Your the Reason Why Your Kid is a Schmuck

Keeping up with a blog is hard work. Especially as of late. This year started out big with my eldest daughter’s Bat Mitzvah and hasn’t stopped. Recently I became co-president of my sisterhood, started watching some neighborhood kids (free, as a courtesy), and also am the financial secretary of my synagogue. Lets add on top of that I’ve been homeschooling my youngest. Oh! and last month, we got a dog.

Fun.

In all seriousness though, this is year has been really exciting and we are now coming to the second half of it. This past month I’m just finished hosting my second daughter’s bat mitzvah. As a convert, it is a real joy to see my kids embracing my faith as their own. To lead services and even to watch them become active and involved with their community.

You know why they do that? Because they see their mother doing it. They know there is no REAL “reward” other than they are helping to make their community a little more special for other people to join. They understand that that IS the reward.

Leading by example.

Adults today sit there and wonder why kids are so spoiled and really, just a-holes. I’ll tell you why.

Because their parents are.

Kids emulate what they see. They have spent the better part of their life watching YOU. Even when you don’t think they are looking, they are still watching you.

Granted. There are just some kids that are just plain jerky and their parents are one of the sweetest people in the world, but they learned that their behavior was acceptable SOMEWHERE and it the responsibilities of their parents to curb that.

I’m guilty of it too.

My youngest son is lazy. He’s unBELIEVABLY lazy. He emulates EVERY despicable trait of his late father. Why? Because when he was younger he spent a good amount of time with his father while I worked 80 hours a week. My current husband and I have been working on him for the past 6 years to get him to do SOMETHING! ANYTHING! That just didn’t involve video games. Only last year did he stop pissing all over the bathroom. (Yep, it was that bad.) Many wanted to chalk it up to Autism, ADHD, etc. but I said, “no.” I knew what it was and I called it like it is. Bad parenting. I blame myself for letting him spend so much time around a schmuck.

However, today, my son is different. He is always willing to help at the synagogue. Is one of the best behaved kids in his Hebrew class. And most recently he came to me and his step-dad and asked if he could help one of the older scouts with their outdoor Eagle project even though it was Shabbos! (and He loves coming to service cause of the Oneg we do. lol) This is a BIG leap from what he was even a year ago. We had fears before. Legitimate fears of his future. However, I can see that with the change from the parenting he was getting before to what he is getting now, SHOWS that what we do, what we say, how we act, DIRECTLY influence our kids.

So please, don’t be a schmuck. We have plenty already in this world.

~Gin

 

 

Keeping Kosher for a Family of 5 under $100 a week

carrotsThe news has been viral with all this talk about SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) and as a former food stamp recipient I can attest that getting $29 a week is GENEROUS. When I was a recently divorced single mom with four kids and a job that only paid $7 an hour, I only got $269 for the MONTH! On top of that I was Jewish and following a Kosher diet that prevented me from getting many things with my “allowance”. (Kosher meat was exempt from the program.) So unless mommy got some extra cash, we became vegetarians at home.

Now flash-forward to the present. I have a loving husband, with a good job and makes enough that I can stay home with the kids. However, that doesn’t change the way I shop for food. I still work on a budget of a $100 a week to feed my family of five. (My oldest is an adult living in another state so that why I’m not counting six.) When you think of it, that is $20 per person, per week. Much less than SNAP. Yet, I do it. My mother still is in awe of my food budget.

Now, this is for FOOD. Not other things like soap, toilet paper, etc. Just food. I keep separate expenses for those items. Plus, with coupons I can get most of those items free.

Now to get us started, I’m going to start with appliances. These are what make my job easier AND what help keep your food budget down. The savings you get from USING the product more than makes up the cost. Next time family ask you what you want for the holidays, think these items.

Appliances:

*KitchenAid Mixer- Make sure you get one that is large enough for your family and has all the attachments to make bread. Also, if you can get it, get the ice cream maker attachment too.

*Blender-any will do. We picked up ours from Goodwill and it’s always done us good.

*Food Processor-a 5 pound of bag of potatoes, shredded to hash browns will feed your family for a month. Of less, if they love it enough.

*Bread machine if you want loaves, this is a good option. You just add ingredients then go about your day. I was lucky enough that my mom gave me her old one since she never uses it. Again, check Goodwill. They seem to have lost their popularity so I see them there all the time. User manuals are plenty online.

*Crockpot- make sure it’s a LARGE one. You want to be able to fit a roast in there.

*Soda Stream- From fruity seltzer water to your own soda on a whim. It’s worth it if you’re a soda junkie.

A word about meats….

Prices of meat are high in general across the country. Even here in Texas prices are high. Now add the luxury of Kosher meats. Here are some tips that I go buy when buying Kosher meats:

*Buy lots of chicken at 2.99lb or less,

*Buy lots of beef at 5.99lb or less,

*If prices are higher than buy lowest price meat that is slice-and-dice-able. Use these meats as fillers for tacos, spaghetti dishes, pot pies, or rice dishes.

*Fish doesn’t have to be certified Kosher. Just follow standard Kosher law. (ex. no shellfish) If salmon is cheaper than beef one week, buy salmon.

*I’m not above buying tuna in a can. Especially when it’s on sale for 50 cents a can. Those are a great addition to Mac N’ Cheese.

Now for some menu ideas…

BREAKFASTcin rolls

*cinnamon rolls (homemade or the Pillsbury ones. They always have a coupon)

*bagged cereal or Pop tarts (whichever is less, or gives me the free milk savings. Also, check the organics aisles. Many times I will find their cereals on sale for less than the popular brands. Remember to always check the per unit price vs the total cost.)

* coffee cake (I always have some leftover from Passover that I need to use before they expire)

*Pancakes/waffles

*French toast (for stale bread)

LUNCH

*Grilled Cheese sandwiches

*Egg salad Sandwiches

*Leftovers (usually stolen by my husband)

*PB&J or Nutella & bananas (one of my kids is allergic to peanuts)

*Nachos (usually make the chips from corn tortillas)

DINNER

*Fried Bread Mexican Tacos

*Spaghetti (with alfredo or marinara, whatever is on sale that week)mac and cheese broccoli

*Kraft Mac & Cheese or Anne’s if it’s on sale for $1 (bulk up with tuna, broccoli, or some other veggie you would like to hide from the kids)

*Sliced Potatoes and eggs (my dad makes then when my mom would go out-of-town. now I make it!)

*Store brand American Blend salad (its $1 a bag x5 days, its works for us)

*Store brand $1 frozen veggies (always frozen. can veggies are so bad for you)

*Tacos (either I make it with corn tortillas or make my own flour tortillas) with veggie refried beans

spagetti tacos*Spaghetti Tacos (for when I don’t have enough spaghetti for a meal)

*Oil-free “Fried” chicken

*Breaded chicken (when I am in a pitch for breadcrumbs I will use FiberOne or Leftover Matzah Meal from Passover mixed with Spike seasoning and Paprika)

*Fried Rice (usually leftover white rice mixed up with egg and some frozen veggies, and soy sauce)

*Leftover soup (throw what you have in a pot, add water, and cook) served with a side of garlic bread and saladleftover soup

SNACKS

                Most of our snacks are homemade, but once in a while we will indulge. My daughter LOVES to make cake.

*Chocolate chip cookies

*Cake

*Brownies

*Oreos

*Goldfish (only when on sale)

*Chips (from corn tortillas or store brand. whichever is cheaper per unit)

*Fruit (whatever is in season and on sale. We will freeze anything that is in excess and use for smoothies later)

*Ice cream (what is on sale or make at home. Freezepops are the BEST cheap eat.)

*Popcorn (we have an air popper, but you can easily make your own microwave popcorn using a bag or a glass bowl or, like my husband, in a pot or wok)

 

Of course this list is not exclusive. We always have a full fridge, and the kids never feel starved. You must decided what is best for your family. Coupon is great but forced me to buy a lot of food I would never buy or was just TOO unhealthy. Most of my food budget is pulled from the meat and produce department.

I hope this helps you.

~Gin

Beginning “Un-schooling”

The day started out like this:

“David, let's start with Spelling today.”

A deep sigh, slapping of workbook on the desk, slouching in his seat, some more slapping of the workbook to open the book up, loud swishes of pages being turned, and then BOOM…..

Face plowed into his spelling book, like some Peanuts character.

This wasn't the first time. In fact, the frequency of him escaping into his own world was getting progressively worse as the “school year” was going on.

That is when I decided to read John Holt's book, How Children Learn. I knew of Holt being the inspiration behind the “un-schooling” method and wondered if that would be something that would work better for my son.

First, I've always been a self-proclaimed hippie in my younger days, or maybe I'm just getting older, but reading Holt's book and reading about what un-schooling made me think “what the H*ll is this hippie-dippie sh-t!

I mean, COME ON!! Child-led learning? Let them learn what they want?

What about math?

English?

Physics?

and all the other stuff, they don't want to learn but have to?!?! That's life, right?!?

And how far can you REALLY take this?!? I mean I get it for when they are babies and toddlers, but can this really work on OLDER kids? High schoolers?

Will this screw any chance he has to go to a private college?

Well, I wasn't the ONLY one thinking this luckily and there were many resources online on those very questions. (I urge you to google it as well).

Ultimately, I landed on Sandra Dodd's website and found her e-book to be useful to ME. It was just a full collection of her webpage but I hate wading through pages and pages of web. You can purchase it via iTunes if your interested.

Well, we have been doing un-schooling for just over a week and you will never guess what has happened?

No more book abuse.

Oh, YA!

~Gin

 

 

Staying Creative

I struggle to stay creative everyday. Of course I do! I'm a mother with four kids! Many times my kids pull me off task to help them with something, they are fighting with one another, or want me to entertain them. Then there is my husband who wants dinner, the house clean, and let not even being to mention how I'm homeschooling as well.

Some days I feel like I just can't sit down and make a simple hat without getting distracted. My life is a constant whirl.

If your like me and get distracted easily or have family constantly bothering you when you are trying to work, try this.

Close the door.

Put on your earphones and listen to some music and create.

At first its scary, because again, if you are like me, your worried that the kids are going to kill each other if you tune them out. They won't (or shouldn't). Just as long as you keep your little ones in safe place they will be fine as well. Trust me, the high scream shrill of kids fighting and babies screaming WILL be heard through your earphones. Even noise canceling ones.

Its ok to enjoy some YOU time and craft.

~Gin

 

My Support

When I think of the people who have supported me along my businees journey, the first person that comes to mind is my husband.

My husband is the most patient man I know. He really has supported me both emotionally and financially in all my ventures. He’s been a huge cheerleader for me. Of all the people I know, he thinks I have talent. LOL. He’s usually my tester for ideas for product or even what my webpage looks like. Having someone close to you like that, who supports you, is very important. When I’m feeling at my lowest he’s the one who is there to pick me up to tell me to dust myself off and try again.

 

Some wisdome from my husband:

*Its never as bad as I think it is.

*Art is in the eye of the beholder. Just cause one person doesn’t like it does not mean that someone else won’t love it.

*Don’t give up on your dreams because only you are your biggest barrier.

 

He’s so smart.

😀

~Gin

 

What the heck are you going to make with your Cricket Loom?

IT HERE!!! I have been coveting this rigid heddle loom long enough. I purchased mine from Woolery and so far I'm satisifed with my purchase experience.

Now I've NEVER weaved in my whole life. Except maybe made a potholder with one of those small platic squares and nylon rubber band type threads back in grade school. If you haven't already googled it, I HIGHLY recommend watching the Crochet Crowd's Video series of tutorials on weaving. They really dimistified the whole process for me and helped me feel really confident about using my Cricket table loom.

After setting it all up, I did my first scarf. I had my kids each pick a color. The base strings (warp) are actually red, white, and blue. My son then picked this colorful transitional yarn that I ended up using for the weave. As you can see the pattern came out really surprising and you can't even tell that they really don't match. It just looks like a kiddie scarf. lol.

For my next one I made the scarf a bit longer to fit an adult and using the wool coloring it made it ever super softer. I love the boho look it presents. After doing this one, it really got me thinking about using scrap fabric or strips of fabric like use use for rag rugs. This would be a good idea for making placemats.

One thing I found is that even with worst weighted yarn the scarfs come out soft, but I still find myself itching on the wool. I'm currently working on a red, white, and blue placemats for Fourth of July. I'm using all cotton yarn and I'm finding that this is project is coming out to feel more like a towel. (Interesting!)

Please stay tuned and subscribe to see what projects I come out with.

-Gin

 

 

5 Reasons to Rent a Screen Shelter at Lake Livingston State Park

The setup of our shelter #4

The weather in our area has been crazy to say the least so we got a “screened shelter”. My eldest daughter is a bit of a princess and I could just see how this camping trip would go if it rained on our tent. So here are the top 5 reasons why I think you should do what I did, and rent a screened shelter for your next camping trip at Lake Livingston State Park in Livingston, TX. (For reference, we stayed in shelter #4)

1. It really does keep the bugs out. Ok, maybe not spiders, but by being mindful of the door it did a good job in limiting the flying bugs from invading our space. That was nice as we were sleeping. Plus the shelters are raised so it seemed like there was very little issues with ants as well. You can also eat bug free and in the shade.(sorta) There is a picnic table inside that you can sit at and so you can eat without having to worry about the sun hitting you. Just move the sides, if needed. Plus, if everyone is shutting the door, you don’t have to worry about ants crawling up in your food and any other flying insects. We tried to eat at the table by the firepit one time and a squirel came up and stole a piece of one of my daughters gram cracker. He had no fear. We were even at elbow length to it!

2. It comes with electricity. There is one light outside by the door and one inside. Both have switches that you can turn on and off. There is a also a GFCI outlet inside as well. This was nice to keep my cellphone charged and on the super wet days, I was able to plug in my electric skillet to make pancakes. (Don’t laugh! It worked!) My only suggestion is that you bring a surge protector as there were times when the rain would hit that area and it made me a bit nervous to plug stuff in, but we never had an issue.

4. The sides adjust for privacy. Each side has a large block of wood that you can roll back and forth to cover parts of the shelter. This was really nice if we wanted to get dressed. Although you can stand up in the middle of the loft and get dressed assuming your under 6ft. Plus this worked well when we had rain coming in. I was able to keep at least HALF of the bottom of the shelter from getting too wet.

3. You can sleep in a loft. You can climb the stairs and sleep in the loft. There are rails at both ends so you don’t have to worry about rolling off in your sleep. I would say two adults and two children could sleep up there. There is also a screen window up top to help ventilate so depending on the direction of the wind you could keep cool. The way the wind went in our shelter, the bottom was very chilly from the wind and my kids were toasty uptop. Plus, when the storm came pounding through, they were dry as a bone and I ended up getting soaked from the spray of wind. (yah. not fun) If you really want to make it a treat, there are strong beams that you can hang a hammock from. I did this to give my kids more room in the loft. It was great in the cool breeze and even for being lazy in the middle of the day. Some sites will allow you to pitch a tent if you still want to tent camp and just use the shelter for eating and storing your goods. There is a latch on the outside so you can padlock it. Most of the time thought I never saw anyone and it was always quite.

5. It’s the closest you can camp to the lake in the park. Each shelter is right off the lake so you can fish, cook, and eat all from right at your campsite. Some shelters where in areas that had their tables close to the shore line that you could even swim a little. Not to mention wonderful views of the lake. Very cool!

As of this writing they were only $30 a night which I thought was a pretty good deal vs the local KOA. Be sure to check their website for the most up to date information.

-Gin

 

 

 

 

 

You want to know what I’m like in real life?

Think Jennifer Burros from the movie Boys and Girls.

I have to honestly say that when I walked out of the movie theater after seeing this film I totally had to check up on who wrote and directed it because the character not only had my first name but had WAY to many similarities to my own life. Thankful it was just that, a bunch of coincidences.

If you have never seen the movie, I suggest checking your local library to rent it. Its a cute love film with some NOW famous actors but its totally predictable. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl over and over, boy gets girl.

So, it didn't just stop with the name. Jennifer Burros is a young girl from a broken home. Like her, my parents where divorced and I traveled back and forth and because of that I have always been commitment phobic as I never wanted to get divorced and do that to my kids. So I came off a bit flaky and dated a lot of guys. Now, I never was homecoming queen but I did date a football player in high school (who is also the father of my oldest son.) Now it wasn't until Jennifer was in college that her world and my world seem to be so creepily familiar. For as long as I can remember I have always told those who have known me that I wanted to be an archeologist and thus I took Latin in high school. I wanted to go back to Italy (where I had lived for a small time as a child) and get a job there. So to see a character on the silver screen who was a commitment phobic, flake, in love with Italy, studying Latin, was a bit….freaky.

Luckily her story ended happily as mine did. Just not in the same way.

-Gin

 

You will never guess what I’m doing now.

So here I go again. Starting something new. Another hobby..sort of.

I’ve always been interested in fiber crafts since my great grandmother introduced me to latch hooking when I was 5. From there I learned cross stitching, embroidery, crochet, knitting, loom crochet, loom knitting, and now I plan to learn how to use a rigid loom.

Most recently I purchased a Schachet Cricket Loom and I’m looking forward to using it. I purchased the 15′ because I wanted something a bit wider for projects I might want that need a bit more length. My only thing is now is “what the hell am I going to make with it?!?”

I currently own Knifty Knitter Looms and was lucky enough to get a DALOOM Wonder sock loom before they went out of business (one of the BEST looms EVER for easy socks!) And honestly if I wanted to make a scarf I could do so with either of these looms. So what does the Cricket loom bring to the table? (besides being a table loom)

For one it looks like I could make more of the “cloth” like scarves. When I saw someone doing this locally I felt the finished product and it felt fairly thick. A bit thicker then I prefer my scarves, but they did feel VERY nice despite being made from worse weight yarn. Something I found to be a BIG plus.

I’m hoping I can learn to use this small one so I can get an understanding of the weave process and eventually purchase a floor loom. I would like to make bigger things like blankets or even clothes. I was hoping I could make some other things like guitar straps or get a bit more elaborate with beaded work, but I’m not sure if this would work with it. Would be interesting to see though.

I will let you know when I begin. Be sure to follow me on Instagram to see what I try. 🙂

-Gin

 

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