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

Friday, March 31, 2006

Worthy Discussion? Part II

"Those less-conscientious men will always be out there 'taking advantage' of women."

By "taking advantage" I assumes Erin means "wanting sex without marriage". Apparently in Erin and Candace's world, women don't really want sex--it's just something to which your husband is entitled once his lack of access to you forces him to marry you first.

~Comment from this recent discussion at Happy Feminist's Blog

Yep. That's right. Christian women don't want to have relations with their husbands, and the only reason my husband married me is because I FORCED him. This commenter's statement would indicate a logical fallacy of the non sequitur variety.

Anyway...I share this as evidence that Christians seeking to share about our beliefs are likely to be dismissed BY SOME, without said persons seriously engaging or seeking to understand the point of view.

But does that mean we stop sharing? I really appreciated those of you who took the time to respond to my question yesterday! It's given me a lot to consider.

Happy Feminist has a good point when she states: I like to hear opposing views directly from the people who hold them rather than distorted in the popular media. I may not always like what I see but at least I am learning what people actually think, rather than some media caricature of what certain people are supposedly like.

Definitely, HF! I'm glad we agree that the media is not necessarily a good source for gaining unbiased information;o)

Mrs. B writes: I like what you said about interacting with them, in a gracious and loving manner. However I think that majoring on 'details', as you put it, is pointless. I'm much more interested in someone's soul and where they're going to spend eternity than with their politics and such.

Yes! Such a good thing to keep in mind! For what does a man profit if he gains the world and loses his soul?

That being said, I think that we need to continue to write books and articles and blog about what we believe and how we think things should be. We need to be a voice but the Bible says in 2 Timothy 2:23 "But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes." also Titus 3:9 says "But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain."

Yes, Yes! I fully intend to not back down on what I believe, and giving the reasons why. However, I SHOULD NOT expect that reason alone will save anyone. And striving after contention or arguments about the law will not help anybody. If someone questions me, I should answer. If someone misrepresents Christ or Christians, I should try to offer them a more truthful perspective. But I don't need to be chasing people down and shoving my beliefs in their faces. And when friendly discussions disintegrate, perhaps that is the time to politely excuse oneself.

Becky Miller states: I agree with Mrs. B and HF - loving discussion can be very fruitful in helping us understand each other, but heart change is ultimately more important than mind-change. God uses "the foolish things of the world to shame the wise," and as Delirious puts it, "The Cross is such foolishness to the perishing ones." The Christian worldview will make NO SENSE to someone who does not know Jesus. But the moment someone has a personal encounter with Him, the Holy Spirit starts to teach them. Mind change follows heart change.

Friendly questioning and debate have their place, but if it becomes vituperative and pushes people away from Christ, it's pointless. Our time and energy would be much better spent on praying for those who don't know Jesus and sharing the Gospel with them. Talking about Christ and Him crucified will be more worthwhile than talking about women's roles.

Becky provides a good substitution for "striving about the law": Pray for people. And share what Christ has done for us and can do for them. To this, I would to live as an example so that they may want to know the reason for the hope within us.

You know...that's a tall order. It's much easier to argue with people, isn't it?

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Worthy Discussion?

In reaction to this post of mine citing an article by Candice Watters, Happy Feminist has written her own perspective on her blog (NOTE: I want to warn you that there is some language used!). She offered to link to me, but acknowledged that I might not want a crowd of people traipsing over here for an argument:o) While I'm certainly not against a good DISCUSSION, she's right that I'm not hankering for an ARGUMENT. I genuinely appreciate women like Happy Feminist who graciously engage in respectful dialogue with people of opposing viewpoints without resorting to name-calling and dagger-throwing, and would prefer not to accommodate the latter sort on this blog.

Anyway, I responded to HF that I would direct my readers to her site if they want to participate in the discussion over there. My own post on the topic is a week old, and I've since moved on to other subjects.

To be honest, I'm not positive that much can be gained by arguing details with folks who have an entirely different worldview. Our rousing discussion isn't going to change anyone's minds if God hasn't first changed their hearts. But we SHOULD learn to interact with non-believers in a gracious and loving manner. We are to be salt and light, and sometimes that means just letting the joy that we have in God and with our families shine through. If only one person is touched by that, it's worth it. What do you guys think? Also, what is the value of and place for intellectual discussion with non-believers? I have heard stories of God using these types of discussions to reach people, so I tend to believe it's a worthy endeavor. But I'm interested in reading some of your thoughts about this.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

19th-Century Diet

Sorry for the current fixation on food! Since nutrition is currently my major topic of study, it provides the majority of information that I have to share right now:o)

I found this article about the traditional nineteenth-century American diet very interesting. Though I'm not sure I can quite believe the authors' conclusion, it certainly makes one consider the benefits of whole foods vs. our society's modern diet of fake foods.

Just reading it for historical interest alone--discovering what 19th century homemakers used to prepare for their families--is fascinating. What do you think you want to make Pig's Head Mush anytime soon? ;oP

Maybe it's better to be ignorant...

Is ignorance really bliss? I'm starting to think that in the subject of food quality it might be:o)

The more I learn about food nutrition, the more I am grossed out by the imposters in the superstore. The problem is, GOOD food is definitely more expensive and harder to procure. How far should I go, keeping in mind that I'm supposed to help Micah be a good steward of what God has given us and to get out of debt?

On the other hand, good nutrition is an investment in our health, and could help prevent any number of expensive and miserable health conditions later in life. Also, if more people demanded it, it might become more regularly available. Demand drives supply (or something like that:o).

Anyway...just throwing these ideas out there for what they're worth. I'm still in the process of figuring out where--and where not--to compromise.

The Truth About Milk

This article about how commercial "milk" is produced is enough to give one nightmares. After you finish gasping, visit to find locations where you can purchase actual milk in your area. I know I will be!

Monday, March 27, 2006


Ok, I might as well round out my "Menu Planning" blog day with Breakfast:o)

We haven't really been eating breakfast very often, but I'm trying to change that. I asked Micah if we could plan to get up together in the mornings and have about an hour together for breakfast and Quiet Time before we get started on our days. He seemed to like that idea too!

Therefore, I will plan to make a batch of muffins every week. We will supplement or alternate these with some of the following:

Hot cereal: Oatmeal, Breakfast rice or Cream of [grain]
Homemade granola

Fresh Fruit or Fruit Smoothies

Hard-boiled eggs
Homemade yogurt ( I don't make this yet, but have been researching it and am planning to start!)

My Master Menu Planner

Menu planning had become a major hassle! I would spend forever flipping through cookbooks, trying to figure out what to make that week and wondering whether I would be going over budget.

Well, I've finally put together a Master Menu Planner and I'm thrilled with the way it's working! First of all, I decided upon five dinner categories for the weeknights:

  • Beef Night (Generally lean ground beef or ground turkey) Examples: Greek-style Turkey burgers, Picante Cranberry Meatballs, Taco Salad
  • Other "Meat" Night (Choose from Chicken, fish, pork, sausage--try to get on sale) Examples: Lebanese Chicken Skewers, Easy Red Beans and Rice (contains sausage), Homemade Fish and Chips (Fries:o)
  • Breakfast-for-Dinner Night (Protein is generally eggs) Examples: Crustless Vegetable Quiche, Muffins or pancakes, fruit and yogurt
  • Produce and Non-Meat Protein Night (Protein is generally cheese or beans) Examples: Baked Potatoes, Falafels, Vegetarian Quesadillas
  • Pasta Night (Some pasta dishes may include leftover beef, chicken or sausage, or tuna. Others have no meat, but contain cheese and/or beans) Examples: Spaghetti, Stuffed (Vegetarian) Manicotti, Homemade Macaroni and Cheese
I decided on the above categories in attempts to limit the amount of meat I will purchase (for budgetary reasons). Some recipes may not call for much meat, in which case I will have some left over to freeze or add to other dishes. I will not plan unique meals for weekends, except for special occaisions or company (In which case I will plan for less meals during the week and we will fill in with leftovers then). I've tried planning out seven days a week before, and we usually end up with too much food that goes to waste! On weekends we will generally eat leftovers, make homemade pizza on Friday or Saturday night and eat out (cheaply!).

I have also put together lists of my recipes according the above categories. Now I can simply look at my list and quickly decide which dish to choose for each category. This might seem like a "duh" idea, but it's a new innovation in my life!:o)

Lunches Revisited

A few posts back, I asked for lunch suggestions (If you click on that link, you might have to scroll down--for some reason the formatting is wack!:op ). I got some great ideas from many of you! Now I am finally taking the time to make my master menu-planning lists, and I thought I would share my list for lunches.

My main criterion for this meal is simplicity and that it be easy for my husband to bring as a packed lunch (Keeping in mind that he doesn't have access to a microwave!). I will be looking to this list for inspiration as I plan my menu and grocery list every week, so that hopefully I will not fall back into the lunchmeat-sandwiches-only rut! I will be trying to coordinate lunch plans with my dinner plans for the week, so that the ingredients (especially the meats) needed will overlap and so that leftovers from dinners will get used.

Packed Lunches: Main Event

  • Leftovers
  • Deli sandwich w/meat, cheese, cucumber, lettuce, tomato, banana pepper, purple onion, mustard and mayo on French bread.
  • Grilled chicken sandwich w/leftover chk, cheese, spinach, avocado (if have some), tomato and pesto on French bread.
  • Tuna sandwich w/cucumber on French Bread
  • Chicken Ranch Pitas
  • Chicken salad sandwich w/lettuce
  • Jalapeno-Pimento Cheese sandwich
  • Peach Tree Egg Salad sandwich
  • Chicken Salad Salad
  • Side salad or raw veggies and [select one]: Cheese and crackers, PB and crackers, Cream cheese w/sauce on Melba Toast, Humus on Pita, Spinach dip and bread, chips or crackers, Dilled Tuna dip and chips or crackers, Layered Tostada dip and chips, Guacamole and chips, Hidden Valley Ranch Pinwheels.
  • Salad wrap w/meat and dressing
  • Quesadillas
  • Pigs in a blanket (turkey dogs)
  • Soup (in a thermos) and muffins
  • Calzones
  • Stromboli

Packed Lunches: Sides

  • Leftover Dinner Sides
  • Fresh veggies and dip
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Pretzels
  • Baked or tortilla chips w/salsa
  • Apple or plantain chips
  • Homemade munchies:
    Dill Nibbles
    Julie’s Saltine Snack
  • Trail mix or mixed nuts
  • Homemade cookies or granola bar

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Single Female Seeking Home Ownership

Another insightful piece by Candice Z. Watters! I'm really coming to appreciate her writing and thoughts.

Edit: Also consider a thoughtful alternative perspective by Carolyn McCully.

A piece of the past

If you live in Ohio (or want to), you now have the opportunity to purchase this charming old-fashioned home, built in 1840!

My mom sent me the link, because this is the home that her family lived in for several years while she was growing up. She wrote: They have redone some things since Mom & Dad owned it... but I sure enjoyed seeing the beautiful living room again with the solid walnut paneling and trim. The weird thing is to look out the back windows in the kitchen and see houses across the back yard. Back in the 70s-80s [they] owned 10 acres and there was never anything out back but a barn, and about 4 other "out buildings," the pond and the woods. It's amazing how things change!!

Looking at the pictures, I remembered visiting my grandparents there when I was about three. Those steep old stairs? I once accidentally tumbled halfway down them and bonked my head pretty hard!

Why don't they build houses like this anymore...solid and interesting and homey? If Micah and I ever get the opportunity to build our own home, I told him I don't want it to be really big! Just well-built and filled with character! Thankfully, he agrees:o)


What do you think about this statement?

Culture is religion externalized

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Working From Home Resources

Samantha left the following comment on this post:

Thanks for sharing that info! Please keep us posted on other ways you are working from home. My sister is going to begin working part-time at her job (right now I take care of her kids full-time), and I'm hoping to find a way to make extra income from home. My dream is to work from home, but I don't even know where to start:) So I love hearing about other peoples experiences. Also, if you have any books about starting home business please share. Thanks again!

First of all, that's wonderful news about your sister! She must be excited to get to cut down on her hours and have more time to spend with her children!:o)

I will happily share about my experiences working from home as I go along. I'm not an expert by any means, just someone who is hoping to successfully implement what I'm learning about home businesses. I will tell you up front that I think my biggest challenge so far has been getting past my fears and doubts to move forward. I'm one of the best planners and list-makers out there, but when it comes time to actually start doing what I have planned I tend to freeze! God is teaching me that a home business is not going to just happen for me. It will take diligence and perseverance. As long as I'm praying and seeking God's direction, I have to trust Him enough to step out past my comfort zone and simply try my best without worrying about potential failure!

You asked about books. Well, I have read or at least thumbed through just about all of them I could find! Micah and I have spent countless hours at the library and at our local Barnes and Noble over the past few years, hoping to soak up some life-changing knowledge. I think there are two main types of books on entrepreneurialism:

1. The first type contains technical/legal knowledge. When you start a business, you will need to know things like: how to acquire a business name, open a business checking account, whether the business you're interested in is highly regulated (such as the food industry), etc. You could probably do fine with just about any manual by a relatively articulate person who knows about these topics. If you can find a book pertinent to your particular state and/or type of business, you might find that all the more helpful. Before you go out and buy a book, see if you can get what you need from websites or simply copy down the information you need from a library book.

*My advice: don't accept any of the garbage out there about financing your business with any sort of debt, whether that's credit cards or business loans or borrowing money from friends and family! If you can't afford it, you don't need to be doing it. If God wants you to have a certain type of business, He will provide the resources. Sometimes you just have to start very small and allow your business to develop as the money comes in. You should learn how to budget and be a good steward with your business finances, just as you would with your personal finances. Allow common sense to take the reigns when you find yourself reading the book of some guy who's telling you that you can buy your way to financial freedom with debt. That's like saying, "I'm going to climb to Heaven by digging a hole!" Maybe a few people have gotten "lucky", but there are certainly countless more who have crashed and burned with that approach! Dave Ramsey's resources really helped my husband and I put our heads on straight about debt. I especially recommend his book "The Total Money Makeover". You can also listen to his radio show.

**Also use your common sense when considering the things some of these books will tell you you NEED! You may need a computer for many businesses, but you don't need a fancy office getup. You may or may not need all of that fancy software. Don't sacrifice business quality, but do be creative in finding ways to attain it with less money!

2. The second book type contains creative knowledge. These are the inspirational and motivational books that seek to help you decide what type of business to start, offer creative ways to market your business or claim to have winning strategies for making you rich. Ignore ALL get-rich-quick books or websites. Stay far, far away from "business opportunities" that offer you wealth but remain vague about what you will actually be doing to acquire that wealth! If you have an inkling that something might be a scam, it probably is.

I've enjoyed browsing through idea books, but ultimately realize that nobody else (who doesn't know me, anyway!) is going to be able to tell me exactly what I should do. You should seek to determine your special niche by praying and assessing your own interests and skills. A good (though not exactly cheap) resource to help you do this is Dan Miller's 48 Days to Creative Income. Some of his other business start-up resources look helpful too, though I haven't read them. Dan Miller also offers a free newsletter.

Some other resources that offer business ideas are:

-the Business Owners Idea Cafe website. See their Business Owners Profiles page to meet entrepreneurs in action!

-Crystal's e-books offer ideas and real stories about women in home-centered businesses. "The Merchant Maiden" is the only one I've read, but "How to Start Your Own Business: For Christian Young Women" looks good too!

-I've also found interesting info. on, even though the site is technically for work-at-home mothers:o).

-If you find any books for work-at-home moms at your library, check them out for relevent info. as well. They often have a more home-centered focus than your typical entrepreneurial resources.

Once you narrow in on your niche, look for websites or books that specifically address that particular business.

For marketing ideas (that's my husband's department), Micah has enjoyed the Guerilla Marketing books. We have this one and would like to get this one and perhaps the ones specifically for writers and home-based businesses.

Whew! Well, sorry this is so long! But hopefully somebody will find it helpful:o) Does anybody else have good home business resources to offer?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

More on God's Provision

I read this story by Mrs. Wilt, and all I could think was "wow." In everything, when we are seeking to do what God wants for our lives and our families, He is ultimately in charge and will take care of the details!

The Case of the Missing Lawyers

Reading a NY Times article about the dearth of women partners in law firms, the author's framing of the issue made me feel like I was watching the manipulation of little plastic horses and kings during a game of chess.

Here's the problem, according to author Timothy O'Brien:

Although the nation's law schools for years have been graduating classes that are almost evenly split between men and women, and although firms are absorbing new associates in numbers that largely reflect that balance, something unusual happens to most women after they begin to climb into the upper tiers of law firms. They disappear.

Inquiring minds want to know: why?

Not surprisingly, Mr. O'Brien and his interviewees focus almost exclusively on external and structural reasons for this disparity. Following are a few quotes:

Although women certainly leave firms to become more actively involved in child-rearing, recent detailed studies indicate that female lawyers often feel pushed into that choice and would prefer to maintain their careers and a family if a structure existed that allowed them to do so.

Women lawyers also enjoy less access to the networking and business development opportunities that flourish in largely male playgrounds — think golf courses or football games — or through an invitation for a casual after-work drink with a male boss.

"Women aren't being adequately mentored, but I think male associates aren't particularly well mentored at all firms either, and there's pretty widespread dissatisfaction with that," said Meredith Moore, director of the office for diversity at the New York City Bar. "Having said that, I do think that superstar male associates are identified more clearly for informal mentoring than superstar female associates."

"Women are held to higher standards, and if they don't jump up and down like a man would at a meeting they aren't seen as partnership material...Women are less likely to get the attention than men. Some of this is left over from the sexual harassment cases from the 90's, but I think that it's more because of the fact that we don't look like men."

Ms. Lockwood's also exploring the impact of what she describes as the "maternal wall" on female lawyers. She says that this wall is built on the unstated assumption among male partners that women who return to firms after having children will automatically be less willing to work hard or will be less capable than they were prior to that — resulting in less-choice assignments or less-senior postings.

"People explain it simply as the fact that women have children, but so many other factors play into it," she says. "Women self-promote in a different way than men, and because women don't get their success acknowledged in the same way as men who more aggressively self-promote, it creates a high level of professional dissatisfaction for women.
"Saying these two words, 'I want,' is not something many women are used to doing," she adds. "They are not saying, 'I want the top bonus,' or 'I want that position.' They have a different style of self-promotion. But women need to learn how to be comfortable saying, 'I want,' and how to say it effectively."

"We are very accommodating with leaves and flexible schedules, and even with that we still lose women," says Edith R. Matthai, who founded a Los Angeles law firm, Robie & Matthai, with her husband in 1987. "I think the pressures on women from spouses, family, peers, schools and others is huge."

"I think the real solution is a reassessment of the role that women play in the family," adds Ms. Matthai, who is president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. "One thing we need is a sense of shared responsibilities for the household and, most importantly, shared responsibilities for taking care of the kids." sounds like men and women and families and law firms and the practice of law itself all need to be substantially changed and manipulated in order to provide a more welcoming environment for women. Better yet...why don't women just try to act like men as much as possible (unless, of course, we can convince the men to act like women)? Then things would be much less complicated and more equitable.

Funny how the people...the men and women themselves, along with some allowance for the many ways that they might manifest diversity were left out of the equation. I don't suppose that men and women could just be...perhaps I shouldn't say this...inherently different? That they might often want to make different choices? That maybe most women (notice I didn't say "all") just don't find their hearts (notice I didn't say "brains") in the courtroom?

P.S. - By the way, why haven't I seen any hard-core campaigns for redressing the inequalities between men and women in the following jobs?: Flower-arranging, midwifing, being a nursery worker, nursing, First Man in the whitehouse ( I understand we've never had one in America! Men, you've been shut out!)

I also think, in the name of equality, that we should have programs and implement restructuring to incorporate more women into the following fields: Garbage collecting, working in the coalmines, construction.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Making money off other people's junk :o)

Update: Research pays! Thanks to Carmon's tips about this bookselling blog and additional information perusal, I've figured out that Micah and I will probably do better selling books on a set-price site like Amazon Marketplace than on Ebay auctions in many cases. It's a great starting place for other info about the book market too! I'm happily intrigued and engrossed:o)

As I described in this post, we've recently been trying a little experiment to see if we could buy some things for cheap and resell for a profit online. We like to garage-sale and check out auctions and other thrift shops and markets, so we thought that it would be fun to make a little money from this hobby.

Over the past two weekends, we've visited some garage sales and purchased about $16 worth of merchandise. We listed most of it on Ebay. For those who might be interested, here are some things we've learned so far:

  • Clothes, name-brands included, are a no-go. We happened upon a garage sale where a mother was practically giving away heaps of name-brand baby and little boy clothes. We snatched up several items, including some adorable denim overalls, and listed everything on Ebay for under a dollar apiece. None of the clothes received a single bid. Also, I found a pair of name-brand women's jeans that usually retails for $90.00 on the clearance rack at a discount store. I purchased them for $15.00, thinking that I might be able to resell them for at least $25 or $30. When I got home and researched, I discovered that I wouldn't be able to sell them for any more than I paid for them, so I returned them to the store. Perhaps it is possible to make money online off of clothes, but you really have to know what you're doing. The Ebay clothes market seems to be saturated.
  • Know your shipping costs! I'm ashamed to say we guessed on what shipping would cost (since we don't own a package scale) and were way off on some things. Package shipping costs must have gone up along with the postage stamp. A couple items actually cost more to ship than the total payment we had received from our buyer! So it ended up costing us money rather than making us money to "sell" them our merchandise. We will be buying a package scale so that we can give accurate shipping costs in the future!
  • Research to find the cheapest source for packaging materials. In our case, we discovered that buying envelopes and boxes at Wal*Mart is not the cheapest way to go. (We discovered this after spending $16.00 to buy about 4 boxes and about 10 padded envelopes.) My mom reminded me that boxes can be gotten for free at Wal*Mart if you call and find out when they usually finish stocking their shelves, then show up and ask to take some. She also told me about a shipping materials store where envelopes can be purchased in bulk for about half the price of Wal*Mart's. If you are shipping something Priority Mail, remember that the post office will deliver Priority shipping materials free to your house.
  • Specialize! We picked up some random odds and ends for cheap that we thought might be useful for someone. Even though they did sell, these are the items on which we most underestimated the shipping costs (some of them were rather heavy!). Most of these items ended up costing us money. If we had charged the correct shipping costs, we doubt anyone would have bought them, because they weren't worth that much. We made our best profits on books that we bought at garage sales for .25-.50 and some unique or classic children's toys. (For instance, some colored dominoes we bought for $1 and sold for $9, and a set of old Lincoln Logs that we got for free and also sold for $9). So we have decided to stick with books, classic toys, and anything that we know to be collectible.

So, here were the results of our experiment so far: Almost half of the items we purchased for $16 either didn't sell at all, or we didn't even bother to list them after doing our research. We now know not to buy these types of items again!

For the items that did sell (about an $8 investment on our part), people paid us over $40 (not including the shipping costs we requested). We WILL be buying many of these types of items again!

Unfortunately, our profits from this go-around are minimal because of: bad shipping cost estimates, spending too much on expensive shipping materials, and the purchase costs and listing fees for items that didn't sell. Next time should be better! There is definitely a learning curve to this little side-business:o)

Hillbilly Housewife Goes Organic

Hillbilly Housewife has done some awesome posts lately on healthful budget eating (Some would say that's an oxymoron--I'm hoping to prove otherwise:o)

She writes:

What I discovered is that cooking for health and cooking for a budget are 2 entirely different cooking methods and bringing them together in a synergistic blend is a monumental challenge. Never one to avoid a challenge, this is my next great project.

Yay! As this is one of my great projects right now too, I am very excited to find someone else pursuing this same path. She's already a little further ahead than me. Read about her 4-week long experiment into buying organic foods.

Also, check out these sites she alerted me to: Food News & Pesticides Levels in common Produce. I was dismayed to discover that many of my favorite foods are at the top of the "bad list". Yikes! All the more reason to keep trying to find cheaper organic alternatives!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Beautiful Women

In a column in Boundless Webzine, Candice Watters answers a 25 year-old young single woman who worries:

I've never had anyone ask me out or tell me I'm beautiful (other than my mum and dad!). I have guy friends and think I'm at least average in looks, but sometimes I think I must be abnormal! Is there something wrong with me? What can I do to relieve my worry that I'll never find the one that God has for me?

I really appreciated Candice's answer! Here's part of it:

For starters, there's nothing wrong or shameful about your desire to be singled out by a man. As women, we long to be the glory of a man; quite literally, his beauty. As you make the most of your features and form, remember your spirit also informs your beauty. Peter wrote that all those externals were secondary to your "inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."

This inner beauty comes from resting in God's provision and trusting Him to be your advocate. It's the opposite of striving to control.

Beauty is not just a state of being. It's also doing. God designed you to take delight in being a beauty, and to create beauty for the delight of others around you. Every time you create beauty for others, you send the message that they are valuable, worth the price of your effort. It's this message of value that Mary of Bethany so lavishly sent when she anointed Jesus' feet with the pure nard.

Finally, I asked one of my single, attractive, unattached friends how she thinks about beauty. "'You're beautiful' is something you hear from God," she said. To know that God sees you as beautiful, and worth the costliest gift ever given — His Son — is a powerful antidote to counterfeits. When you draw your self-worth from your Creator, you're better able to recognize and resist men who would flatter for their own ends rather than your good.

What a wonderful view of true womanhood! As a married woman, I was reminded again that God, not my husband (much as I love him!), is my ultimate giver of worth. Is the way I am living my life beautiful to God?

Also, I am pondering Candice's statement that we as women--whether married or single--have been created to "delight in being a beauty, and to create beauty for the delight of others" around us! How can I grow in beauty as God's woman, and seek to nurture beauty wherever possible as a gift for those in my world? What are some SPECIFIC things I can do to give the gift of beauty?

Well...for one thing, I can go grocery shopping right now, so that my husband will have a good dinner to eat tonight! (A man with a satisfied stomach is a beautiful thing!) I'll have to meditate on these things some more as I meander hither and thither:o)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

I'm Not Wonder Woman

Sitting at my office desk, feeling my life-blood draining out of me day after day, I used to wistfully dream about living in the 1800s. Back when women were expected to be at home, not looked down upon for making that choice. What joy to spend my days in pursuit of taking care of those I loved! To not have to spend three hours a day fighting traffic! To not have to come home dead-tired and try to come up with a nutritious dinner to serve my husband so we wouldn't go out for fast food once again. (Often, it was:"What will it be, Honey...cold cereal or spaghetti?") To not always be so tired that we ended up planted on the couch in front of the television for three hours every night (talk about life-blood draining!) To not have to spend all weekend cleaning and grocery shopping because that was the only time I had energy to do it. To not actually hope that I would get sick so that I could have a day at home. To not skip church more often than not because it took half the weekend and I was so protective of and selfish with the little bit of time I did have to spend with my husband. To not dread my weekdays like the specter of death.

I'm not over-exaggerating here! That was seriously how I felt trying to be wife, homemaker and full-time employee at once. I was in constant wonderment at how many women added children on top of that and stayed sane. Maybe you're Wonder Woman and can do it all. Maybe you work outside the home, always have a clean house and good meals, are still able to always be there for your family when they need you, and still get enough time to rest. That wasn't me. I guess I'm not skilled in the arts of Wonder Woman-ness. I simply know what's most important to me and where my heart is...and it's not in the office.

Now...about the 1800's...many people pointed out to me that those weren't perfect times either. The more I thought about it, I decided I'm glad I don't live back when there was considerably more disease and less sanitation. I like my daily shower and deoderant stick, thank you. But that doesn't mean we have to throw out the good things with the less desirable aspects of that century.

In the heights of my agony about trying to do it all, I wrote the following (I share this, hoping you understand that this was simply how I felt. I'm not in any way implying that this is how all women feel):

A Young Woman Resents (Apt title!)

Oh, if you could see us now in these "rooms of our own." Actually...I'm not sure I would term them as rooms...they are boxes. The are formed by little felt-covered boards bolted together with hardly a thought to comfort or ambiance.

Some of us try to cheer up the dreary little interiors of our "rooms" with tacky knick-knacks or anemic ferns and houseplants. One can only feel pity for these poor little plants, which have been asked to grow and bloom--not towards the life-giving sun, but against the harsh flickering glare of the flourescent light. Radience and color is short-lived in such a place as this.

Having inherited this room--so long promised and lauded as the thing which would give me freedom and meaning and purpose, I am feeling a bit let down. Actually, I am feeling severely cheated. This is not so much freedom as it is imprisonment. No longer can I wake with the knowledge that my day is mine, and will be spent learning, growing, working with my heart and spirit and enjoying the freedom of my choice. day is dicated by others, by the clock, and by the stark boundaries of my box.

Since the beginning of this year, I have finally been able to live my dream of being home! I LOVE it, though I still occasionally feel a twinge of dread, as if someone is going to drag me back to prison. I'm not saying everything is perfect. In fact, I often feel wholly inadequate to be a good wife and homemaker. There is so much to takes such a level of skill...that I know I will be spending the rest of my life trying to get it right! (Unlike the office, where I experienced an unsurpassed level of tedium.)

And no...we are not rich. In fact, we have a high level of debt due to past poor choices. That is why I am working on starting a home business. (I'm not Wonder Entrepreneur, either, and it will take a lot of work developing discipline to actually get this thing going smoothly...but oh! The journey is still marvelous compared to my previous j-o-b's! I love the fact that my husband is my business partner, and that we can work together on this! I've asked him to hold me accountable in this process.)

Something else I will mention...we are making it. We're still not making more than we need, but we are squeaking by:o) I quit my job, not being sure of how it would work out. But Micah's work load picked up considerably about that same time. Coincidence?

We are also learning valuable lessons about frugality. Wives, if you want to stay home, you may have to make sacrifices. You may not be able to buy that new furniture. But God will still provide what you need! Micah and I have outfitted our house with mostly free and garage-sale furniture and we like our little home. It's well-beyond sufficient for our needs, and it has a lot of "character" (which show-room furniture usually won't provide:o). I have had virtually the same wardrobe for the past five years (and am thoroughly sick of it, by the way!), but I have recently decided that I may be able to update it with very little if I take the time to really work at finding deals and perhaps learning to sew. We may not be able to eat out at fancy restaurants, but we can still take that picnic to the park on a nice breezy day. And wives...being home, you will actually have time to put into your home and that not better than all the money can buy? My husband loved the meal I made him for Valentines Day, and thought it was just as good as our favorite expensive restaurant! He loved it that I took the time to make it for him:o)

Creativity makes up for feelings of deprivation. And, also, makes for an unlimited amount of skills and ideas that may be learned! I am really just starting this journey and have SO much to work on. I may not be worth my salts as a homemaker and entrepreneur...yet! But I thank God for a patient husband. And I can tell you...whatever we have sacrificed thus far has been worth it, for the direction that our household is now pursuing. "Things" are but rubbish compared to the everlasting influence we women can have upon our families and our communities when we have time.

Monday, March 13, 2006


Becky Miller has a good discussion going on her blog about being a stay-at-home-wife. I'll have to write some of my own thoughts on this a little bit later!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Our Garage Sale Game

Tomorrow is Micah's birthday, and he received a gift of $20.00 from his parents. Instead of blowing it on eating out or something, we decided it would be fun to see if we could take that $20.00 and make it grow! Hence the garage sale game:o) We're setting off to see if we can find any "treasures" that can be resold for more than we pay for them. We like garage-saling and visiting thrift stores and such anyway, so this makes a nice "date" morning as well. Good luck to us! I'll let you know how we fare!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Local Harvest

I found another good website, if you're interested in locating farms, farmer's markets, co-ops, etc., in your area for fresh and seasonal produce: Local Harvest

Check it out!

(Why is there only one Farmer's Market in Houston--rather far away from me--when there are fifty million in places like Austin and Dallas/Forth Worth? *Grumble, grumble :op *)

Success Story

Thanks, Crystal, for sharing your home business success story!

Homemade Pizza

We eat homemade pizza almost every week! The way we make it is very quick and delicious, so pizza is a nice thing to fall back on when we don't have much time.

Crust: I like homemade crusts, but they are more time-intensive. We buy packages of six whole-wheat pitas at the store (Costs slightly more than $1--tons cheaper than Bobolis or other store-bought crusts. Not to mention healthier.) and use them as our personal-sized crusts. It works great for us, since we can't finish a whole regular-sized pizza by ourselves anyway! I keep the pitas in the freezer and pull them out as we need them. Just a couple minutes in the oven while it's heating and I'm preparing the other ingredients thaws them nicely.

Optional: Brush pita crusts lightly with olive oil.

Sauce: I used to use Ragu spaghetti sauce, but recently I've been making my own and really enjoying it! Here's my recipe:

1 (28oz) can diced tomatoes, well-drained
1 (8oz) can tomato sauce
1 (8oz) can tomato paste
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. each: garlic powder, dried oregano, dried basil and freshly-ground pepper

Mix well. Taste, to see if seasonings are to your liking. Last time I made this, we topped four pita pizzas and I had two batches-worth left over to put in the freezer.


Cheese: We put a little bit of shredded mozzarella right on top of the sauce, add the rest of the toppings, then add more cheese on top of those.

Pepperoni tip: We love it, even though it's not the healthiest! If you're like us, consider doing this to cut down on the fat: Put a couple paper towels on a plate, and lay your pepperoni slices out on the paper towels. Stick in the microwave for 30-60 seconds, depending on how crispy you like them (We like them crispy!). The fat will soak into the paper towels, and you will be glad that you're not eating it when you see how much it is! (ugh)

Other: If we have the ingredients, we'll often saute things like mushrooms, onions, peppers, etc. with a clove of garlic and a bit of olive oil to add to our toppings. Try purple onions as a great alternative to the common white...they come out with an almost-sweet flavor. Mmm.

For something different, try making a sauceless pizza with sun-dried tomatoes, fresh spinach sauted with olive oil and garlic and feta cheese (Careful...feta will burn easily so you might have to cover it, or add it at the end). Experiment and come up with your own personal combinations!

If you have favorite toppings, please share! (I will try almost anything except for sardines:o)

The American Frugal Housewife

From The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn:

The American Frugal Housewife (1833) by a Mrs. Child bears a curious subtitle. She dedicated the book "To Those Who Are Not Ashamed of Economy."

Although frugality may have enjoyed a larger general acceptance during her time, clearly she felt it was falling out of fashion. She frequently quotes Benjamin Franklin's words on thrift. After pondering that I also wondered at the 18th-century attitude toward thrift, since Franklin felt compelled to write his thoughts on the subject.

Mrs. Child wrote: "Economy is generally despised as low virtue, tending to make [characterize] people ungenerous and selfish. This is true of avarice; but not so of economy. The man who is economical, is laying up for himself the permanent power of being useful and generous."

Mrs. Child's observation of the negative attitude toward thrift might also be seen from earlier times. Since the development of the English language, we have no positive nouns for a frugal person. Instead we have "cheapskate," "skinflint," "penny-pincher," "miser," and "tightwad." Even the positive adjectives that the English language gives us, like "frugal" or "thrifty," have come to have a dull or boring connotation. We associate these words with Depression-era fuddy-duddy thinking. [...]

The American Frugal Housewife is not to be considered required reading. Much of it reads like a 19th-century Heloise, offering tips that have little relevance for our time. [...] [I LOVE such books, even if they are irrelevant, and would jump at the chance to get to read something like this! Old books like this offer such a glimpse into history, and how people lived back then.]

However, I was also struck by the similar overall strategies and philosophies that still apply (and parallel ideas that I have written). "It is wise to keep an exact account of all you makes you more careful in spending money, and it enables your husband to judge precisely whether his family live within his income." (Record spending.)

"If you have two dollars a day, let nothing but sickness induce you to spend more than nine shillings; if you have half a dollar a day, be satisfied to spend forty cents." (Regardless of your income level do not spend everything you earn.)

"Let [women] prove, by exertion of ingenuity and economy, that neatness, good taste, and gentility, are attainable without great expense." (Use creativity and thrift to improve the quality of life, rather than spending more money.)

"Make your own bread and cake. Some people think it is just as cheap to buy of the baker and confectioner; but it is not half as cheap." (Avoid convenience foods and instead prepare food from scratch.)

"It is poor economy to buy vinegar by the gallon. Buy a barrel, or half a barrel, of really strong vinegar when you begin housekeeping." (Buy in bulk.)

"It is a great deal better for boys and girls on a farm to be picking blackberries at six cents a quart, than to be wearing out clothes in useless play. They enjoy themselves just as well." (All family members should develop hobbies that save money [or make money:o)] rather than ones that are non-productive...or ones that cost money.)

"Patchwork is good economy. It is indeed a foolish waste of time to tear cloth into bits for the sake of rearranging it anew in fantastic figures; but a family may be kept out of idleness, and a few shillings saved, by thus using scraps of gowns, curtains, etc." (Whenever possible reuse materials you already have rather than buying new materials at craft shops.)

"To associate with influential and genteel people with an appearance of equality unquestionably has its advantages, but like all other external advantages, these have their proper price, and may be bought too dearly. Self-denial, in proportion to the narrowness of your income, will eventually be the happiest and most respectable course for you and yours."

Thursday, March 09, 2006

I'm still here...

I didn't disappear! But maybe my mental energy for blogging did temporarily....that happens from time to time:op

Tuesday, my mom and I took seven children (all one family, excluding the baby) to the zoo to give their mother a bit of a break. The weather was overcast, but beautifully cool and breezy. The place looked like a zoo within a garden this time of year...gorgeous flowers everywhere!

I've known these particular children since there were only two of them, and they're great kids. Even so, I was so tired afterwards that I came home and took a two-hour nap. I have new respect for mothers with eight children.

Lately, I've been impressed with how much I have to work on, and to learn. I've been gleaning a lot of great ideas from my various studies, but it can be overwhelming! As a perfectionist, I have to work hard at not comparing myself to others or feeling that if I can't do it all I'm a failure.

One of my main homemaking problems right now is coming up with good ideas for Micah's packed lunches so that he doesn't have to stop for fast food all the time. He doesn't have access to a microwave or anything, so the lunches have to be cold or room temperature. I'm having a hard time coming up with anything besides sandwiches and the occasional salad (which, to be satisfying, have to have some type of meat on it, or accompany something else of substance). Oh, and he doesn't mind cheese and crackers every once and a while. But day in and day out, these few choices seem pretty boring! Does anyone have any good ideas for us? I would really appreciate it!

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Scoop on Coupons

(Note: This piece was written in the early-mid '90s, so some of the dollar figures are a bit dated! Nevertheless, this is still a very helpful and relevant analysis of whether or not coupon usage is a good deal!)

From Amy Dacyczyn's The Complete Tightwad Gazette:

It feels like tightwad sacrilege to suggest that there might be anything wrong with coupon use. But consider that manufacturers provide coupons to entice consumers to buy their products. Multiple coupons for a single product, which have decreasing values, such as 75 cents off, 50 cents off, and 25 cents off, are a dead giveaway that they hope to hook you by creating a habit.

There's a right way and a wrong way to use coupons. All coupon users believe they are using coupons the right way. "I never use a coupon to buy something I wouldn't buy anyway." However, if a majority of users did it the right way, manufacturers would be losing money and would stop offering coupons. So, consider the following questions:

How much do coupons really save? Readers frequently send me sales slips to demonstrate how much they save using coupons. With bold sweeps of colored markers they circle the figure that shows how much the coupons used added up to. They're circling the wrong figure. The most important figure on your sales slip is how much you spend on groceries...not how much you save using coupons.

Sometimes, even with doubling your coupons you might be spending more money on items than if you had resorted to a different strategy. Always compare the price after coupons with alternative products, making the same item from scratch, or not buying the product at all (As in the case of things like soda, candy, etc.). [...]

Even if the price after coupon is less than an alternative coupon, users frequently fail to calculate the true savings. Let's say you get $1.00 off brand A spaghetti sauce, which costs $1.89. Brand B, a sauce of equal quality, costs $1.29. Obviously you buy brand A, but your savings is not $1.00--it's really 40 cents. This may seem like I'm quibbling. But it's important to understand your genuine savings because coupon use takes time. You need to know how much extra time you're spending compared to how much money you're saving. You also need to factor in the cost of obtaining the coupon, if there is any, such as the purchase of magazines and newspapers.

How much time do coupons require? Reports from readers vary. Some claim they only spend a few minutes extra per week. These individuals are modest coupon users who tend to be very organized. An excellent way to do this is to keep your coupons is a small file box and organize them by type. On about the 20th of each month you should go through your coupons looking for ones that might expire. Always take your file box with you when you shop. You might run across an unexpected sale or a good deal in the damages bin.

On the other end of the spectrum, very serious coupon users, those who also spend time refunding, can spend as much as 10 to 15 hours per week clipping coupons, studying sale flyers, soaking off and filing labels, and saving packaging and receipts. [...] Sometimes refunders boost their coupon and refund results because family and friends save their proofs of purchase and coupons for them. In this case the coupon user/refunder benefits because an original purchaser paid an inflated price.

Another time element often not considered is how much additional time is spent in the supermarket. It takes more time making individual price comparisions and purchases. In contrast, other strategies, such as bulk buying of sale items, reduce shopping time.

What do people buy with coupons? Our family generally uses coupons to buy nonfood items, and food items that cannot be prepared from scratch. But most food coupons are for convenience foods. Often the foods are more processed. Even when these items can be purchased cheaply, it should be considered that your family is acquiring a taste for these more expensive and less healthful items. This could potentially create bigger grocery bills in the future. Many of the products have more packaging as well. So even when Jell-O Pudding Snack Paks are near free, I seriously question these purchases because of the environmental issue of the excess trash created.

What about the "Coupon Queens" featured by the media? Most of us have seen newspaper articles or television shows featuring coupon experts who demonstrate their skills by taking reporters shopping and buying $134.86 of groceries, but after all the coupons are subtracted pay only $54.73. This type of shopping trip requires months of planning, and is not typical of these shoppers' usual trips to the store. On the average these shoppers claim their real savings is closer to 25-40%. Again, it's important to remember that these are savings on the prices of products that may be inflated in price.

Consider the real figures sent in by Mary Kenyan of Independence, Iowa. She saves 10% to 30% on a grocery bill of $385 per month. She feeds a family of six, with four children ages 2 to 11. Her grocery bill does not include her husband's work lunches, but they never eat out.

Figuring that she saves an average of 20% on her grocery bill using coupons, she actually spends about $308 per month. She receives $110 per month (after postage) from refunds. Of that figure roughly 65% comes from refunds from itemds she purchased at the grocery store, or $71.50. She has offsetting expenses of about $12.54 for additional postage and magazine and newspaper subscriptions. [...after figuring out true savings] this works out to a bottom line grocery bill of $249.04 per month. In addition she receives roughly 10 free gifts per month of varying values through refunding.

The average family of six spends $500 per month on groceries. In comparison, Mary's grocery budget compares well. However, with very little coupon use many families of equal size spend under $200 per month on groceries. A mixed approach, which includes some coupon use, will produce the lowest possible grocery bill. Readers have written that when they began to incorporate other strategies, they used fewer coupons and their grocery bills dropped.

If you genuinely dislike couponing and refunding, use other strategies (like gardening, bulk buying, and baking from scratch) that will save you as much if not more money on your grocery bill. If, however, you find that refunding and couponing is an enjoyable hobby, and you genuinely are saving money, this is a valid way to spend your time.

A few things we do...

...concerning food! (See previous post first) We don't want to deprive ourselves of pleasurable eating, we just want to combine pleasure with value!

I never buy soda to keep in the house. We also rarely drink straight fruit juice. (Straight fruit juice has all the sugar and none of the fiber of several pieces of fruit squeezed into a little glass! Regular fruit is much better for you.)

We drink lots of water throughout the day, but I also keep iced tea in the fridge most of the time so that we have different choices. I make different flavors of tea, mixing a large bag of (decaf) regular with a couple small bags of (decaf) peach or rasberry. Tea is great, because there are so many different flavors to experiment with! I drink mine unsweetened, but Micah likes to add a little sugar to his. Still, it's nothing compared to the 8-10 teaspoons of sugar in every can of soda!

Sometimes we add lemon juice to our water for a little zest. Lime is an interesting variation as well. If you like soda (as we do) try adding some fruit juice to plain soda water for a treat now and then. You can also buy fruit-flavored sparkling waters very inexpensively at the store! My favorites are peach and cranberry.

For the Crunchy-Munchies:
We love homemade popcorn! It may not be as healthy as, say, carrot sticks, but it's a good deal healthier (and cheaper) than the fake stuff you buy at the store. Speaking of carrot sticks, we like those too. I bought a container of Soy nuts at the store the other day (something new for us) and was surprised that my husband actually liked them! (Maybe he doesn't realize it's the same ingredient that the "dreaded tofu" comes from-hehe!;o). A handful of sunflower seeds or nuts is also plenty crunchiful.

Sometimes it's fun to trespass into the world of less than healthful foods, but don't let the supermarket be your source! If you get used to pulling bags of things off the shelf, the ease of it will be habit-forming. We never buy store-bought cakes or cookies. While the ones I make at home are still full of sugar and butter and the like (if you're going to have sweets once in a while, it should be the real thing! Just practice moderation!), they're often cheaper, and they don't contain all the unhealthy preservatives. My homemade goodies take a bit of effort, so I don't get locked into the habit of making them all the time. Most importantly, they taste ten-times better than store-bought! Far from feeling deprived, I feel like we are getting the best available. Don't waste your calories on less-than-wonderful:o)

It's easy--and boring--to grab a bag of potato chips. Micah and I had a wonderful time one evening making homemade plantain chips together. All it took was a fresh plantain and some oil and salt.

I'm very much still working on this one, and will have to post more on it soon!

Please--if you have tips or ideas for quality and delicious drinks/snacks/other foods (keeping the budget in mind), chime in!

The Culinary Arts on a Budget #2

I have known families whose regular meals--in the name of frugality--consisted of little but the cheapest carbohydrate dishes. Cheap white bread, potatoes, rice and pasta consumed day in and day out, with very infrequent appearances of anything green or fresh on their plates. While this might indeed save money in the short run, we need to question the long-term consequences upon health, enjoyment and even the pocketbook! It's much cheaper to eat right all along then to pay the doctor bills for poor health later on.

For this reason, we can't start with money as the sole consideration when it comes to buying foods to feed our families. A huge bag of Cheezo Chompers at the discount warehouse is always going to be cheaper than a small bag of mixed nuts. Day-old white bread is cheaper than whole-grain. Strawberry jello or fruit snacks is cheaper than real strawberries, and so on. Better to start with health and quality considerations, and then figure out how to get the best for our families in the most inexpensive ways!

Rule #2: Eliminate The Fluff Foods. My mother rarely let me eat "The Fluff Foods" at home when I was younger, so I've had good training in this area. But I'm often amazed at what I see people putting into their carts at the grocery store! Mothers with little children, buying nothing but sodas, potato chips, boxed cookies, "juice" boxes, along with a week's supply of convenience meals. (By the way, have you noticed that it's usually these junk foods that constitute the store's loss leaders, go on sale the most often, and most often have corresponding coupons?)

Fluff foods are all the things with little to no nutritional value that we buy out of habit, for convenience sake, or just because they taste good. They can be cheap or matter. Even if that bag of Cheezo Chompers only costs 50 cents, that's too expensive for something that provides absolutely no real value! A short list of Fluff Foods would include all sodas (diet and regular), candy, potato chips, just about all supermarket pastries, cakes and cookies, most cold cereals and many breads, sugared-up juices, many frozen dinners...the list goes on. Anyone with a basic knowledge of nutrition could identify the biggest offenders!

I suppose I'm lucky, because I don't have a taste for many Fluff Foods. (Although I do like sodas and chips!:op) I wouldn't accept a box of Little Debbie cakes or twinkies or Captain Crunch if they were free. But I'm married to a guy who likes to snack (especially on carby, crunchy, munchy things), so I can't get away with only making spinach and cawliflower. Nor would I want to.

Getting rid of Fluff Foods isn't a matter of deprivition, but substitution for items of value. I'm learning myself and am by no means an expert (Besides, all families have different tastes, even if I was an expert concerning my own family!), but in the next post I'd like to share a few things we do in our home to stay satisfied without the Fluff Foods.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

A Market Lunch

This is a picture I took of one of the best meals I've ever had. Simple--yes. But fit for royalty because of the freshness and flavor!

I was in Florence, Italy with two friends. Early one afternoon, we decided to visit one of the local markets. Everything looked SO good, we decided to put together our own little feast for lunch. We pooled together a few euros and bought fresh bread, cheese, pesto, and some of the best fresh tomatoes I've ever tasted. From this, we made simple sandwiches. We also purchased a few tubs of fruit.

This meal was not excellent because of the time or fuss that went into preparation. It wasn't overly expensive. It needed no dousings of grease or salt to make it pop with flavor. The only secret was the freshness and quality of the foods. I believe we can attain these, if we learn how, whether in Italy or Walmart-land USA:o)

The Culinary Arts on a Budget #1

This is the dichotomy I am forced to work with: I'm rather a foodie at heart. I love all the elements of an exquisite meal: fresh and flavorful produce, fine cheeses, tender meats rubbed with fragrant herbs, artisan-quality breads and pastas...I could no doubt spend many hundreds of dollars a month on groceries if I let myself! However, I cannot let myself. I must be creative in finding ways to satisfy my taste for quality on a small budget.

Hence, my current frenzied study of this topic ("frenzied" is what comes from trying to read and digest 10 books from the library before my time runs out;o):

Rule #1 appears to be: Learn to shop and cook seasonally. Not only are the in-season foods tastier, they are usually cheaper than the imported or hot-house selections.

There were no strawberries at the first Thanksgiving. Wild New England cranberries, perhaps. Strawberries, no. The Pilgrims naturally worked with local produce and what was in season. So did our grandparents and more remote ancestors. Tomatoes in December? Try South America. Canning and mass global distribution of produce have conditioned us to expect all foods all year round. I myself have been beguiled by the engineered good looks of off-season produce, but one taste of carboard is enough to send me reaching for my napkin to expel the offending counterfeit. Nothing is more flavorless than a supermarket tomato in winter, but a true vine-ripened specimen in summer is nothing short of divine.

~French Women Don't Get Fat

(By the way, French Women Don't Get Fat is an excellent resource to motivate you to search for culinary quality, and give up the boring and fattening substitutes. Warning: Reading this book will make you extremely hungry. And you may be tempted (as I am) to head to the nearest specialty food shops and gourmet markets to pile your cart high with those delectable, quality foodstuffs the authoress dangles in front of our imaginations. But this is where creativity must come in, for those of us on a budget!)

I did an internet search to locate information on when various fruits and vegetables are in season in my area. has some very helpful information on produce seasons and farms (area by area), canning and preserving, recipes, etc.

The fresher the produce, the better. One of my favorite things to do is go to a nearby orchard in March and pick my own fresh strawberries. There's absolutely nothing like just-picked strawberries, sweet juice dripping as you take a bite. I haven't been in a few years, and never paid attention to the prices before. But it's probably not the cheapest source. After all, you're paying for an experience (and some of the best strawberries you will ever taste in your life!) Likewise with other types of farms and farmers markets. Nevertheless, I'm going to be checking into these regional sources and comparing costs vs. quality. It may be worth it to spend a little bit more on some types of produce for excellent quality, especially since I'm trying to make fresh produce a bigger portion of our diet! Also, consider the fact that a couple or a family can get a fun "date" out of the deal, better and more satisfying than most of the things we spend money on to be entertained!

Last but not least, preparation is important. I found a WONDERFULLY helpful book at the library called The Garden-Fresh Vegetable Cookbook by Andrea Chesman (Also look for it on Amazon). I haven't had to time read it in it's entirety, but have looked through it to find a five-hundred page book stuffed with information on gardening, preparing and seasoning produce, and peppered with little personal anecdotes and helpful tips. I plan to buy this book, because I want to be able to reference it over and over again!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


If you haven't checked out the Craigslist for your area, you really should! When Micah and I moved into this house, we needed to purchase a refrigerator. We preferred to buy a larger size (looking ahead, I suppose!), but all the medium-large sized refrigerators at the stores were upwards of $1000.00, especially the brand we wanted. We even went to a "Scratch and Dent" store and found that their damaged merchandise was still several hundred dollars and up.

We found our refrigerator on Craigslist for $200.00. It's a great size, and the brand and color were what we wanted. It's only a few years old and looks almost brand-new. We bought it from a nice family that had recently moved into a house (in a very expensive section of town) with a custom-sized fridge already in it.

Craigslist is better than Ebay and other online sites if you're purchasing something large (like furniture or appliances) because you can search within your own city and arrange to go see and pick up the item in person.

Also, be sure you check out the "Free" category, under "For Sale"! Currently, people in Houston are offering these items for free to someone who might be able to use them.

Buy Anything On Sale!

This great money-saving idea comes from my husband. It would work especially well if you are planning to make a large purchase from a chain store such as Target, Best Buy, etc:

1. Save up your money (never buy anything with debt!)

2. Search online (Ebay or Amazon) for a gift card for the store you are planning to buy from. You should be able to buy the card for less than it's worth. Some deals are better than others, but you can sometimes save 10% or more off of the card's dollar value. The higher-dollar cards often have better savings than those with low dollar amounts. Watch the auctions for a few days and figure out which card amount or combination of smaller card amounts will give you the best value. Be sure to check into what it will cost to ship the card(s) and add that to your total cost. Also, make sure you understand if the card has an expiration date and when that is.

3. Try to resist buying a card of a higher dollar amount than you will actually need. It may be a "good deal," but are there other things you should be spending that money on?;o)

4. For an even better deal, plan to make your purchase when the item is on sale (ask a manager if and when it will be on sale), or try to obtain a coupon to maximize your savings.