Kathy Petersen’s Blog

The Big Bang

Posted in Christianity by Kathy on March 31, 2008

Previously, I mentioned Fred Heeren’s book Show Me God, in which he discusses the Big Bang Theory of the beginning of the universe. The good side of the book demonstrates that the world’s top scientists in their fields have no explanation for the origin of the universe other than a creator of some sort — something outside the universe must have started it at some point, must have created the matter at some point, and must have minutely controlled everything in the Big Bang in order to get the universe as we know it today. In my other post, I mentioned some of my problems I had with this theory, and this Christian man accepting this theory, along with the theory of evolution including millions of years of death prior to man’s existence (and subsequent sin, which according to Romans is what brought death into existence in this world).

Now, I’ve come across an excellent resource from the standpoint of creation. It’s a book available online, or you can buy a hard copy. Anyway, I’ve just gotten to the point where the author discusses the Big Bang, and the many problems and errors it has with it. Since just glancing at it revealed so much of the same terminology and predictions that Mr. Heeren used in his book to show that the Big Bang theory is scientifically sound (which I didn’t believe), but does so in a way to disprove it, I thought I’d link to it.

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Oh, darn!

Posted in children, frugal by Kathy on March 30, 2008

I just wrote about my new home-made laundry soap. Now there’s a problem. It’s just as cheap as I thought, and just as easy to make — all that is fine. The problem is that my younger son appears to be irritated by it! His back has little bumps all over it. You can’t see them — they’re not red or anything — but you can feel them when you run your hand along his skin. Like a reptile. Yuck. So, I’m testing the theory by washing his clothes in my store-bought detergent that I still had, to see if it goes away. Last night, I put him in freshly-rewashed pajamas, and today in freshly-rewashed clothes. His bumps seem to be less. If it clears up in a few days, then that will seem to be the answer. That’s ok. I can hack it. I’d rather wash his clothes, and only his clothes, in “expensive” detergent, while the rest of us get the cheap stuff. Because for the last year or so I’ve washed all of our clothes in the brand-name detergent. It’s possible that if his rash clears up and stays gone for several weeks, that I might start adding in an item or two of his clothes, and see how it does. He may grow out of it; or if I expose him little by little he can get used to it, instead of jumping in with both feet. Maybe if I just do an extra rinse….

Food Budget — Update

Posted in frugal by Kathy on March 29, 2008

In a previous post, I wrote about our food budget, and working to spend less on food. I’ve since found the USDA food budgets for every month (not just for the year 2007), which will help keep track of changing prices.

This month, I’ve written down all of our food purchases, and I’m doing this more in-depth now, too. A few months ago, I would simply record the bottom line in Microsoft Money and Excel (the programs I use to keep track of expenses and to budget). Last month, I started trying to write some more details about my food expenditures, but it was still mostly a “black hole”. Finally, this month, I’ve done it! I have written down, not just my total expenses, and not just broad categories like “dairy” or “meat” but every item, grouped by categories. I’ve uploaded a file, so hopefully you can see it well. (I did it in Excel, but transferred it to Word so I could upload it to wordpress.)

I finally realized that saying I spent $400 on “food” was just not good enough. What kinds of food did I spend money on, and how much? How can I decrease the amount of money I spend on “food” without realizing how much I spend in each category? After all, you buy an awful lot of vegetables for the same price as a package of meat, or a gallon of milk. It would probably be illuminating to find out how much I spent last year on each of these categories, but I can’t go back in time. I’ve also noticed about myself, that the more attention I pay to something, the better I am — I spend my money more frugally, eat less, or whatever the behavior is — so while this is a “snap-shot” of what I’ve done this month, it’s probably not a representative sample of what I spend most months, simply because I’m trying to pay better attention.

This is probably not a balanced perspective, since I found some good sales (like butter for $1.88/lb!!!) and stocked up, so we’ll use these things through the coming months. I was impressed by the Tightwad Gazette author, who by the end of her newsletter was only shopping for groceries one time a month. I’m still at the once-a-week (at least) stage, but maybe as I start paying better attention, and use more of what I have on hand, rather than deciding what I want to eat and then go and get it, I’ll be able to go less. I know that one of my “extra” trips was stopping by the store to get stuff my mom needed (and that was when I found some of the best deals!) when I was on the way to her house; and one of them was when my husband wanted something particular for lunch or supper when we were already in town, so we stopped for that (and that was another time I found some great deals!). I try not to make special trips, and only go to town when I need to get several things, and do everything at once (library, Wal-Mart, grocery store, post office), but some of these grocery store trips have been to “just run into the store because I’m already in town” stops, where I “might as well pick up X since it’s on my list.” And then I get a bunch of other stuff, too.

But, I have found a way to save myself some time and money! Both of our local grocery stores have their weekly ads online, so I can check them each week, see which one has the better deals (they’re usually pretty similar, but occasionally one will have a lot better prices on some stuff I need), and then I can go to just one or else to both for what I need or what is a great price. One problem I noticed before is that I would tend to buy something if it was a “good price” even if I didn’t use it much. I have to learn that it doesn’t matter how cheap something is if I don’t use it! My particular purchase was baked beans. Our salvage store had them for 25 cents per can, so I stocked up. Well, I don’t like them very much except for on occasion, and usually with barbecue; same for my husband; neither of my kids really liked them either. So then I was stuck with a whole shelf of baked beans that we simply wouldn’t eat. It was a waste of money, even if it was just a few bucks. (But we have lunch every Sunday at church, so I took a few cans several times, and they’re finally gone.)

Anyway, you can see from my document that I spent $250 on groceries this month (we also ate one lunch out, for $25; and we ordered organic seeds for our garden, which was another $25). It’s almost the end of the month, and I don’t foresee any more grocery purchases, but my husband may have other ideas! πŸ˜‰

Home-made laundry soap

Posted in frugal by Kathy on March 28, 2008

I’ve heard about home-made laundry detergent for a while, but it took me a long time to finally decide to do it. (Oh, and I know there’s a difference between soap and detergent, but don’t really feel like looking it up to figure out if what I’ve made is soap or detergent. If it’s really that important, you can figure it out yourself.) πŸ™‚

Anyway, I found a link to one that said it was H-E compatible, which is what I had to insist upon, since I didn’t want to ruin my one-year-old front-loading HE washing machine just to save a few cents on laundry detergent! So I made it, and it works!! I’m so happy. πŸ™‚ I’ve used it on diapers, regular clothes, and clothes that my boys were wearing when they played in the muddy garden-spot. So, needless to say, it’s been tested, and it passed the test! Not only does it clean great, but my clothes are actually softer (and I dry them on the clothes-line), and it smells wonderful. There isn’t a heavy perfume-y scent–just the smell of clean. I’m going to hang my diapers on the line the next chance I get, and see if they’re soft enough using this laundry soap. If they’re soft enough, then that will save even more money, because I won’t have to use my dryer! I don’t know how much most laundry detergent is, but the cheapest I was able to buy High-Efficiency detergent was 19 cents per load.

Somebody sent me a link to another site that had several more on it, but I haven’t tried any of those. They’re all made with the same ingredients, so they should all be low-sudsing, which seems to be the only requirement for HE washing machines. If you try them, let me know how they work!

Also, on this blog, she’s got several home-made cleaners, including laundry detergent and a lot of other stuff on various posts (as well as comments other people have left), so you can check that out for more stuff. Apparently, vinegar, baking soda, bleach, Borax, and ammonia (not all at once!!!) can clean just about anything.

Now, where to get the stuff. See, “washing soda” is not the same thing as baking soda. I couldn’t find it at any of my local Walmart-type stores nor at grocery stores, but if you live in a more populated area, you might be able to find it. After I purchased some online, I found out that the nearest Kroger carries it–but we live about an hour away from that town, so I don’t go there often, but I could have gotten my mom or sister to pick some up next time they went, and saved myself at least the cost of shipping. Anyway, if you can’t find it locally (let your fingers do the walking, but be careful, because a lot of people will see “Arm & Hammer Laundry Detergent” and will tell you that they have the “washing soda”, when it’s not the same thing!), then you will be able to find it online. Of course, you’ll have to pay for shipping, so check your prices and make sure it’s worth it! Some people sell “package deals” of Borax, washing soda, and Fels Naptha (or some other variation), but I didn’t look at any of those, because I already had Borax that I bought locally, and planned on using the bar soap I had (Ivory), so all I needed was the washing soda. Make sure you add in the cost of shipping when you check prices, because a lot of places may look like they’re the cheapest, but over-charge you on the shipping. The recipe I used called for 1/2 c. of Washing Soda, and it comes in a 55-oz. box. One-half cup was 4 oz. by weight, which would do at least 13 batches. Since each batch can do over 100 loads of laundry, a little is going a long way!!

Even paying for the shipping for my washing soda, I estimate that the cost per load of laundry isΒ  1.3 cents per batch — a savings of nearly 17 cents per load! That may sound like chump change to you, but let’s do the math: my kids go through a lot of laundry. They love dirt and mud; my older son is essentially potty-trained but seems to be regressing, so we have extra laundry from that; he frequently wets the bed through his diaper, so I have to wash his bedding with more frequency than I’d like; plus I wash cloth diapers at least 2-3 times per week. All in all, I think I do at least 7 loads per week. That means that I save $64 per year. Every little bit helps. I’ll have to make laundry detergent maybe 3 times per year; it takes about 10 minutes of total hands-on time per batch, or 30 minutes worth of work per year. That’s like earning a tax-free income of $128/hour. That’s a lot of money!

My sweet boys

Posted in children by Kathy on March 27, 2008

My two boys are 19 months apart in age. My older son (Keith) is nearly 3&1/2, and my younger son (Seth) will be two at the end of May. They have their share of squabbles. Several times a day I have had to “rescue” Seth from Keith, because Seth had the audacity to actually want to play with some of the toys, or read some of the books. I mean, how dare he?? πŸ™‚ Keith has been known to pull Seth bodily down, and hold him down (lying on top of him if necessary) to keep him from the prized possession(s). So life can be hectic sometimes, to say the least.

But then there are the times (which are the ones I try to keep in mind), when Keith is so sweet to Seth. The other day my husband gave Keith a couple of candies (M&Ms or something small), and he immediately ran to Seth and gave him one of them! We never prompted him to do it — in fact, it never crossed my mind.

Now, if I could just get him to share his toys…

This is amazing!

Posted in Uncategorized by Kathy on March 26, 2008

Story of a man pronounced brain-dead who recovered! Makes me wonder about the accuracy of these tests–how can they be sure of no recovery? Maybe they don’t know quite as much as they think they do.

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I’m flabbergasted

Posted in abortion, Christianity by Kathy on March 25, 2008

I read a really great post on abortion today, but the first comment just totally flummoxed me. The woman said that she considers that abortion is a sign of the End Times, and to fight against abortion is to fight against the Rapture.Β Do WHAT?! Is this kind of unbiblical nonsense actually being preached in so-called Christian churches? Whatever happened to being a light to the world? This was not the attitude of the early Christians. This is nothing more than, “Let us do evil, that good may come” (Rom. 3:8). And what does the next line say?–“Whose damnation is just.” Now that’s a scary place for someone to be in! Paul unequivocally says that if your attitude is this, then you will be condemned. For someone who looks forward to “the Rapture,” it should be quite a shock to hear the Word of God declaring that this person should be in expectation of hell.

Home Energy Usage

Posted in frugal by Kathy on March 24, 2008

On a frugal blog, I found a link to a government website where you could do a do-it-yourself energy audit on your house, to see what you can do to lower your usage of electricity, gas, etc. Sounds great, so I did it. I answered every question to the best of my ability, which took quite some time–asked probably 100 questions total, including square footage, type of energy used in your water heater, cooling, and heating, how many refrigerators, computers, light fixtures, etc., you have. I chose the “payback time” to be 10 years, which was a nice round number, and I figured if it was any less, there wouldn’t be much change. Well, after all of that, they said their recommendations would save me $360 per year. Sounds great. What are the recommendations?

  • Use CFLs–which we already do. If I had taken the time, I could have put in the number of light bulbs, the wattage of them, and the average time we use them, and it would have been more accurate. I didn’t want to even think about how many light bulbs we have, much less check the wattage, since I knew we were already energy-efficient on this point. (Estimated savings–$60/year; Actual savings–$0, because we’ve already done it.)
  • Use an energy efficient washing machine–which we already do, but that wasn’t an option to tell them that–it’s a Whirlpool Duet, which is a front-loader. Estimated savings–$27/year; Actual savings–$0, because we’ve already done it.)
  • Switch to a gas dryer. We have an electric dryer–a Whirlpool Duet that matches our washer, one year old, energy efficient (and I only use the dryer for diapers and the rare occasions when I must do laundry and it’s raining outside). It costs about $1000. There are cheaper models to choose from, but they might not be as efficient. Here’s the major problem–which is repeated in many of the other recommendations–they list an “upgrade cost” which is the price difference between two new models of the same product. So, the difference in price between a gas and an electric dryer is only about $50, which would be worth it if we needed a new dryer, but we’re not going to be replacing our dryer for many years. Estimated savings–$26/year; Actual savings–$0.
  • Get a new refrigerator (ours came with the house and is probably from 1999). Upgrade cost is $50, but that is not figuring in the actual cost of the refrigerator. My husband would probably balk at buying a used fridge, so if we had to replace our fridge, this would be useful. Still, knowing we can get a used refrigerator for $50 (possibly) would make it a tough pill to swallow to get a new one. But if we had to do it, then we’d probably go with the energy-efficient model. Still, the Estimated savings is just $5/year, which means that it would take the full 10 years to recoup the cost, at which point, you’d probably have to go out and buy another new fridge, so I’m not sure this one would really be worth it either.
  • Replace our windows with double-pane windows (I believe ours are single-pane windows, but didn’t actually check) Estimated savings–$114/year. The estimated cost of replacing the windows is $300, so the pay-back time is 3 years. But here’s the kicker–the $300 is the “upgrade cost,” not just the cost of window replacement. These recommended windows are about $300 more expensive than replacing our windows with ones similar to what we already have. We have no reason to replace the windows, so would have to find out the total cost of replacement to see how much it would cost, and the true cost of replacement. I’m wondering if we could save as much by hanging heavy drapes over the windows. Bought at a store, those are undoubtedly expensive, but I made the curtains we have now very simply, although the fabric is light-weight. I could do the same thing with heavier (but still cheap) fabric, if I could find a proper shade. Actual savings–not sure yet.
  • Replace our water heater. We currently have a gas model, but the yellow sticker shows it to be on the expensive side to operate. And this sticker is from when it was initially purchased (assuming it to be the same age as our house, or nearly 10 years old), so I’m quite certain there are even cheaper models to operate. The average water heater lasts about 10 years, so we will likely have to replace ours soon. We would replace it with another gas heater anyway, so while this information is accurate, it was unnecessary, because it’s what we’d do already. Still, in the summer, our gas bill was as low as $3 (August–the hottest month of the year), and averaged about $6. Since we only have the water heater and two gas heaters (which obviously only operate in the winter), the savings during the summer is minimal. It’s a tad more difficult to figure in the winter because of heating with gas. Of course we lose some of the heat into the cold laundry room, and the water is colder when it enters the tank in winter, so the energy usage goes up when it’s cold anyway. When we first moved in, I was scared of the gas wall units, so the first couple of gas bills reflected the water heater only, and averaged $26. But I’ve started washing the clothes in cold water more frequently, so we use less hot water than when we first moved in. But I’ll accept their numbers as being valid. Estimated savings–$45/year.
  • Have a professional seal your home’s air leaks. I think our home is fairly energy efficient–we have thick, well-insulated walls and ceilings; and there is insulation underneath the house as well. But we could be losing quite a bit of heat in leaky windows or doors–and this recommendation is for “hidden” spots that most people don’t think about, but professionals know about and can test and fix. Estimated cost is $400 (assuming I can find a professional in rural Mississippi), and I’m going to assume that this would be the total cost for doing this, and not merely an “upgrade” in which it’s $400 more than something else. Estimated savings–$62/year.

So, sealing the air leaks would probably be beneficial, paying for itself in 6 years; and buying an energy-efficient water heater when we need to replace ours will probably pay for itself in 3 years (or 4, the way we use hot water). After as much time as I spent on it, I wish that there were more things I could do to save money; but I suppose I could at least be glad that we’re already pretty efficient. But our energy cost is higher than average for a house our size, which concerns me. I think it should be lower (but I know at least part of it is due to having the house at a comfortable temperature, when I’d have it too hot in summer and too cold in winter for my husband). I’m wondering if our house isn’t as insulated as we were led to believe by the previous owners. Small things add up. Little by little.

Does the Bible say I have to get married?

Posted in Bible, Christianity by Kathy on March 23, 2008

(This post was inspired by a search term that someone used to find my blog.)

Answer: It depends. There were many individuals listed in the Bible who were not married, but most were. Paul apparently was not married, but Peter was. In the Old Testament as well as the New, it is crystal-clear that sexual relations are only allowed between married individuals. So the short answer is, no, you don’t have to get married, as long as you’re willing not to have sex.

Paul wrote most eloquently to the Corinthians that it is best not to be married, because unmarried people have more time and energy to devote to the work of the Lord. But those who “burn” (with sexual desire) are distracted by it, and are therefore hindered in their work. He further wrote that those who desire to get married are not sinning, although he wished that they were as he was–that is, so filled with the desire of the work of the Lord that their sexual urges were greatly minimized or even completely done away.

I rather suspect that the person who Googled that search question was trying to justify his or her behavior. I’ve heard of some so-called Christian couples who live together before they were married, and although they didn’t have a verse in the Bible to back them up, justified it by saying, “We’ve prayed about it and have peace, and feel like God is making an exception in our case.” What nerve!

But there is the possibility that this person had been told that marriage was necessary. I’ve heard that some of the sects of Mormons preach that girls must be married in order to enter heaven–which is why they have girls as young as 14 get married, many times to older men. This is obviously Biblically inaccurate. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians (above), he specifically mentioned females as well as males when talking about whether or not Christians should get married, saying that it was better to remain unmarried if you could stand it. If you can’t, then yes, you must get married.

Update to this post: I was blessed to read this post from a man’s perspective on why modern men seem to want to avoid marriage and talk young ladies into shacking up instead, and what women can do about it.

This is pretty cool

Posted in Uncategorized by Kathy on March 22, 2008

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroanatomist (brain scientist), suffered a stroke and talks about what it was like to lose half of her brain function. While strokes are terrible things to happen, they do happen, and it’s a bit of a mystery to people like me what happens when a person has a stroke, so the “cool” part is being able to understand what happens. I like having a larger and better view of the things that can happen in this life. Being a brain scientist, she was able to describe what happened in a way that most stroke victims can’t. It’s well worth watching the presentation or reading the transcript.