Friday, July 30, 2010

20 A Day: Day 11

Well, here we are on Day 11 and still limping along. I will confess that I am in the hole $20 at this point--there was one day at the beginning of this week that I actually had all the groceries for lunch & dinner, but was just too wiped by the afternoon to make up the bread dough--which of course was the basis of our dinner. We swiped a twenty and bought Subway sandwiches for everyone. We could have made it. I could have cooked a big pot of oats and called it good. But it was Day 5 or 6 and we were hitting a wall, tired already of all of the work required to live on so little!

But for the most part, the experiment is going well. We've managed to do just fine with meals (other than that one little hiccup...which actually provided the next day's lunch, too, now that I think about it) and even add in little bits of gasoline here and there, toilet paper, and a birthday gift.

I'm going super-economy on meals though, folks. Like, taking a roast chicken and making it into three meals economy. My new favorite dinner is grilling up a whole mess of veggies (my eggplant, zukes, onion, and bell peppers from Haggen), mixing up some bread dough and making flatbread rounds that we cook on the barbecue until they are hot and puffy. Then I dump on some of the vegetables, add a sprinkle of mozzarella (2 pounds at Costco for only $3.99!) and put the lid on the 'cue for another minute to make it all melty and yummy. The vegetables are my favorite part, but I'm pretty sure Justin & the boys would be more than content to just live on the hot grilled flatbread.

Other favorites we've had this week are Trout Pie and a sweet onion quiche, made with the Walla Wallas that are on sale everywhere. The boys didn't go for the quiche, but Justin and I ate it for three days. And the Trout Pie was gone that night--it's a big seller every time I make it (I'm sure only due to the fact that it's a Jamie Oliver recipe...). Maybe I'll post that recipe tomorrow, in the event that anyone else has a sweet neighbor like we do that provides them with fresh fish all summer long!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Heard Around The House

Cole: "I know how to make a chicken bomb! You take a roast chicken, and put some dynamite inside..."

Sorry, folks. He walked out of the kitchen after that. You'll have to imagine the ending on your own.

Friday, July 23, 2010

20 A Day: Day 3

We went out as a family yesterday morning to the library to restock our movie & book shelves (free entertainment) and stopped at Haggen on the way home so Mama could restock a few of the refrigerator shelves. For the bargain price of $25, we bought:

1 can of pine-orange strawberry juice, 3 packages of bagels, 4 pounds of carrots, 3 cucumbers, 1 eggplant, 2 heads of lettuce, 1 package of cream cheese, 3 pounds of tomatoes on the vine, 1 pound of zucchini, 2 red bell peppers, 2 orange bell peppers, and 1 yellow bell pepper (can anyone guess what dinner I'm envisioning?). It felt good to leave the market with an entire twenty dollar bill still in my pocket.

Breakfast: Omelettes with sauteed mushrooms, sauteed sweet onion, and cheddar.
Lunch: Bagel sandwiches with cream cheese, tomato, cucumber, shredded carrot and mustard, and juice.
Dinner: Hamburgers (Birthday leftovers again) and pasta salad.

Start of Day: $45
End of Day: $20

Quote of the Day:
"When Ari is a toddler, I'm going to teach him. I only like babies. I don't like toddlers. Toddlers get into your stuff and mess everything up. I just like taking care of babies" --Smack-In-The-Middle Reuben, age 4

Thursday, July 22, 2010

20 A Day: Day 2

We did much better with our stipend yesterday-- only spent coins out of the coin jar for a cup of coffee at Small Group last night.

Breakfast: Oatmeal with brown sugar & raisin.
Lunch: Hotdogs (left over from Cole's birthday on Sunday...we're going to be floating on that food for a while!)
Dinner: From-scratch pancakes with fresh berries and fried eggs.

Start of day: $25
End of day: $25

A grocery trip is on my horizon for today; I've moved from Find-A-Recipe-That-Sounds-Good-And-Buy-The-Stuff-For-It meal planning to Read-The-Ads-Buy-What's-Cheap-And-Create-From-It meal planning (I typically use some combination of the two). I am armed with $45 and will be looking at every display with a critical eye...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

20 A Day

I've implemented a sort of social experiment around here: to see if we can live on twenty dollars a day. (Maybe "social experiment" isn't the right phrase? Monetary experiment, possibly? Though before too long we may begin fighting over the last piece of bread and then it will be more social than we desire...)

I digress. The twenty dollars doesn't include housing, or heat, or any of those things: the bills are paid. I just wondered what it would be like to give ourselves a $20 daily allotment and try to live within it. The money needs to cover groceries, household purchases (diapers, laundry soap etc), gasoline, and spending money. I set a single twenty dollar bill out every morning and whoever needs something can grab it and spend it. If there's any left over, it gets added to the next day's twenty...and so on. We're going to try it for about 3 weeks and see how feasible it is. I'd love to eventually get to the point where we are providing so much of our own food that a Grocery Budget is nearly non-existent.

Day One:
Breakfast: Oatmeal with brown sugar & raisins.
Lunch: Two loaves of homemade bread, fried eggs, yogurt with berries from the garden, watermelon, lemonade (left from Cole's birthday on Sunday).
Dinner: Barbecued trout (caught by the neighbor), basmati rice pilaf, salad.

Spent: $10 at the grocery store (a bag of rice, a half gallon of organic whole milk, green onions and cilantro for the pilaf.)
$5 at Dairy Queen--Mama needed ice cream, and Daddy says 'you shouldn't eat alone'...

We had so much food floating around from the weekend that I thought we'd at least be able to get through the first day without spending, and yet there is only a fiver left. This may prove more difficult than I anticipated.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


So apparently I have a tendency to go weeks, nay, months without updating this blog. I'm sorry. That must be terribly frustrating to those of you that like to have a semi-regular glimpse into our lives. What is even more frustrating is that sometimes I go through seasons when I like to update daily, and other seasons, there is only silence...

I am realizing that is how my brain works, too. There are times when everything is cheery and the details of my days are tangible. It takes no effort to record daily happenings and funny little quips. But then inevitably, I dip into waters that are deeper, more complex, and my mind goes black for some time as I seek to process what I am thinking, what I hear God saying to me, and where I am being led. And then somehow I get out of the habit of communicating daily events and don't know how to enter back in.

So let's just start, awkwardly. Shall we?

For some time now I have felt gentle nudges to simplify, simplify, simplify. I don't think it's an uncommon message. We live in this culture that is so absolutely oppressive. Stuff EVERYWHERE. Things to do. Places to be. MONEY TO SPEND. It's so burdensome, isn't it? We watch TV shows about hoarders, feel guilt, and purge, frantically. We spend hard-earned dollars on storage solutions, organizational books, and systems. We neglect our kids to read websites and blogs about ways other people are doing "it" (whatever "it" is: organizing, parenting, creating, living), and bite our nails with anxiety that we don't know where to start. It appears that everyone else has it all together and we are the only ones that are lost.

Is anyone else feeling this? Is it only me? Maybe I should have said "I" instead of "we"...

Okay, then. Here is my confession. I did those things, I did. I spent hours trying to figure out better systems to do my daily tasks. I pushed my own children aside while sitting in front of the computer trying to figure out how to be a better parent. And then it struck me how absolutely silly it all was!

Simplify. Simplify. Simplify. But how, Lord? What does that mean? How do I know what it looks like? Where do I begin?

For one, we have determined after nearly 10 years of marriage that, for us, it doesn't mean birth control. The concept that a "smaller family equals a better life" has become a lie to me, because I know my own greediness and how quickly it would take over. Money for vacations? Done. Money for sports lessons? We're there. Money for nicer cars and lots more stuff? Yes, yes, and yes...

But an ever-growing family that ties me to home feels calmer and more secure. I know it doesn't make sense. Here is the best example I can give:

When Cole was a toddler, he was manic. He had problems processing sugars (that we hadn't discovered yet) and in addition to his food issues, he was a typical active little boy. He ran non-stop, always in a straight line, always away from me. Never looked back. I was exhausted for years, parenting just that child, but what I found as he grew is that he exhausted himself, too. He didn't always like being manic and active. Before he could even speak, he developed his own little sign for "go car" and when it all got to be too much for him, he would ask me to take him for a drive. I was always so amazed at how much calmer he would become the instant he was strapped into his 5-point harness. This look of pure relief would come over his face as if he knew it was going to be better now, for a time, because he didn't have to run and be crazy and control his body. He could just rest within the restriction. Now, looking back, I realize that I feel the same way. This world has too many things that lure me in and distract me. The (few) times that I have had plenty, I find myself immediately swayed by options. I'm too weak against them, and it's too easy to whip out my check card. There are too many bright lights and colors. It feels manic. I find my heart whispering, "five-point harness, Lord"...

The main thing that I feel God telling me these days is to adopt a posture of humility; now I am in the throes of trying to figure out what that looks like. I know it will be a process. But I can tell you that living a life with just enough manna for today feels peaceful and safe. Listening to my children and petitioning God for answers when I am up against a wall is calmer than doping out in front of the computer, looking for solutions in an endless sea of information. I don't think I want to give up this blog, and actually there are several things currently that I'd like to share with you...but I have to warn you that I might disappear from time to time when all this technology gets too much for me.

I guess those are all the things I have floating around in my head tonight. If anyone is still out there, come on back soon and we'll head for lighter topics for a while...