Monday, October 15, 2007

The Patriarchs

This week in our studies of Ancient Civilizations we are discussing the birth of the Hebrew nation. The kids (Jared on down) have opted to sleep outside in the tent this week to get a taste for the nomadic lifestyle. We're not sure they'll make it.

We certainly had fun putting the tent up.

Do you think Abraham and Lot ever had to rotate their tent's opening or did it really matter out in the desert?
When Stacia saw everyone grabbing sweat shirts she said, "I need mine" and ran and got THIS. Boys' bedded down - Jared not in pic

Arielle - roughing it - with her CD player, alarm clock, and water bottle ::snort:: I think she'll have the second room to herself as Stacia is already on my lap.

Italian Chili Courtesy of Quick Cooking 2007

*1 lb ground beef
*½ lb bulk Italian sausage
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes (I just throw in fresh)
8 oz tomato sauce
1 C chopped onion
1 c chopped red bell (so use green this week LOL)
1 C water
½ C chopped celery (I have LOTS to put in here)
¼ c beef broth
1 T chili powder
1 T Italian Seasoning (oregano, thyme, marjoram, basil, rosemary)
1 tsp Sugar
1 tsp minced garlic
½ tsp salt
*16 oz can kidney beans; rinsed and drained (I use cooked fresh)
I C sliced mushrooms
1 C diced zucchini
3 T minced fresh parsley (or dry)
Shredded mozzarella

Directions: Cook meat. In 3 qt slow cooker, combine tomatoes, tomato sauce, onion, bell pepper, water, celery, broth, chili powder, Italian seasoning, sugar, garlic and salt. Drain meat mixture, add to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours – until veggies are tender. Serve with cheese if desired – Yield: 6 servings.

~Salt to taste – you may not need any.

~I use ground turkey instead of beef and I also use breakfast “sausage” that I make from the ground turkey – this would cut down fat. You could also skip the meat and add barley and more veggies and beans, or use all ground whatever that you like. I skipped the beef today and added more beans and squash - good.

~I make up big batches of dried beans and freeze them to quickly use in recipe. Put them in your crock-pot at night, covered with lots of water and turn on overnight – or put them on in the a.m. and let them cook during the day. This makes using fresh beans as quick as canned – and a lot less sodium etc.
~I was out of tomatoes today so I used 15 oz of tomato sauce and a small can of paste....and HONEY....and I threw in an extra handful of Italian spices after following the recipe....
Very yummy! AND I used up a zucchini and a yellow squash which were hardly noticeable in the chili.
Page Turners...Private Justice and Shadow of Doubt by Terri Blackstock

I realize this is an OLD series to most of you, but it is new to me. As I've shared before I had not read Christian fiction in years and years. WOW - has it improved! I won't share the author of the last Christian mysteries I had read - the Dani Ross series. He writes some good things...but well...I read them because I love mystery, but the plots got very predictable...and there was none of that zip that Tamar Myers has to make me overlook the predictable plot....and no question about Mike and Norman.... WAIT a minute! This is a review of The Newpointe 911 series by Terri Blackstock. I chose to read these books first as I could tell they were mystery. Are all of Terri's series mystery?

I am enjoying this series. I really liked Private Justice. I had narrowed it down to the same two suspects that Terri led us to.... then I chose the wrong one. I loved the mystery, suspense, the characters. I like the way Terri ads an "afterword" to clearly present the gospel and/or her points, instead of trying to weave it ALL into her plot line.

Shadow of Doubt was also very good. The story line was wrenching. I wasn't as impressed in that it was so EASY to figure out the perp...but it was still an excellent read.

I'm currently reading Word of Honor and I'm loving it. I don't think our library has all of the books in the series....guess I better go shopping on PBS. Oh, and yeah, this are part of my fall into reading challenge...but I've still not posted my official post or signed up. LOL

Budget Thoughts! - School Expenses

For years we have lived debt free. The closest to describe how we live is Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps. We got off this summer when we had quite a few unexpected things that needed to be taken care of at the same time. We depleted our emergency fund and for the first time in YEARS couldn't pay the credit card off in full at the end of the month. SO - we've been re-evaluating what we are doing.

In looking at Ramsey's budget we have unique factors. For instance - we do have military medical and so don't need as much for health....but we need more as far as percentage for food, clothes, gifts (birthdays/christmas) and we HOME SCHOOL.

Would some of you mind sharing how you budget for homeschooling? You can either share a dollar amount or a percentage of your income amount. Does this include all books, lessons, field trips, supplies or just curriculum? For years we budgeted $100 a month. That covered all curriculum, all music lessons, sports fees etc. Recently, with several in high school and a new curriculum that amount is falling short. We've really not been putting money away monthly for school - just buying books a month at a time. LOL

PS - for those of you on SHS - I realize this is a topic that would be fun to discuss on SHS - but some of my readers do not belong to SHS and I decided they may be interested in the answer to this as well. LOL

UPDATE - it's been called to my attention that my math is off. Our budget was $1200 a YEAR not $2400 a year - so it was $100 a month. That amount included high school students that required things like microscopes etc, computer supplies (paper, ink), family passes to museums etc, all lessons, all sports, all uniforms needed, gas and food on field trips, books, pens etc. other words I think that there are expenses we counted as schooling that most just don't think about where they will find the money. LOL
Budget Thoughts - Groceries

We are still working on coming up with a workable and realistic budget. We've got a "working" budget, but it hasn't been adjusted to take into account new variables (Girls leaving, Stacia arriving, Girls not on insurance any longer, trips to see girls LOL, higher auto insurance as boys drive etc, and the fact that we currently have 3 young men eating in our home).

We received notice on Saturday that we are receiving 7 AK PFD's. We are now armed with $ to fill budget categories, pay off a lingering credit debt, and begin investing. We want to have a realistic budget set now!

Groceries! Two months ago we raised our grocery budget by $200 a month. We had NO wiggle room before and realized that several factors had changed. Our children are maturing and EATING MORE, we now eat natural/organic, baskets of fresh produce, cook most food from scratch, no food colorings, preservatives, artificial flavors etc. We knew it needed to go up a bit. THEN I began hearing in several spots about lowering grocery spending - at the exact time we had raised our spending. ::snort:: This new amount gives a bit of breathing room - allowing me to save $50 - 100 per pay period towards things like an "annual grain order" or a "large organic meat order" - which I'm still saving for. THEN local folks began to ask me how much I spent on groceries. I began to wonder if our amounts were really off. I've always considered myself thrifty, but was increasingly thinking I might be the opposite. On the other hand, we do have a family larger than most who were spending much less than we do. I found these sites which were helpful in helping me evaluate our spending.

This spot on the USDA site is full of all sorts of helpful information. They've got the whole study for the "thrifty food plan" endorsed by the USDA and used as a basis for the amount of money they allow for food stamps....Meaning it's the lowest amount of grocery money, but the plan gives you lots of ideas for meals etc that allow you to eat according to the USDA pyramid on that amount.

This link takes you to the latest charts of what Americans are spending on an average on groceries. It was updated June 2007. It breaks it down by gender and age so that you can very precisely figure out realistic spending for your unique family. It also shows you the average for those on thrifty, low, moderate and liberal eating plans. I planned to use the amount as a starting point in our budget discussions. I thought we'd be a bit high (on the moderate plan) due to our eating style and we were OK with that. IF we found we were on the liberal plan then it'd be time to cut out the raw cashews and go to 100% scratch and NO convenience foods at all.

I found for OUR family - Mom and Dad in the 40's, 2 yo, 5 yo, 8 yo, 10 yo, 13 yo male, 16 yo male, 18 yo male......the amounts came up to an average per week of: $244.50 on the thrifty plan, $314.40 on the low plan, $466.80 on the moderate plan, and $513.8 on the liberal plan. This amount is for GROCERIES only and I include pet food, pet supplies, laundry and cleaning supplies in my grocery budget. WITH our $200 a month raise we are still under the average for those on the low plan. I feel validated. ::snort:: We are spending $600 a pay period (twice a month - on months with 5 weeks we are actually spending less per week) - putting us in the low column for a family our size and we are eating organic/natural/healthy with those dollars, AND that includes all cleaning, toiletries etc for a family of 9. I can rest easy and not worry that I've lost all frugality in my old age. ::snort:: I KNOW that number seems high to most of you, but keep in mind that our family size may be two or three times the size of your family and we have several MEN eating here day in and day out. THIS amount is MORE than our total budget for years when we were a family of 7. It's shocking to us too (LOL) but God has put us in a situation where we now have money to spend on food and it appears that I'm still doing this fairly frugally regardless of the shocking number.

I'm still gathering the prices to compare the commissary and the local stores. Two years ago Walmart was the same or cheaper than the commissary. That, however, was comparing generic to name brand. The commissary sells name brands. NOW because the store brands are often full of the things we avoid we ARE looking at name brand items.....we shall see. I'm hoping the commissary will prove to be cheaper than Sam's and Walmart and then I'll be able to lower my grocery budget further.