Thursday, January 28, 2010

Flashy Girl

I don't usually like the camera flash. I don't know how to use it so the pictures doesn't look weird & ultra bright. But, I think these flash pictures are funny. Her big eyes, wondering what the bright light was flashing at her, crack me up.

Garden Blooms

Yesterday I took the kids & the dogs on a walk about the neighborhood. It was my first time doing this - all 3 kids+ 2 dogs sans stroller. We had great success & did it again today.

Anyway. In their liberated state of being strollerless, the kiddos were gathering things on the sidewalk, such as rotted flower blooms.

Then we came to a neighbor who is a fellow flower lady. She saw the collection & wanted to add to it. She cut some blooms from her garden & gathered from her table. We came home & arranged them for our own table.

Thrifty Thursday: Give It Up

One way to save money is to give up various "extras". You can do it to save money because you need that money for the things you need. And, you can do it when you don't really need to; in order to have more ability to bless others. In light of the earthquake in Haiti, folks are all thinking about we can/should do.

I don't believe there is something inherently good about living a life of denial or extreme simplicity. But, we should be living sacrificially. We should be willing to regularly give something up for the sake of another. For our families, for our church family, for our friends, for our neighbors, for strangers, for the fatherless. Our time, our money & stuff, our emotional energy.

The apostle Paul exhorts us to bear each other's burdens.
I am sure I am going to ruin this quote a bit, as I can't find my book to look it up... But, I read Tim Keller's book, Ministries of Mercy a couple years ago, and he had a great quote from Jonathon Edwards. Edwards said that, if we are really bearing each other's burdens, that requires us to feel burdened. Once I read that, it was so obvious. But, somehow I hadn't thought of that before. If you are helping someone, but never really inconveniencing yourself, you aren't really bearing their burden.

So, applying that to my budget, it is good for me to give up stuff that I want and will miss. Not for the sake of self-denial. But, so I can use that money for someone else's need. Something specific that we are trying to save our money for is adoption and the care of orphans around the world.

Here's the money saving sacrifice that I have begun. I know to some (most, all?) of you it will seem so ridiculous that I even did this... And, it is not really quite burden-bearing to give it up, just a small sacrifice.
We used to have a glass of wine nearly every evening. Or perhaps a cocktail or some sort of adult beverage.
The dollars can really add up. We can use those dollars every month to help support on orphan home. The plan is to do that through World Orphans. Check it out & let me know if you want help us support a home!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

While He Was Out

Scott is in Europe for work. For a week. We are only a couple days into it.

So far, while he was away -

I ate Lasagna for dinner for 3 nights. I finally put the rest into the freezer this evening & called that done for now.
I have beans soaking. I'll eat those for a few days now.

I did my bread baking - Oatmeal Molasses.
I baked my comfort food - lemon poppy seed bread. I like to eat junk all evening, when my husband is away.

I tasted my lemon bread. What? It is nasty. I better have another piece, just to check... No good. Ugh. So, I tried my still-warm oatmeal bread. Yuck. Bitter. The molasses is too strong?

The next morning the problem occurred with everything I ate. Oh good. Maybe I didn't totally mess up all my baking. Maybe it is a personal sinus problem. But, now I take no pleasure in eating lemon cake & chocolate chip cookies. That is a great disappointment to me.

The rain continues on. And, that means the ants keep coming in. My husband loves to kill ants. And, he is missing it. It's very sad.

When I let the dogs out during a break in the rain, they surprised me by deciding to tromp around in the mud. Then came racing back inside. I have muddy paw prints all over my floor. And, I had stinky (really) stinky dogs. I don't bathe animals. So, I hit them up with some doggy shower spray & it seemed to work okay.

Yesterday morning I got a great surprise when I went in to get Moira up from her sleep. Poop all over her crib. She was thrilled to start her day with a warm bath. My guess is she'll try that trick again soon.

I have begun to make Valentine's decorations. Gillian is so excited. Pink & sparkly silver & hearts is the theme.

I am sewing. I have 8 baby carriers partially made that need to be finished. Then I can sell them in my Etsy shop. (What Etsy shop? I don't really have one yet. That's why I need to finish this stuff!)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Be a Tourist

We drove down south through a rain storm to see Scott's family for the weekend. Our longest day there, was the only sunny one.

We went into San Diego to be tourists & take the Old Town Trolley tour. I have seen a lot of the city several times. But, it was fun to be a tourist & learn a bunch of new stuff.
It was also nice to be contained & not have to do any chasing down of the kids.

We didn't really have too much time. But, we walked a little bit in Old Town & also got lunch.

The kids rode a cool Carousel in Seaport Village. Gillian rode with Auntie Kim & loved it!

Moira hung out on the sidelines with me.

Peyton was happiest to be getting off. Daddy held him throughout the ride. But, he was still quite concerned.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thrifty Thursday: Less is More

I am trying to practice this a bit in the kitchen. Less of the pricier ingredient in your meal, is more money left over.
For example, when I bake Chocolate Chip cookies, I have been putting about 1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips in them, instead of the full 2 cups.
When putting the ground beef in the chili, or the spaghetti sauce, or the lasagna, use less.
More beans, less ham in the soup.
More potatoes, less chicken in the curry.
Less mozzarella on the pizza.
I am using less shallots, more plain ole' yellow onion.
What else can be decreased in the various recipes you gals make?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Birthday Delivery

It was my mom's birthday! We made it over to Corralitos during a little storm break & then back home to Watsonville during another lull. Now the storm is pounding again.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tuna Casserole Re-arranged

Today we had an updated take on the retro tuna casserole. Well. I don't know if it is an update, as in better. But, we liked it. And, it seems more modern.
I got a panini pan for Christmas. (But, unlike that picture, it is pesto green. SO pretty.)
My kids like tuna. They don't like it on a sandwich. Just with the mayo & some almonds, maybe celery. My husband & I usually eat ours with Trader Joe's Wasabi Mayo & have it with lettuce on bread.
But, today we had it kinda 1950's ish. No greens or funny spices. I mixed in shredded cheddar cheese & piled it on bread. (Still Emily's Artisan...) & cooked it up on the Panini press.
It only seemed right to serve frozen peas on the side. (They were steamed, though. They weren't frozen anymore.)
I was surprised how much I really, really liked the meal.

Lovely Lady

I just got some of the professional pictures from my purple wedding job back in December.
You need to see how lovely the bride, Jacqui, was!

Look how perfect her shoes were!

And her fur coat!

Congratulations Chris! She's Lovely.

On My Way

The Watsonville flower farm where I get a lot of my flowers is 10 minutes from my house, and right on the ocean. Their land is surrounded by more farm land. The rolling hills of various vegetable crops always look so pretty. I nearly always forget my camera, though. Today I remembered. And, things looked extra pretty today, (even though most of the fields have not been re-planted yet) since it had just rained.

One of the last crops, Brussel Sprouts, has already been harvested, but not torn out yet.

That's the Monterey Bay beyond the greenery. On a stormy day it is hard to see, as it is all gray.

I live at the base of those foothills. I think Watsonville doesn't get enough praise. I love it here!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Good Homemade Stuff

There was a good amount of homemade gifts passed around the Christmas.

We got a lot of special, thoughtful gifts!

I got a couple books, encouraging the future homemade. I love them!

My parents got me a gorgeous cookbook called Family Meals. I love it & have already made several things from it. Today's middy meal is her Roasted Butternut Squash & Pancetta Pasta.
Sage from the garden & butternut squash left over from last November's CSA produce box. Those Butternuts just last & last.

Garlic bread is made with the "Artisan Bread" that Emily posted this weekend.

My sister Leah gave me Amy Butler's Little Stitches. The snuggie blanket is calling to me. I want to make it.

Here are some of the gifts that I made & gifted this year.

Sock friends - Doggie & Kitty.

Monogrammed Pillowcases

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thifty Thursday: To Everything There is a Season

Buy your produce in season. It tastes better & it is cheaper. Oh, it is "greener", too.

Buying produce can be tricky. Some stuff is priced per item. Some per pound. And, that varies from store to store. And, the prices can fluctuate by several dollars from place to place, month to month, week to week. You don't ever know if the price is good, just by looking at the weekly sale ad, if you don't know what a good price is. The apples are on "sale" for $1.99. Hmmm... in season they should only be around $1. So, that is a bad sale.
We aren't totally strict on localism & such. We still eat bananas. But, eating according to seasons can really aid your grocery budget.

Years ago, I was shopping with my mom at a nice produce stand in the county. I was living at home & did some of the cooking & shopping for the family. I think it must have been the dead of winter. But, I desired to make a peach pie. My mom didn't say much, but I think she let me know she didn't think the idea was that great. But I was stubborn & ignorant. When my mom saw that the price of peaches was $4.99 per lb. (!!!), I think she gasped. I still bought them anyway. Enough for a few pies. I was confident that they would be tasty. And, they were. But, I am not sure they tasted like $50. I learned something from that.
But, not everything. A few years later, as a young wife, I decided to make fresh spring pea soup as a starter for dinner. But, it wasn't spring. That little pot of soup was worth about $60. No joke.
Lesson - if you have very little concept of what something should cost, per lb., maybe you should weigh it. They have scales right there. For your convenience. Even though it looks like no one else is using them - go ahead - just do it. Weigh it. If you kids are tall enough, I bet they would love the job. It's kinda fun.
I think learning good produce prices mostly just takes experience. And I still have a lot to learn. Someone like my mom, who has been paying attention to produce prices on a weekly basis, for about 35 years, knows her stuff much better than I do.
Pay attention to prices & you will start learning what is a good deal. Pretty soon you'll have the "appropriate" prices memorized for all your regular purchases. I am fairly confident that the produce stand in Moss Landing, that I have been going to, has some of the best prices in my area. But, I don't have any hard core data on that. I should try to work on that.
I found this Oregonian's comparison chart* that may be helpful to you, or not. It is a few years old. I can't really find much of specifics on this subject on the web. But then, I am not a very good web surfer.

* a note to those who follow this link & read about the woody California strawberries. Those are NOT Well-Pict berries. And, it is not a problem of where they were grown. It is a breeding problem. Buy Well-Pict & you won't have the problem.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Real Life Romance

My friend Nini is often telling all her friends to go read the Metropolitan Mama Blog. I tried to ignore her for a while. But, she is really persistent. You know, posting about it a lot. Man. So, I finally went over there when Nini sent out the link for the 2009 top 10 blog posts, and told us all to read it. I was inspired by this one about whether or not date night is important to a good marriage.
I love romance. I love dates. I love flowers. I love kisses. I love holding hands. I love candles. I love weekend getaways. (Girlhood friends - "How romantical! Right?")
But. I love real life. And, love needs to be real. And not everything is rosy & romantical. I want my love to press on through the rough & come out stronger. Even if there isn't much opportunity for a lot of the romantical stuff.

Date nights are good. But, it is even better to be able to find the love & romance at home & in the every day; especially when a date isn't possible. My husband is showing he loves me when he wants to take me out for a special time alone, just the two of us. But, if I require the special outings, to feel loved, than I am not loving.

I do believe that it is a loving thing for me to try to be clean & attractive for my husband. But, I love that he loves me, even when I didn't take a shower that day. Or even brush my hair. Really. My husband still even tells me I am beautiful (with complete sincerity. No smirking or searching.)

I have a real life love story on that subject. Scott & I were on our honeymoon. I packed beauty items. Make-up, Perfume, razor & shaving cream, toothbrush, deodorant... They were all tidily stowed away in a marvelous train case that looked something like this one. It belonged to my parents. They were so kind as to let me take it. And then, on a bus in Ireland, 4 days after saying "I do" to my new husband, I lost it. I left it under my seat. We got off the bus. Checked into our Inn. Oh. No make-up. No moisturizer. No deodorant. No razor. No toothbrush?! And, we were in a little town. There was no drug store or anything of the kind. We had to go 2 days sharing a toothbrush. My husband didn't think it was a big deal. But, I was so mad & grouchy & whiny about it (not the toothbrush specifically. The whole situation). And then, when we were in the "big city" I still couldn't find any of the toiletries that I wanted. There was nothing I liked & I had to settle for mediocre.
Hmmm.... I wonder if a good attitude would have been a better accessory than a good hand lotion. It's nice to have soft skin. But, didn't God say that beauty is vain? And, to let your adornment be that of a meek & quiet spirit? I can show I love my husband by trying to look nice for him. But, if me looking nice is a necessity, than it isn't love. And, if I feel like I need to look nice, than I don't understand what true worth is.

Show love by actually loving. Not by a set of marriage tips & rules from how-to books. ("Don't have kids right away - enjoy one another" uh... so, once the kids come do we stop enjoying one another? thanks for the lame tip.) Show love by considering the other person above yourself. You know - be selfless. Those are things that Jesus says.

Look for what matters to your spouse. Look for where they need your support. Being thoughtful means actually thinking about the other person; and loving them the way they need to be loved. Show your spouse that they are the most important person to you. Do you show your husband that you love him more than you love the kids? You can do that without going on a date or wearing an expensive dress.

Romance is nice. But, it doesn't necessarily show the love. Someone can take you on dates & bring you flowers & light candles & not really love you. The one who is there, with you, through all the times when there is no chance to wine & dine, is the one who loves you. I do want to keep living a romantical life. But, it needs to be a real-life one.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Thrifty Thursday: Cheap, Tasty Blobs

So, I made something with the kids this morning that I was going to use for my Thrifty blog post. But, the flavor was NOT there. So, I will have to try again. (It was homemade corn tortillas. Cheap. Easy. Fun. Not as good as store bought - so far, for me.)

Instead I'll tell you about a super tasty way (& cheap) way to serve plain old chicken & rice.
Boil your whole Chicken.
We usually fancy up our rice by cooking it in chicken broth. But, a cheaper way to spiff it up is just by sauteing a bit of onion & garlic in a little oil. Then stir in your rice to coat with the oil. Add the proper amount of water.

While your rice is cooking, make your sauces.
Toss about 2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 3 tablespoons of canola oil into a blender. Process until smooth. Set aside.
Now, sauce #2 -
Blend 2 or 3 Serrano chilies, about 3 Tablespoons of diced onion, 1 thumb sized piece of ginger, 3 cloves of garlic, juice of 1 lime, 1 tablespoon water, 1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Process until blended. Set aside.

Just mix the desired amount of sauces into your chicken & rice. It is really, really tasty. And, cheap, too. The stuff for the sauces cost pennies. You can get peppers for about .15, garlic & ginger & hardly any more than that. This meal is still really good as leftovers, too.

I Want to Do One, Too

I am going to begin a new weekly feature for our blog.
I have a renewed desire to budget & save money. I don't know that it is a new year's resolution. Not on purpose, anyway. But, it does usually happen that I feel this way at the new year. Maybe it is being on the backside of Christmas. Maybe it is that property taxes are always due this time of year.
This time I want to stick to it. And, having a weekly post on thrift may help keep me on track & inspired!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Moss Landing

Moss Landing - marvelous little fishing town in the center of Monterey Bay, is only 10 minutes from my house. I don't know why I don't go there more often. There is a great produce stand there. I went on Saturday. I thought to myself, why don't I come here more? No I do go there more. I took the kids today. It is Blood Orange season. I bought 1 on Saturday & once I juiced it that evening & saw how amazing it was, I was kicking myself for not getting more. That is why I had to go back today. This time, I got 7 pounds. No worries. They sell them for only .69 a lb. And, their produce is quite good, too. On Saturday I got 5 Bacon Avocados for $1. It costs more than $1 for one Haas at the grocery store. And, Bacons are superior in taste & texture (just harder to peel).

Since I was there, I decided to get some fish at Phil's Fish Market, for our mid day meal. It was GOOD. I'll tell more about that in a moment...

We took a walk through the town to see the fishing boats & the wildlife. It was a really nice, sunny day. My camera is broken, so I didn't get any good pictures. Here's what they look like.

Kinda cool, I guess. But, I am taking the camera to Carlos the camera man on Friday. I hope it is an easy fix! The lens is kinda pulled out. It got crushed over the holidays...

On our walk, we saw this little otter. Can you see him? Near the boats, on the right side of the photo... Cute guy. We also saw a Sea Lion. We saw him leap out of the water up on the the pier. Very cool. Very exciting. We saw Pelicans & other sea birds. And, lots of fishing boats.

Then we came home for lunch.
We had sauteed Halibut over quinoa. With this salsa on top of it all -

Avocado (Bacons, remember)
Orange (Blood, as you recall)
juice of a Lime
about a tablespoon of minced Jalapeno
some diced Red Onion
Chopped Cilantro
S & P

It had been a long (long) time since I had served quinoa. I don't know. It is super good for you & super easy & not expensive. But, it sort of seems to have no taste to me. And, I don't think about it often. But, I thought of it today, because I figured it would be faster than rice.
Turns out, my daughter, who rarely eats more than a bite of her dinner, loved it. Totally. She ate all of her generous portion, more of her daddy's & more of Peyton's. She sat eating for about 25 minutes. She. The one who asks to be excused about 2 seconds after we are done praying. She told me a number of times how much she loved these seeds for dinner. She also mentioned that today was like Christmas. She was that into it. I'll be making quinoa on a very regular basis. Hopefully she doesn't get sick of it!