30 June 2008

Midsummer Musings

Yesterday I was lying on my couch, during naptime, reading this book I'm reviewing. The book, ironically, is about tracking down where this particular guy's stuff came from, so that he can see how much environmental and sociological damage comes from all the crap we accumulate. In the book, he's talking about a lot of third world people, and their work, and what they get paid for it. Some of these people make $1.50 in, like, a month. And they live in shanties and they eat rice and they are poor.

And then I looked up, at all the crap I have, and I don't even have what most people in our country would consider to be nice crap. I have been feeling a bit sorry for myself lately, what with my babies getting too big and my marriage ending and my oodles of debt. My couch is about 15 years old and my tv is not a flat screen and I don't own any stainless steel appliances. But I still have what I imagine the people in this book would consider to be a lot of- and nice- stuff.

Then I closed my eyes, and I drifted off. I woke up when it began to rain, and the wind picked up enough to blow that rainy smell into the living room. It was beautiful, and I felt lucky.

And so when I had gone to sleep, I was someone with a lot of crap, and when I woke up, I was someone who was unbelievably lucky, someone with everything. I love awakening metaphors, and this was my own, and it was a nice midsummer day, 6 months into this journey, that I had my own, and I am happy.

29 June 2008

good news/bad news

So, tomorrow is the last day of June, which means the Year of Frugal Living is halfway over. Here's the good news- I've paid off 3000 dollars in credit card debt, plus another 3000 in student and car loans. In addition, I was able to save up and pay 2500 dollars for the lawyer. My garden is doing well, and so is the Paper Towel Challenge.

The bad news is that I have had to up my operating budget due to gas and food prices, and I stopped selling things on ebay when they increased their fees. So, I haven't paid off as much as I wanted to, but I would still say this was a successful 6 months.

My only worry, now, is what I'll do on January 1st, 2009- because I don't want to stop!

27 June 2008

instead of complaining on here I should have emailed New York Magazine


a quote:

In these early days, I find telling anyone other than my closest friends about my separation a little draining, not because of my own emotions but because of theirs. One acquaintance has tears in her eyes. “Oh, my God! You poor thing. Is it so awful when you get home in the evening and there is no one to have dinner with? Is it so awful to have all those hours alone?” I am touched by her concern, but it also makes me feel like someone who has fallen off the edge of one of those colorful medieval maps to the place where there are only sea monsters and dragons. In the coming months, this tone will become familiar to me, ambient as it is of fatal illnesses.
By Katie Roiphe Published Apr 23, 2007

this is the shit that gets me all funny on the inside

Here's an article from Treehugger about a paradigm shift with regard to where we live- once again, the community thing. Instead of buying a house in the 'burbs, or renting an apartment in the city, there is a third option- co-op neighborhoods. Sometimes condo-esque, sometimes little houses, it's all about cohabitation and cooperation. I *love* this. Where can I sign up??

Also check out this little neighborhood in New Hampshire: http://www.peterboroughcohousing.org/

Every neighborhood should have their own organic farm.

26 June 2008

another store to avoid

Everyone has their place that they need to stay out of, and besides Target, mine is Marshalls (TJ Maxx). Marshalls is like a tag sale where everything is brand new, so you don't have to worry about preworn shoes or funky old pillows, but its still exciting to look through all the crap and see what treasures you can find. Today I found myself oddly impelled to visit Marshalls and for some unknown reason, I went.

When I started this blog and the Year of Frugal Living, I promised I'd write about it if I spent money, so, I spent money today. 28 dollars, to be exact. This was the first time I'd been there since the Year began, so it was pretty exciting. I ended up getting this metal box:

an 8 inch frying pan (mine is beat) and a paring knife (I only own one knife and its about 10 years old). The laundry box is actually for the paper towel challenge- I put it in my kitchen to put the used towels, napkins and dishcloths in. It's metal so I think this will work out well. Plus, it is so.cute.

Go ahead, judge me!

25 June 2008

Farmer's Marketing

I'm reading an article in this month's Vegetarian Times (I'm not a vegetarian anymore, but I was for about 13 years) and there's a nice article about farmer's markets that I can't link here because they apparently don't have it posted on their site. Boo to them. But if you have it at your library, read it.

Yesterday was my first visit to the farmer's market this season. We bought some very bright yellow squash and a zucchini, as well as a bunch of really cute carrots with all of their greenery attached. We also pet some baby goats, which was fun, until the goat guy started to abruptly pack them up. Another farm market person said, "I know why you're going" and the goat guy nodded. I find farm people to be totally confusing. They are usually either hot or scary, depending on age, length of time in the sun, and level of tooth loss, and always quiet. I'm not quiet, so this freaks me out. Anyway, at first I was all offended, thinking that they meant our kids were the reason they were packing up the goats, but then I noticed the sky, and realized that wet goats probably smell a lot worse than wet dogs, and I was glad he packed them up. But they were cute, little, and kept eating the hair of one of the little girls we were with.

I like to buy weird things at the farmer's market. One time we bought a purple pepper, and a couple of times we bought these gigantic striped fava bean pods that were really neat. I always, always look for sour cherry things like jam and pie, because that's my favorite.

My town's farmer's market starts July 9th, and I'll be there every week. I'm hoping to take some pictures, but we'll see. Those farm guys are a bit scary.

23 June 2008

so, he's 2

Well, the birthday festivities are over. I'm taking this one a little harder than I thought, mostly because 2 is like a kid and not like a baby, and the chances of me having any more babies are not looking too good. So, he's 2.

The party went well, I had bought 24 reusable plastic plates for 2 dollars (total) on clearance at Target, meaning I'll never need paper plates again, plus after the whole party was over, with all 30+ people, I only had one bag of trash. At one point I had to fish two of them out of the garbage, but it sort of made me feel cool to do that, ha ha. Think you can throw plates away in my house? Hell no!

So, back to life. I'm reviewing a new book, this one is an ecological take on all the crap we accumulate in out lives. I think it sounds interesting, albeit familiar :). Garden is good, we had fresh lettuce and basil at the party, the cauliflower is getting big, and I have lots of little green tomatoes.

And I watched Waitress last night. Man, did I love that movie!

20 June 2008

rollin with the fogies

Some days, you're just on fire. Or you are just excited by mundane things. After getting out of work early, I went to the bread outlet to get rolls for Max's birthday party. I had never been there because, oh, I don't know, I thought it would be yucky or weird or something. Anyway, it was a-MAY-zing. Everything was so cheap, but fresh, and they had things I didn't think they would have like Boboli pizza crusts. So, once again, it was me and all the 80 year olds, chillin. I was a little scared to drive out of the parking lot.

Then I made the birthday cake. It is SO CUTE. Its a monster truck cake, its made of two loaf pan-sized cakes stacked one on top of the other, and cut to look like a truck, with chocolate donut wheels. I'm planning on posting a picture and then just wait for Ace of Cakes to call.

So yeah. Either I had a great day or it doesn't take much to excite me.

19 June 2008

brainwashing my kids

Max (soon to be 2) says as he pours water into the bathtub: "I waterin the plants."

I think this blog needs more kid action.

17 June 2008

Garden Progress Report- 06.17.08

Here we go!
Tomaters, Peppers, Cukes
New Garden Path
Eggplant and Red Rubin Basil

Eggplant and Thai Basil (yum yum oh yum)

16 June 2008

freezin' stuff

Every time I try out something new, it sort of segues into something else to try. So, based on the PTC, plus the "cheap" thread on the BHB (not the "not cheap" one!! Lol) I started thinking about ziploc bags.

About a month ago I stopped using ziploc bags for my kids' snacks. I've been using small tupperware containers instead, and honestly, it was hard at first. It seemed really inconvenient for some reason and I kept wanting to just use ziplocs, but I had run out and didn't want to buy more. Now that a little time has gone by, it seems normal now. So that's good.

But, I'm still using the freezer bags for freezing meats. I'm not really sure if there is a better option, so I'm looking into that.
I'm also looking into containers to store baked things in. Right now I'm using aluminum foil to cover stuff, but again, I'd love a better, reusable option- preferably one not made of plastic, becuase I feel like I have so much plastic stuff. So, that's another thing to work out in my head.

I had a conversation with a coworker today about "reduce, reuse, recycle" and I think its really important to stress that reducing is best, reusing is second best, recycling is the last resort, and throwing away shouldn't be an option (in a perfect world, of course). That's sort of my motivation.

Always thinking, I am.

PTC (Paper Towel Challenge) Update

Yesterday was the best father's day ever, because my kids spent the whole day with their father so I got the whole day off. Unintentional on his part, sure, but still glorious. Anyway, I went to Target and I got 1 pack of bar towels, 1 pack of "multipurpose" rags (these look like washclothes) and 1 pack of scrubbing dishclothes, which are the coolest things I have ever seen. (Okay, not really, but they are very cool). Basically, they are like washclothes on one side, and have a mesh sown into the other side, for scrubbing. The total for these three things was $15.00.

My sponge is really new, so I am going to finish it up before switching over, but I used the rags for cleaning the counter and that worked out well.

I did have to use paper towels, though, when my three year old peed on the floor this morning. He's potty training, and apparently terrified to point his penis down. I mean, I *guess* it's better to pee on the floor than to be a 3 1/2 year old who wears pull ups... I'm not sure who it's better for, though. The environment? Bounty? Sigh.

A quick garden update: broccoli is ripe, nearly overrips, and I can't stop eating it. Rhubarb is yummy, I made the rhubarb crisp recipe from You Grow Girl and it was really, really good. My Early Girl tomato plant has a tiny green tomato, and my eggplants have purple flowers. And I apparently grow basil really well, as I have A. TON. of it. Yum.

14 June 2008

Picture Day!

I have a ton of cute pictures and a little free time (one time it's good to have 2 and 3 year olds is in between the hours of 1 and 4 pm) so I'm sharing. Here we go...
I mentioned the double rainbow, here it is:

Strawberry picking (cool effects courtesy of Picnik.com):

I also got my clothesline put up (thanks, dad!) and went to Goodwill and got 3 videos for a dollar a piece, and nearly spent 5$ on a glass cake cover until, in a flash, I remembered a scene from my garage:

More specifically, this:
Score! Another found treasure!

On a totally different note, Rest in Peace, Tim Russert. He was, hands down, my favorite favorite favorite newsperson, and I just can't imagine this election, or Sundays, without him.

13 June 2008

the post I'm sure you saw coming

I'm just spent, which is a funny word for this blog. I'm off my schedule, I'm tired, and burnt out. I'm overwhelmed by all the responsibilities that fall on my shoulders and I feel like I bust my butt just to keep my head above water. The other night, in a matter of 90 minutes, I grocery shopped, cleaned my house, started laundry, ate dinner, watered the plants, folded clothes, got the mail, fed the cats... Its just hard to be "on" all of the time.
Thanks, I feel better now.

12 June 2008

Another Example of Forgotten Treasures

The picture's not great, I took it with my cell phone, but what this is is a picture of a drawer I have in my kitchen. I think I have mentioned this, but my house came with about 50 years worth of "housewife treasures"- garden books, binoculars, baking pans and, you guessed it, towels and dish rags. I had forgotten about the last one until yesterday's post. So this morning, I dug through it and found quite a bit of what I need (my cat, Piper, helped. You can see her nosy little head on the right).

At lunch my coworker, the frugalista E, and I are heading to Goodwill to look for some more linens. I was inspired by the latest post on Posie Gets Cozy, so check that out. It makes my terrible cell phone pictures look even more terrible.

Oh! And as for the paper towels? I came home and the very first thing I saw was cat poop. (from the other cat, who is less nosy but way barfier). I imagine the paper towel companies have secret anti-spay-and-neuter lobbyists because cat barf/poop has to be the #1 paper towel use. Like the Bounty No-Kill Cat Shelter, or something.

11 June 2008

The Mommy Paper Towel Challenge

So last night my friend Mary and her two kids came over and we were discussing paper towels and "bar rags." Basically, in an effort to cut down on both spending and waste, we have both purchased these "bar rags" from Target/Walmart and are cleaning with them instead of paper towels. Right now I use Bounty paper towels, the "pick a size" kind, and I use them for picking up cat poop (argh), child sized napkins, wiping tables and cleaning icky things. I also buy sponges for washing dishes.

So, here's the challenge. I just bought paper towels, so I have about 15 rolls. I'm going to try to make it to the end of the year (December 31, 2008) without buying any more paper towels, or sponges. I have one pack of bar rags, I'm going to buy one more. I'm also going to buy a pack of dish rags for the dish washing. And finally, I have 4 cloth napkins, so I'm going to keep an eye out for more on sale and stock up on those. (Target clearances them for like 4/$1 periodically). The budget for this project is $25.00.

Who's with me?

10 June 2008

Has this ever happened to you?

Do you ever buy something and then use it once and forget all about it? And then you find it and you think, "Omigod, I forgot all about this! I can't believe I bought this and then I forgot all about it! I guess I really didn't need it after all."

Well, that happens to me frequently. Especially with shirts that require some sort of complicated washing procedure. They go into the bottom-of-the-laundry-pile abyss and I pretty much never wear them again.

When I shop, I try to picture the item in a tag sale with a $1 sticker stuck on it. If it looks like it belongs, I don't buy it. If I wouldn't buy it AT a tag sale, I don't buy it. I think I'm still working on the "if it says dry clean only, I don't buy it" part, though.

09 June 2008

Holy moly, it is very hot outside

It's about 100 degrees again today. I shut all my windows this morning and set the thermostat (programmable- HIGHLY recommend that one if you don't have it) to 80 degrees, and then about an hour before we get home it'll go to 75. If it's cold in the house when we get home, I'll shut it off.

I managed to get through the whole weekend without turning on the a/c, although last night I turned on the fan- my a/c has an option to just blow air through the vents without running the chiller, and that works really well at night when the temperature drops outside but it's still hot in the house. I also had 2 ceiling fans on and that seemed to help.

Since replacing my light bulbs with CFLs, getting a nightlight for the kitchen and putting my computer on a power strip so it wasn't plugged in all day, I've reduced my electricity bill by 40 dollars a month!

Luckily I don't think this heatwave will last much longer, but my tomato plants are just loving it!

07 June 2008

Dear diary, today was very, very hot.

So, its like 100 degrees out. No exaggeration. I live in New England, where it goes from cool spring to hot summer in the blink of an eye. Last night was chilly, today it was Costa Rica. My garden sort of looked like an agricultural experiment- the hot weather lovers like the tomatoes grew about 3 inches, whereas the cold guys like the broccoli took on this wilted "kill me now" stance. It was almost funny. I picked some more lettuce, some peas and some rhubarb, and was excited to see some flowers on my Early Girl tomatoes. Yay!

We also went strawberry picking, which was so fun. I was reading the organic food thread on BHB last night (I get enough hits from MDU to know most people will know what I'm talking about) and Lemony said she eats "SLOW"food- seasonal, local, organic and whole. That is so cool because that is what I want to do and I love when things have cool names. So, we went and picked some seasonal local strawberries and it was awesome.

06 June 2008

I think so too, Jessica Lange.

Jessica Lange recently gave a commencement address at my very own alma mater, Sarah Lawrence College. In the speech, which has been in the news because she criticized the Bush administration (why that's news is beyond me, doesn't everyone criticize the Bush Admin at this point?), she said the following:

"I believe you've come of age in a complex and confusing time. The commercial forces surrounding you, the absence of meaningful culture, the constant assault by media, fashion, and entertainment. We have become a society that is placated by gadgets, soothed by consumerism and the empty rewards of upward mobility, the celebration of mediocrity and false celebrity, the obscurations of modern life. We need a sea change."

Either Jessica Lange reads the Year of Frugal Living blog, or we're totally on the same page here. I'm really very moved by this statement. Yesterday at work I was reviewing a library conference brochure, and the title of the conference was "Growing Communities." I know this is not what they meant, but when I saw that I got this spark of thought about communities, gardening, raising children in a consumerist world, and how this might be the point when all of this changes. Time moves faster now, if you're 20 years old today you were 13 when 9-11 happened, 14 when we went to war, you've seen nearly two thousand people die during hurricane Katrina, the tsunami take out 294 THOUSAND people, now the cyclone in Myanmar and the earthquake in China... time is not the same for this next generation. iPods are meaningless when life has taken on a new reality, and whether you believe these natural disaster are caused by global warming or not, for our children we need to change our priorities and our way of life. I've said before that I don't mind the gas prices, and I mean it. They've recently added more commuter trains in my area because of them. Traffic is down. People are carpooling. I head some teenagers who were working at Walmart discussing riding their bikes to work because "it's only three miles and if gas prices go to 7 bucks, it'll be worth it." I smiled.

Getting back to growing communities, carpooling, food gardening (on the rise due to the economy, seed suppliers are having their best year in a long time. Buy stock in Burpee.), public libraries... they all build community. Our children are growing up in a generation that will realize the need for this, even the kids who work at the Walmart in my post-industrial New England town.

Perhaps the sea is changing.

04 June 2008

Rhubarb. It's what's for dinner.

I'm going to start posting things I made for dinner, in an effort to give people ideas, and in the hope that PEOPLE COMMENT BACK WITH MORE IDEAS. PLEAASEEE????

Last night we had:

pizzas made with 2 pieces of garlic naan I got off the "yesterday's baked goods" shelf for a buck fifty, topped with sauce, reduced fat mozz, and one had olives and one had pineapple.

i had salad with lettuce from the garden, nasturtium leaves (peppery? those suckers were hot!), tomatoes, cukes, while the boys had carrots, tomaters and cukes with hummus.

then, i chopped up rhubarb, put it in a ramekin with some organic sugar (tastes different than reg sugar, I'm not being pretentious, I swear!) and baked at 400 for about 18 min. Topped with ice cream. 3 y/o dipped his carrots in it. I thought it was de-lish. I got the recipe from the comments in this post from You Grow Girl. Thank you!!!

cheap, fast and easy. just like me. :P

03 June 2008

The story of the Nalgene bottle (a product review)

As promised, here is the deal with the Nalgene bottles.

Once upon a time, Nalgene made awesome water bottles. Hippies used them, camping people used them, bicycle riding people used them, regular people even used them. Some had "Life is Good" or Dave Matthews Band stickers on them, some were pretty and pink, some were pee yellow with orange tops. They all smelled good, kind of like a chlorinated pool, and even when your bottle sat in your hot car all day, your water was warm but it tasted good.

But then came the dreaded email cancer. BPA, or Bispenol- A, has been shown to leach from plastics such as baby bottles into foods. So when a picture of my pink Nalgene appeared on this blog, a poster commented that they were phasing out the BPA bottles, and I contacted Nalgene to find out what was what.

In came a product called Tritan, made by Eastman. And with it came [in the mail] a new bottle, called the OTG ("On The Go") . So, I tried it, and it's a nice water bottle. It looks very similar, the only real difference I noticed was that the chlorine smell isn't really there. The water still tastes really good, but I don't smell it, which is sort of frightening. I guess I was smelling cancer causing chemicals and liking them. Anyway, I like this bottle, and I'm not just saying it because it was free, although I like it better because it was free.

If I were to buy one for myself, I'd probably pick the regular open mouth kind. I'm old school like that. I have a "plastic bags blow" sticker to put on it. But I'm sure you're not surprised at the ending of this story.

By the way, for the love of God, don't buy bottled water. Seriously. There's no reason for it. It's expensive, pollutes, and is silly. Why pay for something that comes out of your tap? I have a Brita filter, I change it every 3 months, I buy the filters at CVS with my extra care bucks. If you want to know more about it, I recommend this book. Literally.

01 June 2008

times to spend

So, I still spend money (obviously). I mean, I have to eat! But there are some times when I opt to spend a little more, and feel good about it.

I buy good food. I read the ingredients for everything I buy, and I try to toe the line between spending too much and buying good food. So, today when I went to stop and shop, I saw that they had tons of their organic food marked 50% off. I bought 3 things of flour, 2 things of granola, a bag of sugar, pancake mix, peanut butter, apple butter, a can of soup, 2 boxes of falafel mix, 4 boxes of couscous, 2 boxes of basmati, and a box of veggie "taco" filling for like 33 dollars. Then I got 8 center cut pork chops for more than 50% off, they were 5 dollars and change.

Another time I spend extra is when I need something and there is a local mom and pop that has it. I needed some bug control for my broccoli, so I went to the garden center and got neem oil spray, and sage, mint and nasturtium plants. I put them around my vegetables in a way I read about- basically, the sage and mint plus the rosemary I already had help repel the caterpillars and beetles that eat cabbage family plants, and nasturtiums repel squash flies so I put those near the squash plants. I also planted marigolds near the tomatoes for the same reason, plus they look so pretty.
When I was planting, I saw 3 good visitors- a bee, a big earthworm, and a ladybug. Hopefully my additions to the garden will keep attracting them.