Thursday, September 26, 2013

What the Vander World Eats in a Week

Have you seen the photos from the book Hungry Planet: What the World Eats? It was interesting to look at the pictures and see the variety in amounts of food, what kinds of food, and how it is packaged and served. I declared myself too lazy to make a photo of one week's worth of food for our family. And then to prove myself wrong I did it. Kind of.
I probably didn't do the most accurate job, since we also eat items from the pantry and the freezer. I normally "stock up" on items like pasta or dried beans all at one time, so I didn't need those things this week. 

Pictured is one grocery trip to Winco (which I do weekly), plus 1 carton of eggs from the fridge and the  metal bowl of produce showing the types of things we eat from the garden lately: beans, kale, onions, tomatoes, and cabbage. We harvest more than that in a week but I didn't have room for it in the bowl. The eggs are almost always from our chickens but they are molting and not laying as much, so we bought a dozen store eggs last week.

Don't see the bread? There are wheat berries in the back left plastic bag that get ground and used in pizza crust and bread.

We also occasionally buy food at the NW Regional Food Hub or order foods from the Azure Standard food co-op through them.

I spent $42.50 at Winco today, which is pretty typical. says that I spend $232 on groceries per month on average (based on the last 12 months). That number doesn't include chicken feed, garden supplies, aquaponics supplies and fish food, or food storage supplies like canning equipment. And it probably leaves out an occasional small purchase made with cash that doesn't get recorded by Mint.

We're blessed with access to a lot of fresh fruit and lots of sunshine to grow food in our region!

I'd love to see your picture of food for a week!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Universal Preschool: A Stifling "Freebie"

In Washington state, there is not yet universal free preschool, but I predict it will be considered soon. Since my kids are of preschool age or will be soon, and my home state of Iowa is in the process of implementing government-funded universal optional preschool, I became interested in this topic.

Recently I read an article entitled More Government Preschool: An Expensive and Unnecessary Middle-Class Subsidy. I found the article a tad repetitive, and it didn't really address whether or not preschool has any academic benefit. But you can scan the main points in the top right, and I found the last 3 paragraphs worth reading.

If you would like to read more research on this topic, read this report summarizing the findings of many studies about preschool and all-day kindergarten.

The main reasons that I am against legislation for universal preschool are:

  • I don't want to pay for it with my taxes. Flawed as the public school system can be, I am somewhat OK with my taxes paying for public education that I don't plan to utilize, because it is in the best interest of the country to have educated citizens. Given that preschool has no proven educational benefit for the average kid, it seems like a waste of money. High taxes makes it hard for me and others like me to choose to work part-time (or no paid work) and focus on caring for our own children.
  • Discourages innovation and healthy variety in education. I like research, but there is not one proven "right way" to do education. Many typical private preschools would be edged out of business by government-funded ones, and that is too bad. It is the non-typical ones I'd be especially sad about: completely outdoor preschools? Montessori? Groups of families that get together for Joy School? ECHO (a Christian homeschool co-op) that Toby attends? Boldly Christ-centered preschools? They'd likely have trouble aligning with the regulations and "academic standards" required to get government funding, and the number of people willing to pay privately would go down.
  • It's deceptively hard to say no to. Everyone wants free. Most middle class people feel that money is tight; sometimes it is. Many families desire preschool for one reason or another (either they believe it is academically or socially beneficial, fun, or would serve as child-care for a parent to take on a part-time or full-time job). Legislators don't know much about education and don't want to look bad by voting against something that will supposedly help children and families. I anticipate that universal optional preschool would face very little political or grassroots opposition.
  • Honestly, I'm not convinced that it will always be optional. Will future families have to fill out special paperwork to "homeschool" their 3 or 4 year olds and prove that they are providing quality academics at home? I hope not, but the trend seems to be strongly towards more paperwork required, lowering the age of compulsory education, etc. 

Watch the legislation in your state (and at the federal level), stay informed even if you don't have preschool children, and continue to ask thoughtful questions about how we can best support families with small children (how about universal someone-comes-and-cleans-my-house-weekly...just kidding).

I am not categorically anti-preschool. I don't believe it is necessary or an academic boost. We live far from extended family, 15 minute drive or more from most church friends, and almost all the homes on our street are retired people. It can be kind of isolating. I do like the opportunity for Toby to get to know other kids and try new activities; he attends preschool for 3 hours a week for part of the year while I teach music classes. Other families might have other reasons for choosing preschool or no formal preschool and it is their choice: I oppose universal "free" preschool because I want them to continue to have a variety of choices.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Fall 2013 Rotating Meal Plan

Ta-da! Fall meal plan. I put jackets on the kids outside yesterday, so it is officially fall at our house.

I hope to have a good supply of kale and cabbage from the garden, and I can use fresh, frozen, or canned tomatoes from the garden or greenhouse in soup or pizza. Fresh basil tastes great on pizza, and gives us a break (a free and healthy one, too!) from other toppings like pepperoni and Canadian bacon.

It is not on the meal plan, but on Sunday night after church we usually have homemade chocolate pudding or chips and salsa. Friday nights is always pizza, and popcorn during our movie. Do you have any meals or snacks that are a weekly family tradition?

Week A
Chicken pesto pasta
Kale/Potatoes and sausage or other meat
Sourdough Pizza
Teriyaki Chicken

Week B
Soup and bread/biscuits
Egg casserole
Sourdough Pizza
Mac 'n cheese
Pork Chops

Click here for a downloadable pdf one-page version of this meal plan for your fridge.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

New Items @ Hammer & Thread

I hope you aren't actually Christmas shopping yet, but if you are tucking away ideas in the back of your head I guess I will forgive you. And give you some brainstorms!

Today I noticed the wall hanging tile letters at Hammer & Thread thread. I had heard about them but hadn't seen the pictures yet. I think they would look great hanging in a classroom, living room, or almost anywhere. If I had a staircase I would want to hang our family's names in Scrabble tiles with family pictures arranged around it on the wall.

We enjoy our growth chart wall ruler, Heartland Strategy game (when the kids let us play games other than Busytown), and other personalized items made by Gregg (my Dad!). 

The reviews confirm what I've known for a long time: these are beautiful and special pieces that will stand out in any home.