Titus 2:3-5

The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Change of blog address

After changing my gmail account last year after being hacked it has proven to be more time consuming to log into this blog then I realized. Since I'm not a techy by any means it has been easier for me to start a new blog using my new account.

If you would still like to keep up with our family you will now find me blogging at

http://teamconrad07.blogspot.com/

I do hope you'll drop by the new blog and catch up on our news.

Lyn

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Summer fun.

I had no idea when I last blogged that I would end up taking the summer off writing. I haven't even used my handwritten personal journal for the last few months. It seems like I haven't had much to say.

We have all been well. Aiden is potty learning. It is probably the one thing I have least looked forward to. It is going slowly, but our wonderful first born is a boy who will not be rushed into anything. So we follow his lead and look forward to when it is finally over and he actually uses the potty consistently.

After 3 months of being stuck in reverse, Seth figured out how to crawl forwards about a month ago. He is loving his new found freedom and I often have to extract him from under the dinning table. We celebrated Seth's first birthday last Friday and had a party for him the following day.

We are excited to be starting a new adult bible study at church. Rob is the main teacher, with a little co-teaching from me by filling in some of the geeky details I love to revel in and share when I can. We are starting with a 6 month survey of the entire bible, timeline style. Then we will systematically work through the New Testament and later the Old Testament.

Now that "summer" is over and life settles back into the more regular routine I plan to be back blogging more regularly.

Meanwhile here are a few pictures from this summer to enjoy.

Fun at the beach

The warm end of the Atlantic Ocean/Gulf Stream

Our jolly, funny, almost 1 second born son

Aiden loves to build and destroy

Look at me, going forwards

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Quick Update

I just wanted to quickly update on why this blog has been so quiet lately.

Life happens. And when your life involves a 2 year old and a 9 month old along with Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease it happens is a very overwhelming, not a minute to spare kind of way.

June was a busy month for us. Aiden turned 2 and had 2 parties, 2 cakes and lots of fun.

The following week he got sick with the aforementioned Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease. The biggest challenge was trying to keep the boys apart so that Seth wouldn't get it too.

The week after, as Aiden was getting better, Seth got sick.

Then as Seth started getting better, Mamma got sick. Fortunately I didn't get it very badly and was still able to care for the boys without my amazing husband taking time off work.

Having only little children, and sickness really emphasized just how far away my family is. I really missed having my own Mum to lean on. And I know she wished she could have been here to help too.

Now that July is here (still can't believe its July already) we are all back to being fully well. Seth has learned to crawl, although he is still stuck on reverse. Aiden is learning new words at a rate of 2-3 a day. It is getting so much easier to meet his needs when he can actually tell me what he needs instead of asking questions to get a yes or no answer.

And now I'll share some of the cuteness with a few of our recent photos.

Seth's curls have finally grown back

Story time with Daddy

Aiden's birthday banner

All excited while we sang "Happy Birthday" to him

Seth standing up

That meatloaf, mashed potatoes & green beans was really yummy Mamma

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Motherhood and Feminism

I'm taking a break from my staying home series. I will get back to it soon, but for today I wanted to ponder something else.

I recently got a copy of The Way Home by Mary Pride. While I have found it a great encouragement and confirmation that choosing to be a wife and mother is my calling at this stage of my life. I waited a long time to be blessed with this stage, living until the age of 35 as a single woman.

It also has got me thinking at the same time. It has focused much of my previously rambling thoughts about how much our lives and culture are shaped and influenced. Even amongst those who claim the name of Jesus Christ, and who give voice to seeking to live according to God's will there seems to be more of this world than of God influencing life choices.

Before I go further I will openly admit that I am NOT perfect. I haven't got it all figured it. Part of the reason I am writing this post is because I am working on this in my own mind and life right now. Most of my time and energy is poured into my children, as it should be with little ones, and this blog is my creative outlet that helps to keep me from being totally absorbed by the world of toddlers and babies. It is also the creative outlet that prevents me from talking the ears off my wonderful husband every night because I need to express to process.

The Way Home looks at how feminism has undermined biblical womanhood. It doesn't surprise me either. I can remember the conversation I had with the career advisor when I was a teenager. I was asked the question of what I wanted to do when I grew up. My answer did not compute. I said that I wanted to get married and have children. I was asked several times and I always gave the same answer. I was told each time that I must want to be something else, as just being a wife and a mother was such a waste of my talents and abilities. This was about the same time as Mary Pride's book was first published.

I didn't really understand what feminism was back then. All I knew was that what I really wanted to do with my life was to be a wife and a mother. I had always known that was what I wanted to do, what I was created to do. I guess that is part of the reason why I could never make up my mind what kind of career to have. Even after college once I entered the working world I could never settle down to one particular profession. So every few years I would try something new. Yet everything I did do helped to prepare me for the job I will have for the rest of my life. No matter what else happens I will be my husband's wife and my children's mother.

I feel so blessed to be in the position I am in. It was not so long ago that I was trying to accept that I may never be a mother to my own children. As I type this I have two incredible little boys asleep in their cribs for nap time.

Still I come back to how far even the Church has strayed from God's plan for families. Every time people find out that we want more children they act surprised. We already have two, isn't that enough. And this is from the very people we worship beside on Sunday mornings. When people find out that I stay home and we choose to live on a single income we are told that we are very lucky. We are not lucky at all, nor are we wealthy. We have chosen to live without many things that others think are necessities so we can live on a single income. We sacrifice the good so we can have the best, God's best.

God's Word says plainly that wives are to look after the home and bear children, yet even conservative Christian radio stations air programing that assumes wives are also working in full-time jobs outside the home. When couples are preparing for marriage it is not shocking to hear them be advised to wait a few years after marriage before starting a family. They "need" to get to know each other for a few years before they add children, or they "need" to save for a home, or establish their careers, or, or, or. Even in the face of biblical counsel that a newly married couple be freed from civic responsibility in their first year of marriage for the very purpose of starting a family together.

There are also those who say that we cannot teach that wives should stay home, because there are those families who cannot survive financially unless they have two incomes. Until less than a year ago on paper we could not afford for me to stay home, yet we have survived and even flourished on our single income. Living by faith will not always make sense on paper, but it will work in practice when our trust is on the Creator of the Universe.

I don't know what the solution is. I don't know that there is an easy solution to combat compromise. All I know is that God has made clear His will in His Word. We each have to choose day by day and moment by moment to either obey or disobey. I will admit there are moments when I long to rebel and do my own thing, but somehow I come back to the point of obedience in the long run.

I know that obedience is rarely politically correct these days. Our secular culture is so very far away from obedience to God's Word. I know even most Christians will wonder away by compromising with the secular world. Yet there is something so incredible waiting for us. When we wonder and stray God is still waiting with open arms to welcome us back to that path of obedience. He is ready to forgive us when we come before Him with repentance. He desires to show us the way that may be more difficult but that is also more blessed.

I willingly turn my back on the philosophies of feminism, and secular humanism. I don't think either have done me any real favors. How I respond to those who are my sisters in faith but who openly embrace these things I am still working through. Maybe one day people will once again cherish the role of wife and mother, as they did before feminism tainted our culture. Maybe one day this will not be a difficult and misunderstood road to walk along. Until then I will continue to whole heartedly embrace my role, and pray more will join in this blessed and joyful life.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Staying Home, Part 3 - Food 101

Aiden learning to make a healthy version of Chocolate Cake
If you haven't read Part 1 or 2 of this series you can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

In this post I am going to focus on cooking and eating at home. I love to cook and create tasty meals for my family. I am blessed to have had a Mum who let us help her in the kitchen from a young age. She was not much of a cook when she first got married and was still learning while raising us. She had a tight budget and few of the luxuries of today, but she managed not only to feed us good healthy meals, she also managed to raise 3 children to be really good cooks themselves.

Sadly I meet a lot of people who cannot say the same thing. Too many women I talk to about the home will confess that they can barely put a meal together, never mind make healthy nutritious food from scratch. Feeding their families is a chore they would rather avoid, so avoid they do. Instead of simple but delicious food cooked at home they resort to take out, frozen convenience foods and the most expensive of them all, eating out. Many of these same women also confess to a longing to be homemakers, but cannot afford to give up paid employment. It is to these women (who are sadly too many in number) that I dedicate this particular post.

If you can find a way to control the spending on food life on a single income becomes a lot more possible. Glean what information is useful to you and your circumstances and let the rest be. Below are some of the things that have made living on a single income while still enjoying good food possible for our family.

Set a budget

This may seem simple, and in many ways it is. You might be surprised at how much money you will save just by setting a budget for food/groceries and then sticking to it. We currently have a monthly budget, but there were times it was fortnightly, as that is how often my darling husband gets paid. Once the budget is spent then no more trips to the store until the next allotment comes around. Now that we have children to consider we make extra effort to not run out of budget for the essentials like milk or eggs.

Eating Out

Make eating out and take out food a special treat. Try not to allow for weekly trips to restaurants as it will encourage too much overspending. There are ways to have easy to prepare meals if you are at work all day without having to go out to eat. In our 8 Week Menu Plan we have one night designated for eating out or take out food. We are in the process of expending to 10 or even 12 weeks, but we will still only have one night for this treat.


Become a copy cat

Learn how to make your favorite restaurant meals at home. I have found Allrecipes.com a great resource for new recipes. Then there is always a Google search for the recipe of a particular dish. The Internet is full of people ready to share recipes they have made or found that taste just like that dish you always have to have at your favorite restaurant.

Quality

This is a big one in our home. My husband and I both enjoy really good food, and really good food starts with really good ingredients. There are many areas in our life where we are willing to cut corners, but quality of food is not one of them. We both would rather have less quantity lying around our pantry in favor of better quality. It will also help remove the temptation to eat out more if the food at home tastes really good.





Buy the best quality ingredients your budget will allow for. It really does make a difference to the taste. Growing up in Scotland meant that grass fed and finished meat was just ordinary meat. It took me a while to realize that one of the reasons beef and chicken both tasted so different to me was because they were corn fed. We are slowly switching one food item at a time to a better, healthier variety. We recently switched our beef to grass fed and finished. We can only afford to do this by purchasing half a cow at a time, as the cost per lb is significantly less when bought in bulk. My next target will be butter from grass fed sources only. I haven't even began my research yet, but I will try to find a local source before I resort to imported Irish or Danish butter.

This is a process with a lot of learning along the way. Probably the easiest way to start is by choosing organic produce. Start with those items that are most important to you. We use a lot of potatoes and onions, and these are also 2 of the worst vegetables for absorbing chemicals from the soil. As a result we made these our top priority for switching to organic. Next we focused on "The Dirty Dozen" that we use most frequently. Once Aiden started drinking regular milk we also made sure to only buy organic milk. I would like to switch to raw organic milk, but have not yet found a source.



Water

If you live in an area like ours then you probably don't drink the water that comes from the faucet in the kitchen sink. Our water quality is so bad we don't even use the ice maker in our freezer for making ice. When I first arrived in 2008 my darling husband was using bottled purified water for cooking and drinking. This quickly became prohibitively expensive when there were 2 of us. We decided to make the switch to filtered water. We did not want an expensive plumbed in filtration system, nor did we have that kind of money to spend. Neither did we like the idea of the plastic jug filters that required regular replacement filters and could only filter small amounts at a time. We knew there had to be a solution and we set ourselves a budget of $250 to find it. After a lot of searching online we found The Berkey Water Filter. It comes in various sizes. The filter elements are cleanable and the tank is stainless steel. Once of the sizes was priced at exactly $250 and came with free shipping. We have been using our Berkey for over 3 years and we have cleaned the filter elements twice in that time. It still works really well and the water tastes great. One of my favorite aspects to this particular filter system is that is leaves the essential healthy minerals in the water. After the initial cost it has cost us nothing and provides enough filtered water every day for both drinking and cooking.

Spend money to save money

It may seem counter-intuative that to save money by cooking at home it is wise to invest some money on good quality key kitchen items. I highly recommend investing in a few really good quality stainless steel pots, a cast iron skillet, a slow cooker and a few good baking dishes. These items are important to me because while I like to cook I don't particularly relish the cleaning. Having good quality pots makes clean up easier. Easier clean up means you are more likely to actually cook food at home. It is important to remember that this does not have to happen overnight. Use what you have and slowly replace with better quality as you can afford to.

Our most recent purchase was a stand mixer. I have wanted one of this particular brand for many years. When I first arrived we could not afford one. So I waited. After almost four years it is finally in my kitchen. Now as someone who likes to cook and bake it is not going to change what I make, but it certainly takes a lot of the elbow grease out of bread making for me.

That woman's touch!

Try to make your kitchen a beautiful and cheerful place. This doesn't have to cost much. Decluttering the counters and adding a favorite picture or photo collection can work wonders. Personally I made sure this was the room our CD player/radio was placed in. I enjoy singing while I cook, so having a source of music is important for my kitchen. More meals will be cooked at home IF you enjoy spending time in the kitchen.

Grocery Lists

We have found that keeping a running grocery list is really useful. We try to avoid going to the store for 1 or 2 items. To combat that temptation we keep a running list. When either of us notices that we are getting low on a particular item we add it to the list. By adding before we run out we are able to wait until a scheduled trip to the store before replenishing our supply. Our scheduled trips are staggered between the 3 stores we regularly use, with each one scheduled once a month. We also have a scheduled milk and produce store trip once a week that Rob will do on his way home from work. By having a list AND staying out of the stores we avoid the temptation to spend more money on items we don't actually need.

Make ahead

When you are cooking, make extra and freeze it for later. Rob prefers freshly cooked food and would rather take left overs the next day for lunch. However I have found that freezing side dishes works well for us. I do this with stuffed potatoes, mac'n'cheese, cooked rice, mashed potatoes, soup and stock. I'll cover instructions for these in another post dealing specifically with cooking from scratch.

Have fun

The most important part of cooking and eating at home, for me, is to have fun. If being in your kitchen and preparing meals feels like a drudgery then you won't do it. If you have fun while you work, and enjoy what you do, you'll begin to look forward to meal preparations. As I already mentioned I like to sing while I cook. I will also dance to the music if I'm in a particularly playful mood, or if Aiden needs entertaining at the same time. He finds my silly dancing quite amusing and will watch and giggle while I work.

If you have made it this far you might be feeling a big overwhelmed. I never intend for these posts to get so long, but that is usually how they turn out. I'll leave the details of how to cook from scratch for the next post. Meanwhile I hope you can start to enjoy your kitchen and make it a place where you have fun and create wonderful food for the whole family.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Bread, one of the simple pleasures of life.

This is only a kind of break in my staying home series, as home made bread is actually a big money saver for us. I've loved to bake my own bread for a long time. Once I moved Stateside it became essential to bake my own bread as I found all the commercial breads too sweet for my palate. These recipes are for 2 loaves. I usually double the recipe then split into 3 loaves as I use 2lb loaf tins. I will then slice up 2 loaves and pop them in the freezer while we enjoy the fresh one. This way at our current useage I only bake bread about once a week. However as the boys grow, and their appetites with them I know it won't be long before all the bread is eaten fresh.

I should also probably mention that this freshly baked bread will not keep like the commercial breads do. In the hot humid climate of South Florida we will start seeing mold after a few days if the bread is left at room temperature. It will also start to go stale after only a few days too. This is normal. Home made bread doesn't have all the preservatives that you will find in commercial breads. Bread is not meant to stay fresh for more than a day or two.

So here are my 2 favourite bread recipes.

Sandwich Bread

2 cups warm water
drizzle of honey
1 1/2 tablespoons dried yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup oil
5 cups flour (I like 3 cups bread flour & 2 cups wholewheat)

Dissolve the honey in the water. Add yeast & mix. Leave for 10-15 minutes (until it starts to froth)
Add the salt & oil.
Gradually work in the flour. Keep working until it forms a smooth dough. Leave to rise for about an hour.
Knock back the dough and knead for a few minutes.
Divide in 2 and place in loaf pans. Leave to rise for about 30 minutes.
Bake at 350f for 30 minutes and cool on a wire rack.


Whole Wheat Bread

drizzle of honey
1/3 cup of oil
2 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 tablespoons dried yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
6-7 cups whole wheat flour

Dissolve the honey in the water. Add 2 cups flour and the yeast & mix. Leave for 10-15 minutes (until it starts to froth)
Add the salt, gluten & oil.
Gradually work in the rest of the flour. Keep working until it forms a smooth dough.(about 7-10 minutes)
Divide in 2 and place in loaf pans. Leave to rise until double in size, (about an hour.)
Bake at 350f for 30 minutes and cool on a wire rack.

Once the bread has cooled, cut and enjoy.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Staying Home, Part 2 - How we live on a single income


In Part 1 I shared why we chose to live as a single income family. Now we will cover some of the practical realities of our choices.

Reduce & Reuse

We reduced in some areas and reused/re-purposed in others

Areas we reduced:

We sold one of our vehicles and became a one vehicle family. This saved us on insurance, maintenance, gas/petrol and time. The gas/petrol and time is saved because instead of my making a special trip for groceries during the day while Rob is at work he picks up groceries on the way home when he is driving by or close to the store anyway. With Rob doing grocery shopping alone we are able to stick to our list and he gets in and out quicker than when we have the children at the grocery store.

We cut down on packaging. We buy fewer prepackaged goods than we did at first and stick to produce etc that doesn’t come prepackaged. We also buy bulk quantities of some dried goods which also cuts down in packaging. This saves money and time. The packaging costs are built in to the cost of items so the less we have the less we are paying for. It also saves us time sorting through recycling too.

Eating out. This is a big saver for us. We both like to cook and we both like to eat good food. So when we want a fancy meal we make it ourselves. It is now rare for us to eat out unless we are on a trip somewhere, and even then we like to buy groceries and prepare food if we can. Even a visit to the dollar menu can quickly add up to more than the cost of a much healthier home cooked meal. If you don’t know how to cook invest in a couple of good books that will teach you step by step, or invest in a cooking class. It will save you money in the long term.

We moved closer to where Rob works. Reducing his commute by 30 minutes each way every day saves us a lot of money when fuel prices continue to rise, not to mention lower maintenance on our car as it builds less wear and tear. As an added bonus it gives Rob an hour extra every day to spend playing with his children instead of sitting in the car.

Areas we reuse/repurpose

Clothes never get thrown away in our home. If they are too worn to wear they go in the rag box. When I’m looking for fabric for a project I’ll check the rag box first. When I was pregnant with Seth I decided to make some newborn sized fitted diapers/nappies so we would not have to buy throw away diapers until he was big enough for our stash of prefolds. I used a large pile of old t-shirts to make some very cute diapers/nappies. The total cost of 24 fitted diapers in newborn size was less than $10. The only supplies I bought for this project was Velcro and elastic. I had everything else. I recently looked at the price of these items to buy premade and they ranged from $15-$25 each. Even though Seth was a big baby and quickly outgrew them I still saved the money for the 5-6 weeks of throw away diapers/nappies. We saved at least $50 even with just that little use.

We also are always looking for ways to repurpose/reuse in the kitchen. I buy dried goods in bulk and store in old jars that were once the packaging on something else. I have a row of flour and sugar jars that originally contained biscotti. In the pantry I have rice, pasta etc in old catering size mayonnaise jars. I wash out jam/jelly jars and reuse to store sauces in the freezer. If it can be cleaned out and is re-sealable then we will find a use for it. I even reuse old laundry detergent bottles to store my homemade detergent. Empty spray bottles of cleaning fluids are refilled with homemade versions to do the same job (those recipes/tips are a whole post in themselves.)

Plan a menu

Early on in my blogging life I shared an 8 week menu plan we were in the process of implementing. It has since had several revisions and we are currently looking at expanding it to 10 or 12 weeks, with only a few firm favourite meals repeated (who wants to wait 12 weeks for pizza or burgers.) Having a menu plan works for us. We like a lot of variety in our meals. We like to cook. What we don’t enjoy is having to think about what to cook. Now that we have small children it is even more important to take some of the thinking out of the process. I’m even working on a menu plan for breakfast, lunch and snacks for myself and the children. I like knowing what to take out of the freezer, what to put on the grocery list and what to do when my almost 2 year old has a hungry day and wants to eat every 30 minutes.

We’ve been using the menu plan for about 3 years. We know almost instinctively what to buy at the grocery store. I still keep a running list on the fridge that we use to do the actual grocery shopping. Rob will take it with him on the days he has to pick up groceries on the way home. Otherwise we shop for groceries once a month, which is generally how long it takes to have a list big enough to justify a special trip for groceries. This strategy has saved money in another way. We stay out of stores, so we reduce the temptation to impulse buy. When we don’t go to the store for only 2 or 3 items we are not tempted to buy another 10 items we don’t really need, costing us money we had not planned to spend (even if the item is on sale, it only saves money of we would have bought it regardless of the sale.)

Menu planning has also helped us to avoid the temptation to eat out or order take out food. On those days when I can’t get even 5 minutes in the kitchen without a meltdown from one of the children it isn’t a disaster. We both know what is ready to cook and either of us can have dinner on the table just by following our menu. I will say at this point we are not slaves to the plan. We will readily swap around meals within the same week, especially for a meltdown day. Having crockpot/slow cooker meals has also been a blessing on those days too.

I’ll have to do a post just on food, as this is a big area of spending for us, and also an area where we can really save when we need to. I’m sure it will be the same for you too.

Go Green

Some of the choices we have made that make us kinder to the environment are really areas where we save money, and being green is just a happy side effect.

When we were pregnant with our first born we had no spare money. I already knew I wanted to use cloth diapers/nappies. I knew it was kinder for the baby and their delicate skin. I also knew it did not have to cost a lot of money to get started. Rob was sold on it as I explained how we could build a stash of cloth diapers/nappies cheaply and just how much it would save us financially over 2 years. We used a gift card to buy our initial 5 dozen cotton prefolds, then we just paid for the waterproof covers and fasteners. Total outlay for us was only about $30. The actual cost if we had not had the gift card would have been about $90. We did end up using throw away diapers/nappies for  the first 6 weeks until Aiden was big enough for the prefolds. Again we used gift cards for most of that cost, but it was more than $80 for that 6 week period, almost as much as the cost for a complete cloth set up. We did add 4 pocket diapers/nappies later to use overnight, and then we bought more covers and 4 more pockets when Seth was born. The pockets cost about $20 each. Add in a few extra fasteners and for 2 boys we have spent less than $300 in cloth diapering supplies in the last 2 years. We also have enough supplies to last several more babies, as we currently only use about half of our supply since we wash 3 times a week. The more babies we have the more we will save in this area.

Homemade detergents and cleaners are another money saver that has the added benefit of being green, but since I’ve already promised another post on this topic I won’t go into details here.

We have a small car, a Nissan Versa. It fits the same number of people as most of the larger vehicles we see on the road. However it not only cost us less to buy it, it costs less to operate too. It is more fuel efficient than the larger vehicles. With the right kind of car seats we should be able to fit 3 children in the back, which is exactly the same as those fuel guzzling SUVs we see on most of our neighbours drives.

So this has turned into a much longer post than I originally intended. I’ll continue with posts on food and cleaners, and a few other things we do to make that single income count.

Lilypie First Birthday tickers

Lilypie First Birthday tickers

Baby Mordecai

Our blessed first baby, Mordecai, gone to heaven on July 23, 2009 at 13 weeks gestation.

You will never be forgotten by us.