“Scraping the Bottom of the Pantry” Pasta

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I am naming this pasta dish we had last night “Scraping the Bottom of the Pantry Pasta” because that is literally what I was doing when I made it. We still have oatmeal, popcorn, flour, walnuts, seeds, and some seasonings, but that’s really it. I had sprouted some bean sprout mix and really needed to use them up, as I can’t refrigerate them due to not having a refrigerator.  I had one lemon and one onion left. I had an idea for combining it all, but really didn’t think it was going to work out. It was tasty, though! I nearly caramelized the onion with olive oil and salt (I got impatient towards the end, so they didn’t completely caramelize), then tossed in the bean sprouts for a quick saute. I added the cooked pasta, juice from one lemon, cumin seeds, more olive oil and salt, some onion powder, and a dash of liquid smoke. I served it with a sprinkle of breadcrumbs over the top. It got high marks from my husband and Em.

I baked some bread last night and have enough for another loaf or two. I will need to get a few groceries soon, though. I am grateful that we have never gone truly hungry and that this challenge (“No Spend January”) is pushing and stretching us in many ways. I have more thoughts on that, but think they deserve their own post sometime soon. Thinking about baking bread made me think of the verse “Man does not live on bread alone…” and when I looked it up, I found the Old Testament passage that Jesus was quoting from. It was a promise I needed today.

 “Be careful to obey all the commands I am giving you today. Then you will live and multiply, and you will enter and occupy the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors.Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. For all these forty years your clothes didn’t wear out, and your feet didn’t blister or swell. Think about it: Just as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you for your own good.

“So obey the commands of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and fearing him.For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land of flowing streams and pools of water, with fountains and springs that gush out in the valleys and hills. It is a land of wheat and barley; of grapevines, fig trees, and pomegranates; of olive oil and honey. It is a land where food is plentiful and nothing is lacking. It is a land where iron is as common as stone, and copper is abundant in the hills. 10 When you have eaten your fill, be sure to praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.” ~Deuteronomy 8:1-10

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Living Well, Spending Less- A Book Review

One of my resolutions this year was to read at least one book a month. It isn’t unique resolution, but it is a helpful one. I read a lot online, but wanted to get back into the habit of reading more books cover to cover. I had checked out “Living Well, Spending Less” (by Ruth Soukup) from the library back in October, I think. We had started to do her “Live Well, Spend Zero” challenge in October, but weren’t able to follow along because of the living situation we were in, and the fact that we moved at the end of the month. It was the one book I had checked out while we moved from my sister-in-law’s extra bedroom that we were staying in to our current rental house. I had started reading it, but lost it in the shuffle. I renewed it as many times as I could, but thought I was actually going to have to pay for the book because I could not find it anywhere. It was actually due a few days ago and I was planning to go in and pay for it when I grabbed an old computer bag to put my laptop in for the trip to the library and the book was in there! And, the library system actually let me renew it once more even though I should have been maxed out. I’m so glad I did not have to pay for the book (it would have been a bit ironic, too, as I would have paid for it during our “no spend” challenge month, inspired by Ruth’s blog challenge). I was also glad to have the opportunity to finish reading the book. I took the afternoon of our cold, slightly snowy day here to finish it up so I can get it back to the library.

I appreciate Ruth’s Christian viewpoint in the book, and her emphasis on giving, particularly in the last chapter. She also urges goal setting, which is something I could definitely work on. There were some useful tips here and there, but overall I didn’t find a lot of things that would be helpful to my family in saving money, which is really why I got the book. A family that is used to shopping often, eating out frequently, making car payments, and in debt, might find the money saving information more useful. Ruth mentioned that when her family first did a “no spend” month, they saved $1000, which might be achievable for many families. However, we are not going to be anywhere close to that, not because we aren’t saving, but because that is generally our way of life. My husband and I have always chosen to live with less when needed, so as to not be in debt. For instance, we have not had a refrigerator since we moved into our rental in November. We had a deep freezer for about a month and a half, but we sold it for various reasons, and just have had other things we needed to spend our money on, and haven’t had enough extra to get a fridge. We’ve been making do with a cooler and some occasional ice when the temperature has been warm. We are thankful it is winter!

If you generally live a frugal lifestyle, then don’t expect to find anything that will help you save “big” money. Most of the tips will probably be familiar to you- making homemade cleaning products, making food at home, shopping sales, only buy necessities, etc. However, her thoughts on hospitality, goal setting, and learning to be content still make it a worthwhile read.

Accepting Imperfection

Last night, I baked a chocolate cake for a potluck today. I had planned to make a peanut butter frosting for it with the last of our powdered sugar and peanut butter- something I have done before. This time, for whatever reason, the frosting went from play dough consistency to a grainy, wet messy and never achieved fluffy, spreadable frosting. I tried to save it because it was the last of what I had, and I hated to waste it, but eventually had to give up. I ended up chopping up a mint dark chocolate bar I had gotten for Christmas and melting it down with a bit of coconut oil to use as a glaze. I took pictures that I intended to use for this post, but they didn’t turn out. At all. The whole thing reminded me of the simple fact of life that things don’t always work out, and that’s okay. I didn’t end up with a beautifully frosted peanut butter chocolate cake. I did end up with a serviceable chocolate mint cake that still tasted good even if some of the chocolate in the glaze seized.

A few weeks ago I wanted to make a wreath for our door, and went out to forage materials. Having lived in the west my whole life up until six months ago, I was not thinking about the fact that there aren’t many evergreens around here. I finally found some other material to work with, but it wasn’t anything like I had envisioned. I was too embarrassed to even think about hanging the wreath up, but my husband and Em thought it was cute, so I did. And, you know what? Seeing that little, silly wreath has brought a smile to my face many times the last few weeks. Em made another wreath for our back door last week, following my example.

In a world of glossy magazine spreads, perfect Pinterest images, and Instagram-worthy photos, it is sometimes hard for me to feel like I have much to offer. I don’t think I’m alone in that feeling. However, what we should remember is that we can still be a blessing in our imperfections. That cake still tasted good. The wreath made us smile. A hand sewn pillow with crooked seams can still provide comfort. A small bouquet of wildflowers might not be be picture perfect, but they can still brighten a room and bring a smile to someone’s face.

So, here is my imperfect wreath as a reminder that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be a blessing.

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Poor Man’s Minestrone

I decided to name this soup “Poor Man’s Minestrone” because I made it up from some of the last remnants of our pantry. I sautéed some onions and diced carrots in olive oil and then added vegetable bouillon cubes and water. When it came to a boil, I added some pasta and after about 5 minutes, I stirred in leftover chickpeas. Add some salt to taste and a sprig of parsley for garnish, and that’s it! Inexpensive, filling, and vegan. IMG_2299

“A bowl of vegetables with someone you love is better than steak with someone you hate.” ~Proverbs 15:17 NLT

No spend January update #1

I’m here with an update on how we’ve been using up our pantry for our “No Spend January” challenge.  Friday I made some pumpkin chocolate chip nut muffins using this recipe.  I made a few substitutions: honey for the maple syrup, chocolate chips and walnuts for the currants, and fresh carrot juice for the almond milk. Em and I had a few with some popcorn Friday night while Ryan was working, and we all had the rest the next day.  I didn’t get pictures of them, but they were delicious. Sabbath evening I used the little bit of canned pumpkin I had leftover in some risotto- just onion, olive oil, arborio rice, vegetable bouillon, salt, canned pumpkin, and a handful of queso fresco. We also opened the coconut that we had, and I shredded and dried the coconut meat for other meals.

Later that night, I made a “wacky” cake- my favorite vegan cake recipe. I didn’t have vinegar, so I subbed lime juice for it, and it worked! (You can’t taste the lime.) I added chocolate chips and walnuts to the cake.

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I had half a lime left and needed to make lunches for Sunday, as Ryan was working and I needed something to send with him. I used the lime with olive oil and a seasoned salt/herb blend called “Farm Dust” to make a dressing for a cold wild/basmati rice salad. I added golden raisins, toasted walnuts, green onion, a sprinkle of fresh parsley, and a bit of diced carrot. I served it with carrot sticks.  Em and I had oatmeal (with toppings) for breakfast and popcorn for dinner. IMG_2288

I haven’t spent any money so far this month, but will have to tomorrow. We are out of salt and just about out of toilet paper, so we will definitely need those. I have about $5 on a Walmart gift card that I got from their “Savings Catcher” program, so I can use that towards a purchase. We also have some bills to pay tomorrow, and I will need a few food items. I have garbanzo beans soaking now for tomorrow. I think I will make tortillas tomorrow and have garbanzo and shredded carrot wraps with our favorite dressing. This challenge is certainly stretching my culinary skills, but I enjoy the challenge, and I’m thankful that I don’t have picky eaters in my household.

“6 And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” ~Colossians 2:6-7

Simple things

Yesterday we made some simple bird feeders to help out the beautiful birds we have seen around. They are made from pinecones, baker’s twine, peanut butter, and birdseed. After I demonstrated the process on one, and then my husband and Em made the rest while I read another chapter of “Little House in the Big Woods.” We read the chapter entitled “Sundays.”IMG_2291

Later, we went and hung them in a tree in our yard and then enjoyed a fire in our fire pit. It always seems to be the simple, small things that we most enjoy. IMG_2293IMG_2294IMG_2298

“I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.”
Laura Ingalls Wilder

January homeschool themes

Here in Ohio we are experiencing a very mild winter so far, especially when compared to the winters we went through the past few years in Montana. Nonetheless, one of our homeschool themes for January is snow- maybe we will actually get some this month!  We are using the free memory work resources from the “His Mercy is New” website. We will be memorizing Isaiah 1:18, Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” poem, and the hymn “Whiter than Snow.”

The child I am homeschooling (she is a relative who recently began living with us, but for privacy reasons I will not be sharing many details and will refer to her as “Em”) is still a struggling reader, so getting her reading level up is our number one priority.  She will be reading from books of her choice everyday for a set amount of time, but she will also be reading two books a month of my choosing. She loves reading about animals, and since we are studying them for science, I chose E.B. Whites classics, “Stuart Little” and “Charlotte’s Web.”  I downloaded a book report workbook from Education.com (I got it free when I joined the site) that we will be working through so Em will know how to properly write a book report. By Spring I intend for her to write them in cursive, but she is still learning all her letters in cursive, so she isn’t quite there, yet.  We will also continue our read aloud, “Little House in the Big Woods.”  We are using spelling lists from k12reader.com. Em writes each word three times each (or spelling “pyramids”) in alphabetical order on Mondays, then writes the definition for each word- half on Tuesday and the other half on Wednesday, and for Thursday I pick 8 words and she writes sentences using the words I chose. On Fridays we have her spelling test.

For science, we will be focusing on warm vs cold blooded animals, the basic needs of all animals, and hibernation. We will also continue the astronomy streak we seem to be on due to a recent gift of a telescope and many clear, cold evenings. I would like us to learn at least one constellation per month.

For math we will continue to  work on multiplication facts, focusing on getting 0-5 down solidly. We are also going to introduce charts and the coordinate plane, using two of the “Sir Cumference” books.  We will practice making bar graphs and pie charts and then work on plotting points on a coordinate plane.  In the past, I’ve found some good coordinate plane picture printables from superteacherworksheets.com.

Most importantly, for Bible we will continue our family worship time working through the book of Genesis.  For Em’s evening story we have been reading a children’s version of “Hind’s Feet on High Places,” which is very good.  When my husband is working and it is just Em and me for worship, we just started “God’s Names” by Sally Michael, and are enjoying it so far. We just finished a beautiful book called, “For Such a Time as This.”  We include a lot of history during Bible/worship time, and we also are slowly going through American history.

I believe that is it- have a lovely Sunday!