Friday, December 28, 2012


This year I entered Advent with one goal in mind, to give the kids an experience of Advent and not have Christmas until it got here.  For the most part, it worked. 

We were only 2 days late lighting the advent wreath the first time and managed to light it nearly every evening afterwards.  We had Mary on a donkey and Joseph heading toward Bethlehem on the kitchen wall.  Each day they advanced a little distance.  The kids were so excited on Christmas Eve when they finally got to the kitchen door.

We kept the ever-growing pile of gifts in my room, subject to only occasional glances, and moved it under the tree after the Littles went to bed on Christmas Eve. We replaced our usual bedtime reading with Christmas stories and our usual songs with advent ones.

This year, they finally got the meaning of Christmas.  They did get a few gifts earlier on but I think they finally got that it is really about Jesus bringing the light of God to earth.  It was good for all of us.

And then it was Christmas and it was all about Santa Claus and the presents.  Just being honest.  This first beautiful photo was taken by my niece Lily just before we headed out to church.  You can see the excitement in their eyes!

The lovely lady on the left is my Mother in Law, Gerry Tischler. Tinker (4) is in my arms, then Sunshine (14), The Captain (5) in front, The Blitz (3) in Sunshine's arms, Dear Hubby, and Pepper (16). 

I can't post any more pictures because I don't have a computer anymore and the set-up on the girls' machines requires me copying from one computer to the other and I can't do it.  Maybe later.

Happy fourth day of Christmas, everyone.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Frugal Eating

This week we have been conducting an experiment in social justice.  We have been eating on a food stamps budget. (They aren't called "food stamps" any more, by the way.  Many years ago the stamps were swapped out for encoded cards and the program is called SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.)  I talk about our week in detail in this post on my Bright Life blog.

So here is what we've been eating so far this week and what we have planned for our last days, as well as a bit of detail about the compromises we made to stay on budget. It's getting close to Christmas so our meals are a bit nostalgic.
Cereal and milk, fruit
Lunch - "Snack Plate":  cheese, pretzels, baby carrots, apples
Dinner roast beef spread sandwiches, salad, pickles!

We "cheated" and used a roast from the freezer.  It was "use it or lose it" time for that roast so I thought the action was justified!  It wasn't enough for a main course so we made this spread.  My mother used to make these roast beef sandwiches and we just love them.  Grind cooked roast beef in the meat grinder or food processor, adding in mayonnaise and horseradish (minimal!) until desired consistency is reached.  Mom used to put raw onion in hers.

Yogurt, bananas, dry cereal
Lunch -"Catch as catch can" - eating from the larder
Supper - Surprise Navy Beans and Ham (a gift from my MIL, Gerry Tischler), Cornbread, Salad.

Purchased a fast food breakfast
Lunch - Ramen with veggies (this was a concession; ramen is SO cheap!)
Supper - Zesty Zuchinni Soup, whole wheat crackers, canned peaches

Zesty Zucchini Soup
(With love to Sharon - adapted from South of the Fork cookbook)

6 large or 8 medium zucchini (washed and sliced)
4 large carrots (washed and sliced)
2 cloves garlic
4 cups chicken broth
2 chicken bouillon cubes
8 oz. low fat cream cheese
Optional, hot sauce (like Choluhla or Tabasco); fresh parsley

Combine first 5 ingredients in large pot.  Bring to boil, reduce heat and cook until the carrots are tender.  This takes about 15-20 minutes.  Remove from heat and process small batches in the blender until creamy.  The last batch should be a bit chunky to add texture to the soup.  When all the soup is processed, reheat until just boiling.  Remove from heat, and stir in the cream cheese.  If you're feeling fancy, add some chopped parsley to the top.  Pass the hot sauce with the soup.

Eggs and toast
Lunch - PB&J, apples, baby carrots
Supper - Speedy Spaghetti

Speedy Spaghetti

1-1/4 pounds ground beef (we used  half Italian turkey sausage to cut fat and costs)
20 oz. tomato sauce
15 oz. diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp. tomato paste.
2-1/2 cups water
1 Tbsp. dried parsley
2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. kosher or sea salt

Combine all in large pot and bring to boil.  Add:

20 oz. spaghetti, broken in half.  Stir gently until completely submerged.

Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 20-25 minutes until pasta is tender.

Cereal and Milk
Lunch - Boiled egg, homemade hummus, baked pita chips, fresh veg, fruit
Supper - baked Shrimp Chili Rellenos, Spanish rice, salad (we got some poblanos from Grandpa's garden for this one!  We compromised on the shrimp and bought the jumbo ones with peel on because they were half the price of our original choice.)

Huevos Rancheros, refried beans, baked corn tortilla strips
Lunch - leftovers
Supper - Beer can chicken (in honor of my MIL, Pam Tischler who introduced it to us), roasted sweet potatoes (because Pam's were so yummy last week), biscuits.  (The chicken was free due to a checkout error a couple of weeks ago.)

Shmorn and sausage
Lunch - Sandwiches or leftovers, fresh veggies, fruit
Supper - Pork chops (on sale!), mashed potatoes, corn (from frozen)

 So that's our week.  I think we ate pretty well.  I was worried about affording the fresh fruit and veggies but it worked out; we did eat a lot of bananas, apples and grapefruit because they were cheap and no berries, grapes or oranges because they weren't!  We could not afford fresh herbs so used the dried herbs from the pantry. You can see we ate almost no red meat and very little meat of any kind -- that saved a ton of money.  Truthfully, this is our normal eating.  The compromises were in the kinds of meat and produce we purchased rather than how much.

For our thoughts on how it is working for us and our plans for a longer experiment, refer to the Bright Life blog.  Happy eating!