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!


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. :)


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.


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,


What Does Andrew Want For Christmas?

How blessed are we?


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!


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....


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!


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?


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. :)


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


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.


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


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?


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.


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?