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2009 January » Philoxenos


Little House on the Prairie

16th January 2009

Little House on the Prairie

Have you ever read these books?? I don’t know how I missed them when I was growing up. I started reading them to the kids some time last year and I then I kind of stopped. Last week I picked them up again just to read for myself. And now I can’t stop! I’m about 2/3 through The Long Winter and I’m like — EEK! How are they going to survive with no coal? No meat? No kerosene? How will she ever meet Almanzo?That’s really what I want to know. I’m all about the romance (Completely unrelated, but have you ever read The Pioneer Woman? She has this amazing serial story (which I almost spelled “cereal”) of how she met her husband. The night I discovered it I spent two hours reading the archives and now we just have to wait for her to finish it, drip by drip. I’m dyin’ here.)

Of course I know she does because there are more books :) But the agony of waiting! So I’m off to finish the book.

Oh, and Precious caught me reading today and she was a little peeved that I had been reading without her so of course I had to read her a couple chapters in penance. Of course she can read on her own now, but there is just something about having it read out loud.

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16th January 2009

Oh, the irony

Early last week I started a post that said something like “I’m so glad the kids have been healthy, it makes life so much easier…” blah blah blah.

I currently have one child propped up in her bed with Vicks rubbed all over her chest, humidifier going full blast in her room. She’s doing pretty well, all things considered, but her cough sounds absolutely horrible. I’ve given her a bit of cough medicine but everything I read says that basically it doesn’t work for kids this young (she’s 5). The ironic part is that I have about six bottles of this stuff from a deal that Walgreens had over the fall. I was paid something like $1 a bottle to take it out of the store, so I don’t regret doing it, but I certainly won’t be buying it again!

Another example of how purchasing something that may not even cost you anything is still a waste if it’s not going to be used. You might not have noticed but I’m doing a serious reevaluation of my purchasing criteria.

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16th January 2009

Please don’t buy this product

If you were thinking about buying International Delights Vanilla Spiced Rum creamer because it just sounded fun, well, don’t. Trust me. It will be a waste of $1.27 you might pay if your local store also has it marked down.

This goes to show that saving a $1 on something that you’re going to end up throwing in the trash is really just a waste of money.

Note to self: stick with just plain vanilla!

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13th January 2009

DK Eyewitness DVD

If you or anyone in your family, child or adult, are interested in science, please please please go to the library and request any of the DVDs in this series: DK Eyewitness DVD. We are currently watching the one titled Butterflies and Moths and Precious, age 5, is captivated. It’s really, really good. And she and I both know now that moths create a cocoon and a butterfly creates a chrysallis. Who knew?

This a worthwhile 35 minutes. I’ve just requested the ones on Mammals, Fish, and Oceans (that’s three separate movies.)

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13th January 2009

Using what I have

By now you’ve probably picked up that I’m kinda frugal. I like it. And Handsome really likes it.

One area that I am generally pretty frugal is in the kitchen. It’s taken a lot of learning and I still have things to learn, but I do pretty well and we eat well, too. I was recently inspired by Want What You Have to see how long I  can go without doing some major grocery shopping. She actually has set some very strict rules for herself and when she did this in the spring she went seven weeks without buying anything other than a few items, which are listed in her post.

As I started to look in my freezer and pantry I realised that I could probably go at least a month without buying anything other than milk, eggs and fresh produce. Because of this I asked Handsome to reduce my grocery budget by $100 for January, which he did.

In about a week I will have to start getting creative in order to not restock certain items. For example, I’m going to try my hand at making my own yogurt. When I eventually run out of bread (which won’t be a while because I went to the bread outlet a week ago) I will make it in my breadmaker.

But just off the top of my head I know I have two whole chickens (bought on sale last week at Vons when they were 77 cents a pound), at least three pounds of ground beef, probably three to four pounds of chicken breasts, some chuck steak that I’ll stew, a bag of shrimp, as well as at least six frozen dishes that I made before the New Year plus two meatloaves. Each of the whole chickens is worth three meals to us, so I have enough meat/meals for over 20 meals, probably more.

I don’t cook much out of a box, so I mostly just have raw ingredients and because I buy in bulk I have quite a surplus built up. It will take some creativity and thinking outside the lines. Maybe a bit more work towards the end as I make more and more substitutes. We may not have our normal pizza on Friday night or else we top it with something other than pineapple.

How long do you think you could eat out of your refrigerator, pantry, freezer?

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12th January 2009

Black Bean and Salsa Soup

I just searched through my archives and discovered that I have never posted the recipe for this amazing soup. It’s too good for me to keep it to myself any longer. Please, do yourself a favour and make it. Soon.

Black Bean and Salsa Soup, courtesy of

2 cans black beans (this is about 2.5 cups cooked beans**), 1 1/2 c vegetable broth (I use chicken), 1 c chunky salsa (or mexican-spiced tomatoes), 1 tsp cumin, plus sour cream, green onions, avocado to top it.

Put beans, brother, salsa, cumin in a saucepan and heat. Mash it up a bit. Serve in bowls, top with onions, sour cream, etc.

For those of you in NZ, when I was living there I could only buy black beans dried from Bin Inn. Just soak and cook then use in the soup.

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12th January 2009

lambs, talking boys, and oatmeal

This morning we visited a friend who raises various animals. She currently has a few little lambs that are being bottle fed. Precious has been begging me please, please, please can we visit? So this morning we did and she and Cutie got to help feed the lamb. While that was going on Little Boy ran all over everywhere, chasing chickens, picking up cats, being licked by dogs and trying to say hello to the cow, who wasn’t very interested in him. It made me realise how much a farm suits little boys. And little girls, too, for that matter. The kids were sad to have to go. And I was sad we no longer had gum boots that fit any of the kids. Any chance someone could pick some up for us at The Warehouse?

Little Boy is learning to talk. He’s at that stage where he’s just beginning to say words that we recognise. So far we’ve heard yes, bird, dog, book, cheese, daddy, mama, grandma, grandpa. He turns two in March and I have a feeling that between now and then he’ll be picking up words rapidly. He’s also in the “I’m very frustrated that you don’t understand what I’m saying” phase, so he’s having a few tantrums. But he certainly knows how to communicate. Just this evening we were at my parents’ house and my dad came home from work. Little Boy, who was sitting in grandpa’s easy chair, saw Grandpa and his face lit up and he started slapping the seat next to him, indicating that he wanted Grandpa to come and sit next to him. And he slapped and slapped until Grandpa came over and sat with him. Sometimes talking is a bit overrated.

I’m not buying much food this month because I elected to have my budget cut in order to use the money elsewhere, so I’m just using what I have, which is quite a lot. I keep a big stockpile normally. Anyway, I like having a hot breakfast in the morning, particularly in the winter, and I won’t have time to make pancakes or anything tomorrow, so I whipped up THIS!  It sits in the fridge overnight and I’ll pop it in the oven when I get up in the morning so it’s ready for us to eat. We’ve had it once before and it was good enough to make it again. And it’s particularly good warmed up later for a snack. Thanks Grocery Cart Challenge for linking to the recipe originally. She makes it quite a lot so I figured it must be good!

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9th January 2009

My big brother

**I’ve been going through my saved/unfinished posts. Found this one and, although it’s not complete, I’m going to publish it. I think I wrote it sometime over the summer.**

I don’t think my brother reads my blog, so he won’t be embarrassed by what I’m going to write.

I like my brother. (Note the word “like”. That’s different than love. We can love people that we really don’t want to spend time with.) He is my only sibling, four years older than I. I distinctly remember almost hating him when he lived at home, but fortunately for both of us he moved out when he was 19 and my parents and I  moved to another city. After that we were civil to each other, although I don’t recall having much in common with him. I think the “spit on my toothbrush” days were just a bit too close for comfort for me to really enjoy spending time with him. Thank goodness for me he seems to have forgotten that trick! I’m sure his wife would have tattled on him by now if he hadn’t.

My brother is a successful businessman who seeks to honour God in his business. He still likes to act like a little boy and has been recently seen spitting water through his two front teeth just to make his nieces giggle. He is honest, sometimes brutally. He is always striving to learn, about all kinds of things. He is generous with his time, talents, and resources. He puts family in a place of priority. He is the kind of person that I would allow to raise my children if Handsome and I were no longer able to.

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8th January 2009

Learning with living books

Our home is filled with books. We love books. Our children play with books more than any other single toy. They read them, they stack them, they line them up on the window sills, they give them to their dolls. It was only natural then when we were choosing how we would homeschool our children that we would select a method that involved a lot of real books, rather than workbooks and textbooks. You should have seen the look on my little girl’s face when the box of books arrived last summer. It was like God sent a package from heaven just for her.

I’ve started noticing that their play is revolving around the books that we’ve read. The newest one is based on a story by Beatrix Potter called Tale of Two Bad Mice. The other day I walked into the girls’ room and they were under the covers of one of the beds, with the blankets pulled all the way up to their chins. I asked what they were doing and Precious replied “We’re pretending to be Lucinda!” I had to laugh because that’s exactly who they looked like!

Just this morning Precious asked me “What’s a muffler?” I explained that it’s either a thing on a car or else like a scarf. I asked her to tell me the context of the story, so she read it to me and we determined it was definitely a scarf, unless they were wearing a car around their necks!

All these things are using living books, real books, to teach. We don’t have to use workbooks or textbooks and mark off lessons. I have to remind myself that, a lot. We homeschool for a reason and one of them is so our kids can learn more than just what’s in the textbook lesson for that day. So it looks like we’ll be filling up the bookcases a little at a time and Handsome will be kept busy cataloging the books as they arrive!

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8th January 2009

Love/Hate relationship with budgets

**I originally wrote this post in December 2007 but I never completed it or posted it. I’m posting it now because I think it’s still relevant. I’ll make some additional comments at the end.**

We have a budget. Budgets are a good thing. Budgets are a way to keep track of how much money is being spent and in what areas of your life. Normally it means that you know in advance if you actually will have enough money to pay all your bills and maybe go to the movies too. Or at this time of the year it’s a way to know you can pay the rent and still buy that special Christmas present for someone. It’s done in advance so that you’re able to achieve financial goals rather than scrambling to make ends meet after the fact. I’m not a personal finance blogger, so go see Trent at The Simple Dollar for more information on that stuff. He’s a great writer and puts it in easy to understand terms.

Last night we had a bit of a, um, disagreement. It wasn’t a fight, really, just a disagreement. It’s Christmas. I like Christmas. I like to buy Christmas presents. Actually I like to buy presents any time. I like to buy decorations. I’m also preparing for homeschooling Precious in January and this just feeds my desire to buy books, because of course now it’s for educational reasons. I don’t want my child to be left behind because I didn’t buy the right book! :)

Lest you think that I just ran hog wild buying everything in sight, you’re wrong. We have a budget and I’m sticking to it. Besides, my husband isn’t past telling me to take something back if I had overspent. Fortunately that has never happened. Although I remember one time that I was on a business trip and spent my daily per diem a bit too frivolously and voluntarily returned an item.

But anyway.

So we were having our discussion. And during our discussion it came to light that my husband and I have two differing points of view regarding Christmas, although we share the same foundation. We both believe firmly that Christmas is not about spending money. Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world. And we honour this by celebrating advent with our children. We choose not to make Santa a part of our Christmas. We are always trying to help the kids understand that Christmas isn’t just about presents and that we should be giving much more than we receive. This is really the first Christmas this has been an issue since our oldest is just four.

But then we diverge. I honestly think that my husband would be perfectly happy if we never bought Christmas presents. For anybody. Not even the kids. He’s not a scrooge, honestly, he’s not. He just wants the focus to be on Christ. However, he understands that this would make me really unhappy. So we have determined that we will buy some gifts, but we won’t spend much. We had agreed a few months ago that we would spend $50 total on the three kids. We have very generous parents and aunts and uncles and we knew that the kids wouldn’t even notice if didn’t get them anything, but of course I would :) I bought them a very nice wooden easel, with chalkboard on one side. I had planned on also getting them some paints, chalk, and brushes, but then we had the budget discussion so now I’m hoping to find a homemade paint recipe online :) And I can probably scrounge up some sponges.

But other than the discussion regarding how much to spend on the kids and how much we would spend on each other (we don’t normally buy anything for each other) we didn’t make any decisions on the other spending. I knew that any gifts we bought for others would come from our gift budget, which is also supposed to fund birthdays and such throughout the year. And friends, it’s not that big of a budget, but I’m very grateful that we have one at all.

So, I was merrily buying a little gift here and a little gift there. I was not spending indiscriminately and I wasn’t buying for all and sundry. But last night we were working on our finances, making sure the envelopes were up to date (electronically - we do it all on the computer) and… hey look! The gift budget is in the red. Thus our discussion began.

This is what I gleaned from the discussion. Handsome emphatically said that Christmas is NOT going to receive it’s own line item in the budget. He is categorically opposed to that for one reason: Christmas is NOT about spending money and if we give it a line item then it becomes about money. Okay, I can understand that. But I shared that it was then important that we perhaps have sub-categories so that I know I must save a certain amount of money in the gift budget, for example. Because honestly I’ll spend half of the gift budget at Christmas time, but if I’ve already spent 75% of it by Dec 1, then I’m out of luck. Everyone’s getting a Christmas card.

And where are Christmas decorations supposed to come from? We have a household misc. budget, which is where I put things like batteries and light bulbs. And I wouldn’t be able to buy many lightbulbs with it. The point that Handsome was making to me, though, was not that he didn’t want me to buy Christmas presents or Christmas decorations, it’s just that the money has to come from somewhere and it has to be legitimate (no sneeking garland into my grocery budget, unless it’s edible!) It’s too easy to say, oh, it’s just $20. Oh, it’s just $5. And all of a sudden we’ve way overspent and we’re regretting it.

So, budgets. Gotta love ‘em because they help us be good stewards of the wonderful gifts that the Lord has provided us. But I also hate them because 1) when it comes down to it I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it. I don’t want anyone

**and that’s the end of the post, as I wrote it a year ago. A few updates: we did indeed end up adding a Christmas line item to our budget, specifically for things like decorations, cards, etc. It is not for gifts. That still comes out of the gift budget. Essentially our gift budget is so small that any gifts we do give are generally handmade and not expensive.

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