Broke my Bling

A few months ago while I was unloading the dishwasher I felt something go wrong with my engagement ring, and found that the diamond had come out of the setting and the prongs were bent and broken.

Thankfully I found the diamond, and I put the ring and diamond in a Ziploc until I could deal with it. I couldn’t fault the ring… it is over 25 years old and has withstood countless dings and mishaps; however, I knew it was going to be an expensive repair, and I wasn’t looking forward to spending the money.  Then again, keeping a loose diamond in a lunch baggie isn’t a wise decision either.

I don’t have a “jeweler.”  These days my main jewels are from Charming Charlie, averaging about $7.00!  I broke down last week, though, and took the ring to a small business jeweler.  The gold prongs had to be rebuilt… $200!

Purchases like this can be hard for me.  It’s a lot of money and not an urgent purchase.  I consoled myself with the fact that if I lost the diamond or tossed the Ziploc bag out, I would really be upset.  I also reminded myself that a $200 tune up on an engagement ring is nothing compared to the cost of a divorce.

I have my ring back, and it looks amazing because they also buffed out the dings in the band.  I think I have mentally recovered from the $200 expenditure.  Do you have areas where you find it hard to spend money?

Side note: back when we got engaged the ring cost $900 and we had to take out a payment plan for it.  Some people upgrade their rings, but I like this memory of being poor young people just starting out.

 

 

Saving and Homemaking 5/13

Happy Mother’s Day to the terrific Moms, Aunties, and Grandmothers out there.  Our week was a little crazy.  My husband and I were both sick, and the week was jam-packed with school events.  We got through, but it was one of those weeks where you are just making do until you can do better.

Saving

  • At my daughter’s band concert I had an opportunity to reclaim unused school supplies from her locker.  I returned them to my plastic storage container for school supplies.  On another school visit, I took back the massive stock of glue sticks.  How many glue sticks does a middle schooler need?!
  • I went to CVS with a 2.00 ECB they mailed me in a Mother’s Day promotion which expired 5/13.  Used it just in time.  Bought the 3 L’Oreal Shampoo in last weeks’ advertisement plus 1 Colgate 360 toothbrush and paid 4.77 and got 3.00 in ECB.
  • Used a free Starbucks birthday drink coupon (DH birthday) and we brought home a Venti and split it.
  • Used a coupon for a free Papa Murphy’s pizza (Teacher Appreciation) and it was very appreciated on a ballet night!
  • DH went to a discount grocer and checked their online ad before leaving.  He scored a BIC grill lighter for .49 after coupon.  I always need one of those for the summer.  Other good prices were had there as well.
  • Used a Walgreens’ photo 30% off coupon to make a photo collage for DH’s birthday with pictures of fun things we have done the past 6 mo or so.  It turned out nice and he will enjoy that in his office.

Minimizing

  • I returned 2 kitchen towels to Sur la Table that were attached to a Teacher Appreciation Gift.  They were very cute but I knew I wouldn’t have a use for this type of towel.  I exchanged them for items I can “use up” — pretty cake sprinkles and pre-cut parchment circles for cakes.  I will be grateful to have those every time I bake because my cake circles are always a sorry affair.

Cooking

  • Humble fare this week due to illnesses and school events.  Pumpkin pancakes, hot dogs and pea soup, etc.  I will make a pumpkin bread for the freezer with the leftover canned pumpkin.
  • DD made a gorgeous chocolate malted birthday cake.  It turned out a tad dry as chocolate cakes can be when they have melted chocolate instead of cocoa powder in them.  We found it much tastier with a teaspoon of coffee drizzled on top of the cake slices.  Many bakeries do soak cakes to keep them moist.

Cleaning

  • got the hats and mittens stored away and washed daughter’s winter coat.  Hopefully we can put that away?
  • hoping with better health this week I can get to the bathroom blinds and some detailed dusting.

What’s new in your home and garden? Any great coupon deals this past week?

 

 

 

 

 

Too Busy to Bother?

Stock-Images-Vintage-Plate-GraphicsFairy-blu2I am reading a new young adult fiction book called “American Street” about a girl named Fabiola from Haiti who comes to visit relatives in urban Detroit. Her plans do not include returning to Haiti.

One aspect of the book (no spoilers I promise) that greatly affected me is the contrast between the sense of home and gracious hospitality in Haiti and the utter lack thereof at her relatives’ house in Detroit.

There is no celebration for my arrival; no meal is cooked, no neighbors are invited to welcome me . . .  I open the fridge to find bottles of soda and ketchup and hot sauce and mayonnaise. . . . In the freezer are boxes of pizza and waffles and frozen meat wrapped in plastic. . . .  I grab a slice of orange cheese wrapped in plastic. . .  . I can’t believe this is the first thing I eat in America.  It tastes like a mix of glue, chalk, and salt.

This may be a work of fiction, but the scenario doesn’t feel all that fictitious to me.  I recognize the cultural trend in America that says, I’m too busy to host– I don’t want to deal with the stress– or – We’ll just grab a pizza.  Trust me, the reason this the theme spoke to me is because I have thought, and said, all of those things myself!

When I think about my own childhood, though, so many of the happy memories of family celebrations are centered around the special meals people took time to make.  My Grandma’s ever present Nesco roaster .  . . My mom’s fantastic Thanksgiving meals, including homemade cranberry sherbet . . . my Aunt’s rosettes (a fiddly Scandinavian cookie).

Sometimes I think Martha Stewart just wrecked us all.  The standards are so high that if you aren’t weaving your own tablecloth you might as well just buy your Christmas dinner at Boston Market and call it a day.

For me, the vision portrayed in “American Street” solidifies the importance of hospitality for friends and family.  These gestures say “You’re special” and have long reaching effects that most of us won’t ever realize.  I don’t have to weave my own tablecloth for a fancy dinner; a simple recipe prepared at home or flowers from the garden are ways to share love and create memories.

What are your thoughts on the state of hospitality in western life?  What are some ways you like to show you care even though it seems like “a bother”?

Saving and Homemaking 5/7

IMG_2208Planting

DH ordered a huge pile of mulch and has been spreading that in all of our garden beds.  We are still having frost and even freeze warnings at night, so we haven’t even gotten the peas planted yet.  We keep saying, ‘Maybe this coming week . . .’  Meanwhile, the lawn is growing like mad despite the cold temps.

Saving

This week was Teacher Appreciation Week and I won a gift certificate to Sur la Table and also a cutting board and knives.  I am very appreciative for the gift and the nice snacks and meals the parents provided for us.

DH happened upon a 50% off haircut at our local walk-in salon.

I used $ 4.00 in Extra Cash at CVS to purchase two jars of peanut butter.  The Extra Cash was just about to expire.  It’s maddening when an ECB escapes only to be found after expiring.  #Cvsproblems  I also took advantage of the extra cash given for Colgate toothbrushes and Kleenex.  Generally I only play “the CVS game” when it is an item we will use and the price is a good deal.

IMG_4055-private_fotorCooking

I found a nice size bag of frozen broccoli florets for 1.98 at Trader Joes.  This should hold us until fresh prices come back down.  Speaking of produce prices, garlic is also in short supply right now.  The produce report said, “Concerning Chinese imports, in February US Customs placed a hefty import duty ($4.71/Kg) on one of the few Chinese shippers who historically had little to no duty. The 2016 Chinese crop was already less than normal. This additional factor has further lessened the amount of Chinese product available in the US market.”  California garlic is a few months away from being ready.

We have been pretty diligent with eating meals at home for the last few weeks, so much so it feels like I have made every meal so recently.  I look forward to summer to have time to try some new recipes.  For the week ahead, we are going to have to roll with it because suddenly so much is going on with ballet, school concerts, and the like.  On Sunday I made some hard boiled eggs which can always work into a salad meal or to accompany tuna salad.

Cleaning

Better than anticipated!  I moved a few couches to vacuum, moved an end table to wash under it, and detail dusted some accent tables that are usually ignored.  My lofty goals for the week include putting away the mittens and hats and detail dusting the bathroom blinds.

Reading

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“American Street” by Ibi Zoboi, about a young Haitian immigrant.  I’m having many thoughts about this book related to the state of American homelife, which I will share in a separate post.

I hope your week was good and that if you are busy with soccer, baseball, recitals, and spring concerts, know that quieter days are ahead and enjoy the madness while you can.

 

 

 

 

Saving and Homemaking 4/29

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Planting

Last week I planted dill and basil in pots inside and the seedlings are up!  Fingers crossed they get enough sun to grow into sturdy plants.  It’s under 40 degrees F here, so no planting outside yet.  I have pea seeds ready to go.

Saving

A good week!  I found eggs on sale for .39 cents/dozen and purchased two dozen.  That same store had their deli meat on sale for 50% off, which may sound scary but both were loss-leaders to celebrate the opening of a new store location.

At another store I found a “save $4.00 when you purchase 4 items” promotion.  Did the $4.00 come off my receipt?  No, of course not.  I went to the service desk and they gave me me the 4.00 in cash.  I noticed when I signed for the refund the person on the form ahead of me had also sought a refund for the same promotion.  Must watch receipts.

DH is tracking the cost of flights to England so we will have a better idea of the price of flights if we are able to afford a trip next year.  He is using a simple notebook for this, going back to our roots when we were first married and our weekly budget was in a spiral notebook!

At the end of the week we had cash left over which we put towards upcoming birthday and Mother’s Day expenses, and also vacation this summer.

Watching

90DD and I are enthralled with the show “When Calls the Heart” on Netflix.  We are only at the beginning of the first season so don’t spoil it for us!  We are scheming to watch episodes whenever we can.  If you are a fan of Little House, Dear America/Dear Canada books, or historical fiction, you must check into it.

Cooking

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We ate at home this week, and rather frugally.  I made a quiche with the .39 cent eggs.  I had bacon in the freezer, leftover cooked mini yukon potatoes and also chives from my garden to add to it.  Today we had “make your own taco salad” for lunch, which was an opportunity to use up ingredients from when we had tacos earlier in the week.

We used the deli meat for a quick sandwich dinner on ballet night, saving the cost of a take-out meal.

Cleaning

I didn’t accomplish anything too far outside of routine cleaning.  I was too busy watching “When Calls the Heart.”  I did get some wet cloth dusting done, which I do with Dr. Bronner’s soap mixed with water and a microfiber cloth.

Reading

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“Lucky Broken Girl” by Ruth Behar, a middle–grade novel about the author’s experience as a Cuban-Jewish girl whose family flees Castro’s Cuba for New York City in the 1960s.  I am trying to read kid lit this year about kids and young adults who come from racial/gender/disability/cultural/religious backgrounds other than my own.  DD said this book should be moved to the top of my to be read list.

How was your week?  Any great grocery finds?  What are you reading and watching?

 

 

 

My Kingdom… for Some Broccoli

vegiscabbage-graphicsfairy009Last week I read “The War the Saved My Life”, a historical fiction book by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley set in Kent, England, during World War II. The book gave me a deeper understanding of the dire situation facing a country cut off from their food supply. During WWII, German submarines circled the waters around England.

This was a big problem . . .  because England didn’t grow enough food.  Most of the food that English people ate was shipped in from other countries (p. 164)

The book reminded me of the current precarious relationship between the US and Mexico over “The Wall”, and also concerns about deportation of migrant workers who farm and pick produce all over the United States.  Prices of meat, dairy, vegetables and fruit can all be impacted by the current political climate.  Even staffing levels at US/Mexico border crossings affect the price of produce as it travels to el Norte.

We had to queue for groceries every day now.  Meat was on ration and a lot of other things were hard to find.  Onions were so scarce they might as well have been solid gold.  No one had realized that all England’s onions were imported until they couldn’t be imported anymore, and onions took a long time to grow from seed (p. 248).

I found myself thinking about how temporary or long-term weather pattern changes can also affect food availability.  April has been a rough month for produce.  Have you seen the broccoli prices?  I am seeing $3.40/pound for broccoli crowns and $2.60 for broccoli with stalks.  Avocados were affected a few months ago by Mexican labor issues and weather.  All California lettuces are currently considered “extreme shortage” right now due to growing conditions.

Could weather, global warming, or political instability affect our food supply to the extent experienced during WWII?  I sure hope not, but the book made me understand how rapidly things can change.

Have you changed your produce buying habits due to the current supply issues from flooding in California?  I plan to plant some snap peas soon because they are Ok to start in cold weather and mature rapidly.  I have my herbs started inside, and the other veg seeds will have to wait until we are frost-free.  I am looking for some better-priced frozen options for berries and broccoli.  I can live without romaine and red leaf lettuces, because mixed greens and spinach that are grown in greenhouses remain at a lower price.  Broccoli was always my “go-to” vegetable for dinner, so the high prices are causing me to try out some other options.

 

Saving and Homemaking 4/22

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Forsythia blooms

Spring has arrived where I live, and with it a renewed interest in tending to the outdoors and freshening up our home.

IMG_2193Planting

This week I planted some herbs in pots inside. I started with dill and basil.  We have a sunroom so hopefully I will have some very inexpensive herbs in the coming weeks.  I was inspired to try this because we have been planting seeds with the junior kindergarteners at school.

Saving

Our local grocery store has e-coupons, and every Friday they issue an e-coupon for a free item as well as some other loss leader deals requiring the e-coupon.  I have been too lazy to log in to their website since the school year started.  I tell myself I’m too busy or there’s not time for everything.  In truth it look about 4 minutes!  I think I will commit to checking their deals on Fridays… this week was a free box of Annie’s Mac and Cheese which is appreciated.

Watching

This week I watched ‘The Ultimate Guide to Penny Pinching” while I was on the treadmill.  This documentary was filmed in England, so it amused me to see the grocery scene in the UK.  If you are a fan of saving money at the supermarket, you might enjoy it.  My favorite couple interviewed were putting on a wedding with a very tight budget.

Cleaning

This week I worked in the sunroom, since I was already there staring into my pots waiting for my herbs to sprout.  I gave the houseplants a deep soaking outside, moved the couch to vacuum under it, got cobwebs out of the corners, and went through the always accumulating mail.

Reading

Every moment I get I am sneaking a few chapters of the excellent middle grade book “The War that Saved my Life” by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.  The topic is the children evacuated from London to the countryside at the beginning of WWII.  This Newbery Honor book is for anyone 4th gr and up.

Cooking

“Using up” is the theme for this weekend.  Finishing off ham in the freezer with ham and eggs after church.  The evening I am grilling some odds and ends from the freezer and making potato salad from scratch because I have celery, onion and mini red potatoes.  Our local food co-op had organic pastured beef on sale so I made up some taco meat for the freezer.  Tonight I will sit down and think up a meal plan for the week.

How was your week?  Any savings surprises or spring cleaning?

Close Call on Debt Free Anniversary

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Love those cute readers

Well, it seemed like a definite possibility that I was going to lose my job today on the ol’ debt-free anniversary.  Sobering!

Yesterday I got an email inviting the 4 people in the the school district that have my position to a meeting with the HR director and Finance director.  Never good.  Especially a meeting with no agenda.  We suspected there was a 70% chance they would reduce the hours (again) and 30% chance I would be gone altogether in the next school year.

It turned out that they are going to reclassify the position which will take away vacation pay and some of the holiday pay.  I can live with that.  I am relieved because I love my library job and the kids.  My husband is relieved because he is really eyeing up retirement at 57, and a comparable job would be hard to find for me in the current education climate.  I am not ready to give up summers off because of DD’s age.

So, debt-free day will close with massive gratitude and relief.  Underlying these feelings is motivation to “make hay while the sun shines” and keep saving for both a UK vacation and retirement to make my husband’s early retirement a reality (he has over 10 years to go).

Have you had an employment wake-up call like this?  In education it’s become dicey every single year.

 

 

 

Debt Free Anniversary

Pink Roses

Stopping to smell the roses….

We were relaxing on the couch last night and I remembered that this Thursday is our debt-free anniversary.  My husband and I had to think back to how many years have elapsed since we paid off our house.  Six!  Every year I have to count back to figure it out.  DD was in kindergarten when we sent that last check off to Wells Fargo, and now she is in middle school.

It takes hard work to pay off your house and credit cards, but it is just as big of a challenge to stay out of debt afterwards because there is no “end” goal to count down to.  It’s just — stay out of debt and keep staying out of debt.

Over the past 6 years we managed to re-side our house, buy a new car, and added  a bathroom to the basement without going into debt.  To accomplish these required a lot of saving and budget meetings week in and week out.  It’s possible to pay cash for these expenses though when you aren’t making payments.  Our next major expense is hopefully a trip to the UK in 2017.  To accomplish this… saving, budget meetings every Saturday night, and using my part-time employment to put towards the vacation budget line.

If you are currently in the debt payoff process, keep at it with that gazelle-like intensity.  Efforts like clipping coupons and having no spend days are fine, but none of these things can rival the amount of money you save when you aren’t paying interest on car, home, college and credit cards.

Thursday we will probably celebrate by getting take-out dinner of some sort, and perhaps a family activity this weekend like going for ice cream. . .  or Chik Fil A 🙂

 

 

April Goals

Inspired by Laura Beth over at Hot Shot Headlines, I felt a post about monthly goals brewing.

dfbb2bab2fe032d4f537560224c6ffabBoost plant based vegetarian meals

DH and I used to be vegetarians, and I had a vegetarian pregnancy as well.  Somewhere in the sleepless days of having a toddler (10 years ago!) we went back to a more animal-based diet.  I have just finished reading “The End of Heart Disease” by Dr Joel Fuhrman and I am feeling convicted about increasing the amount of plant based, whole  foods meals.

Professional Reading

This month I am reading the acclaimed book for young adults “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas and I would like to get to “Merlin” by TA Barron which is the selection for the Andrew Luck (“the librarian of the NFL”) Book Club.

Fitness/Health

Lose 2 pounds and crank up steps on Fitbit to 11,000 on Sat and Sun.  I do better during the work week when I am shelving books all day.

Family

Set aside a date to celebrate our debt-free anniversary later this month.  Begin hatching a plan to celebrate DHs birthday.  DD and I would like to take him on a surprise day to celebrate his awesomeness.

Financial

Day to day finances are in good shape.  Begin costing out expense to go to York, England, next year.  International travel is scary expensive for a family not willing to go into debt to travel.

How is your April looking?