Sunday, February 28, 2010

Should I Ladle Them?

It's 5pm. I have 5 people stalking me with ravenous looks in their eyes. A sixth person, the biggest of all, will be coming in soon. A few of them are starting to whine. There is no food in sight, except for the crumbs under the kitchen table. I stand in the kitchen feeling rather frantic. Should I grab the soup ladle to start fending them off? It is not a pretty picture...

This is what it looks like when I haven't planned out our meals for the week.

Planning ahead makes things go more smoothly. I really do know this. I have experienced it first hand and yet, sometimes I don't do it. I kick myself later. Not only does it make my life less than peaceful, on some levels, it isn't fair to my family.

My job is them - to love them, to clean them, to school them, to make a peaceful home for them and FEED them. When I don't do my work, when I don't do the planning, we all suffer. Besides, doing my job and keeping the peace, meal planning saves time, mental energy and even money, but more on that later.

I have made a basic meal plan for each week. It lists breakfasts, snacks, lunches and dinners for the whole week. (Remember, we homeschool so I feed 5 kids all day, everyday.) There have been requests to share "The Feeding Frenzy," as it is titled. I am going to do it...I just need to figure out how. My blogging skills are not quite up to snuff.

So, in the meantime, here is the temporary PLAN. :)

Monday nights for dinner we have Soup & Bread. Not always the same soup and bread, but some kind of soup and bread none the less. Here is the recipe for tomorrow night's soup. It is awesome! ALL of my employers (the kids and The Big Guy) love it, which I love because it is EASY!

Pasta and Greens in Garlic Broth

feeds however many you need it to feed

5 cloves to 1 head of garlic, minced or chopped fine

3-4 T olive oil

large bunch of kale or swiss chard, diced (if you look at the bunch and don't think it is large -get two)

chicken broth - enough to fill your soup pot to your liking

1 lb of pasta - cheese filled tortellini (dried or fresh), gnocchi, shells, even elbow macaroni

ground Parmesan cheese ( the stuff in the green container works, but REAL is best!)

Here is the gist of the whole recipe:

Wash the greens. If you are using kale, you probably want to cut off the stems below the leaf if not up into the leaf a bit. They are rather tough. If you are using swiss chard - use the stems. Dice the leaves and stems (if you are using them). In a large pot over medium heat, add the olive oil. When it shimmers, add the garlic. If you are only feeding a few people, you'll want to use the lesser amount of garlic or not if you really like garlic. Saute the garlic for a minute or so. Fill pot with broth. I usually use water with chicken bouillon in it. Not ideal, but it fits the budget. To feed all of us and maybe have a few leftovers, I use my big pot and 20 cups of water. Bring the water to a boil and add the pasta. When the pasta has about 5 minutes left, add the kale. If you are using chard, add it when the pasta has about 3 minutes left. You can add ground black pepper or let people do that themselves. Same with salt. However, you might just want to leave the salt off the table if you used bouillon cubes. The cheese is yummy sprinkled over each bowl.

I realize that this recipe is rather sketchy. It is like that on purpose. Cooking doesn't have to be exactly precise - especially soup. Give it a shot!

Really, you will love this soup! Plus, you'll get some healthy greens and garlic into you and your family.

We have homemade bread that is VERY easy and so delicious. I mean really, truly amazing bread. That is for another post!

Scripture Sundays

I am no theologian, nor do I play one on TV. I do sleep with one every night...but I digress.

In this season of Lent, when we remember the sufferings of Christ, Sundays are still meant to be joyful celebrations of His resurrection. I've heard some wonderful music in the past two days (thanks Tim!) and this Psalm keeps coming to mind.

Psalm 150

1 Praise the LORD.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him
in his mighty heavens.

2 Praise him for his acts of power;
him for his surpassing greatness.

3 Praise him with the sounding of the
praise him with the harp and lyre,

4 praise him with
tambourine and dancing,
praise him with the strings and flute,

5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.

6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD.

We're each called to give God praise (you are breathing, aren't you?)...
whether we can sing or not!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

I AM buying it

Filling stomachs and cleaning bodies is a big job around here. How this is accomplished has changed greatly over the years as we have added members to our family and, in all honestly, our monthly budget hasn't really changed a whole lot.

I've gradually learned to be more and more frugal, not cheap (at least I try hard not to be), just frugal. About 18 months ago, I started frequenting websites extolling the virtues of using coupons. I was skeptical. However, the more I read and studied, I found out it works. Coupons combined with weekly sales at stores are have been a huge blessing to our family!

Take a look!

Here's what I bought at Walgreens and CVS in the month of February:

4 packs of diapers
6 tubs of baby wipes
3 tubes of toothpaste
4 men's bottles of men's body wash
3 packs of gum
4 jars of spaghetti sauce
2 jars peanut butter
2 bottles of dish soap
11 candy bars and such for Valentine's Day gifts
1 pack of pencil top erasers
8 boxes/packages of "woman" stuff
2 Valentine pencils
10 cans of tuna
2 bottles of Excedrin
4 2 liters of soda
5 12 packs of soda (this will last a LONG time!)

TOTAL Number of Items: 71

Guess how much I paid for it all? $42.00 including

This weeks at Copps (a grocery store here in town) I bought the following:
12 boxes of cereal
4 packs of breakfast sausage
1 box of cookies (a real rarity around here)
11 frozen meals (Ron takes them to work sometimes)
4 gallons of milk
2 dozen eggs
TOTAL spent: $4.55 AND 2 coupons worth $3.50 printed out of the register for me to spend on my next trip!
DISCLAIMER: I don't always do this well!

Based on the above you might be thinking the Jungs will be eating tuna and cereal for every meal in the next week. Nope! We usually only have cereal once a week. One of the keys I've learned in shopping is to buy a bunch of an item when it is on sale (and if you can use a coupon all the better) - it's called stockpiling. That cereal and tuna will last us for a while.

I don't post this to brag, but to encourage you (I hope)! You can feed your family well and it doesn't have to leave the rest of your budget feeling pinched.

It takes a bit of work, but you can do it and think what good your family could do with the extra wiggle room in your budget - the possibilities are exciting!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Turkey Reminders

We've had a turkey in our deep freeze since early December. What can I say? It was a great after Thanksgiving turkey sale. This week I felt like eating turkey, so I cooked it up today and we had a little Thanksgiving in February, complete with stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and even some cranberries (they were in the freezer, too).

I've always thought it was the spirit of the actual holiday itself that made me ponder all of God's good gifts to me. Over the years, making a mental list of all I have to be thankful for while I cook our meal has become part of my personal Thanksgiving tradition.

I think I was wrong. I think it might actually be the big bird that puts me in a grateful state of mind.

It was a bit strange to making "Thanksgiving-y" food in February, but just like on Thanksgiving, my mind started playing over all of the many blessings I have been given:

grace, love, forgiveness, a hard working husband, wonderful (albeit noisy) children, my fleece blanket, a washing machine, Pride and Prejudice DVDs, godly parents, my favorite kitchen knife, the opportunity to teach the noisy children - and the list goes on.

If feels good to be thankful. I can't feel sorry for myself or frustrated with where God has placed me or covetous of what my neighbor has if I am feeling grateful. They just don't mix.

Hmmmmm....guess I should cook a turkey more often.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Duct Tape Nukkie

Our 2 year old daughter, Abby, is something. She's busier than all our other kids combined and she has a LOT going on in that head of hers. We're eager to see what God has in store for her, if she hasn't worn us out in the meantime.

She is the first of our kids to take a Nuk or a passie or a Bopee or whatever it is called around your place. All the others siblings were thumb suckers. And so, after five kids, we find ourselves in uncharted to get rid of the Nuk?

We've been given advice; we've done some reading; we've thought about it. We decided to cut small holes in the 2 remaining Nuks. The thought goes that they won't suck the same and we'll keep cutting the holes a tad bigger every few days until she just doesn't want them anymore.

I cut the holes a few nights ago. I cut one way too big apparently.

That night, Abby was put into bed with the new and improved Nukkie. She immediately said, "Need other Nukkie, please. This Nukkie not working." Yes, she can talk like that. She was told that this was the Nuk she had for tonight so she should go to sleep. Upon hearing this she "Humphed" and rolled over.

After about 10 minutes, she was crying "I need a new Nukkie, please," over and over. She was told "No," and stopped crying for a bit.

After about 15 minutes of more calling and crying, I went in with the other Nukkie (the one with the smaller hole). When she saw it, she said, "Oh, thanks Mom. Here you take the broken Nukkie. You fix it with some duct tape, OK?"

Is the knowledge that duct tape will fix anything common from the womb?

Cook and Book

Last Sunday night at 5:30 pm, my kitchen was busy. Yes, my kitchen is usually a pretty rockin' place around that time of day, but the last Sunday night of each month at this time, it's a different sort of busy. Instead of several kids running around or hovering while they pick at the food, last Sunday night the kitchen was full of sweet, smiling women. They are my "young" friends, but not, as was pointed out here because I am old. They are all in their 20's, some are newly married, some are new moms, all are so sincere. They are in our home for something called "Cook and Book" and it is one of my favorite times of each month.

Cook and Book started one night when a young couple from our church was over for dinner. The gal and I were in the kitchen getting dinner finished up and chatting. She shared with me that she felt out of place in the kitchen. She so wanted to make good food for her husband because she knew he would appreciate it, but she hadn't grown up cooking or even seeing her Mom cook. Her comments kept coming back to me over the next month or two and, after some prayer, Cook and Book came to be.

It is really quite simple. I plan something that we'll all cook together and something that we'll discuss/study while we eat. I have the recipe and all it's variations printed out so they can take them home to "Wow" their husbands. We usually have between 3-7 gals each Sunday.

When the Big Guy and I were first married, I could hold my own in the kitchen (thank you, Mom). However, if it didn't have a recipe and the exact ingredients needed to make said recipe - I was sunk. A last minute trip to the grocery store was needed, but usually what happened was a trip to a restaurant. Not real great for the budget. As time went on and we went to Semin ary where our restuarant budget was nil, I learned to cook yummy economical food and even do so without a recipe. I have More-With-Less Cookbook this to thank.

This is what I wanted the gals to learn: how to feed their families with good basic food that they would usually have on hand or that could be gotten for cheap. I probably could have made up things on my own, but thankfully, I didn't have to. The ironically named book, "How to Cook Without a Book: Recipes and Techniques Every Cook Should Know by Heart," was just perfect. I love this cook book and have used it to select what we cook for many of our nights together.

What we study has come from their suggestions, things God has been working in my life and this verse from Titus 2:3-5:

3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be
slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they
can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be
self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to
their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

While our cooking feeds their families' stomachs, I pray that our discussions feed their souls. We've talked about praying for our husbands, self-discipline (this was one of my things), prayer in general, being sober women, what it means to "malign" or "blaspheme" the word of God and the list goes on. Of course, lots of our conversation is just about life and is just plain fun.

It is so fun to hear them tell me they bought kale at the grocery store or that their omelet turned out perfect. It is music to my ears to have their husbands tell me the tomato sauce from scratch is their favorite. It is a blessing to me to see God at work in their lives and mine.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The "Farm"

So, we don't really live on a farm.

We've just been very blessed with a normal in the city house that happens to have 12 empty lots adjacent to it. The four lots connected to our house lot make up our "farm." (From here on out, I am not going to use the quotes in case they are starting to annoy you.)

My husband, Ron at This Little Plot, has always wanted to be a farmer. He used to watch "Little House on the Prairie" reruns in college, but that is just between us. OK? Anyway, as soon as the snow started melting our first spring in our house, he started making plans for the garden. As the years have passed and we have more mouths to feed, more hands to make the work light and more interest in what we are eating and from whence it comes, the garden has increased in size, productivity and fun!

My main tasks in regards to the garden are helping decide what to plant, some occasional weeding, some harvesting and LOTS of preserving that harvest. I've learn to can and LOVE it! Since last September, I've only had to buy a few jars/cans of tomato products. What fun to sit down at the table and know you are eating something you grew last July!

So, we don't actually live on a farm, but we are doing the best we can to pretend that we are.
(Did I mention we had chickens? More on that later...)

Setting out...

Welcome to Little Farm in the City!

In conversations over the past few years, I've been asked if I had blog. I've meant to start one, but somehow just never got around to it...maybe it was having our fifth child or starting to homeschool our fourth or canning those 75 or so quarts of veggies and fruits last fall. I'm not sure, but the thought has been there in the back of my mind. It seems like fun - a way to help collect my thoughts, share what is happening around the "farm" and, hopefully, bless others in the process. So, here it goes!

Monday, February 1, 2010

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