English is Hard: A PSA

Apparently, English is a very difficult language.  So, here are a few reminders for my family, friends, and businesses that I receive correspondence from.

  • “Tomorrow” does not contain an “A”.
  • “A lot” is two words.
  • “Their,” “there,” and “they’re” are three separate words with three distinct uses.  Learn them.
  • “Loose” and “lose”.  “It’s” and “its”. See note above.

Your computer is equipped with a spellcheck.  Most websites have spellcheck built in.  Please, for the love of everything good in this world, USE THE SPELLCHECK!

P.S.
If your business sends me any type of official correspondence, such as a newsletter, and you use “tomarrow” or “alot”, I will immediately unsubscribe.  There is no excuse for that.  If you have difficulty spelling, then have someone proofread your correspondence.  You’re just making your business look foolish.

P.P.S.
Please note the different uses of “your” and “you’re” in the last sentence above.  See how easy that is?

A Rant About Food

Pay day… It happens not nearly often enough and not nearly enough $.  Since I quit my corporate job, pay days seem fewer and farther in between.  How did we go from two incomes to one and still survive?  I learned to cook.  And I don’t mean boil water.  I mean really *cook*.  And I learned to shop to facilitate that cooking.  And I learned to make do.  Here are a few of the ways we make it to the end of each pay cycle with at least a few pennies in the bank account.

  • Eat at home.  I know this sounds simple, but it really isn’t.  When you work full time or are out running around all the time, making it home to eat or remembering to bring a meal is tough.  I eat breakfast at home in the mornings;often hubby and I eat together.  He likes oatmeal (less than $1 of oats will feed him breakfast for a month) and I like bacon, eggs, and toast (not as cheap, but still cheaper than going out to eat).  For lunches, he takes the fixings for quesadillas because sandwiches are not his thing.  A pack of tortillas, some shredded cheese and a few chicken breasts cooked with an onion will make lunch for about a week at a time.  I generally make a fruit protein smoothie at work since lunchbreaks are just a pipe dream.  Leftovers also make good lunches.  Dinners are where we live it up.  I am learning how much fun it is to experiment with different recipes.  If you don’t have much knowledge of cooking, see the end of this post for a never-fail, super-easy dinner recipe.
  • Cut down on the lattes.  I have been limiting myself to one coffee out a week and it has made a huge difference in my weekly spending.  When you think about it, the typical coffee is $3.  Multiply that by 5 days a week and that’s $15 a week or $60 a month.  Your wallet (and your waistline) will thank you.
  • Buy food as close to it’s original state as possible.  I don’t mean go out and purchase a cow.  I mean buy things that haven’t been prepped or pre-cooked.  You will save lots of $ just in that alone.  Pre-shredded cheese comes with a premium price over a plain block of cheese that you shred yourself.  Why buy packs of instant oatmeal when you can buy a can of it for $3 that will feed you for at least 4 times as long.  Think of those things that have the most packaging and those are probably the ones you could find in the bulk section.  Which brings me to…
  • Buy in bulk.  No, you don’t have to stock up on 10 years worth of deodorant.  In fact, I rarely buy non food items in bulk.  But find a grocery store with a good bulk section.  Just because you are buying from the bulk section doesn’t mean you have to buy a ton of it.  I have containers for certain things that we buy from the bulk section and that is as much as I buy at a time.  Things like flour, popcorn, oatmeal, etc. can be much cheaper when you purchase by the pound rather than by the container.
  • Make it yourself.  Convenience foods are the downfall of our society.  (Ok, there are lots of other downfalls too, but this is the one that irritates me the most.)  I know that you can’t make *everything* yourself.  But you can make a few key things to cut your grocery bill.  Here are my top five.
    1. Bread.  Find a good recipe that works for you.  My new favorite is the No Knead Whole Wheat Honey Sandwich Bread recipe from Baking Bites.  If you want white bread, the Homemade Sandwich Bread recipe from The Hungry Mouse is awesome too.
    2. Coffee.  (See the rant about lattes above.) Buy a good coffee maker or an AeroPress and figure out your perfect cup o’ joe.  And yes, I grind my beans at home.  They taste fresher that way.
    3. Yogurt.  This one is new to me, but I don’t think I can go back to store bought.  A half gallon of milk + a packet of stater (or a 6oz cup of plain yogurt) + 1/3 cup powdered milk = 8 cups of yogurt.  Rough price estimate is $3.50 total for the entire batch.  Last time I checked, even a 4 cup container of plain yogurt was around $5.
    4. Granola.  This is another one of those convenience foods that’s soooo simple to make it’s crazy.  You can see my adventure with granola here.
    5. Popcorn.  Homemade popcorn couldn’t be simpler.  And all the crap they put into microwave popcorn is awful.  Kernels + oil + heat = popcorn.  It’s that simple.  Throw some oil in the bottom of a tall pot, add the kernels and shake to coat.  Turn the temp to medium high and put a lid on slightly ajar.  Wait for the popping to begin and remove from heat when the popping stops.  Yes, it really is that simple.
  • Shop local and seasonally.  If you have a farmer’s market, go to it.  If you have a co-op, go to it and (if you can) become a member.  If you know of a farm that sells fresh produce and/or meat products, visit it.  The closer food is, the less expensive it is (usually).  If you don’t have any of those things, shop the sales, especially for what’s in season.  Right now strawberries are in season, so I split 3 flats with a friend.  I am processing and freezing them to use later in the season when strawberries cost $5 for a pint.  The 1 1/2 flats cost me $22.50 and I’m going to have more strawberries than my freezer can hold.
  • Keep a good stock of seasonings on hand.  You’d be amazed how many times you can eat the same key ingredients by just changing up the seasonings.  I splurge on seasonings from Pampered Chef, but also make some mixes of my own and buy many seasonings in the bulk aisle (Curry, anyone?).  Seasonings last a while and really brighten up a dish.
  • If you love something expensive, learn to make it yourself.  For us, it’s almond milk.  My hubby is crazy about the stuff, but at $3.50/half gallon, it gets pricey fast.  I found an easy recipe online and learned to make it.  A big bag of almonds at Costco is around $10 and a cup of almonds makes a quart of almond milk.
That’s all the advice I can give you today.  No, I’m not perfect and yes, we still eat out.  But our grocery bill continues to shrink as I learn to make more things and make do more often.  And now, without further ado… The recipe that we use several times a week.

Chicken + Veggies + Carbs (Optional) = Dinner

What you need:

A large pan or skillet.
A splash of oil in said pan or skillet.
Enough chicken breasts or tenderloins to fill said pan or skillet.
Some frozen or canned vegetables that you like to eat.
Seasonings you have on hand.
About 20 minutes.
Carbs if you want ’em (pasta, rice, potatoes, etc.)

What you do:

Heat oil up in the pan for a few minutes while you dig the chicken out of the fridge or freezer.  Set the heat to medium and toss the chicken in the pan, sprinkle with seasonings, put the lid on, and ignore for a few minutes.  Dump the vegetables into a microwave safe container.  If you’re cooking frozen veggies, add a splash of water.  If you’re using canned veggies, don’t drain them.  Microwave until hot (usually around 3 – 5 minutes, depending on whether your veggies are frozen or not).  Once the veggies are in the microwave, flip the chicken over and season again.  Once the chicken is cooked through, you can cut it up and mix it with the veggies or leave it whole and serve beside the veggies.  Serve with carbs of your choice if desired.

Sorting It Out

Because the world has decided to explode around me while we were on vacation, the pictures are delayed until I can deal with my destroyed garden bed, the sudden appearance of fleas, and overwhelming depression.  In the meantime, I am trying to find some order in the chaos.  More upbeat posts to come in the future…

P.S.
Can anyone tell me why I have a dozen size I hooks?  Methinks it is time to cull the herd…

P.P.S.
The side/abdomen pain is back with a vengeance.  Not sure if I want to go in for more scans that will have them telling me nothing is wrong with me.

Virtual Clutter

Today’s edition of taking control of  my life focuses on my inbox.  What do I get in my email on a daily/weekly/monthly basis?  Some of it is relevant email (bills, order/ship confirmation, communication from family and friends, etc.) but most of it is advertising.  Yes, I am one of those people who gets coupons, weekly ads, and various other clutter in my email.

Today that ends!  I have been viciously unsubscribing from all of the things that clutter my inbox.  I’m sure this means I will get far fewer emails (which sometimes makes me sad), but those emails will not contain tempting or lust-creating content.  (I have left a couple of advertising e-mails that will facilitate my savings and control.  If I find these do not help, they will be removed as well.)

Other things on my mind… Fabric baskets for storage of the bits and bobs that get piled around my sewing table as I use them.  I like the tutorials here, here, and here.  There are also plans to move the wire rack back into the craft room for additional storage of projects in progress.

Crafting Control: The Beginning of a Life Manifesto

I have been pondering a sort of craft diet reduction plan for a while now (I hate the term “diet”).  My craft room is bursting at the seams with projects waiting to be started, finished, or ripped.  In many cases, the projects have seeped out and are lingering around the rest of the house (the living room bookshelf, the bedside table, even the bathroom).  Since my recent dive into sewing, the problem has just multiplied exponentially.  This is a problem and  I need to be brutally publicly honest with myself.

  1. I have enough craft supplies to last for at least a full year of uninterrupted crafting (other than those oft used basics that run out like thread and interfacing).
  2. I spend way too much on craft supplies every month, many of which I don’t use immediately or have plans for.
  3. I am capable of stopping myself from those fabric/yarn/craft buying binges, I just choose not to.

Admitting those things to myself is hard.  Admitting them to all of you is harder.  But it needs to be done.

I need to be accountable.  I need to take control.

Now that I’ve got that out in the open, there’s got to be some benefits.  Why do I want to do this and why is it worth it?  Here are my top three reasons.

  1. Financially – It will greatly benefit the bank account.  If I put all of the impulsively spent craft money into a savings account, it would be shocking how fast the balance would grow.
  2. Mentally – It will greatly benefit the household.  I know it is stressful not only on myself, but on my husband to be overrun with crafting supplies.
  3. Emotionally – It will result in greater satisfaction and completion.  The less I try to shove into my crafting time at once, the more I might actually accomplish.  Constantly piling on more projects means that I often don’t get to the ones I originally wanted to start.

Phew… I’m really going on aren’t I?  I guess this has really been weighing on my mind.  I’m pondering a plan to put this into motion.  Of course there must be rules and consequences.   Are you ready?  Here’s the plan.

The Plan

Rules

  1. No purchasing of crafting materials other than for the completion of a currently in progress project.
  2. Craft purchases shall only be made under supervision.
  3. Coupons are not an excuse.
  4. The average normal dollar amount spent on crafting supplies shall be deposited into the savings account on a weekly basis.
  5. If non-necessary crafting materials are purchased (see Rule #1) the equivalent of the purchase must be de-stashed.
  6. Books and magazines are not necessarily crafting supplies, but they still count as life clutter.  Book and magazine purchases are limited to two per month (one per paycheck).
  7. Store credit, gift certificates, etc. shall be used in the purchasing of materials necessary for completion only.

Time Line

This plan will begin as of the publishing of this post.  It will continue for three months (or longer if I can manage it).  Each month there will be an accounting of progress (not in exact dollar figures, of course).

Goals

  1. Our five year anniversary is in July.  By that time, I would like to have saved enough from resisting impulse craft purchasing to let us take a nice trip.
  2. The craft room will become a haven of creativity instead of a room of infinite piles.
  3. I will feel calmer and more in control of my crafting life.

That’s it.  That’s the plan.  Is this my pivotal moment to begin a journey to change my behavior and ultimately my life?  Only time will tell.

(It seems like I’m not the only one doing a deep mental and physical reorganization/prioritization.  Check out the posts on the 10,000 hours project here and here.)

Pondering

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about getting back to my roots.  There’s been a lot of family history surfacing lately.  This, combined with other things has me really contemplating my lifestyle.  With the economy in the shape it is, I have been pondering things more and more.  Why do we buy so much?  Can I make it myself?  Do I really need it?  That line of thinking always leads me to…

We are so wasteful.  It is shameful how much we waste.  But what can we do about it?  We’re busy and such.  Well, here are a few things I’m thinking of implementing now and in the future.

Plastic Bags

Bags are my biggest downfall.  I have tons of reusable shopping bags and the great veggie bags from Liisa.  But do I remember to bring them with me?  Rarely.  (This makes me smile at the irony of making reusable bags for the company holiday bazaar.  A tutorial on those is coming soon!)

I will do my best to remember my bags and to shop in an eco-friendly manner.

Cleaning

I admit that cleaning is not one of my strong points… (Stop laughing, you’re going to hurt yourself!)  After being inspired by the book Clean House, Clean Planet (again, thank you Liisa), I’ve had the urge to make my own cleaning products.  But life and work has gotten in the way.  I have made the switch to more eco-friendly brands like Method, but the cost definitely adds up.  I really want to make my own cold-pressed soap and other cleaners.  I think that all the harsh commercial cleaning products may clean faster, but the damage they’re doing is long term.

I will try to make at least some of my own cleaning products and rely less on commercially available products.

Paper

Ah, paper.  It’s so abundant we rarely think about where it comes from.  I’ve already gone paperless with most of my bills and I recycle my junk mail.  But I think paper towels are one of the biggest offenders in our household.

I will make my own cloth napkins and use kitchen towels and rags whenever possible.

Food

Food is definitely a downfall.  I like food (who doesn’t?), but sometimes the foods we eat don’t like us.  Since starting the allergy elimination diet, I’ve found out a few things.

  1. Sugar is not good for you.  I’ve lost weight simply by not eating any sugar or artificial sweeteners.
  2. High Fructose Corn Syrup is a toxin.  Watch this if you haven’t already.
  3. Food you make yourself tastes better.
  4. The process of cooking makes the food more enjoyable
  5. When you make it yourself, you know exactly what went into it.

I will try to eat healthier and cook more.  I will try to purchase locally, organically, and seasonally when possible.  It’s not a treat if you have it all the time.

And…?

And there’s always more.  But I think I’ve done enough ranting for one post.  I have a couple of books coming that I’m excited to share, but you’ll just have to wait to find out what they are.