Saturday, May 31, 2008

Homemade Bread video (Really good instructions)

Homemade pizza dough recipe demo

Trying to behave

I found a really good web blog dedicated to making a commitment not to buy new products for a period of 2,4,6,8 or 12 months. It is called Compacting Mamas and it is very inspiring. I am going to do a 2 month informal trial run and see how well I can do before actually making the leap. Hey, it's a big step! I am a rampant consumer aka. impulse shopper, so this is really going to be like going cold turkey with chocolate. Thankfully that is not one of the things since it is a food item....technically.

One of the biggest reason for doing this is to save money. With gas prices being what they are, I will cut corners whenever and however I can. That will entail a drastic reduction in fluff spending. With Compacting Mamas, basics such as food,shampoo and hygiene things are exempt. Thank God! And you can name exemptions of things that are necessary. For example, I am going to sell some of my stitch markers and handmade jewelry, pottery and craft objects. so supplies related to this venture are exempt.

One of the ways that I plan on getting away from spending on new is to avoid shopping for ANYTHING when I am bored and tired. This will help save gas too.

I have been prompted to make these changes because of the high cost of gas. Let's face it, if you have a choice between getting to work or buying something new, the new item has to be given up. If I am getting screwed by the oil/gas companies, I will not spend my money on consumer stuff..This will mean being really careful when I am on the Internet too. I tend to shop at Amazon for books too much. That will stop for two months, at least. I am hoping this helps ease me into curbing spending long term. I have a membership in a book club that automatically sends a book from my reading list (books I've chosen) so that will have to be exempt too. I get charged if I cancel. Plus the books are $9.99 shipping included, so it isn't a huge bite into the budget.

Some other things we have been doing to cut out a little extra spending is to eat at home more. With the exception of our biweekly dinner group outing, we have been eating at home a lot more than in the past. When I was working outside the home, we were always stopping and getting something pre-made because hubby and I were too tired to cook. That has been seriously cut down. I think making it from scratch or at home also cut out a lot of salt and preservatives, depending on what you are cooking. Obviously if you are using boxed dinners, you have sodium and preservatives to contend with, but I think overall homecooked meals tend to be healthier. Hubby and I love to drink coffee in the morning. Good coffee--not the pre-canned and stale stuff. We buy whole beans from a roaster here in town and sometimes from the bulk bin at the natural foods store and then grind our own as we need them. The difference in flavor is phenomenal, and the savings over getting a coffee at Starbucks or another coffee shop is significant. I will splurge on our dinner nights out every two weeks, but not in between. Eventually I want to cut that in half. The really interesting things is that there are so many varieties of coffee from different places and each one has different characteristics. Grinding and brewing at home has definitely educated my palate. In the mornings I grind the beans and make coffee while hubby is in the shower. We have a small collection of insulated travel mugs, so he goes out the door with his coffee and we save $.

It will be interesting to see how well I do in the upcoming weekend. A friend and I are going to Kansas City to take a cooking class and do a little exploring. I know we are going to hit a couple used books stores, so I am not even going to pretend I won't be buying. I plan on taking a load of books to trade for store credit. One of our favorite places to go is a chain store called Half Price Books. They always have an incredible selection of books. I may also go to the spice store in downtown Overland Park, but probably just to look since I really can't think of anything I need that I can't get locally. There is a yarn shop there also, but I will try not to splurge there. For the most part, I have more than enough yarn, so if I buy, it has to be something really incredible that I can't get in the shops in Wichita or Newton. The 2 months of "no buying new", I plan to work on reducing and using what I already have in my stash.

As far as spending today and the past couple days, I had a lot of things that needed to be paid as far as pottery studio memberships for both my son and I (this is important to us), dinner out with out dinner group, bills to pay, and a little bead buying. The beads are actually part of my business and will be used in things I am selling, so I am not to worried about that. I have to sit down and make up stitch markers as soon as I get the wire I ordered earlier in the week.

How have the soaring gas prices affected your routines and spending? Have you cut down, cut back, or just plain stopped spending? Leave me a comment and let me know how you make the ends meet!

Good coffee and great friends to you and yours!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Hump day

Wednesday is here--two more days until payday.

We always do pretty good on the budget until the last 4 days. Then it seems that little things nickle and dime away the bottom line. This check I am going to be really conscience of where every cent is going since a lot of big ticket bills come out of this one.

Eventually I want to get to the point we can actually set aside a full 10% of the paycheck without wincing. We set aside a large amount of each check for the mortgage, but I want to put aside money strictly for savings. It would be ideal if at least 20% went into saving each pay period, but we'll have to work up to that.

One of my favorite frugality websites is packed with great ideas on saving $. As with anything, you have to pick and chose what is right for you. For example, I REALLY don't like cloth diapers, so the cost of disposables was my personal choice. Although not green, it did make my life a lot easier when my boys were younger. Having twins, the time saved washing and cleaning diapers was an advantage to me. Everyone has to decide what is best for them and what works. However, I have found some really good gems and advice from this sight and highly recommend it.

One of the things our house has been doing more of is eating at home. When I worked outside the home, we ate entirely too much fast food. Both the budget and our waistline showed it. Since coming home, eating fast food is a rare occurrence. I am taking a cooking class at the Kansas City Culinary Center this June so I can learn some more techniques to add a little flair and fun to our home cooked menus. I learned to make tamales there one year. I am going to make some for the freezer in June. The boys may not eat them, but hubby and I will. One of the classes I am taking is a pate choux class. Pate Choux is the base for cream puff, eclairs and savory cheese puffs. I love eclairs but hate the price and preservatives, so I am going to just learn to make my own. You can make your own for pennies as opposed to buying them from a store. That is true with pretty much anything though. I have a recipe for pizza dough that is outrageously easy and save big bucks over ordering out. When you buy the mozzarella cheese at the warehouse store in 5 lb blocks, it save a lot of money. I just cut it into 1 pound portions and freeze these in separate freezer bags. I look for tomato paste and tomato sauce when it goes on sale, then I stock up. The same goes with olives, canned mushrooms and anything else that stores long term in the pantry. We buy pepperoni at the warehouse store and divide it up into portions to freeze also. I am going to unearth my freezer cookbooks in the coming months and start cooking individual meals from them so we can get an idea of which recipes the kids will eat. When we find "keepers", we will write them down. Once we amass a small collection, I will have a cooking weekend that will allow me to cook and freeze several entrees at one time. When we are having a time crunch, we can pull out a freezer meal. There are several really good freezer cookbooks available. Look online at Amazon for new or used copies (search under the term "freezer" etc). One excellent book is 30 Day Gourmet. They also have a website and a database of recipes available to those that buy the cookbook. It is worth every penny.

I will probably have to get our garden beds built out of this check since the seeds I've started in the flats are getting to the point they will need to be planted. I need to look at investing in a rototiller at some point since we will be using it quite a bit each year. I fully intend to grow most of the veggies we will use this summer and can or preserve what we have not used. I love making salsa and tomato sauces, so we will have a large tomato garden this year. I am looking for one of those rolling composters since it seems they are easier than having to turn piles by hand. We have been doing a little composting, but I think we can do a lot more. Especially in the Fall when the leaves are totting. Leaves make awesome compost!

I can't believe the price of gas! And it seems that it will only be going up!

I guess Americans are spoiled when it comes to the freedom of just jumping in their cars and going where they please. In most European/Asian countries, bike and cycles are pretty much part of the culture. The transportation system in the US is geared towards autos and are very unfriendly towards cycles and bikes. The upsurge in gas prices will hurt initially, but hopefully result in more bike friendly options for those of us who would like to use Vespa and bikes more. I want to look around for a used one so I can do my local errands. Realistically I don't have a huge amount of local errands though. Most of what I do is in Wichita, so a car is a necessity. There is no really good public transportation system like in bigger cities, so we are pretty dependent on our vehicles. What I have been doing is bundling errands, using the mail and Internet for purchases - especially when they offer free shipping. I will still buy locally from locally owned businesses, but shun big retailers for things I can do without.

All this being said, I think the economy is very much a cyclical beast. In the 70's things got outrageously tight and then let up in the 80's. It was frugality then rampant consumerism. We are in the frugality phase. The same thing happened in the 20's and then the 30's. Rampant consumerism of the 20's gave way to the great depression and making do with what you had. It all cyclical. Either that or we don't learn from history and are doomed to repeat over and over again.

On the budgeting flip side, I have decided I am going to save my pennies for a used laptop. I don't need a brand new one with all the bells and whistles, just one that I can carry with me to workshops and whenever I am in need to the Internet away from the house. I am looking for a relatively compact one, so I may have to pay the bucks for a new model--maybe I can look around and get a good deal on a "last year's model". I have put it on paper, so now I just have to work on making the changes to manifest it.

This day is going to end up being a messed up schedule day. Hubby's employer has arrange for employees to go to a restaurant for a pizza buffet and then to see Indian Jones afterwards. This is good since I can't say I would have paid to see this movie at full price. I like to wait for movies to either hit the discount theatres or to go to video. One of the boys just told me he is scheduled to umpire during that time period. He is going to ride his bike, but I hate being away from the house when the kids are out. With the recent rains, it is a distinct possibility the game will get cancelled, but he'll have to ride there to find out...

I did order wire to make stitch markers and beaded bracelets today. I was holding off for some time, but the reality is that if I don't have the wire, I won't be able to make the stitch markers that will hopefully sell at the yarn shop. I have plenty of beads so I'm covered there. When the wire gets here, I will make time to make half a dozen stitch marker sets and their tags. The goal is to actually get these done.

spending today:

$52.00 wire
$ 10.00 Amazon (I need to work on staying off!)

Ok--upstairs to make a tunnel of fudge cake. I found a Pillsbury Bakeoff recipe book at a thrift store with this updated recipe in it. The old recipe used powdered frosting that is no longer made. This updated recipe does without it. It does require nuts and states it is vital to the success of the recipe. My kids claim they don't like nuts. We'll have to see.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Happy Monday

It is still storming like crazy.

It has been storming for most of the weekend and the past week.

Needless to say, I am pretty tired of thunder and lightning. I guess I can't bitch too much about the rain since it is taking care of my flowers. Too bad I haven't got a veggie garden planted yet since this rain would really be great.

I spent a wee bit more in gas this weekend than I had planned, but I had to go to Stillwater for my niece's baby shower. The burning of gas was unavoidable. I will spend the rest of the week making up for the extra spending on food ($20) and gas (approx $30). I did find a couple books at a thrift store for a total of $2 and bought something to read at Mom's house ($15), but nothing too over the top. I was going to do a little more thrift shop hopping but decided that I'd abstain. I don't need more. Stillwater is a college town, so this is the month that a lot of students go home. As a result, there is usually a lot of really neat stuff left on the curb. My mom's neighbor left a chair on the curb that just begged to be refinished and fixed. It has a lot of potential and won't be too hard to bring back to functional status. There was a cushion that had to be tossed, and that cushion was supported, at some point in the past, by straps that provided the bottom support. Those straps were attached to the sides by a 3" lip. Instead of replacing the strapping, I am just going to get a piece of plywood cut to fit that area and wrap it with fabric before I set it in the base. PERFECT! I will make thick cushions for the bottom and the back. All of this will come together after I strip the chair and stain it a rich golden maple. It will be the perfect chair to sit and knit in the bedroom.

I did amuse myself by working on the mate to a sock I have on the needles. I have been trying to watch my spending this month on yarn or anything knitting related--until I make a dent in the stash I already have. I have done reasonably well in that arena, but I did blow it last week when I bought 3 balls of yarn. I'll work a little harder on keeping yarn buying in check.

Tomorrow I am going to do some baking once I get home for the evening. The goal this week is to cook from what we have without buying any more groceries. I want to challenge myself and be creative. We have done better with actually using leftovers, so that is saving a little green...

Going to Stillwater made me pause and reflect on what blessings I have here in Wichita. We have a wonderful house in a nice town. There are plenty of things to do here and always something to see. I need to make sure I pull back from things that cost cash and start focusing more on entertaining at home. When I was in college, my roommates and I always had people over for impromptu get-togethers. I am getting my house together so we can have dinners or brunch get-togethers with friends, or movie nights. That will also allow me to try out new recipes from my huge collection of cookbooks.

Spending for the weekend trip:
$60 gas (there is still some left in the tank for the remainder of the week, so that a TOTAL amount)

$20 Eating out in Stillwater

$17.50 reading materials

$20 WalMart--(I bought niece some milk and pop, plus some snack/breakfast stuff for me)

total : $117.50

Definitely more than would be ideal. I'll have to budget very carefully this week and for the rest of the month since I am going to Kansas City with a friend to take cooking classes the first week of June. I am really looking forward to taking these classes. I LOVE creme puff and eclairs. One of the classes is a class on making these and cheese puffs using the pate choux dough. This should translate wonderfully into my entertaining schemes..

On the vacation front, we are focusing on mini trips and destinations close to home this year due to the gas prices. I think a lot of people are doing this. I am going to purchase the "Off the Beaten Path" book for Kansas. There is a series of these books which cover most, if not all, the states in the U.S..It has quirky places to visit throughout the state. I have the old one, I need to get the updated version. What are you doing to cut costs?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Blake Shelton

I love this video!

Wednesday Post

I went to Newton today and didn't spend a cent. I was sooooo tempted to make some crystal earrings and a bracelet, but I abstained from spending any cash. I go to Twist tomorrow and really need to make sure I do the same there. While unpacking boxes this weekend, I realized I really have entirely too much stuff. I will be working hard to cull the herd and get things sorted and under control. I am one of those people who need to feel like I have everything I might need--as a result I have doubles and triples of some things. For example, I realized I have 3 crockpots. Who in the heck needs THREE crockpots? One of the crockpots is pretty old, so I am going to just toss it this weekend. The funny thing is that thought is causing me to resist actually going through the action of getting it I have some kind of attachment. Mind you, I have two of the newer models also. One even has a temp. probe! GEEZ! And I have a really large amount of waffle makers in every sort of design. Why? I haven't even made waffles in a while (although I really enjoy making them). I need to find my favorite three (1 Belgian and the heart shaped Villaware one stays for sure..) and give the rest to Brandon and his girlfriend. I need to get away from being attached to things and shopping when I'm bored or stressed. This includes Internet shopping.

I am considering doing something different to keep me motivated to save money. Every time I get the urge to buy something, I will calculate the cost, including tax, and put it into savings. At the end of each month I will analyze how much I have added to savings.

I am still tired from the boys' 8th grade graduation on Tuesday. The convention center parking was a madhouse since there were other schools that had their ceremonies going on at the same time. I don't do well in traffic and general chaos. I do wish Mom had been able to spend more time here. We really don't get to see each other much. I have to go to Stillwater for my niece's baby shower on Sunday. The goal tomorrow is to only spend money on a gift for her shower.

My diet this week has been pretty poor, so I will spend the rest of this week getting back on track. I have had doughnuts and cake --both something that I have been able to stay away from until this week. Time to get motivated again.

This morning when we started to open the patio door downstairs, there was a huge Sphinx moth trapped inside between the screen and the glass. We were able to get him out without the cats seeing him, so I hope we see plenty more of these huge beauties this summer.

I haven't made much progress on actually getting the garden planted. I really need to get going on that if we are going to have any kind of veggie harvest this summer. Veggies from the garden are always so much better tasting!

Well, I guess I'd better sign off! Good coffee and great friends to you and yours.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Slow weekend

It has been a pretty darn good weekend. A friend and I went to Lawrence, Kansas for a little road trip and some shopping. I spent more than I had budgeted, but I did get some things that are going to make my life easier and provide some entertainment. I bought a set of Ashford hand carders for $55 --more than I had planned to spend for the day, but I really needed a set. I have been searching for a used set, but that hasn't happened. I have been waiting quite a while. So when I went to the Yarn Barn, I bit the bullet and bought a pair. Now I can comb out and reuse the little bits of wool that get matted or I've pulled while spinning. If I get a lump in a skein, I stop and pull that inch. With hand carders I can comb it out and reuse it. I did pick up a pound of merino superwash, which was an impulse buy, but I will have an excellent time spinning and dyeing this, and it is something that will keep me occupied at home and produce something usable. Eventually I want to sell my handspun and handyed. I have a lot more learning to do in that arena. I will however start making stitch markers this week to sell at Twist. I want to use non tarnish base metals instead of sterling. Sterling sounds good, but it does tarnish and it does drive the cost up of the final product. I personally like using crystals, so that is where I chose to put my extra cost.

I did find a really good budgeting magazine on the newsstand this weekend. I bought it because it has a really good worksheet that I intend to transfer to Excel. I've been looking for one, but this one is the first one I've seen that is pretty complete. The booklet also has excellent tips for saving cash in a lot of different ways.

My goal this week is to use what we have in the freezer and only grocery shop for things we really are out of. I can probably make it through most of this week without having to grocery shop, with the exception of buying a cake for the boys 8th grade graduation on Tuesday. Funny, they didn't have "graduation" in the 8th grade when my oldest was in school. Someone said having these little graduations is supposed to encourage students to stay in school and graduate from high school. Hmmm. Do you think this works?

Spending Friday: Gas for car: $30 Dinner out with friend: $22 Artful Blogging magazine: $15 . I must say I do get am immense amout of inspiration from this magazine, so I consider it a necessity. It feeds the creative muse. Spending for the day: $67

Spending yesterday: $40 gas for trip, $85 handcarders and roving, $16 used books, $12 lunch in Lawrence, $7 pop, coffee and snacks on road Total: $160.00

You know, by themselves they looked little. When I added them up in one lump sum, I went CRAP!! That seems to be my favorite phrase this year. No more spending this week on anything other than necessities.

With gas prices being what they are, I have already cut back on using our car and shopping. I wish Wichita was more bike friendly. There are no bike lanes. Even if they had lanes for mopeds, that would be an improvement. I think we Americans are such a car nation that we don't even look for alternatives. Look at the Netherlands. Biking is a normal sight. And it seems to me they are also more physically fit than Americans on the average. I would love to eventually be able to convert some, if not most of our house to solar power. The budget restricts that right now, but I am exploring for the future.

Goal for the upcoming week:

Monday: Have boys help put futon in family room. Unearth the desk and hutch for downstairs. Find a table to put TV on so marble one can be moved upstairs.

Wednesday: Look for a work desk for the guest bedroom to replace the cheap one already there that is falling apart.

Thursday: Get guest bedroom cleaned and things packed . Prepare walls for painting.

Friday: Enlist boys into helping me paint the guest bedroom walls.

Start shopping for an area rug for downstairs.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Mama said there'd be days like this...

Apparently the cosmic God of pissiness resides in my corner of the world today. Or at least it felt like it. I was having a rushed and pissy day today.

I went to the pottery studio to clean some of my green ware and prepare it for firing--and promptly crushed one of my largest bowls that I had labored on. Crap. Oh well, what can you do. If you get upset, the bowl remains crunched. Lesson learned. Thin walls should be supported from the bottom. However, with my schedule being so weird and gas prices being what they are, I am giving serious consideration as to the convenience of having a wheel here at the house to allow me to throw more and get more pots done without having to drive to the studio all the time. this would also allow me to get more wheel time and experience. I will just have to make sure I transport the pots carefully to the studio for firing.

I was rushing this morning and forgot to wash the clothes my boys wanted to wear to the sports awards ceremony this evening at 6:00. So I made a mad dash at 4:15 to get the clothes washed and dried by 5:45--except they told me the coach wanted them there by 5:30. CRAP.......So I made them wear collar shirts and nice pants instead of the t shirts that they wanted to wear -which were in the dryer. Guess what? Every kid there wore t shirts and some kind of shorts. And not all of the T shirts looked like they had been cleaned in the past week..Some of the parents had muscle shirts and dirty T shirts on....go figure. I thought since it was an awards ceremony, they should at least look nominally presentable. I did tell them they had better prepare themselves because 8th grade graduation is coming up and they would be wearing collar shirts and nice pants. I'm such a mean Mom.

I have got to work on getting some kind of a routine down. During the first months that I no longer worked outside the home, things ran pretty smoothly. Now, not so much. I am going to have to think about running less and getting things back on track at the house. Especially with gas prices getting so close to $4 a gallon, it isn't even funny! Screw the economic stimulus checks. They all went to gas. Everyone I know is making an effort to NOT spend since gas is so outrageous. If we were in the home remodeling stage and could afford it, I would give serious consideration to converting part of our house to solar. Even part of the house would be a big improvement over having everything on the grid. I must say however, this house is much better on gas and electric costs than the other smaller house we lived in last year. Our bill run almost half the cost for twice the square footage. We have much better cross ventilation in this house so we have been able to keep the house much cooler and extend the time before we absolutely have to have the air conditioner on.

I have pretty much decided that this week I will buy the supplies to make my stitch markers to sell at Twist. I have been thinking about it for quite some time, the time is now.

Interweave Knits magazine and a British knitting magazine at the shop $11 (used my discount--what a lifesaver) I probably could have lived without this, but using my discount helped and I would have bought these in the long run....

Dinner for 4 Subway sandwiches $21

We went to the grocery store and picked up chips and soda --this way we could have chips and soda for the week instead of spending $8 for sodas and $8 for bags of chips with a combo...)
$12 chips and soda (however this will last several meals, not just one, so it was a good move)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Monday, Monday....

Just something pretty--remember to appreciate the flowers you come across each day. They are a frugal luxury......Often you can enjoy them for free at public areas. I like to take pictures so I have something pretty to look at and to share with others.

This has been one of those days where I WANTED to get things done, but haven't accomplished a heck of a lot.

As I write this, "Follow that Food" with Gordon Elliott was on in the background, but the sound of his voice was starting to get on my nerves, so I turned it to a country music station. Blake Shelton's "I want to Go Home" is playing--I LOVE this song. As he gets older, Blake's voice gets richer. I will buy this album.

What I would like most of all right now is to figure out why the dog food that we bought last night is making Cocoa the equivalent of a canine stink bug. Seriously!! I had to open the doors to keep the lights from causing a flash fire!! I guess as dogs age, they become a lot more sensitive to different foods. Kinda like us humans...Except when a dog passes gas, he hangs around to watch your reaction. Come to think of it, just like a teenager. How's that for a perfect picture?! LOL..

I did get around to making chocolate chip cookies today, but so far the bread has not materialized. That will entail cooperation from me...I will saunter upstairs in a little bit and make the bread since the recipe looks amazingly easy and it would be really sad if I don't get it made FINALLY. I am also looking forward to using my Lodge Dutch oven. I'll let you know how it turns out. Hopefully it lives up to the hype.

The boys have 8th grade graduation coming up next week so I am trying to make preparations for a little party here. Since it is in the evening, I am considering doing finger foods and something easy. We may actually end up going out to eat as a treat for the boys. I can't believe they will in high school next year. It's amazing how fast time flies. Summer is going to be action packed also. Both boys have football camp and various other sports related event, so I can see a lot of kid related errand running. I need to get a master calendar going so I am not trying to remember all of this in my head!! I do have to say, I am glad I am home. It makes it a little less stressful since I will not have to worry about how the kids will get to and from morning practices. Little blessings.

I will be at the yarn shop and the pottery studio tomorrow. I really would love to have a wheel here at the house, but would I realistically use it enough? Maybe..It would be nice to be able to go throw some pots on the nights I am wandering the house or the days that I can't get to the studio but want to be on the wheel. We'll see. It's not in the budget yet, but if I am careful over the summer, we'll look at the budget again and decide.

I have been looking at my books about chickens a lot lately. I may actually make the leap and have a small chicken coop built so we can have a couple hens. I love fresh eggs. We'll have to completely enclose the chickens though. We have a lot of cats here at Casa Davis--not to mention the ones that run the neighborhood. The only option would be to enclose them for their own safety. I am seriously looking at Bantams. They are smaller. However that means the eggs would be either medium or small sized. Hmmmm.......maybe we should have bought a farm or at least something rural.....I'm still trying to figure out how to disguise an alpaca as a dog....

Spending: $0 --this one took a little discipline since it is too easy to hit the BUY button when I'm online at Amazon and BOMC2.........but I behaved...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day,,,,

Hubby and I actually slept in late today. It was great! We got up and went to a diner for a late lunch and then to the public library. Unfortunately the library closes at 5:00 on Sundays, and we only had an hour to peruse the shelves, but I did find a honkin' big stack of books to check out.

We have been in this house for almost a year and I have decided to get serious about the decorating and taking care of it. I intend to scour thrift stores and flea markets for chair and stuff that can be fixed up for relatively little with a little paint and fabric, and other little things to feather the nest. I am planning to get the library area completed this week since we actually have guests coming for the boys' 8th grade graduation on the 20th. Nothing like a deadline to get me going....

Tomorrow I will concentrate on getting some cleaning done and finally getting around to baking the no knead bread from the New York Times article. I bought a 6 qt enamel coated cast iron dutch oven this past week. The price was a bit much, but I can see that I will use this a lot for other things such as stew and soups. I think it will pay for itself.

I did break down and order the Artisianal Bread in 5 minutes a Day book--Amazon had it for $16+, which is cheaper than it's cover price, but after a little searching, I actually found it for $9.99 (shipping included!) from the book club I subscribe to. It used to be called Zooba, but now it is BOMC2....You put books on a list in the order you want them sent to you (they auto send once a month from your list, but you can order more any time). I have been really pleased with the books I've been able to get from them. I have saved a large amount off the regular price for a lot of books I wanted to buy anyway. I just have to be careful not to hit the BUY NOW button a still adds up if it isn't in the budget..However, for what I have bought, this is a great way to save money.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Fun Day

Although the budget took a wee bit of a hit today, I had a lot of fun! I will have to be careful for the rest of the week, but today was a treat.

I drove to Newton today to take a sock class. Since no one had signed up in advance, they ended up cancelling it and the shop didn't open until 10 a.m. That gave me time to hit Prairie Harvest Natural Food store a couple doors down and have a cinnamon roll (their homemade cinnamon rolls and bread are to die for!) and a Tazo tea for breakfast. Then I even had time to peruse the thrift store next door. I always find treasures there. I picked up some really good cooking magazines and a couple cookbooks for a steal. I probably didn't need any more cooking magazines, but these had some really good oldies that I haven't seen since I was a kid...I know, lame excuse.

The good thing about the sock class getting cancelled was that was I got to take a beading class from Julie. The Newton Beadery has both beads and yarn--the best of both worlds. I've taken a couple beading classes there in the past and completely loved it so today was a real treat. We did a crochet bead work bracelet. It was FUN!! I'll post pictures later...I met up with Cindy a little later and we went for lunch and then to Border's to sit and knit/read. Hubby joined us a little later and hung out with us until the bookstore closed.... An overall EXCELLENT day! Except for that little budget thing....oopsie....

$ spent today:
Bead store: $30
Breakfast $5
Lunch $10
Thrift store $6
Coffee : $4 (this could have been skipped...)
Filled the gas tank: $23
Groceries: $24

I will behave and be careful the rest of the week.........

Friday, May 09, 2008

Wasting the Day....

This has not been one of my most productive days -- that I must admit. I woke up feeling like a crushed Styrofoam cup this morning...used up and not renewable....and that has pretty much been the whole days business.

I was able to make myself go to the grocery store here in town to get dog and cat food, but that was to prevent the dogs from consuming my little feline friends. There was a little incident at the cat food dish this morning and I felt compelled to fill the dog food bowl with something for the canines. However, Cocoa still likes cat food (and cat boxes) better than just about anything the dog food companies make, so she was a little disappointed to have lost the excuse to forage.

This past weekend my mom in law and I went to Temple, Texas to visit my sister in law and her family. Carol and I did a little exploring this time and struck out to find the downtown. I was amazed that Temple has this potentially fabulous downtown and yet it had all but died out. Next time we go, I will take pictures. I did get online and found out there is a drive to revitalize the downtown going. That would be so fabulous. I think it would be great since you can tell that at one time the downtown was a real gem. The architectural detailing on some of the buildings are amazing. I hope they offer incentives for artists to open galleries and studios in some of the storefronts. Supposedly there is a steakhouse down there. I am going to seek it out next time and look around at what other businesses there are. The biggest problem I see in Temple is that the highway/interstate divides the town and chain stores have moved to the other side of the highway, drawing business away. As in many towns, the chain stores have made a mess of the potential businesses with real personalities. Hopefully someone takes the reins and gets a solution going. In Tulsa, Home Depot opened a store in downtown and drew people to it. Wouldn't it be great if some of the other stores did the same. Then it would ease the excuses the residents have for going "all the way down there"..I fell in love with the downtown. It is amazing. Much like a gem that was once sparkling but fell down on it's luck. It's still a gem, waiting to be discovered. That is part of the reason my drive this year is to buy from local, family or indie owned places. I can't always find that kind of alternative, but when it does exist, that is the direction my money goes. There is a face behind the product and that is good.

I did blow the budget on wine though. I'll recoup and be more careful this week....Really...

Friday, May 02, 2008

Mid day post

It has been a pretty busy day here at my house. Busy, but not completely productive.

I had aimed to get out of the house early and hit Sam's at 7:30 (I have a business membership so can shop between 7 a.m and 10 a.m. before they open the doors top the general public. ) but instead I fell back to sleep. I have been having a heck of a time sleeping through the night lately so it has been an issue with me sleeping in after everyone is out of the house. I really hate doing that since it makes the day less productive! Anyway, I decided that I would skip Sam's. Last time I went we spent over $300. The meat deals were great, but sometimes it doesn't pay to buy in bulk. I could buy 30 lbs of rice and 5 pounds of noodles, but will we use it all in a timely manner?

Probably not.

So I will shop the sale ads and stock up that way unless there is something we use in bulk (tissue paper, pop tarts, Lifewater, etc) regularly. I did go to two different grocery stores today. One stocks a certain kind of flour (Hudson Cream) that I love, so it is worth the side trip. They also had great grocery deals this week. I did do a little impulse spending on magazines at Wal-mart, and I paid $50 for a Lodge cast iron enamel finish 6 quart dutch oven...I have been shopping for one to make the no-knead bread recipe that the New York Times published. It is getting rave reviews and has an almost cult like following, so I have been looking for a 6 quart heavy pot. The Lodge pot came in two colors (blue really caught my eye) and was REALLY heavy. I can definitely see using this for soups and stews too. It's beautiful! After I get back from Texas, I am going to make the no-knead bread and a kettle of chicken noodle soup...

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Home Day

Not my house--wish--a shot of the gardens at Botanica. Another way I save money is by getting a membership to places that I love to visit often. Although I garden at home, a Botanica membership lets me have a place where I can take my knitting and or a book so I can sit by myself and have "MOM TIME" to myself, take the boys and let them walk and enjoy the flowers, indulge in a gardening lecture or class at a member's discount, and just have a place where I can slow down. Plus, they give a REALLY cool annual picture to each member when you renew or join. It is worth every cent.
I'm feeling a little sick today so I am staying home instead of helping out at the yarn shop. I am planning to go to the pottery studio at some point today to try to fix a pot I whacked with my hand after I threw it on the wheel.

The windows and doors are open and it is really nice to hear the birds sing.

I will be bundling up some of my trips today and getting some housework done. It is probably a good day to bake some banana bread from the bananas we have on the kitchen table, they are getting pretty ripe. I also plan to make some chocolate chip cookies and extra dough for freezing.

Instead of buying cookie dough, you can save a bundle by making up dough and freezing the dough either in a freezer safe tub, or scooping the dough into individual sized scoops and freezing them on a cookie sheet until firm. Once the balls are firm, put them into a freezer bag (I put 2 dozen cookie balls to a bag), label them and put in the freezer for use later. It makes homemade cookies a flash on days you want something sweet but don't have time to drag out the mixer and all the other stuff. The individual balls thaw out quicker than a tub and you can put them directly on the cookie sheets to thaw. I make chocolate chip, oatmeal and peanut butter cookies this way, but just about any recipe will work. You save both time and money. It is very satisfying.

I just got an email from our library that a copy of a bread book I have been wanting to buy is in. I put a hold on the first copy since it is a new book and has been checked out every time I try to check it out. I love the library! This is going to be my new best friend in my quest to save $. I also put a copy of Larry Winget's "You're Broke because You Want to Be" on hold...I read a little about him on one of my favorite budget sites "The Simple Dollar". Check out the site--it is really good for little tips on saving $. They have a really good article on getting motivated to save $ by using coupons. I've never been a big coupon user since a lot of the stuff is for brand name items and I tend to veer towards store brands, but I am going to start out with baby steps and try to get a system together for organizing them so they are easier to use when I'm at the store.
Budget -end of day post: $27.00 Chinese restaurant for 2, $7 Sonic for one kid.....a little backslide, but I'll watch it the rest of the pay period so it doesn't happen more than once. Paid for pottery lesson for son and I. I consider this a necessity.