Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Answers, in no particular order

I have probably the worst track record in the Blog-O-Sphere for answering questions in the comments. I told myself I was going to be better about that. And then I promptly wasn’t.

And now, I’m just randomly answering all the ones I remember. How awesome is that?

So, item number one: The blue baby sweater. The pattern is, delightfully, a free one. Buttery Soft Baby Set, courtesy of Lion Brand yarns.

To answer another question, well. Normally, yes, I’d block the pieces before I seamed them. The main reason I didn’t bother with that on this one is that I’m using ac…(c’mon, girl, you can say it…deep breath…) acrylic yarn.

(Blech…ack…yuck…hang on, I have to go brush my teeth now…)

OK, so, silliness aside: The reason I’m using acrylic is because I’m doing this knitting for one of the charities my knitting group, Knitting 4 Children, supports. This group has been all but dead for a couple years, but lo!, in the last month or so it has sprung alive with a vengeance.

Which has been wonderful, frankly. I’ve had a bunch of little sweaters all done except for running in seams and adding buttons for a long, long time now. Meant to, was gonna, etc. etc. etc., but just never actually did it.

But after having been prodded, I spent some good quality time over the holidays watching anime, drinking hot beverages and finishing some things up. And then I cast this little sweater on during our knit-a-thon a couple weeks ago, honoring the group’s founder – alas, no longer with us (although I’m pretty sure she’s watching from her spot with the angels, and approving the sudden rebirth of her group).

But to return to the point, it is fairly common when you’re knitting for charities that cater to newborns, especially preemies, for them to request / require no animal fibers. And occasionally, they will even request no cotton, either. The reason is simple: A lot of their tiny clients have extreme health issues…the last thing anybody needs is to find out that this poor little thing, already struggling to keep breathing, is allergic to wool and has allergy-related asthma. Or breaks out in hives all over their precious little head or something.

Also, acrylic can hold up to rough handling – like, say, going through sanitizing-strength washing, and/or a harried mother with forty things jumping up and down on her last nerve, who may be driven to tears by instructions to “hand wash, lay flat to dry.” (Ask me how I know about that part. Ahhhhh-hem.)

So – this and many of the other baby articles to follow will be made with acrylic, or cotton. Both of which I have in ample supply, although the cotton is mostly natural / white and will require some dyeing before I’ll be ready to use it. Oh, DARN the luck.

(Yeah, again, as the mother of four children…I don’t really like WHITE articles of clothing or blankets. I mean, they’re sweet and all for that newborn, and who doesn’t love a lacy, pure-as-the-driven-snow-white blanket for those early pictures or baptism or what-have-you…but on a day-to-day basis? Yeah. Just sets you up to feel like a bad parent because ohmygah, this thing is stained / dingy / otherwise no-longer-WHITE-white. Because even tiny babies have a way of instantly covering everything they come in contact with in sticky / yucky / weird-colored blech, somehow.)

Completely unrelated but randomly coming back to mind for no apparent reason (from, like, last summer) – dried zucchini.

Racks of zucchini

This really is one of the simplest food preservation deals out there.

  1. Wash produce
  2. Peel if desired
  3. Slice or dice as desired
  4. Spread evenly on trays – not touching will speed things up tremendously
  5. Dry until done, which can be determined either by The Touch-And-Yeah-Feels-Pretty-Dry-To-Me test (unreliable and potentially dangerous) or, By using a fancy table of various fruits and vegetables showing how much of their weight is water. Requires that you weigh before you begin and then requires a little math to figure out how close you’ve gotten to that 80-95% weight loss (!!!)…but is a much more reliable way to know it isn’t likely to mold on you, even though you stored it 100% right (you’re pretty sure, anyway)

And then, you can use them in a variety of ways. The slices in the picture I actually drenched in some vinaigrette first, and we ate them like potato chips. Untreated slices can be eaten like very chewy chips, and they and larger dices work well in soups (especially pureed ones – the texture won’t be anything like the original vegetable, but the flavor is usually good enough that you aren’t playing the “is that a chunk of potato, or zucchini?” game)…smaller dices can be tossed into a salad as-is, or rehydrated first with boiling water.

And this was never a question, but should have been. Holiday cherry recipe from the book Canning for a New Generation.

Holiday cherries

Ohmygah…fabulous. They’ve had a good long time for the spice flavors to deepen, and just wow. Insanely good. So are the honey-ginger apricots. This book is a real keeper, if only for adding some unusual twists to the usual suspects.

I think that’s all the most pressing random items for today.

I think.

Wait. I think thinking is what gets me into these messes in the first place.

Never mind. That’s it. Good night, and may your God go with you.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Kindred (anonymous) spirits

I was directed to a little piece called Storytelling on the San Joaquin County Office of Education website, which begins thus:

I have been accused, anonymously no less, of not being able to make a point without telling a story. This accusation is supposedly based upon my previous Outlook articles. This is totally inaccurate and I am actually offended by the accusation.

And it then goes on to…tell a few stories. Because of course it does.

I snickered so hard I almost hurt myself. And then I wished I could call the guy up and say, “Dude. C’mon over for a beer or something. You’re my people, bro!”

Because, well. Y’all know how I am. I can’t even tell you what time it is without doing it in parable form somehow.

Mostly that would be because I like stories personally. I like to observe things around me. I like to focus in on something tiny and commonplace and make a story out of it; I like to notice the weird things, the gloriously red-headed, the magnificently out of step. I like to make of my daily life the stuff of novels – even though in point of fact, my life is only slightly less ordinary than Everybody, and a lot more ordinary than many, many others.

I like to have fun with the words, to see if I can’t paint a picture with them that recreate in the listener’s mind the thing I was seeing.

Which I also feel is a good skill to have, for someone who can’t draw a line even if given a ruler and whose most focused, dedicated attempts at art class resulted in the teacher sighing sadly and announcing that she had never, no never, had a student who could not be taught before now…(yeah, that was an awesome day at school)

Stories also can teach hard things very gently. Let’s face it, a lot of what I have to teach isn’t very fun. It’s a combination of hard work, restraint, more hard work, and how about a little extra work while we’re at it?

We don’t like that truth. I don’t like it one bit. I always want to equivocate, when these sorts of Facts are glaring at me from under the bed at night with those big, red-rimmed yellow eyeballs. Above venom-dripping fangs. And a nametag that reads, “Hi, my name is Bob! Ask me about life insurance!” {shrieks in horror}

And I will definitely start tuning it out when somebody walks up and says, “Hey, if you wanted to get X, you need to Step 1, then Step 2, and then Step 3.”

And then, having tuned them out pretty well…I’ll proceed to the forgetting stage. What was the second part again? Wait, first you…wait, what was the first part…? OH WELL.

…maybe a nice $6 latte from will help me remember what it was I was supposed to do in Step 1…

But stories on the other hand…I like to use them when I’m trying to teach things because lessons are boring prone to being a hint on the accusatory and/or bossy side. YOU should, YOU ought to, YOU need to, YOU shouldn’t, YOU mustn’t.

Stories, on the other hand, don’t generally accuse the listener of anything directly; the story may sit a little uncomfortably when it touches too close to home, granted, but at the same time…I’m not saying you should, you need to, and if you don’t, these Terrible Things™ will befall you.

Instead, here’s a story about this thing that happened to somebody. (Probably me.) (Because when it comes to stories about doin’ it all wrong, HA! I win, baby!!)

Stories lead gently down the path. They make the lesson obvious without slapping anybody upside the head with it. They have a wonderful way of sticking long after we’ve all gone our respective ways – unlike most traditional lessons, which have a way of evaporating from our brains five seconds after the final exam.

Sometimes, stories will even do this miraculous thing where, months or years later, having merely been entertained by it at the moment all that time ago and not having thought of it even once since…you suddenly have a need for that particular story’s lesson.

And then, after having hidden silently in the back of your mind for all that time, it surfaces and presents the words, the thoughts, the feelings, the light and scent of fresh air, to lead you out of the darkness.

Sometimes, my loved ones become a little (cough-cough) annoyed by my habit of answering even a simple question with something that just about begins with once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived an earnest and hardworking shoemaker who had but one child…

And I frequently do have to bring myself up short in normal day to day conversations, when I catch myself about to launch into some possibly amusing but definitely way too long monologue about said shoemaker’s child (or whatever).

And yeah, I’ve even been accused of not being able to make a point without dragging a story into it.

But I humbly submit to The Tribe the following: My point was remembered for a long time afterwards by most of the people listening.

Was yours?

Checkmate, Mr. Just State The Facts. Check and mate.

Monday and the weekend went fast!

This weekend vanished with alarming speed, leaving way too much undone. I still haven't gotten the spring transplants started, there are still areas of the house that make me shudder, I haven't even GLANCED at the taxes yet, and furthermore...I got very little knitting done this weekend. MEH.

But, I was able to start seaming this little guy on the train this morning. So, things are looking up a bit, huh?!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

They're baaaaaack!

Last night, I mixed up dry ingredients, covered them with a towel, and left them on the counter. And I mixed wet ingredients in a different bowl, snapped the cover on, and left it in the fridge. Then I figured out my delay start function on the oven and went to bed.

This morning, I mixed them together, poured them into my jumbo muffin tins, put them in the oven, started coffee, went upstairs and got dressed and GUESS WHAT?!

It's like a magic trick! There were lemon yogurt muffins for breakfast! Hot, and topped with their light crunchy nutmeg and pecan topping.

Ah, little lemon tree - do you know, CAN YOU KNOW, how much I cherish your fruit...?

(I feel richer than Midas right now, and tremendously clever for having thought to do it this way. What a marvelous scent to finish waking up to this morning!)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Money Monday: January 16, 2012

I went to Costco this weekend. Which I really didn’t want to do, because Weekend + Costco = 12-layer Crazy Cake, but, we were out of eggs, flour and sugar.

Let’s be honest here: A lot of us “peek” as shopping carts wheel past us. I too can be fascinated by the choices others make. And sometimes I wonder why somebody buys what they buy. The answer is usually really simple: Because they don’t know there’s an alternative, nor do they WISH to know, so, ZIP IT, CRAZY LADY.

But as I was charging around snagging things off the shelves and racing for the finish line, I bumped up against somebody who was stunned to discover that a) #10 cans of tomato sauce existed and b) they were significantly cheaper than the 6-packs of the same exact brand.

This week, the #10 can of S&W tomato sauce was $2.49. They also had a 12-pack of the same stuff for $6.99. A #10 can holds 106 ounces, making the cost per ounce about two cents. The 12-pack of 14.5 ounce cans comes to 174 ounces, or four cents per ounce.

Which calculations were done on my phone while a fellow mom looked on in wonder. We then discussed the various uses for “that much” tomato sauce, and how to manage what you didn’t use that very day when you opened the can.

The idea that you could simply take a few quart-sized Ziploc bags, put 2-4 cups of sauce in each one, lay it flat in the freezer, and have a minimal-footprint supply of frozen spaghetti sauce ready to go…was revolutionary.

I had a new best friend. She followed me around the warehouse watching every single thing I put in the cart, and wanting to know how I used it, how I stored it, why this not that, etc. etc. etc.

It was a stern reminder for me, actually. I tend to think of a lot of things as “obvious” that really aren’t…until somebody else points them out.

Like…yogurt. A lot of us like yogurt, as a snack or in recipes. Did you know it’s super easy to make at home? Seriously. This is all there is to it.

At the store, buy one small tub of plain, unsweetened yogurt; you want the kind with live, active cultures. I haven’t found that the starter yogurt having gelatin added hurts anything, but definitely no sweeteners or vanilla-flavoring! I generally grab the store’s generic plain yogurt, which runs about fifty cents when not on sale. (You can also buy yogurt starters if you either want different flavors or can’t find a yogurt that pleases you in the store – Cultures For Health has a variety of easy-to-use starters, both the kind you can perpetuate [e.g., make another batch from the batch you just made] or direct-set [you have to use fresh starter for each batch].)

Take the yogurt out of the fridge and set it on the counter to move toward room temperature. If you have an electric oven, turn on the oven light; if you have a gas one, the pilot light is probably enough to keep it at around 100 degrees (you can check that with an inexpensive thermometer) (I have two…because I have two malfunctioning ovens, awesome!!).

Take four cups of milk, and heat it to scalding (just starting to bubble around the edges, but not outright boiling); let it cool to between 90 and 110 degrees (you can put your [clean!!!] finger in it without yowling).

Stir the now-room-temperature yogurt into your cooled milk. Cleanliness is key here – make sure whatever container you’re using is super-clean, because what you’re going to do next is let it ferment for a good six to ten hours in your ~ 100 degree oven…prime temperature for all kinds of things to thrive, yogurt and otherwise. You do not want harmful bacteria to be joining the yogurt’s party!

Shorter fermentation results in a less-tangy end product; I usually go with ten full hours, which usually makes for a particularly tangy yogurt. Because I am a wild thing that way.

Then, carefully move it from the oven to the fridge – don’t stir, shake or otherwise agitate it! I’ve discovered through trial and error (mostly error) that if I don’t agitate it, I end up with a nice, thick, creamy yogurt. If I can’t resist the temptation to stir (or taste-test) it, I get a runnier version. It’s not bad, exactly, but I prefer the yogurt to resist the spoon a little bit when I’m using it.

You can also use a crockpot – preheat it while you’re scalding your milk, then mix the milk and yogurt in the crock, turn the crockpot off, put the lid on and wrap the whole thing in a nice warm towel for the duration.

I’ll stir in some fresh or frozen berries, homemade preserves, honey, vanilla or whatever for the ones that are snacks, and leave the rest as it is – set aside about half a cup of it for the next batch and you can be making homemade yogurt for a good long while. When you start getting “runny” or “flavorless” batches, it’s time for new starter…I generally get a good two months of weekly batches out of each $0.50 tub.

To me now…that’s so obvious.

But I was stunned when it was first pointed out to me a couple years ago that it was that easy to do.

Come right down to it, nothing I do is particularly hard, or requires skills only attainable after twenty years of meditation on the Holy Mountain.

It’s easy, practical stuff…it just takes time, and curiosity. The ability to laugh off your mistakes helps a lot, as does the ability to look at something from a variety of angles.

If you can do that, a lot becomes “obvious” that makes other people go, “Whoa, wait, what? You can do that? REALLY?!”

Which is a deeply satisfying feeling, by the way. Just sayin’.

This week’s meals are largely about getting large, bulky things out of my way in the freezer; we’re still down by one freezer and I need to clear some shelves so I can cook breakfasts and lunches ahead again!

Also, there is a lot of spinach going on right now. I just harvested thirty POUNDS of the stuff this weekend. Yoinks!!!!!

Monday: Leftover Extravaganza! (a.k.a., everybody forage, mommy is busy having a What Do You Mean I Hafta Work Tomorrow?! episode)

Tuesday: Balsamic-glazed pork roast, roasted red potatoes, spinach

Wednesday: Lamb roast, “Turkish” rice [rice with peas, slivered almonds, and other horrifying things in it] [the Denizens are not fans of ‘mixed up’ foods, but, they’ll just have to deal]

Thursday: Roast Chicken, [hopefully] Blue Nile potatoes [rogue potato plant ready to dig up – here’s hoping it actually has potatoes attached to it!], more spinach, yay!!

Friday: Beef Soup (crockpot, because I am always lazy on Fridays)

Saturday: Chicken pot pies

Sunday: Beef empanadas, Spanish rice

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

oooo, SNAP!

It finally happened.

I was knitting away on the baby sweater on the train...and the woman across from me (after staring for a good long while in that way people do when they're working up the nerve to actually - GASP! - talk to a stranger)...well, she leaned over and...and she asked me...she asked...well, what she said was... was...

"Is that for your grand-baby?"

Ooooooooooooooh, SNAP!!!!!!!!!

So I hit her with my bifocal case and limped away, dragging my stupid rolling bag that I have to use because I can't seem to manage carrying a backpack like a twenty-something anymore without setting off my hip something FIERCE and could somebody please just KILL ME NOW...?


Oh well. It's still a cute little sweater, isn't it? And if I were actually expecting a grand-baby, I would totally make one for him, too.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Money Monday: January 8, 2011

Bet you didn’t know that Tuesday is the new Monday. I know. I too am shocked at the things that don’t make the main newscasts in this country.

Ahem. Yes. Well. The weekend got away from me a little bit – there’s a Thing at work that was supposed to go into a testing environment, but then the main partner who is forcing us to do all this in the first place was all, “Oh, wait, hang on, we’re not actually ready!” but I had all this code that wasn’t ready to go, but also couldn’t exactly be dropped, and…it was just a weird weekend.

Then last night got away from me.

And tonight is about to do the same; I had one of those away-from-home-for-sixteen-hours days today. Awesome.

Anyway…I didn’t have any Stunning Revelations last week; I think the most interesting thing for me last week was the realization of just how much certain things I never really took into consideration as Particularly Big Deals have impacted our ability to really get our feet under us.

Mind you, when placed into a pool of average people – I’m relatively sheltered from a lot of the stuff that has absolutely slammed the general population. For example, I realized this weekend that what I pay for flour has gone up by 23% in about two years time. Which for someone who does as much baking as I do is a pretty frightening figure.

That’s right. I’m paying $1.83 more per month for flour. Somebody call the Red Cross! Get this woman some aid, STAT!

As line items, they don’t really hit my radar. I’m aware of them, but they don’t hit me in the gut and make me feel sick, you know? Irritated on occasion, granted, but not devastated.

But at the same time…milk has gone up 40%. A dozen eggs 43%. A tank of gasoline that used to cost $23 is now $34. The monthly penalty for gas and electricity has gone from $205 to $355 – and not because we’ve suddenly gotten all crazy with our usage, which has actually stayed flat or even dropped over the last four years – and yet never does this result in a lower bill, somehow.

Meanwhile, the husband is not only earning less, but handing over far more of his pre-tax-so-at-least-there’s-that income for health insurance.

None of which is news. None of which surprises me. I’m (cough-cough) more than slightly aware of even slight fluctuations in the prices of things I buy regularly, and am one of those people who will walk away from darn near anything when it trips my oh-so-sensitive Too Expensive O’Meter.

I can’t even say I was surprised to add up all the columns and realize that the husband’s net paycheck can’t cover even the non-discretionary budget items on its own. Slightly bummed out and a little bit riled up, but at the same time…

…at the same time…

Y’all have no idea how lucky I feel.

We’re going to have to keep on working hard and keeping a tight rein on things; there won’t be any big vacations, or new cars, or indulging in iGadgets and maid services.

And we’re OK with that. It’s a road we’ve walked before; sometimes because we had to, sometimes because we wanted something that was otherwise beyond our means. We already have a profound sense of why…and it has nothing to do with being punished.

It has everything to do with continuing to pursue what we really want, and having a better chance of actually getting it, by letting go of things that don’t really matter to us – things that are just shiny, or cool, or fun, but that we’re going to drop forgotten on the floor in an hour’s time, bored and looking for the next fun thing.

I did come away with a couple action items; we are indeed spending too much on pre-fab food, and I also definitely need to quit being lazy about how I categorize things. I suspect an awful lot of stuff is getting dumped into “groceries” that doesn’t belong in there, but I’ve just been too lazy to actually break things out or even think about what I was actually buying – let alone taking the receipt out of my wallet and reviewing it.

The other thing I want to do is figure out if there is any way I could pay off at least one of the debts remaining from the Great (Under)Employment Fiasco™ next month. I think it might be possible…but it may require a fairly intense display of tightwad prowess, a healthy dose of Being A Damned Grownup For Once (nooooooooo, not THAT!) and extremely on-top-of-things organizational skills (…uh oh…) because there would be a bit of Financial Alchemy involving shuffling the virtual envelopes containing the savings goals for things like property taxes, annual car insurance premiums and stuff like that in a kind of shell game – all of it to be fully settled as if nothing had ever happened before April 17 when the income tax returns have to be filed and the bill (if any) paid in full.

Meals could have gone better last week; early in the week, I charged out to get the necessary ingredients out of the freezer and found the key to it had gone AWOL. I couldn’t find it anywhere.

This was what might be called a major setback; you can imagine how frustrated / angry / freaked out I was, with thousands of dollars in food right there in the garage…and me not able to access it!!

After having torn the house apart about five times (including a thorough search of the trash cans and every pocket of every pair of pants I could lay my hands on), I thought to look behind the freezer itself; sure enough, somebody (me) had left the key sitting on top of the freezer instead of putting it back in the cupboard, and somebody else, though warned with increasingly foul language not to EVER do so (husband), had come along and shoved mass quantities of boxes, totes and other paraphernalia onto that same freezer top (the chest freezer is proving a real challenge on that front – everything from baskets of clothes to power tools keep being piled up on top of it! ARGH, QUIT IT!!!)…thus knocking the key clean off the freezer and into the spider-webbed darkness behind it.

Fortunately, the insanely large-headed and bright-red-haired Power Puff Girl keychain was relatively easy to spot in the garage…this weekend, when I was finally home in daylight hours.

Hopefully, I’ll be back on track now with making more meals at home; I’ve got nothing particular going on this weekend (don’t tell anybody, for GAH’S sake!), so hopefully I’ll be able to get ahead on some meals enough that the number one obstacle for me, which is coming home so dog-tired I can’t even think about food, let alone fiddle with it, can be overcome by virtue of said meals being oven-ready. Go to the freezer, take out the casserole dish…

This week is turning out to be mostly a “put random ingredients into skillet, heat through, and serve with rice or noodles” kind of deal.

Gah, I hope I can get my feet under me a little better next week…

Monday, January 02, 2012

Money Monday: January 2, 2012

Happy New Year, one and all! And before I get all mercenary and self-absorbed with the money-thing – may 2012 bring peace, love, joy and plenty to you, one and all!

The last quarter of 2011 went by in a blur for me. It was definitely a one damn thing after another kind of quarter, both at work and at home. But in the back of my mind, the fact that my current contract expires on March 30 keeps repeating over and over. Not that I’m counting or anything, but there are precisely seven more paychecks coming before this chapter closes and the Next Big Thing begins.

I started looking at the numbers during the Thanksgiving holiday, but quickly abandoned the project when I realized that I was not coming at it from a particularly good head-space; I was moving fast into either being angry, or silly; playing the blame-game about every last penny spent or deciding that every last penny spent was vital, absolutely a non-starter for things to cut.

And I always call December a ‘no budget’ month – which is not < I>entirely true because of course I still have a budget…but I try not to set goals and get all nit-picky while Christmas shopping is in its final days.

It’s just not worth it, you know? I’m going to make myself crazy(er), which by extension means making the whole family crazy, and in the end it does no good – I’m too discombobulated to do good work on that front until after the tinsel and eggnog has been retired for another year.

Which leads me to today, the first Monday of the new year – when indeed the eggnog has been drunk, the Christmas tree de-ornamented, and I’m staring down a new ‘season’ of this full-body-contact sport called Life.

Thanks to the initial pass at number-crunching I’d already done, I’m already uncomfortably aware that we’ve got a lot of…um…fluff in the budget. Monthly charges for this-n-that, So Forth and So On and Miscellaneous Expenses.

When I find myself wondering why I never seem to have any money at the end of the month – this is the stuff that answers the question. Seldom anything Big! and/or Dramatic!...usually a bunch of little stuff that adds up over the course of the month.

But, a lot of it kind of settles in under the ‘sacred cow’ category for either myself or the husband; things that we may acknowledge are adding up to significant amounts of money, but which we will argue, vehemently, aren’t “that” big a deal and/or provide “that” much value in return for us.

It’s particularly hard for me to bring up things that are “his.” He isn’t a guy who is constantly charging out there buying thousands of dollars in power tools or gun safes; he has pretty sane and steady wants, and very seldom runs up saying he neeeeeeds this or that or the other thing.

Lately, he’s been talking a lot about one of our Someday Wouldn’t It Be Awesome If items – which is to move to a place with a little more land around it. Not 160 acres in the middle of nowhere or anything like that, but maybe five to ten acres within reasonable distance of the Amtrak line back to the city.

Prices are really good right now, and will probably stay that way for quite a while to come; but we’re in a really bad position to take advantage of them. We’re upside down on the current house (ugh), still paying things off, and every single month I’m ending up practically at a net-zero in terms of income v. expenses.

Last week, we got to have a dinner out; it’s rare for us to have more than a quick walk out for lunch on the days we’re both in the office, and was a great treat to be able to talk about anything for more than a few minutes without being interrupted by a child or a coworker.

Finally, on the drive home, I asked the tough question: How much do we really want that house on a little land? Because (I continued, awkwardly), when I looked at how we spend our money lately…it would appear that we value things like monthly massages, nail appointments, cable TV and tablet network plans way more than we value that Someday Awesome home on a few acres of range, where the deer eat the broccoli all day.

Plus, it simply won’t be possible to keep spending this way when I’m not working – even if it is only for a few weeks while I look for the next contract.

Just sayin’.

{awkward pause goes here}

After a moment of prayerful consideration (or possibly mourning for the Impending Budget Cut Victims), he opined that we should indeed look at where we are currently spending, and consider each line item’s importance in that way: Is this monthly expense more important than being able to make that move we keep saying would be Awesome?

Which leads me now to my task for this week: This week, I’m going to pull together a spending report for the last three months. Ignoring the things that are Christmas / Holiday spending, I’m going to get an idea of the average monthly spending for everything from cable to haircuts.

And then, I’m going to look for areas where we could cut back – without treating anything as a sacred cow, without whining about how we neeeeeeed this or that emotionally, or how it’s such a good deal, really, when you think about it.

We’re hurtling toward a period without my income; whether it will be brief or prolonged, we have no way of knowing. Sure, I have a skill set that is in demand and fairly highly paid; and usually, as long as I’m willing to make that long commute, I don’t have a lot of trouble finding a new contract.

But nothing is guaranteed. (Including my willingness to make the commute. Ahem.)

We need to make sure we’re ready to handle it, whether it is short or long in duration. We need to be able to get by on just the one income, and it would be ideal if we could not merely get by, but also put by – if we can reduce our spending enough to also be saving, we’ll be able to get to that bigger goal that much sooner.

And also…I need to do much better on the “dinner” front. Holy smokes, meals have gotten weird around here. Frequently, “dinner” equates to “forage in the fridge, find something to eat.” Between the family not eating together and the tendency for the “snack” foods to be substituted for “actual” foods by parents and kids alike (oops), we’re eating unhealthy and expensive junk instead of more cost-effective, actual food.

TO WHICH END…I propose the following menu for this week. (Wish me luck. I need to get this all assembled and ready to go today, or it will not end up on the table during the week!)

Monday: Pork chops, gratin potatoes (leftovers from the weekend) and corn (also leftovers)

Tuesday: Lemon chicken breasts, rice and spinach (from the garden – good old California!)

Wednesday: Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and peas and carrots

Thursday: Spaghetti night (woooo, easy!)

Friday: Beef roast, roasted potatoes and green beans

Saturday: Beef pot pies (leftover roast)