Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reading Material

If you have a chance (and are in the Topeka area), grab a copy of the winter issue of XYZ magazine.

On pages 40 and 41 you'll find a short and sweet article about the rationing project!

--Rational Mama

Monday, December 27, 2010

Victory Meal!

How did we celebrate the completion of our year-long rationing project?

With a victory dinner, of course!

What? You expected something else?

--Rational Mama

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Look What Santa Put in the Stockings


One for each little girl. It will be a very blackcurrant-y holiday.

--Rational Mama

Friday, December 24, 2010

Rational Top Ten

Can you believe it? Tomorrow is the last day of rationing! Since tomorrow will be filled with family gatherings and festivities we thought we'd highlight what we think are the top ten highlights from the rationing year (in no particular order).

Here goes!

1. Realizing, midway through the first month, that we had been allowing ourselves too many blue/green points. Like, 75% too many.

2. The recipes! Without the rationing project as an excuse there is no way we would have even dreamed of making jellied ham loaf or beef heart kabobs. The historic recipes have encompassed the good (nutburgers, victory pancakes), the bad (six layer dinner, full o'bologney, sausage loaf), and the ugly (hot cabbage slaw and...)

3. Liver. Really, even though it's an historic recipe and could be listed above it deserves a solitary mention. Nothing, nothing, we ate during the rationing year made the same impression as liver. If you've never read this post you really should.

Oh, thank goodness we didn't have to try this!

4. After a good four or five years of discussion we finally installed an attic (or whole house) fan. This was critical because of our decision to...

5. Sweat it out during the summer by not turning on the air conditioner in the house. It turned out to be one of the hottest summers in the past decade and even with the attic fan and other remedies (cool baths, oscillating fans, popsicles, etc.) we were miserable. Sticking to your sheets and running out of deodorant miserable. Eventually, we caved and turned on the air conditioner. In the end, this was probably the best decision because...

6. We learned that running the attic fan, ceiling fans and oscillating fans along with the dehumidifier used just as much energy as if we had run the air conditioner in the first place. So I guess you could say that sweating it out over a month of summer heat was a miserable but beneficial learning experience.

7. Local fruit. Man oh man, you just can't beat the fresh blackberries, apples, pears, strawberries and mulberries we munched on this summer. And we even have some extra blackberries in the freezer for the long winter months!

8. When a bottle of ketchup costs nearly half of a week's worth of rationing points, nothing says "Suck it, rationing system!" quite like making your own ketchup. Let's face it - ketchup is not a necessity, it's a luxury. Having the ability to make your own (and control the ingredients) is definitely a guilty pleasure. I don't know if we'll ever buy commercially-prepared ketchup again.

9. Having regular commentators from the all across the United States, the U.K. (especially you, Mr. Graham), Eastern Europe, Canada and visits (per traffic reports) from every continent except Antarctica made Rational Living a truly international community. Kinda seems fitting since the real-life scenarios the project was based on included an international community as well.

10. Even with all the planning required by the rationing project and the huge learning curve experienced in the first few months, no other micro-project during the rationing year was harder that the week we followed U.K. rations. The plan was actually to go two weeks on U.K. rations but the meager servings and food limitations (along with nearly constant hunger complaints from the girls) made us cave at the end of the first week. That week was actually a big turning point for the project, as it really hit home that our voluntary, meager rations (and hunger) were choices for us, whereas plenty on this earth have less than that due to circumstances beyond their control.

And, of course...reader feedback on the blog always made our day. This project wouldn't have been nearly as interesting if we didn't have the helpful and insightful comments from YOU. Thanks for sticking with us through the entire project. This blog will continue on, but we're not quite sure as to the content and form. Stay tuned.

So, are there any other scenarios that we missed that you would have included in a top ten?

--With Love, from the Rational Living family

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Review: Meat Me on Rationing Day

Friends, this may be the most controversial post in the long string of posts that is Rational Living.

Eating is, after all, one of the most intimate things we can do - both individually and as a group. People wax poetic over a fine meal, determine a grandmother's worth based upon her bread rolls and will defend the merits of a traditional menu until blue in the face.

We love to eat and we eat to show love. And Americans love meat.

Meat rationing was the most despised aspect of rationing during WWII. As outlined in the original "Meat Me on Rationing Day" post, red point rationing was designed to encourage Americans to eat less meat and, most importantly, to eat lower grades of meat. But Americans then, as now, loved their meat and governmental restrictions regarding meat purchases were met with great displeasure. During WWII, when Americans were polled as to which rationed products were hardest to cut down on or do without, the overwhelming response was meat (sugar was second, but with a considerably less enthusiastic response). Despite the War, Americans still wanted their steak and pot roast dinners. As a result, meat (particularly higher grade cuts of beef) was a popular black market item.

Flash forward over 60 years and you have our family starting our own year of rationing. At the beginning of the rationing year we already ate less meat as compared to the general American public; prior to the project meat was featured in dinners roughly three to four times a week and showed up in about half of the adult lunches). As such, meat restrictions as a result of rationing weren't felt as keenly by us as they may have been for other families. What meat shortages we did face were usually the result of market fluctuations or our self-imposed inclusion of poultry in the rationing program.

That said, we like our meat. Chicken, bacon, pork chops...we all have a strong appreciation for meat.

Which is why it's quite surprising that, at the conclusion of the rationing project we find ourselves a household of vegetarians.

Yes, you read that correctly. It wasn't the jellied ham loaf or the heart kabobs that turned us, it was the environmental and ethical consequences of animal farming.

One of the catalysts for the rationing project was a desire to live a more environmentally conscious and sustainable lifestyle. In one aspect, the rationing year has been an attempt to move beyond the "easy" practices of recycling and line-drying clothes and to dig deeper into ingrained practices and habits that need changing. Our goal was to find changes that could and should be made to reduce our carbon footprint and create a lifestyle that has a less harmful effect on people and the planet.

With that desire in mind, the hard reality is that factory farmed meat is the diametrical opposite of a sustainable practice. The waste runoff, habitat destruction and pollution caused by animal farming contributes more to global climate change than transportation. Think about it: meat production causes more environmental damage than all cars, planes, trains and boats combined - a whopping 40% more. A hybrid car is a great thing, but if your driving it to the local burger joint your doing more damage than you probably realize.

And then there's the ethics of meat production. Factory animal farming is notorious for using (and abusing) undocumented workers - creating workplace environments that constitute human rights violations. Meat processing at break-neck speeds endangers both the workers (meat processors have the highest on-the-job injury rate of any labor field) and endangers the public - E. coli outbreaks are the result of unsanitary practices resulting from factory processing (those bleach baths the meat takes before packaging don't kill everything). Cheap labor and fast processing promotes lower meat prices, but at a cost to humanitarian and health well-being.

Then, of course, there's the animals. I won't go in to the horrors of factory animal farming - there are plenty of available resources to educate you on that topic. And even if you make the commitment to purchase the more expensive, locally-raised meat there is still the slaughter to consider. Because most local slaughter facilities have been purchased ("bought out") by the large CAFO companies the likelihood that even your free-range, humanely treated animals experience a human slaughter is extremely slim.

So the only way for us to feel at peace with eating meat is to make sure the animals are treated respectfully during life and ensure that they had a humane slaughter. In the current system, the only way to guarantee both of those assertions is to have a direct part in both the raising and processing of the animal.

TMOTH and I both have strong opinions about having honest relationships with food: know what it is, where it came from and what it went through to be on your plate. This goes for meat, too, and is why when TMOTH hunts he only attempts a shot that is clear and direct and will cause the least suffering for the animal. It is also the reason why we process the venison ourselves.

But really, why should other meat be treated any differently?

Our new homestead will allow us, for the first time ever, the ability to raise our own animals for meat purposes. Whether we have the fortitude to raise an animal in an intimate setting and then slaughter it for food has yet to be determined. But know this about our beliefs: if we can't raise and slaughter it ourselves, then we shouldn't be eating it. Period.

And even the girls support this transition; even Sissy, the biggest carnivore of the family, has learned enough about factory animal farming to support this decision with maturity and understanding.

We know many, many readers will not agree with this choice. We're not telling you that you should be living by these same standards or judging your practices or insisting that our beliefs are better than yours.

We're just trying to live by our standards of what is right...and encourage you to live by your own.

--Rational Mama

P.S. For a thorough, even-handed examination of the implications of animal farming and eating meat, I highly recommend Jonathan Safran Foer's, "Eating Animals."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Rational House

What makes a rational house?

When this whole house business bloomed in early summer we thought we knew exactly what we wanted in our future house. We wanted at least three bedrooms (preferably a fourth bedroom for guests/crafts), a family room and a rec room, a fireplace or wood-burning stove and a larger yard. All this while managing to stay in the same high school district.

Mind you, we originally had no intentions of moving this year, so our current house (multi-story, American Foursquare) would just have to do. That meant that for a few more years we'd all shuffle routines to make the one bathroom work, the girls would continue to share a room (the third bedroom is quite small while their current room is ginormous), and our gardening dreams would be limited by the urban-ish green spot that is our yard.

But the house that originally got us into the moving spirit had all our above requirements, plus was sporting a flexible timetable and what was, at the time, a very pretty price tag. And so we shifted house-selling plans into high gear and put our house on the market.

But things with the potential house changed; poor communications, misunderstandings and delays. We started looking at other houses for comparison. By the time paperwork was drawn up on the original house it had become glaringly obvious that the asking price was far higher than the property was worth.

And so we did not complete a contract on the property.

What to do? After much nail-biting and lengthy pro-con lists we decided to keep our house listed on the market and (thanks to generous personal financiers) were able to continue looking at prospective houses. Many of the showings we visited during those first few months met our above criteria; bungalows with additions, ranches that stretched and grew. Many rooms, many options, but nothing ever grabbed us in a way that made us think that it was The One. After looking at house after house without getting any further in the process, TMOTH and I started to do some soul searching.

This entire year - the whole point of the rationing project - has been an exploration of wants vs. needs, experiencing what it is like to live our values (or at least give it an honest try). When it came to houses, what would be enough? What would fit our needs? Which of our wants were reasonable? What kind of house would allow us to live more in line with our values of environmental responsibility and sustainable practices?

What was really important?

Reexamining our current house with these thoughts in mind we discovered that, for the way we live, there are several areas of wasted space; we rarely use the kitchen nook, the spare bedroom and the gorgeous (but excessive) grand entryway. But not all space is bad - a large kitchen is important because of the amount of from-scratch cooking and home canning we produce. And a large yard would allow us to grow more of our own produce and possibly provide space for chickens(!).

Sharing bedrooms and bathrooms can be an inconvenience, but heating, cooling extra space can be very inconvenient to your pocketbook. And think of all the cleaning required for that unnecessary space.

After examining our lifestyle and exploring how we really want to live, our 1600+ square foot house seemed...too big. That's not to say that a different family with different habits couldn't justify use of all these spaces. But it became clear that what we needed was a two-to-three bedroom house just big enough for family gatherings but not so big that we would all start living independent lives in separate corners of the dwelling. We needed a big kitchen and a larger than average sized bathroom (to make sharing easier).

We wanted enough of a yard to expand our gardening and raise chickens (but not too big of a yard that would require extra hours of maintenance). We wanted a single-level house to make exterior work (siding, roof, gutters, etc.) manageable and that would be friendly to our future aged and arthritic knees.

And we were willing to go outside of our current school district to find it.

Just before Thanksgiving we found it, quite by accident. The girls and I were headed to a realtor-run open house and passed by a "for sale by owner" property that was also having an open house; a smallish house with a little bit of land. Our intended destination, on the other hand, was a biggish house on smaller land.

The girls and I ditched the original open house for the FSBO and found The One.
New House

At just under 1000 square feet, the two bedroom, one (large) bathroom house is efficiently designed and immaculately maintained. The basement has a finishable area for a rec room and the two care garage includes a small workshop area. The 2.58 acres(!) of land encompasses a dry creek/wooded area, an established garden, chicken coop and pasture land.

Eowyn and the Chicken Coop

And so, all the pretty papers have been signed with a closing date of late February. And now the pressure is on to get our current house sold.

TMOTH and Sissy in the Back Half Acre

We know not everyone will agree with the decision we've made. Downgrading into a smaller home requires compromise, but it also follows historical example; in the 1950's the average size of an American home was 1,000 square feet, whereas today typical new homes are over 2,000 square feet. During the same time period the size of the American family decreased from three to four members down to two to three. So, as family size decreased home size increased. Does this really make sense?

Even with the anxiety of moving and getting our house sold there is a certain peace at the same time. The new house will be our rational house - not too big, not too little. Big enough to hold our love, small enough to wrap our arms around.

Let the dreams begin.

--Rational Mama

P.S. For more about living in smaller homes visit Living in Small Houses, Planet Green or Google "small living" or "living in small houses."

Monday, December 20, 2010

Review: Of Veg and Cheese...and Java Dilemma

In the original "Of Veg and Cheese" post I outlined how, in accordance with life in the early 1940's, we would be limited to seasonably available produce during the rationing year, with the exception of canned and frozen produce which would be subject to ration points and market fluctuations.

So how did it go?

Well, last winter was tough - no bones about it. With just one pound of frozen vegetables setting us back one quarter of our weekly blue/green points, we were forced to work with seasonally available produce. This meant mostly carrots, potatoes and cabbage. And trust me, with all other green, leafy vegetables unavailable you start to appreciate cabbage on a whole new level.

Going without fresh salad for a few months definitely helped us understand how much we really love salad, even if it's as basic as a few green leaves and a simple dressing. Luckily, growing lettuce and mesclun indoors (or in a hoop frame or cold frame) is so easy we were able to get a jump start on our spring greens.

Once early summer came around we had locally grown produce available from our gardens, the farmer's market and our CSA bag. As you know, we had a hard time maintaining our Victory Gardens, and my new work schedule made visiting the farmer's market logistically tricky. And for a second year the CSA bags were a bit of a disappointment (some of the produce was actually of poor quality); I don't believe we'll do CSA bags in the future.

On the other hand, you just can't beat locally grown fruit. This past year we consumed our share of local strawberries, blackberries, apples and pears. Nothing can beat a fruit that was allowed to ripen fully before picking...and then immediately eating it. Really, I cannot downplay the physical and sensual joy of experiencing a local "u-pick" establishment.

As far as cheese goes...well, it's a staple we never want missing from the fridge. The versatility of hard cheese (snack, recipe ingredient, sandwich topper) make it a very useful, albeit rationed, resource. And thank goodness sour cream and cottage cheese weren't rationed - they have frequently been used to bulk up a sauce or soup (the former) or add protein to an otherwise light meal (the latter).

And finally, coffee. As outlined in the post "Java Dilemma," during rationing each adult received one pound of coffee every five weeks, assuming shortages didn't throw a kink into your coffee purchasing week. Both TMOTH and I increased our coffee consumption during the past year, in exchange for shrinking our soda intake. Even with that change, though, we were never in danger of running out of coffee supplies before the next ration amount could be purchased. We even had enough of a coffee surplus to, umm, be creative.

So, what of veg and cheese and coffee after rationing? We plan to continue focusing on seasonably available produce in an effort to reduce the carbon footprint of the fruits and vegetables we eat. And we'll continue to drink coffee at our current rates and avoid heavily-sugared sodas.

And cabbage...dear, sweet cabbage. You will always have a special place in our hearts...even if you're not as frequent a visitor at the table.

--Rational Mama

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Rational Ritual

This past Wednesday night we sat around the table, rolled the die and pulled scenarios from Mr. Bowles' Marketplace Scenario Randomizer...for the last time.

So interesting how doing something once a week for a year becomes such a habit, such a ritual.

Over the past year we've both cheered and boo-ed the die roll, rearranged menus to suit the scenarios and listen to the girls quarrel countless times over whose turn it is to roll the die.

In the end the last scenario of the rationing year was a dud...only half the usual amount of flour was available, but we have plenty in the pantry anyway.

The week before was a doozy, though. Eowyn wanted from-scratch macaroni and cheese for dinner when a gaggle of family was to be visiting to celebrate her birthday. But when we pulled scenarios for that week Mr. Bowles' informed us that only half the amount of cheese was available at the store. The cheese supply in the fridge was not bountiful, so there was no way we could acquire enough cheese to make macaroni and cheese for a crowd of sixteen.

As a friend said, Mr. Bowles' giveth and Mr. Bowles' taketh away.

So, we had to go to Plan B: roasted chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy and Brussels sprouts (you gotta love an eight-year-old that asks for Brussels sprouts).

It will be strange, if not liberating, to be able to make a shopping list without consulting the Randomizer. There are several aisles that I think I haven't even stepped a foot in during the rationing year. Everything in the store will be available for purchase. Everything.

And I know that I originally said that I would compost the Randomizer when the rationing project was complete, but now I am (based on a reader's advice) considering holding on to it for a while.

Some habits die hard.

--Rational Mama

Monday, December 13, 2010


One of the best things about having the most amazing library between the Mississippi and the Rockies in your neighborhood is being able to take advantage of their awesome collection and reservation system.

Since we're trying to figure out what eating will look like after rationing I reserved a bunch of ethical eating titles last week. Not surprisingly, most of the titles have been sent my way in the past few days.

I'm not sure I'll get all of this read within the three week check-out period, but that's what the "renew" button is for!

--Rational Living

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Historic Recipe: Nutburgers

What's a rationing momma gonna make for dinner when a writer from the local parenting magazine is coming over to interview the family about the rationing project?

This momma made nutburgers.

In hindsight, I should have made an historic recipe with which I was already familiar; something tried and true like macaroni and cheese or even heart kabobs. But the nutburger recipe (from the most awesome Betty Crocker rationing cookbook) had been floating around on my to-do list for a while. Hence, I latched on to the excuse of the interview to get out of a menu rut and finally make them.

It's really quiet simple: combine a bunch of stuff, let it chill for two hours and then drop spoonfuls of it into a skillet with hot grease.

1 1/2 cups ground pecans
1 cup soft bread crumbs
1 egg (beaten)
1 tsp diced onion
2 TB diced parsley (or 2 tsp dried parsley)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk

I used the food processor to grind the pecans (finely ground nuts greatly improve the texture) and to make homemade bread crumbs. Oh, and be careful to only cook the burgers 4-5 minutes on each side as nuts burn easily.

On a side note, let me say that it's a little nerve-racking to cook with someone photographing you and your kitchen! But the photographer was so sweet that all remained calm and we quickly passed the time with chit chat.

When dinner was ready the photographer left and the four of us plus the writer sat down to the table to see how the recipe fared. Served with green beans and (locally grown) baked squash, the entire arrangement made a pretty plate.

And yup! That's a white sauce on top of the nutburger (per Betty's recommendation).

I can't remember who dove in for the first bite...I think it was Eowyn. She gave a big thumbs up and then the rest of us gave it a try. All of us (sans Sissy, big surprise) made nummy noises as we worked on our nutburgers. Granted, they wouldn't replace a traditional cheeseburger, but the flavor and texture were surprisingly meaty. In fact, all the adults (even the writer) had second helpings - that's how good they were!

They were good enough, dear reader, that as I'm writing this up I'm thinking they need to be on next week's menu. Yum!

--Rational Mama

Thursday, December 9, 2010


349 days in and only 16 more days to go.

We're actually going to pull this off, huh?

--Rational Mama

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Review: Rationing: The Not-So-Sweet Life?

When writing the original Rationing: The Not-So-Sweet Life? post I bragged that our household limitation of 8 pounds of sugar per month "doesn't seem that daunting to me." Even without the availability of prepackaged sweets and cookie dough from a tube I felt that this was one ration that was completely manageable.

And you know what? I was right.

Maybe it's because our family doesn't keep a cookie jar regularly supplied, as was the norm in the 1940s. Or maybe we ate fewer sweets. Either way, we adapted quite well to the the sugar restrictions. Cookie craving? Better get the recipe book out because you're not getting any unless you put in the effort. And there were several nights when I would have loved a warm, gooey cookie straight from the oven but was too lazy to actually do the work. And that's probably a good thing.

Granted, I did buy the girls Twinkies at one point, since they are a treat that is historically accurate (well, at least in form - I'm not sure if all the same preservatives and artificial colors were used in the past). The girls loved them.

Otherwise, I could go several weeks without claiming our sugar rations and still have plenty available on the shelf. The only time I had to be careful and make sure we had a copious supply was during the summer canning season.

One thing we did fail at was the interest in buying mostly sustainably-grown sugar. That will be something to consider while we make plans for life after rationing.
--Rational Mama

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Monday, December 6, 2010

Reality Check

I was at one of those mega-market grocery stores the other night.

That night (and all during rationing) my cart contained basic staples like flour, sugar, butter, cheese, bread, a small amount of meat, beans, cereal, maybe a frozen or canned vegetable and seasonally appropriate fresh fruits and vegetables.

This seems very normal to me.

The person in line behind me the other night had three economy-sized packages of frozen burritos, frozen blueberry waffles (artificially flavored), frozen tater tots, several frozen dinner entrees, a few bags of chips and two flats of bottled water.

I have to admit I stared a little; I was simultaneously amazed at how different our two purchases were and by how little real food was piling up on the conveyor belt behind my purchase. I was very aware that a significant portion of the volume of their purchase consisted of artificial colors, artificial flavors, bulking agents, salt, high-fructose corn syrup and other quasi-food substances.

If that's what life after rationing looks like then I don't want to leave rationing.

--Rational Mama

Friday, December 3, 2010

Review: Rationing is a Gas! Gas! Gas!

One of the first posts about the rationing year project concerned gasoline and mileage rationing. In it, we described how gasoline was rationed during WWII and the issues we were wrestling with in trying to come to some sort of modern equivalent. In the end, we came up with a self-imposed mileage ration of 193 miles per week combined for our two vehicles.'s it been? Well, once we project out an average weekly mileage for the last few weeks of rationing (plus the mileage for a holiday round trip visit to Wichita) and add it to our already documented mileage we will have traveled (in our personal vehicles) roughly 10,007 miles during the rationing year, which is just slightly under the total miles of 10,036 allotted to us during rationing (193 miles per week x 52 weeks).

We're all pretty happy that we stayed within our limit and didn't fall into the trap of going farther (literally) even though we knew there wouldn't be any real consequences for us if we did go over our rationed amount.

In order to stay within our ration we definitely had to be mindful about how and when we were driving. We became pros at combining/consolidating trips and had to be extra careful with miles when the girls had out-of-town swim meets every other week during the summer. Our "vacations" consisted of two short getaways to Kansas City and one trip to Wichita to see family. Our mileage allowance did not permit a more grand vacation even if we incorporated some carpooling and I occasionally walked to work.

And to be honest, we were all feeling the lack of big getaway by the time autumn arrived.
As a family we have to decide how we will handle mileage after rationing is over. All of us agreed that we didn't want to remove mileage off the radar completely, especially once we reviewed the math.

During the rationing year our 10,000 miles were considerably below the national average; the average adult American drives 12,000 miles per year, which means the average for a two-driver household like ours is 24,000 miles per year. By following our rationing limits we drove 14,000 miles less than a comparable family.

Fourteen thousand less miles means fewer gallons of gasoline (and more money in our pocket). Using a very modest estimate of 20 miles per gallon, 14,000 miles equates to 700 less gallons of gasoline. Each gallon of gasoline creates 20 pounds of carbon dioxide, so by travelling 14,000 miles (or 700 gallons of gasoline) less than the average two-driver household we avoided dumping 14,000 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air.

That's seven tons, or the equivalent of 1,400 10lb bags of potatoes, or roughly four mini-vans! After that kind of a realization, we can't just abandon mileage/gasoline rationing completely.

So we've decided to keep tracking our mileage but give our family a slightly higher allowance so that more frequent weekend trips and a decent vacation (likely to involve driving) can be incorporated. We are also aware that we will likely be using more miles next year for basic errands (more on that development in a later post). Taking all these things into consideration we have decided that our new, post-rationing family limit for mileage will be 15,000 miles combined for the year. This gives use a weekly allowance of 288 miles - nearly 100 miles more per week than during rationing! The trick will be to not squander those miles but to save them up for the fun stuff.

Pondering all those extra miles and the possibilities seems like a luxury. Where will we go first?

--Rational Mama

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Randomizer Breakthrough

This is what happens when you use Mr. Bowles' Marketplace Scenario Randomizer every week for nearly a year.

I used some sticky tape to fix the hole - it will have to do for the final three weeks.

The good news is that the randomizer is completely biodegradable and will be composted after the experiment.

I have to admit, though, that I think we'll miss the Wednesday night ritual of rolling the dice and pulling scenarios. We'll have to find something to fill the void.

--Rational Mama

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


A few weeks ago one of the readers at church read a passage that really struck a cord with me. I thought it was a succinct, well-written outline of some of the thoughts we're pondering as we start making decisions about life after rationing.

I asked the reader for a transcript of the text and I received the following excerpt from Beyond Guilt, by George S. Johnson. My apologies for taking some liberties with the text, as all emphases are my own.

--Rational Mama


Guilt, powerlessness and fear are three dragons that paralyze many people in efforts to move beyond charity toward oppressed people.

The appeal for charity, feeling sorry and sharing our resources is the beginning, a good starting place, but it is only the first step.

There is a saying that helps to explain the challenge to work for justice, not just for charity. “If people are hungry, you can give them some fish and they will live another day. This is called relief, [or charity]. But if you not only give a fish, but teach them how to fish for themselves they will be helped to feed themselves in the future.” This is often called development.

That sounds good, but it can be misleading if it is not followed with the next step.

There is a third part of that saying that is critical to our efforts to move beyond guilt. We must not only offer the fish (relief) and assistance in learning how to fish themselves (development), but we must move over in the pond and GIVE them a place to fish. And, we must stop polluting the pond where they fish … And we must give them a fair price FOR their fish.

This third step clearly has many facets to it. It is called working for justice, fairness. Justice includes efforts to end oppression and unfair practices of the domination system.

Moving from charity to justice is difficult, because it calls for careful listening, increased awareness, and critical thinking about the attitudes and values that have brought us to this current crisis.

To avoid feeling guilty, we may stay at surface-level analysis. Guilt may be preferred to making changes or facing the pain and uncertainty of solidarity with those who cry for justice.

Could it be that, while we complain about guilt, we actually prefer it to enlightened analysis and action?

To get involved may lead to changes we’re not ready to make. Beliefs and values may be challenged. Systems that have blessed us may be examined and found wanting. Our security and prosperity may be jeopardized.

We can surely sleep better at night when we are ignorant of the reality of human suffering and its connection to our acceptable lifestyles.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Return of Artisan Bread

Crispy fall leaves. Brisk north winds. Stew on the stove.

And the return of artisan bread.

Nom, nom.

--Rational Mama

Monday, November 29, 2010

T-Minus 26 Days and Counting

Can you believe it? We have less than a month left of rationing! The end is near!

So, how's it going?

This is traditionally a very busy time of year for us; between Thanksgiving and the middle of January we have four family birthdays, three holidays and two birthdays of very dear friends. Plus, this year we're dealing with trying to decide what life will look like after rationing and all of the house stuff. Luckily, by now we're whizzes when it comes to rationing and it doesn't take much brain power to come up with a ration-friendly menu and point total.

In fact, we've gotten so accustomed to rationing that lately we're using only a fraction of our points. During previous months I tried to use up all our ration points as best I could without crossing that fine line between maintaining a surplus and hoarding. After all, ration points seldom went unused during the 1940s. But at some point that tactic seemed to contradict the idea behind rationing - focusing instead on wants rather than needs. And so I've been trying to "shop" the freezer and cabinets, so to speak, and use what we already have on hand.

As a result we will be ending the month of November with a surplus of 95 red and 45 blue/green points (!).

We are starting to make some headway and consensus on what life will be like after rationing. Some small changes, some big changes, some things dropping to the wayside and some things status quo. Over the next month I'll be revisiting some of the original rationing project posts to bring you up to date.

In the meantime, thanks for sticking with us!

--Rational Mama

Sunday, November 28, 2010

So THIS is What We've Been Saving All That Butter For!

I hope everyone out there had a wonderful, safe Thanksgiving holiday!

We had a pleasant dinner with TMOTH's family. It was potluck style and we were in charge of the relish tray and desserts. I wanted to do something quasi-traditional but easy for the desserts, since I was working both the day before and the day after Thanksgiving. The following are the two dessert recipes I made for the day -both are do-able on rations as long as you've been saving up your sugar and butter (luckily, we had). They were both divine, especially when paired with homemade whipped cream.

Sorry for the lack of photos - neither dessert survived more than 24 hours past the big meal and we were all too busy stuffing our faces to take pictures. I think that's a sign of a successful Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

1 package yellow cake mix (yes, these were available in the 1940s)
4 eggs
16 TB butter, separated
1 8 0z package of cream cheese, softened
1 15 0z can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 tsp vanilla
8 oz powdered sugar (if not available granulated sugar will do)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg

1. Prepare the cake layer by mixing together the cake mix, 8 TB melted butter and 1 egg.
2. Evenly press cake mixture into the bottom of a well-greased 9" x 12" baking dish.
3. Prepare the filling by beating together the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth.
4. Add the remaining 3 eggs, vanilla and 8 TB melted butter to the pumpkin mixture and mix well.
5. Add sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg to the pumpkin mixture and stir thoroughly.
6. Spread pumpkin mixture over the cake layer.
7. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 to 50 minutes (center will still be slightly gooey).
8. Let cake cool completely before serving (a few hours in the refrigerator will help).

Pecan Pie Bars

2 cups sugar (divided)
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 3 TB butter
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups Karo syrup
2 cups pecan halves or pieces

1. Prepare cookie crust by combining 1/2 cup sugar, flour, salt and 1 cup butter (softened).
2. Beat until mix is crumbly.
3. Press cookie mixture into well-greased 10" x 15" baking pan.
4. Bake 20 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned.
5. While cookie crust is baking, prepare filling by beating together the eggs, 3 TB butter (melted), vanilla and remaining syrup and sugar until well-blended.
6. Pour mixture over the hot cookie crust and top with the pecans.
7. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.
8. Cool completely before cutting into serving sizes.

--Rational Mama

Friday, November 19, 2010

Television Daze...Part 2

That would be a picture of digital PBS programming on our new T.V.

I would be lying if I said it wasn't beautiful.

One of the folks following Rational Living on Facebook asked how our television price compared with the cost of purchasing a new family radio in the 1940s. According to this website a mid-range floor radio model would set a 1940s family back $60 to $80. The inflation calculator says that would be equivalent to roughly $900 to $1200 in today's dollars. Even after you add in all the extra cables and accessories we were still well below that figure.

Blame it on the bad economy or deflationary electronic technology. Either way, we'll be happy watching Star Trek on the big screen in high definition.

Anachronistic? Yes. Geeky? Most definitely. Good? Oh, yes. And we look just like that family in the Westinghouse ad...I promise.

--Rational Mama

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Whew. And Cobbler


That's about the only thing I can say about the past month.


October always go by so quickly and this year was no exception. With Halloween on a Sunday there were virtually three full days of Halloween this year. Costume gathering, school parties, friend parties, trick-or-treating...lots to do.

Add to that house issues. Yes, our house is still on the market but the original house that started all of this is completely out of the picture now (and we're okay with that). In the end they were asking too much, especially considering the amount of elbow grease required to get everything up to par. So we've been spending time perusing the internet for possible homes, visiting open houses, debating what features we consider important in the next move and researching schools. We had actually found a property we were very interested in (3/4 of an acre, unconventional A-frame, great school) but then it was taken off the market because of all the foreclosure mess. Sigh. All this and we have to keep our own house nearly pristine in-between improvement projects just in case someone wants to see it.

And then there was last week. The girls were off of school on Monday so we had some extra bonding time and they were sweet, sweet, sweet. On Tuesday Eowyn woke up with a stomach ache and quickly began vomiting. Unfortunately, she started on an empty stomach and has a history of acid reflux. Thus, in less than four hours after she first vomited we were in the emergency room. She was very dehydrated and was showing signs of intestinal damage so she spent two days in the hospital, soaking up the I.V. fluids in between tests and lots of meds. At one point they gave her morphine which alleviated the pain enough that she could sleep, but it dropped her respiratory rate down so low that all the machine alarms were going off. A lot. Ugh. Not good times.

She came home last Thursday with several prescriptions to get her by until she can see her pediatric gastroenterologist in Kansas City this coming Monday. So far, so good...but we were all rather exhausted last weekend - both physically and mentally.

We needed something to make everything sort of reset the household. So last Sunday night I made venison stew with dumplings and a pear cobbler for dessert. The stew was wonderful - stick to your ribs comfort food. The cobbler was absolutely amazing and oh-so-simple. I used a jar of cinnamon pears I preserved in September and the taste was amazing, but I'm sure you could use commercially-canned fruit and have equally impressive results.

I'm going to post the cobbler recipe I used because I know we all have those times...when life has strung us out and scraped us thin. This may not make everything better, but it will make you feel a bit more at peace.

1 15-16 oz can of fruit (peaches, pears, apples, blueberries or cherries would work well)
1 cup self-rising flour
1/2 cup sugar
5 TB butter, melted
1 cup milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grease the bottom and sides of an 8" x 8" baking dish.
3. Drain canned fruit and evenly distribute fruit in the bottom of the prepared dish.
4. Combine remaining ingredients and pour the mixture over the fruit.
5. Bake the cobbler for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown.

The fact that the cobbler did not survive long enough for me to take a picture should serve as an adequate testimonial.

Wishing all of you healthy, happy days.

--Rational Mama

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Based on a True Recipe

Hmm...what to say about the Six Layer Dinner?

Well, it's from the most-awesome Betty Crocker rationing cookbook.

But...I made it for dinner back on September 17th and I'm still trying to find the words to make it sound interesting and exciting.

It's been harder than I thought. It's just layers of potatoes, ground beef, peppers, onions and tomatoes (I know - no white sauce!). I did add some cheddar cheese on the top and some extra seasonings (garlic powder, oregano) to make it palatable. Otherwise, there wasn't much hope for it.

Maybe, rather than focus on the actual historic recipe I should instead go all Hollywood on it and add some sizzle. You know, "based on a true recipe." Yeah, that sounds good.

Six Layers of Fury Dinner: You Will Be Hungry


2 cups sliced angry and raw potatoes
2 cups chopped celery with something to prove
2 cups ground beef so fresh it's still moo-ing
1 cup onion, sliced by Jackie Chan fighting off three ninjas
1 cup finely cut green peppers picked by a migrant worker with dreams of becoming a internationally-known songstress
2 cups cooked tomatoes, dripping with lycopene
2 tsp salt gathered by slave laborers in SE Asia while Angelina Jolie protests nearby
1/4 tsp pepper so spicy it's kept under lock and key - until Jason Bourne is on the scene

Directions - Destroy After Reading:

1. Layer ingredients in a shallow 9 x 12 baking dish, careful not to trigger the sensitive detonation device buried within.
2. Bake for 2 hours at 350 degrees, or for only 3 minutes when the sun goes supernova after North Korean spies hijack a nuclear missile.

What do you think? Shall I call Spielberg?

--Rational Mama

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Light in the Darkness

What is a rationing mother to do when the family must be fed, she doesn't want to cook anything complicated and the rest of the clan wants something tasty now?

Ahhh, yeah! She pulls out a can of SPAM (or, SPAM light) and makes SPAM burgers with a side of fresh roasted sweet potato wedges.

Easy, relatively quick and everyone is happy! Yay for SPAM!

--Rational Mama

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Television Daze

Sometimes it's really challenging to be patient - especially in today's day and age. I can get takeout ordered and delivered, check out the game score and view the week's forecast all within half an hour and all without leaving my house. Patience may be a virtue, but today it seems a seldom-needed virtue.

And we typically don't like it when we're asked to use it.

Take, for example, our most recent appliance dilemma. Our current TV (yes, we only have one in the house - I believe this makes us an anomaly in the U.S. for our family size and income bracket) is roughly seven years old. It's a standard early 2000's model and after years of use and abuse the remote has gone AWOL. Also, it doesn't have a digital tuner and, considering how much cabinet space it takes up, it doesn't provide the nice wide screen features of the newer flat-screen models.

Additionally, it apparently has Seasonal Affective Disorder.

For the past several years the speakers have not worked properly during the colder months. It took us a few seasons to realize what was going on, but during the colder months the speakers rattle with noises of specific frequencies (think mumbling dialogue, car chases or an awesome Viper/Raider fight sequence from, say, Battlestar Galactica). Understandably, this can be quite irritating.

But then spring comes and temperatures warm up and we forget about the speaker plague of the previous four months. We tolerate the display even if we can't see the far edges and labels of the PBS program we're watching.

Oh, and we continue to pay around $12 per month to get our local affiliates (plus a handful of ot her channels that we don't really watch) since we lack the digital tuner.

Well, we are finally ready to purchase a new TV! All modern with a wide screen, working remote, digital tuner and functional speakers! We've been doing the research and it seems like our best fit would be a 32" LCD HDTV with 1080p and 120 Hz. The girls and I were in the area of the big box electronic store today so we stopped in to browse.

I had been estimating about $600 for our future purchase, based on prices from a few months ago. I had heard rumors that the prices on LCD televisions were dropping because of a glut of inventory (bad economy = slow electronic purchases). Wow - those rumors are true! I found a model with the exact features we're looking for with a high customer rating on mega-sale for only $450! Plus, with my credit and such we could do eighteen months of interest free financing.

Oh man...the temptation was there! How was I able to walk out of that store without a television?

Because appliances were rationed during WWII. Remember our oven range dilemma? We were in a pickle because ranges were in short supply during the war (not very many were being produced in the war-driven factories) so families in need of a range had to apply for one. If they were turned down then they either had to find a used model or make do without one.

So that's how I was able to say no to the television temptation. I was thinking about appliance rationing and delayed gratification and such. If you combine our Internet/television usage time I believe it roughly equates to what would have been the average usage of telephones and radios in the 1940s (and they serve the same purposes). If a new radio wasn't an option for 1940s rationers then a new television shouldn't be available to us during our rationing year.

But then I came home and did a little research. Apparently, I over-estimated the variety of appliances and such that were rationed during WWII. True, oven ranges were available only through an application process - as were automobiles, bicycles and typewriters. But that was the extent of appliance rationing. It doesn't take much effort to find War-era advertisements for new radios via Google. This all makes sense considering how much the government used radio as a tool for morale and support during the War.

So...what to do?

--Rational Mama

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Vintage Halloween

While the girls were charming the neighborhood as Hermione Granger and Ginny Weasley...

I couldn't help but find inspiration in the rationing year for a costume idea...

--Rational Mama

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


It's November and the weather has finally realized that the season is currently autumn, not summer.

Up through the middle of last week we'd been experiencing a warm, dry autumn. In fact, the Rational Living household hadn't fired up the furnace until last Thursday - typically this happens around two weeks earlier in the season. Although our area had it's first official "hard" freeze last week, our own corner of the city did not, so we we still have peppers and basil (!) working their hardest to produce something worthwhile in the garden.

Now that the weather is more seasonally appropriate even the furnace doesn't keep the chill out of the house entirely. It's not that we have poor insulation or a faulty furnace - we have decent insulation and a modern, high efficiency furnace. It's mainly due to the fact that during the winters we keep the thermostat set at 62 degrees (higher if company is expected).

That is a full 10 degrees cooler than the wartime recommendation!

Why do we keep it so cool? Partly to curb heating costs, partly to conserve energy. On most days 62 degrees isn't too bad, especially if you're active (i.e., doing chores). If you're sedentary it does mean long sleeves, socks and maybe an afghan or two on the sofa. Nighttime typically isn't a problem since heat rises and the bedrooms are upstairs (the flannel sheets help, too).

Energy conservation during the winter was a big worry during WWII, since much of the coal reserves were needed for the war machine. There were multiple instances of families running out of coal mid-winter and not being able to secure more because of scarce availability.

Obviously, we don't have that problem today but we still feel a responsibility to use these resources judiciously.

So, friend...have you turned on your furnace? What is your thermostat setting?

--Rational Mama

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Blog? There's a Blog?

Oh, hi.

Hello blog visitor. It's nice to have you visit. I promise we haven't ditched the blog. Really, really promise.

We're still rationing our little hearts away, but just very busy with all the crazy fall stuff that covers us in an avalanche of responsibilities every October: homework projects, Halloween costumes, parties, school conferences, etc.

I'm hoping to get some new content up in the next week or so - a few historic recipes and insights now that we're down to just two months (*gasp*) left of the rationing project.

Oh, dear...that means there's less than two months until Christmas. Yeah, things are going to get even busier around here.

But the blog shall not suffer!

After all, we wouldn't want to disappoint the fabulous readers that have made this journey so interesting and fun. Did you know that an average of 35 to 40 visitors come to the blog each day? No? How 'bout this: the blog averages around 50 page views a day.

Not too long ago the blog had almost 100 page views in a single day.

That just blows my mind. Really. When we started this project and the blog we were hoping that maybe a few (mostly) local folks would join in and provide commentary, questions and insights. Instead, the blog has had over 5,500 visitors and is edging towards 9,000 page views. Visitors have come from all six permanently inhabited continents. How crazy is that?

I can only hope that the next two months (and beyond) will be as thought-provoking and worthy of your attention.

And maybe ya'll can help suggest to us what our life should be like after rationing. Because, frankly, it all looks a bit overwhelming from down here in the trenches.

So grab a chair and a beverage, let us know where you are and what you would do after rationing if you were us.

--Rational Mama

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pledge of the American Housewife

It's been just over a year since we posted the first entry about the rationing project, and our year-long journey will be over in roughly two months and some change. It's time to start thinking about life after rationing.

What do we keep? What do we throw aside? What changes stick and what changes slide away?

We are certain that we want to continuing eating a healthy, ethical diet. What this means has yet to be determined.

In the last post I grumbled about life after rationing c. 1940s. But, as I mentioned, there was a determined group of individuals who encourage Americans to avoid gluttony so that others in poverty abroad could receive our exports. The Famine Emergency Committee put together a pledge to solidify promises against food waste, and it seems like a good place to start for our own post-rationing ideas:

"This is my sincere and voluntary pledge to assist in saving the lives of millions of starvation victims throughout the world."

1. I will do my utmost to conserve any and all foodstuffs which the starving millions of the world need today so desperately.

2. I will buy only the food my family actually needs for its proper nourishment and health.

3. I will neither waste nor hoard...nor discard any article of cooking or in serving...and will ask my family for the fullest possible cooperation.

4. I will be particularly watchful in the use of wheat and cereals...and fats and oils...and will try to make certain that not a scrap of bread is wasted in my home.

5. I will make these little sacrifices gladly...for the sake of those who cannot enjoy my God-given right to live...and an American. [ellipses in original]

How many of us buy that extra bag of lettuce or fruit "just in case" and then watch it rot before it has a chance to be consumed? Or let containers of leftovers mold in the fridge while we do take-out instead?

These are the kinds of things we'll be pondering as we think about life after December 25, 2010.

--Rational Mama

Friday, October 15, 2010

Dropping the Ball

It's been one week since we prematurely ended the U.K. ration portion of our experiment. I've been doing a lot of soul searching since then.

Don't worry; we're still following our U.S. rationing guidelines. It was very easy to fall back into that groove: red points, blue points, etc.

But it feels different this time.

You see, living on U.K. rations was nothing less than hard: each day I had to carefully manage our limited supplies - what fat was available, what would do for breakfasts, and what pantry items were of adequate supply to provide enough dinner for four. The girls were hungry; we were all hungry.

I imagine that, historically, the hardship might have been more manageable if the entire country could commiserate with the shortages and make-do recipes and the hunger (in-between air raids, that is).

But in the U.S. things were different. Sure, there were shortages and occasional items were missing from the shelves. But what has become apparent from this (now over nine month) experience is that U.S. rations during WWII were generous compared to our own Allies across the pond. There was enough that the U.S. could help supplement British diets with exports of canned meat, fruit and vegetables. This was because U.S. food production (both private and commercial) skyrocketed during the War. Between Victory Gardens and factories running 24/7 the availability and variety of foods in America during the War made the grocery store shelves in the U.S. look like technicolor versions of heaven to the impoverished abroad.

And at least during this part of the War Americans had their heads and hearts in the right place: in a 1943 poll 62% of American respondents thought that continued rationing after the War would be necessary for a year or two to better control shortages and continue supplying war-torn nations with much needed food. By 1944 that number had risen to 85%; images of starving children in Europe and Asia were finding their way into U.S. media and it was hard to argue with such evidence. In 1945 individuals in Tokyo were getting only half of their official ration allowances (520 calories a day); at the same time over 70% of Americans thought it in the country's best interest to help overseas after the War.

And then something happened: the War actually ended.

As of August 15, 1945 (the day after V-J Day), rationing in the U.S. was over. History. Tired of the cumulative deprivation that was the Great Depression and WWII, Americans were happy to once again experience a lifestyle of abundance and leisure.

By March of 1946 only 59% of Americans favorite a return to rationing in order to send food to the needy in other nations (and that number dropped even further if the receiving nation was in Asia). Persuaded by the manufacturing and farm lobbyists, most Americans began to believe that advances in science and technology would be the way to rescue the international community out of poverty.

Granted, there was a group of citizens and activists that were not happy with this complacency towards the hungry. Pressure from voters and cabinet members lead President Truman to hastily create the Famine Emergency Committee in the spring of 1946. The FEC emphasized the notion that no other country, aside from Canada, could provide the food needed to rescue the rest of the world from starvation. To accomplish this they recommended that Americans return to rationing. When it became clear that neither industry nor the government was interested that option, the FEC recommended that Americans reduce their wheat consumption by 40% and their usage of fats/oils by 20%.

The response was underwhelming. In a 1947 Gallup Poll only 22% said they followed the government's suggestion of meatless Tuesdays (although 38% said they were planning to follow it). Roughly 29% of respondents replied that eating no meat on Tuesdays was "too difficult." Meanwhile, photos of the food wastage transpiring in the U.S. did little to gain sympathy from world communities that were continuing to suffer from drought conditions and the effects of war.

I know what you (the Americans) are thinking: what about the Marshall Plan? We all learned about the wonders of the Marshall Plan in our high school history classes; how it helped build up Europe after the War and created an efficient, sustainable infrastructure. But do you remember that the Marshall Plan wasn't enacted until 1948 - a full three years after WWII ended? And that only 29% of the multi-billion dollar program went to supply food, feed and fertilizers? The rest was spent on factories, buildings, and roads. And since food supplies were tied with politics, the amount of aid sent to Asian countries during this time period was but a small sliver of the amount sent to Europe.

So what am I trying to say? I'm saying that the U.S. blew it. Dropped the ball 100%. We had the chance to raise millions of lives out of poverty (and even prevent innocent deaths), but in the end we chose a nice steak dinner and chocolate cake rather than subject ourselves to modest, manageable rationing program.

And in reality, things really aren't that different today. The U.S., along with Canada, has the fields, the factories and the transportation needed to provide poverty relief both locally and around the globe.

So when this modern mother had to listen to her children's' repeated requests for food because they were genuinely hungry (and not just bored), it was a wake up call. What was a choice for me (living on restricted rations) is someone else's reality. Today.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately one-third of the world is well fed, one-third of the world is underfed, and one-third of the world is starving. Today.

Meanwhile, incidents of childhood and adult obesity in the U.S. are skyrocketing.

The system is broken. I'm not saying that it's an easy fix, or that it will ever be perfect. But something has to be done - locally and internationally.

And you know what? I'm not going to be the one to drop the ball this time.

--Rational Mama

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Of Pie, Hunger and Nachos

There is so much I want to tell you about living on 1945 U.K. rations.

I want to tell you that with all the limitations and restrictions menu planning gets tricky fast. Our weekly menu for the first week of U.K. rations included:

Friday: Vegetable-Garbanzo Soup with Dumplings
Saturday: Dinner at Friends' House (previous engagement)
Sunday: Roasted Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, Fresh Green Beans, Grilled Zucchini and Gravy
Monday: Woolton Pie
Tuesday: Spaghetti Noodles and Homemade Cheese Sauce
Wednesday: Chicken and Dumplings (using the chicken carcass from Sunday)
Thursday: Stir-fried Vegetables and Eggs with Rice

I want to tell you how all these restrictions make for very brief and focused shopping excursions.

I want to tell you that for breakfasts we've been eating yogurt (not rationed but available) and toasted oats and/or oatmeal. On Monday morning I made a batch of (reduced butter and sugar) cinnamon rolls for a special treat, and to literally butter up the girls for the Woolton Pie that evening. For lunches TMOTH and I have been eating leftovers and skimpy chicken sandwiches using leftover meat from Sunday and our very modest mayonnaise rations. We've been keeping the girls' lunches solid (peanut butter and honey sandwiches, crackers, local fruit) since during the War they would have had additional lunch options at school.

I want to tell you that snacking is severely limited on U.K. rations. The general rule is that if you didn't make it then it's not available, and your supplies are almost too tight to make anything. On Sunday I made a homemade granola bar type concoction that was snacked on for several days. Otherwise, snacking has been mostly limited to carrots and the local apples/pears we picked last month.

I want to tell you that I wouldn't want to be on these rations in the dead of winter, with few fresh vegetables available.

I want to tell you that I was finding the transition from one cup of coffee per day to one cup of tea per day very difficult.

I want to tell you that the results of the Woolton Pie were very predictable (Eowyn loved it, Sissy loathed it).

I want to tell you that the soap rations haven't been too terrible and that we managed to stay under our 157 allotted miles for the week.

I want to tell you how hungry we've been. Nearly every night we've needed an evening snack for the girls, and usually for the adults as well. One night we popped popcorn, but had to use lard since the butter and margarine were reserved for other purposes. Another night we made carrot cookies (surprisingly good).

I want to tell you that I was looking forward to making bangers and mash and sharing with you next week's menu and how I "spent" our points...but I don't have to.

Last night, after a very busy day AND night, TMOTH and I found ourselves driving home alone.

"I'm hungry," TMOTH said quietly.

"Me, too." I replied.

I thought about how many times the four of us had said those words over the past six days. I'd heard it from the girls more than once each day we'd been on U.K. rations. I thought about hearing it for another eight days.

And then I said, "Maybe six days is enough."

We had learned our lesson. What the civilians of the United Kingdom dealt with was far beyond the situation handed to the Americans. As Sissy put it, "They [in the U.K.] had only what was needed, but in the U.S. we could also get things we wanted." And that doesn't even include the air raids.

So I want to tell you how last evening we picked the girls up from their grandparents and told them that we were done with U.K. rations. They cheered. They were actually happy to be back on U.S. rations.

And then they told us they were hungry. We all agreed that we wanted cheese. Lots of cheese.

So we went home and had nachos for a bedtime snack.

--Rational Mama

Not So Victorious Gardens

*A garden summary, by TMOTH

Mary, Mary quite contrary. How does your garden grow?

As of last week we are officially done with this year's gardens so it is time to assess how we did. I wish I could say better. Should I start with the excuses now or save those for later?

Sorry, it’s not like me to be so negative but I judge myself more harshly than others and the gardens were one area of the rationing project where more responsibility rested with me. I can’t think of any reason not to say that the amount of produce was disappointing. We knew going in that even with the additional garden space shared by friends (thanks again everyone) we were far short on space recommendations for successful Victory Gardens.

Even considering our space limitations we had high hopes. Especially for tomatoes, which took up the largest share of space. While I have to admit that I could/should have been more diligent with weeding and watering, I take some solace in the number of other gardeners I heard lamenting this year's tomatoes. I’m no master gardener to explain all of the variables but I also heard some say their tomatoes were great. In fact, one of our borrowed plots had plants that just wouldn’t give up. After suffering with the rest through brutal heat and a long dry spell what thick skinned fruit was on the vine split when the rains finally came. With the help of the late summer rain those plants started growing like crazy and loaded up with fruit all over again. Most of it never got to ripen on the vine. Last week I took what I thought were mature enough to finish on the shelf and pulled out the plants. Even when I finally uprooted the plants last week they were green bushy and still producing flowers and fruit in all stages of maturity.

It was a tough decision to take down those enthusiastic die-hards but I was afraid that we were just robbing nutrients from the soil for tomatoes that would never have a chance to ripen with the shorter days and cooler nights. (Can I really be thinking of frost already?).

Sorry that I don’t have an accurate tally of what we DID get but in general the gardens gave the occasional fresh produce for meals including a variety of greens and broccoli in the spring, eggplant, tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers and a small variety of squashes later with basil on demand throughout (still growing). Unfortunately we didn’t get the amount needed to save massive amounts for later.

I won’t go too deep into the excuses I promised earlier but I will leave you with this one insight. Trying to keep up with in four different small gardens in four different locations does not mix well with trying to limit your mileage.