Saturday, May 30, 2009

Sleeping cats

Normally the boys take turns on the perch. It's not a big perch and let's face it, Eddie is a big cat. This week, though, they've been curled up in various poses up there. So I took pictures all week long and that's what you'll see in the slide show on the left.

Here's a rare video of Wally sleeping while Eddie grooms.

video

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Spending intentionally

A friend who is a personal trainer and a hero of mine has a fitness blog and her tag line is Eat Intentionally. I love that notion and think the intentional part can be applied across most areas of my life. Like our budget.

With that in mind, Kent decided to ditch cable TV. I am not a TV watcher in the least, and Kent hardly watches anymore either. When he does watch, he’s more likely to get movies from Blockbuster to take on his business trips. Well it turns out that to have just internet costs more than to have the exact same internet plus basic cable. I’m sure ComCast has metrics that show people who sign up for basic cable can be persuaded to upgrade. But I don’t think we will, and we’re saving a bit over $50 a month now.

Along the same lines, I read this article about brand disloyalty on Casual Kitchen. I giggled at his account of how he was blindly loyal to Tide. I did the same thing regarding certain brands for years but now that money is tight, I find I have very little brand loyalty. I’ll try the generic brand for pretty much anything, and if I like the quality, I’ll stick with it. For example, I tried the generic brand of regular oatmeal and it was disgusting, the texture was all wrong. So I’ll buy Quaker unless I find another brand to try. On the other hand, I love the store brand of organic diced tomatoes and won’t spend more on a brand name now.

We’re zeroing in on our final budget and will kick the whole thing off on Monday, June 1. I found some interesting statistics regarding percentages for various categories and as I suspected, our housing costs are higher than recommended since we spend almost 50% of our income on housing costs (the national average in 2007 was 34%). On the plus side, we spend very little on transportation—about 3%.

The whole point of doing all of this is to both prepare for our future and also to make sure when our money leaves our pockets, its bringing us exactly what we want.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy birthday, Kent!

Yes, today is Kent's birthday. I love this picture of him because you can really get a sense of his playfulness. He's decked out for a day at the lake and I'm very glad he takes his skin protection seriously. He doesn't tan at all, he only burns so in addition to the clothes he's wearing here, he also slathers on 50 SPF sunblock.








And in the interest of fairness, here's a picture that shows how nicely he cleans up. This was at his brother's wedding a year ago April. RAWR I married a good looking man.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

New running shoes

I've read a few articles lately that discuss how modern shoes tend to do our feet, knees and legs no favors because we end up with very weak foot muscles. This makes sense to me because when Kent and I spent a week on Little Gasparilla Island off the west coast of Florida a few years ago, I took very long bare-foot walks along the shore and had the sorest muscles in my toes! I didn't even know I had muscles like that there.

Yoga—and to a lesser extent Pilates—has strengthened my feet a lot. In yoga, you really use your toes, arch muscles and the entire foot in the various poses, while in Pilates, you are constantly pointing your toes. So my feet are much stronger. But my running shoes don’t let me use my feet when I run, and I feel very disconnected from the pavement.

My dear friend, Laura Haney, runs barefoot for just this reason (see also here). She’s struggled with knee issues a lot and the bare-foot running has ended all that. Well I am a bit vain about my feet and don’t want huge ol' calluses plus to be honest with you, I would never ever ever run barefoot in Boston. You just never know what you’ll step on! So this week I got a pair of Nike Free 5.0.

They are very different shoes, I’ve run in them once so far and so far I really like them. It will take some getting used to, feeling the pavement this way and really using my feet when I run. But I think it’s good for my feet, my knees and my entire body.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Score!

And the budget stuff continues on with some successes.

We finally got our own store loyalty card for Stop & Shop—I got tired of hoping to get the card discount but not knowing if the cashier would do it or not. So we got our own card probably two months ago. This week I looked at the bottom of my receipt, and to my shock we’d already saved over $50 just by shopping wisely and using that card.

Yesterday I saved even more with it. You accrue points every time you buy stuff there, and those points (which expire in 30 days) reduce the price of gas per gallon. If you have 100 points, you pay 10 cents less per gallon, and so on. I (finally) needed to put gas in the car—first time since Thanksgiving, can you believe it?—so I used my card. You already get a discount for using the card, usually about five cents. I had enough points that instead of paying $2.18/gallon, I paid $1.93/gallon. How cool is that?

But the real score came at Target. Try as I have (and I have tried, believe me), Kent is not interested in giving up soda. He has at least switched from the pricier cans to the 2-liter bottles but he still drinks a fair amount of it. So when I find a good deal on diet Coke products, I stock up. Target had 2-liter Coke products on sale 5/$5.55 which is a good price. But wait, it gets even better. Caffeine-free diet Coke was on sale at our Target for $1/2-liter bottle. So I got five bottles which are sitting in the smelly (and cool) closet just waiting for their turn in the fridge.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Happy birthday, Jen!

It's kind of weird to realize I've known Jen for almost 10 years. I first met my future daughter-in-law when she and some of Ben's other friends came over to watch movies. Another girl was there also and had the most annoying laugh. I'm so glad Ben didn't end up dating her!

I never had a daughter, although I always wanted one. Now I feel like I do have a daughter, and even though I didn't raise her or anything, I don't think I could love her more if I had.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Of budgets, eggs, and general penny pinching

Kent and I have pulled together a spreadsheet we keep on Google Docs. We’ll use this spreadsheet to track our spending, list future purchases so we can save for them, and continue saving for retirement. If you’re interested in budget resources, I bet you can find something that suits you here.

Speaking of eggs, I paid $3.49 for a dozen eggs two weeks ago. I ended up short for a recipe I was making, so I headed out to Whole Foods and paid dearly for not realizing I didn’t have enough. To make things worse, I dropped one egg in the sink. At 29 cents an egg, that hurt. The best price for eggs that I’ve found here in Boston is about $1.99, but that’s on sale and only rarely. Butter is worse, I’m lucky to find it under $3 a pound. I bet you feel better about the cost of your groceries now, huh.


In the general penny-pinching category we have these lovely napkins. We’d already greatly reduced how many paper towels we use—not really out of any great initiative to save the environment, I’m sorry to say, but because we keep the paper towels in the cabinet under the sink. And that cabinet is almost always secured with our Velcro ties to keep them safe from Wally. We use the tea towels Kent’s grandmother made for him (mentioned in this blog entry), and they work really well.

This week I thought hey let’s do the same thing with cloth napkins. So I bought the four new napkins you see in the picture to go with the solid red napkins we already have. I sprang for ones from Crate & Barrel because I think they are really cool-looking and we’ll use them for a long time. The green glasses are our patio drink ware, and they are also from Crate & Barrel.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The weirdest tights ever

Capri or ankle length tights actually make a lot of sense here in Boston. We stay in that mid-60s range for a long time and while that's a little chilly for bare legs it's also too warm for proper tights. Enter the footless version, either to your ankle or to mid-calf.

I'd gotten a pair of gray capri tights from Target and really liked them. Then I saw two pairs in bright colors at Designer Shoe Warehouse and thought they would be fun.

Well except for one thing. They are super long from the crotch to the waistband. Truthfully they come up to my armpits and appear as though they were designed to be like that. Maybe the idea was you don't get line from the tights at your waist? I don't know, all I know is they don't stay up under my bra, they slide down but not all the way to my waist. So then I have a charming line between my waist and my bra. Too bad I already threw away both the packaging and the receipt, otherwise I'd return them. As it is, these are going straight into the trash.

Monday, May 11, 2009

I am a sucker for cook books

(And please do not buy me any more—as you can see, we really don’t have room).

Saturday we went to BJ’s, a New England/eastern seaboard warehouse club similar to Costco. We’d received a 60-day pass in the mail and figured hey we’ll check it out for two months and then probably not go back.

Like Costco (and probably Sam’s too, I just never belonged there), BJ’s sells books, videos, music and magazines. One of my favorite magazines is Food & Wine and of course every year they put out a cookbook. And of course BJs had it and of course I saw it . . . and now I own it.

I am a weak, weak woman. But I didn’t pay $29.95 plus $3.95 for shipping and handling. I take some solace in that.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

For Alison

This short video clip stars Wally (of course) and is worth watching.

video

Saturday, May 9, 2009

I am an optimist

I love fresh basil but I hate paying for it at the store. In Kansas City, I had the perfect spot to grow basil—it got plenty of sun and was out of the wind. Growing basil in Boston will be a very different experience and I’m not at all confident we’ll succeed. In the same vein, Kent loves rock roses and those also adore lots of sun. I wouldn’t describe our patio as sunny—we have moss growing freely on the bricks. But I’m willing to try with both plants.

Before Kent and I headed out this morning for errands, I snapped this picture of the boys cuddling on the cat perch. When they do stuff like that, I forget about noisy antics of the night before. Although when we got home this afternoon, I found the flash light from the cabinet under the kitchen sink out on the floor. No doubt Wally needed for something.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A very cool chair

This chair is in my step-mother's guest room. OK technically she's not my step-mother any more, but ex-step-mother gets a bit awkward and then requires lots of explanation. So she's my step-mother.

Admire the chair!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Another (fun) audit

No really, this audit is a fun one.

Kent had a great idea while I was gone this weekend visiting some family in Philadelphia. He’s completely bought into the home organizational audit and he took it a step further. We are new to New England and we’ve talked about all the places we’d like to visit, but we haven't gone anywhere yet. So he started making a day trip audit. That way we won’t forget to include the fun stuff, and can do these trips in a day. That helps keep the expenses down and should let us see a lot of fun interesting things this summer. Here's a partial list:

Boston Light Tower climbing tours. The National Historic Landmark, Fort Warren, a 19th-century granite stronghold built to defend Boston, is on Georges Island. I've seen it as I've flown in and out of Boston and I'd love to go there.

Astors Beechwood Mansion tours. One site listed the tours here as expensive ($$$) but I think we'll get our $15/person's worth when we go.

Marblehead, MA. The author of this guide obviously loves Marblehead and I want to see it now after reading her description and recommendations.

Restaurant deals for the recession. We do like to eat out, and this list will help us do it while maintaining control of our budget!