Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Thoughts

For my American family and friends, it is almost Thanksgiving. While you all sit and eat your turkey and mashed potatoes, watch the game or the parade we will be working here in Asia. But, I am actually in Korea for work and will be taking my Thursday off (at least part of the day) to do something different. This is my second trip to Korea and this time I plan to visit the DMZ.

Why you may ask? Well, because it is there, it is iconic, because it is one of the only reminders of the cold war left. It is a country that is still divided by a civil war that has not yet ended after 50 years. While the battles have stopped, there has never been a peace accord. Over 50 years later and the American presence in Korea still exists. A fence and a two mile strip of land divides a land. One part of the country has prospered, become successful and the other has not. On one side of the fence people (most at least) have the ability to feed themselves and their families. The other side the people have faced years of near starvation due to political and economic restrictions and sanctions. One side of the fence has department stores filled with the best branded goods and luxury items money can buy. The other side of the fence the only luxury goods are those owned by the dictator. I want to see this strip of land.

See where, but for the luck of the draw, that my soul could have been born to a family who would love me no less than my own parents do, but one in which my life would have been very different. I would not have had the opportunities I have been given, I would not be sitting here drinking a Starbucks Latte and typing on a blog that is for sure.

So, a thought today, as you sit down getting ready for a feast of food which I can assure you I miss, think about those who are without. Think about those who don't have the luxury of a whole turkey or ham. Think of those for whom a bowl of rice would be a blessing. Think about the fact that perhaps you don't need to serve a 15 pound turkey, a huge bowl of candied yams, a big plate of stuffing, a bowl of mash potatoes and gravy along with deserts, cakes cookies and pies, all for your family of 4. Would it not be better to think about the waste and cook a simple meal or would it not be better to place some food into the hands of people who need it more than you? Would it not be better to celebrate the reasons for Thanksgiving rather than gluttony? I will be.

This year I plan on doing two things different. First, we will be cooking a small turkey for our small family, we will be having our normal dinner with one starch and one veggie and perhaps a small pie for desert. NOT a lavish spread. We will tell the story of the Pilgrims and we will also start a new tradition in our house. Giving Thanks, really giving thanks. I will thank God, I will thank my family, I will thank my husband and my helper. I will thank my children for giving me the best life ever and I will be thankful for all I have.

I also plan on giving away. Thanksgiving is also the time of year that the kids start going through their old toys and giving away those items they no longer play with to those who can use them. I also will be baking a loaf and giving away a loaf and an apron to a family (or two) that may appreciate them or need them.

Giving back, giving thanks. Thanksgiving y'all.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Getting Ready

Coming soon to a family near you... the holidays.. I am thinking of ways to simplify and "green" our Holidays. I would love to hear what you all do!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Compost Soup

Okay, not really... but a great frugal way to use those veggie scraps (and you can use meat in this too)!

When we lived back in Oregon we had a huge tree, a big expanse of grass and two constant large size compost. In Singapore I have yet to come up with a way to compost that will fit in our small space and not add to the already large fauna that visit our apartment. So, we thought about the fact that we make homemade soup stock on a weekly basis. Often we would take a whole chicken, or whole veggies and cook them down until they were pretty much mush, throw away the scrap veggies pull off the meat for use in soups and we were happy.

But then we started to think about all those carrot tops, broccoli stems, tomatoes that had gotten a bit to ripe that we just tossed. Weren't these the same vegetables we used in our stock? We often buy whole chickens, and in Singapore they are whole. We trim the necks, the other bits and throw those all away. This is all still good meat, but too difficult to try to eat. What about those bones that come from the steak we ate? Lots of good meat, and until recently no Dog to share it with. Again, off to the trash?

Not anymore. Around 2 years ago we thought we were wasting a lot of otherwise good food. We hate canned stocks *filled with chemicals I can't read let alone pronounce* and love to have stock in the freezer ready for cooking. So this is what we came up with. A large ziplock back and a crock pot. Yup, that's it. The answer to the problem...

Veggie scraps and meat (notice the onion and tomato?)

Big Ziplock bag, into freezer until full.

Pop into crockpot and cook on low all day, add additional spices and veggies or meat as you see fit. Toss veggies into compost (if you cook only veggies) otherwise use veggies and meat scraps as pet treats (what we do) or accept there are only so many ways to save money and toss them!

Results in around a liter or so of homemade fresh tasty soup stock for use in recipes or soup.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Stocking Up- 52 week shopping list

Originally uploaded by maureen_sill

One of the things I tried to do a few years ago was to create a true pantry of food. Have a few months "extra" in storage ready and edible in the event of a some type of shortage, be it financial or other. I tried, and i followed the weekly shopping list that can be found running around the internets, but I failed. We did eat most of the food, but I still fell into the trap of buying food I won't eat and not stockpiling water.

I still think overall it is a good idea. We know we have a three month reprieve before Jeff stops working, we can stock up on many of our daily items, including dry and canned goods now, so when he is not working we can be more frugal. Also, planning in advance allows us (and you) to buy when things are on sale. I remember in the states my Mom would do this, every year (or was it six months?) the local thriftway would have a canned goods sale. we could go in and buy cases of canned fruit, tuna, veggies and the like and eat off the stock pile for months.

The LDS church does a good job of promoting self-sufficiency and each family is encouraged to have at least 3 months of food in the pantry. The church has great resources for those who are members, but if you are not many of these women have started blogs that talk about how and when to stock up. You can also find lists (like the below) from around the Internet (but I think they all started with the Mormon Church). I however found the list a bit daunting. A bit too much, a bit too extreme, but a good idea on when to find food.

Yesterday I just found a blog/website by two young women and they have started to store up their own 3 month supply. On the site is a free down loadable spreadsheet that you plan your meals for the next month (OK, this does take some work) and input the raw ingredients and the spreadsheet calculates how much you need to buy to get a three month supply. I started playing with it and it is pretty cool. Most importantly because it is about BUYING WHAT YOU EAT and EATING WHAT YOU BUY. Stock piling food that you don't eat isn't very frugal nor does it make sense. You might survive but your going to hate every minute of it.

So here is the website Food Storage Made Easy. And you can find the downloadable Spreadsheet here.

And here is the very long list intended to start January 1. I may actually try to follow the shopping list a bit when I stocking up and will let you know how it goes.


Week 1: NUTS Drug stores have Christmas sales. 2 lbs per person. Dry roasted ones store the best. Freeze bagged ones.
Week 2: CLEANING SUPPLIES Detergent 156 loads per person, Bleach 1 gal per person, Cleanser.
Week 3: MEDICINE CHEST Feminine Products, Pepto Bismal, Vicks, Cough Drops, Cough Syrup, Tylenol, Calamine Lotion, Kaopectate, Ipecac, Sunscreen Dispose of all outdated medications.
Week 4: FIRST AID SUPPLIES Band-Aids, Antibiotic Ointment, Ace Bandages, Steri-strips, etc.
Week 5: PERSONAL PRODUCTS Soap, Deodorant, toilet paper at least one roll per week. Shampoo, lotion, hand soap, 15 per person etc.
Week 6: PEANUT BUTTER 10 lbs per person (stores for a year or more)
Week 7: SOLID SHORTENING less expensive than oil. 12 lbs per person. Be sure and rotate. Will last several years.
Week 8: JUICES Avoid watered products. Get 100% juice. (lemon, orange, pineapple etc.)
Week 9: PERSONAL GROOMING Toothpaste, floss (important) razors, shaving cream. Consider your family needs. (you can always brush with baking soda)
Week 10: MIXES Cakes, pancakes, muffins, Bisquick etc. Bisquick stores best in the freezer or it gets bugs. You need an annual total of 300 lbs of grain products per person.
Week 11: SPICES AND HERBS Think of what you use most often. Salt (NOT Plain you need the iodized kind) pepper, cinnamon, bay leaves. Look for bargains .
Week 12: RICE Secure 10, 15, 20 lbs. White stores best but is not as nutritious. I find brown gets bugs. Counts towards grain total.
Week 13: FIRST AID Gauze patches, swabs, cotton balls, first aid tape etc. Old fashioned Kotex is good for wounds. Sanitary napkins with adhesive do not store well.
Week 14: PASTA 5 lbs. Get other kinds besides spaghetti. I have found that spaghetti does not store well. Counts towards grain total.
Week 15: DRY MILK 40 oz. will make 5 gallons . Get what you family needs. 100 lbs per person per year. Stores well.
Week 16: SEWING KIT Thread, pins, needles, buttons (cut off of old clothes) snaps, zippers, tape measure, scissors. Consider your family's needs.
Week 17: READY DINNERS Ravioli, Pasta, Oriental, Boxed, Canned, Frozen. Buy what your family will eat.
Week 18: FLOUR 50 lbs per person (put in freezer or it will get bugs) Be sure and rotate. Counts towards grain requirement.
Week 19: SOUP Dry or canned soup, don't forget crackers.
Week 20: JELLO Jello gelatin and Pudding Mixes
Week 21: GARDEN SEEDS Radishes are great in an emergency. They grow fast, full of vitamins and minerals, and full of water. Buy locally if you haven't ordered yet. Here is an address of seed company that will send you there catalog free if you send a self addressed envelope with a couple of stamps. Territorial Seeds P.O. Box 157 Cottage Grove Ore. 97424 They have the kind of seed you can store. or
Week 22: SAFETY WEEK A length of cord or twine. Light rope. Flashlight and batteries, (dated)
Week 23: CHEESE Whole 5 lbs, or grate and freeze for casseroles or soup.
Week 24: PAPER PRODUCTS Paper towels, Aluminum foil, garbage bags, freezer bags, etc.
Week 25: CONDIMENTS Mustard, catsup, mayo, relish, Worcestershire.
Week 26: BEDDING Watch for White Sales. Buy a new thermo blanket.
Week 27: JAMS AND JELLIES Sure-Jell, Certo, Parafin, etc. Or buy the jams and jellies. Be sure you have supply of canning jars. Not large mouth, and lids and seals.
Week 28: WATER Fill those water jugs. Use plain Clorox not fresh scent.
Week 29: CANNED MILK Look in Dec. 1989 Ensign for ideas for use. 100 lbs per person.
Week 30: CANNED GOODS Be sure and rotate. We like sardines (small ones). They are rich in protein and cheap.
Week 31: SCHOOL SUPPLIES Back to School Sales. Paper , pencils, journals, envelopes, postage stamps, etc. (Great Stocking Stuffers)
Week 32: STAPLES Baking powder, soda, corn starch, Baking Soda, 2 lbs per person of each item except soda. Buy 3 lbs per person.
Week 33: TOMATOES Juice, whole, sauce, paste, Salsa. Buy or make it. Counts as part of vegetables.
Week 34: CANNED FRUIT 80 quarts per person. Buy or can it yourself.
Week 35: SUGAR 100 lbs per person. Buy an extra 25 lbs.
Week 36: VEGETABLES 150 lbs per person per year. Can or freeze from garden or purchased fresh, or buy canned.
Week 37: BEANS Dry bean, peas, legumes, 100 lbs per person.
Week 38: SWEETNERS Honey, Karo, Molasses, etc. Counts towards sugars.
Week 39: CANNED MEATS Tuna (be sure and rotate) Spam, dried beef , go for 10 cans.
Week 40: IODIZED SALT 10 or more canisters. It seasons & preserves. In a pinch it can be used as a toothpaste or de-icer. Get canning salt for canning.
Week 41: VINEGAR l (or more) gallons. It is a great cleaner too. For cleaning you need white.
Week 42: CANNED SOUP Buy soup when it is on sale. Soup counts towards vegetables.
Week 43: APPLES Do something with all those apples. Pie, applesauce, juice, canned apples with sugar are good.
Week 44: HARD CANDY On sale after Halloween. Leftovers will make a good addition to your 72 hour emergency kits.
Week 45: VITAMINS 365 vitamins per person. Get extra C and calcium with Vitamin D
Week 46: TREATS FOR BAKING Cocoa, coconut (gets old) nuts ( store in fridge gets rancid) chocolate chips.
Week 47: GRAINS Rolled Oats, Corn Meal (In fridge) Cream of wheat. (Rotate this, does not store.) Counts as grain. There is an oats you can buy at health food store that does store. I think it is scotch oats. Check and see.
Week 48: SUGARS Brown and white, powdered. 100 lbs per person total
Week 49: OILS Vegetable and olive oils. Get a good quality. 12 lbs per person.
Week 50: CANDLES AND MATCHES Put in a sturdy box (preferably fireproof) and in a cool place you can locate in dark.
Week 51: POPCORN Go for big twelve pound bags. Counts toward grains.
Week 52 : Merry Christmas You have given yourself a great gift security.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A week in pictures

Reading to the kids and neighbor. Saturdays at Dairy Farm.

The Obama Cake!

Our Friend Deanna

Pulling out the office chairs to watch a movie on TV.

Harvest of our "tomato crop"

Monday, November 10, 2008

Balancing Act

Posted by Picasa

This is a very interesting time. My goals and dreams of simplicity hit smack in the face with forced frugality. The issue is do I strongly encourage my husband to do something he doesn't want to do in order to get a few thousand dollars or do we tough it out, cut costs even more?

I struggle with this for a couple of reasons. So here is my "unofficial tally chart"

The famous Clash song running through my head now is should I stay or should I go now? interpreted to should he stay or go?


First, I fear the economy will not get better soon. Jobs, particularly ones that he either wants or will be suited for are not going to be "easy" to find. This adds one tally mark into the he should get this cash now while we can column.

I also fear that his not working will cause him to be depressed and putter around the house. I work from home and having the extra person does affect my work, so if I can keep him away from the house for another month or so, again, for my perspective it is a good thing. Tally two in the do it column.

Three, we can extend the time we can live without his working and not having to dig into savings. Eventually, depending on how long it takes for him to find work, and how much we can economize, this is potentially a good thing. So, one more tally mark. That makes three. Two for finance reasons, one for my own "reasons".


Now, in the column of why make him suffer. He is now ready to go. The die has been cast and it is time for him to move on. He has already begun the mental check out process and his work would be simply going through the motions. Tally one in Go Now Column.

He wants to thing about what types of jobs make him happy and I argue that I want to economize and scale back. To live simply. This is a kick start in that direction. Walk the walk baby. Tally two into the go column.

He won't be happy staying for a few more months, but I am really not sure he will be happy at home either. A lot of soul searching needs to take place. I think this is a zero for either column.

He could do more with the kids, volunteer at the school, be an active participant in the daily lives of the children. If he actually does this, it would be more than one tally, but because he is a guy and good intentions are well... you know the saying... but I will give him one tally. So now this is three.

there are the other reasons. If he is at home, he can exercise, cook, read, explore Singapore. He could plan for our future. But, he will also obsess over money, fret, worry, putter and putz around.

There are no real answers here, just what an average family faces when trying to decide what is best for us. I will let you all know what he decides.

Friday, November 07, 2008

officially now a one income family

Yep, not a great day, one we were not surprised about and have been preparing for at least some what. Starting soon we will be a one income household again for a while. As I mentioned yesterday, it is a good time to be scaling back and focusing on the long range plans.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Budgets and Layoffs

Chinese Ledger Scrapbook Paper by Far Flung Craft

Over the last few years my husband and I have worked hard to eliminate all commercial credit. I work from home and have a small home business (micro really) but to date we run the micro business on a cash only basis. This includes a few downturns in our personal economic status and as a result, the business has stayed very small. As the economic crisis is on us, and it is possible that one of us may lose our job over the next few months we have pulled out the 'digital' pencil and started a budget again.

One of my favorite books is Your Money or Your Life. I picked up this book back in 1996 and chewed it up. I still have the old version (it has been updated since its first publication in 1992). The thought of tracking your expenses seemed wild, but we did it. For one period of time we tracked expenses for almost 2 years solid. It gives you a very good idea of where your money goes and how easy a 5 dollars here and 5 dollars there adds up to a whole chunk of change gone and out the window. Tracking in YMOYL means every single receipt, every penny spent is graphed and tracked, not just big ticket items, but every cent.

So, yesterday we (I mean me)sat down with fingers to keyboards and looked at the next 6 months if one of us was to lose our jobs. At my current rate of pay, if Jeff is unemployed we can continue to live without significant cutbacks in our lifestyle and still set aside money for the kids private school next year and take our vacation in December. What it also shows is that if we do cut back, don't take any side trips, cut back on our F&B expenses (B being the larger of the two) we can even set aside some money to invest while the markets are low. Before I read YMOYL I would have dreaded the "budget" thought, sitting down and planning for our expenses, but we know generally what goes where, we have no commercial debt (other than student loans) and we may even find a way to save in the horrible economy. Now, if Jeff is able to keep his job, the challenge will be NOT to spend what we earn, but to set it aside and live more frugally. That is the next challenge.

Now, if I lost my job, more would have to be cut. No travel, I would have to close the business and we would seriously need to assess if we could continue to put the kids in the American school. We could pay with our savings (we have about 4 months of our expenses in liquid cash) but I would rather find a way to economize instead. I think I am about to start tracking expenses every single cent that comes in or goes out of the house during this downturn. It is time to find those "leaks" and plug them. It is time for me to think about ways to stop spending, but still keep living and repledging to the Compact, albeit in a more modified form(i just couldn't do it full fledged). No, I am not worried about losing my job (I am about to re-sign with the company for another year) but the next year is going to be tough for everyone. This is as good of time as any to relook at our spending habits and think about those who have none.

Oh and as a side note... I don't think America is going to become any more socialist under this administration than it already is just time to have those greedy bastards (my own company probably included) pay more on the money they earn. I sorry, but if you earn 14Billion in a three month period of time... you should probably be able to afford a few more dollars in taxes.

On another note, we may have our one and perhaps only tomato "harvest" this weekend from the kids' patio garden. I will show off the pictures when it happens.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


I am showing my political stripes here. But this was a great and historic day.

Here is to new policy, new paths and revitalization of the economy.



Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Simple Breakfasts

Quaker Breakfast Cookies
Photo © Quaker

A couple of years ago we were home to the US for a vacation and my sister told me about these "breakfast cookies" that she bought from Quaker. You know a quick and healthy mostly oatmeal type breakfast her kids could eat on the go.

I thought it was a good idea, but surely I could find some recipe online that was better, healthier, and didn't have any preservatives. I wanted to use more whole grains and organic peanut butter and reduce the overall sugar.

My kids have to get up in the morning at 6:15 to be out the door on the bus at 7. Some mornings breakfast can be a real chore. These cookies are great for Monday morning blues (just say breakfast cookies and the kids are up and out of bed!) The also pack well and make pretty healthy snacks.

My version modified from

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter
1 1/3 cups packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups quick cooking oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup raisins
A couple of chocolate chip cookies for topping.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together butter, peanut butter, brown sugar, and vanilla until creamy. Beat in eggs and water.
Mix together flours, oats, wheat germ, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda. Mix into peanut butter mixture. Stir in raisins. Drop by scoopfuls 2 1/2 inches apart on greased cookie sheets. Flatten slightly. Put a few chocolate chips on top of unbaked cookie and press in.

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 18 - 20 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks. Store in an airtight container.

These cookies taste good, are good for you and the two or three chocolate chips on top give the kids the idea that this is something special and they get "breakfast" cookies.

All Recipes says this makes 12 servings (I find that this makes LOTS of cookies)We often divide the dough into thirds, making one batch of 15 cookies at a time. The rest freezes well and can be whipped out the night before for a quick thaw and bake.

Nutrition info from All Recipes

Calories: 479 per serving (which is about 2-3 cookies)

Total Fat: 21.1g
Cholesterol: 56mg
Sodium: 606mg
Total Carbs: 64.6g
Dietary Fiber: 5.4g
Protein: 12.7g

Sunday, November 02, 2008


Diamond Macro 3
Originally uploaded by stephend9

I was thinking about tokens of affection. The traditional wedding ring and diamond engagement ring. It is an internal battle of mine, because I don't have a diamond, not really anyway. I had a small diamond that was taken from my great uncle's ring that we had set into a custom ring for me when we got married. The problem is two-fold. My fingers have gotten bigger (note I said bigger not fatter) and the ring doesn't fit anymore. Second, the ring causes a rash when I wear it.

So, why do I think I need a big diamond? A ring that is nothing more than a showcase? A Tiffany would be nice, bigger would be better. What is this desire and where does it come from? I seriously love the Tiffany Legacy ring. An Edwardian styled ring with a one caret center diamond would run me 14K. A two caret ring, a mere 37,000 smacks. really 37K. What on earth is this desire and why on earth would I spend (or expect Jeff to spend) this much money on a bauble, a trinket, a token? I love the thought of a ring, a real wedding ring that I could wear. But you know what, I have a lot of things that 14,000 could buy. A car for example. I could pay off my student loans, I could use it to invest in my children's education. I could donate it to charity and feed a number of families in Cambodia for a year.

So, for now, I am content with my $30 silver ring that I wear on my ring finger. It shows my devotion to my husband and reflects my true values. But, as much as I believe in being frugal and appreciating what I have, if I was given a million dollars, that ring would be mine, I am just saying.
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