Monday, October 31, 2011

Money Monday: Increase Money Coming In?

One of the obvious approaches to remedy a financial shortage is to bring in more money.  The 2 ways I can think of to do that are selling something we own, or producing more income by getting or creating a job.  So I've considered each.


Selling Something... But, what?  The house and a vehicle were always my last-resort, fall-back options.  The house still has lots of trim and other details that would need to be finished, and now, a big hole in the ground for the planned garage.  Besides all that, our house, like all real estate, has lost value in the current market.  It'd be difficult to re-house the 9 of us and come out any better, financially. 


...And the one car with any significant value that I thought we might be able to do without, our Toyota Sienna minivan, is now dead in the yard.  It would require spending quite a bit of money before we could take any back in.  At this point, it's a question whether we could come out ahead at all.


Onward to
More Income... Hubby already takes on every little extra job that comes his way.  He does it as much to help others as he does to help our financial situation.  So what about me?


I was recently helping Princess Sassy with her job-hunt, and was tempted, for myself, by an open position at the local community college, as Assistant Director of Financial Aid.  My education and prior experience in retail management, and as Student Accounts Asst Manager at a private university more than met the required qualifications.  Not that I'd relish jetting out of here early every morning, facing a 45 minute commute, and working full-time away from home, but the $40,000+ yearly income would surely help pay the bills.



I considered all the affects on the family and our home life.  It would be a big change for the kids to be in public school full-time, but as intelligent kids, I was sure they would adapt.  
That was no small consideration, as homeschooling is an important part of what we want for our family.  We see the positive results in our grown kids, so want the younger ones to have that same opportunity.  But there were more:


... How I wouldn't be home to even start dinner until 6:00 PM, while it works best for us to eat together as a family at 5:30 
... How homemade breads and granola would become late-night and weekend projects, or possibly/probably a thing of the past 
... And especially, not only would I not be home when the kids got out of school in the afternoon, but I also would be gone long before they left for school in the mornings.   Yikes.
That might work for others, but not for us.  We have developed certain standards for our family life throughout the years, and none of this would be a fair or positive adjustment for the family now.  I know my calling is to be a mother to our kids, first and foremost, and home is where I need to be to do that.  


Some might think I'm making excuses, and convincing myself of why I "can't" do this or that.  It's not about "can't" as much as "won't."  It's about what I know is right for us, even if it limits other options and doesn't let me see an immediate answer to our current financial dilemma.


When the older kids were young, I had my own business sewing clothing, bibs, and crib bedding for a children's boutique and various consignment shops.  I'm not sure I ever profited much to help us, and eventually, it robbed time that my kids needed from me, too.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
For the past few years, I've been keeping my eyes open for a business opportunity that may present itself.  I believe that if I keep following my interests and skills, and share them with others as my heart leads, a door will open.  Maybe for me, maybe for the family.  I could see us having an Etsy store if we come up with the right product.  I'd love to do more woodworking and build furniture, including kitchen work tables... Maybe the unfinished garage will be part of that puzzle.  


One of the things I keep doing is sharing our lives here.  When I was first encouraged to blog, it was suggested as a possible way to work into something that will produce more income for our family.  I still don't know if that may happen in the writing, or in a skill we have or new interest we discover along the way, since blogging inspires me to try new things.  It is part of my spiritual journey to wait on God and watch for His leading in this way.  He's been trying to teach me patience for a looooong time!  ;-)                                                                                                                                                     
                                                                                    
P.S.  A little income is possible for me via some of the ads and Amazon links I have on the blog.  A blogger gets tiny amounts of money every time readers click on certain ads from stores or Google placed on the blog ... No buying necessary, just click an ad, or, for instance, follow the link in the right column to view Williams-Sonoma's "Recipe of the Day."              
Also, if you're already planning to shop on Amazon, go first to your favorite blog that features an Amazon link (as shown below) or search box (as shown in the right column of this page), and click through that link to get to Amazon -- Then add items to your cart and complete your purchase, as usual.  It doesn't cost you any more, and your favorite blogger receives a small percentage of the purchase.  (We cannot purchase through our own blogs to 'pay' ourselves, so I pass on the courtesy to another blogger when I shop.)  I use my Amazon proceeds mostly for kitchen needs I share here, and, at this time of year, to augment the kids' Christmas gift fund in our budget.  Thank you.


SHOP AMAZON to support this blog.  Thanks!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pizza for 26

Phew.  Mission accomplished.  The turn-out was a little lighter than expected, but things went well.  The cross-country district meet competitors were filled, hopefully ready for tomorrow's big state-qualifying meet.  


For me, the advance prep payed off.  I kept busy, but had no reason to get harried, and there was plenty of pizza, which was the goal.  


I'll let the photos tell most of the story from here:


Some shots of my midday work crew, who washed beverage containers, helped chop toppings, mixed up sauce, got the table set up, and helped do clean-up:                                                                                                          


An hour before the team arrived:                                                                                                                  
Table set, making good use of the beverage dispensers we
got for the weddings.

Pre-baked crusts awaiting toppings

Not fancy, but a way to serve hot, sliced pizza without
the bottoms steaming and getting soggy











They're on their way!  We left one island-full of crusts unbaked, so we could cook the first several fresh, the way we're accustomed to:


During the busiest time:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

14 team members + 4 adults (coaches & parents),
+ 8 family = 26

Our kids waited for their chance at the food!


Finishing up the last of the ingredients, and, I thought, the last 2 crusts.  But then I turned around and there were still 2 more.  That's OK.  We can mix up more sauce tomorrow, or just be lazy and use pesto.




We have 3 pizzas and the 2 bare crusts remaining.  For Saturday, there is one answer to the question I am asked several times each day, "What should I eat?"  :-)


Things learned to remember or change for next year:
  • Make 2 double batches of dough early in the week to shape into 18 to 20 pizza crusts early on Friday
  • Things I did right:  Baking crusts for 4 to 5 minutes each and prepping toppings ahead.  The sauce as we did this year, starting with six 6-ounce cans of tomato paste and 24 ounces of water, should be just the right amount.
  • Reconsider the baking method, as the pre-baked crusts were getting done before the cheese on top was bubbly and browning.  I need to choose a method with a higher percentage of top element heat, or put pizza stone on a rack at a higher position in the oven.
  • We waited too long to start the first batch, so that only 2 pizzas were done by the time kids started streaming through the front door.  It would've been better to have 4 done (sliced in 10 pieces per pie) so that each athlete could've grabbed 2 pieces without waiting.  I think I'll go ahead and pre-bake all the crusts next year, so that they all bake faster once the team arrives.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Readying for Team Pizza Night, the Early Challenges

First of all, for whatever reason, my pizza dough does not turn out exactly the same every time.  --But close enough, and since I only use one batch at a time, for up to 6 pizzas, this is never an insurmountable problem.  A little wetter, a little more whole grain flour content, a little more elastic... I can adapt, and it always works.



However, this time, I had 2 buckets of dough with very different personalities.  The smaller batch was wetter dough, so was a little sticky, but fairly easy to work with.  The other bucket of dough... the double batch, of course, decided to give me a battle.  When divided into balls, placed on the parchment paper, and pushed out into a circle, it would pop back, wrinkling the paper underneath.  I let it rest, which usually makes elastic dough more cooperative, but not this one.  A 10-minute rest will usually do the trick, but after an hour, it was still stubborn.  Making 9 crusts of this dough was a physical workout.


I also decided that I was risking a shortage with the number of crusts I had.   I came to the obvious realization that it was unlikely I could ever have too many crusts, since any extras will be happily devoured by my own family, so I mixed up a couple more batches of dough.  They won't be as flavorful without the days to age, so I mixed in a couple crusts'-worth of the pre-made dough, hoping that would help.  


I discovered 3 more challenges, by this point...              

  •  How long to let the crusts sit before baking?  They usually sit long enough for us to prepare toppings and top them all, but I had no idea what length of time would be best for 'naked crusts.'  So I decided to start this blog post.  That was just about long enough.  :-)  (It's not a perfect science... About 20-30 minutes is OK.  I've had them wait even longer when we're making pizzas the 'regular' way.)

  •  How long to cook them?  I wanted to stop the rise and shorten the baking time later.  I didn't want them to get too brown later, though, either.  I decided on 4 minutes, since at 5 minutes they were starting to brown.  They also bubble up much more when 'naked.'  I decided the bubbles would relax as they cooled, so I didn't worry about it.

  •  Where to cool this many crusts?  The grates on our Wolf rangetop were working well as cooling racks, then I added actual cooling racks on the counters beside for more.  Using the rangetop as cooling area prevented my cooking the meats, so the kitchen table and other perimeter counters needed to be utilized instead.  
 Warding off the bread-stealing-dogs then became a big consideration.  I couldn't get whole pizza crusts back far enough on the counter to where I felt they were safe.  I am thankful for doors on the kitchen... The kids did a pretty good job at remembering to re-close as they went in and out.


Poor doggy left pining through the glass.
The downside: Without the air flow it got a bit warm in the kitchen!

The Calm Before the Swarm


Pizza Night meets Cross Country Team, once again.


2 years ago, Hubby, who is one of the assistant coaches for the high school cross-country team, called when the bus full of kids was on its way back from previewing the district championship course, and asked if it was OK that he'd (already) invited the team home for pizza...  It was just the kids who had made it to districts, so I think there was about 16 of them.


That night was a big hit, so last year, the decision was made to do Pizza Night earlier in the season, so the whole team could come.  I quickly learned that 12 pizzas for 40 kids is NOT enough.  (1/4 pizza per person had seemed reasonable... Ha!)  I made new batches of dough twice, and with much needed and much appreciated help from Princess Sassy and her best friend,  we ran, and worked, and made it happen... Usually with team members at our elbow, awaiting the next pizza.  (We finally decided Hubby's assigned task was to keep the team entertained away from the work area.  It's a good thing I let him live after the prior year's stunt.)


2 big lessons learned from last year... 
1)  Pizza Night will always be the evening after district course preview, so we're hosting a smaller batch of kids.  (With something like 64 kids on the team this year, I was especially glad of that decision!)  

2)  Since I need to plan more pizza per person for the hungry, carb-loading athletes, pre-baking the crusts for quick-loading and baking would likely work MUCH better.


So, here I am... with my two 6-Quart buckets of dough and the meat provided by one of the parents.  
Today, hopefully with help of the royal crew, I will be shaping and baking crusts, cooking the meats, mixing the sauce, and chopping the other toppings.  I plan to be making about 18 pizzas, which I hope will be enough for the approximately 35 people I expect to feed tonight.


1 lesson learned already this year:  I am not strong enough to mix a double batch of dough with my beloved Danish Dough Whisk (Large).  I ended up dumping it onto the counter to mix with my hands. My Bosch Universal Mixer, that I use for mixing bread dough, would've been a better choice.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Win, Win...and Win

Prince CuddleBunny and I walked into the supermarket, list in hand, and were hit by the tempting smell of fried chicken, and the sign: "Sale: 8-Piece Chicken $5.99"  I was tired, it was going to be a busy afternoon with sports, then the kids rushing out after dinner for youth group, so this seemed like an easy answer that I knew would be popular with the troops.  I asked the prince if we should get fried chicken for dinner, and he readily agreed.  (To give the store some credit, this was a comparatively decent price, and they use trans-fat free oil, and quality, local chicken.)


Thankfully, as we shopped, reservations were getting the better of me, and I decided to wander through the meat department before our stop at the deli counter.  Perusing the chicken selections, I asked Prince CuddleBunny, "Do you think we should get already fried chicken, or buy twice as many pieces here and fix them ourselves at home?"  I explained that the fried chicken was $6 for 8 pieces, and for only $5 this package held 16 chicken legs.  Surprisingly wise for 7, or just deciding "more was better than quick," he voted for buying raw chicken and cooking it at home.


Long story short:
24 pieces of chicken, including wings that don't have much meat (enough for 1 dinner and 1 lunch):  $18
40 pieces of chicken, all favorite pieces with plenty to offer (enough for 2 full dinners, plus the meat for Friday pizza): $19


Financially:  WIN


Standing in the store, I knew this was my chance to try a new recipe that I'd saved from email the week before.  It was  Picnic Oven-Fried Chicken, via Cooking.com's Recipe of the Day.  I knew just from "oven-fried" that it had to be healthier than deep fried supermarket fare, but I hadn't yet read any more of the recipe than its title... So I had to hope I had ingredients on hand to make it.


I didn't have everything, but for what I didn't have, I felt I could substitute.  What really thrilled me, though, is that not only was the chicken baked, rather than fried, but the coating was made of a list of very healthy ingredients.  Additionally, to make it even healthier, it instructed to skin the chicken, which, being in a hurry, I didn't take the time to do that evening.  Even with the skin, I'm certain we were far ahead of what the store chicken would've fed us.


Health-wise: WIN


Oven-Fried Chicken
adapted from  Picnic Oven-Fried Chicken from Cooking.com, originally from Eating Well


(My substitutions are noted in red)


Whisk together 
1/2 cup buttermilk (1/2 cup low-fat milk + 1/2 Tablespoon cider vinegar)
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard (1/2 to 1 Tablespoon mustard powder)
2 cloves garlic, minced (1 teaspoon garlic powder... My garlic press broke!)
1 teaspoon hot sauce (1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper)



Place 
2 1/2 to 3 lbs chicken pieces, skinned (or not)
into the buttermilk mixture to marinate, covered in refrigerator, for 1/2 hour up to 8 hours

After marinating, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.   Line a baking sheet with foil, place rack on top and spray with Pam.

Mix together
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 Tablespoons sesame seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
black pepper, in amounts as desired



They recommend putting the flour mixture in a bag, then after letting excess marinade drip off, placing chicken pieces in the bag to shake.  I, instead, put the flour mixture in a casserole dish and rolled the drained chicken pieces in it.  


Shake off excess flour, and place on greased rack on prepared baking sheet in single layer with space in between.  Spray chicken with Pam, or spritz with olive oil.


Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, until the outside is golden brown and the inside is no longer pink in the center. (Internal temperature of 160 to 170) -- After 40 minutes, ours was 200 degrees inside, so I recommend checking after 30 minutes.                                                                                                                                                                                  


This coating was fairly crispy and definitely delicious.  I was hesitant to use it on the whole batch, because a couple of the kids really dislike sesame seeds.  But the flavors blended well and the sesame taste wasn't obvious, even though the seeds were quite visible.  Everyone agreed it was a recipe they'd happily eat again.


So, finally, for taste:  WIN  :-)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday, Pre-Empted for Joy

I am in absolute awe this week, of the miracles and evidence of God's love I've seen in families around me.  I just had to share.  I know the post is (too) long, but the stories are truly amazing.  Next Wednesday I'll go back to letting some photos do the talking.


1) After 5 years of battling leukemia, including 2 marrow transplants
...with side-effects horrendous beyond imagination (Can you imagine watching your child bleed from his eyes, and face death every day, including from simple viruses to which his cancer treatments leave his life exposed?)                                                                                                   
... with a family displaced, living much of the time in separate states, as Mom stayed near the hospital, handling the medical problems and decisions, and Dad stayed near work, only able to see or support his stressed wife and ailing son in person on rare occasion
s
... with an older brother's life spent, going back and forth between parents, growing mature beyond his years, watching his brother suffer, and playing an essential and tough role as his bone marrow donor and cheerleader
my cousin's 9 year old son faced his second 'year-after' scan.  


From newsflash, his aunt's blog post
on Another Journey... 
Last time, following the first marrow transplant from his brother, the news was bad and the treatments started anew.  I'm sure it was a hard night while they awaited the results, knowing that if it was bad news, there were no more answers in the doctor's bag of tricks.  
But the news was wonderful... Clean marrow.  NO cancer.  Transplants can never in his life be considered a sure thing, but for now, things are good.  Life is 'normal' for this young family.  Prayers have been answered in a mighty way.                                                                                                                                           
You turned my wailing into dancing;
   you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,  

 that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
   LORD my God, I will praise you forever.  --Psalm 30: 11 - 12



2) Friends of mine from high school married and opened their hearts to God's will in their lives and were blessed with 10 children.  They're an extremely talented bunch, singing, playing piano, violin, and other instruments.  They perform as a group, The Voetberg Family Band, and have won many awards, as a group and as individuals.  Their 2 eldest have now married and left the band, and their number one son and his wife joyfully welcomed a daughter of their own.  


At 2 days their little girl had some troubling signs.  It turned out she was having seizures and a series of strokes that the doctors couldn't explain or prevent.  Her brain was severely damaged, and in several places.  The doctors couldn't tell her new parents if their daughter would walk, or talk, just that it was most likely she would be "severely handicapped."  
So for the last 6 months, they, family, and countless friends and fans prayed for healing, and the young parents kept their hearts open to whatever God's plan was for their daughter.  The family cherished each milestone she accomplished, not knowing if it would be as far as her brain could take her.


This week her daddy posted a note on Facebook, reporting results of her recent brain scan... 
Fully normal.  NO residual damage.  Not even a scar or spot left to improve.  
They followed the scan with a developmental evaluation, and she scored ahead of her age level.  The neurologist was astounded, and again, had no explanation.  She asked, "Did you pray a lot or something?"  


Yes, indeed.  There is power in prayer. God's miracles are real and AWESOME.  The doctor sent them home with a "normal" little girl in whose future those strokes and seizures will play no part... Except that for all of us this story has touched, we know the power of prayer and the love of God a bit better, and her parents will never take a moment with her, or any accomplishment she performs, for granted.

O Lord, you alone are my hope.
      I’ve trusted you, O Lord, from childhood.
 Yes, you have been with me from birth;
      from my mother’s womb you have cared for me.
      No wonder I am always praising you!

 My life is an example to many,
      because you have been my strength and protection.
 That is why I can never stop praising you;
      I declare your glory all day long.   --Psalm 71: 5- 8                                                                                                                                                        

If you have a Facebook account, I hope you might be able to read the story here:  Andi Update: A time of rejoicing!

3) One of my readers is a faithful mom, providing for her family, in part, by baking their breads.  But the motor recently burned out on her bread mixer with no funds in the budget to replace it.  The kids miss the bread and the mom misses making it.  She researched mixers and knew what she'd get, but had no idea how it would happen.


She shared with me that while in church last week she felt that God let her know He would take care of the mixer situation, and that it would be soon.  She told her husband about the feeling on her heart, and they prayed.  They thought maybe there'd be some extra work for her husband that week that could help cover the price of the mixer.  But that didn't happen, and after a few days she started to feel a little silly, sharing that unexplainable feeling to her husband, and shrugged it all off... Until she opened the mail and found a refund check she hadn't expected.  Enough to cover the mixer, so it's been ordered and is on its way.                                                                                                                                                              
You will have plenty to eat and be satisfied and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you; --Joel 2:26                                                                                                                                                                                 
A mixer is not on par with the miracle of a child's life snatched from illness.  But it shows God cares for us in the smaller things; in helping us provide for our families in the way we love.  I couldn't put it any better than she did:  
"Yes the big things are awesome, but the little things remind me that He is truly a day-to-day God, personally walking with me."  
All of these stories give me incredible encouragement, especially as a parent concerned for the lives of my children, and our family's well-being.  God can heal a baby's brain, clear a boy's body of cancer, and grant a mom's desire to feed her family all at the same time and in the same gift of grace and love.  It's nice to be reminded for ourselves, and it's a blessing to share in the tremendous joy of others.  


Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises...  --James 5:13

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

TKO Tuesday: Baking Zone

 I could offer an abbreviated coverage of kitchen zones as a whole, but to properly explain and show the details of each zone (and so that I avoid writing a super-blog with too much to read, which I've been doing a bit too much of lately), I've decided to address one at a time.


Since kitchens are, primarily, for cooking and baking, and I love baking, I'll start with my baking zone.  After having a small kitchen without a wall oven, and with only one good work area, it was important in our new space that we have room for multiple workers doing different tasks.  It seemed that someone was always trying to bake while someone else was cooking...Or even if I was trying to do both at once, there were crowding issues.



The answer to that in our new house was to make sure baking had its own space.  --Its own appliance, its own counterspace, its own traffic area, and its own storage.  Also, convenient access to water, pantry, and fridge were important.


This is what we specifically refer to as our Baking Center.                                                                                               


It has a counter at 34" for better reach and sight angle into the mixer.  After storing the mixer in base cabinets in the last house, we wanted a place where it could sit out all the time, since we use it so much.  

The baking ingredients are housed in the uppers above.  
In the base cabinets, measuring and other tools are in the top drawers, mixer accessories and the food processors in the middle drawer, and cake and pie pans in the bottom.  
The doored cabinet to the right is vertical storage for cookie sheets, and other shallow baking pans, with a slot at the top to hold the pizza peel.


That lower storage is not large enough for larger baking dishes and broiler pans, so they live in the lower cabinet in the adjacent run of cabinets... Just across the aisle, sideways, from the front of the oven.






The oven is, of course, an essential element in the baking center.  
The drawer underneath holds pizza stones when they're not in the oven, trivets, and hot pads.  --Also, my oven manual for occasional, quick reference.  


We use both ovens more than I thought we might.  We run both to bake pizzas on Friday nights, we bake cookies in one while bread bakes in the other, or baked goods in one while meat roasts in the other.  We have both in use at the same time at least once or twice weekly.  The only thing I'd do differently for the 'perfect kitchen' is to have 2 single Wolf E Series ovens, rather than the double. This means they could both be at arm height/eye level, and I'd get the full set of features (convection modes and temperature probe) in both, instead of just the top.  Not that I'm suffering, but if I'm asked to dream...



Since the counterspace around the mixer is limited, especially in depth, the relationship of this area with the island is important.  We use the island for any rolling out, kneading, or pan loading.  
We also store the bread mixer, bread pans, cookie cutters, and cake decorating supplies in the island on the baking center side.  The bread mixer, unlike the Kitchen Aid stand mixer, is used on the island, too.  It's lighter, so not a problem to lift out of the island drawer for use.  Besides that, it's not all that attractive... The Kitchen Aid is more like a functional piece of art.  ;-)


The prep sink is helpful to baking when I need water to start bread dough, when we need to wash gooey hands, and as a temporary place to drop dirty implements, egg shells, etc.


The aisle here is 4 ft wide, planned that way so that traffic can get by busy workers, or people working as a team can fit.  It was advantageous the 3 times the ovens had to be replaced, so that the servicemen could pull out the large, heavy, and awkward appliances without doing damage to the cabinets.



Monday, October 24, 2011

Money Monday: Budgets

It's always the first step in any financial advice book or course.  But budgeting is often an exercise in futility... and depression... for me.  If I consider our usual income, and factor in 'reasonable' monthly amounts for things that don't happen on a monthly basis, like maintenance, repairs, gifts, etc., etc... we never come to a zero-based budget.  On paper, we lived the impossible for much of the last 20 years.  


I've done it before, but in the last couple of weeks, I checked out the budget calculating tools offered by 2 famous financial gurus, Dave Ramsey, and Suze Orman.  


Dave  Ramsey's Gazelle Budget Lite is very basic, to the point of being too simple, so that the categories hold too many things.  (There is a more extensive software available, but this is the free, quickie version.) This may allow for some flexibility month-to-month, but difficult for precise tracking.   Being a Christian advisor, his starts with giving/tithing, and doesn't consider it 'fluff' spending.  With his percentages, we should spend $275 to $625 per month on food.  Hmm.  That would be great, but I'm not seeing that happen without vastly improving our garden output...which, of course, would cost money.  Anyway, his percentages are a good way to start.


Suze Orman's monthly budgeting tool is very much more detailed, down to including things I was surprised to see, like parking tickets and gambling expenses.  It started by asking how many people and pets lived in the household, so I was encouraged that it might address the 
needs of a larger household.  It didn't seem to make a difference in what followed.  It advised us to run out immediately to get a job that will provide us with $2000 more a month.  With a different viewpoint, she considers tithing as unnecessary spending.  She also believes in a sizable emergency fund,  recommended we develop a $45,000+ account for this purpose as soon as possible.  Hahahahahahahaha....




Thankfully, through the years, the Lord has stood behind his promises and admonition from Matthew 6: 26 - 34:

Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? 
 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? 
“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need 
“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today."
We occasionally get reimbursements from insurance payments, an extra contract day's pay in a paycheck, sick-day buy-back funds, an extra job or two pop up for Hubby, or some other un-budgeted blessing that brings the ends closer together for another month.


I struggle with our responsibilities in all of this.  I feel like we had a chance to build our home, and maybe we 'blew it' by not keeping it simpler.  The economy changed so much from when we started building for which we didn't plan.  Looking backward and beating myself up about it won't help.  I know, because I've definitely done it!


From things I write about here, I think you've seen that we do, and give up, a lot to keep expenses down.  We are far from the point of suffering, so could probably do more.  Right now, that more I can do is pray and look for the opening doors, while I also track our spending and see what we can knock down a bit while we wait on Him for the bigger plan.  
31LL2.gif Thanks to "31 Days of Lists and the Like" at His Frugal Servantday 4- Spending Tracker & budgets gave me just the form, and kick in the behind, I needed to start keeping track.
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