Monday, June 30, 2008

Stuffed. With Things I might need someday?

I brought back another load from my Grandma's house last night. Ceramic platters, milk glass pudding cups, vintage Christmas cards and wrap, Tupperware burger keepers, duvet covers, and small pieces of furniture are now littering my house.
Everything is usable. Everything has a purpose. But, as of yet it has no home.

Pretty tablecloths that I have no room for are a feature in dinner party day dreams. I have a stack of vintage cookbooks and pamphlets from the 50's that have recipes I drool over. Custards, puddings, and casseroles- Oh my. My inner homemaker is squealing with delight.

However, if I am truly realistic I should think about selling a portion of it on ebay and sending the money to my mortgage. Today I will be struggling to find homes for these things. Does it mean I love my Grandma less if I let go of a tablecloth or two or don't use that rug with the cow on it? I don't think so.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Good Part of Hubby's Work Travel

I'm an unabashed complainer when it comes to my husband's work trips. Being a single parent is not for me. The best part of my day is when he comes home from work so when he's gone I really miss him. But-

1. We always have a supply of hotel soap, shower caps, coffees, and mini shampoos. He's taken to filling his luggage as he packs and bringing me these gifts as a reward for not offing our children in his absence. ; )

2. He's signed up for all the points/bonuses/preferred member stuff at the hotels he stays with and for the airlines he flies. I'm hoping he scrapes enough together for a free vacation night away or maybe a trip somewhere for our 12th anniversary next year.

I'm off now to go and refill an old shampoo bottle with accumulated samples. I may never buy shampoo or lotion again.

$3 to clean my bathroom.

Most people have a room or two in their house where the door always gets closed when company comes over. It's the room where homeless things get shoved, misfit furniture roosts and missing socks and toys go to die. My bedroom and bathroom are those two rooms. Up until a few months ago we still had unpacked moving boxes in there and we've lived here for two years.

Yesterday I was at a garage sale and saw a pretty wooden shelving unit that was just thin enough to fit in the weird space between my vanity and bathtub. It was marked five but I asked to have it for three. It was with glee that I hefted it and arranged it in my car.
As soon as I got it home I cleaned it off and swept the bathroom floor and started putting odds and ends on the shelf. It looked nice. So, I sorted through some more stuff and before long my bathroom isn't quite as embarrassing. It still needs a deep clean and a declutter but much better. And then I started working in our bedroom- putting away laundry (the big peoples laundry may sit in the baskets ready to put away for a week), picking up trash and recycling. It was starting to look better too. Before bed, I was feeling pretty good about that so I worked on fixing myself. I scrubbed my make up off, put on some face cream (an olay sample), some hand lotion, and brushed and flossed my teeth.
So far that three dollars has been worth every penny. My bedroom/bathroom still needs work but we're getting there.

I'll post a picture of it later when I've gotten farther along.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Commercial parenting by proxy.

I'm not the mom who refuses to let my kids have sugar, fast food or watch tv. I prefer a moderation in all things approach. But, the past two weeks have not been an example of this moderation idea. I think we've eaten fast food more than I've cooked. Shameful.

When my girl came dancing into the kitchen clutching her bottled chocolate milk and belting out something like, "McDonald's helps kid fulfill their potential" I knew something was wrong in frugal subversive suburbia. You know something sad? I don't even like McDonalds anymore.. it's just easier than making lunch. Time to rethink lunch.

This isn't the first time my girl has spouted some commercial nonsense though. It's not her fault. Kids are raised to believe what they are told. Why should they question what a commercial says about diapers, cereal, or some plastic junky toy?

Over a year ago she serenaded her dad and I with this little song:

Fruity pebbles, fruity pebbles, fruity pebbles are nutritious. fruity pebbles, fruity pebbles, fruity pebbles are nutritious. Fruity pebbles, fruity pebbles, fruity pebbles are nutritious.

Dip them in the green thing.

Nutritious. Butricious.

Fruity Pebbles are nutritiouuuuuuuuuuusssssss!

Pensive Narrative interlude: Fruity pebbles, like fruit, is nutritious. Do you know what else is a fruit? Carrot. Carrot carrot. Carry Carrot.

Fruity pebbles, fruity pebbles, fruity pebbles are nutritious. fruity pebbles, fruity pebbles, fruity pebbles are nutritious. fruity pebbles, fruity pebbles, fruity pebbles are nutritious.

A few weeks ago while I was buying diapers for her little brother, she asked me if those were "Huggies Natural Fit". I tried to explain how the people that make commercials want us to spend our money on their product. Just because the commercial says that's what you should buy, it's not necessarily right. And then I tried to explain that the "Huggies Natural Fit" diapers cost a lot more than the generic or regular Huggies that I normally buy which work perfectly fine.

This parenting thing is hard. Sometimes I feel like there is no happy medium and there is the distinct possibility that no matter what I choose it's somehow still not going to be right.

With our tivo/satelite dish acting so weird lately, I've been talking with hubby about just dumping it altogether and living with broadcast.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Financing the toy of your preschool dreams.

It all started with a happy hour spent playing at a friends house. A friend who has three Littlest Pet Shop houses and a menagerie of pets.

My girl wants a Littlest Pet Shop house. She has a bunch of Littlest pets (birthday parties, McD's toys, garage sales, and I think I bought one) but they are homeless. I saw my opportunity to get her to get rid of toys. So, I worked that angle. I would make sure she got a house if she got rid of a bunch of toys. And we filled a box to be freecycled soon.

I started my search online to see the retail price of what we were looking at. Then I went on to Craigslist and ebay. We also spent two hours garage saling yesterday but no luck. I do have a birthday gift card for ToysRUs that I've been hanging onto since her birthday in February. It may be mean but I'm also making her spend her allowance on the toy too. So I think we have about $26 to spend. I'm hoping not to spend that much but new toys in the box can be ridiculously pricey. I'll pay an overages if I have to. To lessen the sting of retail, I printed out this great coupon for a free Thomas the Train too.

Call me stingy if you want but I see no reason to spend our hard earned dollars on a toy that isn't worth working for if it's not a holiday or a birthday. By making her work and pay for it I'm doing two things:
1. Making sure she really wants this toy before we get it.
2. Helping her understand that sometimes you have to make sacrifices for the things you want.

And while I don't want a spoiled kid- I would like her to get some of the stuff she wants.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Too Realistic for Reality Tv

I have no shame in admitting that I do enjoy a few reality tv shows like Survivor and Bachelorette. With hubby gone a few nights this week, I killed a few hours after I put the kids down by watching tv. Sure I could have read or cleaned or done something productive but anyone who watches kids all day knows that your brain is jelly by 9 pm when you're flying solo.

Anyway, Farmer Wants a Wife was on tv Wednesday night. It's been on for a few weeks so I've already missed quite a bit of it. I find I get really into discovering who (if anyone) is compatible when it's a love match show. I am always wanting/watching for two things to happen:
1. One of the potential matches that is lined up for the person searching for their number one( girl or guy) discovers that they just aren't that interested in the person who's searching and says goodbye. No matter that they may 'lose' the challenge. It seems like the 'contestants' seem to forget that they are looking for their life mate too and not just trying to 'win' the guy. Because- even if you 'win' and are stuck with someone you don't really like.. what did you win?

2. The couple trying each other on have a detailed and realistic conversation about their expectations from their potential future spouse. Would they send their kids to daycare? What makes them angry and how do they handle that? How much debt do they each have and how they handle money? You know- things that matter. Things that, if you aren't on the same page, can ruin your relationship.

My expectations are very high for prime time fluff but I'd like to actually see a romantic reality tv show that actually helped develop healthy, loving relationships that last. Nevermind Trista and Ryan who are an exception, albeit fairly fluffy, to the rules.

Oh well. None of that happened but I did enjoy the luscious farm stead scenery of rural Missouri. I am a country girl at heart. Plus, the farmer is an alumnus of my alma mater.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Target Shopping Today

Little Guy happily munched on popcorn and lemonade while I made my way around Target with coupons in hand.

Here's what we bought (sorry for a lack of picture. our digital camera has some issues):

CoverGirl Mascara (mfr and target coupon)
CoverGirl Lipgloss (mfr and target coupon)
Huggies Jumbo pack of Overnight Diapers (mfr coupon- on my shopping list anyway)
2 mega boxes of Pampers Cruisers (1 mfr coupon/1 Target coupon/plus $10 gift card at register when you buy two deal )
Pampers wipes
Two bags of Bliss chocolates (bogo mfr coupon)
Archer farms bag of frozen veggie (printed a Target web coupon at the gift registry kiosk)
Centrum Cardio Vitamins (used mfr coupon and will get $10 rebate)
3 boxes of BandAids (used Mfr coupons and $5 Target Coupon from insert.)
Cat Food (one small cup- had coupon for free product)
Kashi Party Crackers (had free Mfr coupon)
2 pack of Kashi cereal
1 half gallon of Silk soy milk (free after coupon off of Kashi cereal package)
Balloons (we're out)
Fourth of July socks for Big Girl (I love that dollar section)

Total before Coupons and Deals-

After Coupons, Rebates, and Gift Card-

I am by no means a coupon queen but I'm pleased. We spent waaay more on diapers than we normally do so we're all stocked up for a month or two. The diapers alone before coupons/deals were almost $85. Ouch!

Now I'm going to go do the Target Survey to see if I can win $5,000.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Interview- Raised in a Family of Tightwads

I don't think I consider myself a tightwad. I'm not disciplined enough and quite frankly I don't enjoy my life when every penny is squeezed until Lincoln screams. I am however discerningly frugal in most areas of my life and am curious to see how it might affect my children in their later years.
Since I don't have Amy Dacyczyn's grown children to quiz about how they felt about their frugal upbringing- I had to turn to my husband. His parents are almost as thrifty as Amy D. They just didn't write a book about it.

This is from a few months ago. I've edited a bit to retain a little anonymity.

[Jenny] A bit of history if you will.... parents jobs, etc.
[Jon] Mom and dad were both administrators (i.e. principals) and teachers for Lutheran Schools. My mom only became a Principal after the kids were out of the house, and once they'd moved to where there were 2 schools within driving distance.
My mom was my teacher a few years, and my dad my principal. After that, my mom took extra jobs working at the churches while we were in school. This worked out because there was little to do in the summer, and because during the week and weekends, everything happened either at night or on Sunday. So, she and my dad could always be home at some point.

[Jenny] When did you realize that your family was frugal? (what was your first memory..etc)

[Jon] Allowances and budgeting to get a soda at Willy's when I was maybe in First grade? We lived in the country in a small town of 200 people, so there was really nothing to go
do or spend money on. They always emphasized that they were saving the same amount as my allowance for me for college. (It was 2 grand by the time I graduated, enough to buy my first car -- a great white whale of a Chevy Malibu Station Wagon.)
But, there was always cooking, and gardening, and coupons, and rebates, and waiting for sales. It wasn't until probably the "atari years" when I had more money to spend and we had a mall that I started getting the hairy eyeball on my spending. But, I had to save my allowance up. I can remember on our trip to Disney land that I saved and divided money for the attractions I wanted to go to. This was probably 5th grade. I told my parents what I wanted to see because I had enough money. I hadn't even thought that they might pay for the whole family when we went to things!

[Jenny]What were some things that were good about being raised in a tightwad household?

[Jon] Good. Well, I did learn the value of money and of researching my purchases. Socially, it might seem like it had made a difference, but that was my personality. My brother never suffered from their frugality in having friends and being popular. While my parents did shop at thrift stores, etc, it wasn't like they were dressing us shabby. We always had bikes, and games, and toys, etc.

[Jenny] What do you wish was done differently?

[Jon] Well, oddly, instead of fighting over not having money, my parents fought over purchases, over keeping track of purchases, over all sorts of haggling to do with money. It wasn't that they weren't on the same page with saving and working hard, it was that their obsession with it got the best of them at times. There was rarely a time when they just "let themselves go" and had a good time... money be damned. Sure, they retired at 50 with a nest egg, but they didn't enjoy the ride like they could have if they backed off 10% and retired at 55. You know? They got me a computer as a kid - but, it was the last year they made that model, 5 years after I wanted it, in my Senior year of highschool. They could have done that 4 years earlier. When I took computer camp. When it mattered. But, living for the moment was not their thing.
[Jenny]What did you do for fun? Did you go on vacations?
What did your parents splurge on if anything?

My parents did find ways to let us have fun. But, it was often in slightly compromised ways. As a kid, sometimes, this felt like it sucked. Getting Lock Blocks instead of Lego's. Sitting in obstructed view seats at hockey games. Not going to concerts because the cost to drive there. And then, they'd hook us up with odd jobs... Mowing the yard of other kids in our school. Picking up dog poop for chump change at some church lady's house.

[Jon] Well, no sodas at restaurants, but they liked eating out with coupons and deal nights. Most of our vacations were centered around my dad's business trips. On business trips, we would always do things for fun and take extra days as a vacation. Go to baseball games or amusement parks. I saw many parts of the country that way. The Smithsonian, Yellowstone, etc. There were many museums and national parks in our childhood.
My parents would splurge on "educational" things for us. Orchestra Camps, theater camps, computer camps, and special learning adventure trips. Supporting us in school activities. Piano lessons, voice lessons, cello lessons, etc. There was always money for these things.

[Jenny] How has it shaped the person you are today?

[Jon] Well, I became an obsessive overthinking and overcomparer. I can't make a move without a Consumer Reports in my hand, or an exhaustive search of Google for "itemname review". I am still an eBay addict because of this. Spending endless hours with saved searches, looking to save $5 on something that costs $30. Learning a balance between splurging and between over obsessing has been hard. Part of this is a personality trait I inherited from my Dad (obsessiveness). But, I understand what it's like to have self control and live within my means. I understand how voluntary simplicity and voluntary frugality allow you to have a great life. Do I plan to save so much that I can retire early? Probably not. Do I plan to have any debt beyond my mortgage? Never again.

My parents were able to help put me through college (in the form of a loan, most of which was forgiven after I started paying it off). But, they always emphasized that we had to work in college and try to pay our way. Now that they're retired, they've been able to help us financially for things they feel good about. While money does not equal love, it does equal security and sanity. Being free of debt. Being able to take pride in saving money. These are important things to me. I have no shame making good money and shopping at Goodwill. To me, these things go hand in hand with being fiscally responsible.
That, and I'm addicted to Quicken.


Ever been too busy to make a to-do list?

; )

Single parenthood (even temporary) isn't for sissies.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

7 Dockers dress shirts- $6 OOP

Today we went to Sears to load up on the Dockers gas rebate deal.

We had a coupon for $10 off of a $35 dollar purchase when we used our Sears card and a $45 gift card that I ordered a few months ago using our Discover card cash back dollars.

This morning Hubby and I did a quick clean out of his closet to assess his work wardrobe needs and to cull shirts that he just didn't like. Now he's set for the next year or two and we bought nicer shirts than I normally buy for him.

The charity pick up will be here this week so now I have some nice work clothes to donate.

Retro Reads- Amy Dacyczyn article

While surfing around this morning, I just found this Dacyczyn article from 1997.
What a sweet way to start my morning.

Happy Father's Day!

I'm off to clean the kitchen and make pancakes before Hubby and the kids get up.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Homemaker Boost

Yesterday I lamented that my Control Journal has been very ignored and I am stagnating in my role as homekeeper.

Today I took a few tiny steps to remedy that. I scrubbed the downstairs bath, swept the kitchen floor, and unloaded the dishwasher all before 9:30. I have dinner prepped, laundry folded, dinner bread in the bread maker, and pumpkin pies for Father's Day in the oven.

Tonight hubby and I are working on bills after the kiddos are down. Small steps in the right direction feel so good.

Free Caulk Sample

Get a Free Sample of GE Caulk Singles at

Father's Day and Hospitality

I always wonder how I should be/treat people who come to work on projects at our home. In the past two years we've had a slew of them through our yard. Today our play land was delivered and installed in our backyard.

I was inspired by Monica of the homespun heart to show my gratitude to the young men installing our children's new plaything. While I was making pizza for lunch out of Matzos, I decided to make extra so we'd have some to share. I took out a plate and some soft drinks while they were finishing up. It was a small thing and had I planned ahead of time I probably would have whipped up some cookies. But, I feel better for having done it.

And you know what? Those matzos make a nice thin pizza crust and went together so quickly. I topped them with sauce, white cheese, parmesan cheese, tomato slices and a sprinkle of Paul Prudhomme's Herbal Pizza & Pasta Magic Seasoning.

This year I have a blank where father's day is concerned. My father is on dialysis and not in good health. His hobbies are few and he takes care of them himself. And he needs nothing. So, I'm making pumpkin pie for him. It does not require a trip to the grocery store. Pumpkin pie is not his very favorite but I think he'll like it just the same.

*The Paul Prudhomme's seasoning is wonderful but a little goes a long way. I try to buy it on sale and like to include it with the other herbs and season for wedding gifts.*

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Chinese Five Spice

I ran out of Chinese Five Spice which you can sometimes buy at grocery stores. I have everything but the anise. It's probably cheaper just to buy the mix than the components. But, I could find fancy jars and give out a homemade portion as gifts. I typically like to give a gift of spices as a wedding gift with a note that says, "May your marriage always have spice." Hmm. I'll have to price anise.
Tonight for our Asian Lettuce Wraps I used cloves, garlic, ginger, and white pepper for a frugal hack. It smells so good.

Needin' a Boost

I went in search of a recipe for dinner (Asian lettuce wraps) and found in my old Flylady Control Journal.

As I paged through it and read the menus and routines from the past I realize how much more organized and excited about being a homemaker I used to be. I also used to keep a frugality journal where I noted my frugal activities and victories. I am guilty of doing the poor me's about my toy strewn house and lack of energy. And I only have two little ones. I'm sick of how dissatisfied I have been with a situation that is in my control. I'm tired of calling on Pizza Hut when I should just be more organized.

A cleaner house, planned dinners, and frugal activities are on my to do list.

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Frugal Eggs

Lately I have eschewed eggs as a frugal food since the price has risen to over $2 a dozen for generic where I live. But, in the spirit of Frugal Upstate's Frugal Food review I have dusted off an old recipe from my college/pre-marriage days.

My Hubby's FAQ has not been updated since 1997- or right around the time we married. But, in the spirit of egginess- Jenny's Egg Drop Soup recipe.

Matzo Express- Preschool style

photo taken from
Now that we're back to our normally scheduled programming- I'm reminded of a previous annoyance/glitch in my cooking routine. Lunch. I have to make lunch for the kids even though I'd happily munch on whatever was handy-- a handful of pretzels, someones half eaten cheesestick, an apple, etc.

I bought a big box of matzo crackers at the grocery this morning. Tomorrow we're having matzo pizza.The next day I might broil matzo pbj's topped with banana slices. Maybe we'll have quesadillas with chopped tomatoes after that. I've even found a recipe for spanikopita that could take our matzos into dinner time.

Even if we don't love them at least it's something different than cheese sandwiches and mac 'n' cheese.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Home Again, Home Again , Jiggity Jig

I'm home after a long week with hubby's family.

We spent a week in a lovely log cabin in the woods of Pigeon Forge, TN. The Smoky Mountains are beautiful with abundant wildlife and wild flowers. We spent two long days at Dollywood amusing ourselves. That part was ok. But the best part was driving around Cades Cove for a whole day and soaking in the sheer beauty of it all. Plus, we saw a black bear on our return drive. It made my day.

Frugality wise, it wasn't an inspiring trip. Gas prices alone (which have reached $4 a gallon) were expensive. Add two nights in decent breakfast serving hotels, occasional gas station snacks (my weakness), a date night with dinner out (we shared appetizers) and a movie, a few outlet mall purchases and ridiculous treat prices at Dollywood and this was not a frugal trip.

But we had a good time and we're all glad to be home.

I'll post a few photos later. Back to laundry and unpacking.