Week 20: In Which We Celebrate my baby turning 3 years old

Week 20: In Which We Celebrate my baby turning 3 years old

Okay, so I am a day late on this post. I almost completely forgot about it. Kind of blissful actually, to not feel the weight of any particular “have to” for a brief period of time (though usually it’s a “want to”). I’m sort of in a post birthday prep haze. Today, my kiddo’s actual birthday, we just chose to lie low and take the day nice and slow.

What to report/reflect on this week? I did spend. Mostly on party related things, but in that regard I think it was all rather conservative and very successful. I did have a moment (the Asian part of me) when I panicked that maybe I wasn’t preparing enough food, but it turned out to be ample and everyone left with full bellies. It felt like party food on a budget, but maybe it was just the nature of the cuisine? I chose to do “Mexican” not because I know much about the cuisine, but because in thinking about what small children might actually choose to eat alongside their parents (that wasn’t pizza), I thought “why, beans…and rice…tasty rice…and salty meat always seems to do the trick”. From that I figured on some quesadillas, some corn tortillas, home made salsa made by my mum-in-law, guacamole made by my Aunt Barb. I didn’t try to be a hero, I got the re fried beans from a can and focused instead on the meat. Without tasty meat, you’ve got nothin’. So, I let the hubs choose a large cut of meat from our deep freeze (from our locally sourced and butchered 1/8 of a cow) and I started the thaw and marinate part about 48 hours out. Then, I slow cooked that puppy for 11 hours timed to be ready just one hour before show time; enough time to be cool enough to be broken up into delicious taco ready strips. I also made horchatta from scratch. Super simple and extremely delicious. I will be revisiting that one for sure. All that said, it really didn’t cost all that much and it was a feast. * A huge thank you to my salsa, guac and bday cake contributors! Not sure what I would have done without you, Cathy, Barb and Rebekah.

On other birthday stuff. Decorations…now that can get out of hand…if you go to a party supply store. I made that mistake with little M’s birth day last month. No, the place to go is the dollar store. They have an entire wall dedicated to plastic table cloths, utensils, napkins and plates, all in a spectrum of colours. My kid made the specific request to have “pink and purple…with a little bit of black” Hoh! Some sophistication added to the palette. Not bad for a 3 year old! I think I got all of the decor (balloons and streamers, table cloth, utensils etc.)  plus a few party gift bag toys ( a few items from Target’s dollar area) for under $30. So, not too shabby.

Also this week, I started to get a little bit excited about painting my girls’ bedroom. She is starting to transition into sleeping in there by herself at nap time. She still has daddy in there at night, but I foresee a change a comin’ and I am pretty excited about that. It will be nice to share the same bed with the hubs again. So… I sort of want to pretty up, and magical-up her room so that it becomes her little safe haven/wonderland. She, of course, requested pink (this is the baby I deliberately put in only gender neutral clothes for the first year of her life. Grrr.). I want to figure out a work around, a way to incorporate pink but also use some of my artistic skill….perhaps a bit of mural art. Her auntie got her one of those wall mounted lights from IKEA shaped like a flower, and those giant leaf canopies for over the bed. I can see a flower garden theme emerging. I also want a book nook. The hubs forbids me (being that he is a cabinet maker) from buying some cheap thrift store book shelf and spray painting it. I am loath to always give him the projects, but on this I think I can’t argue… plus it would be nice to have some shelving specifically designed for the space. So…I was sort of on the hunt for a cool area rug and some bedding for her twin sized day bed. I roped one of my gal pals into coming with me to a few thrift stores. Unfortunately, there were no gems. I did come away with one clothing item to help flesh out her dwindling wardrobe as she fully launches into her 3T size category. But that’s it. I didn’t needlessly spend on any nick knacks. I am proud of that.

I did not sell any other items on that facebook yard sale page this week. Though it feels great to get some stuff gone and a bit of cash in hand…it does take a lot of time in posting, follow up and coordinating pick up. I already feel like media takes up way too much of my attention at times. I really don’t want my kids growing up with images in their head of mommy staring at her phone like a zombie. So, because of that awareness, I just didn’t manage to find the time to post anything. I think what I will do is try to be smart about it, I will only post at peak times…aka Friday, Saturday, to try to move some stuff out while more people are looking and I also have the hubs to tag team; because it is still quite worthwhile and in line with my intent to rid our lives of unnecessary clutter. It’s always such a fine balance of priorities, isn’t it?

Alright, not sure that that is it, but it is going to have to be. Night. Until next week.

 

Week 19: Spendy and Thrifty in Equal Measure

Week 19: Spendy and Thrifty in Equal Measure

What shall I report this week? That I am confused? That I don’t know if this little experiment in cutting out needless spending is working out at all?

I was both thrifty and spendy this week in almost equal measure.

On the spendy: I will be brief about this, but let me just say that sometimes as a mom, it is more expedient to go somewhere close and easily accessible but more pricey, than somewhere farther away but more cost effective.

This was me as I walked into Whole Foods on my way home from a play date, my kids on the verge of breakdown pre-nap. I had to get food and I had to get it fast. I think I left with maybe enough food for several meals, a measly pile yet a strikingly high bill. As I left the store I thought, dang, I better make this the best salt chicken I have ever made in my life!

As a result of that spendiness, I ended up vowing to not return to the grocery store this week, no matter how dire; I would make due with what was in my cupboards, garden and pantry. For the most part, I think I did great. I did have to go out for some spices to make curry from scratch, and pick up some naan, but all else was scrounged from the dim back corners of my cupboards. As of this writing, my cupboards are rather bare. I eked out a pear (instead of banana) bread with the last bar of butter, last cup and a half of rye flour, last bit of sugar…and the only two eggs (freshly laid by our lovely hens) left in the house.

Tomorrow is grocery day, I basically need everything. I hope to get to a grocery store where I can spend the same but get a lot more bang for my buck.

I spent on other things. Namely a gift for my soon to be 3 year old, and a toy that, in my husband’s estimation helps to expose her to pursuits more in-line with what daddy finds fun and interesting: A tool box.

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I got this Green Toy tool box off that facebook group for $5. The dress she is happily wearing, $2. Both necessary? Perhaps not, but they both serve a purpose and were a delight. Also daddy approved.

I also couldn’t help thrift shopping with my aunt ( our favourite activity to do together ) in search of items to furnish this kitchen remodel my hubs is launching into. We hit up the local ReStore and I found us a great stainless steel sink, $40 with some wear and tear. We investigated it’s original cost: $700! So I came away feeling pretty darn good about that one. Considering the many temptations before my eyes (being a trinket collector at heart) I did really well, coming away with the sink and 3 sets of dresses for my tot who is obsessed with dresses and dirt in equal measure…and at $2 per dress, I felt it was a wise investment…both for her joy and my ease of mind ( if it gets spoiled, no big deal!)

 

On the thrifty: I started selling stuff on that local yard sale facebook page I discovered.

It took some time. I had 4 items posted for a week with no real takers. I also had a few flakers. But ultimately, I sold almost all of the items I posted and posted some more items that sold quickly. It felt good to open my mailbox to find some cash in it rather than bills! And it’s kind of addictive. I keep casting around looking to see what else I can sell off. This is an excellent way to rid our house of clutter in a far more targeted way than the laborious business of a yard sale.

I also became a sort of homesteader (as one of my mom friends calls it when she cans) this weekend making preserves! Yeah, I made pear jam from pears I’d picked up on a random, unplanned detour; I was drawn to turn down a road by beautifully hand painted signs saying “pears for sale”. I followed the well placed painted pears and arrows to a driveway with a tent erected over a table with single pears, small flats of pears and large flats of pears, for 75cents, 4 bucks or 7 bucks respectively. I placed the 14 dollars in the honour system jar and gleefully hauled away two massive flats of Bartlett pears, grinning like a maniac while quickly trying to figure out what one could DO with so many wonderful pears. I was certain I would think of something.

A week later, they were all gorgeously ripe and far too soft for my juicer. It was pear jam or nothing. Like a Tyrannosaurus attempting to tie his shoelaces with his tiny, tiny hands, I entered my kitchen equipped only with a few googled recipes, my mother-in-laws canning equipment and my almost overripe pears to begin the preserving process. Yeah, it was a little comical. To begin with, I had no jars. My hubs had kindly bought me three lemons and one small packet of pectin on my behest earlier in the day (far too little, as it turned out that two flats of pears makes an enormous amount of jam). Mid way through the jam making the hubs again went out and bought me some canning jars (again, far too few, I could have done with triple the number). What ended up coming of all that was actually, some decently delicious pear jam with a hint of ginger and cardamom…of which a portion was properly canned…and the remainder (over half) hastily poured into whatever vessels of varying sizes were available to contain it.img_20160821_081128.jpg

It was a sticky mess. I’d like to say that I learned a bit about canning and preparedness. I think maybe I did. Whatever it was that happened in there….it was exciting if not perfect. I am already looking ahead to perhaps begging some gorgeous peaches from a mama friend of mine so that I might attempt this whole canning adventure once again. I may be hooked! As to it’s thriftiness. It felt darn thrifty (maybe because it was so laborious). The fruits themselves were a steal. The additional cost of lemons, pectin and cans threw off the margins of “dead cheap” to “moderately cheap”. In the future, provided not all the cans are given away, I will only have to replace the lids, and if I were to continue this canning craziness, the thriftiness factor might start to rise.

 

I’ve been thinking about this whole blog and what it is I am trying to achieve. I feel like I’ve waffled a lot and sent my few readers on a bit of a journey of confusion.

Essentially, it is confusing. It’s confusing that spending is such a big part of life. Trying to discern what spending is of the utmost necessity and what is not, is even more confusing. It really comes down to goals. Is my goal to save up money and not spend at all? Or is my goal to live comfortably, surrounding myself with things that matter, not depriving myself of things but choosing carefully what it is I bring in? Over arcing it all is my relationship to things and money. Do I feel guilt when I spend? When and why? Do I feel pleasure when I spend? Is it lasting? Are the things I have appreciated?

I’m still getting to the bottom of all this. So, in that regard, this is not a futile effort, as confusing and meandering as it may seem.

I do, in many ways, feel accountable to you, my invisible readers. I sure hope you are out there. I like to think that you are, because you help me assess my progress week by week. Please feel free to comment here on my blog page and offer ideas, thoughts and support. Thank you for taking your valuable time to read this. Much gratitude.

 

 

 

Week 18: What’s in a Name?

Week 18: What’s in a Name?

I should rename this blog. Something more fitting like…Spending Better, or…An Exercise in Futility.

Naw. Just kidding.

But, I did not escape expense this week. Actually, I am really kicking myself over a major expense that shouldn’t have happened. My hubs encouraged me to go to the dentist since we pay for insurance monthly, so I did. Long story short, the insurance company makes it so gosh darn confusing that I ended up going to the wrong dentist and so had to foot the bill. The fact that the dental office didn’t catch this (I gave them my insurance group number a week in advance) and my insurance has an almost incoherent website with misleading and obscure titles, is a source of frustration. I consider myself a fairly educated and decently smart individual. It took a lot of work to find the right information and realize my mistake… far too late, though. So, I feel like a dolt on one hand and I also feel cheated because it shouldn’t have happened; and if I find the system too confusing, I suspect many others do too. But I chose the high (and perhaps easier) road and just paid it and let it go. Sometimes it’s not worth the anxiety and anger that’s tied up in pursuing a complaint.

The purchase last week of a 1950’s Wedgewood stove sparked off a whole other thing…namely my husband launching into remodel mode. So, this weekend he cleared a huge corner of our garage and began the job of moving a door so that we can gain a bit more room in the kitchen. Some expense came of that (though, if I hadn’t blown $260 on a dental cleaning, we’d still have about $110 not spent this weekend). Grrrr.

The last purchase I made was a juicer off of that facebook page that connects buyers and sellers. I got it for $15. Again, there was a mental pause. But, I realized that I need to try this. I have been putting off the idea of a juicer for various reasons, the most convincing one being that I would probably not use it. However, recently my 3 year old has been requesting juice (the questionable stuff the hubs picks up for his own consumption)…and other sweet things and refusing the veggies I lovingly cook for her. She even doesn’t want the smoothies I’ve been making. So, in an attempt to get some micro nutrient goodness into her, I thought juicing might do the trick. Right now is the season for fruit. I’ve been socking away ripe melon in the freezer for future smoothies and, in the neighborhoods around here, people are selling pears from their backyards, so inundated are they with their harvest (picked up two huge flats of Bartlett pears for 7 bucks a flat!). So many great ingredients for fresh juices. The very same day that I bought the juicer, I cleaned that puppy right up and juiced two carrots, two apples, a bunch of kale from our garden and a peach. The next day, same idea but with the pears. My kiddo thought it was delicious. How could she not, it was SO sweet…even though there was SO much kale in there!

20160812_084515.jpg So, if I can keep that up, alternating between juices and smoothies, hopefully I can get the good stuff into my girls. I’m also hoping that the hubs will fall in line as well on occasion…he is the worst of us all, Mr. No Veg for Me.

Today while burning time waiting for some friends to meet us, me and my girls walked around several stores. As if by magic, as I walked the aisles, items I had been thinking about this week (like that doohickey that cuts zucchinis into noodles, and hedge clippers) all appeared one by one in row after row. This never happens. Usually, when I want something, that’s when there is a conspicuous absence of that item everywhere I go. But no, each aisle held something I’d been contemplating, not only that, but many of them were on sale or great prices. I, however, purchased none of those things. I figured, I’ve survived without thus far, so I don’t really need them. Good on me. I feel pretty good about that.

Last thing: some of you might have wondered what happened to my hand eczema. I’ve not talked about it in my recent blogs. That’s because it is mostly a non issue at the moment. Somehow, when I came back from Canada, it had cleared up. By all accounts, there was not one thing I could attribute to this miraculous recovery. I had tried an elimination diet, but had only done it for 30 days before leaving on our month long trip. During the trip I went back to eating whatever, I did nurse my hands a bit more by putting gloves on, as well as green clay packs and colloidal silver hand rinses. But those things in and of themselves did not miraculously cure it. Maybe all in combination? I considered that perhaps an environmental allergen that had been present in the month of May when the flair ups began, was no longer there?

I finally put my wedding rings back on a few days ago…but had to take them off that same evening because I was starting to feel itchy. Wetness trapped against the skin is a real trigger for this whole eczema thing.

I still feel a little itchy at times, but no intense spreading itch or swelling or oozing. I know how lucky I am. I will keep you updated if anything reoccurs or if the cure becomes apparent.

Right now, I need to hit the hay. I am hoping to catch the early class at the Dailey Method studio. Yes, the Groupon I purchased to try out this gym has not gone to waste. I love the work out and get there at minimum three times a week. I can already feel the difference in my body. Yay for finding something that works for me right now.

Night.

 

Week 17: A New Temptation

Week 17: A New Temptation

Man is it ever hard to do a post on Sunday night. Seriously, I just want to sleep.

So, I guess I should attempt to be succinct. Ha.

I found a new temptation. My aunt turned me on to facebook’s sellers sites that are specific to the region you live in. It took me a while to find these closed groups, but essential, once you request access, you’re in and you can start scrolling through endless posts of things for sale in your area.

I know, what am I doing dabbling with such things when I am trying to not spend? The answer is…I don’t know. I couldn’t resist. Like my husband and his Reddit, I could not look away. I felt pretty confident that it would simply be cheap thrills and that there would not be much to tempt me. Lots of listings are for knick knacks, children’s clothes etc.

I actually half signed on to these in order to use it to sell my own junk. I am planning on doing so once I get the hang of it…there is some short form language used on the sites that I am trying to figure out. You can also post “in search of”s (ISOs) which could come in handy as I am actually in search of a Strider bike for my toddler for her upcoming birthday.

All that to say, I thought I was somewhat impervious. But then, it took all of maybe 15 minutes for me to scroll to a post that I could not look away from. This one struck me to my core, because it was something I have coveted since I was in my early 20s working at a kitchen store where on display was a pine green, enamel and chrome, modern but old looking Wedgewood. It was ludicrous expensive and completely out of my range…in fact most people’s range as I never sold a single one.

Well, folks, a Wedgewood was up for grabs…from the 1950s, in apparent working order, white enamel…and from my quick research much more reliable than most modern stoves. The seller was asking $200.

So, the ultimate test, I asked my husband. I was prepared to drop it as soon as he laughed in my face. But he didn’t. He gave me his blessing.

Sooo…after a trip to a neighboring city to take a look at it, and after enlisting the men folk to go haul it after they got off work, here it is:

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She’s definitely in need of some TLC but the original owners kept her really clean. The chrome has some rust, but I like to call that a patina. This beauty can heat up to 600 F which bodes well for pizza making…as well as an ability to burn super low for simmering which is something my current propane stove sucks at. It’s got a griddle in the center…I mean, come on folks, this thing is amazing. On the inside of the oven door are cook times for various 1950s dishes. So cool. We may have to do some retrofitting, but the hubs seems certain he can figure it all out. I love that man.

It actually got me and the hubs all inspired to start planning the final remodel in our house, the kitchen.

So, it would be all well and good if it all just ended there. But no…this weekend alone I picked up a bamboo and chrome stool that raises and lowers, to replace my other stool that causes my back to ache when I’m painting in the art room. That was $20.

Then, of all things, someone posted a pick of about 17 pieces of miniature furniture, plus tiny pots and pans, books, lamps etc. for $30.

What in the heck, Sharolyn, you say. Why would you want that? I know, it seems nuts. But, here’s the deal: there’s this really amazing doll house that was built for my husband’s grandmother when she was a little girl. It’s been passed down, seen hard times. Recently the hubs scraped all the old wallpaper off and painted the thing white. The plan is to redecorate it for my girls. I have been enthused about it but found no time to actually do anything with it. And I KNOW that if one does not take action on such things, in a blink of an eye, 10 years has passed and it is no longer relevant. So I took this post as my push. So, now I am in possession of enough doll furniture to outfit the house.

After all that spending, I feel like I am a hopeless failure at this whole “no unnecessary spending” thing. But if I really look at it, the purchases were valid. I guess, when I started this whole challenge, I thought my spending would stop dead. Turns out spending still happens, but in a more thoughtful way. I truly do evaluate its use. I suppose, if the goal were to not spend at all, this blog would be titled “living on nothing” or something like that.

What I did do was bring several garbage bags full of stuff to the Goodwill. It felt good to send some stuff along. In and out, that is how it works. Hopefully more out than in.

The challenge now is that I am in search of a few things for our remodel, like a sink, pot rack, flooring etc. So, no doubt I will be perusing those group pages on facebook again. The trick will be to learn how to use it for good: sell off the things I no longer need, and only buy for our specific needs.

I think I can do it.

Week 16

Week 16

I think this is going to have to be a short check in. I’m exhausted (Heh. When am I not?)

Today was my youngest’s 1st birthday. Where did the year go?

I just barely got to the end of this week. I took on a lot more than I needed to, culminating in a birthday party…more for me than my little one since 1st birthdays, I think, mean more to the mom who just survived the year and has the labour and delivery relatively fresh in their mind. I think the birthday gathering was a success, but I pulled if off with less finesse and verve than I had hoped I would.

The beginning of the week actually seems like eons ago. I was rearin’ to go, set up all sorts of meetings with mama’s and their kids, planned outings, etc. I love that kind of stuff. I love staying busy. But I forgot to schedule one day with nothing to do but stay home. …sort of a must. I just really wanted to get back into things having only just returned from our trip. I missed my mama pals. Also, if I must admit it, I often need things to do in order to get through the day. I can’t be productive creatively or personally, but I can be “productive” in getting us out and about.

By Saturday (yesterday) I was feeling the burn-out heading my way. Luckily, the hubs took the kids to go swimming and I had about 5 hours to myself to prep for Little M’s birthday. I had to do what I consider domestic triage, which is: decide what most needs doing and to heck with the other stuff. I chose cleaning the bathroom, getting decorations and food purchased and making the birthday cake.

So, yes, I spent money. I spent money on balloons and napkins, wrapping paper, party hats. Maybe I bought more decorations than I normally go for, but I was longing for cheer. I even darted into a store and picked up a new dress for myself and my oldest ( I so rarely get to buy her clothes). I briefly felt guilt, but then I just let it go. I wanted a damn dress.

And I realized this evening, as I started to examine the arc of this weeks and its theme of optimism down to pessimism and exhaustion…that it’s not about what I’ve been doing and that it’s too much, it’s actually about the external stuff, the stuff going on in the world right now. I feel down in the dumps. I feel like the world is crazy. The political climate here in the US ( and elsewhere) is…insane. I feel like we are on the cusp of something huge and catastrophic. I know that there is a lot at stake…and I am scared. I am really, really scared.

All of these thoughts in the back of my mind have been preoccupying me so fully that I have not felt centered, have not felt love and appreciation…all the things that help keep me going. I have surrendered to fear. I am not sure how to pull myself out of it.

I could launch into a rant here…but quite honestly, I don’t want to get into a shouting match with someone with opposing views ( normally I would be able to debate calmly, but these days I just want to shout). Suffice it to say, that I don’t feel the optimism that Obama showed in his convention speech. I feel the opposite. I am afraid that there are far more ignorant, hate filled or mislead people than we think…and that if we are not really serious about concentrating our efforts on making sure one megalomaniac doesn’t get into power, we are all going to go up shits creek. And by the time we all realize it, it will be too late.

To top it off, I am but a resident here in the US. My voice cannot be heard. I am a sitting duck. I, myself, am a foreigner here.

So, yeah. I am feeling in the dumps right about now. I really wanted to just feel joy in celebrating my babe’s first year of life. I feel far more fear now, as a mom and mama bear, than I think I ever would have if I were sans kids. The stakes are just so frickin’ high.

So, perhaps all this inner turmoil is why I spent on a dress for myself, necessity or not, because I felt like, what the heck, if this is the end times…why the frick not buy a dress I really like…and at full price to boot.

Why the frick not.