Monday, July 22, 2013

The Honeymoon Is Not Over

Jerry and have been married for six years and one special thing we do each year is take a "honeymoon week" for ourselves.  We have the whole week without the kids!  Sometimes we go away and sometimes we stay home and do projects around the house.  We went to Alaska on our original honeymoon.  One year, we borrowed a motorcycle and rode about 1500 miles!  Last year, we had free  airline tickes and we used them to go on a mission trip to Costa Rica.  This year is a stay at home honeymoon.

We have a couple of projects planned for this week.  One of them is to turn a claw foot tub, that I have been toting around for years, into a water feature in our yard.  We have a friend that builds ponds and he gave us some advice about how to make it work.  We have been collecting bits of things from friends and neighbors so the project isn't costing very much.  I bought an old rusty pitcher from the salvage yard for a dollar and that will create the fountain!  We are reusing copper pipes from the bathroom we tore out downstairs and bits of PVC from our neighbor who has a garage full.  Our friend Tom the pond guy, had some leftover pea gravel from a project he was working on.  We have plenty of  rocks and screen laying around, and Jerry has a collection of pumps!

I am always fascinated at how my husband can take all of these scraps and things and turn them into whatever my imagination can dream up!  I am learning however, that what may seem like a simple job is often complicated and time consuming!  (Remind me to tell you about the pantry!)  I am an impatient person and I am having to learn to sit still and be quiet!  Some people that know me are saying, "Well, it's about time!"

I have to say that I really love our honeymoon trips when we get to go away!  It is harder to keep this time for ourselves when we are here at home.  There wasn't money this year to go away though, and it is still refreshing to not have the responsibility of kids and work.  We love sleeping in, eating whenever we feel like it, and being able to jump in the car and go whenever the mood strikes us!

Carter was inquiring about our honeymoon week the other day and I told him how important I think it is for parents to have time together without their kids.  "When you get married and have kids," I told him, "we will watch the kids for a week every year so that you can have that time with your wife!"  

"What if I live far away?" he asked.

"Then we will come to you," I replied.  We will do that for all four of you.

"What if we all want to go away at one time?" Carter inquired?

"Then we will keep all of the grand kids together!"  Oh boy!  For now, I am glad it is just us for a week.  I'll start missing them them in a couple of days though!

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth- for your love is more delightful than wine.  
Take me away with you—let us hurry!  Let the king bring me into his chambers.
Song of Songs 1:2,4

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Life at the Custer House

I really got people stirred up the last two days when I posted two questions on Facebook: 1. Where is the cheapest milk, and 2. How can I stay in my $350/month food budget?  The responses on the milk question were very educational, but the responses on the budget question surprised me!  Apparently, I am already spending quite a bit less on groceries than the average family.  Several people questioned how staying in that budget was even possible!  I thought I would take a moment to explain our family dynamics as they relate to meal planning.

We are a family of six, but since we are a blended family I don't feed all of us all of the time.  The kids are with us half a week and every other weekend, so I fix meals for six approximately fifteen days and meals for two the other fifteen days of the month.  My kids range in age from (almost) eleven to sixteen and they all eat like adults.  They are never allowed to just browse the pantry for food.  For both budget and health reasons, I monitor all food choices.

My family is unique in several other ways.  We raise some of our own meat and hunt for the rest.  We rarely buy meat with the exception of lunch meat and occasional hot dogs or brats.  My husband and all four children hunt and, along with some venison that is given to us, we put up nine to twelve deer each year.  We also raise chickens, rabbits, turkeys, and quail for meat.  (We do not currently have turkey or quail, but we have in the past.). My husband processes all of our meat in our kitchen so there is very little cost.  We have three additional freezers to hold all of that meat.  We will also have pork this year since we are raising pigs at a friends house!  (Can't wait for the bacon!)

We do have a garden, and though we are not experts at gardening, we have had some success at growing and preserving some fruits and vegetables.  This year I have made lots of pickles and sweet relish, frozen grated zucchini, and frozen chopped green peppers.  I am really hoping to make and can spaghetti sauce, but I will have to rely on other people to give me the tomatoes because ours have not done well.

My mother-in-law helps out as well.  We don't see her often, but when we do she supplies me with some basic things like toilet paper and paper towels, brownie mix, chocolate chips. cereal, peanut butter, and whatever else she has collected while coupon shopping.  She usually brings me a van load of stuff a couple of times a year.

My family does not use a lot of processed or snack foods unless they are given to us.  I do buy chips for lunches since my kids pack each day.  I either get the individual bags or they measure out a serving size with the food scale.  I also buy granola bars and pudding for easy snacks.  They usually make a sandwich and pack a fruit or vegetable as well.  My kids have been packing their own lunches since the youngest was in kindergarten, but we supervise the packing.

Breakfast in our house is typically eggs (since we have fresh eggs) or oatmeal.  I buy the whole oats and they mix stuff in with it.  Cereal is usually only available after Grandma visits, though I have bought some recently.  Sometimes one of the kids will make pancakes and we freeze the extras for quick breakfasts.

Suppers are mainly planned around the meats I have in the freezer.  I make a lot of casseroles and use my crockpots frequently!  We eat salads often (sometimes with fresh lettuce from the garden) and I use my bread maker to make bread.  We keep it simple but there is always plenty - my kids have big appetites!  The hardest part has become working around their sports schedules!  I am searching for some meals to go ideas!

I don't buy organic foods.  I usually buy store brands.  I don't clip coupons, and I don't shop sales.  I stick to basics and make what I can from scratch.  A large part of my food budget goes to staple items: bread, milk, cheese, flour, sugar, etc.  I do include non-food items in my food budget as well, and I really have to stretch!  The one thing that is not included is animal feed.  We have a separate budget to feed the dogs, cats, goats, chickens, rabbits, etc.

I think my major goal is to do better planning.  Since there is NO additional money in the budget right now, I will need to start researching sales and using some coupons.  My $350 will need to stretch to cover my month even though food prices are going up!  If I use my resources wisely, I think it can be done.  Hey, it might even be a fun challenge!

27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Proverbs 31:27

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Thinking of Granny

As I was chopping my green peppers from the garden today, I thought of my Granny.  I remember the little bags of frozen chopped green peppers she kept.  Whenever I would stop by, she would fix a bag of things to send with me and she always tucked in a few of those little bags.  I knew they came from Grandaddy's garden and it made me feel good to be using something he grew.  Grandaddy's garden was a big deal to him and we appreciated the fresh food as well.  All of the vegetables were yummy, but the Lima beans were saved for special occasions.  Now, after growing them, I understand that there is so little yield from so many plants and it makes sense that they were treasured!  

My friend Jan gave us some tomatoes today, since ours are not doing well.  They are lined up on the window sill to ripen just like they were at Granny and Grandaddy's.  I love to grow yellow squash just so I can make squash, potatoes, and onions, just like Granny's.  The smells, the tastes, even the sight of the veggies bring back a flood of memories of being in her kitchen.  

It wasn't just my maternal grandparents that gardened.  My dad's parents had a huge garden as well - maybe even bigger!  I can remember the sight of the garden, up on a little hill in the backyard.  I can remember my step-grandfather, Tom, bringing fresh veggies into the kitchen and placing them on the table.  Once, when I stayed with Granny and Tom for a week in the summer, we had salad with fresh tomatoes and crumbled bleu cheese for lunch each day.  I remember feeling so grown up!  

Having my own garden and putting up the harvest makes me feel closer to my roots.  Many things about the way Jerry and I do life remind me of the way my grandparents did things.  It is a way of living that helps me feel wholesome, healthy, peaceful, and right.  Maybe it's because I feel more a part of God's creation.  Maybe it's because it reminds me of a slower pace.  Maybe it's just because it helps me remember.

“Stand at the crossroads and look;
    ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
    and you will find rest for your souls.
Jeremiah 6:16