Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I decided I'd take a quick break from spring cleaning to update my blog, and all of my loyal fans out there. My family is still in the grand swing of trying to sell our house. I'm hoping that with the great spring weather we've been having that it will increase traffic and get us a buyer soon!

The biggest task - and the task that was saved for the end - has been cleaning the basement. I've never been too keen on looking with homes that don't have basements, and it's not even a midwest cyclone-phobia. It's that I simply don't understand where people without basements put their "stuff". However, after cleaning ours out, I've decided that those people are the sane people, because they just don't accumulate "stuff".

Standing in my basement last weekend, amidst the dust and cobwebs and totes full of "stuff", I realized that in the six years that I've been in my current house, the basement that started empty and clean was filled with "stuff" - things that I had spent hard earned money on and decided that I had no place for it in the main part of the house, or I wanted to keep it for our next house where we would have room, or it was something that I just couldn't part with. I think there must have been ten boxes or more of books, the same amount of boxes of video games - ranging in age from 1982 - present, boxes of art projects I never finished, art projects I never started, boxes of clothes the baby has already out grown (I know there were at least 4 of those), and the list goes on and on...

If you haven't caught on yet, I'm decidedly sick of "stuff". In order for us to fit all of our "stuff" nicely into our next house, I'll have to look for a 6 bedroom, 5 bathroom, 3000+ square foot house with a library. Which I know are out there, but they are understandably not in my modest price range.

My husband and I made a pledge that when we move into our new house, and the storage pod full of "stuff" is delivered for us to empty out, that things are either going to have a home that is not storage, or they are going to have a home that is at the Goodwill. Because I am not, ever again, storing, cleaning, moving, moving around, going through, or collecting "stuff".

I'm glad things are moving to a digital format. I remember when iTunes first came around, and I thought it was silly to buy a digital album. I wanted the shiny CD and the plastic impossible to open package- it was a trophy of buying that album! I've of course switched over to digital music since then, but realized as I moved boxes of old cds and cd cases how silly that statement was. I still say the same thing about books and e-books, and I wonder if I will look back in ten years and realize how silly I am now to think that (it's doubtful...). I took my husband's old Nook after he got a new one and while I did read 10 or so e-books on it while I was on maternity leave (I miss when the baby slept more than the cats some days), I still want to replace them with used paperback versions someday. But it sure would be nice if everything else could be digital and we didn't have to store it!!

And as I type this, I realize that I still have a pile of records that need to be boxed up and stored properly, because I will not ever give up buying records. Especially since new ones usually come with a free digital download...

And the problem of "stuff" starts all over again...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Giving it Up

I picked myself up a new book yesterday called Give It Up! My Year of Learning to Live Better with Less by Mary Carlomagno. It's an interesting read so far - it describes how she decided on year on New Year's to give up a different "vice" each month for the year. So far, I've read through her months of giving up alcohol and shopping.

While some of the things she describes giving up - television, chocolate - would be a challenge for me, it's made me wonder- are there things that I could give up that would make my life better?

Alcohol and shopping aren't currently problem areas for me, so I'll really need to examine my life to decide what I want to improve on. The first thing that comes to mind is diet soda. I love diet soda. It's tasty, refreshing, calorie free... but I've heard the lectures too. It's bad for your teeth, it makes you crave sugar more, it has the dreaded CAFFEINE...

Another thing I thought I could do better in life without is stress. If I could do that, I certainly wouldn't need to be reading books on simplifying life...

I've also thought lately of giving sugar the boot, but every time I try to research sugar free diets, I get inundated with information that I am not sure is even accurate. Natural sugar is terrible for you, but chemical sugar substitutes are healthier- really? Eating sugar is okay during certain times of day - honestly? Now, I do believe that corn syrup is unhealthy, but it's syrup- how can it be healthy? My doctor had advised me at one point to cut corn syrup out of my diet completely, and I have been successful at that. So could it be that much more difficult to quit sugar?

On the other hand, while I don't want my family to be a family that is completely and utterly dependent on sugar, I also don't want Lucy to be on such a strict diet growing up that she goes wild at friend's houses with her first taste of the white stuff. So maybe rather than cutting out sugar entirely, I'll refocus my energy and just minimize the sugar for now, or leave that for another month of something to give up.

As far as giving chocolate up - I'm not even going to give that the slightest bit of consideration. That is out of the question. Well, until I try giving up sugar.

So what is the point of giving something up for a month? Partially to try and improve life and become a better, healthier, more active person. But it's also partially selfish- it's a test to see if I can even do it. Because if I can give something up for a month, I can reevaluate that month and see if it even needs to exist in my life. And if I can give one thing up, I can give anything up.

Thankfully, since it's only the 8th of the month, I have a while to think about it. But I urge you to join me in giving something up for a month (and yes, I realize that if you are Catholic you are laughing at me now because you've already given something up! Us Lutheran-raised gals don't know about Lent.) We're starting April 1st, so pick the thing you wish to remove from your life and get ready! Or, to look at it another way, think of the thing you'd like to add to your life, and we'll give up the opposite (I want to exercise more, so I'm going to give up not exercising).

Sunday, March 4, 2012

My adventure in fruit- Dragonfruit!

I've always liked dragonfruit scented lotion, but I was curious a few weeks ago about what a dragonfruit actually was. A quick Google search and Wikipedia entry told me that it was highly likely I'd never find out what a dragonfruit tastes like, since I'm very much landlocked in Iowa, and the dragonfruit is decidedly not a fruit of the continental US. However, I was quite shocked to find dragonfruit at my local grocery store today! Of course, the fruit was marked up at a very high price, but I decided to treat myself to a splurge.

It really is a beautiful and striking fruit. It's got a lovely, and somewhat squishy, hot pink outer, with green leaves that stick up around it. It's even more interesting once it's cut open-

I've never seen anything like it - a white flesh with black seeds. And it contrasts so well with the pink skin. I wasn't sure how to go about eating it, so I scooped all of the flesh out into a bowl using a spoon and just dug in. I'd like to say I was brave and had no hesitation, but that's not entirely true. The fruit has the texture of kiwi- soft and crunchy at the same time. The seeds are the same texture of kiwi seeds as well. The taste, though not bad, is very, very subtle.

So was it worth the money I paid for it? For the experience, yes. But not for taste. Needless to say, I won't be buying dragonfruit again, unless it's very, very much on sale.

Now, for a quick round of "Good Baby Buy, Bad Baby Buy." Good baby buy- washcloths - and plenty of them! Surprisingly enough, I don't keep many washcloths in the house. I'm starting to feel that now that I have a baby learning to eat solid foods. There aren't enough washcloths to clean that puree-smeared face. So if you're expecting, stock up! Bad baby buy - a robe. Very, very cute, but very, very impractical. It's enough getting the slippery, wet baby into a towel, much less a robe! But I did manage to use it once and snap some pictures, since it is cute-

Friday, March 2, 2012

A soapbox for boobs...

Before I get on top of my soapbox, I have to thank my friend Dana for helping to break me out of my non-money-saving rut. She gave me an excellent money saving tip this morning- try cutting kitchen sponges in half. Usually, you only use the outside of a sponge, making the middle of the sponge useless. Cut that sponge in half, and you have twice the usage!!! Seems really simple- one of those tips that makes me wonder why I didn't think of it years ago when I got my first kitchen...

My sister gave me some information today on an author that wrote about raising babies and how to handle that, which of course is a huge industry! And there are so many different theories and ideas on this. I tend to think that there are not many right or wrong answers when it comes to babies and kids, as long as your kids are happy, safe, and healthy. Anyhow, I started to Google this author and her methods for more information, but most of what I found were scathing reviews, tearing the author down for suggesting the use of formula for babies. This took me back to when I had Lucy and tried nursing...

I had not taken any classes to prepare for nursing, because I assumed like many others that nursing would come naturally to me. Well, it did not. And frankly, I don't see how it would be natural to many first time moms! Not only are you learning to hold the baby, but trying to hold the baby in such a way as to latch, and keeping the baby awake- it's all a lot to take in! But I tried, and tried, and tried, and tried... We had gotten two successful feedings at the hospital, and I was counting my success by the fact that it lasted 2 - 3 minutes each time. I was visited by the lactation consultants, who assured me that if I just tried more, it would get easier, but that I had to keep trying. They were actually a bit stressing and made it seem as if I was not trying hard enough. We were sent home on the 4th day, and I had no better luck at home. By the next day, we were at the pediatrician's office, and I was bawling because the pediatrician had decided that the baby was losing too much weight, was dehydrated, and was not getting enough food.

This is where I got the best advice I have ever gotten in regards to nursing, or child care in general. The pediatrician, after handing me a tissue, told me that she could tell I was doing everything I could and was being a good mom, but that it was more important that I was happy, and that the baby was happy because I was happy, than it was to nurse. And then she gave me many, many formula samples.

Now, I am not pro-formula, and I am not pro-nursing. But I think it is unacceptable that this was the very first instance of someone telling me it was OKAY to not nurse, and that they knew I was trying, but there is nothing wrong with failing at nursing. I know it isn't exactly the job of the lactation consultants to tell you this, but I think that there is way too much of a dividing line between nursers and formula moms. I don't understand why a war needs to exist between the two groups. Nursing only moms are brutal to mothers that use formula, and mothers that use formula act like nursing moms are nuts! Frankly, if there is something that a new mother does not need, it's undue stress about feeding.

Nursing is wonderful - it's natural, it's healthy, and it's FREE! But formula is great, too - it provides the necessary nutrition, is convenient, and has worked for many generations. So why are women made to feel as if they have to choose one over the other, and pick sides in a baby battle?

I wish nothing but luck to mothers that want to nurse. But please remember that it is okay to try, and it is okay to fail. It is okay to decide two weeks in that you don't want to put forth the effort and would rather do formula. And to all of you formula moms out there- please don't make your mom-to-be friends feel as if they are crazy for trying nursing. Be a supportive friend- not a negative one.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Readers, I fear I've failed you. It's been a while since I've posted any good money saving tips, and I think it's because I've failed myself lately in being able to save money. I tried clipping coupons, but I feel like I end up spending more money when I use coupons for groceries (this doesn't include non-food items, of course...). I haven't done anything to lower my bills in the last few months, and I'm even ashamed to say that I haven't put any money into my vacation savings fund in a few weeks. It's been a disappointing couple of weeks as far as being frugal goes.

Coupon clipping works well for some, and I still browse the paper for coupons for baby items, cleaning products, bath & body accoutrements, and a good sale on shelf stable items. But I've found that coupons for food are so random that it's hard to work them into my weekly grocery shopping. It's also very tough to plan a healthy, diet-friendly shopping list around what I have a coupon for as well.

I've tried the trick of calling 1-800 numbers for my favorite products to see if they will send me anything, and that's been a disappointment as well. I'm talking to you, Johnson & Johnson! I was promised coupons weeks ago...

I do have to give credit where credit is due - and some of this has been out of my control. Having unplanned car repairs and plumbing issues only helps to decrease the savings I work so hard to create. But I have to remind myself that this is why we have savings.

On top of that, I have put my house up for sale and am hoping to move into a bigger home. So my free time, and cash flow, goes toward projects to get the house ready for sale.

So I guess to sum it all up, I'm too busy and have too many pricey projects to figure out helpful ways of saving time and money.

A quick google search of How To Save Money brings up 172 million results, so apparently I'm not the only person that is currently stunted in this department. That's comforting, at least! The second link I choose tells me that I need to take my own coffee to work, bottle my own water, and borrow books from the library rather than buying them. I used to be in the habit of the first two, however with trying to juggle a baby, car seat, diaper bag, gym bag, purse, and lunch bag in and out of the car, I gave up. I need to give that a shot again. As far as borrowing books rather than buying them, I can tell you right now that is never going to happen. Reading is my favorite thing to do, and re-reading a good book is my second favorite, so I tend to want to hold on to everything that I enjoy reading. Ride your bike or carpool is mentioned, which is ironic because this is something I was just discussing with a co-worker. I would love to be able to ride my bike to work, and it is my goal to be able to do this by the end of 2013. It sounds like a ridiculously long time frame for a goal like this, but if you are familiar with my area of the map, the 15 miles that I go to work every day are not easy miles. Hills, busy traffic, hills, and only about 3 months of the year suitable for bicycling make this a daunting task. However, I'm going to hold myself to it. Even if I have to start it on Saturday morning and only do it once, I will bike to work someday ;)

So since I'm failing you in clever ways to save money, tell me what efforts you've taken, and I'll see if I can work those into my life!