Archives for October 2009

October Grocery Budget

My grocery spending for October was $845, quite a bit more than the $600 that I hoped to spend.   September’s super-frugality really depleted my stores.  I was nearly out of flour, sugar, rice, and oats. I bought 25 or 50 lb sacks of each of those things in October.

I also had to stock up on meat, and fortunately found a lot of good sales that really helped with that goal. I bought a lot of chicken thighs for $0.79/lb, and just today I found 3-lb chubs of ground beef for $2.50 each at Wal-Mart.   I don’t know when I last saw ground beef for 83 cents a pound, so I bought 60 lbs.   That amount of hamburger will probably last us til January at least, so it was defintely worth grabbing.

Now that I’m stocked up again,  I am curious to see how November’s spending will go, maybe something in the $600-$700 range?  And really, when you average together the $350 that I spent in September and the $845 that I spent in October, you get something pretty darned close to $600.  It seems doable.  We’ll see!

Speaking of stocking up–remember me mentioning wrapping green tomatoes in newspaper right before the first frost?  Well, they ALL got ripe at once.   The kids unwrapped them yesterday and I was able to can 19 more quarts of tomatoes!  I think I have 160-170 quarts now!  Tomorrow I am hoping to can some applesauce and then I think I’ll be done canning for the year- hooray!

Digging out…

..from underneath 2 bushels of apples and a double sink-full of tomatoes. Apparently canning is not done for the year after all. Plus the kids are hard at work in the garage wrapping several bushels of gleaned onions in newspaper so that they will hopefully last all winter. More later….

Reviews: music, movie, and book

I’ve got several interesting things I wanted to tell you about. Maybe Christmas ideas, maybe just something to do with your family this weekend…but all worth a mention.

First of all, I wanted to mention the John Waller CD, WHILE I’M WAITING. I LOVE the entire CD, but I especially appreciate Our God Reigns Here, the song I featured on mySunday post this week. Great stuff on this CD– very encouraging.

Next, I wanted to tell you about a movie our family enjoyed a couple weeks ago. It is called FAITH LIKE POTATOES. It tells the story of a white farmer who moves his family from Zambia to South Africa, where they try to build a new life amid drought and racial tension. I loved that the black Africans in this story were portrayed respectfully and that the white farmer was able to forge meaningful relationships with them– not at all the norm for white farmers in this movie. As you might expect by the title, faith in God is also central to the story.

The movie is family friendly except for a truly horrific tractor accident that was very distressing even to the adults in our family. If your kids are under the age of 10 or so, be ready to fast forward through that scene– it is heavily foreshadowed, so you have plenty of time to get hold of that remote. Other than that scene, however, the movie is wonderful. Intriguing, inspiring and full of believable characters, it’s the best movie my family has seen since City of Ember.

The final item I wanted to mention today is the book GOSPEL POWERED PARENTING. I first saw a review of it on Tim Challies’ blog. I found this book to be full of excellent, Biblically sound parenting advice. Set standards and hold kids accountable for their actions, but in a grace-filled and loving way that continually points them to God. Worth reading, even if you’re an experienced parent. Be sure to read Tim’s review on Amazon– he’s a much more thorough reviewer than I.

On this day last year I wrote: Our Love Story- A Ring and a Date

New York Adventure- Day Three

The next day I slept til 9– actually only 7 AM Idaho time, but it still felt like sleeping in to me. I was hoping to be able to arrange a meeting with my agent that morning, but wasn’t sure when she’d be free, so I decided to get packed up so I’d have the flexibility to meet with her whenever she was able.

She turned out to be in a meeting. As I waited to hear from her, I decided to head out for a little more shopping. The previous day I’d spotted good quality Hanes ‘I Love New York’ t-shirts — 7 for $10 — and I wanted to get a few. I also wanted to explore the area around my hotel a little more.

Just a block away from the hotel there was a fire station. So that explained the frequent sirens I’d heard while at the hotel. On the big front door there was a mural honoring 21 men from the station who lost their lives on 9-11. I’d already come to realize that 9-11 is much fresher to New Yorkers than it is to people who live further away. Kate actually saw the second plane hit, in real life, as she was dropping a child off at school, and both she and Chris talked about still being unnerved any time they hear the sound of multiple sirens in the city. Photographing that mural at the fire station, I was somber, and suddenly wished I had flowers to lay down.

Midtown Fire Station

When the big doors slid open to let a firetruck leave the station, sirens screaming, I saw firefighters on the truck waving in my direction. I looked over and realized a little boy was standing near me, waving in awe. His parents were smiling and waving too. Suddenly I was waving too. At heroes.

I walked on, away from the wail of the siren, but still surrounded by the clatter and hum that endlessly fills a big city. A few minutes later I checked my phone, to discover that amid the noise I’d missed a call from my agent. She said she’d be back at the office in 20 minutes, and was free for half an hour. I headed in the direction of her office, just a few blocks from where I was staying. On impulse I grabbed her a bouquet of flowers across the street from her building. One thing that I do love about New York is the way you can find almost anything you need within a few blocks of wherever you happen to be.

Angela was charming and welcoming in person, as was her coworker. We only had 20 minutes or so to chat, but it was really fun to put a face with the name. She’s the person who believed in my books when they were barely more than ideas in my head, so I really appreciate her.

After our meeting, I checked out of my hotel, but left my bags in storage there for the afternoon. Lunch was a truly superb slice of BBQ chicken pizza (8th Avenue and 47th Street). After lunch I took a cab, met Brooke from Bullfrog and Baum back at the office that houses all the big magazines, and went to a meeting. We’ll see what comes of that.

Afterwards I was perturbed that I’d forgotten to change out of my my walking shoes into my cute heels for the meeting. Because, you know, the success or failure of a business meeting depends squarely on shoe choice. 😛 After the meeting, Brooke walked my through Bryant Park — lovely, lovely — and then she had to get back to work. She pointed me in the direction of my hotel, and I strolled on back. It was a completely perfect day for walking, and I was sad that I had such a short time left in the city.

Bryant Park

A bit more shopping, including the all-important purchase of a dozen authentic New York bagels to take home, and it was time to head back to my hotel to collect my bags. The cab ride to the airport was interesting—the driver took us through Central Park, which I hadn’t seen before. It is just huge—took 10 minutes to drive through — and is truly an oasis in the city. At 4 PM it was swarming with people and had a really family friendly vibe. Playgrounds with screaming children, horse-drawn carriages, kids walking in soccer uniforms, people jogging, people sitting on benches, everyone just enjoying the lovely weather. At least half a dozen people told me that I’d completely lucked out as far as weather on my trip. It was sunny and in the 60’s all three days I was there.

Central Park

The cab driver was a friendly fellow from the Ivory Coast of Africa, and we had a nice chat. He’s the one who told me the housing prices I mentioned earlier to you. An interesting thing about the cabs— all the ones I rode in were equipped with GPS, so you can see a map of where you’re going while also watching the fare escalate to alarming amounts. Another things cabs have these days are those credit card swipe thingies. I’m guessing that a fair number of you reading this are saying, “Yeah, so?” But to me it was news.

Every single cab driver I rode with was quite aggressive, just as aggressive as what I’ve experienced in Ethiopia, though in Ethiopia there is more horn honking. The driver that took me to the airport at one point violently slammed on his brakes so hard that my face almost hit the front seat and all my packages hit the floor. He muttered about someone stopping in front of him. I contemplated putting my seat belt on at the point, but decided that would show a lack of faith.

Once safely at the airport –whew! — I shuffled my bags around to fit my bagels into my carry-on. My cheapo $4 bag was full by then. I checked it for $20– grr– and sincerely hoped it would hold together til I got home. Once in the waiting area, I heard that the flight headed for Chicago an hour ahead of ours was delayed due to weather. Ugh. I hoped it would resolve in time for my flight, since I had barely an hour in Chicago to make my connection.

No such luck.

My flight finally took off an hour and a half late. I fervently hoped my flight to Boise would be delayed as well. The flight attendant on the plane called ahead and found out that yes- it had been delayed til 8:45 PM. I got off plane in Chicago at 8:35. Ran 12 gates, just in time to board 4th to last. Hooray!

I arrived in Boise a little after midnight, into the arms of a hubby who was extremely glad to see me. Next morning this kids greeted me equally gladly. What a trip. What an adventure!


Is my child slow?

I’m talking about kids and delays over at BlogHer this week! Have experience to add to the conversation? I hope you’ll come chat with us!

Also remember that my cookbook giveaway ends on Monday, and the Cheer giveaway is still going on as well. Be sure to enter if you haven’t already!

On this day last year I was talking about my forever Valentine.

New York Adventure- Day Two, part 2

After I survived my TV segment, Chris walked me to Grand Central Station, where I was to meet my friend. The timing was perfect. It was around 2, and she was to get there around 2:30. There were all sorts of interesting little shops around the perimeter of the huge building, which was restored a few years ago. The ceiling was amazing.

Grand Central Station restoration

Chris walked me through several specialty food stores, famous for cheeses or bread or fish or beef or spices. I wasn’t too surprised to see (beautiful) beef for $12 a pound, but I was amazed to see some cheese that cost $21 a pound. Pretty crazy to an Idaho girl who won’t pay more than $2.50 a pound for cheese.

I’d gotten a chance to visit Whole Foods the night before, and so was starting to see that the deli departments in the grocery stores in New York are amazing. So MANY options. It’s easy to see how it would be very tempting for a working mom with a small family to just grab deli food instead of cooking in the evening. The food all looked so good, and so varied. Mexican, Asian, brick oven pizza, and on and on….

I said goodbye to Chris, called my husband to tell him things went well, and then met up with Kate. She has 4 kids, including a son from Ethiopia, and we have been email friends for years. It was fun to meet her in person, and she was in person almost exactly as she seemed via email. I felt like I really did already know her, and we had zero trouble finding things to discuss.

She had her 11 year old daughter with her, whom she needed to drop off at her grandparents’ house for an overnight stay. So we walked and took the subway there first. This was the first time I’d been on a subway anywhere except in Korea. Kate said that the line we were riding on was one of the better ones. Compared to the subways in Seoul it looked extremely run-down: unpainted concrete, low ceilings, very industrial and worn. But you can’t beat the price:$2.50 to ride anywhere in the city.

Kate’s parents’ lovely apartment was lined with bookshelves, which made me immediately feel at home. We visited with her dad for a couple minutes, and then headed off to walk to Chinatown. People like me who live in the suburbs or out in the country get used to hopping in the car to go anywhere. In big cities it seems like people expect to walk more.

Kate lived in NYC for years, and said that they didn’t even own a car until after 9-11. Now they live north of the city. But during their last year in New York they spend $300 a month just to park their car. Numbers like that make me understand why a lot of people in NYC don’t even own cars, especially given the fact that there are trains and subways that can get you all over the place.

The next day I talked to a cab driver who said that a nice restored brownstone house in Harlem will cost you $4000 a month to rent. A cheap 1 bedroom will cost $1000. Housing prices are so high in the city that he moved his family to Pennsylvania, where their mortgage on a 5 bedroom house is $1500. As much fun as the city is, I’m glad I live in Idaho.

Housing in Harlem  for $4000 a month

Kate led me first to a great shop that had boatloads of fun goodies. For my 4 year old(birthday gift– shhh!) I found a tiny 5 inch replica of a ladies purse, complete with shoulder strap and 4 separate zippered compartments. She will have a lovely time filling it with little things and bringing it to church with her. Found lots of other good stuff too. I was completely tempted to bring home an entire set of dishes. But I stopped myself, remembering how hard it would be to get dishes home without breakage.

Along with things for my family, I also found some excellent prices for sesame seeds and dried mushrooms, proving once again that ethnic markets can offer excellent deals, even in big cities. To get things home, I found a lightweight zippered tarp-like grocery bag for $4. (Was wishing I’d remembered to stuff an empty duffle bag into my suitcase, but ah well.)

Soon we realized we were starving. The 3 bites of sandwich that I ate for lunch were long gone! Kate knew a wonderful hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant—down some steep steps into a tiny basement, actually. We had shrimp chow fun, dumplings, sesame chicken, and a most excellent chat. I felt so blessed that she’d been able to rearrange her schedule so that we could get together. After the meal, we shopped as we walked back through Times Square towards my hotel and the place where she was meeting her husband, and said goodbye a few blocks from my hotel.

Speaking of hotels, I was staying at the Hilton Garden Inn on 8th Avenue and 48th Street, and was well pleased with that choice. I’d been given a $300 a night budget by my publisher. Hooray! However I was surprised at how hard it was to find a nice hotel for that price. Turns out $600 a night in NYC is not uncommon. Two nights at that rate would be more than our entire monthly house payment. (Can you tell that NYC left me with major sticker shock??)

Anyway, the hotel is in the middle of everything, and is clean and well staffed, with lovely beds. My room had an empty fridge—not one of those booby-trapped mini-bar ones– and a microwave. Down in the lobby there’s a little grocery store where you can buy microwave dinners, drinks, ice cream and other snacks. I was only on the second floor, and the view out my window kind of made me laugh. But tweak the camera angle upward, and it was pretty darned sweet.

My window, looking out

My window, looking up

That evening I got back to my room around 7, and suddenly realized that the hustle and excitement of the day had left me utterly whipped. I proceeded to spend a quiet evening writing, chatting with my hubby on Facebook, and watching Bobby Flay throwdowns on Food TV. A quiet hotel room all to myself– utterly satisfactory.

New York Adventure- Day Two

Wednesday morning began slowly. I managed to sleep til 8, and then had 3 hours before I had to leave. I went over the high points of what I wanted to say during the taping, checked email, finished a blog post, and got ready to go. I was trying to convince myself that I was calm, and that everything would be fine, regardless. But I was pretty keyed up, and could barely make myself walk out the door and GO. I got a cab, and headed over to the office on ‘Lex’, as they call Lexington Avenue. Chris, my PR guy, met me in front of the building and we walked in together.

The building houses a bunch of different magazines, and we had to stop at the main desk to get guest passes before we were allowed upstairs to the floor where Family Circle and Parents magazines are. We’d gotten there a little bit early so that we could meet with the food stylist, Marie. Chris says she’s one of the best in the business, and since Chris works almost exclusively with food clients, I guess he ought to know.

Marie had already prepared Chicken Broccoli Enchiladas, and Thai Wraps. Those dishes were to be set on either side of our work space, and then in the middle was where I would be demonstrating another recipe, Blueberry French Toast Strata. Marie and I walked through the prep, and she fine-tuned the table so that I could easily reach things to do part of the prep, with the idea that I would also be giving the show’s host, Anne, some cooking tasks.

We didn’t actually have a kitchen for the demo, just a tall table. Marie was kept busy running up and down elevators to a different floor, where she had ovens in which to cook the dishes. The plan was to set an already completed dish on the shelf under the table (my ‘oven’ — hehe), and then I would just pull it out at the end of the demo to show the final product.

After we’d gone through details with Marie, we sat around in a waiting room, watching a bit of taping going on for the show before mine, and nibbling on some deli food that was delivered for lunch. I was still fighting nerves, so the sandwich tasted rather like dust in my mouth, and I didn’t eat much. I’d brought two aprons to try, since at home I couldn’t decide which one was better. Chris and Marie both agreed that my beloved polka dot apron from Susannah’s Aprons was much more interesting, so that’s what we went with.

I went in the bathroom to primp a bit…I already had on more makeup than normal, but I added a dab more for good measure. When I came out, it turned out they’d found a makeup artist roaming around– a quiet guy with a trendy haircut, a Russian(?) accent, and skinny jeans– and assigned him to me. He said that the makeup I’d done was ‘very pretty’, but then proceeded to add quite a bit more, including flawless eyeliner that didn’t look dramatic, but that really made me eyes show up.

And then, suddenly, it was time to go into the taping room. I was focusing so intently as plans were being discussed that I barely noticed the gal attaching the mike to my belt and clipping it to my collar. Anne and I ran through the recipe so she would know what to expect. (I was very glad I’d cooked it twice over the weekend and it was fresh in my head.) And then we were given the go.

Anne had a teleprompter for her intro, and totally made me comfortable by flubbing her lines the first two times she attempted them. So when I immediately flubbed my first sentence, I knew it was no big deal that we had to start over AGAIN. Finally, she and I both settled down and managed the rest of the segment coherently. She asked me a bit about the book and about my family. We talked about the two already-made dishes. Then we made the blueberry strata. Somehow the words just flowed and I made it through.

I was glad to be done, and even more glad when Chris came in, grinning hugely and saying I’d done awesome and giving me high-fives.There were hugs and thank-you’s all around. I got to sign books for Tara and Anne, and then we were on our way. Mission accomplished.

The show is scheduled to air in late November or early December, so I’ll let you all know when I’ve got details. A bit later I’ll also blog about the shopping that took up the rest of the day– very fun — but I’ll wrap it up here so I can get this posted before my kids go to bed. Thanks to everyone who prayed for me today– it all went incredibly well!

New York Adventure – Day One

I decided Tuesday morning that 5 AM is a ridiculous hour to be doing anything but sleep. However, the stars were lovely, and chatting with my hubby in the quiet car on the way to the airport was nice too.

We cut the time close — my seating area boarded 3 minutes after I got to the gate. But it worked fine. I was quite surprised to see both my brother and my uncle get on the plane with me, bound for Denver. Turns out they had a meeting there. It was fun to chat with them for a few minutes, even though we weren’t able to sit together on the plane.

On the flight to New York I slept a bit, read an excellent book, and did some work. I arrived in New York on time, happy that I might have a chance to check into my hotel and change before dinner.

When I went out of the terminal, there was a big long line. I asked a businessman if this was the taxi line. He said yes, asked where I was going, and offered to split a cab, since our hotels were close to each other. I accepted, glad to have found someone who knew what he was doing. Turns out he is a photographer who has done work for National Geographic, among other things. We had an interesting chat.

At the hotel I got changed, and hailed a cab. (Guess what — you really DO have to wave your arm. It is not enough to stand at the curb expectantly. 🙂 ) Then I headed out to the Mesa Grill to meet Chris, Eliza, and Brooke, from Bullfrog and Baum.

They turned out to be extremely fun people, and we had a really nice dinner and chat. I’m very much afraid that if I visited the Mesa Grill very often, I’d develop extremely expensive tastes in food. However, several times during dinner I did note that various dishes probably wouldn’t be that expensive to make at home.

I had duck roasted with a crust of 16 spices, alongside possibly the most amazing tamale in the universe. (Note to self: experiment with tamales.) Blue tortilla chips with goat cheese dipping sauce. An incredible coconut cake. An entirely memorable meal.

I talked to ‘my’ food stylist, who is going to make everything pretty– I am really looking forward to see my dishes with a professional’s presentation. The actual taping on Wednesday is at 1, though I will be there sooner to prep and meet the host of the show. Then on Thursday it is looking like I will have several different (important!) interviews at various places. This whole experience is surreal. I feel blessed by the way doors are opening.

I’ve had the first couple verses of Hebrews 12 on my brain, the ones about running with perseverance the race set before us. There are so many unknowns here, so many decisions that are up to other people, and I am such an amateur at all of this. But I’m going to do my best and trust God for the outcome! Wish me luck!

And because I promised clothes pictures, here are a couple pictures of me before I headed out for dinner last night. There wasn’t a good full length mirror, so you’ll just have to imagine the skinny jeans and the cute boots, and I went with the tousled hair look…still not sure how I feel about that! o.O

New York!!

Well, my bags are packed clothes are heaped on top of my suitcase. My hubby has gotten time off to supervise at home. There’s food in the freezer. Tickets and hotel reservations are in my purse. My flight leaves at 7 AM. By late afternoon on Tuesday I should be in New York City. It all seems a little unreal to me.

The show that I’m doing the cooking demo for is, which is affiliated with Parents magazine and Family Circle magazine. I’m not sure what channel it is on– I suppose different channels in different areas? You can also see previous shows on Youtube, and probably check your TV guide to figure out what network carries it in your area. I’m being taped on Wednesday morning, and the show will air at a later date. I of course will let you know the date as soon as they tell me!

Wednesday afternoon I am meeting a friend under the big clock in Grand Central Station — does that sound so cool? — and then heading off with her to shop Chinatown. (Can’t wait to mee you IRL, Kate!!!!) On Thursday I’ll be doing at least one interview, maybe more. And Thursday evening at 6 I will be flying back home.

I am feeling incredibly blessed by this opportunity, and by all the kind people who’ve come together to make it possible. I’ve been loaned and given clothes and jewelry by 4 different friends. I’ve gotten wardrobe and makeup advice from a variety a neat and knowledgeable people, including my dear Shana and (thanks to a friend in Hollywood) Jeannie Mai. I’m so well taken care of and so very blessed!!

I hope to share some clothing pictures soon, but for now here are my new shoes!

Shoes (1)


Last year on this date I was talking about love.