Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Like many others in recent economic times, we have cut back on spending and tighened the purse strings.  For the most part, I am so thankful to have our home that the tight budget has not hurt much.  But other times, it has felt terrible.  My heart has grumbled about things I can’t buy  —-a science book for Lincoln, more clothes and another set of winter shoes for the girls, a restocking of art supplies for school. 

I spent most of the weekend re-organizing my pantry and reflecting on budgetary issues.  I moved beans and grains from the floor and set them on the new shelves Sid just built from our stash of leftover wood flooring.  Reaching the top shelf is easy now with my new stepstool (Sid-built from our stash of leftover wood flooring).

I thought about this week’s menu plan and debated whether I could skip my regular grocery trip to Ingles this week, which would make the 3rd week in a row that I had managed a skip.  I’ve been getting by with a quick run-in to Aldi for eggs and butter on Thursdays.  We were out of raisins and almost out of vanilla extract, two things we use a lot in our oatmeal and baking. 

Looking over my pantry shelves, I determined that if we do without fresh fruit, skipped veggies, we can eat mostly beef, beans and rice for supper next week.  Plain oatmeal, no raisins, no vanilla extract, a very tiny amount of sweetner will get us through several breakfasts.  The kids will miss the raisins and decreased sweetness, but it will be good for them (and the adults) to “do without” a few things.  Perhaps our hearts will develop a deeper appreciation for what we have.

I passed a window where I could see Lincoln and Sid on the front porch, constructing another stepstool from . . . . . . . . . can you guess? . . . . . . . our stash of leftover wood flooring

I remembered how Sid had so much work 2 years ago that he didn’t have time to do many things he wanted to do, like teach the boys real-life skills.  Life was so much more hectic then, and we balanced it by spending money on “convenience.” 

Two years ago, when money was more plentiful and time was in short supply, we would not have thought twice about buying a couple of stepstools or ready-made shelves for the pantry and closets.

I realized what a true blessing a tight budget is.  Trying to supply needs on little to no money forces us to be creative and see with new eyes.  Sometimes, it is even fun.  Creativity, frugality, money management, self-denial — this is real-life training at its best, and I so want my children to have this training.  Next to a deep love and faith in God, I want them to learn these lessons more than anything else.

So stand back grumbly heart.  My kids don’t NEED this grammar curriculum or that science textbook.  These things, like raisins or vanilla extract, are nice and can add real quality to our school day and diet, but they are not NECESSARY to life, love and happiness.

Frugal Flexible Food

Sounds cheap, rubbery and unappetizing, yes?

Well, it’s not!  But like my home decor, our recent menu has been uncoordinated, piecemeal and make-do.

Generally, I like to plan meals, and then make a grocery shopping list.  This keeps me on budget and in-and-out of the store fast.  But I’ve been challenged to tighten the purse strings even more.  This has been tricky considering that our biggest splurges are chocolate chips and sugar for baking.  I don’t buy yogurt every week now, but have cut that “splurge” to once a month.  We don’t buy juice, crackers, or convenience foods (unless you count the 25-cent box of mac&cheese reserved for an emergency meal).

This summer, we’ve had a surplus of garden produce and free milk, foods that spoil unless consumed or processed fairly quickly.  This wonderful bounty proved to be a blessing and a challenge to my structured meal-planning habits and my desire to always offer a “main” dish with 2 veggies (one of which should be green.)

To deal with this challenge, I pretend we are a poor family living in the Depression era with no food in the house other than these particular foods gifted us by a kind neighbor.  So I HAVE to make a meal with that food or there will be no supper.  Surely, I’m not the only one who plays “pretend” in her head.  If I am, please don’t tell me.  I’ll just keep believing I am normal.

So with this pretense in my head, last Saturday I produced a supper of  . . . . . . . . .Rice Pudding, okra and cucumbers. 

I did add eggs to the rice pudding to up the protein.  I also doubled it, because us Depression-era housewives have a heavy load, and I didn’t have time to be whipping up another meal from scratch for the next day’s breakfast. 

So the children had rice pudding again for Sunday breakfast.  There were no complaints.  At lunchtime, they cheered when I used browning bananas and milk to concoct “banana cereal.” 

And for supper?

Well, I still had milk to get rid of.  I also had this . . . . .

pumpkin that my mother-in-law CANned back in 2007.  Don’t ask me to explain how I CAN be a Depression-era housewife with pumpkin CANned in 2007.  My brain CAN make it work.  CAN’t yours?

Now back to my supper plans — I tossed the pumpkin in the Electrolux (it’s the poor woman’s kitchen appliance, you know) with generous quantities of milk, eggs and spices.

No one in this house complained one bit when I pulled 2 pumpkin pies out of the oven, served them with fresh milk and called it supper.

I think everyone had 3 slices each.

Then we waddled away from the table.

Knowing that my mother-in-law’s garden has been overrun with pumpkins this year, and that I have a good chance of begging some free pumpkins off her (we Depression-era housewives have no pride, we’ll do anything to feed our families), I asked Sid if he thought he could deal with pumpkin pies for supper once a week.

“I think I shall look forward to that,” he replied.

How to make a silhouette, part 1

I’ve had a couple of requests for a “how to” on the silhouettes I made of the kids.  I don’t think I did anything particularly unusual or special.  ***Note:  I am breaking this up into 3 parts, partly so I don’t overwhelm myself and partly because I made my silhouettes in stages – 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there.

So . . . . . . . . .

Find a really cute kid.

Found one. 

Turn her to the side and tell Her Cuteness to be still. 

Then tell her that she needs to stand with her head straighter and NOT jutted forward.  And to not smile so goofy, but to act normal.  Okay . . . . . don’t act normal for HER, but like other people normal.


Ooops!  She over-compensated and went the other way.  And is now giving a less toothy, though still goofy smile.


“Daddy, can you help?”


Prrrrrryyyyyy the chin off the chest.


Oh dear, the little cutie is looking a might discouraged.


Coax a little smile out of her.  Ah, there’s our happy girl!  Let’s just go with it.

I can’t say that getting her profile was easy, but it sure was fun. 

NOTE:  This step probably doesn’t take so long if Mom and Dad show better control and refrain from torrents of laughter. 

ANOTHER NOTE:  Prairie is wearing her pajamas.  For the silhouettes, it doesn’t really matter if your cute kid is clean or wearing their Sunday best.  You may or may not want odd-looking cowlicks or other hair disturbances, depending on the what is normal for that kid.

If I were trying to photograph a baby, I would just occupy the baby with some toy or an older sibling and sneak up on her from the side to snap the photo.

How to Make a Silhouette, part 2 coming when I find my way out of the blueberry bushes and the bean patch.

Stuck to the back of my eyelids

You know how you can stare hard at an image for a few minutes, then close your eyes and still see the basic shape of that image for a few seconds?

Did you know that that will work even HOURS after you stared at that image?

That is what I discovered this week after picking blueberries for 3 straight days.  On each of the last 3 evenings, when I closed my eyes for the night, I could still see clusters of blueberries, most of which were hanging just out of reach . . . . . .unless I stretched just a little further . . . . . . . . on tiptoe . . . . . .balanced precariously on a ladder.

So, of course, I lived precariously.

And I have my bounty to prove it.  These are organic, FREE blueberries to stock my freezer for the winter.  After the cow  put that huge dent in our grocery budget, I am willing to put some effort into wholesome free food. 

If you think that is a lot of blueberries on the table, let me tell you that I have about that much already in my freezer and another large batch sitting in the fridge, waiting to be inspected, bagged and frozen.  It is almost embarrassing to HAVE so much food, when so many have so little.  And my greedy little heart whispers that it is not enough, that I must return to the blueberry bushes to pick more, More, MORE.

Downright embarrassing, I tell ya.

Do you know what this is?

This is the beginning of Chocolate Zucchini Muffins.  Or Zucchini Bread.  Whichever we are in the mood for.

I stayed up late last night processing giant zucchini and now have 26 cups of shredded zucchini in my freezer, all stored flat in 2-cup portions.

And since the zucchini are still a’coming, I should have plenty of fresh zucchini for my “Mock” Apple Pie.  Do you think my crew will fall for this again?

Just in case someone wants it, here is my Chocolate Zucchini Muffin recipe.  I like it without the chocolate chips, but with chocolate chips it tastes pretty much like a brownie.  We usually double the recipe.  These don’t last long around here.

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix well:

3 eggs

2 cups sugar

1 cup butter (2 sticks), melted

2 cups zucchini, grated

1 tsp. vanilla extract

6 T. cocoa

2 T. olive oil


In a separate bowl, mix with a whisk:

2 cups soft wheat flour, freshly milled

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon


Combine the flour mixture with the egg mixture just until blended. Fold in:

¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips


Fill muffin cups about ½ full and bake 14 – 15 minutes.