Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Trying to Live Frugally?

In these times of rising costs for food, gas, and just about everything else, The Festival of Frugality hosted by Student Scrooge can help by giving you lots of helpful ideas and inspiration to live more frugally.

Also, check out Make It From Scratch hosted by Novel Experiences for plenty of recipes and other ideas to help reduce costs at home by "making it from scratch".

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Homemade Bagels - Frugal and Delicious!

Last night, a friend came over and we made bagels together. They came out great and I really enjoyed one this morning with cream cheese for breakfast.

Here is the Honey Wholewheat Bagels recipe I used:

3 cups warm water
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp. salt
5 tsp. instant yeast
8 cups fresh ground whole wheat flour

I put the water, honey, salt and half the flour in my mixer, then added the yeast. I mixed this for about a minute and then let it sit for 15 minutes to sponge. I then added the rest of the flour, a little at a time until the dough was pulling away from the sides and not sticky. Then I let my machine knead the dough for 5 minutes.

I moved the dough to a greased bowl, covered with a towel and let it rise. It said to rise for an hour or until doubled - well, in this heat it only took 30 minutes! Then I divided it into balls (about 25, but recipe says 18 so you can make them bigger than I did), then using my thumbs, I poked a hole into the middle of each one and worked it out until the sides were about 1" and the hole in the center was about 2". Then I set them on a greased cookie sheet, covered with a towel, to rest and rise for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, I got my pot of water with 2 Tbl. of sugar on to boiling and turned my oven on to 450 degrees.

I dropped the bagels into the boiling water 3 at a time, cooked for 2 minutes on each side, then drained on a towel. As soon as they came out of the water, I sprinkled them with different toppings - parmesan and garlic, rosemary and garlic, sun-dried tomato and basil, kosher salt. Then I baked the bagels in the oven for 10 minutes, turned them over and baked for another 10 minutes.

My friend mixed the seasonings into her dough before forming the bagels. She even made some with cinnamon and raisins. They all turned out great! I put a bunch in the freezer to save for next week, but we did eat some even though it was after 10pm at night! Who can resist freshly baked bagels (or bread, or whatever!!).

I figure that the 25 bagels I made cost me about $2.50 total and about 2 1/2 hours of my time (however, when you bake with a friend, your time is never lost:-). I know at WalMart, 4 bagels usually cost about $2.00, so this was a very frugal endeavor.

Cool Off with Arctic Animals Study

Last week, I spent a day with a friend of mine and her children doing a unit study on Arctic Animals. We had a blast (that would be a cold arctic blast:-) and I just wanted to share some of the things that we did. First of all, most of the ideas and material came from Sea World's Educational site - did you know that they had great unit studies online? The material included some great experiments as well as tons of information. I also went to the library and picked up about 15 books on different animals from the Arctic, and ordered a DVD from Netflix called Growing Up Arctic.

We started the day by reviewing the sequence of Creation from the first chapter of Genesis to discover when the arctic animals we were going to study were created. Then we started on our cooking craft and mixed up and baked some cupcakes that we would later turn into Polar Bear "Cub"cakes. We read some books, watched the DVD, the older two children, Sam and Charis, wrote reports about their favorite Arctic Animal. Then the kids made walruses out of paper plates and had a lot of fun creating and naming their own walruses. It was a wonderfully fun day and I think the kids really enjoyed doing school in this manner. I am a huge proponent of unit studies, especially when you have multiple children of all different ages to teach at the same time. I did this project in order to "show" my friend how we do unit studies at our house and how much fun, yet very educational, they can be.

I would like to encourage you, if you have never done unit studies or at least not very often, that you consider this approach very seriously. The retention and relaxed fun of learning that results is amazing and school will not be a drudge to be endured each day. We are currently using literature-based unit studies at our house and my children actually beg me to do school during the summer when I like to take it a little easier. So we just do a couple days a week to keep everyone happy.

For more homeschooling ideas and encouragement, visit the Carnival of Homeschooling - The Boy Scout Edition hosted over at Consent of the Governed.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Quilted Wallets for Hope House

Last week while my kids were away on a missions trip, I made a couple of quilted wallets that will be sold to help raise funds for Hope House International.I have made a number of these wallets before using the tutorial from that*darn*kat. I make a few changes and/or additions each time, but she has provided a great tutorial. The really cool thing is that you can actually use some of your scraps to make these since you can piece them together. This fabric I actually bought specifically to make these wallets and I have lots more, too. Next, I am going to try adding an ID pocket on the outside flap for your driver's license. I have also added a loop to hold a pen inside on some of them. I will be selling these on Hope House Handmades Etsy store, so check it out if you are interested.

Field Trip to the San Diego Zoo!

Summer time here in the desert is the time we hibernate and hide indoors until the temperatures are bearable again. But, occasionally, we get a chance to escape and go somewhere like San Diego. A couple weeks ago, we went on a field trip with our homeschool group to the San Diego Zoo and had a wonderfully mild and enjoyable day! The temperatures were only in the 80s (much better than our 110s here!) and it was such a nice day!
We also got to take a photo of our kids in the same spot we took one about 10 years ago - by the polar bear sculptures. I have to dig out the old one and put them side by side, but I am sure it is a remarkable amount of change in these precious gifts from God!

It was fun to see them feeding the apes - that one in front is a good catcher!
Taking time to enjoy field trips with our kids is something we love to do in the summer (at least if it gets us out of the heat!) and they are growing up so fast, I don't want to miss any opportunities to connect with them. How about you? Are you enjoying any summer field trips? Tell us about them, please. We would love to share your adventures, too.

For more interesting and encouraging articles about homeschooling, go visit the Carnival of Homeschooling hosted this week by Life on the Road.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

How We Are Saving on Gas

With gas prices around $4.00 per gallon, I know this is on everyone's mind right now. And, no matter how much I hope, I really don't think we will see low gas prices again. It just seems that when the prices pass another dollar benchmark, they never seem to go back down again. I sure hope things change, but I guess I am a little skeptical about this one.

Well, we have made one drastic change that is saving us money on gas (besides driving less, I mean:-). We are now buying our gas here in Mexico. It is only about $3.00 per gallon (after doing the double conversions which can get a little tricky) even though it isn't the highest quality and you can never be absolutely certain about it. But saving about $35.00 per tank full is worth it for now. We can put an additive in every so often to help with the quality.

Apparently, we are not the only ones doing this. Someone told me the other day that they think the long lines at the border are in part due to folks coming down to fill up their gas tanks. I can't imagine the long wait in line to get back into the U.S. being worth it, but perhaps that is because I have to do it a little too often. It gets really old! Usually, the summer months bring much shorter lines, but we haven't seen that at all this year. And I have noticed that there is hardly ever anyone at the gas stations on the U.S. side of the border. So perhaps they are correct.

Here in Mexico, all the gasoline is owned and sold by the government. They drill for the oil right here in Mexico, refine the oil and sell the gasoline, thus creating a stable gas price. Usually, in the past, it has been higher than in the U.S., but now it is about 25% lower since their prices haven't changed much at all in the last year while it has skyrocketed in the U.S. I just hope that this doesn't cause a gas shortage here in Mexico, though. This has happened a few times since we have lived here where they have run out of gas at the stations and it was over a week before they got any more.

Oh well, for now it is helping us out. We will just have to see what happens. One other thing we have been doing is not exceeding 65 mph on the highway even though the speed limits in AZ and CA go up to 70 and 75mph. So I hope this is helping as well.

What are you doing to save money on gas? I would love to hear your ideas and tips.

For more frugal ideas, check out the Festival of Frugality hosted today by On Financial Success.

Nature in Your Own Backyard

No matter where you live, there is always something interesting to be found in your own backyard. That's why nature is such a great thing to study in homeschooling. Every place that we have lived, there has always been some new creature to learn about. Like tree frogs in Myrtle Beach, hummingbird vines in Memphis, and now Desert Iguana Lizards in San Luis. We have a multitude of these guys in our yard, which is great because they eat spiders! And we have had lots of them, including black widows. But these two are the largest and they are obviously in love:-) and I think the female is pregnant (or just ate something rather large).

Don't miss the opportunities right in your own backyard to explore some of the wonderful creatures and plants that God has made. Take time to study nature in your own backyard! Let me know what interesting things you find.

Also, for more great homeschool ideas, check out the 133rd Carnival of Homeschooling hosted over at the Red Sea School.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Cool and Refreshing...Ahhhh!

It is so hot and humid here (and we hardly ever have humidity!), that I made up a cool and refreshing icy fruit drink yesterday to enjoy. First I made some sun tea using Honey Vanilla Chamomile Tea. Then, into the blender, I put 3 kiwis, 1 T Agave Nectar, 1tsp. vanilla, 1 cup frozen blackberries (that I picked fresh in May), a tray of ice cubes and one cup of that sun tea. Then I blended it up and it was cool, tangy, refreshing and very purple! I don't have a photo because I let my kids take my camera on their missions trip - sorry! But trust me when I say it hit the spot!

Do you have any cool, refreshing drink recipes you could share with me? It seems about the only thing I am hungry for most days and I just don't have much experience in this category:-). Please share your ideas with me.

For more great ideas, check out The Homesteading Carnival: Southern Sunsets Edition over at Walking Therein.
Also, you can find lots of things at Make It From Scratch hosted by Country Magpie.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Ground Beef Recipe - Chili Beef Stack

I have been very busy, so I have not been blogging as much as I would like to. But next week, I should be able to make up for it - my kids will be away for about 10 days on a missions trip to the Apache Indians in the White Mountains of Arizona. I know, it seems a little silly that missionary kids are going on a missionary trip to another place, but it is good for them to reach out to another different culture on occasion. (In case you are new here, we are missionaries serving in Mexico.)

The other day, I was reading through a ground beef cookbook (Sunset from 1965) that I got from my great aunt Rachel who is moving to PA. We went up to help her with her yard sale last weekend and she let me have as many cookbooks as I wanted! I was in cookbook heaven - I just LOVE cookbooks! I will share more about some of the really old, really fantastic ones I got on another post.

I came across this recipe and it sounded so unique and different that I just had to try it. And it was really good! My family voted that I make it any time! That is high praise here!

Chili Beef Stack

1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 medium green pepper, chopped
1 1/2 lbs of ground beef (I used ground turkey, though:-)
1 small can sliced mushrooms, drained
2 Tbl. butter or oil ( I used coconut oil)
2 cans (8 oz.) tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon of chili powder (I make my own mixture)
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic salt

1 egg
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup cornmeal
3/4 cups whole wheat flour (I used a little more because it seemed thin)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbl. baking powder
1 Tbl. olive oil
Grated parmesan cheese (I used mozzarella cheese)

Saute' onion, green pepper, ground beef, and mushrooms in melted butter, stirring occasionally with a fork until meat is browned. Stir in tomato sauce, chili powder, mustard, salt, pepper, and garlic salt, and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make pancakes as follows: Beat egg lightly and beat in milk. Gradually, stir in cornmeal, whole wheat flour, salt, and baking powder, and beat until batter is smooth. Blend in oil. Cook pancakes on both sides on a hot, greased griddle until golden brown. Makes about 12 pancakes, 4-5 inches in diameter.

For each serving, spoon meat sauce between and on top of a stack of three pancakes. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Makes 4 servings.

For more ground beef recipes, go on over to Frugal Upstate: Frugal Food - Part Four! She is featuring recipes with a different ingredient each week.