Friday, September 30, 2011

30 Day Challenge Ends - Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

Goals: From the 1st post this was a Dave Ramsey style challenge in our quest to be totally debt free. We also added a goal to test our emergency preparedness.


In staying within our budget this month we increased our regular payments this month and were able to
  • put an extra $800 towards debt reduction.
  • extra $500 towards Christmas budget.
  • $300 extra into savings.

In addition to our regular monthly giving to church, CBN, our 5 sponsored children through World Vision, Eastern European Organization, and International Childcare Ministries, we were able to make additional donations to Morningstar, Sixty Feet, and Eden Reforestation. (links at the bottom)

Emergency Preparedness Test:

As part of this challenge we made a decision to also see if we had effective emergency storage and plans in the event of a natural disaster or long term power outage. We had power so we didn't have to use our backup generators or other means for refrigeration/freezing or cooking purposes. From our on-hand emergency supplies we used black beans, wheat, and dehydrated butter (for bread making). We got more creative with cooking and making due with the foods we had in our pantry and freezer. Our only trip to the store was for pet food (we will add more to our storage supplies as a result of this test) and for milk, since that was part of our budget and challenge allowances. We do have dried milk and milk alternatives in our storage supplies, but preferred the fresh milk.

The chickens kept us supplied with fresh eggs. The garden, greenhouse, and orchard kept us in fresh fruits and vegetables. To supplement our meals and fresh supplies we only used canned pineapple, mandarin oranges, and frozen berries.

For entertainment we learned to use what we had here in the house and took time to be creative and artistic.

Biggest challenge was blogging. Though each day holds 100's of small activities and a few bigger ones and are the things necessary in daily living, they are not really worthy of blogging about – so gaps in the blog happen.

We are glad we participated in the challenge as we learned a lot and it was nice to have encouragement and accountability from others. We are not anxious to run into another challenge right now and the children will be happy that dad can now get what he needs to fix the Wii game system!

Before and after the challenge photos of our freezer.

Links for organizations that we added to our giving this month:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Down to the last 2-days of the Budget Challenge

Only 2 days remain and we will exceed our expectations for the 30-Days of Nothing Budget Challenge.  Luckily our garden, green house, and orchard are still supplying some fruits and vegetables. Lynda was able to take several pickling cucumbers, peppers, and other vegetables that were in the green house and make some sweet pickle relish.  We did have to take a picture of one of Cameron's typical breakfast french toast sticks, regular toast (with some of Lynda's fresh bread), and a large bowl of oatmeal - it is amazing with how much he can eat that we were able to make it the entire month on what we have on hand in the pantry!

Lynda has been busy being creative and teaching Hannah and Lauren (Cameron has also been very helpful in the girls lessons).

Goodies from our Garden.

Pickling cucumbers from our greenhouse.
Fresh ingredients from our garden
to make sweet pickle relish.

Typical breakfast for Cameron,
(he already ate some before the photo).

Sunset from our house looking towards the lake.

Some of Lynda's latest handmade decorations.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

30-day Challenge Update

Well we have only 6-days to go and have done well with living well within (and below) our budget this month as part or the 30-day challenge.  This week we did get one unexpected cost, Cameron was invited to a local High School Homecoming dance on Oct 1, and although we have a monthly budget for things for the children such as lessons, school supplies, etc we gave Cam the $25 he needed for his ticket.  Cameron did use $40 of his money to order a wrist corsage. Since our children are homeschooled this will be a Cameron's first experience at a homecoming dance and we thought it was an important life experience for him to do.

The children are doing well and the weather has been getting cooler so swim season may be over - now jacuzzi season begins!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Dance Lessons

Since Cameron & his friend Destiny are going to a homecoming dance next week, Cam asked Mom and Dad to give them some lessons.

Here they are in awe of Kevin's    
dance moves to a hip-hop song.

Kevin dancing to an MC Hammer song.

STOP - Hammer time!

Hannah and Lauren wanted to join in, and then even Bea wanted to be in on the action.

And finally Cameron and Destiny showing what they can do.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Just another day.

Just some random pictures from today.  First Cameron has been invited to a homecoming dance and had to get out his suit to make sure he is ready to go.  His friend will be coming over tomorrow so Kevin & Lynda can give them some quick dance lessons.

Cameron and his baby.

Hannah and Lauren playing together.

30 day Challenge Continues:

Today Lynda got creative with leftovers. There was not enough leftover spaghetti & meatball, or parmesan chicken - so Lynda combined them for a special meal. For dessert Lynda used some bread that did not rise very well and made some bread pudding using a recipe from Brennan's Jazz Kitchen (one of our favorite dessert stops at Downtown Disney), a recipe from on-line and her own twist!  It was awesome!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Hydroponics Update

Kevin and Cameron have been working on an aquaponics system (right now no fish involved so it is just a hydroponic system) in the greenhouse. We have always had a vision and desire to do this and finally made the commitment and put our first plants in on Sept 5th.  We picked up some clearance vegetables the last week of August and took a few days to soak them so that we could clean the root system prior to putting them in the planting beds.

Pictures on the left were taken two weeks ago when we first placed the plants in the grow beds, the photos on right were taken today. (the other photo is a visitor Lynda transplanted into the greenhouse)

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Yes, we have all now found at least one egg this past week, so we reached an exciting (or egg-citing) milestone especially for the girls who have been wanting so bad to find their first egg.  We are almost at our first dozen!

30 - day Challenge Update:

Today was our first trip to pick up some groceries and pet food this month, we are well under our food budget for the month. It has been almost 3-weeks since out last trip out to one of the stores and we were totally lost looking for what we needed because they re-arranged the aisles since our last visit!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

1/2 Way Through the 30-day Challenge

Today marks the 1/2 way point of the 30-day Challenge. We are doing well, not eating any meals out, saving on gas (by not making trips to the store), and putting some extra down on debt reduction.  This last paycheck Lynda was able to put an additional $500 towards our Christmas fund and $500 extra towards paying off debt!

Cameron continued his ant study with the girls, I think he made some converts as both girls wanted to hurry through their regular school lessons to get outside with Cam to check on the ants. Cameron is giving them some good lessons, he had them look at some information he had from the internet and he had them watch a Magic School Bus lesson on ants.

Our garden (orchard) continues to give us some fruit, Lynda gathered some small apples, nectarines, and our first hami melon.  We first ate a hami melon at the owners of the property next to ours. The couple is Asian American, she is from Japan and he is from China, we went to their house in Hollywood last year and they gave us hami melon for a snack and gave us the seeds which Lynda dried and planted.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Entomology Lessons with Cameron

Cameron is sharing one of his passions with his sisters, entomology, the study of insects.  Yesterday, he and Hannah headed up to the backside of our property and dug up some harvester ants so they could study them for a few days.  They placed them in a container with a cloth lid and placed food and water sources for them.  Today Cameron took both Hannah and Lauren outside to see how the ants have now started to tunnel into the sand and how they will attack and eat other insects.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

This and That

Well, we have not just been sitting around as part of the 30-day budget challenge, we have been busy doing our typical projects around the property and going about our daily routine.

Lynda has been busy being artistic and creative as she has been using some of her old material, decorating supplies (including some her mom gave her) to make some Christmas tree decorations.

Kevin gave Cameron a hair cut:

The chickens have given us at least 1 egg each day, so we now are up to 6!!!  Here is a photo of the moon Monday morning around 5:30 am.

Monday, September 12, 2011

6- months for Amber and Eddie

Today Amber & Eddie are at the 6-month anniversary of their wedding. They stopped over this evening to have dinner with us and to take Hannah to spend the night with them.  It was funny that they had not even realized it was 6-months since their wedding until we told them!

Following dinner they had brought over Hoodwinked Too with them so we watched that and had some strawberry shortcake for desert.


Hannah the kitchen helper assisting mom with making lunch.

Since we did not post anything special we had for dinner the last couple of nights (as part of or 30-day challenge) here is what we had tonight : Tortilla Crusted Tilapia, broccoli, steak fries, and squash casserole. The squash casserole is a recipe from Lynda's grandmother (who just passed away in May at age 99) The recipe for the casserole is at the end of the post. 

Squash Casserole

2 ½ cups yellow squash (cooked or frozen pkg mashed)
1 cup sour cream
2 eggs (beaten)
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
8-10 Ritz crakers (crumbled)
dash of salt & pepper

Boil squash until soft or thaw. Mix with eggs, sour cream, salt & pepper. Pour into cooking pan. Top with grated cheese and sprinkle crumbled cracker over top. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 40-minutes.
Serve warm.