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Fun * Finances * Food

Fun: This is for those snowy days when your children need something new to do outside. My dad taught us a game he used to play as a child called Fox and Geese. As children we adapted it a bit, and I later played it often with my children. (The picture is my son receiving a piggy-back ride from his dad to avoid the fox–me.)

It requires a large untracked piece of snow—like a backyard after a snowfall. First, tramp out a large circle, then track out an x through the middle so that the circle is divided into neat 4th’s. Then a small circle is made on the side of one of the paths (like a wart on someone’s face). This is the fox’s den where the captured geese go. A second such area is optional as a “home” for the geese where they are safe. The rules are simple: play tag. One fox, the rest are geese. If a goose is caught, another may “free” them. Oh, one other rule, if someone cuts across where no path goes, they are automatically “caught.” This includes corners.

We adapted it some days so that it resembled more of a maze than a circle and if there were more than five or six playing, sometimes we had 2 foxes. One year I dug through deep snow so that my 5 year old could play. When he ducked down, he was hidden—adding another element to the game.

Finances: There are mixed reviews about the economy right now. Consumer confidence is up and we had the best Christmas shopping season since 2007, which is the first year we knew trouble was ahead. Economists suggest various reasons for this confidence. One is that stimulus packages have finally kicked in (like spending money somehow reduced the tremendous debt? Many would like us to believe this one. Try balancing your checkbook that way!) At the other end of the spectrum people are hoping that the changes in congress will effect a more fiscally responsible government, and are rushing out to shop. Regarding this, I think I’ll wait until the eggs hatch before I count my chickens. From a business standpoint, I’m grateful for the increase in consumer confidence. From a mother’s standpoint, my gas bill for December reached an all-time high and we added extra quilts to beds. [Did you know that when the government gathers data for inflation they do not include fuel or groceries? Yep.] Some economists are predicting gas prices will go as high as $5 (though the last time this prediction was made, people cut back their consumption and prices didn’t go past $4). Either way, I am planning my trips to town more frugally.

Food: So with the idea that’s it’s not yet time to dance in the streets with “Happy Days are Here Again,” I’m rethinking several meals my mother served as she fed a large family on a tight budget. Here is a simple, favorite meal for the cold January days:

Stuffed Meatballs. Basically season ground meat (try chicken or turkey for a leaner variety), and flatten a small amount in your palm. Add a scoop of your favorite stuffing (a mix is quick and easy) and form a meatball around the stuffing. Place in a casserole dish and top with cream of mushroom soup that has about 1 Tb. Worcestershire sauce added. Bake until done. (350 degrees for 25+ min.?)

Instead of the canned beans my mom would send us to the basement for, I prefer tender-steamed, fresh, green beans that are then sautéed in olive oil with sesame seeds, sesame oil and tamari for flavor. Or instead of the sesame seeds and oil, try balsamic vinegar.
Add some baby carrots or orange slices to the menu. Dinner is ready!

Enjoy each month–even the bitter cold days of January.

“The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions, and not on our circumstances. We carry the seeds of the one or the other about with us in our minds wherever we go” (Martha Washington).