Saturday, November 30, 2013

Our Family Thanksgiving

For Thanksgiving we went to my parents' house for a meal with my parents, my brother and his family, and my uncle Billie and his wife.  We enjoyed a nice meal that my mom prepared and spent time visiting with the family.  I hadn't been able to visit with my Aunt and Uncle for some time, so it was nice to catch up a little with them.  They are also raising grandchildren.  They have a daughter that lives with them off and on along with her four children.  One of the grandchildren is currently in the hospital with a rare condition.  They diagnosed him this week with pheochromocytoma, which is a rare tumor of the adrenal gland that secretes epinephrine.  They are currently stabilizing his blood pressure and will eventually be looking at removing the tumor.  My Aunt and Uncle live on an extremely limited income and my Aunt and I compared notes a little and discussed various recipes for use on a low income budget.  One of the foods that I have noticed we receive consistently when we go to the food pantries is canned spinach.  I decided to find some ways to be able to use my canned spinach.  Unfortunately, canned spinach is not very appetizing to me, but last week I took a can of spinach, a pound of ground beef and a small container of cottage cheese.  I mixed that together and stuffed some large pasta shells with the mixture.  I portioned out the shells for meals and froze them.  I was able to stuff 39 shells with that amount of mixture, for us that translates into 3 meals.  Later in the week, I prepared one of those meals by placing the shells in a baking dish and covering them with a jar of alfredo sauce.  I covered with aluminum foil and baked for an hour then added some cheese and baked uncovered for another 30 minutes.  I did not cook my shells in advance, because I thought they would be easier to work with when I was stuffing them. By making sure all the shells had sauce on them, and covering them to cook for the first hour, the shells were fully cooked.  I am also thinking that I will put some of the spinach into some lasagna.  In the meantime, we still have two meals of stuffed shells in the freezer for future meals.  I shared this recipe with my Aunt, who had no idea what she was going to do with a can of spinach she had on the shelf. 

I was also able to search online and tell my Aunt where the next mobile food pantry was going to be in her area.  They recently moved and she didn't know where in that area the mobile food pantry stopped.  I was able to locate on the schedule for the mobile food pantry, and there will be one coming to her area this coming Friday.  I can see as I go through this journey, how I am able to identify resources that I never even knew existed.  I'm hoping that familiarizing myself with the resources, will not only help us to get by until I am able to work again, but that I can develop a list of resources that I might refer others to for help.  I have to give a little credit though for the people that have been helping guide me on this journey.  We have hooked up with an organization called Community Partners and these people have access to and can identify all the resources available in our area that might be able to assist us as we need help.  Without these people, this journey could be rough enough to make someone want to just give up.  I am finding that navigating through these resources is not the easiest.  Having someone that knows how the systems work to give me the information that is available and to help me know what to expect and when I should be questioning things has been invaluable. 

Today I spent some time looking at ideas that I might make gifts or repurpose items for gifts for the kids.  I'm planning to use up some of my material stores and make some dress up clothes for Carolena and maybe even Derrick.  I saw a few good ideas that would be very simple to make and I'm going to work on some of those this week.  I'm going to also put together a basket for the kids that has some of my apple butter, strawberry jelly and some blueberry butter I'm planning to make later this week.  Most of the gifts under our tree this year are going to be homemade.  It's the only way I will be able to afford Christmas.  Tomorrow I'm going to the thrift shop and see if I can find some inexpensive beads and baubles to include with Carolena's dress up clothes for jewels. 

I intended to post this yesterday, but we ended up spending our day vegetating in front of the television watching the old Christmas specials.  It was a nice relaxing day.  Today, I'm preparing a turkey for our family as my mom didn't fix turkey at her dinner.  I'm not making it very elaborate, just a turkey, some basic sides and a little time spent with my son and his daughter.  The other kids weren't able to come.  I also received my text books for the journey I'm beginning, working on my Master's in Nursing.  I'm looking forward to opening those and starting my reading.  It's been a while since I've been in school, but I can actually say I'm looking forward to it. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving From the Craft Room

I need to start this post by saying I never want anyone to think I am complaining about any of the help we get from the safety net organizations. I'm just going to share my experiences here. I am grateful for everything we have been given. We started this week by dropping Carolena off at school and going to the mobile food pantry on Monday morning. They ask people not to line up for this more than 15 minutes early, but the line was already about 15 or so when we got there at 7:45 and they didn't start passing out food until 10:00.  We got our spot in the line and waited for the doors to open. At  around 9:15  someome made a scene that people had moved her cart in the line. A few minutes later they opened the doors and instead of going down the line as was normal, they just let people flood in. The people were pushing and shoving their way in. So there was no semblance of a line. By the time we got a number we were number 40. We were then sent into the gym to wait our turn. Around 10:00 the line began to move. When we left at 11:00 we left with the followung foods to work with. A frozen jug of orange juice, a can of diced tomatoes, a can of corn, two boxes of granola bars, a box of cereal, a bag of fresh green beans, a bag of cranberries, an acorn squash, a package of english muffins, a bag of flat buns and a package of pecan tarts. There were a couple of times the people got upset with the woman that had earlier made a scene. We heard there were 500 people in the line this week. This is a small town. I can't imagine what it would be like in a city. This was the first really bad experience we have had with going to the food pantries. We will continue to go, but it saddened me to see how people were so rude and obnoxious with the workers. These people were trying to help, and yes they misjudged by not passing the numbers out in a little more orderly fashion, but at least they were trying. I was disappointed that there was no protein choices at this mobile pantry. Fortunately, prior to my accident we were well stocked so I should be able to work with these ingredients and make some meals with food we already have in our freezer and pantry.

Yesterday, I spent the day baking cookies to donate back for the Community Dinner that they are having tomorrow. Even though things are extremely tight for us, I wanted to try and give something back. I made four batches of cookies and two gluten free chocolste cakes I  was able to drop those off today and say to the people at one of the food pantries we've been going to, thank you for the help they have given us. The gluten free cake uses garbanzo beans which we have recieved an abundance of from the food pantry so it was nice to find a recipe that allows us to use these in a different way. I'm going to tweak these a bit and add a few nuts, but they make a great brownie like cake. When Carolena tried these she told me they were better than the other brownies I make. Tomorrow we are going to my parents' home for Thanksgiving with our family. I can honestly say that this year even though we are having a rough time financially, we have more to be thankful for than we have in some years past.  Over the next several posts.  I will talk about other sources of help we have had since we have moved back into the house. The surrounding communities have been helpful in providing us help to get our house back into a livable habitat.  I probably won't blog tomorrow as I plan to spend the day enjoying my time with family. But I should start back with posts on Friday. Will I be out Black Friday shopping? That would be a huge NO as I have no cash until Jim's disability comes in and at that point we will probably only have enough for the basics once again. But if we have the basics covered, I will praise God for that as even that didn't look possible a few weeks ago. Tomorrow I will be able to take the first step in the new chapter God is writing in our lives as I can start working on my online classes for my master's program. I'm not sure where God is leading me, but I trust he knows the way. Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My Blog Gets a New Twist

So a lot has changed since I last blogged. Once again, I'm hoping to get better at this "blog thing". Over this past year we have had our youngest child move out and although technically we should be "empty nesting" our nest still has our granddaughter Carolena living there.  During the summer we made the decision that we had no choice but to get the house that burned livable enough to move back in. Finding the money for repairs was impossible while paying rent, so we started working really hard and with help from Community Partners to get us a dumpster we were able to get things to a point where we could move back in to 3 rooms. I signed a weekend contract to increase our income and we were ready to begin major overhauling of the house. I worked one weekend and the following week I stepped into a furnace vent hole which I uncovered to clean. With that one step our lives changed dramatically. On August 5th I dislocated my shoulder and broke the trochanter where the muscles attach to the bone. For 6 weeks they wouldn't let me move my left arm. After 6 weeks I began physical therapy and at this point I can lift my arm barely over my head and still can not lift any weight. So, I have been unable to work since August 5th. As of today November 26th, my work has ended my leave of absence.  It looks like I will be looking for a new job. I have had several ups and downs with this dillemma. Some if which has occurred because I've been waiting to hear about my job. In the meantime I have signed up to begin a Master's program online so I have the option  of teaching which I should be able to do without full use of my left arm. Where is the money for school coming from? Only God knows. I'm taking a huge step of faith here believing He will show me the way.

During the last 4 months I have learned a lot on how to survive on a very low income. We have been down to my husband's disability income which is less than a fourth of our normal income. Fortunately, we have a very low debt load or we would not be able to survive. We have been learning to use the public assistance programs that are available and in future posts I will describe some of what we have experienced there. We have learned how to access some of the safety net organizations. I will expand on some of these things as I post in upcoming days. I will also share ideas I've come up with to use food that has been given to us at the local food pantries. It can be challenging. I recently downloaded a free app that can help with meal planning as well as generating grocery lists and inventory  of the ingredients you have on hand. I'm currently using the free version, but like it well enough I'm considering upgrading to the pro version for less than $4.00. I'll keep you posted there. My blog will still feature my craft projects, but will be expanded to include these other types of posts as well.

These last four months have given me time to reflect and return to doing some things I really enjoy. While I haven't been able to really do much of my crafting as my room still isn't usable and I can't lift and move things around. I've spent time getting back into canning and preserving. With my husband's help I can put things in jars to help decrease the work it takes to make a meal. I've also been able to save food that might have gone to waste for another meal. I definitely enjoy doing it. I'm looking forward to making and giving mostly homemade gifts this year as our budget has no room for store bought gifts. I will share this journey as we go so that hopefully it will help and/or inspire others to be able to do the same. I will also share some of what we have experienced in our remodeling projects which are quite interesting on a severely limited budget. I will go back through some of the happenings of the last couple months in my upcoming posts. Come along on this journey with me. Let's see where it takes us.