I am SO proud of myself! This morning I sent Liam off to school with a sandwich made from my first REALLY edible loaf of home made bread! Well, I think it's really edible anyway - I just hope he likes it as much as I do. Either way, I refuse to fork out any more money on ready-made teensy loaves of wheat-free bread. Unlike theirs, my breadmaker version didn't resemble a concrete block or cost $6 to make either. I know I have said this before but I am SO grateful to be living the Simple Savings way of life at this time. Had I not been so accustomed to making all our food from scratch already, I would have found this whole diet overhaul extremely traumatic but I can honestly say I am taking it all in my stride now. Sure - there are a lot of things Liam can no longer eat, but there are still a heck of a lot of things he can. His body has adjusted to the changes and he is no longer permanently famished. I must just take this opportunity to brag about my fantastic boy, who proved his mother wrong on Friday and not only made it around the extremely challenging cross country course but beat a heap of kids who were two years older than him and qualified for the inter-school cross country finals! I must of course mention my other just as fantastic wheat-loaded son who also put on a wonderful performance but for Liam this is unheard of. This is the kid who three weeks ago couldn't last more than a couple of minutes on the rugby field. I could hardly believe my eyes and it took all my willpower not to turn into a blubbering mess in front of the rest of the school when he crossed the finish line. Even Liam says he can't believe how well he feels - WOW!
So fingers crossed it looks like things are really looking up for Liam and he was certainly pretty lucky on the weekend. One $2 ticket in a local Lions Club raffle won him a huge Father's Day hamper for his dad, containing wine, beer, vodka, all kinds of mens' toiletries, heaps of choccies, tools, things for the car and garden - even a portable barbecue! Noel was delighted and we certainly reckoned it was the best $2 any of us had spent for a while. Certainly better than the $120 we spent on the rugby on Saturday, going to see Waikato get slaughtered by Canterbury. If it would have saved me half the cost of the tickets I would have gone home at half time! Talk about painful. Still, at least we enjoyed an awesome meal first at Lone Star - what fantastic value! HUGE portions and the kids' drinks and desserts were free. Will definitely be going back there!
Sunday was not only Father's Day but also Noel's birthday, so after our costly outing the night before this was another opportunity to break the bank. However, we put our thinking caps on and managed to give Noel a brilliant day, the Simple Savings way! We wanted to make him something special for dinner and decided on a recipe for Butter Chicken from the Forum (there are a few - we used the one contributed by Kate in SA). Liam was the chef and followed the recipe to the letter. He also made one of his favourite new wheat-free dishes for dessert, called Globulous Gluttonous Mousse (chocolate mousse to the rest of us). If anyone would like the recipe, drop me a line! Unbeknown to Noel, we rang one of his colleagues and grovelled to him to look after his work phone for the evening, then once Noel was safely ensconced in the bath, we set to work transforming our humble abode into a classy restaurant, giggling and whispering all the while. Noel came down the stairs to a candlelit kitchen and Ali, smartly dressed with hair slicked back, guided him to his seat and presented him with the menu. Liam got busy in the kitchen, sporting his dad's new BBQ apron - another prize from the Father's Day hamper - and served up the Butter Chicken accompanied by rice, green vegetables and mini pappadums. We cracked open the beer and wine from the hamper too! The chicken dish was a BIG hit. 'We must do this more often!', commented Liam. 'What - eat Butter Chicken or have dinner together more often?' asked Ali. Liam was talking about the latter and the rest of us had to agree. No incessant phone ringing or five minutes grabbed conversation in between Noel getting home from work and starting all over again. While many families take eating dinner together for granted, for us it was a huge treat and I have to say it, we enjoyed it even more than our real restaurant meal the night before!
Since I have been 'outed' in the national media as a frugal type, I am becoming accustomed to being accosted by senior members of the public all wanting to pat me on the arm and tell me what a very sensible girl I am for not frittering money away. Unfortunately I have also had to become accustomed to other women telling me their husbands are threatening to leave them for 'the woman who can live on $21' instead! I always thought that the way to a man's heart was through his stomach but it seems to be just as much through his wallet. Mind you, if you're a Simple Saver, the two just kind of go together anyway, don't they! As least us frugals set an environmentally friendly example by not throwing so much away - which is more than I can say for one of my pet peeves at the moment - Readers Digest. Honestly - all I want is for them to deliver my magazine once a month and leave me alone for the rest of it, but no. Both Noel and I get bombarded day after day with mountains of envelopes, coupons, stickers and goodness knows what else in their undying efforts to 'help' us win squillions of dollars or a new car. I dread to think how many resources they would go through; it's bad enough what they send to our household alone!
Over the years I have heard Noel comment several times how he feels he was born in the wrong decade. Being the hunter-gatherer type he is, he feels he would have been much more comfortable and content living in an earlier time when people grew and caught their own food out of necessity and now Liam is doing so well on his 'caveman diet' it has made the both of us even more determined to live as sustainably and chemical free as possible. For Noel, this means growing enough meat and organic produce for us all to eat (as well as catching lots of fish, which is his favourite part). He has found winter gardening very boring and frustrating, with only the odd knobbly carrot or scraggly head of broccoli making an appearance but now spring is in the air he is eagerly clearing the area and re-sowing. Unfortunately the chickens are not very popular at the moment, as on Sunday he planted 20 broccoli plants and as soon as his back was turned the chooks pulled the whole lot out. Didn't go down well as you can imagine! For me obviously my part is to turn what comes out of our block of land into meals to feed us all but I also to want to make far more of a contribution to get back to basics on the many other things we still use that, as humans don't do us any favours. I can't wait for my bucket of bulk washing powder to finally reach the bottom so I can finally make my own laundry detergent (unfortunately using only a tablespoon of powder at a time means this could be another year away but I can't waste it!). I am also very keen to start making my own soaps and shampoos but am finding it impossible to find any resources or suppliers to do so here in NZ. I'm sure there must be some, so if anyone knows of any, please let me know! If we ever needed any more incentive to live as naturally as possible, it came last night in the final of one of our favourite TV shows, Castaway, about a group of 13 Brits who had never met and were forced to get back to basics and survive off the land for three months on a remote NZ island. We had been following the series all the way through but couldn't believe at the end of the series how much they had all changed. They had all lost weight and looked fantastic - thanks to their enforced cavemen diets and the efforts it took to keep them all fed. After watching that, we agreed it was definitely the way to go. The great thing is though, as an SS family we don't just sit in front of the TV and talk about it - we can go out and do it!
Loving all the new hints in the Vault again this week! One I am very keen to try out is 'Keep one step ahead of dinner'. For me I think this is particularly good because at the moment my menu planning has gone out the window while I experiment with meals that suit Liam as a non-wheat eater and me as a non-meat eater! However, Noel had a helpful idea. He suggested that every time I cook a Liam-friendly meal to write it down and soon enough I will have a large enough selection on file to make menu planning a breeze again. Smart fella - although the kids and I are not convinced our man of the house is 100% smoke-free. When quizzed he just looks all innocent and says 'I'm doing very well, thank you' - although he doesn't admit to perfect! However, he does reckon he will get there this time. At least it's not costing him anything to give up this time, as my mum kicked the habit almost a year ago (yay Mum!) and gave him her leftover patches. Mind you, I reckon they hold him back to be quite honest by keeping the nicotine in his system. I'm wondering if he'll do better when he runs out of patches and is forced to go cold turkey? Hmm...
So apart from trying to find a soapmaking supplier this week, thanks to the Vault I am definitely going to cut the amount of stock I use in half and try out the bulk home made pancake mix. I am also aiming to find a second hand glasshouse as a birthday present to myself (I have until December to find one!) as I think it will be great to grow things in (obviously) but also to dry my washing in. Then my house wouldn't resemble Widow Twanky's Chinese laundry every time it rains. After four days of incessant heavy rain, my outdoor rotary clothes line is is heaving with washing, as well as a second line tied between two trees on the back lawn, a third line tied between another two trees on the front lawn - AND, a FOURTH line tied from one curtain rail to another which stretches across the length of the lounge room and is hopefully being dried nicely by the heat of the log fire. My mum fell about laughing when she saw it yesterday but I refuse to ever purchase a tumble dryer again; my environmental conscience just won't let me; not to mention I like our pittance of a power bill just the way it is. I'm going through inner turmoil at the moment trying to decide whether to get a carpet cleaner in. I'm too stingy to really but I fear that needs must. Minnie, our little ragamuffin is boisterous and bouncy but on the whole extremely well behaved. Whilst she has completely chewed through two Playstation controllers (one of which was bought that day, which was rather annoying), she rarely makes too much of a mess. She has also been a dream to housetrain too - except for last week when she did a huge Number Two in the lounge and then danced through it, leaving poo-ey pawprints across the entire length of the room and out through to the kitchen. With the help of the Vault and Shannon Lush's 'Spotless' book, I cleaned it up as best I could (and it took a loooong time, using an old definitely-no-longer-used-for-teeth toothbrush and first cold, then warm soap suds) but I'm not convinced it's done a thorough enough job. Maybe it's just because I know where it's been, I don't know! Either way, I think I'm going to have to call in the experts on this one - thanks Minnie.
However, for now I have a more urgent, even nastier issue to deal with first. I left a washing basket in the laundry last night and the only item in it was Ali's beloved Brumbies woolly hat, which I had put there to be washed. This morning I opened the door and was greeted with an appalling and unmistakable smell. You know the old rhyme 'the cat sat on the mat?' Pah - if only - more like 'the cat s*at on the hat!' Egads I don't know what to do with it! I mean - even if I managed to remove it in the wash, what if I can't get rid of the smell? I can't let Ali put that on his head! One thing's for certain - he must never find out. Neither must Noel, he loathes the cats enough as it is. I have chucked it in a bucket of washing powder to soak while I search the Vault for bright ideas. 'How to remove cat poo from beanie'... wish me luck!