a few moneyed people, and they never seem happier than anyone else. Quite the opposite, at times. Their brand of rat race never seems to come to fruition. The people invested in the stock market over the past few months are no doubt more stressed than us "poor folk". People with multiple properties are getting killed in the housing crisis. Those that buy new cars take a hit on massive depreciation.

Right now I'm the most money-poor I've ever been. And have never felt richer. You can't win that in the lottery.

Letter M, Other Pics




Last day before Christmas break - looks like they sent the kids home all hepped up on green sugar!


12.16.2008

Death of the Christmas Card

It's mid-December, and a curious phenomenon is happening here in Troy, Ohio...there's a notable lack of gay red envelopes containing festive Christmas greetings gracing our mailbox. So far, we've only received one holiday greeting, and it's been delivered by the old shoeleather express (take that, Mr. Postman!). So what gives?

I've seen other bloggers mentioning different reasons why they weren't participating in this archaic holiday tradition this year - mostly financial, environmental, and frugal, good points all. But for me, this year it's been mostly about time management. There's only so many hours in December. Between cooking, making personalized teacher gifts, planning a trip to the old hometown, working, and all the other minutae of daily life, certain festivities had to go. So sorry, but bye-bye holiday greetings.

My girl Julie, down there in Texas, was debating about that queen of all holiday greetings, the Family Update Letter (yes, it does warrant caps, don't you think?). And that's another reason why it felt acceptable to let the Christmas cards go the way of the dinosaur this year. Most of my family and friends check in to see what's new here fairly frequently. So anything we could send to them would probably be yesterday's news.

What do you think? Have you noticed a lack of red and green cheery envelopes in the mailbox? Have you decided to forego the mass mailing of the cards this year? If so, why?

12.14.2008

Oh, My....

I love Feedjit! If you dig around a little, it'll show you what people are googling that leads them to your blog.

Yesterday someone landed here after googling "flex spending ky jelly".

Thought I'd share that little chuckle with y'all....make of it what you will. :)

12.13.2008

Slacking, An Update

I need to apologize to all my loyal blog readers...well, both of you, anyway. It seems like the old blog is taking a backseat to life lately. Between the holidays, housework, family, and Facebook, there just doesn't seem to be as much time to generate words. But not to worry, babying the blog is very high on my list of New Year's resolutions. And I'm pretty good about keeping resolutions, at least until the second week of January. :)

But, an update on the homefront. First of all, we've tentatively decided to put the homestead on the market. For those of you who've seen my home, no doubt you're shaking your heads and wondering where I'll find the time to clean it all. Me, too. But when God is with us, who (dustbunnies included) can be against us?

Christmas preparations are all tied up. Christmas presents wrapped, jars of Candy Cane Brownie Mix made and ready for distribution to teachers/sitters/neighbors. The tree is up, and it's beautiful. All that's left is grocery shopping for the marathon cook-a-thon the days before Christmas. Have to make a huge dinner, with lots and lots of planned leftovers. Why, you ask?

Well, Andrew and I plan to depart for Reading, PA the 26th. We're very excited about our mini vacay. It should include Andrew's first trip to that mecca of diet-disturbance, Hershey Park's Chocolate World (if you've been there, I apologize for the little diddy that's going through you head right now - and if you haven't had the pleasure, you can hear it here). My child, though no fan of chocolate (weird, huh?), loves Reese's PB cups. And hopefully the weather cooperates enough for us to hit the park and take in the Christmas lights display. I'm also looking forward to hitting my favorite smokehouse ever, Dietrich's Meats. Their smoked sausage is a (stinkily) wonderful addition to my freezer, and a little goes a long way in some old fashioned sausage stew. We'll also be hanging with my good friend, Joy. Should be lots of fun!

So, back to the planned leftovers. I love my husband dearly. But left to his own culinary devices, he'll be eating cold cereal morning, noon, and night. Hence the mountain of warm-ups that will be awaiting him. And, also, when we travel, we make it a point to take a cooler of food and drinks, rather than hitting the turnpike travel plazas for subpar fast food (yeah, that sounds redundant to those not familiar with turnpike food, but trust me, a Hardee's burger at a regular restaurant is light years from a the same on the old toll road). Not to mention the cost. It's really much more frugal, as well as healthy, to brown bag it.

So, that's what's going on here. What's new in everyone else's lives? How are you doing on your holiday plans? Are you ready for Christmas to be over yet?

Letter L


12.10.2008

More Kitchen Hints

Getting dinner to the table. Isn't that the struggle moms go through daily? Add the stress of time contraints to financial woes, and it's almost enought to make you throw up your hands and head to the closest drive thru. But wait! A little prep can make life so much easier! Here, let me share some of my favorite kitchen tips...
Grab a heavy-bottomed skillet. You know that nifty defroster plate they show on infomercials at 2am? You don't need it. Nothing thaws meat out quicker than that massive frying pan you have tucked under the counter. Basically the same thing they're hawking to the insomniacs. Just put your frozen products in the bottom, wait a half hour to an hour, and you should be good to go (depending on the size of your frozen item, of course).

MYO! Do not be afraid to make your own wherever you can. About every other month, we make a huge batch of faux-Bisquick, at the cost of probably $1.50, and at least double the amount you'd buy in the boxes. Here's the recipe we use. Also, we no longer buy vanilla extract. It gets pricey, when you bake as much as we do. To make your own, buy some good quality beans (I wouldn't be doing grocery store beans here, you may want to order them - see "spice it up" section), split them down the middle, and sink them in a jar of cheap hootch - we use vodka. Wait 6 weeks, and viola! Homemade vanilla extract! And, the best part? As the liquid level decreases, you can simply add more alcohol...and you can get away with doing this for quite awhile before you'd be tempted to start a new batch.

Browning ASAP. When you buy your ground beef, brown it as soon as you get it home. Cook it up with a little onion, drain it well, and freeze it flat in a ziploc bag. As you need some, break off a piece and add it where needed.

Spice it up! I loooove Penzeys Spices. Maybe not the most frugal option in the world, but I think having a cabinet full of spices makes me less likely to go out and buy pricey ingredients at the grocery store. So everything I need, I order from them. Or, if you're fortunate enough to live close to one, go visit. Stop in and smelllllll. Be inspired.

Choose your appliances carefully. After a few years of homemade meals, you get a feel for what smaller appliances garner permanent counter space, which ones hang out in a cabinet, and which ones are vanquished to the back pantry. My toaster oven is always at the ready. What a versatile gadget this is! We make chicken nuggets, tater tots, grilled cheese, corn muffins, garlic bread, cookies, warm-ups, lots of things that, before, I'd have had to fire up the expensive full-sized oven for. Also on the counter is the hot air popcorn popper. We use it almost every night, and it's a great deterrant for snacking on potato chips. The crockpot, little deep fryer, and roaster are always at the ready under the counter (well, the roaster's in the basement, it's too big to fit under the cabinet). And the bread machine? No man's land (otherwise known as the back pantry).

Instant cookies. The next time you make cookie dough, make an extra batch and put it in a container in the fridge. Then, after a ho-hum dinner, delight your family with a few homemade cookies, preferrably baked in your toaster oven while you dined. Or, if it's easier for you, roll come cookie dough into balls and flash freeze. Then thaw on a cookie sheet and bake as usual. I often do this with my sister's favorite cookies, peanut butter cookie dough wrapped around a Rollo. We've always got a bag of them stashed in the chest freezer.

Cook ahead. Just had a chicken for dinner? Why not throw the carcass, some celery, onions, carrots, water and bay leaves into the crock pot and make some stock? Freeze in some Depression Tupperware (margarine tubs) with whatever meat you can pick off, and you have the makings for a very quick soup. Throw a few containers in a stock pot, add some veg, throw in some dumplings made from faux-Bisquick, and give me a call (I'll be right over, I swear!). Easy-peasy dinner, and the kids will think you slaved all day.

12.09.2008

Spiced Pear Quick Bread

Oh, this makes your home smell heavenly!

3 small cans pears, draned and mashed ($3.00)
1/2 cup sugar ($0.50)
1/2 cup brown sugar ($0.50)
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce ($0.50)
3 eggs ($0.40)
3 1/4 cups AP flour ($0.75)
3 tsp cinnamon ($0.50)
1 tsp baking soda ($0.25)
1 tsp baking powder ($0.25)
1 tsp ground cloves ($0.30)
1/2 tsp salt (negligible)

In a large bowl, combine the first 5 ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine the rest, then gradually add dry to the wet, mixing thoroughly. Pour into 4 mini loaf pans, bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes, or until they test done. Let set for 10 minutes before removing from pans to a wire rack to cool completely.

$1.74 per loaf, 6 servings per loaf. So $0.29 per serving. Sprinkle top with coarse sugar before baking, wrap in pretty paper, and give a few loaves to your neighbors!

Letter K


12.06.2008

Eating Healthy on a Tightwad's Budget

It was 5am. Freezing outside. I couldn't sleep. I was thinking about the diet that has been recommended to me, going 30 days without sugar. I've seen the results - a beautiful girl at church went from a size 10 to a size 4 in a few months. So the dilemma is, how do you go sugar-free without busting the budget wide open?

My favorite method is hitting the local Meijer's produce clearance racks. It's baffling, the product that the produce department deems "undesirable", and sells for rock-bottom prices. I walked in there at 5:30 this morning and waltzed out with eggplant, cukes, zukes, bananas, grapefruit, 2 heads of lettuce, and legions of apples for probably 25% what they usually charge. Sure, it's unpredictable, the types of produce available. But it's a test of your frugality - call it a personal Iron Chef challenge. Can you take an unknown ingredient and make something healthful and delicious? I'm up for that.

My other secret weapon in the battle for cheap, healthy eating is dried beans. You can get lots and lots of 1 lb bags of these nutrition powerhouses for usually less than $1 each. And in the book Miserly Moms by Jonni McCoy, she points out how easy it is to make a complete protein with legumes - pairing them with vegetables, dairy, or whole grains will net you all the benefits of eating a hunk of meat, plus high fiber, low fat, and bulging wallet. And don't let the prep scare you. It's only a matter of soaking overnight, then about 1 1/2 to 2 hours of simmering. Sure, it's a little time consuming. But when you stack all these benefits together, it's clear that dried beans can be the frugalistas best friend.

What about you? What are your tips for maximizing your nutritional dollar?

12.04.2008

I Feel Like Violet Beauregard, Only Without the Blue!

I got the sweetest comment today on one of my long-ago weight loss posts.

"Please tell me you have not given up on your weight loss and you have just quit blogging your process. I have lost and gained so many times I've lost count. If you would like an online support pal, email me and let me know. I started my blog just a couple of months ago for two purposes, (1) to spread the word of God, (2) as a weight loss diary to hopefully encourage others to lose weight. Please check out my blog or email me at (redacted) if you're interested in being an online/blogger support pal."

This couldn't come at a better time. I just posted this morning on my facebook account that the war on the waistline starts today. I even lived through the trauma of stepping on the scale. The number was bad, way bad, but I don't feel disappointed. It's a starting point.

And I spent my whole shower time in prayer. My God is so powerful. He can close the mouths of the hungry lions for his servant Daniel. Surely He's capable of helping my lose a little of this caboose.

I can do all things through God, who strengthens me.

12.03.2008

Bailing Out the "Big Three"

GM/Ford/Chrysler are standing in line with their hands out for their piece of the bailout package. And, in a distinctive AIG move, last month the CEO's of these companies head off to DC to plead tgheir poverty in their luxurious private jets.

Yeah, it makes you scratch your head. But NPR pointed out that flying private is contractural for top CEO's, that it's too much of a terrorist risk to fly commercial. In a way, I can understand that.

Until the companies just blew that theory out of the water by having the Big Kahunas return to DC by car. That's right, road trip. Huh.

I wonder if they're driving those big gas-hog SUV's?

11.30.2008

Grocery Challenge - November

Ahhh, November. I knew you were going to be a money pit. And far be it from you to disappoint.
Edible Groceries: $227.93
Inedible Groceries: $5.70
Health: $75.00
Misc: $697.49
Restaurants: $78.64
Gas: $108.95

Edible groceries was up this month, between Thanksgiving and hosting family for Andrew's birthday party. While this is more than usual, I'm not too upset about this.

Inedible groceries? Andrew needed a new electric toothbrush. I'm so blessed to have a business to pirate toilet paper from, or this number would be higher. ;)

Health was 3 months worth of my prescription.

Misc looks to be almost all between Andrew's birthday party and Christmas shopping (which is very close to being done). Yeah, it's high. But again, it's okay.

And we didn't really eat out this month, either.

Gas is down to $1.50 a gallon here, notice how our gas bill is less than half what it'd previously been? Yay!

All around, this has been an expensive month, but definitely not disappointing. December will be kinder to us.

11.28.2008

Black Friday Fun

Yesterday, as tradition dictates, we spent the day in a turkey-stuffed stupor with my family here in South Bend, Indiana, pouring over the ads for the biggest shopping day of the year. I was a bit intimidated, as this would be the first year I wouldn't be slumbering through the madness. My darling SIL would be initiating me in the frugal frolick that is 5am on the day after Thanksgiving.

We made tentative plans for destinations, mapping, and items to purchase. We got up early, piled into the car (my husband couldn't resist the fun, either, much to my astonishment!), and set out for destination: Walmart.

Madness, I tell you! Madness! People piled on top of more people, everyone vying for the shortest checkout line. Loaded down with flat screen TV's, the latest Hanna Montana gobblty-gook, and armloads of clothes. I shopped for about 10 minutes, then took my place in line and waited for Yasar and Chris to gravitate from their positions in the toys and electronics departments. And the entertainment began. If you're the type who enjoys people-watching, Black Friday at Walmart is an absolute bonanza! You can see the best and the worst in human behavior, all in one fell swoop. It seems that the old adage should be updated to say "all's fair in love, war, and Black Friday shopping." Women getting snarky with each other over checkout line position, people guarding their shopping carts as if they're filled with precious gems, fat women stripping down to barely-decent tops due to the intense body heat generated by the hoards. And the smell! Hundreds of unshowered, undeodorized, and probably un-toothbrushed people. Yowza. Hmmmm.

After that, it was off to Office Depot, where Chris was eyeballing a fax machine that, after rebate, would go for a paltry $10. You'd think an office supply store would be pretty low on the shopper's radar...you'd be wrong. The checkout line was easily 45 minutes. But I got to watch some of the best spirit of the season - the girl behind me was too late to get the $350 laptop she wanted, and was standing in line with her $500 next choice. A gentleman came by and gave her a pink piece of paper that entitled her to one of the computers she wanted. With a "merry Christmas", he disappeared into the crowd. After a few minutes talking to others, we found that they were only handing out those papers to those hardy souls standing outside the store at 4am. And, that same girl had been approached by someone else outside trying to scalp one of those papers to her! She was a very happy young lady, and it was such a blessing to watch her glowing with her gratitude to that kind stranger.

Last stop for us was Menards. The store was crowded, the lines long. We chose to go to the checkouts in their outdoor area, and ended up spending what seemed like forever, but was probably closer to an hour, in the 40 degree checkout. And, at the end of that miserable wait, got to watch a gentleman basically lose it on a poor cashier who was no doubt more cold and miserable than the rest of us. Not the kind of end you really want to experience, but I guess it's the reality.

Moral of the story? I now know how I'm going to make my first million. I'm going to pitch a story to the first video game company I can, called "Black Friday". It'll be better than GTA, I promise! Starting with the parking lot derby, the race for the Wii, answering trivia questions to advance your place in the checkout line, earn extra points and trade them for a Taser to get people out of your way (and might also be helpful in zapping the guys breaking into your car and stealing your bags while you're in the mall). Tell me you wouldn't buy that!

11.26.2008

Giving Thanks

It's the eve of Thanksgiving. Most of the food is prepared, the travel plans are set. It's 2am, and a perfect time for reflections.
First and always, I'm thankful to God. For loving us all despite our many failings, and for giving us the opportunity to meet Him in heaven someday and thank Him in person.

I'm grateful for Yasar. He is my best friend, the completion of me. I know I can always depend on him, and he has our bests interests in the front of his mind. After 10 years together, he still makes me laugh. And staring into his green eyes can instill a sense of calm in my spirit. To think that God reached the other side of the world, and put His finger on this man and named him for me, it fills me with awe.

One of the greatest blessings God has bestowed on me is my son. Andrew is the light of my world. He is my reason for walking this earth. My favorite thing is when he comes downstairs in the morning and does his best to curl his lanky, 5-year-old frame into my lap, blow his stinky morning breath into my face as he says "good morning". That is my daily defining moment, and it overflows my heart.

My family is the greatest. Though sometimes they can be the most misunderstood, they are truly the most giving people I know. In times of struggle, they all band together to form this network of unconditional support. It never fails to amaze me, how we can be hundreds of miles apart for months on end, then when we finally meet again it's like slipping on a comfortable old sweater - the fit is always perfect.

I'm so thankful for my friends. My oldest ones, Joy and Melissa, who know all the dirty laundry and still choose to associate with me, who I can call and pick up where we left off, as if the miles between us are of no significance. And my new ones, Brenda, Christine, and Shari, who form the backbone of daily support I need while living so far from home. Without these women, I'd need a straightjacket and some heavy drugs.

And my new blogosphere friends, Tricia, Debbie, Pooji, and Julie, who I'd met before but never really had the chance to bond with, you guys provide the daily color in my life. Though I may not always comment on your blogs (something's awry with my Google Reader, so sometimes things slip me), I always look forward to seeing what's going on in your lives. It's comforting to know that there are others, fellow voyeurs willing to put their lives out there so others can look at them and say "hey, maybe it's not just me!" You guys rawk, you know that?

And there are many other blessings I have - 3 hots and a cot, clean running water, relatively good health. A car. The world's most awesome cat. An average IQ. Being born in the US. So many other blessings, each great in their own right. How can someone so rich have a single complaint?

What about you? What are you thankful for? Have I missed anything?
Photo by heavenly_angellourdes

11.22.2008

Want to Save $$$? Check Your Heat!

You know, there's only so many ways to trim a household budget. We're worked very hard at saving on groceries, checked the entire house for energy vampires, and cut out as many optional expenses as possible. This is the time of year that we take a long, hard look at our thermostat.
A few years ago we got our first $400+ bill from Vectren for natural gas. Gulp! We vowed that would be the last of it's kind. So it was a hunt to find all the extra gas leaks.

First to get scrutinized was the thermostat. Did we really need a 68 degree room temp during the winter? How low could we go? I'm proud to say that we can manage as low as we feel safe that the pipes won't freeze. Our room temp is now 55 degrees. Yup, it's cold in here. But we layer our clothes like crazy. Blankets boast permanent residence in the living room, including an electric blanket for group snuggling. We drink lots of hot tea, and dine on soup fairly often. And we always, ALWAYS have slippers on.

Then the water heater. For awhile I tried turning it off, then getting up early and starting it up in time to warm for the morning showers. This didn't seem to save a whole lot of cha-ching. We turned it down to 120 degrees. Sure, we could go lower, but it's a trade-off...when the house is cold, the last thing you'd want to do is step into a lukewarm shower. Brrrr!

And finally, the fireplace. Our home was built with a beautiful fireplace gracing the living room. It's so cool, it even has a remote starter! But one night, in the middle of our gas-reduction crisis, I noticed a little blue light under the fake logs. A-ha! A pilot light! How long had that been on? It was a duh moment for me. Now we light up the fireplace of special occasions, like when we're entertaining and on holidays.

And it's all been worth it. People (read: my mother) look at us like we're nuts, but our Vectren bill has more than halved itself. We're better equipped to handle the outside cold, because the temperature difference is not as drastic. And it binds us together as a family, working towards the common goal of lower utility bills. Win-win-win!
What are you doing to lower your bills this winter? Got any new tips for me?

11.21.2008

He's Growing Up

I'm not sure what the story is behind this picture (Andrew's saying they were "having headaches"). I'm just struck by him, and how much he's starting to turn into a young man. My baby's growing up so quick.

Letter J


11.20.2008

My Favorite Blondies

Ready for a simple blondie recipe that'll get you rave reviews?

1/2 cup butter, room temp ($0.50 on sale)
1 cup sugar ($0.25)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar ($0.20)
2 eggs ($0.15)
1 tsp vanilla extract (pennies, from homemade)
1 1/2 cups AP flour ($0.30)
2 tsp baking powder ($0.20)
1/4 tsp salt (negligible)
1/2 bag Heath chips (without chocolate) ($1.00)

Prehet oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with pan spray, then lay down a piece of parchment paper. Having the paper overhang the sides will make blondies easy to remove from pan and cut.

Cream butter and sugar in a large baking dish. Add eggs, mix well. Beat in vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flour, paking powder, and salt. Gradually add to creamed mixture. Stir in Heath bits. Batter will be very thick.

Spread onto parchment paper, evening as well as you can. Bake for 30-40 minute, until they test done. Cool on wire rack, lift out by parchment paper and cut with a pizza cutter. Save any crumbs for ice cream topping.

$2.60 for whole recipe. Makes 24 servings at $0.11 each. And spanks the pants off anything you can buy at the store.

11.17.2008

Bliss, in the Form of a Little Pink Pill

Celexa. Even just saying the word is relaxing. Almost like a sigh.

I started taking it a few weeks ago. No kidding, I feel like a different person. That constant undercurrent of anger? Gone. The mindless mouth-stuffing? Sayonara. Relationship with Yasar? Fun again. Dealing with Andrew? Piece of cake. Life's good.

In fact, it's almost disturbing. Like Invasion-of-the-Bodysnatchers weird. My personality almost seems to have changed. I'm kind. Without stress wrinkles. I can take a deep breath and actually feel relaxed. And the reason this is so disturbing is that, hey, I've been angry for such a long time, I just thought I'd become one of those people. Forgotten was the person my husband fell in love with. I'd lost the gene for playfulness.

But you know what? She's still in there. And she's making a comeback.

So, to all you who commented that antidepressants are not denying God's power in your life, thank you. Celexa and I are getting along just fine. It feels like a miracle.

11.16.2008

Andrew's 5th Birthday Party

If you were waiting for this post yesterday (it's okay to admit it), I'm so sorry. It had been a marathon few days, and my age is starting to catch up with me.

This is Birthday-Girl Amanda getting her Donald Duck balloon sculpture.


The kids were in rapt attention throughout the 40-minute balloon/magic show session. Lucky the Clown did an amazing job, and he far exceeded my expectations!

The cupcake decorating table was a big hit with the parents AND the kids!


We tried to organize games for the kids, but they pretty much took off on the trikes and had a blast. As far as I know, no one got hurt (hooray!)



Andrew sporting his tattoo (Spiderman riding a motorcycle). And I quote "this was the best birthday ever!"


Unfortunately there's not enough Blogger space to show you all the great pictures. The book exchange was very well received, the kids all got lots of balloon animals, and we collected a full laundry basket of nonperishables for the food pantry. The party actually went longer than we expected, no one was more shocked than I to look at the clock and see we were already past 3:30! And Jeanne Gilbert, the enrichment coordinator at Riverside MR/DD, was a lifesaver, knowing most of the kids and instictively filling in where needed. So, if you're in Troy and looking for a winter venue for your birthday party, please keep Riverside (and Lucky the Clown) in mind. You don't have to go to McD's Playland...
And a personal reflection - I was always brought up to believe that birthday parties were to be certain things - bakery cakes, lots of presents, generally expensive and, in the end, unfulfilling. I want to thank Christine, Amanda's mom, for pointing me in a different direction. I have absolutely no regrets about the way this party went, from the homemade cupcakes to the newspaper-wrapped books for the book exchange. The kids don't care about these things. They're really just there to have fun. And, from the looks of things, there was plenty of that to go around.

11.15.2008

Quiet

Somehow the dawn this morning seems very peaceful. Probably because, by the end of today, I'll have a monster headache from 30 sugar-saturated, over-stimulated kids (and the clown egging them on). Am I looking forward to this? Hell, yeah! And you too, stay tuned for pictures!

Last night I got a bit of pause from a friend when I revealed my strict 8pm bedtime. Maybe it sounds preschoolish, but I really value getting up at 5am, enjoying a cup of coffee and my Google Reader, with the morning news going in the background. Our home is situated perfectly to watch the sun come up over I-75. The cat even understands that noise is sacriligeous - he's standing at the back door awaiting his daily hunt (he caught a mouse the other day and I had the unique opportunity to watch him eat it - he hasn't been giving me any lovins for a few days, I just can't shake that scene from my head!).

But this is my favorite time of day. Before Andrew wakes up and shatters the quiet with Curious George and Sid the Science Kid, before Yasar wakes up and starts grumbling about (lack of) business. Before the traffic starts rolling outside, and my to-do list starts rolling through my subconscience.

And, as I finish typing this, I hear the telltale toilet flushing upstairs. Usually the first clue that the quiet is about to be reluctantly tucked away until tomorrow.

Sigh.

11.13.2008

Letter H


I'm not sure why Andrew's not in this picture, but in the interest of completion...

11.12.2008

And There It Goes....

Word around the campfire is that AmEx and Capital One both got bailout dollars.

Can't we, as taxpayers, demand to know what's happening to our money? My flipping taxes will be going to pay for companies who willingly made risky choices, meanwhile I struggle to deal with a dead business? Why can't we get some of those bailout dollars?

Oh, that's right...when our franchise goes under, it'll only be something like 5 jobs lost.

Nothing like knowing where you are on the food chain.

11.11.2008

Busted, AIG! Again! What's Your Friggin' Problem?

I think I just threw up in my mouth.

Heading through my RSS Reader, they were talking about AIG's latest luxury spa visit, to the tune of $350,000. Didn't they JUST go to Congress asking for another $40 billion?

So help me God, if our government is STUPID enough to hand them the money, I'm gonna...I'm gonna......

Bend over?

Argh! God Flippin' Bless America!

Back to Being a Walmart Shopper

I started a post a few months ago about the changes at the local Meijer store...I was really disappointed when they went from 4 "U-Check" lanes to 12 of them. Not that I mind checking myself out...on the contrary, I prefer it, it gives me a chance to try to use up the change in my purse without irritating anyone except Andrew. But it looks like a sign of the times, another step in the slow death of personal customer service.

We went to do our weekly grocery stop Sunday. Uneventful, until we got to the checkout. Much to our disappointment, the penny horse rides were gone! It's something I'l posted about before, how I was willing to pay the slightly-higher Meijer prices just for the opportunity to send Andrew to the penny horse rides so I could pay more attention to the scanner at checkout. To say Andrew was devastated would be pretty dead-on. The cashier said the machines were being serviced, but the spots they resided in were conspicuously overtaken by those annoying Grab-A-Prize games (you know, those ones that cost $1 for each reach of the mechanical arm, in the hopes that maybe, just MAYBE you'll snag a $0.25 stuffed animal that will fall apart before you hit your front door). And it was totally working on Andrew, he was pulling on me for a penny to play that games (when I explained the price difference, he did me proud by saying (in an eerie imitation of his mom),"What? Forget that!".).

Anyway, the reign of Meijer over Walmart is officially over. And we have a newer horse in the running, Save A Lot.

And we'll still be frequenting the Meijer for the clearance racks in the produce section - something Walmart doesn't (won't, I asked) offer.

11.08.2008

You Gotta Love America....

Wall Street is in the toilet, unemployment is reaching record highs, and the national debt is exploding.

But what's the news of the day?

"Which hypoallergenic dog will Obama choose for his White House pet?"

ay, caramba

T Minus 7 Days

I cannot fathom that next week my baby boy turns 5! Where on earth did all that time go?!?!?

So next week is the mother of all birthday parties. We've rented out a whole gymnasium, enough to hold the 30 kids we're expecting. We've retained a clown to perform a magic show and make balloon animals ad nauseum. Instead on dealing with those crappy goodie bags (I hate those!), we're requesting everyone bring a gift-wrapped book for a book exchange. Instead of the ginormous cake, we'll be baking a bunch of cupcakes for the kids to ice and decorate themselves. I've got a bucket full of McD's Happy Meal toys to use for prizes for our games (Simon Says, Pin the Tail, Musical Chairs, Red Light/Green Light, Giant Tricycle races). Pizza will be served (free for me!), and we'll be collecting nonperishables for our local food pantry.

I can't tell you how excited I am about this party. The very best part is that Andrew is sharing this party with his girl, Amanda. She turns 5 the day after he does (isn't that cool?), so they're going to have a great party together.

I can't wait to post the pictures! Stay tuned....

11.07.2008

Letter G

Andrew was sick at the beginning of this week, so he's not in this picture. He's over that projectile-vomiting thing now (thank you Jesus!). :)

11.05.2008

Ill Presidente

It's no secret that I voted Republican yesterday.

What's not so well known is that I really thought both candidates were good & bad in their own rights.

For me, this election was a win-win (lose-lose?) situation.

The part that breaks my heart is that McCain never truly had a fighting chance. After the legacy that Bush has left for our country, very few wanted to see another War President in the White House.

I actually admire Obama in his demeanor - he always appears cool and completely in control of his emotions.

Keep praying for the leadership of this country. It won't be an easy job, following President Bush. I hope Obama's up for it.

11.02.2008

My Testimony

Our Sunday School class is going through the Becoming A Contagious Christian program, and our homework these last few weeks was to put together our testimony in a 2-3 minute bullet, and share with the class. This has been such a great assignment for me, I've never really sat down and concentrated on my salvation, how it happened and how I feel about it. It's been a beautiful and disconcerting experience.

I accepted Jesus into my heart when I was 8 or 9, at Pioneer Girls, the Wednesday night program for our church. Why did I ask Jesus to cleanse me of my sins? In a nutshell, they literally scared the hell out of me. I didn't want to spend eternity in Hades, poked by Satan's pitchfork, so I thought Jesus sure sounded like the safer bet. As an adult, I question this practice. I don't emphasize hell to my son. I highlight Jesus's love for us, and His sacrifice. I want Andrew to love Jesus because Jesus loves us, not because we need to be terrified of the alternative.

I also have some theories about being saved at a young age. It seems very likely that those who receive Jesus as children rebel against Him in their teens. Only to return when they themselves have children. This is a recurring theme in Sunday School, and I wonder how I can help Andrew avoid this trap.

And, do you think that God grieves when one of us dies and goes to Hell? I think He does, even though He's all-knowing and can pinpoint the moment it's going to happen.

I grew up in Christian schools, at least until 9th grade. And just that has been a huge step in the wrong direction. You think that kids don't notice the flaws of adults. We saw some very poor examples of Christianity in parochial school, and still do to this day. I believe that High Point Baptist Academy was pivotal in my leave-of-absence from my faith. You have higher expectations for a school that costs $6000 annually and professes it's faith in Jesus, and when they make poor decisions, and push their carnal ideals and ambitions, well, it didn't end well. High Point left scars that even today I battle. But it also left taught me lessons, mostly not in a good sense.

Andrew will attend public school. At least he won't have higher expectations that will be dashed. He'll know he's walking into a secular world, and we'll equip him as best we can. That strikes me as an intimidating responsibility, thank God He's there to help!

Today, my faith is stronger than ever. God is not my copilot, He is in absolute control. And, looking at our present situation, I wouldn't want it any other way. His presence in my life has never been more felt. Prayers are answered. My life is filled with purpose. I'm interested in being a better Christian, and a better example to those around me. I'm learning to talk about Jesus with passion instead of fear. My heart is excited!

I'm sure nosing around these dusty corridors of my mind will produce some more interesting ideas, and it's a great thing to be a thinking adult and be able to process some of these theories. Nothing trumps experience as a teacher. And since your experiences are the foundation of your testimony, I can only be grateful to have them. They were clearly God's plan, and someday I'll know why.

For right now, Andrew and I have plans. When we get to heaven together, we're going to ride on a raindrop, and skate on a snowflake. It's something to look forward to!

10.31.2008

Grab a Cup of Something and Get Cozy...

Because this is going to be a long one.
First off, Fulton Farms. Andrew's preschool had a field trip yesterday to our local pumpkin patch. We got to invite a good friend, Amanda, along, which was probably better for me than for him (as soon as he saw his best friend Izaiah, I began to eminate a chopped liver-esque stench. Good thing Amanda didn't mind. :)


"Let's get on the bus...." (dang Doodlebops, that song's STILL stuck in my head!)


Ready.....aim............




That's a BIG tire!









And last night was Andrew's first Halloween. We never let him trick-or-treat before, so this was quite an experience for him. The first 15 minutes was spend goggling at all the other kids in costumes. Then he got the hang of it, and took off running for each door. What fun!















Isn't he ripped? Yowza!
As a side note, I promised him that, when we got home, he could eat as much candy as he wanted tonight only - I know, my friend Christine was looking at me like I needed a lobotomy or something, but I figure every kid needs that story of how he gorged himself on halloween candy till he puked. And you can probably guess what happened...15 minutes into his binge, he was munching on a piece of leftover pizza and watching a DVD. I don't know whether to be proud or chagrinned. That's my little hero. :)
Okay, and it's the end of the month, which means it's time to report the grocery challenge. I'm sad, we didn't meet the goal of $100 in edible food for the month. We were on track until a few days ago, when Yasar mentioned he needed to buy bread (he eats special bread he gets from the Middle Eastern grocery store in Dayton). So that, and some yogurt cheese and dates blew us over our goal. We're going to try again in November, since now we've got the whole rice & beans thing down to a science.
Here's the numbers:
Edible groceries: $129.08
Nonedible groceries - $0
Health - $44.16
Misc - $416.18
Restaurant - $95.55
Gas - $105.28
A note in the Misc catagory - Andrew's birthday is next month, so we bought him some cars. We also took care of Christmas for our family, and Tiger had a pretty expensive vet visit. I'd say I have more hope for next month, but we've still got some birthday party bills coming.
Restaurant has gone up a little, since eating rice & beans all the time gets us a little bored. Another thing we'll be working on next month.
And gas? Whooo-eee! It's $1.99 a gallon here right now! I'm praying that trend continues!
So that's it, guys. October is over. Hunker down and get ready for more expensive heating bills, seasonal depression, and snow shovelling. Uck.

10.27.2008

The Weekend in Review

What a horrible weekend this was! It all started Friday, rainy day, and I had the very worst case of the blues I'd ever had. I mean, I was starting to get scared for myself.

Saturday was another day at work. I spent so much of it in prayer, and in tears. I hate to look at antidepressants as my help - does that mean I don't trust in God to get me through this? I'm struggling with that question. I'm not sure if the issue is the situation we're facing or a chemical imbalance (there is a strong family history of mental issues in my family). I have a bottle of happy pills awaiting me at the pharmacy, but I'm still on the fence as to whether to take them or not.

It's funny, when things get bad, I always return to the same two songs - Held by Natalie Grant and Cry on My Shoulder by Overflow. These songs held the promises I clung to during the miscarriage, when Andrew got scalded, and when we were dealing with his dogbite and the aftermath. It's these songs that consistently bring me to my knees, and make me feel Jesus's arms holding me, caring for me and begging me to rely on Him. I'm so grateful.

And I'm grateful that this past weekend is past.

10.24.2008

Me First Meme

Okay, my bud Tricia is thinking my life isn't quite as purechaos as hers, so she's giving me some homework (gee, Thanks!!!)

So I'm tagging Debbie, Julie, my anonymous Indian friend (sorry, you still haven't told me your name!), MacMommy, and Thaleia. Let's see whatcha got, ladies!

* Five Things I Plan To Do Before I Die:

1. Take my son on a hot air balloon ride.
2. Learn to ride a motorcycle.
3. Take a photography class.
4. Visit every state in the continental US on an RV trip with my sister (we'll probably be Golden Agers by the time we can afford it!)
5. Go back for another winter trip to Niagara Falls with Yasar.


* Five Things I Can Do:

1. Change my own flat tire.
2. Drive a stick shift.
3. Sniff out poop from a distance of about 25 feet (a great trick picked up from the nursing home).
4. Crochet
5. Kiss boo-boos away.


* Five Things I Can't Do:
1. Stay out of the bath tub.
2. Sit still for an entire 2-hour DVD in the house (halfway through I'll start doing dishes or something).
3. Be an extrovert.
4. Go for a week without talking to my mom.
5. Run the Boston Marathon

* Five Things That Attract Me To The Opposite Sex:

1. Confidence combined with a little vulnerability.
2. Olive skin and a big nose.
3. Solid moral base.
4. Ability to think outside the box.
5. Good conversationalist.

* Five Things I Say Most Often:

1. "Thank you for calling (redacted) Pizza, will this be for pick-up or delivery?"
2. Andrew...I love you.
3. Habibi, what should I make for dinner?
4. Thank You, God, for ......
5. I hate my life (I never say this out loud, though)

Letter F


10.23.2008

RNC Rally Today

Okay, as a registered Republican, I'm a little disturbed by today's events.

Hobart Arena, here in Troy, hosted a Republican rally today, with guest speaker Sarah Palin.

The business we own is right on the main drag between Interstate 75 and Hobart Arena.

Naturally, the whole street was shut down for the half hour before Palin's arrival. Since there wasn't much going in or out of our store, I left my delivery driver inside and went out to await the caravan of police, Palin, and assorted press-groupies.

Funny, Troy police cars flying up and down the street, lights flashing. Nothing apparently wrong, maybe they just wanted to blow off some steam, too.

Anyway, here comes the line-up. State Police truck in the front, then Palin's gold-colored Suburban. There's probably no more than 20 people out waiting. But Palin flys by, eyes firmly on her lap (or maybe her speech notes, let's give the girl a little cred). Barricades go up, and it's business as usual.

Fast forward 2 hours, the street gets quiet again. Not much notice this time, but I'm back out at the curb, waiting. The State Police go by, then Palin's truck. Of course, I'm waving like a goofball. But Palin's eyes are again firmly planted into her lap. No speech notes excuse this time.

My question is, with the McCain/Palin approval rating being where it is, and being smack in the middle of Bush country, why wasn't she trying just a little harder to connect with the people who so obviously would have been grateful for just a hint of acknowledgement? It would have gone a long way towards making a few people happy, people who cared enough to be standing outside in less-than-balmy weather, just to catch a glimpse of her and be inspired anew.

I'm just left feeling disappointed.

I'm voting Republican this primary. Obama is pro-choice, and as a person I can't side with that. But I'm left to wonder, if both Obama and McCain stood on the same side of that issue, would I still vote Republican?

10.21.2008

$25 Challenge

Stumbled across an interesting blog earlier this month, The $25 Challenge. As a result of Hunger Action Month, a bunch of people made the attempt to live on a $25 weekly grocery budget, to prove a point. The average Illinois family on food stamps collects $25 a week, so they wanted to see if it was possible to simulate, and what would be the ramifications.


Not so different is our $100 grocery budget. We wouldn't be able to manage a weekly budget, since we do the Angel Food boxes ($30), but so far we've been relatively successful in keeping to our goals.

What The $25 Challenge found was that living on that dollar amount of food per month, especially with the recent hikes in grocery prices, is very difficult. And I'd agree, unless you're willing to put a lot of work and effort into feeding your family, you'd be hard-pressed to make it.

Not to disparage many food stamp recipients, but I've worked in the grocery industry before. Long, long ago I had the best job, working in a supermarket-owned convenience store. And, what I've seen concerning food stamps was disturbing. I have never seen anyone use food stamps in a responsible manner. Buying name-brand food, convenience food, swapping a paper dollar for a 25-cent pack of gum, then having your kids do it as well, until you have anough change to buy a pack of smokes (it was a long time ago, the debit card was just coming out, and smokes were around $1.75). It got hard to watch people using my tax dollars in such a careless way.

But I digress. I'm sure people today are more effective, buying less meat, hitting the discount bread store, using AFM. And, even using all these resources, we would not have been able to make our grocery goal without a well-stocked freezer and an unlimited supply of pizza. And some good friends doing our leftover exchange (future post).

The government is talking about all these different programs to help the public. But if they really want to help the public, maybe they should address the rising costs of food. With gas prices here being $2.39/gl yesterday, why are the groceries still not dropping? When will they? If they worked on that, maybe they wouldn't feel the need to increase food stamps (and, in turn, taxes).

But my guess is that might be too much effort for them. Far easier to pass a pork-laden bill.

10.19.2008

I Totally Heart Craigslist!

Friday, the drive to simplify became too much for me, and I FINALLY listed Andrew's old baby furniture on craigslist. I mean, posted at 6pm, had my buyer (as in, "we'll take it") by 8pm, out the door yesterday morning, and a cool stack of cash in my pocket. And an empty bedroom upstairs. Win-win situation.

And the funny part is, this morning Stop Buying Crap was talking about a similar experience.

That got the old grey-matter churning about the economy today, and how it's quickly becoming that used goods are the "new" new goods. If you don't believe me, visit a new car dealership today. The stench of desperation is palpable. Despite all forms of crazy rebates/employee pricing/etc, new cars just aren't moving (unless you're talking hybrid, but that's another post). I'll bet all those new car dealership owners were wishing they'd purchased a "buy here, pay here" right now!

My friend Christine was telling me how the other day she stopped by the local Goodwill store to pick up some pants for her husband, and turned around and left because the line to checkout was stretching to the rear of the store. Meanwhile, the department stores at the malls have to put out rack after rack of clearance items to get customers into their doors.

Would you believe frugality is coming en vogue?

Back to my point - look around your house today and see what you can list on craigslist. Push your used goods into the market to keep this ball rolling. Wouldn't it be great if we could use this movement to send a message to manufacturers that we demand quality instead of quantity? Bring our jobs back from China and make us products that will last long enough to be on future craigslist posts? Man, as a consumer, I've never felt so powerful!

10.18.2008

Middle of the Night - Tiger Rant

I'm so darn tired of seeing that alarm clock say 2:00 and it's still dark outside. This happens about once a week, usually when I have something going on in the morning - I must think about stuff in my sleep and just wait for that 2am potty trip to push me beyond the cusp of sleepiness. Fun.

Tonight, as I reflect, I'm thanking God for a particular blessing in my life. This week I took our cat, Tiger, to the vet to get a flea bath, some Advantix, and a distemper shot. I got a call from the vet around lunchtime that Tiger's gums were pale and they wanted to run some blood tests on him. You know, nothing makes you realize how much you take something for granted until it's gone. That was the longest afternoon I've had in awhile. I was just terrified that this was going to be bad - I suspected they were testing for feline leukemia, and called a friend to confirm that. Thankfully, God came through and Tiger tested negative (whew!).

When I picked him up from the vet, I got a chance to ask the question that's been niggling at me for awhile...what kind of cat is Tiger? He found us about a year ago, he jumped into a driver's car at the store and refused to leave. We took him to the animal shelter because we were sure someone out there missed him - he's an incredibly friendly cat, and he's fixed and front-declawed. The Miami County Animal Shelter listed him on the website as a brown tabby, which is at odds with his spotted pattern. So, while paying my vet bill, I asked, and got a strange answer...he's probably half Bengal. Huh?

Then I started researching the breed, and it all began to make sense. Some of Tiger's best traits are common for the Bengal cat - extremely bright, vocal, large-sized, very friendly. All the things we saw in him and fell in love with that first night.

As I sit here now, he's patiently waiting for the laptop to vacate HIS space. And I know what he'll do, curl up on my lap for some lovin'. And when I stop petting him, he'll reach up that paw, stroke my face, and remind me that HE's not done being loved.

Tiger, you're a blessing in my life. I thank God He brought you to us. Thank you for being part of our family.

10.16.2008

Happy Day!!!

My friend and I went to Salvation Army yesterday to pick up some old, worn flannel shirts (stay tuned to find out why), and I found something I'd been looking for. I'd perused the internet, eBay, Walmart for a thermos - a real one, for coffee - and I couldn't believe our expensive they were! $30 on the Thermos website! Hee hee, found a classic 1974 thermos, avocado green and all, for $0.99.

It doesn't take much to make my day, huh? :)

10.15.2008

Where Does the Money Go?

I'm almost done reading "Where Does the Money Go? Your Guided Tour to the Federal Budget Crisis" by Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson. This book is a real wake-up call. Written in (early) 2008, it's full of relevant information concerning government spending and taxes. Well worth the read.

One of the book's focuses is the Social Security program, and the bleak future we can expect from it. When Social Security was installed back in the 30's, the average life expectancy was 62. Today it's 77. The baby boomers (the generation, born in the 50's, that's heading into retirement right now) are the biggest generation since the program started. And, since Social Security is pay-as-you-go, we're heading into some deep waters. Couple that with the fact that the Social Security pot is full of nothing but government IOU's (treasury bills), we can expect some tax reform and/or some benefits reform in the next few years.

But even better news is Medicare, which is paying out more than it's taking in TODAY, and the projections for the next 40 years are very scary. People are living longer, sure, but they're also living sicker. Healthcare costs are up, even for Uncle Sam.

The National Debt is another hot-button we really need to watch, especially in light of the last few weeks. Right now China owns a bunch of treasury bills, they're a country that's not exactly in our friendship circle, and they just watched the Wall Street debacle. If they decide to start pushing their money elsewhere, what we've seen the last few days will be mere hiccup. None of our presidents-to-be are discussing the national debt and how they plan to approach it, they're too busy yammering about healthcare and the economy (both important, but so is the money we owe).

Just some high(low)lights from the book. If you have a minute, pick it up at the library. Thankfully it's not a boring read, it's written by people from Public Agenda Online, so the language is very user-friendly. Not like you need anything else to worry about right now, but knowledge is power.

10.11.2008

What's New Here...

Yeah, it's been a little quiet on Mumblings. Maybe we'd be more accurate calling it "murmurings" right now. Truth be told, there's a lot going on here, just not really appropriate blog content.

So far this week has been a record sales week at the store. And not in a good way. I guess I understand, everyone is responding to the economic rollercoaster we've all ridden this week (VERTIGO!), and they're feeling that it'll be hard to spend that $20 on pizza. I get that. Unfortunately it's putting us in a horrible position, and bringing things to a head rather quickly.

I'm an action person. I don't like to sit on an idea for long, I want to put it into practice. It makes Yasar and I very compatable, he's one to contemplate. Anyway, I'm feeling this desperate urge to simplify our lives. I'm laying awake at night, figuring what household items to post on craigslist. To start really going through the basement in earnest and get rid of as much as we can. I guess this is my way of gearing up for worst case scenario, as the doors to our other options slam shut.

Bottom line, I'm scared. I have this uneasy feeling our lives are about to be completely upheaved, and we're going to be left loading up a truck with our very favorite belongings and heading back east. Not the worst thing ever, at least we have places to go, and we'll still have each other, but that underlying malaise is constantly there. The antidepressants are doing nothing to relieve it.

Yet, even through this, the "Footprints in the Sand" poem still comes to mind. God doesn't promise that we'll not face trials in this life, but He does promise to carry us through them. When I list my blessings, they may not be many at this time, but the ones I have are huge. My Lord and my family are all I need.

10.08.2008

Our Bailout Dollars, Hard at Work

Yesterday My Two Dollars threw out a story about what the AIG bigwigs are doing with their $85 billion dollar government handout....namely dropping a paltry $400,000 on a spa retreat for those poor, overworked corporate guys.

David, I'm speechless, too. Unfortunately not surprised, but definitely speechless. I mean, these people put themselves in the positions they're in due to fiscal irresponsibility...did you really think throwing them an $85 billion dollar life preserver would suddenly morph them into accountable individuals? We should live so long.

And now the fed has considering buying a whole bunch of unsecured debt? I thought our money was going to buy foreclosed properties that it could eventually recoup and maybe (cough cough) pay John and Jane Q Public back the funds we'll be putting into this venture. With the rate of bankruptcy going up, do I really want to be stuck holding that bag? Ha, as if we have a choice.

You know, at least the AIG guys are getting a spa weekend out of this. Maybe they're the smart ones, anyway.

Enough rant.

10.05.2008

Riz a Fasuli

Riz a fasuli loosely translates to "rice with beans". This is a delicious dish that, even DH claims, is better than his mom makes. Yeah, hearing that gives me a warm & fuzzy feelin'.

Rice. Some people look at rice as a great mystery. But, really, it's sooo easy. Your ratio of regular white rice to water is 1:2-and-a-little-bit. Our favorite rice recipe is:

1/3 cup crushed vermicelli
2 tbsp butter
2 cups regular Uncle Ben's white rice
4 1/4 cups water
2 Maggi chicken stock cubes (or 4 chicken boullion cubes)
1 tbsp salt - optional

In a saucepan, cook vermicelli and butter until vermicelli is well toasted. Add rice, stir until all grains are shiny with the butter. Add water, stock cubes, and salt. Cook on high until boiling, drop heat to very low (barely bubbling) and cover. Cook until liquid is gone. DO NOT STIR once you add the liquid.

Now, the fasuli.

1/4 lb of lean beef, trimmed and diced into small cubes
2 tbsp olive oil
2 lbs frozen green beans
1 large onion, chopped
4 large potatoes, peeled and diced
1 large can pureed tomatoes
salt, pepper, tabasco to taste

In the microwave, cook green beans with a little water until tender. In a large dutch oven, fry beef in olive oil on high heat until well cooked. Add cooked green beans & cooking liquid, onion, potato, and about 1 cup of tap water. Cover, lower heat to a simmer, and cook until potatoes are almost tender. Add tomaotes and spices, continue to cook until potatoes are completely done.

Serve fasuli over riz. This recipe makes a ton, so it's hard to determine price-per-serving. It will feed my family, plus about 2 meals of leftovers.

10.04.2008

"I Got the Bail Out Blues"

Ahhh. Well, at least the waiting is over. We've just sold our future to China, paid for some rum tariffs and wooden arrow shafts, and handed over a blank check to Wall Street. All in one fell swoop.

I was talking to a friend yesterday about this, and he said that many people believe that, in the last days, America won't even exist. Scary stuff, and it feels like we're on a greased chute, headed straight for it.

Insomnia rules the night tonight. Wonder why?

God bless America.

10.03.2008

Letter C


If you can't see him, Andrew's in the upper left corner, blue shirt. :)

10.01.2008

My Husband, A Chef He Ain't

We were making some steaks on Sunday for dinner (before you gasp at my unfrugalityness, they came in the Angel Food box...no way I'd ever purchase them otherwise!), and I had some rice on the stove. We were looking for a green vegetable to go with our meal. I asked Yasar to make some of his Middle Eastern salad, he was more than happy to oblige and started chopping away.

At the same time, I found a recipe for chai in my Taste of home cookbook. Chai is one of my favorite cold-weather drinks, but I thought you had to buy it in powdered form. I was so excited to find a recipe, and immediately started digging through my spice cabinet to see if I had all the components to the recipe.

I'm pulling spices, and tending steaks, and not really paying attention to Yasar. Then I smell something funny...the potent aroma of cloves. I turn around and see Yasar dumping powdered cloves liberally on his salad. I started laughing when he said the pepper smelled different. He thought it was a container of black pepper I'd laid there for his salad.

My husband, always opening culinary windows for us. And keeping us in stitches.

9.30.2008

Grocery Challenge - September

This month has been a bomb. I know better than to shop while hungry, yet I did it (twice) and it's reflected in our spending. Better luck next month (fingers crossed).

Edible Grocery - $308.54
Inedible Grocery - $41.17
Health - $25.49
Miscellaneous - $214.58
Restaurant - $103.87
Gas - $157.84

Our miscellaneous catagory is higher than I'd like, and I can pinpoint it down to Andrew's Thomas the Tank Engine visit and Operation Christmas Child, both of which won't be recurring (whew!). We ate out as a family once this month, and took Andrew and his friend Amanda to Chuck E Cheese (that's expensive, even with a coupon!), and still did our weekly McDonald's meeting-of-the-moms. Gas is about where I expected it to be.

I'm on the fence about next month's goals. I really wanted to try to survive on whatever's in the pantry/freezer, but now I'm rethinking that (see previous post). It would be so great to spend under $100 in groceries in a month - that's my ultimate goal. I know we probably couldn't make that a monthly occurance, but just once I really want to hit that mark.

No Bail Out? Huh?!?!?

Just when we were all resigned to giving over MORE tax dollars to Uncle Sam to bail out the Wall Street Wizards, somebody dropped a big bomb. No bail out package? It got voted down? Somewhere in my head, Toolman Tim is going "arugh???"

You'd think I'd be relieved. You'd be partially right. From all the different opinions lobbed into my Google Reader every day, this bailout plan was a necessary evil. The US economy is completely unstable right now, the bailout was a shot in the dark at stabilizing (read: no guarantees) our economy and world economy. Yes, when the US economy hiccups, it's felt the world over.

No pressure, John Q.

Anyway, now that the bill has been axed by the House, the RSS Reader is strangely quiet. No more Chicken Little theories. There's probably only 2 or 3 blogs talking about it. The silence is definitely ominous. Personally, I'm an information girl. Give me what you got, and let me work it out. I don't like this head-in-the-sand way of dealing with this situation. So I'm a little on-edge.

Do I still see bread lines in our future? You betcha. Bill or no bill, Americans are going to have to figure out a new way to live. We frugalistas are going to become more valuable. Don't believe me? Check out my Feedjit and see how many people are hitting my Angel Food Ministries entry. Some of us are already seeing the writing on the wall, and are looking for other viable options to feed our families. But, strangely, the restaurant parking lots were still full last night. Denial?

You know, my plan for next month was to limit grocery spending to the trinity (bread/milk/eggs) and see if we could eat out of the pantry and freezer. Now I'm wondering if that's such a good idea. Do I really want to deplete my stockpile when things are so uncertain? What do you think?

9.27.2008

PepperBeef Sandwiches

Adapted from the Taste of Home cookbook, these loose-meat sandwiches are a hit at crockpot get-togethers.

1 4-lb lean beef roast ($12.00)
1 jar pepperoncinis ($1.99)
1/4 cup water (negligible)
3 tbsp Italian seasoning ($0.25)
2 tsp garlic salt ($0.25)
1 large onion, quartered and sliced ($0.50)
12 hard rolls ($1.99)
12 slices provolone cheese ($2.99)

Chunk meat and put into crockpot. Mix together peppers and pepper liquid, water, seasonings, and onion. Pour on top of beef. Cover and cook on low for 9 hours. Shred with a fork. Use a slotted spoon to serve onto rolls. Top with provolone. Enjoy. Freeze leftovers.

Makes 12 servings @ $1.66 per serving.

9.25.2008

Coincidence....

My neighbor is a staunch Democrat. He's got his Obama/Biden sign out on his lawn. And, every time my eye skips over it, I get alarmed. Has anyone else noticed how much Osama looks like Obama, and Biden is not such a stretch from Bin Laden?

I'm not suggesting anything, just throwing out what I've noticed.

9.24.2008

Bail Out Fear and Frustration

These last few days have gone by in a red haze. My RSS Reader is stuffed with financial and consumer blogs, and everyone seems to be reporting on the new bailout plan the government is working on to "save Wall Street". Every single one of these new reports raises my blood pressure just a little bit.

This seems like such an irresponsible move on the part of the US Government. I can only akin it to letting a murdering spouse collect that hefty life insurance policy. We're basically rewarding all those greedy financial institutions for their chancy decisions. It's a no-lose situation for them. Do you know who's going to be on the losing end?

That's right. The American taxpayer. John and Jane Q. Public.

For the first time in my 30+ years, I look at America and don't feel hopeful. I feel scared. I see a bad time ahead, not just in my personal situation, but in the whole country. Bread lines. I drive down the street here and shake my head in wonder that Applebee's and Ruby Tuesday's parking lots are still jam-packed. I wonder how people can still swallow that expensive food without wondering how that $40 they're spending will affect them next year at this time. I don't understand the two new houses being built in our neighborhood - with the housing market being what it is, who would new-build a home right now?

And, my biggest question of all, why would Obama and McCain fight over who gets to hold this whole smelly bag come January? They're far braver than I. Or dumber.

Let's keep praying for our country right now.

9.21.2008

Embarrassing Medical Exams

1. A man comes into the ER and yells . . .' My wife's going to have her baby in the cab,' I grabbed my stuff, rushed out to a parked cab, lifted the lady's dress and began to take off her under- wear. Suddenly I noticed that therewere several cabs - - - and I was in the wrong one.

Submitted by Dr. Mark MacDonald, San Francisco

2. At the beginning of my shift I placed a stethoscope on an elderly and slightly deaf female patient's anterior chest wall. ' Real big breaths,'. .I instructed. 'Yes, they used to be,'. . . replied the patient.

Submitted by Dr. Richard Byrnes, Seattle , WA

3. One day I had to be the bearer of bad news when I told a Wife that her husband had died of a massive myocardial infarct. Not more than five minutes later, I heard her reporting to the rest of the family that he had died of a 'massive internal fart.'

Submitted by Dr. Susan Steinberg

4. During a patient's two week follow-up appointment with his cardiodoctor, the patient said that he was having trouble with one of his medications. ' Which one ?'.. . I asked. 'The patch; the Nurse told me to put on a new one every six hours and now I'm running out of places to put it!' I had him quickly undress and discovered what I hoped I wouldn't see. Yes, the man had overfifty patches on his body! Now, the instructions include removal of the old patch before applying a new one.

Submitted by Dr. Rebecca St. Clair, Norfolk , VA

5. While acquainting myself with a new elderly patient, I asked 'How long have you been bed ridden?' After a look of complete confusion she then answered . . .' Why, not for about twenty years - when my husband passed away.'

Submitted by Dr. Steven Swanson- Corvallis, OR

6. I was performing rounds at the hospital one morning and while checking up on a man I asked, 'So how's your breakfast this morning?''The man replied, 'It's very good except for the Kentucky Jelly. I can't seem to getused to the taste.'. . . I then asked to see the jelly and he produced a foil packet labeled ' KY Jelly.'

Submitted by Dr. Leonard Kransdorf, Detroit , MI

7. A nurse was on duty in the Emergency Room when a young woman withpurple hair styled into a punk rocker Mohawk, sporting a variety of tattoos,and wearing strange clothing, entered. It was quickly determined that the patient had acute appendicitis, so she was scheduled for immediate surgery. When she was completely disrobed on the operating table, the staff noticed that her pubic hair had been dyed green, and above it there was a tattoo that read . . .' Keep off the grass.' Once the surgery was completed, the surgeon wrote a short note on the patient's dressing, which said 'Sorry . . . had to mow the lawn.'

Submitted by RN, no name

8. As a new, young MD doing his residency in OB , I was quite embarrassed when performing female pelvic exams... To cover my embarrassment I had unconsciously formed a habit of whistling softly. The middle-aged lady upon whom I was performing this exam suddenly burst out laughing and further embarrassing me I looked up from my work and sheepishly said, 'I'm sorry. Was I tickling you?' She replied with tears running down her cheeksfrom laughing so hard . .' No doctor, but the song you were whistling was ' I wish I was an Oscar Meyer Wiener.'

Dr. wouldn't submit his name

Thanks Joy! These are hysterical!

9.20.2008

Andrew's First Trumpet Recital

Andrew's having such a blast with this lucky find - he sure enjoys it alot more than the keyboard we bought for him. :)

9.19.2008

Operation Christmas Child

This past Sunday they distributed the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes at church. I was delighted, this is one ministry that, despite our current financial crisis, we're getting involved in.

We brought home three of the boxes available (this year Samaritan's Purse is providing the boxes, no more scrounging for leftover shoeboxes!). Andrew had a bunch of questions. Rather then answering them, after lunch we sat down at the computer and watched the 10-minute movie on the website. About halfway through, Andrew turned to me and asked why these children had no toys, and to my surprise I started sobbing. Every year this ministry shows me exactly how greedy I am. I kind of go through a personal crisis, like that scene in Schindler's List where Schindler starts removing his jewelry and saying how that watch could have bought another Jew. I look at all we have around us, yet we're still on the fast track to moremoremore. I feel deprived, when I have a roof and clean water and plenty to eat. I have the love of my family, and the love of Jesus. I am wealthy beyond my imagination.

So Andrew and I set off to fill the boxes. We've chosen two girls 5-8 years old, and one boy 9-12 years old. Andrew was very excited, choosing items to put in the boxes, from markers and Hot Wheels cars, to My Little Pony figures and Littlest Petshop pets. We bought puzzles, toothbrushes, and candy; bookmarks, Silly Putty, and bubble gum. And we've imagined the faces of the children when they open the boxes and enjoy the toys. We see their mouths reading the words of the books on Jesus. We pray they will feel the love from our family and from Jesus.

To me, this ministry embodies the truest meaning of Christmas. And we're so grateful to be a small part of it.