Reflections on life, marriage, and a young woman who is constantly learning how much there will always be to learn!

Friday, January 27, 2006

A Sunny Treat

Last night, Micah and I enjoyed this Orange Julius recipe. I had never tried one before until I met him, but his family has been making them for years. They are delightful! The key to a great Orange Julius is squeezing your orange juice fresh!

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla or more to taste
  • Ice (as much or little as you wish to acheive the desired texture. We use about one ice cube tray's worth)

Mix in blender until ice is crushed. This recipe makes two gigantic shakes or four medium-sized ones:o)

P.S. I just realized that for some of my Northern readers, a shake recipe is not very apropos for January. Sorry, folks...we've been having rather warm weather here ourselves, so I sometimes forget! ;op Just copy and save the recipe for summer! You'll love it!

Enough time

There is always enough time to do the will of God. The great thing is to make our planning subject to God's perfect plan, laying our agendas at His feet and asking Him to help us choose wisely. All of us have duties. How gratefully and calmly we carry them out will indicate how we have obeyed Him.

~Elisabeth Elliot

Thankful Thoughts

Learning contentment is not always a joy-trip . I can always find someone who has something I want. Sometimes, I find people who seem to have EVERYTHING I want! (What makes them so special???) Walking into a Pottery Barn or Z Gallery store is a sure way to make my "discontentment-meter" soar! I've almost completely ceased going into my favorite clothing stores. And cute babies and cute puppies can really set me off.

The only way I've found to fight discontentment is to think of and thank God for what He HAS blessed me with. I can't fight the negative without replacing it with a positive. SOMETHING'S going to live in this heart of mine, so I must make a choice. I still fail to make the right choice more often than not, but I am praying that God will help me to remember my blessings. Oh, that thankfulness could be the first thing that pops into my mind when I think of my life!

  • I am a child of God, redeemed by Christ's sacrifice on the cross. Why did God choose me? I don't know, but I'm glad He did!
  • My husband is a true gift. I have never met another person who is so gentle and tender-hearted towards me. We love being together. We can be completely honest and open. I never, ever have cause to worry about his faithfulness and devotion. He shares my faith in God, and is willing to work on areas that need worked on. We share four years of life and happy memories.
  • The house we live in is small, yes. But it is cooled and heated and has running water. It's mine and my hubby's (We don't own, but are the only residents!). We have a yard. I love my fireplace and wood floors! And actually, it's rather nice in some ways that the bathroom is so small, because it's much easier to clean (though our old apartment was small too, it's bathroom was twice as big as our current one, and I filled the counters and ledge under the mirror with so much junk that it was a major pain to clean! Now there's no mess because there's no room for a mess:o) Simplification is often a very positive thing.
  • I have the opportunity to be a homemaker and to develop my love of writing.
  • Maybe if I had more money, my imagination would be sacrificed. I am forced to find ways to bring beauty and delight out of meager resources, but that can truly be more fun than having someone else do all the imaginative work!
  • I have never gone hungry or suffered debilitating poverty. I am made one of the wealthiest people on Earth, materially, just by being born an American citizen.
  • I have good friends, though distant. I have a good family.
  • My husband and I have hopes and dreams. May we always keep them, even when life's difficulties threaten to make us cynical. Life in Christ is always a hopeful life!

Thursday, January 26, 2006


Well, I've now had the blessing of being able to work at home for about a full month, minus the week we spent in Arizona. I'm still loving it! A few random impressions:

  • I sometimes feel guilty for being here, like I'm playing hooky from something! Not that I languish my days away on trifles--I'm working hard--but it doesn't "feel" like work to me because I don't hate it. Aren't I supposed to hate work? Isn't that what work is?
  • My days are not as long as I thought they would be. I still rush to get everything accomplished. Since I have made up my schedule and have attempted to stick to it, I am in constant wonderment as to where my hours go!
  • I fear that everyone I try to explain my life to must think that all I do is watch soap operas and eat potato chips all day. Actually, I NEVER watch soap operas and try to eat potato chips only in social settings. I don't know if anyone really thinks this, but I'm afraid they do. I analyze people's facial expressions as I try to explain what I'm doing with my life. From the bewildered looks I get, I wonder if some people understand that genuine work can be accomplished outside of a little 10x10 foot box. Still, I'll feel more justified in my choices if I can answer "Yes!" someday to the inquiry of "can you actually make money from that?"
  • Why is work only considered valuable if it brings money? I don't like money. I wish there was no such thing. If only I could survive without it!:op
  • I miss my puppy. I long for a little companion during the day...even one that doesn't talk.
  • I don't miss being surrounded by people all day. I like having some space. But sometimes I think it would be nice if there was still such a thing as the town well or market where women used to gather and chat about their lives as they set about their work together. Hmm...maybe the blogosphere has sort of become a "cyber town well" for me to some extent!
  • Though my days are short, my evenings seem longer. Enjoyable...yes! I love spending time with Micah! But what are we supposed to do with our evenings now that we don't have to make dinner late and try to clean the house and do all the other things that I couldn't do during the day before? We eat dinner. We walk. We read. And there's still time!
  • I don't know if I could EVER go back to the corporate/9-5 world. I believe God must have created us to want to work from home where our spirits feel content and our loved ones reside.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Searching for the perfect recipe...

...for oatmeal cookies!

I have already tried a few recipes, but have not found one that we just love. My husband has exacting specifications for the perfect oatmeal cookie: It must be chewy, not fluffy/cakey or crunchy. He seems to have tasted such an oatmeal cookie at one time or another, and really liked I'm on the hunt to find that perfect recipe that we will use for the rest of our lives and make for our grandchildren some day:o)

Does anyone know if such a recipe exists, and where it can be found?

P.S. When Micah saw the picture that accompanies this post, he remarked that the cookies in the picture look a bit "fluffy" -- so please do not take this picture to be exactly what I am looking for!;o)


Because Vision Forum was running a sale, I finally purchased J.R. Miller's book, Home-Making, a book that I've been wanting to read for simply months! It was not to be found at my library or even used at a decent price online.

I went with the cheapest shipping option, which was supposed to take from 7-11 business days. I made the order on Friday evening. Imagine my surprise when the book arrived yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon! That's like, what...2 business days? I was thrilled. My husband's comment was, "Well, I guess you're going to have that finished tonight!" Not quite, but I am 3/4 ths of the way through already ;o) There's a lot to chew on. Perhaps I will have more comments on the book later, after I've had a chance to finish it and think more on some of the issues discussed.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Pulling the pieces of one's life together is about as easy as managing a dozen swirling kites on a blustery day. You must handle them so they aren't torn from your grasp--but you must also keep them from crashing back to Earth. Furthermore, you must keep them balanced so they don't dual with one another for ownership of the sky.

Who can manage such a task--on his own--admist the ever changing climate of his surroundings? Perhaps we need to surrender the kites into the keeping of Another--One with very big hands and an enduring wisdom, who knows which kites to let drop, which to hold steady, and which to send souring into the furthest reaches of space.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Eating Out on a Budget

During our tenure as people without much "extra" money to speak of, my husband and I have found that it is quite possible for a couple to occasionally enjoy eating out at decent restaurants without breaking the budget! Just consider these ideas:

1. Scout out eating places where little to no tipping expected. In my area, there are many such places that are nicer than the typical fast-food grade restaurant. These include delis, some buffets, and places such as La Madeleine’s (French restaurant), Pei Wei’s (Asian food), and Chipotle (Tex-mex) where your food is ordered at the counter. You usually won’t have to tip much or anything at any restaurant that doesn’t provide a wait staff. When you consider that a respectable tip is at least 15% to 20% of the cost of your meal, that is quite a savings!

2. Forgo drinks and order water. For two people, this will save you $3-$5, or more if you generally order alcoholic beverages. My husband loves to order soda when we eat out, as we do not usually keep it in the house, so this is not always a very popular option for us! When we don‘t have much to spend, however, it is a good way to cut back and still enjoy eating out together. Sometimes we’ll skip the drinks at the restaurant, but stop and buy soda or lemonade on sale for less than $1 to enjoy when we get home.

3. Share an entree. This may not always work in every case, especially for the guys out there who can really put it down! But at least explore your options. Many restaurants offer some dishes with very large portions. Even if an entrée isn’t large enough to satisfy you both, consider supplementing with a couple extra side dishes instead of a second entrée. At our favorite Italian restaurants, we have found a great pasta dish that--once we combine it with two side salads and the free loaf of bread served--usually yields us leftovers after we’ve both eaten our fill.

Important: If at a restaurant where tipping is expected, We always calculate our tip according to the typical two-person ticket, regardless of whether we ate for the cost of one. Servers make their living from tips, and we wouldn’t want to short-change them whilst saving money for ourselves! I always enjoy imagining, as we order, that our server is thinking “Oh great…I got a couple of those people…stingy cheapos!” I love proving him wrong by leaving a nice tip as we dance out the door!

Here are some of our typical “eat-out” bills:

$4.87 - sharing a huge baked potato served with beef and all the trimmings at our favorite local barbeque place. This price also includes one large drink.

$7.87 - sharing a Burrito Bowl (rice, meat, cheese, toppings, etc) and bowl of chips with guacamole at Chipotle

$8.00-$9.00: Sharing Chicken Fried Rice with drinks at Pei Weis (we usually have leftovers of this, even after we share!)

And if we have a bit of money to splurge…
$24.00: Pasta, bread, two side salads, and $8.00 tip at our favorite nice Italian restaurant.

If we ever finish a meal and are still hungry (this hardly ever happens for us) we go home and make a big bowl of homemade popcorn. Nobody's hungry after that!;o)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Before and After

When we got home from our trip to Arizona, the house looked atrocious. Christmas gifts without homes yet and half-taken-down Christmas decorations lay strewn around the living room, along with the remnants of an organizational project I had started before we left. The bedroom was flooded with the contents of our suitcases from the trip. The Study...don't get me started! This room had been a catch-all since we moved into this home, due to (I justified) a lack of sufficient storage space throughout the house. Stacks of papers and books and other items mingled with the dust on the floor.

Well friends...ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! I'm pleased to announce that I have made quite a transformation in my home over the past couple of weeks, and am attempting (so far successfully!) to maintain my clean home a little at a time by sticking to my schedule. I still don't have enough storage space, but this has been good motivation for me to get rid of everything I really don't need (save my most special keepsakes). Necessity breeds creativity...and somehow I have now found a place for (almost) everything! Despite my embarassment at the previous state of my home, I share these pictures in the hopes that they will encourage or motivate someone. At least your home doesn't look like this...?

Living Room - Before :o(

Living Room - After :o)

Study - Before :o(

Study - After :o)

Mama and Baby Panda

I captured these pictures during our visit to the San Diego Zoo. Unfortunately, the ones I took with Baby Panda facing the camera turned out blurry!

Baby Panda nurses. They were so cute together...Baby was extremely playful--just like a puppy dog--and kept climbing all over and nuzzling against her mama. Mama was very tolerant and gentle.

DQ Country

"A high Determination Quotient leaves less time for ice cream but more room for success."

"Tom Clancy isn't the greatest stylist around, but like the apostle Paul he presses toward his goal, so his advice is worth remembering: 'Writing is most of all an exercise in determination.' Two craftsman-authors, Michael Crichton ('Books aren't written. They're rewritten.') and James Michener ('I'm not a very good writer, but an excellent rewriter.') also have demonstrated high DQs. One of America's top stylists, E.B. White, noted that a 'writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word to paper.'

~Marvin Olasky, World Magazine

Rest of Article Here

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Growing in Marriage

Micah and I will celebrate our third anniversary this year. We now know each other well enough, and have been through enough troubles together over the past two and a half years to have dissipated most illusions we might have had about each other or marriage! The gild of novelty has been worn thin.

And yet, despite struggles and hardship and sometimes disagreement, our love continues to grow! It grows because of the grace of God, and because we work at building it. Marriage is sometimes a challenge. But it is always worth it! God has used Micah in my life to chip away at some of my selfishness and teach me to be more giving. He has blessed me with Micah's strengths of faithfulness and tenderness. Together, the two of us are setting out to further explore the areas of good communication and the how to give each other the regular encouragement we both need. I am so thankful for my husband, and his willingness for us to try to grow together!

I wanted to share a couple resources I have lately discovered that have contributed to my education in the adventure of marriage.

When we were in Arizona, Micah's family shared with us the story of their friends, the Denlingers. This is a family who has been through the death of a severely handicapped son, as well as the continual care and sacrifice involved in nourishing their severely handicapped now eighteen year-old daughter. My mother-in-law let me borrow the Denlinger's book, Joy in a Foreign Land. I was very moved by the story...and not just because of its wisdom pertaining to the importance of motherhood and the meaning to be found in the life of a disabled child. But also because of the example of how a marriage survived and thrived--through faith in God--trials more difficult than I could ever imagine. I don't know what life holds for Micah and I. But whatever it is, I hope we are ever faithful to God and each other. That is the only way our lives will be full and joyful.

Another recent blessing to our marriage has been the reading together of H. Norman Wright's book Communication - Key to Your Marriage. Wright shares practical wisdom and Scriptural truths that make us really think about the way we communicate and how we can reach each other's hearts more lovingly and effectively. Much of what he writes is basic truth. However, we are both gaining much from the reminders, and we are especially learning from the sections of the book devoted to how personality differences affect couples' communication.

Finally - wink, wink:o) - there's the subject that's given WAY too much harmful publicity and probably not enough attention within many Christian circles. For couples wanting help or encouragement concerning marital intimacy, check out the website You may or may not agree with all opinions expressed, particulary in the forums. But if you desire help in this area of your marriage, it is certainly a preferable alternative to secular self-helps.

I would be delighted to hear about what God is teaching some of you in your marriages lately, and what resources you have found helpful!

Free Coupons and Grocery Savings Help

Meredith left a comment on my post, "My Experience with The Grocery Game" suggesting trying the website . Having checked out the site, I wanted to post my own suggestion for everyone to do the same! I had no idea there were sites online where you can print the same coupons that appear in your Sunday papers for free! not only has access to lots of free coupons, grocery and otherwise, she also shares tips, suggestions and free offers to help you save money and even contribute some of your excess bounty to the needy. Thanks, Meredith!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Serious about Salads

In an effort to incorporate more fresh fruits and vegetables into our diet, I recently spent some time thinking of and gathering the recipes (when necessary) for various kinds of salads. I'm keeping this list in my homemaking journal, hoping it will provide me with the inspiration to keep me out of the "salad rut" of lettuce, carrots, tomatoes and salad dressing!

I have not yet tried the recipes for Caesar salad, Italian Salad dressing, Avocado-Jalapeno Salad Dressing, Red Bliss Potato Salad, or Cold Lemon-Ginger Asparagus. These all come recommended from various websites, magazines or friends and I intend to try all of them to see if I want them in my permanent repertoire. All the other recipes or types of salads are family favorites. You are welcome to try these yourself if you like...they represent my entire treasure trove of tried and true salad recipes! Or at the least, hopefully my list will inspire you to make your own list and more regularly incorporate creative salads into your daily diet!

House Salad:

Mixed greens, Tomato, Cucumber, Purple Onion, Colored Peppers, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Carrots, Bacon Bits, Croutons, Shredded Cheese, Hard-boiled egg slices
Dressing: Ranch

Caesar Salad:

3 cloves garlic
3 flat anchovy fillets, drained and minced (try anchovy paste instead)
2 large egg yolks (try substitute)
1 T. white wine vinegar
2 t. red wine vinegar
1 1/2 t. Dijon mustard
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 t. salt
1 T. fresh lemon juice
3/4 c. olive oil
2 heads romaine lettuce, torn into pieces, rinsed and spun dry
1/2 c. freshly-grated parmesan cheese
1 c. garlic-flavored croutons

Mince and mix the garlic with the anchovy paste. In a bowl, whisk together paste, yolks, vinegar, mustard, Worcestershire Sauce, salt and lemon juice. Add oil in a stream, whisking, until it is emulsified.

Toss Romaine with Parmesan, bacon and croutons in a bowl; add dressing and toss well to coat. Serve immediately.

Croutons and Bacon Tips:
Try cubing and toasting any left over bread like sourdough, pumpernickle, italian - about 1 inch cubes. Put in the oven and toast on a cookie sheet. After frying bacon bits, reserve a tablespoon of bacon drippings in the pan and add another tablespoon or so of butter and a little seasoning salt. Toss the toasted bread cubes in the drippings in the same pan as the bacon was made in and let cool a bit before tossing on salad.

Italian Salad:

Mixed greens, Tomato, olives, cucumber, Shredded Parmesan, croutons, pepper
Dressing: Italian

Italian Salad Dressing (Recipe Zaar):
This is a delicious vinaigrette type dressing with lots of flavor. Makes 1 ½ c.

1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 crushed garlic clove

Place first 7 ingredients in a bowl and very slowly whisk in olive oil. Add garlic and place dressing in a covered jar in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to let flavors develop.

Italian Tricolore Salad:

This is the simplest of summer salads but so healthy for you and so easy to prepare. It gets its name from the three colors on the plate -- red, green and white.

For 2 servings -

1 ripe avocado
6-8 slices buffalo mozzarella
10-12 cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
Basil leaves
Fresh ground black pepper

Dice avocado, mozzarella, tomatoes and basil and mix. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with black pepper to taste. From: RecipeZaar

Greek (Taverna Salad):

Dice the following: Cucumber, Tomato, Onion, Kalamata Olives

Add to taste: Feta cheese, Pepper, Oregano, Balsamic Vinegar, dash of olive oil (if desired)

Spinach Salad:

Baby or torn spinach, Strawberries, Dried cranberries, Avocado, Almonds, Sunflower seeds
Dressing: Raspberry Vinaigrette

Harvest Salad:

Mixed greens, Tart sliced apple, Dried cranberries, Blue cheese, Walnuts or Pecans, Sunflower seeds,
Dressing: Raspberry Vinaigrette or Balsamic Vinaigrette

Mandarin Avocado Toss:

½ c. each: sunflower seeds, slivered almonds
2 T. butter
½ c. vegetable oil
3 T. red wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1 T. lemon juice
2 t. sugar
½ t. each: salt and ground mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
4 c. torn leaf lettuce
1 (11 oz.) can mandarin oranges, drained
1 ripe avocado, peeled and cubed
1-2 green onions, chopped

In a small skillet, sauté sunflower seeds and almonds in butter. Cool. Meanwhile, in a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine oil, vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, salt, mustard and garlic; shake well. In a large salad bowl, toss the lettuce, oranges, avocado, onions and sunflower seed mixture. Drizzle with dressing. Serve immediately. Yield: 6-8 servings. From: Taste of Home Annual Recipes 2001

Mexican Side Salad:

Avocado-Jalapeno Salad Dressing:

1/2 avocado, mashed
1/2 T. lemon or lime juice
1/4 c. sour cream or plain yogurt (4 ounces)
1/8 c. vegetable oil
1/4 t. sugar
1/4 t. garlic salt
1/4 t. chili powder
Jalapeno to taste
(Try adding cilantro)

Combine all ingredients and mix in blender until smooth.

Serve over green salad with tomato, remainder of avocado-cubed, olives, black or red kidney beans, yellow corn, green onions, shredded Monterey Jack or Cheddar, and tortilla strips or crushed chips. Serves 6.

Couscous Salad:

4 c. cooked couscous
12 green onions, chopped
4 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 c. cucumber. Chopped
1 c. cooked garbanzo beans
2 c. parsley, chopped (or 1 cup parsley and 1 cup cilantro)

Mix all ingredients together and toss with the following salad dressing. Serves 12.

1 c. olive oil
2/3 c. fresh lemon juice
4 cloves minced garlic
1 ½ t. Dijon mustard
1 ½ t. ground coriander
1 ½ t. salt
Freshly ground pepper

Great Coleslaw:

6 c. shredded cabbage
1 c. carrot, shredded
¼ c. green pepper, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 c. celery, diced
1 c. mayonnaise (use part cream, sour cream or plain yogurt if desired)
2 T. each: sugar and white vinegar
1 t. each: prepared mustard and celery seeds
Cherry tomatoes (optional for garnish)

Combine cabbage, carrots, green pepper, onion and celery in large bowl. In separate bowl, combine mayo, sugar, vinegar, mustard and celery seeds, mix thoroughly. Toss dressing lightly with vegetables. Cover and chill 2-3 hours before serving. Place cherry tomatoes around edge of serving bowl if desired. Makes 10-12 servings. From: Houston Chronicle-The Nine Seasons Cookbook by Pat Haley.

Lynda’s Confetti Pasta Salad:

Goes GREAT as a side to grilled chicken or hamburgers!

2 c. (oz) shell macaroni, uncooked
¾ c. bottled Italian dressing
¾ c. mayonnaise (try substituting plain yogurt for part of mayo.)
1 t. salt
1.4 t. pepper
1 – 1 ½ c. Cheddar cheese, cubed
1 c. chopped cauliflower
1 c. broccoli, chopped
¼ c. each: (finely chopped) celery, green pepper, red pepper
1 T. chopped parsley
¼ c. radishes, thinly sliced (optional)

Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain well and cool. (Rinse with cold water to cool quickly; drain well). Combine Italian dressing, mayo, salt and pepper in bowl; blend well. Place macaroni, cheese, cauliflower, broccoli, celery, peppers, radishes and parsley in large bowl. Add pasta. Pour dressing over ingredients and toss lightly until pasta and veggies are evenly coated. Makes 8-10 servings. From: Aunt Lynda, Columbus Dispatch.

Broccoli Salad:

2 bunches broccoli
8 slices bacon (Try turkey bacon-cook crisp and crumble)
1 small green onion with stem
Walnuts, raisins and sunflower seeds to taste

1 c. slaw dressing (can used mixture of slaw dressing and plain yogurt)
¼ c. vinegar
¼ c. sugar
Pour dressing over broccoli, etc. just before serving. From: Grandma K

Family Potato Salad:

6 potatoes: boil, cook, skin and cube (or can leave skins on)
3 hard-boiled eggs, diced
2-3 T. pickle relish
2 stalks celery, chopped fine
1 ½ - 2 T. dried onion
celery seed to taste
salt and pepper to taste
Blendaise, enough to moisten
Sprinkle top with paprika (optional)

Mix together and chill. Family recipe.

Red Bliss Potato Salad:

2 lbs. Red potatoes
1/3 c. cider vinegar
2 med. celery stalks, finely chopped
½ c. mayo
1/3 c. sliced green onions (green parts only)
1 ½ t. salt
1/2 t. coarsely ground black pepper

Boil potatoes on high heat. Reduce to med-low heat, cover and simmer 8-10 minutes (16-18 min. if potatoes are large) or until fork-tender. Drain and cool slightly. Cube potatoes. Gently stir in vinegar. Let stand 30 minutes or until cool. Add remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate.

Cold Lemon-Ginger Asparagus:

1 ½ lb. Asparagus, tough ends snapped off.
2 T. fat-free chicken broth (highly flavored)
½ t. ginger root, freshly grated (or little less ground)
1 t. fresh lemon juice
1 T. scallions, minced (or regular onion)
¼ t. table salt
¼ t. black pepper

Bring 1-2 inches of water to a boil in a medium skillet. Place asparagus in skillet; reduce heat to medium and cook until asparagus are crisp-tender (about 6-8 minutes). Drain well.

Place asparagus in a large glass bowl. Combine broth, ginger, lemon juice, scallion, salt and pepper together and pour over asparagus. Set aside for 30 minutes to marinate. Chill.

Fresh Fruit Salad:

Slices apples, oranges, banana, grapes, peaches, strawberries, pecans or walnuts.
Dressing: Orange juice or sweetened yogurt

My Experience with "The Grocery Game"

I can't remember if I mentioned this earlier on my blog or not, but I did join the discussion on another blog about whether or not using The Grocery Game is a good investment. I had some questions, and finally decided to try it and see for myself! Well, I'm here to report on my experience:o)

Micah and I often do our grocery shopping together (especially now that I temporarily don't have a car during the week!). For several weeks, we very diligently printed out the lists for two different stores that we shop at, bought papers (since we don't have a subscription) and clipped coupons. The idea, for those who don't know, is that you save the coupons from your local paper until the items are on sale and get even more savings. The Grocery Game list will alert you to what the best deals are and when to use those coupons to get the best savings. Sometimes you can even get items for free.

We didn't mind the coupon clipping. I actually found it fun! (OK, so I'm weird:o) But after a few trips to the grocery store, I began to get slightly frustrated with the time spent in trying to find the items on the list. Sometimes, we couldn't find the right brands and deals listed at all. Other times, we spent several minutes trying to find the right item. Grocery shopping trips--especially when we stopped at two different stores to pick up the best deals at each one--stretched into hours' long affairs. We did notice substantial savings on some of the items we were buying, but I began to wonder if it was a mirage when we were spending just as much or more per week as ever.

Though we tried to be careful to mostly buy only foods we probably would have bought anyways, we did find ourselves getting sucked in a few times to buying stuff we didn't usually use just because it was so cheap. Many of the dirt-cheap sales centered around convenience food items that we could really do without. I also started to get frustrated with switching around to so many different brands I don't usually purchase just because of the list said to buy them. That's just me...I like my routines I guess! But I had to wonder if I was really doing better on these name brand canned goods on sale, for example, than the store brands at WalMart.

Now, to be fair: The Grocery Game site claims that in order to see the real savings kick in, you have to allow about 12 weeks. We didn't give it quite that long. After about 6 weeks, I decided that when you take into account the cost of the service (I think it was about $8 every month, plus another $8 in papers), the savings were not worth the time-intensiveness and frustration for me. I have decided instead, to monitor the sales myself on ONLY the items and brands I would typically purchase (I do buy a lot of store brands when taste and quality are not compromised). I may even continue to clip coupons for a while, to see if I think it's worth it to keep purchasing papers. I think my focus will be on learning how to identify and discover the real deals myself rather than relying on a list. That is good skill for me to have, I believe, and will keep me more focused on what I REALLY want and need according to our preferences and eating habits.

I am also establishing a plan to save (or at least get better quality for about the same price) by making more things myself on a regular basis, like bread, spaghetti sauce (made in bulk and frozen in meal-size portions) and buying heads of lettuce rather than the bags and tearing it myself.

I love my freezer! Did you know you can buy cheese and butter in bulk and freeze it? I tried it and it worked! I also keep tortillas and pitas (for cheap and delicious pizza crusts) in the freezer on a regular basis, because these always go bad before we can finish the whole bag. They are quick and easy to defrost when needed. Then of course, I freeze as many leftovers as possible, because both of us get sick of eating the same thing more than once or twice in a row. I have set a goal for myself to waste as little food as possible, and that should help with our grocery bill considerably.

Note: Because some of my annoyance with some aspects of The Grocery Game is personal preference, many people--especially those with larger families who buy in larger quantities and have more space to store excess goods--may actually benefit quite nicely from it! I think it is certainly worth it to give it a try if you think it might help you. It is only $1 to try it out for the first month. I would certainly recommend people trying it if it interests them. Couldn't hurt!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Loving Home

Hi Mrs. B, Carrie, Rene and everybody! Thanks for your comments. I really have missed blogging, but it was a necessary omission there for a while:o)

Yes, Carrie! I am FINALLY working at home full-time now! We are hoping (myself desperately so) that this can remain a permanent situation. I can't even begin to tell you HOW MUCH I'm loving it! I no longer dread my days but look forward to them:o)

I'm currently working on getting into a routine, and am putting together a workable schedule so that I can try to be diligent with my time. I'm setting aside part of each morning to household tasks, and then blocks of time for the home business I'm attempting to start. This business, right now, encompasses a lot of writing, so I'm trying to work on being focused! It's easy to let my mind wander, especially if I allow myself to go off looking at blogs and websites, etc. You guys just have too much interesting stuff to look at! Stop distracting me!;o)

Our 2nd car conveniently stopped working right when we got back from Arizona, so I am without wheels. Hence I have been asking Micah to take me out many of our evenings (Mostly we go peruse at Barnes and Noble...just returned from there, actually). We also go for walks every evening which has been a very positive habit for us. Hopefully we can get the car fixed soon so that I have a way to run errands, etc, during the day. Also, I could be helpful in instances like when my mother called me this afternoon asking me to pick her up because HER car had died on the side of the road! No mom, you have to sit there and wait for some gruff, burly towtruck driver to give you a ride to a safer location. Sigh.

Car troubles aside, I am immensely happy to have this opportunity to do what I've been dreaming about. I hope to make the most of it, and in the end, have good gifts to present to my husband: a happy wife, a beautiful home, and even a little help with the income. What could be better?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Spaghetti for Dinner

I have this recipe simmering in my crock pot as I type! It's a wonderful recipe for homemade Spaghetti Sauce, originally from my Aunt.

Heidi's Italian Spaghetti Sauce

1 lb. Italian link sausage: remove skins, crumble in frying pan and cook with onion and garlic below
1 small onion
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Add into crock pot:
3 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes
3 (6 oz) cans tomato paste
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup red wine
2 t. Italian Seasoning
1 can mushrooms (or fresh), optional

Add the cooked sausage mixture into the crock pot. Cook all day, stirring every hour or so.

Friday, January 06, 2006

I'm back:o)

Whew! What a busy past couple of weeks! We have just enjoyed an extended holiday, with Christmas followed by a week-long trip over New Years to visit Micah's family in Arizona. While there, the whole group took a mini-vacation within our vacation to visit San Diego (One of the highlights of that little diversion for me was seeing the baby panda at San Diego Zoo! Adorable! I will have to post a picture of the little cutie once it's developed:o). Of course, we will not mention the fact that it rained nearly the whole time we were there. We had fun anyway.

The holiday spirit continues. My youngest sister, Ashley, is now officially engaged as of New Year's Eve to the young man of her dreams, and we are in the midst of planning her a wedding for April 29th! I am a bit miffed that I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Wonderful, as they are both currently living in Pennsylvania and their New Year's visit to Texas unfortunately coincided exactly with our previously planned trip to Arizona. I don't know if I will get to meet him before the wedding! But, I am choosing to take everyone else's word for it that he is a great guy and will make an excellent husband for Ashley and brother-in-law for me. first brother!

Thanks SO MUCH to everyone who commented on my last couple of posts. We still miss Fluffy immensely, but are beginning to be able to think of her more and more with fondness and a little less with pain. We hope to very soon be able to get a new little friend to liven up our little home:o)

I have many things to write about later. Right now, I have a date with my husband!