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Archive for January, 2009

A decluttering philosophy for all of us

January 28th, 2009 at 07:35 pm

I found this in a book and it really struck me:

"Look at everything you own and imagine who among your friends might be best served by each item. If you yourself are truly best served by the item, keep it. But if you can think of someone you know who could put it to better use, offer it to him or her."

I am going through drawers and closets right now, repeating this.

Back on the $20 challenge bandwagon: sacrificing Beatles stuff!

January 28th, 2009 at 06:09 pm


Well, in my effort to get a tiki bar and to clear out things I no longer use, I am making two sacrifices from my beatles collection: 4 1963 Beatles stamps and my copy of the Paul Mccartney death hoax magazine. I bought them almost 20 years ago and it's time to let them go! Sigh. I guess this means I am serious about decluttering. They went up on Ebay tonight.

Also, I posted an autographed Bob Feller photo a relative gave us as a gift. I hate to regift, but we really hate baseball....Hey,someone bid on the baseball stuff already!

Up to me knees in snow

January 28th, 2009 at 06:39 am

Well, it's pretty snowy here. We had six inches over the weekend, 3 more yesterday, 4 more last night, and we're supposed to get 6 more today. Geesh! I went to the grocery store yesterday, so as long as we have electricity (for the furnace), we should be OK. I made hubby work from home today so I didn't have to worry.

It's his b-day. He is 36 today. We probably won't be able to go out to dinner due to weather, so I made him some choco chip cookies.

In other news, January was a very expensive month. In addition to the biggies like property tax, homeowners insurance, car registrations, we also paid for three new energy star windows, a trip to New Orleans, season tickets for MLS soccer, a 2-year zoo membership, and some other odds and ends.

The good news is we managed to do all of this without going completely broke or dipping too much into the savings. I'm pretty happy about that.

We also stayed under our grocery and gas budget, amazingly.

I have had a steady stream of freelance work, which is refreshing. Freelancing is feast or famine. Either you are in the weeds with too much or don't have anything for months, so the slow and steady has made me pretty happy.

I managed to miraculously muster the energy to work on my home office last night as well. Hubby and I each have our own "rooms" in the basement, so we have someplace that is totally ours to escape to. His is a manspace with video games, wall to wall bookcases, TV, etc.

I have an office in the basement with a walk in closet. I have all of my graphic design needs-- computer, scanner, printer, racks of books and vintage magaines, a sewing table and machine, piles of fabrics, etc. My office has become an abandoned dumping ground since the bean was born and I am finally getting around to cleaning it. I decided to repaint and redecorate to make it more of a lounge, where I can get work done or escape and have some peace from children and from in-laws (mostly in-laws!)

So, I have decided on a Polynesian theme (surprise!). I painted three walls a neutral beige. These are going to house my postcards and strange souvenirs from my world travels (in yet to be determined displays). I am painting the 4th wall in a bold accent color and installing floor to ceiling adjustable bookcases. The bookcases will be hidden behind a beaded curtain printed with Hawaii motifs. (These are very cool). With clever arrangement of furniture, I will also be able to fit in a lounge chair and maybe a corner for painting. My basement office is about the same size as our bedroom, although a different shape. It's really a bonus, because the basement is as big as the upstairs of our house (Go 1950s!), and this room lends itself really well to a workspace for me. It's tucked away in a hidden part of the house that no one even realizes is there when they visit.

Sorry for rambling! I have a lot on my mind.

worth every penny

January 25th, 2009 at 06:59 pm

I'm back from my last-minute frivolous 24-hour trip to New Orleans. It was worth every penny.

Grocery challenge success!

January 21st, 2009 at 06:55 am

Last summer, I embarked on a grocery challenge. Hubby and I were spending a whopping and ridiculous $948 a month on groceries and eating out.

I'm happy to say we have put ourselves on a budget and for last three months we have spent no more than $550 a month for groceries, eating out AND GAS! It's a miracle.

In part, I have Aldi to thank. I still can't believe I can get a cart full of groceries there for only $38.

Since it is going well, we are also reorganizing our food priorities. We are eating less meat and the meat we do buy is organic, grass fed, free range. It's more expensive, but we think it's worth it. Plus, when you are eating less of it you can afford to buy nicer varieties when you do eat it.


extra plane ticket discount!

January 20th, 2009 at 06:44 pm

In my last post I outlined hubby and I's frivolous expensive 24 hour trip to New Orleans for a friend's 40th b-day. Well, just on a lark, I checked the airfares again today and found that our airline had lowered the price of the ticket there by $120. I got on the Website and they let me rebook the first flight, and then gave me a refund for the difference. It shaved $240 off the airfare! Sometimes it pays to be curious. I am being frivolous but I still like to get the best deal!

Time for an expensive indulgence

January 18th, 2009 at 11:11 am

As you know, I spent a good portion of my adult life in New Orleans, and moved to Ohio due to Hurricane Katrina. Well, my best friend's b day party is this week. I have wanted to go for months. All my friends will be there, in one spot, so it'd be great to catch up. Well, the in-laws backed out on babysitting so we can't spend a week down there like w had originally planned. At first I was upset. Our trip was officially cancelled for lack of a babysitter. (Taking Bean isn't an option, trust me, at least not on this trip).

So, this morning, I made an executive decision. We are going on a whirlwind 24 hour trip to New Orleans, by plane, no matter how much it costs. I spent $1300 on the plane tickets, $112 on one night in a nice hotel in the Quarter. I was a little shaky when I hit "book travel", but now I am happy.

We have the money. We really need a break from our everyday life, and my best friend is turning 40. I couldn't resist. I know it is frivolous, but I don't care.

2009 is the year hubby and I start to live the life we want. I don't want to be so frugal all the time that we miss out on life. His parents were like that, and they never once went on a vacation. And now, they are too sick to travel.

We need some adventure, and I have decided we are starting right now.

My mom is going to watch him so we can go. But we have to be back so she can go to work Monday.

Conquered some "stealth bills"

January 15th, 2009 at 10:45 am

In my effort to reduce our monthly expenses, I didn't think I had much to cut. But then I realized we had some stealth bills, you know, bills you pay but don't think about because it's not something obvious like a mortgage or electric bill.

I paid about $25 a month for Webhosting for two web sites. So, I just moved all of my sites to a new company, where the cost is $150 a year (although my first two years are free, long story).

This will cut my Web bill from about $300 a year to $150, although I will still have to pay about $34 a year to maintain my domain registrations. Still, it is a lot less.

Crappy day, and expensive month.

January 13th, 2009 at 08:35 pm

Boy, today was trying. Beaner has a cold and turned from his sweet go with the flow self to the not eating, not napping, screaming for 10 hours straight monster. It was so out of character I took him to the doctor. No ear infection, just the cold, and we have to wait it out. Ugh. I hope he is better tomorrow because I was at the end of my rope by the time hubby got home.

I was extra stressed because I just got two freelance assignments last night and I really needed to get the ball rolling today to meet my deadlines. That didn't happen because I usually work during naptime and there were no naps. Ugh.

On another note, January has been an expensive month. so far, I've had to dish out:

$1,400 for half year property taxes.
$590 for homeowners insurance
$250 for two cars' insurance
$200 to renew my car registrations
$1,600 for some new Energy Star windows

Then hubby decided to buy season tickets to our MLS soccer team to the tune of $649.

Plus two bean doctor visits at $30.

I feel like the world is sucking the money out of my wallet.

On a more positive note, I still managed to save $500, and pay $40 extra on the student loan.

Here's hoping Beaner is more like himself tomorrow.

New money-making idea

January 13th, 2009 at 06:23 am

I don't want to jinx myself. But, I have ordered tons of seeds for my garden. I will be starting these indoors late next month.

If more of these veggies turn into viable seedlings than I can use in the garden, I am going to sell them for $1 or $2 per plant on Craigslist.

I'm growing some interesting varieties that often sell for $4 to $10 plant, so it will be a deal for whoever decides to buy.

Of course this all depends on those seeds starting!

Today is my 1-year blogoversary

January 9th, 2009 at 07:09 am

Ah. Time to wax sentimental. I started this blog one year ago today, because I had a life crisis that made me realize I really wanted to own a tiki bar. Now, I'm about $2,000 closer to that goal and A LOT closer to my other financial goals.

This is a very neat community and I am happy to be a part of it.

Discount codes for garden orders

January 8th, 2009 at 05:45 pm

I am garden-obsessed lately. Here are the coupon codes for two garden companies. I have used a couple of them with success:

Burpee seeds: FC53,BF18, or BN53. All good for $5 off orders of $30 or more.

Johnny's seed: 09-1014,09-1100. Good for free shipping

Also, in other news, I earned a whopping $3.18 in interest on my checking account. I can retire early now...

My ambitious money-saving garden plan

January 8th, 2009 at 10:56 am

I just posted that I ordered the seeds last night. here is the plan!

(this originally appeared as part of a longer post on http://www.middlepathfinance.com

Last August, I drew out a plan of what I wanted the gardens on our half-acre lot, surrounding our 1957 ranch house, to be like. I live in the city, on a typical used-to-be-suburbs but now I'm in the city limits lot. I grew up in the country, in wide open spaces with plenty of sunny room for a garden. Not so here, but despite its limitations, I am determined to convert as much of our land to agriculture as possible.

I'll tell you what I am going to plant on my modest lot, in the flower beds I have reclaimed from lawn.


* Mary Washington asparagus. An heirloom variety, to establish a bed.
* a hot pepper garden, so that we can dry them and use them to flavor our food all year long. We have chosen to grow Kung Pao hybrid, long red slim cayenne, false alarm hybrids and hot lemon heirloom peppers. We'll also plant one or two green pepper plants.
* five each of heritage everbearing red raspberries and royalty standard purple raspberries.
* red pontiac potatoes. We will be 'forcing' these in a trash can, like my grandpa used to do. By stressing the plant you can get great yields without wasting precious space.
* six Roma tomato and six cherry tomato plants. I don't know what variety, as we buy these from my former grade school every year during their plant sale fundraiser. They have always been good producers.
* the herb garden will consist of cilantro,pesto perpetuo basil,and Greek oregano.
* a patch of Ozark beauty everbearing strawberries.
* bloomsdale spinach and nantes carrots, for my raised bed and fall coldframe. I use these to extend the growing season. This will be my first year trying to extend the fall harvest into winter with the coldframe.
* green beans of a yet undetermined variety, at the request of hubby, who could live on these alone.
* the obligatory zucchini plant, also from the school fundraiser. I may get ambitious and plant two, even though I know I'll be up to my neck in zucchini. I have two new recipes for zucchini, and it always makes a great extender for sauces and such, so maybe I can keep up.
* A butterfly garden, including five varieties of echinacea, two types of bee balm, and some butterfly weed. I will frame this flowerbed with butterfly-friendly annuals, and maybe with lingonberries, which are delicious on Swedish pancakes, unusual, and look like an ornamental plant.
* Luffa. Yes, the luffa sponge is a squash, not something that is plucked from the ocean. This will be a fun experiment. They grow as a vine, so with staking shouldn't take up too much space in the garden.
* English lavender, for its aromatherapy qualities.

Ordered seeds today . EEEEE!

January 7th, 2009 at 06:38 pm

I get really excited when the seed catalogs come in the mail. I sent in a rather ambitious order today. I am really planning to garden it up and try to preserve food this year. I just read "Animal Vegetable Miracle" by Barbra Kingsolver for the third time, and that is probably dangerous when planning a garden.

I even made some unconventional choices. I have to garden in the front yard because my backyard is all shade, so I try not to raise the ire of the neighbors by blatantly converting lawn to agriculture, even though that's what I really want to do.

So, I do it secretly with plants that look decorative but produce food. The most obvious choice for that this year, is lingonberries. I ordered three. They look like a short, evergreen groundcover, but produce berries that are tart like a cranberry ( a little sweeter) and can be made into preserves that go great with Swedish pancakes.

I wanted to order some black currants as well, but apparently they aren't allowed to ship to Ohio.

Property tax went up $400 this year

January 5th, 2009 at 07:42 am

Well, I just got the property tax bill. It went up $400 this year. Ugh. This is extra funny because the city sent notices a few months back officially lowering the value of property to reflect housing market conditions, and yet the bill still went up.

This is in part due to a November ballot issue. The city has embarked on an ambitious new school improvement and construction program and needed more money too fund it. It passed by a narrow margin, and hence, I am $400 a year less rich.

Oh well. Good schools lift all boats, so here's hoping this project will help the city schools improve by the time Beaner is old enough to attend.

Ask and you receive!

January 3rd, 2009 at 07:07 pm

I have been secretly shopping for cold frame greenhouses, so I can start seeds and expand my growing season. I must have put something out into the universe.

My farmer-- from the family that grows the food for the food co-op I belong to -- called a few days ago to say that he had a cold frame that was too small for the farm to use. I could have it if I wanted it. Someone had given it to him, and he would be happy to give it to me. He delivered it today.

Sigh. Sometimes wishes do come true. I am so thankful for this opportunity.

Inspired by this new-found coldframe, I picked up the book "Four Season Harvest", by Eliot Coleman. It is fantastic. While I am not foolish enough to think I can grow enough food to feed my family even in winter, it did give me some ideas on how to make the most of the coldframe for seed starting and for growing cold-hardy veggies like spinach and carrots later into the season.

This should really help me make my goal of 100 pounds of produce this year!

Beaner at 9 months

January 3rd, 2009 at 11:23 am

Geesh. No one will ever warn you how hard the first year with your first baby is, but we are finally settling into a routine. For now at least, my financial fears surrounding having a bean are assuaged, and I am finally able to do some work from home. While he's sleeping, of course, but at least it's something. I know no one ever thinks your kid is as cute as you do, but I thought I would post this picture.



My mom had been bugging me to take him to a photo studio and get some real photos done so I did, and gave them to both the grandmas for Christmas.

Starting at zero. Boo!

January 3rd, 2009 at 08:36 am

Geesh. I just updated my sidebar to reflect my 2009 goals. It's much less satisfying than seeing the progress report from the end of last year, with money saved, IRAs funded and all that.

I'm sure y'all feel the same way. Oh well. I suppose that is the magic of New Year. Wiping the slate clean.

I have my work cut out for me this year for the $20 challenge. My goal is $2,500. Rather ambitious given the down economy.

The good news is I'm kicking it off right. I just sold a book on Amazon for a $17 profit!! Woo-hoo!

I want your old socks, seriously.

January 2nd, 2009 at 09:12 pm

New year, new project right? I started a new charity project, where I will be making sock monsters from old discarded (clean!) socks. I will use the profits to supply formula and baby food to my local food bank.

I only have a skeleton of a Web page for the project, but if you click around I have the "about" pages and such done to give you an idea of what the project is.

And seriously, if you have any socks lying around to help me get started, send them my way, please!

I'll be posting the first of the monsters there soon!

http://www.sockmonsters4charity.org