Wednesday, January 28, 2009

25 Random Things About Me

1) I have so much useless knowledge in my brain that I sometimes forget what I am doing.

2) I sometimes think I would be much happier if I never had to go to a store ever again.

3) My husband really is my best friend.

4) I would love to have a smoke house, root cellar, berry patch, chickens, and a big garden just like my grandparents did.

5) I know how to build a house, dig a well, plumb a bathroom, butcher a pig, and pluck a chicken. But I can't physically do any or it. And that makes me sad sometimes.

6) I like eggs

7) I like standing in the woods while it is snowing and just listening to the silence.

8) My first job was stuffing envelopes for $4.00 an hour while all of my friends were flipping burgers for $3.15.

9) I don't tell my kids how proud of them I am nearly often enough

10) I am not afraid to try new things even if I often fail at it.

11) The only "stuff" I need to be happy really just belongs in the kitchen. If I couldn't cook, I think I would go crazy. I don't know how people live without cooking their own food. I just get so much satisfaction from getting elbow deep in a bread bowl. I think we would all be healthier and happier if we would all just take the time to cook a big meal for family and friends at least once a month.

12) I make my own soap, laundry detergent, bread, and ham. I can make butter (when I have access to extra milk) salami, and sausage. I sew, crochet, can our food, and make jelly. I think I am living in the wrong century.

13) I get more joy from watching the birds in the yard than from watching TV.

14) I sometimes think that getting sick and not being able to work was actually a blessing. If I hadn't gotten sick, I would have missed so many chances to be with my family.

15) I want a homestead so badly I can taste it.

16) I am tired of the government telling me what I can eat, what I can do or not do, where I can put a chicken coop, what i am supposed to believe, and how to raise my kids. After all, they have done such a great job with the banks and manufacturing sector. I don't know why everyone doesn't adopt the morals the government employs. It has worked so well for them, after all.

17) I think that greed is over-riding common sense. That is why we are in such an economic mess.

18) Learning to be still was very hard to master, but very worth the effort.

19) I think I would be much harder to live with if I didn't have chocolate.

20) Bureaucrats make my teeth hurt.

21) I don't kill things, except ants.

22) I think the two most important phrases in the English language are " thank you" and "I'm sorry".

23) I would like to lose weight, but I just like food too much. If I could lose weight without giving up good food, that is a diet I can stick with.

24) I believe in knowledge for knowledge's sake. If you stop learning, you might as well just give up.

25) I enjoy being silly sometimes. I think that if we take everything too seriously, we forget to take joy in the moment.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Are you sick of it yet?

I have said it before and I will say it again, real food is healthier for you than over-processed, additive laden, profit driven food ever thought about being.

I grew up on food we either grew or traded for. Raw, unpasteurized milk, eggs so fresh they were still warm from being under the chicken, veggies you had to wash the garden off of before you could eat it, and the joy(sort of) of spending a weekend putting a pig or a steer in the freezer. And you can't forget the smell of hot wet chicken feathers, no matter how hard you try.

The studies are overwhelmingly in favor of organically grown food. The pesticides and other chemicals used in factory farms can kill you. That is why, just about every year, there are food recalls, and not just on vegetables. Government regulation of our food supply has resulted in marginally nutritional food-like products that only resemble real food in shape and color. If you haven't had a fresh peach that you hand picked, you have no idea just how much fuzz is actually on a peach. The fruit you buy from the store, even fresh peaches, has been processed to the point that there is almost no fuzz left on it. Not only that, it was picked so green that it barely has any color so that it can withstand the processing. When you bite into a peach and the juice drips off of your elbow, now THAT is a peach.

But the people who grow that kind of food these days can't sell it. Government regulation being what it is, if it hasn't been inspected, processed, packaged, and has a paper trail a mile long, it just isn't safe for human consumption. To that, I say, "Bollocks!"

It wasn't until the early 1900's that food went from being good for you to being a major industry. Regulation was mandated to protect the general population from being sold spoiled food products or products that had been adulterated with non-food products. At the time, it was a good thing. But as time went on, more and more small producers were bought out by corporate farms. When the corporate farms got big enough, they were able to enforce legislation to force the little guy to sell out. That was the downfall of real food.

With the rise of suburbia, more people were buying their food from stores than were growing their own. In the 1950's, store bought food was a status symbol. Kids were raised buying their food instead of growing it. These days, the closest most people get to growing their own food is the single bean they grow in 4th grade science. And just about every person in the US has some sort of physical problem, from obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, or asthma. And if you aren't sick now, you probably know someone who is.

Until we can stop the aggressive legislation that is preventing us from eating healthy, real food, we will all be doomed to be sick. Because food is big business. And so is the healthcare industry.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Saving Money

Everyone knows that saving money is a good thing. And everyone has little tricks they use on themselves to save the most. But not every tip will work for every family.

Take, for instance, the fact that I save money by cooking at home instead of eating out. That works very well for us because I have the time to cook and really enjoy it. Some friends of ours do not have that luxury. She works an hour and 15 minutes from home and doesn't get home in time to cook a nice meal every night and still be able to get the kids in bed at a decent time. And she doesn't really like to cook that much. But they both have good jobs and make good money, so eating out for them is an option.

For us, as a family, we really don't need that much stuff. We spend more on groceries than anything else. None of us are clothes hounds, we don't compulsively buy new "toys", we don't go out to the movies or dinner very often, and we don't just go shopping just to be shopping. When we do buy things, it is generally used DVDs. We watch a lot of movies at home. We won't buy them new. Why spend $20 on a movie that will be less than half that in a couple of months? We have a lot of movies, some of them really good, some really really bad, but most are just on the good side of average. Which is fine. There isn't really anything being filmed that is better than average anyway. And by paying $6.99 for a DVD instead of $7 each for movie tickets ($28 for the 4 of us) plus concessions, we are saving a ton of cash. And if one of us needs to take a break, we can just pause it. Much better than going to the theater.

I have seen lists of money saving tips all over the internet, and for the most part, it is good sound advice. And we do a lot of the things that make sense for us. But not everyone can grow their own food or make their own clothes. Or cut their own hair. Or bicycle to work. It just isn't possible for most of us.

The key is to be comfortable with it. Going from living large to being a tightwad over night is impossible. You will only make yourself crazy. Anyone who has lost their job will tell you that it is no fun living on pork and beans and mac and cheese. Work up to your savings goals. When you get comfortable with one change, then add another. Don't just stop spending cold turkey. You have to retrain your self to a new lifestyle. So work up to it. Slow and steady will work much better for long term change. If you feel yourself getting depressed or feeling deprived, have a treat. Just remember that it is a treat, and that you can't to do it all of the time.

So when you decide to start getting serious about saving money, study the tips. Make a list of your own. But keep in mind that if it isn't something that you can actually do, and will do consistantly, forcing yourself to do it will only make you feel guilty when you don't. Saving money should make you feel good, not deprived. I have found that having a goal in mind when you start trying to save money really helps. Something like, "I want to pay off this bill by the end of the year. How much do I have to save to be able to do that?" If you drink coffee shop coffee everyday, you can save 3 or 4 dollars a day my making coffee at home instead. That is around $80 a month you can add to your bill payment every month. Or if you go out every weekend and spend $30 at the bar, go every other weekend and save $60 a month. If you have a big dry cleaning bill, try to find clothes that don't need to be dry cleaned, or if you have to wear suits to work, try to wear them more than once as long as they pass the sniff test.

There are a million ways to not spend money, the secret is to find what works for you. Set a goal, add new tips slowly into your lifestyle, and if you start to feel deprived, splurge a little.

Friday, January 9, 2009

This Bailout Thing Has Got To Stop!

There are a few things that just really set me off. Government getting in my business, someone telling me how to raise my kids, and people begging for my tax money that don't deserve it.

This morning I heard of some people who are asking for Federal Bailout money. There is a small town in Georgia, a village really, with less than 200 people, who are asking for millions of dollars of MY tax money so they can put in Solar traffic lights, plug in stations for electric golf carts, and an EcoMuseum among other things. Now my question to them is...Why? Does this town have such a high electric bill from their one traffic light that they are having trouble paying it? Is there a large number of golf carts in this little hamlet in Georgia? And would a museum even generate enough income to pay the one employee it would take to run the thing?

Or maybe it is just the prospect of free money that caused them to stick out their hand? I find it almost absurd that the Bank Bailout Package, which started out as an obscene $900 Billion is going to be used by every group of 3 or more people as an excuse to do stupid things. I was opposed to the original bailout to begin with. It is time for the greedy folks to pay the piper. They have been bilking the common joe for decades, and now that they have gotten "caught", they are whining about how it wasn't their fault. If any of these companies had a shred of common sense to begin with they would not have employed the business practices that lead to their downfall. It is their own danged fault they are going under. Have none of these people ever taken an economics class? Interest rates that border on usury, giving loans and credit to people who don't have jobs, giving multiple mortgage loans to people without verifiable income, robbing Peter to pay Paul, shipping jobs overseas and keeping Americans either underemployed or overpaid. None of these things are good business practices. When the average American Adult is more than $10,000 in debt, not counting their mortgages, you should know that there is a problem.

And now the same people who have killed us as a nation are wanting the taxpayer to pay them for being stupid? Just where do they think all of this money is going to come from? Can we just pull BILLIONS or TRILLIONS of dollars out of the air and say, "Here ya go. We are sorry it isn't more?"

There are only a couple of ways the government can get enough money to pay these people off. One is to raise taxes. Americans are already under such a tax burden that the average worker only sees maybe 60-70% of their paycheck. And if we add more taxes to pay for the bailout, it will suck even more out of our paychecks. The major problem with that idea is that most people are living paycheck to paycheck as it is. So people can't afford to buy anything, including food. Or they default on their loans and credit cards and file bankruptcy. Less people buying things means less being sold. That is bad, very bad, for retailers and manufacturers, Then they go bankrupt and lay off or fire employees. That causes more people to not be able to pay their bills. See the cycle here?

Or, the federal reserve can just print more money. Yeah, lets do that! Big mistake. Our money isn't really worth anything anymore since it isn't backed by anything but the good name of the United States. All of that gold sitting in Fort Knox is just sitting there useless. Used to be a time when the Fed would only have enough currency floating around the US equal to the value of the gold in the Federal Reserve. That kept our dollar worth something. We knew that each and every US dollar anywhere on earth was equal to a piece of the gold bars in Kentucky. That isn't the case anymore. We dropped the gold standard sometime back in the 80's, I think. Since then we have just been printing money to be printing money. It isn't really worth anything except in it's rarity. If we print more for the sake of the buyout, each piece of currency will be worth less and less. So it will take more of them to mean anything. That is called inflation. And if we actually print enough for the bailout, that will be called runaway inflation. Yes, boys and girls, if we inject $900 Billion new dollars into the economy just to pay people for being stupid, it will cost $10 for a loaf of bread, if you can find a bakery that is still in business. Hamburger, which is already $3.00 a pound will probably be over $15. And for people who are already out of work, and behind on their bills, how will they live?

All of this just burns my tail feathers. If corporations hadn't gotten greedy and made bad decisions, and if people in general hadn't taken on more debt than they could pay and banks encouraging them to take on more, none of this would be an issue.

And maybe, just maybe, we wouldn't be lambasted all over the world for being the largest consumer on the planet.

It just makes my teeth hurt.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Community Gardens: Good or Bad?

I read an article this morning that got me to thinking about community gardens. While I can see it working in some situations, I think that the population as a whole is simply too greedy for it to work in every community. Everyone wants that first ripe tomato, but who is going to get it? The first one to spot it, even if that person didn't actually plant it or care for the plant. Even if it is a co-op garden and everyone works for the common good and gets an equal share, there will be those who will feel that they should get more tomatoes because they don't like the zucchini and eggplant. It is a difficult situation with no real solution.

Our society has existed too long with the entitlement mindset. We think that everything should be given to us without having to work for it. We, as a nation, simply do not want to work for, or toward, anything useful. We have demonized the concept of getting dirty. If that were not true, there would be a lot more people with back yard gardens and we wouldn't need food banks anymore. We would all be eating healthier and diseases like diabetes would not be such an issue anymore.

Now, with all of that being said, there are still things that can be done to help others. If you have a garden, share your extra food with those in need. There are lots of things you can grow in a small space that will produce more than the normal family can eat during the season. Like squash, tomatoes, melons, and beans. This is especially true for those who do not can or preserve their crop. Just how many cantaloupes can you and your family eat in a week? So give the extras to your local homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Getting tired of beans before the plants stop producing? Donate them. Or sell them at the local farmer's market.

There was an online program I found a couple of years ago called "Plant a row for the hungry" that gave out free packets of seeds for anyone agreeing to donate the proceeds from that seed packet to a food bank or homeless shelter. I thought that was an exceptionally good idea. I got a packet of carrot seeds, which probably actually cost less than the postage to mail it to me, but produced about 5 pounds of carrots. I gave them to the teen shelter and they were grateful.

There are just so many options for the extra food you produce. Even things like eggs from your backyard flock. I know that we could not possibly eat enough eggs every week to keep up with the production from even 4 or 5 hens. We just don't eat enough eggs. I use about 7 eggs a week. What would I do with the extras? And if I were raising chickens for meat, I would need a lot more than 4 or 5 chickens. That is a bunch of potential eggs. I could sell them, or give them to friends and neighbors, or I could donate them.

But would I want to raise them in a community coop where anyone could decide that they needed all of them that day and leave none for anyone else? I am thinking probably not. As a society, we just haven't been taught to share on such a scale anymore. Neighbors don't pitch in and help build a barn or give food and clothing to victims of house fires. We don't trust one another any more. And we have hardened ourselves against caring for anyone but ourselves.

I don't like it, but it is the truth. And unless we can change it, we will probably lose all sense of community and be a nation of individuals instead of the United States of America.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Making due

With more and more companies downsizing and prices on the rise, it is becoming more important than ever to watch where and how we spend.

There are so many ways to save money every day that it is almost intimidating. Most of us settle for just not buying things, but that can make you feel deprived and depressed about the whole situation. What my family and I have done is a little bit different. We haven't completely stopped spending money, but we are a lot pickier about what we spend it on.

For instance, instead of buying some of our Christmas gifts this year, we made them. We spent less money than if we purchased them, and they are actually a little more heartfelt. We found out at the last minute (actually about 10 days before Christmas) that our nephew was giving us a gift after the family decided last year to not buy for each other any more. So I rapidly made him an afghan in his favorite team colors. I wasn't really paying attention to what I was doing when I made the original chain for the length, so it wound up being HUGE. Almost 8 feet long. Well, at least he and his wife will have plenty to keep warm at the football games. But he loved it. Probably better than if we had bought something random from the store.

Since I cook, that saves us a lot of money too. We haven't stopped eating out completely, but we have cut down a lot. And when we do stop for a burger, we generally eat off of the Dollar Menu. Last night, for instance, we had to go grocery shopping after my husband got off work. It was 7pm by the time we were finished and we were both very hungry so we decided to go to McDonalds and just grab a bunch of double cheese burgers and take them home. We got into the drive thru and saw the new dollar menu and were shocked. There were only 6 items on the dollar menu now and none of them were meat. Just ice cream, fries, pies, parfaits, small sodas, and I think cookies or something. We were amazed that McDonalds would kill their dollar menu like that. So we went thru a couple of more drive thrus looking for dollar items. Finally wound up at Wendys. Jr Double Cheeseburgers for $.99. Sold! We got 8 of them( 2 for each of us) and 4 plain baked potatoes for $14 and change. While it is still somewhat expensive, it is better than it could have been. Had I cooked them myself, it would have been about 1/3 of that after buying buns and meat, but at least we got to eat quicker and didn't have a mess to clean up.

Anyway, I generally cook our meals. I haven't really found anything that I can't cook at home that we would normally eat if we went to a sit down restaurant. And sometimes, I can do a better job than the restaurants, since I can tailor it to my family's liking. Granted, it does make us have to have a wider variety of ingredients on-hand, but if I shop smart, and use coupons, I can almost always make it cheaper than retail.

An example of this is flatbread. I got online and looked up pita bread recipes and found that you can use just about any bread dough to make pitas. So yesterday I was making bread and decided that instead of 2 loaves of slicing bread, I would make 1 loaf and some flat bread. Pinch off a ball about the size of a pingpong ball, roll it out really thin, like 1/4-1/8 of an inch, pre-heat a pizza stone in the oven to about 475 degrees, and bake them on the stone 2 or 3 at a time. When they puff, flip them. It takes about 5 minutes each. And they are wonderful. Since I was making bread anyway, it saved me the $3 or $4 dollars that a pack of flatbread would have cost me, and I know they are fresh.

Prices have gone up so much lately that it is almost cheaper now to make our bread instead of even going to the thrift store. And if I can ever get a batch of sourdough going without killing it, I won't even have to buy yeast. Flour is going up, but that will affect commerical bakers as well as home cooks.

So as long as prices keep going up, I will continue to find ways to either make it myself or make due without.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Garden fever

It is that time again. The time when the urge to plant a garden clashes with the fact that we still have 2 months of possible snow and ice.

Seed catalogs have been rolling in with alarming frequency, showing us all of the wonderful foods of summer. The plump juicy tomatoes, hundreds of types of beans, piles of squash and gourds, tender crunchy lettuces, and all of the other wonderful things that make an organic foodie have spasms of delight. But the problem, and I assure you it is a problem, is that it is still bloody cold outside.

According to, we have a 50/50 shot at freezing rain today. That isn't really the best thing for growing beans. Even green peas will have trouble this early. So I have at least a month, maybe a month and a half, before I can even start my seed pots. And 6 weeks or so after that before I can even think about putting them out in the garden. It is enough to make you want to pull your hair out.

A couple of months ago, I had the idea that I would set up a fish tank with a grow light and plant lettuce or carrots or something in it. I never found a cheap fish tank. But that would certainly help with the urge that always hits me in early January. The seed catalogs are evil. They make my mouth water with dreams of fresh crunchy veggies by the pound and tree ripened fruits so juicy that one bite causes that explosion of flavor so intense that it makes your knees quiver.

I have even gotten so caught up in the fever this year that I have started looking at canning supplies again. I have cases of jars and boxes of lids and bands ready for filling, yet nothing to fill them with. I am afraid that I will have to buy produce from the grocery store soon just to get the itch out so I don't drive my family crazy.

Maybe it is just that Winter is so dreary and gray that makes me want to have green growing things around me. Maybe if I had more house, that won't work either. We just don't have enough light inside for them to grow. I suppose I could change all of my light bulbs to grow lights, but then I would have the police wondering just what exactly I was growing in here.

Oh, well. I guess I will just have to tough it out. After all, time flies when your having fun, right?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Gotta love the Holidays

We have managed to survive yet another holiday season. It wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been. After the Thanksgiving drama, Christmas and New Years went fairly smoothly.

Christmas at the Nephew's house went very well, and every one was full as a tick by 7pm. Granted, my niece and I did most of the cooking, but it was fun and everything turned out good. No one really got snippy with anyone else so the mood was good. My brother-in-law still wasn't feeling well, so they didn't stay long, but at least we got to visit for a little bit before he had to leave.

The Christmas gifts were about as expected. I think my Mother-in-law just gathered things from around the house to give every one. She has lots of stuff that she bought on sale over the last 40 years to give as wedding and birthday gifts that she digs through as needed. So my 17 year old daughter got a Barbie and I got yet another fleece throw blanket. I think she bought a single package of men's socks and gave each male member of the family 1 pair. She also gave each of us an envelope with cash in it. That was probably the best thing to do. She is getting old and her health is starting to go south, so she really didn't need to be out shopping anyway. And cash is always a useful gift.

New Years started, for us anyway, on Tuesday. That was the day that our friends from Hardy and our friends from Jacksonville arrived. We did our simple gift exchange with each other, then we threw a little baby shower for our friend's daughter. It wasn't really anything much, just some basic things like clothes and bottles and that sort of thing. Wednesday afternoon, us Moms went to the local thrift store and found tons of really nice baby things for next to nothing. I hope this baby turns out to be a girl. LOL! Although, I did find a couple of cute boy outfits and the other two moms got some really cute overalls that could go either way. But most of the stuff we got was frilly little dresses. I tried to stick with every day clothes, like onesies and t-shirts, I even found a couple of diaper covers that I think might be water proof. Those will really come in handy.

New Years Eve night brought my daughter's boyfriend to the house. It is still a little awkward having him around. This is her first real boyfriend and she is still a little shy of the concept I think. The Dads had a good time during the Inquisition. It was funny to watch the other 2 Dads quizing him over his future plans, if his intentions were honorable to my daughter, whether or not he believes in werewolves, etc. He managed to blow it all off with no problem. My daughter was mortified. I think she was afraid they would scare him off. He stayed relaxed and even humored Dennis in his werewolf stories. We had to run him off around 1:30 so we could all go to bed.

New Year's Day was more relaxed. I made omelettes as people got up. Then we played a couple of games and just visited. Our Hardy friends had to leave because she had to work this morning and their kids had to go to school. Our Jacksonville friends left too because my husband has to work today. We ran the boyfriend (yes, he came back) off around 8pm and we finally had the house to ourselves again.

Now all we have to worry about is geting the laundry and dishes caught back up and getting ready for the kids to go back to school on Monday.

While the holiday season is nice and everything, I am glad it is over. I will be ready for company again by the time spring break rolls around, but for now, I just want my house back.

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