Archive for May, 2011

We’re now entering our ninth month of unemployment, which is a bit depressing.  But last week, instead of having a pity party, I chose to take a day off from our regular routine to have a Great Depression Party.   The kids and I have been reading the book, “Welcome to Kit’s World 1934: Growing Up During America’s Great Depression.”  It provides an overview of the Great Depression, while focusing on the kinds of details mentioned in the Kit Kittredge books.  Although we haven’t read the books, we’ve enjoyed the Kit Kittredge movie that came out a few years ago.   The book has plenty of pictures to capture kids’ attention, and real life stories of what life was like 80 years ago. (You can find the book at my Amazon store on More Joyful Choices.)

One of the things we’ve learned from the book is that although the 1930s were a time of great suffering and making do with very little, people still found ways to entertain themselves and have fun.  Some of the ways families and children had fun during the Depression are still great ways to enjoy inexpensive fun today.  To party like it’s 1939, try:

  • Playing Monopoly – This popular board game was invented in 1935 and was the best-selling game in America.  Monopoly not your favorite?  Pick whatever game your family enjoys.  Softball, called “mushball” because they used a mushy ball, also became popular in the 1930’s.  So for some outdoor fun, round up a few other families and head to your local park for a game of “mushball.”
  • Roller-skating – During the Depression, kids strapped skates onto their shoes and skated for free in parks or on sidewalks.  For some 21st Century fun, dust off those roller-blades, or go on a family bike ride.
  • Making music – People played instruments and had family sing-alongs.  Not musical?  Turn on your favorite CD and have a lip-syncing (or air guitar) contest. Award points for accuracy, style, and most creative presentation.
  • Running through sprinklers – In the 1930s, New York City used its water system to create sprinklers so that kids could keep cool during hot weather.  Next time you get to the park and discover that the sprinklers are on, instead of going home, let the kids run through them!
  • Reading library books – Weekly trips to the library are one way our family keeps from feeling deprived.  It’s like Christmas every week for my kids when we come home with new books, CDs, computer games, Wii games, and movies. Every few weeks I go online and reserve items I think the kids will enjoy, like Lego books and the latest Barbie movies.  I’ve even found gluten free cookbooks and Blu-Ray movies at our library.
  • Making toys out of whatever items you can recycle – Long before recycling was considered hip, kids made stilts and scooters out of scraps of wood, and jump ropes out of spare rope.  Check out our pictures below for recycling craft inspiration.
  • Flying kites – Families made kites out of newspaper, sticks, string, and colorful rags for the kite’s tail.  We’ve found cheap little kites at the dollar store, and should probably be using them to take advantage of our windy spring!
  • Playing miniature golf – Miniature golf was created during the Depression, and was called “midget golf.”  They would set up a small course with a series of makeshift obstacles in a small lot.  If you don’t have a putter, you can get cheap kiddie plastic putters and golf balls from the dollar store or Wal-Mart, and use household items for obstacles.  This is a great rainy day activity that can be set up inside.
  • Watching movies – Eighty million people went to the movies every week in the 1930s – more than half the population of America!  A nickel or dime bought a whole Saturday’s worth of fun, including a newsreel, the coming attractions, cartoons, and a double feature.  Unfortunately, taking the family to the movies today can cost $40 or more.  So many of us have turned to Netflix as an affordable way to get new release DVDs and instantly stream older movies and TV shows over the internet.  With a subscription to Netflix (1 DVD out at a time), the whole family can curl up on the couch with some homemade popcorn and enjoy a month of movies for the price of one theater ticket.   Popular movies from the 1930s that are available through Netflix include Snow White, The Wizard of Oz, Gone With The Wind, and Shirley Temple movies.  (Although Gone With The Wind is the only one currently offered through streaming.)

Our Great Depression Party

After reading some of “Kit’s World,” we started our Great Depression-style party by making what was called, “Depression Syrup,” for our pancakes.  Since maple syrup was expensive in the ’30s (and still is), people made their syrup with water, sugar, and a drop of maple flavoring.   (If you’re not starting with breakfast, you could serve “Depression Tomato Soup,” which was simply ketchup and water.)  To make your own Depression Syrup (with no artificial sweeteners or high fructose corn syrup!):

  • Heat 1/2 c. water and 1 c. sugar until sugar is dissolved.  (I added 1 T. cornstarch before heating, to help thicken it, although it will thicken as it cools.)
  • Stir in 1/4 tsp. Mapleine.
  • Set aside and allow to cool while you make pancakes.

After breakfast, my daughter wanted to make homemade stickers.  So in the spirit of recycling, I pulled out some CD label sheets that had the labels removed, but the remaining page was still covered in adhesive paper.  I got out my rubber stamps and stamp pads, and showed the kids how to color the inside of the stamped pictures with colored pencils.  The kids cut out the stamped pictures and decorated strips of card stock  with their homemade stickers to make colorful bookmarks.

Next, the kids played Monopoly with my husband while I assembled chili for the crock pot.  The kids then washed out all the cans I’d used, and peeled off the labels to use for their next craft.  I had purchased some small magnets with adhesive foam for a robot craft I’d seen in a magazine a while ago.  My husband dug out odds and ends from his toolbox, and I found a few other items for the kids to attach to the magnets to make robot faces for their cans.  I also pulled out some Disney princess contact paper and showed my daughter how to measure everything so we could cover a can with the paper to make a holder for her brush and hand mirror.   To finish it, we hot glued some lacy ribbon to the top and bottom.

Can Crafts & Homemade Sticker Bookmark

Can Crafts & Homemade Sticker Bookmark

After lunch, everyone came up with their own miniature golf obstacles (including the dog, who decided to be a moving obstacle), and we used cans tipped on their sides for the holes.  Of course, a Great Depression party wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the movies, so after dinner we popped some popcorn and watched “Annie.” Even though this movie wasn’t made in the 1930s, Little Orphan Annie was a popular radio and comic book character during that era.

Our Great Depression-style party was a lot of fun, and we were reminded that the best things in life are free.  All we need to have fun is a little creativity, resourcefulness, and each other.  So if the economy’s got you down, don’t get depressed – throw a Great Depression Party!

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As promised, here are links to the recent posts on my new blog, More Joyful Choices. The first is a summary of my tips for how to save money on a whole foods or gluten free diet, since traditional money-saving techniques, like coupons, don’t always work with this kind of diet.   I also outline how Amazon’s subscription service works, since we save a lot of money on gluten free products this way.  You can check out some of the items we buy in my “store” page.

(Shameless Plug: If you click on any link and buy that item from my blog, we get a tiny percentage – which is better than nothing!)

You’ll also find a recipe for my signature summer dessert, Peanut Butter Cup Mud Pie.  A good friend of mine asked me not to share that she had carnal knowledge of her fork while eating some of my pie recently, so I won’t embarrass her by telling you that she also ate her husband’s piece.  I like to respect my friends’ wishes.  I will tell you that it is, hands down, the best ice cream pie I’ve ever had.  I’ve also included a dairy free version for my DF friends.  Check out joyfulgfchoices.blogspot.com over the next few weeks for more gluten free, dairy free recipes, like Kickin’ Nuggets, Applesauce Oat Muffins, and Dairy Free Chocolate Shakes!

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We recently watched the third Chronicles of Narnia movie, “Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” after reading the book together as a family.  I thought the movie was good, although very different from the book.  (Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, and plan to soon, you may want to postpone reading this!)  One aspect of the movie that was disappointing, however, was the departure from the storyline about Eustace as a dragon.  Both the book and the movie portray Eustace as a self-centered, annoying little boy who is turned into a dragon, then delivered from this bondage by Aslan.  But the movie shows Eustace slowly changing while he is still a dragon, largely due to encouragement from his new friend, Reepicheep, the mouse.  The book, however, gives all the credit for Eustace’s change in demeanor to the work of Aslan.

I love how C.S. Lewis uses allegory in the Chronicles of Narnia series to reveal spiritual truths.  In the book, Eustace tries to scrape off the dragon scales and get rid of his dragon exterior.  While he’s successful to an extent, there’s always another layer underneath that which he’s just removed.  He so desperately wants to be free, but he can only do so much.  Then Aslan begins to scrape off his scales.  It hurts at first, but in a good way (which C.S. Lewis likens to tearing off a scab to reveal new skin underneath).  Finally, Eustace is freed from his bondage, washed in healing water, and clothed with new clothes.  His old, self-centered nature is replaced by a humble, new nature.  Sound familiar?  It’s what Christ does for all who believe in him.

We can try our hardest to be good.  We can even succeed in getting rid of bad habits and attitudes – but only to an extent.  There will always be hard, ugly scales weighing us down.  Those scales might be bitterness from past hurts, anxiety over an uncertain future, self-centered attitudes that destroy relationships.  There are some scales we cannot remove on our own, no matter how hard we try.  The only way to be free is to surrender to the One who paid the price for our sin and has the power to free us from bondage.  It can be painful to expose our deep wounds and scars, but only he can scrape off the dead scales and heal us completely.   Baptism is the outward symbol of being washed clean inside and made new.  Christ frees us so that we may be clothed in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Col. 3:12).

We are all dragons in need of a savior.  That may not be the best storyline for Hollywood, but it’s a message of truth that we all need to hear.

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More Joyful Choices

Spring is finally here!  Along with the greener landscape comes a whole lot of outdoor work in addition to everyday chores, plus end-of-the-year school activities and plans for summer.  I hope you’ll pardon me for taking a short break from Joyful Choices to tackle some of these chores and take a much-needed vacation with my family over Mother’s Day weekend.  (I’ll write more about our trip to Lagoon in Salt Lake City, as well as a how-to guide for navigating the park with kids, later this spring!) 

I’ve also been thinking about the direction and scope of my blog.  While Joyful Choices represents my varied interests, the broad focus means that my subscribers are subjected to various posts that may not meet their needs or interests.  So in an effort to keep the inspirational aspect of this blog, as well as reach out to those in the gluten free community, I’ve decided to add a new blog, More Joyful Choices, at joyfulgfchoices.blogspot.com.  I will continue to write about faith and family here on Joyful Choices, and I hope to start adding more homeschooling posts that will offer ideas and support to other homeschool families.   Future gluten free recipes, health-related posts, and an upcoming spotlight on vacation planning with kids will be posted on my new blog.

Everything on both blogs will be linked to the other, so you can still access my new blog through this current site.  I plan to write a weekly post here with information and links to whatever is posted on More Joyful Choices, so subscribers will automatically be notified about new posts on either blog.  My new blog is also linked in several places to this one.  At this point, I don’t plan to remove any content from this site, but some posts may be duplicated on More Joyful Choices.  My hope is that as I meet new GF families (an increasing occurrence), I can direct them to a blog that is tailored to the gluten free community.

Today’s post at More Joyful Choices is about the Healthy, Thrifty, Gluten Free Pantry.  I hope you’ll pop over to check out my new spring look, and read about how we keep our grocery budget down as food prices continue to rise.

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You’d think that in May it would not be soup weather anymore.  But if you think that, you obviously don’t live in southern Idaho where it snowed last week.  With the cold spring temperatures hanging on, I decided to experiment and make a creamy chicken and potato soup.  I didn’t have a recipe, so I just made it up as I went along – and it got a thumbs up from the whole family!  Along with the soup, we enjoyed some Onion, Poppy Seed, Cheese Rolls that I made using Pamela’s gluten free bread mix.

Creamy Chicken and Potato Soup

5 chicken tenders (or 2 large breasts)
2 large red potatoes, diced
3 T. butter, divided
1 very small onion or 1/2 small onion, chopped
1 c. baby carrots, cut in 1/8 in. slices
1 tsp. minced garlic
3 T. GF flour
3 T. Better Than Bouillon broth base (or 6 c. broth)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. parsley
Dash celery salt
1 bay leaf
1/3 c. 1% or 2% milk (I used 1/4 c. 1% milk plus a little cream)
3 T. cornstarch
Fresh ground pepper
Fresh spinach leaves, sliced in thin strips

In a large saucepan, bring 2 quarts water to a boil.  Add potatoes and chicken.  Boil 10 – 15 minutes, or until tender.  Pour 2 c. of liquid into a measuring cup, then drain remaining liquid.  Set aside to cool.  (You could probably skip this step and just add the potatoes and diced chicken to your soup when you add the seasonings, but this is how I made it, and I only post recipes I’ve tried.)

In a separate large soup pan, melt 2 T. butter over medium heat.  Saute onions and carrots in butter until onions are soft, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute.  Melt remaining butter in pan and add flour.  Stir to coat veggies.  Immediately add 4 c. water and 2 c. reserved cooking liquid (or 6 c. broth).  Bring to a boil and add bouillon (omit if using broth), salt, parsley, celery salt, and bay leaf.   Shred cooked chicken or cut up into small chunks and add to soup.  Simmer 15 minutes or until carrots are tender.

Add potatoes to soup and heat to boiling.  Stir cornstarch into milk and add to soup, stirring until thickened.  Add fresh ground pepper and season to taste.  Remove bay leaf.  Ladle soup into bowls and top with spinach strips.  Serve with crusty bread or Onion, Poppy Seed, Cheese rolls.

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