Thursday, December 05, 2013

Family SNAP Hunger Challenge: Day 4

Up at 5:30 this morning. To make tortillas. Which is great, you know, that they loved them so much that they requested them for breakfast...and lunch. But it's a time-consuming task. And I'm not really a morning person. And had I just thought about it last night (here's the planning issue rearing its ugly head again) while I was already making a batch, I could've just doubled it and been ready. So this was very much a labor of love. Or something.

Homemade flour tortillas
BREAKFAST: Taquitos de papas con huevo
  • a dozen homemade flour tortillas
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1 small diced russet potato
  • 1/4 c diced yellow onion
  • re-use fat rendered from pork sausage yesterday to saute potatoes and onion
Total for Breakfast: $1.43

A dozen goes a looong way
LUNCH: Burritos de frijoles refrito y queso
  • 6 homemade flour torillas (2 for each of us)
  • 1 c refried beans (from earlier this week)
  • 1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese
Total for Lunch: $1.12

SNACKS: Morning and After School
  • 2 baggies of chex cereal
  • 2 carrots sliced down to sticks
  • 2 tbsp of peanut butter for dipping
  • 3 graham cracker sheets (1 for each of us)
  • 1 cup of work coffee for mama (yay!)
Total for Snacks: $1.57

DINNER: Grilled Chicken Spaghetti

  • 1 pkg whole wheat thin spaghetti (generic brand)
  • 1 lg chicken breast
  • 1 sm lemon
  • 1/2 c chopped kale
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 pkg frozen corn (generic brand)
Total for Dinner: $6.43

DESSERT: 2 Scoops Vanilla Ice Cream = $0.28

2 Flintstones Vitamins: $0.20

  • Too much flour, shortening, and beans in little bodies that aren't getting as many fresh veggies and fruit as they're used to, begins to take its toll...

  • Feeling much less annoyed today, and more into the routine of things. Whatever the kids don't finish for snacks, they have to move to lunch or the next day's snack. Although no one particularly loves this plan, it really shed some unflattering light on how much food we let go to waste just because it didn't get "chosen" out of the snack bag that day.

  • Although I accounted for the lemon in our total, I actually picked it from our lemon tree. It occurred to me that I'm not doing enough home gardening, even with the small side yard that we have, and even though it's a rental. The kids and I will likely plant some herbs, tomatoes, onions, and leafy greens in the spring as a direct result of my realizing we're underutilizing the things we actually do have and can control. I acknowledge that many people won't have a lot of room to plant, but small urban gardens in pots and bowls can yield at least some injection of freshness into otherwise potentially lifeless meals. And community gardens, especially in cities with so many food deserts, should really be supported and encouraged at the local, state, and federal levels.

  • Finally, realizing that I'm not only counting the days until this challenge is over, but I'm now counting the hours. And then immediately grateful that I can say at least that.

For more details, to join the challenge, or to follow other participants' posts, please visit Project Open Hand SNAP Hunger Challenge.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Family SNAP Hunger Challenge: Day 3

I didn't wake up thinking about food today. I knew what I'd be making for breakfast, and the leftovers from last night were going to be a more than adequate lunch for all 3 of us. The relief I feel in just saying that is a bit of a surprise to me. But it makes a huge difference.

I decided, after a pretty lengthy internal debate, to make waffles this morning. On the one hand, the ingredients are mostly things I've already used since Day 1; but on the other hand, I'm fortunate enough to have an electric waffle maker. So, my rationale went something like this...if I didn't have a waffle maker, but I did have kids, I still would want to be able to make them waffles once in a while. So, maybe, I might even try to find a waffle iron at a thrift shop. I know I've seen them there before. And I don't think it's at all too far fetched of an assumption.

Of course, I recognize as I write these words, that at least half of you are thinking how very useless, in the grand scheme of things, a waffle iron is. But I would counter that it's precisely in the grand scheme of things where something as small as a waffle iron, which changes the entire face and feel of an everyday meal, and makes my kids smile and maybe feel as though they're getting something a little special that morning, is where it counts most. And maybe especially under these circumstances.

That being said, the ingredients I'm using could just as easily make flat pancakes. So there you go.


BREAKFAST: Waffles with Pork Sausage Links

  • 3 c flour
  • 4 tbsp margarine
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1.5 c milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (generic brand)
  • ½ packet of self-rising yeast
  • 4 maple sausage links (generic brand)
  • 2 tsp drizzled honey
Total for Breakfast: $2.89

Surprisingly satisfying leftovers for lunch
LUNCH: Leftover Chicken and Rice Bowl

  • 3 servings of chicken and rice from last night’s dinner
  • 1 apple, sliced and sprinkled with cinnamon for each
Total for Lunch: $0.30

SNACKS: Morning and After School
  • 2 hardboiled eggs for each of the monsters
  • small snack bag of red grapes for each of them
  • 4 graham crackers for each of the 3 of us
  • 6 cashews for mama
  • 1 small cup of bad work coffee in the afternoon for mama (YAY!!!)
Total for Snacks: $1.98

DINNER: Quesadillas
  • 4 slices of turkey lunchmeat (generic brand)
  • 1 dz flour tortillas -- homemade: so…
  • 3 cups of unbleached flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 c shortening (didn't have lard available)
  • 3/4 c warm water
  • 2 c shredded cheddar cheese
Total for Dinner for 3: $7.27

DESSERT: 2 Scoops Vanilla Ice Cream Each: $0.28

1 Flintstone Vitamin each: $0.20


  • As I work to change my perception of what I'm actually doing, I'm realizing that it's not completely different from things I do normally with regard to the children. I already cook and bake for them daily. I already make every single one of their lunches so that they don't ever have to ingest that sorry excuse for sustenance at their school's cafeteria. But it's definitely more structured, and requires so much more careful planning, and the variety of fresh fruit and vegetables has certainly suffered. I can't be as creative and spontaneous with what I feed them, but their overall diet and caloric intake hasn't actually changed too much, except for the elimination of all store-bought snacks. Which, really, was solely for convenience, and, truthfully, something I'm glad to see make it's way out of our daily routine.

  •'s me who's feeling the effects most. My usual -- nearly daily -- runs to Starbucks. My grabbing a quick lunch in the cafe at work, or splurging at the farmer's market on Wednesdays, or anytime I want to go out to eat sushi or Thai or Vietnamese or tapas. Gone. My afterwork drinks. My cheeses and salsas and chips. Gone. My midnight munching on chocolate covered pomegranate seeds. My glass of wine while making dinner. Gone. Gone. Gone. And that, as selfish and self-centered as it all sounds, is what's taking its toll the most.

  • I feel like I'm being punished for something, even though I should be grateful we have enough to fill our bellies. I feel like I'm being cheated out of something, even though there's nothing actually wrong. I feel angry and frustrated, and think about the vending machine up on the 4th floor way more than I should. And trust me when I say that I realize how horrible this all sounds when there are actually families who are struggling just to maintain some basic level of nourishment. But if I don't acknowledge how this is truly affecting me, then I'm not doing myself or this project any real good.

  • And this part. THIS PART. Was definitely unexpected.

For more details, to join the challenge, or to follow other participants' posts, please visit Project Open Hand SNAP Hunger Challenge.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Family SNAP Hunger Challenge: Day 2

Woke up this morning with a headache and irritable from my unintended fast yesterday and my overall lack of caffeine. Did not plan appropriately (again) last night for today, so Day 2 of the Project Open Hand SNAP Hunger Challenge is turning out to be a bit of a bear.

After the monsters' recorded their video reflecting on Day 1 last night, my daughter pointed out to me that although they appreciated the fact that I wanted to ensure they received the majority of the food, they would prefer that I allotted myself a little more going forward in order to keep me from being so irritable and snappy at the end of the day.

I was really struck by this in a way that I wouldn't normally be because she was absolutely right. And it made me wonder how difficult it must be for parents who are always short on food to maintain a level state of emotion and thoughtfulness when you're just really digging as deep as you can to get the next task done and move on to the next day. But there has to be a balance. There has to. So, for the sake of their sanity and mine, I'm adjusting my portions a little today.

Cinnamon Oatmeal
  • 1.5 c generic oats
  • 1 tbsp generic brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp margarine (cheapest I could find)
  • 1 tbsp honey (from farmer's market jar)
Chunky Applesauce on the Stove 
  • 2 small diced over-ripe apples I was about to throw out
  • 2 tbsp margarine (already beginning to realize I use this too much for it to be one that's so bad for us)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp sprinkled cinnamon (grated stick)
  • water for both
Total for Breakfast: $2.11

  • sliced chicken breast (the whole chicken I boiled will last for several meals, including the broth)
  • 4 slices of wheat bread for 2 sandwiches
  • mustard for her
  • for me: leftover oatmeal the kids didn't finish at breakfast (almost 1.5 cups cooked, which was actually very filling, and which I ate over the course of 2 hours between breakfast and lunch), and, of course, lots more water
Total for Lunch: $1.22

Celery and carrot stix with peanut butter
and homemade chunky applesauce
 SNACKS: Morning and After School
NOTE: This is where we found we were lacking most yesterday.
  • cut-up carrots and celery sticks
  • 1 heaping tbsp of peanut butter for each
  • 2 tbsp chunky applesauce from breakfast
  • 1 string cheese for her
  • 1 snack bag of chex mix for him

Total for Snacks: $2.10

  DINNER: Chicken and Rice and Veggies

  • diced half boiled chicken from Monday
  • re-use 4 c chicken broth from the boil
  • re-use 2 egg yolks from Monday to thicken the sauce
    Chicken and Rice with a
    Side of Mixed Steamed Veggies
  • 2 tbsp yellow onion
  • 2 tsp ground comino seed
  • 1/4 c diced bell pepper
  • 4 crushed cloves garlic
  • 1/4 c chopped cilantro
  • 3 c white rice
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 bag frozen mixed veggies (steamed)
Total for Dinner: $5.45

DESSERT: 2 Scoops Vanilla Ice Cream: $0.28

1 Flintstone vitamin each: $0.20


  • We had $13.68 to spend today. I only spent $11.36. That leaves $2.32. But I actually don't consider that a savings. I view that as an opportunity to maximize our spending and do better with my meal planning so that all 3 of us feel satisfied from morning until bedtime. Or, it could also mean I get to factor in a cup of coffee tomorrow. :)
  • Although dinner ended up being a pretty expensive meal, it was because it made so much that I was able to eat a full dinner myself, and we still have leftovers for all three of our lunches tomorrow.
  • By far, though, the biggest observation made today was that, as a parent, I still and always have to put the mask on myself first before taking care of my children.
For more details, to join the challenge, or to follow other participants' posts, please visit Project Open Hand SNAP Hunger Challenge.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Family SNAP Hunger Challenge: Day 1

The Monsters' Lunches and Snacks - Day 1
This week, the kids and I will be participating in the Project Open Hand SNAP Hunger Challenge in order to bring awareness to the challenges faced by so many families just like ours all over the country who, for whatever reason, have found themselves in the situation where they must attempt to nourish themselves on the current government allotment of $4.56 a day.

Although we could never truly understand the circumstances and the full weight of living day to day in that situation in just seven days, this challenge is really meant to help stir discussion and shed some light on the fact that this is a reality for many -- and, as I explained to the monsters this morning, that may very well include some of their friends and they don't even know it.

Shockingly, this meager daily allotment for food stamps is actually decreasing in 2014. And this is something that, no matter your position on the politics of it, needs to be considered. These are our neighbors, our friends and family, our community, our countrymen.

Could you sustain yourself, your family, and attempt to also eat nutritiously, spending just $4.56 per person, per day?

That's $13.68 per day for my family of 3 -- breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner, dessert, and all beverages.
So, this week, we have a total of $95.76 to spend, including condiments, oils, baking goods, and spices, which, when you add it up like that, actually sounds pretty reasonable. Until you think about what you spent the last time you went out for dinner. And all of our beautiful Thanksgiving leftovers have gone into hybernation in the freezer for a week. (But the fact that I can even complain about any that makes me immediately recoil with embarassment at our exorbitance.)


Using the whites and saving
the yolks for another meal
  Breakfast for the Monsters: French Toast

- 4 slices wheat bread (white is cheaper, but 100% whole wheat is more nutritious for us)
- 2 scrambled egg whites (saved the yolks for dinner) and added a splash of milk
- small glass of OJ (frozen generic brand and watered down a little to last longer)
- sprinkle of cinnamon (ground from sticks, which are cheapest in the ethnic spices section, but also taste better)
- 1 tbsp margarine to cook the toast
- 1 tsp drizzled honey (cheaper than our usual agave nectar, but better for us than syrup)

- half a banana for me and, of course, water

Total cost of breakfast for 3: $1.63

Lunch for the Monsters: PBJ

- 4 slices wheat bread for 2 sandwiches (thinking I may need to try and bake a couple of loaves this week instead)
- 2 tbsp peanut butter (low sodium is a little more expensive, but needed)
- strawberry jelly -- thinned with a little water to make it stretch (low sugar is a little more expensive, but needed)
- sliced 1/4 of a banana to bulk up both PBJ sandwiches
- sliced 1/4 of an apple for each with a sprinkle of cinnamon
- 4 graham crackers each
- large refillable water bottle for each (we typically don't send juices, so this is a standard)

- remaining half of the apple and 4 graham crackers, and of course, water for me

Total cost of lunch for 3: $2.11

Snack for Kids (mid-morning and after school)

- 1 string cheese each (but he didn't want his, so she had both)
- 1 ziploc snack bag of chex cereal each (which they both finished)
- 1 bag of goldfish crackers for him once he got to his Mommy's after school
- 1 honey yogurt for her once she got to her Mommy's after school
- no snack for me (which was a HUGE mistake)

Total cost of all snacks: $2.99

Refried pinto bean chalupas

Dinner for All of Us: Chalupas

- refried pinto beans (pot of beans will make for a few meals this week)
- 6 corn tortillas (bag of 30 will help with multiple meals this week)
- 2 tbsp canola oil for frying the corn tortillas, and then reused to refry the beans (other oils are cheaper, but canola is better for us)
- 2 tsp freshly ground comino seed
- 4 fresh garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp chopped large yellow onion
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
- shredded kale (more expensive than iceberg lettuce, lasts longer than spinach, more nutritious and multi-purpose, and also picked up at the farmer's market)
- shredded cheddar cheese (cheapest generic block I could find)
- 1 diced vine ripe tomato (cheapest at the farmer's market, but romas are cheapest at the grocery store)

- ended up not using the 2 yolks from breakfast, so I'll save those for tomorrow

Total cost of dinner for 3: $4.68

Dessert (because, please, they're 10 and they'll never let me get away with it otherwise)

- 2 small scoops each of least expensive generic brand of vanilla ice cream

Total cost of dessert: $0.28

Flinstones Vitamins (1 each): $0.20


NOTE: Our budget is only $13.68. That only gives me a savings of $1.79, which wasn't really a savings at all considering I didn't eat more than a half a banana for breakfast and a half an apple for lunch. Will need to make adjustments accordingly or Mama may hit road rage status by Tuesday afternoon...

- Found I was actually hungry first thing in the morning even though I never usually am, and am wondering if it's just because I'm suddenly hyper food conscious
- Found that I took smaller bites of my food and chewed slowly to try to make it last longer
- Realized the morning rush to prep for work and school makes it that much harder to pack smart lunches for all of us. Planning is really critical.
- Realized school snacks are actually going to be the hardest part for us; partly because the monsters are so picky and partly because it's harder to be creative with something that needs to be super quick, portable, and a dash of fast energy
- Recognize that much of what I did today and have tentatively planned for the rest of the week assumes that I have a working stove, oven, refrigerator, and freezer at my disposal. This revelation was a bit of a jolt.
- Found myself looking at the clock more often. When could I have another graham cracker? How long before I could eat my apple?
- Recognized around 1pm that I did a terrible job planning my own meals because I was so concerned about ensuring the kids got the lion's share of the $13.68. Hoping to plan a little better for tomorrow.
- Acknowledge that totalling up a cost per serving is not really necessarily the same thing as having to go out and spend per meal unless you're truly able to purchase, prepare, and store the majority of your items for re-use.
- Thinking that a glass of wine would be really, really great right about now...
To hear from the monsters' mouths exactly what they thought about their Day 1 experience, click HERE.

For more details, to join the challenge, or to follow other participants' posts, please visit Project Open Hand SNAP Hunger Challenge.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Weapons of Mass Destruction

Leave your sister alone. 

Don't poke at your sister. 

Don't prod your sister. 

Don't hit your sister. 

Don't harass your sister. 

Don't chase your sister. 

Don't attack your sister. 

Don't antagonize your sister. 


Oh, just give me all your weapons...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


"Hey, Mama?"

Yeah, baby?

"How old were you when you had your first crush?"

[gulp] Oh...right about your age, I think. [lie!]

"So...did you kiss? Like a real kiss?"

[gulp...swallow]., I don't think so, not til much later... [lie!]

"Well...if your crush was moving away soon...what would you do, you think?"

[stop breathing] Oh, hmmm, I think...ummm... I would, absolutely...without question...write a letter... [liar! liar! pants on fire!!!!]

Wednesday, May 01, 2013


"What was his name, Mom?"

Sideways look shot from my place over the sizzling French toast...

"Oh," he says, "the guy, you know? That guy who jumped from space?" gesturing skyward wildly with his hand like the good mini-me he is.

My eyes dart towards the upper lefthand corner of my sockets, clearly indicating I am stretching my 43-yr-old brain to try and uncover that little tidbit of info I used to be able to recall at the drop of a hat for a good Friday night trivia game, even after a couple of glasses of wine, but now can only seem to use tp form the best possible SEO sentence to plug into the googler.

"guy who jumped from space"

The results of which then sent me unexpectedly into tears for the next 10 minutes as I read him the whole story about how an 84-yr-old retired Air Force Colonel, Joe Kittinger, was essentially Felix Baumgartner's mission control and Jiminy Cricket, talking him thru some seriously intense moments on the way up as well as down, including an outer stratosphere out-of-control spin that nearly killed the very same Colonel a half century before.

And by the time I read about how the Austrian daredevil stood at the edge of his capsule, saluted, and marveled at feeling so very small standing there looking out over the entire world, I was literally heaving.

He plummeted at over 833 mph, released his parachute 1000 miles above New Mexico, and landed on his own two feet.

The data his crew of scientists and engineers were able to compile will be used for years to come, and only open up wider the inevitability of tourist space travel. And THAT idea just makes every hair on my body stand on end. Can you imagine? It would be like standing next to the first successful open-heart surgery. To be able to experience that, to feel that sense of hugeness and smallness at the same time, to actually be taking steps forward and beyond and into the infinite...

I was just a big bawling mess at the breakfast table this morning.

So...I'm either pregnant, which isn't really gonna happen without my research, order form, and signature of the FedEx delivery of the nitro tank, or I'm just pms'ing...

Friday, March 29, 2013


"Oh, mom," she says during dinner last night, "I have to turn in my homemade basket tomorrow." Chomp, chomp, crunch.

"What basket, baby?"

And so begins the frantic scramble for any and all remotely applicable household materials to hurriedly create the best. basket. ever. in about...oh...30 minutes. Ugh!!!!

After floating a good six really pretty awesome ideas off the top of my head, she finally settled on this one and set to work.

1 bottom half of a large Christmas sweater box
1 empty wrapping paper roll
3 different rolls of crazy designed duct tape
Newspaper cut into strips for filling
And multi-colored yarn cut into 5" strings for fringe

And the result, I have to say, was pretty darn fabulous!! Yay for last minute adrenaline rushes! :)

Tuesday, March 05, 2013


Overheard from the monsters' bathroom this morning:

[singing in unison, out of tune, and at the top of their lungs]


"Wait," he says, "did you say 'harass'?"

"Yes," she says, "why, what did you say?"

"It's 'caress,' not 'harass'!" he laughs.

"What's the difference?" she asks (as I shudder from my core).

"Well," he explains, "caressing is gentle, like this, and harassing is like bullying and mean. He's caressing you with his toes..."

"Ewww!!" she exclaims, "I'm pretty sure I'd feel harassed."

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


"I don't think I wanna try out for the Spelling Bee this year," she said.

"Oh no? Why not?" I ask her.

"I just don't like being up there in front of everyone," she replies, which, in Saia language, means I'm not gonna set myself up for disappointment by showing how much I want to be selected, so I'll just feign disinterest instead.

But she couldn't really suppress her excitement when she was chosen to be an alternate and then went to bed last night secretly wishing the girl with the fever wouldn't show up for the competition this morning.

But she did. And Saia did a great job of being a good sport and supporting her classmates and, a little less enthusiastically, her brother.

The boy, on the other hand, makes no bones about his love of words and has been itching and raring to go for weeks. Despite his prep work, he sat unusually still on stage and looked uncharacteristically nervous. When he passed his 1st round with "honest," he let out a visible sigh of relief. Then came "huddled," which is not a difficult word, but it's hardly ever a big word that takes you down in the Bee, you know. It's a forgotten d or a missed double letter or a transposed l and e, but he took his time, and paced himself, and knocked it outta the park.

And it was on to round 3!

There are only 14 children left, and it's at this point that you find yourself, in spite of yourself, wishing not-so-well on the remaining pack of 9- and 10-year-olds. Just a little slip here. Just a little too fast there. Just a minor flub anywhere...


And then he got "transatlantic." And I'm pretty certain I stopped breathing.

But he aced it, and is now TOP 8 OF THE 4th GRADE CLASS and moves on to the school-wide finals!!!!!!!! And, based solely on the number of exclamation points I've already used in this post today, I may just need to take a mild little sedative before that one.