Friday, September 28, 2012

September Total Grocery Spending

I surprised myself. Total grocery spending for the month is $356.76 including this week's addition of $42.12 bringing the weekly average to just $89.19. Pretty darn good, if I do say so.

Of course, I'll be totally honest, I would have spent more if there had been any more to spend. I ran out of fruit for one boy, and salty snacks (chips, pretzels, etc.) that the other boy likes in his lunches, but overall I think I did pretty good.

I'm going to keep up this average calculating because I want to see what it looks like over a longer period, also I'd like to see a monthly average.

A friend of mine has offered space in her garden next year to grow what I want, thank you J! She has nine acres and will put in a huge garden and generously offered some of it to me. I want to grow a "salsa garden" and beets, cantaloupe, spinach, eggplant, peas, beans, pumpkins and sweet corn. What I actually will grow remains to be seen. Some most times my dreams are bigger than my reality.

I'm still looking at putting in a few (two to four) fruit trees on our property. I've been watching where the sunny patches are and think I have figured out where the best spots are. I need to go down the street to the Iowa State University Extension office and talk to the experts there about which varieties grow best here. I'm dangerously low on jams and jellies and with my mother gone can't expect anymore supplies from San Diego. Guess it's time to grow up and fend for myself.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

More Politics

Here are two articles over at Breitbart News that I invite all Ron Paul (or other candidate) supporters to read. This election is critical to the survival of our nation and while we can wish it was different, there are only two candidates that have a chance at winning. When a vote is cast for a third candidate it is wasted and the chances for the wrong candidate to win increase, which I believe is just what Satan wants to happen.

I can certainly understand the desire for a Libertarian candidate. We are at risk of losing our freedoms. But liberty is different than license, as in we have liberty to choose for ourselves, but we are still accountable for those choices and will suffer/enjoy the consequences of them. Legalizing or giving license to all sorts of immoral behaviors doesn't change the consequences, it just encourages people to believe there are no consequences or that the government will take care of them.

As I've listened to Mitt Romney speak and have read his book I can see that his world view is filtered through the lens of the Gospel, and the teachings of the Book of Mormon regarding this great land. Do you seriously think he's in this race for the power, money or fame? He neither needs nor wants any of that. He is running for office because he feels a responsibility to restore the governance of our nation to the founding principles of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence which are based on an acknowledgement of a Creator, our accountability to him, and the destiny of this precious land.

One commenter called Romney "too socialistic" for her taste. I hope she will elaborate on which of his actions demonstrates this. Recently we have seen numerous stories come forward of his continuous charitable acts and donations, all done without fanfare and publicity, but in the spirit of "When ye are in the service of your fellow being you are only in the service of your God," and "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me." He gives of his own time, money and other resources to serving others. Socialists collectivize and use someone else's money to "redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost." Voluntary versus force has been part of the fight from the beginning.

I cannot convey all the details of how he put together the health care insurance plan in Massachusetts, but I will tell you that the main stream media has not portrayed it correctly. He worked, at the request of others, to put together a plan so that all Massachusetts citizens would be able to purchase their own affordable insurance if it was not available either through their employers or another way. The mandate to have medical insurance is similar in theory and practice to the mandate in many states to have automobile insurance for the financial protection of all. The final product was not exactly what he wanted because the Democrat leaders in the state senate tacked on some conditions and such, but he felt it was a good compromise all things considered. I highly recommend the book No Apology: Believe in America for understanding Romney and his positions.

Our family is reading the Book of Mormon, a chapter each morning after breakfast and before we disperse for the day. The other day our reading included Helaman 13:26-28 and I thought that it sounded like a description of the current campaign. I LOVE the Book of Mormon, it truly is the handbook for our day.

A declaration of our beliefs about government was adopted by unanimous vote at a general assembly of the church in Kirtland, Ohio on 17 August 1835. "That our belief with regard to earthly government and laws in general may not be misinterpreted nor misunderstood, we have thought proper to present at the close of this volume our opinion concerning the same."
We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society. 
We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.
We believe that all governments necessarily require civil officers and magistrates to enforce the laws of the same; and that such as will administer the law in equity and justice should be sought for and upheld by the voice of the people if a republic, or the will of the sovereign.
We have not been left without direction so it is up to us to follow that direction and elect leaders whose morals, values and world view align with the knowledge we have received.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Weekly Grocery Total

Last week's grocery shopping consisted of two quick trips to the store for grapes, and a pizza for Dandylion's dinner while we went on a date, and then some green vegetables; total $14.28 bringing the monthly total to $314.64 for an average of $104.88 per week. This week I'll need milk and maybe a couple of other things, but not much.

I've been working hard at not wasting food and using what I have in the house rather than buying more.

Today I baked some banana bread with the mashed bananas from the freezer. Smells really yummy here!

Just for clarity--I'm only counting food for the family in these totals. I have spent more on pet food and toiletries on the same shopping trips, but those are different categories.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Red Letter Day

Political Rally with Paul Ryan - Des Moines, Iowa

This was my first EVER political rally! I had a blast. It was high energy and lots of fun. Because of inclement weather the rally was moved from an outdoor amphitheater to a hotel ballroom.

VIP Section of the audience

Large sign - took up the whole wall of the ballroom

K-8 students from Christ the King Catholic School in Des Moines led us in the Pledge of Allegiance.

The Man Himself - Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan addressing the crowd.
The event began at 3:00 PM and consisted of lots of people speaking and warming up the crowd before  Mr. Ryan came out and spoke for 35 - 40 minutes. The other people were the local and state Republican party chairs, a former governor of Iowa, Robert Ray, two candidates for the State Senate, two sitting national congressmen, Steve King and Tom Latham, and the current governor of Iowa Terry Branstad.

It was refreshing to be with like-minded people and cheer on candidates who promise to restore the greatness of America. I'm impressed with Mr. Ryan's enthusiasm and his honesty. He repeated several times that Mr. Romney and he will not dodge the tough issues, but address them head on and lead from the front. They will not blame others, but step up to take responsibility to restore the principles that have made America strong, great and prosperous.

My friend and I had a great time at the rally and on the two hour drive there and home. Wonderful adventure!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Grocery Spending

Today I spent $11.13 on two gallons of milk and 4 pounds of popcorn, bringing the total for the month to $300.38. At two weeks into the month the weekly average is $150.19 which I expect to go down as I make it through at least another week of very low spending.

My husband and I did talk about the need to stock up on certain things for the winter (as well as the outcome of the election) so maybe the average will go up. We'll just have to see.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Science in the Kitchen

I mentioned that my oven is still not working properly. We have had to eat less than lovely cookies, oven fries and pizza.

Yesterday I conducted an experiment to see what the actual temperature is in the oven.

First I turned it, the oven, on to 350 degrees and waited for the beep to tell me it is up to temperature. Well actually, first I put the new oven thermometer into the oven and THEN I turned it on.

When it beeped I turned on the oven light and looked at the temperature through the window. It read 325. That's 25 degrees low, but I can compensate knowing that. Let's try a higher temp. I turned it up to 400 and waited for the beep, then looked again and it read approximately 375-380 (hard to tell). Okay, it's fairly consistent. Now, let's turn on a timer and see what the temperature reads after 15 minutes. I puttered around the kitchen for 10 minutes and then looked and saw it read 325, and when the timer dinged at 15 minutes the thermometer read 300. No wonder the pizza was practically raw!

This is not good. TopDad already replaced what he thought was the problem, the thermostat. But it still was not working right (I mean 30 minutes for cookies?) so I bought a thermometer and finally got around to testing it. IT failed.

I can do without a lot of things in a kitchen: dishwasher, disposal, counter space, cupboards, I'd even be willing to give up my microwave. But I CAN NOT do without an oven. For very long, or very happily.

It really is true that you never know how much you use something until you don't have it. I never realized how many times a day I washed my hands until we were five days without running water. YIKES! I didn't think I planned so many meals around baking until I can't do it anymore. YIKES!

And just when we think we're getting ahead and going to have some breathing room in the budget and actually put something away for savings, the darn oven goes. Well, who said life was supposed to calm and easy. How boring would that be anyway.

Have a great weekend! And I'll just enjoy the rain without cookies to go with my hot chocolate.

My Kitchen - The Rest of the Story

I like to think of myself as an honest person which is why my conscience demands that I tell the rest of the story of my kitchen. I've given you tiny glimpses but not the big picture. Today I'm sharing that.

Join me for a tour of my totally inadequate humble kitchen, little changed from when it was built in 1922.

View from the door of the Dining Room into the Kitchen

We'll begin at the sink, and make our way around the room
These were the only cupboards, and counter, in the room when I moved in.
Next to the sink is the door to the Laundry room, and then outside.

Can you count the doorways? Left to right: Laundry room, Pantry, Dining Room
Next to the door into the Dining Room are some shelves and the stove

Another view of the shelves, with a corner of the work table - such spaciousness

Next to the stove is the original chimney, then the freezer/workspace, with cupboards installed this year
and the refrigerator placed in front of the door to the Living Room.
And here's the fifth door which goes down to the basement.

In front of the windows are the other set of shelves for all my pans and appliances.
The work table takes all the floor space.

This is probably not the worst kitchen in America, just the worst I've ever lived with. In spite of all the inconveniences I will count my blessings--I have hot and cold running water, lights, a fridge, and a stove (although the oven still is not working properly). I have a vintage dishwasher, I mean, I am the vintage dishwasher, 1957 model. I have an ice cream bucket for collecting scraps for the compost pile instead of a disposal, and I have a ceiling fan and windows for cooling and ventilation.

What more could I ask for? By the way, I read another blog where the engaged young woman talked about the log home her man was building for her and the open shelves she designed and how wonderful they were going to be. HOGWASH! Open shelves are the worst! All the grease, dust, dirt, cat hair and other disgusting floaties land on everything on the open shelves and you have to wash anything you want to use. It makes for a horrible lot of work. Give me cupboards with doors, please!

There you have it Rozy's Kitchen, in all it's cluttered glory. Doesn't this make you grateful for the kitchen you have?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Gourmet Lunch

Sometimes I surprise myself. Today was one of those times. I made lunch without a plan and it turned out absolutely delicious.

I started with the last of the Spring Mix salad from Sam's Club that I had taken to the church potluck on Sunday. I've been eating it all week and there was just enough left for one more salad. To that I added some fresh cherry tomatoes and cucumber from a church friend's garden (thank you John); then I sliced a string cheese stick. I wanted something more and was looking around when I spied the leftover salmon filet from last night. I love salmon so I flaked that onto the salad then drizzled some Italian dressing over the whole thing. (I use Good Seasons Italian packets and make it up with apple cider vinegar and olive oil.)

I'm telling you it was the best tasting salad I've ever had. I must remember and write down this recipe! This is an example of creativity in the kitchen!

How to Be More Creative - Part 2

Yesterday was the background, today is Amy Dacyczyn's ten step program to more creativity.


Step 1. Realize that you ARE creative. Look for it in your daily life and nurture that part of yourself.

Step 2. Give yourself mental space, a clear field. We tend to fill up our days with the TV, car radio, reading the paper, chats with friends on the phone. [This was written in 1990 before the internet was widely available, so she didn't include all the mind numbing activities of the web.] Instead do that "mindless task" in quiet. This type of activity dominates my life . . . housework, mowing lawn, scraping paint. Boredom never strikes as the mental gears whirl continually. I write only after mentally rehearsing paragraphs a dozen times. When someone says "I'm just not creative like you," I reply, "No, I just thought about it longer."

Step 3. Never, EVER compare yourself to others, but rather enjoy your own innovations. I stumbled over this block working in the shadow of many award winning designers. No matter how good I could become there would still be someone better. Later I realized that no matter how bad I was there was always someone worse. Compare yourself only to yourself. "This is how good I am today. I am better than I was yesterday and I will be better tomorrow."

Step 4. I use a strategy I call "putting the problem into the mental computer." Your brain functions continually, even as you sleep. Study the parameters of your problem and then let it rest for a few days. Very often your mental computer will spit out the solutions unexpectedly as you shower or drive to work. This works much better than trying to perform as the clock ticks away. If you are trying to come up with a great party idea give yourself a couple months of mental back burner time. [She was famous for wonderful children's birthday parties.]

Step 5. Brainstorm. Toss the idea around with another person. Be flexible and say or write down every "stupid" thought that comes. Very often another person can take your idea and add a twist that makes it great. Jim [her husband] is my brainstorming partner. He is very good at telling me when my idea is good and I should run with it. Sometimes something isn't working just right and he can look at it and come up with a better sentence or illustration idea.

Step 6. Find a springboard, a starting place. For the tightwad this usually means determining which resources are cheap or in surplus. Build from that point.

Step 7. Do not share your creative ideas with anyone who continually tells you they are dumb. This is often a spouse or a parent. Professionally I should have switched jobs until I found an art director who shared a similar creative style. The art directors that didn't like my ideas were not more creative than me. Often they were LESS creative. Mostly it was a matter of seeing things differently. However, the constant message that I was doing it wrong took its toll.  A mouse does not go down the same hole over and over if he fails to find cheese.
           After I stopped working under art directors and created for myself, or for my clients in my own way, I began to realize that I was creative after all.

Step 8. Practice. Like any skill, accessing your creative ability improves the more you do it. You will develop your own methods and strategies to fall back on when tackling new problems.

Step 9. Avoid negative stress. This also tends to block creativity as your mind focuses on that problem instead. Try to limit contact with individuals who bring on these problems. If it is someone within your household, try to limit your reaction to their actions.

Step 10. Start small. When you bite off more than you can chew you set yourself up for failure. Instead set small easily attainable goals to build a sense of success. In subsequent projects stretch yourself to slightly more ambitious undertakings.

           Sometime as you were reading the first [part] you thought, "What the heck does creativity have to do with thrift? Tightwaddery without creativity is deprivation. When there is a lack of resourcefulness, inventiveness, and innovation thrift means doing without. When creativity combines with thrift you may be doing it without money, but you are not doing without.

Amy Dacyczyn
AKA The Frugal Zealot
October 1990

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

How To Be More Creative

In the spring of 1991 I read an article in Parade magazine that changed my life. It was about Amy Dacyczyn and her newsletter The Tightwad Gazette. I subscribed to the newsletter, bought all the back issues and began putting into practice things I learned in them. One article has had a more profound effect on me than any other: How to Be More Creative. Today I'll share it so you can experience it for yourself.

"My own creative journey began nearly twenty years ago. My mother forced me to take an art class in high school. I recall tortured occasions of sitting before a blank piece of watercolor paper without a clue as to what I should paint. I was not the most talented student and receiving the art award in my senior year was unexpected. (So much so that I was delinquent and absent during the awards ceremony.)

"I went on to art school in Boston. At times ideas came easily but often it felt like beating my head against the wall. I did snag a couple of merit based scholarships and graduated as one of three in a dead heat at the top of my class.

"After art school a large advertising agency gave me my first job. There is a clock in the real world. You sit before a drawing board, working under an art director who has a different sense of what is good. The task before you is to second guess how the art director interprets the needs of the client. It is not kindergarten, where the teacher understands the fragile nature of creativity and tells you every idea is wonderful. The real world is where creative failure costs money.

"During my professional peak my creative effort satisfied art directors only 50% of the time. As a result I designed very little and did pasteup, type-specking and layouts most of my eight years working full time.

"Occasionally I obtained a freelance job, such as a logo for a small company. I always negotiated a fixed price and worked tirelessly to come up with the best design possible. My success rate with no clock and no art director was about 90%.

"After I married and my first child was born I freelanced only from home. I had a few jobs but for the most part put my creative energies into personal projects. Christmas cards, birth announcements, children's birthday parties and homemade presents.

"This freedom from the professional grind helped greatly. Some years later, at a business women's dinner, I related the details of recent personal projects to a lady who was one of my clients. She turned to the woman at her side and said "Amy is creative, creative, creative."

"This is a long story to tell you what I have learned about "How to be more creative." My credentials are the years of success and failure. If it had always come easily I would not have been forced to analyze. But through my roller coaster ride I have come to understand something of the nuts and bolts process of creativity.

"People tend to believe that creativity is a mystical gift reserved for a few. They think this mistaking creativity for "craft." Creativity is the process. Craft is the product. When there is a lack of a recognized outlet, such as writing, art, or music, creativity goes unnoticed.

"Creativity is nothing more and nothing less than solving a problem in an original way. As humans we all have this spark. We string together words to express our thoughts. We do not memorize and repeat the sentences that we speak. [Except maybe for Mr. Collins!] We put together new word combinations continually.

"Creativity occurs in subtle ways. While preparing a familiar recipe and you realize that you lack an ingredient and make a substitution. Or while folding laundry the way your mother taught you twenty years ago you discover that by rearranging piles in a different order you can save time. Or you have a problem with a coworker and attempt a new strategy to make the relationship work better. Or you figure how to build a lathe out of salvaged materials and a washing machine motor. These are all forms of creativity."

TO BE CONTINUED! Tomorrow - Ten Steps to a More Creative You.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

That's Amore

Dandylion's favorite food is pizza--he can eat it for breakfast, lunch, snacks and supper. He asked me to teach him to make it a long time ago; he recently renewed his interest in making it. Tonight I got to read while he was in the kitchen making supper. Thank goodness for hungry boys!

Spending time training children takes patience and perseverance, but the payoff is wonderful.
Thanks for a delicious pizza supper, Dandylion.

Monday, September 3, 2012

This is going to be meaty

It's the first of a new month--The start of my keeping track of what I spend on groceries, toiletries and household supplies.  I ALWAYS spend lots at the beginning of the month for the simple reason that I get my "allowance" at the beginning of the month.

Spending so far  on groceries: $289.25. This includes 2 month's worth of meat, 7 cases of canned goods, a month's worth of bread (my oven is still not reliable enough to bake bread) and English muffins. The only other things I should need this month are milk and produce, which I buy every seven to ten days.

Spending on toiletries and household supplies is: $80.73 which includes some things from Don Aslett's Cleaning Center, my favorite place for cleaning supplies.

I know that many people use baking soda and vinegar and such for cleaning, but I don't. Years ago when I first read Don's book "Is There Life After Housework" I read his debunking of the use of those things. I think they are great for certain applications, but not for everything.

When I got home from shopping I put everything away except the meat and canned goods. Then I set up for processing the bulk purchased meat into meal sized portions.

I bought ten pounds of ground beef, four (double) chicken breasts, and two pounds of regular sausage.
Bulk purchased meats
 I gathered the tools I need to process the meat into meal sized portions: kitchen scale, masking tape, Sharpie marker . . .
Tools needed to process
 . . . and a bunch of plastic containers.
Assorted plastic containers
 I weigh out the portions I want, for example I wanted three portions from each pound of sausage, then I put the meat in a container, put the lid on it, rinse my hands, then put tape on the lid and write the date and what's inside. All that's left is to put it in the freezer.
First Batch Completed
I won't bore you with pictures of all the other. Some of the chicken breasts I divided and some I left double, then labeled accordingly so I can choose whatever I need for a meal or recipe. The ground beef I portion in one pound and half pound and fill up the containers. This has been a way to save money by buying a lot of meat when it's on sale, portioning it up and freezing it. No waste and I can see at a glance what I have in my freezer.