Monday, November 14, 2011

about to pop...

...or so it feels, and yet there are still six weeks and change left before this little one is due. 
This is my little basketball at 34 weeks, just as round and directly in front of me as Levi ever was. If I showed you a picture of me from head on, (especially in this black shirt) you may not know I'm even pregnant, but a profile view makes it plenty obvious! 

Remember this post, and this photo? Now there's a trip down memory lane, less than three short years ago.. I feel like I'm carrying exactly the same way this time as last, although (thankfully) not gaining as much weight this time. Something about chasing around a 2 1/2 year old all day long doesn't exactly lend itself to eating leisurely meals.

2 1/2, that's right.Just a short two weeks until my firstborn is half way to five - I can hardly believe it. He's jumped SO many milestones during my pregnancy, it's hard to keep track of them all. I'd say the most delightful of those milestones has occurred most recently: his ability, and desire, to "pretend" play all by himself. All of the sudden his toys talk to one another, and I'll find him sitting in his room having conversations. Not surprisingly, most of those conversations revolve around similar conversations he and I have had, so frequently I think he's talking to me. But no, it's his tractor and dump truck who, through him, are discussing what is appropriate and inappropriate. occasionally the offending toy gets a time out. and then a hug and a kiss. It's perfectly adorable.

Although even I find it a poor excuse, my blogging life has taken a complete nose dive during this pregnancy as I have slept on every possible occasion. My delightful Levi takes a solid 90 minute nap (longer if I'm lucky) and I try my hardest to sleep as well. Often these days, sleep alludes me (both daytime and nighttime) due mostly to my complete inability to maintain a comfortable position. But ah, such is pregnancy. I am daily grateful for not one but TWO chiropractors who keep me and my misaligned pelvis ambulatory.

Jonathan is, just this week, making his last two batches of cheese for the year - I'm so very glad he'll get a break from early mornings and long days here soon. Lately we've both been sick sick sick with some nasty upper-respiratory virus (mine was confirmed today to have morphed into a sinus infection - oh joy) and since we've both been coughing and sputtering so much we've split off into different rooms of the house for sleep. While I'll admit that the extra bed space is nice, it's rather disconcerting to wake up alone in bed. Needless to say, I'm anxious for us all to be well.

I'm pretty sure that's all there is to update everyone on. Except, of course, to remind myself and anyone who may be reading that we continue to feel unreasonably blessed by the Lord's provision and blessing over our lives. We feel so unworthy, and yet so grateful. The ails of pregnancy pale in comparison to the blessing of a new life, and although I may complain from time to time about this or that, we really are astonished that the Lord provides and blesses us in the ways that He has.

Baby's still due Dec. 30th, but if you see me in January and I'm still pregnant, don't be surprised. :)

Friday, August 26, 2011

NOT ME Friday

I keep missing Monday, so here it goes

I did NOT plug in the George Foreman grill instead of the coffee pot in my half-asleep stooper. The smell of heating metal and old hamburger grease which filled me home did not then make me sick.

I did NOT literally break a sweat putting on compression stockings this morning. I also did not wear said stockings with shorts, unabashadly. No, truly a fashion no-no. And you won't find me re-adjusting these blasted things ALL DAY LONG. Not ME! Although, to be fair, it also wasn't me who decided to go one morning without said blasted stockings only to discover that I was FAR more cofortable with them ON, than with them OFF. (I am not wondering how on EARTH I'll manage to don these things with a watermelon in my abdomen, a cantaloupe gives me enough challange)

I am NOT thoroughly and completely enjoying owning a smartphone - an object I told a number of people I may never own. I'm also not texting, or using swype to do it. and I'm certainly not learning a SWATH of new things every day, making me feel more and more like someone who was completely out of touch with technology.

I am NOT at all surprised that we're having a girl. No, in fact I think I planned it that way. Would you believe I've spent Months on end thinking this would be a girl, and collecting all sorts of pink and frilly things? Indeed, I am Not at all taking a VERY LONG time to let this fact settle in, and to fully understand what it means. No, it's all come very quickly and naturally.

I do NOT save blogging for the end of nap time every day then then allow it to surprise me that I don't have enough time to do it. That would be silly. Truly.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I have very little to say, but I am feeling the guilt that comes along with waiting FAR too long to blog. So, here are some phrases and words that should bring you up to date:

  • It's a girl - or at least it will be. No wait, it IS, and it WILL be, but she's still baking. We'll wait to name her until she arrives around the new year.
  • I'm still sick. Dang. Hoped morning sickness would find its end but alas, it continues, although in a much, much weaker form than it took on a few months ago.
  • We're switching to Sprint (but we haven't yet so if you can think of any really compelling reasons why we should stay with AT&T, please speak up) We've had the same plan for 8 years (maybe 9, actually) and it's time to make a few changes.
  • I'm wearing compression stockings. Don't know what those are hmm? consider yourself lucky. My two pregnancy bellies have placed themselves only (and I mean ONLY) directly in front of me, which puts extra pressure on the veins running down my legs, and thus, I find myself in compression stockings. I could explain further, but really, those are probably all the details you need.
  • I don't think my daughter and I will have the same affinity for chocolate. Poor girl. I haven't been able to stomach it for months (hopefully my mother-in-law will still call us family)
  • I battled the teensy kitchen ants - and won. Thank you Terro.
  • I set fire to our oven - Jonathan and his trusty fire extinguisher won. My pizza stone lost.
  • we may be re-roofing before winter. Not sure yet though.
  • We may be getting a new (to us) car. Not sure yet though. (no rush there)
There's a quick and messy update. I posted dozens of pictures from throughout our summer on my facebook page - pictures of the county fair, Levi's birthday party, our trip to the Omaha zoo, and many others that had been sitting on my camera for far too long- hope you have a moment to check them out. I've tried a few times to upload them here, but blogger is giving me grief over that and I suspect I need to update my version of Chrome before uploading them will be successful. We shall see.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Oddly disconcerting

Do you ever...

Feel like you're

Being watched?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Furniture Hokey Pokey 2011

When we moved into this house everything we owned fit (easily) into a medium sized u-haul. Come to think of it, when we moved to the state of Nebraska, everything we owned fit into a small u-haul. How times change when you buy a house and have a baby. Sitting in Levi's room the other day I realized that there was only ONE thing in that entire room that we owned before moving to Nebraska and it was the crappy old dresser we curb-picked back in pullman, and shared for our first three years of marriage (yes mom, I still have it, I don't have the heart to toss it out).

Fast forward to 2011 and yes, we have a LOT more stuff - especially furniture - all of which has been found used or gifted to us. So when we set out to move Levi to his twin bed (the pieces of which were all sourced from different craigslist folks over the past 6 months) it meant moving his crib and changing table out to make room. Of course to do that, we had to have space in the new baby's room across the hall which was filled with a guest bed and various other guest-room items. Hmm... Thus began the great furniture hokey pokey of 2011.

We began in the basement office. Rearranging the space was some help, moving my sewing table to the utility/laundry room provided the remainder of the space necessary to move the majority of the guest room downstairs. With the guest room reasonably empty we then had room for the changing table and crib, and (whew) you can guess what we did next...

That's right, we finally fulfilled our ultimate goal of setting up Levi's new twin bed, complete with "Thomas" sheet and pillowcase. The boy couldn't have been more excited.

After a completely anti-climactic first night and nap in said bed, he has been walking around proudly all day proclaiming "I sleep in a bed" to anyone who will listen. It's priceless.

So in the past 90 days my son has weaned, potty trained, and upgraded to a twin bed. and I'm quite sure that's enough change for ME, for now anyway. :)

Friday, July 22, 2011

recent conversations

me: "Levi, what are we going to do when we get home?"
Levi: "shoes off, pants off" (shortly followed by) "lunch, milk-cup, nap"
(all true, and in order, by the way!)

me: "Levi, what did you learn about at VBS today?"
Levi "JESUS!"
me: "who made the bunnies (part of a song they sing)
Levi: "JESUS!"
me: "who took you to the potty at VBS today?"
Levi: "JESUS!"
(unfair, but so cute!)

in the car...
me: "Levi, it's time to be all done whining and crying, please use your words."
Levi: "NO, MORE!"
me: "more whining and crying?"
Levi: (continues said unreasonable whining and fussing)
me: "Levi, all done whining, we're almost home"
Levi: "MORE!!"

me: "Levi, is mommy having a boy or a girl?"
Levi: "no, a baby"
me: "yes sweetie, but will it be a baby boy or a baby girl?"
Levi: "a bunny"

Me: "Levi, what does mommy want you to do if you wake up while you're still supposed to be resting?
Levi: "not stand up"

I realize that needs a little context: Lately I've been reminding him that if he wakes up in the middle of the night, he needs to roll over and go back to sleep. Apparently he also remembers something ELSE I told him to do - or rather NOT to do - a few nights back when he awoke in the middle of the night and I found him standing up in his crib (not such a safe feat for a very very tall toddler). He's been thoroughly obedient though, I must say.

naptime is over - more later

Monday, July 18, 2011

potty progress and the FULL week ahead

Well, since I last blogged we've come a looooooooong way (or maybe just what seems like a long way) in the potty department. Levi has started (gasp) telling us when he needs to go - sometimes even when we're out and about.

Last week he spent an afternoon at daycare with a friend (while I went to my 16 week pre-natal, and got a much-needed haircut) and stayed dry all afternoon. This came much to my surprise because I thought surely he'd have an accident the moment I left him someplace without a potty out in plain sight. Apparently not so. Away from home he's been doing a phenomenal job of using the big toilet (with a toddler seat on top) and doing so for people other than his folks no less.

This past Sunday I took a deep breath and sent him to Sunday school in underpants and returned (again surprised) to find him dry. This week he'll be at VBS every morning and so far, with one day down, things are looking high and dry!

I would be remiss if I didn't mention a few lessons I've learned in the past week or so. First, I should never (ever) again give my son a cup of anything, even boring water, to sip on in the car. This is ESPECIALLY true if we're in someone else's car :) and even more true when that special someone else has a DVD player going. Three accidents into our garage saling expedition, I learned my lesson. To the toddler's credit, he did tell me he had to go - but it was not in time for me to remove him from his seat and place him on the potty. He's really been a champ though.

Our full week, which began today with VBS, will continue with a cheesemaking week for Jonathan. Pre-dawn mornings and late nights will punctuate his schedule - and if you have a spouse that works long hours you know what kind of a stressful effect that can have on family life. But I am fully aware that, for many families, long irregular hours are the norm. I am so grateful that is not the case for our family, and that my hard-working husband ordinarily has a very regular schedule that allows him to be home with us for dinner. This week may seem very long indeed, but at least it's only this week (and the week after next, and about 9 more of them before Christmas comes, but who's counting?)

I tried my darndest to post some adorable pictures on my blog the other day but blogger has been fighting with me tooth and nail. Instead I posted them on facebook, so hopefully you can enjoy them there. My effort to take pictures of our family happenings has been pitaful as of late, and I'm sorry to say we've missed photographing a few recent events including a delightful working farm/school we visited this past weekend. Levi adored the horses they had there, as well as the chickens, and ducks, and the one skiddish peacock. He's forever curious - and now talking a blue streak about his curiousities - occasionally in full sentences, which never ceases to amaze me.

If you don't live in the Midwest, now is not the best time to visit (although arguably better than, say, mid January). We're experiencing a daily heat index of 115 - which is mostly tolerable inside my air conditioned home. In my basement. Jokes aside though, I do love this hot weather. It keeps me going during the dark freeze of winter.

I'll have more to say later in the week when I have my thoughts together. Jonathan and I are reading a very interesting book together that I need to blog about. It's written by a skeptic, that's all I'll say for now. Adios!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

for those of you who've been there

I have some potty training questions. First, here's where we're at:

When we're at home Levi goes bottomless. He decides when he needs to go potty. He sits down, and does his business. When he's done, he gets up. It's simple really.

When we're out I take him to the potty ever hour. He usually goes. If we happen to be between errands, I take his potty seat in the car and let him empty his bladder in the back of our subaru somewhere in the parking lot. He likes this set up, I don't mind it.


I'd rather not drag the potty chair around. Added to that is the fact that I'd like him to be comfortable going potty on a regular toilet - currently, he is not happy to do so, even when there's a toddler seat on said toilet. He will, however, hold it until he can make it to a more "Levi approved" potty chair. The rub in all this is that I'm volunteering at VBS in a couple weeks, and Levi will be taken to the potty by someone other than his mom or dad, to sit on a real toilet with a toddler seat.

My concern is 2-fold. First, since we've only been doing this two weeks, he's used to being bottomless and having his potty at his immediate disposal right smack dab in the middle of the living room. Not so at VBS. Second, when we do have to use a potty elsewhere, he's used to mom and dad taking him. He simply would not produce anything for the loving nursery worker who tried to take him last Sunday (but peed a river 5 minutes later in his potty in the back of our car once church was over). Hmm...


Oh, and the whole pants thing... how do I teach him to pull his pants down? That's a toughie.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A long awaited update

There is so much that has gone on in the past - oh - four+ months that it may take me a week of continuous blogging to recall all of it. Seriously, a veritable mountain of change in our lives. I'm lucky, however, that you may know a lot of it if we keep up with each other on facebook. If that's the case, nothing here will shock you, but will rather just fill in the blanks.

I'll add pictures at a later date as my camera is conveniently at a friend's house, in the depths of the diaper bag I left there this morning. Shame on mommy.

Ok, first things first. we're expecting again*! Our joy overflows! (It occurs to me that feelings and exclamations cannot properly or adequately be transmitted over the bloggosphere, but you get my sentiment).

*once a day I get a chance to blog. that time happens to coincide with the once a day that my toddler sleeps, which also happens to be the time I was also taking a much needed nap. Every. Day. Therein lies my non-blogging excuse.

We're due around the New Year, and we'll find out what we're having in mid-August. Although I am into my second trimester I am still sick-sick-sick. In my pregnancy with Levi my morning (ahem, ALL DAY) sickness was totally gone by now, but as they say, "every pregnancy is different" right? I remain reasonably hopeful my poor ailing stomach will even it's keel soon. If not I guess our eating-out bill will grow and grow as I simply can't stomach cooking ANYTHING that makes my house smell like ANYTHING at all. Truly.

There are so very many more things I could say about this pregnancy (especially because we conceived so very soon, and so very much to our surprise, after our March loss) but I'll leave most of that for future posts. Suffice to say I'm certainly reserved, although excited; I'm paranoid, but peaceful; I'm afraid, but also very sure that this pregnancy (like the two which preceded it) belongs fully to my Heavenly Father who makes no mistakes, and does not act on whims. Amen.

Levi turned 2 on May 28th, Hooray! Grandma Jen came for the celebration which consisted of a dual party for he and his best pal Teague in our back yard - complete with sprinkler running and the blow-up pool. Loads of fun for any 2-year old. Levi reveled in the gifts he was generously given, including the delightful tool-bench I found at goodwill a few months back. He's our little builder now and the saying holds true "to the toddler with a hammer, the whole world's a nail"

Not two weeks later Levi weaned - I was 10 weeks pregnant at that point, and more than willing to be DONE nursing. Nursing hurts when you happen to be pregnant, a fact I did not fully understand until I was in the middle of it. So, one evening (Levi was only nursing once a day, just before bed) I suggested to Levi that we snuggle instead of having "milk time" and he agreed. Wow, I really expected that to be a bone of contention, but apparently he was as ready as I was.

Soon after (or was it before - I'm losing track) I embarked upon jam-splosion-2011. You may remember my 2010 edition? Well, I created 42 sticky pints of delicious strawberry jam for just under $60, a feat I'm more than proud of - especially considering how sick I felt whilste making said jam. And it turned out great, just ask my friend Kim, who bought a few jars for her family to enjoy. Although my jam extravaganza was just as messy this year as it was last year, I spread it out over a week instead of doing it all in two days. MUCH BETTER OPTION. Just sayin'.

I'm sure there are more things that have happend between all that stuff and this, but Levi decided almost two weeks ago to be all done with diapers. Friends, I will be completely honest with you and admit I used to scoff at parents who attempted to get their kids out of diapers early in their second year. And then, a little strong willed two-year-old of my own refused to wear his one morning. I agreed that he could go au-natural as long as he sat on his potty and made a deposit every 30 minutes. He abliged, and the rest is history. I remain attached to the notion that this was HIS idea, because SURELY, I would have to be CRAZY to think I could force any child, let alone my strong-willed 2-year-old, to put his waste anywhere he didn't want it to be. Whew.

Potty training has been an unreasonably easy road for Levi (and as such, for us as parents) and if you want any more details I'm happy to share. I have no tricks though, save a few pieces of sweet reward (m&m for urine, gummy worm for poop). We now use one diaper each day (night time) and it is occasionally dry in the morning if I get to him soon enough. I had NO CLUE little bodies were capable of holding it so long. I'M NOT EVEN capable of holding it that long. Just sayin'.

The weather in Nebraska has taken a turn for the HOT, as per usual around here. We're enjoying 90-100 degree temps and hanging out by our wading pool under the shade of the giant silver maple that I spend all fall cleaning up after. That tree, man, I despise it from September to December, but it sure is nice to have during the summer. We've also spent time with friends at their various pools and back yard sprinklers. My child continues his affinity for all things wet - we refer to him often as our little fish. He'll happily dish out the splashes, but he can take 'em too.

Most recently we spent the 4th of July holiday at a local parade with friends of ours - it was so fun to watch the change in Levi since last year - this year he RAN for the candy being thrown from each float. He grinned at all the fire trucks and motorcycles, and other assorted vehicle floats that passed us by (last year, by contrast, he wailed). Of course all of that made for a very tuckered out little boy who took a delightfully long nap before we went to our neighbors' home for a picnic dinner complete with ice-cream sundaes.

The longer we live here the more grateful we are for the collection of friends we've made. Summertime, and all the fun togetherness that comes with it, makes it even more enjoyable to be raising a family here in Lincoln.

Have I forgotten anything? Oh, yes indeed, about a billion pictures; Ultrasound pictures, birthday pictures, parade pictures, petting local livestock pictures, and pictures of very many other varieties. They'll come, in time, as I re-gain the energy I'm quite sure I used to have. Having some semblance of appetite wouldn't hurt my energy needs either, but I'm guessing that will return eventually also. Here's hoping anyhow :)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tightwad Tuesday: "One Man's Trash" (alternately titled: Oh no she didn't!)

I don't clip coupons.
Let me rephrase that. I didn't clip coupons.
Ok, well, I USED to clip coupons, and then I had a colicy infant, and couponing just didn't hit a high enough priority rating for me to actually take the time to do it.

Also, I save a TON by admatching around town at my local bottom-of-the-barrel grocer. It seems to me that the majority of people who use coupons actually end up spending more than they naturally would, and so I stayed away from them all together. We've maintained the mentality that it's better on our wallet to "do without" something than it is to buy it at a discount. Obviously, something purchased at a discount is more expensive than not buying it in the first place.

So, in December of 2009 I canceled our newspaper subscription. My wonderful neighbor agreed to let me have the grocery circulor's from her paper which made it a pretty good set-up. After all, it had been months by then since I'd even clipped a coupon from our Sunday paper and, although it cost us only $52/year, I wasn't making that back in coupons alone.


I have two friends in particular that are incredible couponers. I am exhausted when I think of all the work they do rounding up deals. They are both careful to match up ads, with coupons, and only to buy what they ordinarily would - often forgoeing even the greatest of deals if it would mean a dollar wasted on something that isn't necessary to buy. I have a lot to learn from these two - but one tidbit I learned this past week was put into practice immediately.

I can't believe I'm about to admit this...

On monday after playgroup I made a stop on the way home. Not at a store, not for lunch. No, I stopped at my local recycling center. Not to deliver my recyclables, no. Wait for it... To dumpster dive for coupons. No joke.

And it was easier than I ever imagined possible. There were three bins for newspapers, each stuffed to the brim with nothing but clean (some untouched) papers. With ease I rifled through them to find the prized Sunday papers and their coupons therein. Ten short minutes (and a few awkward glances from passers by) later I was back in my car, with a content snack-clutching toddler, and a large stack of Sunday coupon inserts. Multiples of the same one even.

It wasn't until I arrived home that I realized the bounty of my find. Although there was a mass of coupons I'll never use (for items I couldn't imagine leaving a store with unless they were down right FREE), my 10 minutes of diving time yielded me coupons for multiple commodities that we regularly purchase - items I consistently wait on sales for to purchase in bulk. Coffee, mayo, creamer, cheese, sugar, toothpaste... and the list goes on.

Now, here's the tricky part. They all have expiration dates. Duh. And because I'm NOT ABOUT to use a coupon on an item whose generic alternative I could purchase for less, I must wait until a deal comes around. That's where a few of my favorite blogs come in handy - these blog writers are excellent at scouting out combinations which lead to nearly free products. It boggles my mind. Really.

So if you ever see my red Forester parked out by the recycling center - give me a kind glance and not one that reeks of "Oh no she isn't!". I'll be sure to shoot you the same glance in return when you join me in the bounty of One Man's Trash.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Biting off...

...more than I can chew?

That, we shall see. This week/weekend I have the pleasure of taking care of Levi's best friend (or partner in crime, however you want to look at it). Now, I watch this little dude during the day all the time. His mommy does the same for Levi. We trade date nights weekly. These two boys know eachothers* homes inside and out... except when it comes to sleeping.

*yes, I know, it's not a word. but it fits so well, I had to.

You see, while I find myself perfectly competent shuffling these two-under-two around aaaalllll day long, feeding them, playing fun games, and making sure they don't poke eachothers* eyes out (because trust me, they've tried), I have NO IDEA how to deal with two toddlers during the wee hours of the night.

Oh, I know what you're thinking. "they're nearly two-years-old. The simply MUST sleep through the night, right?" well, the answer to that is yes, mostly. but you see Levi's poor little friend knows something is up. In fact, Levi knows something is up too, and if you're a mother you KNOW that when your kid knows something is different, or about to happen, it eats away at their sleep. Both naps, and night sleep suffer. And can you blame them? Change is hard on little bodies and although it may not be obvious during the day while these two are playing, I'm certain both of their reactions to change will come out of the closet at night, at least to some degree.

So, I'm trying to cover all my bases, and I'd surely appreciate any advice you have.

These two are in cribs in separate rooms. Each room has a sound machine in it. Between the two rooms (in the hallway) I've placed a box fan, on HIGH. Why am I going to all this trouble? Simply put, because I don't plan on running in at the first whimper from either of them, and I don't want them to wake each other up. Our house is petite, and there is no insulation between the walls, so I need to make as much white noise as I can.

Oh, and I have a video monitor on each of their cribs. NOW I'm glad I got that second camera!

Advice please?!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Bragging rights

Ordinarily I have none - Levi takes all our family's aloted bragging rights for his own.
This week, however, thanks to these wonderful blogging ladies who scope out fantastic grocery deals all over the city (matching great deals with coupons and ad-matches), I have a bounty of bragging to do.

The picture below is what I picked up at Hy-Vee this morning.
I spent a total of $14.30

Now I understand that, in itself, isn't very impressive - mostly because $14.30 is a rather high number and it is difficult to assess the value of the items above just by looking at them, so I'll put this into perspective a couple different ways, and then I'll explain how I did it.
  • These ten boxes of cereal and four gallons of milk would ordinarily have cost $46.83 at Hy-Vee.
  • The four gallons worth of whole milk alone would have come to $14.00 (costing at least $3.50/ea)
  • I saved just over 69% on my entire purchase
I can't claim any credit for my outstanding savings today - as I mentioned earlier, these ladies did all the work for me. Essentially, I took advantage of an already great deal on Kellogg's cereal (only certain varieties, and only certain sizes were included) at Hy-Vee, and the ongoing deal they have with Kellog (buy 3 boxes of cereal, get one gallon of milk free!). I also used a few manufacturer's coupons found on the Kellogg website.

There was only one other thing that made this deal sweeter than sweet. By dividing my 10-box purchase up into 3 transactions, I earned three gallons of milk. Hy-vee will allow you to choose any milk (even rice or soy) up to a value of $3.50. So, essentially, I had $10.50 in "free milk" to play with. Lucky me, half gallons of milk were on sale for $1.28 each, so I was allowed to take EIGHT of them home (totaling 4 gallons instead of three) for the alloted $10.50 in "free milk".

Whew. Did you follow that? I'm not even sure I did.

All that said, I could have run off with even a better deal if I hadn't been a wee bit picky about the cereal varieties I wanted. Apparently Kellogg has an ongoing offer for a $10 visa gift card when you buy 10 boxes off a certain list of cereals. I wasn't particularly keen on the list of cereals, and none of them were part of the Hy-Vee sale, so (knowing my own perpensity to FORGET to mail in those mail-in rebates) I ditched that idea.

How about you, any steals worth bragging about?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Breaking the Silence

I have never much liked roller-coasters.

Maybe its that I'm not too thrilled with big thrills - but mostly, I think it's a matter of fact that I totally dislike the feeling of my stomach residing somewhere between my throat and lips.

But this past three wees - what a roller-coaster they've been.

Up until Sunday, the 13th of March I would have plainly told you that I've lived 28 years with few disappointing moments. There have been few (if any) times I've felt the bottom drop out of my life, so to speak. Of course, there have been moments of doubt, of longing, of fear - but few disappointments. I've felt (and been outspoken about feeling) very blessed - blessed almost to the point of wondering when something big and ugly is going to happen. Because God works like that, right? Blessing, blessing, blessing, SMITING! (wrong, but that's how it feels sometimes)

...If you aren't in the mood for things to get ugly, this is the place you need to stop reading. I'm not saying that as some clever ploy so that you'll keep reading, I'm saying that because I don't want to ruin your day. I could just not write about this at all, but something inside of me feels compelled to do so before I am able to move on from it and return to the petty details of things like making yogurt, and jam, and washing diapers.

Last Sunday morning I faced one of my worst fears. Head on. An in a split second my reality - my newly formed identity - was washed away. The tears that followed were only a foreshadowing of the tears that were to come as I came to the quick realization that the baby I had carried for nearly six weeks was no longer mine to carry.

I crumbled to the bathroom floor. I melted. the reality of losing that baby was heavier than I ever could have imagined. And the deep, red, physical reminder of what was happening at that very moment was numbing.

Although I had given lip service, many times, to the notion that so many pregnancies fail prior to the 12th week, (it would take me many sets of hands to count the number of friends I have who've gone through this very horror) nothing could have prepared me or otherwise desensitized me to my new reality. It's one thing to acknowledge that miscarriage "happens", it's quite another to experience it. The physical pain pales in comparison to the emotional heartache - to the soul drenching grief that follows it.

To those of you who are wondering what to say, I'll offer you this:

Yes, if it was going to happen at all, I'm glad it happened this early on
Yes, I'm glad we hadn't yet told very many people about our pregnancy
Yes, I'm so happy I already have a beautiful, thriving, nursing, son
Yes, I know that everything happens for a reason
Yes, I understand time will bring healing
And I know, you probably "don't really know what to say"

Neither do I.

And so I think I will stay quiet on this issue for the time being - until some light bulb goes off in the center of my soul and I am allowed to see WHY things like this happen - or at least until I feel like I have a normal body again.

In the mean time I would appreciate it if you stayed quiet on the issue as well. Your kind words mean a lot, but I don't really want to be reminded about this any more than I have to be. Not that I'm trying to brush it under the carpet (quite the contrary) but more that, in order to maintain some level of sanity, I need to re-focus on the joys of life instead of the awful ugliness and total devastation that I wish never to experience again.

And in that vein - the joy that surrounds me - I think it's high time I begin posting about what we Nebraskans have been up to. simple things, like yogurt, and jam, and diapers - and Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Taking a bit of a blogging hiatus. I'll go into the "why" at a later date. It's been a long and trialsome week+ around here and I am in desperate need of space and time to sort out all the details.

Amid the storm I am forever grateful that I serve a God whose sovereignty does not waver despite the most difficult of circumstances.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cheeseball, ham, and strawberry jam

So lately, this is what I get when I say "Hey Levi, Smile for Mommy"


And this is what I got the other day when I told him he could pick out *one* "friend" to take to the grocery store with us. In his hands are "whitie", "bluie", and "Max". And he holds in his mouth a woefully empty packet of applesauce (or other fruit/veggie puree) given to him by his friend Sam's mom.

And this is what I made the other day when I discovered we were out of (husband's favorite) whipped cream cheese. I (wait for it) actually whipped some regular old (cheapo-pulled-out-of-my-freezer-from-when-it-went-on-sale-for-.49-per-block) cream cheese. Turns out, all they put in that little tub is regular cream cheese, with air. Go figure.

And then I added some of my strawberry jam.

Presto chango, strawberry cream cheese.

In other news, we did end up purchasing the video baby monitor I was talking about. I NEVER thought I would one one. Wait, let me re-phrase that. I told myself I would NEVER "waste" my money on something so obviously trivial and unnecessary. *blush*. If you can't hear me from wherever you happen to be, I'm singing a new tune now.

We went with this one, and also got a second camera for whenever we end up needing it. The system supports 4 total. In brief, I love the darn thing. It's not that I think Levi needs to be watched every sleeping moment, but it sure is nice (during naptime especially) to hear a bump above me and be able to look at the screen and see him roll over and drift back off. My only complaint is that the system interferes with our wireless router (which is, admittedly, coming up on 10 years old). I've managed to circumvent the issue, but eventually we may just need to upgrade our router.
Meanwhile, I'm drafting a well-earned thank-you note to my grandfather (photos included) without whose Birthday gift none of this would have been possible/prudent.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Confessions of a tightwad

  • This week I purchased a 50lb bag of quick oats because they went on sale for $0.56/lb. My husband thinks I'm crazy, who am I to argue?
  • Completely contrary to my thrifty purchase, I am also looking into the possibility of purchasing one of these. Go ahead, roll your eyes. You know you want to. But really, you don't know how cool they are until one well meaning friend lets you borrow theirs. And then, presto chango, you're hooked.
  • I have spent the past 5 years of my married life purchasing laundry detergent without having a SINGLE CLUE that it was so easy to make. And how cheap! And make it I will. I got a few recipes here (it's the duggar family's website)
  • As of my last count (last week, when they went on sale for $0.99/ea) I have 52 one-pound chubs of lean ground turkey in my deep freezer. One of my dear friend's assures me that in the case of nuclear fall-out, she will be headed to my house for shelter and sustenance.
  • My son, yes, my delightful almost-two-year-old, is STILL NAPPING. There, now I've likely jinxed myself It has been 3 hours.
  • I e-filed our taxes the 3rd of Feb. My refund has not yet arrived. I am grouchy - so grouchy about this that I have in fact changed our witholding status such that we will recieve very little of a refund next year. I am SO SICK of the government holding on to well over $3,000 of our money when we could be earning interest on it throughout the year OURSELVES. Hmph.
  • This week I spent $15.00 at the grocery store on fresh produce alone. I can't help myself. Sometimes, fresh cauliflower, brussles sprouts, broccoli, and peppers call to me in my sleep. If we ever decide to religiously follow a local food movement, I'm hosed, because I'm reasonably sure nobody in Nebraska grows mangos.
  • If we go through yogurt any faster in this house I am going to write a book titled "How to go through a half gallon of yogurt in less than a week". It's outrageous. It rivals our banana complex. At least it's cheap to make, that's what I keep telling myself.
  • Gas prices have doubled here in the last two weeks. Don't I live in the Mid-west? Arent things supposed to be cheaper here? Try 3.59/g. So, I tried to walk to the library with my son a few days ago. Epic fail. please note, you really shouldn't take your toddlers for walks in sub-zero temps. Without gloves. Enough said.
Naturally, my prediction was correct, and my toddler is awake.
Cheerio. (or, if you're me, oatmeal)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tightwad Tuesday: The Healthy Wallet and the Healthy Heart

Alternately titled: How budgeting is like dieting

(except I despise the word "dieting" because it implies a short term fix to reach a long term goal. Not do-able in my book, which is why I prefer the words "healthy lifestyle". Long term. ok, moving on.)

In light of a post earlier on this week, I thought I'd jot down a few things I've realized lately. Over the past, oh, two months (a little less) as I've been taking a good long look at the nutritional lifestyle here at the Hnosko's household. I've noticed that many of the principles of healthy eating I'm trying to re-integrate also apply (quite directly) to healthy spending. Or, to rephrase that, the principles of healthy, long-term weight management, may be more similar to the principles of healthy, long-term financial stewardship than I ever knew.

If you're reading this then you probably already know that I'm not writing any of this down to make anyone believe "I've arrived", or that I in any way "have it all figured out" when it comes to saving/spending/etc. Keeping track of these "ah-ha" moments in writing though, helps me better identify ways in which I can improve - so, that said, here's what I've come to find...
  • Everything in Moderation.
I've found that if I go about weight loss in a stringent, many-things-are-off-limits kind of way, I fail. Why? Because it is human nature (or, my nature anyway) to want what I cannot have. Aside from that, once the weight loss transformation is complete, staying away from those no-no's completely will be all-but impossible - I'll have to re-integrate them somehow and there's a good chance I won't do so with moderation. Similarly, if we go about budgeting in such a way that whole categories of spending are "off limits", we won't last. Deprivation will always win.

There are two ways we've tackled this in our family. First, we re-defined "deprived". Five years ago I would have told you that never being able to go out to eat was depriving because hey, we work hard, we've earned a simple $7 burger and fries. Today, with our goals what they are, that same $7 burger and fries are a luxury, and no longer something I feel "deprived of". By re-defining the things we feel like we've "earned", we have less of a desire to spend on things we don't need, and more of a desire to work toward the long-term goals whose way is paved by healthy financial decisions

Second, we started giving ourselves *gasp* spending money. It may sound counter productive, but giving ourselves each $20 a week to do with what we choose was liberating. Coffee with a friend? yes. Frozen yogurt downtown? Sure. But when it's gone, it's gone. Like Dave Ramsay, we call it our "blow money".

What I've learned: don't define my value by what I do and purchase/spend money on. Give myself wiggle room, and respect its given boundaries of moderation.

  • When I cheat, I'm not cheating the budget/diet, I'm cheating myself
Because I chose to lose weight with the new Weight-Watchers program, I was given a "daily points allowance". In addition to that, I was also given a "weekly allowance" to do with what I chose. Those points were mine to use or lose. There were enough of extra points to have a slice of cheesecake one night a week, or enough to eat a slightly larger portion a few dinners out of the week. Although I was rarely low on points, there were days when I would peek in my refrigerator and pick something up between thumb and forefinger and slip it into my mouth. Without "paying" the points for it. Without writing it down. It was cheating. Why cheating feels so good I'll never know, because when it comes down to it YOU'RE CHEATING YOURSELF, not the dumb diet.

Same goes with our budget. When we overspend to get something we want but haven't planned for, we aren't cheating our budget, we're cheating ourselves out of the goals we previously set. When I stand in target (a place I only go when I have a coupon in hand, or a prescription to pick up, because I know it's a dangerous place for me) and rummage through the dollar isle for "deals" I've got no blow money left for, I'm not cheating the system, I'm cheating myself.

What I've learned: Plan my meals/budget realistically, and then be honest, and stick to them.

  • Tomorrow is a new day: Today's/yesterday's slips-ups are NO EXCUSE for giving up or otherwise putting things off.
Everyone goofs up. Everyone has weak moments. In healthy living those moments look like the reception at aunt myrtle's wedding where you had three pieces of triple chocolate cake. That one weak moment starts a chain of poor choices that catepault you towards a bucketload of negative self-talk, which ultimately causes you to think this whole "healthy lifestyle thing" pointless, and impossible goal to achieve.

In healthy spending the same is true: past financial goof-ups shouldn't be the cause for refusing to try today. Sure, mistakes made in the past may have carved a HUGE hole, and that hole may be very difficult to get out of, but it makes no sense to allow that hole to keep you from trying. We've all got to start somewhere, and today is as good a time as any.

What I've learned: The moment when a mistake is made (be it diet or budget related) is the very moment for reflection and re-grouping - not for throwing in the towel

  • Discipline, Obedience, Wisdom and Prudence aren't just for biblical scholars anymore
If reading through the first few chapters of Proverbs has taught me anything at all, it's that discipline, obedience, and prudence are the keys to wisdom. King Solomon, the biblically acclaimed "wisest man who ever lived", makes that very clear. Laziness, short-cuts, and excuses will rarely harbor value, and rarely yield positive long term results.

This goes for healthy living, as well as healthy spending. Crash diets rarely work long term because they focus only on immediate change, not long term transformation. Similarly, strict but short-term financial plans don't have a good track record for long term success. I would surmise that the reason for this is the lack of time and effort spent treating these as lifestyle changes. I'm no expert on ANY of this, but it seems to me the changes (be they budget or diet oriented) which can conceivably be maintained over a lifetime, are the changes that yield maintainable results.

What I've learned: I live in a world where being disciplined is only valued and rewarded in the short term. But in order to reach my goals, and be an example to my children, I have to swim upstream; I have to maintain a lifestyle of discipline, of moderation; a lifestyle that seeks and follows long-term wisdom instead of short-term fun and folly.

So, that's what's been rolling between my ears over the past two weeks. I guess my real question in all of this is why does being disciplined have to be so difficult? I mean, if you're a believer like I am then you no-doubt know that a disciplined life is what we're called to, but why does it have to be so counter-culture. Any thoughts?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Getting Personal

I haven't said much about this because, well, because I find that I quickly lose my focus if I go telling everyone where it is...

Also, because I am human (and therefore quite dislike airing my own failures) part of me didn't want anyone to know for fear that if I were to "fail", I'd have to out myself publicly.

But today, on a beautiful "spring" like Nebraska afternoon, after 6 weeks of steady resolution and determination, after a relatively peacefully submission to the reality that one cannot reach ones goal without some hard work, I feel like speaking up.

Don't hold your breath, this isn't going to be a *WOW* moment, folks.

Finally, what went up for 9 months of pregnancy, has now come down after 20 months of mothering, and 6 weeks of Weight Watchers*. Adios 8 pounds, adios. You were a fair weather friend, but how I longed to see you go.

To almost everyone I know, 8 pounds is hardly an accomplishment, but for me it represents a lot. You'd have to have known me WAY-back-when (Christina, you reading this?) to understand this fully, but by choosing healthy avenues by which to bring myself to better health, (instead of choosing the self-ruining short cuts I've taken in my distant past) I've proven my own success prior to losing a single ounce. I have shown myself what determination, and discipline can do.

8 pounds is 5% of my body. 8 pounds was my goal, but I did not choose it. Weight Watchers chose it for me. My goal includes 2 more pounds. So, forward we march. Forward towards better health. Forward toward eating habits I can maintain for a lifetime, portion sizes that are realistic, ideals focused on health and not body image.

Would you care to join me?

*In case you are even partially familiar with Weight Watchers (as I was prior to my re-joining) you should know that it has changed, A LOT since Jan 2011. Points calculations have changed, daily points alotments have changed - everything. If you want to know more, I'd be happy to share, but suffice it to say (I know, I say that too much) the plan is now a lot more balanced, including in its calculations protein, carbohydrates, fiber, and fat. While I won't go out on a limb and say I haven't been hungry, and every thing has been a bowl full of cherries over the past 6 weeks, I WILL say that I've experienced more balance, I've treated my body with respect, and I've nourished my entire family on the things that I've eaten while losing weight. Thus ends my Weight Watchers Promo.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Spring is in the air...

Monday, February 14, 2011

The best laid plans of mice and moms (and you know how the rest goes)

You may remember this post, where I wrote out my method for yogurtmaking. Well, suffice it to say, I'm still learning. That isn't to infer that I've had a bunch of "failed", trashed batches - I've actully had relatively few of those - but the consistency of some of them has been lacking something. Namly: Thickness.

Recently, and I only figured out why over this past weekend, my yogurt has been runnier than I've liked. Now, I could just skip adding gelatin, and instead run it through cheesecloth, but then I end up with a much lower yield of yogurt, so I've been trying (and trying and trying, to the extend that yogurt making is no longer a money-saving project, but rather a hobby that I'm DETERMINED to make worth the money I've put into it) to get it as thick as I like it without sacrificing yield.

Well, I finally got it. I ended up changing just a couple things. First, I decided to add my sugar (about 2/3C now) after my milk cooled back down to 115 degrees. Second, I sprinkled my gelatin (now 1.5 packets instead of just 1) over the (cold, organic) yogurt starter and let it "set up" for 3-5 minutes before dissolving it in the warm milk. Ok, so, all these things (and a few other little details) worked together and I ended up with BEAUTIFUL yogurt. I took it out of the crockpot, divided it into my little 8oz cups, and the next morning I could set them on their sides and they would hold their shape - without any yucky gelatin mouthfeel whatsoever.


I can't get over how perfect it turned out. Needless to say, I was thrilled. Not so much thrilled about having great yogurt, but more thrilled just to have conquered my problem. To have figured it out. But alas, the penny pincher in me was also happy to have a half gallon of thick, creamy, whole milk yogurt for my son and husband to enjoy.

Wow. was it thick or what? (if you're one of the few reading this who actually make yogurt, and you want the detailed breakdown, lemme know)

And so you may be wondering why I am referring to said "perfect batch" in the past tense. Well, that evening as I was cleaning up my yogurt-making dishes, I came upon my trusty candy thermometer. Although I had rinsed it off, it still appeared to have milk on it. Wait, no, that milk was INSIDE it.

No. Way.

My candy thermometer was broken. The simple fact that it had milk inside it told me that it had indeed broken whilste inside my milk-filled crockpot - I likely bumped it on the inside of the pot when I was checking it's temperature. So, somewhere inside my ten perfect containers of perfect yogurt were whoknowshomany teeny tiny shards of thermometer glass.

Carnage though it was, all of that beautiful yogurt - along with Saturday morning's time and effort - went down the drain. Literally.

I'll be honest and tell you that I had to dump it quickly. It was like ripping off a bandaid.

And you can laugh if you like (because I do realize the ridiculousness of mourning a half gallon of milk, 4oz of starter, 2/3C sugar, and 1.5 packets of galatin) but hopefully you won't have another chance to, because yesterday, I ordered one of these.

And so, hopefully, this will be my very last post about yogurt making. Unless of course I get all crazy and making flavored items - then you may just hear about it.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Proverbs 1

I've been reading through the book of Proberbs recently and I keep coming back to chapter one. It is amazing to me (divine, maybe) how much chapter one relates to my very desire desire - the ways I wish to conduct my life, the character I wish to impart to my kids.
My legacy.

Proverbs, written by the "wisest man who ever lived" reads like this:

"The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:

2 for attaining wisdom and discipline;
for understanding words of insight;
3 for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life,
doing what is right and just and fair;
4 for giving prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the young

5 let the wise listen and add to their learning,
and let the discerning get guidance

I bolded and italicized the phrases that JUMPED off the page at me.

THIS is what I am seeking: Wisdom & Prudence

Seeing the right path laid out in front of me, making wise decisions when there are multiple options. Weighing possibilities and, without haste, making wise, prudent choices.

I can see (although only a little) why Solomon asked the Great High God for wisdom, when he could have had anything in the world: He wanted to make good choices, and he knew that those choices would affect his livelihood as much as any of ours do. Small choices, big choices, they may matter to varying degrees, but they all do matter.

When I think about Wisdom and Prudence I think of the things I want them for: Spending is a good example. I want to prudently use the resources we've been entrusted with. Time is another example: I want to slay selfish time-wasting in honor of prudently allocating time to the things I've been called to. I say this because I'm an avid time-waster - which leads me to discipline...

THIS is what I must have and pass on to my kids: Discipline.

Maybe this is all-so evident recently because I've been making changes in my life that require discipline. They require prudence. Staying on track with a budget for example, by its very nature, requires discipline. Maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle requires discipline. Using time wisely requires discipline

And it ISN'T EASY. We all know that. It may sound redundant, but I think it requires discipline to be disciplined! My fleshly desires do NOT win when I'm disciplined. Oftentimes, they lose. Out right.

I do not have all my thoughts sorted out (I'm sure that's painfully evident in my hap-hazard writing) but one thing is certain: God expects us to seek prudence, and to have discipline in our lives. And that, friends, is a character trait I want my son to see in my life, and one that I want to see in his.

Thus ends my Proverbs 1 "Ah-HA!" moment.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Come, They Told me...

Pa Rum pa pum pum...

...On my drum.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A few pictures

Here's a little bit of what we've been up to lately:

Bedtime stories with daddy (a nightly event) in the rocking chair - banana in hand, cup at the ready, and "puppy" within arms reach.

Sick day/snow day (also, with banana in hand. I live with two monkeys). Recently, this monkey learned how to say "cheese" for the camera, and added to that a VERY cheesy grin.

Bouncing and playing at Solid Rock Gymnastics toddler time. Awesome place. He's in the yellow shirt.

Again, at solid rock, about to jump into one of their three foam pits. Can't get out on his own yet so I *get* to jump in and assist. You may not be able to see it far off in the distance, but there is a zip line at the corner of this pit. Totally awesome.

Enjoying "toddler team-up" at the childrens' museum, pouring multi-colored rice into different containers (and, later, throwing it all over the room). Also enjoyed that day were tempera paints with brushes and stamps, markers, and LOTS of soap and water.

Had to get some of these up before I forgot all about them. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Tightwad Tuesday: Chicken Run

Or a run, on chicken.

In our home, we usually have one. A run on chicken that is. As one of the leanest meats, we eat a lot of it. Well, I guess "a lot" is up to interpretation (I'll get to that), but we probably eat it 2-3x weekly.

In our college years my husband and I purchased, almost exclusively, frozen, boneless, skinless, chicken breast. Why? Because it was the cheapest meat out there of course. WAY cheaper than ground beef. Cheaper even than the available ground turkey. And although we didn't (and still don't) have meat every night, we FLEW through chicken. Because chicken is the NUMBER ONE meat sold in America (by pounds), I thought I'd share what we've learned about buying chicken since then our college years, and what we've done that's dramatically impacted our grocery bill, and out eating habits.

It may have been just about a year ago now that I discovered Louis Rich Ground Turkey. It comes on little one-pound tubes. Twice (or maybe three times?) per year it goes on sale (at russ's usually) for $0.79/lb. I like two things about this turkey: first, is already divided into one pound servings. It is WAY TOO EASY to use more ground meat than a recipe calls for because ground meat almost never comes in a quantity this small. Even so, the acceptable portion size for meat is about 4oz raw. Or, 1/4 of this neat little tube. I'm sure you could already deduce that when these go on sale I buy cases of them. Literally. At least two. The second thing I like about this turkey is that it isn't the leanest of cuts. Although it compares nutritionally to 93% lean ground beef, it isn't as lean as "ground turkey breast", making it perfect for burger and taco applications where a little fat is desirable.

So, first thing we learned about poultry: ground turkey is cheaper than chicken breast. The second came about more recently. After doing a bit of researching (and fine print reading) I learned that frozen chicken breast is "preserved in up to 15% solution to maintain quality". Just what exactly does that mean? It means they glaze the chicken in a salt/water brine to make it taste more tender, and to keep it from getting freezer burn. Genious - except remember, the consumer pays for that salt water.

So, the 2.5lb bag of frozen chicken I used to purchased for $6.48 (on sale) was really just shy of 2.2lbs of chicken - and I paid roughly 2.94/lb for it. It was convenient, and it didn't *look* expensive at what I thought was around $2.50/lb. So after figuring all this out I started pricing fresh, raw chicken breast (which, I assumed, would be more expensive). Turns out, it goes on sale semi-regularly for 1.77/lb. And all of that, friends, is chicken. But the problem I ran into is that this fresh raw chicken is not NEARLY as juicy and delicious as the frozen stuff. Why? That salt-water brine.

So, after purchasing (...counts for a moment) 12 pounds of chicken breast this past week, here is what I did to increase 1) its quantity, and 2) it's quality.

1) A moment ago I made the comment that a standard acceptable portion of meat is around 4oz. As Americans we tend to look at a chicken breast and assume that it, in itself, is a serving. But you see, over the past 20 years, commodity chicken farmers have *learned* how to plump up their chickens* After weighing out each of the hmm... Twelve single breast halves I purchased, I can assure you that each one of them contained 3-4 reasonable servings of meat. So, the first thing I did was to cut them all into appropriate sizes using my kitchen scale. They averaged 4 oz. Quantity: check.
*It goes without saying, here, that organic, "pastured" chicken would be HIGHLY superior in both taste and health-attributes to commodity purchased chicken breast. If you have access and the means to support sustainable meat practices, (i.e. a meat co-op, or CSA program) PLEASE DO SO. Otherwise, keep a keen eye on portion size and remember: whatever went into that meat, is also going into you.

2) In order to increase the quality of my chicken, I did what the Tyson folks do: I brined it. Gasp! Yes, I soaked it overnight in a salt/sugar/citrus/herb solution and you WOULD NOT BELIEVE how juicy, moist, and tasty it is. Here's my recipe
  • Fill your soup pot half full of water.
  • Add to that a half cup salt, and a half cup brown sugar. stir it until it disolves.
  • Add to that one large orange, cut up into 8 or so pieces, and one large lemon, cut the same.
  • Stir in some thyme, and some rosemarry.
  • Add all your raw chicken pieces. Top off with water to cover.
  • Refrigerate overnight (12-16 hours, give or take)
After all my chicken brined, I separated it out into one-quart freezer bags, each containing four adult portions. I found I had enough for roughly 35 single servings, plus about 4 servings of stir-fry chunks (trim pieces). In our home, that equates to 16-18 full meals. Was it worth the 45 minutes it took me to get all that prep done/mess cleaned up? When you consider my approximate $14.04 in savings over buying frozen whole breasts (which would need to be thawed/de-ice-glazed/cut into appropriate sizes anyhow), I'd say $17.55 an hour is a wage worth working for. But, you be the judge.


Now it shouldn't go without noting that, no matter WHAT you're talking about grocery wise, there is always a cheaper option. The cheaper option in this case is to forget the chicken breast, and buy a cheaper cut. Or, forgo the cut chicken, and opt for a whole bird (roughly $99/lb on sale, but those pounds include skin and bones, and other parts you'll throw away). And beans are another inexpensive option.

This may seem tedious, and maybe it's not for you. I understand - some of us wierdos just have a proclivity for making something very small seem like a very big deal. Forgive me if it looks as though I'm trying to split hairs. In our household though, we're making a (very conscious) effort to stay on track financially, and here, meat is a part of that plan.

Do you have any ways you save on the meat isle? Has do-it-yourself prep proven to save you money in other ways? Does anyone have any big theories when it comes to meat purchasing? I've found that it isn't until I try to do something at home (instead of buying something pre-done) that I realize it isn't as hard as I made it out to be - and that it isn't worth the cost. But some things ARE worth that cost. Any examples?

NOT ME Monday

Let me begin this post by saying that I certainly did NOT forget to post a not-me post yesterday. I always remember everything. During Levi's nap, I always make the very best use of my time, and instead of using the computer for fruitless tasks like blogging and facebooking, I was probably building scale models of the empire state building for my son to admire, and learn from, later. Forget? not me. And even if I did, it wouldn't take This friend, and This friend, to remind me via their oh-so-hilarious not-me-Monday posts.

The past few days have been Full - nay - overflowing with things I did NOT do. Better yet, things I did NOT discover. For example, it was NOT ME who discovered my 20 month old in our living room this morning wielding a RED permanent marker. No, I know from the (horrific) mistakes of others that it is important to keep those WAY out of reach. And it is because I have a great grasp of this principal that I did NOT also find my son in our kitchen with a step-stoop pushed up to the counter, and a steak knife in his tiny, malicious hand. Nope, not me. I'm a highly cautions parent with a penchant for safety.

We are always healthy in this house. So, it should come as no surprise to you that we are NOT sick this week. My son does NOT have a stomach virus, and even if he did, it would not be NEARLY reason enough for the FIVE loads of laundry I've done over the past day and a half. I have NOT cloroxed everything from the highchair, to the floors, to the WALLS because of "misplaced" liqui-poo, nor have I entered my son's room (what was it honey, 2:45am?) to find him sleeping in said mess. Having said that, I should also make you aware that we ONLY have baths in this house before bedtime. I did NOT plop a messy-head-to-toe boy in the tub after a lunchtime poo-splosion.

And you should know, that because I am ecologically inclined, and also financially frugal, I have NOT used a single disposable diaper throughout the entirety of this event. And not, like, 20 of them either. No sir, we only use cloth in this family. No. matter. what.

And finally, it was NOT ME, (the owner of an all-wheel-drive Subaru, with studded tires) who made it half way to my down-town destination today, and turned around because the snow-on-top-of-ice was just too much for me. Why would I do a crazy thing like that? I lived in Pullman WA after all, a town which above all else is known for three things: Hills, Snow, and Wheat. I pride myself in being able to drive in ANY conditions, and I enjoy the challenge. As such, I would not have settled for a trip to Hy-vee as our only outing of the day. Even if I did, I would not have stopped there for the sole purpose of picking up eight half-gallons of whole milk, each on sale (with coupon) for $0.48. I'm a down-to-earth woman who understands that $0.48 milk is no reason to take your sick toddler out in the negative 21 degree wind chill.

Alright. Whew. Cathartic.
Anyone else?

By the way, in case you, too, think this not-me-ing thing is fun, you should check out this blog, by the woman who started all the not-me-ing in the first place. Great blog.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

One of many firsts




The whole ordeal took - no joke - 3 1/2 minutes. Poor kid thought we were about to clip his ears off. And when she buzzed his neck - wow. I'm glad I took him in though, and watched someone else trim his hair before I try to attack those whispies with scissors myself. The way he was thrashing around, it could have been fatal.

Anyway, thus ends our FIRST experience taking Levi to get a haircut. Whew!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tightwad Tuesday: My time is valuable

There have been SO SO SO many times over the past - oh, I don't know - 5 years that I've said to myself, during my own contemplation of a given purchase, "this will save me time, and my time is valuable!" and so into the cart it goes. I've said it about everything from specialty kitchen appliances, to mops with disposable covers, and from dishwasher detergent to dryer sheets. Often, I've even coupled the statement with an assertion of value, something like: "and on top of saving me time, it will be so much better/cleaner/softer/tastier/easier than it was before.

Sometimes, these statements have been valid, other times I've used them as an excuse for laziness, and my (human) desire for things that make me feel better about my life. my status.

Because the first statement comes to my mind SO SO SO frequently (could I use that word a little more and still maintain it's validity?) I'll tackle it first. And please remember - I'm not preaching. For all I know, there are only three lucky individuals who read this. Sometimes I just need to write down my own reasoning for why I'm pinching pennies the way I am. Not only does explaining myself make the process easier, but it makes it more tangible - but I digress. Back to saving my "valuable time".

I've used the "valuable time" excuse for at least 5 years. Why? Because I wanted those things. I specifically remember using that excuse to buy all matter of groceries. Convenience items. You know the type: meals in a box (gasp!), frozen bread dough, any number of canned goods. Cereals, granola bars, crackers, you name it! And while, I assure you, buying these items DID save me time, I have recently come to realize that I could have easily made most of these things (at HALF their grocery store cost, if not better) in the time I spend at home with my son. And if not, I can also assure you I could have found an adequate homemade substitute, or (perish the thought) GONE WITHOUT THEM.

I also remember specifically purchasing an espresso machine with the notion that, not only would it save me the time/money of running down to the "daily grind" (Pullman, WA) before work (Basilios), but it would also make me a happier morning person to be around. And as thrilled as I was to have it, not 3 months went by before I was off my latte kick. Saved me time - but eventually cost me more money than it saved. And, as you know, Time = money.

Oh, you've heard it before - but let me spell it out in a way I've come to understand it more recently.

My time doing a particular task is worth the money I save by doing it at home rather than buying it at the store.

There ya go, math wiz's. And I'll give you an example... One pound of dry black beans costs me $1.22. I put those in the crockpot with water. When 6 hours has elapsed I am left with the equivalent of 5.5 cans of black beans - each of which would have cost me roughly $0.76 (or more) at the store. My savings is $0.54 per can, or 2.97 total. Therefore, the 15 minutes of my time it took me to fill the crockpot, empty it, and wash it (I'm being generous) were worth $2.97, or $11.88/hour. That's nearly 50% above Nebraska minimum wage!

All I'm trying to do with all this is re-evaluate how financially valuable my time really is. In reality, it has a LOT of financial value if I use it wisely. Please don't confuse financial value with the tangible value of spending time with your children, or your spouse - those moments are precious - but I would be lying if I didn't admit that one can use their time in a financially wise way AS WELL AS a tangible-family-togetherness way.

To be honest, it all comes down to my ability/desire to get off the couch or get away from the computer, and DO SOMETHING. Do you know what I mean? The lazy, convenience-desiring part of me would rather use "quality time" as an excuse to sit on the couch and watch TV with my son, when clearly there are much more engaging activities the two of us could be doing together, even activities which would ALSO be financially wise. Making playdough is a good example. Or melting down broken crayons in mini-muffin tins.

So, your turn. What convenience item have you done away with in favor of doing it yourself, and making your time that much MORE valuable? Please, do share.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A post about homemade yogurt

A few people asked me, and so last week I mentioned I would blog about this - so, here goes nothing (well, not nothing, although I feared it would be about a failed attempt at yogurt making - alas, all turned out alright despite my own folly the other night)

I've been making my own yogurt for around 9 months or so - ever since I figured out how much money I could save doing so. Now, if your household doesn't go through much yogurt, this might be irrelevant to you, but we go through the stuff like we do, say, water. So, making my own yogurt is on par with making my own bananas*

*we go through twenty, Yes 20 bananas, weekly. Shame we don't live in a tropical place, or I WOULD figure out a way to grow my own.

Around 9 months ago, I started with the basic recipe a friend told me about, and after some tweaking, and taking a few tips and tricks under consideration, I came up with a recipe/method I feel a) reasonably compares to/is better than store bought yogurt, b) is simple and efficient, and c) saves money. So, on with the my recipe. (note: you may want to refer to that basic recipe eventually, you'll notice mine is a little more complex as per my own tweaking)

  • 1/2 gallon milk (usually whole, this batch was 2% because it was cheaper. No noticeable difference. Oh, and previously frozen is A-OK, as long as it's fully thawed. And I mean fully.)
  • 1/2 C store-bought yogurt with "live, active, cultures"
  • 1 packet Knox unflavored gelatin
  • 3/4 C sugar, optional (I don't like the taste of plain yogurt. Neither does my toddler. So sue us.)

  • Pour the milk (and sugar, if you're using it) into your crock pot.
  • Turn your crock pot to low.
  • Set your cell phone (or other alarm) for 2.5 hours
  • After 2.5 hours has elapsed, UNPLUG YOUR CROCKPOT
  • set your cell phone (or other alarm) for 3 hours.
Run a load of laundry - heck, run three loads of laundry. Read, do whatever - but DON'T mess with the milk in your crockpot

  • After 3 hours has elapsed, grab a medium sized bowl. Pour into it your half cup (4oz) of store bought yogurt.
  • pour on top of it 2 cups of the warm-ish milk from your crockpot
  • evenly sprinkle the packet of gelatin granuals over the warmish milk - wait 5 seconds.
  • Whisk all to combine (yogurt, warm-ish milk, gelatin)
  • recombine mixture with milk in crockpot
  • Wrap your crockpot in bath towels - sides and top
  • Now leave it, for 8 hours. Because I let mine sit overnight, and because our kitchen is quite drafty, I leave mine in our oven (OFF of course) with the oven light on. maintains the "warm-ish-ness" a little better. And, afterall, "warm-ish-ness" is what yogurt cultures need to thrive"
  • Open crockpot, and TA-DA! you've made a half gallon of yogurt! Also known as 64oz. Also known as nearly 11 of the little 6oz yogurts you get at your local grocer. Also known as 16 of the 4oz "yo-baby" whole milk yogurts. whew!

This is what mine looks like straight out of the - er - bathtowels. It's moderately thick on top, and a little runnier underneat the creamy top.

Because we're an "on the go" type of family (and because my hard-working husband takes one MONSTER of a lunch to work each day) I immediately portion or yogurt into Ten 6-7oz servings. Sure, they may look a little messy, and a little runny right now, but once they sit in the refer. for a few hours that gelatin does its work and it firms up quite nicely.


I would be remiss if I didn't add a few caveats to my yogurt-making tale. First, if you make yogurt a good number of times, eventually you'll end up making nothing but runny warm milk. In other words, you'll eventually have a failed batch. If you happen to use gelatin like I do, it will quickly turn into "milk jello" - which, I know from experience, is completely useless for EVERY imaginable application. It was upon such a failure that I discovered the aforementioned tips and tricks website. I discovered that there are specific temperatures yogurt cultures need to thrive, and others at which it they are unequivocally killed.

Don't heat the milk enough initially = fail
Add your culture when milk is still too hot = fail
You get the picture.

The only other thing I want to add is my price comparison. Because this is high fat yogurt - which I feed my toddler - I'll compare it to its equal in fat, calories, and calcium: Stoneyfield farms YoBaby brand.

Around these parts I can get a half gallon of milk (when it goes on SUPER sale) for$0 .99. (Needless to say, when they go on sale, I FILL my chest freezer with them) That comes out to $0.06 per 4oz toddler serving.

Around here, one four-pack of 4oz yo-baby yogurt cups runs $2.49 which comes out to $0.62 per 4oz toddler serving.

For comparison, Danonino (which are not organic as stoneyfield are, but which come in much, much smaller serving sizes, making them look decievingly cheap) cost $1.88/6 1.76oz cups. (Yeah, 1.76oz per itty bitty cup.) So they work out to $0.71/4oz toddler serving.

Alternately, the 6oz yogurt cups I used to purchase for my husband's lunch (generic brand) run an average of $0.42 each. For an equal amount of yogurt, my homemade version costs $0.09. Wowza.

So, there you go. My recipe, my process, and my reasoning for going cheap (and as some would say, ahem, "hippy" - that was the term you used, yes Rachael? :)

Do you make your own yogurt? Do you make something else at home to save on store prices? What is it? How do you do it? I wanna know! Oh, and if you have any successes/ failures with this recipe here, I want to know that too. Always looking to make improvements after all!