Monday, March 29, 2010

Blubbering fool today

It started with an email from my LDS women's email list. A woman (Diana) told how she taught a lesson to the children yesterday about how Jesus Christ has felt every bad thing you have ever felt. She pulled a little three year old onto her lap and asked her if she had ever been sick. Yes. She told the child Christ had felt EXACTLY as she had. Diana repeated with an older child who had done something and felt guilty afterward. Christ felt EXACTLY as that child had. Then Diana had her adult son tell briefly about the death (suicide, although he didn't say that part) in February of his younger brother and Diana told how awful that was and how it hurt when that happened, and how Christ felt EXACTLY as she had. She said the children were touched as were the adult teachers, and before the end of the lesson all the adults were in tears. I was in tears just reading it when I read her explanation of how she suffered when her son died.

Just now I came out of the bedroom after showering and dressing and my three daughters were watching the video of ds's wedding in October 2008. That would be the marriage that ended in annulment in December 2009 by the wishes of his wife. I don't know exactly where the girls found the DVD, but I couldn't watch it, although it is a beautifully done video. Such promise and happiness. A marriage of families, not just the couple. So much potential and so little reason for the break up.

I hope today gets better.

A Money Buddy

I've been reading this blog for about a year and I like his ideas quite a lot. Trent posted an entry telling the advantages of having a Money Buddy:
I’ve long been an advocate of a “money buddy” – someone close to you who is going through a similar financial experience as you who can support you through the (sometimes) difficult challenges ahead while you also support them. Usually, a good money buddy can already be found in your social network – a sibling, a cousin, or a close friend who seems to be going through fairly similar financial troubles as you are.

There are a lot of benefits for finding a money buddy, both directly financial and psychological. Here are twelve potential benefits of a money buddy. Remember, you don’t have to use all of these – just select the ones that fit and work well for you and your buddy.

Relieve each other of a secret burden. Sometimes, financial problems can be a very secret burden, something you’re ashamed to tell others. When you have a money buddy, you have someone that you can tell about it, relieving all of that tension and built-up angst. That person is a willing ear and a shoulder to cry on.

Provide positive reinforcement of each other’s progress. A money buddy can serve as a cheerleader for every good move you make. It can be hard to make big changes in our spending, but when someone’s there motivating us and encouraging us to make the hard choices, those hard choices become a bit easier.

Share membership at a warehouse shopping club. You can split the cost of a warehouse shopping club with your money buddy, reducing the annual cost of a Sam’s Club, BJ’s, or Costco membership by half. You can also use your money buddy to split some of the multi-packs or jumbo packs sold at such stores.

“Eat out” at home together. A big part of the appeal of eating out is the social interaction. Replace a regular “eating out” night with a meal at home with your money buddy. You can either prepare the meal together as a team or alternate meal prep work.

Engage in new inexpensive hobbies together. It’s a lot easier to get involved with a new hobby if you’re doing it with someone else. Explore a new hobby with your money buddy, taking the time you spend on that hobby from something expensive that you used to do.

Search for enormous bargains in concert with each other. When you need a new freezer or a hot water heater or a car or any other significant purchase, shop together for it. Four eyes have a lot better chance of spying a big bargain than two eyes do.

Share larger items and possessions. Share a lawnmower. Share a snowblower. Share a trailer. These items can easily be used by both of you, particularly if you live fairly close together.

Give advice from fresh eyes. When you’ve reached a point of financial indecision (”Which debt do I pay off first?” “What bank should I use?”), a money buddy is a great source of a second set of eyeballs to look at the situation and make a great decision.

Carpool. If you work at the same place (or near each other), carpooling can save you both quite a bit of money. Even if you can only do it “sometimes,” each time you manage to do it, one of you is saving gas, maintenance costs, and wear on your vehicle.

Share frugality tips with someone who wants to hear them. Quite often, frugality tips can be a lot of fun when you discover them, but it can be even more fun to share them with someone who’s also figuring out new ways to live and save money.

Hold each other accountable for goals set. If you set a goal for yourself, share it with your buddy and remind each other of your goals regularly. Simply knowing that your buddy knows of your goal and is watching your progress towards it can be a great motivator.

Celebrate victories together. If you achieve one of those goals, you have someone already there that knows what hard choices you’ve made to achieve it and is ready to celebrate with you. There’s no one better to celebrate with at the top of thte mountain than someone who’s been there all the way through the journey.

As I read I realized I have a Money Buddy and didn't even know it. I've long been a frugal person, looking for great value (which isn't always the cheapest) in almost everything I do. One of my friends came upon hard times a year or two ago, thanks to the recession, and she became my money confidant because she had to make some big financial changes in her life and she knew I would understand. One of the mantras I've learned from another financial blog I read is "Be Weird." That means to do your own thing, buck the trend, DON'T keep up with the Joneses, and stop caring how everyone else is spending their money. Anyway, having a Money Buddy makes it easier to be weird (in that good way ;-) ).

Friday, March 26, 2010

Screaming and eating

Okay, it wasn't *I* who was screaming, thank goodness. Tonight was "McTeachers" night at McDonald's. Some of the teachers worked behind the counter, Ronald McDonald (a very talented one, I might add) visited and entertained the children, and the girls' school gets 15% of the sales between 6 and 8 tonight. Because there was a PlayPlace, naturally we sat in that room. It was unbelievably loud in there. I grew up in a household where one screamed only in case of a life or death emergency. Apparently, most of the children who play at McDonald's haven't grown up in that same environment.

I enjoyed a salad, dh a 1/4 lb. burger, and the three girls a Happy Meal apiece. We came home and gilded the lily with slices of homemade cream cheese lemon pie. Yum.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A slice . . . five days early

My friend in Australia wrote a blog entry about all the odds and ends she accomplished one day this week. She takes nice, sharp pictures of most things she writes about and included a picture of her "slice" (third picture down). Uh huh. We slice things with knives, we eat a slice of cake, but we don't "make a slice" here in the U S of A. That is unless we beg for the recipe.

L sent me a link to her friend's blog with a recipe for No Bake Muesli Bars featured. See?? BARS, not SLICE. Hehe.

I had a small luncheon to attend today and was asked to bring a dessert. I decided to make L's Slice because it looked easy and I had everything on hand for it.

It was really easy to make and was delicious. I cut up . . . um . . . "sliced" it into pieces and piled them prettily on a plate and covered them with plastic wrap. Then I went grocery shopping.

When I arrived at my friend's apartment I realized I'd need to bring in some things to hold in her freezer, so I called her from the parking lot. I don't know why, but instead of asking if she had room in her freezer, I said hello and asked if the luncheon were today. She pleasantly said, "No, we moved it to next Monday." Oh. Yeah. Now I remember that change. I said, "Great! See you Monday!"

I laughed at myself and drove home. I'll think of something else to whip up Monday. :-D

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Scary experience

Last evening the girls and my mom and I set out for a 5-10 minute walk around the block. We live in a quiet neighborhood and the weather was nice. We were just a couple of houses away at the corner when my mom wanted me to stop and do something. The girls were a couple of houses ahead, two of them on scooters and one on foot. I felt torn between the demands of each, so I decided to stop and do what my mom wanted and sent the girls on ahead to go around the block and told them Grama and I would meet them coming around the backside of the block.

In a couple of minutes my mom and I walked the short block to see the girls coming down the back of the block but they weren't there. I was surprised because by then they should have been about half way down the block. I scratched my head a bit, wondering how they could have been so slow that they hadn't come down that back side. My mom and I started back to our street when Elizabeth came tearing down the street on foot, telling me the other two where headed out "to the city."


Our neighborhood is quiet, but we live close to busy, intersecting streets. The girls were supposed to loop back to our house, not continue out to the busy area! I sent Elizabeth to walk home with Grama, but then realized I needed her to show me which direction the other girls had gone. I called dh and he met Grama, then hopped in his car. Elizabeth showed me which direction they'd gone and it was right out to the busy street. We turned out onto the sidewalk (thank goodness for sidewalks!) in the dusk and I could just make out two little ones on scooters about half a long block away from us. I was never so relieved. I called dh and he came back and picked them up once we got back into our neighborhood and I carried the scooters home.

When we got home and debriefed I found out it was even worse than I thought. My seven year old and my five year old rode their scooters to the busy intersection, crossed the street with the signal, and THEN decided they must be lost and started to retrace their steps. I am absolutely flummoxed at why they went the way they did and why they thought that was "going around the block."

After the girls are finished being grounded, we will definitely take a walk "around the block" so I can show them what that means. That part was my fault, thinking they knew more than they did. But as Caroline Ingalls (Ma Ingalls) would say, "All's well that ends well."

Monday, March 15, 2010

Night walk in the desert

Friday our family went on a night walk in the desert. Saguaro National Park offers it with your admission fee, but since we bought an annual pass, it was at no additional cost to us. It's also so popular that we had to sign up for it a month ago.

Seventeen of us met at the visitor's center at 7 pm. They gave us red plastic film to put over our flashlight lenses, then the wonderful Wanda told us why--some of the animals don't notice the light if it's red, plus as our eyes adjust to the dark, keeping the light low helps keep our irises open.

We all drove up the mountain about two miles, then got out and gathered. I found out there was a lot of gathering on the walk. Wanda used demonstrations to explain how our eyes see in the dark, then we set off. We stopped to hear owls and coyotes, stopped to act like baby bats and match the scent in our pill bottle with a mother bat with the same scent in her pill bottle, played a bat/moth version of Marco Polo, used a black light to look for scorpions (no thank you, see my post from early July last year), paid attention to the cool damp as we walked in the dry river wash, and touched unseen objects.

The girls were the stars of the evening. It was a great evening family activity.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Homemade Whole Wheat Pizza

I have a lot of wheat stored. Hundreds of pounds, actually, and I'm always looking for ways to incorporate it into our family's diet. I love the nutrition and fiber it adds to everyday foods.

We have pizza every week and it's almost always homemade. With with a 2 liter bottle of rootbeer purchased on sale, I can feed my family all the pizza and rootbeer they can hold for less than $5. Try THAT at a pizza joint!

1 1/2 cups warm water (105-115 degrees F)
1 1/2 pkg active dry yeast (about 3 Tsp unless you live at a high altitude, then you you can reduce the amount)
4 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 tsp salt
3 Tablespoons oil (I use olive oil)

Dissolve yeast in water and let stand 5 minutes. Stir in flour, sugar, salt, and oil. Knead until it forms a smooth ball. Let rise in a greased, covered bowl in a warm place until doubled. Pat dough in a greased pizza pan, pressing dough up on sides.

Add toppings. Bake at 450 degrees F about 10 minutes.

The toppings on this pizza are:

Ranch dressing
Ricotta (homemade)

I was a little disappointed at how the spinach came out. I'm still trying figure out how restaurants do it, but despite looking a little dry, it cooked nicely and was easy to eat. It was delicious!

Another great blog about saving money on food is Life As Mom.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Festival of Books

The university here in town was the site for a HUGE book festival today. I've never seen anything like it! There were book stores and book publishers, as well as all kinds of businesses that sponsored booths. There were hundreds of them and it was all free with free parking on campus.

There was a big children's section with read alouds, crafts galore, musical performances, drawing, writing, Braille, stamps, balloon animals, face painting and other things that I can't even remember. We spent about four hours there and the girls had a blast. I dig this kind of thing anyway, and even dh enjoyed himself. The weather was clear and sunny with a slight breeze and temperatures in the mid 70s. It was absolutely perfect.

Here they are at a cooking booth. They mixed chocolate pudding, crushed cookies, and marshmallows together. Who wouldn't like that?
While the other two girls and I listened to Chris Gall read two of his children's books and draw some extemporaneous pictures, S and dh waited forever so S could have her face painted. I think it turned out really pretty.I had to laugh because all the girls were so excited to see the characters who were roaming around the festival and I'm sure they have NO IDEA who the Hamburglar and the purple blobby thing even are!This was on our way back to the car. Doesn't it look like they had fun?

Friday, March 12, 2010

It's that fourth meal that does it

This was one of those annoying yet funny things that happens when you have children and it has to do with school lunches. I almost always pack school lunches for my three daughters because 1)I want to know what they are eating and 2)to save money. I can pack a lunch, including packaged items for about half what the school charges. I have a deal with the girls that they bring home everything they don't eat so I can see what is actually being eaten and what isn't and can adjust what I put in their bags in the future. In return, I don't get mad at them for not eating something or whatever those lunch bags may reveal.

Lately I've been noticing S coming home with practically her whole lunch. She sits down at the counter in the kitchen, pulls everything out and eats it as her after-school snack. My thought was that after the morning snack in the classroom she probably ate one small thing from her lunch, then rushed out to the playground to get started on recess. Kind of sweet and no wonder she was hungry after school.

This is the note that came home with her yesterday. Click to enlarge it if you can't read it here. I had NO IDEA this was going on!!! No wonder she brought her lunch home! No wonder she has a more average weight than the other girls (the others are very slender). It's that fourth meal that has been keeping her in the pink of health! I have now made it extremely clear to her that if I send a bag lunch with her, that is the lunch she is to eat. If she wants a heavy snack when she gets home, she is welcome to have one.

Oh, I purposely made her a bag lunch today and made a big deal out of telling C and E they can have a school lunch today and what the various options are for them. I hope they all enjoy their lunches!

Monday, March 1, 2010

I bought poop

I could have put a more graphic title there, but that wouldn't have been ladylike now, would it?

The past few years I've had a garden I've done something every year to improve the soil. I have a new garden area this year because we moved last summer. It's a deep flower bed on the south side of the house with clay soil that has had some sand (I think) added over the years. IOW, not the worst soil, but nothing crawling or moving in it either. Saturday we went to Home Depot and bought 3 cubic feet of "deodorized" composted steer manure. Yeah, I bought poop.

I poured both bags over the dug up dirt, then dug and raked it all together. In some of it I also put some partially-composted kitchen scraps. I put that pretty deep to give it time to finish decomposing. Overall the planting bed looks good and certainly much lighter than it did before I started.

Here is what we are starting in pots. It's certainly nothing made beautiful, but we also didn't have to buy any new pots or planting mix. We already had old pots and some opened bags of potting mix and used those. There are tomatoes, basil, cantaloupe, and watermelon seeds in these pots.I was waiting to amend the soil before planting spinach. I planted 4 rows, each about two feet long. I've never grown spinach, but my family likes it both fresh in salads and lightly steamed so let's see what comes up and if there is enough to eat. To be honest, my gardening attempts of the past couple of years have been relatively unfulfilling due to difficult gardening conditions where we lived in New Mexico. They are a bit difficult here too because it is really hot in the summer, although the growing season is long. I look forward to figuring it all out.


Dh, the girls, and I went dishwasher shopping on Saturday. Ours leaves a white film on everything and doesn't get dishes very clean. We had a repairman out to take a look and he determined a water valve is sticking and therefore not enough water is getting into the tub. A repair is $100, but the dishwasher is a cheap one and we decided we'd rather spend some money and get a good new one.

I've always liked Bosch dishwashers because they do a great job. HOWEVER, Bosch currently has a snazzy detergent door . . . that I can hardly operate. I realized I'd be opening and closing that little door practically every day and if I had trouble with it daily, I'd grow to hate the dishwasher. So thanks to a poor detergent door design, I marked Bosch off my list.

After look at all the different brands and models and comparing prices, I think we've settled on the KitchenAid KUDS30IVWH in white. Yes, white. I know most people are putting in stainless steel these days, but the other appliances in our kitchen are white, so we are going to do away with the stainless steel one we have now and go back to white.

My favorite feature of this dishwasher is a power scrub in the lower back. You place a dirty dish, like a casserole dish or cake pan, at an angle facing the lower back wall. A bunch of jets are supposed to BLAST the pan clean. That would be really helpful for me with the way I cook!

The only rub in this whole thing is that the US government and the State of Arizona are offering rebates for EnergyStar replacement dishwashers "sometime" this month. The rebate will be either $75 or $125 and I'd really like to get that, so I'm waiting to see what happens with that since the rebate is not retroactive.