Sunday, April 20, 2008

What a Wonderful World! -- posted by John

Saturday I went fishing by myself on the boat. It was so much fun, and breezy and sleepy and drizzly.

I was lucky to catch four fish. The first two I had to paddle back to shore for James to take them off the hook. On the third one, it started flapping hard when I pulled it out of the water and it unhooked itself. On the fourth one, Mom hollered out the window for me to grab it like a man, hold it firm, and push the hook out. She said it doesn't hurt the fish. When she yelled "grab it like a man" something inspiring went through my mind. At that moment I knew I was strong and brave. I took hold of the fish, pushed the hook out, and then there was so much grit in me that I felt like a man on the open sea. I proudly threw the fish back up over my head and gave a shout. It was one of the best days of my life.

Yesterday our neighbor called and asked if we needed a backhoe for anything. They had rented one and wondered if we had anything that needed to be backhoed. Mom told me to run ask Dad, but I misunderstood and asked Dad if he wanted a tobacco. He was confused. I told him the neighbor called and that they wanted to share it. Dad stood there questioning me and I kept saying "tobacco." Dad told Mom he started thinking Tim might have a cigar for him to try, but thought that was odd.

This morning, when we were sitting down to breakfast, I looked out the window and saw Uncle Bob walking through our yard. He started galloping fast and Dad and the older boys ran out to catch him. Evidently he jumped the fence.

The problem is that last week I lost the key to the gate so they had to remove the gate to get him back in. Dad bought some new locks but was having trouble getting the old locks off. Finally, in the afternoon, Richard found the key in the classroom. Dad held the key up high over his head and excitedly took it down the path to show James. At the same time James came running up the path to proudly show Dad he had busted the lock off!

That reminded Mom of a short story by O. Henry called The Gift of the Magi. She read it to us after tea time. I won't spoil it for you. You should take time to read it! I would do that for my wife because she will be my most precious possession (not counting the Lord.)

I love tea time. I feel mature picking my cup and choosing my tea. I feel like a gentleman. Today I picked the Summer Chintz cup and saucer because it looks springy. I picked Honey Ginseng green tea for starters and then I had Acai Berry green tea like Mom. George had Spring Cherry tea in the Blue Willow cup. Sarah Grace had white tea in the magnolia china cup. Dad had Matte Latte in a Blue Willow cup and I don't know what everyone else picked. It was delicious with Sarah's moist lemon cake.

Lately we've been having school on the deck with Dad. It has been cool and breezy, and trouble melts like lemon drops high above the chimney tops. That's where you'll find me.

Seriously, it is relaxing and I love when Dad teaches us. He's helping me with my paper on Lewis and Clark.

We have some kittens in the house that were abandoned. Will wants to invent a genetic alteration to keep kittens kittens forever. I've been doing school with one in my lap. I named them Lewis and Clark. Sarah named them William and Harry.

Tonight Mom made BBQ baby back ribs. What a wonderful world!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

My First Paintings -- posted by James

Ma gave me (and herself) art lessons for Christmas and here is the fruit of her gift to date. Mrs. Devoe teaches us at Ma's house. Ma turned her upstairs den into an art studio. Thursday is my favorite day of the week.

The barn was my first painting and my favorite is the barrel of apples.

Thanks Ma and Mrs. Devoe for helping me to have my first online gallery!

Frugal Tips -- posted by Sarah Grace

Even though it may be a short-lived trend, I'm glad there's a renewed interest in frugality since it is an essential part of wholesome living. It's a virtue that has sadly been missing from our culture. I appreciate those who lived through the depression; they are typically industrious and thrifty. We've learned a lot from various websites that have pooled this kind of wisdom.

My mother never appreciated these principles while growing up, but she has purposed herself to learn and teach me how to "tighten my belt to the size of my ring finger." You never know when you'll go through tight times, and I want my future husband to be able safely trust in me.

Mom and I are going to brainstorm and list the things we do in our family to save money. We've found that some frugal advice sacrifices good nutrition, as well as being downright cheap. Some frugalites are stingy and don't give with a cheerful heart. We would never diminish Daddy by scrounging as if he can't provide for his family, so we'll share what works for us.

Some things are such habit that they seem common knowledge and we've forgotten that we didn't always practice them, but we'll risk sounding green to the subject in hopes of helping frugal newbies.

As we think of new things, we'll add to this topic. Look for the label "frugal tips" on the right sidebar.

1. USE IT UP! This is the single best piece of advice we can give, and it saves us a bundle! For example, we have conquered the bad habit of pouring too much drink or having "eyes bigger than your stomach." It took a while, but we trained the children to take small portions with permission to get seconds if needed. Another example is to save vegetable scraps (such as the ends of onions, celery, carrots, etc.) from the week, to make delicious broth for soup. We stay on top of what is in the refrigerator so nothing goes bad, and we've collected recipes to use up the slightest leftovers. We will give more examples throughout the list but, in the meantime, you can get the mindset of USE IT UP! Mom and I have made a game of it and we marvel at some of our "saves."

2. Keep a price book. Actually, we're using big index cards as they fit in the purse better. Keep up with the latest prices of products you use. Break the prices down to unit prices as that is easier while standing in the store. List the product, date, store, unit price, and whether it is the regular or sale price. That way, when you are shopping, you can tell if something is a bargain. You can also tell if it is a super bargain to stock up on. Also, you can get a feel for the sale cycles of various stores.

3. Shop Aldi. Mom was a little uncomfortable shopping in a store that looked so cold and European but she got used to it when she saw our grocery bill reduce by nearly half. Aldi only takes debit or cash so be prepared for that. They also don't take coupons. And take your own grocery bags, or get a banana box from inside the store to tote your groceries. They have bags (for a fee) but it's unnecessary. They don't carry everything that a regular supermarket carries, but it is a great place for staples, fruit, vegetables, and bread, when we buy bread. It is obviously much cheaper and healthier to bake your own. For good nutrition, much of our food is made from scratch so we no longer buy their prepackaged food, but we used to get good prices on cookies, cereal, cake mixes, chips, etc. Oh, and you must rent the carts by putting a quarter in them, but you get your money back when you return the cart. Beware, when Mom went to retrieve her quarter the first time, out popped a pfennig! I'm kidding.

4. Shop loss-leaders. Before we go shopping we check the circulars for loss-leaders, especially on meat. Still though, we keep an open mind and are prepared to change our week's menu on the spot if we stumble upon an unadvertised clearance. Wednesday we got $141.89 worth for $69.03 and that was just ordinary savings for us.

5. Eat out less. Actually, this is the single most important practice for us if you can measure what NOT to do. Some say that this advice doesn't necessarily apply to singles or couples who dine out frugally with coupons and take-out containers, etc., but for our family of ten it is a no-brainer. Even cheap fast food runs at least $40 for supper without drinks, so we try to reserve eating out for special occasions to places we truly enjoy. At home, we average $10 a night for a delicious and nutritious homemade supper. Of course, that is an average, as some nights we have pricey steaks or seafood, but that is balanced by meatless nights such as vegetable soups, bean dishes, baked potatoes, Mexican meatless, whole wheat pasta with sauce and cheeses, or stewed tomatoes on whole grain rice. We know this is easier said than done when take-out is such an easy option, especially on hectic days when your best laid plans fall apart. That's why we have certain "crisis meals" tucked away in our minds, pantry, and freezer. We have things like several cans of stewed tomatoes, corn bread mix, pasta and sauce. Things that don't have to be thawed and aren't a mental hassle. It may not be what you're hankerin' for, but a big part of frugal living is discipline.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Sarah Grace Loves Us! -- posted by John

We really need another computer around here because I've been trying to research Lewis and Clark but Mom, Sarah Grace, Will, Spencer, James, and Dad are always using it. And Dad's the one who gave me the assignment!

I love Over The Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole. I'm listening to it right now. It is such a beautiful version. I heard it for the first time on 50 First Dates. I also love Wouldn't it be Nice by The Beach Boys.

I've been the one to post the most on the family website but Mom and Sarah have started posting too. You should visit it at (This post is from Johnny Caker's Journal.)

There have been some robberies around here so our neighbors had a meeting to watch out for each other since we are rural. Somebody was living in a tent nearby and had a campfire. They found chicken feathers, and guess who has chickens? We do. Fortunately, everybody out here has guns and dogs. I hope to go see what is left of the campsite tomorrow. It is near our property.

The "restaurant" has been working out for George and me. Sarah comes on certain days and tries our dishes. She is in culinary school, you know.

I realized tonight that when I was younger and Mom let me open the cans, it was my first job in the kitchen. My hands would get so sore. Then, I moved up to dishwashing, and my third job was chopping apples for oatmeal. Now I actually cook, and I watch out for George to make sure he's doing well.

The cucumber and cheese recipe we made up has been annihilated. That was embarrassing. I can easily see through Sarah when she doesn't really like something because she just says "Wow" with no enthusiasm and a slight dead smile. She eats it anyway, though. I had it myself. It was horrible. I didn't peel the cucumbers and they were thick and I sprinkled extra sharp cheddar on them. Some of them had been frozen from being too far back in the refrigerator and they were shiny and see through, sorta. Yuck. Sarah loves us.