right now

right now

Aug 4, 2010

Random things...

The triple digits and dewpoints in the 70's are back! The weather has been getting to me, with a reverse case of Seasonal Affective Disorder, and I have been finding myself so tired in the afternoons I almost fall asleep while making dinner!

The military wife thing has been tested to the limits lately, and I'm not even talking about missing hubby, although we do! One of the jobs that naturally falls 100% to the military wife is finances, for obvious reasons. So along with trying to keep the children occupied while missing their daddy and running the house and garden and all that entails, comes the job of trying to pull extra zero's out of thin air to add to bank balances. I honestly don't know how brand-new 19-20 something military members with families do it - I have been doing it for YEARS and we had the benefit of not having children for several years of it. Raising a family on one enlisted military income takes a lot of creativity and is definitely not for the faint of heart. One of my New Year's resolutions was to be honest to ourselves about our finances and I think blogging about the challenges occasionally lets me see that it's "okay" to not have a lot of money, and that I can still find common interests with others whether or not I am in the same financial "class" as them. We are slowly improving by reining in our unnecessary purchases, and trying to budget for the ones we feel are important. Take Target, for example: has anyone in the history of the world ever been able to walk out of there without spending too much? In our case, the amount $74 seems to be the standard, so I just won't even walk in the door now. Music? Camp? Vacations? I view these as important so it's hard to compromise on these. Our "vacations" our quite different than people that are not in the military, however - they aren't random trips to places we would like to see, they are always trips home to see family that are very important to us, so saying lay off the vacations is akin to saying "you can't see the grandparents this year", yeah, that's non-negotiable! So that's what's eating at me this week, budget revamping! (Funny how that always goes hand in hand with the property tax due date!)

Here's the cheap fun we have been having lately:

Kids made pillowcases today to send to the Persian Gulf. One for daddy, and an extra for a single sailor that might not get handmade goodies from home...

Free swimming at the Y, always a hit on a hot day! The kids were barely swimming when daddy left, so they are showing off their "mad skillz"

Playing nicely in their room... the shock of this moment hasn't quite worn off yet!

Cheap fun with bugs...

I baked bread today, this time just made the dough in the breadmaker, shaped and baked by hand. I like the results of this far better, but have a question for you dedicated bread makers...

Do any of you rely solely on homemade bread and have kids at home? With bread loaves topping $3 a loaf now I would like to make it at home, but it takes ALL DAY! What's the secret? And do homemade loaves freeze well, or are they dried out later?

Finn's harvest today

Yes, when you are a military mom you get to deal with clothes like this. I thought I had it hidden but he found it and INSISTED on wearing his gun shirt from daddy everywhere this week!


  1. The heat has returned here as well....I hate it!

    Everything is so expensive any more. I really don't know how people manage to raise a family on a normal income. I think that you do a wonderful job!!

    The type of vacations and things that you do with your children are better then any of those expensive vacations. Believe me, they will appreciate it when they grow up. My son is now 32 and appreciates the family life he had growing up.

  2. Erin, you are beautiful. Period. Never worry about others, hands down...ya got'em beat! And if you haven't been told lately "Thank You", consider it said. For supporting our troops, being a military mom and everything that you listed off above. XOXO
    Now as for the bread, if/when you do freeze a loaf, try folding a paper towel in half and placing it on top of the loaf and then bag and freeze. When you thaw it out, the moisture will or should absorb into the papertowel and keep your bread as close to fresh as possible. :)

  3. I lost my job in 2008, and I'm still feeling the affects of it. It's a tough economy all around. Luckily, I've been able to freelance and if it was not for the hubby, things would be really tough financially. I try not to tempt myself with places like Target. I can't walk in there either without spending a fortune. I do bake my own bread, and try to cook most of our meals instead of going out. I also buy bread from an Entenmanns outlet near our house. They sell Arnold loaves for $1. We buy a bunch and freeze it.

    I love the pillowcases your kids made. How nice that the extra one will go to another soldier!

  4. Oh, now you made me feel bad about just getting back from vacation. Although I hear you on the finances. We NEVER would have been able to afford this trip if we hadn't gotten tickets from a friend who works at the park (Tickets for 5 = about $500- Eeek!) Things have been interesting here since V lost his job a few years ago. Fortunately, the sale of our old house has helped with our ability to afford to fix up this place.
    Hugs to you and yours for all you do.

  5. Gotta add my two cents that I think you're doing a great job in providing a wonderful, stable life for your boys while holding down the fort by yourself much of the time. Sad to say, the deck is stacked against all of us "regular" people. Our dollar is worth less and less while inflation continues to climb despite what the powers that be might want us to think.

    Bread? Bake as many loaves at once as you can because it does require you to be "at it" for just about a whole day. I find the heavier breads, like rye or pumpernickle, stay "fresher" tasting after being frozen. No matter how it tastes coming out of the freezer, it's a healthier bread for us than store bought.

    I can't even remember the last time we went on a vacation. Always seems money is needed somewhere else more important! :o)

  6. We were horribly poor for years. It was easier with one child, but I found that we just adjust to whatever income we had. We did without, I read the Tightwad Gazette books a lot, and I like bargains.

    Yes, I stay out of the places where the money disappears because it's easier. Plus, I'm now thinking about what I'd really rather have money for. We saved and scrimped for a HUGE vacation coming up, and I'm trying not to feel badly about doing that rather than any of the other things we could use the money for.

    Bread. Well, I try to do 100% home, at least for sandwiches. I have a Kitchenaid stand mixer, a hand me down that runs like a champ. I used to make six loaves at a time -- if I'm going to do it, might as well have the economy of scale. And I memorized my favorite recipe, so I just make it. No thinking. 10 minutes to measure and mix, then 5-10 to knead. Put it in the rising bucket in the oven, come back an hour and a half later -- you don't have to stay home, just get home in time! Five minutes to press out the carbon dioxide and reform into a ball, let it rise for 45 minutes. Fifteen minutes to spray six loaf pans, divide dough, shape into loaves, and plop into pans. Let 'em rise under plastic for 30 minutes. Again, you don't have to stand and watch them. Preheat oven for 20 minutes, for a total loaf rising time of about 50 minutes to an hour. Slash loaves, put in the oven, bake for an hour.

    And there's bread for at least a week. It takes 4-5 hours total, but I figure I'm going to be there anyhow.

    Oh, and saving money? For me, sometimes it means staying home. We don't have a pool right now to go to, but I might join one next year. I can drive to the hills to go to the pool at a regional park, but it's not been hot enough for me (sorry!) to get wet.

    Hang in there. It gets easier in so many ways. You're doing a great thing.

  7. With hubby being retired and living on a pension, I know all too well the budget pitfalls.
    Honestly, I think you could give lessons on great living on a budget. You do such neat things with your boys. You are doing a fantastic job with them and keeping up with a house, etc.
    The best things in life are the things your doing right now-being with your boys. Stuff has never been what people look back on and remember. Having a great mom that does tons of neat stuff----now THAT is what makes for great memories!!
    Don't EVER doubt what you're doing--I think it's wonderful, and I'm pretty darn sure that husband (and kids!!!)of yours thinks so too!

  8. I think I may have a whole blog post in response to this one!

    When I lost my job last year we had to get really creative! I'll try and post details later :) Trust me, you're not alone WRT the financial thing!

  9. I think many people are in the same boat Erin, although yours is probably to the extreme - one income family, AND the income is a military salary. We never have 'extra' for vacations, though we do go out to eat once a month.

    I am not good at being frugal, Target is bad, bad place for me! We spend most of our $ on food. Seriously. It amazes me how much we spend on groceries every month. If I could lower that "bill" but not compromise the quality of our food I would be doing a happy dance! Tips? (I already have the garden, though that has a huge upfront cost that won't be paying off in dollars for many years to come.)

  10. You guys are wonderful, so inspiring! I hope I didn't offend anyone with my vacation comments, I think any family vacations you take are awesome, I only meant ours are already preprogrammed LOL, and we don't have places like Disney or Aspen Ski Chalets on my speed dial Hahaha! Honestly, many people I know are either rude or inconsiderate (I'm sure they don't mean to be) with their nonchalant attitudes towads money, or are so completely in denial about their debt that they have no interest in taking action. It seems like the action takers that are so helpful are actually fellow bloggers, which is not surprising since by the sheer fact that you all are gardening and blogging shows you take an active interest in making a difference! I must say it brought tears and a smile reading your kind words, and I am ready to charge onward! I feel like we give our kids everything they need for a happy childhood, but it's hard to stay sane when they see other kids at school with new clothes all the time, in 5 different sports, etc.

    Thanks for the bread tips Mama Pea, Stefaneener & Apple Pie Gal! I will be baking bread all day today and will use all your tips! At over $3 a loaf with kids consuming so much, something has to change around here! I figure doing it in the summer has got to be worst case scenario with being so busy, if I can handle "bread day" now in the winter it should be a breeze! Meemsnyc, we used to have one of those outlets here a few years ago, but it closed, bummer!

  11. Hi Erin! I missed reading yesterday, but I wanted to share what I could about bread, and living on one income.
    We live off of what my husband earns from his maintenance business. Somehow we make it work, but when we look at the numbers, it is miraculous to say the least! Trying to make healthy food choices, and give your children the experiences you feel they need is so challenging.
    I'm feeling the squeeze right now. I keep trying to save the $ to pay for the goats that I've verbally agreed to purchase this fall. I really WANT these goats! But, somehow the $ won't stay in the savings account. I find myself praying often about finances lately. But, the experiences that you're having with the boys are things they're going to remember for a lifetime. And, feeding them healthy food is also going to last a lifetime for them. I think you're doing very well! Don't worry about the fact that occasionally the TV babysits for you. You still spend so much more quality and quantity time with them than so many people do. I have family who see their child for 2.5 hrs. a day awake. Crazy!
    I have had times where I've gone 3 months or more not buying bread at the store. I freeze it and it's still fine when I take it out. Especially since it's only in the freezer for a week at most. Homemade bread (at least mine) does tend to be more crumbly than any store bought loaf I've had, but I agree with Mama Pea. The denser breads hold up better. I have a favorite I'd be glad to share with you if you'd like.
    I mix the dough in my kitchen aid mixer. Do you have one? If so, let me know. I'd be so happy to post about making bread in my mixer for you. I wish you all the best!

  12. Hey, Patty - I'd love to see a post about making bread by mixing it in your Kitchen Aid mixer. I'm a non-gadget kinda gal to the point of always making my bread with a wooden spoon and elbow grease. But I'm starting to wonder if I'm not working in the wisest way possible! ;o) So I'd be happy to see a tutorial on your method!

  13. Patty, definitely! Stefaneener mentioned she does hers in the stand mixer, too. My husband is a whiz with dough in the Kitchen Aid, but that doesn't help me much does it LOL? I have been using the bread machine just to make the dough ball since I don't like the loaves baked in it, but it takes forever to do it that way. Today I baked 3 loaves of a white bread that had milk in it, the bread book I have says they keep a bit longer if they have milk or honey. Also says whole grain flour stays moister? Have you found that true? I want to do whole wheat or the like but I need to go and get the flour, so I figured I would stop procrastinating and go ahead with what I have on hand at the moment!

  14. Mama Pea, a wooden spoon and elbow grease? That's hard-core LOL!

  15. Mr. Granny was a hard working man, and I was a stay at home mom until my youngest was 16, when I worked in the family business. I've never been one to have to keep up with the Jones', I've always cooked three meals a day, grew a garden and canned and froze as much as possible. We did take vacations, but they were always in the motorhome, and spent in state park camp grounds, where we enjoyed fishing and nature with the kids. Sometimes it was auto races, with our own grocery bags of popcorn and jugs of juice. Other than gas and camp fees, our vacations were no more expensive than staying home. One thing I did through our marriage was save every penny I could, and made a few wise, but safe, investments. Mr. G retired at age 59, and we've never had a problem living on SS and interest from savings, and staying debt free. But then, we've never wanted a lavish lifestyle, and it paid off. I think the most important thing you can do right now is just exactly what you are doing. You don't have to answer to anyone but your own family. True friends will respect your lifestyle, to hell with the nay sayers.

    I bake a loaf of bread just about every three days for the two of us, and have mastered my new bread machine so it makes a loaf we really like. I may never bake another loaf in the oven, this is just too easy.

  16. That's what I needed to hear, Gran! Some of our favorite times are camping as well, we usually get the State Parks pass and you are right, it's cheap since we have had our camping equipment for years, and the kids always seem to forget about toys, tv, etc when we are out hiking or fishing! I really admire that you were able to be so smart with the money, we actually have more debt than I would like thanks to some pretty extensive remodels (this place was a dump LOL) and I really wish we would have paced ourselves more, but I have learned from that and am really trying to be frugal while having a good quality of life nowadays. I understand the newer bread machines turn out a really nice loaf, the one I have is really kind of a cheapie, but works for dough, and I want to learn to do it in my stand mixer too!