29 November 2011

It's official! I get the worst blogger ever award. It's been a week or two since I posted. ouch! I'm in quite a hurry today. I have so much to do to get ready for my trip to TN in two days, so naturally, this is the one and only day is 3 months that the baby won't stop screaming and crying for no apparent reason!

I made homemade spaghetti sauce with homemade meatballs the other day. It was fabulous!

In a large pot, put about 4 tbsp olive oil. Chop/Mince some garlic and let it soak in the oil. (about 6 cloves)

While the garlic is soaking, cut up a med/lg onion into tiny little onion-y pieces.

Go back to the pot and turnn it on med/high. Wait until you see little bubble around the garlic, and then throw the onions in there. Saute that until the onions are clear. Throw a couple bay leaves, some oregano, basil, parsley, and thyme in there. Turn to low.

Now you add the saucy part. Chop up about 6 good sized tomatoes. Throw in pot.

Add 2 Large cans of tomato paste. Add two cans of water. Throw all that in the pot.

Simmer it.


In big bowl mix, 1/4 cup milk, 1 ish cup bread crumbs, 2lb ground beef, lots of parsley and thyme and garlic salt and pepper. (horrible punctuation) 1 egg, and I'm pretty sure that's it.

Mix everything with your hands.... form whatever sized balls you want and then drop them in the simmering sauce... Simmer for a couple hours and TADA spaghetti and meatballs!

21 November 2011

Time to count my blessings.

God is so good. Looking back over the last year, it is amazing to see all the changes He has brought into my life. =] (charlie just slammed his hands into the keyboard and created that smiley.... thought i'd leave it)

Last year around this time, my husband was employed at a tiny engineering firm. That means we were paying exorbitant insurance premiums every month. I was almost ready to have a baby, and we had NO idea how we were going to afford the $500 a month increase in premiums to add another person to the policy. (Yes, NJ has insanely high health insurance premiums). Well, Michael was laid off in December, and we had to pay COBRA premiums at about $1500 a month, which is about what you get on unemployment up here. Luckily we have two awesome familes and a really wonderful church family. :) We didn't have to buy anything for the baby, and our friend Rosie was always inviting us over for dinner and sending leftovers home. :) (she's a good cook)

We had enough savings to last a month or so. Right at the end of our money (aka the week I had Charlie), Michael was hired by a huge company with awesome benefits. Our church provided all of our meals for two weeks after we came home from the hospital (not to mention all the baby stuff we got at the church baby shower). The next week my parents and grandparents were in town. They bought us food for that week (third week no grocery shopping), and they stocked our cabinets, fridge, and freezer with enough food to last a month. (I'm pretty sure they also put gas in my car.) They also packed a lot of our apartment, did almost all the lifting, and almost all the moving for us, AND started to unpack the important stuff. Our lease was up and we wanted to move to a better area. :)

I remember around February sitting on the bed, holding a tiny baby, and crying, because I knew I needed to go back to work at night. There was no way we could afford diapers, and toys, and wipes, and everything else that comes with a baby. Our friends Jill and Jeremy randomly showed up at church with enough wipes to last a few months. :) My friend Sharon volunteered to watch Charlie while I was in school in the fall. People at church have found great yardsale baby clothes. Just a few things here and there have really helped. My mother in law and my parents and my brother's girlfriend have given us tons and tons of clothes the last 6 months. Our friends Amber and Ryan have done so much for us they deserve a whole paragraph.

Amber and Ryan have three beautiful kiddies, the youngest of which is about a year older than Charlie. They gave us bags and bags of toys. The most important thing they've given us is gDiapers. They just gave them to us! (They aren't cheap!!) All we had to do was buy the cloth inserts. (not expensive) They've saved us thousands of dollars. :) I'm not very good at letting them know how much I appreciate them, but they are very dear to my heart! (They are in the process of adopting a little girl. Please check out their blog at www.wearespeechless.blogspot.com)

We've finally paid off all of our medical bills from having a baby (Babies are so expensive), caught up on our car payments (my in-laws helped with that), and now we have a little extra around the holidays (I have no idea how that happened... God did it). I've been able to stay home through the generosity of others and some creative couponing/budgeting.

I'm so blessed to be able to give back to my community and friends now. I've been able to cook meals for our friends at church, donate lots of food to the food pantry, give items for the Lily yardsale, send money to Worldvision to provide livestock to third world countries, pay extra on student loans, and lots of little things lately. I guess I just wanted everyone to know how thankful I am for all their support in the last year.

Thank you family and friends for all the food, baby items, free babysitting, emotional support, and everything else you've done for my family the last 12 months. :):) I will forever be grateful.

P.S. Michael was even able to quit his second job. :) He is home on the weekends now. I cherish our weekend family time!!
P.P.S. Some things I forgot to mention: I've been able to go home 3 times this year, (4 counting a couple weeks from now), donate lots of baby stuff to a friend and a women's shelter, Kelli let me borrow thousands of dollars of maternity clothes, and I'm able to pass some of my maternity clothes on to a new friend. Special thank yous to Rosemary, Jenn, Lynn, and Lisa (lol the 4 people who probably won't read this) for taking the place of my mom the first couple weeks. I owe you so much for doing my laundry, dishes, cleaning my carpets, picking up, and sitting with me while Michael was away on job interviews.... and a super special awesome thank you to my mom for not laughing at me when I called hysterical the 3rd night I had Charlie. :)

11 November 2011

I have no idea what to title this :)

HAHA! Last night at house church, everyone found out that I don't like Chris Christie. (SHOCK! Oh the horror!) Besides not liking his politics, I firmly believe that fat people should not be in a position of political power. (Don't shoot me now. Keep reading.) It is no secret that America has a huge obesity problem. I believe that if you are influential you should lead a lifestyle that children would want to emulate. That includes not over eating as well as killing dogs and given a 100 mil/ 6 year contract to the NFL. (Yes, Vick, that was for you.) Being in an influential position gives credibility to your lifestyle choices and inherently makes them OK. Besides, he is really sweaty, and that makes him seem dishonest. (and I don't like his politics)

Ryan jokingly suggested next week, we start by listing things Jess does like. I said "I love bald people." (Ryan is bald) Michael, my wonderful husband but not so at the next moment, jokingly told everyone that I don't have Indian friends because they are hairy. Oh boy! I could have smacked him. :) (lovingly, of course) I would like to point out that I have many hairy friends, and Michael was referring to a Sri Lankan friend that does have excessive body hair. (Not all Indians are hairy. He knows that.) I left house church feeling like I needed to clarify the issue.
1. I don't mind body hair. Guy body hair is a little thick, but whatever.
2. I don't choose my friends, husband, lab partners, etc on the amount of body hair they may or may not have.
3. Contrary to Michael's and my joking, I would have married him even if he was hairy. :) It is just a bonus he doesn't have a lot of hair, because I do like that he is not hairy. He's Asian.
My house church family is so awesome, they knew we were joking. For some reason, that conversation (it went on a lot longer than that) left me feeling like it could be misconstrued by anyone, especially people who do not know Michael and I very well. (... and ... incidentally how much he likes to pick on me and I on him.)

Now to the serious stuff....

Please please please donate to your local food bank! There are hungry people out there, and I believe most all of my friends/followers can afford to donate just 5 dollars. (If you can't afford to donate, because you do not have enough food for yourself, please let me know! I will make sure you have food!) The local food pantries can take your donations and buy food from the food bank for extremely cheap. The food bank gets discounted canned/boxed goods from grocery stores/donors/etc.. I believe this year they can buy canned vegetables for 50 cents, no tax. Your five dollars would buy TEN cans of green beans for a family! Next time you are about to buy your coffee, please consider donating that couple dollars to a needy family for the holidays!

08 November 2011

Shasha's super famous eggnog!

I LOVE this eggnog recipe. I got it from my grandmother, and I have no idea where she got it from. If I had to guess, I'd say her mom. :) In fact, I love this recipe so so much, I actually use cow milk in it. Most other things, I substitute almond or coconut milk. I don't mind having an upset tummy for this.

12 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
2 cups milk
1/2 tsp. salt
12 egg whites
2  cups whipping ceam
1 quart milk
In mixer bowl, beat egg yolks slightly; add sugar and beat
till thick and lemon-colored.  Slowly add the 2 cups milk,
beating constantly at low speed of electric mixer.  Chill
several hours.  Add salt to egg whites and beat till
almost stiff.  Whip cream till stiff.  Stir the 1 quart milk
into chilled egg yolk mixture.  Fold in egg whites; fold in
whipped cream.  Chill one hour.  Stir before serving;
sprinkle with nutmeg.
Makes a bout 30 five-ounce servings.
(I prefer sprinkling with cinnamon AND nutmeg -- your taste preference)
***As a precaution, I like to buy my eggs for this from a small farm. I get weirded out using uncooked supermarket eggs for this. Think of all the salmonella.... yum...

07 November 2011

Chicken n Dumplins!

Here is my super scrumptious recipe for chicken n dumplins or C and D as Michael calls it. :)
There are a few rules:
1. White flour only.
2. Don't skim the frothy fat off the broth. It's what makes it good!!
3. Never pronounce the 'g' in dumplin.... see?
4. Real chicken n dumplins has ZERO veggies. Don't add any. ICK!!
5. You can use frozen dumplins, but homemade is always the best!

Take a whole chicken. Stick in pot with bay leaves and thyme and enough water to cover the chicken plus some. Boil it on a low boil until it falls apart when you scoop it out. (4ish hours). Take the chicken out and stick in a bowl to cool a little. In the meantime, make the dumplins.

In a big bowl mix approx 4 cups flour to 2 cups boiling chicken broth. Add a pinch or two of salt and a few tbsp real butter! DON'T EVER USE THAT MARGARINE JUNK. :) It is going to be really sticky. Roll it out to 1/4 inch thick. Cut into 1 inch squares. Sprinkle flour liberally during this process. Drop dumplin squares into boiling broth.

OK now the dumplins are cooking. Next, pull the chicken apart into stringy pieces. Add to boiling broth. Let simmer a few hours. :)

06 November 2011

answers to all your questions!

Before I get started answering a bunch of the questions that people keep asking me, I am going to tell you a little about myself.
1. I believe in traditional values. Women should stay home if they can, and men should work and provide. Church is not an option. Families have to sit down to a family dinner together, TV off. If your husband works, and you stay home, you should have a hot meal ready or at least on the stove.
2. I also believe in lots of non-traditional stuff. My last name is still my maiden name. My child's name is definitely pretty weird. I really don't like weddings. We really don't celebrate Christmas much (SHOCKER).

Question #1: I get this all the time. Your last name isn't McCracken? Are you two even married?
I go by Jessica McCracken, but my legal name is Jessica Fugunt. I could tell you I didn't change my name because of some obscure statistic, such as women who keep their maiden names earn 27% more over their lifetimes. Here is a good one: Approximately 1/4 of all women in the US keep their maiden names. Changing your name to your husband's last name is a definitively Western tradition. In all of Asia, half of Europe, and most of Africa, women do not change their names.
I wish I could tell you that I kept my name because of some weird belief or value, but it just comes down to sheer laziness. :) I tried to change my name at the beginning of a semester of school. It messed up my student loans. Then, I just never tried again. I would have to go to the Social Security office, fill out a bunch of forms, actually get a copy of my birth certificate, etc... Then I would have to contact everyone to change the name on my lease, bank account, credit cards, loans, send off for a new passport, and all that other fun stuff. That is honestly just a lot of hassel.
I used to worry that my husband would have his feelings hurt. He just doesn't care. Taking his last name is not something that is important to him, and Fugunt sounds way awesomer than McCracken. Besides, there is only one Jessica Fugunt in the world.... (until my brother eventually marries his fabulous girlfriend).

Question #2: Here is a good one. You don't have TV? What do you do at night?
We're not some weirdos who believe TV is of the devil. I promise. My husband was laid-off for a few months. When we moved here, we barely had enough money for the security deposit on our apartment. We needed other things more pressing than TV at 100 bucks a month, like a mattress. We decided that when we got back on our feet, we'd consider TV. We both ended up working full time, opposite shifts. Six months later when we could afford it, we both decided that we didn't miss having cable. We spent a lot more time together doing fun things around town with that money. We'd go to different arts festivals, museums, take walks, go to the beach, and have all kinds of fun day trips. Now that Charlie is here, I don't think we'll have cable again for a while. I like that he doesn't get to see dead people, violence, sex, etc.. while one of us is flipping through channels.

Question #3: You don't get each other gifts for Christmas? You give that money to charity??
Yes. We don't get each other gifts for Christmas. Christmas is so materialistic, and we have everything we need. I just buy it when I need it. Why do I need to wait until Christmas to give Michael some tie or gift I could just give him the month before?
It started back in our first year of marriage. My husband was laid-off at the time, and we couldn't justify buying each other gifts that we didn't really need. We had food, clothes, shelter, and lots of other cushy wants in life (two dogs, heat, sushi, dates, etc). There were people around the world and here in America starving for Christmas. I couldn't stand it. We saved up little scraps of money here and there, cashed in our coins from our coin jar, and we donated all of it to buying chickens to help feed a family/make them money(eggs) in Indonesia. The next year my husband was laid-off again (notice the pattern), so we decided to do the same thing. I didn't need new jewelry, a massage, or anything of the sorts more than someone needs to eat. This year we decided to do the same thing even though he is currently employed.
I still get gifts and participate in gift exchanges, and I will be buying my son gifts. We, as a couple, just choose not to buy each other Christmas gifts. (Besides, we are constantly getting each other stuff throughout the year.)
Insert here: Please donate to your local food bank, especially during the holidays. It is a matter that is very close to my heart!