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Luv Me Some Flea Market Veggies

June 2nd, 2007 at 11:20 am

Went to the flea market for produce around 1pm. Was back at the house and unloaded before 2pm.

Spent $19.80.

Got the following:

3 purple onions
3 green bell peppers
5 avocados
4 jalapenos
6 ears of corn
2 regular pears
3 weirdo pears (I like trying new foods for cheap!)
1 bunch of cilantro
1 bunch of spinach
15 limes
4 (5?) lbs of roma tomatoes

As a result I can now make the following throughout the week just using items I have on hand:
* pico de gallo
* guacamole
* roasted corn
* regular (cold) spinach salad
* wilted spinach salad with bacon dressing (sale bacon in the freezer)
* tacos or nachos (sale ground beef in the freezer)
* glazed baby carrots (carrots on hand)
* Beef or pork stir fry (sale steak and pork roast in the freezer)
* Beef or pork shish kabobs
* Ceviche (sale tilapia in the freezer)
* Grilled tilapia with lime-dill butter
* Pork chops with poached or grilled pears

And if I go to the store and get chicken thighs, cheese, rolls, and tortillas I can make:
* bacon tomato sandwiches
* grilled Southwest chicken
* chicken salad
* quesadillas
* California wrap sandwiches (bacon, avocado, chicken, spinach, ranch dressing)
* Mexican soup (chicken broth, chunked chicken, rice, pico de gallo, and slices of avocado)
* Jamaican jerk chicken with black beans, rice, and corn bread (have all but the chicken)
* Tequila-lime chicken (um, yeah, there's tequila in the freezer too)

Not quite a menu, but it's close!

Great, now I'm hungry....

Reveal: My slightly super-secret side business

May 25th, 2007 at 01:21 pm

Ooooooooh, are you excited yet?!??

If anyone read my articles last month on PFAdvice.com about starting a business with pocket change, then you probably already know what this is. Yeah, I know that means it's not exactly super-secret, ergo the addition of the word 'slightly' to the title.

But, for those of you that didn't read that article, here's what part of it said.

(I)t turns out there are several metric tons worth of photographers and web-designers in my area, and they’re all as good as me if not better. Depressing, right? Well, the one thing they have in common (other than being better than me) is that they all need a place online to host their work. In fact, lots of individuals and businesses around here need a nice, clean, reliable place to host their websites. Even I was looking for this very kind of service.

In many circles, this is known as a light bulb moment. You’ll know it when you have one.

And there you have it! I am now operating a web hosting company called DotSlice and am currently running at a profit for the quarter. I've just put the site out to the public, so please feel free to take a look and tell me what you think. My options were to either get it out there warts and all, or work on it trying to get it perfect for perpetuity.

How on earth did I wind up being a web host? Personally, I think it all boils down to money karma.

In January I decided to think of several ways I could make extra money every month. For what it's worth I'm still working on that by the way, so any good ideas are appreciated! At any rate, this is what started the money karma rolling.

In February I started working on a website to showcase some of my photographs, thinking that I could make some money on the side. I bought a domain and signed up with what seemed like a reasonable and well-established web hosting company. While the site is still up and running, I created it as a personal learning experience more than anything because it had been a while since I'd done any web programming.

It's a good thing I did, too, because in the middle March my former boss offered me a side-job creating an ecommerce site for a friend of his who already had a domina and a very unfortunate site. See the money karma at work? Ironically, the client was hosting her website at the same company where I was hosting mine.

By the end of March I had put together a proposal and both he and the client liked what I had to offer. For the new site to work, the client needed to change the plan she had with the web host. This was fine with her since she would wind up paying less money per month for more features, but the web-host was making it way more difficult than it had to be.

Long story short we agreed to jump ship and host her site somewhere else, and I started getting concerned because my site was hosted at this same place. Would I have these kinds of troubles too? More importantly, where were we going to host these sites?!?

I did something relatively rash and impetuous: I did some research, ran the numbers once, and decided to take the risk and arrange to host the sites myself. By the way, running the numbers once was the rash and impetuous part... I had the back-end working by the middle of April, and both of our sites were live.

A week later, a co-worker of mine mentioned how much he paid to host his personal sites. I just looked at him and said "Do I have a deal for you...". Between his hosting and the first client's hosting I'm running at a slight loss every month. But, when I add in what I would have to pay to host my own domains with another company, I wind up breaking even. Add in the money for designing the first client's website and business cards, and I'm running at a profit for the quarter.

Now, I've been asked to host two sites that are currently being developed by a new company. They've also asked if I'd be interested in being the Web Master (er, mistress?) and Managing Editor for both sites in return for a cut of the pie... Um, lemme think...

Let's just see if I can get everything to snowball...

Passive Income, Perfectionism Pitfall

May 24th, 2007 at 05:15 am

First, Some Background
I'm in an odd place right now: I've got so many things rolling around in my head that I've not been able to focus on any one particular thing and feel I can do it justice. As a result, I've not been blogging as much and I've not written a single PFAdvice article in May. D'OH!

Moreover, I've been working on my slightly super-secret side business (like the alliteration?) and keep trying to get it just right before releasing it to the world. Long story short, I'm hitting a wall.

To combat this I've been doing a lot of reading online, looking for inspiration. The way I browse the web is at best bizzare and on occasion schizoid. This week I was looking for sites that I could include as part of a newsfeed on my website and I took a new-to-me track: I went to Technocrati, ranked the blogs by 'authority', and checked out the top 100.

I actually didn't find many of them interesting, which is in and of itself kind intriguing. There would be an interesting article here or there, but most of my good reading came from following links and Trackbacks within these supposedly good blogs. As an aside, this is how I found icanhascheezburger.com and The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Great time wasters!

The Meat of This Post
While wandering around unchaperoned on the web, I came across a good article at Genius Types about passive income. Not that the concept of passive income is new to me, but I thought the article did a good job of pointing out that to be successful at it requires a slightly different view of money and making it work for you. Plus, it made me remember that I really want a passive income, the sooner the better.

Then yesterday I meandered my way over to Success from the Nest and read aout how perfectionism can be just another form of procrastination. Some of you might remember that this is something I've said before , but it's one thing to have had a thought and quite another to sit down and read it in black and white.

The two articles struck cord with me, I suppose, because they are exceptionally timely in my life. I fell into this slightly super-secret side business by chance, but it does have the possibility to make a great passive income source if I can get it up and running. Good news, right?

Well, yes and no, because that's where the perfectionism rears its ugly little head. I keep second guessing myself, or trying to plan things to be just right in order to make the most of this opportunity. All I seem to wind up doing, though, is spinning my wheels and not going much of anywhere.

At any rate, the two articles made me think and apparently I think better when I write, so here I am. Guess it worked after all!

Pumpkins Tickets

May 22nd, 2007 at 05:16 am

Came home from work last night and DH mentioned that the radio station was giving away tickets to a Smashing Pumpkins show in Asheville. Neither one of us have ever seen them, and being GenX wanabes from the 90s the Pumpkins are one of those bands that throws me into the "Way Back Machine".

Since the station was giving them away, DH had figured the show had already sold out. But, we checked online, and turns out tickets hadn't even gone on sale yet. They were up at 7pm last night.

Apparently it's not just 1 show, either: it's 9 shows over the course of 2 weeks at the Orange Peel. This is more a listening room type venue, only holds 900 people. We've been there before to see Edwin McCain and enjoyed it.

The other odd thing: this is the Pumpkins only east coast stop on their tour. 9 shows, 900 tickets per show, so only 8100 available for the entire east coast. Odds started looking not so good.

Anywho, I was diligently registering at TicketMaster.com while DH checked the hotel we like in Asheville. It's cheap but right in the middle of downtown. At the stroke of 7 I pounced and clicked for our 2 tickets (the limit per order was 2) and still had to wait 3 minutes for the ticket availability.

Waited, and waited... Anticipation was killing me... Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand...

We're IN!!! And the best part: the tickets are only $20 each plus handling fee!

DH promptly registered the room we wanted for $68, so the entire trip is going to cost us jst over $100 since gas in his company truck is paid for. We're going to the July 2rd show (Monday night) and coming back the 3rd (Tuesday) and will have the 4th off for Independance Day. A concert, a trip, and a 5 day weekend to boot!! WOO and HOO!!!

As soon as we were done ordering we went downtown for a Thai Chicken pizza we've been craving. At 7:30 we heard the bartender complaining that tickets were already sold out....

Too lucky, I tell you.

And even better is knowing that there's already money in the li'l vacation fund to cover the trip. Just have to move the cash from NY to my checking account to pay the tickets off the credit card, and withdraw cash to pay for the hotel room.

Homeowner's Bill Arrived And I Don't Care

May 20th, 2007 at 05:36 pm

*evil grin*

OK, lemme re-phrase that: the homeowner's insurance bill came in and it's so not even a big deal.

Number one: the bill isn't due until 7/7/07 (which is neat, but I digress). I never knew they sent these types of bills out so far in advance!

Number two: I've been putting money aside for it every month so the bill will be ready to send out at the beginning of June, one month ahead of schedule and marked off my to-do list.

Although, I'll probably just send it in at the end of June so I can earn just a li'l more interest on that money Big Grin

Temptation, thy name is Canon!

May 16th, 2007 at 07:59 pm

BAH!!!

So I was checking out digital cameras on eBay thanks to DH sending me a link. There I was, minding my own business, when I saw it.

The Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II 16.7 Megapixel SLR. For under six hundred bucks!

OK, let me put this into perspective.

1) 16 Megapixel is professional grade
2) This camera came out in early 2005 with a price tag of TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS!
3) Current list price for this camera is still SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS!

GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

So, why am I blogging about it rather than buying it? Well, it's just the body, no lens, no card. I'd have to shell out another 500 to be able to even take a picture with it. Not really an issue, as it is still a killer deal.

And, while I have about a grand in my personal challenge account, only $560 of it is money I saved from change and one dollar bills. The rest are profits from my side business which I intend to funnel back into the business. And before you even ask: yes, I could SO use this camera to take pictures for said side business and thereby justify the expense!

The biggest hurdle: it's on friggin' EBAY!!!... In 4 short hours, the price has now doubled and the camera is at $1300. I HATE EBAY!!!

*sniff*

Ok, well, I guess I can stop being tempted now that the price has gone up so much. I could certainly still afford the camera, but I'd have to wait a month or two to be able to buy the other bits to be able to actually use the camera. What's the fun in waiting 2 months to be able to use the camera?!?

Shopping Spree at Goodwill

April 27th, 2007 at 07:54 am

Well, close enough to a spree.

See, it's close to the end of the month and I still had $60 of my allowance left burning a hole in my pocket. Add to that the fact that DH and I are going to Atlanta this weekend, and I had the urge to do a wee bit of shopping.

Not just any old shopping, though. I hit the Goodwill warehouse that's three miles from my house. This is where the stuff from all our regional Goodwills winds up after it doesn't sell for a few weeks.

You walk in and grab rolling bin lined with a huge plastic bag (basically looks like a big blue trash can). The place is filled with row after row of tables piled high with clothes in no particular order. The only way to find anything is to dig, and the piles are easily shoulder deep (or more!).

There's no dressing room, so having a good eye or a tape measure is a must. You put your items in the bin as you wind through the tables and other customers. When you're done, you take your bin to the checkout stand where they roll it onto a scale and charge you for your items by the pound. Here, everything is sold at 99 cents per pound.

I got there last night at 7:30 and was out at 8 when they started to close the checkout lines. Only half an hour to dig! I walked out with a pair of pants from the Limited, a pair of Dockers ladies shorts, and ten shirts from various name-brand designers.

My cost? $4.95!!!!!

Since you can't try anything on there, I headed home to see how I actually did. The pants are great but the shorts are just a tad snug. Out of ten shirts, five are wonderful finds and 3 are just OK. The other 2 might wind up being a loss, who knows.

Even so, with 1 pair of great pants and 5 good to go shirts, I still come out at less than a buck an item.

I LOVE MY GOODWILL!!!

I Buy Produce at the Flea Market

April 22nd, 2007 at 09:24 am

Yup, you read correctly: I like to buy produce at the flea market.

Perhaps some background info would help... I live in an area with a booming Latino population. In our area, a lot of immigrants are small business owners, and the business of choice for many Latinos here is produce distribution. My best guess is they have a network of friends and family who own farms in the Southeast region and they gather and sell it, but I'm not really sure.

At any rate, there is a rather huge flea market in our town that is very centrally located to one of our main Latino communities. It caters to the regular flea market crowd, of course, so there are still rows upon rows of people selling all kinds of stuff. But, in the back quarter of the market, near the parking lot, it's like stepping into a street market from Central America. I love it!

There are hats, crafts, music, and food vendors among other things. In my trip yesterday I counted 4 produce vendors on the one row I visited, although I'm sure there are others in the areas I didn't visit.

So, you're probably asking: WHY bother going to the flea market to buy produce? Isn't it easier to just go to the store?

Sure, it's easier. It's not nearly as fun, though. As an added bonus the flea market produce is significantly cheaper. Most importantly, though, their produce is BETTER than just about anything I've found in any grocery store. Better, cheaper, and more fun? I'm so in!

As an aside, the other nice thing about the flea market produce is the variety. The rest of this entry is about pretty standard fair produce, but had I wanted to I could have could have bought mangoes, papayas, agave cactus leaves, mini-bananas, and a bunch of other things I've never really had before.

I went yesterday because my father was hosting a pot luck at his cigar store, and I wanted to bring pico de gallo, guacamole, and black beans. FYI, I bought the black beans at Publix in a can so they're not covered in the rest of the entry Big Grin

So, here's my haul from the flea market yesterday.



This includes 10 limes, 6 lbs of tomatoes, 5 avocadoes, 5 jalepenos, 2 poblano peppers, 2 onions, and a bunch of cilantro. My total was $18.

To give you an idea of what this would have cost in the grocery store I frequent:

10 limes @ 3 for a buck on sale = $3.33
6 lbs of tomatoes @ $1.99/lb on sale = $11.94
5 avocadoes @ $0.99/ea on sale = $4.95
5 jalepenos @ $1.99/lb on sale = $0.50
2 poblano peppers @ $2.99/lb on sale = $1.50
2 onions @ $0.99/lb on sale = $1.24
1 bunch cilantro @ $0.99/ea on sale = $0.99

That adds up to $24.45 + $0.74 in sales tax. Plus I would have to find all the items on sale, not to mention that the prices above are the best ones from two separate grocery stores, not just one.

And the best part? The flea market has produce in whatever stage of ripeness you want. Since this was all going to be eaten the day of purchase, I was able to get 6 lbs of perfectly ripe (and YUMMY) tomatoes, 5 avocadoes that slid out of their skin, and cilantro that looked like it might have been picked that morning.

The funniest part? There was less dirt in the cilantro from the flea market than in the stuff I buy from a regular store!!

It's Alive!!!

February 26th, 2007 at 09:30 pm

OK, all, my website version 0.1 is up and live. ACK!!! Everything looks OK so far in IE7 and Firefox, I'll just have to double-check IE6 tomorrow. Since I don't know anyone running locally running IE5, I can't test it.

So, here it is folks:

http://www.focusontheupstate.com/



The everything is up and running (sort of). For those that are curious, this is running on PHP and CSS (two technologies I haven't gotten to work with much before, so I took it as a learning opportunity). It looks all nice and simple, which is what I want, but believe me there's a hairy mess of code underneath there. Bluh!

Issues that I know about thus far:

* the 'comment' and 'request for quote' forms both have a verification code system to prevent spam (yay!). sometimes it doesn't show up the first time the page loads, which i think i might have just fixed but i don't know for sure. lemme know what happens!

* internet explorer can bite my big toe! everything looks proper in Firefox, which is a compliant browser. unfortunately, i've been spending countless hours trying to make things legible in IE, which apparently doesn't like proper code. what does all this mean? i fully expect someone somewhere to be running a version of IE that chokes on my page. lemme know what happens!

Things I intend to work on but just can't muster the will to do so right now:

* more photos (although this will be the nicest part of the job!)

* a better naming system for the photos

* ability to comment on a specific photo or gallery

* a 'credits' page for all the Open Source that's running in the background. although i've hacked it up ALOT, neither the mail engine nor the gallery were my original work

* more specifics on business offerings

* possibly a 2 layer drop down menu for the nav bar, but the bones are already there for that. i just don't have one now b/c there's not enough content to warrant it.

So, there it is for all the world to see. I'm going to go sleep now!!!


The Joy of a Sales Book

February 14th, 2007 at 09:03 am

OK, well, it's not quite a book, is a spreadsheet. DH caught me entering stuff into this weekend and almost freaked out, he thinks I'm an uber-dork. Yes, I freely admit I'm an uber-dork, but I think the turn of events will prove this to be a good thing, not a weird thing.

In my spreadsheet, I keep track of

1. where I shopped
2. item bought
3. quantity bought
4. date
5. general category (Household, Food, Medical)
6. on sale (Y/N)
7. whether the purchase was impulse, planned (due to weekly sale), regular (would've bought regardless of sale like milk), or tax (yup, keep track of sales tax too Big Grin)

Since I've migrated to Open Office, I get to take advantage of the easy 'Sub Totals' function their spreadsheet offers. For instance, I know that so far about 30% of my purchases are marked as impulse. YIKES! But, 80% of those were unadvertised sales I found going through the store. Suddenly, that doesn't seem so bad now does it?

Anyways, the fact that I keep track of what was bought on sale gives me a big advantage. And not just sales-paper sales, it's the unadvertised sales that can really add up. Like name brand soy sauce, half off. If I were a couponer, I'd know to start looking for coupons for Kikoman!

Plus, some things go on sale in cycles. Since I keep track of what I bought, the date, and if it was a sale, it's easier to spot trends. This is especially true for meat, at least at my store. I told DH last week that the sirloin sale had to be coming up, and sure enough it hit this week. WOO and HOO!!!

Actually, a lot of sales hit this week for items I purchase regularly, so it is stock up time!

whole chicken 49c/lb reg 99c/lb
sirloin steak 2.99/lb reg 6.99/lb
edy's icecream 1.99 reg 4.99
pepsi can 12 packs BOGO 4.99
alexia organic fries 2/4 reg 2.69 ea
2lb bag froz veg 1.99 ea reg 2.39 ea
smithfield bagon BOGO 4.99

Guess it's time to get the new-to-me freezer ready and loaded!


My Allowance is Frugally Fabulous

February 10th, 2007 at 08:35 pm

Yes, it is!

A new member joined the blog ranks today, and mentioned that she's feeling constrained by her spending plan. Little L, I have felt your pain! The more I thought about this the more I realized that my allowance has given me the best of both worlds.

I have a fairly rigorous spending plan for our household. Right now it's just me and DH (unless you count the cars, which I sometimes do!), but DH is a spendy type which can sometimes put a crimp in my frugal style. Line items on my plan include (among others) housing, car payment, all debts, all utilities, house and car insurances, house and car property taxes, house and car maintenance, gifts, holidays, medical costs, retirement savings, etc.

And then the 2 slightly different line items. "DH allowance" and "TinapBeana's allowance".

Our allowances are exactly that: pocket money that we can do whatever we want with. I don't keep up with his, he doesn't keep up with mine. We don't have to keep track of what we do with it, if we don't want to. I list my grocery and household purchases item by item in a spreadsheet, but I don't have to do that with my allowance.

Having this little bit of money to splurge if I want makes things so much easier. Same for DH. He saw a golf bag he wanted, but the house hadn't budgeted for it. It was on sale, a good price but only available for a limited time. He put it on lay away with the sporting goods store and is paying for it out of his allowance. It's not a need, but it is something that will bring him some amount of happiness (and exercise!). All without trying to figure out what to 'shift' in the household budget.

So, readers, if you're starting to feel constrained (or possibly suffocated!) by your spending plan, I suggest you consider giving yourself an allowance. Doesn't matter what the amount is, big or small, just a little something that you're comfortable with. When you want doughnuts or a special coffee or a night out on the town, use your allowance for it's intended purpose: to keep you sane and on task.

Not Frugal, But Worth It!

January 14th, 2007 at 03:31 pm

I ate brunch about 6.5 hours ago, and I'm still not hungry. In my 'eat every 4 hours' world, this is a minor miracle. Actually, not minor.

Any ways, I accomplished this feat by eating brunch/lunch at a German buffet with DH and my mom. For $8.95 plus a drink each, there was kraut and schnitzel and bratwurst as far as the eye could see. Red cabbage with apples, home-made mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy that was good enough to make you smack your mama. No, I didn't smack my mama, but the gravy was good enough she would have understood if I had!

And to top it all off, they had apple pie. Not Mrs. Smith's feux pie (HA!) in a box, I'm talking homemade 3 inch thick pie with a flakey just-right salty crust and candied crumb topping. Holy crap, I almost ate myself sick on pie!

In retrospect, considering the 2 plates of food and piece and a half of pie, perhaps I did get a good deal for $8.95!

Cash From Trash

January 12th, 2007 at 01:34 pm

So I've been pondering the question on how to turn trash into cash, and I think I might have some ideas. Some of these I have done before, others are just thoughts more than anything. Some involve actual trash whereas others use the concept of 'trash' in a slightly looser fashion. Most of them could be done entirely cost free or entirely not-cost-free, depending on how you go about it.

Fire starters
I had mentioned this idea in another blog entry, when DH and I saw wax dipped pinecones that were intended to be used as fire starters. As I've never done this please don't mistake any of my ponderings for actual instructions! Assuming you live in or near a wooded area (or even a park), one could easily find enough pinecones to get started. I was thinking things like dry moss, sawdust, and pine needles might also work to make nice firestarters too. The wax could come from candles or crayons that have seen better days that you have lying around the house.

Cardboard Boxes, Paper orPlastic Bags
Around here the liquor stores stack them up outside with a sign that says "Free Boxes!". One option is to use these to pack peoples suff in when they move, but since most wouldn't pay for the boxes you might be tempted to pack the stuff for pay. Thing is, what if it breaks? ACK! So, my other thought was to take them to the flea market and sell for like a dime each for people to carry their stuff around in. Same thing for paper and plastic bags: sometimes the booth proprietors forget to bring a sack of bags and you might be able to sell them a bag of bags for a buck....

Cigar Boxes
Yeah, I know, I have an in with the cigar man so this might not apply to everyone! My dad actually gives them away by the garbage bag full, some other places might do the same. I've sold these before at the flea market, anywhere from 1-6 bucks each. Not bad for trash! Some of the nicer ones can be done up as a humidor, and I had one guy buy several to hold handguns (he was going to do the whole velvet lined interior bit). Sometimes you'll be able to get the same box design in different sizes and you can sell them as a set, and I speak from experience when I say they're great clutter catchers! Some of the cheaper looking ones could be done up as a bird house, painted and made into mail holders, that sort of thing.

Wires
Other than the obvious copper, which is kind of a hot market right now, have you ever looked at the wires inside your phone cord (RJ11) or ethernet cable/cat5? The inner wires are covered in a colorful sheath made of insulated plastic. When I was a teenager, I made bracelets from the stuff by stripping them out of the outter plastic coating and leaving the copper wire inside the inner plastic sheath. Braclets, bookmarks, perhaps picture frames? All possibilities.

Glass and Pottery
For those not broken, you could paint them and give them a new life. I'm mostly thinking broken glass/ceramic/potter items here, though. Take pieces and make mosaic anything, really. Trivets, coasters, picture frames, wall art, candle holders, the list is almost endless. You'll need a mortar of some sort, I've used plaster of paris before.

Paper Goods
When I think paper goods I think wrapping paper, labels, gift bags, calendars, CD covers, junk mail, magazines; just about anything. Some of my favorites are calendars and gift bags, but maybe that's just me. Anywho, you could take some of the cardboard boxes and make picture frames that you cover with some of your paper goods. Same thing with the cigar boxes, actually. Decoupage is pretty fool proof, and I've used school glue instead of the actual decoupage medium with success.

Homemade Paper
OK, not all trash here but still pretty cheap! Dryer lint plus clean unused el-cheapo toilet paper (you know, the half ply stuff that always leaves you wanting more!) = the makings for homemade paper! Used tissue paper (think gifts, not sneezes) works too. Instructions are available online, and school glue works here as a 'sizing agent' (what bonds your paper together). Even better: pair up with a decorated box and have a handmade stationary set...

Dammit Dolls
Cut what looks like a gingerbread man type of figure out of clean rags, sew edges shut except for a spot where you stuff with it whatever you've got around, sew shut. Include instructions:

When you'd like to kick the dog
or throw the phone and shout
here's a little Dammit doll
That you can't live without
Just grasp it firmly by its leg
and find a place to slam it
And as you whack its stuffing out
Yell Dammit, Dammit, Dammit!!

Beat Holiday Stress with a Cookie Party!

December 1st, 2006 at 08:21 pm

Why is it that a time that should be peaceful, joyous, and magical almost always winds up feeling stressful, annoying, and frustrating? With parties and gatherings and dinners and gifts and decorating, it's amazing some of us enjoy our holiday at all.

So, take a tip from my mom: participate in a cookie party with some friends and get rid of some of your stress!

The idea is simple. Get some friends, family, and/or co-workers to agree to a cookie party. We'll say you get 10 people including yourself to participate (but the number could be anything you decide is manageable). Every attendee picks one type of cookie to provide for the party. No duplicates!

Here's where it gets interesting. Calculate how many cookies you need to make: 1 dozen for every attendee (perhaps 2 if you're adventurous!) PLUS another dozen for the party. Make sure to include yourself in your calculations! So, if there are 10 attendees including yourself, 12x10 = 120+12 = 132 cookies.

Gather/purchase the ingredients needed to make the alloted number of cookies. This is where the cookie party really shines: you save money by buying only a few ingredients in bulk and save time by making the cookies super assembly style. Also, make sure you have materials to package up the cookies by the dozen.

The next step, obviously, is to set aside some time and make/package your cookies.

Fast forward to the day of the party. Don't forget to bring your cookies, a bag, and maybe a beverage! All the attendees swap the cookies they brought and get to taste-test since there is an extra dozen of each floating around.

Ready for the best part? After our imaginary cookie party you walk away with 10 dozen cookies, all different kinds, just ready and waiting to hit your desert tray for any event you might have coming over the holidays. Not to mention the great time you can have at the actual party itself!

Yummy Tea at Home

November 15th, 2006 at 08:07 am

Well, my 'coffee shop at home' post went over well, and apparently has gotten at least one person off of a tea kick. Sorry! Stick Out Tongue So, to make up for it, I decided to create a 'Yummy Tea' post.

First of all, my absolutely favorite teas come from Stash Tea. They're available at some grocery stores, you can order online, or get a catalog. An absolutely HUGE variety of teas: black green white blend herbal, loose or bagged, organic or not. It's like the Sears Wishbook of tea.

Next is determining how 'into' tea you are. When I'm in a tea mood, I want a couple of mug fulls and therefore making it a cup at a time gets a bit annoying. I bought a French press tea pot at an outlet store a couple of years ago and it's perfect for me.

OK, interesting ways to prepare tea... These are some of my personal favorites, but any others you'd like to add in the comments are of course appreciated!

Black Chai: I like this just about any way I make it!!! One of my favorites, though, is to warm up vanilla soy milk for steeping the tea. It comes out creamy and just a touch sweet, and is an easy way to work soy milk into my diet.

Orange Cider: I threw this together when I was sick a couple of years ago and have stuck with it ever since! I was brewing Constant Comment (aka orange spice), and it wasn't 'orangy' enough for me. So I heated up 2/3 OJ to 1/3 water plus some cinnamon in a mug in the microwave. You'll have to stir occasionally to get the cinnamon to mix in. Once hot, steep a bag of tea in the liquid, then add honey to taste. YUM!!! Get creative, and think of other juices you could use to give your tea some extra oomph: cranberry, apple, and mango all come to mind as tasty candidates.

The Classic Hot Tottie: Good when you're starting to feel sick or when you're going to spend a quiet evening at home next to the fire. Basically, hot tea with honey and lemon juice and a splash of whiskey/bourbon/scotch. Cheaper than Nyquil!

Your Own Personal Coffee Shop

November 9th, 2006 at 09:16 am

You might not know this, but I like coffee Big Grin Hey, I even managed to keep a straight face while I typed that!

Anyways, I wanted to share some easy ways to have coffee-shop coffee right at home. Unless you're anywhere near I live, in which case you need to come by my dad's coffe shop Wink

First things first, buy coffee you like and know you will enjoy. Just my opinion here: non-flavored will be your better bet because it will give you more options when it comes to adding flavor later. Coffee stays fresher if you buy it in bean form and grind it yourself, but we all know that's not always an option. Instead, keep ground coffee in an airtight container in either the fridge or freezer (this will also work for your beans, too, BTW).

OK, first tip for interesting coffee: mix cocoa powder in with your grounds before you brew. One tablespoon per full pot should work, more or less depending on your taste. MIX IT UP WELL, as the powder just sitting on top of the coffee may result in your coffee not dripping properly and over-flowing onto the counter!!! You can of course try this with any ground spice you like (cinnamon comes to mind, or a bit of ground vanilla bean). Experiment.

For an at home mocha: keep hot cocoa mix at home, and make the cocoa as directed but use coffee instead of milk or water. Even yummier: mix the liquid up in a measuring cup or something you can pour from. Take a coffee cup and fill it about 3/4 the way with whipped cream (real stuff from a can works great). Pour the hot coffee mix over the whipped cream, and you have a mocha cappucino! YUM!!!

Another thing to try: extracts. A drop or two of peppermint oil, almond extract, vanilla, etc can do wonders for a cup of coffee.

Try making your own flavored creamers: get a container of half 'n' half and try making vanilla creamer, cinnamon hazelnut, buttered almond, etc. Extracts and spices are all fair game here, but if you use spices you may want to LIGHTLY heat them in the half 'n' half to get more flavor.

Make your own Chocolate Spoons (great for company or gift giving). Buy spoons from a dollar store, otherwise you'll use up all your regular ones! Carefully melt chocolate chips in the microwave (follow the directions on the bag), swirl the spoon in the melted chocolate and place on wax paper to harden. VIOLA, something chocolatey to stir into your coffee!

Search online for a biscotti recipe: there are oodles. Make up a big batch and store them in an airtight container so they stay crisp.

What about all of you? How do you make coffee-shop coffee at home?

First Official No-Spend Day!

November 5th, 2006 at 12:11 pm

Woohoo!!! Yesterday was my first consciously chosen and worked for no-spend day since I joined SA!!!

Now, there may have been no-spend days over the past month, but there was no thought behind the action you see. Yesterday took will-power.

I cooked breakfast and dinner and chilled around the house during the day. The cats were almost out of food and were starting to look restless. I had to give 'em a little somethin' or else they might have killed me in my sleep. So, they munched on beef scraps generated when I trimmed the round roast. Cats: pacified.

Last night we had been invited to a fight party (Meriweather vs the guy who lost) by one of the cigar store customers. Free drinks, free munchies, free cookies! And they paid for the pay-per-view for the fight, too!

Then, temptation reared its ugly head again.

Green felt, clinking chips, and cards as far as the eye could see. The room was kinda small, so I'm being realistic. Anyways, they were getting ready for a night of poker. $40 buy-in.

NOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooooo!!!!!!

DH hopped right on in. (aside: DH finished the night $20 ahead, too!)

I had cash, but some of it was $1s alloted to the change and buck bucket. I wanted to play, and DH even offered to spot me my buy-in (so I could have started out for free!). And I almost did it too...

But no, will-power and determination won out in the end. I knew that, though I might start playing for free, the chance of losing my money was still there. Losing money is the same as spending money on a no-spend day.

Right? If not, then I may just start lightly kicking myself...

Headline: Buy Life on Sale, with Coupon

October 26th, 2006 at 07:25 pm

I love cereal, and I should eat it more often. It's tasty, fast, good for me, and after 2 bowls I'm definitely full. See, the first bowl leaves me "not hungry", but that second bowl puts me right over the line into "full" territory.

Luckily, cereal is on sale at Publix next week: General Mills is BOGO for $3.99, and I have a wad of $1 off two coupons. I can get a Life for $1.50! Big Grin Actually, I can get several kinds of Lifes (Lives?). Hmmmm, cereal reincarnation. HAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHHAHA! Laughing because reincarnation is, of course, serial by nature.

Boy, maybe I'm a little sleepier than I thought....

Frugally Fabulous in the Cold!

October 24th, 2006 at 05:17 am

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!!!!!

It's 33 this morning in upstate SC, which is downright cold, I don't care where you are!

But here I sit, in a house with no heat, cackling with glee and joy. How, you ask?

Right now it's 57 in my house and 33 outside. The house stays relatively warm (well, not-cold!) because it is approximately 80 yrs old and is built like a brick @#$! house! Walls are amazingly thick.

I'm drinking hot coffee and wearing socks, flannel pants, and a sweatshirt, all very cozy. There's a cat in my lap, providing more heat than either of us needs.

The propety we bought had a ton of downed-limbs, 5 yrs worth, plus we had to take down a 140 yr old oak tree in august. So, we have plenty of free wood for the woodstove.

"But what about sleeping?" you ask. "How can you sleep when it's cold, and the woodstove is downstairs?"

The answer my friend is the awe-inspiring heated mattress pad. Went and bought a new one last night in anticipation of this cold front (old one was too small for this bed). Dual control, 10 hour auto-shutoff, and absolute heaven.

We spent 79.99 before 5% tax, and before you run screaming *grin* let me put things into perspective. Last winter I lived in a 900 sf rental house, and kept the thermostat at 65 during the winter. I had a gas bill that ranged from $180-$256 per month. ACK!!!!!!!!!! Big chunk of change for 4 months.

We bought this house in the heat of summer, but noticed that a) it was also gas heat, and b) it is 1700 sf. Visions of the gleeful gas company danced in my head... I called them to move the service, and they wanted another deposit because the house has a bad payment history. Not me, the house.... Does your house pay your bills? If so, how does it write the check? Needless to say I told them nevermind and to cut everything off. Spiteful, I know.

Regardless, I'm sitting here, comfy and cozy with no heat, flipping the gas company off in my mind. Very frugally fabulous!

Stashing Cash Wk 1

October 19th, 2006 at 11:41 am

Alright, I started stashing the change and dollar bills from my allowance a week ago. Here's my grand total


$17.00 dollar bills
$ 9.75 quarters
$ 4.70 dimes
$ 1.00 nickels
$ 0.99 pennies
------------------------
$33.44 total


Granted, I had about half the change already in a change jar (I just kept adding this money to that same stash), so the actual total is about $25. Still, not to shabby!!!

Home again home again

October 15th, 2006 at 06:20 pm

Jiggity Jog
Home again home again
Hot Dog!

Needless to say, I'm back from my weekend out & about. I'm tired, I'm sore, and while I didn't strike it rich Frown I feel the entire trip was worthwhile (and still moderately frugal).

First of all, time away w/ DH & family is (almost!) always a good thing. And, when I'm not at home, I can't be wasting electric! I found some good gems, and my aunt bought DH & I a $50 salted bucket of dirt as our housewarming present! It's exciting, b/c there were some very nice pieces in there that we could probably sell off to more than pay for the trip. The hotel was $30 less than expected, and my parents paid for an amazing breakfast this morning. Yummy and frugal over all!

Speaking of this morning: mom & I played spades w/ family until 12a Saturday night after mining all day. Needless to say, we were pooped and slept like logs. Until, that is, my eyes popped open at 7a this morning. Argh!!! Can oversleep during the week, but can't sleep in on a weekend vacation? Anyways, it was mostly dark & everyone else in the room was asleep, so I put on my gloves and sweater over my PJs to get a notebook from the van and watch the sunrise. BTW, it was 28 this morning in western NC.

Anyways, the sky was perfectly clear so the sunrise wasn't going to be anything great, so I got the notebook, slid my keycard in the room door, and got NOTHING!!! I was locked out of the room at 7a in 28 degree weather!!!

After the first second or two of panic I was fine Smile

I had keys to the van, so I wasn't going to die of exposure. Plus, the lobby was open and serving breakfast, so I went down to get a cuppa coffee and let everyone else sleep a while. An hour later I quietly knocked on the door, and got nothing. No problem, more coffee and let them sleep. Starting to jones for a smoke at this point, but whatever...

10 minutes later DH is speedwalking to the lobby looking completely freaked like he thought I'd been kidnapped. A bit of an overreaction on one hand, but stillv ery heartwarming on the other. Plus I think it earned him brownie points w/ my folks Wink See, he remembered me getting up, but since it was 7a and pitch darm in the room he thought it was the middle of the night and that I'd been gone for who knows how long... Ooops!

Turns out the computer had changed the code on the lock, so neither of the keys worked. Of course, DF had to check this 2x per key before he would go to the lobby, but that's neither here nor there, I suppose.

It's Allowance Day!

October 13th, 2006 at 11:34 am

I love allowance day... I didn't get one as a kid (just got lunch money for the week on Mondays), so I think that's part of the magic for me. My own little bit of money to do as I please. Woohoo!!

Even better: I still had $30 left over from last week's allowance. It's actually probably closer to $40, but I've started stashing all my change AND my doller bills in a drawer at the end of the day. Can't wait to see how that works out...

At any rate, having $30 left over will more than cover my dirt at the gem mine tomorrow, and a fair portion of dinner. A weekend getway for the cost of 1/4th of a hotel room. How Frugal!!

Green & Frugal

October 13th, 2006 at 08:38 am

Maybe it's just me, but being frugal and being green are almost hand in hand. Here's some products and websites I find particularly Green & Frugal.

Wrap-N-Mat - wraps up sandwiches instead of plastic baggies
BioFresh Resealable Zipper Produce Bags - 12 bags measuring 10" x 11"
Evert-Fresh Green Bags - 10 Pack, Large (1.5 gallon bags measuring 9" X 21" X 6")
Bag-E-Wash "One box (30) of gallon size baggies washed and dried with Bag-E-Wash™ and reused 30 times each keeps close to 1,000 bags out of the landfill. Plus it also saves you approximately $100.00."
Frugal Environmentalist: A New Take on Resolutions
SimpleLiving Chances are, you are already part of the Voluntary Simplicity movement, and don't even know it![/url]
BagelHole.org Bagelhole.org is a non-profit, non commercial site to help individuals and communities move towards self-sustainability, self-reliance, and autonomy.

Weekend Getaway

October 12th, 2006 at 07:58 pm

Alright, I know everyone is wondering how I can possibly have the audacity to put a weekend getaway under the Frugally Fabulous category. Well, I'm frugal and I'm having a getaway, which I think is fabulous Wink

Actually, it could possibly pay for itself and then some, so I'll share. DH and I are going from upstate SC to western NC Saturday morning to meet my parents, aunt, and uncle at the Mason Mountain Mine to hunt gem stones. Here's how it's frugal:

* We're taking DH's van (aka the company van) there and back, so we don't have to pay for gas
* We're sharing a hotel room with my parents rather thang etting our own (OK, yeah, this might be get a little weird)
* Instead of paying $10-$30 per person for one little pre-salted bucket of dirt that's gone in an hour, we're going for the $25 per person deal where you haul your own dirt and get to search all day long (in our experience, the most enjoyable way to go about it).

And other than the room and the gas, how is this frugal you say? Well, there will likely be a Shoney's buffet involved, but I digress.

This weekend is Frugally Fabulous because previous trips have always netted a hundred dollars worth of stones or more. My aunt & uncle go about 2x per year and have turned around and sold their stones back to the mine on several occasions. Others they've kept, had cut, and then made into jewelry (also profitable).

So, this weekend I'll be hauling backbreaking loads of 50lb buckets of dirt and sitting hunched over a sluce of cold water in 50 degree weather for anywhere from 6-9 hours. Sounds like fun, hm?

Don't worry, if I strike it rich, the proceeds will be broken into 3rds: EF, high debt, and WOOHOO! Big Grin

Soothing my ego =)

October 11th, 2006 at 04:58 am

After the painful post about my frugal failing with food, I decided to sooth my ego with a fugally fabulous post. Last month I got all the shots for all three of my cats at the Mobile Pet Med for $36 total.

And 2 wks ago I had the last one spayed at the vets office that sponsors the Mobile Pet Med here. Surgery, 3 days of pain meds, and getting her claws trimmed was $67.25. FYI, just a spay here is normally $120-$150.

In my world, this is pretty frugally fabulous.