Grocery Challenge - Month 4

Ready for the final numbers?

Groceries - $301.70
HBA - $74.32
Misc. - $575.55
Restaurant - $114.09
Gas - $316.39

Groceries - well, looking back, we seem to be getting better at grocery shopping. From $536 in month 1, $460, then $383, now $301, we seem to be making progress in trimming the grocery budget.
HBA - this category is on it's way out. More and more I'm lumping it in with either "grocery" or "misc". So we're going to label it "Health" from here on out and just use it for medical stuff.
Misc - This was a big one this month. Between the almost-$400 repair of our cooktop, garage sale finds, and other little wallet-leaks, this has and has not been a bad month for us in this department.
Restaurant - A little higher than I'd prefer, but perfectly understandable considering the lack of a cooktop for almost 2 weeks.
Gas - Hoo, boy! Talk about choking! When hubby crashed his car, he got a "guzzler" from Enterprise...to the tune of $95 in gas in 2 weeks. Yowza! We won't be buying a Saturn sedan anytime soon!

Overall, the biggest disappointment here is the sheer amount of spending we did this month. Hubby or I broke out the wallet 49 times this month. You know how they say they just have to get you through the doors, and their marketing department will do the rest? Well, my goal for next month is to NOT cross their thresholds as often. Also, we're going to continue to cut back on groceries. And, hopefully, next month our "misc" category will also reflect the usage of the library as a form of entertainment (seriously, guys, I can't get over how unbelievably COOL it is!).


The Gas Crisis Hits Home...Literally

Horrors! Would you believe gas hit $4.15 here this weekend? It's crazy! I won't spoil the budget challenge for June (you'll see that tomorrow), but what we paid out in gas this month is enough to make me nauseous.

So I'm trying an experiment. I'm fortunate in having a manual transmission, compact car that I bought new a few years ago. So I'm paying more attention to my RPMs, coasting whenever possible, controlling stops and starts, and not driving over 55mph on the highway. Sidenote: that last one makes me a little nervous. I started highway driving 55mph probably a year ago, and was a victim of road rage with a semi. Nothing happened, except to my undies (LOL), but it's important to be aware of the drivers around you while you do that. Also, a pleasant surprise, lately it's rare that I don't actually have someone travel behind me (willingly!) at that speed. Sign of the times?

We'd been without a second car for about a week. So, while hubby took the car to work, I was riding on his bike with Andrew safely tucked in the carrier. We don't live in the most non-vehicle-friendly spot (check your address on this website to see how you fare - we got a 9 out of 100 - www.walkscore.com/), but more and more people are spotted walking the mile to the grocery store lately. Our location isn't conducive to biking to the post office or library, but whittling down to one car was something we were seriously toying with. And I say "were", because we bought another car this weekend. Doesn't matter, I'm still keeping the bike at the ready, and parking the car at the curb.

You know, a few days ago there was a story on the news about two girls protesting the gas increases....because the higher prices caused their parents to axe cable TV. If you've read my blog before, you know how I feel about TV. And, while I'm not thrilled about their means of motivation, I'm tickled with the amount of PR they got. Do you think it got a mention in the Oval Office?

So what are you doing today to offset gas prices/consumption?

David's Most Awesome Strawberry Pie

Baked pie crust of choice
6 cups strawberries or red/black raspberries
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp butter

If using a regular pie crust, blind bake and cool completely. Puree 2 cups of berries. In asaucepan, mix together sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk in water, pureed berries, and butter. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Cook for 1 minute, until nicely thickened. Layer fresh berries and pureed mixture into pie crust. Let set 4 hours before serving. Best served that day.

And, if you really want to make this legit, you'll make some fresh whipped cream. Believe me, ReddiWhip is a bad word in David's house.


The Antidote to TV

Well, it's officially been over a week without TV. Let me rephrase that, I am guilty of waking up one morning at 4am and watching Hell's Kitchen. And I'm paying for it...TV is like crack, once you quit cold turkey, you can't go back. It get better every day, though.

So what have we been doing with ourselves instead?

Library - I was shocked and amazed when we first went to the library last week. It's like Ali Baba's cave, full of knowledge and entertainment, but long forgotten. They have a summer reading club for both kids and adults. How about a whole wall full of books on CD? Free DVD's? Seminars? You can even log in from home and reserve books, or get put on the waiting list for one of the more popular books. We're making library time a weekly event. And it's something that Andrew looks forward to.

Exercise - Yesterday was a first for me. I hooked up the drag-along carrier, plunked Andrew in it, and rode to Meijer to shop. We got to take advantage of some great clothing clearances (thanks Beth!) on winter items for next year. Unfortunately the exercise front is going to be limited to that for a few days...Andrew is limping about and we see the doctor about it today.

Playing with Andrew - This is hands-down my favorite. I have this amazing kid, and regretfully I was too absorbed in TV to notice. We have so much fun now, with board games, books, and playing outside. He's a little sponge, always soaking up knowledge. We talk about everything now, and I marvel in his preschool wisdom.

You know, we were paying about $2.50 per day for the "privilege" of having the talking box steal our life. I can't tell you how liberating it is to be without it. Try it yourself, maybe with a TV-free day. Let me know how it works for you.


Christmas is Coming!

Today marks six-months to Christmas....are you thinking about it already? Hard to do with the sum-sum-summertime temperatures and humidity. But it will be here before you're prepared for it, if you're anything like we are in our househole.

In our home, we've adopted the Operation Christmas Child tradition for our gifting. That is, I'd purchased plastic storage boxes a few years ago. We have them labelled for each recipient, and I keep my eyes open for items to put in them all year long. When they're empty I just request them returned for the next filling. It helps me focus on the clearance racks, so I can in turn say it saves us money (it probably doesn't, but I can dream a little). And we can relax during the Christmas shopping season and focus on the Miracle that is Jesus.

What about you? It's not too late to start now, so you can sit back and enjoy the eggnog later.


Truck Balls

Now, I'm sure by now you've seen what I'm talking about....some truck-owners enjoy shocking the general public by hanging semblances of male genitalia from their trailer hitches. I'm not going to dignify them with a picture...if you're that interested, you can google it and "read all about it".

You know, you guys may get a charge out of toeing the line, but I'M the one having to explain to my 4-year-old what that is and why some irresponsible, likely immature, and obviously low-class individual thinks it's appropriate to hang gonads on their transportation for the world to see. And, perdon my francaise here, but that pisses me off. Please, my life is complicated enough. There's not enough hours in the day for my 4-year-old's nonstop stream of questions, without having to tack that one on.

Now, let's just for argument's sake say that I'd stoop (crawl) down to that level and slap a pair of breasts onto the front of my compact car. How long do you think I'd drive around before the first policeman decided I needed a little sense pounded into my head by way of a fine? Here in Troy, there's probably more patrolman per capita than anywhere else on earth...so I'd wager 20 minutes. And that's being generous. Even if I modestly placed them under the bra that already protects my front end paint job.

As for as I see it, this is just another sign of the times. We live in a morally-corrupt world. Why shouldn't people display genitalia on their vehicles? These days, it's maybe one of the more innocent things you can see. And in my thinking, that's pretty sad.


Highlights from South Bend

Getting a little help from Aunt Chris.
Biking with Uncle David.
"Painting" the deck,
These guys are big helpers!
MMMMMMMmmmmm, make-your-own ice cream sundaes with Aunt Beth...


Greetings from Indiana

I'll bet your wondering why everything's so quiet over here, aren't you? Well, my sister and I drove to South Bend, Indiana yesterday and we're visiting with our brother and sister-in-law. Andrew and Samuel are adjusting to having a third child, and a girl at that, involved in the mix. So stay tuned for some great pictures, and we'll see y'all soon!



A week ago, I would have sworn that the only thing Facebook is good for is wasting your time with childish popularity games (none of which I'd have won, not much has changed here since high school - except that I'm okay with it now). But a few days ago I was contacted by Yasar's cousin, Rami. Out of the blue, he had no idea that I was Yasar's wife, but he was willing to take that risk. And it's great to watch this get biggerBiggerBIGGER by the moment.

It's been an incredible thing, seeing Yasar with a light in his eyes again. It's been 13 years since he emmigrated from his homeland! 13 years since he's seen his 2 brothers, 1 sister, and his cousins, neices, nephews, uncles, aunts, old friends. 3 years since he's seen his parents. I can't imagine how that eats at his soul. But Rami, you couldn't have shown up at a better time!

So here's a shout-out to all of our family in the Middle East and around the world. We miss you, and we think about you often, and we pray that someday soon we'll be able to see you and give you a giant hug!

Rami, from the bottom of my heart, shukrain.

Reality Bites...Back - Update

Funny thing happened yesterday. Got a call from DirecTV, they asked how I was doing without their services. I guess they expected me to be crying and begging for my next fix. I said we were doing fine, we didn't have the funds to pay right now, but I was aware that it is my responsibility and they will be paid ASAP. Maybe I messed up the poor girl's script. Anyway, we were behind 2 months, she said if we paid right then, she would credit one of the months.

Heck yeah!

So I dug out a credit card, dusted it off (it's been awhile since I've had the pleasure/pain/guilt of using one of these), and paid the bill. She then put me on hold for a bit, came back, and asked if my service had been restored. I said I didn't know, I was upstairs and not close to any TV's.

She was dumbstruck. What? A cut-off customer NOT desperate for reconnection????

I had to chuckle.

Hope you did, too.

Anyway, OT, prayers for Beth and Gianni, they'll be travelling from Eastern PA to Western OH late tonight. Can't wait to see you guys!


Reality Bites...Back

You know, I don't generally like to delve too deeply into my personal life on here, but as my BFF Melissa says, "my blog, my rules"....so I'm going to unload the things that have been heavy on my mind.

Summertime in the pizza industry must be something like winter for the ice vendors of old. Not to say we don't get any business, we do. But it's never enough to hit that mystical "break even point". And, as business owners, the first person to feel the sacrifice is ourselves, usually with the forfeiture of our paychecks.

So here we are, just looking down our third pay period without a check. And that gets a little frustrating. I mean, we have bills to pay, too. Mortgage, utilities, groceries, credit cards, that all doesn't just stop when business isn't panning out. And, as you've probably already figured out, the inevitable happened this week.

Yes, our cable was turned off.

Hey, we're grateful it wasn't something vital, like the electric or gas.

And I refuse to look on this as a negative thing. I had blogged a few months ago that, when our DirecTV contract was up, we were going TV-free. And we're just a month from that time. So instead of moping and bemoaning my fate (noHell'sKitchennoBachelorettenoPeople'sCourt), I'm embracing the fact that I now have HOURS of my life back! Yes, yesterday morning I was at the gym at 6:30am, rather than lying on the couch and trying to catch up on grown-up DVR before Andrew woke up. I'll tell you, it was a liberating experience!

So I guess I'll be seeing alot more of you guys now, since I actually have time to blog more. And maybe I'll lose those 15lbs I've been struggling with this last year. I know I'll be working at the nursing home more, if only to pay off DirecTV once and for all. And, you know what? I might actually develop a terrific relationship with my little guy.

Aren't you jealous?


The Pita Chronicles

Yasar and I have been together for a little more than 10 years. And, for 10 years, I've dealt with discrimination from his fellow countrymen. You see, an American female walking into a Middle Eastern (and primarily muslim) grocery store is a prime target for all sorts of dishonesty. Yet, every second Thursday I gamely drive the 20 miles (one way) to the Halal Market in Dayton and buy the pita they had delivered from Detroit the day before. Or, maybe I should say I ask to buy the fresh pita...and the minute they hear my American accent they unload the week-old stuff on the stupid, Bush-voting, small-minded American woman. And it's not like you can call them on it, it all feels the same since they keep them all in the fridge, and I guess the Middle Eastern bakery in Detroit is above American standards and doesn't believe in putting "use by" dates on their products. Probably no more than the Halal Market feels the need to provide prices for their groceries. So yeah, I get stiffed every time I go down there, usually at both ends, with old product and inflated pricing. And the last time I went there, the cashier tried to shortchange me. No kidding. The bill was $5.75, I gave him a twenty and the change. He paused, probably praying to Allah for advance forgiveness, and gave me a $5 back.

So I hear you asking, why don't I just take Yasar with me when I go? Well, that used to work. After all, he looks the part. But apparently in the Middle East, your religion is reflected in your last name. So when the Muslims saw our credit card, they knew that Yasar wasn't "truly" one of them. And muslims tend to feel about the same about non-muslims as they do about Americans. Combine that with the fact that Yasar gets headaches whenever shopping (probably a hold-over from the old country), and it's just easier to go down there and play the American b*tch with the non-muslim last name.

Anyway, getting to my point. So I've spent the last few weeks test-driving recipes from the internet for pita bread. And, while I haven't yet made a pita quite like the Yasmeen Bakery, my boys are certainly enjoying my failures. I'm pleased to say that, after years of collecting dust in my pantry, my large Pampered Chef baking stone now has permanent residence in the oven. It's the perfect medium for puffing up those pitas in no time flat. And they're so goooood, straight out of the oven, still warm and soft. Today was my third try, and every recipe seems to be an improvement. And they were oh-so-darn-good paired up with some old-fashioned AMERICAN 3 Bean Salad.

Here it is:

2 packets yeast
1 cup warm water
3 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 cups warm water
6 cups AP flour
Bloom yeast for 10 minutes in 1 cup water and sugar. Add salt, and alternate flour and water. Mix well, then put your dough hook (or your hands, it's a great stress reliever) to it for 10 minutes, adding flour as necessary, until you have a smooth, soft dough. Put into an oiled bowl and let rise, loosely covered, for about an hour in a warm place. Punch down dough, let rise covered again for another half hour or so.

Preheat oven (with stone inside) to 450 degrees. Divide dough into lemon-sized balls. Roll out to 1/8th inch thickness, slap on hot stone for about 5 minutes (they should puff up like balloons, but still taste great if they don't). Enjoy straight out of the oven, cover the ones not being eaten with a slightly damp dishtowl to cool, then place in the fridge.

I can't even begin to give you price-per-serving. Between flour price fluctuations and serving size differences, it's kind of hard to judge. But this made 14 pitas for us, and really didn't take a whole lot of hands-on time. And the outcome, while not the Holy Grail of Pitas, is still pretty frickin' amazing.


A Day in the Life Of.....6/12/08

Thursday was a fairly normal day - chaufferring Andrew to and from summer school, meeting with the nursing home supervisor to get raked over the coals, counting pennies while filling up the car. Until we went to the doctor for Andrew's physical for day camp & preschool.

Now, I had no idea this was going to turn into anything more than a "normal" well check-up. I mean, the last time Andrew got shots was a few years ago, a distant, yet still-painful memory. I guess the next round is between 4 and 6 years old, and we decided to bite the bullet and get it started. I mean, when I agreed, I was under the impression it was one, maybe two vaccinations.

Try five.

In the arms.

Make that seven, since he wiggled right out of the first two.

I cried as much as Andrew did. And I'm still so proud of him, he's such a little trooper. He still thinks he only got one shot (and should I tell him otherwise?). And he's still reaping the benefits...popsicles-of-choice and a camp-out in the backyard with mommy and daddy last night. Top that with the way-cool bandaids from the doctor's office, and the street cred he earned, and maybe he'll come out ahead in the end.

Andrew, you're definitely today's hero.


Farmer Wants A Wife?

Okay, I think the reality show circuit has finally gone too far. There's this charming show, where a bona fide "good ol' boy" is single and sifting through 10 "city gals" looking for true love. Ho hum, seen it before, right? Well, it's the way he tells them that they've been eliminated that just kills me. In the beginning it was pretty tame, whose jug (of cider, mind outta the gutter!) was fullest, whose chicken has an egg under them. Well, last night the girls had to check cows for pregnancy, and the one whose cow wasn't preggers went back home. And how, pray tell, do you check a cow for pregnancy? Well, you pull on a shoulder-length plastic glove and stick your hand all the way into the pooper, of course!

Oh, and the previews for next week promise something to do with guns.

I'm going back to PBS....


A Glimpse into My DVR

Near the top of my "To Do in Heaven" list is to seek out the individual behind the TiVo movement and thank him profusely for his contribution to my earthly sanity. I shudder to think that, in a little more than a month, we expect to be a TV-free family, and will have to learn to actually spend quality time together. So I thought that, as a tribute to and remembrance of my TV and all that it means to me, I'd share my DVR list and thoughts. Enjoy....

Little Bill
For those of you who didn't major in preschool TV, this is a cartoon version of The Cosby Show. It's based on the books by Bill Cosby. Set in a Philly suburb, Little Bill is a charmingly wholesome little kindergartener who loves to imbue moral lessons on my son. And it's usually very relevant, with lessons on teasing, making friends, honesty, etc. Think "Little House on the Prairie" meets the year 2007. 4.5 Stars

The Magic School Bus
This is one of those cartoons that has spanned the generations, at least in the Wasouf household. The Magic School Bus is still the same as it was when I was a kid. Andrew really seems to like it, and learns from it. Would you believe the other day he gave me a lecture on the digestive system, complete with graphics? I'm all in favor of him enjoying and learning from this show, even if it is a little advanced for his age. 4 Stars.

America's Funniest Home Videos
Now, I insist on having some "transitional" TV loaded and ready to go. I mean, really, there's only so much animation a grown-up should have to take, right? Andrew and I both get a kick out of watching men getting whapped in the jewels, and teenagers taking nosedives off trampolines. But our favorites are hands-down the animal bloopers. Nothing puts a smile on your face quite like a cat freaking itself out with a mirror! 4.5 Stars.

Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares
This one's for after Andrew's bedtime. Gordon cusses way too much for this to be seen during daylight hours. But the man fascinates me, he's such a driving force in the restaurant industry. And he's hot! 3 Stars.

Word World
This is a great little cartoon on PBS, where everyday objects are made up of the letters that spell them. Like the Bear's home is actually made of the letters C-A-V-E. Andrew's really learning to spell now, and we credit this show for much of that. 5 Stars.

Judge Judy
I consider this to be educational TV for grow-ups. You'd be surprised the applicable lessons packed into 30 minutes. But I still say the only thing scarier than Judge Judy on a rampage is Judge Judy smiling. 3.5 Stars.

Sesame Street
The old classic, another that spans the generations. Andrew loves Elmo (what kid doesn't?) and all the little skits they do. For me, there's more of a dark side to Sesame Street. I was in the heart of my impressionable years when Mr. Hooper died. Though I haven't sought therapy (yet), it's still a little disturbing to watch the show. That and whatever happened to Big Bird's voice? Is it me, or is it different? 4 Stars.

I look forward to this half-hour of entertainment! It's like a variety show, probably alot like the old Muppet Shows, but the humor is on both child and adult levels. What really tickles my funnybone is Pinky Pinkerton, the sportscaster who covers events like potato sack races and piggyback marathons. A total hoot! 5 Stars.

You know, I used to watch this show with an air of superiority. That "well, at least we're not THAT bad" attitude. Now we just watch for tips. Pretty soon, we'll be calling "Help Us Jo!!!" 4 Stars.

Independent Lens
You know you're getting old when whatever's on PBS is worth precious DVR space. Either that, or PBS is getting more interesting. Either way, we pay attention to what's on the Independent Lens. One that's held court on my DVR since January is an episode about a 21-year-old diagnosed with Aspberger's Syndrome. Fascinating, how someone with social disabilities integrates into the adult world. But they've always got some different topics on, and it's rare that it's something uninteresting. 5 Stars.


Little Gifts

You know, this has been one of the crappiest months of my life. On top of the everyday stresses about money and the business, we've had bonus rounds of broken stove, and now Yasar was in a serious accident (he's fine, and the insurance company thinks the car may be fixable, but Yasar and I don't agree). The Zone diet has been temporarily shelved because there's been no money for a grocery trip, and we're kind of scraping the pantry - and nothing in there is Zone friendly.

And in the end, you'd think I'd be ripping my hair out, right? You know, through all this my faith in my God gets stronger. I got a little message from Him this morning, as I'd been getting little messages for the last week. I was pulling white wash out of the dryer to fold, and there was $30 rolled up, right front and center. Did I mention it was white wash, and there was no pants in there for that money to hide in? Father, I trust you. You are going to pull us through this. And as much as this hurts us, we are going to focus our attentions not on the problems, but on You.

Last night Yasar, Andrew, and I went for a bike ride, as a family. And we didn't spent the time obsessing about the curveballs that life has thrown us. I guess we know that life will always be testing, but our God will always be faithful. And we rest easy.


Andrew & Zachary Have A "Berry" Good Time!

We went strawberry picking at Fulton Farms yesterday with Andrew's "bestest" friend, Zachary, and Zachary's little brother, Alexander. And, true to expectations, the boys ate more berries than they bucketed, and came home with red smears in the oddest places (Andrew had mashed strawberries in his ear?!?!). But they had a blast picking, and even more fun indulging in Zachary's mommy's fantastic shortcake later!