Saturday, January 24, 2009

God I Love These Guys

Today was one of those days.  A day when I was acutely aware that I am living the life I dreamed of living.  Having a cup of coffee, sitting in a chair reading a book, with the sounds of laughter and chatter drifting in and out of the room.  Making bread with a little helper standing on a chair, hands dusty with flour, rolling pin in hand.  Sisters holding hands, running up and down the sidewalk, with the sunset shining through their golden hair. Pancakes for breakfast, and a movie at night. Compliments enthusiastically bestowed for a good lunch.  Laughter with my husband.  A day that played out exactly as I imagined my adult life would be.  Except I didn't know then how full it would make my heart to be so fulfilled... so indescribably happy.

I'd also like to thank everyone for their thoughts, prayers, and positive energy that they sent my Nana's way.  I am thrilled to report that it worked and that she made nothing short of a miraculous recovery. She does not know that hundreds of kindly strangers were rooting for her but I am sure she felt it.  My aunt told me that against all odds, with all her children gathered at her bedside, she never gave in.  She just never let go.  And we are so grateful!  

Our Hallmark Moments

In the midst of a typical potty humored Saturday morning, Mr F saunters over and kisses Mrs F on the cheek.

"We have our special love."  He sweetly says.

"Special... cause it's nonexistent."  Mrs F replies.

laughter ensues

Friday, January 23, 2009

My New Obsession

You'll have to SEE it for yourself.


"Mom you are actually lucky that llama spit in your face." Kid says

"How?" I ask, suddenly taken back to that horrible day this past summer.

"Because this could have happened too..."  Kid begins and then pauses dramatically. 

"Llamas can bite all your fingers off!"  Kid proclaims.  

"Oh God." I say through laughter.

"For real!  It's true... it could have happened." Kid continues

One more thing to be grateful for.  Sure I had wretched disgust spit directly into my eyes, but Kid's right... at least I have my fingers.

Don't Hold Back... Tell Me What You Really Think

Last night while cuddling up on the couch, watching The Food Network (as is my early evening routine once I am too sore and tired to stand it anymore), Kid grabbed Baby's foot and took a long deep smell and then made some exaggerated gagging sounds.

It was awesome and classic all at once.

Like the little mimic that she is, Baby then had to smell her own feet.

And, of course, so did I.

"They don't smell that bad... smell your own feet... I bet they stink." I said.

So Kid did, but claimed hers didn't smell (of course).

Then she took off one of my socks.

"They aren't going to smell... I've had socks on all day." I stated.

She took a long whiff and then stuck out her tongue.

"They can't smell that bad." I protested.

Then Baby crawled over and took off my other sock and took a smell of that foot.

"Smell them yourself." Kid insisted.

"I can't my butt is broken... you'll just have to tell me what they smell like." I offered.

"Hell." Came her reply.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Upside Of The Financial Downturn

Everyone has to make their own life choices and those choices can (and should) change as all the pieces that make up your life change. There is no sense in looking back and wishing you had "known better" (or known what was to come). Being able to look back and know you were doing the best you could, given all your life circumstances (maturity included), can give you the freedom to move forward.

Spelling Lessons

"Mom how do you spell Keep Out?!" Kid yells at me from down the hall.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What Do NudeFest, Nudeville, & Googling Nude Schools Have In Common?

Kid's love of being completely unadorned.

Hey where's all the text I promised you?!
Ladies and Gents my butt hurts. Maybe I'll get back to this tomorrow... or maybe I'll tell you about the platonic personal ad I answered. What?! I never told you about that?!


Yesterday someone asked me what my tips for a newly relocated SAHM would be. I thought of the usual tips. But after sitting with it I thought of something no one tells you.

When you move to a new place, especially if you have left a place you were really connected to, the thing you miss is being known. It's hard enough not knowing where to go. You'll spend weeks finding all your new stores and services. But the hardest part is that nobody recognizes you.

There is no way you can feel at home while you feel like a stranger. But there are some surprisingly easy ways to fix that.

Become a regular.

Go grocery shopping at the same time and day each week. If you can keep checking out with the same cashier. In a couple weeks that will be one person who recognizes you. You can do this with all your errands (and should). In a month's time when you go get your prescriptions, pizza, movies and 3 more people recognized you... I swear... you will feel more settled.

Ever since moving here Mr F had ordered the same pizza from the same place every Friday. One week he changed our order and they said "What you're changing it up?!" We hadn't even been here 5 months and the pizza guys knew our order... Mr F left there feeling like a rock star. Same thing goes with going out to eat. If you go out... especially true if you stick to small ethnic restaurants... give it a couple of weeks at the same place and pretty soon the waitress and hostess will remember you. That's two people for the price of one!

And for my last bit of advice... if you are home when the mail comes go out and take it from the mailman by hand. It's easy to do... heck the mailman might even appreciate a little decency anyway... and pretty soon someone will know you. You might not have friends yet (although who knows maybe your mailman ROCKS and you'll be BFFs in no time), and you might never have family nearby... but you will no longer be an invisible stranger. And that helps immeasurably. Because the worst part of making a big move is feeling isolated.

(Oh and if this doesn't work... just go online and order a Book Of Mormon... boom... you'll have 2 friendly faces knocking on your door)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

No I'm Not Dialing It In

I'm on standby.

The kids are fairly occupied. I'm making soup.

And I'm at your beck and call.

Got a random question for me?

Then ask away.

Snow Day

Take a look at that picture and tell me what you see. Because I see maybe a dusting of snow on some of the grass... but completely clear and dry roads and sidewalks. That's what you see right?!
Today... is a Snow Day... and I CANNOT freaking believe it.

Just for the fun of it this is a picture of our backyard in Michigan:

Now this is what a Snow Day looks like!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Like You Didn't See This Coming

Overheard during bath time...

[splashing... crazy, crazy, splashing]

"I mean it. Sit down NOW and don't move!" Mr F says firmly.

[sudden silence]

"Turn around so I can wash your hair." Mr F instructs.

"I'm not moving. You told me not to." Kid replies somewhat snarkily.

Compacting In The Kitchen

I know this is long... but it's chock full of information. If you are trying to cut back but don't know how this might be worth reading. Skip half way down (below the bold line) to check out the dollar for dollar changes we're making now. We are saving some serious money without giving up our quality of food. Sure a few of the changes are more time consuming... but not as much as they sound. Last year I wouldn't have thought there was much I could take out of our spending... I was seriously deluded. Oh and check out the link at the end of the post.

Not even a year ago we were spending over $200 a week for our groceries... and that didn't count takeout or eating out (2-3 times a week), or Mr F's lunches at work. That might seem like a lot but it's actually the national average! At that time we had been buying high end brands and some (more and more over time) organic foods. But we were throwing out rotting produce and meat EVERY week.

I started meal planning and that helped some but the lure of the $5 Hot & Ready often meant I pushed meals around and/or never got around to making them. Before we left MI I had worked pretty hard to lower our grocery spending to around $180/week for nearly all organic foods but we were still doing plenty of take out and still wasting food. When we moved we had a completely stocked fridge/freezer and pantry of partial opened foods that we had to give away!

Moving here actually gave me a clean slate and instead of filling them back up with everything we had had before I decided to only buy things AS NEEDED. Which meant not buying every kind of vinegar, oil, and baking ingredient "just in case", etc. I really switched my head space from buying things to make a new recipe to trying not to buy things... like if I don't have "x" let's just scrap that and find something I can make with what I've got. Is my cooking somewhat less adventurous?... yep... but it's also a hell of a lot cheaper.

When we started "compacting" a couple of months ago I decided to take meal planning one step further. Instead of thinking of meals and then seeing which components we had and buying the rest, I started carefully assessing what we had and trying to make a meal plan around buying as little as possible. It's a subtle but important difference that resulted in... oh... $40-$50 a week. To make that work most effectively we do a monthly stock up on our basic meal components that we eat EVERY SINGLE WEEK: frozen vegetables, frozen fish filets, pasta, rice, peanut butter, jam, butter, popcorn kernels, instant oatmeal, dry cereal, pancake mix,chicken stock, tomato soup, canned salmon, pasta sauce, and apple juice.

Did you get all that? Because we are buying all organic foods the cheapest way to get them is to buy the store brand. Organic food rarely has coupons (sigh) so the store brands are where it is at... and the bulk bins! I have found (and believe me I have diligently searched and price checked) that Whole Foods has the cheapest (and best quality) of store brand organics. We don't have one here but Mr F drives about an hour and half with a cooler in his trunk and loads us up. It is winter so the cheapest (and best quality) produce is frozen.

Now at this point we don't buy more than a months worth of food... because we don't have a chest freezer or a lot of pantry space... and we can't front that much money. The stock up costs us about $80-$140 bucks depending on how much we needed to replace. That lets us limit our weekly spending to fresh ingredients: dairy, eggs, meat, bread, some vegetables, and fruit. Doing that brought my weekly spending down to about $75-$80 with the monthly stock up bringing our monthly spending to about $440. When we started compacting Mr F also started packing his breakfast and lunch and we only got take out or a restaurant meal once a week. So our total monthly food budget went from about $1200 a month to $520 (that counts one night of takeout once compacting started).

Now we are down to $400 a month... maybe less... time will tell. Here are the changes we've made (some since Compacting some since January):

From buying 2-3 loaves of organic bread each week for $4.50 each
To making our own bread in a bread machine (it was free!) for $1.25 per loaf

From buying lunch meat for Mr F's & my lunches for $9 - $12 a week
To buying a rotisserie chicken and eating chicken & chicken salad sandwiches for $5 a week

From making 2 cups of coffee every time we made coffee for a total of 2 pounds of coffee a week $16
To making 1 cup at a time and not pouring any down the drain for a total of 1 pound of coffee a week $8

From having several beverages in the house to having ONE beverage choice other than water per person. KId gets milk, Baby (still breastfed) gets apple juice, Mr F & I have coffee w/half & half. Savings for us $12- $16 dollars a week!

We don't have premade packaged snacks we now have fruit, yogurt, cereal, pb &j, or popcorn for snacks. Mr F & I have both lost 3 pounds in 3 weeks just by getting rid of packaged snacks. It took a little adjustment but the kids are doing just fine ;) Once a week I make homemade muffins using up whatever apples or carrots are getting old. Savings of $5-$10 a week. (and a pound a week)

From ordering pizza once a week for $17 (it was fantastic)
To making it or having a frozen pizza for $4-$5. Saving $12-$13 a week!

I make exactly 4 portions of dinner. Kid, Mr F & I each have one and Baby has 1/2. The remaining 1/2 is immediately packed up for Kid's lunch the next day.

I have lowered our protein portion down an ounce per person and raised the carbs up a small bit to make up the difference.

I have figured out the costs of each dinner I typically make and keep that in mind when I'm meal planning. Tomato & Meatball Soup is about $5 for 4, Brown Sugar & Ginger Salmon w/ rice & broccoli is about $12 for 4. Our dinners have not lost any of their nutritional value I just try to plan more cheap meals versus expensive per week.

Using frozen vegetables saves me about $1-$2 per pound which is $7-$14 a week. And I have mastered the art of cooking them so they are not mushy and you would never know it wasn't fresh broccoli.

We do not go out for dinner. Period. Saving us about $80- $200 a month. For us, right now, we just can't afford to. And the expense just isn't worth it for what you get when your dining companions are 2 and 6 years old.

For our sweet tooth we still have dessert.... just not lots of choices. I have my Trader Joe's dark chocolate covered caramels. The kids & Mr F have Newman's Own Organic Fig Newman's or Newman's O's (cheapest at Target). We have vanilla ice cream and we have chocolate sauce. We make a simple icing-less chocolate cake that is a depression era recipe that has no dairy or eggs (it's moist and it is cheap) once a week. We make cookie dough and freeze them in portioned balls... so we only bake what we need for that dinner. We eat less of them saving money and calories. I'm not sure how much money this saves certainly a couple of bucks a week.

My whole philosophy with all this is to strip it down to what we NEED. We buy fresh fruit as needed. No more bowl on the counter with rotting fruit just because something looked good at the store that day. When it's gone we buy more. That's the great thing about living in modern times.. we can just go to the store. I find we don't need to go as much as we thought we did... we can make do with what's on hand. And the less times you go to the store (in my experience) the less you spend.


Oh and if you are at all interested in coupons or don't know where to start hop over here. Scroll down and she's got an introductory post... but, dude, she just got 21 jars of Ragu for less than a buck! It's almost enticing enough to make me cross back over the conventional/organic divide!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Being Frugal Is The New Black

That's what I tell myself at least. Because if it's not I'm becoming a nerd with a capital N-E-R-D. I just spent an inordinate amount of time this weekend registering for online grocery coupons, trolling our local stores' circulars, joining Freecycle, and filling out customer surveys (in the desperate hopes of winning big in the monthly drawing). The word is out... saving money is in... and I'm bringing my A game in the hopes of, well, not going under (not without a fight at least).

In the past year I've lowered our grocery budget from over $200/week to under $100. We've gone from expensive chlorine-free diapers to Target brand (sorry about that one Mother Earth... hopefully you'll survive). Outside of the diapers (the savings from which is HUGE... we're talking over 50%) we've actually reduced our household food and upkeep expenditures while at the same time making a complete overhaul to all "green" body products; "green" household cleaners; hormone free/antibiotic free/humane certified meats; all organic dairy, produce, and dry goods... even our butter people... our stinking butter!

Intrigued? Bored? Whichever I'll be back to update this post with exactly how we're doing it. Are we skimping?... you freaking betcha. It is not a snack buffet around here (as we're apt to say to Kid quite a lot these days)... but hey there are unexpected upsides to that as well (Mr F's down 3 pounds without even trying). But it's doable... highly doable. So for now we're doing it and hopefully we'll get even better at it as time goes on. (I told you we're down about $1000 a month since we starting compacting right? So I think we might be on to something here.)

More Tomorrow!

Mr F Wants Everyone To Be In Love With Him

So behold...

Yes, he does the dishes.

But the reason I'm married to him is because he watched Saving Sarah Cain last night, a Lifetime Original Movie, about an orphaned Amish family (yes take that ALL in).

Just wait it gets better.

In reference to the funeral scene wherein a fancy city slicker awkwardly shows up late (bearing flowers no less) and then has her cell phone go off Mr F said...

"That's like the worst case scenario."

"What your cell phone going off at an Amish funeral?" I asked.

"Yeah. It's bad enough that she's an Englisher." Mr F replied.

Then he smiled up at me and said "Do you love me?"

Yes I do.
Blog Widget by LinkWithin