Friday, December 19, 2008

Links if You're Interested

This Business is Personal post explains the impact of the CPSIA better than I did. And CoolMomPicks also covered it quite well - and reaches many more readers. :)

More interesting posts to come as soon as I have time to sit down and take a breath.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Warning!

Almost everyone is aware of the ever-growing list of recalled toys, baby products, and other tainted imported products, mainly from China. It can make you wonder if anything is safe these days.

Congress recently passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) this past August, which will require manufacturers to have third party testing and certification for each toy that they make, as well as permanent labeling for each individual product with a date and batch number.

So hopefully there will be fewer products on the shelves with lead, phthalates, and other chemicals.

What if you want an alternative to the mass-produced plastic toys that line the shelves of every superstore nationwide? Small toy stores, local craftsmen, and online sites like Etsy offer a wide variety of unique and creative toys that aren’t inspired by TV or movie characters.

But hurry - as of February 10, 2009, most of these crafters will be out of business. Despite the fact that most use natural materials or products made in the United States, they will be subject to the CPSIA requirements. The Handmade Toy Alliance put it this way: “If [the CPSIA] had been applied to the food industry, every farmer’s market in the country would be forced to close while Kraft and Dole prospered.”

Small businesses and crafters cannot afford the $100-4,000 per product to get the third party inspection and certification. While large manufacturers can absorb this cost over the thousands of each toy they make, hand crafters work in small batches and often don’t even make $100 per batch. A quality German toy and gam manufacturer has already pulled its products from the US market. But this law doesn’t apply just to toys, it applies to anything that is aimed towards or appeals to the 12 and under crowd, which includes clothing.

This isn’t just a law that may affect somebody you know; it is going to affect all of us more than most realize, and that's if they even know about this law.

This will affect my husband. Each Christmas he usually gets a few custom orders for children’s toys, often from parents wanting to avoid all the plastic and battery-powered toys crowding the shelves of department stores. For example, last year he made a farm set that included a wood fence and several animals cut out of wood. Despite the fact that wood is naturally lead and chemical free, he would have had to get third part inspections – one for the fence and one for each different animal he cut out. I can guarantee that the fees would far outweigh what he sold the product for.

But it’s not just him. There are local craft fairs in the area, and unless each vendor has had each product tested and labeled, they may as well be selling contraband. Goodwill and local consignment stores selling used baby products and kids clothing? They might as well line the shelves with Cuban cigars. I know there’s a local lady that sells baptismal gowns. Even if she had two patterns, she would still have to pay the testing fee for each size in each pattern. What about the $.50 clothes at garage sales? Illegal.

With the state the economy is in, as well as the already struggling mom ‘n pop stores in competition with big box stores, we don’t need to drive more small businesses out of town and raise the unemployment even more. I would like to urge you all to write to your Congress and Senate representatives, requesting that the CPSIA be modified with small crafters in mind. The Handmade Toy Alliance website has sample letters to send to your representatives, as well as a letter to send out to your clients to alert them of the situation if you are a crafter yourself. They have also suggested reasonable amendments that small toy makers could manage. And please spread the word – most people aren’t aware of this law, despite the fact that it will affect anyone who has kids or buys for kids 12 and under.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Is it just me?

I think we should exchange names early next year, not just to allow more time for making gifts (see later paragraph), but to avoid shopping at this time of year. I've known who I need to get gifts for since October I think, but, you see, I need like a month to think about and brew any ideas I have first.

Today I picked up the boy from daycare and had a 2nd hand store I wanted to check for something. He hadn't taken a morning nap, and he was already asleep on the 3 minute ride to the store, so I did a drive by to see if they were open. It's a volunteer-run organization, so I wasn't sure they would be open over the noon hour.

Big Orange "Yes, we're Open!" sign hanging in the door.

I finagle the sleeping kid out of all the car seat straps wrapped around his bulky coat. (Do you see where this is going?)

Rush through the nipping wind to dash inside, only to find the knob locked.

Below the Big Orange Open Sign (that they didn't bother to turn to closed) is a small clock that says "Back around 1:00."

I hate shopping anyway.

Things like this make me irate. Well, maybe just irritated.

Now onto my "handmade" Christmas progress. Overall my intentions are good, but execution is becoming a problem due to lack of time and my complete inability to find at least 1-2 items for almost every project I had in mind.

One idea may not work unless I come up with another solution; another required a massive time and money investment that was not reasonable for a one-time project; and another would have been a lot less stressful if I had just bought the handmade item that inspired me.

So.

I'm not ready to say, "Bah humbug," but I sure thought this would have gone a lot smoother so far.

And to get me back in the Christmas mood, here's a nice twist on the traditional Christmas songs:

SNC - 12 Days

(Sorry, I don't know how to embed it in my blog.)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Early Christmas

My dad's side of the family got together Thanksgiving day, and since (almost) everybody was going to be there, we did our Christmas grab bag exchange.

I wasn't quite prepared and armed with handmade gifts at that point, but I survived after a few adjustments.

For the kid's exchange I was going to make a sock monkey. I started one as practice maybe right before we decided to do the gifts at Thanksgiving, but it took longer than I expected (or I procrastinated a little too long) and it ended up being the actual gift. I hand stitched it all since I didn't get a chance to go to Mom's and use her sewing machine, but there wasn't too much I could have done on the machine. There's a few things I wished I could change, but I finished it Thursday morning and hadn't come up with a Plan B. I used this pattern, and like any recipe or instructions I made my own tweaks here and there.

For the adult exchange, since there's always a few undesired gifts that need to be thrown in, I recycled a gift we had gotten from a previous grab bag and never took out of the box.

The other adult gift was going to be some hand made tree ornaments, but those also took longer than I expected (are you seeing a pattern?), but I at least had a backup for that idea. A long time ago I had done a few home-made books. I don't remember how they all turned out, but I had a nice fabric-covered one almost ready to go, with lined paper all printed out and folded, but needed to learn how stitch it together. It's been in my craft box through both of our moves, and this was the perfect time to finish it.

I had instructions for doing the Coptic stitch, but the instructions weren't the most straight forward so I improvised a little. I was happy with how it turned out, although the stitching wasn't as tight as I would have liked. If the little one would have cooperated, I could have spent some time looking for different instructions on the internet, but that was not to be. I also wrapped the stitching thread around a pen to go along with it.

I'm not changing my mind about doing handmade/local gifts, but it's a lot different than I expected. For our immediate family gift exchanges, I knew it would be more personal gift giving, but for these grab bag gifts, I found myself a lot more "worried" than I expected to be about whether the person who got it would like it since I had invested more time. I could have quick run to Walmart and grabbed some easy $5 gifts and not cared whether the gifts were going to be enjoyed or put in a box to be regifted later on.

At least now I know I should get started on my gifts now, since they're all going to take at least twice as long as I expect. :)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Getting Crafty

This isn't a Christmas gift idea, but I've made baby books for my sister-in-law and now my friend. I do digital scrapbooking, and I designed the pages so all the recipient has to do is fill it out and attach pictures. I left a few empty pages at the back and sent a bag with coordinating paper scraps for mats and journaling blocks, and made tags for each month.

I also made this album myself, covering 1/8" masonite plywood with scrapbooking paper, and made a little photo holder on the cover.

I originally made it for my sister-in-law, with the idea of just reprinting pages for future gifts, and using them myself. But, when making my baby's baby book, I decided I wanted coordinating papers, and from there just started from scratch each time. With my friends, my Type A personality (or would it be OCD?) would not let me just reprint the pages. I wanted a coordinating book and I knew the baby was a girl. So, I did a redo, changing background papers on some, but starting from scratch more often than not. But it didn't take as long since I had a base to start with, and it was worth it.

I also recently decided I wanted to learn how to sew. Some time in grade school I started a patchwork quilt, so I was familiar with it a bit. But I wanted to be able to produce some useful stuff. I found an easy pattern for an apron, so I went to my mom's the other day and "knocked" this out. It took longer than I expected and has more than one issue, but it works. Plus, I got the denim fabric as a remnant for right around $1.

More ideas to come. Time to cheer up a sad boy and make supper.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Handmade Christmas

I took the challenge - handmade or local for all my Christmas shopping.

I have a bunch of ideas to post, so hopefully I'll get a chance in the next few days.

(And I don't know why my picture won't show up in the column over there <- )

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In the Kitchen Again

My hubby has never been a fan of Reuben sandwiches, but I really like them. Neither of us liked them when we were younger, but he insists he still doesn't like them. In the book I reviewed earlier, they had a recipe for "Reubens Reinvented." They're healthier, and different enough from my original version that I thought he may just like them. I used:

1/4# deli sliced corned beef (instead of the canned)
1/4# deli swiss cheese (instead of the Kraft singles)
2+ c. shredded cabbage (instead of sauerkraut)
2 heaping tablespoons canola mayo
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
8 slices white bread (I don't think I could have convinced him to try them if I used rye)

Mix the cabbage, mayo and mustard. Assemble meat, cabbage, and cheese on bread and grill.

They were a hit. The corned beef was less salty, the cheese tasted less sugary, and Doug even thought the cabbage mix would be good on burgers.

Alright. Want more kitchen tips?

I doubt I'm the only one, but I often use utensils for other-than-intended purposes.

* A pastry cutter is perfect for chopping up tough ground meat. (We don't like big chunks of meat)

* A whisk is great for "sifting" together dry flour mixtures.

* A narrow spatula works better than a butter knife for spreading mayo on sandwiches.

Hmm. That's all I can think of for now.

Other than being in the kitchen, I'm busy running after the boy as he finds out what all he can get in to. My biggest dilemma is where to put the kitchen trash can - it doesn't fit in any of our cupboards.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

FINISHED!!!

So after 2 months, give or take several weeks, I am DONE PAINTING.

We needed about 70 extra pieces of siding, so I ended up painting those. But I could only do it during naptime, six pieces at a time, and they needed two coats. So it was slow going. Finally got that done and then the siding needed to be touched up after it was installed.

I couldn't do a little here and there because we've had such wonderful weather these past few weeks, and we knew it wouldn't last.

Today I finished the last of the trim, and I am SOOOOOOO incredibly happy to move on with my life. Now I can do trivial tasks around the house, such as make a menu and get groceries. I seriously don't know how I've found meals these past few nights.









After
Before

So it's not completely done. Our doors need to be painted and a little bit of that ugly brick remains along the bottom of our porch. But it's still a million times better.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Lentils and Rice

For my lovely sister:

I basically follow the instructions on the rice package - 4 c. water to 2 c. rice. I do about 1 1/2 c. brown rice and 1/2 c. lentils, mostly because I think rice is easier to "hide" than the lentils. Add the water and let simmer about 40 minutes until the water is absorbed. This makes enough to last about two weeks, depending on how many meals have hamburger.

I know some beans and grains you need to soak, but you don't need to with lentils or rice. Sometimes I put it in the pan an let it set for several hours, and I think it does make it a little softer, but not a noticable amount.

I've thought about looking for red lentils, since they may blend in with the hamburger better. And how much hamburger you substitute is up to you. Meatloaf I did about half and half, other recipes where the meat is alone I use more meat then rice. Dishes like casseroles I can get away with less meat, especially if they have rice in to begin with. Last time I made stuffed peppers, I think I used less than 1/4# of ground beef.

However, I DON'T recommend using this in burgers, unless adding an egg would help. I ended up with half the burger on the top of the Foreman grill and half on the bottom and they just kept crumbling. We had tavern the next day. :)

In The Kitchen


I checked out this book from the library a few weeks ago. It has some good suggestions for getting more fruits, vegetables, and healthy grains into your family's diet.

I really liked it because the authors encouraged things I had already made up my mind on. For example, they don't push fat-free or low-fat versions of stuff. There are a few items where they recommend the reduced fat version, but they agree with my thinking (or the other way around) that when you take something out, something needs to go back in and it's usually artificial stuff.

I already use real butter, natural peanut butter (HATE the taste of the sugary stuff now), and one thing they mentioned that I never thought of is maple syrup. So next time I need pancake syrup I'll be looking for pure maple syrup.

The suggestions were based on keeping the flavor, and the ideas are made to fit your life. Such as a little bit of real butter and salt can add a lot of flavor, and if you need to cut back on sodium, home cooking contains such small amounts compared to fast food and packaged meals. And their recipes are intended to help busy moms, so a lot of them call for frozen or canned produce, but you can easily substitute fresh if you have the time.

I stuck sticky notes on all the recipes I thought would be good to try, and it would have been so much faster to mark the ones that I didn't.

I made an apple pear crisp out of the book the other day. The topping was very similar to my usual buttery one, but the ingredients were way different. Oatmeal, wheat germ, spices, an egg, and canola oil. I think it passed the hubby test, because he had some last night and didn't comment at all. (Along the lines of no news is good news...)

This morning I'm home with a sick little boy, so I tried a variant on my usual oatmeal for breakfast. I figured I often give him oatmeal with pumpkin, so I tried it myself and was pleased with the result (I allowed myself more spices and sugar than he gets).

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

1 c. boiling water
1/2 c. oatmeal (for one serving)
1/4 c. pumpkin
a good sprinkle of cinnamon
a dash or two of cloves
a dash of nutmeg
1 Tbsp. of brown sugar since I need the sweetness

Cook oatmeal. Add pumpkin, spices, and sugar to taste. Enjoy.

The sugar is way down from how much I used to put in oatmeal how many years ago, but maybe you guys aren't the sugar addicts that I am. :)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Reading Challenge

A while ago I though about challenging myself to reading the Bible in a year. I had been thinking how often certain parts get read often and other parts rarely get read (namely the last three books of the Pentateuch), and I cannot claim that I've read the whole Bible despite being a Christian for all my 25 years.

I found a plan that divides it up in a non-chronological order, mostly to avoid the monotony of Numbers. For example, Sundays are Epistles, Mondays the Law, etc. This PLAN is not the one I found before, but it looks exactly like it.

I'm on week 2 and it's been going well. Part of it is that I'm tied to a pump for 10-15 minutes three times a day with not much besides reading that I can do. Hopefully I can stay in the habit of reading the Bible each morning after this and not think that I don't have time. There's other times throughout the day that I could do it, but it is a good way to start out the day.







Thursday, October 16, 2008

Balancing Life

For the most part I don't have a problem handling part-time work. I've been at my company for 5 years now and they treat me very well, and I am VERY grateful that I only need to be in the office in the mornings.

However.

Some days I really don't want to go to work, but that's not much different from life pre-kiddo. Then there are the mornings where he wakes up and just wants to held because he's not feeling the best. But I still have to sit there and wrestle his clothes on because I'm already late, and it is so hard to listen to his sad cry.

I wasn't the mom who cried the first day of leaving her little boy at daycare because I was so grateful it was only 5 hours - not 9 - until I could pick him up. And it would make sense that it would get easier, right? I'm discovering that it's getting harder to drop him off.

Some of it may be due to teething and a cold, but this week has been especially hard. He just wants to cuddle in the morning, but he's been so tired and I have a hard time waking him up at 7, leaving me just enough time to feed him, dress him, and whisk him off to daycare. Then we get to daycare and he'll hold on to me when I try to pass him off to his teacher.

He doesn't cry when I leave and he happily moves on to his bananas and oatmeal or the toys.

But it was so much easier when he was less aware of my coming and going. Although it does feel good to see him get so excited each day when I go to pick him up.

I would rather stay home. I only work 5 hours, but I spend 1 1/2 hours running around the house in the morning trying to get everyone ready, and then when I get home it's about another 1 1/2 hours to get the kid and I fed, him down for a nap, and a few minutes to take a breath. And then I start running around to get as much done during his nap as I can.

I get a lot more done than I would if I worked afternoons, too. But I get up an hour later on Saturdays and still can usually accomplish more in the first two hours with the boy awake than I do during a weekday afternoon nap.

I know staying home would not be the "ideal" life I probably have in my head and I know there would be hard days, but I think it would be less stressful. No rushing at work to get everything done in about half the time I used to have. No more rushing to get the house clean, laundry done, supper prepped, and miscellaneous projects done during a short afternoon nap. No more restless "relaxing" with the hubby while thinking of all I need to get ready before leaving for work the next day.

Maybe someday.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Ummm...

Does this count?

I had a little bump in my no spending month.

We're planning for our deck next spring (or so), and have always talked about a hot tub since our last house. I think it is worthwhile considering the problems Doug has with his feet and legs, and we agreed on either a hot tub or a whirlpool tub. The tub would require major reconstruction as our bathroom is currently too small, no matter how we arranged it. So a hot tub it was.

We can only get the local radio station at work and my CD player has gone on the fritz, so I always have the radio (with all its annoying commercials) on for background noise. The other day Swap Shop came on, and I managed to overhear someone selling a six-person hot tub. I had Doug call, figuring it was worth shot. We scraped up some cash, offered lower than they were asking (still had to go up a bit), but we got it for a fraction of the price of a new one.

Maybe used hot tubs are sold more often than I think, but I'd rather come up with the money now than end up paying for a new one next spring/summer/fall because my husband is ready and doesn't want to wait for another used one to come up for sale. He could use some work on delayed gratification...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Price Comparisons

If my husband only knew...

He got frustrated with me once when I told him how much his giant bowl of ice cream covered in M&Ms probably cost. He doesn't understand how, or why, I know how much servings of food cost.

To put this knowledge to good use, I thought I would see if I could disprove the myth that eating healthy is expensive. So, for your academic enjoyment:

  • Popcorn (air popped) - .04/serving / Microwave Popcorn (Fastco) - .11/serving
  • Oatmeal - .06/serving / Cereal - .25/serving
  • Lettuce - <.10/serving / Ice Cream - .11/serving
  • Pretzels - .10/serving / Cheez-Its - .22/serving
  • Carrots - .10/serving / Chex Mix - .40/serving (.13-sale)
  • Bananas - .17/each / Oreos - .17/serving
  • Frozen Corn - .18/serving / M&Ms - .31/serving
  • Cauliflower - .22/serving / Pop - .30/can (sale)
  • Grapes and String Cheese - .26/serving / Hershey Bars - .55/each
  • Apples - .28/each / Nutty Bars - .17/serving
  • Oranges and Sweet Potatoes(small) - .30/each / Ruffles - .25/serving
  • Pineapple - .41/serving / Hostess Cupcakes - .25/each
  • Nectarines - .61/each / Bliss Chocolates - .50/serving
  • Mango - .67/each / Pringles - .16/serving
This isn't a perfect comparison list, but it gives a general idea. I generally buy fruit and veggies that are on sale, so I did the same for the other items. I did note which ones were on sale for a substantial difference, but almost all of them were based on sale prices.

There isn't a substantial difference, and there are plenty of "cheap" healthy foods to snack on, so hopefully this will help me and anyone else move towards some healthier snacking.

One thing I really noticed while figuring this list out, is serving sizes are not what you would think. For example, can you stop after one banana? Now can you stop after 3 oreos, because that's a serving size. And no one in my house has just 1/2 a cup of ice cream at a time. So these snack foods may be more convenient, but not necessarily cheaper.

Next time you think about buying a bag of chips, how about a dozen apples instead?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Cleaning

I grew up with Saturday cleaning. It worked, but it was also nice that my mom, sisters and I split the chores.

I carried that tradition on for most of my married life, but it just wasn't working for me anymore. With a little boy's naps to work around and a bigger house to deal with, there were some things I didn't get to when I actually felt like cleaning the whole house. And it was always the same things that got put off. (I won't even say how many months passed between the few times I cleaned our shower...)

So I decided to do a little bit each day to help me, with the idea that I want to keep a clean house, not keep cleaning the house. My husband, in the most loving way possible, would call me a nerd if he saw my sheet. :) I decided what needed to be done and how often, then filled out a calendar and printed it on a transparency. All I need to do is keep a calendar of the month behind it and look what needs to be done each day.

I've been doing this for a few weeks right now, and it's working quite well for me. I actually assigned nothing to Saturdays, so then I can either do anything I miss, but more likely I can use that day to help with siding (or whatever project we're undertaking at the time) or take on bigger tasks like painting or cleaning the fridge or organizing my closet.

Time to go. It sounds like the little boy is going to kick apart his crib.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A "No Spending" Month

I've decided to do a no spending month, starting yesterday.

For how little "extra" I buy each month, I don't expect a drastic difference, but every month I've been spending more than I set aside for baby, household, and personal care items. This is my chance to figure out if I'm really buying more than I need, or if I need to reevaluate our budget.

I don't see a need to get very strict, so I will be buying more than the bare necessities at the grocery store. I'm not going to buy a lot of snacks/extras (although Doug says I never buy enough anyway), but I like to bake and I don't want to spend the month eating beans and rice. We ate a lot of oatmeal and egg dinners when we were first married, and I think we both enjoy a little more variety in our diet now. :)

Yesterday's Report:
Got together with a friend who's back for a visit after living in Mexico for about 3 years. We went to Butler's - but I had a gift card, so I didn't have to spend anything.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What Men Don't Know...

I've been known to use a pound of hamburger for up to four separate meals, which is quite a feat considering my red-blooded husband is as carnivorous as the next guy. Now, some might argue that this is no accomplishment since it is just the two of us, but keep in mind that the Man still eats like a 17-year-old boy.

Granted, I can't pull that trick when it comes to meals like meatloaf, where cutting back on the meat would be very obvious.

So, introduce lentils and rice. In theory this concoction can be substituted for ground beef in nearly any recipe. I made some a little while ago, and had my doubts as how successful I would be at sneaking it in undetected. I am not trying to fool my husband, but men like him (and most Midwestern farm boys) are going to form opinions about ideas like this before hand and be unwilling to even try it.

Thus began my experiment. I added some to beef for stuffed peppers, and then for California tacos. Both recipes called for rice anyway, so I figured this would be a good place to start. No complaints from the Man. Then I used some in beef stroganoff sandwiches, which would be comparable to tavern, not a lot because I wasn't sure how noticeable it would be. Success. Next came the ultimate test. Last night we had meatloaf, and I wanted to use some of the ground beef for tonight's supper. The mixture ended up being about 1/2 ground beef and 1/2 lentils and rice, and even I, who knew half of it wasn't ground beef, could hardly tell when it was cooked.

So, now I have one more way of stretching meat without just reducing the amount of meat in recipes. My next batch of lentils and rice is on the stove right now. :)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The (No-)Coupon Lady

I've never been good at using coupons and find them to be a hassle most of the time. Most things I buy the generic or store brand anyway, but thought I could start trying to use coupons. Granted, I had no desire to be the lady that gets $60 worth of groceries and only pays like $10 after coupons.

Today I needed a few things from the store and had coupons for some stuff that was already on sale. The Man likes the "sweet 'n salty" chex mix, and it was on sale for 3/$3. I had a coupon for $.60 that would make them $.80, compared to $3.19 regular price. The Tank is slowly getting ready for finger foods, and multi-grain cheerios were on sale, 2/$4. I had a coupon for $1 off, so they would have been $1.50 compared to $3-3.50? - I didn't check the regular price. And the candy was right across from the chex mix, so I saw that those new Hershey Bliss chocolates were on sale, and I had a coupon for $1 off, which would make them close to half price. I didn't need it, but what woman can resist cheap chocolate???

Go to check out, all excited about my saavy bargain shopping, only to have them tell me store policy won't let them accept internet coupons. These days, where else do you get coupons?

It irritated me, but I couldn't let it really get to me - there are plenty of other things that need my energy more right now. Yeah, I would have saved $2.60, which won't break us, and normally I wouldn't care. I think I just got so excited figuring out exactly how much I was saving by using coupons on sale items.

So much for coupons. I'll use the 1-2 they have in their weekly flier, but back to my usual buy what I need, when I need it, and keep my eye out for sales.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Recession or Depression?

I found this article, which sort of helped me learn a little more about the Wall Street mess.
The Bubble Economy

I won't even pretend that I understand the financial implications of what's going on in the economy right now, or the steps that led up to the "sudden" falls of these financial empires.

From what I've understood, the fall of AIG would have a drastic impact on many nations, not just the US. For instance, almost the entire fleet of airlines would be grounded due to lack of insurance. The fall of AIG would be devastating to the nation, especially those insured through them, and in that sense I can see the benefit to the government using taxpayers' money to bail them out. (I didn't really look into how the fall of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would have affected the economy, so I'm just referring to AIG right now.)

BUT. Besides the general "unfair" attitude since the government has been picking and choosing which companies to bail out (why not the Lehman Bros?) - and the basic fact that they needed bailing out because the company was irresponsible and gambled with money they didn't have - was it really a good decision for the long run to bail out these big companies?

Is the existance of a single company with this much control over the world's economy a good thing?

Supposedly the government's bridge loan will force the company to sell off some of their branch ventures and the senior management has already been let go which will lead to restructuring, but why would they change their M.O.? They've already discovered that they are so important to the economy that the government will save them from their risky/greedy business practices.

I also don't understand how the Bush administration is responsible for all the things gone wrong in the recent economy, since what I've read says the lending crisis is fallout from deregulation of the mortgage industry, which started in the 1980s and got approval from both parties in Congress.

Chech out this article - The Origins - and scroll down to "And it All Started With Deregulation."

Normally I have the typical Republican view, laissez faire, which is that the government shouldn't have to regulate business practices and doesn't need its nose in every part of our lives. But if the government decides not to regulate an industry but then steps in to save greedy investors and not-so-smart borrowers, why not regulate it from the start? Either "protect" the economy from the start or let the natural cycles evolve, but don't jump in and out!


Alright, enough political rants. I'm not sure I succeded in doing anything besides confusing anyone who read this even more!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Deals and Dilemmas

This is the weekend for city-wide garage sales. Some people love garage sale-ing, but not me. However, having a little boy that's outgrowing clothes almost as fast as he gets them changes things. In order to save my sanity, I picked a few from the descriptions that came in the newspaper flier and ruled out any that only opened on Saturday. I picked 4, went to one on Wednesday and hit 3 more yesterday, and I made out quite well at all but one.

For $34 I got:
6 t-shirts
6 shirts
6 pants
5 jeans
2 jackets
1 sweater
1 sweat shirt
1 pair of shorts
1 sleeper
2 pairs of shoes
3 books

Most of it is 18 month stuff, which he should be in by mid-late winter, but there was some 12 month and 24 month stuff. Now I'm going to avoid garage sales and stay off the road for the rest of the weekend.


Now for my dilemma. I know we need to get our wills done. I've called for estimates. I've researched. Two things are holding me back:

1) I found Quicken WillMaker on the Nolo website, and have heard that they are as legitimate as any will a lawyer will draft. It's a lot cheaper (by $250+) than a lawyer, and I have confidence in my ability to complete it accurately, but I want someone to tell me its success rate of holding up in court. Saving that money would be nice right now, but not at the expense of H's future.
2) Picking a guardian. In doing some research I found a tip: admit that no one is good enough. I know he will be loved and cared for by any of our choices, but I need to remember that I won't be around to nitpick someone else's parenting style if it comes down to this.

Either way, D and I need to get this done. Well, I need to get this done - D will just tag along and sign the papers.

On a side note, I find it amusing that our lives have come full circle. In September, 2002, D and I met while working at the same place. 6 years, (almost) 5 years of marriage, 3 houses, and a baby later, we are now working together again. :)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Spreading the Wealth

I may be trying to keep to a stricter budget, but there's always room to give a little bit more.

The amount of food Americans throw away has always bothered me, especially when it's me who has to throw out moldy food because I got sick of left overs. And then you hear statistics of how many children (and adults) starve to death each day around the world.

So I signed up here: Kids Against Hunger

For not a substantial donation, I figured I can give a kid 3 meals a day for half the month.

Every little bit helps!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Kiss the Cook

Some say the kitchen is the heart of the home, but that doesn't mean I want to spend all my afternoons there.

I enjoy baking and cooking, but I think that I started the week off wrong. Tuesday I was in the kitchen from 2:30 to 7:30, and yes, supper was in there too, but 5 hours was too much! Mom had stopped by to watch H while I got groceries and helped with with some food prep when I got back. I did get a casserole made for supper, cleaned chicken breast, made some into bacon wrapped chicken, left some plain, flash froze them, and canned 9 pints of pickle relish. Although I will probably give some to our families since it would probably take us 3-4 years to use all of the relish.

A while ago I learned about once a month cooking, and have considered doing it for a while now. I think I've put it off because it seems overwhelming, but I've been meaning to try once a week cooking. I've been slowly making some changes in this direction, like making double batches of some meals and doing prep work for later meals while making a supper earlier in the week. When starting out, I'd like to keep it as simple as possible, like all chicken recipes, and I don't know if D would be real impressed with that - he's already complained about all the new recipes lately.

I do have to say I've made a lot of progress since H was born. Instead of having 5 meal ideas for the week and sometimes having produce go bad by the time I got around to making a meal, I started assigning meals to days. It doesn't matter what we're in the mood for anymore. :) After a few weeks of doing that, I realized I often had partially used ingredients that would spoil because I forgot about them, so now I'm taking that into account when choosing meals.

A while ago I was at the grocery store and realized how much my habits have changed over the past few years. I used to stop at the meat counter, get 5 lbs. of their ground beef and continue shopping. Now I get 1-2 lbs. and not even every week. I'm not a big meat person, and thankfully D doesn't have an issue with me using half the amount of meat called for. I've even managed to use 1 lb of ground beef for 4 meals.

I've also noticed my "path" through the store. I hit the produce section, grab 1-2 loafs of bread, maybe some dressings, condiments, and a few canned goods, get a decent variety of meats at the meat counter, go down the pasta and baking isles, hit the dairy section (maybe a little too hard), grab some frozen veggies and I'm good to go. I'm always amazed when I stand in line and see so many moms with carts full of packaged and processed foods. Granted, I have afternoons off and I am not judging anyone for taking advantage of convenience items, but wow. Although D does often complain that I don't get enough "snacks," meaning all that packaged, processed stuff. I bake something pretty much every week - I can't help it he has like 4 bars at a time and doesn't care for fruit (more for me!) as a snack.

My goal a while ago was to cut back on meat and dairy and increase the amount of fruits and veggies we eat. I've done pretty good at scaling back the meat and getting a better variety; I definitely have more fruits and vegetables, but I can't force them down D's throat. But dairy is a little harder. We both love milk, and I don't see a problem with that, and I think we've both cut back a bit on cheese and sour cream and the like, which is funny because I've never mentioned anything to D about trying to cut back, so he must just be following my lead. :)

Right now my goal is to try a "mini" cooking session, and then just spread the meals out so D isn't stuck with chicken for a week.

As far as last week's goal, I've been to work by 7:30 once last week and once this week. Better, but plenty of room left for improvement.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Slow Mornings

It never fails.

I turn off my alarm at 6:00 and get out of bed at 6:30. I rush around getting ready and leave the house at least 5 minutes later than I should.

The next morning...

I get up with my alarm at 6:00. I try to get ready as fast as possible, since I know I can do it with 30 less minutes. I leave the house 5-10 minutes later than I should.

There's a good chance I will never be a morning person, although I am much better each year that goes by, but why can I never be ready early? I do the exact same things every morning and I don't dawdle if I get up early since I know that used to be my problem. I try to take 5 minute showers (I literally count to sixty - and not slowly - five times), because otherwise I would just stand there under the water as I slowly woke up.

There are a few things I do the night before, and maybe a few more that I could, but I don't know how much that would actually help me in the mornings.

I'm actually a little better now that I have to get a baby ready also, since I know I can rush/skip a few things I do in the morning. But I can't do that with H's morning routine. He can't eat breakfast on the way to daycare yet. :)

Maybe I should try to be more specific with my goals, since I always say I want to be earlier in the mornings.

My Goal: I want to be able to get ready in the mornings, without running around like a chicken with its head cut off, and be SITTING at my desk at 7:30 each morning by September 30.

Maybe I'll even be a more pleasant person in the mornings. D (a morning person who gets up almost an hour after me, by the way) might appreciate that!

Friday, August 22, 2008

My Little Notebook

Quite a while ago my dad gave me a hard time about not having any scratch paper for him to write on when I gave him a new notepad. Growing up there was always a stack of paper in a drawer that had a blank side. Anything that had room to make a list, notes, whatever - we kept it.

I hadn't started my own collection, mainly because I didn't have a good place to keep a stack of paper.

Then I got this great idea the other day. Why not make my own notebook? I always have one lying around to write lists, notes, and sketches for scrapbook layouts, and this would be a great way to keep a stack of scratch paper together. So I cut up some empty cracker boxes, covered them with some scrapbook paper I had lying around, and put everything together with some rings. The only new thing was the rings, and they were even leftovers from another project.

It's pretty, useful, it keeps all my lists in one place, and it saved some trash.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Learning to Change

It seems as if I have a never-ending list of things I want to change, improve, or just work on. And that doesn't even include the regular "to do" lists or the home improvement projects we are/plan on undertaking. I need a place to think through, prioritize, track, and review all of my ideas, since often when I'm feeling indecisive I just need to talk things through with somebody to realize I already know the answer.

My life has never been routine or boring (buying and remodeling 3 houses in 4 years of marriage will guarantee that), but since having a baby my daily "schedule" and priorities have changed a lot. And I know my life will keep changing as H and our family grow over the years.

I need to get our finances and stuff in order. I have everything managed and organized, but it's mostly in my head, and I need to make it so D or somebody else will be able to figure things out should something happen to me. He may not be interested, but he does need to be kept updated.

The house also needs to be cleaned/organized/spruced up. I've been making do since we plan on making several changes inside yet, so a lot of things get put here or there until they have a real home. But I can't live like that for several years and need to stop the "if and when" thinking and live in the here and now.

I want to change our eating habits, too. I'd say I'm on the healthier end, but I want to learn how to make healthier, "rounder" meals that appeal to D. I could give or take meat, and mostly eat it just because I'm not sure I get enough protein from other sources, but my husband is a carnivore. Unlike my pre-baby life, I can't be outside every evening after work helping D on the house. I used to come in, tired, at 8-9:00 and try to pick the easiest meal on my menu for a quick supper. But now I have a little more time, and if I would put a little more effort into planning I think we could eat healthier.

I'm also putting more effort into being more economical, or "environmentally friendly." Partly for the planet, partly for the pocketbook. It's a general trend right now, which makes some changes a little easier, but I want to be a good steward of the earth. It seems like conservatives, or the "right wing," has the reputation about not caring about the environment. I'm not going to get into the politics of it, and I may not agree about global warming, but I know there are a lot of improvements I, and everyone else, can make each day to cut back on our impact on the earth.

I'm trying to cut back on spending, which ties in to all my above goals. I'm pretty frugal and our lifestyle is quite simple to start with, so that and the current inflation is making it difficult to cut back. We aren't struggling, which is why it can be hard to decide to cut back on some things, but I know we could be doing better, especially about saving.

Check back in the future to check my progress. :)