Saturday, March 08, 2008

Saturday updates

Let's see...

First, I'm supposed to be at girls' night out at Lori's right now, singing along to one of the greatest movies of all time, The Sound of Music. Instead, my raspy voice and I are at home, and I am about to go to bed. Singing? Not likely today. And we were to be sharing I think that after my first dip in the fondue pot, my friends would have said "see you!" and ordered out for pizza. I couldn't do that to them. Plus, I didn't want to infect them by being in a small space for hours and breathing on them. Bah humbug. I am majorly bummed to miss out on the festivities.

In better news, I did get a pedicure today. I figure all those nasty nail polish fumes had to kill whatever I was breathing out, at least, and I got to sit and relax and get rubbed (ahhhh). My toes are a spring-like pink now. Best of all, I got to use a gift certificate from Christmas so it was free to me (thanks, Ryan).

We got a lot of work done on the yard today, mostly thanks to Ryan. The vegetable garden is all dug out - hurrah! Ryan did the extra work of removing the grass around the shrubs along the side of the yard, and mulching all around, and the entire piece of grass on that side has been dug up, turned over, fertilized, etc., according to the specifications in our gardening book. It looks great, and I can't wait to begin planting.

As for my part of the yardwork, I was working on weeding the bed that is closest to our house. I'm only about half way done - I can not believe how much time it takes to remove the roots from the grass that has planted itself there. With each section that I complete, I add a wheelbarrow of mulch, and stand back to admire, quite pleased with myself at the results. Maybe if I'm not sick this week I will do a much better job of doing an hour per day; last week, that petered out quickly. I really hope to get that part of the gardening done, as it's tedious and back breaking (all that crouching and bending) and it's murder on my fingernails, even through gloves. ;-)

I did plant one plant today, and it was a treat to do so. Mom & Dad S. brought with them part of a daisy plant from Grandma Tess's yard! Apparently it grew by her front door, and she gave them some divisions from it years ago. Now, it's big enough to divide again, so Mom & Dad brought us some. It's technically called a Michaelmas Daisy, and it's purple or pink; but at our house, it will always be a Grandma Tess daisy. Right now it's just a collection of sticks and roots, but we are assured that it's a hardy plant that will grow quickly and look great this summer. HURRAH! It's in the front bed, closest to the street. I dream of sitting on our porch, sipping something cool in the heat of summer, and seeing its blooms.

The next step is to begin planting seeds indoors. I've got tomato seeds that I want to do starts with, and we've been saving our yogurt containers to plant in. Time to get ready! And there are other seeds that can go directly into the ground, too. Sarah and Steven have been doing their vegetable garden at approximately the same times that we have been (although they're way ahead of us with their work; they started last year when they bought their house) and are helpful in advising us, and one good piece of advice is that if we don't want cats using our garden as a litter box we should add chicken wire over the garden. Chicken wire is now high on my list of things to get! YUCK is all I can say to kitty-lettuce. (That's not manure, that's gross.)

And Mom & Dad Surface are safely home. It was a lovely visit.

That's all from me. Good night, all.

Grandma, Bopa, Surface7, and Buttercup

Tessa has been beside herself for the past 24 hours. Grandma & Bopa were here when she got back from preschool, and Grandma brought her famous (in our family, anyway!) home made jam. Tessa posed for lots of pictures with the grandparents, and I'll post them when I download them.

Surface7 were able to come here for dinner, as well, and they laughed and said that their busy family of 7 hasn't had a meal with all 7 present since about Christmastime. (Of course, not all of their children are children any more - it looks like Melissa is on the road to marriage, even!) It was a true treat to have the 12 of us around our table. (Dad Dahl, LOVE the board that you made for our table expander, and Mom Dahl, thanks for the tablecloth! It gets drug out for every occassion like this, and I'm always grateful. It's a special thing to have a large, extended family, and a treat to be able to fit around a table. With 12, we were squashed, and it was the perfect kind of being squashed....loving, laughter-filled, happy. We used every piece of flatware that we own, and every dish, adn that was perfect, too.)

And then there's Buttercup.

I have vowed that we will not be adopting any rodents (ack!), but I have to confess that Buttercup is pretty darned cute. She has long hair, and she makes a cooing kind of purr when you pet her and she's happy. She's a vegetarian, and is gobbling up the broccoli, carrots, and celery stalks that we've given her so far (in addition to her guinea pig food).

And Tessa's love for Buttercup - well, she's beside herself. At dinner, she actually broke into a fit of happy laughter just THINKING about Buttercup. She is learning to be ever so gentle with her (and she's also learning that her fingers are the same size and shape as the carrots we've been feeding her, so be careful!).

Buttercup goes back to preschool on Tuesday. I'll bet that it's a tough transition for my daughter...and hence for me. But this weekend, she'll love her with all she's got.

Pictures to follow eventually....

Friday, March 07, 2008

S is for Sparkles

Today is letter S day at preschool. Tessa wore a hairband with sparkles, a shirt with silver sparkles, a skirt with sparkles, and (of course) her ruby red sparkle shoes. Oh, yes, and a sparkly necklace. She was thrilled with her choices, and I couldn't help but smile over her enthusiasm.

Today is also Tessa's show and tell at preschool, and she brought Special Bear. She put a bow on him to dress him up, and she couldn't wait.

And best of we're bringing Buttercup the guinea pig home for the weekend. She will live (in her cage) in Tessa's room, and Tessa will be in charge of her care (supervised, of course).

And in case you think it can't get any better for a five year does!

In a few hours, Grandma and Bopa will arrive from Portland for a visit. Tessa knows what she wants to show them, all the things she wants to share with them, etc. Grandma is getting a special picture (I haven't seen it yet but Tessa's going on about it.) And then tonight, the Surface7 are coming, including Tessa's beloved Sari (her closest-in-age Surface cousin).

I am looking forward to these things, too, but NOTHING tops the enthusiasm of a small child, and I delight in that.

Which is good, because I feel crappy. My sore throat is moving into my chest, and I'm grouchy about that. But one day at a time, one day at a time....

Tomorrow night is my girls' night at Lori's for singalong Sound of Music (yes, I'm a dork, and I love being a dork - anyone who hasn't sung along to SOM is missing out in life!). At this rate, I won't be doing much singing....grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Okay, off to chores. A loaf of bread to make, Tessa's room to tidy, one more bathroom to clean. I wore gardening clothes today on the off chance that I could even fit in some more weeding before Tessa's pick up, but this may be overly optimistic....

And we're off.

Thursday, March 06, 2008


Tonight i went back and forth about attending bookclub - should I or shouldn't I? I love going, but I feel so crummy.

Well, given that it is 7:39 and I can't stay up a minute more, I know the answer. Good night, all. Tomorrow is a new day. It will be better.

(But my bathrooms are clean, Ryan vacuumed, the laundry got put away, dusting got done - with Tessa's help - and the Costco errand got run, and all is well.)

Oh well

Tonight I cancelled attending bookclub. I feel lousy and I am really looking forward to hosting the Surfaces (12 of us) for dinner tomorrow night, so I'm going to go to bed early. Bummer.

Today I turned down our hot water tank a bit; it was uncomfortably hot coming out of the tap (bad with little kids) and an energy waster. This week I plan to get a hot water blanket, which apparently can save 3-10% of the energy used by the hot water heater. (Better get an earthquake strap while I'm at it, and install them at the same time.

I've "hidden" our paper napkins, and now we're using cloth almost exclusively. I had plenty already so I didn't need to buy them. They get reused, not tossed in the trash, and it's one less thing to buy. Environment=pocketbook in this case. (Not always the case, but often enough.)

Church this weekend plans to do "Stone Soup," the classic folk tale, for the children's story, and all members of the congregation are asked to bring in a vegetable to share. This fits perfectly with the values we're trying to teach Tessa, and I'm glad she will get to see how it works. I think she'll also get a kick out of the social hour, enjoying the soup with her friends. We've volunteered to bring some bread to share (just a couple of loaves) and help serve (Tessa's preschool "spirit play" class is in charge of the project, so those families are bringing extras and helping) so we feel particularly connected to the project. Every week, I feel more connected to the WSUU community and their values.

I have also taken on a writing project for WSUUs involvement in building a Habitat for Humanity house in West Seattle. I think that this is an excellent opportunity for family time and community and charity and all the rest, so it will be a family affair to work on the project. I envision Tessa and I cleaning up the construction site (she can pick up nails for recycling, for example); I envision Tessa running a free lemonade stand for the workers; I envision Ryan getting satisfaction from swinging a hammer; I envision writing well crafted essays on the project and publishing them on a blog (not this one) for the WSUU and UU and Habitat communities.

Whereas I'm not able to do much for Komen right now because the breast cancer thing is sometimes too large of a part of my life, Habitat should fulfill my need to participate in charity wihtout bogging me down. That's the hope, anyway.

I have managed to track every dollar (cent!) of our household spending since this project began. This is NOT my forte' so I'm proud of this accomplishment.

I'm planning a family yard sale. NOT the 3-Day massive yard sale, just a litlte family yard sale. In this way I think we'll bring in some extra cash, get rid of clutter. We all stand to benefit. We'll let Tessa do a lemonade stand for profit, and then help her to budget her profits (charity, savings, spending).

I've been asked by Snow & Genentech to go to Colorado in May. Hurrah! I like these trips, and the money will help our family.

Today I had planned to garden, garden, garden....I'd like my front beds to look nicer when Mom & Dad S. arrive. Alas, it's not to be. We still have a mountain of mulch in the back yard, but I can't spread it until I pull the weeds. It will happen. (I'm working on this as Ryan works on the digging of the vegetable garden. In theory, they'll finish up at the same time, adn then I'll switch from the "big" weeding project to just maintenance weeding adn then planting as well. At that point, we also need to aerate, thatch, fertilize, and re-seed our back yard, figuring out a way to do this without Shep un-doing our work. I really want to spend a lot of time in our back yard this summer, enjoying the fruits of our labor. Actually, in our front yard, too!)

Speaking of yards, I'll throw this out there in internet land: anybody have any of the following they'd like to get rid of? I'd be happy to take them off your hands:
- soaker hose(s)
- rain barrel(s)
- ceramic or concrete bird bath
- wooden, metal, or concrete (anything but plastic) garden bench(es)
- trellises (for putting up beans and raspberries)

It worked for the bread machine (thanks Mom & Dad) so maybe it will work for one or more of these items, too.....?

Speaking of the bread machine, I haven't bought a loaf of bread since I got the machine. And now I only want home made bread. ;-) Tessa says she likes store bought pizza and store bought bread better than home made......oh well. C'est la vie. She's five, she doesn't get to choose.


Last night my throat felt a little scratchy, and Ryan commented that my voice was a little scratchy, but I didn't make anything of it. Today I've lost my voice - arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Gimme a break!

I'm sure it will be short lived. I have visitors coming tomorrow and I fully plan to continue with that plan!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


Today I woke up to a nice note from Ryan on my bedside table, and another from Krystal on email, encouraging me in my endeavors to be more frugal and live according to my values, assuring me that I would meet with success.

I needed that. Thank you.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


We are trying to work within a massively restrictive budget. We have to: my medical bills have piled up, and we've acquired some considerable debt in the couple of years from you-know-where. It was way too easy to order take-out instead of cooking; it was way too easy to justify buying a little toy for Tessa because she was dealing with such crap at such a young age that she deserved it. Well, it's time to pay up.


I am not the world's best budgeter, and I am extremely frustrated by my own inability to stick within the budget we've set forth. It seems like this shouldn't be so hard! Our grocery budget still needs to come down $50 per week, and though I've made great strides in that direction, it's not enough. And I have to figure out if this gardening business is worth it, too. We still need soaker hoses, and grass seed, and yard fertilizer, and raspberry bushes, and we need to build some kind of trellis or latticework for raspberries, beans, and snap peas. Ching, ching, ching go the dollar signs. The worst part? These are really small expenses, but as we crack down on our spending, they suddenly loom large.

Maybe the hardest part is that we've had such "rich" years in the past; weekends at bed and breakfasts, European travel, buying a new car (that is now 8 years old!), buying nice wine, dinners out without even thinking of it. Well, we've only eaten one meal out in three weeks, and it was $16 for the family, and now I regret it because we're over budget for the week so obviously that wasn't a good idea. Anyway, my point being that we didn't have much of a budget, because we didn't need to. We did not save nearly enough for a rainy day, either, so the tsunami that hit us found us relatively unprepared.

Whine, whine, whine. There are people in the world who are starving, and I am indignantly saying that I will NOT eat Top Ramen and I mean it. We live in a beautiful home. We have great health insurance (just imagine those bills without it....yikes). Tessa attends a good preschool; she takes gymnastics. It doesn't sound like I have much to complain about when I look at it that way, but still, this belt tightening, frankly, sucks. There are those who would beg to be in our shoes, but still....

It could be better. It could be worse. It is my reality, and I'm adjusting.

I am tracking every single penny I spend, writing it down diligently, trying to cut corners. I've cut a lot of corners in the past few weeks. I have utilized the public library more than ever before. I've all but given up coffees out. I have minimized the miles on the car. I have lowered my carbon footprint substantially by these choices.

Some choices won't make themselves apparent for a while; our house is being kept at 66 degrees (bring a sweater if you visit, or we'll loan you one) and that should knock down our heating bill somewhat. We're turning off lights more than ever before. I'm unplugging things not in use (like the cell phone chargers) to stop phantom energy devices. I'm reusing plastic bags, or eliminating them when possible. (That'll save what, $10 a year in Zip Lock bags? Not much, but I guess $10 is $10. I'm doing it to keep the bags out of a land fill, the $ is secondary.) I don't use Swiffer products any more, replacing them with reusable products that can be used on the Swiffer broom handles. I'm using vinegar and baking soda with increasing frequency to clean with.

I really believe in voluntary simplicity, but this would be a little easier if it were more truly voluntary and not required in order to pay off our bills. Or maybe it would be harder because more things would be tempting! Maybe after this period of trial we'll stop missing the foolish stuff like coffees out every day and when we have extra we can spend it on things that are more meaningful to us, like vacations or home repairs or whatever.

I've been using the library like crazy; I keep putting things on hold. I'm currently reading something called "Ditch the Diet and the Budget" which is about changing mindsets about money and weight (but still staying on track for both). I have been skimming a book called "Unplug the Christmas Machine" about turning Christmas back into a festive time of celebration instead of an overconsumption-bank-breaker. I'm reading about raising children with voluntary simplicity. I'm reading how French Women Don't Get Fat. I'm reading about gardens, and composting, and blueberry care, and natural lawn care (turns out that grass is green, so is moss so bad?). I have "Omnivore's Dilemma" and "In Defense of Food" on hold (awaiting my turn). I have Oprah's Debt Diet on DVD from Molly to watch.

I am baking my own bread. This doesn't cease to amaze me. It's pretty good, if I may say so myself, and I'm settling on a version that uses molasses, whole grain wheat flour, oatmeal, and flax seed. So far I've been using canola oil, but I'm considering other options. I still have tons of my bulk yeast from PCC left. The honey bread is more expensive and doesn't last as long, so molasses are the family preference.

I have stopped buying deli turkey, and I'm roasting my own for sandwiches.

Ryan is taking a lunch to work most days, either leftovers or a sandwich.

I'm reusing the plastic bags that you use for vegetables at the grocery store, and I take my own bags everywhere; I no longer forget my grocery bags when I go shopping. I've taken to sticking my purse instead a pretty Guatamalean striped bag that doubles as a shopping bag, so I use this for errands (prescriptions, cat food, etc) and small grocery trips. I sought out and used the PCC 10% off coupon, and I marked "member days" on my calendar so that I could get the extra 5-10% off that week (it's only 2 days per month). I've been shopping at PCC, the Farmer's Market, Thriftway, Trader Joe's, and Safeway so that I get the best deals (argh that doesn't make me happy - sometimes all that shopping to get deals sucks the life out of me).

I have taught Tessa to say, "No impulse shopping!" and taught her what taht means; she and I remind each other when we go somewhere. We remind one another that if something is really important to us, we can save our money and buy it in a few weeks. If we forget what it was, then it wasn't important.

I make myself tea in the afternoons when I have time instead of going to coffee.

I've cut back on sweets because I'm not buying pastries etc.

I've used frozen vegetables instead of fresh with some meals (yikes!).

I plan menus around what's on sale (we had pork ribs yesterday for pretty much the first time - slow cooked, they were really good, but I don't think they were very healthy; tonight we had a beef stir-fry using organic broccoli and carrots, brown rice, and free range/no antibiotics/no hormones meat and the whole meal came to $6 for the three of us....this was definitely one of my better economical meals because everyone liked it and it was easy to prepare....just had to marinate the meat for a couple of hours and slice it very thinly before stir-frying to make it tender).

I'm learning. It feels like a trial, but I am learning.

Shep likes running errands with me because I'm walking whenever possible. Fortunately, the weather has been accomodating.

I don't go into stores unless I have to. In this way, I'm not tempted. Tonight we had to go to Rite-Aid because Tessa was out of pull-ups (much to my chagrin, she still needs them at night only), and I intentionally paid for them at the pharmacy so I wouldn't be tempted by magazines and candy.

I'm 38 years old. You'd think I would have figured this stuff out by now, but I feel like I'm learning from scratch. My parents taught me, as they lived this way, but I apparently didn't take the lessons with me. I'm remembering them now.

Monday, March 03, 2008


Now what is going on with me? Grumpy, moody, feeling bad about the world in general.

I put on a smiling face but I'm faking it. I'm tired of faking it! I just want to be happy.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Winding down

Sunday night, and we're winding down. Ryan is reading Tessa stories, and I'm logged in here for a moment before going to bed early myself.

Yesterday we got part of the front yard weeded and mulched, and Ryan dug half of the vegetable garden. Both of us were too exhausted to finish the project, so next weekend we'll be doing more of same. I'm joking that my "mulch muscles" were out of shape...perhaps by the end of the weekend they'll be better. I'll try to garden an hour a day this week and see how much I can get done before the weekend. I guess that's how I must plan my weeks if I am to become a gardener.

Church today was on a topic of particular interest to me, and I walked away with many interesting thoughts to contemplate throughout the week. At its best, that is what church does for me, adn I appreciate the peace that comes with that. My friend Bryona joined us today to test out the church, too, and I enjoyed her presence (and singing!) there, as well.

We went to the Farmer's Market, and I mentioned to the bean-seller that the beans hadn't worked out. He apologized and gave me more for free. I really like him - nice guy, good stuff, good business. I appreciate this kind of customer service, and it makes me more loyal to him. At its best, the Farmer's Market is about personal relationships, not just produce, and I like that.

I did, however, cut back on some of my Farmer's Market purchases, deciding that the meat was just too spendy. Our local grocery store had a special on meat today ("12 hour sale!") that I happened upon because we were out of milk, and I was able to get organic, free range, grass fed, etc. for pretty low prices. Good thing, because despite all this cutting back we're not on budget, and I have no idea how we'll hit budget this week with all of the garden purchases (fertilizer, compost, seeds, etc.) that we continue to make. The pay-off should be worth it....right?!

Tonight the Hisatomi's had us over for a lovely dinner (we brought wine, home made bread, and salad; they provided an amazing home made lasagna with butternut squash, kale, ricotta - YUM) and it was a nice way to end our week.

Not much reflection tonight, just what we did today. Tessa is well, silly as ever, and acting her extroverted self. She went over to our neighbors' house to deliver a picture she'd made them, and came back five minutes later to announce to me, "I invited Sarah to have a glass of wine; she'll be here in five minutes," which had me spluttering with laughter and saying "WHAT?" - fortunately Sarah has a great sense of humor and enjoys Tessa, so she got a good laugh out of Tessa's precocious invitation, as well. No wonder when the teacher said that Tessa was unusually quiet I had a hard time imagining it, when this is what I see most often. (Yes, I know, different at school; different with people she's more used to; different with adults than kids; different when mom and dad are right there, etc.)

Good night, all.