Sunday, May 8, 2011

Cloth Diapering

I forgot to mention this (I was very busy doing wedding flowers on Friday) but I was featured on my friend Jordan's website, The Fun, Cheap, or Free Queen in her series about cloth diapers. 

Head over and check it out for my take on how to use prefolds, flats and covers!

P.S. I really am going to post a tutorial on how I make my covers- this week, I promise. :)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Meal Plan Wednesday

Sorry I'm a little late with this, but it's been a busy week.  I do flowers and I have two weddings coming up- one this Saturday and one next Saturday!  I'm trying to get my house in order before tomorrow, when I get the flowers, so I am so busy!  But I think I should qualify "do flowers" as you may begin to think I'm some professional or something.  It's just a hobby that I love.  I took a class in college and did my brother-in-law's wedding.  It was so fun!  I only do it for myself, friends, or family. Especially weddings.  We've all met bridezillas and I have no intention of subjecting myself to someone that nit-picky.  I won't do it under those circumstances.  It's something that's fun for me and that's all there is to it.

End rant.

Alright, on to the plan.  For this week I tried to choose some easier meals, especially for the weekend, because of our busy schedule.  I'm also going to try my hand at making my own granola, granola bars, and bread.

Granola - sunflower seeds, walnuts, coconut, flax seed meal, milk
Cream of wheat


W  French onion soup, salad - onion (.25/lb), Swiss cheese
T   Chicken tacos - jalapeno
F   Pizza - red onion, bell pepper
S   Sandwiches, apples & granola bars
M  Bean burritos - flour tortillas, garlic, jalapeno
T Shepherd's pie - ground beef

Granola bars

Toilet paper
Dawn dish soap

So how did I do?

Costco           14.63
Sprouts          22.44
Stater Bros      7.86
TOTAL         44.93

Drats.  Part of the problem was purchasing yogurt (2.49) and the Swiss cheese (2.69).  That alone makes up the difference, but next time I won't have to buy granola ingredients.  I think buying a smaller amount of cheese from the deli counter might help as well, plus I plan on trying my hand at making yogurt, which is why I bought it in the first place.  You need active yogurt cultures to make your own.  I also went a little produce crazy, but at least we'll be eating well.

Did I mention how excited I am about the jam I made? No? Well, it set up perfectly and tasted divine.  I love mixing it into things like cream of wheat or yogurt. Delicious.  I store mine in quart sized ziploc bags because they last longer and store better in the freezer.  I can't give too much of it away because I'm not planning on making more; last year I made 4 batches whereas I only made 2 this year.

I think I'm still on the road to budgeting success, I just need to execute my plan better.

Must... resist... spending... money...

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Beast That is the Budget

As I've stated here before, we are trying to pay off our student loans.  Boy, what a beast it has been.

We are so very lucky that our college expenses were reasonable.  However, with both of us attending, then having a baby, we found that for our last year of school we had to take out quite a bit in loans.  Now, here we are after 2 1/2 years, and there's only $2000 left to go!  Just gotta keep our expenses low so we can finish those off.

I'm trying to stick to our budget, but every month it feels like something goes wrong.

For example, in April we spent $100 because I took Ben to the emergency room.  Is there an alternative?  For us, I think there might be.  First, I think I need to step back and really evaluate how my child is doing.  Is this an emergency?  Or can I take my child to the urgent care instead?  It's only a $10 copay.  That's a $90 difference.

Then, there's Costco.  We signed up for the American Express Costco card, and it's been pretty nice so far.  We get cash back, and last year we earned $80 just by using the card.  Nice.   However, I've always thought credit cards feel like magic money; you can whip it out anytime and it'll work.  It's bad, bad, bad.  Dangerous.  I think the key to overcoming this is to keep track of all my expenses, whether it's maintaining a checkbook ledger or collecting receipts.

I've decided to collect receipts and evaluate our expenses weekly, probably on Tuesdays when I make my grocery list for the week.  I've also decided to freeze some of our leftovers so there are quick-fix meals available.  Then maybe (just maybe) we'll be less likely to eat out. 

Another challenge I've noticed is that it's hard to ignore that we have money.  Not a ton of money, but we are never strapped for cash.  Maintaining a frugal lifestyle isn't necessary, but it's the way we've chosen to live.  I know that by saving money now, we are saving for the future, whether it's a future home, dishwasher, car, or child . . . the list goes on and on. 

Self-motivation is difficult, but as I've gotten older I've realized it's just something you have to do.  How do we stay motivated? I'm honestly not sure.  I think it's a combination of things.  Personality and established money habits have a lot to do with it, though I've noticed that I have grown much more thrifty over the years.  See? Change is possible.

How about you? How have your money habits changed?  How do you stay motivated toward your financial goals?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Osama bin Laden

So, they finally got him.

I usually don't comment on political things (and yes, I think this topic could be considered political) but the war on terror has been a part of my life since I was in high school (yes, I know that really dates me- I'm a baby).  As a high school student, I thought that all my guy friends would be drafted and that life would never be the same.  I thought it would be interesting to share with you what my 15 year-old self wrote about 9/11, so here are some excerpts from my journal:

"The biggest event in the world's history of Terrorism: September 11, 2001

Today, what was said to be the worst attack on American soil took place.  The World Trade Center, the Twin Towers, have been completely and utterly destroyed.  Part of the pentagon has been destroyed and was on fire.  They say over 10,000 people have died.

However, these were no ordinary destructions (sic). Planes were used. The terrorists went on suicide missions and ran the plane (sic) into the towers . . . . These men were members of Bin Laden's terrorist community.  That is all I wish to say right now.

Thursday, Sept. 13, 2001

Today the President declared war against Afghanistan Terrorism. WE ARE OFFICIALLY AT WAR. All I know is that I'm really scared.

p.s. School games (sports) and homework are still proceeding as usual.

Sunday, Sept. 16 2001

I got my facts messed up. The president did not OFFICIALLY declare war, but he said that any country who harbors Bin Laden, we consider that country to be the same as him. I'm not scared anymore. . . .

September 18 - Tuesday

Today was the week aniversary (sic) of the tragedy in NY and Washington.  I hope the country can heal itself.  I hope we don't go to war.

November 22 Thursday

There's been a big anthrax scare being carried through the mail. We are totally wiping out the Taliban in Afghanistan. Surprisingly, no one has turned in Osama Bin Laden yet, considering the reward for him has reached 72 million - dead or alive."

I hope you don't mind, but I edited a lot out about boys.  That's different subject matter entirely (and you're not ever reading that, mind you).

I know I wasn't the most eloquent teenager, but I remember how scared I was when I wrote about what happened that day.  I don't think I knew how to react.  The idea of war being a part of my generation didn't even occur to me.  I'd completely forgotten about the anthrax scare and how positive the news was about the war at first; see that, up there? "We are totally wiping out the Taliban?"  News media has certainly changed its tune a bit in the last 10 years.

I have some mixed feelings about this newest piece of news.  I'm relieved that they finally got him.  I'm sad that we've been at war so long.  I'm happy for the families of the victims of 9/11.  I can't help but feel a little irony that some of us are dancing in the streets they way they did after that Tuesday.

This evening we were driving home and saw a man waving a flag in the street.  I didn't know why at the time and I'm ashamed to admit that I thought he was a total loon.  I think I understand.

Bin Laden has been the face of terrorism for 10 years and today we got the news that he is dead and gone from this world.  I don't think it is wrong to feel a little swelling of pride.  We have been waiting for this for so long.

We were so positive and unified in our love for this country.  I remember hearing and singing "God Bless the U.S.A." all the time back in 2001.  I'm not gonna lie; I love that song.

"I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me
And I’d gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today.
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land; God bless the U.S.A."

I tear up every time I hear it and I don't care that it's cheesy.  I realized this evening that we don't own an American flag.  I remember growing up that each national holiday my mother would get out our fringed flag and carry it with reverence to our porch and set it up, carefully and gingerly sliding the flag onto its pole and easing it into its bracket.  I remember the peace in her face and her smiles at me.

I think it's time to invest in a flag.

I want my children to know what a blessing it is to live here.  They get to vote.  They get to live.  They can make life better for themselves.  I know the American dream means different things to everyone, and some people discount it entirely, but I think it's important to recognize that it still means something. I think it's about potential, the potential to become something more.  And it's still important to me.

After reflecting on all this, I feel a call to action to teach my children about life, principles of loyalty, honor and patriotism. I feel gratitude toward the men and women who have been fighting all these years.  I need to remember how blessed we really are.

What about you?  How have your feelings changed (or not) in the last 10 years?