Saturday, October 29, 2011

Thoughts on Walking

The kids and I were enjoying a leisurely fall walk the other day. We got to an intersection.

Okay, when the red hand turns into a green man walking, Evan, you hold my hand so we can cross the street together, and Claire, hold the stroller so we can be safe.

Red hand into green man. Go.

We start across the street with both kids dutifully holding on to their respective spots with their eyes on the goal in front of us - sidewalk.

We get to the middle of the street. Evan's eyes wander for a moment from the sidewalk in front of us to the cars lined up beside us, and the ones wanting to turn onto the street we are crossing. Then complete PANIC.

He lets go of my hand, starts running one way across the street, then back the other way, trying to avoid all the cars he is sure are going to get him. The best way to describe it for you Tennesseans is a squirrel in the middle of the road running back and forth trying to decide which side is safest until he eventually gets smashed because he can't make up his mind.

It could have been bad. It could have been very bad. Somehow stroller, Mom, and three kids made it to the other side where I put on my figurative safety badge and told Evan about all the safety violations he had just made.

Then as we continued to walk I realized I have enacted that exact scene over and over and over again in my own life. When things are going well, I hold tight to the Lord's hand, trusting in Him completely. I keep my eyes on the goal ahead - eternal life - and continue happily on my walk enjoying the beautiful scenery. But when I get right into the thick of it, and look to the sides and see the cars waiting to smash me, or the 3 year old whining and screaming and kicking and the 2 year old hitting and biting and the baby. . . well the baby is generally innocent in these scenarios thus far. . . but when I get into the thick of it and can't take the attitude anymore, I let go of the Lord's hand and decide I'm going to do it my way. I yell! Or smack my hand on the table and then yell. Or do a million childish things that I'm not proud of.

The kids and I manage to get to the other side - through the tense moment - but it's never in the same pleasurable manner we would have enjoyed if I had held hands and trusted the whole way.

So what does this have to do with frugality? Nothing. Except we were walking a mile and a half, because that's how far away from campus you have to park if you don't want to pay $6 for the parking garage. So park and walk. You just might learn some life lessons on the way. . . if your 2 year old doesn't become roadkill first.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Backseat Buckles

In anticipation of the arrival of number 4, we decided to move our 3 year old to the back seat of the mini-van. Unfortunately, getting buckled became very difficult. She wants to do it, but the buckle kept sliding under her booster seat! Getting in the van became a 10 minute process as we waited for 5 minutes each time while she got her buckle latched.

Then, inspiration struck! I went to the fabric store, got a 3 inch piece of 2 inch wide industrial strength sticky-backed velcro. Then I attached the soft side to the buckle and the rough side to her booster seat. I used the other half to do the same for her brother's booster.

Getting-in-the-van time is back down to its normal 5 minutes, and even big brother admits that it's easier to get buckled now!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Super Saturday

This post is more for my sisters than for anyone else out there. I'm in charge of Super Saturday in a couple of weeks. We're going to be making magnet boards, and I thought that some of my sisters might find them useful. If you're interested, check out the pictures at and let me know if I can make you one for Christmas!
I think I'll make one for Joseph to hang his school handouts on in his room - but I'll probably try covering it with fabric on front and felt on back.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


My three-year-old has a bad habit of asking for food, then not eating it. This is especially annoying when she insists she needs the whole bananas, then eats only one bite! Fortunately, I eventually realized that I could cut off the bitten end, then freeze the rest of the banana for use in smoothies.

Now, if I could only come up with a use for soggy cereal!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Happy Birthday to Our Mother

Happy Birthday Mom! This blog just wouldn't be the same without you ;) We love you!

Give Thanks

Tis the season to be grateful. Actually any time is a great time to be grateful. I liked Carol's post about remembering to be grateful. This picture is of just one of my many blessings. This week has been full of challenges, blessings, and growth.

On a frugal note, it is fabulous if you happen to have a friend who is a professional photographer (see Ashley Zufelt Photography on facebook).

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Frugal Flowers

Grandma was coming in to town and we wanted to make her feel special, so I asked the kids if they wanted to pick some flowers for her. I had noticed some gorgeous ones growing wild on a bike ride, so we hiked back to the spot and made her an "Ohio" bouquet. I was a little jealous when I saw how great it made her room look. So a couple of days later at the park I saw some even prettier ones growing wild, and they came home to brighten up the kitchen table. I could get in to fresh flowers around the house one day - but until we can afford them, we'll take nature's bounty.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The $550 leaking toilet

Two months ago, when the utility bill for our duplex was a little higher, I figured it was a fluke, paid the bill and thought no more of it. Then the next bill came - over $200 dollars more than normal! After turning off various water valves in both sides of the duplex, we found the culprit - a leaking toilet in the rental side. By the next day we had the toilet fixed, and I figured our next utility bill would be closer to normal (taking into account the delay between meter reading and billing).

Not so, the next bill arrived with another $180 extra on it. I run straight out to the water meter to make sure that the problem really had been fixed. It had - the meter had only registered a normal amount of use since the last meter reading.

When a toilet leaks, it can really leak! All in all, I figure we spent about $550 on that leak, and only $90 of it was to get the toilet fixed.

The moral of the story - get your leaks fixed as soon as they start! And if you have a rental, make sure they know to report problems immediately!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Car Door Handle Repair DON'T Do It Yourself

 Our 10 year old Toyota Camry recently lost its drivers side door handle - very inconvenient. 

We decided to try the DIY (do-it-yourself) repair. With the help of a family friend a suitable replacement part was located for less than dealership prices. 

We painted the black plastic part to match the car. The paint ended up very textured and rather ugly up close. Worse than that the paint job ended up so thick that the door handle sticks - as in won't open. Ooops.

This is one DIY we won't attempt again. 

But I don't feel bad that we tried. The potential savings were worth the risk.  :)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Frugality and Gratitude

As I've been thinking about frugality, I've come to my own conclusion that frugality and gratitude are meant to go hand-in-hand. If I'm not grateful for the things I come across cheaply or even free, I can easily start to feel "entitled" to those things instead of "enriched" by them. That attitude should carry through whether it's a good deal on groceries that I'm blessed to find or a free box of clothes from a kind friend. I think of all the people who have so generously given us hand-me-downs of one kind or another. If my attitude was one of entitlement rather than gratitude, I'm sure the hand-me-downs would stop knocking at our door pretty quick. Hand-me-downs like

a doll house that has been played in nearly every day for the past year, usually with miniature dolls, but occasionally with the life-size versions as in above photo
a kitchen-aid mixer that I never knew I needed until I was given one
an adorable bubble car that makes walks to the park with three kids more manageable
free family entertainment exposing my kids to all sorts of new adventures - yes Claire even kissed it
and customer appreciation days at local farmer's markets with free slushies and balloons for kids and free roasted homegrown corn for adults

As I think of all the things we've been given, I hope that the giving doesn't stop with me. Lisa was a good example of that to me a couple of weekends ago when she said she had given away a lot of her baby clothes after baby number 2 (I think #2) and I asked why she had given them away if she knew they were going to have more kids. She said because she didn't want them sitting around going out of style if other people could use them. Light bulb for Carol: you don't have to save it all up just in case you might use it 4 years down the road. If someone can get use out of it, pass it on. Thank goodness for all the wonderful people who have already learned that principle and have blessed our lives because of it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Meatless Meals - Tostado

photo from
My kids have decided they can't eat tacos without meat in them. So I mixed things up and tried tostados (hard crunchy corn tortilla like thingy - such a scientific definition I know). I served them with the usual taco toppings minus the meat. I just had seasoned refried beans instead. I used Mom's taco seasoning recipe although next time I think I would cut the seasoning in half. Presto - a new meatless meal!

Foaming Soap for Less

I LOVE foaming soap. I have three small children who love to wash their hands, and the foaming soap leaves a lot smaller mess around the sink, as well as being easier for them to rinse off their hands. I think in the long run, we even use less soap with the foaming variety...

BUT I'm too cheap to pay twice as much for a container that has less soap! Then I found out that you can make your own foaming soap refills - from almost any liquid soap you like.

It's easy:
1) Put a small amount of liquid soap in the bottom of the foaming soap dispenser.
2) Add water to fill container. (Make sure you leave enough room to get the lid back on.
3) Shake gently until soap and water are mixed.

I've had my three foaming dispensers for over a year now. One of them is getting old and doesn't make the soap foam very much anymore, but the other two are still going strong. I've used liquid hand soap, dishwashing soap, and leftover soap from the old dispensers that I retired when I got these. It all works great!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Vegetarian Baked Potato Soup

Nancy was looking for some vegetarian recipes. This one isn't usually, but cousin Judith was over for Conference yesterday and I wanted to make the meal vegetarian for her. Even the missionaries who were over liked it.

Vegetarian Baked Potato Soup

Servings 8 Prep. time (min) 20 Cooking time (min) 60




4 potatoes, large

2/3 cup butter, divided

2 cups white beans, pureed in blender with water

6 cups milk

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

2/3 cup flour

4 green onions, chopped

8 oz. sour cream


Bake potatoes at 400 degrees for one hour. Cut in half lengthwise, scoop out and reserve pulp. Melt butter over low heat; add flour, stirring until smooth. Cook, stirring constantly, one minute. Gradually add milk, cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened and bubbly. Stir in potatoes, salt, pepper, one cup cheese, white bean puree, and 2 T. green onions. Cook until heated (do not boil). Stir in sour cream. Cook until just heated (do not boil). Serve with remaning cheese and green onions. Yield: 2 1/2 quarts


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Of course you can make this soup "unvegetarian" by putting in a cup of chopped ham and garnishing with two slices of bacon cooked and torn into pieces. But I don't even know if it needs that anymore.

Just a note on using beans in cooking. I find it easiest to take one day as "bean cooking day" and do three separate pots with white beans in one, black beans in another, and pinto beans in the third. You have to think ahead and put the beans to soak the night before or do the quick soak where you get them to a boil and let them sit for an hour before actually cooking them. Then I put them in one or two cup portions and freeze them. The white beans are handy to puree and hide in foods like soups, alfredos, and other saucy white things. The black beans are good in most all Mexican dishes, and the pinto beans can be turned into refried beans.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Playset do's and don'ts

We have been wanting a playground set for our backyard for over a year. The problem: we wanted a nicer wood or large metal set, but didn't have the $500+ to get even a basic set. Over the years we've put up a couple wooden ones for various family and friends, so we're familiar with the time involved.

After watching the local classified ads for a couple of months, I was finally lucky enough to see a wood playset listed for $50 and be the first one to call about it. (I'd called on at least 5 others, but was always way down the list.) We were fortunate - it was Saturday afternoon, my father-in-law's truck and trailer were available, my husband was available, and the playset was only 20 minutes away.

So, we showed up, took some pictures, spent 2 hours taking the set apart and loading it in the trailer, got home, unloaded, fed the kids (it was well past dinner time by then), looked at each other and said "Now where do we start?" The picture is of the stack of pieces on our back porch!

It was Monday evening, Family Home Evening, before we got around to doing anything. We'd taken it apart in big pieces to make things easier, but it also meant that we couldn't exactly put it back together the normal way. We decided to lift up the platform of the fort, attach two of the corner posts to it, then lift up the other side and attach the other two posts.

Problem 1:
Which post goes in which corner? They're ALL different! I spent at least 20 minutes studying pictures, and still got two of them mixed up (fortunately we didn't have to take the posts out and move them:)

Problem 2:
When we lifted it up to put in the second set of posts, the first set twisted around, splintering the wood it was attached to!

Re-assemly came to an abrupt halt. We had to wait for the next day and a trip to the hardware store to get supplies to fix the broken piece.

After that, things went a little more smoothly. We were careful to add some bracing pieces to the corner posts before attaching them to the platform. We got some larger lug nuts to replace the ones that come with the set, hoping that that would make things sturdier. By the end of the day Tuesday, we had the playset mostly together - except for the rope ladder and picnic table which needed more extensive repairs. The kids were playing, and Mom was happy! The playset does creak quite a bit when the children all swing, but I think that's mostly just the nature of wooden playsets. I still need to get it painted before winter, but we'll get there - eventually!

Would I recommend this route to anyone else?
Yes, but only if you like puzzles, have extra time on your hands, and really can't afford to pay full price for one. Be sure to take lots of pictures, put all of your hardware in labeled plastic bags, and try to mark the bigger pieces so you can tell exactly where they go!

For those who don't meet the above qualifications: save your money to buy a new one. Even if you have to do the assemply yourself, it will at least come clearly marked and with instructions!
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