Favorite "Meditation of My Heart"

Call unto me,

and I will answer thee,

and shew thee great and mighty things,

which thou knowest not. --Jeremiah 33:3 KJV

Monday, June 25, 2012


Our last minute new design for
matching 2012 T-shirts. I got a
great price at Creator Designs!
As you may be aware, our bus is still getting improved upon at the mechanics so we have decided to make the tough adult decision and cancel our trip to Morgan's Wonderland in San Antonio.  It has waited for us for 3 years so it can wait another.  By the time we go next year, the bus will be well tested and ready for the long trip. 

So after getting family input tonight, I changed our matching Texas vacation t-shirts for matching Stay-cation t-shirts and we made a list of activities we wanted to do.  Then Daddy and I packed these around open dates and doctor appointments. 

Right now our Stay-cation schedule is for one-day trips using the following schedule: 

1st week of July:  Big Brutus & Fort Scott
2nd week of July:  Dickerson Park Zoo
3rd week of July:  St. Louis City Museum
4th week of July:  Rutledge Wilson Farm (& maybe zoo again)
1st week of August:  Cousin's Reunion at the farm (& maybe Wilder home & Baker Creek Seed Co)
2nd week of August: Purina Farms & Grant's Farm
3rd week of August: Crown Center in KC

We'll fill in with some trips to the creek; few visits to the park, hook up the sprinkler; do the summer reading program at the library.....and we should all get through this summer with some affordable fun while giving the new bus a good testing within the mileage range of our new AAA tow insurance. 

Want to join us on one of these outing?  Just email us.  I have arranged group ticket prices for the activities that co$t.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Adults with a Bus

Prayed & waited for over 2 years, but it was
worth the wait.  Its a great looking bus!

I am pleased to report that we are bus owners.  I'm not as pleased to report that the bus is in the shop.  However, we got a great 2003 bus with seating for 14 plus 1-2 wheelchairs and a power wheelchair lift for $3150!  Yes, you read that right $3150.  However, the bus was in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

Friday night when Mr. Workman got home from being at the National Debate Tournament in Indiana, we left for Minneapolis to pick up our bus on Saturday morning.  We drove all night long, but 628 miles later, we got there.  The owner had misplaced the bus when we arrived, but in the end it was found with extra detailing working being done and a full tank of gas!  So our trip home with the bus started by driving it in downtown Minneapolis traffic, but Mr. Workman did an awesome job driving the bus in all that traffic and construction.  We had planned to stop in Des Moines for the night, but by the time we crossed the Minnesota-Iowa boarder, the giant coffees were no longer keeping us awake enough to be safe drivers.  We stopped in Clear Lake to eat dinner, and I was trying to fall asleep at the table!  We got a room at the Super 8 and dropped in bed.  The next morning at the complementary breakfast a few people were complaining about hearing the I-35 traffic all night.  We have no idea what they were talking about!  Apparently, they just needed to be more tired!

Okay, so the bus is a little less attractive when
being towed ;)
The trip through Iowa and nothern Missouri seemed to take forever, but we finally reached Kansas City.  Then just south of Kansas City, the bus jerked and the odometer/speedometer quit and the overdrive light started flashing.  We took a break and checked fluids and couldn't find an obvious problem.  Then just north of Nevada (city in Missouri, we weren't on a detour through the West) the vehicle started overheating.  We looked into a tow and discovered that our road and tow doesn't cover anything over a ton.  Then we discovered the tow price.  The tow guy came to check on us and directed us to a small rural diesel mechanic within a miles of where we were stopped.  It was his opinion that we could try to get home.  Well, we made it 8 miles and lost all the transmission fluid.  So $420 cash for a tow, but Phillips Towing did a great job and gave us tips on what road and tow policy to get for the best coverage in the fture.  He towed the bus to our favorite mechanic who works on buses like ours for OATS (Rural Transportation for Senior Citizens) too!

Our mechanic is still looking over the bus but it needed a new emergency break and apparently the transmission may be okay.  After the break is installed then he can tell us more on Monday. 

Mr. Workman and I have decided that we may be getting a bit old for creating "crazy kids" stories, but when we are in our sixties, I guarantee you that the Minneapolis bus trip story will start with, "We were such crazy kids..." Obviously, that bus could have broken down in Minnesota rather than within 80 miles of home, and we NEVER considered that our road and tow wouldn't cover it.  Needless to say this could have been even a more expensive life lesson!

These guys are happy just to sit in it on the
mechanic's parking lot!
Photo by La Marie Photography
On Monday we all went to visit the bus at the mechanic's shop.  The bus was parked out away from the shop so we didn't disturb the mechanics other than possibly for them to snicker about us visiting our bus.  The boys think Mr. Workman is cooler than ever because Daddy owns and drives a bus!  It is so fun to see the kids excited and appreciative of what we were able to get. 


On Monday, we will know how extensive other repairs might be such as we think the air conditioner has a leak.  Needless to say, we are praying that the fixes are affordable.  However, on Wednesday we are supposed to leave for San Antonio.  Mr. Workman and I hate this part of being adults, but we have to decide if we want the bus' second outing to be so far and what if it breaks down again.  We have to consider how much money we have in reserve and decide if going to San Antonio could have the potential to be a "crazy kids" story.  Please pray for the bus and us the "adult" owners as we make tough decisions over the next 5 days.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God,
and He will give it to you.
He will not rebuke you for asking.~~James 1:15 NIV

15 Be very careful, then, how you live
  —not as unwise but as wise,
16 making the most of every opportunity,  
because the days are evil. ~~Ephesians 5:1-16 NIV

Sunday, June 10, 2012

More Cheap Eats!

People frequently ask me for my recipes for inexpensive meals.  I really struggle with this because I don't have very many "standard go to recipes".  I "create" a lot as I go based on what I have or can get cheap or free.  I must say, I've cooked with and tried foods that I had to consult the internet about, and some have become new favorites.  I grow my own herbs and use lots of spices like smoked paparika and rich flavors like balsamic and specialty vinegars, worcestershire sauce, cooking wines and soy sauce.  These let me hide a lot of specifics from my kids! 

We frequently receive donated foods from various sources that are a real blessing. Plus I shop with coupons and ads SO I often feel a bit like the Iron Chef.  Only my challenge sounds more like, "You were given 2 pounds of ox tails, 5 pounds of venison, a case of mustard greens, 2 cases of chick peas and 3 dozen eggs. You bought with a coupon on sale the following: sugar, salad dressing, flour, oranges, bananas, dry egg noodles and potatoes.  You got kohlrabi, green peppers and squash from the garden.  You bought green beans, onions and zucchini at the farmers market. Now cook for the week or longer!"  Obviously, I try to plan menus, but when something gets dropped off as a donation and needs used ASAP...well, I have to be flexible and creative!

So let me share a few low cost "gems" that I've been given, tried and loved along the way.

Venison:  Cube it. Apply a generous sprinkling of apple pie spice and some fresh cracked black pepper to taste (like a teaspoon or more of apple pie spice per pound) and then use it as you would any super lean beef.  Cubed venison is especially good in the crock pot on low with a cup or so of New York Steakhouse A-1 Marinade, which is frequently on sale and has had lots of coupons so I can usually get it for $1.25.  (Yes, you read this right, "a-p-p-l-e pie spice" and sometimes I add a little fresh ground ginger, which is much cheaper at the whole foods store than at the grocery store and it is a favorite of mine.) 

Oxtails:  Oxtails are BEEF, don't freak out.  They were a staple during the Great Depression because of their high nutritional content (especially high in iron) and their low cost.  Campbell's even used to sell Oxtail Soup! I frankly hate to tell you about oxtails because I might not get them given to me so often if people knew that they make extra tasty stews and soups.  I sear the oxtails first in some olive oil and then slow cook them to get the great flavorful stock!

Ham hocks:  These are awesome in a pot of pinto beans, but my favorite recipe is by the Pioneer Woman. It is Black Bean Chowder.  I've taken this to several school luncheons and to friends in need of some awesome comfort food.  It is a FAVORITE and I've picked up some un-deserved fans of "my" cooking.

Pickled Beets with Hard Boiled Eggs: 
Tasty & Pretty & Cheap!
Beets:  People apparently grow beets, but don't like to eat beets.  When I'm given beets, I love to make Pickled Beets with Hard Boiled Eggs!  Its a big treat.  I make 4 or 6 times the recipe below, but this is a size for typical folks. 

3 pealed and sliced beets that have been boiled
1 red/purple onion thinly sliced
6-8 hard boiled shelled eggs
1 cup white sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp of pickling spice tied in a cheese cloth bag

Place the liquid off the boiled beets (about a cup) in a pan and add sugar, vinegar, and bag of pickling spice.  Bring to a boil and simmer at a low boil for 15 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  Layer beet slices onion slices and eggs in a jar.  After the liquid cools so it is just warm, pour it over the layers. Put the pickling bag in the jar too.  Cover the jar.  Shake or stir twice a day to mix the contents.  Let it sit 3 to 5 days before serving.  (BTW-This is an awesome snack or as a side for a salad or mustard greens.)

Garbanzo Beans/Chick Peas:  There are hundreds of ways to use garbanzo beans, but apparently few people in the Mid-West know them.  I get lots of canned garbanzo beans given to us.  Garbanzo beans can be roasted for a highly nutritious snack.  Our kids love hummus which can easily be made if you have two things: 1) food processor and 2) tahini (sesame seed paste).  I can't believe that I used to think that garbanzo beans were just to add to veggie soup!

Mustard Greens & other leafy things:  Mustard greens are much milder than spinach and they can be easily seasoned with sauteed onion and ham hocs.  Kohlrabi leaves, collard greens, mustard green are such are amazing in a hearty veggie soup.  A favorite is Balsamic Reduction-Glazed Garbanzo Beans served over mustard greens or other leafy things like fresh baby spinach with some crumbled feta and seasoned walnuts.  But its all about what's in the house already so if I don't have feta, I might put some other cheese or some drained mandarin oranges or whatever strikes my fancy.  Some of it turns out better than others, but with 12 hungry mouths and visitors, it usually all gets ate!

A favorite low cost "Pioneer Woman"
 dessert is "Prune Cake"
Sometimes I end my blog with a Bible verse or two, but this blog entry would probably be most appropriately ended with a Bible story from Numbers 11.  The food that is given to our family and that is purchased at low prices are seen by my husband and I as gifts from the Lord, much like the manna in Moses time.  While it is true that we could ignore the budget and buy other foods, we feel that would not be acting as good steward of the gifts we are given.  We often share our surplus of gifted and bargain foods with others, but we try to use all that we need with contentment in our hearts.  When I find myself wishing for something else, I remember that my children are being exposed to more variety of wholesome foods than most children and I pray for God to make me content with His generosity.  (Its amazing how often the next few weeks yields something I was secretly hoping for!  I'll never forget wanting to buy steak for Mr. Workman for Father's Day a few months after the we added the 4 boys to our family.  It would have busted the strained budget!  But I prayed for contentment and planned to fix lasagna, but two days before Father's Day some friends started a fast and gave us two huge steaks from their freezer that were tempting them!) 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

<$4 Dinners for 12: Beans & Cornbread

I was given Hormel Smoked Pork Chops and wasn't sure what to make with them because my boys generally don't like smoked meats.  So tonight I sauteed an onion and garlic in balsamic vinegar and diced the pre-cooked chops into the onions.  Then I added the sauteed mixture to a bag of 16 bean soup ($2.28) that I had soaked overnight.  Lastly I stirred in some chicken soup starter and thyme.  Then let it cook for 2 hours. 

Then I paired it with a triple batch of Betty Crocker Cornbread ($.25 each on sale) and 2 cans of warmed mustard greens (given to me) with Balsamic Reduction drizzled on top. 

It wasn't the hit that pizza is at our house, but everyone ate something!

Balsamic Reduction
If you haven't tried reducing balsamic vinegar and using it on greens and in dressings, then you really should give it a try.  Mr. Workman and I had it drizzled on bruschetta at a restaurant in St. Louis when we went to see "A Christmas Carol" at the Fox.  Since then I have found out that this flavorful treat is supper easy to make.  However, due to the smell, I cook it on the deck!  I use my crock pot on high and cook the balsamic vinegar until it is 1/2 the volume as when I started.  A hot plate or electric skillet could be used too.  (I use a wooden spoon to check for when it is 1/2 as deep.) BTW-If the vinegar does not naturally sweeten, just add a little sugar.  Then after it cools, I store it in a bottle in the refrigerator to use as a yummy flavor kick on salads, greens, and as a base for salad dressing BUT it doesn't last long!

And Boaz said unto her, At mealtime come thou
hither, and eat of the bread,
and dip thy morsel in the vinegar. And she sat
 beside the reapers:
 and he reached her parched corn, and she did eat,
and was sufficed, and left.--Ruth 2:14 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Emergency Preparedness Updated

About a week ago I told you about my less than successful test of our emergency food preparations.  I had previously tried to have a month of food in reserve, but when I tested to see if I did, I discovered I was way off on my expectations.  My new emergency supplies focus more on the first 3 days to a week after a disaster and less on long term food supplies. 

So today I repacked in four containers.

Container 1:  65 gallon trash can
  • 36 bottles of water plus 3 gallons
  • 1 L canola oil
  • Shortening
  • 2.5 gallon bleach
  • Big Dawn dish soap
  • 6 Sponges
  • BIG trash bags
  • 2 Rain ponchos
  • 16 oz rubbing alcohol
  • Small First Aid kit
  • Work gloves
  • Rubber gloves
  • Medical gloves
  • Bungee chords
  • Big tarp & a small tarp
  • Tent stakes
  • Rope
  • Mallet
  • Duck tape
  • Flash light
  • 2 boxes baby wipes
  • 1 tub of sanitizing wipes
  • 2 cans of ham
  • 2 cans of chicken
  • 1 box chewy granola
  • can opener
  • powdered electrolyte mix
  • vitamins
  • Diapers
  • Medications
  • Extra feeding tube
  • Few of Jon & Nate's formula cans
  • Beef jerky with cheese
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Emergency candy & gum
  • Ziploc baggies
  • and I still need to add a small radio
Container 2: 5 gallon bucket
  • 15 pounds of sugar
  • 20 pounds of beans
  • 3 pouches of tuna
  • applesauce
  • cooking fuel
Container 3:  5 gallon bucket
  • 25 pounds of flour
  • salt
  • baking powder
  • baking soda
  • Paper plates & plastic forks
Container 4:  Plastic tote
  • 50 pounds of rice
  • #5 can of ravioli
  • cooking pot
  • Serving spoon
  • Peanuts
  • Evaporated milk
  • Mac N cheese
  • Powdered whole milk
Hubby adding reflectors to the tubs to make them
easier to find during an emergency.
First Aid bag also got refilled and updated to be ready for our summer outings and the ouches that happen on the go!

If you see anything that I forgot or have a suggestion please let me know.  Obviously I hope we never need any of it, but if I missed something, I'd like to know now and not when we need it.

 The ants [are] a people not strong,
yet they prepare their meat in the
summer; ~~Proverbs 30:25