Depression-era Frugal

As I started cutting the watermelon off the rind that my husband had missed with the melon baller, I realized that I’m not really like other people. At least not in this generation.

Last week, I got grief for pouring two mostly empty ketchup bottles together because I spent some extra time ensuring none was wasted (minutes, not seconds).

Time forced me to give up my pursuit of the last droplets from the dish soap bottle, but if I had not been in a hurry, I would have swished some hot water in the bottle and added it to the dishwater.

I save celery stalks, carrot tops, and chicken carcasses for broth.

I’ll reuse Ziplocs if I can.

I sometimes save curtains, sheets, and other pieces of old fabric just in case it might be able to be recycled into a sewing project someday.

We eat our leftovers. If we won’t, I will sometimes plan a meal just to use it up. The leftover quinoa and oatmeal in my fridge? It’s going into a multigrain bread.

If we won’t use it for a while, I will freeze it for later.

Soup cans make great pencil holders.

I said that I would make Hannah’s wedding dress should she ever get married. She agreed as long as I wouldn’t use old sheets or whatever (see above) and would actually purchase the material new. Apparently, I’m Maria von Trapp at our house.

Sometimes I wrestle with the decision to throw things away even if I know I won’t use them. I still throw it away, though.

I used to save milk jugs to put my homemade cleaners, but it turns out milk jugs are now made of biodegradable plastic. They don’t make things like they used to.

Also, $5 seems to be a good pricepoint in my mind for how much a shirt should cost.

So you would think, then, that I would also coupon with the best of them, but you would be wrong.

Tried it once, but it cost too much to get a paper, I’m not comfortable asking others for inserts, it takes a lot of time to organize, and you end up with items you can’t use up. Criminal.

Bryan is not this frugal, but he has better earning potential.

How frugal are you?

Posted in Frugal, Random | 3 Comments

2014 Family Pics

So, if you’ve been keeping up, you’ve seen the losers. Here are the pics that I just love, though.

Of Emma

IMG_6868IMG_6889IMG_6878Of Hannah


Of Micah

IMG_6931IMG_6953 IMG_7015

Of Bryan

IMG_6910IMG_6912IMG_6911This is what I like of me

IMG_7000IMG_6919But the kids like this one better

IMG_7001Group shots

IMG_6984IMG_6942IMG_7037IMG_7006IMG_7022And some bonus baby pics because I can’t resist

IMG_6948IMG_6960IMG_6971So, there you go! Family photos 2014. Now if I could just get someone to spend 10 minutes each year positioning and taking the family photos, I’d really have something to write home about :) Do you take family photos each year? Is not coordinating clothing the most ridiculously stressful thing EVER?



Posted in Family Updates | 2 Comments

Family Photo Fails

I took everyone out to take our yearly picture. No artsy faded backgrounds or cool photo edits this year because my camera is not that good and my photo editing software is the free stuff, so you’re stuck with the raw (but still cute) footage.

In any case, some of our photos are not so cute. So, with the victim’s permission, here are some of our photo fails.

Photo sessions are generally pretty boring, so a lot of people were having trouble staying awake.




At some point during every photo shoot, everyone gets the, “you’ve got to be kidding me” look on their face.




Then, there are always those awkward, random shots that you have no idea where they came from.



And the position/smile fails that come with group shots.




Finally, sometimes, you just love it, but it doesn’t work for wall photos.



There’s the fails. Stay tuned for the good stuff. And a new blog header. Contain your excitement people!


Posted in Fun | 4 Comments

Signs that you might be a homeschool dad

I saw this post from Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers, and the title made me wonder. What if someone really was a homeschool dad and he didn’t know it? What if his wife had asked him while he was browsing on the internet, and he had just agreed without really hearing her? What if she stealthily handed him the Letter of Intent to homeschool for the school district in a stack of other papers to sign?

So, if you suspect that your wife may be homeschooling your children on the down low, here’s some clues that it could be true.

  • The books in your home are multiplying, but they still claim that a weekly trip to the library is necessary.
  • The picture you knock down while vacuuming or playing living room football seems to have a whiteboard on the other side of it.
  • Crayons, pencils, and scissors can suddenly be found EVERYWHERE throughout the house.
  • The Rainbow Resources catalog (along with about 50 other educational catalogs) mysteriously shows up at your house.
  • The Household or Education budget significantly increases.
  • People report seeing your children out during the day.
  • The kids all just happen to be on school break whenever you take a sick day.
  • Also, they don’t really seem all that excited when the public schools go on break.
  • Your wife starts texting you math problems at 10 a.m. “Honey, I’m thinking about our Christmas trip. If Train A is going 60 miles per hour . . . .”
  • She asks that you show your work.
  • Ancient Greece has become a dinner conversation topic for your wife and kids.
  • Herb gardens and butterfly terrariums start showing up in the dining room.
  • Despite all the kids being in school, your wife REALLY needs you to pick up takeout on a much more regular basis.
  • The house seems significantly messier each day when you come home.
  • The kids no longer have any homework after dinner.
  • You start getting regular book deliveries from Amazon, Rainbow Resources, Apologia, and more.
  • Your wife no longer cares if the kids are wearing matching clothes for the day.
  • Your kids talk about doing school instead of going to school.
  • Packing lunches suddenly seems to baffle your wife.
  • Backpacks start to contain less books and more rocks, sticks, leaves, and other random stuff.
  • Your children start a home business.
  • Notebooking is mentioned, as in “Did you do your notebooking for science today?”
  • When you ask the kids what they did at school today, and they reply “I don’t know”, your wife jumps in and starts detailing all the things that were covered in math, science, and history.
  • The children’s desks have migrated out to the living room or other spare room.
  • Your wife has considered getting backyard chickens or “homesteading”.
  • Your children start talking about some place called “co-op”.
  • All of your children are studying the same topic in History and Science.
  • Your wife calls a book “twaddle.”
  • Bookcases start appearing in the dining room along with maps and letter charts and white boards.

And, of course,

  • Your children complete all their schoolwork at home under the instruction of a parent (or two).

I hope this is a helpful post to those of you who didn’t know you were homeschooling.

Posted in Fun, Homeschool | Leave a comment

I have a lot of cabinets

It was Wednesday. Our co-op was going to take the next week off, so we had a free week where we did not need to do school everyday. I had two thoughts about what to do with this week.

1. Potty train Micah. I’ve read a lot about early potty training, and I would love to get this kid out of diapers.

2. Refinish kitchen cabinets. We had pretty much decided to do this ourselves, and I knew it was going to take a lot of time so a break week would be a great time to get started.

I asked Bryan what he thought we should do, and he voted cabinets. I should have made this decision a week ago so I could get stuff, but it’s just busy busy all the time here, so I decided to take advantage of this time and roll with it.

Since it had been so busy, I started on Thursday just figuring out what I wanted to do. I opened a Pinterest account despite my general objections to time wasting on Pinterest (I do that on Facebook and Twitter enough) so I could see everything there is to see about cabinets and decide what kind of look we wanted. Then, while the girls were at choir, Micah and I went to Home Depot to check out some options. I brought home some stain and paint choices.

Later that night, Bryan and I talked through our options. I paired some countertops with floor and cabinet colors. We decided to try the Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations kit in the Espresso color. Friday morning, I took the girls to Menards, picked up what we needed and got out of there, over an hour later. Then, I got everyone home, got them some lunch and started tearing stuff up. Saturday morning, I sent Bryan to the store for easy dinners. Thankfully, we’ve had food all this time courtesy of Great Value and Stouffer’s. Everyone misses Mom in the kitchen, but she’ll get back in there once we have a kitchen.


I’ve been working (not tirelessly) since then. I’m not going to lie. It’s a ton of work. The little guy wants me. The girls want me. The cabinets want me. I’m racing the clock, and I’m not winning.

Today, we’re back to school. The girls did great at finishing their schoolwork. I did well with balancing my time, but I’m really hoping to get the big wall varnished by the end of the weekend because it’s killing me. We have one more wall after that and then the new cabinets (when they get here) to do. After this final push over the weekend, I’m going to be taking it in small enough pieces that I can get a paint or varnish coat done in an hour so I can sneak work in here and there during the week, also so we don’t have so much laid out all over the kitchen and we can work a little easier in there.

The big wall needs to wait 5 hours now before I put any varnish on it, so I have until 7 or 7:30 before I need to do any work. I’m hoping to get the house picked up in that time because things really blow up when Mom’s not on the clock. I throw pictures on Facebook and Twitter as I can and as changes occur, so look for updates there. Once all the cabinets are done, we’ll probably get a post up here. This is Stage 2. Floor was Stage 1, we still have countertops (and sink and faucet), backsplash, and wall color to go, but we’re getting closer. I don’t love home renovation.

How about you? Home renovation, love it or not?

Posted in Family Updates, Frugal | 2 Comments

Does Kickstarter make entrepreneurs lazy?

Remember back in the days when someone would believe in their idea so much that they would mortgage their house, borrow from savings, borrow from relatives, because they believed in their ideas?  They put skin into the game and I think that drove them more to succeed.

When I used to run Rubik’s cube competitions, people would want to secure a venue, and have me come and run the competition.  Since I spent a ton of time before the competition preparing, brought all the equipment, and spent the whole day running the competition rather than competing, I had no problem asking them to reimburse my expenses.  Usually this consisted of just a little bit of money to replace batteries or other equipment, and the hotel if needed.  Someone would always ask, “What if enough people don’t show up?”  I’d tell them that they’d be responsible for the shortfall.  Mostly because it would be a lack of advertising on their side that would cause this.  But you know what happened when they had a risk?  They were driven to succeed.  They advertised and made sure they made it something that people would want to go to.

With Kickstarter or many of the other crowdfunding sites, you seem to have entrepreneurs that don’t want to take any risk.  There are some legitimate reasons you’d need to do crowdfunding. Some people will come up with the product, but need to sell a mass quantity to afford mass production.  But the research on the feasibility of the product has already been done.  That’s cool. Or you have the book written, but need to handle getting it printed.  Perfectly fine.

But here are the things that make me not like crowdfunding campaigns

  • Person does no work upfront.  Doesn’t make a proof-of-concept, doesn’t have a draft written.  Refuses to do any work until they have the cash in hand.
  • Rewards that aren’t of value.  If you’re doing a pre-selling, that’s cool.  If you sell me an item for $10 because I’m backing you and it’d normally sell for $15, that’s great.  If you’re selling me a $1o item for $50, that’s asking for a handout.  If you’re wanting to do a charity campaign, do a charity campaign.  And if you’re selling me a “warm fuzzy feeling” for ANY amount, no.
  • Covering ever single cost.  I like it when people have a breakdown of costs.  That means they’ve actually sat down and figured things out (hopefully).  But sometimes you’ll see those breakdowns contain every little detail.  Not just the Kickstarter fees, but every little cost.  Yes, I see you’ve stated you needed $768 for the plane ticket.  But I see the next item of $8 because “It could be an early morning flight and coffee at the airport is expensive.”
  • Not backing anyone else. The sites show how many other projects the person has funded.  When is says, “0 backed”, I always think, “Really, you want to come and ask people for $50,000, but you haven’t found 1 thing you could spend $10 on?
  • Creating multiple campaigns. Sites also lists how many campaigns they’ve previously had. If you’ve had a previously successful campaign, you need to make a compelling reason why you’re coming back a second time.
  • Asking for so little. I know….$X amount of dollars may be a lot for some people.  But there comes a point when the amount is so ridiculously low that picking up a part-time job for 2 weekends would handle it.
  • Flexible funding. Some sites have this option, which basically means even if the project doesn’t receive all the funding, the person gets to keep all the money.  Seeing this throws a big red flag for me.  If you can’t do it without at least $50,000, what are you going to be doing with $10,000?  My guess is nothing, so don’t take my money.

What are your thoughts of crowdfunding campaigns?

Posted in Family Updates | 2 Comments

The “One more thing” problem

I have always had this problem, but it feels worse since we’ve been homeschooling and now that we have a toddler again. I call it the “one more thing” problem. It happens when a task requires one more thing that I don’t have the time or opportunity to do right then. Maybe I need to schedule a trip to the post office to mail something. I’ll have the package ready and waiting, but I won’t get it mailed for a week or two, and it’s late. A letter will need an envelope that I need to go find, two weeks later, I’ll finally mail it. I’ll need to hunt up a receipt to finish my budgeting. It’ll sit until the end of the month. I need to check the calendar or ask Bryan about an email question; it’ll be a week turnaround rate.

This isn’t because I forget, though. No, these tasks completely stress me out all day while I’m doing other things. However, at the end of the day when I kick back to check Facebook and actually have time? Poof! They’re gone!

Now this is probably actually a good, adaptive thing because if this didn’t happen (and sometimes it doesn’t) I’d run around like crazy after the kids went to bed and not be able to get to sleep because of the to do list swirling in my brain. But it still irritates me no end. I need to use my phone to keep better lists. And get a personal assistant.

Does this happen to you?

Posted in Family Updates | 2 Comments

Random Ramblings

Since I’m unwilling to actually polish and edit one of the 42 drafts sitting in my pile, you get some random ramblings about what has been going on lately here.

School. We’ve started our co-op and school activities have picked up. It’s going well with the little guy, but I still struggle all the time with the whole “my kids are home all day making messes but I’m teaching so I don’t have time to clean the house how I want” thing. We’ve developed a system that keeps things picked up, but my toilets need cleaning and my floors need vacuuming, and well, I have a toddler which someone described as living life with the blender lid off. So true.

Emma is growing up super fast. She’s just awesome at doing stuff now. She is basically self directed for school requiring assistance here and there. She can see what needs to be done and do it. She’s great at hanging with her little brother. It’s sometimes hard to remember that she’s not all ready for everything yet. We’ve started the phase of having long discussion about lots and lots of things. She’s reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy now, and I’m reading it along with her. I’m liking this phase more than I thought I would.

Hannah is still brightening things up with her unique perspective on life. She is a master of function, and asks hard questions. I love to watch her play with Micah. She always thinks up some creative game, and it’s so cute seeing them snuggled up and her reading to him. I’m looking at ways of helping her be more independent in her schoolwork because even though she requires more teaching, it’s just irritating having mom remind you all day long to keep working. So, I’ve ordered a 10 drawer shelf, and we’ll be trying the “work box” method. We’re, in essence, trying “workbox light” today as I put all her books in a bin and labelled her assignments with sticky notes. It’s going well so far!

Micah is great. His little face. I can’t get enough of it. His vocabulary is growing and he echoes words all the time now. One of our recent favorites is when he would say “pobly” after Emma would say “probably”. He’s into EVERYTHING right now and stuff is getting pulled out of everywhere. I feel a little like the mom in “Love You Forever.” He’s starting to do more pretend play, so that’s adorable. He loves his stuffed Curious George and blanket. He’ll ask for Georgie and bankie. So much cuteness. He’s the reason my toilets need cleaning, but I’m keeping him anyway.

Tutoring Essentials is so much fun. I get to field grammar related questions like “Why is it called a Predicate Nominative?” That one allowed me to use my very limited knowledge of Latin as well. Plus, we play math games every week, and sometimes I get to show off my mad skills.

I have had two colds within the past 3-4 weeks. At this point, buying elderberries and making an immune boosting syrup is pretty much a given. Last night, while perusing Facebook, I found a post referring to a well-behaved child as an “angle”. Bryan suggested commenting that this child certainly was “acute.” This provoked a coughing fit that lasted long enough for me to cave and take some Nyquil.

I had a Pumpkin Chai Latte while I was waiting for Emma to finish her field trip for American Heritage Girls at the local grocery store. It was delicious. You should have one to if you like that sort of thing.

The little guy is crying, so I’m just going to end this post by telling you this is why none of my other posts have gotten finished. Because I need to go hug some cuteness.

What have you been up to lately?


Posted in Random | 1 Comment

Pondering stoplights

I think about things constantly.  Like elevators. And other things. They’ve been having a lot of construction near our house recently so a bridge is now one-lane.  This causes a lot of traffic to get backed up.

But do you know what I think causes traffic to get more backed up?  The people who try to conserve energy.  For example, look at this illustration:

rect3788The yellow car wants to take a left, so he pulls into the left turn lane here.  Now, what if someone is conserving gas by leaving a TON of space in front of them?  Well, this happens:

rect3789The yellow guy can’t get into the turn lane just yet, even though there is room in for the three cars ahead of him because the red wants to leave a bunch of space in front of him.

Of course, this is just one example.  Another issue this creeps up is where you have two lights close to each other.  You see there’s space for multiple cars, so you pull up and the car ahead of you stop WAY short.  So much that you’re now stuck in the intersection.  You hope the light ahead changes quickly so you can get out of the intersection.  But most of the time you end up either having to pull awkwardly in the other lane and back, or waiting for the person to slowly roll up into their proper position.

Now that guy that’s driving this way is probably saving some fuel efficiency.  But at what cost?  Other people are having to idle longer because of missed lights.  So is the OVERALL system better?  And what happens if EVERYONE started driving like this?  Would traffic engineers need to redesign the road systems to assume each car may be taking 2.5 car lengths?  Will lights need to be timed differently because people want to accelerate at the speed of smell?  Will road infrastructure itself need to be changed to make turning lanes longer?  If that occurred, would the fuel savings be greater?

Now I’m not saying we should be pulling up to the person with 3 inches between our bumpers.  I’m pretty sure traffic engineers assume there’s some space.

Of course, I don’t have all the information to figure out the numbers.  Maybe there would be savings.  But my gut feel tells me that some of these fuel-saving measures come at the cost of others.

What’s your thought on this topic?

Posted in Random | 5 Comments

My stove, helpful neighbors, and repair guys

We just had back to back weeks where grandparents got to visit so my kids need extra hugs and we’re a little behind on things. I was making some dinner and rising my bread when it started to stink like burnt electronics. I thought maybe it was just a smell from the new pan I was using, by when I switched off the burner, the display on my stovetop cut out. While the kids and I ate dinner, Bryan (who had eaten at a Men’s Ministry event) went over to ask the neighbors if we could use their oven to finish the bread. They very graciously agreed. Bryan and the kids headed out the door, and I headed next door to bake bread. After sharing some rolls, I made my way back to try to call or connect with Maytag on the internet. The Maytag website was unhelpful and not great even by my standards, and I’m half Amish, but I finally managed to locate a recommended local repair person and called it a day. Sunday, I bemoaned the fact that I couldn’t use my teapot, but I survived. This morning, I tried calling Maytag’s man, but his phone message said he could get back to me at the end of the day. Figuring someone else could do better than that, I tried the repairman recommended on Saturday by my neighbors. He promptly returned my call and agreed to come after lunch. Hearing about the problem, he had come prepared with one part, but when he found this


he had to run out for a cord as well. He fixed it up, and we tried it out. Then, he gave me a tutorial on how to clean my oven (nice, but embarrassing, next time I’ll have to clean my broken appliance before calling the repairman). I guess the Brillo pads from the dollar store work just as well, who knew? The best part was when he left his business card and told me about his AM radio show on Fridays. Do you think that would count as home education credits?

But now my oven works, I’m happy, and I want to bake something.

Who wants to come over for muffins?

Posted in Family Updates | 2 Comments