Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Easy Entertaining for Six

We're hosting our first visitors here in Salem this week, and it wouldn't be a Jones family celebration without non-stop gnoshing!

The New Year's beverage list:

Trevisol Prosecco, Valdobbiadene Italy, 2008

Being in Oregon, we tried some Wilammette Valley Favorites...

McKinlay Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley Oregon, 2007

Redman Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley Oregon, 2006

A salute to our new port destination of South Africa...

Mulderdosch Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa, 2007

A salute to our beloved Washington...

Holy Cow Reisling, Washington State, 2006

The meal:

We were planning to have crab, but a Pacific storm has held up the fishing boats. We had wild Coho salmon instead.

The salmon was accompanied by broccolini, cooked along the lines of this recipe from Epicurious. Cheesy mashed potatoes and homemade bread completed the meal.

The hors d'oeuvres:

-Carolyn whipped up Old Bay seasoned Cougar Gold crab dip with crudites, baguette slices, and crostini -- a family favorite recipe from Amy. She had held onto the Cougar Gold cheese for a year, so it was aged to perfection. How honored we were to share it with her!

-I made a Brie en Croute from the Macrina Bakery Cookbook that I got for Christmas. (Macrina is a wonderful bakery in Seattle, and probably one of the reasons we can never live there. If we lived near Macrina I would be on Dr. Phil explaining how I spent all of our savings on scones, biscuits, and cakes.) It had a great roasted-grape and walnut filling that was spilled over the cheese. If I made it again, I would skip the "croute" -- rich brie in rich pie dough was a little too much. But the grape-walnut topping with cheese would be a simple and delightful treat.

I was still full this morning after all that eating!

Abi and Lily enjoyed the meal with us, (though the "enjoyment" took a little more coaxing for Abi than Lily), and then both girls did an unusually great job of going to sleep. We stayed up and played a mean game of "Mexican Train" Dominoes while we waited to ring in the new year with Carolyn & the Gundersons.

Happy New Year's everyone! We wish you the best in 2009!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Beware of Emotional Fill-Ups

I was once told that you should never drive angry.  Why?  Well, because in your emotional state you may not be making sound decisions and that could be dangerous to you and those around you.  I am going to add an additional piece of advice…never fill up your car with gas if you are emotional.  Let me illustrate with a recent example that I witnessed.  As my Melanie and I were headed out of Pullman on our epic adventure/move/endurance test we decided to fill up with gas.  I in my truck and Melanie in hers.  Our dear friend Allie met us there to say goodbye.  Abi said goodbye, I said goodbye, and Melanie and Allie embraced and I saw a few tears as I jumped back in my truck.   I was driving out of the driveway to the Shell station and looked in my rearview mirror and to my horror had noticed that in her emotional state Melanie had forgotten one important step in the fill-up process…removing the hose from the tank.  Why is this important you ask?  If you do not remove the hose and nozzle from your tank it will rip away from the pump and you will drag the partial hose behind you while people behind you run after you screaming that you have just ripped away something very important.  Friends, please, don’t fill up while emotional, it can endanger both you and those around you. 

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Moving Tips: Driving your Moving Van Through a Snow Storm

Well, we just had the moving trip from you-know-where, and I learned a lot I did not know about moving vans, and moving in the snow. Thankfully, we arrived safely in Oregon after an epic journey. Those Oregon Trail pioneers have nothing on us!

Enjoy the fruits of our inexperience! These snow moving tips are free!

Tip #1- Charge your cellphones-and bring a car charger: If you are moving in a snow storm, a six hour drive can quickly turn into a 20 hour non-stop driving marathon. Cellphone batteries will not survive that long.

Tip #2-Make sure all parties involved in the moving experience have the numbers, addresses, and map directions for wherever you are going written down on paper: Having information stored in a cell-phone isn't enough if it is dead.

Tip #3a-If you plan on making a winter move, ask the moving company what tire size your moving truck will have so you can purchase chains ahead of time: Purchasing tire chains a week into a record snowfall year is nearly impossible, and expensive. Buy your chains from some place that allows you to return them. If you don't need them, then you can take them back.

Tip #3b-Have the person at the chain store show you exactly how to put the chains on: This saved me a lot of time and trouble while putting chains on in a parking lot in the freezing cold with a crying baby in the moving van.

Tip #3c-When taking the chains off of your moving van tires, undo the inside first and the outside second: If you undo the outside first, there is a good chance that your chains will slip onto the axle between the dual tires, and you will have to get under the moving van, yank, curse, reverse-forward-reverse-forward, etc.

Tip #3d-If the improper installation/removal of your tire chains results in multiple flat tires, fear not: Call the moving company with your handy charged cell-phone and they will send someone to help you out.

Tip #4-If moving in a snow storm, never let your gas tank drop below half-full: When moving in a snow storm, you may find yourself stuck on the interstate for five hours or more without an opportunity to exit. Once you finally exit to fill up, the gas stations might all be out of gas, because the gas trucks are stuck in a parking lot, which was known as I-5 better weather, and won't be in for days.

Tip #5-The following items should be stored so they can be easily accessed from the moving truck: Hammer, broom, pliers, de-icer, blankets, food, drinks, movies, shovels, kitty-litter, and anything else that could be used to fight snow, exhaustion, and malfunctioning truck parts.

Our epic moving adventure included two flat tires, two dead cell phones, one motel room, one truck out of gas, three tire chain installs, one all nighter drive, and four very tired Joneses!

However, we made it to Salem finally, and have enjoyed a very relaxing Christmas.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

What we would do for four more feet...

I think we can officially say the adventure has begun, even if the journey isn't underway yet. Here is a run-down of how our move is shaping up:

  • There has been record snowfall all over the northwest, up to 24 inches in a day! Currently, every road that would take us to Portland is closed at some point, making travel impossible.
  • Moving trucks don't come with chains, you have to buy your own. Have you ever tried to buy chains for a moving truck the week after record snow fall hits your region?? I would file that under "do not recommend".
  • We have a two bedroom apartment. We got the moving truck recommended for "2-3 bedroom apartment". That 16 foot truck is full, and still doesn't have our daughter's bed, a crib, bookshelves, washer/dryer, bikes, car tires or a room full of boxes in it yet. (I'm calling today to get the storage unit one size higher than the one recommended for "2-3 bedroom apartment" -- apparently we don't fit the mold!)
  • We are now renting an additional 14 foot moving truck with car tow one day prior to a move.
  • And we took our children to the doctor yesterday and both have ear infection/runny nose grossness.

So, it has been an adventure! Thanks to the help of many friends and my mom we were able to pack almost everything into the first van yesterday, and thankfully there was no snow falling during the drive to pick up the van from Spokane or during the moving party. Despite the fact there are no cooking utensils left in the house, we have yet to miss out on a home-cooked meal thanks to the support of many friends.

I'm keeping my mind on the day a week from now when everything will be tucked away in storage, neither of us will be working, and there will be nothing to do but spend time with family and relax!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Moving Day???!

Here's the story. We planned our move so that we could leave sometime around the 21st -- we would just pick a day when it wasn't snowing. Ha! It has snowed every day since Wednesday, with no sign of letting up any time soon. This means we have to add another item to our moving budget -- chains for a moving truck, to the tune of $100. Hopefully we can turn around and sell those puppies fast, as it looks like it should be a pretty snowy winter.

We have family coming in and going out to help with the move, but the airport has been closed on and off on either end. If my mother-in-law doesn't get here with chains for our car, then we may be unable to move until roads are reopened, as there are checkpoints to make sure tires have chains and travel without chains is not allowed for part of our trip at the moment. We could go buy chains ourselves...but they are all sold out everywhere. So, we may be knocking at your door sometime in the upcoming week as our whole house is almost packed and we are out of an apartment as of the 23rd.

Please pray for our safe travel!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

One Reason I'm Happy to Leave Pullman

A picture of our car last winter
So far you have only heard me explain how hard it is to leave this place we've called home for seven years now. Great people, great food, great friendships. I seriously cannot imagine starting over again. However, there is one reason I can't wait to get out of here: it is called SNOW. We arrived in Pullman yesterday night without gloves and coats. It was 7 degrees. We got out the De-Icer to de-ice the car: IT WAS FROZEN!! Even De-icer doesn't believe in 7 degree weather.

Have you ever heard of a snow day? Then you aren't from Pullman. Snow is just a part of life here. Schools don't close. Work doesn't stop. The population of Pullman just pulls on their boots and takes pride in their heartiness.

I am not hearty. Where I grew up, school was cancelled if someone saw a snowflake. It was 72 degrees in Oklahoma today. It was SEVEN degrees in Pullman.

I'm not going to say I will never live in another place where high temperatures only have 1 digit, because you know what happens when you say never. I am going to say that we will have a yearly Caribbean vacation fund if we ever end up in a place where it snows in April again.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Semester at Sea Itinerary Change for Spring 2009 Voyage

I updated our itinerary to reflect the changes that have been made recently. Our ship is no longer sailing through the Gulf of Aden due to pirate activity there. Recently a cruise ship was chased by pirates with guns. As 17 ships are currently held by pirates in the Gulf of Aden, I'm not that disappointed to miss out on the pirate infested waters. However, pirates, if you are reading this I am so mad at you for making me miss out on a trip to Egypt. We just watched the Swiss Family Robinson - we know how to take care of pirates. Watch out. Any pirate that stands in the way of me and a bowl of gelato better have made peace with his maker.

For the non-pirate audience, this change of itinerary means the itinerary no longer includes Italy, Turkey, or Egypt. Instead we will travel all the way around Africa and sail to Morocco, Namibia, South Africa and Mauritius. I think that is an alright consolation prize! We'll have to do some more investigation into kids activities in each of those countries, but I already have a few things in mind for adult activities -- maybe this time we can have a case of wine shipped back from Stellenbosch!

I am writing from Oklahoma. We're visiting my family before we make our big move. Abi is going to stay with my parents in Oklahoma from the 13th until the 17th. This will give us a little time to pack up without her help. (Not that she isn't an exceptionally helpful three year old, but sheesh, she's a three year old!) In just one week, we will be throwing all of our worldly posessions into the back of a moving truck and heading for Oregon.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Making Use of a Good Pantry

I think the hardest thing to pack is my kitchen. I've spent three years building my pantry, but it isn't really practical to store most of it as we won't be cooking for 5 months.

A good pantry simplifies life significantly. With ingredients on hand to cook for unnexpected company or to cover for a missed trip to the grocery store, food is rarely on the "urgent" list. Most recipes can be accomplished without buying a lot of extra ingredients, which means we can incorporate a greater variety of foods into a week without straining the grocery budget at all. Best of all, it is no longer essential to plan every meal for the week -- sometimes I just come home and say "I feel like eating 'x' food tonight -- let's see what I can come up with." (Last night: Pesto Bowtie Pasta with Shrimp, Sundried Tomatoes and Carmelized Onions)

It took a long time to build a really diverse pantry full of flavor and family favorites. The spices and grains and canned foods I've collected are like a metaphor for community relationship. The longer we've been here, the more we've spread out our shopping to several small stores that carry things we like. A search for affordable saffron was what got us started at the Moscow Food Co-Op, while a desire to recreate Vietnamese spring rolls was what led us to the International Store in downtown Pullman. Even the big Winco discount grocer in Moscow has a unique place in our food lives -- there is one checker that is so kind and helpful with the kids that I wait any amount of time just to be in her line. In the food world I've always encountered helpful people that have shared all kinds of advice, from how to freeze herbs to how to clean a crab. I think food people are just about the nicest folks you can find -- they always want to share. (Except maybe that chef guy on "Hell's Kitchen" - he doesn't seem so friendly. But don't you think they made him up?)

I'm doing my best to use everything in the pantry that I possibly can, which is why I have been on Recipezaar lately. I made a list of the random odds and ends remaining in the fridge, freezer and pantry. I've been typing various ingredient combinations into the Recipezaar narrowing recipe search. Who knew that the leftover orange jam sitting in the fridge for the past six months would rise again as "Stovetop Orange Marmalade Porkchops".

There are several recipe websites I use, like Epicurious and Allrecipies, but I like that Recipezaar allows you to search for a variety of ingredients and then makes suggestions of typical additional ingredients used in recipes with your leader ingredients. It makes it easy to find meals you will like using ingredients you already have. (Just for the record, Recipezaar has nothing that combines ground beef and frozen cherries: suggestions anyone?) At the end of the month or season, it is fun to spin those remaining ingredients into new dishes.

Our "stocked" pantry looks something like this:

-Spices that reflect our favorite types of cusine
-Pastas, grains, and dried beans (or frozen cooked beans)
-pre-cut/shredded veggies that are frozen in the state typically used. (e.g. shredded carrots kaffir lime leaves and sliced ginger for stir-fry, small dice onion, celery and carrot for soups, sliced peppers amd herbs. When fresh veggies are starting to look sad, turn them into frozen cut or pureed veggies!)
-frozen fruits for breakfast and dessert
-the ingredients for favorite scratch breakfasts and desserts (for us that's brownies, chocolate chip cookies, pancakes and biscuits)
-Salsa, Ketchup, Dijon Mustard and Barbeque Sauce
-Vinegars, Wines, and Broths according to preference

Cheap and Easy Travel Toys

Before I get to the cheap and easy travel toy, I have a confession: I spent $50 on laminate for the purpose of laminating 100 numbered ships. Abi's daycare teacher Miss Beth suggested counting our days on the ship using a numbered picture to mark each day. This would culminate in a 100 days party. This is a magnificent activity that will give a sense of routine to our days. However, ship policy dictates we can't stick our boats up with tape, so I'm turning them into magnets. The laminate will save us from having to put several pieces of magnet on each ship.
Laminating 100 ships takes a loooong time people, so I spent a lot of time thinking of the wonders of laminate.
Abi loves writing with dry erase markers. Her dad made a chore chart out of an old binder cover with a pocket on the front.
There is a piece of paper with some clip art, checkboxes, and simple chore descriptions behind the clear sleve. The pocket on the back can be used to hold a pen. Abi carries the chart around like an inspector as she puts things away. She loves marking off each task as complete, and seems to have a special sense of ownership over what might otherwise be a mundane task. We can wipe and reuse the chart every day. The total cost of this project was pennies, as we already had all of the components lying around.

Is it just me or shouldn't this idea already be invented and in Wal-Mart stores everywhere? If you have an old binder with a clear cover, the possibilities are endless:
  • Print out simple clip art shapes for "complete the picture" activities -- a circle that can be turned into a silly face over and over again, or a square that can be made into a house.
  • Put worksheets behind the sleeve so your child can "practice" a few times before making the final fill-in.
  • Put maze, connect the dot, and matching activities behind the sleeve so your child can redo a fun maze several times.
  • Put a map behind the sleeve and practice filling in the names of countries.

All these activities could be hole-punched and included in a three-ring binder, rotating them as desired. For example, if you were studying "under the sea", you could include several fun activities related to aquatic life and your child could use the binder throughout the week, repeating activities as desired. With the addition of a pocket for an erasing rag and some dry erase pens, this could be a really fun, innexpensive, and quiet activity to take on a long trip!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Pumpkin Pie Filling Update

If you read the post on leftover pie filling, maybe you are wondering what the results were. As I contemplated the situation, I thought of Ferdinand's famous Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream -- my favorite fall flavor. I wondered what would happen if I threw the leftover custard into the ice cream maker. All I can say is, HEAVEN. There were no additional ingredients added -- I just poured the leftovers straight into the ice cream maker. I would guess that any pie that uses a ratio of 3 parts sugar/1 part egg/13 parts liquid (including dairy and "flavor") would probably turn out similarly. The next time I have leftover pie filling or cake batter, I will definately try this again. My mind spins as I imagine apple pie ice cream, chocolate mousse ice cream, or lemon ice cream! Of course egg is a part of any custard recipe, so you want to be sure to bring the custard to a high temp before putting it in the ice cream maker. That is part of the process of making pumpkin pie anyway, so I think we're safe.

One thing I would have done differently is strain the mixture before adding it to the ice cream maker. The ice cream was a little bit grainy, and I think straining would have made a difference.

A little pumpkin ice cream with a graham cracker tucked in the corner of the bowl, it is divine!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Random Savings

In the continuing thread on saving money, I've discontinued using products after they run out. My mom keeps me in a steady stream of Bath & Body Works products, so I don't have to worry about dry skin. Everything else is up for experimentation.

I discovered foundation and powder are a necessity at this point in life - though I don't wear them every day. I'm a mom to two children under 4. If sleep isn't an option, then make-up provides that "happy" glow that apparently can't be faked.

One thing I can live without: conditioner! I stopped using when it ran out. I am a conditioner snob, and don't want to put certain drying chemicals on my head. I faced my elitist views on haircare products, and realized that the choice would be more $18 conditioner, or none. None seems to be working out fine. I got a hair cut and asked if it was obvious I had stopped using conditioner all together. She said she couldn't tell the difference. I miss the smooth, silky feeling conditioned hair has while it is still wet, but the truth of the matter is that is exactly how it feels after putting in some good smoothing gel. So, America - now you know the truth about my head. I am unconditioned.

I also combined all of the 3/4 used shampoos into one bottle. I had four bottles like that. I think I might have some kind of complex, like a "I don't finish bottles of shampoo" complex. Actually, I think I just buy before I run out and get so excited about the new bottle. What I like about the mixed bottle is the layers are separated a little bit, so every few nights the soap is really sudsy because the Ph is different (I think). Anyway, it is like have four new bottles in one. Maybe there is a market for that product -- ReNEW shampoo or something like that.

I'm sure the "what I can live without" experiment has only begun, but so far it's fun!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Ode to Hickory Farms Beef Stick Summer Sausage

The taste of the holidays is turkey and ham,
Slow-cooked roasts and rolls with jam.
But in my book no holiday is complete
without the beef stick from Hickory.
Dipped in mustard, or straight from the sleeve,
the perfect h'ordeurve for Christmas Eve.
190 calories in just two ounces
But whose counting anyway? My middle just bounces.
Oh Beef Stick Summer Sausage, you're the taste of the season.
Life without you lacks purpose and reason.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Leftover Pumpkin Pie Filling

Thanksgiving is over, but the leftovers remain. I baked two pumpkin pies, but was dismayed when so much filling was leftover -- the can said it made two pumpkin pies, but I think it easily could have made three. I only had enough pie crust to make two pies, so I shoved the leftover filling in the fridge until I could figure out what to do with it. Here are my options:

1. Pumpkin Pie Cookies -- Peggy Deland says they are delicious. The recipe sounds dangerously free of measurements to me, but I like to live on the edge. http://www.rollickguides.com/cooking/blog-story/peggydeland/8328

2. Pumpkin Pie Creme Brulee -- I suppose I would have to cook the filling first? Sounds yummy though...http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/michael-chiarello/leftover-pumpkin-pie-brulee-recipe/index.html

3. Pumpkin Pie Pudding -- I love pudding. It's my favorite memory from the Pullman Regional Hospital (other than the girls). This from a Yahoo Answers thing: "Butter a small oven-save dish, pour in the batter, sprinkle the top with sugar if you want and bake it with the pie.Or, you could just cook it on the stovetop, stirring constantly over low heat, until it thickens and pour it in small serving dishes. Put it in the fridge until it sets up and serve "pumpkin pudding" with or without whipped cream on top."

I suppose it isn't the worst problem to have, deciding what to do with leftover pumpkin pie filling. Which would you choose?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Last Day of Work

I can hardly believe it! I finished up at work today, and now what am I? A world traveler? A stay-at-home mom? A bum? I’m not really sure what I’ll be, but when I wake up tomorrow I won’t be a secretary anymore, and I’m excited to see what life looks like from a new angle!

When I graduated from high school, I felt like the future was horizon in every direction with an endless array of opportunities spread before me. Life, while good, hasn’t had that feeling of possibility for a little while now. At the present moment, it is energizing to start thinking about life in that way again.

My office had a farewell party last night, which I will hopefully post some pictures of eventually. It was the beginning of the “lasts” in Pullman, which are difficult. Having lived here since 2001, and this being the only home our kids have had, it is surreal to imagine waking up some day in December and not being able to connect with our network of people anymore. In the past 7 years our family has been changed and influenced by so many wonderful people. I want to take them all with me.

I guess this is the ever-present battle between roots and wings – it can be difficult to have both at the same time.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thirty Hour Work Week

I spent about a year and a half working thirty hours a week. Now that I am working full time (almost:), I understand how beneficial the thirty hour work week was for my young family. A thirty hour work-week reduced my pay by about $400 a month, but now I know that had anyone offered me $400 to work an additional 40 hours each month the answer would have been "no".

When you work 30 hours a week, you actually work 32.5 hours a week thanks to a mandatory 30 minute lunch break. When you work 40 hours a week, you are actually away from home for 45 hours a week because there is a mandatory unpaid lunch hour in the middle of your day. By giving up 10 hours of pay, you get 12.5 hours of life back to spend in any manner you desire -- definately worth it to me!

Working from 8:30am to 3:00pm I spent zero hours in traffic each day, I went grocery shopping after work when the stores were empty, I leisurely made dinner and ate with my family. I participated in a book club as I lacked "mother guilt" for spending so little time with my children. I pursued my hobbies and took time to do things by hand. Every weekend was kind of like a long weekend.

When I work until 5:00pm, I don't get the kids home until 6pm, and then it is a mad rush through dinner, baths, story time, and bed time by 8pm. After leaving so many things undone all week long, you spend your weekend playing catch-up with the laundry instead of playing with your kids. On top of that, the irony is that there was nothing that I got accomplished in 8 hours that couldn't have been done in 6 on most days. The two extra hours to spend with your kids and keeping up with daily chores makes a huge difference in quality of life for everyone involved.

In an era where unemployment is steadily rising, when companies are laying off competent workers to make ends meet, I wonder if it would be possible to make an argument for the 30 hour week.


Friday, November 21, 2008

High Quality Online Learning Resources

I have been searching for books, workbooks, and activities to take on the ship for Abi. I am trying to find some affordable resources that are at her level, things that encourage her to read. Today I stumbled on a site that I really love! Starfall has a series of online books and materials that are all free. Clicking on “The Starfall Store” takes you to a page with paperback books for purchase, many of which are less than $1. However, almost all of the stories are also available online for free as books that you click through. Abi loves watching things on the computer and these online books will allow us to keep the entertainment luggage to a minimum. I love that the books focus on multicultural themes. Many of the stories feature real pictures from other countries, cultural folktales, and true stories.

Can you read with me?

Abi has a new fascination with books. In the night, she wakes up and picks loads of books from her bookshelf to “read” in bed (in the dark). In the morning she takes a stack of books to the bathroom, shuts the door, and “reads” books aloud on her stool. She reads to her sister, she reads in the car, she reads at the table. It seems that every activity can be accomplished with a book in hand. Abi listens carefully when we read to her, and has started memorizing short stories. She repeats each page word for word, so satisfied with the thought that she can read now. I love watching her grow into this new skill.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Marking the Day

Today is the 3rd year anniversary of my father's death. In some ways I feel some pressure to mark the day by doing something. I think that's holding true to western/modern approaches. We must do something, some activity, something meaningful on the day to come to grips with the passing of a loved one. But I'm never sure what to do. There is no grave to visit, I live nine hours from my family, and I'm living regular life, working, picking up the kids, cooking, eating, cleaning, playing with my two daughters and trying to have a conversation with my wife without being interrupted every three seconds. In not knowing what to "do" I feel somewhat like a failure at marking the day. On the other hand, not a day goes by when I don't think about my father and life with and without him, who he was, and who I am becoming. I definitely miss him and when I think about what would best commemorate who he was, I think about who I am becoming. My dad was a loving, patient, reflective and ethical man who loved his family a lot. So today I'm going to think again about the good qualities of my father and what he has passed on to me, and if he would be proud of the way I am living my life, how I work, and how I love my family. If you knew my father you would know that today would be a good day to buy a mint mocha from Starbucks, go on a walk, navigate to a new place using a map and/or a bus schedule, check the weather online, and play some chess. I think I can at least do one of those things, but I'll remember my dad wasn't one for feeling compelled to "do" things, he was more into "being". I wish he could be here now and if he was I think he would just want to be together. It wouldn't really matter what we did.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Chicken Skin

I took Lily to the doctor today -- we waited a long time. I read a magazine that promised I could lose 10 pounds by eating fast food every day. I felt really good about life, until I realized how terrible that would be. However, the same magazine managed to leave a good taste in my mouth.

Yesterday I marinated four split, skin on chicken breasts in a delicious Tandoori sauce. Yogurt, lemon, wonderful spices -- HEAVEN. The recipe called for split, skin-on chicken breasts. I obeyed, despite the fact I have grown up in a world that tells me the delightful, oven-crisped skin of chicken is the equivalent of eating a stick of butter.

Friends, I read in the October issue of "Health" magazine that roasting a whole chicken in the oven is a wonderful way to have a meal that lasts through several re-creations, and as an added bonus removing the skin from the ENTIRE chicken saves 100 calories. 100 calories people. 100 calories is 10 sticks of gum. It is one of those tiny little snack-packs of...diet-food.

Thank you Health magazine. Tonight, I am having my Tandoori chicken breast, crispy skin and all -- and I'll have dessert too!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Clean Shower Curtain

Sorry to anyone looking for a blog full of carefree adventures -- it takes a lot of preparation to be carefree and adventurous. For now, it is just ordinary, daily life adventures. Today's exciting revelation: shower curtains can be resurrected! Luke was embarrassed because we have guests coming the next two weekends and the shower curtain was growing pink mold. I didn't want to buy a new shower curtain, and suggested explaining the mold, you know, like "Hey, welcome to our house. Normally, we would buy a new shower curtain but we're moving soon. Hope you don't mind!"

Luke is classier than I am, so we eventually came to a compromise -- we would clean the shower curtain. Folks, this is easy! I'm posting the directions below, and I hope you have as much fun cleaning your shower curtain as we did!

To remove soap scum and mildew from plastic shower curtains and liners, fill the washing machine with warm water, 1 cup of white vinegar and your regular laundry detergent. Add the curtains, along with several old, light-colored towels. Run through the complete cycle and rehang curtain immediately.

On a side note, I've been trying to get some mud stains out of a white sweater of Abi's. I tossed that in with the curtain and it actually came out! I don't know if it was the vinegar, the warm water, or the plastic, but it works for me!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Moving Truck...and other shameless plugs

It's official -- after two days on the phone and some wheelin' and dealin' by Luke and I, we've got the moving truck scheduled. In the process, I stumbled on a website that I think rocks! If you are ever about to purchase something, go to http://www.retailmenot.com/ first! People post codes for coupons, and you just enter the name of a store you want to shop at and see what comes up. When I was buying stuff for a baby shower, I put in "Babies-R-Us" and got a code for an automatic 20% off my order. As I've browsed I found coupons for airline tickets, hotels, and almost any retail store. Especially if you are about to purchase something on-line anyway, it makes sense to check and see if you can find a code to use before you check-out.

There is more than just coupons though. When I put in the names of the moving companies we were considering, there were some instructions for getting your cost lowered. Not a coupon per se, just a strategy of using the phone to make your reservation, getting your second-favorite mover down to a low price, and then seeing if your favorite mover will match it. In the end, we saved $70 off our first quote, and got to keep the truck for three extra days.

In a coupon-related note, if you are in the market for disposable or cloth diapers, or really anything for a baby/toddler, consider going to http://www.diapers.com. Despite the diaper-specific name, the store is really more like a Babies-R-Us. My daughter's daycare gets a discount for every new customer that enters referral code PCCC. The code gets you an automatic $10 off your order of $50, plus free shipping. I thought they just carried disposable diapers, but they actually sell all kinds of products for kids for very reasonable prices. Once you place an order, you'll get a referral code that will save you money when people use it. How awesome is that!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Vacating Instructions

We just received instructions for cleaning our apartment when we move out. There are a few from the list that have me worried...


"Upon termination and vacation, restore the premises to their initial condition, except for reasonable wear and tear." For the record, I think everything about the time Abi tried to color her wall red was reasonable -- she was just learning how to color at the time. And the door I damaged when I tried to pry it open after she locked me outside in my underwear -- I think we can all agree that any effort to pry open a door when you are locked outside in your underwear is "reasonable". Surely we won't have to pay for that.

-Remove ALL personal contents from unit (including cupboards and closets) As we work on this task, I am noticing that many of our "personal contents" are being removed straight to the dumpster...at least it is removed from the unit, right?

-Wash windows inside and outside. I can do inside. Outside...umm, we're moving in December. We can see through our windows. I hope that will be good enough.

-Clean all blinds; launder and iron ALL curtains and replace. I'm one step ahead on that one - I took down the blinds and curtains when we got here. They are zip tied and ironed in a a closet because I hate cleaning blinds.

-Strip, wash and re-wax all vinyl floors (including under range and refrigerator). I had to google "strip and wax floors". For the record, much of what came out of that search was not appropriate for children. I did learn that the liklihood of me ever stripping and waxing a floor was somewhere near 0%.

Everything else I think I can handle -- cleaning the oven, the light fixtures, the walls, carpets and cupboards are not above my cleaning repertoire. However, I believe none of those things have been done more than once during our three years in this place! I think we should probably move every 3 years for the rest of our lives. That way the oven will get cleaned, the cupboards and walls wiped down, and the closets emptied at least once every three years. When we buy a house and settle down someday, I am going to ask my landlord to send us this list every year!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


One big question we have had as we plan our journey is what in the world we should do about car seats. In the states we can rent a car seat along with our rental car without too much hassle. Once in country, most places can be accessed by mass transit and car seats won’t be necessary. It is only where taxi travel is the norm that a car seat would be necessary, and the thought of lugging around two car seats all day in developing countries that may lack seatbelts in taxis seems a little much. So, I stumbled across this on Amazon:


Is this thing for real? It looks like it would only work for Abi because of the weight/height requirement.

I would love to hear from anyone that has ever traveled with young children in the developing world. Would something like this work?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Halloween 2008

Halloween was fun this year! Luke and I went political. I was an ideology, "The Change we Need". Luke went as the mythical political creature, "Joe Six Pack". Our Halloween party was also visited by "Joe the Plumber".

Halloween was fun this year! This was Abi's fourth Halloween ever, and I think she has the hang of it now. Here's Spider Girl in all her glory:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Pullman Fall Fun

There's no time like fall on the Palouse. Here are a few of my favorite pictures of the family this fall.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Take Comfort

Hazel passed away on October 17th at 6:08 pm. My aunt said that there was peace throughout the house when it happened. Logically, I agree with that. I am happy she is released from her suffering. But, being a simple human, I am sad for everything we have lost because she isn't with us anymore. When I stand outside of the whole thing, I think I am lucky to learn something about comfort right now. I'm seeking it for myself, and finding that it looks different than I have always imagined. I found comfort in sleeping at Hazel's house, in her bed, imagining that I was a child curled up beside her. I woke up, and she wasn't there. I found comfort in recalling her memory with family, but it led to guilt about all the missed opportunities. I found comfort in sharing her home and a meal with family, only to realize that I was experiencing the last gathering we would have like that. I find comfort in faith that God has set life in motion and His hand in our life is intentional, loving, careful, steady...though no offense to God, I find His plan too slow for my taste quite a bit of the time. On Monday morning I found comfort in a chocolate cupcake. Honestly, it lasted. I think it is because I sought it out in despair (sounds dramatic, I know...it was a rough Monday morning, okay?), and the goodness of the cupcake did offer something. Other than that, nothing anyone says or does, no experience I give to myself has provided lasting comfort. What I learned this week was that even if no singular thought or action does provide lasting comfort, efforts at comfort do seem to gain something in collective form. I often hesitate to write sympathy cards, because I feel it is egotistical -- what could I say to make someone feel better about real, definite loss? Now I understand. It is impossible to take away loss, but being reminded of the goodness of life -- being reminded of friendship, of the unwavering love that is family -- being reminded of the goodness in this world is a wonderful distraction.

Friday, October 10, 2008

India Outsources Visa Process to Travisa

Our Indian Visa applications are now in the mail. I hope we have as good of luck getting those back as we did with the China Visas. What I found humorous about this process is that India has outsourced their visa process. It is now impossible to go to a consulate and just apply in person. Everyone must submit their application to Travisa and pay the $13 processing charge. To their credit, Travisa had a pretty slick and straightforward website.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What will they think of next?

The bad news: Our 94 Sentra suffered a terrible fate. It died about two weeks ago, and the doctor bill was said to range from $1000-$2000. Too much for people focused on saving money for a trip around the world...so we had to let her go.

The good news: We put our sad little Sentra on the local equivalent of Craigslist, and someone called wanting to give our Sentra a second life as an "ELECTRIC CAR". If cars were religious...and Hindu...I think this would be Nirvana for our little Sentra....(or, I guess somewhere slightly below Nirvana since the Sentra will still be alive, just reincarnated into something so exciting and futuristic.)

I googled "convert your car to an electric car", and discovered that for about $7000-$10000, you can fully convert any light-bodied car into an electric car that will run forever, for the cost of plugging it in every night and replacing a battery every 3-4 years. Supposedly they go 50-90 mph, and can go on trips of about 50-80 miles at a time.

We love you lil' Sentra...I hope they treat you well.

More about converting a car: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/09/converting_your.php

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Commute Cost Calculator

Ever wonder how much it costs to go to work every day? Thought this was kind of fun!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Random Travel Updates

Hey - since some folks might be interested in learning about the travel planning aspect of this adventure, here are some updates:

-We got our visas back from China Travel Service quite promptly. This was a bargain, and great service too. If you are sending in passports for a famiy, do ask about negotiating the return shipping fee. We saved $75.

-I finally got the warranty money on our carseat/stroller combo. This turned out to be quite a bargain, as the stroller broke recently. We got to keep the carseat, so it was kind of like getting a brand new carseat for the $17 cost of the warranty. Now we are shopping for a baby backpack to replace the stroller. We got full use of the carseat stroller while Lily was super-small, and now she can ride in an umbrella stroller. The refund will cover the cost of the backpack which should be more travel-friendly. (We're looking at Ergo and Deuter Kangakid right now...anyone with other suggestions? Lightweight, durable, comfortable, and multipurpose are our criteria!)

-We've been researching travel opportunities for children/family friendly activities. Cadiz looks easy, because it is so close to the beach and a very walkable city it seems. Turkey looks like it might be a challenge, but we at least identified a few places with playgrounds for burning off energy. In Thailand, we are going to opt for Pattaya over Bangkok due to the kiddos. There is an orphanage there, and I look forward to Abi having the opportunity to play with other children. Shanghai sports an Ocean Aquarium and an interactive History Museum for reasonable rates. We aren't sure how much time we will spend in Kobe, Japan but it was a very friendly city for children, so we hope to spend a considerable amount of time there. In many places, we expect the entertainment will be the food, the culture, and the people we meet. So, we don't want to overbook ourselves. But we are trying to generate a list of ideas to begin with so that we atleast know which neighborhoods to head toward.

Google Girl

We just watched a movie from 1987. It was about a rich psychologist, and I had to laugh becuase her "fancy" office didn't have a computer. Ha! How did people even exist before Google? I am neurotic to begin with, and just thinking about our move throws me into hours of intense meditation on which size of bubble wrap will best protect our photo frames. Do you realize we are leaving Pullman in a mere 80 days? I should have packed the Christmas tree months ago!

Luckily, Google is there to give me all of the answers I need. What I like most about Google is that I never have to say crazy things out-loud, like "How to get rust off of grill bolts". What I like even better, is that when I Google things like that, someone else has written an entire article on the subject, with multiple methods of dealing with rust on grill bolts. That means that some of you are just as crazy as I am.

The danger in all of this Googling is it actually allows me to spend my time thinking about...grill bolts? With 80 days remaining in Pullman, my time might be better spent with the people here instead of bubble wrap and boxes.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Life as a Journey

It has been awhile since I posted. I felt this need to put into words the fact that my grandma is dying, because it is important in our lives. Yet, as a new person to "blogging" it feels weird to try to put something that personal into words. Here's my attempt.

Anyway, last week my mom told me I needed to come home if I wanted to say goodbye. I am so glad I had the opportunity to say goodbye. Lily came, and laid down with Hazel for several long stretches. Children are great at bridging so many difficult situations, and it was wonderful to see Hazel's eyes light up and a smile on her face while she got to be the great grandma. It reminded me of seeing little baby Abi in Les's arms in the midst of his illness.

Anyway, without going into great detail, I got to be home with Hazel for four days. Leaving was the hardest thing I've ever done. I had to say goodbye, knowing it would be the last time I could wrap my hands around her neck. There is no way to tell someone how important they have been in your life, at the end of their life. I tried writing a letter about it, but it became a novel in my mind, a mountainous task at 3am. Instead, I just covered her in kisses and tears and hugs and smiles, and finally, said goodbye, which tumbled out of my mouth and onto my feet like a pound of bricks. I have never been less excited to get on an airplane -- it was like being ripped in half.

It had never occured to me that my kids would grow up without her...I can add and all, I just kind of thought that maybe she would be with us forever. (And, I know in that spiritual-metaphorical-memory way she will be...but that kind of "be with us forever" can't load up cattle and take the kids to a sale you know?)

So, I am happy that she is on her way home, I am sad that it hurts so much to leave this place, I want to scoop my mother up and take her away on a long vacation, and be gentler and more present with my own family. I want to be a better person before I die. I am tired.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Palouse Empire Fair

Yesterday marked the second trip we've taken to the Palouse Empire Fair. Each year, I learn a few more parenting tips, which I would like to share:

1a) Our 3 year old daughter was in no way ready to ride the tilt-a-whirl, no matter how many times I told her it was just like the merry-go-round.

1b) Don't leave decisions about which rides your children are ready for to their own enthusiasm, a carnival worker, or a sign that says "must be this tall to ride".

2a) If you hand a 3 year old a funnel cake...she will be happy...but someone will innevitably get powdered sugar dumped on their head.

2b) If the 5 month old gets powdered sugar on her head...no one will cry.

3) Don't eat corn dogs. Just, don't.

Energy Savings

For the past month or so, we have been doing a few things to save energy. The first was to turn off our water heater during the day. Through this process we discovered that we could leave our water heater off for about a day and a half before running out of hot water. The second was to plug our TV/VCR/Speaker System into a power strip and keep that power strip off if we weren't using any of that stuff. Finally, we have been trying to get our landlord to replace our '90 model refrigerator. It's old enough to fight a war and smoke now - quite frankly, I'm surprised it hasn't chosen to do either...we haven't succeeded on that front yet, but I still have hope.

Anyway, we got an electric bill the other day, and it was $50 lower than our "comfort level" of $70 -- pretty amazing! So, this might actually be a legit way to save some cash for our journey.

For the winter, we are going to put film over our windows to hopefully lower the cost of heating, which is pretty ri-diculous in our little apartment. Have you found "green" ways to save money this year?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Blubber Love

Melanie pulls a favorite shirt on. Once again, her blubber hangs out smooshing over her pants. It's time to talk:

Melanie: I wish you wouldn't hang over my pants like that. It just...looks so gross!

Blubber: What's your problem? Just suck me in. Problem solved!

Mel: I AM sucking you in. And I can't breathe like this anymore! Am I supposed to spend the whole day thinking about you? You're so self-centered. I'm 3 pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight. I knew you were coming to visit after the pregnancy, but quite frankly, I thought you would be gone by now.

Blubber: What? It's nice here! Besides, where else can I to go?! There's always Dr. Pepper and Peanut Butter Cups here. I love peanut butter cups!

Mel: Yeah...me too. I mean, I always have. I just don't understand - when I was 16 you were so flat and thin. Now, I just feel like you've given up. I don't even recognize you anymore!

Blubber: Ah, baby, things have changed. But, I still love you, love the kids. I'm just trying to help out. That's why, I mean, when they lay on me, I'm just like a pillow underneath their little heads and I love it. I really do.

Mel: Yeah...me too. But we just can't keep going on like this. Something has to change. I've started biking and swimming now, even running, and, eventually, you'll have to leave.

Blubber: Hey, it's what's best for you baby, that's all I want. But, you know, if you ever feel like giving up, slowin' down, I'll have a Reese's with you for old times sake. Ok?

Mel: You're so bad for me, blub. Why can't I leave you...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Wedding Bells

Well...I watched my oldest daughter get married last night. It made me cry. Fortunately, she just married her dad...and "marrying" consisted of her twirling in a circle with her dad while I sat in the "bride chair". I think this was all a re-enactment of a wedding we went to last weekend. Still, I am overwhelmed with how fast time has been moving lately. Why are these kids growing up so fast? How have four years of marriage flown by so fast? I want to slow everyone down. I'm the reflective type, and sometimes I just want to sit down and think about who we are, and whether we are living up to the people we want to be. I'm also the organized type, and if people in this house would just stop growing up for two seconds I might have a chance to put our wedding pictures in an album, or document my 3-year-olds first year.

But, the days are passing like minutes right now, each one like a popsicle melting in the heat. So far, I haven't had much success in slowing down my melting days. Since sitting around and savoring every bite doesn't seem to be a choice at the moment, I guess I will just have to gobble them up as quickly as I can so I am sure to enjoy every last bite. And while I would love to alphabatize spices, lose some baby weight, make photo albums, and get to know my neighbors, when push comes to shove, I just want to sit in my living room watching my little girl grow up because that is one thing that simply can't be done later.

Swap Success

Just an update on the Back-2-School Clothing Swap. We had the event yesterday, and 30 families participated. Just 30 families had over 1000 items of clothing! It was nice to see all of these things recycled and put to use by local folks. Part of the advertising for the event was done on the radio, and people even came all the way from Spokane to participate. The event was such a success that we are looking into doing it again soon. Next time, I hope we can get some translators together to do some advertising in Spanish, Korean, and Chinese. I think that would help us reach more members of our community.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Saving Money

Two great things just happened that will help us save money for our journey. A record freshman class entered WSU this year, and the shortage of classes led to an opportunity for Luke to teach one section of a freshman communication studies class. In my office, a co-worker is leaving to take another job. I will begin working full time in August to fill her position, which will also give us a little extra money.

We are also changing our lifestyle to try and save a bit. We use reusable bags at the grocery store, as local grocery stores give discounts ranging from six to ten cents per bag. We also turn off our water heater during the day. I was skeptical when Luke made the suggestion, because I can't stand it when the water goes cold. However, we actually forgot to turn it back on one afternoon, and didn't even notice until Luke had taken a shower and I had given baths to everyone else. We'll find out in the next few months if this amounts to any real savings.

Passport and Visa Applications

Don't we look so cute? These are our passport photos, which we are submitting for the various passport and visa applications we have to do for our journey. Today I started folders on each of us, with a note-taking page, and dividers to separate out the different applications we need to fill out. Hopefully, this will help keep things organizied.

Out of all of the countries we are visiting, only five require visas. Three of the visas are fairly innexpensive and will be aquired while we are on the program. However, the visas for China and India are quite expensive and we are beginning work on those now.

With passports and visas, a little extra time helps lower the prices. We applied for passports for the kids as soon as we decided we were going on the Spring voyage, Luke needed to renew his, and I needed extra pages in mine. We applied last month and have already recieved them, even without using expedited service. We now have plenty of time to secure visas for China and India without getting extra fees.

Can you believe this? India has actually outsourced its visa process to an American company called Travisa. India is currently the only country to take this approach. Travisa recieves $13 for every visa issued, and manages the online application. Indian visas automatically start on the date they are issued, so we won't be able to apply for the Indian visa until October or so to recieve the cheapest rate.

Chinese visas can be obtained by any agent that applies in person at the San Francisco Consulate. This gives us two options: 1) fly one of us to San Francisco to get all of our visas or 2) apply through one of the hundreds of agencies willing to act as an agent for a "fee". The third option would be if someone out there wants to go take our applications to the consulate out of the kindness of their hearts...anyone??

We will probably use China Travel Service. This is the company used by the study abroad office I work at, and they are very reputable and don't charge too much.

Semester at Sea has a Visa Service they use, and it is very economical for the average student. However, as a family, we do not want to pay to have each visa shipped to us separately. That would cost us about $60 extra. We'll let you know in a later post if we come to regret this decision:)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

What does your family eat in a week?

How random is this! Our local Co-Op is asking members to photograph and document what their families eat in a week. Here's the link:


Below is what I am submitting for the contest. What do you eat in a week?

What the Joneses Eat:
It’s hard to say what a week of food looks like at our house because we usually shop on paydays, about every 15 days or so. We spend $320 a month on food. In an average month that would equal $80 a week, but it doesn’t really work out that way. On payday, we spend $100 and get everything to make meals for two weeks. Then, we go to the store one more time in between paychecks to restock on milk, apples, grapes and the like. Food takes 10% of our total budgeted expenditures. Rent is 20%.

We feed two adults, one three year old, and in a secondary way the 4 month old baby. When we got married 4 years ago, it seemed like food never lasted and could be scarce. (Our budget then was half what it is now). Now we have a well-stocked pantry, and always have delicious food to eat. We invite friends over to eat too. We buy a lot in bulk food bins, rarely let leftovers go to waste, and cook/eat small portions. Rather than let excess fresh veggies go to waste, I shred and freeze them and then re-introduce them into other meals. I constantly “recycle” leftovers, making yesterday’s bean dip into today’s enchiladas and tomorrows taco soup. I make our bread. I don’t know if it saves money to make it, but we usually slice it thinly and the loaves are generally smaller. Overall, I think our sandwiches are smaller because of the bread, which means we waste less meat and cheese with the toddler.

We buy organic milk, get our meat at C&L when we can, and buy Tillamook cheese and yogurt. We don’t have a Costco membership, but our friend does. We go once every few months for a bag of shrimp and chicken breast. Unfortunately, we don’t get to buy organic produce too often, but someday I will have my own yard and garden, and I expect to save big then! We love invitations to other people’s gardens. We shop the co-op for bulk foods, cheeses, and Organic Valley milk. The Co-Op often has the best prices on organic milk, and the quality and selection in the bulk section is awesome.

1 sleeve of bulk 4 pack of Kashi Go Lean Crunch, honey almond flax
1 chicken breast
16 shrimp
5 ½ cups bulk AP flour

½ cup cream of wheat
24 oz asst’d. tilamook yogurt
4 bananas
1 can frozen minute made orange juice, from concentrate
3 Hebrew National Hotdogs
¼ lb pork picnic roast
1 chicken leg quarter
2 eggs
3 Hotdog Buns, whole wheat, no corn syrup
1 ½ tbsp fleischman’s yeast
1 ½ tbsp salt
4 flour tortillas, Don Panchos made in Oregon
1/4 lb. cheddar Tillamook cheese from 1 lb. block
1 oz goat cheese
8 tbsp jiffy peanut butter
4 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp salt
4 tbsp pepper, from peppercorns
½ packet lawry’s taco seasoning
¼ c. Panko crumb
¼ c. Tempura, sun luck
Coconut milk, roland
1 green pepper
3 red peppers
½ cup olive oil and canola oil
1 bag baby spinach
4 onions
2 heads garlic
1 bunch spring onion
1 new potato
2 14 oz cans diced tomatoes
3 heads broccoli
1 cup frozen peas
2 lemons
Parsley, Italian flat leaf
8 apples
1 apricot
1 bag grapes
6 graham grackers
4 frozen strawberries
4 fresh strawberries
1 cup breyers vanilla ice cream

21 cans Dr. Pepper (mom has a serious addiction…okay??)
¾ lb cod
14 oz pinto beans

Moscow Food Co-Op
1 gallon fat free Organic Valley milk
½ cup Fairhaven Rye Flour
½ cup Montana Gold wheat flour
1 c. bulk jasmine rice
½ c. bulk basmati rice
1 cup masa
Tsp crushed red pepper
Wasabi powder
1 14 oz can Muir Glen no salt added tomato sauce

Locally grown
Cherries from Tukey Orchard
6 tbsp raspberry jam from my bosses raspberries in her back yard (so…pectin, sugar, raspberries?)
Chives from my barrel

International Store, Pullman
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
Chili sauce
7 hot peppers
1 ginger root, frozen and sliced

Unknown Sources
1 cub burger (cougar country)
1 chicken strips, fries, two pieces of toast basket (cougar country)
1 pint milk (cougar country)
1 lolipop (from candy bowl at luke’s work)
Goldfish crackers (leftovers from one of dad’s events)

Monday: Kashi cereal, 1 banana, 1 container yogurt; leftovers and spinach salad for lunch; snack of cherries and goldfish; dinner at Cougar Country=chicken strips, burger, fries, milk for Abi, water for us.
Tuesday: Kashi cereal, leftover lunch with apple; dinner of homemade baked fish sticks (panko, tempura, cod) and broccoli with wasabi soy sauce, milk; wine and raspberries for mom and dad
Wednesday: Kashi cereal and juice; leftover lunch with apple; goldfish and apples snack; Picnic @ Sunnyside for dinner= hot dogs, soda, chips, fruit salad
Thursday: Kashi cereal, juice; broccoli, spinach, red pepper salad; snack of grapes and goldfish; Vietnamese-style garlic Shrimp, spicy fried rice made from leftover rice, coconut rice steamed, broccoli, steamed; peanut sauce, milk
Friday: Kashi cereal, 1 banana, 1 container yogurt; leftovers lunch with apple; goldfish crackers, juice, and grapes snack; Friday lollipop (1); chicken and bean enchiladas, green pepper and tomato Spanish rice made from leftover coconut steamed rice, strawberry milkshakes dessert
Saturday: cream of wheat with raisins for breakfast, juice; grapes, an apricot, goat cheese, 1 ½ PBJ’s on homemade bread, and crackers for lunch; tamale meat in leftover shrimp marinade with rice for dinner, milk
Sunday: 2 eggs with sausage crumbled in them; 5 homemade tamales for lunch(small), 3 graham crackers and juice for snack; broccoli red pepper chowder (meatless) with homemade bread for dinner

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Cost Cutting

We try to keep our grocery budget to a minimum, but a desire to reduce costs so we can spend more of our budget on travel has me looking to cut expenses again. I was using google to look at grocery budget information, and came across this. I thought it was really interesting. Follow the link to see what people from countries around the world eat in a week.


I guess when I hear that families in x country live on $1 a day, it never sunk in that a family might consist of more than four people.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Great School Swap

I have discovered something about myself as we get ready to move. I always said I would never be like my grandmother, who rinsed every breadbag she ever had and kept piles of them under the kitchen sink, neatly folded. The thought of moving has brought the truth to light though.

I struggle with separation too.

Every piece of children's clothing Abi has worn is tucked away in boxes under the beds and in the closets. Now, as Lily outgrows these hand-me-downs I continue to save everything -- afterall, what if we have another child? Some clothing I know will never get worn, yet I continue to save some pieces which I can't think of giving to Goodwill in the hopes that I will have a friend that needs them. Some of the less treasured pieces were taken to a garage sale recently. I was dismayed as folks actually haggled on quality, bargain-priced children's clothing. After an entire day of work, I came home with $40 (roughly $4 an hour when I add up all the time spent).

The thought of moving everything to Salem in snowy December has motivated me to go through all of this treasured children's clothing. I'm saving just enough so that Lily will have about ten days worth of clothing in every size. For everything else, here's the solution. Two weeks before school starts I'm hosting a children's clothing swap. Parents can bring outgrown children's clothing, and swap it for clothing that will fit their children this school year. Anything that doesn't swap will be donated to charities that can benefit. I look forward to saving money on clothing for Abi, and to clearing out all of those boxes under the bed!

I got this swap idea from one I participated in during college. All of the girls in the house cleaned out closets and we hung all the clothing on hangers for everyone to sort through. I walked away with four really cute outfits, and we had a blast trying things on and "modeling" some pretty ridiculous outfits. Even though I contributed more than four outfits to the event, they were things I never wore, wheras I still wear two of the things I swapped for to this day! Less clutter, more cute. Next time you are due for a garage sale, consider opting for a swap instead!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Best reads for a long journey

I can't wait for Abi to read. When I think of summer, my favorite childhood memory is swaying in the hammock under a shade tree with a good book while the breeze laps at the pages I read. One of the things that excites me most about our upcoming journey is thinking of ways to engage our children on the long boat passages that are a part of our journey when we cross the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. No phone calls, no TV, no trips to the grocery store or bank -- just lots of time to spend together.

I intend to spend much of that time reading with my kids. There is a library on the ship, but it doesn't have many children's books. So, I've already determined that I will purchase many books for our journey. I'm looking for books that are interesting to read over and over again, books that explain some of the things we will be seeing, and books that are intriguing, laugh out loud funny, or memorable in some other way.

Our local children's librarian helped us identify a few good books, and we've started a 'wishlist' of books to take on the journey. Do you have any suggestions for great children's books for a long journey? We would love to hear them!

Friday, July 11, 2008


How does a family decide to put everything they own into storage, leave family and friends behind, and engage in the international living experiment? Four years ago in August, we sailed with Semester at Sea. We were newly married, had no ties, and the voyage was sort of an ultimate honeymoon experience. Since then, we've had two kids and accumulated lots of stuff. We've been invited to sail again a few times now, but the timing never seemed right.

When Luke was offered a position for the Spring '09 voyage, it was eerily possible. We were ready to look for jobs closer to family, Luke had finished his Ph. D, our kids are old enough for travel, but not school age. Having the capability to say "yes" was equal parts terror and exhileration. On the one hand, we are *sailing around the world*, starting with a trip to the Bahamas in the middle of January. But saying "yes" means saying "no" to many things that really are just as wonderful: our stable, established lives in a community where we are loved and cared for; the possibility of moving closer to our families and friends; a physical place to call "home"; and for me, a job.

Our journey on Semester at Sea through 12 countries in 100 days begins on January 26th. But the journey from our stable, predictable life to a place that is yet to be determined has already begun.