Monday, January 26, 2009

Takin' the Bus

We had a really fun morning today. The kids have been bugging me for awhile to take the bus somewhere, anywhere. But, it just never worked out. Today it finally did! Yay! A friend and I with our kids took the bus down to the university to watch a fantastic performance. I love the shows that the university's theater puts on for kids. The shows are geared towards kids and the audience is filled with kids. It's a great way for me to teach my kids about seeing performances without the pressure of an adult-focused show. Today's show didn't disappoint! The New Shanghai Circus was a show of Chinese acrobatics. The kids loved it although A was getting annoyed with me oohing and ahhing. It was a really fun way to celebrate the Chinese New Year!

After the show, we had to hustle back to the bus stop to catch our ride home. This time the bus was nearly empty. On the way there, the bus had been crowded with people heading to school and work. For $1 each way, it was definitely worth it. I was able to chat with my friend and the kids had their friends too. Even the bus driver came back to find out why we had taken the kids to the university (he thought they were a little too young for college) and tell them the most fun place to sit on the bus - the accordion section in the middle.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Must Clean House

I hate cleaning and quite frankly, I'm really bad at it. It's an area of my life that I have always struggled with. And I'm not happy about it either. It stresses me out to have a messy, dirty house. The house has gotten worse since Brad has been home. I think mostly because when I get stressed, my safety mode is to hide and do nothing. Well, yesterday I finally forced myself to face reality. I need help. Several years ago, I used FlyLady to help get me on track. I think I'm going to use her website for inspiration, but try to create a system that works for our family. All of the websites that I read last night on household cleaning schedules, kept saying over and over again that you have to create a schedule yourself for it to work. Today, I've been working on the kitchen - mopped the floor and finished washing the dishes so we can start fresh tomorrow. I've also been working on our endless piles of laundry. I don't think I've ever actually been caught up on the laundry. Tonight we're going to have a family meeting so we can come up with morning and evening routines for everyone in the family. Simple steps to help us all start out the day on the right foot. Having a consistent routine was one of the things that helped me so much in the past. Then we're going to use Flylady's zones to help us get started. This coming week's zone is the living room. I think it's going to be a great place to start since it's the first place we see when we walk into the house. And the first place anyone else sees if they knock on the door. Right now my plan is to use her zones to get the house under control and then reevaluate to see if I want to come up with something different for our family. I felt like I needed to post this to help keep me accountable. Sometimes I come up with great plans and then never follow through. So, in one month, I'm committing to posting my progress.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Freezing our Backsides

I have not been very consistent with posting. Here's my excuse - it's soooo cold in my house! ;) Normally, I post in the evenings after the kids have gone to bed. But, lately after the kids are in bed, Brad and I crawl under the covers to try to warm up. I turned down the thermostat - waaayyy down. Well, I'm sure it's not as far down as some people chose to go, but it's 10 degrees lower than we kept it last year. We have a pellet stove that we use in the early morning and evening to warm up the family room where we spend most of our time. However, we're running low on pellets so we're trying to ration them out to last another month. The exciting, makes me dance around the house, news is that we've cut our per day usage in half from last year at this time!!!! A good move environmentally and it's cut our utility bill by over $100 per month from last January. Woohoo!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

No More TV

I guess it would be more truthful to say no more satellite. We can still turn on the tv, but all we get are our fuzzy local tv channels. The only station that comes in ok is CBS, and there's not anything that we watch on CBS. Instead, there are a few storage boxes parked in front of our tv set right now. Surprisingly, it was a tough decision to cancel our paid channels. We had talked about it before the lay off, but always came up with a reason why we should just keep it. Our biggest reason (excuse maybe) was that we're homebodies. TV was our only real splurge besides eating out. But, since we're faced with trying to make a little last as long as possible, the satellite had to go. At $65 a month, it just wasn't worth it. We had some tears from the kids. B was especially upset because he was going to miss the new Clone Wars episodes. But we told him, we'd find a way to get Clone Wars. The episodes are only $1.99 on iTunes and free with commercials on Cartoon Network. We took the kids to the library and let them each pick out a video to check out. I'm normally a scrooge when it comes to checking out videos. I get irritated that they have to be returned after a week and feel nervous that we're going to scratch them up. But, since it looks like we'll be using the free library a lot in the coming weeks, I decided to ease up a bit. ;) We still have internet, the kids still have the xbox to play video games on, and they can watch dvds. It's not like they're going to be media starved. Even with those other things, our house seems so much more peaceful. It's not the easy fix of just flipping on the tv when we're bored. Now, when the kids watch a video, there is an end to the video - an automatic place to turn it off. When the tv was on, there was always one more thing to watch. I'm really liking the change. I'm guessing that we'll probably turn it back on once we get back on our feet financially. But, I'm not really missing it much and might want to keep it this way for awhile.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Daily Bread

I'm so excited about this recipe!!! I saw a discussion on one of the message boards I frequent about a Mother Earth News article. The authors of the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day shared their basic recipe in this magazine article. The women discussing the recipe were having a lot of success so I thought I'd try it. I've been wanting to try a no-knead bread recipe but just had never gotten around to it. This is so great because it took only a few minutes to mix the dough together and then after the initial rise, you just stick it in your fridge. When you want a fresh loaf of bread, all you do is pull out a pound of dough, let it rest for 40 minutes and bake it. I tried it yesterday in honor of my husband's birthday and everyone loved it. A 1 lb. loaf is really small, but it was the perfect amount for dinner. I have another loaf cooling now, maybe I'll save it for breakfast tomorrow, and I still have enough dough for two more loaves in the fridge. I don't have a baking stone so I used my pizza pan. It seemed to work fine. I can't wait to try the whole wheat recipe, but I have to wait until I use up this dough so I can get my big bowl back.

After checking out the authors website, I think I'm going to try some of the suggestions for high altitude baking next time I try the recipe. I'm on the holds list for the cookbook at our library. New cookbooks aren't really an approved expenditure at the moment. ;) But, if I like it, I'm definitely going to put it on my wish list. I just love the idea of fresh baked bread whenever we want it!

Friday, January 02, 2009

Happy New Year!

I've been reading quite a few blog posts on the New Year - reflections on 2008 and goals or resolutions for 2009. It's been inspiring to read. I feel kind of cemented in place with Brad's unemployment. I'm having a hard time focusing on anything beyond this gigantic challenge we have facing us. It's hard to say that we want to focus on something like "giving" if we don't know for sure where we'll be in a month. But, then I stopped myself. There are things, good things, to reflect on in 2008 and goals I have for 2009.

First my reflections. 2008 was actually a really good year for us. The kids and I deepened friendships, made new friends, experienced new things, read great books. It's just been the last 2 weeks that have tainted the year. I refuse to focus on those last two weeks. Instead I'm going to focus on the rest of the year. Here's a list of a few favorite things in 2008:

Favorite new activity for the kids - We've gotten to do so many wonderful things this year that it makes it hard to choose! I think it was meeting the folks at Galloping Grace Youth Ranch and watching the kids learn to ride horses. This was not something I would have ever sought out on my own. I think that makes it even more special. The kids have learned about hard work, gently communicating with animals many times their size and the exciting self-confidence that comes with accomplishment.

Favorite book I read - Another tough one for me to narrow down. I don't read as much as I used to. Since having kids, I have a much shorter attention span. Plus I don't have the luxury of immersing myself in a book like I like to do, especially with fiction. I mostly have been reading non-fiction lately. Hmmm, I loved The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. We've been trying to be more mindful of our eating choices and how they affect our bodies and the planet, so these were two great reads. The other book that I recently posted about, Jesus for President, was definitely a favorite this year too.

Favorite project completed - I didn't do as much crafting in 2008 as I did in the previous year. Some soap, my Christmas projects, some unfinished sewing projects. But, I think my favorite completed project was my Cari-sized hula hoop. I love it! I haven't used it in the last two months so I'm definitely going to get it back out now! The one A is using is her own that we haven't decorated yet. I can't believe I don't have a picture of mine - mine is white, yellow and orange.

Now on to 2009. Several of my favorite bloggers have chosen a word to focus on for the coming year. I love that idea but have struggled to come up with one as I've thought about it over the last 2 days. Because of our current situation, I keep coming back to things like hope, perseverance, survival. I just don't like those words at all. Then today I thought "sustenance." This seems like a good fit. Here's why. Even without the layoff, my husband and I were hoping to move towards a simpler way of life. With the layoff, instead of a gentle stroll in that direction, we're having a major shove. We have had to reduce our expenses, something we had wanted to do anyway. We've had to cut all the meals out. Again, something we had wanted anyway. And this brings me back to the word "sustenance." Focusing on the simple requirements of living. Whole foods, growing some of my own food, reducing clutter, focusing on more handmade things and depending on God for His provision.
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.
Matthew 6:9-11 (King James Version)

Give us this day our bread. Our sustenance. Focusing on this day, I hope, will automatically reduce our waste. And hopefully, after we figure out our finances, can help us look beyond ourselves to other's daily bread. Maybe we can remember what it feels like to wonder about our daily bread and give in a way we haven't given before. That's my hope for 2009