Thursday, October 30, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Kregel Publications (July 8, 2008)
ABOUT THE BOOK: Far away from her Irish home, Mary Freeman begins to adapt to life in Midwest America, but family turmoil and her own haunting memories threaten to ruin her future. A shattered cup. Cheap tea. Bitter voices asking what's to be done with the "little eejit." Mary, an impetuous Irishwoman, won't face the haunting memories--until her daughter's crisis propels her back to County Clare. There, in a rocky cliffside home, Mary learns from former neighbors why God tore her from Ireland forty-five years earlier. As she begins to glimpse His sovereign plan, Mary is finally able to bury a dysfunctional past and begin to heal. Irish folk songs and sayings add color to the narrative.
I remember playing "The Oregon Trail" on a 5 1/2 inch really floppy disk (with DOS!) when I was young, and now my children play an updated version on a CD-Rom. I loved taking the wagon train through sickness, attacks, a lack of supplies and bad weather. I really had to put my decision making skills to the test to play the game. Dangerous Heart brought back those memories!
This book focuses on a female outlaw who infiltrates an wagon train headed to Oregon. The wagon train faces many the things that were part of life then: a cholera outbreak, attacks by outlaws, decisions to be made regarding traveling through the snowy mountains...
Even though the trials of the people on the wagon train fascinated me, the trials of the heroine, Ginger, were even more enthralling. Ginger is an outlaw who "accidentally" finds God after joining - or infiltrating - a wagon train full of Christians. Though her original intentions were nefarious, she now faces an age old question. How does a Christian live among non-Christians (in this case, outlaws)? Does she choose the family she has always known or give them up for her new Christian friends and a budding romance with a Godly man?
ABOUT THE BOOK: For the past seven years, Ginger Freeman has had one goal: find Grant Kelley and make him pay for allowing her brother to die. Growing up motherless with a father who leads an outlaw gang, Ginger isn’t exactly peaches and cream. So when she finally tracks down Grant on a wagon train headed west, she figured providence had stepped in and given her the chance she’s been waiting for.
On the wagon train, finally surrounded by a sense of family and under the nurturing eye of Toni Rodde, Ginger begins to lose her rough edges. She’s made friends for the first time and has become part of something bigger than revenge. Not only has her heart softened toward people in general, but God has become a reality she never understood before. And watching Grant doctor the pioneers, she’s realized she can’t just kill him and leave the train without medical care. Putting her anger aside, before long, Ginger’s a functioning part of the group.
But when the outlaw gang, headed by her pa, shows up and infiltrates the wagon train, she is forced to question her decision. Only self-sacrifice and her new relationship with God can make things right. But it might also means she loses everything she’s begun to hold dear.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tracey Bateman published her first novel in 2000 and has been busy ever since. There are two other books in the Westward Hearts Series, Defiant Heart (#1) and Distant Heart (#2)She learned to write by writing, and improved by listening to critique partners and editors. She has sold over 30 books in six years. She became a member of American Christian Fiction Writers in the early months of its inception in 2000 and served as president for a year. Tracey loves Sci-fi, Lifetime movies, and Days of Our Lives (this is out of a 21 year habit of watching, rather than enjoyment of current storylines).She has been married to her husband Rusty for 18 years, has four kids, and lives in Lebanon, Missouri.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
I spent 50 cents at that sale. I spent 25 cents on a large snowman that you can put a tea candle in, and 25 cents on this plate.
This particular pattern is called Reveille. It came out in the mid to late 1950s.
An added bonus is that the plate sports some great autumn colors, so I set it up on some shelves with some fall decorations.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
I went into breakfast here, and lunch here, and even talked more about dinner here. Today we are going to look at a sample menu. Because there was so much interest in menus, starting next week I will be trying to post a weekly menu. But for today, here's a typical week of dinners at my house.
SUNDAY - roasted chicken (crockpot), mashed potatoes, carrots, rolls.
MONDAY - chicken noodle soup (crockpot, made with leftover chicken), cornbread
TUESDAY - Beef stroganoff, green beans, rice, rolls.
WEDNESDAY - chicken and rice casserole (made with leftover chicken), peas, fried squash, rolls
THURSDAY - spaghetti, salad, garlic bread
FRIDAY - Taco casserole, macaroni, green beans
SATURDAY - Squash casserole, peas, macaroni, salad, rolls.
Notice that the meat for the entire weak consisted of one whole chicken and three pounds of either ground beef or turkey. All the salad ingredients and most of the vegetables come out of the garden, and all the bread is made from scratch. Next time I'll try to include recipes.
One more hint: I usually have a month's worth of menus. Then I just repeat that every month, making adjustments as needed. We always have roasted chicken on Sundays because we use the leftover chicken for other dishes. But other than that, I can usually come up with enough dinners so we don't have to repeat any in a month.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Christa Parrish graduated high school at 16, with every intention of becoming a surgeon. After college, however, her love of all things creative led her in another direction, and she worked in both theatre and journalism.A winner of Associated Press awards for her reporting, Christa gave up her career after the birth of her son, Jacob. She continued to write from home, doing pro bono work for the New York Family Policy Council, where her articles appeared in Focus on the Family’s Citizen magazine. She was also a finalist in World magazine’s WORLDview short story contest, sponsored by WestBow press. She now teaches literature and writing to high school students, is a homeschool mom, and lives with her family in upstate New York, where she is at work on her second novel.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Every two weeks I go grocery shopping. I purchase two whole chickens and five pounds of ground beef. This will be the basis for 11 meals. The other three meals are usually vegetarian, or we may have breakfast for dinner one day.
For example, this evening's meal consisted of a rice (starch) and chicken (meat) casserole, peas (veggie) and biscuits (bread). I also added macaroni (an extra starch) and cheese just to make the dinner a little more kid-friendly.
We are often accused by friends and family of trying to live a country life in the city. I plead guilty. We are not in a position to move to the country (mainly because we have to go where the jobs are), but country life has so many benefits that we try to live like we are in the country.
In fact, the main drawbacks to living in the city is the population, the ordinances and the lack of land. We have 1/3 of an acre, so our neighbors are close and we have to work hard to maximize our land for growing. And even though city ordinances (and lack of land) won't allow us to have any four-legged livestock (we would love to get goats), we are able to have chickens.
The other good thing about living in the city is that everything is close by. Our city only has a population of 40,000, so crime isn't too bad. But it's only a 10 minute drive to the next city to find all the discount stores, etc.
And so every two weeks I drive to the next town to do my shopping. Tractor Supply, Office Max, Walmart, and often, Target. Target's prices are more than Walmart's, but I believe their quality is better and they often have good coupon or clearance deals. But I go to Target for one main reason. They have whole, natural chickens for about $3.50 each. The chickens aren't certified organic, but they are labeled as not having any hormones or antibiotics, and they aren't pumped up with chicken broth.
The next time you buy a whole chicken, read the label. Many of them say "with added chicken broth." This simply means the chicken has been injected with broth, thereby making the chicken weigh more. Which means you pay more for what is basically water. This is why I generally don't buy my whole chickens at Aldi's. Wherever you buy you're chickens, you shouldn't pay more than about $3.50 for them (at least not in my neck of the woods).
One chicken will generally give me at least three meals. If you missed my post on how this is works, you can read it here.
This evening we had a chicken and rice casserole made with some of the meat I pulled off a roast chicken we had a couple of days ago.
Every two weeks, I also buy five pounds of ground beef (which costs me about $10 at Aldi's). The beef is not lean, but you can rinse it after browning to get the grease off and make it leaner. I used to buy organic and/grass fed beef, but at $5 a pound our current economic situation simply doesn't allow for it. I do hope to be able to do that again one day, though.
When we get home I divide the beef into five equal parts, wrap it in aluminum foil and freeze. This is used throughout the week for a variety of different dishes such as spaghetti, sloppy Joes or casseroles. With the exception of an occasional meatloaf, I only cook ground beef dishes that use one pound or less of meat.
One of my readers from A Hen's Place commented that she uses ground turkey instead of beef for an even more frugal alternative. "One idea for you to cut your meat costs even more--try substituting ground turkey for ground beef. In most Mexican and chili recipes you can't even tell, and a little Worcestershire sauce cuts the turkey taste in other recipes I have tried."
I plan on trying this soon. It also might work well in casseroles.
Most of our vegetables come from the garden, and I can make most of our breads from scratch. In the garden we produce watermelon, cantaloupe, green beans, cucumbers, squash, eggplant, zucchini, okra, lettuce, carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, green peppers and banana peppers. That means I generally only have to buy the meats and starches. Starches are pretty cheap if they come in the form of pasta or rice.
I'll share some recipes and menus in the days to come.
ABOUT THE BOOK: In a world of wealth, power, and privilege...love is the only forbidden luxury.“Trust was a valuable commodity at court. Traded by everyone, but possessed by no one. Its rarity was surpassed only by love. Love implied commitment and how could any of us commit ourselves to any but the Queen? Love implied singularity and how could any of us benefit another if our affections were bound to one in exclusivity? Love was never looked for and rarely found. When it was, it always ended badly.” In Queen Elizabeth’s court where men and women willingly trade virtue for power, is it possible for Marget to obtain her heart’s desire or is the promise of love only an illusion? A riveting glimpse into Queen Elizabeth's Court...Born with the face of an angel, Marget Barnardsen is blessed. Her father is a knight, and now she is to be married to the Earl of Lytham. Her destiny is guaranteed ... at least, it would seem so. But when her introduction to court goes awry and Queen Elizabeth despises her, Marget fears she's lost her husband forever. Desperate to win him back, she'll do whatever it takes to discover how she failed and capture again the love of a man bound to the queen.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Siri Mitchell graduated from the University of Washington with a business degree and worked in various levels of government. As a military spouse, she has lived all over the world, including in Paris and Tokyo. Siri enjoys observing and learning from different cultures. She is fluent in French and loves sushi. But she is also a member of a strange breed of people called novelists. When they’re listening to a sermon and taking notes, chances are, they’ve just had a great idea for a plot or a dialogue. If they nod in response to a really profound statement, they’re probably thinking, “Yes. Right. That’s exactly what my character needs to hear.” When they edit their manuscripts, they laugh at the funny parts. And cry at the sad parts. Sometimes they even talk to their characters. Siri wrote 4 books and accumulated 153 rejections before signing with a publisher. In the process, she saw the bottoms of more pints of Ben & Jerry’s than she cares to admit. At various times she has vowed never to write another word again. Ever. She has gone on writing strikes and even stooped to threatening her manuscripts with the shredder. A Constant Heart is her sixth novel. Two of her novels, Chateau of Echoes and The Cubicle Next Door were Christy Award finalists. She has been called one of the clearest, most original voices in the CBA.
Saturday, October 4, 2008
My husband's company provides him with lunch every day and my kids are homeschooled, so I don't have to pack any lunches. Lunches for us usually consist of sandwiches. My boys love the old peanut butter and jelly standby, and would eat it for three meals a day if I let them (we'll stick with one meal a day). My daughter and I are a little more discriminating. We simply cannot bring ourselves to eat pb&j every day. We usually eat whatever leftovers are in the fridge from dinner the night before. If there aren't any leftovers, we eat a can of soup or a sandwich of lunch meat. And that's that. No planning involved.
When Hubby is home on the weekends I have to plan our lunches out a bit more. Green salads from our garden are always a good bet. Tuna and egg salad sandwiches or cheese quesadillas are good, too. Or something simple like frozen fish sticks or chicken nuggets. As you can see, lunch is all about convenience. Dinners are really our big meal of the day.
For an afternoon snack we try to do something like baby carrots or peaches we canned during the summer. Or we may do graham crackers, or make cheese and cracker "sandwiches," or even go for some unhealthy stuff like homemade brownies or cookies.
I have found that snack foods are some of the most expensive convenience foods in the grocery store, so we rarely eat things like snack cakes or chips.
I have found that for us, being frugal is all about taking the time to make things from scratch. Did you know you can make fruit leathers, a.k.a. Fruit Roll-ups in the oven (or a dehydrator) very easily? How easy is it to combine three ingredients and pop some peanut butter cookies in the oven? Instead of buying bags of microwave popcorn (the butter can cause "popcorn workers lung"), we throw some popcorn kernels and some oil in an electric air popper.
My goal that I have been working on for some time now is take all those name brand convenience foods we pay so much for and find a way to make them from scratch at home. And it's not just about being frugal. Making them at home eliminates most of the chemicals and preservatives found in store-bought items. Pick up a bag of microwave popcorn and read the ingredients. Now compare that to the two ingredients (kernels and oil) we use to make it at home.
Yes, it takes more time to make things at home. Is there time you are willing to give up? How about that television show you always watch, or how about cutting down on your computer time? Just an hour a day spent baking and creating in the kitchen can lead to all kinds of new discoveries. And how much better would it be if the kids helped? They can learn to be creative and gain some quality, fun time with mom or dad.
I'm not saying it's for everyone. If you absolutely abhor making things from scratch or if you honestly feel you don't have the time, that's okay. Only you can decide if you are willing to trade some of your time for a healthier family that spends less money and is more self-sufficient.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
I've got to go to the church in just a bit, where I will be volunteering all day. So for today we'll just concentrate on what my family does for breakfast. Tomorrow we'll get into lunch, then we'll do dinner, which is a bit more complicated. Then we'll look at menu plans and shopping lists.
Let me start by saying I have a love/hate relationship with cold cereal. I love it because the kids can fix it themselves, freeing me up to do other things (like drag myself very slowly into my clothes).
I hate cold cereal because we can go through one box in two days, so unless you have a great coupon it's not very economical. And let's face it - cold cereal is generally not very healthy.
On the bright side, it's easy to find coupons for cereal. And if you combine, say a $1 off coupon with a sale of say, $2 a box, you can get a box of cereal for $1 (you can get them regularly priced without coupons at Aldi's for $1.29 - $1.89).
So yes, I buy cold cereal - but I am slowly but surely working my way away from it. In the meantime, I buy only cereals that have a bit more nutritious value - like raisin bran or shredded wheat. My kids never get cereals with bright colors or marshmallows unless a coupon enabled me to get the cereal almost for free.
So were does that leave us when we are not eating cereal? Many days I will fix homemade biscuits, and the kids enjoy them with butter and/or jelly. I would love to get my picky kids to eat oatmeal, and am slowly working toward that goal. "The Simple Dollar" did a great tutorial on making homemade "instant" flavored oatmeal packets.
You may notice that I haven't yet mentioned what Hubby likes for breakfast. That's because he chooses to skip breakfast on weekdays so he can get a few extra minutes of sleep. On weekends, we usually have homemade pancakes on Saturdays and scrambled eggs and grits on Sundays. We raise a few chickens that provide us with all the eggs we need without having to buy any. And if you're not southern and don't know what grits are... well, I can't help you - you darn Yankee!
Just kidding! Can you believe I've eaten grits all my life but didn't really know what they were or where they come from? But I looked it up just for you!
According to Wikkipedia, grits are an American Indian corn-based food common in the Southern United States, consisting of coarsely ground corn. It is traditionally served during breakfast. Traditionally the corn for grits is ground by a stone mill. The results are passed through screens, with the finer part being corn meal, and the coarser being grits.
I buy our grits from a produce store that sells only local food items. The grits come straight from a nearby mill. I keep them in the freezer. They don't really freeze but it keeps out bugs and keeps the grits fresh.
muffins. They can be made the night before and will therefore be ready for breakfast with no preparation in the morning.
As far as breakfast drinks go, I let the kids drink milk (if they are not getting it in their cereal) or water. That's it. Occasionally (with a coupon) I will buy orange juice and they are allowed to drink that.
By the way, you may notice from some of the links that I use recipes from the Hillbilly Housewife Web site. If you are looking for really frugal recipes, this is the place to go. I have been using the Web site since Miss Maggie owned it. It has changed hands but the new owner does a great job, too, and I love the monthly e-mail newsletter. She also has recipes for homemade pancake syrup. I am going to try this very soon because we go through a lot of syrup.
Hint: If you're looking on that site for breakfast foods, everyone in my family but me hated the cornmeal mush. I liked it, though, so you never know.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
- I don't buy very many cleaning supplies or laundry supplies. I make my own all-purpose cleaner, glass cleaner, bathroom cleaner and laundry detergent.
- I cook from scratch as often as possible. Not only does this save money, but it is usually healthier for my family, as I don't include all the preservatives and chemicals that are in most store-bought foods.
- With the exception of toilet paper, I don't buy paper products. We use rags for cleaning and cloth napkins for meals. I do buy one roll of paper towels every month or so. This roll is used almost strictly for cleaning up things that would be very sticky in the washing machine, such as peanut butter.
- During the warm months, we grow a large garden. I am slowly but surely learning to preserve these foods for winter by canning, freezing and dehydrating.
- I make a menu plan and stick to it. I have discovered from experience that when I don't make a menu before going to the store, I overspend.
- Every week I make a half gallon of what I call "cooking milk." It's reconstituted powdered milk (from Aldi's). My family will not drink reconstituted milk plain or eat it in cereal because it is watery, but I have found that it works fine for cooking. I add it whenever a recipe calls for milk.
- I don't do CVS, Walgreens or any of those other programs. They are great, and I tried CVS for about three months. But I found that it was a lot of work and extra gas to go every week, and if I didn't go every week I missed out on deals and/or eventually forget to spend my extra bucks. Time is money!
- I rarely buy snacks, soda or boxed convenience foods. Instead, I bake or make snacks. Yes, my children miss out on all that junk loaded down with food coloring, but is that a bad thing?
- I don't have to buy diapers, wipes, formula, etc. My youngest baby is 5, so I don't need any of that. But I have a friend, Southern Blessings, who uses the deals at CVS to pay for her baby's diapers. That might be worth it, but honestly, at this point in my life I would probably just use cloth diapers.
- If I find a great deal via coupons, etc., I stockpile. I will buy as many as a I can as long as I don't go over my budget and as long as the item is not perishable.
- We have seriously cut back on our meat intake. I usually buy two whole chickens and 5 pounds of ground beef every two weeks. Both are extremely versatile, and I can get three very different meals out of one chicken. We rarely eat pork (it's just not a favorite), and we don't buy roasts, steaks or other cuts of beef unless there is a really good sale.
- I recently started using cash instead of my debit card. When I know I have to pay with what is in my wallet, I am more careful about my spending.
- I don't take the kids with me to the grocery store. Trying to keep up with three kids is distracting and causes me to make mistakes. It also means they become susceptible to marketing schemes. The latest cartoon character on a cereal box or the latest fruit snack they saw on a commercial can really break my budget. So can all that candy and stuff at the check-out lines.
- If I have money leftover in my grocery budget (which isn't that often) I will occasionally go to a local salvage grocery store, where they sell dented cans and such, and stock up on some items. We ate organic pasta that I got from the salvage grocery store for months.
I love to answer questions, so feel free to leave one on the comments or e-mail me.
- Bad things do happen to good people, but people can overcome those things with the help of Christ.
- Things don't always turn out like we thought/hoped they would.
- God uses bad circumstances to turn our lives around for good.
- There are still good, God-fearing men out there.
- We must be careful not to confuse those men (and women) who those who profess to be Christians but are not.
ABOUT THE BOOK: Annie has it all. She's attractive, graduated with honors, was accepted at the college of her choice, has supportive parents, good friends, and a steady boyfriend who loves her. One night an unexpected visitor appears and Annie's safe world is destroyed by a brutal attack. As she tries to pick up the pieces of her broken life, she is torn between two brothers, both of whom claim to love her. She is attracted to both, but which one does she love? How can she choose when her decision may cause a permanent rift between them? And more important, will she give her heart to the One who will sustain her even when human love fails.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michelle Sutton has lived in Arizona and since 1991 and has two sons and a husband of 18 years. She began writing fiction in August 2003 when God inspired her to write a novel with realistic characters that would glorify Him. In 2004 she joined ACFW - American Christian Fiction Writers. In 2006 Michelle ran for Volunteer Officer on the ACFW Operating board and ACFW members elected her to serve a two year term. She sold her first manuscript Then Sings My Soul (now re-titled It's Not About Me) to Sheaf House and her debut novel was released in Sept. 2008. The second book in the Second Glances series - It's Not About Him - will be released the following fall (Sept. 2009.) Last, Michelle is Editor in Chief of the new Christian Fiction Online Magazine. The debut issue released in July 2008. The magazine is sponsored by the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance.