30 August 2009

GDA: Meijer 8/30-9/5

I feel like I have some explaining to do about my abrupt and lengthy absence. Then, of course, I start to think I don't have to explain anything because ... it's my blog and it's not like I have some kind of Heather B. Armstrong following anyway. Alas, it remains quiet on the GSF front while I try to figure out what I'm going to do/say/think.

None of that matters right now, though, because you really should be in your car on the way to Meijer already. My gaping mouth nearly drooled as I perused the preview ad on Friday afternoon. The stars have aligned for a number of great deals this week. This is what made my shopping list ...

(end prices are usually in single units unless otherwise noted)

Aunt Millie's bread
99c - 35c/1 = 64c

Oscar Mayer hot dogs
$1.25 - 1/2 = 75c

Reese's Singles
99c - B3G3 sale - 55c/1 - BOGO coupon = $1.38/6

Chex cereal (this isn't the best deal in town, but it's gluten free and my deprived self hasn't had cereal in weeks)
$2.39 - 1/2 = $1.89

Mueller's pasta (which I can't eat ... boo)
79c - 55c/2 = 51c

A1 Sauce
$2.50 - $2/1 - $1/2 mealbox = FREE!

Betty Crocker fruit shapes (the Scooby ones are GF, if you're looking for wheat free gummies)
$1.50 - 40c/1 = $1.10, buy 5 for a $3.50 catalina that makes the final cost 20c each.

Jack's frozen pizza (a huge treat here, considering the last time we had it was ... a year ago?)
$2.50 - $1/2 &/or 40c/1 = $2.03 each when you buy 3

Charmin Basic
$5.79 - 1/2 = $5.29

Purina 1
$5.99 - $5/1 Meijer coupon = $1

Kool Aid Singles
$1 - 1/1 mealbox = FREE!
(this may also generate the $2 catalina if purchased in increments of 3, can't confirm yet)

Kraft Easy Mac Cups
$1 - 1/2 - 1/2 mealbox = FREE!

Chinet Dessert Plates (and Comfort Cups, maybe?)
$2.49 - 1/1 - 1/1 mealbox = 49c!

Philly Cream Cheese
$1.25 - 1/2 = 75c

Kraft Shredded Cheese
$1.67 - 1/2 = $1.17

Oscar Mayer Deli Fresh
$2.50 - 1/2 - 2/2 mealbox = $1!

Velveeta Singles Cups
$1.19 - BOGO coupon = 60c/ea when you buy 2, plus generates a $1 catalina

Ziplock Bags and Containers
$2 - 1/1 tearpad - 1/2 mealbox = 50c!!
(We hit this deal yesterday, but Be reports signage that the sale price was good through 8/31. I'll check it out today and advise.)

Sunkist 12 packs
$2.50 - 1/3 mealbox - 1/1 peelies = $1 each when you buy 3

Nabisco Scenario 1
2 Ritz crackers $2.49 - 1/1 = $1.49
1 Wheat Thin $3 - FREE coupon wyb Ritz
1 Crackerfuls - FREE coupon wyb Ritz
----------------------------------$2.98 total, plus $10 off Hanes, plus part of the Nabisco rebate

Nabisco Scenario 2
4 Capri Sun $1.89 - 2/1 coupon wyb Chips Ahoy
4 Chipa Ahoy $3.89 - 1/2
----------------------------------$13.56 total, plus $10 off Hanes, plus rebate, plus $3 cat

Kellogg's Scenario 1
6 Eggo waffles $2.79 - B2G1 sale - 1/2 = $1.52
4 Keebler Wheatables $1.67 - 1/2 mealbox = $1.17
----------------------------------$13.84 total, plus $10 off backpack, plus $10 Kellogg's rebate

06 August 2009

7 Quick Takes: Vol 12

My life is a series of quick takes right now. Blips, blurbs, small explanations all strung together in some make believe semblance of order and reason. I feel bad about that in the context of this blog sometimes. I let myself feel guilty for not being a super badass blogger, posting new content every couple of hours. Then I remember that it's me and 17.3 people reading it anyway, sooooooo I can probably let myself off the hook sometimes. Yea. Sometimes.

My fabulous neighbors (they're in #4) are back ... kind of. They've successfully broken into the house ... 3 times, I think. The bank secures it, they kick a door in. It's tres bizarre, and slightly scandalous. Their nephew/roommate is also randomly showing up on my doorstep offering to "sell me" "rolled change". I should probably be nicer ... or more hospitable ... or something. I'm not.

Vanessa Carlton and I are friends. We don't chat on the phone or share birth announcements or anything, but she's on my iTunes constantly today so ... well, you know, we might as well be friends.

The entire neighborhood currently smells like the burning garbage of a chemical disposal facility. The aforementioned "nephew/roommate" is to blame. He moved into another house around the block and is now polluting the entire town (village? township? state?) with noxious black smoke. From what, I haven't a clue. This tree hugging, everything recycling, non-paper towel/plate using girlie would likely have a stroke if she knew.

I'm almost 3 weeks gluten free, with the exception of one night when I had this awful idea that I could eat pizza just.this.once. and get away with it. Yea, not so much. Lesson: learned. I'm vacillating between loving every minute of it and being convinced there isn't a single thing in the entire world for me to eat except corn quesadillas and carrots. I will get over it, I hope. Your suggestions are greatly appreciated.

I have to go to the grocery store tomorrow ... and Costco ... and probably Gordon's ... and to the gas station for ice. All in enough time to finish cleaning my house (the plans for which get shorter and shorter ... just close the office door? Suuuuuuuure.), change my clothes, and get ready for ...

MY BIRTHDAY PARTY! It's tomorrow. If you're in town, stop by. There will be cake, which I can't eat. Joy. There will be beer, which I can't drink. Double Joy. There will be trampolining and bonfires, which I may not have the energy for without the other two. Oooooh boy! A number of my college friends (past and present), family, and assorted insundry others are coming by. That part I'm pretty stoked about. I don't really like this birthday all that much, but I'm hoping to cope with it ... with a little help from my friends.

What's going on for you this week?



27 July 2009

To Do, Or Not To Do?

I was going to write you a list of all the things I need to do today to restart my brain and focus on one thing at a time, but instead ... this post developed out of thin air. Hurrah for that! Enjoy!

I am a list maker at heart. A serious list maker who cannot accomplish anything really unless she has a list of all the other things she needs to do. I don't like to have to keep thinking about things that need finishing. I would rather write them down and let my brain release the space their throbbing reminder was taking up. Every night before bed, I add to the list. I don't necessarily get everything done (often times not even close ... sometimes, nothing), but at least my brain can stand down from "Do Not Ever Forget One Single Thing" mode. List making also keeps my day simpler. I don't have to multi-task as much, because I don't sporadically "remember" something in the middle of doing something else, then distract my energies to doing both half way. I just write it down.

There are a number of lists floating around, as you can imagine. I have a traditional 'to do' list, which I call my Taaa Daaaa (!) list. I really do say it like a cheap Reno magician every time too. On that list I keep the things that randomly need to be accomplished:

[] Pit cherries for dehydrator
[] Put movie in mailbox
[] Finish packing up basement boxes
[] Etc.

There's also a housecleaning list. It is a standardized format and I use it every time we clean the house (or a portion therein). There are two versions: one for the weekly rotation of what gets cleaned when and one for absolute crisis mode (like Be's propensity for inviting his adorable perfectionist grandmother over for dinner on 2 hours notice after I've worked a 60 hour week and let them trash the house in the interim ... pure crisis). I've modified them over the years from the FlyLady system. I don't know that it shares any resemblance to the original anymore, other than the division into four distinct 'Zones'. It kind of looks like:

[] Start at the top of the room and work down
[] Knock down cobwebs in corners
[] Dust light fixtures
[] Etc.

Of course we also have grocery lists, which I insist on writing by hand. We don't buy the same things repetitively enough to warrant a reusable format. I tried one for awhile, even customized to what I thought we needed, but it just felt like a big ole waste of paper every time. My grocery lists are deal-oriented. They include the sale items we are for sure stocking up on, sales items that I need to check prices and units for with the intention of making a split second in-store decision, and items that aren't on sale but we (read: my ever hungry family) think we need. The items in that last category are often overlooked and "forgotten" (oooooops, how very clumsy of me to forget your $3/package corn syrup laden cookies ... for shame). Be says the grocery lists are indecipherable because of the chicken scratch and hieroglyphs of stockpile shopping. They look a little something like ...

[] Duncan Hines Cake Mix: $1 - 1/2 MQ - 1/5 cake MBQ = 40c/ea - B5/ea = $4 total
[] Hunt's Ketchup: $1 - 20c/1 MG - 1/5 MBQ = 72c/
[] Wheat Thins + ^cheese = $8 - 1/2 cheese - 1/1 wt = 5 + CL cat
[] Etc.

There's one final list I keep, called the Someday List. It's large, long, and slightly unwieldy. It's the singular place where I write all of my ideas for future projects, home improvements, system changes, blog posts, and on and on. Every so often I go through and nix the things I have finished or no longer want to do. The list is kind of big, but it works beautifully as a brain dump for ideas I have without cluttering up my regular to do list with things that I can't get to, afford, plan, think about every day, for a longer period than this week. It changes constantly, this Someday List, but I like it a lot (more than the other lists for sure). It's a bright little reminder of the long term:

[] Marble magnets
[] Try hand at herbal soap making
[] Urban chickens!
[] Etc.

One last note on lists from me, and then I'm off to tackle today's Taa Daa. There are tons of places that will keep track of lists for you online. I've tried ... most of them, well, the free ones at least. I hear there are others, but I refuse to pay for them. Writing the list is a great step, but if you lose it the next day, what good is it then? All those things your brain let go of once they hit the list are gone if the list disappears. To remedy that I find the following solutions:

For the internet saavy ...
[] Springpad
[] Google Calendar

For the not so willing to always find a computer to check their lists ...

You can type your lists if you like, then print them. I'm not the biggest fan of this, though, because the sheets wander off continuously. I do have printed copies of the housecleaning to do lists, which are kept in a binder so that my family can find them (if they were ever to look for them, that is ...). For all the other lists, though, I use a plain jane spiral bound single subject notebook. I buy a veritable ton of them for next to nothing during back-to-school sales, and they live in a stack in my office closet. I start with page one, make a list, use the back, make a new list, and on and on until all the pages are full. This takes quite awhile, usually. I use reuseable post-its to mark the current Taaa Daaa, grocery, and Someday lists so they don't get lost in the pages. Everything is in that one notebook until it runs out, then I pull out a new one and start again. I absolutely looooooove this process. I don't lose lists anymore, nor do I clutter up my dayplanner with giant running lists of things my brain cannot stop thinking about. This is how I keep it simple.

Oh, lists, how I adore thee.

Are you a list maker? Join in the comments and tell me all about it!



24 July 2009

7 Quick Takes: Vol 11

We have a house guest (again). I am trying to walk the fine line between being hospitable and enabling. This little voice tells me I should give without asking, always. Its friend reality is bogged down by one too many late nights watching Law & Order, skeptical of everyone's intentions, not ready to trust blindly. I'm vacillating (internally, of course, I'm not a total jerk) between being a gracious host and being irritated about schedule and routine interruption now that we finally seem to have made something work. Argh, human emotions! Why can't you be simpler? More graceful? Less selfish? I'm trying, I swear.

I should change my name to Mendel, because somehow I have managed not one, but two different hybrid sweet pepper species. It would seem my little lovelies have been cross-polinating themselves (well, I'm sure the bees have something to do with it ...) like mad. We have yellow banana peppers, sweet green bell peppers, and now tiny yellow bell peppers and giant long green banana peppers. Ei yi yi. It's pure prolific pepper craziness out there.

I am at the end of my first full week (there was also half a week before that, but then I skipped some ... ) of green smoothie drinking. Are you a fan? Have you jumped on the liquefied greens bandwagon? I'm not cool enough to be drinking just blended greens, but the addition of fruit is helping immensely (and the more I read online, the more I realize I am unintentionally ahead of the game as far as the greens outweighing the fruit goes). The first few mornings it was all I could do to talk my brain into letting that glass of slime anywhere near my mouth, but once I got past the, "Oh no! I'm about to drink a glass full of liquidy green stuff and that cannot possibly taste at all better than say ... pool algae or pond scum", I've been doing just fine. I'm starting to love them, honestly. Liquified spinach: A Great Way To Start The Day.

I have an appointment with the dentist in an hour. I am far less than thrilled, knowing the cavity fairy has been here and I'm going to need fillings. Most people don't enjoy the drill or the potential for pain, but really I cannot stand the numb mouth feeling. I hate that big fat lip, cheek biting, drooling all over yourself craziness. Hate it. My anticipation anxiety is not liking it either. I'm also not a fan of that much unproductive time. Do you think I can get away with catching up on podcasts and reading email on my Blackberry while I get my teeth drilled?

I have a birthday coming up (in 20 short, short days), and I am not coping well with it. Although I appreciate whomever suggested we 'age gracefully', I am much more inclined to tantrum my way begrudgingly instead. I do not like this birthday so much right now. The fact that I'm (for real) not eating gluten (again) kills the only anticipatory happiness there was ... about cake. If there weren't people coming over to celebrate, I may just lock myself in my room until the next week.

There used to be something here ... honestly ... and now it's gone *poof*, bye bye. Blogger ate my 6th Quick Take, and my tired brain cannot remember what in the world it was in the first place. Booooo.

I saw some really rockin' things happen at church last week. I want to write about them, but I'm still trying to figure out which venue is the right one. Oh, self, one day you will write freely and with joy regardless of content or location ... one day.



ps, Check out more Quick Takes Fridays at Jen's blog.

20 July 2009

Menu Plan Monday: 20-26 July

20-26 July
M: Pork chops, mashed potatoes, veggies

T: Beef chili with veggies, salads

W: Chicken lo mein with veggies, brown rice, salads

R: Beef fajitas with peppers and onions, yellow rice

F: Chili stuffed double baked potatoes (from leftover chili), salads

S: Survivor Night (find something or starve)

U: Whole garlic chicken, potatoes, salads

Breakfasts (in addition to a 'green smoothie' every morning)
Oatmeal with dried fruit x2
Eggs and fruit
Peanut butter raisin celery
Egg whites and hashbrowns
Cereal with Silk and fruit
Cheese and potato omelets

Veggie soup, steamed rice
Pizza quesadillas and cut cucumbers
Hot dogs, side rice, veggies
Vegetable cheese tortilla roll ups
Leftover fajitas
Leftover potatoes, veggies and hummus
Dinner size salads

Snacks (3 a day ... mid-morning, mid-afternoon, and late night)
Trail mix
Fruit and peanut butter
Tortilla chips
Hummus and veggies
No bake cookies
Cut fruit cups
Veggie stix

What's on your menu?



ps, For more menus, please check out the Org. Junkie.

14 July 2009

What's in Em's Shopping Cart? (9 July @ VG's)

I live in a place where no one doubles coupons. Well, that's not entirely true, I suppose. There is one teeny tiny grocery with outrageous party store-esque prices and not much in the way of sales that does double manufacturer's up to 50 cents. When products are priced $2 or $3 more than they are at Meijer, this does not help me at all so I don't count them. Mostly, no one doubles on this side of Michigan. We are the hometown of Fred Meijer and Fred doesn't have much competition around these parts. Sure, there are other stores, but no one rivals the power of MTA.

That being said, the concept of doubles (and triples!) just makes my nerdy coupon brain go nuts. As I mentioned Friday, I had a chance to finally get in on the fun. I'll spare you the coupon details, because it would get all long as complicated.

(The prices indicated are regular shelf prices, no sales or coupons.)

3 Shedd Spread Country Crock ... $2.19
1 Land 'o Lakes with Olive Oil ... $1.99
3 Smucker's Ice Cream Topping ... $2.19
2lbs Domino brown sugar ... $1.99
2lbs Domino powdered sugar ... $1.99
1 Land 'o Lakes with Butter ... $1.99
3 Lipton 16 count tea bags ... $1.19
1 Lawry's season salt ... $1.59
3 Lawry's garlic salt ... $1.79
2 McCormick black pepper ... $1.99
1 Lava soap bar ... $1.49
3 Mahatma rice pilaf ... $1.19
3 Mahatma chicken rice ... $1.19
2 GM Marinade packets ... $1.39
1 Newman's Own dressing ... $2.79
3 French's mustard ... $1.49
2 French's worcestershire ... $1.35
3 Kikkoman teriyaki ... $1.99
3 Degree deodorants ... $2.99
3 Sure deodorants ... $2.69
2 Suave deodorants ... $1.99
3 Mahatma brown rice ... $1.29
3 French's horseradish mustard ... $2.59
3 Welch's squeeze jelly ... $2.19
2 Heinz white vinegar ... $1.99

Total Before Coupons ... $109.12
Total After Coupons ... $16.24

(plus $1.50 in unexpected OYNO cats)

Total Savings ... $94.38

I could so get used to this.



Ps, for more great shopping trips, check out Grocery Cart Challenge.

Gratituesday: It's Great-iTuesday!

I have a friend (ok, I have more than one ... probably). We've been friends a handful of years, having met in college. We both dig on vegan food, sustainability, hugging trees, and Ani DiFranco. We live in different cities, but he's spending the summer in our hometown so we've had many more interactions over the past few weeks than in the months before them. I'm absolutely loving it.

See? Don't we look like we're having fun?
(Also, first picture of me on the bloggy. Hello! Hahaha.

In recent weeks I have been reminded just how absolutely grateful I am for this friend of mine. He listens to my craziness at a table in the sunshine over 4 or 5 too many large coffees. He lets me ramble and work things out with words. He brings me vegan chocolate chip cookies for no reason other than they're tasty. He has been a most perfect resource for the journey I'm on these days, and has been perfectly skilled at keeping his mouth shut about it ... even if it's weird and super-agent-like and makes no rational sense at all. My friend just smiles with knowing eyes and let's me call the shots about what is or isn't yet public knowledge. He accepts my chaotic, list making, contradiction loving (living?) self completely. He's a rockin' guy who loves G-d, people, great music, the planet, bicycles, and Oberon. He remains a constant reminder to me of the way people should be treated, and the world that could be if we all were just a little nicer to each other.

Just yesterday, while waiting in the line to exit the parking lot at church, this friend and I were discussing Gratituesday posts. He suggested this week it should be "Great-ituesday" because ... well, the world is simply that cool. And so, for him, for the impact he has on me, for the doors he's opened in front of my highly skeptical eyes, for loving and laughing and the occasional tray of fabulous tacos ... I am grateful (or GREAT-FULL ... for him).



13 July 2009

Menu Plan Monday: 13-19 July

The garden is in bloom. The sun is shining. It's summer time in MI, and that means perpetual veggie tray time. Do you have one? We use one of those chip/dip containers that are often used for parties ... you know the ones with the outer ring of compartments and the little cup part in the middle? It has snowflakes on it, so it's not the most aesthetic or seasonally appropriate object we own. We fill all the sections with cut veggies, and every night it makes a dinner time appearance. The work is already done, the produce is grab and go, and everyone gets a little extra taste of summer at every meal. When something runs out, I just fill in the spot with something else. It's amazing to me how much more produce gets eaten when we use this method. No one likes to dig in the fridge for tiny containers of a million things, I suppose, and although it takes up a boat load of fridge space, I'm counting it as totally worth it if it means my family gets the veggies they're supposed to. As such, you'll see it appear almost constantly from now until the seasonal goodness runs out (we don't like to buy off season produce because of the impact it has on the environment) as a reminder to me to pull it out of the fridge.

13-19 July 2009

M: Inside Out Shepard's Pie, rolls, salads, veggie tray

T: Chicken stir-fry, salads, veggie tray

W: Beef hot dogs, oven fries, salads, veggie tray

R: Grilled pork chops, mashed potatoes, green beans, salads, veggie tray

F: Personal size pizzas with DIY fancy salad bar

S: Battered fish, yellow rice, veggies

U: Sausage egg sandwiches, fruit salad, veggie tray

Cereal w/Silk x2
Eggs and toast
PBJs with fruit
Oatmeal with dried fruit x2
Sausage pancake puffs

Pasta leftovers
PBJs with hummus and veggies x2
Stir fry leftovers
Hot dog mac
Veggie cheese wraps
Vegetable soup and rice

What's on your menu?

For a million more great ideas, check out the Org. Junkie.



10 July 2009

7 Quick Takes: Vol 10

You know those perfect (feeling) days? The ones where everything falls into place, and you can't help but smile constantly about it? A week ago Friday was one of those days. We took a day trip to our hometown (which is only 25 miles, fyi) for the annual art and craft fair. We wandered the streets looking at handcrafted beauties while I made notes (in my phone, teehee) about new craft projects for the house. I ran into no less than 10 people I knew. Hugging ensued. It was warm and sunny, but not unbearable. The crowds were there, but not in any ridiculous fashion. We finished up at the art fair in near record time without feeling rushed and took a few minutes to share an elephant ear. Are you familiar? Fried dough, dusted in sugar and cinnamon? Yes, please! Instead of carnival food (except our fried dough friend), we decided on a local hometown hot spot for lunch. The bill was likely less than it would have been, the food was amazing, and no one got food poisoning from some crazy carnie in a tin wagon (which kind of terrifies me, in general). After lunch, we drove out to the beach to stand in the face of amazing beauty with our toes in the sand while a friend's little girl played her heart out on the slides. The way home from the beach included a stop at the best ice cream stand in the whole town (and once we got home, a nap came next, thank G-d). It was just a perfect day, full of snapshot moments, good laughs, and great friends.

The 4th of July was equally fun. We ate an early dinner at home, headed to the lake, saw some old friends, met some new ones (thanks again to the biker's for letting us park in their yard ...), watched some spectacular fireworks, and then had some sparkler fun of our own once we got home. Only at my house will 20something boys get so blasted excited about $1 store sparklers.

I'm working another part time job at a place I worked at previously to cover someone's maternity leave for 8 weeks. I don't know if it'll really only be 8, or if she'll change her mind and want to not come back. I have to leave at the end of 8 anyway, because the teaching year starts then, but regardless I find myself secretly hoping that she decides to stay home with le bebe for awhile. I'm getting old and becoming a softie, I think.

Yesterday, Be and I had a our first "date" in a terribly long time. My mother had to attend a work meeting on the other side of the state (about 2.5 hours), so Be and I tagged along and had amazing fun while she was at her meeting. We strolled through the Swedish homegoods mega store, IKEA, dreaming of kitchen remodels and comparing counter top qualities like we are even remotely close to that kind of project funding (hahaha!). We ate at my favorite Middle Eastern place (which they only have on that side ... boo), a first for Be. The food was awesome, the service amazing, and it was just the two of us ... chatting, sitting quietly, not listening to anyone complain about anything. After picking up my mother once her meeting concluded, we even squeezed in a stop at a local East Side grocery that was tripling coupons (There will be more on this soon ...). We don't even have doubles here ... ever, so I was terribly excited (and super nerdy) about the whole thing.

I am well on my way to a little more organized and a little more scheduled. I'm kind of stoked about it. We had a sweet organizing system and routine before we moved here, and somehow my brain thought you could use the same rules in a giant old farm house as you could in a tiny 700 sq footer. I was mistaken, obviously. There is much more to clean here; more space to wreak havoc on. The plan for keeping 700 sq feet looking pristine does not lend itself well to a multiplication of grandeur. Somehow, though, my brain kept trying to follow the same rules, the same timelines, the same systems ... and losing. I'm not saying the whole thing needed to be scrapped, but some changes needed to be made across the board. I have finally stopped putting them off. Yes!

I' going to try making cherry jam ... probably Sunday. Be afraid, as I am of all things liquid, sticky, and molten.

My nose hurts. Just on the right side. It's sore, apparently, because in some fit of sleepy craziness, I pulled (and quickly, with some force) my teeny tiny nose ring out. I've had the darn thing for 4 years (I think ... maybe more ...), and never have I caught it on something in a way that could possibly pull it out. It sits flush with my skin. It's hard to take out when I want to. It's not awful, just sore. The scarier thought ... what in the world was I dreaming about?



For more Quick Takes Fridays, check out Jen at Conversion Diary.

06 July 2009

What's in Em's Shopping Cart? (2 July @ Meijer)

My cart included ...

1/2 gallon Meijer milk: $1.19
2 8oz Philly cream cheese: $2.09 each
4 Ekrich hot dogs: reg. $1.96 each, on sale 78c/ea - $1/2 coupons = 28c/ea.
4 16oz Breakstone sour cream: reg. $1.87, on sale 90c/ea - $1/2 coupons = 40c/ea.
10 Ronzoni whole wheat pasta: reg. $1.48, on sale 90c/ea - $1/2 store coupons = 40c/ea.
4 boxes of Kraft premium mac and cheese: reg. $1.23, on sale 90c/ea - B3G1 coupon = 68c/ea.
3 ChiChi's salsa: reg. $2.65, on sale 90c/ea - 55c/1 coupons = 35c/ea.
8 boxes Totino's pizza rolls: reg. $1.67, on sale 90c/ea.
3 packs Dentek floss picks: reg. $2.79, on sale 90c/ea - $1/1 coupons = FREE!
1 Heluva Good Dip: reg. $1.50, on sale $1.19 - 75c/1 coupon - 25c/1 store coupon = 19c.
1 Bumblebee pouch: reg. $1.98, price dropped to $1.90 - $1/1 coupon = 90c.
2 loaves Brownberry Bread: reg. $3.98, price dropped to $1.94 - $1/1 store coupon = 94c/ea.
2 bags Lays chips: reg. $3.99, on sale $1.99 - $3/2 Pepsi Rebate coupon = 49c/ea.
2 bottles Wishbone Western dressing: reg. $2.84, on sale $1.50 - $1.25/2 coupons = 88c/ea.
2 pkgs Meijer pitas: reg. $3.18, on sale $1.50/ea.
4 ICBINB (3 tubs, 1 sticks): reg. $2.19, on sale $1.34 - $1.25/1 (3) and $1/1 (1) coupons = 15c/ea.
2 100 cal pack Nabisco cookies: reg. $3.19, on sale $2 - $1/1 coupons = $1/ea.
1 pkg Oreo Cakesters: reg. $3.19, on sale $2.50 - $1/1 coupon = $1.50.
4 bottles Old Orchard juice: reg. 2.89, on sale $1.67 - 50c/1 store coupons - $1/2 coupons = 67c/ea.
4 24pks Pepsi products: reg. $6.49, on sale $3.99 - $2/1 Pepsi Rebate coupons = $1.99/ea.
2 boxes Bagelfuls (as promised): reg. $3.09, on sale $2 - $1/1 coupons = $1/ea.
2 rolls Bounty paper towels (I'm hiding these for emergency super gross clean-ups): reg. $2.78, on sale 90c/ea - $1/2 coupons = 40c/ea.
1 can Mighty Dog wet food: reg. 88c - freebie coupon = FREE!

- $17.55 from 10% off grocery purchase catalinas
+ $1 OYNO catalina from buying 2 Western dressings

Total Spent: $46.06 (incl $2.40 aluminum deposit)
Total Savings: $130.42

That's 74.3% savings!

Thank you, Meijer!

We have $153.94 left in the grocery budget for July. The deals for next week (5-11 July) are less stellar so I'm likely sticking to produce only this week and won't be doing any sweet match ups unless something amazing strikes my fancy. I hope you had a great week shopping (and most important, saving!).



Menu Plan Monday: 6-12 July

6-12 July 2009

M: Hot dogs (like anyone in the world really needs more of these after last week ...) , fancy mac & cheese, steamed broccoli

T: Oven baked ham steaks, au gratin potatoes, veggies

W: Whole wheat pasta with sausage and kale, garlic bread

R: Light chili, dinner salads, rolls

F: Stir-fry pork and veggies with rice

S: Survivor Night -- find something, or starve

U: Undecided ... depends on how our weekend plans pan out.

I've also planned breakfasts and lunches this week so we have no excuses not to eat them.

Cereal with Silk x2
Oatmeal with dried apples
PBJs and fruit x2
Eggs with toast
Sausage scrambles

Weekend leftovers
Hummus and pita with veggies
Soup and grilled cheese
Pasta leftovers from Wednesday
PBJs with fruit
Chili leftovers from Thursday

Anything rockin' on your menu this week? For more ideas, check out the Org. Junkie.

02 July 2009

Dirt Cheap: Garden Befores and Afters

Oh, how the rain and unbearable heat have done my little green friends well. For your viewing pleasure, gratuitous garden pictures for your enjoyment. I got a little *ahem* picture happy while we were on break from weeding.

The baby cucumber in a pot, 1 June.

That same cucumber, 28 June.

The strawberry plants, with its cute little half-eaten berry (darn birds!), 1 June.

The strawberry plants, 28 June.
There haven't been anymore berries. I don't know what exactly to think about that ... a strawberry plant that looks healthy and full, and yet, makes no fruit. Am I just impatient? Maybe.

The herb garden, 1 June.
(basil, lavender, rosemary, marjoram, parsley, sage, thyme, mint, oregano, and hore hound)

The herb garden, 28 June.
It was the part of the day when that side of the house is shaded, so forgive the less than stellar lighting.

Lonely baby snow peas, radishes, and carrots just pushing through, 1 June.

Those same babies, now giants.
The row closest to you is green beans, the next one is peas, after there are carrots and parsnips, then bushy radishes, and onions in the far corner.

The garden view in the other direction, peppers and tomatoes on 28 June.

Bell peppers, blossoming.

Banana peppers, coming on strong.

A nest of green cherry tomatoes.
If these things actually turn red, we'll be swimming in them. I hear the dehydrator calling my name already.

That was fun. I loooooove garden pictures just about as much as I love gardening. Are you growing anything? Take pictures! Blog them! Comment me with the links! I'd love to check them out (and possibly start using fewer exclamation points ... ).



01 July 2009

Top 'O the Month: July 2009

We are closer to a resolution of the employment problem than we previously were. The countdown until Be's next court date is under a month (in fact, just over 2 weeks), and we're hoping to settle this whole thing before then. Keep hoping the other side gets their acts in gear, ok? Then, my lovely can finally go back to work ... assuming he can find a new job in this market, and I can stop biting my lip in anxious anticipation while opening the electric bill.

Here's the debt update ...
EFund: $1000
(I'm busting my rear end to make sure this gets paid back every time we use it. So far, so good. One day soon, I'd really love to not worry about this anymore ...)

Dream Savings: $0
(On hold until the employment crisis is remedied.)

Jeep: $0

GP: $3522.14

C1: $186.34

AV: $0

VSA: $90
(Going back down, yay!)

I'm also going to add a new feature to TOTM, including a glimpse into our budget. It's primarily a reason for me to remain accountable to myself (because, what better for that than posting it on the internet for all to see?). We'll start with the discretionary spending first as an experiment, and if it goes well, we may go to full budgets at some time in the future. The following are the budgeted discretionary amounts for the month of July ...

Track Our Spending!
Grocery/Household: $200
(family of 5 adults, includes all food, supply, toiletry, and cleaning purchases)
-$46.06 2 July
$16.24 9 July
-$37.30 10 July =
$100.40 remaining

Car Fuel: $150
(one car, shared between Be and I)
-$45.00 1 July
-$37.30 9 July = $67.70 remaining

We'll see how this goes. I'm going to endeavor to find a way to link an ongoing update to the discretionary amounts so you can watch them dwindle as the month goes if you'd like. Blogger and I are not best friends always, so it make take me a hot second to figure out stable secondary page creation. Haha.



30 June 2009

Gratituesday: Start Again

If I had a voice
It would sound like yours
If I had a voice
And if my eyes could see
They would see much more than I believed was there
Learn to speak
Learn to see
Forget what I once knew
And start again

As I watch you move
I am moving too
As I watch you move
And as you travel through
I am walking too
I am moved by you
So leave this place
Where I can't turn
I can't even breathe
And start again

And if I had your heart
I could dare like you
If I had your heart
But I can't seem to start
To love the world like that
If I wanted to
But I could learn to trust
Just enough
To push on past the end
And start again
Start again

I am constantly grateful for the chance to call in a mulligan and try something again. More often than not, I'm trying it over more than once, or twice, or 12 times. I want to be kinder with those I love, and I slip up and drop not so nicey remarks into conversations. I want to make sure my family is well fed, but sometimes I get lazy and let them make frozen chicken nuggets in the microwave. I want to be a servant, with a clear conscience and a full heart, but I sleep in on Sunday mornings and continue to live what is probably a pretty insane lie of omission in not telling anyone where I'm going (I can't even tell you how uncomfortable I am writing that online where I know people who know me are reading ... baby steps ... ). I want to follow this path that my heart tells me is right. I want to start again.

And I'm thankful for the opportunity.



ps, the lyrics are from Catie Curtis' "Start Again". You should listen to it ... amazing melody ... soup for my soul anyday.

pps, for more Gratituesday, check out Laura at Heavenly Homemakers.

29 June 2009

What's in Em's shopping cart? (27 June @ Meijer)

I did go shopping, as promised. I did not, however, get everything on my list. Some of the items were out of stock, and the others, I just wasn't stoked about the deals once I got there.

2 loaves Aunt Millie's bread: on sale, 75c/ea - 35c/1 coupons = 40c each.

9.53 lbs of red and green grapes: on sale, 99c/lb (yes, really, I bought nearly 10 lbs of grapes ... would you believe almost half of them are gone?! haha.)

2 Edwards Singles: reg. $2.37. on sale, $1.18 - 75c/1 coupons = 43c each.

4 Superpretzels (I'm trying to figure out how to make pizza pretzels since I make pizza out of everything else, and it's far too hot for ovens ... and these were super cheap!): reg. $5.46. on sale, $1.36 - 75c/1 coupons = 61c each.

2 Sara Lee frozen cheesecakes: reg. $5.79. on sale, $2.89 - $1/1 coupons = $1.89 (We're having people over for the holiday, and I don't so much make cheesecake that well. Honestly, I wanted the 84c pound cake that generated the $1 cat, but they were out ...).

4 large bags Tostitos chips: reg. $3.99. on sale, BOGO (buy 1, get 1 free) - $2/2 coupons from the Pepsi rebate deal months ago = 99c each (I honestly thought these were BOGO for $2.50 instead of $3.99. I would have used the $3/2 coupons I had if I had noticed they were more expensive).

2 Johnsonville formed breakfast sausage: reg. $3.69. on sale, $2.38 - $1/1 coupons = $1.38 each.

2 Johnsonville brats: reg. $3.99. on sale, $2.38 - $1/1 coupons for turkey and bold varieties = $1.38 each.

3 Kraft 2% shredded cheese: reg. $2.79. on sale, $2 - $1/2 printable coupon = $1.66 each (plus it generated a $2 cat making the actual cost more like $1 each).

6 tubs Cool Whip: 99c - $1/2 coupons - $1/3 store coupons = 16c each! (Score! Now, to think of things to do with Cool Whip ...).

1 dozen eggs: reg. 99c - $1/wyb 2 Johnsonville peelie = FREE EGGS!

Total Spent: $38.42
Total Saved: $62.77

62% Savings! Sweeeeeet.

Thank you, Meijer. Your cashier was annoying, but the deals were nice.



For more Shopping Cart Round-ups, check out Gayle at Grocery Cart Challenge.

Menu Plan Monday: 29 June to 5 July

Oh, Monday, here you are again. The temps have dropped back down into the 70s, so hopefully we'll eat more than salad this week. Last week's high temperatures were nearly unbearable here for a northern girl who likes a little chill in the air.

M: Beef & Rice Noodle Veggie Stir Fry (using the leftover crockpot roast, of which there was far too much)

T: Crockpot Chili with Rolls (... because I have to work late)

W: Fried Chicken Taco Salads

R: Pork Chops, Rice, Green Beans, and Green Salads

F: Survivor Night (we're headed to the annual local art fair on Friday, meaning I don't know how hungry we'll be after carnival food lunches, nor what time it will be when we get home)

S: Slow Grilled BBQ Ribs, Cheesy Potatoes, Baked Beans, Grilled Asparagus, Spinach Dip, Veggie Tray, and Fruit Dish (there are people coming over for the 4th, can you tell? hahaha)

U: Leftovers! There must be some from Saturday. I hope?!

For hundreds more menus, please check out the Org. Junkie.



27 June 2009

Super Saver Saturday: Meijer GDAs for 6/28

I'm not usually this on top of deal matching, honestly often scrambling on Saturday afternoon to get my lists ready, but this week I've already seen tomorrow's ad and pulled the matches I like for this week. Yay! My thoughts, why not share them with you?

6.28 Meijer
Pepsi 24 packs: on sale, $3.99/ea when you buy 4 - $2/1 any Pepsi coupons from the Coupon Rebate earlier this year if you did it and still have them (I've been hoarding mine for just such an occasion) = $7.96 total, or $1.99 each. Yes!

Lays Chips: on sale, $1.99 - $1/2 coupon = $1.49/ea.

Ekrich hot dogs: on sale, 78c/ea (in conjunction with a grocery purchase, you can't just buy hot dogs, apparently). I hear there are coupons out for these. I can't find mine at the moment.

Bagelfuls: on sale, $2/ea - $1/1 Kraft Bagelfuls printable = $1 each. (I think these things are a little scary, personally, but I've been promising them to a certain family member once they made it down to $1 ... sigh).

Heluva Good Dip: on sale, $1.19/ea - $1/1 coupons = 19c each! Yes!

Old Orchard Juice: on sale, $1.67/ea - $1/2 coupons = $1.17 each. If you have a store that doubles, they'll be 17c!! Old Orchard is good stuff, made just down the road from here from fruit grown in between my house and theirs. 17c!? Absolutely, yes, please. (Oh, how I envy you doubling grocery store shoppers ... ).

Ziplocks: on sale, $2 - coupons that vary from 40c/1 to $1/2 to sometimes $1/1. I'm not necessarily advocating a stock up, but keep your eyes peeled since these often have peel off coupons on them that are better than the insert ones. Check them out in store, and if they aren't worth it, wait it out.

Chicken drumsticks and thighs: on sale, 99c/lb. (It's grilling season ... time for bbq'd chicken legs! Stock up a bit at this price as I haven't seen the 79c/lb drums/thighs price in a long, long time.)

And! A 10/$10 (11th FREE!) that includes ...

Coke product 2 liters

Green Giant Steamers and boxed veggies: Also, keep an eye out for peelies on these since there aren't any current coupons ... or at least I don't have any.

Bounty Big Roll Paper Towels: -$1/2 coupon = 50c each. I stopped buying paper towels (despite the near mutinous revolt that followed), but if you're still beholden to disposable, this may be good for you.

Breakstone Sour Cream: -$1/2 printable coupon = 50c each. I don't use sour cream that often, but I may need to find a few recipes this week.

ChiChi's Salsa: -55c/1 coupon = 45c each. Yes, please.

Hormel Deli Pepperoni: -75c/1 = 25c each. This is a YMMV (your money/manager/mileage may vary) since I'm not positive the deli size is what the coupon actually counts for when it scans. Give it a whirl, and if it works, make pizza subs with all your cheap giant pepperonis.

Ronzoni Smart Pasta: -$1/1 manufacturer coupon - $1/2 Meijer coupon = +50c! I don't have any of these manu coupons, because I was convinced this stuff was never, ever going on sale for $1 again. Haha, oops. I sent mine away and now, voila! Sale time! If you have them, stock up!! If you don't and need pasta, print the Meijer coupons and get it for 50c/box, which isn't terrible. Check the regular price of Meijer brand, though, to make sure this is still cheaper.

Dentek Flossers: This gets a big ole question mark next to it, because although I've seen talk online that they are included, I can't find it in my ad. I may be blind. If so, there are great coupons out from both inserts and All You magazine for these. I tried to use mine last time they were included, and the stores were out completely long before I got there (and for weeks after ...).

There are, of course, other things in the ad. I either don't need them or was not struck by them being an amazing deal. This doesn't mean they aren't. Feel free to add in your own matchups in the comments if you like. Questions? Please ask. I'm more than happy to answer them!



ps, I'm also going shopping today on this week's ad for 99c/lb grapes, BOGO Tostinos, Koolaid with FREE mac & cheese, 1/2 price Super Pretzels and Sara Lee frozen cake, and Cool Whip (15 CENTS each when you buy 6 ... are you kidding me?! Dessert, please!). I may get in a breakdown tonight ... we can hope. Happy Shopping!

23 June 2009

The Everything Post

Where have I been all this time?! My goodness how one day turns into 7 before you even know it. I've had all the things I wanted to post floating around in my head, but it's officially 937 degrees Fahrenheit here (ok, high 80s, probably low 90s today) and when it's that hot I want to do nothing but find a semi-reasonable place to sit (like the basement, in a corner, where it's 'cooler' ... by 2 or 3 degrees) and not move a muscle lest the Niagra Falls of sweat come forth from all parts of me at once. I hate being hot. Hate it. This is why we live in MI and not a warmer state. I would melt. It may happen this week, and I have the mop at the ready in case. Here we go, everything all together now ...

Some Quick Takes
I already told you it's hot, but it begs repeating. I do not like sweat rolling down the sides of my face because I'm standing still washing dishes in less than completely sanitary tepid water because I may just die if it were any warmer. I would really like a breeze, any breeze, even a hot one, to cut the density in the air. We do not have air conditioning, lest you think I'm complaining about hot weather for fun. I know there are many of you that survive much hotter temperatures also without AC, but seriously ... I can't take it. We don't have AC for a number of reasons.

1. It's reaaaaaallllly expensive for my electric bill.
2. It's not so fantastic for the environment with all those AC units pumping out exhaust and such.
3. If we did, I would not be able to control myself and we'd likely have it set at 35 degrees from March until October, bringing us right back to point number 1. When AC is involved, my rational mind desolves to putty and I have no self-control. Total abstinence is out only sound option.

I don't like to cook when it's hot, but this morning I convinced myself to get a roast into the crockpot since I was awake anyway and eventually we'd have to eat. I'm calling it a gold star day just for that. Haha.

I had an unforutnate accident on Sunday that now requires a dentist's appointment and a lot of my conscious attention as to not show anyone the monstrosity when I speak. It doesn't hurt, but come Friday, at the dentist, it likely will. Thank heavens for dental insurance.

The summer semester started yesterday. I promise I was not intentionally skipping class. I really honestly thought it was a T/R class, not a M/W one. Not until the email hit my phone from another girl asking where I had been did I go look at the course schedule. I've been convinced for months that it was on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Ooooops.

Some Shopping Round-Up
I went to Costco and Meijer on Friday. There weren't any super amazing deals I needed to get in on, we were just out of a couple things that I had been putting off picking up for ... more than a little while. I did manage to get one box of half-price minus $1 coupon Snickers ice cream bars, and a raincheck for 12 more. Now, to find coupons ... Em is hot and needs ice creams!

Some Simple Sunday
What's better on a Sunday, especially Father's Day, and most especially when it falls on the longest day of the year ... than a late evening trip to the lake? It was hot. We were melting. We piled in the car at 9pm and headed to the lake for a quick swim. A little chilly at first, sure, but once initially submerged, swimming was heaven. It was like magic. Not hot. No longer puddling into your shoes. Just cool and marvelous, plus the beginnings of a sunset while we were swimming made for an marvelously simply Sunday.

Some Menu Plan Monday
M: Sausages on the Grill, Chips

T: Crockpot Beef Roast, Potatoes, Greens & Spinach Salad

W: Hamburger Helper (which I don't like, fyi), Greens & Spinach Salad

R: Fried Chicken Salads, Cut Veggies

F: Survivor Night ... eat what you can find, or starve. I will likely be having milkshakes ... and pudding ... and other things that don't hurt one's already hurting post-dentist teeth.

S: Pork Chops, Noodle Side, Steamed Veggies, Green Salads

U: Zuppa Toscana

Some Gratituesday
For more Gratituesday, check out The Heavenly Homemakers.
Today, I'm grateful for ...

... warm weather that helps my garden grow, even if it makes me terribly uncomfortable.
... cool swims at dusk.
... ice cream.
... self-employment.
... the appreciation of the women I work with.
... crunching on ice cubes, even if it's horrible for my teeth.
... dental insurance.
... Be, who although I currently look funny, still loves me.
... the tiniest hints of a breeze.
... getting up early of my own volition.
... schedule switching.
... the AC in my car being functional.
... a cool basement to retreat to.
... the library, full of great books, for free!
... money in the bank, bills paid.
... a clean house, easier on the hot weather sanity than a dirty one.
... grace.
... every day, hot or not, that I get to live in this perfect world.

Wasn't that wacky? So long as I don't melt, regular posting will resume. If, instead, I turn into a giant puddle of crazy, I can make no guarantees.



16 June 2009

Gratituesday: 16 June

For more Gratituesday, check out Heavenly Homemakers.

Today, I'm grateful for ...

... an early evening nap that slept the headache away.
... chocolate chip cookies.
... a final presentation, due tomorrow, which is finished.
... no class for almost a week.
... the possibility of free you-pick strawberries.
... warming lake temperatures that promise swimming soon.
... the promise of rain tomorrow, food from above for my greenlings.
... great bloggy friends.
... la bibliotheque.
... another day in the dream.



15 June 2009

Tortilla Pizza

Blessed with Grace
For more TMTT's check out Blessed With Grace.

Sometimes, I don't feel like cooking. Other times, I forget to take things out of the freezer, which I'm working on improving. When we're short on time and motivation, and long on hungry people, I often turn to this super quick standby. From freezer to table is about 15 minutes, and once paired with a nice green salad or veggie, it makes for a delicious way to avoid take out. I can't even get delivery in 15 minutes. It's pizza ... on a tortilla ... out of stuff in your pantry.

The Starting Line Up
Tortillas, any size, any variety.
We keep a stack of flour tortillas in the pantry at all times. I buy them in bulk at Costco for far less than the specialty aisle or produce section of the grocery store. You'll need 2 per person for adults (or at least adults in this house ... ) usually. Sometimes, when our tortilla stash is large, we'll use 2 tortillas for each pizza and toss a handful of cheese between the layers ... yum.

Pizza Sauce
Really, any sauce will do. I keep a stock of Save A Lot's Pino's brand pizza sauce in the pantry. It's fabulous stuff, and the whole jar is less than $1. When we run out of SAL brand, I'll use jarred spaghetti sauce. You could use whatever sauce you had on hand ... leftover pasta sauce, alfredo, creamy ranch ... basically it all works.


Most of the people in this house prefer pepperoni on their tortilla pizza. I buy it in the giant bag from Costco when we're running low, then break it down into smaller portions when I get it home. I literally throw a handful or two into a used (yea, we wash 'em ... and I don't have to buy so many) zip top bag and throw all the bags into the door in the freezer. When it's pizza time, I just pull the pepperoni I need out of the bag, put it directly on the pizza still frozen, close the bag, toss it back in the freezer. The pepperoni slices don't usually stick together much in the freezer, so you can just pull what you need as you go. I loooooove that part.

Sometimes, when I'm actually planning to make these, we'll pre-cook some sausage crumbles, bacon, or chicken strips for toppings instead of the pepperoni. If you prefer some other meat on your pizza, you could pre-cook a bit, do the pepperoni procedure with freezer bags, and have it on standby. Other times, we've used whatever meats were leftover in the fridge ... beef roast shredded down into strips, seasoned beef from tacos, extra meatballs (cut in half so they won't roll around), pieces of leftover whole chicken ... basically whatever is in there will work.

In the summer, tortilla pizzas are super fun with the plethora of peppers, onions, and tomatoes from the garden. In the winter, I rely on stored onions, canned mushrooms, and frozen bell pepper pieces. Again, it's a pantry meal, so whatever you have will work perfectly.

Ah, cheese, how I adore thee. We stock up on chunk (and shredded, because they're often on sale together ... ) cheese when the per ounce prices get low enough. Any kind you're in love with will work (except that disgusting Velveeta type 'cheese food' that doesn't really melt).

The Game Plan

Use about 1 Tbsp of sauce, and spread lightly. It's only a tortilla, so a ton of sauce makes it soggy.

These are the world's smallest onions, I think. We found them growing rogue in the herb garden, so I made a quick dice of them and they became dinner. They look huge in that picture, but the knife they're next to is a paring sized knife, not a sword.

A sprinkling of onions, some canned mushrooms, and 5 or 6 still frozen pepperoni.

Half a handful (a fancy and exact measure, no?) of cheese, really like a large pinch. It's not hard to overload the pizza and then they won't crisp up. Now, into the oven.

The End Result

Yummmm! They get all crunchy crispy, especially around the edges. Give them a minute to set up once they come out of the oven, and cut them on the tray in slices (for kids) or quarters (for grown ups).

The Play By Play

Light coating of sauce of your choice
A few pieces of still frozen pre-cooked meat
Handful of veggies that you happen to have
An extra big pinch of shredded cheese, spread around
400 degree oven for 10 minutes



Menu Plan Monday: 15 to 21 June

For hundreds more menu plans, please check out the Org. Junkie.

M: Leftovers (chicken stir-fry or pizza)

T: Freezer Soup in the Crockpot with Bacon Grilled Cheeses (we didn't get to this last week)

W: Pork Chops, Mashed Potatoes, Green Veggie

R: Sausage, Egg, and Potato Scrambles with Tortillas

F: Homemade Pizzas, Green Salads

S: Survivor Night ... if you can find it, you can eat it.

U: Grilled Ham Steaks, Garlic Grill Potatoes, Green Veggies

What's on your menu this week?

14 June 2009

Simple Sunday: Wordless Edition

Ok, not totally wordless. This is the view if you happen to be laying on your back, feet bare, in the grass in my backyard. That line in the middle is a most faint rainbow. Simple, beautiful, perfect.



Dirt Cheap: Our Gardening Adventure ... Part 1

Memorial day weekend in Michigan means the threat of frost is gone (well, we hope ... ), and the time has come for ... gardening! I loooooove this time of year, and those cute little plants in the ground. I do generally forget how much work putting those adorable sprouts in the ground can be, but my calves and hamstrings do a fabulous job reminding me every week after Memorial day. Last year, we planted in a circle. Yea, really, what in the world were we thinking?! We had this vision for cute concentric circles, but the plants had other plans and did everything they could to turn the whole thing into a jungle. This year, we're back to a rectangle (and while we're at it ... why not expand a little ... teehee).

This is a shot of Be and my brother Abby putting up the perimeter stakes after the rototilling was finished. Great tip: Don't buy a rototiller, but instead find someone you know or who lives near by from whom you can borrow one for a few hours. Be's dad came down to do ours, and bingo bango we don't have to shovel by hand or lay out $600 for a rototiller. Share things! Buying new is both expensive and not always the best use of resources.

Now, since we have 2 large dogs who really like to be in the backyard, and whose footprints although adorable are not my favorite thing when they're trampling down baby tomatoes, we needed to figure out a fencing solution. Last year, we used a little metal wire fence. It was cute for a minute, but at only a foot and a few inches high, it was also entirely too easy for the dogs to simply step over. With a mind for just making do, we really did evaluate the option of using the metal fence again (of course, we saved it ...), but it honestly didn't survive being taken down last fall all that well. There are broken pieces all over (hooray for tetanus!?), not to mention the part where it's quite happy being bent in the shape of a circle.

Hmmm. What to do, what to do?

I begrudgingly agreed to browse the local Menard's in search of a fencing solution. They did have approximately knee high fencing on sale, but even the 36inch sections were upwards of $4 each. With 80 feet of garden perimeter to cover, the $100+ price tag was a little out of reach for us.

"So, what if we use this snow fence?"

Yes, indeed, snow fence. In the winter here, locals put up plastic fencing along the beaches to keep the sand and snow from getting out of control together. What's better? Menard's had 50 feet of glorious green (rather than the standard blaze orange) snow fence for $20. Instead of buying 2 rolls to cover the 80 feet, we simply cut one of them in half with the hacksaw, doubling the amount of coverage and making the fence just the right height.

See?! Fabulous green snow fence!

The even cooler part, the perimeter poles that we are using this year are holdovers from last year when we used them to tie up tomato plants in vain attempts to remedy the jungle phenomenon that the circle garden created. The poles are generally used for running electrical fence, and we picked them up for $1 at the local Tractor Supply. Oh, it gets better! My love of this semi-recycled cobbled together snow fence does not end. Not only are the poles serving a borrowed role, they have these amazing little clips on them that serendipitously fit the fence height perfectly. We had a roll of plastic coated twist tie which we had planned to use to secure the fence, but lo and behold, totally unnecessary. Each section just slipped into the little clip and on we went to the next. I am fascinated with the way it all worked out.

Ooooooo, pretty snow fence!
And, the adorable Be, from an angle he will likely not appreciate me snapping a picture of.

Then of course, it was time to go plant shopping. There are more frugal ways to start gardens. You can buy seeds and start them indoors. You can even save the seeds from the produce you eat, dry them, and start those in cute little pots with hopes that they'll come up. I've done a fair share of seed starting in the past, and it never goes well. In the places where our house is full of sun, there's no awesome place for rows and rows of seed pots. In the places where there is space, there are no windows. Or, as we discovered last year, in the mud room where we created a space, and the windows abound, it is simply far too cold for seed starting. Ugh. This year, we purchased plants as we hadn't come up with a sweet seed starting solution in time to meet the garden timeline. Next year, I aspire to do better. Until then ... cute little plants in cute little pots.

This isn't even all of them. 36 tomato plants?! Am I crazy?

What follows the purchase of a million little green darlings for the garden? Ah yes, planting them. I always (and I do mean always) forget about this part. I have some bizarre mental block that always seems to make believe that once we get them home, they'll just plant themselves ... or maybe little elves will show up and do it for me in the night. Alas, no, gardening is work. A labor of love, sure, but my glutes doth protest regardless.

The adorable Be using the garden hoe to make rows. He dug the trenches, then mom and I filled them with compost (Oh, how I loooooove compost!), set the plants in, and covered each root base individually.
(Please note, Be really did start shaving his head bald ... he's crazy, I think.

We ended up with 2 rows of tomatoes, plus 3 in pots and 2 planted experimentally (which I will tell you all about once I get pictures of them), 3 rows of peppers, 1 row each of green beans and peas, and 2 rows of root vegetables (parsnips, carrots, and radishes), plus an onion patch. There are also brussel sprouts, chinese cabbage, kale, strawberries, cucumbers, and blueberries which I haven't gotten pictures of yet. In addition to the regular garden, we have an herb garden up against the back of the house. This year's selection: rosemary, lavender, marjoram, oregano, horehound, sage, parsley, peppermint, thyme, and basil.

Oooooooh, pretty herb garden.

There it is, the beginning of our gardening adventure. I plan to update as the season progresses with new pictures and produce totals. Are you gardening this year? Tell me about it in the comments!



7 Quick Takes ... Sunday: Vol 8

Sometimes life happens, and things don't get posted on time ... or even written. Friday was one of those days, but the reason why is kind of exciting. I was asked to give the keynote address at an awards banquet honoring the highest honor given to girls in Girl Scouting, the Gold Award. I earned a Gold Award in high school, and was asked (kind of last minute ... like Monday afternoon ... oops) to be the keynote speaker because of it (and according to the woman who called me, "because (I) wouldn't have a problem speaking in front of a large group on short notice"). It was a really good time. My speech was well received. I did not fumble around like a crazy too much, and I got a pretty yummy (and free!) dinner out of the deal. The downside, the speech was oh, a hundred or so miles from my house, in the early evening, so most of my usual Friday bloggy time was spent getting ready and driving (and putting the finishing touches on my speech ... who loves the last minute?! Em does.).

I skipped church this morning so I could finish writing my group research paper, and although I've only been going to church regularly for ... oh, a month, I'm kind of sad I wasn't there. I know I can listen to the podcast and check the bulletin online, but really ... I just like being there. It's the highlight of my week, and I'm regretting terribly not getting up and going anyway. Now I have to wait another 6 days. (Wow, on 2nd inspection, I never ever would have counted myself in the category of people disappointed that they missed church ... something has come over me ... something not so awful, maybe ...).

We added even more plants to the garden yesterday. There will be a garden post forthcoming in the near future, which I'm terribly excited about. We swung by the greenhouse yesterday and I fell in love with some clearanced kale and chinese cabbage plants. I mean, in love. They were calling to me. I looked at them longingly, walked away, perused the remainder of the section, wandered back to them, stood looking at them like a 2 year old, and finally decided to just bring them home. We don't have any greens growing since my lettuce didn't so much make it ... stupid paper seed cards anyway.

The beloved Red Wings did not win the Stanley Cup. I should offer congrats and well dones to the Penguins, but I'm not that cool of a person. I'm pouting.

We had a fabulous time Thursday at the minor league baseball game. Not only was my favorite band playing after the game, but it was as well "Thrifty Thursday" at the ball park. We scored $5 admission tickets (instead of $9.50i) by agreeing to bring our own chairs and sit on the lawn. A number of food items were marked down to $2 instead of the regular exhorbinant park prices or $4, $6 or more, and you could get hot dogs (which I don't eat ... ick, but other people do) for $1! Some friends joined us on the grassy knoll, and we had an all around great time. Not that I'm the biggest baseball fan in the world, but we may have to check out future Thrifty Thursday events there for some super cheap entertainment.

The spring semester ends Wednesday. Yay! The bad news: the summer semester begins on Monday. Yikes. Ugh. Why in the world idd I agree to take spring AND summer classes? Am I a crazy person? I'm happy one semester is almost over, but I'm wishing for a much longer break than 4 days. These are the moments when I wonder to myself, "why in the world am I still in school?"

"So the eye needs light to see, so the soul needs labor to comprehend." --Philo

I will try to remember this next week when I'm cleaning my house top to bottom in preparation for the party we're having Saturday.

For more 7 Quick Takes, probably posted on time, check out Jen's blog.