Archives for October 2013

My Pantry Staples

After a trip to the store today, I thought it might be fun to share with you some of the things I try to have stocked in my kitchen at all times. Keeping things affordable is important with our big family, so I buy very little prepackaged convenience food.  The kids help in the kitchen  — they make their own breakfasts almost every day, they keep us stocked in homemade cookies, AND they do dishes. (do you hear the angels singing??) But I do the majority of the serious cooking, and it rarely takes more than an hour or so a day. Check out my recipe page for lotsa quick ideas, the majority of which can be made using the pantry items I listed below. If it’s highlighted on the list below, that means I make it myself and have linked to the recipe for you.

Baking:  Flour, sugar, brown sugar, honey, baking soda, baking powder, yeast, cornstarch, baking cocoa, chocolate chips, coconut, GF flour, cornmeal, quick oats, vanilla, coconut oil, olive oil, shortening.

Spices:  basil, berbere, chili powder, cilantro, cinnamon, cumin, curry powder, oregano, paprika, pepper, salt, thyme, and taco seasoning.

Part of my pantryPantry: Pinto beans, lentils, split peas, garbanzo beans, rice, pasta, ramen, potatoes, onions, garlic, popcorn, coconut milk, evaporated milk, pancake syrup, vinegar, peanut butter, tea, coffee, creamer, raisins, cold cereal.

Fridge:  eggs, milk, butter, block cheese, cream, cream cheese, apples, oranges, lemons or limes, carrots, cabbage, spinach or kale, soy sauce, sriracha, fish sauce, ketchup, mayo, yogurt, mustard, salad dressing, flour tortillas, corn tortillas.

Garden produce (canned): tomato puree(<– video tutorial), dill pickles, sweet pickles, applesauce, canned peaches/pears/plums, salsa, various flavors of jam.

Freezer: chicken, ground beef, corn, green beans, sweet peppers, grated zucchini, pepperoni, grated cheese, loaves of bread, orange juice concentrate, ice cream, pork roasts or a turkey when they are on sale.

Splurge/easy items that I sometimes buy:  salmon, fish sticks, tater tots, hot dogs.  I serve this type of thing a couple days a month, no more.  And though I always have cereal around, we usually only have it for Sunday morning breakfast.  Too spendy for its limited tummy-filling capabilities.


When I shop I have price points beyond which I will not to buy.  For example, I try to buy meat when it is no more than $2/lb.  I can usually find chicken for that, but it is hard to find ground beef that low, so I stock up when I see it. Turkeys will be affordable soon, and I’ll probably buy two or three, then cook them one at a time in the roaster, serving part right away, and chopping the rest into portions for enchiladas, etc. Right now I probably have 30 lb of ground beef in the freezer, some of which I’ve already cooked up and some of which I’ve made into hamburger patties.  I stock up on butter when it is $2/lb or less, and freeze all but a few pounds.

I try not to spend more than $1/lb for fruit, or $2.25/lb for cheese. I just bought a 20 lb box of apples for $13, and will be buying oranges now as the prices are coming down below $1/lb.  To get eggs for $1.20/doz or less I usually have to buy a 5-dozen pack. I try to buy peanut butter for $.11/oz or less, and pasta when it is less than $1/lb.  I aim for cereal that is $2 or less for an average size box.  All these various price points help me know when to stock up and when to wait, so that as much as possible we are eating things I’ve bought at their lowest price points.

What is on your list of pantry essentials?  What is your favorite way to save at the store?  Your favorite splurge?  Mine has got to be sushi from Fred Meyers.  Our local Fred Meyers has a lady who does a fabulous job on their sushi.  So yum.

Bonus reads:

Y’all know about my cookbook too, right?  If you’ve got a friend interested in good food or saving money on groceries, it makes a great gift!

Inspired by Amanda

Table (Copying Amanda’s post this week)

Right now…I’m listening to Tenth Avenue North’s Hostage of Peace. Love the chorus.

Thinking...I really need to peek in the tomato-boxes in the garage. I suspect I’ve got lots more tomatoes ripe. Except I’ve canned probably 110 quarts of tomatoes this year and am feeling kinda tomatoed out. (Update:  the kids and I canned 17 more quarts this afternoon!)

Feeling…weary over the repetitiveness of some of the struggles of motherhood. Seems things should be improving/changing faster than they do sometimes.  Then again, I have to remind myself, I’ve been at this awhile.  Each new child needs to learn some of the same lessons.   So I will keep on keeping on…

Reading…Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream It has some language but otherwise it is a very interesting story of a young man who started with $25 and the clothes on his back and dramatically improved his life within a year.

Gratuitous adorablenessExcited..that it’s almost November, almost Thanksgiving, almost Christmas break. OK, I’m rushing the season just a bit. But wow, I’d love me some Christmas vacation right about now. I’ve even already bribed contracted with one of my sons to put up our Christmas lights BEFORE it gets bitterly cold this year!  ($10 was enough to motivate him, in case you’re curious.  🙂  )
Wondering…about maybe doing a ‘favorite things‘ gift exchange with the adults in our family as part of our Christmas eve celebration. Anybody ever tried this idea with a big mixed (not just ladies) group?  Seems like as long as folks all had the freedom to pick something interesting to them, it should work and be fun…

Working…away at my book. One.more.month. Yikes.
Proud….that my teens all did well on their chem test this week. Also, we’re 1/4 done with the book.  Hoorah!  School is feeling like a hard slog this year but we are getting lots done.

Inspired… by my daughters who together did a wonderful mothering series on their blogs this month.   Here is the link to Erika’s, and here is Amanda’s.  I wish I’d been half as thoughtful as they are as young mommas.

What about you? Reading anything interesting?  Pondering any new or better or more low-key ways to celebrate the upcoming holiday season?

These creative types…


One day they’re playing with Barbie dolls in the sandbox, then bringing them inside and bathing them in the bathtub to get the sand out of their hair.

Another day they’re jumping in the fall leaves and snapping dozens of pictures of each other in the process.


Today?  Well, it was time to color eggs, of course!  They boiled a dozen, then spread newspaper all over the kitchen counter, wrapped the eggs in dozens of rubber bands, and dyed the eggs all sorts of pretty colors.

One thing’s for sure:  these girls know how to have fun.

Another thing: I’m savoring every second of their lovely little-girl exuberance. Even as I trail around after them mopping up. 😉

much back and forthing

I went to church five times yesterday.  I tell you this not to sound holy 😉  but to explain my bone-weary exhaustion.

Trip #1 was to get a son to chorus practice at 8:30, during which I did a bit of writing which turned into a long conversation at the coffee shop with a guy who first wondered why I was writing so early in the morning and then when he heard what I was writing needed to know why families adopt from other countries when there are so many kids in the US.  We ended up having quite a nice conversation about adoption and parenting.  At coffee shops I tend to put in my earbuds and block out the world, but I did end up enjoying the chat.

Trip #2 to church was at 9:30.  Hubby and the other kids met me there in the other vehicle. After church  we left one vehicle there and took the clan to McDonalds, then to the park for our annual family picture shenanigans.  A fair bit of the work for that event happened last week, as my married daughters and I figured out what clothing 18 people could wear that coordinated reasonably well without anyone having to buy too-too many new items.  We went with a scheme of cocoa, mustard, blue and plum, with some pops of fuchsia.  I think overall we looked pulled together.  It remains to be seen if the amazing Israel managed to get the majority of us looking the same direction, with eyes open.  So far every year he’s pulled it off.  But now we number 18– we’re definitely ramping up the difficulty level on him. In any case, I’m looking forward to sharing what we got with you soon.

Trip #3 to church was at 2:45 to drop the teens off to prep for the kids’ harvest party, which is basically a chance to dress up and play games and eat candy.

Trip #4 back to church at 3:15 was to give a son an item he’d forgotten to bring for a costume.  Then it was time to zip back home so the youngest two could put on their costumes.  One was a princess and the other (dressed in PJ’s, wearing glasses and carrying a cup of coffee) was ‘mom in the morning’.  You’d think I’d have managed to get at least one picture, but I am relying on the teens at the party to share some of theirs with me eventually.  My 15yo daughter did a bang-up Jack Sparrow, complete with a red bandanna and beads in her hair.  Very cool.  Really hoping someone actually got a picture of that one.

Trip #5 to church at 3:45 was to get the youngest two girls to the party, where for three hours they proceeded to eat candy, and I visited with the other moms and tried not to eat candy.  By the end of the party, the kids were sugared and the mommas were yawning and talking about what we wouldn’t be able to get our kids to eat for dinner due to all the sugar ingested.  Back at home I told the kids who didn’t want leftover hamburger casserole that at least they should have a glass of milk before bed, which pleased everyone well.   And we all yawned our way off to bed.

Oh– and all this was AFTER Saturday, which started with a 7AM wakeup to go cheer for five family members at a race, during which I got to snuggle my newest granddaughter.  though I do plan to race again one of thee days myself, I highly recommend baby-snuggling as a less exhausting alternative than the actual 5K.  My afternoon was spent at church while my son and several cousins baked and decorated 72 cupcakes for the cakewalk for Sunday’s harvest party.

This morning the alarm went off at 5:55 AM so I could get in the car yet again, and deliver my son to his college Spanish class.  He’s hoping to be driving for himself VERY soon.  Given the fact that he’s only 15, he has a bit more waiting to do.  And I have to admit that most Mon-Wed AM’s I look forward to the quiet writing time.  However, this morning I’m just yawning.  And wishing somehow that the week could be quieter than the weekend.  Except when does that ever happen?

How was your weekend?

Made Free


You tell me I’ve been made free
You give me everything I need to walk in my dreams
You whisper words that free my soul
You’re the reason I have hope
You’re everything I need and more
You made me
You made me free

Apologia Chemistry (helpful links)

Art credit: classroomclipart.comThis year FIVE of our teens are doing chemistry, four at home, and one at the college level.  At home we are using Apologia’s Exploring Creation With Chemistry. Chemistry isn’t the easiest subject for a lot of kids, so at various points, I’ve been googling videos to explain concepts better.   Then I realized that this list might be handy for other folks teaching chemistry too.  We’re only on chapter four, so I will be adding more links as I need them.  But I wanted to put this out here anyway, in case it might be helpful to you.  Even if you aren’t doing Apologia, you should be able to recognize key terms and find videos that could be useful to you.  I’d LOVE a pin if this looks like something that’d be useful to you or others that you know. Check back every few weeks for updates.  This list will be growing as we work through the book.

 Module #1

Lecture Notes

Study Guide

Significant figures (video)

Module #2

Lecture Notes

Study Guide

Heat equations (video)

Extra calorimeter problems (video)

Module #3

Lecture Notes

More notes and explanations

Study Guide

Info about labs for this chapter

Laws learned in this chapter

 Naming Compounds (video)

Naming Ionic Compounds (video)

Flash Cards

Module #4

Study Guide

Phase change (video)

Experiment: Diffusion (video)

Experiment: Phase change crushing a large can (video)

Balancing Equations-Simple Examples (video)

Balancing Equations- More Complex examples (video)

Module #5

Flash Cards

Decomposition reactions (video)

Combustion Reactions (video)

Combustion Reactions (practice problems)

Combustion Reactions (more practice)

Mole Concept (video)

Module #6

Stoichiometry (video #1)

Stoichiometry (video #2)

Stoichiometry (video #3)

Limiting reactants (video)

Flash Cards

Module #7

Atomic Structure (video)

Energy, Frequency and Wavelength example problems (video #1)

Energy, Frequency and Wavelength example problems (video #2)

Frequency/Wavelength example problem (with cool way to rearrange equations)


Module #8


Drawing Lewis Structures

More on Lewis Structures

Module #9

Study Guide

Important Polyatomic Ions

Module #10

Acid Base Reactions (youtube)


Module #11

For Those About to Dissolve: We Solute You (music video)

Molarity vs Molality

Calculating molality

Freezing point depression (video)

Study Guide

Module #12

Experiment: Gas Phase Reaction (video)

Formulas and Laws



Potential Energy Diagrams (video)



Rate Equations (video)


Chemical Equilibrium (video)


Oxidation/Reduction Reactions (video)


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So you want to stay home with your kids



Back when John and I first got married, we both imagined that I would work at least part time, even after our kids came home.  And for a good long while I did, as a nurse working first on Pediatrics and OB at a hospital and later at a birthing center, helping women labor and give birth and take care of their babies in those first precious hours after birth.  I had the ideal job really– definitely the happy side of health care.  I was even able to have my husband bring our babies to me on my breaks, to nurse.

But the more our family grew, the more John and I both longed for me to be home with our children full time.  And so in our wish to make that happen for our family, we began looking at ways to save money in our budget. We didn’t do everything perfectly.  For example, straight out of college I bought a one year old car on payments.  Big mistake.  But we did do a fair number of things right.  Here’s what I give the most credit to in our success.

1. Keep your housing affordable.  To be safe, your house payment should be no more than 25% of your take-home pay.  Our first house was an uber-affordable fixer-upper with house payments of $212 a month.  Even back in the 90’s you could barely rent for that.  Our next house was a bigger stretch and for several years it was pretty tough to make that house payment.  You’ll save yourself a lot of stress if you buy less house than you think you can afford.

2.  Learn how to cook.  Menu plan.  Double recipes.  Shop with a list, and shop with cash.  If you need help with any of this, check out my cookbook Family Feasts for $75 a Week.  Most people recoup the cost of the book on their very next shopping trip.  The average family has lots of fluff in their grocery budget, so it’s a great place to start if you’re serious about saving money for an important goal.

3. Discover the joys of thrift stores and yard sales for clothing.  It is totally possible to dress your family well AND affordably.

Thrift store wins

4.  Ditch debt It sucks up all your future spending power. We haven’t had a car payment since 1999, choosing instead to buy affordable vehicles with cash, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

5. Get rid of cable TV.  There are so many great TV options on Netflix these days and it’s much more affordable.

6. Most important:  be content with what you have.  Know what tempts to you spend.  Some folks feel more discontent after visiting Pinterest and Target. I use Pinterest mainly for cheap crafty ideas, so it isn’t too problematic.  Target is definitely a weakness, so I try to avoid it.  My big Achilles heel is Amazon, which I’ve tamed in several ways.  First, when I hear of a new book, I wait to buy it til I try to request it at my local library, or checked if it is available on Second, I make myself wait at least 3 days to order anything on amazon.  Often by then the impulse has passed, and our money stays in my wallet.

Over the years we’ve made many sacrifices for me to be home with our children, and sometimes it does get tiresome to be watching our money so carefully.  But remembering our priorities and being thankful for what we have helps me stay on track with wise spending.

How do you save money at your house?  What helps you avoid the temptation to overspend?  I’d love for you to add your wisdom to this conversation.

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great things about country life


This is as busy as our road is about 90% of every day.

You can sit by the side of the road drawing for half an hour without one car passing by.


Almost everyone who drives by waves at you, whether you know each other or not.
The ones who don’t wave– well, either the sun’s in their eyes or they ain’t from around here.


When your kids tell you the neighbor guy stopped them to show them his puppies,

instead of being worried, you’re tempted to go see them yourself.

Except you’re afraid you’d come home with one.  Or three.

neighbor-pups, 2 days old

Speaking of dogs, you know most of the neighbor dogs by name.

The momma of these (12!) pups is named Taylor,

and she likes to ride on the mower when her owner mows.

I’m thinking she might be too busy to do that for awhile.

Chicken chasing

Your neighbors don’t think a thing of the fact that your (2!)

roosters crow approximately 147 times an hour.  Each.


There are times it’d be more convenient if the nearest grocery store wasn’t an 8 mile drive,

but mostly that inconvenience just makes you more inventive and saves you money.

Except for the gas to get to town.




PS–The winner of the Capri Clear giveaway is commenter #5 Lissa.

Staying connected in hard moments


I have a question for you all. When in the midst of a hard moment with a child who is losing his cool, it can be so easy to go into face-off mode.  What ways have you found to help your child get back on track behavior-wise while still honoring your child’s feelings and nurturing your relationship with each other?

I’ve found that one thing that helps is to acknowledge the emotions that led the child to misbehave in the first place. For example, if a child is in trouble for not doing a chore, before talking about how the child should have handled my request, I’ll verbalize understanding about how hard it is to quit doing something else that is more fun.  Or if a kid just called a sibling a name, I’ll try to find out what led to his frustration in the first place.  Sometimes there’s just no calming down an upset kid, but often going a little deeper into feelings and motivations helps my kids feel more understood.  Even if they end up still having to empty the dishwasher anyway.

What have you found to be helpful and relationship-building when your child is upset?  If you had a recent success, or if you have a moment this week that goes especially well, I’d love to hear your story.  Motherhood is a tough gig.  Let’s encourage each other!

Beautiful things


All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us