Saturday, January 30, 2010

Create More Storage Space in Your Kitchen

We don't have a lot of cabinet space in the kitchen and the cabinet space we do have is a little awkward. I have two crates on top of the fridge to maximize our useful storage space.

The crate on the left is the most accessible. In it we keep flour, stevia, cinnamon, salt, and other items we use frequently.

The bin on the left has less used items, bulk tea, lesser used spices, and honey, to name a few.

Whenever I cook, I take down the common use crate and put it on one of the kitchen chairs. Everything I need is right there, making clean-up a cinch.

We do have cabinets above the fridge, but they are way in back. I keep chemical cleaners in there. I use mostly natural cleaners, which I keep in the bathroom, so my lesser used chemical cleaners can be kept in the less accessible cabinets.

If you like the idea, but don't like the look of the crates, I think sewing a simple cover would be pretty easy. We don't mind the look of the crates, but if I ever wanted something more sophisticated looking, I might go that route.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Why I Don't Wear Pants... Much

This is part of FAQ Friday. If you have a question you would like me to address, please add it to the FAQ page.


Most "Fundie" women don't wear pants. Do you?


Whether or not I am a tried and true Fundamentalist is a topic for another day, but I would say that I'm not sure that I am. Oh, I would like to be, but Fundies don't generally see me as one of their own.

That said, this isn't something I talk about often because it isn't something I think about often.

I don't wear pants. Well, actually, I have two pairs, one black pair, and one pair of jeans. My post-pregnancy body doesn't quite fit into the jeans yet, but the black pair is versatile enough for me to wear well into pregnancy. I wear them once or twice a month. The rest of the time, I wear skirts and dresses. I went to a college that required it and I liked it. I built a nice wardrobe around that dress code and just kept living by it.

I think modesty is important, but it has little to do with why I wear dresses. Pants can be just as modest as skirts if done correctly and many dresses are not modest at all. This is where I depart from most dress-wearing fundamentalists.

I like dresses because they make me feel beautiful. I like looking nice and a dress is an effortless way to do that. This is really my primary reason for wearing dresses.

Sexy (For Married Folks)
It is important to feel sexy. A husband will think you're sexy even if you don't feel it, but if you don't feel sexy, you likely won't feel sexual, which is kind of important in marriage. I have a few completely immodest dresses I call "housedresses" because I won't wear them out of the house.

Dresses are the easiest clothes to wear. It is a one piece outfit. You don't need to put in the effort of making a pants and top ensemble and I think the results are better. I don't wear pantyhose, even though it was part of my college's dress code, but if you think they are required with a dress, than dresses become a hassle.

I have two modesty rules. One is that clothes must go to my knees, standing and sitting. I sometimes will put a skirt under a short dress that adds a few inches and extends my wardrobe. The second rule is no cleavage. Because I buy new clothes, this has become a problem. I have to pair a lot of my clothes with a tank top under or a sweater over. Anything beyond those rules is a judgment call.

Most of my new clothes come from mystery shopping. When not mystery shopping, I can find good deals at thrift stores if I want something. I don't buy many clothes for myself at yard sales because they don't have a dressing room at yard sales. I will buy clothes at yard sales if the fabric is pretty enough for me to use for something else if the garment doesn't fit right.

I love black and white. I have some colored tops and a few skirts with color, but they are always paired with black or black and white. Other than my one red housedress, all of my dresses are either black or black and white, and dresses are my favorite.

Some Thoughts...
I think modesty is important, but beauty is too. Christian women have been pushing beauty aside in order to pursue modesty, but they are not mutually exclusive. Modesty is not something we should seek in our marriage. We should be immodest with our husbands. Likewise, beauty is not something to hide, but something God created and showing it glorifies him.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

How to Live Live A Lot Without Money

Every once in a while, I get comments like, "Don't you want to live a little?" and "What about the value of your time?" These comments make me sad. Without getting into the topic of cost/time analysis, I'd like to address this attitude.

I can't imagine "living" more than kneading bread with my son, or finding a new favorite book at the library, or counting as my boys take turns tumbling the wonderwash. Whether or not my time makes me money or saves me money is irrelevant to this point. Quality of life has little to do with money. Once basic needs are met, it's about relationships and pursuing dreams.

I get to spend all day every day with my family. I make money writing one blog post per day. Then, I have the rest of my time to do whatever I please. If I didn't find writing that blog post enriching, I wouldn't do it. The rest of the day I read, I sew, I snuggle with my kids, I roll my own tortillas, and I discuss religion and politics with the smartest guy I know. These are quality of life items for me. Buying new throw pillows and more shoes, not so much.

The idea that I am frugal because I have to be is a little silly. I know how to make money without putting my kids in daycare, and I knew how to do it before I started this blog. I choose to be frugal so that I can dream, teach my children to dream, and be a strength to my husband as he steps towards his dreams. That is living.

(This was going to be my FAQ Friday post, but I got a fun question that I wanted to address for tomorrow. This bumped nicely into my Family Time Thursday slot. I feel like I am getting back into the blogging rhythm. Thanks to those of you who stuck around through my absence.)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Yurts: Living in the Round by Becky Kemery

I know I said I would do reviews on Sundays, but this book became a part of my personal recovery, so I thought I would include it here.

Dan only checked the mail once while Daniel was in the hospital, even though he came back to town to go to work several days. In the stack of mail when we got home was this book for me to review.

My first thought was, "How silly, as if I want to read a yurt book right now." I hadn't read anything while in the hospital, except a few Reader's Digest funny pages, which were really read to me by my husband. I stared at books, open in front of me several times, but I wasn't reading anything.

I somehow started reading this. This book about yurts became an escape. It pulled me out of my sorrows, showed me my goals and got me dreaming again.

The book weaved through the history and modern applications of yurts, or round tent-like homes. Yurts have been used in many parts of Asia for millennia and the author even gave yurts credit for much of Genghis Kahn's conquests. Now, in America, they are popping up as anything between a portable dwelling, as they were in Asia, made of modern materials, to an inspiration for modern architecture.

This book got me thinking about a lot of things. As someone interested in portable housing, yurts have an appeal to me. Modern fabric yurts can be built in a day, and taken down to be moved in a day. They can have all of the amenities of a modern home and can be heated more efficiently than a house with corners.

One thing I was most interested in was how round living impacted one's social life. The book told about how, for many people, being in a round space allows a group to have a closeness, opening up to one another. The book took it in a spiritual direction about being in touch with the earth that didn't suit me, but everything that it said about group gatherings in yurts seemed most applicable to my life and seemed like a setting that would be desirable to our family.

The book was well written and sucked me in an unexpected way. Most books about architectural structures don't have you dreaming about warriors one minute and sleeping under the stars the next. The pictures were phenomenal as well.

I would recommend this book for people that are interested in energy-efficient housing, small homes (although yurt-homes can be made to be quite large), portable housing and affordable housing. This book has a lot of info and resources to look into. Even though I'm not sure we'll go the yurt route, there was a lot of info that has inspired some new ideas in me.

TIP: If you are a blogger interested in reviewing a book, contact the publisher. Politely tell them that you blog, how many visitors you get, and that you'd be willing to do a review for your blog if they sent you the book you are interested in. I also committed to putting my review on and as well. This is a reader tip that works.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Another Daniel Update

Although I never said it outright, some of you may have guessed that we don't do routine doctor's visits. We don't vax and our kids are developing normally. We've had some bad experience with doctors in the past and hadn't found one we were comfortable with in our area.

While in the hospital, I was discussing follow-up visits with one of pediatricians. I told her we had had bad experiences with some in our town. She asked if we vax, and recommended a D.O. who was non-vax friendly.

We had our first visit yesterday and I am very happy to report we have found a doctor that I trust. Where there is concern that this could all be a genetic disorder, we are going to continue to go.

The doctor is sure we don't need more physical therapy, as Daniel is walking, running, climbing, even pushing his brother down. Daniel still has a few lingering confidence issues, where he isn't sure he can make it physically, but he has proven himself well.

One thing that was brought up was possible speech therapy. There are two reasons for this.

Daniel has developed a Maine accent. Neither Dan nor I have a Maine accent. Maine accents are generally reserved for those in the Downeast region of Maine, around Bangor, Maine (pronounce ban-Gore, not ban-ger). We have never lived there, but we say our fare share of "wicked" when we are not talking about something evil. Otherwise, we sound like normal Massachusetts folk, just like everyone else in Maine. My son, however, now pronounces "more" as "moy-ah" and "talker" as "tock-ah".

My son has started pausing mid-word. Instead of normal "yeah" he says "yea... ah". Instead of "game" he says "gay... ame". Maybe they are two descriptions of the same problem. Anyway, we are going to keep an ear on it and get back to the doctor about progress.

Other than the newly developed speech impediment, Daniel is back to himself. He's a little unsure of himself at times, but he has pulled through rapidly. His personality has fully returned and he is back to micromanaging his brother's play.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Imperfect Diet

Dan and I have unique health goals. We aim for a Nourishing Traditions type diet with high animal protein. You may disagree with our health goals, and that is fine. I might disagree with yours as well.

We have never aimed for perfection. We eat out about once a week and aren't uptight at family gatherings and church potlucks. I will cater my meal slightly but will generally eat what's served. My husband will usually go nuts and eat pure crap.

During the week my son was in the hospital, we all ate pure crap. It was a week marked with white flour pasta and cookies. I could have put in some effort and made more food myself, but I didn't. There was no lacto-fermented salsa or soaked grain tortillas for a whole week.

We don't consider this a failure. Some of it was laziness. I didn't want to make three meals a day. Some of it was comfort food... the cookies. It wasn't a failure, though, because it was temporary.

We undid some of the things we had been working toward. Both Dan and I noticed a marked difference in our regularity. At first, I thought it was because we were using someone else's bathroom, but then I remembered the cookies. Rest assured, we have been doubling up on out lacto-fermented foods, and things are coming back to normal in the bathroom.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Special Thanks

There are a lot of things that I was thankful for during my son's hospital stay. We are, of course, the most thankful to God, for deciding to allow our son to come through the whole thing unharmed, and thankful for the many many people praying for him. We are grateful for a great hospital staff. Our family and church family was supportive and there for everything we needed. There was one other thing we are thankful for, as it just made our lives infinitely easier during this high-stress time:


We live about a half an hour away from the hospital where my son stayed. It doesn't seem like a lot, but going home would have been a lot of work. Besides the simple lack of the need to travel, the Ronald McDonald House provided a nearby haven.

The Ronald McDonald House is a charity of the McDonald's Corporation. They provide temporary housing for the families of hospitalized children. We stayed there for a week while Daniel was in the hospital. This is what they did for us:

Meals were provided. Most nights a meal was made for everyone, but the kitchen was always open and full of left-overs. Had we come home, I would have had to do a lot of work cooking, which would have kept me away from my son.

There was an on site laundry room. I could wash and dry a load in an hour and a half, just like normal Americans. We brought four outfits per person and did laundry every few days. This simplified everything.

Late night hospital visits were a must. There were a few nights that Thomas and I stayed overnight at the hospital (while Bobby and Dan stayed at the Ronald McDonald House), but on nights that we didn't, it wasn't unusual for me to visit. Either I couldn't sleep without my son or my son couldn't sleep without me. Being right down the street from the hospital made these visits possible.

They had the internet. The hospital did too, but we couldn't access Facebook from the hospital. I was able to write a post from there, moderate comments, and send out email updates to family and friends.

There was one phone designated for long distance phone calls. I discovered this after dumping a few dollars into the hospital pay phone, but it still came in handy.

They had gifts for our sick son. There was a box full of stuffed animals and books that we could choose from. We found an excellent Thomas and Friends book that we read to Daniel several dozen times. There was also a box that must have been donated by RedBox, as it had RedBox DVDs and a sign saying we were welcome to take one home. There was a Thomas and Friends movie in there that Daniel loves.

The volunteers were amazing. Between people donating food and those coordinating our stay, they were understanding of the guests' unique position, being non intrusive but still available.

Dan and I have had a long-term hypothetical debate about which would be better to sleep on: the Sleep Number Bed, or a Tempur Pedic. After a week on a Sleep Number bed, I can't imagine a bed could be more comfortable, which means I lost the debate.

Anyway, people have asked many times if there was anything we needed. Every time, we answered that the Ronald McDonald House had taken care of all of our needs. Even after the $10 nightly donation, we technically saved money staying there, considering the cost of gas to visit the hospital and meals costs. But if anyone felt led to do something, we told them they take donations. Before this all happened, I didn't know much about the Ronald McDonald House. Now, I consider it an exemplary charity.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Being Diagnosis-Free

My son left the hospital a mystery. He had a lot of testing done. Everything came back negative. All leads were followed through and the dozen or so doctors and specialists working on my son's case couldn't figure out what made my son so sick. The official diagnosis was dehydration. Dehydration seems like a symptom, not a cause. I spoke to some doctors who, when pressed, showed dissenting opinions about the official diagnosis as well as some of the speculated diagnoses, but they could not provide a clear answer.

This is not my ideal situation, but the doctors did all of the testing they could and there was nothing left to do. I don't blame them or think they were in any way negligent. There are two options as to what will come of this incident.


Daniel may live the rest of his life without going through anything like this again. If the cause was something he ate or an undetected head injury, both of which were thoroughly tested for, it was a one-time event and unlikely to repeat itself.


This could happen again. If he has diabetes or a metabolic disorder and the test results were wrong, we will land ourselves in the hospital again. At that point, the doctors will be forced to come to a definitive conclusion and we can move forward from there.

I can't articulate exactly how much testing was done, as I don't have a copy of all of the records. However, there have been some suggestions from readers as to what it might be. As I read each one, I noted that each had already been looked into by doctors or specialists, from meningitis to botulism, and all were ruled out.

One doctor said that the hardest thing for me will be to not suspect that this is happening again each time my son shows the first sign of sickness. He was a doctor that thought it was a one-time thing. He is right. It will be difficult for Dan and I to decipher what is regular kid-sickness, and what is a serious, life-threatening event. Our plan is to continue to pray for wisdom.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

We're Home

As you can imagine, this has been a hard thing for us all to go through. On the second day in the Intensive Care Unit, the doctor told me that they would let me know when they knew what caused my son to get so sick (which they never did), and let me know when they knew for sure he would live through it (which he is).

I'm going to be a taking a week off from regular daily posting, maybe two. My son has a lot of physical therapy to go through. He is in diapers and not walking as much as we would like.

I have lots of thoughts I want to share with you all about it, though, so I won't be silent. You can expect some sporadic posting when I have the time, energy and passion to write.

Again, I thank you all for your prayers.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


On Monday, I noticed Daniel was a little tired, and he ended up sleeping most of the day.

On Tuesday, he again slept. He had no fever, and got up to go to the bathroom.

On Wednesday, he wasn't waking up much. I gave him pedialite by spoon throughout the day and was worried he wasn't getting enough. In the evening, his breathing became troubling. I took him to the emergency room. They immediately transferred him to the Intensive Care Unit in a larger hospital. He was in a coma.

There were two major leads on what happened to him. The first was that he swallowed something like anti-freeze. The testing came back negative and was sent to the Mayo clinic to be confirmed. The second was that he was born with a metabolic disorder. The testing for this also came back negative. They did every other test imaginable to him, but with no luck. They don't know what happened to him. The official diagnosis is dehydration. They just can't take the next step back to find what caused the dehydration.

He woke from his coma on Friday. He isn't saying as much as we'd like, but more than he was. He is eating and drinking, but still has some issues to be worked through before we can go home. Today he was transferred out of the Intensive Care Unit and into Pediatrics.

He's definitely going to pull through. We don't know how long it will take. I thank you for your prayers.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Family Emergency

I'll be away for a few days, hopefully not longer.

I'm not going to publish my scheduled posts, as I can't be focusing on comment moderation right now.

I'll give details when I'm up to it.

Please, keep us in your prayers.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Adjusting to A Drop in Income

Thinking back to when our income first dropped there was quite an adjustment. My gut reaction was to make money so that we wouldn't have to adjust our standard of living. That got exhausting, more exhausting than adjusting our standard of living. So, I figured out another way to adjust to the drop in income.

A reader posted a link to this video, and Amy Dacyczyn says something noteworthy in it.

Amy said in the interview that if you track your spending, you don't need to buy her book. I think her book is full of worthwhile information, and I am thankful for it, but essentially she is right. If you write down every penny you spend, you can see where you are spending and what you can cut. If you need to cut dramatically, you will need to redefine needs.

When I evaluated our spending, I switched to cloth diapers and we dropped Netflix. We cut out all convenience foods and I learned to cook everything from scratch. I shopped around for auto insurance and we conserved energy. Now, not only have we adjusted to this standard of living, we feel better about our lives in general. The time I have at home with the kids is more valuable than the money I could earn outside of the home.

We did not dump all discretionary spending. Our entertainment is the internet, which pays for itself every month one way or another, and satellite radio, which we have on constantly and enjoy. We could afford these things in our budget, and losing them would alter our quality of life in a way we were not willing to if we did not have to. These were prioritized over disposable diapers and Netflix.

The key is to track spending. We use a debit card, so our bank tracks everything, but keeping receipts to see what we bought that we could have skipped helped to. For a while, I did the pen and paper method, where I wrote down everything, but after I got the hang of not spending, that was no longer necessary. How you record spending and what you decide to cut is different for everyone, but if you are truly interested in cutting spending, this step cannot be skipped.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Big Bedroom

This is a part of my Touring Tuesdays series, where you get to snoop around my home.

We love books and don't see that changing, nor do we want it to. The big bookshelf is mostly theology books, referenced frequently. The one next to it is my bookshelf with mostly homeschooling stuff, but also some cook books and craft books. The one in the corner is my husband's history and politics bookshelf. The bookshelf by the door has our Star Trek book collection, customized with some of my artwork. The kids' books are in their own room.

We keep blankets in the bin at the end of the bed. I made the bed just for you all, but someone couldn't resist taking a nap. Above the bed are the items that I am sentimental about. The two dresses (one not visible) are heirlooms from my Gran from when she was a missionary in Sierra Leone. The Tivoli poster has been in my bedroom since I was a child.

My husband has many trinkets he is sentimental about and they all live in the bedroom. I go through phases where I get sick of them, box them up and tuck them away some where. Then I think about how much he enjoys them, so I pull them all out and put them on display again. Then I pack them up, then pull them out again. They are his, so I can't just get rid of them, but he lets me play this packing-unpacking game with them without complaint.

To my concerned readers, both the big bookshelf and the one by the door are attached to the wall. The two bookshelves in the corner are blocked in by the blanket bin and could not toppled unless first lifted out of their home.

Monday, January 11, 2010

How to Make Soft Tacos - Easy, Frugal Recipe

Tacos have changed considerably since I first wrote about them. Between home-made salsa, taco seasoning, and homegrown lettuce, I think the only thing that has stayed the same is beef and tortillas. First, make tortillas, mixing:

2 cups whole white wheat flour ($0.32)
3/4 teaspoons salt ($0.03, if that)
1/4 cup shortening ($0.25, softened butter, but you can use whatever)
1/2 cups water ($0)

For a soaked grain tortilla, add 1 tablespoons of whey, yogurt or cider vinegar, mix dough the day before and leave at room temperature until you are ready to cook it.

I divide it by ten, as that is just right for my family, with enough for leftovers for my husband. My kids have disassembled tacos. They like the tortillas with the salsa on them, but everything else they eat separately. So, each ball of dough I roll out flat. The aim is a circle, but it doesn't have to be perfect.

Fry in a dry pan for roughly thirty seconds on each side.

Brown one pound of ground beef ($1.30) with

1 large chopped onion - $0.15
1/2 jalapeno, finely chopped - $0.06
1 teaspoon of garlic -$0.04
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or hot paprika -$0.03

Divide the seasoned beef (or chicken or shredded pork or turkey) onto each tortilla. Sprinkle with 2/3 of an ounce of cheese on each ($0.79), then lettuce, preferably from a window garden ($0.08).

Lacto-fermenting a condiment like salsa is a means of preserving it as well as turning the food into a probiotic. I lacto-ferment my salsa, but if you're not interested in lacto-fermenting, the same recipe can be used to make regular salsa. Just immediately refrigerate instead of letting it ferment on the counter. I put one heaping tablespoon of salsa onto each taco ($0.30), then fold it over.

I didn't know until I finished this post that this recipe is the exact same price as my old taco recipe, but I like these better. They are more from scratch, homegrown, with no mystery ingredients, and they taste amazing.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Those Bins

Those bins were a hot topic when I posted pictures of my apartment. I stand by my belief that the most effective form of childproofing is by teaching boundaries. No one is going to change my mind on this. This is how I was raised, my husband was raised, nearly everyone everywhere has been raised, and most of us have lived to tell the story.

That said, that is not the point of this post. Here were some suggestions to my "problem bins."

#1) Move them to a basement, relative's home or storage unit.

Those bins were accessed frequently. I have a three month old, 16 month old and 3.5 year old. None of them fit exactly into standard sizes. I am swapping clothes in and out of those bins as needed.

#2) Get rid of some clothes.

I have about two weeks of summer outfits and two weeks of winter outfits for each size, with some clothes overlapping, so that suggestion didn't make any sense. However, each bin was only about a third filled, some less.

I used these bins because they were practical. We had them from moving and they fit in the space. However, I have since picked up some old milk crates from a yard sale. I had to do some rearranging elsewhere to free up the crates, but the contents of each container fits perfectly, some with plenty of space to fit the clothes that are currently in my kids' wardrobe. I put a curtain over it, as the milk crates were an assortment of colors. I like the new storage solution.

Lesson Learned: Have containers that fit what you need.

(I feel silly for wasting that much space that whole time.)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Cloth Diaper Questions

What type do you use?

I use Thirsties brand all-in-one diapers with a pocket. I use Gerber prefolds for an insert, which you can get anywhere.

How many do you have?

I have a dozen of each small and large sized diapers. I don't have a lot because we do elimination communication, so we mostly use them for Bobby at night and when we go out. Thomas is still learning the communication part of elimination communication, but we see improvements and we are relying less on diapers. If you don't do elimination communication, you will need more.

I skipped the extra-small and medium sized, as a big diaper will fit a small baby easily. Thomas would have already outgrown the extra-small by now anyway and he can wear the large ones when needed. Bobby transitioned from the small to large as Daniel potty-trained.

If I were to start over and had a chance to buy them again, I would have just bought a bunch of one-sized-fits-all, all-in one diapers. I hear that Thirsties is one of the best brands. I have had no problem with them, but they are the only one I've tried, so I have no reference point.

I probably didn't get the best price. I shopped around a bit, and found them for a decent price. If I were to start again, I would spend some time finding the best price through online retailers.

How frequently do you wash?

I wash daily. I'd rather not keep those stinky things around. Washing daily is ideal for hand washing and wonderwashing, but may not be ideal with a washing machine.

What is your washing process?

When the diaper is removed, any solids are shaken into the toilet. Then the diaper is hand scrubbed in the bathroom sink. If there are no solids, it is immediately rinsed. The wonderwash acts as the diaper pail until the end of the day when I wash the load. The wonderwash is perfect as it will do a small load. I hand wring diapers before hanging them to dry.

What was your hand-washing process?

When I hand washed, I did the rinsing and everything in the sink, then would do a small load in the sink with what ever diapers had collected. I filled the sink with water and my detergent. Then I would knead the diapers, let them drain and repeat until the water was clear after kneading.

How do you disinfect?

Hand washing disinfecting is no different than the steps taken to disinfect in a washing machine. The water going into a washing machine isn't hotter than the water coming out of my faucet, and neither is hot enough to disinfect.

I add white vinegar to the soap nuts, generally about a quarter cup, since the loads are small. Then, I hang the diapers on a drying line that goes across the window, so they dry in the sun. If one of my kids starts to get a rash, which is extremely infrequent with elimination communication, I boil the diapers.

How long have you used them?

I used cloth diapers when Daniel was a baby, but got out of the habit. I only had prefolds and wet pants, so they were harder to work with than my all-in-ones, which work like a disposable. I started using them again when I got pregnant with Thomas.

Does it save money?

If you only have one child and buy a large stash of expensive diapers, they will most likely still save over disposables. If you want more than one child, even expensive cloth diapers will save money over disposables. For an elimination communication family, it saves, too, especially if you want a large brood like we do.

What about cloth wipes?

I use cloth wipes and prefer them to regular wipes. We just use baby face cloths that have been designated for bum wipes. They clean better than disposable wipes with out the chemicals. I clean them the same way I clean diapers.

Do you find it easy?

No, I would not consider cloth diapering easy. I spend about twenty minutes a day on diaper rinsing, laundering, wringing and hanging. I spend probably two hours total on all housework and cooking each day, so it is a chunk of my work. Along with being frugal, cloth diapers are better for theenvironment and a baby's health, so it is undoubtedly worth the effort.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Family Time Thursday: Cracking Eggs

Don't you love these theme days? Well, I do. I love structure. Here's my schedule:

Recipe Monday
Touring Tuesday
Random Wednesday
Family Time Thursday
FAQ Friday
Storage Solutions Saturday
Book Review or Skip-It Sunday

Most of my day-to-day posts are written with my kids in my mind, but I can see how my readers may not read it as such. When I write about cooking, I write about cooking with kids "helping". When I write about gardening, I am writing about plants that are potted and watered by kids. The kids even tumble my wonderwash with me (and think it's a game we count). They hand me clothespins as I hang clothes to dry. They take turns sweeping after I've gone through the main living areas. Most of the things I write about are things we all do together, and most of the time I am writing I have at least one little one on my lap.

I have had a lot of things to write about for kid specific activities, but it never seemed like a priority for this blog. I decided to make it a priority, though, because the ideas were kind of piling up for posts. General family time, family reflections, kids-specific activities and learning activities will all go here on Family Time Thursday.

Cracking Eggs

Bobby, Daniel and I eat a lot of eggs. My diet could be summed up as mostly eggs and apples. So, a month or so ago, I started having Daniel crack the eggs. There is a lot to be learned in egg cracking, and there are three basic techniques we use.

Crack and Open

This is the adult method of breaking eggs. You crack it on the side of the bowl then use your fingers to open it up. Daniel does a smash and crumble. This one makes him nervous, because
he can feel the egg shell opening in his hand. We discuss: How hard to you have to smash to break the yolk?

Smash and Smash

Yes, keep smashing until the egg shell is totally broken. Then, watch Mommy try to pick
out the little pieces of shell. This is a favorite with Daniel. So far the yolk has not once been in tact from this method. We've got to work on more delicate smashing skills it seems.

Dropping Eggs

Hold egg directly over a bowl at various heights and drop. Sometimes, depending on the
height, you have to drop it twice. We discuss: How high does it have to be for the yoke to break? How high does it have to be for it only to need one drop? How high does it need to be before some splashes out of the bowl? Will Mommy let me stand on a chair and drop the egg into a bowl that is sitting on the floor?

Dividing Whites

My son cannot divide the whites from the yolks yet, but when I started cooking, that step seemed so intimidating. It's not really. Whites and yolks are quite different from each other and can be divided easily. When we do the crack and open method, sometimes I have him crack, then I divide, just to show him. He hasn't wanted to try it himself, but he can see how it is done.

What About Bob?

Bobby always watches and listens to our little chats about the eggs, making observations. Bobby has the nickname "Bam-Bam" because he doesn't yet know his own strength. (He is a tank.) I am sure I will have a big mess if I let him start cracking eggs before he's ready.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Moving Towards

I thought I would explain the plan. People doubt the plan, but I have assumed that it was from misunderstandings. So, I am laying it out step-by-step, and if people still doubt the plan, I am up for suggestions on what we might be overlooking.

Dan is in Bible college currently. He will graduate either Spring of 2011 or 2012, depending on some scheduling issues. Whichever year doesn't effect the plan so much, but it is taken into consideration for the time frame.

So, here is the plan. I will say that we have earned more money for this plan through the blog than through savings. For that I am thankful. If it were not for blog income, the plan would take longer.

Step 1) Buy a mobile home. We have no idea where we are going to end up and how often we'll be moving after, so a mobile home is the way to go for us. At first, we will rent a lot for it in a park. The money we save on rent can be used to pay utilities that aren't covered and to put towards the next step.

Step 2) Fix up the mobile home. I have grandiose plans for a layout that will suit an expanding family. We will change the layout and fix up anything else in need of work. I will start posting my layout ideas when my Touring Tuesdays are done.

Step 3 and 4) Buy land or make home energy efficient. Which we do first depends on whether Dan has a pastorate yet and which will reap savings faster. Not all lots within our price range will be hook-up ready for water, and we may end up building our own well. Thus, if we are looking at land that isn't ready for us, we will want our home to have solar panels for heat and electricity.

Step 5) Build a chicken coop. This will be our first venture into livestock, but not our last. Where we go from there is hard to write on paper, as there will be so many variables in the type of land we have, and how much, but we will continue one step at a time.

All the while...

I will be working on homesteading by increasing our garden and renewable food sources. I will also be researching, researching, researching the next step.

How much, how long?

This is not a short term goal, but I imagine we could be on step five in ten years, and probably going back to step two as we go. Right now, we're putting the blog money aside to start step one. Once Dan is through with school, we will be putting the money that was for his tuition toward these goals, one at a time.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

This is MY Blog

Last week, I turned off comment moderation in hopes that my trolls would simply get it out of their system. Little did I know, the source of their hate was deep. Although I am not the cause of their hatred and misery, for some reason, it feels good for them to take it out on me.

For a while, it was okay. I could see my fractions of pennies adding up as everyone threw in their own two cents. But, it has gone too far. For the second day in a row, this blog has been no fun. Once again, my husband and I are discussing what it will take for us to shut it down.

In hopes to avoid shutting it down, I have reinstated comment moderation. Here are some rules.

No anonymous comments. You can type your name in the Name/URL box. If you don't have a URL, use mine, or just type in google. Better yet, throw in your swagbucks referral code. But anonymous comments will not be moderated. They will be deleted.

Be productive. Didn't your mother teach you that if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all? Well, if you have criticism, make it productive. Make a suggestion, or include a link or a reference.

Get a life. I know this may be counterproductive to my blog income, but people who are spending their time calculating calories and trying to measure my stuff may be able to find something better to do... in their own life.

Join sybermoms. Yes, sybermoms, I have finally written about you. If you can't be nice, productive or intelligent, join sybermoms for mindless chatter with like-minded people.

Lay off my husband. None of you know him, but he's a great guy, great enough for me to want to spend every day of my life with. No insults about my husband will be published.

Stay on topic. I wrote posts about what I find interesting or noteworthy. If you're interested in something else, start your own blog.

Touring Tuesday Overview

I am kicking off a new short series, Touring Tuesdays. I always love snooping around the homes of other bloggers who put up pics of their homes, so I thought you would enjoy the same.

Our apartment is small, roughly 450 square feet. I think we use the space well, but you can judge for yourselves. This week I am posting one picture of each room. In coming weeks as I go through one room per week, I will post at least four pics of each room, one from each corner of the room. I will add additional if more are needed to get the whole idea.

I decided to be honest about how my apartment looks. I sweep every day, but I only mop as needed. I vacuum as needed as well. I leave my dishes in the drainer and toys on the floor to be played with. I almost never make the big bed because there is usually someone snuggling in it. This is a lived in home, not a museum, and that's how we like it.


Boys' Room

Living Room


If you have questions, ask and I'll try to highlight it on the individual room post or in a Storage Solutions Saturday post.

(I brightened each of these pictures. Our apartment gets good light with three large south-facing windows, but it didn't come through in the pics and the darkness made it hard to see.)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Hot Chocolate, Baking Powder, and Spaghetti Squash

Hot Chocolate

For us in Maine, winter means hot chocolate. I admit, when we were first married, I bought the powdered hot chocolate mix that you add to hot water. Never again...

Heat on stove or in microwave

1 cup milk


1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon stevia (or 2 tablespoons sugar)

I haven't done a price comparison of this to store bought. Store bought might be cheaper, but this is far yummier and made from real ingredients, so we'll go with this.

Baking Powder

In a quest to clear my home of all genetically modified foods, I discovered my baking powder has cornstarch as it's leading ingredient. I remembered the Tightwad Gazettehad discussed baking powder alternatives. Amy Dacyczyn's baking soda and cream of tartar recipe will save a fraction of a penny each time you use it, as well as being a natural, non-GMO alternative.

The formula is a little tricky, but it works perfectly. I made this chart that I taped to my old box of baking powder, which now holds my cream of tarter. For each part of baking powder called for, use 1/4 part baking soda and 1/2 part cream of tartar.

Spaghetti squash

Spaghetti squash is my version of fast food. Dan has been home for more meals while he is on Christmas vacation from school. To save me some time in the kitchen, I have turned to spaghetti squash, which is cheap right now.

I cut the squash into quarters and use one quarter in the place of pasta in recipes. It cost roughly the same as my pasta recipe, depending on how large the squash is. It saves me about fifteen minutes of hands on prep time in making and fermenting dough, rolling it out and cutting it. I just boil the squash for 20 minutes, peel off the skin, and mix it in with the rest of my dish.

I get most of my produce from a local market that gets shipments from Boston to Maine three times a week, sorry locavores. I have no idea where they came from before they got to Boston. I don't imagine they are grown there. This small market has the best produce prices I have ever seen, and it almost always beats my 10% discount on Walmart produce. They are the reason for my $1 per pound produce rule, because they have an amazing variety of produce that fits into that category.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Free Books for Bloggers

I recently discovered the Thomas Nelson Book Review Program from the blog Proverbs 31 Woman in Training.

It's a pretty simple program for bloggers. You pick out a book to review from their site. They send you that book for free. You write a review on your blog and link it to their site. Repeat.

Knowing that my book reviews may not be extremely interesting to all of my regular readers, I am only going to post them on Sunday, which has traditionally been my day off. I expect I will do about one per month, maybe two, depending on how fast they ship. By putting the review on Sunday, I will not be displacing my regular content.

Now that I'm with BlogHer, I am a little more limited about my reviewing capacity, but their rules state:
"You may also accept for free and review any product(s) with a retail value of under $40 (U.S.) as long as you properly disclose that you were given the product."
So, I am disclosing that I will review these free books, and am recommending that if you are interested in free books, you might want to check out this program, even if you're with BlogHer.

I review for Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Tool Storage - Where to Store Tools When You Have No Space

This is my living room wall. It has pictures hanging on the left, a pretty scarf hanging on the right next to an old wrench on pegboard. On the bottom are storage solutions that will be discussed in future posts. Today's focus is on our tools:

When the scarf is moved, you see our tools. We have them lined up with the sharpest tools toward the top, going down to the less sharp tools toward the bottom. The bottom is blocked off from the kids, but we still didn't want the screwdrivers within their reach.

We also have an electric saw on the wall in our bedroom. It has a special hook and we couldn't hide it neatly behind the cloth.

Our tools are pretty basic at this point, with an electric drill and electric saw. Everything else is a hand tool, including a wrench set, screwdrivers and a hand saw. The plastic bait container in the middle is a catch-all for various pieces of hardware.

We had a toolbox, but we found this is a way to make our tools more easily accessible. This way we don't have to pull out half of our stuff to get to what we are looking for. I don't mind the look of pegboard on our living room wall, but if I did, I could paint it any color, or even turn it into a fun mural.

Friday, January 1, 2010

What about socialization for homescoolers?

This post is part of FAQ Fridays. If you have a question you would like answered, you can ask it on any FAQ Friday post, or in the FAQ page.


What about socialization?


To newcomers, I plan on homeschooling my children. You can read why I am homeschooling here. This post will only address the socialization aspect of homeschooling. It will not address the budget, time management, curriculum or qualification questions you may have about homeschooling. You can ask them in the comment section and I will add them to the FAQ.

So, there are two basic camps about socialization and homeschooling.

Sports and Extracurricula Activites

Some homeschooling families want to model the public school's version of socialization. Enrolling kids into sports programs and extracurricula activities at the local school is the logical answer. This is hanging out with kids their own age doing things that they are all interested in together.


The other camp says that hanging out with kids the exact same age as you is not socialization, because in the real world and in the work force, you are interacting with people in a wide range of age levels and interests. These families lean toward community activites for socialization, where children will play with other children and learn to interact with adults.

Our Family

Our family generally belongs in the second camp. Festivals, parks, libraries, church: these are real life things that our children right now are mostly spectators of, but are becoming more involved with. This is where real socialization happens for us, where our children interact with people similar to them and with people very different. They learn to respond to differences and understand them.

What about sports and extracurriculas?

Hanging out with people who are the same age as you and do the same things as you is not a well-rounded means of social interaction, in our minds. These activites have nothing to do with our plan for socialization, but have a lot to do with our plans to have each child pursue activities they enjoy. It is more of a curriculum activity than a socialization activity.