Saturday, November 27, 2010

Currently I'm Reading....

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

I've only completed the first chapter and already I'm wanting to move. Not out of this city, or this state; more like out of this country. Kingsolver writes a "year of food life" in where her family moves from Arizona to Virginia where things like growing your own food and eating within your region are possible without such drastic measures as in the Southwest. She mentions something that really peaks my interest called the French Paradox (which funny enough I just read about in Julie and Julia, also a great read): the French can eat and eat rich and heavy foods and yet stay slim without 24hr gyms and detox diets. Why? Well the claim is, according to Kingsolver, the French "consume many courses in a meal...portions of the fatty ones tend to be tiny...and they draw out meals sociably." She also discusses the freshness of their ingredients and the skimping on quality they refuse to do. I've never been to France (sad face) but I have been to Greece, and I find the same theory applies there as well. When we ate "out" in Greece, it was always with friends, the main course being coffee and tobacco with a little food thrown in. When eating at home, there seemed to be just enough food for everyone, which didn't tempt us into overeating. Snacks consisted of fruit from the trees outside, a piece of bread (bought or baked daily) with feta, or olives. My favorite indulgence was fresh chocolate milk, which came in a very small container like a delicacy. Even the soda, one liter bottles only, came as carbonated orange juice. And as I read this book, I wonder, why did I ever leave?

It makes me sad to think that not only could my poor eating habits be making me unhealthy (chubby), but maybe my government, my country, are contributing as well. It is very unsettling; a feeling that you cannot escape it. I'm hoping this read has a happy ending because the last thing my husband needs to hear is: "I changed my mind about the east coast, let's just hop the ocean while we're at it!"

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cloth Diapers...what was I thinking..

So when you have a baby there are two things right off the bat that empty the wallet: formula and diapers. When people cringe and say, "We can't afford a baby!" they are most likely thinking of the ridiculous cost of keeping a kid full and the pee off the couch. When I told the husband I wanted a baby, my "business proposal" contained the stipulation that I would use cloth diapers, because my Mom used them on me, they are good for the environment, keep diaper rash at bay, and save you money if you diaper more than one child. He looked at me like, "you're gonna put poop in our washer?" But since I would be master-diaperer he thought it sounded good. I got a newborn cloth diaper stockpile from a friend who was in between kids; I didn't want to invest until I was sure I could do it.

Well baby came and those cloth diapers sat in a box. I had diapers as shower gifts and some earth-friendly ones I got on sale (for outings and road trips) and I got sucked in by how easy it was. Take it off, in the trash it goes along with the nasty wipes too. I was running on empty: the only laundry that got done was my husband's uniforms, and I was lucky to shower. So I convinced myself I would start cloth diapering once I had the time to actually wash them. Then D-Day arrived: Tabitha started sleeping through the night. We were rested and now I had no excuse. I pull out the box of cloth diapers and........none of them fit! I had waited too long. Oh well, disposables, welcome back! Well then my greenness kicked in...........

I knew it was awful to be putting all these diapers into the landfill, with poop in them for God's sake, and I'd read about all of the chemicals in the diapers and so on, and I just told myself that like it or not I needed to cloth diaper. I met with a mom from Craigslist and got a variety or cloth diapers to see which kinds I liked: all-in-ones, all-in-twos, prefold, pocket, I'm-an-origami-magician whatever. My husband waits in the car while I haggle; when I get in with my bag full-o-diapers and my pockets empty, he flips. He can't believe that I've just spent a buck fifty on cloth diapers that will require me to touch poop and pee, and even worse, require him to touch poop and pee. We get home and after initial stripping and washing, I begin.

What was I thinking? I can't get the stupid things to fit her right because she is super skinny, and the elastic doesn't get tight enough around her legs so there is pee everywhere, and I assume there isn't enough absorption going on so I pad it some more..nope that doesn't help. What sucks is that they really are beautiful things: they have cute prints, and the fleece wicks moisture away from the bum so it's like she is sitting on a fluffy cloud. But I am dunking poop-covered diapers into the toilet, and the stuff isn't coming off because thanks to starting cereal this kid is excreting glue. I am determined though, because as a wife I will not let my husband say, "I told you so." Tabitha spends her days in her colorful cloth nappies, covered by shorts or pants so I can easily tell when she has wet through...oh yea, and I have to warn people who pick her up. But I really do love not having to run to the store for diapers. Dear Earth, you'd better be happy.....

Friday, October 29, 2010

Damn you Morgan Spurlock!

I can't believe it has been over a year since I've posted. A lot has happened since then, a lot of bad, and tons of good. Most importantly, I became a new mommy to a beautiful baby girl, Tabitha. So many things have changed for me. My frugal life has been turned upside down, and it's all your fault Morgan Spurlock.

A few years ago, a show aired weekly called 30 Days, where Morgan Spurlock (director) and other volunteers spent thirty days in the shoes of someone else, sometimes their complete opposite. My husband and I would watch together, me taking the PETA activist's side while he took the game hunter's side, me the commune hippie, him the city dweller. You get the idea.
A free trial for Netflix came up, and since the last 5 months I've been posted up in the house, waiting for the depths-of-Texas-hell-heat to die down, I figured I could use some moooovies. 30 days had been running episodes on Planet Green and I thought to myself that I had never seen Super Size Me (if you've never seen it, there's no time like the present.) I think, when it came out, I was afraid to watch it. Like most Americans, I am afraid of the truth. Ignorance is bliss let me tell ya. So there I was, baby in my arms watching a harmless documentary about fast food.

Damn you Morgan Spurlock! Because of your movie I no longer eat most fast food. Because of you I question every advertisement, every company, every school lunch program. A chain reaction began of documentaries, books, articles, research and a world turned upside down. Because of you I no longer "take their word for it." By the way, thanks Morgan.

Here is my current life in a nutshell: I've realized that things we hold to be truths are no such thing, and we are lied to so much we might as well be friggin North Korea. Having a baby has made me want a better life, a cleaner more sustainable life, on a budget, with a Texan husband who thinks Cinnamon Toast Crunch 'made with whole grains' is healthy food. Watch me squirm!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Daily Chores

If you are like me, then you usually can only get to the necessities each day when it comes to chore; things like dishes, a load of laundry, and putting on a new roll of toilet paper. I used to save all of the cleaning for one or two days, and I would be exhausted in a stiff position on the sofa by the time I was done. My feet and back would hurt, and anyone who dare enter my home with shoes on would get a whooping. But then I found Motivated Moms. This site offers a downloadable chore list for every day (or in a weekly format) that makes getting little tasks done that much easier. Instead of worrying, "Should I wash the mirrors today or turn the mattress, oh wait I forgot to dust the picture frames and Shoot! did I take the meat out?" I just do a little bit each day.

What I love about the planner is that it contains tasks for an entire year, so daily things like TAKE OUT THE TRASH are included as well as CLEAN BOTTOM SHELF OF REFRIGERATOR. It also accounts for gift giving and self-pampering. The site does charge a small fee for the planner, and some people might think that they could make one of these on the own. I thought about that too, until I realized that I would let my assign 189 tasks for each day. Sometimes, it is better to let someone (or something) else run the show!

Monday, August 10, 2009

My Notebook

I have forever been a clipper. I clip snippets out of everything - from magazines, to newspapers, to greeting cards, to flyers. I save everything. Whether it is a cool idea, or a pretty picture or saying, I save it. Most stuff ends up glued in my journal, for inspiration or for a laugh. Some stuff ends up in my scrapbooks. And the rest end up in my frugal notebook. I started a notebook a few years ago to keep all of the great money-saving ideas that I came across, didn't have time to implement, but didn't want to forget.

This weekend I realized that my little notebook was serving me no purpose because it wasn't very organized. I have OCD when it comes to notebook organization. In school, if I have to scribble my notes super fast because the teacher is hopped up on coffee, then I come home that night and REWRITE them. I blame it on the Catholic school military-style handwriting drills.

I decided to switch to a binder with dividers for all the different sections of my frugal life: Groceries, Household, Gifts, Holidays, Health and Beauty, etc. Then I transposed all of my tidbits! on looseleaf and stuck them into the appropriate sections. I feel so much better...Ahh the organizational itch has been scratched!

So, if you don't have one of these handy dandy notebook binder thingies, you should start one. When I'm feeling frisky, I flip through and try out a new idea. That is how I have come to where I am now, by doing one little thing at a time.

On another note, thanks to the hype of Julie and Julia, I decided to start reading the original blog that this movie is based on, called the Julie/Julia Project. It is a hilarious read, especially if you like food, alcohol, and curse words.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Woes of College Textbooks

I am playing a bit of catch up when it comes to school, and this fall I will be taking 18 hours. That is six classes at the junior and senior level. And I have 21 required books! Insane yes, because not only is that a lot of dough out of my pocket, but I have to manage to read all 21 books in one semester. I figured I would start ordering now so I could get a jump start on the reading, at least the novels. I got on to my school's bookstore site to get the new and used prices of all the books I needed. Then I researched prices on the internet and found most of my books at exceptional prices on sites such as Ebay and TextbooksRUs. I did have a hefty order at AbeBooks, but they cancelled my order without explanation after all of that searching and comparing, so I won't be dealing with them again. A few suggestions I have for the college book bonanza are:
  • Always note the publisher, year, and edition: some editions have extra inserts that you might need
  • Don't buy from your school bookstore unless it is a new edition with an required online component; they will always be overpriced
  • Don't mind the condition of the books; I used a book that someone had dropped in the tub, but it was still readable and was dirt cheap
  • Look for books with notes in the margin; the previous owner might have made a good point that you didn't think of
  • Check for students in your area getting rid of their books; they also are a great source of information if they had the same professor as you
  • When ordering from online sites, always go through Ebates to get some cash back
  • Keep all receipts in case it is the wrong book

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Scrapbooking on a Budget

I am a devoted scrapbooker. Every moment I get to myself I hide in my little corner of the house and work on the endless pictures and momentos that never stop accumulating. Lately, I have been working on our wedding album which has over 300 pictures. Because I am constantly scrapping and have zero room in my budget for a hobby, I do the best with what I have by frugally scrapbooking:
  • My little corner of the house, in the office, set up with a craft table and enough room to lay everything out. It is so much easier to make a plan when you can come and go as you please to your scrapping area. You're more likely to take your time and make good decisions.
  • Pick up supplies at garage sales and thrift stores. I always find tons of rubber stamps, whether they are name brand or children's sets from the toy store. I have a lovely Harry Potter set that was never meant to be used for scrapbooking. REPURPOSE!
  • The Dollar Tree is a goldmine for frugalness. You can get packs of paper, punch-outs, stamps, scissors, and stickers, all $1 a piece. My scrapbooks have even survived the dollar store glue.
  • Momentos are great substitutes for stickers and embellishments. For our wedding album, I saved the ribbon and tags from the favors, the silk flowers from the decorations, the menus, and greeting cards. I made a Cinderella page with a Happily Ever After card someone gave us. Think in 3-D!

  • silk flower used on a wedding page

  • Buy on sale, ALWAYS! Michael's always has sales on paper and stickers. They put coupons in the Sunday paper and I never shop without these. I know how low I can get paper, etc. and never shop until that price comes up.
  • Scrap with friends! I sometimes attend "Crop Night" at a local scrapbook store. You pay $10, get dinner and full access to the store's supply room such as the Cricut machine, paints, and cutters. You also get to see other scrapbooks and chatting time!Save all of your scrap paper! Leftovers are great for tags and mounting pictures. A bunch of small squares can be used to make a checkerboard design.
If I left the house to purchase specific items for every scrapbook layout I would be very behind and in debt. I make do with what I have because my goal is to show off my family and friends, not how much I spent on the album.