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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Goal report #1

So we decided to go 30 days without making any purchases or buying groceries. I thought we should not be allowed to 'plan' for this and thus could not go to the store at all to stock up on anything. I wanted to simulate some sort of disaster or trucking strike where we can't go to the store at all. On the day we decided to do this, we had only one gallon of milk, 6 eggs, and no bread. Those are the staples we usually go to the store for. In way of fruits, we had 2 oranges, 2 bananas, and 1/2 cup leftover strawberries from a tea party. For vegetables we had a bag of carrots, 1/2 bag potatoes, a couple cloves of garlic, and a couple onions. In storage we also have dehydrated carrots, dehydrated apples, dehydrated onions, a variety of frozen vegetables, frozen figs from a friend, and the 'lifetime supply' of mashed bananas we froze earlier this year.

(For those of you who hadn't read that earlier post, we were given 400 POUNDS of bananas by a friend. I would rather use them than throw them away, so we froze them for banana breads. I didn't know that an entire batch of banana bread only takes ONE CUP of mashed bananas. Result? A freezer full of bananas, and friends who are sent home with bags of bananas whenever they visit.)

Other than this, we have our long-term food storage and canned goods stored away. I have always shopped in bulk, so we have several 5-gallon buckets filled with sugar, flour, beans, dried corn, farina, oats, dry milk, popcorn seeds, Ezekial mix, lentils, and rice. I think we'll be fine working with those basics. I'm excited to see what we learn, especially regarding which food items or miscellaneous supplies we wished we had more of.

I thought it might be interesting to give updates every so often regarding what we are eating or learning. The first week won't be too unusual, since we still have most of the food items everyone else has in their pantry. Nevertheless, here is our menu the past few days.
Day 1- Raisin Bran cereal, milk, toast
           Shepard's Pie, 'leftover' night, Monkey bread for Family Home Evening
Day 2-Steel-cut oats with chopped strawberries
           homemade meatloaf, cooked carrots, cornbread stuffing, jello and whipped cream
Day 3- Steel-cut oats with chopped apple
         Potato and Carrot Chowder with bacon, homemade bread, the rest of the jello
Day 4- Steel-cut oats with chopped strawberries
        Meaty chili with corn, beef, green peppers (frosen from our garden last year), and beans; cornbread
        (I made a triple batch of cornbread this morning so I could freeze half of it, and I also froze enough chili for another meal. There's a freezer dinner for later in the month when my school tests begin to overwelm me)

One thing I've noticed is this: we have plenty of whole grains on hand, but not much white flour. I don't store much white flour since it's not as nutritious as other grains. HOWEVER, most breads call for some white flour. Whole wheat bread is pretty heavy, so we usually make it half wheat, quarter white flour, quarter oats. Bread is our main staple, so we'll need to stretch our white flour this month and add more of the wheat flour to the regular bread recipe. Also, cornbread calls for half white flour, half cornmeal. We'll need to watch this item as the month goes by.

I also happened to run out of brown sugar the first day. It was one of the bulk items we were getting low on and hadn't restocked yet. Luckily we have some dark corn syrup I can mix with white sugar if we really need to the brown sugar.

We had a very lucky stroke of luck this week: our young pullets started laying eggs! We'll have a steady supply of eggs now. It's funny to me that the timing worked out so perfectly. One of the reasons we raise chickens is so we could have eggs in an emergency (but mostly it was to boycott commercial egg-production and animal cruelty). Eggs would have been the hardest thing to cook without, so I'm very thankful they started laying.

Dry milk is not anyone's favorite, but I've found that adding a drop of vanilla helps the flavor a lot. It also really helps if I make the milk the night before we plan to use it, that way the flavor can mellow out in the fridge.

So far, so good. I'm not expecting it to get tricky for at least another week or two. The end of the  month will be the most adventurous, I'm sure.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Family goal this month

The Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints has officially released this statement:

Our hearts are filled with sadness as we have watched the suffering in Haiti in the wake of the devastating earthquake. We turn to the example of Jesus Christ, who reached out to “lift up the hands which hang down” and “strengthen the feeble knees.”  We are keenly aware that many in America are dealing with economic challenges caused by the recession. However, we are appealing to members to donate to Church Humanitarian Services as their means allow in order to help our Haitian brothers and sisters.  Many have already contributed and others are anxious to do so.
Money is not the only need in Haiti. People are frightened, bewildered, and wholly uncertain about their future. In addition to what people can do in helping with food, water, and shelter, there needs to be a calming influence over that troubled nation. We invite our people everywhere to supplicate God for a spirit of calm and peace among the people as urgent aid and reconstruction efforts continue.

One of my very favorite quotes from C.S. Lewis states:

 ”I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare…If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us,… they are too small.  There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditures excludes them.”

We had a family council last night and decided to go without buying anything- except gasoline so we can get to work/school- for the next 30 days. No grocery store trips of any kind are allowed.  We will eat exclusively from our food storage and we will also cook simpler meals focused on whole grains, beans and rice. I decided that sacrificing all the shopping for a month would add up to a large amount of money, and we can donate all of that to the Haitian relief efforts. Consider how large your grocery bill is each month. That would do so much more in Haiti!

On another note, I'm excited at the prospect of using our food storage exclusively for a month. We've always incorporated food storage recipes into our weekly diets, but I'm looking forward to what I can learn this month as we stick to our goal. I've stocked up on cleaning supplies and hygiene items in addition to foods, so I'm quite confident we can stay away from any purchases. 

I'm hoping that if we discover that we have run out of something, we can just do without it and pretend the store isn't even around. The people in Haiti don't have the option of a store, so I think it would be good to not consider it an option for myself either. It will help me be more thankful for all the little blessings we have, such as a warm home and beds to sleep in, medicine for our children, the Spirit to comfort and guide us, and Nathan's job security. Because I have been given so much, I too must give.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Despite Challenges, Church Aid Reaching Needy; More Is on the Way

 I love the gospel! I love how the spirit of Christ works to bring peace in times of disaster. Please read about the LDS Church relief in Haiti.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

San Antonio Zoo

For MLK day we kidnapped Nathan from work during lunch break and went to the San Antonio Zoo. I didn't take very many pictures, since we were all engaged in fun, but here are some of the few snapshots that happened.

Quick highlights were-
Playing with the fish in the koi pond and letting them nibble our fingers. (picture wouldn't upload)

Reading fun books about insects in the children's play spot.

Feeding the lorikeets nectar in one of the aviaries.


Sarah despaired of getting one to land on her since she spent 20 unsuccessful minutes trying to get a bird interested in her. Nathan saved the day by coaxing a bird onto her right before we left. Yay for great dads!!!

Daniel was exhausted after 3 hours of walking, so he slept the rest of the day while Nathan carried him.

We had so much fun, and were all very tired afterwards. It was so nice to have this family day together before Nathan left for his business trip this week.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Report Cards

Today we received the report cards for this past grading period. I know it's not becoming for a person to flatter themselves, but I use this blog as my journal at times and print the entries off for a binder, so I wanted to record these things. Besides, doesn't every parent brag about their kids successes? I love hearing about other people's accomplishments or victories.

Here are the teacher's comments for Sarah:

"WOW. Sarah continues to amaze me each day. She is very independant, responsible, hardworking, and always willing to help. Academically she is advancing beyond her grade level. Sarah has been doing more independant projects in reading and those will continue to get more challenging. I am thrilled with how well she is doing in class!"

Sarah's first grade spelling words this week are: chocolate, appreciate, apologize, question, bouquet, and mountain. I didn't learn these words until I was in third grade!

She was also selected as the character of the month for school for exemplifying the trait of 'responsibility'. Way to go Sarah! Unfortunately, the day of her celebration lunch at school is the same day of her dental surgery, so she won't be at school that day!

Sarah had 2 pieces of art work selected to move on to the district level of the art competition in school. Yay!

For Matthew:

"Matthew is a very diligent student! He is great at explaining his thoughts to other and enjoys sharing his ideas. His sense of humor and quick thinking brightens our day! He has made steady gains in all areas. Way to go Matthew!"

Matthew also had an acrylic painting selected for the district competition. We're really excited for him because there are only 15 art pieces chosen from the entire school to send to the district level. We're so proud of him! He had to officially name his painting for the paperwork. He looked at me in exasperation and said, "It's just ART!" I pressed for a title again, and he said, "Art is just art. Just call it 'Art'!" Silly guy.

His teacher said he is also a class leader. He changes the dynamic of the classroom by showing people how to interact nicely and forgive each other. She said it was obvious that he is Christian and that he was a missionary in the school by his great example! We are so pleased with him!!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Chicken antics

An occurance we observed in our chicken flock---

Recently we made gingerbread houses. The left over icing sat out overnight and hardened into crunchy candy. I decided to treat our hens to some holiday sugar, so I scraped a couple cups of hard icing into their pasture. Immediately the hens flocked to the site to investigate the new food. One of our hens, named Princess, is an extremely fat Cochin.   Somehow she was the first one on the scene and gave the white mound a tentative peck. Tasting sugar for the first time in her life must have been earth-shattering for this little hen. It transformed her completely.

She realized a good thing when she tasted it and strategically she placed a foot on either side of the mound and lowered her head aggressively, like a bull about to charge. She looked all the other hens in the eye and clearly said, "Don't even think about it. This ambrosia is MINE." Some of the younger hens were too eager to notice her warning, and they ran in to peck crumbles of icing from under Princess' wings. She turned and bit them quickly to send them on their way, but alas, now they, too, had a taste of sugar. Throwing caution to the wind, they ran circles around Princess, popping their beaks down to skim pieces of candy off the hill of sugar.

Princess frantically spun in circles trying to punish each offender with a bite. There were 10 of them, and only one of her. Her spinning managed to break large pieces of icing off of the pile, and one young hen saw her chance. Rushing quickly for the prize, she plucked up a large piece of candy  the size of her head and dashed away so she could eat it. Unfortunately, Princess saw the theft and wanted it back. Nevermind about the food she already claimed; she must have every last piece to herself.  Forgetting about the bounties beneath her, she immediately left the pile of candy and ran after the young hen.

On the other side of the pasture, Princess chased the young hen, who was much faster than her. Princess is so fat that she waddled awkwardly as she desperately tried to tell the hen to stop taking bites of her treasure.  She squawked on the top of her lungs (between gasps for air as she tried to catch her breath). The young hen mocked her openly, holding candy in its mouth as it danced just out of Princess' reach, when it would quickly take a bite and then dash off again before Princess could catch up.

Meanwhile, the pile of candy was descended upon in the blink of an eye by over a dozen eager chickens. In a matter of seconds, it was all gone, leaving not even a trace of white against the ground.

When Princess caught up to the offending hen and realized the candy was gone, she screeched in frustration, turned tail, and ran as fast as she could (which by now was pathetically slow) back to the original pile of candy, only to find it gone without a trace. She turned a few frantic circles looking for any crumb of sugar, gave up and squawked in frustration, plopping herself on the ground in a mixture of exhaustion and disappointment. I've never seen such expressive body language in a chicken.

We all had a great laugh at the expence of Princess' pride. It reminded me of the Aesop fable of the greedy dog and the bone. What a great teaching moment for our kids! Greediness yields misery!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I've spent the last several days decluttering and deep cleaning around the house. It's so therapeutic. I don't enjoy cleaning or organizing (especially the organizing.....yuck!) but it's so rewarding to see the results and I love the peace it gives me to enter a 'really' clean room.

Theres a cruel cycle I live in. Before each semester, I clean and scrub and declutter and organize so I can reduce the chaos in our home. It looks lovely and feels great. As the semester proceeds and my assignments stack up, my 'free time' disappears, and my stress levels raise, I cease to care about the organization in our home. I enter the coping method of focusing only on school work and family needs, and the house cleaning is the only variable without a deadline or emotional status. As a result, at the end of the semester my house looks horrid. The clutter zones have been growing slowly over the past few months and finally they come alive and mock me each time I enter the room. My goal this winter break was to deep clean and organize the worst spots in the house.

The worst room was my own bedroom, merely because this is where everything goes that doesn't have a 'place' anywhere else in the house. If it's too important to throw away, but I can't figure out where to keep it, then it joins the pile on my dresser (aka: the Black hole). I cleaned for hours on my room, and I'm so pleased with how it looks. I didn't take a before and after picture because I didn't want the atrocity documented forever.

I've worked on several other areas of the house as well and I love the way my home is feeling. Have you ever noticed that the Spirit is almost always stronger in an orderly home? I love it.

Invariably it will gradually return to the previous state of entropy, but I'm happy to soak up all the good vibes now. At least in the few select rooms that have been worked on. I keep trying to forget the "toy room-food storage-electronics workshop-art studio" room. It's simply too much to tackle this week. I'm happy to curl up with a great book and enjoy the they say, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. I agree.