Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Paper Route

I started a little 1 day/week paper route with my daughter so that she could begin to earn some spending money. When I was her age, I did chores around the house to earn an allowance. I felt motivated to do them and wanted to earn the money. My daughter is a different creature than I was, however. She needs a lot of down time at home after doing homework (and has more homework than I ever had)and doesn't do a lot of chores during the school year. But, she IS motivated to do the paper route. We work together to fill the plastic bags with papers and store ads and the next day, we each take one side of the street and cover our route. It gives us a sense of shared mission, we get a good deal of exercise and it gives her a sense of responsibility beyond homework. What was the first work that you or your kids did?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I am enjoying a wonderful book called The Forest Lover by Susan Vreeland. It's about a Canadian woman in the early 20th c. who is a painter. She has Native Canadian friends and paints Native Canadian themes, which alienates her from her Victorian sisters and most of the people who show up to and critique her art shows. She isn't rewarded for her work until fairly late in life and by that time she has almost given up hope that anyone will respond to her work.
I respond to this book in a very personal way. I love painting, drawing and photography. I also share the protagonist's deep love of the forest and being in the woods (but don't envy her the mosquito bites that she gets in the far north). It's reminding me that no matter how practical I try to be, the deep desire to create will still be there and will keep asking me to answer that call.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

tightening our belts without feeling the pinch

When I decided last summer to try to reduce our grocery budget, I wasn't sure how to do it without turning the whole family against me. They were used to a having foods around that they liked, but didn't need to have "name brand" items. Since July, our food budget per week is about 1/2 of what it used to be. So, let me share with you what worked:
1. Shopping at Aldi. When I compare Aldi's regular prices, they are about what a really good sale price is at any of our other supermarkets. I buy almost all of our groceries at Aldi and the quality is as good or better than other stores. Most dinners that I make cost around $5.
2. I bought a bread machine from Craig's list. Bread costs about 80 cents/loaf from the machine and it fills the house with a wonderful aroma that everyone loves.
3. Cooking more from scratch.
4. Buy more basic cereals. Things like raisin bran and corn flakes are cheaper than Honey Bunches of Oats and other things that I used to buy.
5. Baking cookies. My five-year-old loves to help to bake these and we really are creating some nice memories together as well as saving money and cutting back on preservatives and other ingredients that we don't want from packaged cookies.
6. Freezing yogurt pops. We blend strawberries, powdered sugar and plain yogurt and freeze with a popsicle mold and stick.
7. Planning meals. I used to wonder every night what was for dinner and who was going to cook it. While I have a fairly limited repertoire (which the kids basically like), I plan carefully, buy carefully and know what we're going to have. I don't plan night by night, but have a set of dishes I can choose from that day.
8. Using the produce I buy. Because I'm planning more meals, I actually use the produce I buy because it has more to do with a particular meal. Not perfectly so, some things still don't get used, but I'm much more conscious of what I am using.
9. Use leftovers. Either for lunch or I will have leftover night on Sunday, which I like to take as a day of rest, anyway.
10. Garden more. We have raspberries, apples, herbs and plant various things each year. This year, I would like to make a greater effort to garden more and maybe even learn how to can (I freeze raspberries and applesauce for the winter).

I hope these ideas are useful to you. Feel free to leave other ideas in your comments.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

My friend, Courtney recently had a baby and I made this personalized block photo for her. Her mom hosted an "afternoon tea" for her this past weekend and it was so much fun. Kind of like a baby shower, but with lots of different teas and antique teacups to choose from, cakes, scones, little sandwiches. I found an 11 x 14 frame at Target that had a white wood border and a white 5 x 7 matte opening which was just perfect for this image. She was really touched when she opened the gift and almost cried. I absolutely love giving personal gifts was so delighted to meet Elle.