Tuesday, December 31, 2013

End of Year 2013 List Meme Thing!

I am not entirely sure how it is the end of 2013. I blinked and it was gone. It was a really interesting year - and the last month has been very, very hard. But I did this in 2012, 2011, and 2010, so here we go!

1. What did you do in 2013 that you'd never done before?

Stayed in the apartment of someone very famous. Had a child who met the President of the United States. Ate Big Gay Ice Cream. Faced some health issues that I'd never faced before. Turned 40.

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

It doesn't appear I made any - and I don't think I'll make any going forward. So there.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

My cousin is pregnant!

4. Did anyone close to you die?

My great-uncle Karl passed away. He was an amazing person and he is deeply missed.

5. What countries did you visit?

I didn't leave the US this year, but I got back to my beloved NYC for the first time in far too long.

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?

Good health. Healthy kitties. No medical bills. Maybe some sort of travel that doesn't involve a family visit but is just purely for fun.

7. What date from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

February 14, when my kid met Obama. December 30, for reasons that I don't care to explain in my public blog.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

That I was able to continue a steady freelance writing/editing career - the beginning of the year held a very solid client, and when that contract ended I had other clients to pick up the slack. I even did some writing for which I was paid. Very pleased about that.

9. What was your biggest failure?

I didn't drive more like I wanted to. I'm still stuck at "little old lady who goes 2 miles to the grocery store once a week." I need to fix that.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?


11. What was the best thing you bought?

My new phone for sure. The upgraded Tivo. My new boots (both the brown pair I wrote about here and the black pair I haven't had a chance to write about). My Silhouette (it's so much fun). My kid's summer camp tuition. The ActiveLink. Also I didn't buy the Keurig Vue, I received it from House Party, but it's pretty awesome.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

Always my baby girl. Always and forever.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

A lot of politicians, as always.

14. Where did most of your money go?

My medical bills…and my cat's as well. My cat needed an EKG because of a worsening heart murmur. Thankfully they didn't find anything serious enough to require medication. I'm just loving on him (and sharing reiki with him) every day because our animals are with us so briefly no matter what we do.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Obama's visit. Our trip to New York. Meeting my literary heroine. Our mini-vacation over Thanksgivukkah.

16. What song will always remind you of 2013?

The theme to Rachel and the Treeschoolers.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder?


II. Thinner or fatter?

The same! Proud of that one.

III. Richer or poorer?

It's hard to explain - both? Having budgets in place and working with them made all the difference, and the last three months of 2013 were actually fantastic for my family. Had I not had the sudden avalanche of medical bills, we would've been in such good shape - but isn't that always the way?

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Travel. Running. Reading. I read 18 books this year according to my Goodreads page. That's ridiculous. I want to read at least 25 in 2014 and that's setting the bar really low.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Being at the doctor's office. Worrying.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?

We spent Christmas at Super H-Mart! We bought noodles and sauces and tortillas and delicious treats.

21. What, if any, insight did you gain about yourself in 2013?

That I can handle things better than I thought I could. That Reiki and meditation are valuable tools in my toolbox. That I am strong and fucking amazing sometimes.

22. Did you fall in love in 2013?

I had my 10th wedding anniversary!

23. How many one night stands?

Yeah no.

24. What was your favourite TV program?

Sleepy Hollow turned out to be a contender for new favorite. And AHS:Coven, surprisingly (I couldn't make it through Asylum at all). I think I was watching True Blood this year and not last year. When I do these memes I always forget whatever it was I liked in the beginning of the year though. I watched a lot of TV shows...because I was curious or because I'd already gotten in so deep, even though they were disappointing. (Note that I "watch" a lot of TV via Tivo in the morning while I do my work - it's often just background noise.)

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

Kind of?

26. What was the best book you read?

So as I noted earlier, I didn't read enough AT ALL this year. However, I really liked Pandora's Lunchbox. Wild was better than I thought it would be.We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves was BRILLIANT. Salt Sugar Fat changed my life. And Shine Shine Shine was lovely. Right now I have One and Only out from the library and need to finish it.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

I didn't listen to enough new music this year, but I think my greatest musical discovery was Google Music - I now have 7,000 songs in the cloud and I pulled out many of my old CDs (including a lot of 90s grrrrrrl music) that I happily rediscovered while doing so. Oh! And I had a "Why haven't I been listening to Vienna Teng for years?" moment when I got to go see her live.

28. What did you want and get?

Boots. The Silhouette. A new phone. A trip. A visit with family. A healthy cat.

29. What did you want and not get?

A healthy end to the year.

30. What was your favorite film of this year?

At the beginning of the year I started a list of movies I watched so I could remember and then…I stopped and misplaced the whole list, which I'd been writing in this cute little Hello Kitty notebook. (This is why I prefer to keep my lists digitally!) I was surprised at how much I loved Cabin In the Woods and on the complete opposite end of the spectrum I really liked Arietty. I also thought Pitch Perfect was adorable. If I turn up that list, I may add to this - so that I can remember in 2014!

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

40! I went out with friends. I went out with my husband. I had a nice time and ate tres leches cake and drank fancy drinks and all around had a lovely time.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Not having this end of the year health drama? More work?

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?

More skirts, more thrifted clothing, and boots boots boots.

34. What kept you sane?

Not much.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Alexander Skaarsgaaaaaard. Definitely. Swoon!

36. What political issue stirred you the most?


37. Who did you miss?

A lot of people.

38. Who was the best new person you met?

A tie between the Kellys (that whole family) and Francesca Lia Block, I think.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.

Early screening is important.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

I'm OK when everything is not OK.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

All Sorts of Shopping (and a tip on a great deal on a new phone) - December 3, 2013

Between my birthday, Hanukkah, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, I've had a lot of opportunities to go shopping and get great deals while doing so. Yes, I buy clothing for myself pretty often as the thrifting tag on this here blog can attest, but...thrifting is thrifting. I spend less than $3 per item in most cases and it's used. And I LOVE IT - but this was different.

First, I'd been saving the Amazon gift cards I earn from Swagbucks (that's a referral link) (and sometimes from Bing - another referral link! - and sometimes from other sources, including this blog) because I wanted to upgrade my phone.

I use Virgin Mobile because I like paying only $35 per month for unlimited text and data and 300 talk minutes that I rarely come close to using. (If I could afford more per month, I might consider another plan/carrier/even better phone, but I can't, and this works just fine for me.) I'd bought myself an HTC One V a little over a year ago using the same save-gift-cards technique, but it stopped working properly about six months in - as in, it wouldn't make nor answer phone calls half the time and often wouldn't load my contact list or send text messages. I said it many times - it's all well and good to be able to have a few apps on there or a good camera (and I do think the camera is good), but if I can't make phone calls, then the phone isn't really that great.

The phone for which I was saving was the flagship Samsung Galaxy S3 - once I saw that VM was offering it, I wanted it, but I was patient and I waited. And during Black Friday Week, Amazon finally dropped the price from a high of around $400 and an average of around $315 to $260 AND it included a free case! So I pounced. And after factoring in all the credit I'd slowly, carefully saved, I paid about $35 including tax for this fancy phone.

Imagine my surprise and annoyance when a week later, right before I went to bed, I received an alert from CamelCamelCamel (I'd forgotten to cancel it) telling me that at 10pm on Monday night my phone's price dropped down to $250 - which is a GREAT DEAL for this high-end phone, just...less than what I paid.

Happily, a friend of mine had clued me in that Amazon has a 30-day price guarantee. I simply emailed and asked for a refund and when I woke up in the morning it had been processed, bringing my out-of-pocket cost down to about $25!

I love this phone. Love love love it. Here's a link (a referral link) to this great deal on the Samsung Galaxy S3 for Virgin Mobile (be aware: you can only use the version of the phone to which I'm linking on VM in the United States). Once you get it, it's so easy to activate, and then you can pick the right plan for you!

Update 12/4/13: The price went back up but this phone is still AMAZING. Get it!

Next, boots. I have been wanting some knee-high boots for a while, and I set aside some birthday money specifically to buy some for myself. First I thought I would get these - Prize from Donald J. Pliner - but they were a bit more than I felt comfortable spending (though they are still on my wish list and if the ones I wound up buying - you'll see in a minute - don't fit, I suppose I could go back and get these instead).

Again, Amazon and Black Friday Week came through to save the day. I found these:

and when I bought them, they were marked down and there was a coupon code for 25% more off. They should arrive today and I will take pictures of them with my new phone! (Again, that's a referral link.)

Update 12/4/13: Sadly, these boots just didn't fit me the way I wanted. They were an amazing price and they're adorable, but they're going back to Amazon and I'm back on a quest for black boots.

Next, I had been drooling over one particular crafting tool for a long, long time - the Silhouette Cameo. I cannot tell you how many contests I'd entered to try and win one. This time around, after Googling "Silhouette giveaway" and entering the contests that came up in the search, I paid attention to what all the craftsy bloggers were saying - that a big Black Friday sale was coming up. I put up an alert on Amazon for the Silhouette Cameo starter kit, but on Black Friday when the deals were announced I found that - for a change - Amazon couldn't beat the deal being offered directly from Silhouette. You can find all the Silhouette America holiday deals here (though let me add that I'm a bit annoyed - I thought these deals were Friday only, and they're still available as I write this on the following Tuesday - I hate feeling pressured to buy something to get a deal and I could've waited - it hasn't even shipped yet! Oh well.). I am SO SO SO SO excited about this - I have some projects planned that I will share! (Look at me - first I'm pretending to be a fashion blogger, then I'm pretending to be a craft blogger, ha!)

Finally, I did some in-person Black Friday shopping with friends. I found a great deal on brown boots (to go with the black ones I ordered! the price in the link is likely more than what I paid - frustratingly, I didn't have the magic coupons with me, but they still were a great price and while they're synthetic, they are super duper comfy and cute!) and black clogs (to replace the Dansko clogs that I wear every day, although the reviews on these are making me worried and I'm debating returning them - the ones I bought are similar to but not the same as those in the link).

Look, here's an actual picture of my new brown boots on me:

Bonus: I'm wearing one of the tops from my most recent thrifting post - I loooove it!
And one more picture for fun:

Finally, Cuppow had a Cyber Monday sale. Cuppow? Oh, you need one of these. I got my first one from my friend Marissa as the best birthday present ever.

A Cuppow is a little plastic doohickey (made in the USA, BPA and phthalate free) that turns a glass mason jar into a travel mug. It's eco-friendly and made by a small, independent business. I loooove it. So I bought a bunch more - the one Marissa gave me is for wide-mouthed jars (and if you squint, you  can see that my jar is etched with a picture of Massachusetts - the jar is from opal & ollie on Etsy) so I bought myself one that's for regular-mouthed jars too, and then I bought a handful to give as gifts to friends and teachers and therapists (because it's that time of year and my kid has a cast of thousands!). I may also use my new Silhouette to create stencils to etch mason jars myself or to add vinyl decorations to the jars (to add to the Cuppows as gifts).

NOTE! Cuppow has extended its Cyber Monday sale through Tuesday, December 3, 2013! Use the code CYBERCUPPOW for 25% off your order. If you buy four things, you get free shipping, so that's like buying 3 and getting 1 totally free! Also here's my referral link for a bonus $2 off your order (that link is valid until December 5 - please use it!).

I think that's all for now - watch this space for new pictures and new crafts! Happy Hanukkah and happy festive holiday season!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Birthday Thrifting! - November 23, 2013

So I turned 40 last week and the biggest adjustment has been hearing that number come out of my mouth, over and over and over. Rolling it around on my tongue and trying to reconcile my notions of what 40 should be with what 40 is for me. It's fine, I'm fine, I'm learning.

To extend my celebration a bit longer, I planned a thrifty day with Amy. Well, I also needed to get away for a little bit. Things have been tricky with the kid's school and she also had a stomach bug hit her pretty hard (I blamed it on "food poisoning" until I found out that other kids in her class were similarly afflicted). I take my breaks as I can get them.

After fueling up at Dunkin Donuts, where I cashed in my free birthday drink coupon on a french vanilla coffee with skim milk and sugar and threw in a chocolate donut for nostalgia's sake (DD = Boston = home), we hit our favorite spots. The kid's wardrobe recently grew incrementally thanks to some gift cards and some store sales, so she didn't need much. Technically I didn't need much either, but I also was finding myself wearing the same things over and over.

OK, also, the first store we went to - an indie store that supports the community - was having BOGO on all adult clothing. All adult clothing is normally $2 or $3 a piece. YES PLEASE.

Two side notes: This store definitely goes in cycles and for the past...year? I hadn't found anything appealing. But the last time we went and this time I found so many things. SO MANY. And also, I used to walk into thrift stores and stare at the racks of clothing - particularly if the store was having any sort of sale at all - and go blank, wander over to the books, and buy those instead. It has been a long, slow process to me buying clothing for myself that does include my weight loss but also a sort of comfort in my body and my own style. (I still worry that someone out there is waiting to make fun of me for what I'm wearing - thank you, junior high school/high school - but thanks to the Internet and seeing so many people making so many choices, I'm more comfortable just letting myself wear whatever the fuck I want to wear.)

I considered hanging up everything all nice to take pictures and then I realized nobody's looking anyway so whatever. These pictures are terrible and my blog will never be famous for its photography. Hey camera makers, if you ever want to send a DSLR to test and review, I'd gladly accept - I'll even take two so I can do a fabulous giveaway! Ha.

I do use these thrifting posts a lot for my own reasons though - to look back and see what I've bought, what I need, what I bought but never wore, what I wear all the time, and also to check pricing because I do occasionally resell things and I want to see what to set prices at.

Anyhoo, let's get to the pictures!

I could not resist two copies of Cricket magazine from the 70s. I was a subscriber when I was a kid and for a while I had a huge collection. Eventually my mother made me throw it all away, but somewhere in her house (or maybe my dad's house?) there is a box that contains the very first issue of Cricket, the 100th issue, the 10th anniversary, and possibly some other milestone issues. These were 50 cents each.

Kid clothes are a dollar each. I had just bought my kid a shirt at Gymboree that looks very similar to these designs. These are Carters, though, and they seem nearly new to me.

Women's sleeveless tops are $2 each, and they were BOGO so $1. This tank top is to go under a sweater that I'll show you in a minute.

I bought this without trying it on - it's Ann Taylor and it's really cute and it was just a dollar so I figured, why not.

Next up, four skirts. Normally $3/each, but BOGO, so $1.50 each.

Old Navy. Swingy and cute!

H&M. Stretchy and fun!

Express! Swooshy and sweet. Very lightweight and despite what my camera really wants you to think, more of a blue/purple. Loved this one - fully lined and sort of a faux wraparound without the drama of trying to keep the wrap...around.

More Old Navy (I bought a LOT of Old Navy stuff). I really liked this one too.

Old Navy. Fuzzy and lightweight and a tiny bit see through. Remember that tank top I just showed you? That's for under this.

Don't be surprised...this is also Old Navy.
And some odds and ends.

Target skinny jeans. These are "long" but I think I can fold them a bit to tuck into boots. They fit really well otherwise although I also know that Target jeans stretch out and get saggy really fast. For $1.50 I can handle it, and I liked the metal studs around the pockets.

Gap T-shirt.
Brand I don't recognize, plain black turtleneck cotton sweater.

New York & Company. I wasn't sure about it but Amy liked it and hey, $1.50 and I needed an even number of things so I got it. I've bought other tops in this style before and I never wear them but maybe this time?
Grand total with tax? $21.40.

Next up, other favorite indie store that supports a no-kill animal shelter. As I've said many times, I don't fully understand their pricing all the time, but I'll try to tell you what I paid because you care. Right? RIGHT?

Threadless shirt! http://www.threadless.com/product/1316/Keeping_Up_With_The_Boneses - I think this was a dollar.

Another Threadless shirt! http://www.threadless.com/product/310/Sally_Finds_A_Stray Also maybe a dollar?

Woot shirt that I absolutely adore. Hard to tell from the pic, but it's S'mores Code! I translated it - can you? http://shirt.woot.com/offers/smorse-code Another dollar shirt, I think.
This book was a dollar. It's from 1962 and it's fascinating. I love New York City!

This was complete news to me. The borough was renamed in 1975 - you can look it up for yourself.
Cute little Old Navy shrug with shiny accents. It has a weensy bit of cashmere in it which makes it fancy, I'm pretty sure. This was $2 I think.

Plain but long Old Navy T-shirt. A dollar?

Target T-shirt because, as I've noted, I can never have too many plain black T-shirts. (They all fit in a different way! They all match different things, I swear! Also yay.) Probably a dollar.

The tag was cut out of this squishy lovely sweater so I know nothing about it - size, brand, materials. But I know that I love how it fits and I love the swingy sleeves. Possibly $2.

T-shirt dress from Steve & Barry, a store that apparently went bankrupt about 5 years ago. This dress is cute, sorry S&B for your woes.

Best find of the day, I think - thank you Amy for finding it! It's a Columbia coat that is in perfect condition though I think it's missing a hood, maybe. It was $5.11 - yes, eleven cents - and it fits my kid and she likes it. Hooray!
Grand total, with tax, $18.31.

And finally we went to Value Village just to poke around. I saw an old Palm Pilot and a really cool industrial juicer, but in the end bought nothing for me and just a few things for the kid.

Old Navy adjustable waist cords for my skinny girl. $2.49

Two more cute shirts because apparently all I want my kid to wear (and she approves) is soft cotton shirts with cute designs. $1.49 each, Carters on the left, Old Navy on the right in a design that looks like my kid walking our neighbor's dog.
Hopefully at some point in the future I'll post pictures of me actually wearing some of the things. But first, off to the washing machine they go...!

I found a linky party at A Living Space - and another at Thrifter Maker Fixer Farm. I joined both, I linked up (I hope I did it right), go check it out!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Manifesto for 40 - November 11, 2013

This piece originally appeared at quartersmagazine.com but it was edited and also they don't believe in the serial comma so I am reposting it here the way I want it to appear because this is my blog.

My 40th birthday is this week. I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that soon I will be an age that as a kid I clearly remember thinking was “old”—yet I don’t feel old at all. It doesn’t actually matter how I feel, though. It’s happening and alas, there’s nothing I can do to stop it. All I can do is embrace it as thoroughly and as happily as I can manage.

Interestingly, what am I finding as I move into this next phase of my life is this: My tolerance for bullshit is dwindling…dwindling…nearly gone.

In the past, I’d let stress about inconsequential things eat away at me. Mostly regarding situations that happened on the Internet—someone breaking rules in a forum, someone leaving a nasty comment on an otherwise interesting article, someone spreading misinformation or half-truths of some sort—but in relation to things that happened offline as well.

But now? Now that I’m hitting the big four-oh? Now I say FUCK ALL OF THAT. Life is too short and too full of things that matter, good and bad, to get wrapped up in these petty concerns. I have big plans – plans to get over all of the nonsense and move right on to the things that matter, the things that are important, and the things that I can really change. For example…

There’s a comment on an article on the Internet that is ignorant or spreading misinformation? Close the browser, go for a run, drink a glass of water, do something other than sit on my ass on my comfy couch and get worked up about something that either does not matter or that I truly do not have the power to change.

Someone on the Internet is breaking the rules somehow, with self promotion or referral links or simple asshattery in a safe zone? I’m not a moderator anywhere online at the moment, so it’s time to step away from the computer completely if I’m upset about something as inconsequential as this. Maybe I should read one of those hundreds of books around my house, maybe?

I’m keeping someone in my life who always makes me feel bad about myself? It’s time to reevaluate that relationship and possibly take a break so that all parties involved can regroup. But spending energy trying to fix an energy leak? I don’t really have time for that right now.

A project I really want to start – business or hobby - is making me whine like my six-year-old daughter whines? No. I need to figure out how to make things happen now, rather than wasting time on the what ifs and the fears. I have to stop worrying about potential failures and just make things happen. At this point in my life, a Greek chorus of cheerleaders isn’t going to appear from the mists to sing a song of the stupidity in my ideas. Either my ideas are sound and will work or they’re not and I’ll try something else.

It’s not easy to let things go but it feels like it’s time, both because of the calendar and because of how I’m feeling. I’m raising a child with a disability. I’m a freelancer married to a freelancer. I’m figuring out big things like where religion fits into my life and whether or not we’ll buy a house. If a jerk in another state wants to feel special by asserting himself anonymously online or if someone makes me feel 2 feet tall, it’s time to raise a glass in that general direction and move on by.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ten Things I Like to Eat Right Now - October 30, 2013

1. Pomegranates. Cut one in half and smack the shit out of it with a wooden spoon and voila, arils.
2. Real whipped cream. Yesterday was a weird day, but it was also grocery day. We're doing very well staying on grocery budget - GO US! - and shopping mostly at YDFM has worked out beautifully for a full month. My special treats have changed from a box of packaged something or other to some sort of fancy fruit or bread. This time my splurge was a one-cup container of heavy whipping cream, which I whipped by hand because I didn't think to see if the Vitamix could do it (it can, and it also can make butter by the way...) and ouch my arm. But cream plus a bit of sugar plus vanilla...and then I put dollops on parchment paper and flash froze that so that now I can have whipped cream in my coffee every morning. I am happy. (I also bought mustard seeds because I think I may try refrigerator pickles.)
3. Single-serve vegan chocolate chip cookie cake from this recipe. Note that her calorie count/nutritional information is absolutely ridiculously wrong - the cake is at least twice that and around 9 WW points, but it also makes a GIANT cake that is easily two servings. And it is delicious. I plan to halve the recipe the next time I make it but I will be making it again. Maybe with maple syrup or brown sugar or...
4. An apple in the microwave with a dash of allspice and a smidge of cinnamon. I put it in for a minute at a time and by the end I had something delicious. Also vegan apple cider donuts over and over and over.
5. Roasted cauliflower with Frank's hot sauce. Sometimes batter coated, more often not. See also: roasted zucchini chips with a sprinkling of parmesan.
6. A mini whole wheat pita from YDFM (nothing artificial, real real bread baked that day) with pears and gorgonzola (hot gorgonzola = amazing, I had no idea) and maybe some basil and spinach and onion.
7. Coffee with peppermint extract. Ideally chocolate coffee (like the iced mocha flavor I got on super clearance from Tarzhay). I am over pumpkin pie spice already and am ready for the peppermint/chocolate explosion that comes next.
8. Frozen banana ice cream. Recent realization: I always make recipes in the Vitamix by starting at 1 and cranking up quickly to high speed. But the banana ice cream comes out richer and creamier if I do that briefly and then run it on 2-3 for a short while. Ingredients? Frozen bananas and a splash of almond milk. And chocolate syrup after.
9. Brownie Brittle. It's a good thing this stuff is hard to find because it is amazing. I actually DID get sent a free sample of it from one of the various sampling programs I am hooked into, but this is the first time in a while that I have legitimately falling in absolutely love with the freebie to the point of having a friend with a Costco membership buy me a monster-sized bag that I ate rather quickly over the course of a week 5 days 4 days.
10. Steel cut oatmeal with maple syrup and almond milk. I make a cup of dry oats at a time, put the whole thing in a container in the fridge, and eat 1/4 of it as a serving - heated up in the microwave for a minute, then stuff stirred in, then another 30 seconds, it's perfection, really. And the kid likes it too.

Other things I bought on a whim at YDFM that I plan to eat over the next week: delicata squash, acorn squash, beets, radishes. My child keeps asking for strawberries, cherries, and watermelon, but I am trying to get her to understand seasonal food. It's bad enough that we buy sub-par tomatoes...

Friday, October 11, 2013

A few short updates - October 11, 2013

  • The grocery experiment is one week old and going well so far. I did a single big trip last Friday to YDFM and didn't spend a lot and got mostly fresh food and ingredients. (No coupons!) Today, a full week later, we still don't need to do another big trip. On Sunday I went to Publix to pick up some freebies, my husband went to a store for eggs, and yesterday I ran out to get milk (cow and almond). I baked - banana muffins, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pancakes, apple cider donuts - and then froze things and we have been enjoying them all week. I also premade steel cut oatmeal (I make four servings at a time). It's working so far, and it's really important. I also set up some other strict budgets and made some plans and I am hopeful that this will help us out over the next few months.
  • I had another IEP update meeting with the special education teacher, the general education teacher, and the speech therapist. I walked in worried about what I'd hear and walked out very comfortable and reassured. Again the speech therapist added more time - I actually argued against it for various reasons but in the end we're working it out. The kid is getting more pull-out time, but she still will be in her inclusive classroom a great deal. I don't love this, I have to admit - I want her to be in an inclusive classroom 100% of the time. But there are 25 kids, neurotypical and not, and there has been some staff changeover (we're on the fifth parapro thanks to people giving notice, taking other jobs, and so on, and there's a new person starting Monday). I know that pulling her out will give her more consistency and focus and allow her to learn her academic stuff. ACADEMIC STUFF in kindergarten - this still bugs me greatly as well but it's how things are. And she IS doing well with it (reading! math! Spanish! science!), so giving her a chance to keep up with her peers is important. The IEP is going to be tweaked and updated and I suggested that we revisit it after Thanksgiving.
  • AAC-wise, the kid has started pushing her talker away or turning it off. And she's also speaking in complete sentences that are mostly intelligible, so I get it. We're working on finding a balance - sometimes she does need the talker to express complicated thoughts or to be more readily understood. But our goal and the prognosis for her has always been that she'll be completely verbal, so I get it. (Also she can read and she has been reading for some time and I credit the talker with helping her literacy.)
  • Four weeks until I turn 40!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Trying a New Grocery Tactic - October 2, 2013

If you didn't already know, both my husband and I work from home as freelancers. And this means that every month our bills are the same but our income fluctuates. It's continually a learning experience, and we always have to tweak things.

Money has been a bit tight for a few months, so I decided to dig into some of our financial choices and see where new changes could be made. After a chat with a friend of mine, I wondered just how much we were spending on groceries. We never set a specific budget, but I was sure we were fine - I use coupons! I shop sales! I'm vegetarian! I don't buy a lot of processed food!

I went into my files and did the math and...no. We were not fine. We spend way too much on groceries. And we've consistently been overspending for months.

I do shop carefully. I do shop sales. I do use coupons. And my family shops at a range of stores to get the most bang for our grocery buck...and there is what we realized is one of our downfalls. Every time we go to a different store (ahem, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods being the biggest culprits), we get the deals and the items on our list - and then, somehow, we also throw in special items that we can only get at that store. Even if those special items are on sale or inexpensive, they rapidly add up. I admit it - I was in deep denial about this. (Also my husband throws ridiculous things in the cart every time...ahem.)

I still believe that spending more at grocery stores on special treats keeps us out of restaurants and keeps us from stopping for treats (we're surrounded by amazing donuts, cupcakes, popsicles, gelato...). While we overspent in this area for sure, we also dramatically cut back on our purchases of prepared food of all kinds. So that worked. But right now we need to cut back even more. Treats? I've been making multiple batches of these amazing baked vegan apple cider donuts and I'm eyeing a recipe for pumpkin chocolate chip cookies next. I'm working on it!

So where am I going with all this? We're trying a new experiment. For the month of October, we're going to only shop at Your Dekalb Farmers Market (YDFM) for food - or at least 95% of our food. (As I've noted in the past, YDFM is a warehouse sized grocery store that's full of organic vegetables, bulk spices, and a gigantic wine selection. It's an amazing store, basically.) I started listing the things that we can only get at a mainstream grocery store and it was very short. The prices on a few things at YDFM (which is cash/debit only and does not take coupons) might be higher than the prices at Publix, Kroger, TJs, Whole Foods, but I think that the general pricing will balance that out.

Better, we'll buy mostly vegetables and basic ingredients if we shop at YDFM. The store does carry treats and snacks, but they're higher quality and easier to avoid as well. One of the best deals is a fresh-refrigerated pizza - far cheaper than going out for pizza and much healthier (and handily beats any general grocery store frozen pizza in all ways). And I won't be swayed by sales or deals because there aren't any. I think this could work.

I will need to shop at Publix or Kroger on occasion - there's a big sale on laundry detergent coming up, for example. If there's some amazing deal on something specific, then we'll run in - and only buy that thing. Yes we will. We will! (Sidenote: I am very disappointed that Kroger has stopped doubling coupons and claims to have "lower prices" that are, in fact, not so much.) This isn't a strict challenge or a game, it's a process. It's about being more mindful.

I'm trying really hard to think of what else I might need from one of the larger grocery stores. Well...YDFM doesn't carry string cheese and I might go get that elsewhere (or skip it, haven't decided). While it does carry the almond milk I drink every day, I can get a much better price with a coupon at Kroger, so I'll probably buy it there. Or maybe try making my own. YDFM carries organic cow milk but it's not homogenized and, well, I prefer that, so we'll have to get it elsewhere. And don't get me started on YDFM's bananas....

There's also a bread issue (oh fine, I'll confess - the preservative-free fresh-made bread sold at YDFM is so much better/tastier/healthier than shelf-stable bread, and I just read Pandora's Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal[that's a referral link, FYI] and I know all about the junk in grocery store bread, but the good stuff goes bad so quickly unless I freeze it and I know it is because it's supposed to but...it's one processed food I got used to! This will be a change), but I might be able to make that work, and my entire family would be healthier if we only buy bread from YDFM.

But we'll skip TJs (we just did a giant run there anyway...oops...) and WF for the month. And also for the first time in possibly ever, I have a dollar figure that is our entire grocery budget for the month, and we are going to stick to it.

This is new territory for me - I prefer coupons and sales and "I saved 50% this week!" - but it's not working. So this is a step. I'll keep you posted on how it goes. Could this turn into "Every month I pick one store and only shop at it?" Maybe. But I actually think YDFM is the answer and the clear winner. We'll see.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Review and #Contest! Purex UltraPacks plus Oxi - Win a Free Package!

The Purex brand provided me with a sample of Purex UltraPacks plus Oxi in exchange for a product review. The brand also provided me with the coupons for the contest. All opinions are my own and that's always obvious but I have to say it.

Laundry detergent capsules in general are definitely appealing. I don't have to measure anything, there's no dripping, no waste, no fuss. I just shove it in the drum of my washing machine and go about my business. So those are the things I really liked about Purex UltraPacks plus Oxi. Plus, the UltraPacks worked in my HE washing machine, so that's good. Also, the scent was nice - sort of a soapy, rainy, pleasant scent. That's fine.

Bottom line: Purex UltraPacks plus Oxi (with Zout stain removers) definitely helped to remove stains as far as I can tell. My clothes looked and felt clean. So the packs did the job.

Now...well, here are the things I didn't like: The scent, while it wasn't unpleasant, was so strong that I wound up rinsing my clothes three times (twice with vinegar) to get everything under control. And it filled my entire (very small) laundry space. I've said it before, I'll say it again - why can't these capsules come in a free and clear version? Why do they have to be blue and stinky? Also, the warning on the package that I had to wash my hands immediately after using? That was a bit disconcerting (and let me assure you - I washed my hands!). I know it's likely just a common sense warning, and of course I'd wash my hands if I got liquid or powder detergent on them too, but still.

If these were on sale and I had a coupon, I'd consider buying them again to use in my towel laundry (strong scents don't bother me quite as much with towels as they do with clothing). And they really are easy to use, so that's a huge plus if you want to save time and just be able to throw everything around and go and not have to fuss with adding extra stain removers and so on.

Want to try these for yourself? Enter my contest and you can win one of three coupons for a free package of Purex UltraPacks with Oxi! (Open to U.S. residents only. Sorry!) You have until Friday October 4. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Happy Happy Thrift Thrift - September 22, 2013

Happy Fall!

Amy and I hit two of our favorite thrift stores on Friday and I think this was my best trip ever in terms of what I spent vs. what I got (and please note - NO BOOKS! None! I have issued a challenge to myself, actually, to pull out 50 books this week to get rid of. It's time. Also I may or may not admit that I'm going to my favorite used book sale of the year next weekend for half-price day...but it's the only sale I go to anymore! And so. 50 out. ANYWAY.)

Store #1 was having a sale. All summer clothes were a dollar a piece. A DOLLAR. The prices at this store are already very cheap, but this was fantastic. It's still warm here in Georgia, so I can still wear a lot of these now.

Also, here's my secret - a friend of mine told me about Twice - a site where you can buy and sell high-end used clothing. If you want to sell, you are limited to a strict list of brands. Twice will send you a postage-paid bag to fill, then they make an offer on what you've sent. If you want anything back, you have to pay to get it back - otherwise they donate it. And then they sell really nice clothing at deep discounts. I thought I might be able to make a bit of money back to finance my thrifting trips - so some of the stuff you'll see below is actually destined for Twice. But not much. (I'll tell you what pieces I bought to try to resell, OK?) If you are interested in Twice, here's my referral link: liketwice.com/cRhhf

I tried something different for the pictures - hanging everything up. I don't know if I would consider this a success, but you'll get the idea...

Adorable Ann Taylor Loft black button down shirt. I actually picked this up thinking I could resell it but IT FITS (but it's a weensy bit short - I think I can work with that). I have an idea for an outfit. Woohoo!
I had to - obviously - mess with the contrast/brightness on this (in a really terrible way) but it's an ADORABLE J Crew T-shirt with a little ruffly bit on it. And it's heading off to Twice for resale! Bye! [Update: Twice accepted this and paid me $2.50.]
Super super cute Ann Taylor Loft cardigan that is headed outward. I think this was $2. [Update: Twice rejected this, calling it "dated." I disagree but there is no arguing when you try to sell to Twice.]

Not quite short-sleeved Gap black shirt.

Oy. Terrible picture here, sorry. Brown Target shirt with longer than short sleeves.

I couldn't resist this Gap waffle shirt. I think it was $3.

Absolutely darling Ann Taylor Loft dress. MINE.

White House Black Market capris in perfect condition. These are going to Twice. [Update: Twice also rejected these and called these "dated." I have no idea why as to me these are not. Lesson learned.]

"Angels" brand jeans. I liked how they fit from the knees up a LOT. Not totally convinced that wide legs are for me, but today I'm wearing the wide-leg jeans from the last thrift post and they're pretty cute so. $3.

Levis. A tiny bit tight in the waist and I know that's not ideal but they were so cute otherwise and with a long sweater...right? $3

Gymboree sweater for the kid. Except she won't be this size for years. But for a dollar, it was just too cute and too perfect to pass up.

Same exact story as the brown sweater above. This one's a 2012 sweater, even.
Grand total with tax? $20.

Then we went to my favorite little store. That's where I bought the sweater/coat/duster from the previous post. And then I bought everything else. I will try to break down the prices when I know, but I wasn't even sure. Some things were $2 (like the duster). Some things were $1.50. Some things were 50 cents. I spent $15 total on everything.

Really cute Liz Claiborne top. I wasn't sure about it but it looks nice on and is a bit of a change for me. It was on a rack with "specially priced" clothes but it didn't have a special price, so this might've been $2.

Plain waffle shirt.

Plain black T-shirt because I can never have too many.

Plain black waffle shirt.

Green Old Navy top.

I loved this reddish top. But when I hung it up for the picture, I saw that it has a snag/hole on the front. BOO BOO AND MORE BOO. I am undecided as to whether I'll keep it for layering purposes or toss it.


This Vespa shirt is the tiniest bit too short but, come on, it's so darling. I can wear a tank top under it and nobody will be the wiser.

Why, it's another plain black T-shirt!

Terrible picture of a navy blue Old Navy sweater/hoodie (the hood is dragging down the neck, thus the weirdness).
Tadaaaaah. I now am pretty much set for the fall. I also went to half-price day at a nearby consignment sale for the kid and filled in her wardrobe ($13 for 4 pairs of pants/jeans, a T-shirt, a sweater, a long-sleeved Gymboree shirt, and...something else I'm forgetting). I love it. I LOVE IT!