Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Cool Christmas Wreath with Candy

My friends over at have put up another great instructional video on You Tube. This is so neat! I think this will be the Christmas presents for my mom and mother in law this year.....shhhhh don't tell ;)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

warming up

Today, I spent lots of time on the phone finding various repair people and seeking advice from those who know how to fix the sundry things that are broken in our house. We are pretty sure the back hose in the washer had become loose (the dog hid there during the tornadoes that came through here a week and a half ago, despite us trying to pull her out--which probably caused it to loosen, and then eventually break), but when I tried to tighten it I only partly stopped the flow. Someone is coming to look at it, but he assures me he is quite sure he knows what the problem is and that it can be fixed quickly. Let's hope so--he's getting paid by the hour ;). I thought Maytags never need the services of repair people?!?

We managed to fix the furnace ourselves (praise God)...the ignitor burned out, and so we had to buy a new one and plug it back in. It felt so warm in the house after we did that, we had to open a window. LOL Now it's just right.

fixing things is a very unglamorous way to spend money, isn't it? LOL

point and counterpoint

it's rather ironic that I wrote about the goodness of God this morning.

Let me tell you what I did when I got up from the computer just after posting that:

Deciding that it sounded like the washing machine had been running too long, I went to the basement to check the situation out. what I found made my heart sink. My sump pump was no longer running. Water was up to my ankles in the basement. My washing machine was spitting water up everywhere while it ran into the washing machine and directly out of the top and the bottom of it. I looked inside and it wasn't even half way filled with clothes so I don't get that at all...after the last washer died, I have been diligent about not putting too much into the washer, and it was well within those parameters. The floor was covered in wet dryer lint (I keep the dryer lint in a box--it makes great fire starter for bon fires...well, not only works if it doesn't take a swim first LOL). the dryer, which should have been running was not. In fact, the clothing in the dryer was just as wet as when I put it in the dryer, only a little warm on one side, so I turned it on only to have it do nothing.

I knew the washer was fairly new, so I looked up the warrenty information. the warrenty expired three days ago (of course it did--do they program that to happen?!?).

Oh, and the furnace isn't working. it broke last night when it hit about 30F in my house. Brrrrrrrrrr Thankfully we know how to fix that...we've had this happen before when we first moved in. the ignitor burned out.

My dh told me to call around to find the ignitor for the furnace, and when I did, it was in stock somewhere on my dh's drive home but apparently he wouldn't get there in time (it closed just as he was getting out of work), so he wound up coming home early because I didn't have any gas in the van and can't drive it too far anyway because I am on borrowed time with the van (everyone who knows anything about cars has told me not to drive it unless absolutely necessary until it is repaired). He hurried home all the more when he heard me crying my eyes out about the washer, dryer, sump pump, and the fact that I've been on the receiving end of many complaints today via email and telephone.


Monday, October 29, 2007

The Goodness of God

My dh took me out yesterday afternoon to celebrate my birthday...38 years old this week! Goodness, me!

We went to this cute little Chinese restaurant that my mom introduced us too--the New China Buffet in Imlay City--it's in the Kroger shopping plaza. They have an all you can eat buffet of Chinese food (obviously) with some really incredible soups too. Normally those buffet places aren't my favorite...but this one is especially good, and it is MSG free. Best of all, it's cheap. For the two of us we spent a little bit more than what one would spend at McDonald' tip. We needed to go in that direction anyway, as we needed some more car parts for the van.

On the way there, we are reflecting on the goodness of God to us....we've had some hard times for a long time now, and it's been a frustration but yet God has at the same time really shown Himself strong on our behalf. He has never let us go without that which we truly need, and has taught us to discern the difference between wants and needs. It's been an eye opening experience.

As we drove towards Imlay (some 20 miles from home), we began to notice how many houses were up for sale...and businesses....and how many of them said "Reduced Price" on them. Lots of these homes for sale looked empty--maybe foreclosed? Someone was arguing with me recently that the whole talk of a recession is some Democrat plot to convince us of hard times so that we will vote for Hillary. LOL. Well, I am not sure there is ANYTHING on this planet that would make me vote for her...but if this is a conspiracy to make us all THINK we are in a recession, they are pretty convincing. I am sure these people are losing their homes out of more than just fear. Things are hard for families. Many families are trying desperately to tighten their belts. Some are finding that they are so overextended, especially with their mortgage, that they are going to lose everything and they can't do much about it.I know...I get lots of emails on this topic from desperate families asking about saving money.

On they way home, we started to count with tally marks how many houses actually were for sale...we counted 104 for sale signs, including 23 businesses, and 49 "price reduced" signs...and we are in a very rural area. It was something like 1 in 6 or 7 pieces of property up for sale that we passed.

We started to praise God that we never lost our house (the repo appraiser did come by once, but thankfully we were able to get out of that situation!). We were praising God for friends of ours who, while in a worse situation than us, didn't lose their house either (but it was close--the repo man came by a few times). We were thanking God for His provision. We were thanking God for showing us what it means to trust in Him as Jehovah Jireh. We were praying for all of the other families here in Michigan (and elsewhere) on the verge of losing everything.

Last night, our pastor spoke on seeing with the eyes of Elisha (2 Kings 6:8-18). So many times we look at these signs of despair around us, and we are like Elisha's servant--only seeing the Syrian armies around us. However, when we are walking in faith and looking through the eyes of faith, we see with the eyes of Elisha, and we realize that God has already sent His protecting angels in chariots of fire to surround us.

Afterwards, I shared with someone what God was showing Martin and I, and they cynically said that they didn't really think that it looked like we were being taken care of...after all, the Van still is in bad shape, and we have no money in savings, and in a few years our oldest will be ready for college but there is no college fund with which to pay for that education...and so on and so forth...

...but really, God is able to provide for us no matter what it looks like...if God wants her to go to college, He'll provide for that. We seek Him often about that topic!!! I know that the van will eventually be cared for ;) I would rather not go without it...but if I have to, I have to. It really isn't a "need" necessary as it feels. And, as much as God wants us to be good stewards of what He has provided, we don't get brownie points for how much we have in savings, but rather how we spend what He has given to us. Not that I don't get discouraged about stuff like this...I need those faith builders just as much as anyone else. I've had pity parties, and I have had crying fits over this stuff....but God...oh, but GOD is so faithful, and the peace that passes all understanding just pours over us and we realize it really is WELL with my soul!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Defending the Faith Sunday (Oct. 28th, 2007)

This week, I read an article (wish I had it now) about a scientist whose work is often quoted in creation science books and articles, who noted back in the 1960s about the unlikelihood of life just happening...the man is an evolutionist, incidentally. Well, last week there was an article about him recanting his whole paper that he wrote on that topic because of how disheartened he was about the creationists "misusing" his research. He basically said that his paper there was not very serious, and downplayed the importance of it.

When someone is confronted with the reality of God at work, and hears the gospel and/or sees miracles happen before his or her eyes, they have two choices--they can choose to believe or not. Sometimes when you take evangelism courses, much is covered about apologetics (the extra=biblical evidences for the Christian faith), but the truth is, if you have ever talked to someone who is hard hearted, some people don't really care if there is evidence or not. They will even get angry, start to cuss or even get violent...they don't want to be confused with facts.

Even someone like Darwin, who titled one of his chapters of Origin of Species, "The PROBLEM with the Fossil Record" (the chapter laments the fact that no proof exists---yet---to prove his insane claims, only the proof of natural selection within species), will reject truth if it doesn't line up with what they want to believe. He'd rather wish that some day we might find proof to back up his ideas, than believe in a Creator.

For the record, no proof has ever been found. A few times a "missing link" was found only to be later disproved. If however, life existed for billions of years, would we not expect the fossil record to be FULL of transitory creatures? No such creatures exist...but I don't have time to go into all of that now.

I read this quote this week which I think sums it up quite well: "Even if a miracle should be wrought in the open marketplace before a thousand sober witnesses, I would rather doubt my senses than admit a miracle" (Voltaire, French Philosopher).

And you thought science was about observing and classifying facts! Silly you! Not everyone who claims that they believe in infallible science and not so-called "blind faith" religion is being honest about that.

This sort of thing has been going on since the beginning of time...even on the day of Pentecost, 120 people get filled with the Holy Ghost and start speaking in other languages which the audience can understand as their own home dialects, and the skeptics immediately think they are drunk. Oh, sure, don'tcha know that when you get drunk you can always speak in foriegn lanaguages. LOL (as was pointed out during a recent Bible Institute class I was in)

Some people would rather you not confuse them with logic or facts.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Everything I ever wanted to know about car maintenence (but was afraid to ask)

Today was spent with my mother and her husband, who graciously helped my husband fix a few of the more minor things on the van. J. is an interesting guy. He builds antique cars from parts he has bought in junkyards and on Ebay...including a Model T and a beautiful VW. He knows more about cars and cart maintenence than I ever thought possible...

When I asked a simple question ("is it possible to fix struts and shocks on a van at home or is it best left to the pros?") I got a lengthy, informative lecture about the exact functions of the various parts of a van, how they all work together, what shocks and struts actually do and how they may break down over time (and the various things that may have gone wrong), and so on and so forth. I took about 4 pages of notes while I talked to him on the phone the other day, and finally asked him if he could just show us how to do it...and in exchange for finding out what was wrong with his computer, he agreed for us to come over, and do some auto shop in his garage.

As he looked at the old shock/strut from the van, he asked us when the last time we greased it. Uh.....never? Were we supposed to grease it? Why don't they tell us these things?!?! He said that it should be done at the time of each oil change....and that most places should do it, but you should ask anyway. From the looks of ours, it has not been greased in a very long time.

He looked at our transmission too (after giving me a very detailed description of the various parts and functions of the transmission, and how to maintain one, and of course all of the different things that might go wrong with a transmission, of course). Apparently, some cars have only certain kinds of Transmission Fluid that can be used with them (that would have been handy to know!). Then there's the fact that when the transmission fluid gets too hot, it gets thick and sludgy, causing things to malfunction or to not function optimally, and eventually causing you to be sitting by the side of the road watching traffic fly by you, waiting for a tow truck. Our next task is going to be to drain the transmission fluid and refill it with fresh, to see if that will help the situation. We were going to do that today, but it took 6 hours to do both shocks, and when we went to start on the trans, we realized they had given us the wrong sized filter at the auto parts store. Another day, I guess.

It was nice to drive home without bouncing down the road. ;) Thank God for some help!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Praise God for Power (electric, spiritual, and all other)

I'm going to try this by writing my post first and then copying and pasting it into this happy little box. The reason why? Because for the last two days, every time I was about to update my blog, we've had a power outage. As far as I can tell, I am not doing anything in particular to cause it--just coincidence.

Today, we returned home from our homeschooling co-op only to find that the lights were off. Because we have had complications with the wiring in our house and our fuse box before I went to the neighbors to make sure it was not just me. ;). She said that the power went out and a few minutes later, the fire trucks went by. Our power was out for several hours, and because it is so gray here today, we really couldn't do much of anything. It was quite dark in our house! I couldn't even warm up a cup of coffee in a microwave. I couldn't even get some water, as our water comes from a well (with an eletrical pump).

Thankfully, it is back on, and so we are busy trying to do some cleaning up and further work on some research reports everyone has been assigned. Each of our kids is doing a report on a different country, and we're going to be getting together with some other families to have a night of international food and presentations. The kids, largely working on the computer, have been quite distressed over the power going out while typing reports or doing research, though Edison assures me they think they fixed it this time.

Co-op went well, though I forgot my chess pages (d'oh!). I have written up some chess stuff for my students who are all quite new to chess. I was so excited about doing the chess class, but then after losing a few times to my son, I became concerned that maybe I wasn't qualified anymore. I think I lost brain cells when I had kids ;). I used to be able to beat my husband in chess but now I can't even beat my son.

I also have a cartooning class, for which I feel infinitely more qualified. I will be getting a cartoon strip together pretty soon to put up on my blog regularly (It is about a momma having kids, cats, and dogs and the funny things that occur in a normal day).

I really enjoy teaching kids how to draw. There are so few good books out there for that purpose (at least ones that go beyond the very basics). For example, I couldn't find too many cartooning books that had good information on shading, so I had to write my own. Good thing I'm an author LOL. Anyway, next semester, we are going to tackle how to write cartoons. Now THERE's a topic I have not seen AT ALL, and I am still trying to develop my own thoughts of how to explain to them what I know in a way that they can both do it and understand it. You really learn a subject better when you have to think about teaching it.

Speaking of my dead brain cells, I also remember being very good at math when I was younger. I nearly aced the SAT and I did ace the ACT, and I took (and passed) a placement test for Calculus. However, yesterday I found myself trying to help my 14 year old understand those idiotic algebra word problems about Suzy being in a car travelling so many miles per hour in one direction, and Mary being in a car driving the other way, and when will they meet...blah blah blah. My daughter put it well when she asked what the real world application is. I'm turning 38 on Monday, and I still don't know what the application is for those. Math is all around us, and we use so much of what we learned when we need to calculate yardages for fabric, or figure out how many ceramic tiles we need for the floor and things like that....but the ones about the two trains going in different directions... I still don't get it. I feel sorry for parents who didn't like or didn't do well in Algebra.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Frugal Fiesta Day!

We had spaghetti for dinner tonight....I had to get up to church early for handbell choir, and as such had to make something quickly and easily. However, yesterday we had a frugal fiesta here at the Eddy's....TACOS!

No, don't buy the kits...those are expensive. ;)

I don't make my own taco shells either---not quite so from scratch around here! (does anyone make their own? I'd be interested in hearing about it)

I have found that buying taco shells from my handy dandy bulk food place helps keep the price of tacos down (25 shells for just $1.89, or just $0.08 each.)Sometimes, when taco shells are on sale, they can be quite affordable too.

The other ingredients we need: 1 lb of ground beef or turkey (cost between $0.99-1.69, depending on sales), 1 can of tomato sauce ($0.43), 1 can of tomato paste ($0.20), oregano, thyme, onion soup mix (purchased in bulk--1 lb for $2.39--I only need 1 T of that), cilantro, coriander, cumin, paprika, ground red pepper.....You could also just use chili powder in lieu of all of those spices, but don't leave out the T of onion soup mix :-), 1 onion ($0.22), lettuce ($0.30), tomato (from garden), cheese (about $1.30 worth), Sour cream (about $.75 worth) and any other toppings. I also use 2 c. of refried beans (instructions follow), made from some of the 50 pound bag of refried beans I bought at the bulk food place for just $12.00.

Begin by making the filling: I use a cast iron skillet (you could use any other heavy bottomed skillet, and begin to saulte 1 diced onion, with all of the spices (except the onion soup mix), until the onion is lightly browned, and add the ground meat. Brown the meat. Drain off any grease. Pour in 1 can of tomato sauce and 1 can of tomato paste, plus 1T of onion soup mix. I also add 1 cilantro ice cube (fresh cilantro, minced and then frozen into ice cube trays to keep it fresh).

to make refried beans, purree 2 c. of cooked pinto or black beans, along with 1 onion, some minced garlic, chili powder, and a pinch of salt. heat a heavy skillet or cast iron skillet, add just enough oil to keep it from sticking, and begin to cook the bean puree over medium high heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Season to taste.

If you plan to make tacos more than once in a blue moon, it may be a good idea to buy some of these cool little taco shell holders. They usually have them hanging up in the same aisle as the taco shells in the grocery store.

To put some sour cream into the taco shells, put it into a freezer bag, and cut off a corner of the bag, using it as a pastry bag, to squeeze the sour cream into your tacos. Plain yogurt may also be used.

The kids like to help decorate the tacos, so there is no shortage of helpers....I usually have them lined up, assembly line style---one doing the sour cream, one doing the meat sauce and refried beans, one doing the lettuce, one doing the other toppings.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

On the Other Hand....Moms staying and eating at home

Another fascinating article that I found interesting:

For the first time since June Cleaver donned pearls and aprons in the 1950s, the percentage of women choosing to work outside the home has been flat to down for several years running. Not coincidentally, the number of meals purchased at restaurants per person has stopped growing too, for the longest sustained stretch in the 23 years NPD Group has tracked the number.

Women's participation rate in the paid U.S. labor force topped out at just above 60% in 1999 and again in 2001 but has fallen since then, according to the Labor Department.
.....For restaurants, it means an end to a demographic gold mine that fed decades of growth. ...."It's fascinating because it's counterintuitive," said John Glass, restaurant analyst for CIBC World Markets....
by Jack Neff. Read more Here

I found this one interesting because just as it is getting harder and harder to make ends meet, women in the workforce is going down? Why?

One statistic that I have always found thought-provoking (and found to be true in my own life) is that when a woman goes off to work, unless she is making a very good salary, most of the time it costs her more to work than to stay home. Think about it...gas prices (see the previous blog post for a quote about that), convenience foods and take out meals (as noted here), clothing fit to wear to work, possibly dry cleaning expenses to go with office clothes, and then there's daycare/babysitting expenses. Your taxes and tithes also go up when you work. All of those little things that an at home mom can take care of have to be dealt with by someone, and sometimes one needs to pay for those tasks to be completed (gardening/landscaping, laundry, cooking, etc.).

Perhaps with the cost of living, it has gotten to be too expensive to work?

A friend of mine and I were discussing though the fact that while restaurant meals are on the decline, take out at the grocery store (such as from the deli) is on the rise. We it because few families really know how to cook? Or, should I say, cook well?

I wonder. Any thoughts?

Newsflash! Living Paycheck to Paycheck Gets Harder

"NEW YORK (AP) - The calculus of living paycheck to paycheck in America is getting harder.What used to last four days might last half that long now. Pay the gas bill, but skip breakfast. Eat less for lunch so the kids can have a healthy dinner. Across the nation, Americans are increasingly unable to stretch their dollars to the next payday as they juggle higher rent, food and energy bills. It's starting to affect middle-income working families as well as the poor, and has reached the point of affecting day-to-day calculations of merchants like Wal-Mart Stores Inc., 7-Eleven Inc. and Family Dollar Stores Inc.

Food pantries, which distribute foodstuffs to the needy, are reporting severe shortages and reduced government funding at the very time that they are seeing a surge of new people seeking their help. While economists debate whether the country is headed for a recession, some say the financial stress is already the worst since the last downturn at the start of this decade....In the meantime, rising costs show no signs of abating.

Gas prices hit a record nationwide average of $3.23 per gallon in late May before receding a little, though prices are expected to soar again later this year. Food costs have increased 4.5 percent over the past 12 months, partly because of higher fuel costs. Egg prices were 44 percent higher, while milk was up 21.3 percent over the past 12 months to nearly $4 a gallon, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average family of four is spending anywhere from $7 to $10 extra a week—$40 more a month—on groceries alone, compared to a year ago, according to retail consultant Burt Flickinger III." (by Anne D'Innocenzio for AP)

Here's an interesting article I read, that falls under the catagory of, "Well, duh" Then again, maybe it is just now that those who make more than the average family are noticing it more.

The pinch!! We've been in it now, as a family, since 2001. We bought our house in 1998, and we were so proud of ourselves, and our wisdom: we paid far less than what the bank told us we could "afford" (had we bought anything more than what we did, we'd be in a cardboard box right now). Financial advice point number one: never buy what they say you can afford--buy the best house that suits your needs at the most reasonable price you can find, even if that means moving a little further out of the suburbs--you don't know what the future holds, and all debt is a gamble on the future staying as it is right now or getting better. Now, if we were to run one of those analysis on our finances, I think the bankers would tell us we can't afford the house we have. LOL Thanks be to God for His grace in this area....He truely has shown Himself to me to be Jehovah Jireh, my provider.

I've actually gotten used to the fact that in 2001 my husband's income plummeted while our expenses began their ascent up the mountain (our annual income was cut down to about 1/3rd of what it was the previous year. yeah, ouch!). Several friends around the same time also went through a pinch too, and some even lost jobs altogether. Through the last 6 years of this experience, we have been taught of the Lord how to be content, and how to be better stewards, and again, I can only praise Him for that...because my flesh was saying other things...

The interesting thing is that those who were unaffected years ago by this are now starting to feel the pinch too. For a while I had friends who were thankfully unaffected by what was going on, and who couldn't understand how I couldn't afford $20 for piano lessons each week for the kids when that was such a good deal, or why I bought the cheap groceries though they were not necessarily the healthiest (because, the alternative was fasting--which I also did a few times during that time!). Now they are needing to learn how to tighten down more and more as their income goes down while prices go up. This is part of the reason why I am endeavoring to do the regular blog posts about what's for dinner at my house, and how much it cost, so as to spark some ideas in those of you who are struggling in this area.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Mock French Bread Pizza

On Friday of last week we had some French Bread pizza for dinner. This is another relatively easy thing to make for dinner, and it can be made even more inexpensively (albeit more time consuming) if you make your own bread. Mine is called Mock French Bread because I didn't do it exactly---I didn't let it sit in the fridge overnight to develop a more sourdough flavor, and I added some seasonings to the dough.

I especially like to make this when I see French Bread Baguettes on sale at the store for a small amount. This works fine with day old bread because you are baking it anyways, and with the sauce on it, a little bit of stale isn't as noticeable. You can use bread heels from homemade bread (or store bought), or bagels, or pretty much any other sort of bread too, for a fast, somewhat healthy, and affordable dinner. I don't make this kind of pizza often (usually I make the flat variety which is not as time consuming) but this was a special request by my darling, who loves fresh whole wheat french bread pizza--with bacon. LOL (so much for healthy).

The ingredients were as follows (with approx. prices):

Wheat Berries (about $0.60/2 lbs, purchased in a 50 lb. bag for $18.00)
Yeast (about $.10, purchased in a 1 lb bag for $1.99)
Dried seasonings: dried minced onions, dried minced garlic, marjoram leaves, rosemary leaves (all purchased in bulk)
Tomato Sauce (1 can=$0.49)
Tomato Paste (1 can = $0.20--they were on sale 5 for a $1 so I stocked up)
A Basil Ice Cube (more on that later---grown in the garden)
1 onion
3 slices of bacon (about $0.40--it was 16 slices for $1.89 at a meat market)
Mozerella Cheese (1/2 lb = $1.50)

I started off making my bread:
I ground 8 cups of wheat berries in my Whispermill. That isn't totally necessary. I like fresh wheat bread, but I've also made it with white flour too.

Next, I mixed 4 c. of warm water, 3 c. of flour, and 2T of yeast together, and let them sponge for about 15 minutes. Afterward, I added some spices to the bread dough, such as minced onion, minced garlic, and rosemary, just to give it some added flavor, before adding the remainder of the flour one cup at a time.

I kneaded the dough on a lightly floured countertop until it was nice and elastic. Kneading is NOT just to "mix" the dough ingredients. The action of kneading dough helps gluten strands to form in the dough, giving it structure for when it rises. Gluten in the protein found in grains such as wheat, and that is why for yeast breads, one uses hard wheat, as it is higher in gluten.

Let the dough rise in a lightly oiled bowl in a warm spot, until doubled in size, and then punch the dough down. Shape the dough into baguettes, and slash the tops of them with a sharp knife. Let these also rise until doubled (about one hour).

To bake, first preheat the oven to 400F with a pan of water in the bottom of the oven (For steam). After the oven has preheated, bake like this for 15 minutes, then remove the pan of water and lower the heat to 350, and continue to bake for another 30 minutes (or until golden brown).

While the Bread is baking, prepare your sauce and toppings. My sauce contains onions, fresh basil (see note below), marjoram, garlic, a can of tomato sauce, and tomato paste. The toppings included some bacon (my dh's favorite), onions, cheese, and a few green peppers from the garden.

Basil cubes? ?Yep! That's how I store my basil. When it is time to harvest the basil (Which tastes WAY better fresh than dried), I process it in the food processor, and put it into ice cube trays to freeze. When frozen, I remove the cubes and store them in freezer baggies. The ice cubes are about 1T of fresh minced basil, and can be used in sauces, or anything else. This works well for most fresh herbs.

After the bread is done and has cooled slightly, I slice them open, and decorate the pizzas, first with sauce, then cheese, and other toppings. The pizzas then go back into the oven just long enough to melt the cheese.

Strawberry Questions--Answered!

Mrs. H recently wrote:
I was wondering about your strawberry bed. It seems that you are growing these as a perennial, which is something I am interested in. All the books say to plant strawberry crowns, but I can only find strawberry plants in my area. Also, October is when you plant strawberries in Louisiana, so I was wondering if I buy one of those leggy-looking plants, do I just snip off the offshoots and plant them separately into some sort of bed form, or do I plant the whole plant, legs and all?

I can't speak to Lousiana, but up here in Michigan, early in the spring (like, March--when there is often still snow) many nurseries have the crowns (which are also called sets or baby plants or a few other words I can't think of right now).They usually have them bundled like a dead little mass of blackish looking roots, with a rubberband around them. The first time I bought them I doubted that they would grow...but those first ten plants are the ONLY ones I've ever bought since...and I now have around 150 plants. There's some exponential growth for you!

The thing about the strawberry sets is that they are rarely out on the shelves (I assume it is because they look half dead). You may try asking.

If you can't find them, not to worry. Strawberries are easy to transplant, probably because they are planted so shallow. I usually clip off the runners and plant them separately. Amazingly, those shoots will form roots rather quickly when placed on top of some fertile, loose soil, and watered. This is how I've gotten so many strawberry plants. Usually, the first year your strawberry crop will be disappointing--very tiny strawberries. Most books say to pinch them off to let the plant grow stronger (so that the plant doesn't waste energy on making small fruits), but we let them grow anyway. We were impatient ;).The first year, you should also pinch off runners so that they don't grow, while the plant is maturing.

When planting strawberries, it would be helpful to look online or in a good gardening book to see exactly how deep to plant the strawberry plant. That is the one are where strawberries are fussy.

As your plants grow and start to send off runners, I have found it useful to use peat pots or some extra little containers to catch the runners in. I fill them up with moist soil, and place them under the runners so that they will root in the cup. When they have developed some roots, I snip them, and plant them where I want them to go. Doing this, I have continuously developed a long bed of strawberries. I have also replaced any berry plants that died in this way, and shared strawberry plants with others.

One more thing: everbearing strawberries create fruit throughout the growing season, but Junebearing only produce fruit in June. I am not sure if it is like that everywhere (I assume so as most gardening books refer to these two main classifications), but that is good to know when deciding what kind to get. :-)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Thank You!

The firesale is over, and I wanted to express my thanks.

I didn't make enough to fix the transmission, but thankfully someone from church did something to it to make it run for a little while longer. His comment was "Don't drive unless necessary in this, but for the time being, it will at least get you to the necessary places. BUT...don't wait too long to get it fixed"...okay, so that is the game plan! We're going to save up for the transmission (all I want for Christmas is a new transmission, honey!). For my birthday, my mom's husband is going to install my shock absorbers which I was able to buy with the fire sale money so I don't bounce and shake as I drive anymore. Those have been broken for a year now...but at the urging of some friends who don't like the noises my van makes...I'm fixing those now.

I am so thankful to the Lord for providing me with a van in the first place...I know a lot of families don't have two vehicles--maybe some of you! I think it would be more expensive for us to have one vehicle, as a vehicle that fits our whole family would be pricey for my husband to drive to work each day. Vans don't get as good of gas milage as little Saturns do. We were without a vehicle for a while in our family, and only my dh had a car to go to work in. We missed going to church as a family, and were so thankful when God provided this van, even with it's many miles and funny noises ;)

We had a storm at our house the other day...well not at our house but near us. There were tornadoes near us--scary! You probably heard about it on the news. The baby that was found in his crib under the rubble when the house was blown apart by the twister is not very far from we have spent most of the weekend cleaning up the yard. While out there, I finally decided to plant some bulbs that were on sale (love them sales!)...I have tulips, daffodils, and crocuses. I already have quite a few planted, but there were some spots where I felt like I could use some more color in the spring. I also dug up some irises, separating them, and replanting them in other places. Somehow a large patch of irises and lamb's ear has encroached on my strawberry bed, so I am digging that up and putting it elsewhere.

Coming soon...more dinner time photos, including Tacos and French Bread Pizza. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Just 9 Hours Left!

Just 9 more hours left on my fire sale!!! Did you get your special package ordered yet? $120 worth of downloadable products for just $24.95!

Family Fitness Thursday! 10/18

The teens are taking a digital photography class in the area with a homeschool mom, which has afforded them much exercise--walking around with a camera is still walking, and it is exercise without realizing it. Anything that gets you outside and moving! Maybe I'll post some of their photos soon.

As for the rest of us, we are continuing with our program of walking, light weight training and stretching. We were able to add some reps and sets to the weight training and stretching because it was getting "too easy". Everything I've read about exercise indicates that doing reps and sets while exercising, instead of just doing some round number like "20" is better for you. For example, when we do arm curls with the 3lb weights (the little one uses a 1lb weight), I do five with one arm, then five with the other arm, and I do that 4 times. So...4 sets of 5 reps. It gives you some rest between. Check it out online for more information.

As for progress...I'm a total boot freak...I love wearing boots! However, when you are a "Certain weight" it is not possible to wear (and zip up) tall boots (which I love to wear with skirts/dresses in the winter). Well, progress: I can wear boots that go to my knees--and zip them up all the way. to be fair, my calves weren't huge as I've seen others--most of my weight is in the middle and my legs looked actually skinny compared to the rest of me...but now they have apparently gotten much toner. Yippie.

I'd love to say it's the potato soup, but I think it would be more accurate to say it is IN SPITE OF the potato soup. LOL

Pototo Soup (again)

We made potato soup again for dinner, and since everyone who reads this seemed interested in learning more, my dd decided to photograph the cooking process. Please excuse the messy stovetop ;) You don't realize just how messy your stove is until you take pictures of it. LOL

Why potato soup AGAIN? Because it is too YUMMY!!! Besides that, I purchased a 50 pound back of potatoes at Country View last week, for just $2.49...and this is one easy, delicious, and family favorite fall soup that we make....and I could easily eat it every day of the week, as could my husband and kids. I calculated the approximate cost of making it, and came to the conclusion that this is an under $1 dinner:

about 5 lbs of potatoes (0.24, when purchased in the 50 lb bag)
a handful of flour (about .10)
1 c. of milk (about 0.30)
1 carrot (from the garden--maybe a few cents?)
1 onion (also from the garden--about 2 cents)
rosemary and parsley from the garden (they grow without assistance now--so free)
1 slice of turkey bacon (16 slices in a 1 lb package for $1.89---.12)
pinch of salt--less than a penny.
1T of oil or butter (depends on what oil you use--I used butter, so about $.20)

Day old bread (store bought of homemade) can be added as croutons, and a half a handful of cheese on each bowl (also optional) may raise the price up to $1.50-2.00 (depending on the cheese). Someone gave us the brick of cheese, so for us it was free.

Less than the price of a large order of fries at McDonalds and much better for you too!

I start out by peeling, cubing and cooking the potatoes. DON'T pour off the water as the starch helps it to thicken later on.

In your soup pot, cook your slice of bacon. Remove and finely mince, and set aside. Add some additional oil/butter if needed. Saulte 1 onion and 1 carrot (finely minced). You can add celery too.

Next, add 1 handful of flour. Stir until a paste forms, then add about 2 c. of milk. Obviously I'm not measuring here.

Simmer that, stirring frequently, until it becomes quite thick. Next, pour in your potatoes in their cooking liquid. If it appears you need more liquid, add hot water! At this point you can add some other seasonings too, such as chicken boullion.

I like fresh herbs in mine, so I trotted off to my (needs-badly-to-be-weeded) herb garden for some fresh parsley and rosemary for the soup. Dried is fine but really is awesome. Might as well enjoy it while the plants are still thriving at the end of the growing season!

Back indoors, I took the sprig of rosemary, and running my fingers along it, I stripped off the leaves. I picked out any big stems out of the parsley too. I took a large chefs knife, and minced them on a cutting board.

I add the rosemary to the pot, and some of the parsley, but reserve some parsley for garnish. I also, at this point, add the bacon, finely minced. You can also leave some of that out for a garnish.

I don't known about you, but I like bread with my soup. We had some sandwich bread from the store (we all agree mine is best--but it had been too hot to bake until this week...), cut into quarters. I heated my tortilla skilled (cast iron) which is well seasoned, and I toasted the pieces on the skilled so that they were like croutons. If you don't have a well seasoned cast iron skillet you may need to either use nonstick or lightly oil either the bread or the skillet. Using a brush and olive oil works good.

As you can see from the very top photo, this is best served in a mug, with one of the "croutons" placed on top, some cheese, and some of the fresh parsley.

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fire Sale update 10/16

The fire sale will be ending in just a few days. You only have until Thursday, October 18th to take advantage of the 25% off, and of the $120 worth of products we have available for just $24.95 as I raise money to fix my van. (I really wish transmissions wouldn't go in both cars at once! ack!)

There was some problems with the links originally, and those have been fixed. Everything should be working well now, but if you are unable to download something, please let me know right away so I can fix that. kimberly at joyfulmomma dot org

Are Right Wingers Hard Hearted?

I was just reading an article that someone sent me the link to. It actually made me both sad and mad at the same time. Mad, because of the broad-brush characterizations (especially in the comments!) and sad because I know it to be true of some conservatives, and especially of conservative politicians. It's an interesting read.

The article was basically an interview with Paul Krugman (author of "The Conscience of a Liberal") by Mark Karlin, and the title of the interview was (cringe) "Why do Right-wingers Mock Attempts to Care for Other People?"

He makes some valid points in some areas, as do some of the commenters. They are right in that most conservatives (especially conservative Christians) come across as unloving, uncaring, and unconcerned about the hardships of others (usually unintentionally or because they have been blessed to the point of not knowing hardship the way someone in poverty does). The point was made that no one cares about how bad a politician is for the middle class as long as he parrots the words that he is pro life. I've been saying as much for years. Some politicians seem to use that to get votes, knowing that morally we'd never vote against someone who is against abortion. We need to look at their whole record!

The thing that gets me though is the idea that being against social programs is a lack of generosity. Social welfare is generosity with other people's money. It's easy to be helpful and even extravagant in your aid if you are not the one paying the bill. Don't you think those who pay the bill would want some say in how it's spent? How many one income families are thrilled to pay taxes to pay for the daycare of working mothers? How many of us like tightening our budgets, to the point of doing without air conditioning, only to hear that our tax dollars are buying those who are choosing not to work air conditioning?

I was totally offended by the implication of racism. Couldn't be less true (at least up here in the North)

But, getting back to the point....

Call me a cynic but I have noticed that the only thing liberal and conservative politicians can agree on is raising taxes and voting themselves pay raises. They just raised our taxes here in Michigan after Gov. Granholm shut down the government when they couldn't' balance the budget. If I balanced my books the way they balance theirs, I'd be in trouble!!! Maybe they should all take Accounting 101 again. Or read "Budgeting for Dummies".

The way I see it, Liberals tax us to death to give handouts to those they think deserve more. The conservatives give tax breaks to the rich and cancel social programs. Both groups are bone heads. LOL

I'm not too crazy about social programs because I don't think it is a good thing to always have your hand out, and the whole Robin Hood thing is still stealing even if the money goes to "a good cause". There's also a lot of restrictions that make it difficult if not impossible to get out of the poverty cycle once you are in there. I've watched this with my neighbor who lost benefits for being a good steward and putting a little bit into savings. Besides that, no one asked me if I wanted to support crack moms who can't keep their legs together, pay for daycare for working moms, and in some cases, pay for abortions or abortifacent drugs through medicare. Mr. Krugman acknowledges that conservatives only want to help the moral. Well, sort of. I don't like my money going to someone who is going to smoke it, snort it or waste it any more than I like it going to some politician's fancy new house on Martha's Vineyard. When I help people (and I've done it QUITE A FEW TIMES), I try to do more than give them a band aid. I try to really HELP. I give money, food, and so forth, but I also give guidance in budgeting, guidance in starting a business, guidance in having a garden (I've even given garden space!), and tried to help the one who needs help not to get back in a bad spot again. It's that whole "teach a man to fish" thing. Giving the fish is easier, cheaper, less time consuming in the short term...but teaching them is much more beneficial to them and society in the long term.

However, the way things were, as Mr. Krugman points out, before the New Deal were not rosy either. There are plenty of people who have no friends, family, or support system willing or able to help them during hard times. Life happens, and sometimes there are those who lose jobs, or fall on hard times for other reasons need a little help. Just removing the safety net all at once while not making other changes is not exactly helpful to hardworking families.

Universal health care is another one that I wrestle with. I've been without health care and that isn't fun. On the other hand, I used to live in Austria, where I got to experience the wonders of socialized medicine. And you thought HMO's were bad!?!? Instead of getting care with a big fat bill attached (As is the American model), everyone gets the same poor-to-mediocre care, unless you are rich enough to buy yourself the care you want. Taxes are so high it is hard to get ahead. Up until 3 months ago, I had no insurance either. It's no picnic, but at least we still have the freedom to choose what to do about it. The time is coming where we will be fined, as they are in Massachusetts, for not having health insurance, or when we will be taxed into poverty to pay for health care whether we want it or not. But hey, health care would be free, right?

I think the bottom line of my weird little ramble here is summed up in a few points:
1. Liberals and conservative people both want to help others but differ on the best way to do it.
2. Politicians are totally out of touch with the working class and thus have no clue how to help real live families. When family values becomes about things like gay marriage, instead of about helping in a practical way the majority of working class households (and not discriminating against those households where someone stays home and raised the children) becomes a campaign slogan not a conviction. Personally I long for the day when politicians are not allowed to earn over the poverty level, so as to help them think through better solutions to our nation's problems.
3. Generosity is important--but be sure to only be generous with your own resources, and not everyone else's.

Monday, October 15, 2007

It's so cold in Michigan today that.... kids have a CD in the stereo belting out "It's the most wonderful time of the year....." and "The Carol of the Bells"....

Maybe we need some creamy potato soup for dinner tonight??

My new favorite recipe for pototo soup (based on how my friend makes hers which is better than how I used to make it!) makes the soup extra creamy.

Start by peeling and cubing about 10 potatoes, covering them in water, and cooking them until fork-tender (do NOT spill out the liquid!).

In a stock pot, cook up 2 strips of bacon (if you are being healthy, turkey bacon works well--I actually think it has a better texture for soup!). Remove the bacon onto paper towels. If you used regular bacon, drain off excess grease, leaving only enough to saulte 1 onion. If you used turkey bacon, add a touch of olive oil. chop up 1-2 onions, and saulte until slightly browned. Add 1 finely chopped carrot, and 1 finely chopped stalk of celery, and cook until tender. Stir in 1T of flour, then stir in 1c. of milk. Keep stirring until it starts to thicken, then pour in the potatoes and their cooking liquid (Which is rich in starch!). Add some chicken, vegetable, or beef boullion (optional). Season with parsley, salt and pepper to taste.

We love to serve this in mugs, topped with croutons or bread cubes (great for day old bread), crumpled bacon from earlier, chives, scallions, and cheese. Yummy!!!

Chosen and Accepted----by GOD!

We had a great day at church yesterday. Most of the time, I always Intend to blog about what God was showing me in church, but so often that does not happen! I get so busy with *LIFE* that I forget to share ;). In Sunday School, we are going through the book of Ephesians. We were in Ephesians 1:3-6 yesterday. There was a lot of meat there!!

When you really stop and think about it, what an amazing thought that God has chosen and accepted us into His family--and that His acceptance of us is not based on our performance but on what Christ has done! I think that latter part many of us struggle with the most.We will say we were saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9) but we live as though our works will be what keeps us saved. However, if we weren't good enough to earn salvation, how on earth can we possibly be good enough to keep it on our own? Such a thing just isn't possible!

My husband and I were involved in lots of different churches over the years...we were just talking about it, but we have been at our current church the longest! That's a scary thought, as I still feel so new; however, we've been here for almost 7 years. There are a lot of variations on this teaching. I've been in churches where you could feel both saved and lost dozens of times each day--every errant thought sent you back to damnation. I've been in churches where only the "really big sins" made your salvation unsteady. I've been in churches on the other end where, because of God's grace, we were told we weren't supposed to change anything of our lifestyle or do anything the Bible teaches because we're saved already. So many teachings...and yet they didn't sit right with me as neither seems to me to be teaching the character and heart of our Lord. Is He a mean, abusive Father who stands over us with a big stick, waiting to beat on us for messing up and rejecting us the second we don't keep a standard only His Son has been able to keep? Is He a jolly Santa figure, who plays the permissive parent, and delights to let us run wild because "it's all grace, anyways"? Or is He a firm yet loving parent, guiding us step by step, loving us even when we fail, but loving us enough to gently chastise us when we go astray, and lead us in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake?

Maybe it has something to do with upbringing too--that is how we were raised affects how we view God. Growing up I heard "I love you" a lot, but I didn't feel loved or accepted.There was verbal abuse that undermined any affect those three empty words ever did in my heart. For a long time, it was hard to accept that God did in fact love me unconditionally, that he didn't dismiss my hearts desires with a cruel "Don't be so foolish!" and realizing that He didn't look down on me with a look of rejection whenever I screwed up. I think everyone's upbringing, to one way or another, colors how they view God until they mature in the faith to the point where they know God well enough to know His character is contrary to the flawed ways earthly parents raise their children.

In churches where eternal insecurity (the doctrine that you can lose your salvation) is taught, usually the argument is made that if we are saved by grace, what reason would we have to obey God? How about love of a father? Imagine this: if you were a teenager, and your daddy indicated to you that every time you messed up he was turning his back on you, and no longer your father, what sort of feelings would you have for that guy? If you are like me, you'd say, FINE! I'll take my chances down at the soup kitchen and homeless shelter, and you'd move out. If you aren't so outspoken, you'd maybe silently resent that, and leave as soon as you were old enough or maybe harbor some bitterness. You'd NOT be motivated by love to please your daddy. If you obeyed at all, it would be just to keep a roof over your head. However, if you know that you are loved even if you were a teenager, and you came home to tell your parents you were pregnant or if you called them from the county jail for stealing cars, you'd probably be more motivated NOT to screw up and disappoint them. For a while, believing that God would cast me out if I were to mess up "too badly", I lived paralyzed in that fear of rejection. When I did mess up, I usually didn't quickly grovel back to Him...I ran from Him. I messed up and have lost my salvation, so time to live like an unsaved person for a few days (or months)! However, when I know that God, in His mercies, loves and accepts me, and sent His son Jesus to die on the cross for my sins (that is, every sin I ever committed and will commit!), then of course I am going to not want to disappoint my heavenly father.

My heart's desire is to please Him, and to bring Glory to His name. I so often fail...but He still loves me. Father God looks at me and sees Christ's blood instead of my failures. We thrive in the security we have as believers. We are not worried about earning God's love, or performing. Practical truth in light of positional truth, we were taught yesterday, means that I have freedom to live securely in Christ. Amen and amen!

Friday, October 12, 2007

the Joyful Momma fire sale...6 days left!

Well, day one is nearly a close of my fabulous fire sale!

To see if I can raise some extra cash to repair the van (after hubby just had to have his transmission in his car replaced recently too), I am marking everything dramatically down(everything is 25% off!)...and not only that, I am offering two special packages for a very low price. Package One has the donated downloadable products of several publishing friends of mine, a well as my own self-published ebooks. It is over $120 in products for just $24.95. The other packaged set contains all of my ebooks on CD-Rom for just $19.95, including shipping. Check it out and tell all of your friends.

Check out the firesale now!

Get a great deal at the Firesale!

I just wanted to let you know, starting today, and until Thursdays, October 18th, 2007, I'm having a fire sale at my bookstore to try to raise some quick cash towards some emergency vehicle expenses we are experiencing. It gets a little expensive when two cars need transmissions and extensive engine work within two months of each other! :-)

What's available in the fire sale?

Well, for starters, everything in my bookstore is 25% off!

Next up, i have two very special packages that will only be available for the next week:

Package One includes over $120 worth of downloadable products (ebooks and an audio), all for just $24.95. These are products that other publishers have generously donated to this firesale to help me out, as well as my own products.

Package Two is a complete collection of all of my ebooks on CD Rom (a value of $52.80) for just $19.95, with free shipping. It's a great deal for those of you with dialup--no downloading!

Be sure to let your friends know about it, too! Thanks!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Exercise doesn't have to be perfect!

Continuing on with Family Fitness Thursdays! Woo hoo. My waistband is getting to be almost TOO loose for a belt, how 'bout you?

I'm glad I am still losing. I was worried for a little while there. This month we tried Angel Food Ministries, and I have decided that while the $25 box of food was nice, it had too many of my culinary temptations in it for me to justify buying it again. I am not in the least someone who will go ga-ga for a candy bar (yuck) but I have very little self control when I have a 10 pound box of frozen popcorn chicken in my freezer. Good thing I'm working out LOL.

Another Email!

I got this email from a reader:

I only get through the warmup part of a workout video before I am too tired to do any more. I'm very out of shape. It doesn't seem like enough exercise though. I read you have to do exercise for at least 20 minutes before you read the spot when you are burning calories. How can I burn enough to make a difference?

Any exercise is better than no exercise at all. (and by any exercise, I mean quantity--make sure you are doing the moves correctly, however slowly you are doing them---moving properly is more important than moving for an hour!

Personally, and keep in mind I am not a doctor, exercise guru (LOL), or fitness expert--just a mom who is taking on the challenge of getting the family moving more----personally I think if all you are doing now is sitting on your behind, then doing just the warmup (and cooldown) parts of an exercise DVD is probably a great place to have to build up to it.

I read a little while ago some article where they decided (after some study) that exercise doesn't burn enough calories to lose weight. I think that is ridiculous, and obviously they never interviewed me LOL.

My own experience (and that of several severely overweight friends who have taken off at least 50 or more pounds) is that you need to both eat well and move your body daily.

Again, I don't have a permanent head damage degree (PhD) in exercise or anything like that, but I have found that it doesn't seem to matter about focusing on how many calories you are burning when you do such and such an exercise. I think it is all pretty relative. The act of being "in oxygen" (aerobically working out--not to be confused with complicated choreography and scantilly clad workout instructors with impossible moves) and of working your muscles (light weight training) seems to do your body good, even if "the charts" (which are not infallible) say I only burned enough to cancel out my fat free salad dressing.

I'm sure you can look this up more on the internet somewhere to have all of the scientific details, but working out (especially weight training) benefits you more when you are resting afterwards than when you are doing it...the results don't just end when your workout does. And, if you are building muscle, it affects how you burn calories. If you are exercising, the hormonal changes that go on as a result of what happens on a biochemical level also contribute to a more efficient (or maybe even a properly functioning) metabolism.

On the other hand...if you are only able to make it through the warm up before you are seriously sucking wind, you are better off stopping there (maybe doing the cool down portion of the workout though!), than forcing yourself to do what some 20 year old fitness guru can do, if you are an out of shape, overweight, 30-something mom of 9. All that I have read on the science of exercise seems to indicate that over exertion can do lots of damage, and undermine your efforts. Again, I'm not someone who has a degree in all of this stuff--I just read a lot. :-)

Bottom line--if you are waiting until you can do the entire 60 minute Tae-bo tape you bought on a daily basis, you should know that the longer you wait the less likely it is that you will even be able to do the warmup itself ,girl!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Van Issues and Great Deals

With living rurally, we use our van quite a bit. It gets us shopping, to homeschool co-op, and to church. Our van was such a blessing when we got it--after years of using a station wagon that we all barely fit in, friends of ours sold us their old van for about the same amount we'd pay for a set of tires--it was amazing. The van had about 300,000 miles on it, but we were grateful just for a van. Well it seems those miles have caught up on the van now....the transmission is going. When I tried to leave this morning for an appointment, the van started but it didn't move anywhere, even after I let it warm up for a while. Tonight, it carried us to church, albeit slowly, and only after warming up for a half an hour. Unfortunately, we just got done sinking money into my husband's work car, and so we quite short on getting the van fixed.

I was praying about this today when the Lord gave me an idea...Starting Friday, there is going to be QUITE an amazing sale at my website. I am not only going to make everything in my store 25% off, I am also going to be selling special bundles of my products and the products of many others who are donating them just for this special sale, to see if I can make enough to take Ol' Bessie into the shop, or maybe even look for a van with less miles on it.

Stay tuned for more details!

email troubles

I wanted to make note that if anyone has emailed me recently (in the last 2 months), and didn't get a response, I just found out that there were some issues with my email. I had to crank up my spam filter because of some VERY nasty stuff in it, and it turns out that some other emails found their way to the spam filter. Some of them I was unable to open. Try emailing me again if you need to. I AM SOOOOOO SORRY.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Frugal Health Food

My family's fitness adventures continue....

Walking and stretching and walking and stretching....we are able to do a mile (a brisk walk around town) in about 10-15 minutes consistently, which is awesome.

I was recently emailed this question:

It seems like healthy food costs more. We are on a very tight budget right now and can't afford to spend more at the grocers. Others have written that it will save money at the doctors, but truth be told we haven't been to the doctors in 5 years either. Do you have any frugal healthy eating tips?

I relate because I've been there and done that. Saving money at the doctors is a mute point when you can't afford the co-pay at the doctors, and therefore don't go unless you are dying. It's been a long time since I've seen a doctor.My kids, praise God, are also very healthy and so we haven't had the need to see the doctor at all in a few years, though we go to the chiropractor occasionally, and we see the dentist.

Healthy food is more expensive if you are already forgoing the pre-packaged junk food aisles and are cooking and eating from scratch to save money. Let's face it--carbs are cheap eats. It's cheaper to buy a bag of potatoes and some boxes of pasta because they can be stretched further, especially if you have a big family. A bag of apples may stretch a whole week for a married couple, but if you have five kids, that is an afternoon's worth of snacks. To buy bananas for the week, we need about 10 lbs of them, and pray that they last that long. I actually buy 7 bags containing 3 heads of romaine each (When there is none left in the garden), and sometimes they last until the next shopping day. Today I was going to have salad, only to find that there was enough lettuce for two bites left. I guess I can rest in the knowledge that my kids prefer salad and fruit to candybars. :-)

However, there are some healthy things that you can buy that are not so expensive.

One of the staples in our diet has always been the cheapest cut of ground beef--it stretches far and is versatile. Well, it is also high in fat and cholesterol too! I was reading online that ground turkey is better for you all around, so I decided to price some out. To my delighted surprise, ground turkey is about 20 cents cheaper than the ground beef (or the same price), and it has a nice taste too.

Real butter, while costing more than margarine, is better for you as it is more natural, though you shouldn't eat too much. Buying that keeps us from using too much of it. If you are buying "generic veggie spread" at 50 cents a pound, you will likely buy more, and use more than buying butter at 1.66 a pound, right?

Buying bags of romaine hearts is also a pretty good value on a healthy salad. Iceberg lettuce, while very low in calories, is also very low in nutrients. Romain has a lot of good things in it as a dark leafy green, and the hearts have a mild flavor. This week, three of those were just $2.38 (regular price), and sometimes they drop down to $1.99 or lower. I find they also keep well.

With other vegetables, I try to see what is on sale or seasonal, as those are usually the best prices. Some weeks we buy a few bags of apples. This may sound silly but we use removable labels, put the kids' names on them, and divide them up evenly so that one child is not eating all of the apples (or other produce). Whatever is on sale--bags of apples, boxes of clementine tangerines, bags of oranges and grapefruit, bananas, pears, plums, and so forth--we buy 2 different sorts of fruit each week for snacks and breakfast.

Cold cereal is very expensive, but some sorts of cereal (Such as no-brand bran flakes) can be relatively inexpensive--$1.50 a box where I shop. I mostly make my own granola, and we often enjoy hot oatmeal in the mornings. Oatmeal fills you up and is good for you. I make it plain and add a slight sprinkling of either cinnamon sugar (emphasis on slight!!!), or maple syrup at the table. Adding sweetner at the table means using less, as the flavor is stronger when it is on the surface.

the other big thing I've found is portion control. When you buy a box of granola bars, sometimes 1 granola bar is the whole portion, not the two or three that are in the individual package (though this varies by package!). When you dish out spaghetti sauce, usually a scant ladle full is a whole portion--not 2 or 3. I find portion control harder when you are cooking for what feels like an army--it's hard to guage when you make a huge amount of food at once. However, if you start measuring at the table you will soon be able to eyeball it better. It really is eye opening.