Archives for August 2008


A kitchen in Africa

A kitchen in Africa

I Thessalonians 5:18

I have so much to be thankful for.

(PS– click on the picture to see more amazing pictures of how others live)

Why my children will be buying me hearing aids some day

Spoken with some satisfaction by my 10 year old daughter who arrived from Ethiopia last year.

“In Ethiopia [with first family] I don’t scream too much. But at Layla [Children’s House] there’s lots of kids and it was very loud and I practiced screaming.” She nodded with satisfaction. “Now I’m very good at it.”

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Why do with less?

One of the reasons we decided to do the 30 Days of Nothing is simple: bills. Our daughter’s health issues this summer used our medical savings plan faster than we’d anticipated, and I’m eager to get things paid off. We don’t have much debt, and I get uncomfortable when the bills stack deeper than usual. But there’s a deeper reason to take this journey, one I haven’t talked a lot about this year. It has to do with the concept of entitlement.

Currently I’m sitting in a coffee shop with a Mexican mocha steaming in a cup in front of me. Once a week I take a writing day, and this is just what I do: head off to a coffee shop, and plow through some writing assignments undisturbed. Thinking of next week, I’m not sure what I’ll do on my writing day. Part of me thinks, oh, it’s $3. Let’s call that an essential. I’m entitled after rassling a zillion kids all week long.

But that sense of entitlement is a tricky thing.

I’m entitled to a cup of coffee, even though I can make something just as good at home. I deserve a new blouse, even though my closet is bulging. I earned the money (or at least the stellar credit rating) to buy a new car- never mind that my 10 year old paid-for rig is still chugging along. And the chipped-up vinyl floor in my kitchen– no one’s floor should look like that– we really should do something about that. Or so the thoughts go in my mind.

Meanwhile, the coffee farmer who grew my posh coffee can barely feed his family. My closet could clothe half a village, and the clothes I just discarded from my little girls’ room could clothe the other half. My 1998 Ford Econoline would make most people in this world feel as rich as a sultan (though, granted, the gas would bankrupt them). And kitchen floors in homes all over the world are just dirt.

How much am I really entitled to? And if I didn’t have such a large sense of entitlement, what could just a bit of my excess accomplish for someone else? Tough questions. Questions we’ll be thinking about this month.

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$200 at the grocery store all month? (I might be insane)

Two years ago when we did 30 Days of Nothing, we spent $318 the whole month on food. Of course besides that we had our regular bills for utilities, gas, housing, etc. But we cut out all non-essentials. No clothes, books, eating out, or other extras. I felt good about what we saved that month, especially considering that at that time we usually spent $600-$700 a month on groceries, and another $100 or more on books.

These days I usually spend $900 a month on groceries. I’ve been hoping that in September I could get by on $400 for the month. Only problem is, I just tallied up our groceries for August. I spent $1100, $200 more than usual. It’s the stock-up urge: grab more of this, get another one of that — I don’t want to spend money in September. Problem is, the challenge is meaningless if I just shift all our expenses to August or October.

I decided I’ll just consider $200 already spent for September. That’ll leave us $200 to spend in the month. Yeah. $200 for the whole month. Fifty measly bucks a week. I usually spend that much before I walk 50 feet in WalMart, let alone all the way to the back of the store to grab eggs. I may be insane.

But here’s the thing: even though I spent a bit more than usual in August, I bought with economy in mind. I bought good, healthy, versatile, long-lasting items. Our cupboards are bulging with food — it’ll be at least 2 weeks before we run out of much of anything. (Oops, except I already ran out of powdered sugar making cocoa mix today to take camping, and my son just informed me we’re also out of plastic wrap. Eeek). But the point is, we have a ton of food and a huge garden. Even if we only spend $200, we won’t be starving anyone. And — don’t worry — if we truly need to spend more, I will. I may go waaaaaay over my measly little budget.

But I’m gonna aim for $200, and I’m stoked. I’ve got the start of a meal plan for the month-I am planning a bunch of new recipes to try to keep things interesting. (Frugal food does NOT have to be boring, after all.) I am excited that so many of you have mentioned that you’ll be playing along too. feel free to grab the button to mention on your blog. First thing Monday morning I’ll be putting Mr. Linky up at the top of my blog so that everyone who is playing along can link up. And of course everyone can visit around and see what other people are doing with the challenge. Remember, the rules are up to you. You decide what’s ‘essential’ to your family. Decide what to give up. Decide what to keep. You can even decide to do the challenge for a shorter or longer period of time if you’d like. It’s up to you. So come on– take the challenge!

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Works For Me: Frozen Ginger

Shannon is back with Works for Me Wednesday.   My tip for the week is simple.   I love to cook with fresh ginger– it’s so much better than dried.  But it doesn’t last forever, and can get moldy in the fridge.  Problem solved if you just keep your ginger in the freezer.  I keep mine in a ziplock, and whenever I need some, I just grate as much as I need with a regular cheese grater, then stick the rest back in the freezer.  It will keep in the freezer for months.  Works for me!


I’ve given us all the grace of not starting homeschool until next Monday, so this week I’m trying to fit in all the ‘summer’ projects that I didn’t get around to. At the moment I am sitting here like a limp noodle, because today I:

–(kids and I) blanched, chopped and froze about 200 ears of corn

–cleaned out and moved two dressers

–cleaned under my bed

–installed 2 shelves as new nightstands in my bedroom

–got my closet halfway organized (more tomorrow)

–defrosted, cleaned and refilled the freezer

–sorted some hand-me-downs

–gave hubby a much-needed haircut

–made a great new Thai recipe for dinner (Curry Coconut Chicken)

–Facebooked with my 2 college girls for a long time to hear about their first day of school

Maybe I’ll have a recipe tomorrow if I don’t get sucked into the whirlwind again…but we’ll see…

Regarding shoe choice

I had no idea that pairing a brown shoe with black shorts was so very wrong. It is obvious to me that I am not as stylish as I like to imagine. I am still undecided about the heels/shorts dilemma…the vote was 21-15 in favor of the heels, which is not definitive enough to inspire me with confidence… In case any of you were waiting for my shoe choice with bated breath, I have now decided to wear silver and black flat sandals with the black shorts. Until someone tells me that choice stinks too.


I am so not a fashion maven.

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A mommy’s kiss

This afternoon my 3 year old came inside, whimpering over a hurt toe. “I need a bandaid!” she wailed dramatically. She is currently at the stage where every owie warrants a bandaid request.

But as a mom of ten kids I am hard-nosed — the rule around here is, no blood, no bandaid. I scooped her close for a hug and leaned in to examine the toe. Closer I leaned. Closer. The toe showed not a mark.

“There’s no blood!” I said lightly. “I think you’ll be okay.”

She turned away, her body language showing she was a little peeved, though not surprised by my answer.

“Wait,” I said as she started to walk away. “Do you want me to kiss it for you?”

And for a moment as I waited for her reply, I didn’t breathe. She was sporting a bit of a ‘tude. Would she turn me down and walk away pouting? Or did my mommy-kiss still have power?

After a moment of hesitation, her face lost its pout and dissolved into sweetness. “Yes!” she said. And she came to me eagerly and held up her toe with a beaming face. And I kissed that little toe all better.

Mommy magic. I’ve still got it.

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John 8:35-36

Heels and shorts: cute or tacky?

I’ve got some cute black shorts that are almost knee length. My shoe choices include simple flat brown sandals and super-comfy black slides with a heel of about an inch and a half. The black shoes are cuter– the brown sandals are just kinda blah. But I’m hesitant about pairing heels with shorts. Is it stylish or tacky? (esp for someone who is normal sized, not model-thin.) I’m soooo clueless– help!