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Thursday, February 28, 2013

thankful thursday

Today I am feeling so thankful for Minou in my life.
He is travelling for work and I miss him.
I do not always show him enough appreciation for being his wonderful, quirky self.
He is kind, funny, sensitive, tender, principled, passionate, playful, determined,
loving, forgiving, silly, creative...
and basically a soft-hearted solid rock of a good person. A good man.
A total kid at heart. An adult in the day-to-day.
He believes that love is in the details, in what you do.
I am so lucky that we met all those years ago and have grown (up? older?) together.
My sweetie.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

frugal february report

The numbers aren't in yet on utilities, but I'm feeling good about frugal february...
I'm posting early since I.will.not. purchase any more food or gas until 3/1.
Let's crunch some numbers, shall we?

January Food: $525
February Food: $300 (wait, what?)

January Gasoline: $ 80
February Gasoline: $41

Wow! I call that progress.
If a little suspicious.

And you know where it's all going.
Straight to the mortgage.
Take that, evil interest!

Tell me about any frugal challenges you've set for yourself.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

bike tuesday

Hi there--I'm still here, just working away on some end of term assignments.
We had a brisk, crisp, morning and really beautiful, spring-like afternoon today.
And my bike commute was fantastic both ways.
It seemed impossible, when I was in the phase of not-bike-commuting, to imagine how much I would enjoy it. All I could envision was cold, stress, and inconvenience.

Well, it's not like that at all.
Every time I start biking again after a break from it, I can't believe how good it feels, and I marvel that I manage to forget that fact. The truth is that I really look forward to my commute. I arrive at work feeling invigorated, and arrive home feeling calm (I ride a little faster in the morning).

And worries of inconvenience--pshaw.
I bike in skirts and (water-resistant) knee-high boots, no problem. With pants, I keep a pair of nicer shoes at work and switch them out when I arrive (it rains a lot here). I have gloves (actually Minou's), and one of those cute little black biking caps (from p'tit minou un) that goes under the helmet (this is important, because otherwise my old helmet leaves a big red indentation on my forehead, and everyone at work says "OH MY GOSH, WHAT HAPPENED?" for 20 minutes until it fades).
I also have an over-the-shoulder satchel to carry lunch, papers, a book, etc.

If you don't bike commute yet, give it a try! Start small. Just do it once. You might get hooked.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

simple sunday style

I have decided to try going natural.
I am already a pretty natural kind of lady (gal?).
But I'd like to be more so.
Good health and self-care are most beautiful.

I do wear makeup, but not so anyone would notice.
Just a little brown eyeshadow, mascara, and natural lip color (more of a gloss).
I think I'd like to try to do without.

I'm not really sure what "real" color my hair is now--I've been using henna on it since I was 15 years old!
It's been a lot of shades, from aubergine to auburn to bright red to dark brown to a medium brown now.
I used to enjoy mixing the powdered henna colors and waiting for the surprise result.

Henna is a plant-based color that also naturally conditions the hair.
However, it is becoming quite expensive, and it's a lengthy and messy process
(think slathering green mud on your head and leaving it on for several hours!).
I'm getting tired of the quarterly upkeep.

My hair is growing in silver around the temples now...

One of my coworkers has the most beautiful silver hair, looking very stylish.
My mother also has lovely cascading silver hair.
I'm ready to try. I cut off about three inches last night.

Following the recommendations of Mrs. MM (and many others!),
getting a good night's sleep of 8 hours, daily exercise, and healthy food with many fresh fruits and veggies, are among the best (and certainly most frugal) beauty practices.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


As I rode my bike home yesterday I thought about choices.
I love my job and enjoy my co-workers.
I learn new things every day. I use what I learn to help people.
Basically, I'm very happy at work.

All the staff in my program share responsibilities.
There is quite a lot of camaraderie and teamwork.
There is also a little bit of office politics.

Is this typical? It's not something I'm very familiar with. I'm a little unsure of how to respond.
Communication becomes something that takes careful thinking.
I don't want to over-think, however, because then everything becomes awkward.

I have decided that I will not participate in anything resembling gossip.
(It can be tempting--but brings nothing of value to the situation, and can cause damage).
I need to learn to either step away, or say "I don't need or want to know that."
If something affects how I do my job, or there are inappropriate dynamics, I also need to speak up.
That's challenging sometimes.

I spend a lot of my life in the workplace these days. It's an uncomfortable feeling to "watch my back".
I can't quite let my guard down, but I can choose to create the environment I want to work in.
So no engaging in negative behavior or communication, either overtly or covertly.
Put positively, being respectful and courteous to all, recognizing strengths, and assuming positive intent.

I like drama in the movies, in novels. That's enough.

How about you--have you ever had this kind of experience?

Friday, February 22, 2013

frugal february friday update


  • rode bike to work 4/4 days! (Monday was a holiday)
  • used car once on weekend to take p'tit minou deux shopping (see angst-y post below)
  • Minou used the car three times Saturday to make a two mile round trip to the grocery store. Tsk, tsk, tsk. But it was a deliberate choice; we had friends coming for dinner, he was cooking, he valued his time more at that moment. He stated.
  • Back bike light is out; need to find the rechargable batteries. Luckily it's light when I leave work.
  • Spent more this week. Cupboards were bare. Decided against a lentil-based diet (though I like them).
  • Bought fancy sandwich spreads at Trader Joe's for livening up simple fare (tapenade, roasted pepper & garlic, etc.). Bought some luxury items: veggie ham, parmesan, a bottle of wine (friends for dinner)
  • Starting into the new week with a semi-full fridge, will try to just pinch-hit as needed (fruit, veggies, cheese, milk) until March rather than doing my usual weekly shopping.
  • It got cold again. I haven't turned up the heat but I am feeling it, especially up in our unheated Attic Addition at the top of the house. We have a mountain of comforters and each other to stay warm.
  • Still trying to be careful with the water. No baths. Shorter showers, usually.
  • Turning off the printer at night (last one up).
Frugal Fun:
  • The Ladies have started laying again! We have had an egg a day since Monday. I tricked encouraged them by placing a decoy in their nest, and the days are getting longer.
  • Very nice meal with some good friends. Spaghetti, homemade marinara, sauteed tofu, garlic bread, salad, red wine, and ice cream with homemade fudge sauce. 
  • p'tit minou deux now wants to go out for frozen yogurt. He argued earnestly in favor (he is very earnest, that one) of supporting the local family-owned business whose yogurt he enjoys. I think we will have  homemade ice cream sundae night at home instead.
  • Minou wants to watch the "new" James Bond movie at the dollar theater this evening, which is actually $2 (maybe even $2.50) per person on Friday evenings. We may rent this from Redbox for a dollar instead.
How about you? What frugal adventures did you have this week?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

the perfect is the enemy of the good

"Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien"-Voltaire

The perfect is the enemy of the good.
I have to remind myself of this concept constantly.
For me, the significance is the fallacy of all-or-none thinking.

All too often, if I can't (or think I can't) do something to the level or standard I wish for, I give up.
(darn those perfectionistic tendencies!)

Here are some things I am reminding myself of this week:

  • it's better to jog 20 minutes a day than not to jog at all
  • it's better to drive the car on one errand than to drive the car on three errands
  • it's better to say "I'm sorry, I was wrong" after I lost my temper than not to say it
  • it's better to clean the dried spaghetti sauce off the stove even if the grease stains won't come off
  • it's better to take a 15 minute walk break at work than no walk break
  • it's better to spend a little more on fancy groceries than be tempted to eat out
  • it's better to do 25 push-ups than no push-ups
  • it's better to make sure my children eat fruits and veggies at dinner even if none at lunch
  • it's better to complete an educational assignment on time than to make sure it is stellar
  • it's better to read just a few pages of a book with p'tit minou deux than not read together that day
  • it's better to put $100 extra toward the mortgage than no extra
Can you think of any examples from your life? If so, I'd like to hear them!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

weekly food report

This week I tried some new things.

On the weekend, I pulled out the waffle iron and made yeast-leavened waffle, which were delicious--crisp outside, tender inside. They needed to rise for an hour and a half before cooking in the waffle iron.

These were so popular at breakfast that I made them again for a savory dinner, topped with slices of "veggie ham" (a vegetarian meat substitute), sharp cheddar cheese, and runny fried eggs. So good.

P'tit minou un consumed at least five of the savory waffles, declared the dinner to be enormously inadequate (despite having had a banana, a glass of milk, and a cup of salted peanuts just prior), and proceeded to make himself a giant sandwich after dinner. Teenagers. It's hard to keep them fed to their satisfaction.

I baked a batch of whole-wheat banana-chocolate-chip muffins with the first egg the Ladies have laid in weeks (hurray! here's hoping it's just the beginning of the season!).

I made a giant pot of minestrone soup. It is tomato-based, with sauteed onions, carrots, broccoli, and rainbow chard, orzo pasta, red beans and garbanzo beans, and seasoned with fresh parsley, basil, oregano, lots of garlic, and a little red wine. Simmered for hours so the flavors meld. Very nice for dinners.

I also am planning to make and freeze a batch of burritos that can be pulled out individually or a few at a time for dinner or snacks, with whole pinto beans (cooked them myself), cheddar cheese, black olives, and salsa. We will see how the flavors and textures hold up.

What are you cooking this week?

Monday, February 18, 2013

never be normal

The title of this post is a knockoff of a great one written by Mrs. Money Mustache about how living the frugal life (she would say the Mustachian life) can permanently alter your perception and habits.
She titled her post "You'll never be normal again!"

I took my younger son to the mall yesterday. Why, you ask?
He needed shoes, grey jeans, and long sleeved t-shirts.
Well, he really needed shoes. They do that, those kids, they grow and outgrow things.
The jeans and t-shirts I wouldn't say he really needed.

However, he has decided that grey jeans are the color for him, and so the grey pair now has a giant hole in the knee but he continues to wear them to school. So traditional of me, but it bugs me.
He has blue pairs and black pairs that stay in the closet.
Same with shirts--he has several, but they are either very frayed, too large, or somehow not quite right.

I suggested second-hand shopping--at least twice. But he looked at me earnestly and said, "I've had so many second or third hand clothes in my life, Mama--almost all of my clothes were (p'tit minou un)'s first, and lots of those were someone else's first too."

He is right. And while I know that this is not a bad thing, that wearing hand-me-downs or third-hand clothes does not mean deprivation, I was still swayed--I wanted him to know that he is important to me, that I heard this was important to him, that he meant enough to me that I would swallow my aversion and go to the mall.

And so we did. Yikes. Once we were there, we quickly found jeans, and shoes, and plotted our escape. The smells, the crowds, the lights, the pounding music--it was completely sensory overload for me, and I suspect for p'tit minou deux as well. Because an odd thing happened when we couldn't find any plain, simple, long sleeved t-shirts in either of the two stores we had now been in. Everything had logos, or writing, or branding, and that wasn't what he wanted. Neither did we want to venture any further into that giant place.

He sort of forgot why we had come, and began saying that he didn't really need any more t-shirts (forgetting the weeks of rejecting the ones he has for above reasons or size or conditions). Meanwhile, I went into bossy generalista Mama mode and became very directive, demanding of the young skateboarder/hipster clerk WHY they didn't have PLAIN CHEAP t-shirts and WHERE could someone who HATED the mall find such a thing. Because I was darned if I was going to come back another day after p'tit minou deux remembered that actually he really wanted a t-shirt or two.

Target, the young man told me. Go to Target.
It was in a different mall.
So heck, we were already out and about (driving, I might add)--we drove there too.

I am happy that my son is happy. I want him to have non-ripped and non-frayed clothes to wear to school. I get that he has had almost exclusively hand-me-downs (except for the times his lovely Grammy has taken him shopping), and appreciated having something new for himself. He has the right to have his own opinions about the colors and styles he prefers, and he is usually a very easygoing member of the family who tends not to assert his own wants and needs too strongly (maybe not strongly enough, at times).

However, I feel downright icky. We drove our car at least 15 miles round trip, polluting the air. We bought clothing that was cheap for us because it was likely manufactured by someone in a sweatshop in Nicaragua or Bangladesh. Clothing that he did not really need (except for the shoes). Money spent that is also now not going to melt the mortgage this month.

Did I do the right thing? Am I making too big a deal out of this?

What do you think? Have you had similar dilemmas?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

mood magic

I keep thinking about a term I read long ago in a book called Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.
That term was "wrestling with the tofu" (or how about "wrestling with the futon"-ever tried to move one?)
It's the process that one's mind can go through when sitting down to meditate.
Or in my case, trying to overcome inertia or grumpiness.

Rather than wrestling with my own mind (sounds so complicated), I resort to linguistic tricks.
When I am sitting on the couch with my laptop and need to get up and get moving,
telling myself "You know you need to go EXERCISE" just makes me feel teenage rebellious.

So instead I's time for a little Mood Magic!
Once my shoes are on and I'm out the door (with my trusty big brown dog), I feel instantly better.
And that elevation lasts for hours. Effects are doubled when the sun appears along the way.

Minou used to complain when I headed out the door to jog, leaving him alone with two tiny p'tit minous.
He learned over time to say "Good for you--it's good for your heart".
These days I bet he's pretty glad for the existence of Mood Magic.
I'm much nicer to live with because of it.

Some days he even says "Don't you want to start your day with a jog?"

How about you? What's your Mood Magic?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

frugal friday update

It's the Frugal Friday update--on Saturday!


  • rode bike to work 5/5 days (new benefit: chatted with nice bike commuter coworker en route)
  • filled up gas tank for 1st time this month (we are using less with my commutes out of equation)
  • used the car only once last weekend, to pick up p'tit minou un from far-away friend's house

  • food spending for us four this month so far is around $250--more than I hoped, but pretty good.
  • on the downside, because I have been busy with schoolwork, I haven't been planning/cooking much and meals have been rather plain. Need to work on that this week.

  • thermostats at 64 and staying that way. Ignoring complaints and bundling up. 
  • taking "military showers": get in, water off, soap/shampoo up, water on, rinse, out.
  • turning off lights and "vampire lights": printer, power strips, laptop.

frugal fun:
  • found a gift card I received for my 40th birthday (a while ago) and went out to lunch with Minou during the work week at a fancy delicatessen, twice! (had delicious & interesting sandwiches)
  •  had Friday Family Movie Night (third week in a row). Borrowed the third Matrix movie from the library. Had frugal snacks (Valentines chocolate from a neighbor, snack mix and soda courtesy of p'tit minou un's generosity, and rum and coke for Mama Minou courtesy of winning the liquor at a holiday White Elephant party).
  • borrowed "The City of Ember" from the library per coworker's recommendation. Read it, loved it. Passed it to Minou who read it, loved it (he cried at the end--we are sappy that way). P'tit minou deux also read it and liked it. P'tit minou un read it years ago. Then we watched the movie.

How about you--any frugal fun this week?

Friday, February 15, 2013


I'm feeling good about giving a wonderful coworker & friend a gentle nudge.
I encouraged my 20-something colleague to consider opening a deferred compensation retirement account.
She made the call.

I just went to a "Retirement Strategies for Women" seminar and was pleased and surprised to see women who looked to span at least 6 decades there (of course, it's hard to tell).
I wish someone had talked to me about such things at her age.
(Or maybe they did, but I wasn't ready to listen? Not sure.)
Where my coworker goes from here is up to her, but if she starts thinking about long term saving now, she'll be way ahead by the time she gets close to needing it.

How about you? Is retirement saving on your radar? At what age did that begin? 

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Happy Valentine's Day!
My sweetie knows the way to my heart. That Minou Man is so thoughtful.
Look what was waiting for me on the table at breakfast.

A pound of organic French roast coffee, plus Voodoo Doughnuts for the p'tit minous.
Hope your day was sweet as well.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

go around gently

Sometimes the procrastination issue gets the best of me.
I have been thinking about it a lot, and how to wiggle around it.
Facing it head-on feels like throwing myself at a giant boulder, trying to shoulder it out of the way.
Something is blocking my path, and the reasons for it are complex. Brute force is ineffective and just leaves me feeling bruised.

When this happens, I am blocking my own path. I am both the blocker and the blocked.
It's better if I can just get myself out of the way. To continue with this image, I have to find a nice little forest trail that gently wanders its way around the big boulder, so that I don't really notice I'm past it until I look backwards in surprise and relief.

That's what I'm working on now. Breaking down the tasks that are triggering my aversion into tiny, little, chunks. Then finding small rewards for after each step, that make me feel good and feel good about myself. A small walk. A chapter of a novel. A home skin treatment. A few minutes to write something here.

It also helps to reset patterns by working in a different spot. I moved from being entrenched on the living room couch (though Mowsie Cat kept me company) to the quiet Attic Addition, which reminds me of a Swedish cabin with its clean, bright emptiness.

What are your tricks for overcoming procrastination? Or is it an issue you struggle with?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

lights & leftovers

I have become that mother.
The one who follows everyone around turning off the lights, or is constantly calling up the stairs "Are you coming back down to the bathroom? Because you left the light on!" (mentally: Again!)
Or, "Did you remember to turn off your power strip? You think so? Let's just pop in and check."
And, "It's so nice and bright in here. I can see why you like it. But do you really need two lights just for doing your Algebra II homework? Hmm? I didn't think so!" (click)

And even better: the mother who finishes the food on her children's plates that they did not deign to consume.
(Let's hope p'tit minou un never reads this post, for he would faint with embarrassment).
This is actually a rather common practice among mothers of preschoolers, at least it was among those that we spent time with back in the day. Maybe a little less so among mamas of teens.

However, I hate, hate, hate with a passion wasting food, and I have nothing against leftovers on principle. So if one of my boys happens to declare something inedible, or himself too full to touch it, I am prone to scooping it into tupperware and taking the leftovers for lunch the next day.
There. I said it.

Does that send me over the edge from frugal to cheap?
Am I taking things too far? Or just being reasonable?

No dumpster diving yet.
Just kidding, honestly.

Monday, February 11, 2013

thermostat update

I did it--I reset the home thermostats to 65. All of them. No cheating!
I am taking advantage of a novel concept called "layered clothing" for comfort (see humorous post by Mr. Money Mustache, and especially read down for the truly inspiring story of Alaskan bike commuter Sister X).

Today, that means legwarmers under my jeans, two pairs of socks, a wool scarf, and a wool sweater.
I am nicely toasty.
I police the boys' rooms a little bit, nudging their thermostats back down as they nudge upwards.
I drink hot tea, in addition (haven't caved and bought coffee yet).

It's also warmed up significantly since our January cold snap.
Which was nothing compared to what the East Coast is enduring right now.

I hope our water & electric bill will be back under $100 this month.

How much do you heat your home?
And how do you stay comfortable?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

simple sunday: groceries

At the beginning of the month, I wrote about trying to decrease our monthly grocery budget in order to pay down the mortgage principal more quickly. Part of this involves meal planning and focused shopping.

Each weekend I think about the main dinner meals for the upcoming week. We have several staple main dishes that we rotate that are quick, easy, and liked by at least three members of our household (have I mentioned that p'tit minou deux is a rather picky eater?). Those include spaghetti with marinara sauce, garden burgers, enchilada casserole, homemade macaroni and cheese, burritos, homemade pizzas, and vegetable soup for the Parental Units (as the boys enjoyed calling Minou and I for a while).

Then we do a weekly grocery shopping, also making sure to have snacks (yogurt, fruit, baking ingredients), lunch materials (sandwich bread, carrots, cheese and peanut butter), breakfast food (generally rolled oats, raisins, nuts, cinnamon), and vegetables.

Last weekend I did not do a big grocery shopping, deciding that we would try to empty the cupboards first. And empty them we did. I don't think I've ever seen the fridge so empty at the end of the week. Success!
However, with two hungry teens in the house, I have to be careful not to let the pantry get too bare. It feels like a serious emergency when there is nothing quick to grab and eat. Explosions could ensue.

Yesterday, Minou did our big shopping for the week, and took seriously my maximum $100 spending request. I'm curious how we will do this week for further shopping, since we no longer have the back-of-the cupboard stores we once did. Don't worry, I will not forget the importance of fresh fruits and vegetables.

My challenge: we are almost, almost out of coffee (actually finished the real beans a week ago, and I've been drinking the Nescafe we bought for my mother-in-law).Coffee, my very favorite small luxury...

What would you do?
Buy more coffee, or go without?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

simple saturday bike update

Here we are, Saturday again. I thought it was a good time for an update on my biking to work goal.
I'm happy to report that I rode my bicycle all five days this past week.
Also happy to share that I really, really enjoyed it.

It's calming. Invigorating. Refreshing. A transition between home and work. Exercise.
It got easier to organize myself as I went through the week.

I have a pair of biking gloves and a little black cloth cap that goes under the helmet.
I have a pair of used rain pants and a water-resistant windbreaker.
I have a battery-operated strong front light, and a blinking back red light.
I had to buy batteries for my front light this week, since I have misplaced one of  our rechargeables.
Darn it! But then I was glad that I did buy them, because I worked late and rode home at dusk one day.

I now leave my work shoes at work (those new/used Dansko low heels), and wear running shoes while biking. This is easier than carrying shoes back and forth. I dress in layers and have an over-the-shoulder messenger bag for lunch, reading materials, etc. Minou may eventually put a basket on the back of my bike.

I found a small shortcut, a couple of alleyways and a different turn that makes it easier to cross a busy street. Sometimes I go around the hill if I'm tired or trying not to get sweaty.
What used to be a 20 minute ride is now 15.

Where I used to work, there was an exterior rack, so I always carried a U-lock. a cable for the front tire, and a plastic bag to cover the seat when it was raining. My office building now has both a covered bike cage out back and a secure bike room with hooks. I use the room, so I can just wheel the cycle in and not even worry about locking it up (sometimes I don't even hoist it up to the hook). It's great!

So weekly bicycle summary: 30 minutes of active transport exercise for five days, and at least 20 miles driving saved, maybe more.

Do you ever use active transport?
How, where, and when?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

a wednesday walk

Today is Wednesday, the midway mark for my work week.
Minou phoned me mid-morning to remind me of our Wednesday lunch meeting.
We used to try to do this weekly, but fell off our schedule during the visit of his maman.

It was such a nice surprise. Immersed in what I was doing, I had forgotten about our tradition.
Instead of eating lunch together, we decided that today we would go for a walk.
And it was perfect. He brought our big brown dog and met me at work, and we went off to walk the bike trails next to the river. It was so much fun to walk hand-in-hand watching the joggers, bikers, families, and ramblers in the park, along with the river through bare trees on the bank.

A weak but very welcome sun came out. We soaked it up.
A beautiful hour together.

And...nothing purchased. No money spent.
What's your favorite simple pleasure?

Monday, February 4, 2013

weekend cooking

Mondays can just feel so challenging after the relaxed pace of a weekend at home.

Getting out the door calmly and on time in the morning. Having everything organized for the week.

And for me (not for much longer) ever-present online assignments hanging heavily over my head.
(I sometimes feel like they follow me around in the form of a visible dark rain cloud of worry)

All this is why it is so nice not to worry about dinner for Monday night. I love to cook up a storm on Sundays, with dishes that we can eat heading into the week. This weekend I made:

  • Creamy potato-broccoli-garlic soup, with a milk base
  • Enchilada casserole, with homemade pinto beans, yellow corn tortillas, black olives, cheddar cheese and mild enchilada sauce
  • Macaroni and cheese made with orzo pasta, bechamel sauce, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses
  • Cinnamon coconut-milk muffins
  • Blueberry cobbler (this went to a birthday potluck and did not come home, it was much enjoyed)
I will just wash and tear the lettuce for salads and move some frozen peaches and berries out from the freezer to make breakfast smoothies with yogurt. Petit minou un also just requested a pie...we will see..

Minou and I are starting our healthy eating habits again. It's been a long slow slide since Thanksgiving. But we are strong, and we will support each other.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

clothes shopping

Yikes! After all this talk abut frugal living, I went clothes shopping.
A good friend who loves to thrift shop invited me to meet her at a 50% off sale at a very nice, slightly upscale second-hand clothing store. I went intending to spend no more than $10 and hoping to find a pair of dark jeans that are presentable enough to wear to work on Fridays.

I had recently noticed that my favorite black pair of work pants, a uniform if you will, was showing serious signs of wear (not surprising given being worn at least three times weekly for the last four years, and purchased second hand! Those were amazing pants. No ironing required.) The hem was fraying, the inseam was ripping, and they were starting to look a little faded. Boo. I also noticed that my beloved black Dansko clogs were cracking and the heels were getting very worn. Again, these have been my daily shoes since fall of 2008. The cracks started while wearing them biking in the rain--not a good idea with leather shoes. The dress code (unofficial) where I work is quite casual, but looking professional is still appreciated, and I knew it was time to retire the clogs and black pants soon. I was thinking, though, that I would try to last until spring--just a few more months.

Long story short, I had no luck with jeans (always challenging for Pears with Curves), but did find two other pairs of pants, an REI grey casual one and a well-fitting replacement black pair, new with the tag on. The total for the two after the discount was $18. I also found a new-but-gently-used pair of Danskos with a little heel--a narrower, dressier, look and more height than I am accustomed to, but just my size, very comfortable and a good price at $16 on sale (they would be over $100 new). I was hesitating, but bought them after I noticed that my tan socks were visible through the cracks in my black everyday shoes! (I usually wear black socks, so I hadn't noticed. My friend's husband later asked, "Didn't you try duct tape on the inside? That's what I would have done.")

What do you think--was this a good investment in my professional wardrobe?
Or should I have gone for the duct tape and waited until spring?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

frugal february

Hi there.
We are starting a new month. This means it's a good time for a new challenge.
I think I have already mentioned my determination to melt down my mortgage.
Each month I want to put all the extra pennies I can towards it.
Pennies won't go too far, but dollars will. Even a few here and there.

The biggest spending categories that we can easily control and cut are groceries and gas.
Utilities too, actually. Our water & electric bill has jumped almost 20% to $120 since the Attic Addition
(more space to heat) and with the month-long cold snap we endured here in the normally mild PNW.

So...a challenge!
First up: take on the gas bill. Yikes! A good month for us is around $100.
I can't control the chauffering that happens when I am off at work, but I can change how I get to work.

  1. Ride my bike to work four out of five days a week.
  2. Make any weekend trips under three miles by bike or on foot.
  3. Try to do grocery shopping once using the Burley bike trailer!
Second: take on the grocery bill.
This is challenging, since I already feel like I'm fairly frugal here, and we have a picky eater on board.
  1. Grocery shop once a week at a larger discount store, and only buy milk/fruit/veggies in between
  2. Try a cash budget and stay under $500 monthly for the four of us
  3. Do not stray from the list at the grocery store (avoid those impulse purchases)
Third: take on the utility bill
Oh, the dreaded Being Cold. I wear a wool sweater, wool socks, wool scarf, and hat at home. I really dislike being cold. I am often the guilty party nudging up the thermostat. Our heating bill has nudged up accordingly.
  • Keep downstairs thermostat at a consistent 68 degrees (I know that's high, but it's lower than now)
  • Keep upstairs thermostats at a consistent 65 degrees
  • (according to Architect Minou, consistent is more energy efficient than raising and lowering)
  • Take On-Off Showers and no hot baths.
  • Get KGallons of water at or under 5. (that's a crazy lot of water, folks).

Anything I can save I will throw at the mortgage. I'll let you know how it goes.

Anybody else up for a frugal february challenge of your own?
What will it be, and what will you do with the money you save?

Friday, February 1, 2013

frugal february

Ah, health is returning to our household.
Which is leading me to ponder the question What is health?
What does it mean to you, my eight (?) blog readers?

I'm trying to spend more time thinking about this question than frugal frivolity,
but it does seem like there are some nice overlaps.
Especially if, like me, your mind tends to run toward exercise, diet, and stress when thinking health.