Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hubby's Cake

I didn't know what I wanted to make for hubby's birthday. He's not a big fan of cake so I made him a small one anyway. We took him to Prime Cut Meats and Eats for his birthday dinner and I made him an iPad and Radio cake. He's always using his iPad at home and he works on radios at work. He works on other equipment too, but I figured smaller was better.

Nothing huge or fancy. The logos on the iPad took the longest time to make. It's fun and relaxing to play with fondant, but not with the kids around or in the heat. It's definitely not a hobby that I would make into a business until the kids are in school.

A cloudy day for me. Family vs Wants

And as it goes, another month has flew away. Hubby and X have officially had their birthdays and now its time to get to back to work. I know it's been a week since I've written anything and I feel really bad about not updating my blog! There's so many things I want to write about, but at the end of the day (especially when the kids don't nap), I want to just go to sleep. Am I catching up from last week? No idea. I thought I was getting enough sleep, but new things popping up on the list, plus 2 kids in tow, every day seems enduring and sometimes mundane.

I keep thinking I need to get a job. Then we could go on vacation, fix the house up, help pay off the car, etc. I had a great idea of starting a baby resell store (since we need one here), but I realized that it would mean 60+ hours a week away from my family. Not my number one choice. Taking care of the house and the family are important, but sometimes I feel I have no more income-producing skills. So as I Google for that perfect part time work at home job for when the kids do nap (or when they eventually go to school), I realize that I'm wasting my time because there is no such job.

What am I going to do when the kids do start school? I guess I could use my college degree to work part time at McDonald's or Wal-Mart if I'm lucky. Everyone else works a full time job, why not me? I refuse to hire someone to take care of my kids where the cost of daycare is almost the same price as a year in college. This is more for infants/kids in diapers and preschoolers:

My mother-in-law says I need to put the kids in daycare, find a job with benefits, and retire in 30 years. If I were to start a job in 2 years (after kid #2 starts 1st grade), I'm 7 years behind hubby to retire. How is this fair? After working full-time at home aka my, as Obama calls it a "luxury job", it will take me longer and work harder to be able to collect my social security. Is this really worth it? Of course, I'm planning on hubby sitting at home all day watching TV when he retires as I work that extra 7 years. What do I get for staying at home and taking care of my children, struggling to pay bills, and educating my kids better than the daycares? I get to listen to screaming, crying, and poopy children. I don't get to go shopping, get pedicures, or see the newest movie at the theatre.

I don't get to spend hubby's paycheck. We can't afford to shop. His check pays the bills. Period. If anything extra comes up, we have to deduct it from our grocery expense. So that leaves us with $30 per week on food- if that. I'm not asking for much. Just a part time income that could help the bills. I know my husband appreciates all that I do, but other than that, I feel completely useless and a complete waste of space. I'm tired of depending on everyone else for an income and "gifts". I'm ready to be part of the world again, not just another stay at home mom.

Everyone says to "find your niche" or "do what you want". Honestly, I have no idea what I want to do. I'm not a computer geek, so I'm sure there's no "niche" that hasn't been covered already. I love staying at home with my family, but there's nothing challenging enough for me here (other than trying to calm a 3 year old's temper tantrum). I want to be able to think outside of the box, yet I feel like my brain has been rotting for the past 4 years and am completely frustrated when thinking about our finances and the future. I want to depend on me for a change.

A cloudy day for me at the Bako Depot

Monday, August 20, 2012

Managing debt in Bako

As I don’t work in the wonderful world of Bakersfield, CA, I would love to find a part time job where I can work during the kids nap time and school hours. Tall order isn’t it? I don’t exactly have a ton of friends to sell party items to, so those direct selling/MLM companies are out of the question. I have my $0 income photography business, but with us being almost $25,000 in debt, we’re barely staying afloat. 

I’ve learned how to manage the household somehow. The kids eat, are bathed, and clothed. The dishes washed, the floors mopped/vacuumed, and the dog is given food. Just because we have this debt doesn’t exactly mean we do nothing. 

Bakersfield has a few great things to do around town for free. My number one favorite free destination is the Beale Memorial Library on Truxtun. Not only do they have internet/downloadable audiobooks I can load from home, their children’s program is phenomenal.  They have a large selection of books, audiobooks, DVDs, and resources. Plus, if you can’t find the book you want, you can order it through the San Joaquin Valley Library System. There are very few books I have not been able to borrow through their system. They will even pull books off their own shelves for you if you place a hold on it. You don’t know how great that is when you have two young kids with you en route. The library’s hours aren’t the best, but hey, its California- 300% broke and spending more.

Another favorite activities are the sprayparks. I can’t tell you how much the kids use them. NOR just opened Polo Community Park half a mile from us. As soon as the gates opened, we have been walking there 2-3 times per week. Other than the spraypark, there’s numerous sports fields and 3 different playground areas for the kids. One is for 2-5, the other 6-12, and 12+. The only thing that the park is lacking is shade for the play areas. 

Bakersfield’s museums also have free days. The third Thursday of the month is the Buena Vista Natural History museum. If you have kids, you must absolutely go downstairs. The entire downstairs is a learning playground for all ages. It’s a little well-loved, so bring wipes or sanitizer for when you’re done playing/learning.

The third Friday is free admission at the Art Museum. We haven’t been there in awhile, but they have an area where kids can make a postcard and a leaf rubbing. At least that’s what we got to make. It’s a little small, but if you stop at each piece of art and ask the kids what’s going on in the picture, it makes it worth the trip- and don’t forget about the Art Museum’s garden off to the side. There’s a few neat sculptures in it and tons of shade! Who doesn’t love a pretty shade area?

Barnes and Noble also has storytime, but I dread going there with the kids. They see other kids screaming, wanting to pull books off the shelf, and tear up new books. Great if you’re into that sort of thing. I think I’ll stick to the library.

Neighbors. What kid doesn’t love other kids’ toys? Some neighbors even have a pool or a slip in slide. You can’t beat what others have. And it doesn’t cost anything.

As my family is in debt, we still have to live and manage what we have. We, at least I am, are grateful for what we’ve been given and am exhausted of all those advertisements and commercials for every materialistic thing. I’m tired of my kids thinking if we need something, we can just buy it at the store. We didn’t exactly shop ourselves in debt ($20,000 is the car; less than $5,000 is medical/bills). So instead of trying to find a part time job (where I would either never see my family or use ALL of my paycheck for daycare) I’ve decided to manage the household in a completely different manner.

One kid is out of diapers and the other is having a hard time remembering to use the potty. Only when he naps or goes to bed, he gets a diaper. Other than that, he can wear underwear or go nude (some days are just too hot to force clothes on kids). 

Shopping for necessities. Yes, I would love to buy a thinner bathroom rug, but the overly shaggy rug is doing just fine. I’ll just have to look for bugs before I step on it and pray nothing is breeding in it.

I purchase $20 worth of vegetables each week at the farmer’s market. We didn’t have a successful garden this year, so it made it hard to actually get anything from the garden. The birds and worms got to our tomatoes, the cucumbers produce a few too less, and the jalepenos who usually thrive in this weather quit on us. I think it was just way too hot this year for the veggies, hubby says it’s too many weeds. It was also poor planning on both our parts. My goal is to work on the garden this year so I can harvest and live off my garden next year. Little did I know, in zone 9, we can have a winter garden! You don’t know how excited I am about that! 

I buy milk, meat, luxury items, and gas at wholesale stores. I have a membership to both Costco and Sam’s Club. I purchase the two pack milk at Costco since Sam’s stopped carrying milk that way. I’ll buy gas at whichever. I buy only necessities and few luxuries (artichokes, Mac n Cheeese) at Sam’s since I know they carry the items I need year round. It seems like things are hit and miss at Costco for me. I’ve also found that Costco carries more foo-foo (gourmet/healthier) items at a slightly higher price. 

Another new way of managing the household is the diet. Do we really need 10 packages of packaged butter noodles? Ten boxes of Oreos? Absolutely not. So I’ve decided that we are going to eat healthier. Yes, $20 at the Farmer’s Market doesn’t seem like much, but skip the fruit and you can get a week’s worth of veggies. Bargaining also helps-they aren’t set prices. We, at least I, am trying to cut out sugar and carbs. No more fillers. Yes, the kids love PB & Js for lunch. If I make the bread, then they can have them, but no carbs for mommy and daddy. This means two vegetables and one meat at dinner. Period. Still hungry? Eat a salad or if you have some, fruit. Fruit must be in moderation.  My daughter thinks Lucky Charms and M&Ms  are good for you, but after telling her it’s chocked full of sugar, it really hurts her tummy and her teeth.

Speaking of teeth, $1,000 of our debt is I had to have an emergency crown put on one of my back molars. When he put that cap on, you don’t know how bad I wanted to bite my dentist. That sucker hurt not only my mouth, but our finances as well. Since then, I’ve brushed and flossed like there’s no tomorrow. I really don’t want my kids going through that pain.

These may seem drastic, but to tell you the truth, how much do you really need to buy? How much do you really need to eat? I know I don’t exercise, so I need to adjust my intake. We live in a 1,800 square foot home. How much clutter do we need in our life? If there’s a fire or earthquake, we won’t be able to save anything from our house. Life is about what is within yourself, not your house, fridge, or wallet.

Eventually we will get out of debt and someday hubby and I will take our honeymoon. Even if it is eight years late, that’s okay. We have each other and really, that’s all that matters. Yes I become anxious about the finances, but like hubby has told me numerous times, there’s really nothing I can do about them unless I get a job. I want the best for my family and my best is to be there for them.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


Pepperoncinis are one of the easiest canning things out there. Although I'm new to canning I had good luck making these compared to strawberry jam.

The first step you need is a pepperocini plant. We don't usually shop at big chain stores for plants unless we know specifically how to maintain it. We were actually at the in-laws while looking for something to do in town for awhile, we stopped by Eisley's Nursery in Auburn, CA. It was so neat to see absolutely every plant I could think of. Not everything grows there in Auburn, but Eisley's even carried a banana tree. I want a banana tree so bad! One less fresh thing to buy that I could grow...

Looking through their vegetables, I noticed a pepperocini plant. "How cool is that?" I love pepperocinis so
course I grabbed one of their 6 pack plants among a few other plants. Moving them to Bakersfield in their original container, they have thrived in the blazing sun. Out of six plants, two survived. Those two plants have produced so many pepperocinis that I had to start canning them before anything else was ready in the garden.

I won't go into detail about how canning works, but I'll give you a few links here in the text. Mom suggested I get the book "Putting Food By: Fifth Edition by Ruth Hertzberg, Janet Greene and Beatrice Vaughan. I also went ahead and scoured the internet and broke down and bought the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving by Altrista Consumr Products". These two books are lifesavers. They have every recipe you'll ever need for canning and preserving. Now only if I could get the rest of the garden to produce this well.

For the pepperocinis, all I had to do was make a hole in the peppers, stuff the peppers in a sanitized ball jar, boil some super easy syrup, pour over peppers, and seal. Done. How easy! I recommend having the kids wash their hands and stuff as many peppers into the jar.

I guess I'll put the recipe on here. This is the recipe for any hot pepper as well.
Putting Food By, pg 334

One overflowing bowl-ful is about 4 quarts
4 qts peppers (these peppers grow like hot cakes in the hot weather)
4 C distilled white vinegar
4 C water
4 t salt, preferably pickling (I used table salt)
Olive oil (optional) I didn't use

Take out seeds and remove stems if you want to.
Make slits in peppers if whole.
Place and stuff peppers in jars.
Boil vinegar and water- not for too long though. Vinegar dissipates if boiled too long.
Pour boiling liquid into jars.
If adding oil, leave 3/4" headspace.
Add salt to taste.
Close lids properly and boil water bath for 15 minutes.

Extremely easy! Now if it weren't so hot in here...

Make sure you stuff them in- I just set them in there

Thursday, August 16, 2012

2 Birthdays 1 Week

Hubby and Son's birthdays are five days apart. In the past, I never really got around to making hubby a birthday cake since our son was born. Hubby isn't a huge fan of cake since I've learned how to decorate them within the last year. This year is going to be different. I hope to make two completely different cakes -one for each special man in my life.

Last year as I was making my son's birthday cake, the fondant melted. This year, with the weather being in the triple digits for the past two weeks, will cool off to the mere 90s. I don't care if I have to crank the air down to 60 degrees, I have to make 2 cakes. There's no getting around it this year.

If I ask hubby what kind of cake he wants, he'll say no cake. So after his birthday, I'll post some pics for this year's theme.

Our son is turning the magical 3 and the theme is Thomas the Train. This is the last character-themed birthday party we will be doing. Next year he wants MacGuyver which is awesome. Now to find a way to secretly bake and decorate hubby's cake. Wish me luck!

Peanut Butter

Peanut butter? Yes, peanut butter. It's so easy that there's really no reason to buy it ever again.

As I'm committed to decluttering life (and pantry), the kids refuse to give up PB & Js for lunch. That's fine with me since I know what's in them. After making bread with the machine, we pull a can of strawberry jam from the fridge (that mommy made), and an empty jar of peanut butter. No need to fret. All you need are five things.

Peanuts, Almonds, Hazelnuts, Cashews, Etc. (Any nut will do. Not sure about pistachios though- will have to try)
Canola, grapeseed, olive, or Vege Oil
Food Processor or Blender
Jar to store it in (I reuse my old peanut butter jar)

Some people do add 1-2 T honey or brown sugar to sweeten it up, but the kids are already sweet enough. 
You can either buy salted or unsalted nuts. I buy most of my groceries from Winco in the bulk section. Most of the time I don't need to shop in the middle/preservative filled shelves. I purchase the unsalted because the kids really don't need the extra sodium/salt. Make sure they are unshelled- no one likes to eat shells.

Pour your nuts into your food processor or blender. Mix until dry and coarse crumbs. Add 1T oil until smooth and creamy to your liking. I found that if you add a smidgen more oil, it turns out the same texture as store bought peanut butter.

Store it in the fridge. It will be hard when taking it out, so let it warm to room temperature before using. This makes the best peanut butter cookies.

I've found that even the kids can make this themselves. So one thing less for mommy to make! One can never prepare their child enough for the future ;) When they go to college, I'll know they can make their own peanut butter.

Different ingredients (nuts, oils, etc.) can be found here:
For an even fancier recipe:

Try this at home with your kids and post your results!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Love Crazy Bako

Bakersfield, California. It’s not the number one destination to visit or relocate, but for thousands of people, its home. I haven’t lived here all my life, nor a decade. I’ve lived in the great San Joaquin valley merely three years and counting. 

My husband, hired for a government position, had one week to move from Omaha the last week in November. Although the winter is definitely worth living here, the summer makes me wish I were back in Omaha.

I sit here writing this as the 101 degrees fries my brown and yellow lawn as well as my garden. The leaves on my fruit trees are beginning to wither and the tomatoes in the garden are waiting impatiently for more water. Although this heat fluctuates about ten degrees each day, I’m more than glad that I’m not pregnant or have a manual labor job.

I gladly (well, sometimes not so much) stay at home with my kids (2 and 4) before they start school. L, my 4 year old daughter, has one more year of staying at home with mommy before heading off to kindergarten. “What about preschool?” I ask my school district “Can you test her and see if she’s ready for kindergarten?” “What the heck am I suppose to do with her?!” Apparently, there is no public preschool here in Bakersfield. There’s head start for low-income families and private/church preschools ($2,000/year). I was in shock when I saw the price. How can I afford that on an one income paycheck?! Plus, if I were to get a job, I’d have to buy another car, gas, insurance, DAY CARE, etc. for my diapered 2 year old. What boy is potty trained by age 2? You have superman/woman skills if you’re little boy is potty trained by 2.

When I first moved here, I couldn’t stand it. Hubby was gone for his job one week out of every month. The nearest park was a mile away and our neighbors ran inside if we opened our front door. Seriously. Nevertheless, after going through being homesick and depression, I met some neighbors and a couple friends that helped me make it through my journey of three + years here. Plus, a supportive husband always helps too!

Since we’ve been out here, not only our bills tripled, but also the gas prices. All because California’s cars are required to have special smog-reducing engines that have gas additives in our gas-which is why gas is more expensive here. Stupid additives. You would think the San Joaquin Valley would have fresh, clean air year round. Right? Wrong. We have the worst smog filled valley in the world (I haven’t researched this, but I think its true). My solution: build a tunnel through the mountains to the coast. Let the coast air in and blow the smog away. The state decided not to do this because it would cost trillions of dollars. Hmm… California is already more than broke and let’s have those San Joaquin Valley residents suffer for living in the valley. No wonder our healthcare costs increase every year. 

Like I said, I hated driving cross country with a three month old and one year old. We got to stop at Painted Desert, the Grand Canyon (not for too long), and my grandparents house for a day- thank God! It’s hard for little ones to sit for so long. And when we actually got to Bakersfield that first night, our in-laws drove their motorhome down to see us. They live five hours north of Bakersfield, so it was nice seeing someone we knew! 

It took time to figure out Bakersfield when I had free time (apparently that’s most of the day) and the only car. The NW is suburbs primarily, the SW is suburbs and nicer shopping, the NE is redneck country, and the SE is no habla Ingles. Downtown Bakersfield is a nice little area with a few antique stores, shopping, and restaurants. I haven’t been to many stores or restaurants down there since I hate taking the kids where they can’t touch anything. As for the restaurants, Tina Marie’s is decent breakfast/lunch and Mariscos Mexican (near Art Museum) is really good (the kids love their grilled fish)!

Here in Bakersfield, I’ve come to love the winters the most. NO SNOW! There is a frost, but nothing ice hard like Omaha had every year. We can actually have a winter garden (which is awesome) and a summer garden. I tend to stay indoors in the blistering summer and do the majority of outdoor work in the spring season. My oldest half-brother’s mom told me (since she lives north in the valley) there are only two seasons in the valley: spring and summer. How very true.

I also love the fact that we can have fruit trees. We planted peach, orange, lemon, avocado, pomegranate, pear, olive, and lime. The pear tree, olive tree, and grapes grew all by themselves. Fresh pears are growing and will be ready soon. The grapes are growing wild and are slowly ripening daily. As for the olive tree, I’m hoping it’s not a fruitless variety (after doing some research, there are several olive varieties that are fruitless).  Other than that, the other trees have been slow growers, and we have to look at a cinder block fence on two of the three backyard fences. I’m trying to do some research on what grows well here. I want to create a luscious, easy-growing, edible landscape that we can afford on one income.

I know you’re wondering if we’ve been to Disneyland yet. The answer is: who the heck can afford going there?!  I want to go to CarsLand so bad, but I need to get a job! Hubby and I would like to go on a cruise, visit Hawaii or Alaska, or even go on a honeymoon, but while on one income, we’re lucky if we can pay our bills each month. He’s been trying to get another job elsewhere, even though I’ve come to love Bako other than the smog.

We found the almost-perfect house, close to decent shopping, in a good school district, and close to a new park! Plus, they have their swimming lessons two miles away-I’m going to start walking there as soon as the road and railway construction is completed. Where else could I find all this? I feel lucky and blessed to have found such a great home. Like the town slogan says “A great *cough* place to *cough* live.” (They don’t actually have the *coughs*)

P.S.  We’ve met some very nice neighbors. Most of them homeschool their children and live on one income as well. 

Hubby makes just enough to pay the bills, so when extra bills come in (like the dog’s teeth cleaning) it sets us back a bit. I would love to be able to have an additional income and stay at home with the kids (as they go into school), but it seems impossible. I have a photography business with absolutely no customers and I bake/decorate cakes (illegal to sell food from home). I also love to bake from scratch/ trying to clear my home of preservatives. 

I enjoy doing many things. I’m not exceptionally good at one thing, so I’ll just have to keep experimenting until I can find something that sticks. I love reading, gardening, baking, photographing, having a clean home, traveling, and a black comma in my banking accounts (which is very rare).