No more toothpaste

I have receipts that I need to sit down and analyze in order to update my "January Challenge" series but I've been at a swim meet all day today so my brain is FRIED. I managed to completely underestimate the amount of time we'd be at the meet and I failed to realize that I had no cash in my purse so the concession stand was not an option and we didn't bring much food. So I subsisted on a box of Nerds and a soda. My friend, H, pointed out, "Your dentist will love you!".

Except he won't. He doesn't. I do nothing for him other than use up his time and get him the bare minimum of Tricare Dental reimbursements.

I have no cavities. I never have. It isn't due to my stellar diet (see above) nor is it due to my fanatical oral hygiene habits. I brush twice a day (most of the time...sometimes I collapse before I get a toothbrush in my mouth at night) and I floss...when I remember to or when I have something stuck in my teeth. But I drink sodas (too many). I don't have a sweet 'tooth'...I have a sweet 'jaw' and would live on candy if I thought I could get away with it and not completely corrupt my children.

I've always been diligent about going to the dentist. As a child, I had a TON of work done in my mouth - oral surgery, teeth removed, braces, braces, braces, retainers, a bridge, crowns, etc. (thanks mom!) Because of all of that, it's normal for me to see my dentist twice per year. I'm pretty sure my parents could have bought a car with the amount of money they put into my mouth as a child. But since then, I've not had to spend much on my teeth. No cavities. No issues (I'm probably jinxing myself here) other than the fact that I clench/grind my teeth when I sleep (stress? What stress?). And, for that, I have a night guard that I should probably wear more than I do. My visits to the dentist are routine and boring - a wee bit of scraping, some polishing, measuring the 'pockets', a quick exam, and the obligatory, "More flossing please," from the dentist.


And then Pinterest came along and I discovered a recipe for making your own toothpaste, using coconut oil. I'd never given much thought to dental hygiene beyond the basics until I started teaching anatomy to a bunch of homeschooled high schoolers back in Hawaii. In our unit on the digestive system, I came across some research on remineralization, the design of teeth and our mouths and how they are designed to repair themselves (like every other part of the body when it encounters a minor injury), and how our modern dental hygiene practices actually undermine the natural processes with which we are endowed. Combine that with my Pinterest discovery and you had an experiment in the waiting.

So I ordered up some coconut oil (which has been shown to have anti-microbial properties) and some Xylitol (which has shown promise in helping to remineralize and strengthen enamel). I hit the local health food store for some essential oil (peppermint because that's what I'm used to), and grabbed the baking soda out of the pantry. The basic recipe is:

3 Tbsp coconut oil
3 Tbsp baking soda
1/2 tsp Xylitol
essential oil

Coconut oil is firm at temperatures under 74°F so you might need to warm it up before you blend everything together. This makes enough that I can store it in a 1/2 pint jar in my bathroom. I need to go grab a squeezy bottle (that's the technical term) and try putting it into that to make it easier to dispense. You can add more Xylitol and/or essential oil as your personal tastes dictate. My sweet tooth usually demands that I add more.

I made my first batch up right after my last dental appointment - an appointment where he admonished me to make sure I floss regularly and pay extra attention to my back molars because my 'pockets' were deeper back there. Okay - gotcha Doc. Will do.

The flavor can take some getting used to - it is salty. And be careful spitting coconut oil down your sink drain - it can build up over time and clog. I spit mine in the toilet and then rinse in the sink as usual. during the six months between dental visits I rarely used anything other than my homemade toothpaste. I was curious to see if there would be any noticeable difference.

On a personal note, during this six month period, I did notice that my front teeth - which have always been cold sensitive - were no longer painfully affected by cold foods. And the two baby teeth (yes, I am 40 years old and still have 2 baby teeth - molars) that are usually quite sensitive (they're baby teeth!) no longer made me aware of their presence. But the real test would be my next dental appointment.

And I passed that test! Both the hygienist and the dentist himself were floored that my oral health had shown 'such improvement'. They asked me if I had changed any of my oral hygiene habits. I said no because I've not really changed my 'habits'...just my toothpaste. And I didn't really want to get into a discussion with them because they already think I'm nuts for refusing the fluoride treatments each visit (for me and my children). But all of my 'pockets' had shrunken - whereas they used to be 2s and the occasional 3 in the back, they are now 1s with the occasional 2. Score one for the Crunchy Mama Movement!

I don't think I've really saved any money with this idea - I usually manage to score toothpaste for pretty cheap and both coconut oil and Xylitol aren't dirt cheap - but that's ok. I like the fact that I am allowing my body to heal itself, that I'm eliminating some more chemicals from my existence, and maybe saving myself a few bucks later on down the road. I think I'm going to pick up some cinnamon/clove oil for the next batch I make. What about you? Care to try it?


- hfs


Goals: update

It's now Monday so I'm taking a look at how I did on the whole goal thing this week. Our week was a little wonky in that MacGyver is not going into work right now - he's on permissive leave and is home during the day which tends to throw our normal routine off track. I'd say that this coming week will be better but it's a short week (Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday holiday and a few other things that will disrupt our normal schedule) so I won't fool myself into thinking that.

Here is my progress for the week:

- exercise 3x this week  (actually only twice)
- remember to take my vitamins every day
- increase water intake: at least 1 tall glass with each meal/snack

- read for at least 1 hour each day

- ??

- write at least 3 letters/cards and MAIL THEM (this is where I fail) (yep, they are written...and sitting on my dresser as I've not yet made it to the post office)
- call 3 people this week (I HATE talking on the phone) (I called 2 people)

- complete 5 days of my reading plan (still working on reading through the Bible)
- write out prayers for one specific person each day for 5 days this week
- 15 minutes of prayer time each morning (it was more like 5)

So there it is. Not too terribly bad. Had I added in "watch all episodes from seasons 1 and 2 of Downton Abbey", I would have had another goal crossed off. I love that show. Maybe I can put that under the 'Emotional' category. The funny thing is that I remember my parents watching Masterpiece Theatre when I was a child, though it was probably my dad not my mom. And now, here I am.

How did you do on your goals? 


- hfs


Honey Garlic Balsamic Chicken

MacGyver's parents gave us the most wonderful oil and vinegar set from 41Olive for Christmas: Organic Tuscan Herb olive oil and 18 Year Barrell Aged Traditional balsamic vinegar. To say the set is divine is doing it a disservice. It is beyond that. And using it on our salad last night inspired me to try balsamic chicken with a few of the frozen chicken breasts in my freezer. I still have not yet made it to the grocery store so I am having to get creative with our meals. MacGyver came home with 18 or so farm-fresh eggs from a friend at work so we'll be having organic, farm-fresh eggs for dinner tomorrow night - hopefully with homemade bread!

Anyway, using my inspiration from the 41Olive set, I went looking for an easy balsamic chicken recipe and found one right off the bat (yay Google!). Anything with honey in it catches my eye and this one had it. So Honey Garlic Balsamic Chicken was on the menu tonight. SO easy and SO yummy! I had everything I needed on hand and it came together in less than 30 minutes. PERFECT!


  • 4 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil*
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar* (I love this Honey Balsamic from Honey Ridge Farms)
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
* Please note: I did NOT use the 41Olive oil and vinegar that my in-laws gave me. That stuff is much to good to use in a dish like this. The 41Olive set will be used on salads and other fresh items where the flavors can be fully enjoyed. We used the cheap stuff for this dish!
  1. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. Melt the butter over medium-high heat and add the olive oil.
  2. Add the chicken to the pan.
  3. Cook the chicken until both sides are brown and the chicken is cooked through. It is about 6 to 7 minutes on each side. Take the chicken out of the pan, and put on a plate and cover with foil.
  4. Add the chicken broth, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, and honey to the pan. Cook for about 5 minutes, the sauce will thicken. Use a spatula to get the browned bits off of the bottom of the pan.
  5. Slice the chicken on a bias, and spoon the pan sauce over the top. I served mine with some orzo tossed with homemade pesto sauce and Parmesan cheese.

Please note: this is Bree's picture, not mine. Our chicken didn't stay
on our plates long enough to photograph it!

I did have to add a step - the chicken wasn't cooked through after 6-7 minutes on each side in the skillet so I heated the oven up and baked it for about 15 minutes at 350°F while I did up the sauce, the rice, and steamed the green beans. Worked out perfectly! I only did up 2 chicken breasts (instead of the 4 that the recipe calls for) because they were big and the kids and I don't eat that much. If I had to calculate the cost of this meal, I'd say:

$1.99 for the 2 chicken breasts
$1.00 for the other ingredients in the dish
$0.25 for the rice
$1.50 for the green beans
$4.74 for the meal (not including drinks: milk, water)

My children gobbled this up. MacGyver will once he gets home. We'll be making this again SOON. And now I need to go make my shopping list before we're left eating Bisquik biscuits with deli mustard for breakfast!


- hfs



Just have to do a little happy dance today - we managed to hit our savings goal EARLY! Payday was today and, even though it took a hit from the (Obama: no tax increases for those making less than $250K/year...) increased payroll taxes, we were able to transfer enough into savings that we hit our savings goal EARLY!

And, just in time for this good news, the dryer died on us yesterday. Of course. I'm hoping it's just a belt (MacGyver seems to think it's just a belt) and an easy/inexpensive fix. Thankfully, he starts his permissive leave toward the end of this week so he'll have time to tear it apart and look into it (homeschooling lesson!). And thankfully it's the dryer (and not the washer). We're quite adept at hanging our clothes to dry so this isn't a major inconvenience. It died on us when he was at JRTC for a month right about this time last year so we've done this before. If anyone is inconvenienced by it, it's MacGyver - he's not a big fan of line-dried clothes. At least our electricity bill will go down a smidge!

I'm off to do a happy dance about hitting our savings goal. And prep a meal plan for the next 2 weeks. I'm still on track to have kept our food bill down at 1/2 of our usual budget. Woohoo!

Also, if you look to the right (----------> ) you'll see a Starbucks logo. It's linked to my PayPal account and, if you feel so inclined, you're welcome to hit the tip jar, as it were. Someone had emailed me about doing one of these a while back and I took a hint from my friend, Lex, and created one. It's my one luxury in life right now. So feel free to put a smile on my face! Thanks!


- hfs

The Gang of 545

This article was written by Charley Reese, a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel. Originally written in 1985, re-written in 1995, and still just as applicable today as it was when it was written, if not moreso.  I added the tax poem at the end as it just seemed to make sense. I'm not saying we should completely abolish taxes. But our tax code is ridiculously burdensome for our citizens and for our country. We keep electing these people to fix things, to simplify things, to ease the burden and we keep getting more legislation, more taxes, and less bang for our buck.

Congress' approval rating is at the bottom of the barrel and yet we keep re-electing the same people to the same positions. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing, over and over, expecting a different result. 

Mr. Reese nails it.
"Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them.

Have you ever wondered, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, WHY do we have deficits?

Have you ever wondered, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, WHY do we have inflation and high taxes?

You and I don't propose a federal budget. The President does.

You and I don't have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations.  The House of Representatives does.

You and I don't write the tax code, Congress does.

You and I don't set fiscal policy, Congress does.

You and I don't control monetary policy, the Federal Reserve Bank does.

One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one President, and nine Supreme Court justices equates to 545 human beings out of the 300 million are directly, legally, morally, and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.

I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Board because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered, but private, central bank.

I excluded all the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman, or a President to do one cotton-picking thing. I don't care if they offer a politician $1 million dollars in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it. No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislator's responsibility to determine how he votes.

Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con regardless of party

What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall.  No normal human being would have the gall of a Speaker, who stood up and criticized the President for creating  deficits. The President can only propose a budget. He cannot force the Congress to accept it.

The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating and approving appropriations and taxes. Who is the speaker of the House? John Boehner. He is the leader of the majority party. He and fellow House members, not the President, can approve any budget they want.  If the President vetoes it, they can pass it over his veto if they agree to.

It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 300 million cannot replace 545 people who stand convicted -- by present facts -- of incompetence and irresponsibility. I can't think of a single domestic problem that is not traceable directly to those 545 people. When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise the power of the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.

If the tax code is unfair, it's because they want it unfair.

If the budget is in the red, it's because they want it in the red.

If the Army & Marines are in Iraq and Afghanistan it's because they want them in  Iraq and Afghanistan.

If they do not receive social security but are on an elite retirement plan not available to the people, it's because they want it that way.

There are no insoluble government problems.

Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take this power. Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exists disembodied mystical forces like "the economy","inflation," or "politics" that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.

Those 545 people, and they  alone, are responsible.

They, and they alone, have the power.

They, and they alone, should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses.

Provided the voters have the gumption to manage their own employees.

We should vote all of  them out of office and clean up their mess."
Tax his land,
Tax his bed,
Tax the table,
At which he's fed.
Tax his tractor,
Tax his mule,
Teach him taxes
Are the rule.
Tax his work,
Tax his pay,
He works for
peanuts anyway!
Tax his cow,
Tax his goat,
Tax his pants,
Tax his coat.
Tax his ties,
Tax his shirt,
Tax his work,
Tax his dirt.
Tax his tobacco,
Tax his drink,
Tax him if he
Tries to think.
Tax his cigars,
Tax his beers,
If he cries
Tax his tears.
Tax his car,
Tax his gas,
Find other ways
Taxes to pass
Tax all he has
Then let him know
That you won't be done
Till he has no dough.
When he screams and hollers;
Then tax him some more,
Tax him till
He's good and sore.
Then tax his coffin,
Tax his grave,
Tax the sod in
Which he's laid...
Put these words
Upon his tomb,
'Taxes drove me
to my doom...'
When he's gone,
Do not relax,
Its time to apply
The inheritance tax.
Accounts Receivable Tax
Building Permit Tax
CDL license Tax
Cigarette Tax
Corporate Income Tax
Dog License Tax
Excise Taxes
Federal Income Tax
Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
Fishing License Tax
Food License Tax
Fuel Permit Tax
Gasoline Tax (currently 44.75 cents per gallon)
Gross Receipts Tax
Hunting License Tax
Inheritance Tax
Inventory Tax
IRS Interest Charges IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
Liquor Tax
Luxury Taxes
Marriage License Tax
Medicare Tax
Personal Property Tax
Property Tax
Real Estate Tax
Service Charge Tax
Social Security Tax
Road Usage Tax
Recreational Vehicle Tax
Sales Tax
School Tax
State Income Tax
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
Telephone Federal Excise Tax
Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax
Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Taxes
Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax
Telephone Recurring and Nonrecurring Charges Tax
Telephone State and Local Tax
Telephone Usage Charge Tax
Utility Taxes
Vehicle License Registration Tax
Vehicle Sales Tax
Watercraft Registration Tax
Well Permit Tax
Workers Compensation Tax

~ author unknown


- hfs


I haz goals

I've never been into resolutions. Just never have. And I'm not a huge goal-setting person simply because, by the time I get done setting the goal to my OCD-like specifications, I've lost the motivation to actually start working toward said goal. I know myself well enough to know that I will expend most of my energy in the planning phases, leaving very little for the execution phase. I should go into business for myself as a personal planner.

Today in our small group at church, we discussed balancing life's demands. It started with a 'pop quiz': ranking our progress in the following areas:

- Objectives
- Priorities
- Schedule
- Discipline
- Accountability

Using Matthew 5 as the guide (the Beattitudes), we looked at each of those areas and the discussed the difference between the external and the internal motivations regarding righteousness. The second half of Matthew is Jesus telling his disciples how it is (external motivations) and how things *should* be (internal motivations). As the lesson lined out:

You have heard it said...                               but I say to you...
(external)                                                      (internal)

Doing                                                           Being

Duty                                                             Devotion

Performance                                                 Relationship

Guilt                                                             Grace

Letter of the Law                                         Spirit of the Law

Head                                                            Heart

PD - the pastor leading the group - pointed out that the difference between legalism and grace is pursuit. WHY are you pursuing God? Is it to check the box and gain admittance to Heaven or is it to be in relationship with God? This got me to thinking...that relationship can be viewed as the relationship between two people that are dating or married: you pursue the other person because you want to spend time with them and deepen that relationship. You're a sponge and you can't soak up enough of that other person. That relationship is strengthened not by checking the box ("kiss ☑, cook meal ☑, ☑, ☑, ☑) but by pursuing a deepening relationship.

The goal isn't 'doing' things to get into Heaven. It isn't about your 'duty' or your 'performance'. You shouldn't be 'guilted' into action (guilt being different from conviction). We should not be so narrow-minded that we adhere strictly to the 'letter of the law' instead of applying the 'spirit of the law' to each situation. Our knowledge should be 'heart' knowledge and not just 'head' knowledge.

Anyway, that was the lesson. But, during the quiz, I realized that I'm doing ok on my delineating my objectives, adhereing to discipline, and maintaining accountability but I need to work on establishing my priorities and then applying them to my daily or weekly schedule. When I was teaching, the first part of our semester was spent learning about goals: what they are, what constitutes good goals, how to set them, different kinds of goals, etc. One acronym that worked well for my students was S.M.A.R.T.

S - goals should be SPECIFIC
M - goals should be MEASURABLE
A - goals should be ATTAINABLE
R - goals should be REALISTIC
T - goals should be TIME-SENSITIVE

In teaching health, there are 5 basic categories of goals:


Given that, my goals for the week are:

- exercise 3x this week
- remember to take my vitamins every day
- increase water intake: at least 1 tall glass with each meal/snack

- read for at least 1 hour each day

- ??

- write at least 3 letters/cards and MAIL THEM (this is where I fail)
- call 3 people this week (I HATE talking on the phone)

- complete 5 days of my reading plan (still working on reading through the Bible)
- write out prayers for one specific person each day for 5 days this week
- 15 minutes of prayer time each morning

I have a few other things that need to get done this week as well: setting aside some things to sell, fixing a few things around the house, make bread, schedule an appointment, hit the library, etc. We'll see where things stand on Friday. What goals do you have for this week? Anything? Are you good at goal-setting? Good at goal-accomplishing?


- hfs


And even MORE interestinger

At what point does something go from being a conspiracy theory to a terrifying possibility? Maybe when a retired four-star Admiral puts it out there.

Money quote: "Well, the election has come and gone. Congress now has no excuse. The American people needed the truth before the election, but now that Obama is back in the White House real conservatives must demand answers.
The American people deserve to have those questions answered and moreover the American people deserve justice." 


- hfs

Gun control and the Founders

I don't usually post things from Facebook on to my blog but this one really struck a chord with me. 

"A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY TO THINK ABOUT.......December 29, 2012 marks the 122nd Anniversary of the murder of 297 Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee Creek on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. These 297 people, in their winter camp, were murdered by federal agents and members of the 7th Cavalry who had come to confiscate their firearms “for their own safety and protection”. The slaughter began after the majority of the Sioux had peacefully turned in their firearms. The Calvary began shooting, and managed to wipe out the entire camp. 200 of the 297 victims were women and children. About 40 members of the 7th Cavalry were killed, but over half of them were victims of fratricide from the Hotchkiss guns of their overzealous comrades-in-arms. Twenty members of the 7th Cavalry's death squad, were deemed “National Heroes” and were awarded the Medal of Honor for their acts of [cowardice] heroism.

We hear very little of Wounded Knee today. It is usually not mentioned in our history classes or books. What little that does exist about Wounded Knee is normally a sanitized “Official Government Explanation”. And there are several historically inaccurate depictions of the events leading up to the massacre, which appear in movie scripts and are not the least bit representative of the actual events that took place that day.

Wounded Knee was among the first federally backed gun confiscation attempts in United States history. It ended in the senseless murder of 297 people.

Before you jump on the emotionally charged bandwagon for gun-control, take a moment to reflect on the real purpose of the Second Amendment, the right of the people to take up arms in defense of themselves, their families, and property in the face of invading armies or an oppressive government. The argument that the Second Amendment only applies to hunting and target shooting is asinine. When the United States Constitution was drafted, “hunting” was an everyday chore carried out by men and women to put meat on the table each night, and “target shooting” was an unheard of concept. Musket balls were a precious commodity and were certainly not wasted on “target shooting”. The Second Amendment was written by people who fled oppressive and tyrannical regimes in Europe, and it refers to the right of American citizens to be armed for defensive purposes, should such tyranny arise in the United States.

As time goes forward, the average citizen in the United States continually loses little chunks of personal freedom or “liberty”. Far too many times, unjust gun control bills were passed and signed into law under the guise of “for your safety” or “for protection”. The Patriot Act signed into law by G.W. Bush, was expanded and continues under Barack Obama. It is just one of many examples of American citizens being stripped of their rights and privacy for “safety”. Now, the Right to Keep and Bear Arms is on the table, and will, most likely be attacked to facilitate the path for the removal of our firearms, all in the name of “our safety”.

Before any American citizen blindly accepts whatever new firearms legislation that is about to be doled out, they should stop and think about something for just one minute- Evil does exist in our world. It always has and always will. Throughout history evil people have committed evil acts. In the Bible one of the first stories is that of Cain killing Abel. We can not legislate “evil” into extinction. Good people will abide by the law, and the criminal element will always find a way around it.

Evil exists all around us, but looking back at the historical record of the past 200 years, across the globe, where is “evil” and “malevolence” most often found? In the hands of those with the power, the governments. That greatest human tragedies on record and the largest loss of innocent human life can be attributed to governments. Who do the governments always target? “Scapegoats” and “enemies” within their own borders…but only after they have been disarmed to the point where they are no longer a threat. Ask any Native American, and they will tell you it was inferior technology and lack of arms that contributed to their demise. Ask any Armenian why it was so easy for the Turks to exterminate millions of them, and they will answer “We were disarmed before it happened”. Ask any Jew what Hitler’s first step prior to the mass murders of the Holocaust was- confiscation of firearms from the people.

Wounded Knee is the prime example of why the Second Amendment exists, and why we should vehemently resist any attempts to infringe on our Rights to Bear Arms. Without the Second Amendment we will be totally stripped of any ability to defend ourselves and our families." ~ Jeffrey E.

I have friends whose opinions place them on both sides of this issue. Most of my friends are intelligent, well-read, and relatively open-minded so I would hope that they would be willing to listen to and consider the viewpoint that stands in opposition to theirs. I'm not saying anyone has to change their minds - that's not my goal. But I would hope that people would at least think for themselves. 

Some of the questions I've asked myself in the past few weeks include:

1. What WAS the original intent of the 2nd Amendment? 

2. What were the Founders' thoughts as they drafted the 2nd Amendment?

3. To whom was the 2nd Amendment aimed?

4. What constitutes a 'militia' as defined by the Founders?

5. What are the reasons for banning certain guns?

6. What would that ban look like in execution?

7. During past gun bans, what were the intended effects? What were the realized effects?

Here's what I've found thus far:


"What plan for the regulation of the militia may be pursued by the national government, is impossible to be foreseen. But so far from viewing the matter in the same light with those who object to select corps as dangerous, were the Constitution ratified, and were I to deliver my sentiments to a member of the federal legislature from this State on the subject of a militia establishment, I should hold to him, in substance, the following discourse:
"The project of disciplining all the militia of the United States is as futile as it would be injurious, if it were capable of being carried into execution. A tolerable expertness in military movements is a business that requires time and practice...To attempt a thing which would abridge the mass of labor and industry to so considerable an extent, would be unwise: and the experiment, if made, could not succeed, because it would not long be endured. Little more can reasonably be aimed at, with respect to the people at large, than to have them properly armed and equipped..."

That would be Hamilton (Federalist 29).


And then there's Madison (Federalist 46):

"Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. And it is not certain, that with this aid alone they would not be able to shake off their yokes. But were the people to possess the additional advantages of local governments chosen by themselves, who could collect the national will and direct the national force, and of officers appointed out of the militia, by these governments, and attached both to them and to the militia, it may be affirmed with the greatest assurance, that the throne of every tyranny in Europe would be speedily overturned in spite of the legions which surround it."


In Federalist 28, Hamilton discusses the right to self-defense:

"If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no resource left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government, and which against the usurpations of the national rulers, may be exerted with infinitely better prospect of success than against those of the rulers of an individual state. In a single state, if the persons intrusted with supreme power become usurpers, the different parcels, subdivisions, or districts of which it consists, having no distinct government in each, can take no regular measures for defense. The citizens must rush tumultuously to arms, without concert, without system, without resource; except in their courage and despair. "

The militia is the ultimate check and balance against a state or the national government, which is why the Founders guaranteed the right to the PEOPLE as opposed to only active militia members or a state's militia. Basically the Second Amendment was designed to protect the individual right for the collective purpose. At least, that was my take-away.

You cannot legistlate or regulate evil. You can outlaw guns but criminals do not abide by laws. That's why they are criminals. And I'll be damed if I'll allow my family to be unprotected against the evil that exists in this world. 

We wail and gnash our teeth over the crime rates in this country and our knee-jerk reaction is to tighten the restrictions on guns. Where has that lead us? Look at Chicago. Look at New York. The tighter the gun controls become, the higher the crime rate goes. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing, over and over, expecting a different result. We've tried the same thing over and over and we keep getting the same result. I wonder what would happen if we were to completely repeal the gun restrictions in, say, Chicago? What would happen if, come 1FEB, all gun restrictions were completely lifted? What would the crime rate do? Any bets?

My money is on a drop in the crime rate in Chicago. I'd put large quantities of money on that bet. Because the criminals would know that they faced the possibility of being shot if they were to break into a house or attack a person - something they're pretty sure won't happen right now, given the restrictions in place in Chicago. 

Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying we should sit by and do nothing in light of Newton, CT and Aurora, CO. But there was more at play in both of these tragedies than just a gun. There's another aspect that we're not addressing: mental health. Why do we always jump to the guns as the issue? Why is always the weapon that is addressed and not the person wielding said weapon? Is it because it's easier on the collective conscience of the country to discuss the evils of guns versus mental illness? Is it because the solutions with regard to guns are much easier ('ban them ALL!') as opposed to the solutions with regard to mental illness? Is it because our mental health care options in this country (or in the world, for that matter) SUCK? Because they do. Assuming that the young man that committed the murders in Connecticut was struggling with a mental illness, his mother's options included:

1. medication - something that may or may not have already been tried. Something that is an inexact science, at best, and may have side effects that are worse than the illness itself.

2. placement in a mental health facility - tough to do, even with money, as beds and space are limited. Also, see #1. Not to mention the fact that, as a parent, no one wants to admit that their child may be SO messed up that they not only present a danger to themselves but to others.

3. incarceration - sadly, if #1 and #2 fail, this is the only other option for most people. And if you thought #2 was bad...

As a country, as a society, and as a world, we do not have the capability or the capacity to adequately deal with the more severe mental health challenges we face today. So, instead, we go after the guns. And this leaves the rest of us defenseless, if taken to its extreme. 


- hfs


Benghazi-gate just keeps getting interestinger...

...and interestinger.

Money quote: "Benghazi-gate is not about a bogus YouTube video series of lies. It’s not about the Obama Administration’s foreign policy ineptitude. We are dealing with something much more sinister… something potentially treasonous"


- hfs


January challenge - update 3

I had to hit the store today - we were completely out of fruit, yogurt, and juice. We were also low on cheese. And all of those things are staples in our daily diets. I had coupons and saved 21% with those and my club card but still wound up spending $36+ (the receipt is in my car and it's cold and rainy so I'll post actual totals tomorrow). So that puts me at about $124ish for the month. Not quite as low as I had hoped to be but not too bad either. Thankfully, our meal plans for the rest of the month are unambitious and I still have plenty of proteins stocked up in the fridge. So my shopping trips for the rest of the month should be limited to fresh produce and other perishable items.

I have not yet tried the crock pot bread - I think I'll take a go at it this weekend. Tomorrow is supposed to be lovely with near-record breaking temps so I plan to not be in the house much! If it winds up being as warm as they are saying, I'll be opening up the house at the warmest part of the day to let some fresh air in. I try to do that at least once per day - I truly believe that fresh air will help keep the sickies away and out of the house. But that is tough to do when the high is only 36°F outside. Brr.

Tomorrow night is homemade refried beans, rice, and taco fixings - kind of a DIY dinner night. I think we'll play some games too - either Sequence or Settlers of Catan...both of which my children have fallen in love with. Then it's on to the weekend! I live an EXCITING life.


- hfs


January challenge - update 2

It's been a mellow week thus far - just trying to get back into the swing of school, swim, and life. Thankfully the weather has been wonderful. I'm not sure if I'm getting better at this 'winter' thing or if it's just not as brutally cold as it was last year. Regardless, I don't ache like I did last year...not all the time, at least. I think a part of it is that I'm staying on top of my vitamins better than I did last year: vitamin B and D supplements, fish oil, grapeseed extract, magnesium, and elderberry syrup ('Your father smelt of elderberries!').

We don't do flu shots (well, MacGyver had to at work...the mist instead of the shot which irritates me because that means he came home shedding the virus) but we do make sure to wash our hands anytime we come home from being out, after using the bathroom, and before eating meals. We also get plenty of sleep (yay homeschooling! No buses to get up for at o'dark thirty), moderate exercise, do our best to eat right, drink plenty of water. And none of us has any kind of underlying medical issue that would make the flu shot necessary (asthma, prone to chest infections, allergies, compromised immune systems). I know a lot of people that disagree with this approach but this is the decision we make for our family.

In terms of eating well, I've not yet been to the grocery store this week. I might go tomorrow and pick up a few things to tide us over until payday: cheese, yogurt (though I think I'm going to make my own with some of our milk), some more fruit, and a few other odds and ends. I did make it by the bread outlet and grabbed a bunch of bread: 2 packages of English muffins, a loaf of wheat, and a loaf of Russian rye. I spent $6.89, including tax. So that puts me at 87.71 for the month. Not as good as Mavis over at One Hundred Dollars A Month but I'm still on track to only spend $200 this month on food for our family of 4. 

I still have a bunch of leftover baking/pantry supplies from the holidays so I am going to attempt to make my own bread (sans bread machine) this week. I'm debating between doing it in the oven or in my crock pot. I'm leaning toward the crock pot because we keep our house pretty cool in the winter and I worry that it won't be warm enough to make my dough rise. Our thermostat in our new place isn't programmable so we keep it set at 70°F during the day and I drop it to 68°F at night. This place is MUCH more insulated than our other house, for which I am grateful. Anyway, I suspect that, as cool as it is right now, the dough would not rise well. So I think I'll do it in the crock pot. Just the idea of a freshly baked loaf of bread with some butter slathered on it is making me drool.

In terms of a cost savings, I'm not sure how big of an impact this will have on our grocery bill. I spent all of $4.50 on bread for sandwiches for 2 weeks and I don't forsee my children using the crock pot bread on sandwiches over the store-bought kind. However, we do bread with dinner just about every night and it's usually included in breakfast around here as well so it would cut back there. Kristen over at The Frugal Girl did a cost comparison and she makes the point that it's really not about the cost savings. Instead, it's about good, wholesome bread and not having to worry about what is IN the bread. I do my best to avoid high fructose corn syrup and preservatives but, buying store-bought makes this next to impossible. Making my bread at home would help me avoid those things in our diets. And who doesn't love fresh bread? (besides those of you with gluten issues...)


- hfs


Crock pot loaded potato soup

I had found what looked to be a great recipe for a loaded potato soup on Pinterest the other day and couldn't wait to use my leftover potatoes to make it. My family knows that feedback is always welcome on new recipes (well, on any recipes, really) and, if they don't like it, they are welcome to get a bowl of cereal, toast, make a quesadilla, etc.

I liked the looks of this recipe for many reasons: it's done in the crock pot, there weren't many ingredients, you can 'customize' your soup to your liking, and it was inexpensive. I plopped everything in the crock pot before my friend dropped her boys off and it cooked all day long. Made the house smell yummy! The recipe is as follows:

  • 5 lbs russet potatoes, diced, NOT peeled
  • 5 tablespoons TS garlic garlic (I substituted 2 cloves of minced garlic...and could have gone with 3)
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 64 ounces chicken broth or stock
  • 16 ounces cream cheese
  • bacon, sour cream, chives or shredded cheese for garnish
Combine first 4 ingredients in your crock pot, cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 5. Purée soup in food processor with cream cheese. Serve warm topped with bacon, sour cream, shredded cheese & chives.

The outcome was a little less than great though. About half way through the cooking process, I scooped  out a good portion of the onion. As yummy as onions are, it smelled more like onion soup than potato soup and I was pretty sure my children would balk. Once it was done cooking and I went to puree it in the blender (my food processor is down for the count with a cracked bowl), I realized that there was too much liquid. So I wound up leaving a good 1/4 of the broth in the crock pot and, even so, the soup was thin. What seemed to be an advantage in the small number of ingredients wound up being a disadvantage as the soup came out quite bland. We tried dressing it up with some oregano and celery seed after the fact but those flavors hadn't had time to blend in during cooking so they just kind of...floated. You could taste them if you bit into a piece of herb but the flavors didn't infuse the soup.

Given all of that, I do plan to make this again. I will add in 2 carrots and 2 stalks of celery (a good use for those leftover stalks that aren't quite crisp enough for snacks or salads as well as of the leaves) and I will season the soup with oregano as it cooks. Also, I will decrease the amount of broth I use next time around. I halved the recipe last night so I used 32 ounce of broth and I think I will cut that down to 24 ounces. That should help thicken it up a bit.

All in all, it was a good soup - just a little thin and a little bland. But the ease of prep more than made up for that so we'll try it again in the future.


- hfs

January challenge - update 1

So far, my January challenge is working out well. I know, it's only 2JAN but I haven't really been to the grocery store since 22DEC of LAST YEAR!!! Ok - so last year was earlier this week but still...LAST YEAR!

I took my somewhat comprehensive list of what I had on hand and sat down to make up a few meal ideas. I also picked the brains of my friends via Facebook and was reminded of the website MyFridgeFood which will give you recipes based on the foods you have on hand. QUITE handy.

My meal plan for this week is/was pretty simple - I'm watching a friend's boys this week before their school starts back up so I don't have a lot of time to prep.

- loaded potato soup in the crock pot, steamed broccoli, salad, bread

- mini ravioli, salad, bread

- shake and bake tilapia, baked sweet potatoes, salad

- turkey, stuffing, green beans, cranberry chutney

- baked teriyaki chicken, rice, steamed veggies

- homemade refried beans, rice, salad (my bean recipe makes plenty so I'll save the rest for a meal next week if I can keep MacGyver and the kids from eating it all!)

- waffles (MacGyver is quite skilled on the waffle-maker...the kind you use on the stovetop, not the
electric kind and we'll make a double or triple batch to freeze), fruit, turkey sausage

With that meal plan, I hit the grocery store today. I didn't have many coupons in hand today (we don't get a local paper...I print coupons and buy them online which is cheaper than a paper subscription) but my list wasn't long and our local store had some good sales going on for the things that I needed in addition to the fact that most of what I needed was produce and you rarely find coupons for that. I spent  $72.82 and the bulk of what I bought was:

- produce $17.00
- bread (didn't make it to the outlet store) $7.00
- frozen veggies $10.00
- dry beans $1.39
- olive oil $4.00
- 18 eggs $3.50
- chicken breasts ($1.99/lb which was cheaper than frozen) $7.00
- bacon $2.50
- chips (we're going to a friend's house to watch a bowl game) $9.00
- cheese $3.00
- pepperoni (making pizza for lunch with some frozen dough I have) $3.25

Between the lone coupon I had and my club card savings, I saved $6.80 (9%) and racked up a 10 cent discount on my next fill up of gas. Between the double coupons and the gas savings, our local grocery store beats the commissary (when you tally up the surcharge, the tip, and the gas necessary to get there) just about every time. I hit the commissary about once a month (or send MacGyver) for things like cereal and other non-perishable goods when I have good coupons. You can't beat $1 per box of cereal when it's what we eat on a regular basis.

The fuel rewards at our local store are fantastic. You earn a 10-cent discount per gallon of gas (up to 35 gallons) for every 100 points. Usually, $1 spent equals 1 point but they have a deal on gift cards - 4 points for every $1 spent. Each month, I budget $25 of my spending money for SBUX and I buy a $25 SBUX gift card at our store, earning me 100 points (25 x 4) and a 10-cent discount on gas. I do that twice per month so each month, I save $7.00 on gas for the $50 I spend at SBUX. Additionally, our local store has a SBUX in it so I also rack up fuel points when I get my SBUX at the grocery store!

Christmas was a great time for our fuel points account - we bought several gift cards at the store and wound up filling up the other day at a savings of $1.40 per gallon. We pumped 35 gallons so we saved $49.00 on gas. the next town over has gas (though the same company) for about 15-cents LESS so, when we can, we fill up over there. That, and moving to this new town, has helped slash our petrol bill in half!

The other thing that we do to help nibble away at both our grocery and gas bills is that we pay for our groceries using our American Express card. We have the Costco AMEX which 'rewards' us with a cash-back percentage (1% for groceries and 3% for gas). I keep track of what we spend so that we don't go over budget and that credit card balance is paid off every month using the budgeted cash. Anything left over from those budget categories goes to pay down our other credit card balances.

Assuming we spend $250 per month on gas and $400 per month on groceries, we realize a savings of about $11.50 per month by using this credit card. But we have to be diligent to pay it off every month. The goal is to decrease our credit card balances, not increase them.

So that is where we stand thus far. We'll spend $8.00 on milk tomorrow for a total of $80.82. I don't plan to have to go to the grocery store again until mid-month unless we need more fruit. We'll see! I also have coupons on order for several of the things I know I'm going to need later this month so that will help.


- hfs


Wrote this six years ago. Nothing's changed.  One of my favorite movies is 'Bull Durham'. And one of my favorite scenes in ...