31 May 2008

just today

Today we got a free swingset. Its the older kind, the kind we had growing up, with rusty metal and bolts that scratched your legs as you tried to scale the side and at least one leg came off the ground if two or more people swung on it at the same time. It is not the fancy fake wood kind with the climbing wall and the slide with a bump so you don't slide too fast. I'm sort of glad about this, as I am that parent who says things like "dirt don't hurt" and encourages physical retaliation between my boys.

My babysitter, who is a cousin (not on my side but she might as well be, I love her) is a frugalista in her own right. She's got three girls and I'd be surprised if any of them got more than an handful of new clothing in their lifetimes. She gardens for food and buys in bulk at the neighborhood meat market. So, when her next door neighbor told her they were getting rid of their swingset to make room for a pool, she offered to take it off their hands, in exchange for having someone come take it out for them (my father in law). He came with his giant truck amd even bigger trailer, hauled the thing away, and we have a new swingset. Swapping rocks.

I have good and bad broccoli news, the good being the little heads that are forming and the bad being the little holes in the leaves.(Caterpillars? Flea beetles?) Off to the garden center...

We have no power right now because of a pretty strong thunderstorm (thank goodness for Blackberrys) so I'm sitting in the dark typing this on my phone. After the storm we saw the most awesome double rainbow- it went all the way from the horizon line to the horizon in the opposite direction, and one was formed so completely that it looked there was an 8th band of white after the violet. The second rainbow was much fainter but even bigger. I took picture but not on my phone so I'll post them later if they came out.

So, that was today.

30 May 2008

first harvest: 05.30.08

lettuce, sugar snap peas, basil and rhubarb

the vegetables of my labor

We picked our first sugar snap pea from the garden today, and as expected, it was fantastic. My almost- 2 y/o thought it needed something and dipped his in the sandbox, but my 3 y/o and I enjoyed it. We also sampled some lettuce and its definitely time to eat it as the bottom of the curly type (I don't know what kind it is but I'm thinking Black Seeded Simpson) was bitter. The other, romaine looking one was fantastic, though- mild and almost peppery.

There are buds for peppers on the pepper plants, and that first strawberry is almost completely red. The basil I put in with the eggplants looks a lot bigger already and it smells fantastic.

This is so cool.

29 May 2008

30 is the new 20

I read this post today on Brazen Careerist written by a blogger named Monica O'Brien. Monica says:

If 30 is the new 20, retirements really are dead, as Ryan Healy says. Because we’re going to be so behind in saving for a traditional retirement, and so focused on instant gratification, that we won’t be able to afford it. A conscious choice we are making, or the consequence of our “me now” upbringing? To me, a three month vacation now sounds like a sad consolation to having to work the rest of my life.

First of all, seeing as I'm turning 30 in about 6 weeks, I'm glad to hear I'm really 20. I didn't have any stretchmarks when I was 20, and my boobs looked much better.

Second, I'm interested in this mention of instant gratification. I sort of alluded to that yesterday when I mentioned people are wired to want new things. The era of saving seems to be gone, even for people who want to save, like me. No matter what I do, I still don't really save money. Part of it is due to the crazy amounts of money I put towards debt, and part of it is the subconscious feeling that $200 left in my checking account means I have $200 left to spend.

I do, however, have money saved for retirement. Not enough, obviously, but some. It is difficult to be young and juggle paying bills, paying off student loans, saving for a house, paying for a car, and actually thinking about saving money to use 50 years from now. There are too many things to spend money on, and not enough money to cover them all, no matter how much (or little) you make.

28 May 2008

The big news

This morning, as I made breakfasts and lunches, the kids were on the [3 season] porch, listening to the Curious George soundtrack. My favorite track from that album is the Schoolhouse Rock! cover of "Three is the Magic Number." My 3 y/o is singing along, saying "reduce, reuse, recycle! reduce, reuse, recycle!"

I talk to them about "the three R's" a lot. When I was in elementary school, this guy used to come every year and do a program for us. His name was Ray Cycle (tee hee) and his song went like this:
re-re-re-re-re-reuse it!
no! no! don't abuse it!
And I think it's safe to say, we ALL remember it! In fact, one of my best friends is a Kindergarten teacher and she went on this crazy mission to find Ray and have him come to her school.

Anyway, sometimes people get caught up in what looks good on paper- for example, I bought some new plastic plates (on clearance, of course) yesterday. The thought process was that if I had a few more plates, I could use them for parties instead of paper plates. (Again with the paper plates. The paper plate people are going to come after me). But honestly, what I really should have done was gone to Goodwill and bought some old plates. Or just used the 400 plates I have. I realize this, it's just hard to remember because I, like most people, am still wired to buy new things.

Speaking of wired, in this month's issue of Wired, there is an interesting article called Inconvenient Truths about Global Warming. On the cover of the mag, this is what it says:

Attention Environmentalists:
Keep your SUV.
Forget organics.
Go nuclear.
Screw the spotted owl.

If you're serious about global warming,
only one thing matters:
Cutting Carbon. That means facing
some inconvenient truths.

Huh. Wired gets a lot of cred with me ever since their Things That Suck list pointed out how public libraries don't suck, so I'm listening. ETA: If you click this link, check out the list of things people added that don't suck. I won't ruin it for you. Just read #1 very carefully.

What it comes down to, with this article, is that it costs energy to ship organic stuff to you, or to make a new Prius. There's a lot of arguing in the comments on this one, but I hear what they are saying. Now, that doesn't mean you should get a Hummer. But when you're looking at organic strawberries from California, and you live in Connecticut, maybe it's a better choice to wait until June and then go pick them at the strawberry farm a few towns from your house. Maybe.

I forgot to say the big news. I hired the lawyer and filed for divorce.

27 May 2008

You might be doing a good job raising your kids if

your three year old is playing matchbox cars with your almost two year old and he pretends to go to the grocery store and buy broccoli.

Broccoli? Dream big, kid. :D

I can't even imagine what his face will look like the day he realizes those ginormous plants in our garden have honest-to-goodness broccoli growing in the middle.

Two exciting things happened today.
  1. I received my new Nalgene bottle (thank you, Nalgene media person) and am going to test it out tonight.
  2. I found out my town sells Earth Machine composters for $35. They retail for $85.

It's only a matter of time before I completely lose it to "go off the grid"... did I ever mention I desperately want to own chickens?

26 May 2008

my "frugal living" is your OCD

I'm starting to think there might be something wrong with me. My first clue should have been how passionately I defend Martha Stewart to people who mock her for her obsessiveness. My second clue should have been when I actually got a Master's degree in Library Science. But the third and final clue that helped me figure out what Blue wants to do was when I decided to bake homemade bread with a 23 month old and a 3 1/2 year old for fun, and then take pictures of the

Yeah. Its a good thing?

BTW... I just saw a commercial while watching Jon and Kate Plus 8 that went something like this:

A mom: I use paper plates becuase my children come first, so I don't have time for dishes.
Another mom: I'm giving up my apron for more time to play with my kids.
Third mom: I want to paint my nails with my daughter, not get dishpan hands!

Translation: people who don't use paper plates are shitty, selfish parents. With dishpan hands.

First of all, unless you're also using paper pans or making Hungry Man microwave dinners for your kids, you still have to do dishes. Second, I think I'd rather spend a few minutes AFTER MY KIDS ARE IN BED loading the dishwasher than have them grow up in a world covered in people's freaking laziness trash. And third, its an awesome example to set for your kids to buy and throw away paper plates every single day. Are these people just TRYING to piss me off?

25 May 2008

totally off topic

After watching Juno, Entourage, and the first 5 minutes of Knocked Up, I'd like to say that guys suck. They are terrible. Seriously, I think they must lose maturity at puberty because my nearly-two and three-and-a-half year old boys are more mature than these guys. Ughhhhh. I'm gravely concerned that my two sweet, well-mannered, wonderful little boys will grow up to be narcisistic, selfish, morons that do bong hits and think 16 year olds would actually like them when they are 35.

I do love my little boys, but let me be the first to say I will punch them in the junk if they grow up to be 35 year old Nintendo playing, bong hitting, dirty dish leaving suck asses.

Garden Progress Report- 05.25.08

Here's what's happening in the garden- it's been just about two weeks since the last update, and everything is MUCH bigger. I added some zucchini plants in the back:

I also added a whole other section of plants. These are tomatoes (3 varieties), peppers (2 colors) and basil. They are on the right side of the garden. Those pink flowers in the front are columbine, and the thing in the bottom right corner is the bird bath.
This is how big the rhubarb has gotten! It's ready to eat. Next to it are some irises and other flowers, and of course, dandelions.

In the front I planted two huge pots with the fairy tale eggplants. One has Thai basil with it and the other has the red rubin purple basil. The only things I still want are yellow squash and cucumbers, but I'm just about out of room!
This week when I went grocery shopping, for the first time I didn't buy something (lettuce) because it is ready to eat from the garden. How cool is that?

22 May 2008

paper plates are not for frugalistas

On the front page of my local paper, there's a chart showing how much the price of all your typical cookout food has gone up since last Memorial Day. The items that went up the most were rolls, paper plates, and mayonnaise. Rolls are a neccesity, but if you have a bread outlet near you, that's a good place to grab those (we have Pepperidge Farm/Entemanns ones).I think mayo is gross, but that's something that you can get at CVS or on sale. But paper plates? Seriously? Washing plates is not really that bad! I use those melamine plates they sell at target- they are the Zak brand and I got them on a clearance endcap for like 60 cents each. And they are so cute, plus my kids drop them and throw them. I haven't investigated them for the email cancer plastic, but I also heard corelle is made of glass but virtually unbreakable, so I'm going to be scoping out the clearance racks for some.

On a totally unrelated note, I picked up my new glasses and I finally decided to get my hair cut, so I am feeling much better. I also made a big decision, but I won't get into that until all involved parties have been notified, but I'm sure you can figure it out.

21 May 2008

I'm 29 going on 74.

Not only did I get my new very-librariany glasses yesterday, but then I joined the Garden Club! Next I'll get out my cross-stitch and drink some prune juice.

I joined the Garden Club because the VP of the development company for the project in my town wrote me back saying that they WOULD in fact be interested in a community garden! Sweet! He also said that the project will have public transportation around town that will run to the development itself, which is attached to the train station. I'm so, so happy. This is exactly what I have been talking about and now it's looking like it will happen in my very own town, and I just might get to be a part of it!

Anyway, I guess they won't get to the gardens phase until next year, which is why I joined the Garden Club. I figure I'll need a little street cred with the gardening set, more than just a 6' sq plot and a braggy blog. So, starting in September, I'll be one of those ladies out on the side of the road planting things and drinking lemonade. Actually, that sounds wonderful.

20 May 2008

Community Gardens

One thing I have learned over the last 5 months is if you want something, ask. I did it with the pizza coupon, I did it with getting money back on different things, and I did it with the Nalgene bottle. (I also do it at work, and things have really gone well for me because of it- a couple of my pet projects are working out great). Today, I asked my town if I could start a community garden.

With all the reading I have been doing about gardening, I have been learning about community gardens. If you don't know what a community garden is, it's a garden that is divided up into little plots and the residents of that community sign up to grow things in them. Gayla Trail writes about community gardens a lot in her You Grow Girl blog, and she recently wrote this awesome post about how food gardening is on the rise.

This is what I see. People, particularly younger people like myself, are:
  1. poor/frugal by necessity or preference
  2. interested in locally grown/organic foods
  3. proactive

So, what better thing to do when you want to eat good, local food and you're poor/frugal, and you aren't willing to sit around and wait for food prices to go down? Start a garden. If you have a yard, great. If you don't? Community garden! Here's the American Community Gardening Association's page, that has garden finder and all sorts of information. Also, if you're interested in gardening, check out your town's continuing education programs, and see if any local college offers horticulture courses (mine has an amazing program). And, of course, the library is a great resource for classes, books on gardening, and reading gardening magazines (I particularly like Organic Gardening).

I'll let you know what they say about the garden in my town!

19 May 2008

Nothing happened today

I had no financial encounters today, no bargains, no busts, I just worked my butt off all day, including through lunch.

I did, however, get an email on Friday from Nalgene. After I posted that picture of my pretty pink bottle, a poster commented that Nalgene is phasing out their BPA plastic bottles because of the apparently-its-real-email-cancer. So, I contacted Nalgene and asked them if I could have a looky-loo at the new bottle, and that I could write about it on my blog. They said yes! (Doesn't that just show you what an awesome company they are?) So, as soon as I get my new bottle, I'll be writing what I think of it.

Also, I added new blogs to my blogroll. They are all awesome.

18 May 2008

Today's project: well-stocked kitchen

In this month's Parents magazine, there's an article about stocking your fridge with healthy, easy foods. (It's on pg 42, I'm writing this from my phone so no links right now). So, my project for today is to clean out and organize my fridge and pantry and restock it with good food. I'll post more when I get on my computer later, but I wanted to update!

Also, yesterday I went to a tomato seedling festival at a farm and got 2 varieties of tomatoes (early girl and yellow pear), 3 types of basil (Genovese, Thai and Red Rubin) and my Burpee plants came (super sweet 100 cherry tomatoes and fairy tale eggplants) so those are all going in today, too. I'll take pictures when I put them in but they are so cute, and I can't wait to eat them all!

Be back later!

Okay, I'm back. I went to Target and Stop and Shop, and I spent (yikes) $120.00 on groceries. Obviously, this is the most I have spent on groceries since I started doing this, and it was a little insane. But, I did it for two reasons: one, we had no food. Two, I have a little extra money this month, thanks to GWB and the raise I got. So, the timing was right.
Here's what my refrigerator looked like before I went:

There's really nothing to eat in there, unless you're three, which I'm not. (Except the beer, of which I am partaking right now. Blogger is having issues and this is the third time I'm writing this, plus soon-to-be-ex doesn't communicate well and that gives me angst. I'm being very diplomatic. You can imagine what I'm thinking... Anyway.) So, this is what it looks like now:

Yum. I also bought pantry staples like couscous, rice, popcorn, breakfast cereal, canned stuff and dried fruit. A few weeks ago I wrote about how I had nothing to eat, and the food I bought was stuff I like, so it feels special. It's really sad that I just plain don't eat sometimes, like last night when there wasn't enough chicken for us three so I just had couscous and peas. Sigh.

So, I feel good, and I think I won't have to buy a lot of food the next couple of trips, just veggies and milk and stuff. Good stuff.

16 May 2008

What are you changing because of gas prices?

Last night my friend Mary (hi Mary) said that she has begun combining errands to save money on gas, or choosing to stay home instead of going places for fun. It seems like a lot of people are doing that now that gas has gotten so high (the average hit $4.00 here in Connecticut). Honestly, I think it's a good thing. If there's one thing we're all well-aware in the year 2008, our country is far too dependant on foreign oil, and fossil fuels in general. Gas has been very expensive in Europe for a long time, and as a result, Europeans have smaller, more efficient cars, better public transportation, and lots of people walk and bike.

I think that we need better public transportation, communities that are accessible by foot and bike, and fuel efficient cars. Yesterday at the gas station I was sort of dancing and singing in my car while I was waiting in line to fill up. The guy next to me was laughing and I said "we might as well have fun if we're going to pay this much for gas" (and I was lucky, I had a 10 cents off per gallon coupon so I only paid $3.84). So, as he was walking back, he looked at the total on my pump and said "You had more fun than me!" (meaning I paid a lot less) and I looked at his SUV and said "They made fun of me for getting a lame minivan, now who's laughing?" It wasn't him!

I'd like to say my next car will be a hybrid, but honestly, I wish I didn't have to drive at all. Before kids, I didn't have a car. I lived in a city, and I walked or biked everywhere, or took the local trolley if it was raining or freezing. Sometimes I would ride my bike to the market, fill my reusable grocery bag with organic produce, and ride home. It was incredibly fulfilling, and I miss that. I hope that this gas thing brings us to that place, because it's a good place to be.

15 May 2008

Sea Change

I'm the kind of person who likes words, and I get hung up on words and concepts from time to time. For example, in my little 1950's suburban house with the pretty garden, I often think "idyllic." Then, as I walk around, the word replays in my head, and makes me smile.

When I think about the Year of Frugal Living, the concept I'm stuck on is "sea change." First of all, a sea change is a "profound transformation." (Secondly, it's an album by my favorite artist, Beck. Let's take a look at him for a second:

Mmm. Anyway, I think that when one goes through a sea change, it's like an outward metamorphosis: I think of it like a caterpillar coming out of a cocoon and finding that he's still a caterpillar, but the world around him has changed instead. It doesn't matter what he is now, because everything is different.

When I began writing this blog, I thought that I would maybe pay some bills, maybe grow some vegetables, and maybe learn something. But instead, people have actually been reading it and teaching me things, and I've been learning and changing and growing. I posted this quote back when I started doing this and I want to post it again, because for me, it has so much meaning.

"Once you start to see through the myth of status, possessions, and unlimited consumption as a path to happiness, you'll find that you have all kinds of freedom and time. It's like a deal you can make with the universe: I'll give up greed for freedom. Then you can start putting your time to good use."

David Edwards "Nothing to Lose But Our Illusions"

So, thank you. I think this has been time put to good use.

14 May 2008

Illnesses Rated by Frugality

  1. Flu. Rating: F. Expenses: Trip(s) to doctor (copays, gas), medication (copays, gas), "sick" foods like chicken noodle soup and ice cream; tissues, cough drops, magazines or movies.
  2. Cold. Rating: C-. Expenses: OTC medication, possible trip to the doctor, "sick" foods, tissues, etc. Duration is shorter than the flu, offsetting some cost.
  3. Pink eye. Rating: B. Expenses: Trip to doctor, medication, mockery by friends and strangers.
  4. Stomach Flu. Rating: A+. Expenses: None. Benefits: Can't drive anywhere, can't eat anything, can't do anything. Lost 4 lbs in one day.

Needless to say, I'm glad it was #4. Stomach Flu that I managed to contract on Monday night. I saved a day's worth of gas and food, and my pants fit better. Score!

12 May 2008

Products I like

Here's a little list of things I like:

Things I have:
  1. Dryer Balls: Buy them for 9.99, use them instead of dryer sheets. Never buy dryer sheets again. Unfortunately, Treehugger.com says they are not very environmentally friendly but neither are dryer sheets. What to do?
  2. Clotheslines. Here's what the NYT has to say about clotheslines. Mine cost $3.00.
  3. Metal coffee filters: For 10-20 dollars, you can never buy paper coffee filters again. You reduce the amount of things you throw in the garbage, save money, and apparently, your coffee tastes better. I'd agree with that.
  4. Coffee mugs and water bottles. This is what the desk I'm sitting at RIGHT NOW looks like:
  5. Reusable shopping bags. I have a bunch: a couple from stop and shop, one Target one, a recycled cotton one, a tote bag I swiped from my mother in law. I use them a lot. I like to show off when I have them at the store. My store takes 5 cents off my purchase for each bag I have (so bring 'em all in!).

Things I want:

  1. Rain barrels. Catches rain water in a barrel and you can use it to water your plants. Saves $ on the water bill, and you're not watering your garden with chlorinated water.
  2. Solar panels for my roof. I read somewhere that you can write off quite a bit of the expense. Plus you are SO MUCH COOLER than anyone else.
  3. Compost bins. Less trash (good if you pay for trash pickup, which I think we all should), more soil for your garden, and again, nice show off factor.
  4. Glass "tupperware." If you've never gotten that email about how plastic is giving you cancer by leeching into your food, then I don't know what to say. Glass lasts longer, doesn't give you potentially-made-up-email-cancer, and is so pretty it would make Martha Stewart proud.

10 May 2008

Garden Progress Report- 05.10.08

It's been about 3 weeks since I took pictures of the garden, and things have really bloomed since then! Here's what the garden looks like right now:

Here's a close up of the veggies. From left to right: brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, another kind of lettuce, and sugar snap peas on the trellis:


09 May 2008

the big picture

When I buy things now, I approach it differently. For example, today I went to walmart to get a few things. I got a clothesline (3.00) that will save me on electricity that runs the dryer, garden twine to help the sugar snap peas (that are 4.00 a bag at the grocery store) grow, and a nightlight so I can keep the lights off in the house but if my son wakes up he'll be able to see, but will be cheaper to power than a lamp.

I think its okay to spend your money if you look at the bigger picture- ask yourself "Do I really need this?" "Do I have something similar that I could use instead?" "Could I trade someone something to get this for free?" "What will it cost me to operate this over the long run?"

By asking these questions, you can make better decisions on spending, and save money, too. And in the case of things like the clothesline, CFLs, and my copper coffee filter, you are helping reduce your impact on the planet.

08 May 2008

Making a hard decision

I'm making a tough decision this week. Basically, I'm at the end of my rope with husband, and am feeling like I'm finally ready to file for divorce. The situation we're in is particularly complicated and I truly think my best bet would be to hire a lawyer, especially since the vast majority of the debt I am now attempting to pay off with the Year of Frugal Living is, in fact, his debt.

The lawyer I found, that was highly recommended to me, costs 3000 dollars. I've pretty much decided to hire her and pay the money, but a huge part of me really wants to pay off the debt with that money. I think that in the long run, I'm doing the right thing, but it's really hard.

I think some people in my life think that I'm stupid for not just filing through the court myself and paying $400 instead of $3000. I just think that in order to make sure that my children are properly represented and he is held responsible for the debt he has incurred in my name, I need a lawyer.

Reading this over, it sounds like my mind is made up to do it. If I weren't doing the YOFL, I wouldn't even have this option, so I guess I won't beat myself up about it so much.

07 May 2008

Going to extremes

I'm considering cutting my own hair. Typically I get my hair cut once or twice a year, and when I go, I go all out. I go to an expensive salon and get highlights and low lights and a cut, and it runs me well over $100. Right now I really need a haircut. The last time I got my hair cut was last Spring/Summer (I can't remember but it was about a year ago) and my highlights are grown out and my hair is all misshapen.

Which brings me to my insanity. I am considering just cutting it myself. I cut my hair a million times in college, I cut my friend's hair too, and I think it will be fine. I also think I might be crazy for thinking it will be fine.

Gandhi was a strict vegan, and at a point later in his life, he gave up eating anything that would give life to other organisms, leaving him to eat only rotting fruit. Any good idea can be taken to the extreme. Now, I'm not comparing my potentially disastrous haircut idea to Gandhi, but I often think about him, so I wanted to mention it. I'll let you know how the hair situation pans out.

02 May 2008

Library Love

Although I am a frugalista in my free time, during the day I am a professional librarian. So, I thought I would talk a little about how the library is an amazing resource for someone trying to say money.

Obviously, the books are free. Wanna read the Economides' book? Check it out from the library. Search the whole world for books by going here: http://www.worldcat.org/

Not sure where your library is? Try this: http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/libraries/librarysearch/

So, the library has books, but you probably knew that. Did you know that most public libraries have DVDs? How about CDs? Free activities for kids? Computer classes, movie nights, lectures? By checking the website of libraries around you (don't forget colleges!), signing up for their RSS feeds, or reading the local paper events page, you can find tons of things to do for free or on the cheap.

Getting a library card is one of the most frugal things you can do!

01 May 2008

Some days this sucks!!!!

We have practically nothing to eat! We are out of:

half and half
"lunch" fruit (apples, grapes, etc)
breakfast foods
organic sugar

This morning was rough. I had to piece together breakfast and lunch for my two kids out of what we had, so kid #1 had one egg, one piece of toast, some banana and some mozzarella cheese with water, and kid #2 had toast w/ jelly, banana, cheese and water. I felt like the worst mom! Their lunches weren't much better, one was tuna fish and the other was pb&j with raisins on it, a banana and some goldfish.

I know this probably sounds like a fine lunch, but I had to scavenge for what I found. I basically looked at what was in the fridge and worked out possible combinations, like "if I use the jelly at breakfast, there's not enough for lunch" or "can I make any bisquick breakfast foods with no milk?" (no). Not fun at 6:15 am!!!

But I did it (I even ate a piece of bread with pb and found some old coffeemate and white sugar for my coffee, blech). I did it! I made it through. And tonight, I go to the grocery store.