Friday, August 15, 2008

one more thing...

before we go, one more thing. in honor of her 29th birthday, mama k is giving away a $29 GC to her store, non toxic tots. click to check it out!

wrapping up a frugal week. vacation!

we are off to the lake. there is no power. no telephone. (no bathroom!)
with the exception of M not being with us the whole time, it is heaven.
i will be off line for at least 10 days. be well.

i leave you with this:

here are some of the typical frugal activities that occurred in our house this week...
  • made bulk meals, some for eating, some for freezing for later-dinners, cookies, yogurt, baby food
  • made laundry soap
  • we ate from the garden
  • refilled bathroom hand soap container with free-after-rebate* shampoo
  • i waxed my own eyebrows and gave myself a simple pedicure :)
  • we composted
  • i watered the garden using water we emptied from lala's wading pool, before cleaning it
  • we hung all our laundry
  • i ironed instead of dropping clothes at the cleaners
  • we wore and used hand-me-down and thrift store finds
  • we cloth diapered
  • we used the library
  • we wrapped up the final of 8 swim classes for $31 through the city program
(and we aren't perfect or even close. i bought coffee once and lunch out once. i paid for lala's first haircut ever - although i do usually do those at home and will resume after a less than impressive haircut. i did buy new shoes and a new hat for lala, gender neutral so will keep for finn. there were other spendy moments that i can't think of now!)

*more on free-after-rebate items later, for those interested

garden joys

grocery update for the week 081008

here is my update for the week...

we hit up trader joe's for a few at-home groceries and a few for-the-lake groceries, but my brother paid for this lot.

my mom and i went to costco for all the last trip foods. total came to $170. i think we settled on splitting it 3 ways, which brings our portion in at ~$57. plus, while we were there, i bought honey, clementine oranges, oatmeal, and cheese for $27.79. (you would be shocked at how much cheese we went through making 2 lasagnas, a double batch of enchiladas, and feeding the 4 cheese eaters in this house the past week.) i also bought another set of packages of paper diapers for finn after LH told me how many she uses daily. $23.

so according to my spreadsheet, i am at $293.96, which is obviously over my $275 goal.

now, i do also have a travel category. it would be hard to determine what my spending would be if i lumped some of the expenses into that category. diapers and jarred baby food are obvious, but some of the foods i bought to make dishes to share with the group and some of what i contributed to our portion of general food for the week would have been spent anyway if and when i did a general shopping for our household.

so, even though there are 2 weeks left to the month, i am feeling good about my total, despite being over my goal. (only one of the two week left in the month are potential spending weeks for us. we will be at a cabin in the middle of no-where. we are boating in all of our food. i don't really have an opportunity to spend money!)

i will continue to track and let you all know what i actually total for the month of august.

as for meals, i tracked but it seems boring to post. we ate a lot of the same things as last week (i.e. as we usually do), although i tried to increase the protein a bit. a lot of vegetables, whole grain pasta and rice, some chicken, some tofu, loads of beans, cheese, and eggs.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

so...what is in a name, anyway?

i love names. i love something about 98% of the names out there. i chose the name that i did for this blog, because of my inability to narrow down from the fun choices available. i had the same problem with our daughter's name. for the first 2 years of her life, i felt various levels of distress over the apparent popularity of what i thought was a unique name. (although we don't know anyone else with the name now, we know others who do.) i have never posted it here before because of privacy, but her name is isabella, an italian one - very important - that i have loved since i heard it as a teenager, and M happened to fall in love with it too. i am over the distress, although, quite honestly, despite her given name being my favorite and extremely appropriate for her (we chose it after she was born and we met her), if i had to do it again, my distress lasted long enough after her birth, that i think i would suggest it as a middle name instead. (i am very into middle names, too!)

the funny thing is....think about names. what makes names seem beautiful, cute, odd, or awful to us?

isabella is a beautiful name and that is the reaction most people have when they hear it. she has 3 nicknames. (more than any kid needs.) lala, which is what M and i call her and she refers to herself as. bella, which is what my brother, all her preschool friends, and a couple other friends call her. and izzy, which is what her granny calls her and i used to call her (although granny spells it differently?!). she is also called isabella, of course! i am not sure why i stopped calling her izzy. i still think it is cute, but it isn't how she knows herself and all these names can get confusing for a little kid. and perhaps because M never called/calls her that. (he nicknamed her lala early on.) that said, whatever she chooses to go by as she gets older is fine with me. (i often joke she will ask to be called jane!)

how does one correct nicknaming? people often given nicknames without asking the person or parent, i have noticed. (yet when lala was born, we asked others what we should teach her to call them. our parents got to choose their grandparenting name, for example.) my mom's name is shortened, yet she never introduces herself as anything but her given name. same goes for me. my name is shortened and i never introduce myself or sign anything using anything other than my given name.

and finn? there has been so much confusion over his big sister's multiple names, that when he was born, we held up the list and decided which name fit him. only this time, we had thought about nicknames before we even put the name on the list!

too cute and for eph

too cute not to post. finn fell asleep in the middle of being fed yesterday morning. lala did this once. fell asleep while being fed. she was about the same age, too.

and for eph. i thought you would appreciate lala's new fashion use for the cute jacket you passed on to finn. laughed my butt off.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

the growing family

here is how it goes:
  1. when are you getting married?
  2. are you and having kids? when?
  3. are you having a second child?
  4. you must be done now [that you have one of each gender]

4. are you trying for a boy/girl [given that you have 2 girls/boys]

why is that? there is an order that this goes in for most people and when you get through kid number 2, the assumption is that they must try for the other gender if they have 2 of one gender already OR that they are done, because they completed the reproduction cycle by having one of each gender already.

so how about this in answer to number 4. we may or may not be done. we are both undecided. (i blame my brain on hormones, really, because i would have to be nutty to even wonder about this with a baby in the house and having just gotten over the "i have a newborn and a 3 year old, i am sleep deprived, i am going insane - no scratch that - i am insane" period.)

so why am i bringing this up if i actually have nothing to report? because 2007/2008 seem to be baby bonanza time (apparently, 2007 was the year of the pig, which is particularly fertile), and having had 2 kids, i know about gear. and i love to talk about babies and baby gear. so, since we don't know whether or not we are having number 3, and since i know what i liked for numbers 1 and 2 (aka lala and finn), here is my list. (GCW, everything i passed to you is good to have and use. i am listing here what i can bear to store or am too darned attached to to pass along. that or we are still using it, since finn is still a little guy. but that said, with kid #2, i stick to my belief that 90% of baby stuff is geared to the first 6 months.)

so, with that, and in no particular order:

  • digital camera
  • mei tai (mine is homemade, but it is much like the Kozy Carrier. the Ergo comes in second place at our house, but i have since learned of the Beco and am guessing that would out-do the Ergo for us.)
  • nylon bibs (IKEA makes some great, inexpensive ones)
  • Manhattan Baby Skwish, stacking cups, stacking rings. wooden toys preferred. and you know what lasted awhile with lala? fastex buckles.
  • cloth diapers (unbleached Chinese cotton prefolds), Snappi clips, and covers (Fuzzi Bunz and Proraps, if i can only list 2, but i have more to say. see here)
  • iPlay onesie extenders
  • bouncy seat
  • Exersaucer
  • Safety First space saver feeding seat
  • pack n' play
  • piddle pads - absorbent waterproof mats great for under a sheet, as a changing pad, or to line a car seat for the potty training kid.
  • Playtex sippy cups - they don't leak
  • New Native baby sling (mine is a hm knock off). perfect for cramming in a diaper bag!
  • stretchy swaddling blanket. we swaddled our own way with lala. with finn, we needed the Miracle Blanket (thanks, LH!).
  • Carter's long sleeved sleep sacks. Halo are great too and are made in bigger sizes, but they lack long sleeves!
  • Robeez leather slipper/shoes
  • baby bath or dish bucket, then a bath ring
  • Maclaren stroller (and i have been through a few strollers)
  • baby monitor
  • medical kit including thermometer, infant pain reliever, and bulb syringe. (you can make saline solution to use with this and i learned, with finn, how effective saline is. for adults too!)
  • a good car seat, if you have a car. we just did a convertible seat from day 1 with lala. just perfect! with finn, we had an infant seat. fabulous, as the poor babe got toted around with lala's schedule. the snap n' go stroller to go with it made for a great pair.
  • if you are spending time away from baby, a pump. i loved my ameda purely yours when i was working full time. for less hectic days and for night time "filler" pumping, my avent isis has been fabulous.
i reserve the right to come back and add as my mamma brain catches up with my fingers...

creativity:: 1

i can't post about some of my projects, since they are upcoming gifts, but what about other people's projects?

here is a crocheted sack RGW made for a bar of soap for M for xmas last year. i think she made it from natural hemp and it was a perfect little gift. it loofahs gently!

my aspired craft is sewing, but as we plan to head up to the lake (where there is no power), i am wishing i knitted or crocheted. as i visited carcocoknits' site for the umpteenth time, her current pile of yarn mentally landed me in my parents' living room as a 7 year old, smelling the piles of wool my mom wove on her loom.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


first swing

first real haircut by a pro

sometimes you just have to hit things

and then, sleep. ON tigger, of course

z is for zen

"z is for zen, which teaches that the world is one. zen culture, practiced throughout asia, emphasizes peace and simplicity and a thoughtful, disciplined way of life.

sitting quietly, doing nothing
spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.
from zenrin kushu"

from a is for asia, by cynthia chin lee

(and mind you, i was interrupted twice trying to post this and it was during quiet time! breathe in. breathe out.)

Monday, August 11, 2008

old and natural

i love old things and i love nature. i finally pruned some plants in our front yard. scratch that. our front garden. it seemed a waste to toss all the clippings in the compost, and they looked so nice next to our antique typewriters.

and a shout out to eph, who called to say hi and told me she checks my blog multiple times a day and to cm, who emailed saying she is a lurker here from up there in seattle. hi!

Saturday, August 9, 2008


both carocoknits and laura from my imaginary blogspot have recently posted about preparing for winter. i have been thinking about winter as well, but i admit, with the exception of insulation installation and exterior painting we want done before the wet and cold seep in, the mental planning i have been doing has been in the form of holiday planning and gift giving. i guess all of you in our lives who read my blog will now be informed we are having a creative christmas this year. i have some projects currently underway, some completed, and some planned for a little close to the actual holiday, but this year, we are keeping the holidays simple and hopefully sweet. doing so has meant being organized and thinking carefully about each person and what we think might really be appreciated or at least appropriate. i am excited by working on projects for others and just by keeping the holiday as homemade as possible.

grocery challenge, week of 080308

so how is the grocery challenge going for those of you who joined me?
i have already determined that it is unlikely that i will meet my goal of $275 for the month for groceries/household/toletries, but i will keep trying. here is why, in no particular order:
  1. i forgot to budget for my brother, who will be with us half the month.
  2. i forgot that going to the lake means buying some items i wouldn't normally buy due to no power up there. (for example, i bought a number of prepackaged foods i don't normally buy and i had to buy disposable overnight diapers for lala. i had already bought disposables for finn. both are normally in cloth, although lala only needs them for night time.)
  3. bulk dry milk powder is hard to come by and we are almost out. when i find the kind we like in bulk, i will be stocking up, and that will take a hit.
  4. i am able to, but simply unwilling, to give up a few grocery treats, such as wine. yet.
here is what i have spent so far and what it bought:
a melon, a big bag of carrots, sweet potatoes, organic strawberries, organic nectarines, organic red lettuce, organic romaine lettuce, mushrooms, bell peppers, bulk wheat germ, grapes, onions, and tofu.
$19.99 produce market

package of overnight diapers for lala
$13.04 long's drugs

lasagna noodles, 8 avocados, 2 chocolate bars, 8 prepackaged individual size organic applesauces, 6 bottles wine, pint half & half, can black beans, box of Os cereal (price went up!), package of fresh italian sausage, dozen eggs, 5 organic bananas.
$41.80 trader joe's

from costco, so think bulk sized: flour tortillas (wish they carried whole wheat flour tortillas!), 3 blocks monterey jack cheese, block (6lb!) mozzarella, salsa, 3 #10 cans tomato sauce, 2 gallons organic milk, cottage cheese, spinach, 3lb organic strawberries, bagged frozen veggies, wedge gran padano (cheaper than parmigiana), and a case of tomato paste.
$99.48 costco

6 jars baby food, 1 box baby cereal, 1 package teething biscuits, 1 package fig bars
$14.01 local natural foods market. can you believe that little cost so darn much? no wonder i don't buy it anymore! (it is all for the lake.)

total spent by 8/10 = $188.32. ummm. yikes.

here is what i listed we could eat. here is what we actually ate:

sunday: B: oatmeal with nectarines for breakfast. L: garden burgers on whole wheat bread. D: shrimp/veggie stir fry for dinner.

monday: B: oatmeal with strawberries. L: stir fry leftovers for M, mom treated me to burrito. D: salad, fries, and shake during mamma night out (MNO) for me, pork and veggies for M.

tuesday: B: egg and toast (hm wheat oat bread). L: stir fry leftovers, hardboiled (hb) egg for M, quesadilla, beans and rice with homegrown tomatoes for me. D: whole wheat pasta with hm red sauce (using leftover ravioli fillings and leftover marinated onions, and homegrown tomatoes that were pureed and frozen), romaine salad. pork for M.

wednesday: B: egg and homemade (hm) toast. L: pasta, hb egg, cottage cheese for M, bean and rice burrito and veggies for me. D: red leaf lettuce salad with tuna, crumbled blue cheese, veggies, and hm dressing on it. melon on the side.

thursday: B: hm granola. L: beans and rice, cottage cheese, hb egg, and carrot for M and carrots and corn tortilla quesadilla for me. D: hm pesto pasta, romaine salad w/ homegrown tomatoes, sausage for M.

friday: B: egg and toast. L: beans and rice for me, thai chicken salad for M. D: pasta with portabello mushroom and blue cheese, spinach salad with strawberries.

saturday: B: egg and toast. L: chicken salad for M, hm burrito for me. D: hm pizza.

(this was really helpful for me as, ummm....notice a trend with me and beans and a dinner trend of pasta? that one package went a lonnng way. seriously, though, i did note that we were not balancing our proteins and whole grain carbs as well as we usually do/used to do.)

finn's foods were consistently homemade baby cereal, hm yogurt, home cooked and pureed veggies and fruits, hardboiled egg yolk, tofu, and Os cereal. i do use some organic formula mixed into cereal for him (pediatrician recommended for mild anemia), but all the formula i have used has been given free to me. (note to parents...sign up for free samples and/or ask your pediatrician for samples if you need to use formula for any reason.)

lala's foods are consistently smaller portions of what M and i eat (she is not a vegetarian) or preschooler sized 4-part meals of carb (noodles, rice, bread, oats), protein (cheese, chicken, tofu, egg, peanut butter, nuts), fruit (all sorts), and veggie (all sorts...favorite is broccoli. can't beat that!)

image from:

frugal is the new black

so says msnbc.
thanks BAM for the link.

Friday, August 8, 2008

how now milk cow?

i have been trying to purchase certain foods organically (see the daily green's dirty dozen). but my budget is starting to stumble on milk. i paid $5.49/gallon for organic 1% milk today at costco, and that is cheap. the only beverages routinely available in our house are milk and water. sigh...

what are you doing about rising food prices? what foods do you worry most about?

image from:

Thursday, August 7, 2008

a day through a tightwad lens

last week i blogged my entire week from a frugal perspective. i thought it was too darn long, so it is saved in my blog list, unposted. how about frugal snippets? today was the first time i drove the car in the last 3 days. since i was finally getting into the car, i figured i had better make the most of my gas, so the kids and i left the house early and picked up 2 freecycle items, did some grocery shopping at trader joe's, went to the library for story hour and to turn in the kids' completed summer reading program cards, and then stopped at a neighbor's for chicken salad she insisted would go bad while she was out of town.

so we did spend money (groceries....more on that at the end of the week when i do a grocery budget check in), but we got a load of stuff free. (and i packed a snack bag so i could safely tell lala "no" to things at the grocery store.) we got 2 containers of chicken salad (M will eat it), an EcoMetro guide (super score, these are $20 in the store), a "new" sun shield for my car window, and summer reading prizes. each kid got to choose a book from the book cart (lala chose for finn) and coupons for the following: a personal sized pizza, an ice cream cone, entry (or discounted entry) to the ice rink, 3 local science/natural museums, and fairyland!

we came home to host granny for a visit and lunch, quiet time, and this afternoon we'll stick close to home, take a walk, and do some home chores. those will include basics like taking dry laundry off the clothes line and folding it (i have 2 big mountains worth. i always procrastinate folding laundry), washing cloth diapers, making a Costco shopping list, and pulling together ingredients to make the 2 big dinner dishes (lasagna and enchiladas, and sides) and the breakfast items (oatmeal, quick bread, and granola) i am responsible for during our family vacation. i also need to make a sewing items list. basically, it is a get-organized afternoon!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


please recycle recently posted (with huge response) about ants on her blog. the local ants must have read the post, because they showed up at our house. i tried my frugal, enviro friendly remedy yet again and poof! they are gone.
honey and borax, with enough borax that you aren't just feeding the colony. mix the two in a dish and put it as close to where you think the ants are entering as you can.

the lake

every year since i can remember (since before i was born?), we have gone up to a family friend's very rustic cabin (think: outhouse, no power) with my family. this year, that trip is the week after next. my excitement plummeted today, when, for the third year (the length of time M has been at his current job), he was told he can't have the time off after all. the past 2 years, he has managed a weekend with us, let's hope he can this year, too. so i am just posting out of frustration for M. he has been coming up with my family since we were in high school (he and my brother are best friends), so i have so many memories of him there, and it seems unfair that we can't seem to make new ones as a new little family of our own. and crap, the guy hasn't had a real vacation (other than our camping trip last april) in 4 years.

photo: M and lala at the lake her first year (she was 11 mo at the time and i laugh as i realize finn is not only bigger currently at 8 mo, but is just as mobile!)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

hide and seek muffins and friends

for her birthday last year, lala received a copy of pretend soup from grandma and nonno, and it recently became a favorite book of hers, even for bedtime reading. today, we had little friend JGH over for a baking date.

we all had a wonderful time!

hide and seek muffins:
1.5 C flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/4 C sugar
2 eggs
1 C milk
1/2 t vanilla
4 T melted butter
12 medium sized strawberries
2 to 3 T sugar for the strawberries

break and beat the eggs, melt the butter, mix and add milk and vanilla.
mix milk mixture into flour mixture.
pour lined muffin pan cups half way full of batter.
roll strawberries in sugar and press a strawberry into the center of each muffin.
bake 15-20 minutes at 375 F.

happy 8 months (already?) to F

(and happy 9 mo to SKM!)

in a onesie made by GCW for his big sister

testing out his new (to him) pack n' play (for napping) with guidance from his sister

last nap/sleep in his bassinet.

bunny boy

happy birthday JMC!

joining the 4 year club today!

Monday, August 4, 2008


happy birthday, mom!
my camera battery conked out right before photos of grandma blowing out the candle on her cake, so i have to rely on the photos from her camera...which i don't have. here is one from echo last summer. 2 good hikers and fat, preggo me.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

meal list 080308

okay, for the week of august 3....
today we had garden burgers (i need to find a good recipe for making my own) and nectarines for lunch and shrimp and veggie stir fry over rice for dinner. there was enough leftover to pack a container for M's lunch tomorrow. we have quite a bit of leftover rice.

here are some dinners we can make with what we have already (i am no chef and we don't eat with abundant variety, but meals are healthy and usually tasty!):
pork/fish and rice, vegetables, applesauce
bean burritos/tacos/tostadas
pasta or lasagna (we have some marinated onions and leftover ravioli filling, which will be great on pasta or on pizza, above)
baked pasta casserole
minestrone and quesadillas or grilled cheese

today, i defrosted homegrown tomatoes (pureed and frozen), beans, pork, and homemade applesauce (good with the pork and good baby food).

i am a vegetarian (no red or white meat), M and lala are not. beans are our staple. we buy them in bulk and always have some cooked up (and frozen). we also always have some assortment of frozen veggies on hand (the ultimate kid friendly convenience food. lala's favorite food is broccoli.)

lunches usually consist of leftovers and/or some bean based dish. we are striving to do a food/fitness plan that has us eating 6 small protein/whole carb meals a day, so if i only list lunch, the lunch may have been eaten over the course of a few hours and/or been small and supplemented with a hardboiled egg, cottage cheese, or some other protein heavy small food.

lala's food is the same as ours or a simple, small meal of carb, protein, veggie, fruit.
finn is a new eater and his repertoire is small. hm yogurt, hm baby cereal, some basic veggies (pureed), some basic fruits (pureed), and Os cereal.

okay, so in reading my dialog, above, i realize it sounds like i cook 4 different meals for 4 people. i don't. or maybe i do in a way. i tend to cook in bulk, so, for example, on a night M has chicken, it is because i cooked up a big batch of him and lala. there is generally enough for several meals for the 2 of them.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

great news!

my mom met with her doctors this week and although she does indeed have a tumor in her lung (for which surgery will soon be scheduled), the tumor in her abdomen turned out to have been a gastro tumor, which they were able to remove entirely. it appears she won't even need chemo for this particular cancer. she is healing well from the surgery and is doing wonderfully. i think so much of this has to do with all the wonderful and generous well wishes and good thoughts.

about that $275

okay, so about my august budget of $275....
i should mention that for us, our grocery budget includes health and body items (but not prescriptions) and household items (like laundry soap...which i rarely buy anymore).
it will also include all our meal contributions to a family week away (on a lake with no road access, so we have to boat/paddle in all our food). and we have some food stashed in the chest freezer.
i am going to try and plan meals (or at least a list of meals we can eat with foods we already have) each sunday for the week ahead, and then i will post what we actually eat.
and i bought our first groceries for the month. we stopped at the local produce market (the one i love and have learned is the cheapest!) i spent $19.99 on: a melon, a big bag of carrots, sweet potatoes, organic strawberries, organic nectarines, organic red lettuce, organic romaine lettuce, mushrooms, bell peppers, bulk wheat germ, grapes, onions, and tofu.

Friday, August 1, 2008

oh, oh oatmeal!

carocoknits posted about this lovely whole grain oatmeal wheat bread and these tasty oatmeal cookies. i made both today. healthy and delicious!
i also made a chocolate cake for my parents' birthday celebration and a batch of yogurt. i used my recipe for the yogurt, but want to try carocoknit's recipe next time.

edited to add: M came home early and was dying to make ravioli! (he is the good chef - who enjoys it - but i am the regular cook.) so he did!

(and yes, per my post below, i will post meals for the month as i go!)

planning a food budget

and the key word is planning.
i have been lacking organization and have not been planning ahead when shopping and preparing meals. not only have i not prepared a meal plan for the week, each week, but one of the things that has eaten into our budget the most are gatherings for which we have needed to bring food or guests we need to serve food to.
according to the USDA food plan from 2007, a thrifty food budget for our family of 4 would be $474.50 per month. (the low, moderate, and liberal plans would have us spending $596, $728.20, and $902.40, respectively.) i am embarrassed to admit we spent more than the thrifty amount in july, but our budget goal is lower than this, so here i am being honest and starting over for august onward.

so my goal is to plan ahead. each week, i need to look at the calendar for the week ahead, come up with some doable meal ideas for our family (dinners are the biggie for us, as we are fairly routine with breakfasts and i try and make extra dinners, so we eat leftovers for lunches) and to make sure i leave time to make nice foods for occasions when we need to serve or bring dishes.

here is august 1. if i post this, i have to actually try to stick to it. since we went way over our budget for july, i am going to try and come in well under, so my goal is $275. think i can do it? i am not so sure, but i will give it a shot!

image from:

Thursday, July 31, 2008

click click shopping done

i have been thinking about how i shop these days. i have been slowly edging time into my routines for things i enjoy again. one of the things that hasn't made it back in is thrift store and yard sale shopping, despite the lovely summer weather. and i miss it! the lack of it is partly due to time, partly due to my desire to drive less, and partly due to my need to purge, not acquire, and used stuff is so tempting whether we need it or not!

i realize i (the person who is semi-trying to do The Compact) met a lot of our shopping needs at Target last week, to the tune of a higher price. but sometimes i am willing to pay for convenience and i am not normally a new retail therapy kinda girl. (the store that sees the most new item, non-food purchases is Costco, where we buy underwear and the basics like that!)

without real life thrift shopping, i have been meeting many of our needs with craigslist and freecycle. occasionally eBay.

but when it comes to online shopping, the world is at our fingertips. how do i save even more? search for your item through a price comparison website like my simon. find online coupon codes through flamingo world. and shop through a upromise account to have a percentage of your purchase go towards your child's (or your!) college fund. (upromise even allows family members' shopping sprees to go toward your child's account, but i haven't convinced anyone else in our families to sign up yet.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

snaps of joy

i was reading something someone else wrote about blogs. that so often we see only the most joyous part of a person's life/day, because that is what so many people choose to blog about. here are a few photos of joy, because i have now come to the end of a very rough afternoon (the kind where as a SAHM, bedtime cannot seem to come soon enough) and i not only need the reminder, but i also realize i am generally a more real blogger and that sometimes i don't post enough about the joyous moments.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

recipes a la nonna A

these are tasty, easy, and nutritious recipes from my grandma (nonna A)

impossible pie
(a crustless quiche. here is my homemade biscuit mix recipe.)
2 C chopped broccoli, lightly steamed
1/2 C chopped onion
3/4 C Bisquick
1.5 C milk
1/2 C chopped green pepper
1 C shredded cheese
3 eggs
1 t salt
1/4 t pepper

grease 10" pie pan. mix broccoli, onion, green pepper, and cheese in pie plate. beat remaining ingredients in a bowl until smooth, pour into pie plate. bake until brown and knife comes out clean, about 40 min at 400 F. let stand 5 minutes before serving. serves up to 8.
nea's notes: i have successfully use a variety of vegetables. my most recent pie had 2.5 C defrosted frozen veggie stir fry mix instead of broccoli and onion, although onion and bell pepper have a delicious balance to the egg. also, i only ever use my homemade baking mix.

blackberry* cobbler
*i use whatever fruit i have on hand.
1 quart (4 C) blackberries (or chopped fruit of another variety)
2 C sugar
1 C flour
1 stick butter
1.5 t baking powder
pinch of salt
2/3 C milk

stir berries/fruit and 1 C sugar. set aside. make batter of flour, 1 C sugar, baking powder, salt, and milk. melt butter in baking pan (9x13). add half the batter into pan, blend with butter. put berry mixture on top of batter, then top with remaining batter. do not mix. bake at 350 F until crust is golden brown, about 45 min.
nea's notes: you may want to use less sugar, depending on the fruit. 2 C makes it very sweet. you also may want to use less butter.

Monday, July 28, 2008

pesto, frugality, creativity, and other summer things

look what erin at frugal living has to say about rain barrels. definitely on my want and our 'to do' list.

read a Simple Mom interview with Amanda Soule, author of the Soule Mama blog and a book about being creative with your family. (i would love to be as creative and make things as simply fun and beautiful as she does, but i don't think it will ever happen.)

today only, download a FREE copy of Money Management by Tawra Jean Kellam

and the basil above? in my garden. here is my pesto recipe:

2 C basil (or, for a little something different, any green herbs such as, mint, arugula, or cilantro)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 C pine nuts (you can omit, as they are pricey, or use other seeds or nuts)
1/4 to 1/2 C olive oil (consistency varies to taste)
1/4 C parmesan, grated
salt to taste

combine in the food processor until smooth. freezes well. serve over pasta, chicken, seafood, veggies, on pizza, or use as a dip.


happy birthday, dad!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

use less stuff

lurkers come out of hiding!
i will give this copy of use less stuff to a randomly selected reader. just leave a comment between now and august 17. (lurkers or regular posters welcome! if i don't already have it, please include your email address.)

dang it, people

lay off, would you? this must be the age of verbal reamings for M and me. we are not malicious people. quite the opposite. we are kind, caring, well intended people who are trying to get by, raise our kids right, and enjoy each day. we are not trying to make your life miserable and in verbally abusing us, you are screwing up your kharma.
now back off.

(M was working on the house this evening and adding to other verbal attacks, our neighbor (again) yelled at him for making too much noise. jeez, it was barely even our kids' bedtime and the whole darn house will fall on his house if he doesn't back off and let us work on it!)

we can't seem to do right by anybody. oh well, at least we still like each other. :)

what is frugality?

according to merriam webster's dictionary, frugality is:
characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources

and per merriam webster's thesaurus, other words for frugality include:
economy, husbandry, providence, scrimping, skimping, thrift; and related words include:
conservation, saving; miserliness, stinginess; discretion, prudence

to me, frugality is an entertaining challenge. the thrill of the hunt for a good bargain. a way to use money as a tool to the best of our ability. a means to a goal. it allows us some security and flexibility. it is a way to help the earth conserve environmental resources. it is not about stinginess (as noted in the related words, above). in fact, we are generally far spendier on others than we would be on ourselves.

where am i going with this? this is a jumping off point for me to remind myself what M's and my goals are. in the past 4 years, M and i have slipped further from the thrifty couple we used to be. the addition of a fixer upper and first child to our full time work schedules meant more expenses and fewer DIY activities. now, however, we have one less income, one more child, and still have the fixer upper, so re-discovering our frugal roots is mandatory. add a poor economy and a hurting earth and it seems critical that we do our little part.

during the month of july, we have gone back to tracking our spending. i have been completing our spreadsheet and so far, we have a few clear leaks. the biggest of these is our grocery budget, so my first goal, for august, is to see if i can get this down. one of the hardest things for me is meal planning. odd, i know, because if you know me, you know i tend to be very organized and schedules work well for me. so that is my first better plan our food purchasing and consumption.

wish me luck!

Saturday, July 26, 2008


happy one-day-belated birthday to M's mom!

update on my mom

my mom has been sprung from the hospital! she came home yesterday with a column of staples up her abdomen. her prognosis looks good, however, and although we don't have pathology reports back yet, the surgeon did not think it looked like ovarian cancer. (that does not mean it isn't another type of cancer, just not ovarian.) she had 3 inches of intestines removed along with the planned hysterectomy, so she is taking foods lightly now.

thank you to everyone who has called, emailed, visited, offered food, sent flowers, gifts, and well wishes. it has really meant a lot to all of us, especially my mom, who has had the most positive kick butt attitude about this.

Friday, July 25, 2008

notable and quotable

Amy Dacyczyn says "frugality, without creativity, is deprivation."
so don't forget to have fun while watching those pennies! what did you do today that was economical? i spent money today, but it was all planned, i stuck to the list, and i combined errands. thanks to LH for letting me shop child-free due to our baby trade fridays!

lala says, "i am so glad we have finn!" (melt a mamma's heart)

and she says:

lala: "what a pain in the butt!"
me: "a what?"
lala: "pain in the butt!"
me: "who did you learn that from?!"
lala: "you!"


Thursday, July 24, 2008

mei tai completed

i finished the mei tai (asian baby carrier) that i had intended to make early in my pregnancy with finn (i.e. a year ago)! i know most people swear by the ergo, and we have one, but i always reach for my mei tai first.

i should be more thrilled than i am. it did not come out as well as the one i made for lala 2 years ago. i love that one and use it all the time, but the leg spread has been too wide for finn. i have carried him froggy legged until now, but he really has been ready to spread his legs out. now he can, although if i were to start over, i wouldn't rush the sewing at the end (where all my noticeable mistakes are, and there are a lot, although none affect the integrity of the carrier, just my pride). i would also make it narrower at the bottom and wider at the top. it didn't occur to me to do this until it was done and i put him in it.

here are the ones i made, the dark one on top is the new, smaller one, and the one on the bottom is the original bigger one. (can you tell i love stripes?) if you want one and sew, i used this man-tai pattern. if you don't sew, check out kozy carriers.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

poof! reset!

the first 5 months of finn's life, i was clearly struggling to find the ground under my feet. each day was a new set of challenges, always overshadowed by complete exhaustion. thank you to those of you who are parents of young children and who so recently remembered the newborn stage and were able to tell me that 6 months would be a marker to look forward to. for me, a shift came at 5 months, probably in good part because we got lala mostly potty trained and finn mostly sleep trained. those first months were also raw for me, as i was simultaneously adjusting to being a SAHM. (i am still missing working outside the home, but that is another post.)

the past 2 months have since brought a stair step of changes, as though i am ratcheting forward toward our ideal life. both major and minor events both propel me and force me to stop and take stock.

i am not even sure what it was, but today has been another 'take stock' day. i spent the morning at home doing all my usual boring wednesday chores. (wednesday is my weekly chore morning, for anyone who cares about the mundane activities of a parent and homeowner.) something felt different, though. i was taking pleasure in the nooks and crannies of my garden, the way the sunlight fell behind finn, making it look as though he had a halo, and the remainder of my sewing project waiting for me.

it felt good to recognize pleasure in the little things, because sometimes (often) we move too quickly and try and do too much to focus on them. and it somehow renewed my determination to economize our household a bit more. i have been a lot of talk and little action on this front. it was too easy to buy that $2.25 sherbet cone (you can buy a half gallon for that!) for lala when she was unbelievably good through a long a series of errands and somehow that box of unhealthy sugar sweetened cereal just slipped into my cart.

what do you all care? probably not much, but it is my long winded way of saying i have had (yet another) frugal epiphany and while we are still budgeted to enjoy little luxuries like lunch out and the occasional date night, i am back to paying more attention to our spending and saving, and i am going to blog more about it. it is possible to live nicely and less expensively, and with food, gas, and just about everything sky rocketing, everyone (even those of you who much prefer not to think about money) probably needs a little dose of saving in style.

about my soapbox

i realize i come and post these environmental tirades from my soapbox and then have trouble practicing what i preach 100%. okay, even 80%. looking around my own home, i see chemicals we could do without, products we should do without, and products and materials we should substitute with something healthier and more earth friendly.

so now, as i purge my 5 items a day, i am carefully thinking about what i will replace them with. in some cases, the answer is frugal (try cardboard and mulch to squelch blackberry vines instead of round up) and in some cases it is more expensive (replacing some of the kids' cups and toys with safer models).

my latest bit of health research has been on plastics, since finn is putting everything in his mouth, and on skin products, like the sunblocks i have been using on the kids. the washington post had a great article with links to all sorts of resources for finding the safest plastic products, one of the best of which is HealthyToys. the environmental working group (great resource!) has a database for searching the safety level of hundreds of health products. and of course, lucky me, my dad is a phd chemical engineer, so i also get the inside scoop!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

yum, cheeseboard pizza at home.

1 T dry yeast
1.5 C warm water
2 T olive oil
1.5 t kosher salt
3.5 to 4 C bread flour

in the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the yeast into the warm water until dissolved. let stand 5 minutes. add olive oil, salt, and 2 C of the flour. using the paddle attachment on low speed for 5 minutes to form a wet dough. switch to the dough hook, add 1.5 C more flour, and mix on medium speed for 5 minutes. add the remaining 1/2 C flour a tablespoon at a time to form a soft dough with a nice sheen. it should be sticky, but not wet.

form the dough into a ball and place in a large, oiled bowl. turn dough to cover it with oil. cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft free place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

adapted from the cheeseboard collective works

update on my mom

so, my mom came through surgery really well. she looks great, although is in some pain, controlled a bit by medication. she cannot eat or drink and will be hospitalized through the week, but overall the surgeon thinks her prognosis is better than expected. yayayay. now we wait for results...


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