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!)


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.


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.


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


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?


$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.


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!


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.


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? :)


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.


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.


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.


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.


"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.


Letter C

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


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.