Thursday, December 9, 2010

When Free Isn't Really Free

Free is my favorite word.  Love the word free.  Love it!  If something is free, I'm there.  One freebie I got while pregnant was the Arkansas Healthy Baby Book from the Arkansas Department of Health.  It's a book filled with prenatal information, but it also has some high dollar coupons that are validated at each prenatal and postnatal doctor's appointment.  I've been impressed by the value of the coupons in the book, so when I saw a free haircut coupon I was THRILLED!!!!  I made my appointment with the intentions of making a MAJOR cut. 

Here are the before pictures:

My coupon was to a "House of Beauty" here in Fort Smith.  My husband lovingly agreed to drop me off & watch E while I got my day of beauty and pampering. When we rolled in to the parking lot my anxiety level increased as I looked at the dilapidated sign of the shop, but seeing as the other coupons in the book were fabulous, surely this place was wonderful too right?  With great hope I kissed my family bye and opened the door.  Oh. My. Golly...this place was horrible.  Wood paneling, kitchy magazine clipping tapped on every available wall space, dust covered Red Hat figurines graced the numerous shelves.  I knew I was in trouble.  

I was greeted by a grandma like woman a seriously teased out bouffant hair do and more makeup that Mimi from the Drew Carey show.  Imagine her for the rest of the story:

Against my better judgment (and because I can't say no) I sat down.  She pulled out a broken brush, teased out my hair and proceeded to cut my hair.  This was perhaps one of the shortest haircuts of my life, lasting all of about five minutes.  Behold Mimi's handiwork: 

A close up of the jig jagged handi-work.

Needless to say, this was a completely unacceptable hair cut.  Had I been planning to keep my hair I would have been truly upset.  Fortunately, I had planned on donating my hair to Locks of Love so I didn't lose any sleep over my day o' beauty fiasco.

Today I go a REAL haircut by an actual PROFESSIONAL.  Here are the results:

And here is what was hacked off:

The actual cost of my "free haircut" was as follows:

$2 pity tip @ Mimi's House of Disastrous Hair Horror's
$20 actual haircut
$12 hair product
$8 tip in extreme gratitude for having presentable hair

But it was alllll worth feeling pretty for an afternoon.  I felt pretty, oh so pretty today.  It was nice.

Hard Time

I suppose I should have a post with an explanation.  I haven't been writing lately because I've been having a hard time.  A really hard time.  My grandfather, who has been struggling with luekemia for the past year has reached the final stages of his battle.  His body has begun rejecting donor blood, and yesterday, he received his last ever blood transfusion.  There is nothing that can be done and it is just a matter of time until he goes home to heaven.  

We've all known this time was coming, but somehow that doesn't make it any easier.  Even though I know my grandpa is ready to go to heaven, I'm not ready to be left behind. I've never been one that handles death very well, but the idea of possibly being out of the country when my family needs me most is overwhelmingly painful.  

If you are a praying person, please pray for my grandpa and grandma.  Please lift up our family in prayer.  We could certainly use a little extra grace at this moment.  

Thank you and God bless you.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bag O' Toiletries

Today I packed all of the toiletries I would need for our trip in India in this tiny little bag for free.  How is that possible you ask?  Why samples of course!  The entire contents of this zipper pouch, and the pouch itself were all free samples that I have joyfully collected. 

Now I know some people find a 0.05 once package of toothpaste completely useless, but here is a totally wonderful use!  These tiny sample packages will go through airport security, and after collecting them through the year, I most certainly have enough to last our entire Christmas vacation!  Plus, you can't beat the price!

If you haven't considered sampling, try it out!  In my opinion it is definitely worth the time and effort.

You can find more ways to save money on your toiletries here.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Get What You Paid For

A few years ago one of my friends took me to a seminar about frugal living at her church.  It absolutely changed my life.  No joke.  I had already been trying to make frugal changes to my life, but the seminar challenged me to see what else I could do.  One of the lessons I learned from that hour long tutorial was to get the most out of what I already owned.  This lesson was part preventing waste, part saving money, part amazingness.  Seriously.  I had no idea how much I was throwing out until I started experimenting.  Let me show you.

Behold our finished peanut butter.

In the past this would get tossed in the recycling, but for the past few years I've been taking the time to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.  It takes about a minute.
 I simply scrape the pb in to this tiny container and it's enough for approx two more sandwiches.

Here are two of the best inventions ever to my mind--right behind electricity and refrigeration.  Ok, that's a gross exaggeration, but still, these little goo pushers (is the the technical name?) are great!  The green one twists and squeezes, while the purple one just squeezes.  The green one was a gift (Thanks Mom!) and the purple was part of a set of two that I got at Walmart for less than $2. They are well worth the money and help make sure you get every little bit out of your tubes of goo. But wait!  That's not all...

This is a picture of the above tube of  toothpaste.  It was squeezed within an inch of it's life, and would not yield any more paste.

I simply cut the tube and voila, about a week's worth of toothpaste!  Simply put a dab on your tooth brush and brush away.  (I do realize that this is somewhat unhygienic, so I would recommend only one person uses this paste, and perhaps it should be applied with a clean finger to the tooth brush).

This method can be used with lotions, face creams, and really any other goo in a tube.   Just be sure that when you cut lotions or the like you keep the top, wipe it out, and put it over the bottom portion so your new found goodness doesn't dry out.

As I have become more frugal and environmentally conscious I have found the importance of being a good steward of the resources I have been given.  Even if it is just a week's worth of toothpaste.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Unfashionable Fashions

During  the winter I do anything to keep my heating bills down.  We normally keep the thermostat between 67 and 68.  I do this purely to save money.  I hate winter.  I don't think it should be allowed to be a season.  I am cold all the time normally, so winter just exacerbates my poor circulation.  

Today I was cold, as usual, and went searching in the closet for another layer and found my beloved poncho.  I bought it years ago when it was fashionable for a nanosecond, but have never been able to part with it.  I LOVE it.  I know it does about as much for my figure as a mumu, but I don't care.  It is so comfy and it is made out of a beautiful marbled purple yarn.  I thought this love had faded over time, but trying it on again today, it rekindled that old flame.  Not only is my poncho warm like a blanket, it is also amazing for nursing too!  It's a Snuggie, a Hooter Hider, and a sweater all in one.  How amazing.      

Fashion Faux Paux's be damned, this is true love and the poncho is here to stay. 

(At least in the privacy of my own home).

Monday, November 29, 2010


This past year we have been so incredibly blessed.  I have never been happier and I am utterly dumb founded by what God has given us. 

A year ago I was pregnant and headed toward a very complicated pregnancy.

Despite being born three weeks early, my lil lovey came out perfectly.

We have been able to create a wonderful family unit. 

Filled with adventures

and extreme happiness.

This has been a truly blessed year and I am immensely thankful.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Funky Funk Funk

Not my favorite genre. The mood I'm in.  Tomorrow we jet off to visit our families and celebrate Thanksgiving.  While I am incredibly thankful for the year that we have been blessed with, I am allowing myself this evening to feel pure melancholy.  Tomorrow will be the last day that my lil' lovey, Pippin will be with us.  He just hasn't adjusted very well to Little E & is somewhat stressed out by her presence.  I came to the heart breaking conclusion that he would be better suited living my with parents.  Tomorrow we begin our journey home.  I love my lil Pippi Kangaroo and feel in a way that I'm experiencing the end of an era.  I got Pippin shortly after J.C. & I began dating, and a few weeks in to my student teaching.  So much has changed in that time and I'm just sorry that poor lil' Pip couldn't adjust.  I sure do love him, and my heart sure is breaking.

Tomorrow I'll return to my usual cheerful, thankful self, but for tonight, I'm going to allow myself to be sad.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Saturday Stock Up!

Behold a year's worth of vegetables!  It's that time of year again when canned veggies are on sale for amazing prices.   Last year, I regretfully missed my opportunity to stock up; however, this year, we took advantage.  These 96 cans of veggies came from Target.  After coupons, we paid $0.42 a can, which is cheaper than Aldi prices.

We also stopped by Toys R Us, as they had Gerber baby food on sale 10 for $10, and we need some for holiday travel.  The sale also included organic baby food, so I was thrilled.  After coupons, we paid $0.75/ two pack.  That's cheaper than Target has non organic Gerber baby food.  Woo Hoo!

We also got Little E's first baby doll, made by Under the Nile.  I love their products & they're eco-friendly and made out of organic cotton, so I'm excited for E to have this as her baby!  The best part is it was on clearance for $7.98!  Can't beat that! I love exclamation points!!  haha

After Toys R Us, we stopped by Kohl's to spend our $10 off Kohl's coupon (they just randomly started sending us these in the mail) and got this book of Christmas stories for Emerson.  This is a pretty great lil' treasury and is chock full of 320 pages of Christmas goodness, as well as a 20 track CD of Christmas Carols. (We read a Christmas Carol tonight to Emerson, and it is surprisingly good for a watered down version.  I taught CC last year, so I was pleased to start E early!)   HOWEVER, the best part was what we paid...NOTHING!  The book was marked $12.99, and when we went to check out there was a surprise 20% discount.  After our coupon, we didn't even have to pay tax.  Gotta love that!
I also used my Eversave voucher that I bought last week to by this lil lovely for E.  They're made from BPA free recycled milk jugs in California!  After using the voucher I bought at Eversave for $5, and the 20% off discount code; I only paid $2.20 for this whole set to be shipped & gift wrapped, and it retails for $39! 

All and all it was a great day for deals.  I couldn't be more pleased with our purchases!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Draft Dodger

In an effort to prepare for winter I made a draft dodger.  It was quite easy, and if I were a better seamstress, I'm sure it would be extremely easy.

I took fabric that I used as curtain in college.  It was bleached by the sun, so I figured it would be perfect for the job.


1.  Measure door frame.
2.  Cut fabric to proper length and width. 

3.  Turn fabric inside out (like sewing a pillow), fold in half, and pin the perimeter. 4.  Sew around the perimeter leaving an opening to fill.  I had planned on leaving one of the ends open, but due to being such an awful seamstress I accidentally made a hole on the long seam.  I DO NOT recommend this as it is a total pain to fill. 

5.  Turn fabric right side out and fill with your select materials.  I have heard of multiple things being used here:  sand, rice, beans, pillow fill.  I kind of had a hard time wasting food for this, but I found a pound of lentils that I have had for around 4 years.  Gross.  I did have to use some rice, but we're trying to move away from white rice anyway, so I didn't mind using it.  

6.  Once your dodger is filled, close the hole.

Finished product!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Homemade Baby Food: You Can Do It!

I have been making E's baby food for the past 3 months and I truly enjoy it.  I had planned on making Emerson's baby food before she began solids, but after reading that high levels of lead were found in commercial baby foods, I had no doubts about it.  I find peace of mind in controlling what she eats, making sure she has quality nutrition, and I find making baby food incredibly easy.  I use this site as a reference.  They do a really good job of breaking down safe first foods and the site also includes recipes.

Here is a tutorial of how to make zucchini baby food.

Slice zucchini.  Babies under 9 months are unable to digest the peel, so it may be necessary to peel your vegetables.
Steam until extremely tender...this is one time when over cooking your veggies is ok. Retain cooking liquids as they have minerals and will be needed to puree your veggies.  (My camera died, so forgive that there is no picture of the next step).  Add your veggies to your food processor, blender, or food mill and puree to a consistency that is appropriate for your baby.

Pour puree in to ice cube trays.  Traditional ice cubes are approximately an ounce, so they are an easy guide to aid measurement later.  Here I have a regular tray and a sort of pellet tray.  I like having both as they offer two different sizes.  For a while E would eat one regular sized cube and one pellet.

Cover (a good time to reuse those bread bags) and freeze.


When frozen, pop the cubes out the tray and store in a freezer ziploc.  When needed, simply take out the proper amount of cubes, microwave 20-30 seconds, add cereal if desired and voila!  

Also, as a side note, if you do not have children who eat baby food, you could use this method in preparing purees ala Deceptively Delicious


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Use It Up, Wear It Out...


 Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do, Do Without.  Have you heard this World War II adage?  I adore this saying.  I love that at one time it was one's patriotic duty to use creativity in making things last. In such a throw away society it is often a challenge to even think up ways to give items a second life.  

Let me introduce you to my first born, Pippin.  Isn't he just precious?  When I first got Pip as a young puppy he was an extremely zealous chewer.  He loved to chew up anything and everything.

Meet Pippin's handiwork.  Except times this by about fifteen.  My lovely lil Pippi Kangaroo got so excited in his youth that he made our blanket look like it was shot with an AK-47.  This was quite disappointing as this blanket is a warm snugly fleece and is perfect for fall weather.  This poor shredded blanket has been sitting in my closet for the past 3 years.  I decided that this was unacceptable and keeping in the spirit of "use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without"...I decided to make it do.  Like Dr. Frankenstein creating his monster, I quite gruesomely, yet lovingly sewed up every single hole in my blanket (while watching trashy reality tv on Hulu).


It's certainly not gorgeous, but it will work very well under our comforter and will provide warmth, and that is all I really care about.  

Welcome back blanket, we've missed you.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Making The Most of Your Time

I was on the phone with a friend this weekend and shared that one of the things I love most about being a stay at home mom is it allows me the time to create the type of life I'd like our family to have.  And boy, does it take time.  Air drying clothes, clipping coupons, cloth diapering, making baby food from scratch all take longer than the more convenient, more expensive, and more wasteful methods.  But I LOVE it.  LOVE.  The trick is finding ways to fit everything in, in a day.  Here are a few things that I've found helpful in the past few days.

Idle Hands:  When watching tv or a movie, have something to keep your hands busy.  Whether you are clipping coupons, folding laundry, mending, knitting or something of the like, use time when watching tv to multitask.  It is certainly enjoyable to sit and do nothing, but I find I just sort of go in to a mush mode and hours pass.  If I'm trying to get something done in the mean time I don't feel so guilty about sitting and watching a movie.

Speaker Phone:  Make friends with the speaker feature on your phone.  Today I was on the phone with my sister, sitting on the floor playing with Emerson, and stuffing cloth diapers.  None of this would have been possible if I didn't have speaker phone.  It is a true gift from baby Jesus.

Tie One On:  If you have a small child at home, consider "wearing" your child while doing things around the house.  E adores being in her wrap because we can snuggle and I have two free hands to pick up, hang clothes, etc.  It is also a fabulous way to incorporate a bit of added exercise in your day.  I can only speak from my experience, but wearing a 20 lb child certainly makes loading the dishwasher a bit more strenuous.

Learn Something New:  Challenge yourself to do something that you would not normally do like picking up a useful hobby.  I enjoyed learning to knit, after the initial cussing and yelling phase was finished, and use my hobby to make things for my family and occasional gifts.  I've also busted out the sewing machine lately to make a few handy things around the house.  Learning to knit, and rediscovering how to sew has been a fun challenge.  Both are useful and enjoyable.  If only I could convince my husband to let me change our oil...


Read, Read, Read:  Use down time (car rides, nap time, tv time, breastfeeding, etc.) to read about something that will enrich your life.  Whether you read a book about gardening, peruse a cook book, read about your new found hobby, or my favorites, personal finance, and environmentalism, try to continually keep yourself enriched in texts that present new ideas.  I find that the more I read about environmentalism the more I re-evaluate my actions.  Likewise, with finances.  Whatever you are in to, the more you read about it, the better you will get at your daily efforts.  Also, never underestimate the usefulness of audio books! 

Priorities, Priorities:  Ultimately, decide what is most important to you.  Don't worry about what others think, figure out what you care about.  For instance, I would much rather play with Emerson, read her books, etc. than make sure all of the laundry is put away at the end of the day.  I am not a great housekeeper, maybe even an awful housekeeper, but that's ok.  My husband's knew who he was marrying, and as long as he doesn't care that our house isn't spotless, and as long as E is happy, we're good to go.  Also I don't worry about going out and getting whatever latest and greatest coupon deal.  I only grocery shop once a month.  That means I have a LOT of coupons that get wasted.  That also means that I spend more time with my family.  That is what matters to me.  Not frugal standbys like coupon clipping or playing the drugstore game.  Figure out what works for you and makes you healthy and happy.  Leave the rest.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Moment of Honesty

I use cloth diapers.  I also use disposable diapers.  Not a lot, on average, one a day, but I still use them.  I had grand intentions when I was pregnant to never use disposables, but then E was born 3 weeks early and didn't fit in to our cloth diapers, so we used disposables.  And then when we started using cloth, I tried to use them at night, and no matter what insert/doubler we used the diaper lasted about 3 hours before E was soaked.  So we started using disposables at night.  We also used disposables when we went grocery shopping or visited with friends, in order to save having to change Little E's diaper while we were out...and when I had to return to work after maternity leave and my husband stayed home with Emerson....and when traveling for a month at a time seeing family.

I say all of this to let you know that I too have to rely on disposable diapers.  Though I have written of my love of cloth diapers and cloth wipes and all that is green, I have come to accept that disposable diapers are sometimes a necessary evil in life.  When it comes to environmentalism I try to do all that I can, where I can, WITHIN the parameters of my budget.  This is a big key for me.  I would love, love, love to use only chlorine free, non bleached diapers.  Unfortunately, that is not a fiscal possibility for me.  Instead, I have cut down out how frequently we use disposable diapers.  We no longer use them when going grocery shopping.  We just bring along another cloth diaper, a just-in-case-we-have-a-leak-outfit, and hope for the best.  Now I bring our cloth diapers on our trips to see my family in Texas and in Indiana, as they don't mind if I wash E's dirty diapers during our stay.  For our month long trip in December to India, Missouri, Iowa, and Indiana, the only part where it will be feasible for me to use cloth is while we're in Indiana; however, I am toting all of my gear along, so we don't use disposables for that week. 

I often think that when it comes to saving money, or saving the environment, people tend to believe they need to have an all or nothing approach.  And while I truly admire people who are able to commit 100% to their cause, I often find that even doing a little bit makes a difference.  For me, though I do use disposable diapers, I try to limit my use.  As a result, I am greatly reducing the amount of garbage my otherwise average American diaper changing family could produce and, consequently, we save a HUGE amount of money.  Yes, we are still creating waste, and yes, diapers are still costly, but I am making a difference for my family, our pocketbook, and our landfill. 

It is not totally green, or totally frugal, but it works for us, and it's the little saves that I'm going to focus on for now.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Green Bookshelf

I truly enjoy reading and researching green living.  While there are many more technical books out there, I tend to stick to more light fare, as I often don't have long spans of time to sit and read.  Here are a few green living books that I particularly enjoy. 

Simply Green Parties by Danny Seo:  I picked this book up at a publisher's clearing house and I am so thankful I did.  Not only is it filled with great ideas for entertaining, it also has many fabulous ideas for home decor as well. It is beautifully designed and filled with pictures of his how to projects; I appreciate a visual to inspire new ideas. Danny Seo is the Martha Stewart of green living. 

1,001 Ways to Save the Earth by Joanna Yarrow:  This book is fabulous!  It is laid out with brief suggestions in bold, so it is perfect to skim through, or peruse when you do not have a lot of time to dedicate to reading. The ideas run the gamut from wiping dust off your light bulbs to using lavender and thyme to fight dandruff.  This is a great book no matter your level of interest in green living.  It has something for everyone.

Sara Snow's Fresh Living by Sarah Snow:  This is a great book if you have more time to devote to reading about green living.  Snow has a very encouraging voice and has a sort of do-what-you-can-where-you-can approach to environmentalism that I appreciate.  She also details her childhood growing up on a zero impact family compound that sounds like absolute utopia.  She breaks her book down in to very approachable chapters so you can choose where you would like to begin making changes, which is also helpful.

All of these books are great resources and have been helpful in my life. 

But you don't have to take my word for it...