Saturday, May 28, 2011

A fun, frugal day...

It was a fun, frugal, productive day - those are often the best. I was reading at the Happiness Project that people are often happiest not when they "let themselves off the hook" but rather push through and complete something difficult. I think there's a lot of truth to that.

Today I attended the Women Science Fiction Writer's conference. I sat in on some feminist topics and was interested to hear the various viewpoints of women in literature, especially the need for more powerful girl lead characters in young adult and middle grade books.

After the conference, I took our Pug to the dog park so she could stretch her legs and we scoured the town compost/recycle center where someone must have just dug up these four shrubs. At home I got my trusty shovel, my soaker hose, and wheelbarrow and as I type, they are all settled into their new home in my garden - fun, fun, fun.

Hoping to carry though that happiness project edict through the evening and clean the entire downstairs still tonight..and not "let myself off the hook" but that remains to be seen;-).

Friday, May 27, 2011

Frugal ups and downs....

Continuing to make efforts to get that extra $45 either cut from expenses or added to the till daily. This effort has made me much more aware of the drips and drabs that go out. The other day I was thinking of getting something for $2, I don't even now what it was, but definitely not a necessity. Then I thought, well that will just up the ante to $47 today and took a pass. I'm much more aware of eating expenses too and have been doing more casseroles and homemade pizza. This month's food won't make our ideal budget $400 for the entire month, but hopefully next month will.

On the up side, my neighbors are delighted with my mini-plant sale at the end of the driveway and several have told me how happy they were to buy a hosta, phlox or some other plant. I started hauling up the bins I stored through the year marked garage sale for my sale this coming week, another reminder to reduce clutter! I read somewhere the only things you should store are holiday and out of season clothing, otherwise, there should be nothing to "store" it should be used or gone. I like that idea.

Another blip when I went down to get the bins, I saw a puddle of water by the water softener. Plumber showed me the bottom is almost completely rusted out - it is from 1995, so a decent life length - and will have to be replaced. On the upside, an acquaintance has a husband that does small engine repair and our mower's pull start just came off, so he said he could fix it for us. So happy to repair verses replace. The mower was a great deal at $30 off Craigslist just as winter was setting in three or so years ago.

Finally, I got two bales of hay for $5 from a local farmer to put as mulch in the big vegetable garden I put in. My mini-van now has that nice "horsey" smell I like so much;-)

Signing off. Wishing you all frugal days. Eileen

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Two dollars in $1600 out....

I was all set to post about our frugal weekend - weekly grocery shopping only $100 rather than the $150 it's been creeping up to (including paper/cleaning/other supplies). Sold a few plants each day, ate lunch before the zoo trip to avoid temptation, etc. Feeling pretty on top of this whole back to frugal living!

Then yesterday, our little guy had a tantrum in the car because he wanted mommy to drive him to preschool. Greg had agreed to drive to help me out. Just as Greg was backing out of the garage, Kai somehow managed to unlock the door and open it just far enough that it caught on the garage frame. No one hurt thank heavens. But the car door was bent on the frame and wouldn't close. So Kai and I followed Greg to a body shop on one side of town ($1600 estimate - will need new frame and door), then to a car rental place on the other side of town (five maybe six day's worth).

Later that day, I found two dollars tucked into my plant sale box - sold a bleeding heart. So it was $2 in, $1600 out. On the plus side, everyone is okay and I've found in the past every time you recommit to frugality, there are going to be a few blips here and there. This one was bigger than the usual blip, but as long as we stay the course, we'll come out ahead.

Happy days to all. Eileen

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I've been filling the pots on my deck for the summer. As in years past, I walk out to the garden and dig lots and lots of perennials for the bulk of the planters, then just fill in here and there with annuals. This makes it a LOT cheaper to have a lush look. I'm about 1/4 of the way done. These planters are all "free" perennials from the yard mixed with some annuals I overwintered in the kitchen. One of the best things about this method is perennials that I might miss out in the big gardens take on a whole new appearance up close and personal in pots on the deck. I learn to appreciate them a lot more and usually have a lot of butterflies on the deck by mid summer. Good wishes! Eileen

Friday, May 20, 2011

Finding an extra $45 per day....

After our Quicken bit the dust, eventually partially restored by the Best Buy geek squad, I decided to go back to the pen and paper route as a backup. The Budget Kit came highly recommended so I'm starting to fill it out. Using savings goal calculator, I revised our goal for four years. It's a pretty steep goal, but it's always fun to aim high. To reach it, we would need to reduce our expenses $45 per day. So four times a day, a $11.25 choice needs to be questioned or nine times a day an extra $5 needs to be saved.

It is always fun to have a specific goal to shoot for. Having this in mind, I decided rather than Tastee Freeze small cones for the kids today, which I'd planned to ease our list of errands and donations, I popped a big bowl of popcorn and gave them each a water bottle and popcorn bag (recycled bread wrapper) and they were happy. (I didn't mention the decision to forgo the ice cream - that would NOT have gone over well). So there was about $4. Then I took half an hour and gathered a bunch of donations I'd stashed in the closet to drop off and got my receipt ($20 in tax savings). When we got home, I had $4 in my plant sale honesty box.

The majority of the savings is going to come from groceries (no more tossed guacamole), household, and leisure. And of the $45, $16 each day is toward a vacation fund for a big vacation that we could always postpone if we fail to meet our goal.

Good wishes to all on your own goals!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lazy man's compost idea not a success;-)

I try to compost as much as possible. There's something very satisfying in a granola type manner in taking all my cucumber peelings (despite the fact the cucumbers were likely trucked here from South America) and putting them right back into the earth. But I also strive for ease and had a recent brainstorm that rather than haul it all back to the soon to be vegetable garden clear on the other side of the yard, I'd just tuck these bits of future black gold right into the pots on my deck where they would decompose and feed my potted plants. Apparently last night a hungry creature (opossum? raccoon?) decided to check out the hidden buffet offerings and probably enjoyed the equivalent of an Easter Egg hunt throughout my deck. So today, the watermelon rind, peelings, and egg shells went directly out into the garden...bon appetit scavenging nocturnals...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

15 Minutes - You can do anything!

The Happiness Project had a great article today called "Suffer for 15 Minutes". The gist is any project that weighs on you that you know you should/need/want to do, but just seems too big, can be broken down into 15 minute blocks. I had signed up for two on-line writing classes, but there were some technical difficulties signing in, I had forgotten an assignment and so the whole thing sat in my in box waiting "Till I get more time."

Interesting, there was yet another article on the same site that when you put something off "till you have more time" you will rarely do it. More time is an elusive proposition. So I decided I could suffer fifteen minutes, went through and found the email link to the course, figured out the next assignment, and will begin on in tomorrow (15 minutes) easing back into what had been a four hour a day writing process.

Good wishes finding that one thing you know you should/could/want to do and setting aside 15 minutes TODAY to suffer. There is a great feeling at the end of the day when you go to bed that you know you made headway on something important to you that you'd been putting off.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Lunch at Giverny...

At the suggestion of a friend, I've been working on a revised 100 item bucket list of dreams. On that list is a trip to Monet's famous gardens at Giverny. Today I happened upon this book with a diorama that is just wonderful for $2. So I decided I would lunch there via my back porch until I get to the real thing;-).

Also on my bucket list is a tour of the great gardens of Europe, and lo and behold, the same thrift store had the complete set of Audrey Hepburn's Gardens of the World series at fifty cents each. So I'm traveling on the cheap this week, but enjoying it very much. Happy Bucket List Making to All! And to all a hearty Bon Appetit!

P.S. The Diet Coke and plate of reheated spaghetti that rounded out this meal were kept out of the picture for the sake of aesthetics...;-)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Dead Best-Selling Author....

If you believe there are no coincidences, then if something catches your attention, there is a reason. Today, as I was waiting in line at the grocery store, someone behind me was talking about several best selling books he'd just gotten to read. My ears perked up as I unloaded watermelon onto the checkout counter. The speaker then said, "And here's the weird part, the guy dies after he's finished the books, then, like, four of them become best-sellers!"

Definite lesson there to be in the moment, to put process over product, and to enjoy the journey! I have a great quote over my kitchen sink to not rush, to enjoy the moment, to realize this moment is just as important, more so really, than any future moment.

While far from the Dalia Lama in this endeavor, I do find I'm a bit more able to do this as time passes. It's something I have to be conscious of and work at, but when I'm in the moment, it all feels more real and more fun.

Good wishes. Off to walk the dogs with my neighbor, hopefully present with each footfall.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Frugal Gardening - Bluebells and Ferns

I LOVE this time of the year and my wooded areas are now quite colorful a few years after I added a number of bluebells and ferns. In both cases, these wonderful plants spread readily in shady spots. So when I drove around surrounding areas, I often would see a yard stuffed with one or the other and salivate with wanting that look. One day I saw a yard just a sea of bluebells and on the spot found some paper and a pen and wrote a note asking if I could buy some clumps, leaving my phone number. I got a call within a day and the person was glad to sell me as many as I wanted. We ended up agreeing on $20 for about a 10 foot square area that she wanted to have dug out for something else anyway. That got me an entire trunkful. Later, in the spring, on a garden website, someone mentioned you could by bulk bluebells as starter roots on eBay. I contacted a seller, and they said if I bought 100, they would drop the price to 35 cents each. It was a great deal as the plants are usually $4 or $5 each at a nursery and you can only buy them in the spring as they go dormant in the summer.

A bit later, I was craving a ferny glade of my own and saw another house with ferns cramped in large numbers all around the basement. Another note, and this time I also offered to trade if that would be preferable. As it turned out, the person was thrilled to trade for hostas and I was thrilled to get the ferns. So a win/win.

Now these plants have established themselves and I give them as gifts to fellow gardeners, sell them at my plant sale, and cut them to decorate the house. They will continue to multiply for years and I now put some in pots for early spring color. So that note and original $20 has long since paid off. If you have your eye on some perennial and your heart set on have loads of them, consider driving about the neighborhood. Chances are if someone already has oodles of the same plant, they'll be happy to sell or trade for something they don't have.

Good wishes! Eileen

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Can I do this for free?

As I was organizing my bookshelves today, I came across the book "How I Lived a Year on Just a Pound a Day" by Kath Kelly. It was inspiring to see how much creativity she used and how she did actually succeed, sometimes on less than a pound a day. So it was on my mind today and the thought, "Can I do this for free?" popped up several times.

My brother had called to say he'd forgotten his sunglasses here at Easter and would I mail them. So I thought, "Can I do this for free?" (sans postage) and the answer was yes. I had a box sitting out to recycle and a found a grocery sack (harder to find now that we bring our own bags but my mom saves them for me too). Turned the bag inside out, wrapped the box, and there you go, all set to mail - for free;-). And as is usually the case with frugality, the Earth's resources get a break too. Good wishes! Eileen

No Shopping Venues

My six-year-old Kirk has found the joys of garage sales and thrift stores where fifty cents can buy a new (to him) toy or two books and five dollars can garner a bike or a scooter. That's good as far as his ability to judge the buying power of money and the incredible difference between buying new and used. He's also sold on the environmental benefits of shopping the local church sale for his various wants and needs. Recently, he proudly brought home his Earth Day poster from school that proclaimed "BUY USED" with pictures of his various treasures.

But I worry when I see him become more interested in the entertainment value of shopping to the exclusion of other things. Last month we went to a museum and walked through an amazing display of dinosaur artifacts with Kirk asking every few minutes, "Can we go to the gift shop now?" (In full disclosure, I visited my dear friend Emelia in New Mexico a few years back. One day later I was talking about our visit to the Georgia O'Keefe museum. She said, "Eileen, don't you remember the museum was closed and we just visited the gift shop and bought some posters?"--oops!)

In an effort to help Kirk expand his entertainment horizons beyond shopping and the need to bring something home when we go on an outing, I've been making a list of nature activities and nature areas that we can visit this summer. Last weekend we biked to a duck marsh. Admittedly Kirk asked several times if we could get home so he could play a computer game on PBS kids, but mostly we enjoyed the warm weather and sunshine.

Hopefully by helping him find value in things that do not involve acquiring yet more material goods, I will reinforce this for myself...though maybe not until after I take a quick pass through that amazing subdivision sale next Saturday morning.....

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Shifting around life dreams

It's been almost a week now since we learned the final IVF failed. It's been such a roller coaster year, more than a year actually. It started with the dream/hope of a third child, especially a daughter, then doctor visits upon visits, shots upon shots, an empty pink picture frame to be filled and pair of maternity jeans for a sort of new-age visualization boost. Then hoping, waiting, wondering.

One of the ironic costs of all that waiting and wondering is that I sometimes wasn't there emotionally as much as I could have been for the two beautiful children I already have been blessed with. I was so worried and hopeful and so attached to the someday visions of the little sister they were going to have, of her dolls, dollhouses, and pink dresses, she and I taking a coffee break together while shopping for her college clothes (I don't even drink coffee), Anika and Greg dancing at her wedding, that I often lost sight of the moment I was in.

So I ask myself the lessons to take from this. Obviously there is the importance of being in the moment. How many little real moments did I trade for these "Someday" moments I was creating in my head? Another is the lesson of gratitude. Imagine if all this had gone on eight and four years ago and I'd never had my sweet, wonderful two boys? A friend's husband was in a terrible accident a bit over a year ago. He is now in a wheelchair, unable to feed himself or use a bathroom. She says she looks back now and wonders if the accident had never happened, would she have continued to live day to day, taking for granted the blessings of health and mobility, of having a husband she could take a walk through the woods with? She is adjusting to a new reality and trying to find those happy moments in the moments as they unfold, taking less for granted.

A final lesson is one in detachment. Greg went to a Jesuit retreat awhile back and they talked a lot about the importance of detachment, of not putting your happiness into things outside yourself. In the abstract, this makes a lot of sense. No one and nothing should dictate your happiness. You choose to be happy or not. But then I think that many things outside me do make me happy: Greg, the kids, my parents, my garden, a good book, talking with a friend, walking my dog, working on my book with an iced tea and raisin bagel at my side. Without those and hundreds of others, surely I would have fewer happy moments in my life. But detachment is about the grasping, clinging, fearful quality of the wish that must come true for happiness to be felt. And I get that too.

So, signing off today, I endeavor to stay more in the moment, appreciate the myriad of blessings that I am constantly surrounded with, and let go and let God as to my dreams of a daughter.

Good wishes on all your journeys! Eileen