Thursday, January 29, 2009

ReusableBags.com, big discounts

ReusableBags.com has some of their items at deep discount due to over stock and until 1/31 at midnight, you can use the coupon code SALE20 to receive an additional 20% off. If you need a good Sigg or Kleen Kanteen bottle or are in need of produce or grocery bags, this would be worth it. Check it out here.

I've looked, and there's honestly not anything I need. I think that's growth for me. Posting this with the hopes that someone else will take advantage makes me feel a little better. If you do, let me know!

Gifts from the mailman

I use that title because my little sisters used to think the UPS guy brought them Christmas presents every year.

Yesterday the mailman delivered a very special treat, my Heirloom Seed Catalog! This is from Baker Creek and they do have seeds online as well. I just get so much more from a printed catalog...not the greenest option, but I guarantee this will be loved, used and recycled when I'm done :)



I spent my lunch hour today perusing all of the very interesting things and will be sharing it with my mother this weekend. I hope to have the garden planned out by next weekend. I will share when I'm done.

And while I was taking that picture with Photobooth, I went looking back at some old photos from there, and it really made me miss summer. I look so tan and thin and happy here!



As much as my potato soup tasted good today for lunch, I miss fresh fruits and veggies and walking outside and warm weather. This morning on the news, the guys said we got a total of 10.8 inches of snow from this last storm. From 6pm Tuesday to 3pm Wednesday. Add that to the rest, and we're pretty close to the record, set during the BLIZZARD of '78. Ugh.

At least I have my seed catalog now to warm my heart a little.

Chunky Potato Soup

Dinner last night was a chunky potato soup. Very good. Hubby loves it and I don't think he even minds there isn't meat in it!

To try and cut down on the sodium, I used some of my homemade chicken stock in place of one of the boullion cubes.



Ingredients
3 c diced potatoes
1/4 c chopped onion
1/4 c chopped carrot
2 c milk
3 c water
3 T butter
1 T parsley
1 T cilantro
1/3 c ground Parmesan cheese
2 T flour
1 t salt
1 t pepper
1 t mrs. dash
2 chicken bouillon cubes
2 t Italian seasoning
Directions
  • Bring water to a boil, add fresh herbs and vegetables. Let boil for 5 minutes.
  • Add milk and butter, boil 3 minutes more.
  • Add spices and seasonings, then flour and cheese.
  • Stir well so that the flour and cheese don't clump.
  • Serve when veggies are tender. Top with cheddar cheese and saltines or whatever you'd like!

Showing my green: mail

Yesterday, I got three pieces of mail. A letter from Chase welcoming us to their family (they bought WAMU, one of our credit cards, and increased the APR while doing it. whoopee!), a free sample of SoyJoy I requested online and an Heirloom Seed Catalog I requested. The day before we got a rebate, a thank you card and a bill. I can't remember the last time I got junk mail or an unsolicited catalog or magazine. The only credit card offers we get are ones from the companies we already have cards with (though those have almost stopped now) and if I do get something I don't want, I know it won't come back again. There are many days we don't get any mail at all.

How did I acheive this miracle? I belong to GreenDimes and I love it. They did all of this for me, and they planted 5 trees on my behalf! All for $10.

I've belonged to Green Dimes for a couple of years now and their prices have gone up, it now costs $20/year to reap the benefits of their services. But for this frugal tree-hugger, it is definitely money well spent.

Here are the benefits as they list them:
  • Effective control of junk mail
    GreenDimes reduces junk mail, within the first 90 days — guaranteed.
  • The most comprehensive solution
    GreenDimes has access to the industry's largest number of lists and catalogs — 6,500 and growing.
  • Complete control over catalog delivery
    With GreenDimes you choose which catalogs get delivered to your mailbox
  • A key step to avoid identity theft
    GreenDimes keeps unsolicited personalized mail out of your mailbox
  • A commitment to keep your information private
    Unlike some companies, GreenDimes only uses your personal information to remove you from mailing lists
  • An opportunity to help the environment
    GreenDimes plants 5 trees on behalf of each member
And I completely agree with everything here, and more. I don't have to deal with the junk mail piling up on my desk, my coffee table, the kitchen table or in the recycling bin. And I don't get the junk mail that can't be recycled, like the CDs or unkown plastic crap or Tyvek envelopes. None of it. Only what I want.

This isn't an ad or a paid review. I've received nothing for telling you this. I just want to share with you what I've done to simplify my life, move towards less waste and I believe save myself money in the long run. (How many times have you fallen for the advertising and spent money you otherwise wouldn't have?)

There are many other options out there that will help you achieve the same goal. Here are a few I've found:
Do yourself a favor to simplify your life and check some of these out. Anyone else have ideas to keep unwanted junk from entering your house?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Oven-fried Chicken

Last night was oven-fried chicken, mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus at our place.


I prepped the chicken, went up and workout out on the elliptical, then came back down and prepped the asparagus. Trimmed and halved in a pan with a little olive oil and seasoning. I got this for Christmas from my mom I think and it makes amazing asparagus.


When I flipped the chicken, I just put the asparagus in for the last 15 minutes (okay 20, I always cook the chicken just a little longer to make it crispier!


Meanwhile I started the potatoes. This ended up being a mix of Idaho and baby reds. A little milk, a little butter, a clove of garlic thrown in with the potatoes, a little sour cream and stir. Yum.


I ended up adding a little parm to the asparagus when it was done, and it was very good. But I have a confession to make. The asparagus in January I enjoyed came to my kitchen all the way from Peru. When I realized that, I felt horrible. I know the potatoes were at least from Ohio, and so was the chicken, but PERU? I have a feeling this will be the last asparagus until summer for us. Luckily, it was delicious.


This is an awesome recipe from an Amish cookbook. This never goes to waste. I usually don't use 6 full chicken breasts (the pic shows a half breast), and honestly I never measure the ingredients. It's never bad.

Ingredients
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 c flour
1 T paprika
1 t garlic powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 t fresh ground pepper
1 t marjoran (optional)
1/3 c canola oil
1/3 c butter
Directions
  • Put butter and oil in an 9 x 13 baking dish (glass is best) and put in preheating oven set to 375F.
  • Mix flour and spices in a shallow bowl or paper bag.
  • Once the butter is melted, remove pan from oven.
  • Coat chicken breasts with oil mixture, then coat with flour mixture. Place back in pan. Sometimes I cut the breasts in half for more even cooking if they are large.
  • Bake for 45 minutes, flip, and bake for 15 more minutes.
  • The original recipe calls for bone-in, skin on, but I don't use those. If you do, place them skin-side down from the start and then flip to skinless side.
  • These are good fresh from the oven, reheated or even cold!

Adventures in Driving

Today was going to be a post about my oven-fried chicken from last night. But the en-ending snow has taken precedent and I just had to share these pictures from this morning. Chicken will follow.



This was my car this morning, buried.
It took me 10 minutes to clean it off enough to drive.
Yes, the snow was above the bottom
of my doors and yes, the area
around the car was shoveled out before
the snow. It's still snowing now.




This is what the road looked like on my way to work.
I know there is a ditch on one side. One of the
deep country farm ditches...but which side?




And the view out my window.
Really motivating for the 45 minute drive
I had today (usally about 20 minutes).



Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Adventures with Ferrets

Our poor little fuzzies had a rough weekend. It all started Thursday night when we trimmed their nails, not one of their favorite activities. Then Saturday morning, we let them out of their room to play a bit and then carted them off to the vet. All four needed distemper boosters.

They were pretty well-behaved, but Crackers started having a little bit of a reaction. He was very lethargic, started foaming at the mouth a little. Awesome. So they gave him benedryl, which completely knocked him out, which freaked me out a little. The poor guy wouldn't even put his back legs under him. He looked like a big fuzzy puddle. After a few minutes he got better though and we headed home.

We had to wait a while to get in to the vet in the first place because they had a snake emergency of some sort. We ended up waiting about 40 minutes. Then we stopped and got lunch on our way home. All the delays paired with all the yummyies they got at the vets meant they had to go, NOW. They were scratching and biting trying to get out of the crate, but we didn't have anywhere to stop or any place for them to go. So poor Crackers and Lucky went in the crate. They were both pretty mad at us and ashamed of themselves.

They were all pouty pretty much all day. We let them play more when they got home, but it didn't help much.

Sunday, we were the worst ferret parents ever and gave them a bath! We only do this once every 4-6 months or so, but they all needed one pretty badly. Crackers went first, hated it, and continued to be made again for most of the day. I think he's still a little angry at me. Hirshie and Lucky both hated it as well, but got over it pretty quickly. Winter loves the water. She just swims around in it, looking like a teeny-tiny drowning rat (she's white with ruby eyes).

The best part of their bath time is to watch them when they're done. They freak out! Running a rubbing everything. And they're very fluffy. Puffed out in such a cute way, especially paired with they're angry little faces, so cute!

Winter, angry after her bath.

Lucky trying to dig into the couch.

Crackers climbing the couch and
Lucky still looking for a way in.
Hirshie wouldn't hold still long
enough to get a picture. Sorry.


Enjoy!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Menu Monday



These next few weeks will be a bit of a challenge for us. Hubby isn't going to be home much at night as he is coaching 3 intramural basketball teams at a nearby school and has games/practice most nights. For example, this week he as a game tonight at 8, practice tomorrow until 9, a game on Friday at 7, two 8 am games and an 11:45 AM game Saturday as well as both of us working concessions 9-11 AM Saturday. He works late until 8 on Thursday, which leaves only Wednesday for us to actually be home together for dinner.

Regardless, here's my menu:
M - Crockpot Pot Roast
T - oven friend chicken with roasted asparagus and mashed potatoes
W - tacos
Th - tortellini
F - dinner with our friends at their place
Sa - pork chops with roasted veggies
Su - chicken parm (if we're home)

This weekend I made three loaves of bread and some pizza dough. Pizza Sunday night was a success, so I'm looking forward to the dough in the freezer and will be making more. I have some leftover chili from last week for lunch with a baked potato today. Yesterday I made a pot of Smoked Sausage Soup for lunches this week, and I have some White Chicken Chili from this weekend as well. (Recipe will come soon) I'm also going to be trying an Asian Chicken Salad recipe I found for lunch this week I think. We'll also be utilizing Pot Roast leftovers and the roast I currently have cooking at home is huge!

The head of cabbage I bought for the Asian chicken salad will not get used up, and cabbage is a new ingredient for me. Any recipes for something good to make with cabbage? We do not eat kraut, and anything with sausage and onions with the cabbage is out. I'm more of a raw cabbage kind of person I think...but I'm open to suggestions...kinda. Thanks!

Happy Monday!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Hand washing vs. Dishwashers

This is a debate that has been discussed quite a bit in the blog world. Treehugger has recently published another article on this topic and discovered that it is possible to be just as efficient with hand washing as it is using a dishwasher, but you have to try.

Unfortunately for me, this isn't an argument I need to pay attention to. We don't have a dishwasher. And even if we had the available cash to buy one and make a space for it with hookups in our kitchen, there really isn't a practical place to put one in our kitchen, or anywhere in our house. This picture is a mountain of clean dishes from one Sunday.



We have a smaller house. It fills our needs completely, but it is almost 150 years old, and back then farm housed weren't built for our modern conveniences. Our bathrooms are tiny and afterthoughts. The closets are built into rooms or are a result of adding in the bathrooms. And our kitchen is very nice and plenty big enough for us, but has one wall of cabinets/appliances and countertops and our table is on the other wall. No dining room, just our eat-in kitchen. And that's fine for us. But it means that if we want to put in a dishwasher, the only available place is between the sink and refrigerator, where the only full-size under cabinet storage is. All of my pots, pans and mixing bowls will be displaced, not to mention our George Foreman grill, coffee maker and our strainers.

So, I hand was everything. It isn't so bad with just the two of us. But looking to the future, it could become more of a burden as our family grows. And when we have guests (which is at least once a week), the dirty dishes take over the counter space and dish washing must be a combined effort. I make efforts to use as little water as possible and I use an environmentally friendly dish soap, in very small quantities.

Oh well.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Menu Deviations

Last night I decided to warm up some soup I had in the freezer rather than make tortellini. I just didn't feel like tomato sauce, which never happens. And dinner tonight is going to be white chicken chili instead of pot roast. I didn't get a lot of prep pictures of me putting it in the crockpot, but will at least get a finished one tonight, I promise.

Here's the recipe for the soup, it's very good! My husband even loved it!

Smoked Sausage Soup (serves 8)
Ingredients
1/2 lb smoked sausage
1 onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced (or celery seed)
3 carrots, copped
2 garlic cloves, diced
32 oz. chicken broth
1 can diced tomato
1/2 cup dry barley (or rice or grain of choice)
1 bag baby spinach
Directions
  1. Cut sausage into bite-sized pieces and brown in skillet.
  2. Add onion, celery, carrot and garlic. Saute about 5 minutes.
  3. Add broth tomatoes and grain, bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer, covered 15-20 minutes.
  5. Salt and Pepper to taste.
  6. Remove from heat and add Spinach, stirring until it wilts.
  7. *I added extra water to this and it turned out great. The chicken broth just didn't seem like enough liquid to me when it all got in the pot.
  8. *This also freezes very well!
This time around I didn't get the spinach in, we didn't have any, but I did manage a tablespoon of Spirulina :) I also added a couple of diced potatoes for more a more filling taste. That's important in our house. It's a really good way to get the yummy taste of smoked sausage without my Hubby feeling like he needs to eat a whole pound of the stuff. Enjoy.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Showing my green: lunch

People that know me personally may or may not know that I'm a treehugger. I, in fact, didn't really even realize it until a few years ago. I'm pretty sure some of my close friends knew this about me very early on, but it's not something I really thought about before.

Being green or eco-friendly is not something I necessarily push in other people's faces, but I am more than eager to share if they ask. One of the areas people often notice is my lunch.

I pack my lunch usually 4 out of 5 days a week. Doing this, I try to minimize the amount of packaging and disposable products I use. None is my goal, but there's usually something that gets tossed. (Someday I will find a way to set up a compost bin at work, but I'm already recycling for the whole facility, finding a place for compost in the winter is a little more than I can handle right now I think. Plus, compost tends to gross people out, I'll have to approach it gently :)

To help in these endeavors, I have purchased a few things, including a lunch box and reusable stainless steel mug from www.reusablebags.com. This is one of my favorite sites! I also received as a gift from my mom some wonderful sandwich wraps. These function as a placemat when opened and clean up very easily. They are also very easy to make. I haven't done it myself yet, but want to, maybe for next year's Christmas exchange...hmmm.



I also use real cutlery. I have a spoon, fork and knife that I got at World Market about 7 years ago that are still going strong. (They're even navy and match my bag!) I have cloth napkins in my lunch bag. I keep a plate and soup mug/bowl at my desk, for whenever the need arises. Birthday cake in the lunchroom? I don't use the styrofoam plates and plastic silverware, I bring my plate and fork.

I also buy in bulk and make my own snack packs. I do use plastic containers, but they are reusable and washable and definietely better than not reusing anything. I just don't trust myself with glass! I have purchased a stainless steel food container and thermos for my husband as well. He doesn't have access to a microwave to warm food, so this works great for him. (Unfortunately, I think his thermos has been discontinued). The food container is perfect for heating up soup or chili in the morning and having it piping hot for lunch! These containers will keep food warm for up to 5 hours. And the thermos will keep coffee hot or water cold for hours and hours and hours...sometimes a day or two!

I make my own pudding and jello snacks and use small bowls or ziploc containers to keep them and even package chips and crackers in containers. No plastic bag to toss and no crushed chips!

I do have my vices. I love Diet Dr. Pepper. But I religiously recycle either the 2-liter bottle or cans, I swear. I also bring individual yogurt containers to work and throw them away. I would keep them until I can get them to be recycled into Preserve products, but my Hubby already says I'm a garbage collector. And I could by large containers of yogurt, then reuse them for something else. Unfortunately, I only like berry flavored yogurt, and not the kind with chunks in it. I'm trying though, I am. I bought a big container, thinking I could make myself like vanilla, it was even organic! But I ended up throwing almost half of it away, I just didn't eat it all. I need to keep trying. It's definitely on my list!

I would be happy to answer any questions about this. It's one of my passions and I love it!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My Home Made Bread

Last night I didn't get to make my Chicken Parmasean, again! My friends invited me to $.35 wing night at a local restaurant. I didn't get wings, I got a chicken salad, but had a very nice time!

So, I will share my bread recipe today with you instead of the chicken parm.

Milk & Honey Bread

Makes 2 loaves
Ingredients
1 1/2 T active dry yeast
2 1/2 c warm milk
1/3 c honey
1/4 c melted butter
2 t salt
3 c wheat flour
3 c bread flour
2 c white flour
Directions
  1. Dissolve yeast in warm milk
  2. Add honey, butter, salt and mix
  3. Let proof (stand) for 5-10 minutes
  4. Add 3 c wheat and 3 c bread flour, mix until smooth
  5. Add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough
  6. Turn dough onto floured board and knead for about 10 minutes or until dough becomes elastic (Dough hook on mixer can be used as well)
  7. Place in greased bowl, turning to coat the top
  8. Cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until dough is doubled, about 1 hour.
  9. Punch dough down and shape into two loaves (a little extra flour can be added if necessary, but not too much or the dough can become crumbly)
  10. Place in greased (and floured if you'd like) 9x5x3 loaf pans. I like to slip the tops a few times, which will prevent the dough from cracking, which can occasionally occur.)
  11. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes
  12. Bake at 375F for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown
  13. Coat tops with a little melted butter and turn pans on their side to allow bread to cool and prevent bottoms from becoming soggy
  14. When cool, slice and serve! This bread is great for sandwiches when sliced thinly, but is hearty enough to use as a "plate cleaner" with yummy stews and gravy dishes.
Bread baking is something I really love to do. It's more economical and much healthier, plus I love it! I've had success with this dough using evaporated or even prepared dry milk as well, even more ways to keep costs down.



As this recipe makes two loaves and there are only two of us, I usually stick one in the freezer. (The loaf in the picture came out of the freezer the day before this picture was taken). I've had great luck with just putting it in a paper lunch bag and then in a gallon-size freezer bag. I don't keep it there for more than a week at the most, and I've never had it turn out badly. I've also used the gallon bag to keep the bread on the counter. Though I don't use any preservatives in this recipe, I've never had a loaf go bad before a week, and the loaf usually doesn't last much longer than that anyway, so I can't be sure how long it could stay good.

Crockpot Chili

This is the recipe for the chili I made for Hubby's lunches this week. I added some lean stew meat, cut in small pieces, but he doesn't really like it much. I also added some Spirulina, sshhhh, don't tell! This is definitely a protein packed meal!

I like to have my chili over a baked potato or with a thick slice of my homemade wheat bread. Yum! And this recipe is great because you can put in in the crockpot overnight or while you're at work and have it ready when you need it!

Another great aspect is this is made in the crockpot or slow cooker. These are wonderful time and energy saving devices. Yeah for being frugal! Warming things using the microwave is also much more energy-efficient usually than cooking or warming with the stove or oven. Despite my concerns over the quality of food cooked in a microwave, I have to admit that the steamer bags are my friend when it comes to green veggies. I used to never eat them, ever. Now that I'm an adult, I'm forcing myself to eat them and have come to tolerate asparagus and sometimes broccoli, if I can cover it in some kind of sauce or gravy! Since I never ate, I never learned to cook them, and the microwave steaming bags are the only things that seem to work well for me. Although, I did make some roasted asparagus a couple weeks ago that I actually had seconds of! Crazy, I know. I may be learning :)

This picture is actually of the chili in the fridge, waiting to be warmed for lunches. Again, I forgot to take pictures. I will try, I promise.



Makes 10 servings

Ingredients
1 pound lean ground beef
1 can tomato paste
1 can diced tomatoes
4 cups water
15 oz. kidney beans
15 oz. black beans
15 oz. lentils
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 c bell pepper, chopped
1/8 t cayenne pepper
1/2 t brown sugar
1/2 t oregano
1/2 t black pepper
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 t cumin
1/2 c chili powder
1/2 t curry powder
Directions
  1. Brown beef in skillet.
  2. Add all other ingredients to slow cooker and mix well.
  3. Add beef.
  4. Cook on low 8-10 hours. (Can be made on a stovetop as well)
  5. *For additional flavor, try adding other meats or veggie and beef broth for the water.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sallie Mae Update

I just got an email response to Sallie Mae. Looking back at what I sent, I'd only fix the typos, I'm not embarassed by any of it. But, I was interested in what they had to say. Here it is:

Thank you for your inquiry and for your business with Sallie Mae.

On behalf of Sallie Mae, please accept our sincere apology for any unprofessional service you received while speaking with one of our representatives. We intend to provide the highest level of service and regret that your experience with us failed to reflect that commitment. Thank you for making us aware of this situation.

Your account is current. Your SMART Consolidation Loans are next due for payment on January 23, 2009 in the amount of 83.96, and your private loan is due for payment on January 20, 2009, in the amount of $243.16.
How kind of them to let me know I still owed them money! I paid yesterday, and printed out my confirmation this time. I hate to do it, I hate it! But it's the only way I can prevent this from happening again I guess.

An apology should make me feel better, but it doesn't. I know they're not going to change a single thing. Other people will have to go through what I did. And, I still had to pay the late fees. I still hate them.

Chicken Scallopini

So I forgot to take pictures of dinner last night. This is actually the leftovers, which I'm having for lunch today. This is a very good and fairly simple recipe. It's very flexible too, you can add veggies, sometimes I throw in some asparagus, or use different meats. It also reheats fairly well.

The link in the title will take to to the CalorieCount breakdown of the nutrition info. Enjoy!


Makes about 4 servings (if served with a vegetable side).

Ingredients
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 c flour
1 T olive oil
2 c chicken broth
1 small onion, diced
1/4 c scallions
1 c white wine
1 t rosemary
3 c pasta
Directions
  1. Flour chicken and brown in a little olive oil.
  2. Remove from pan and brown onions*.
  3. Add broth, wine, scallions and rosemary.
  4. Bring to boil and let simmer until liquid is half the amount.
  5. Add chicken and simmer until thickened.
  6. Serve over noodles (or rice).
  7. *sometimes I add garlic because we love it!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Menu Monday

It was a CRAZY busy weekend for us, and I'm almost glad to be back at work! Saturday morning hubby had three basketball games (he coaches 3rd & 4th grade, middle school and high school teams) and we were responsible for the concession stand for a couple hours. So my morning was spent manning the concession stand (which really was a sad experience, seeing all those kids eat all that crap) and keeping the book for the games. I was hoping to get some pictures to post, but didn't get a chance to.

Then I made a quick Sams run (only $20 spent!!) and had to get a baby shower gift. Baby shower was at 6pm in Van Wert, OH. By the time I got home it was 3pm. Thankfully I had soup in the fridge to warm up, jumped in the shower quickly and we were off. We picked up friends in Bryan and were only a little late partially due to a school bus accident! We ended up staying on Bryan that night, the roads were a little trickey out that way. And by the time we got home Sunday, hubby had to turn around and leave to go to the diaper party! And again, no pictures :(

I spent the day at my parents, letting one of my little sisters use my "toys" (aka computer and wacom tablet) and just visiting. I was finally able to make it home by about 7pm, and did get a chance to make the chili. And here's where I get to the menu finally!

I made a crockpot full of chili for lunches this week as a part of my plan to get hubby off canned and frozen food for lunches, hopefully it will last the week! I've brought some today for my lunch, accompanied by a baked potato, yum. I think I'll try a white chicken chili next week, but haven't found a good recipe yet...Today I'd like to get bread dough and pizza dough started and in the freezer. I may even make up another batch of the sausage and potato soup I made last week that hubby loved so much!

As for dinner:
  • M - chicken scallopini
  • T - Chicken parmasean (skillet style)
  • W - hubby's breakfast scramble
  • R - tortellini with sauce (hubby's working, this is my go-to meal when I'm home alone)
  • F - pot roast with homemade bread
  • Sa - potato soup
  • Su - pizza

Friday, January 16, 2009

So glad it's Friday!

I woke up this morning to find out it was -15F outside. Windchill put it at -33F. Wonderful. Our bedroom was still surprisingly warm though. Last week I sealed up the attic entrance that is at the back of our bedroom closet and it seemed to help a little, but that entire wall isn't insulated against the cold that sits in there, so it still gets cold. And being such an old house, the upstairs doesn't heat well anyway. In fact, the vent in our bedroom is right at the ceiling! Any hot air that makes it upstairs ends up sitting at the ceiling anyway. I'd like to get a ceiling fan for the room, but there are low ceilings. Pair that with a hubby who's 6'2", and disaster could be eminent.

For now, I try and remember to keep the closet closed to insulate part of that wall (though all my clothes are cold when I put them on!) and use my heating pad at my feet at night. We also have a little space heater, but don't like to run it while we're asleep, so we don't use it much.

So though it's been a rough few months, and a really rough week, I am thankful for many things. I am thankful my car started this morning and was able to get me to work. I am thankful my house is warm and there is food for me to eat. And I am thankful for all of the wonderful people in my life. I am even thankful for the snow, I really do love it. And, it kinda insulates us a little...right?


I think this pictures from Sunday really illustrates the snow nicely :) Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Why I hate Sallie Mae

This is a message I just sent to Sallie Mae customer service. I owe them over $40,000 and will be paying them over $300 a month for the next 18 years, just in time for the children I don't have yet to start thinking about college. I can't even talk more about it right now, but this explains a lot I think.

I just received ANOTHER phone call from the automated person who likes to put you on hold and you get to wait for a person. I waited for 5 minutes and then got hung up on. I called back and spoke to the RUDEST person I have ever encountered in a customer service situation. I have been harassed by phone calls and so has my husband. Why has all this happened?

They payments I schedule online less than a month ago didn't go through. So I was late. As soon as I realized this I went online to make the payments again, which I did and they cleared the bank. After speaking to very rude people from collections and one nicer person, I was assured that my account would be noted as paid and we wouldn't receive any additional calls.

We we have been, non-stop. Apparently I still owed 5.37 somehow, even though I made the same payment I usually make, the same payment I tried to make on 12/19, before anything was due and would've been more than what I owed. Less than six dollars you say I owed, and I'm still being harassed. Yesterday I went online again, made a $6.00 payment. Today I AM STILL GETTING RUDE PHONE CALLS!!

This is ridiculous. You are treating a good customer terribly. I made every attempt to make my payment on time and every attempt to rectify the situation and I'm still getting harassed by the rudest people employed in customer service. I can't do anything about the late fees you assessed, even though I did attempt to make my payments on time. You calling me a liar and being rude. What happened to the customer being right? I'm not even 30 days late and you've been rude to me, harassed myself and my husband, interrupted my work day, hung up on me and made me cry twice.

Consequently, I will tell everyone I know my story and will be doing everything within my power to transfer the money I owe you somewhere else. I will be contacting the local news organizations as well with this story to warn others that you will do everything to make a person's experience AFTER THEY OWE YOU MONEY the worst it can be.

You can consider me a very dissatisfied customer.

My calendar



I have always been an organized person, and it comes naturally to me. However, I haven't always used a calendar. I used to be able to just remember what I had to do when, even when my life was a little crazy during High School. In middle school they made us keep an assignment notebook. I used it and it was helpful, but once I moved on, I didn't need to use it anymore. I was a perfectionist and prided myself on getting everything done on time, and I did.

However, once I got into college, life got CRAZY and I used one every day. I love my calendar. I had different colored pens that coordinated with each class and their matching folders/notebooks. I would know what class or activity something was for just by the color I used to write it. I even used the same color to take notes in each class as well. It worked beautifully! Every night I would sit down, pull out a note card, and schedule my day, hour-by-hour, and make sure I had everything I needed for the day.

Then the real world hit. After graduation, my life was much more simple and I didn't need a calendar again. I got married, life was still simple, no calendar was really necessary. We did have one hanging at home and I would write things down on it like docs appointments that we scheduled months in advance, important birthdays, etc. I also used my computer to keep track of bills and when they were due, just as a reminder.

But recently, my life has somehow gotten busier. No kids, no new commitments, maybe I'm just getting older and things that seemed easy to remember aren't anymore? I don't know.

Anyway, I've found a calendar, similar in layout to the one I used in college and made a very cute cover for it! Hopefully I can continue to buy the same calendar every year to fill it up. I usually find something, fall in love with it in every way, and then after I purchase about 1 replacement, it goes off the market. I'm hoping this isn't the case with this calendar. As I couldn't find the exact one I used in school, I'm assuming it has happened already once :(

The cover gives it more stability, pockets, the ability to stay closed, and it is way cuter than the original! I was given a Franklin Planner at work to use. I loved the pockets, but it was way to big for my needs. I don't need a daily page, I don't have that much to remember at work, and I always felt weird about writing personal stuff in it. My personal life is what needs to be organized! Plus the layout was different than the one I loved, and for that reason I was never really comfortable with it. And, seriously Franklin Covey, the majority of the world's population is right-handed, so why on Earth would you make it nearly impossible for us to write comfortably in your planners?



Off the soap box now. I love my calendar. I use it for appointments and the usual, but also to plan meals, shopping trips, keep notes, pay bills, plan my free-time and generally organize my life. I also rescued two large boxes of paper from work that were going to be dumped because they were the wrong color and use them for notes. They are half sheets and fit perfectly in the back pocket. (I gave one box to my mom, have one for myself and used about half of mine to make little recycled notebooks for friends and family last Christmas. The box will probably last me a few years!) I'm me again. I was slipping without it, and now I'm back!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My personal mountain

Usually when people talk about their personal mountain, it's in reference to a huge personal hardship they've had to overcome. Mine's isn't quite as existential. Mine is my debt.

This isn't something I usually talk about in real numbers with people. It's rather embarrassing really. I'm sure my husband would freak if he knew I was sharing. But I'm pretty sure this is for the best. I need to. If I share, it's real and I can be proud of my accomplishments when I've conquered this mountain. This debt mounted for two reasons I believe. 1) We went from renting to owning, which increased our monthly housing expenses by over $550, double, and didn't really change our spending habits. This doesn't even take into account the increase in other costs, like utilities, household items and the appliances we purchased. 2) Then, gas prices went through the roof and, though our spending habits did change slowly, we couldn't afford everything. With over $500 a month on gasoline alone, we were using credit cards for groceries and gas and bills got paid late. Now that gas prices are a little more reasonable, we're okay. We've also changed our health insurance plans, saving us a few hundred dollars a month. And now we've got a plan.

Other things have happened recently to set us back, like my car getting hit with MAJOR damage twice in two months (not my fault and no one was hurt...except the deer, thankfully) and a few surprise medical bills that amounted to over $1000. Oh yeah, and my husband's truck, which we still owe almost six grand on, keeps needing repairs for a few hundred bucks a pop! We're working towards paying it off. It will be slow, but I'm sure we can do it. And posting it here every month we keep us accountable, in check with the reality of it.

The recent budgetary discussion I had with my husband in regards to the basement issues was a very positive experience for us as a couple I believe. We BOTH realized how much we were in debt and we BOTH realized we had to do something about it. And we are. We've set up a plan and we're working on it. We will be reviewing everything together every month and working to the goal together.

So here it is:
  • CitiBank: $7,126.39
  • WAMU: $5,686.77
  • Amex: $1,873.55
  • 5/3 MC: $9,123.85
  • BofA: $840.07
  • 5/3 VISA: $189.65
  • Kohls: $150.75
  • PayPal: $161.15 (business related do to delinquent payments)
Grand Total: $25,152.18

And this doesn't include our cars, my student loans (more on that later) or our house. The good news is that the 5/3 MC and Amex are both the result of balance transfers and therefore have very low interest rates. The bad news in Citi, WAMU and BofA have all defaulted to the maximum 28.99%. As bad as it sounds, I will be looking for a way to tranfer those balances to a lower rate card. I don't want to open a new account, but that interest rate is just going to kill us! Hopefully we'll be able to see progress soon.

It's cold

I have a couple posts waiting, but I need to get the pics first.

Meanwhile...it's cold here! This morning it was hovering right around 0, and is supposed to reach a high of maybe 10 today, woohoo! Today will probably be the warmest of the next 5 days. Plus we'll be adding 3 more inches of snow today (to the foot we got this weekend) as well as four more by the end of the weekend. Spectacular.

So what does a budding gardener do? I'm reading more, of course, and starting to plan my garden. This weeks book is Root Cellaring. It was published in 1979, so it's a little dated in some aspects, but promises to be very informative for store veggies for next Winter. It's keeping me focused and hopeful!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Menu Monday

Today I am going to start putting my weekly menus up here as well, in hopes that it will help me continue to make a weekly menu! Hopefully this spring I can start adding in some fresh from MY garden veggies and herbs!

Monday (1/12): Veggie & chicken curry with couscous
Tuesday: Chicken Scallopini
Wednesday: Chicken parmasean
Thursday: Smoked Sausage with potatoes and asparagus
Friday: Pot Roast
Saturday: NA (we'll be out of town at a baby shower)
Sunday: hamburger gravy with mashed potatoes and broccoli

maybe someday I'll take pictures and post recipes for some of the yummier dishes!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Set back or motivation?

Yesterday we had a wonderful rep from Everdry come to look at our basement. When we purchased our house almost 2 1/2 years ago, the owners disclosed that there was a bit of dampness that would occur on the stairs leading to the basement only after a very heavy rain. We said, okay, it's a very old house (at least 125 years), that's understandable. The steps that lead down are actually all cement and used to be outside, leading off of a back porch.

However, since we've owned the house, we've more than just a little dampness and it doesn't take a torrential rain for it to occur. My Dad and I thought we had it figured out, all stemming from the fact that was used to be the porch foundation, was now part of our basement wall. He estimated we could remedy the situation, for only a few hundred dollars and about a weekend. Awesome.

Christmas comes and we want to get our tree out. Pull out the box (no one judge about the artificial tree, there's a story and it will come later), and the whole bottom is rotted out. This is on the complete other side of the basement from where we thought we had it figured out.

Now, normally this isn't a problem that would creep up on a person, but the people who lived here before us did a pretty decent job finishing the basement, even though is was a cellar at one point. The walls are all insulated, built out and covered with very nice wood paneling. There is indoor/outdoor carpet glued down on all the floors. And for all intensive purposes, it's a fairly nice, though tiny, basement. This prevents us from seeing any dampness that is behind those well-insulated walls.

So this leads to me calling Everydry, a wonderful guy coming out and showing us that we basically have dampness creeping in from everywhere and two different kinds of mold starting. Spectacular. And if we say yes today, we can get a $2,000 discount and have it only cost us a little over $11,000! If we can't do it now, the estimate stands at about $13,500. We just can't do that right now. So, we're waiting until next year, when we hope our financial situation is a little more breathable.

Positives are: We know what's going on, my husband's on board with me with this AND financially, which is truly a miracle I think, and we know how much we need to save and to not store anything important down there.

But what about my garden? They'll need to dig a trench all the way around the outside of the house, right through where I hope to be planting? Growing our own veggies and more will help with the money portion, but I'm worried. With Square Foot Gardening, you supposedly only need 6" of dirt and can create boxes with bottoms that can be moved around. This wasn't my original plan (having bottoms, anyway) but it might have to be. Oh well.

We'll just keep praying nothing drastic happends between now and then!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Scouting for Land

I'm planning on using the New Square Foot Garden method of gardening, because I have very little open space and because I know or dirt isn't all that great. I'm guessing most of it is nasty backfill (our backyard is mostly made of of a filled in pool).

So, in looking for space, I have just about two options.

This is my first choice. A lovely bit of wasted space between our house and the alley that is our driveway. This area is all held up by a retaining wall along the alley and is currently covered in what was I'm sure, very expensive, river rock. I'm hoping with a little reorganization, this will make a perfect space for about two 4'x4' plots for me to start with. We're hoping to relocate most of the stone and put something else down that's a little more comfortable on the feet and knees, or at least I am.

I think my hubby's a little excited about this because he gets to rip out some overgrown shrubs we have and move the rock over there. I think he's wanted to do that since we bought the house a few years ago.



This area is another option. I personally think our yard is a bit over-landscaped. I don't necessarily want to rip anything out, but all the beds along the fences and the house are, once again, filled with rock and very few plants. So I can build 2'x4' beds in these spaces okay I think. That might wait until at least next season though. I don't want to jump in too far and over do it.

But for now, all I can do is dream. We're supposed to get about 8" of snow this weekend, so I get a lovely reminder that I can't do anything outside yet. Next is diagramming and seed planning. Woohoo!

Friday, January 9, 2009

I'm It...

Sara at Hostage Negotiation tagged me to post my fourth photo from my fourth folder. Since I'm at work and almost all of the photos here are of garbage cans, I did you a favor and used my facebook photos.


This, I believe, is the top of my friend Jen Musbach's head. We're at the Lodge Bar in Columbus, the night after this year's OSU v. UM game. It was a lot of fun!

I don't know who to tag because no one but Sara reads this...I guess I'll tag Monica. She might get directed here at some point. Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

In preparation

I have been reading up on gardening, etc. I love research and usually fully research something before I make a move, so I'm on my third book and I've got at least two more to go, if not three.

I also got some old pallets from work to use to build my beds. Now if I don't go through with it I'll have a pile of old pallets that my hubby while complain about. I'm in, totally. And I can't wait. I'll start planning soon, and hopefully have more pictures along with it!



Here's another from last year, hope you can see this one TresNinos! I don't know why you couldn't before. Maybe I'll send my mom over and see if she can :)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

So...I suck

Since I haven't done this blog thing at all, I'm taking a new direction with it. I want to garden, for many reasons, and think I have finally discovered how I might get that done on my tiny, over-landscaped little plot of land. I will attempt to chronicle that journey here. Let's hope it works. For a journalism major, you'd think I'd find writing a little easier. Unfortunately my over-scheduling gene takes precedent in my life.

To make this work, I've taken on this challenge.


I've made a few resolutions stemming from this idea:
  1. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a bit of a picky eater. So I have vowed to try and expand my food varieties. I have already successfully incorporated asparagus and broccoli (covered in cheese or sauce) into my diet and, as of this week, have consumed green beans, barley, red beans and lentils without my body completely rejecting them...good start I think. I'm hoping that if I grow my own veggies, I'll feel too guilty to not eat them!
  2. I also want to expand on my limited knowledge of preserving food. Having my own food to preserve will make it easier.
  3. With a garden comes an assortment of lovely things, including compost. I want to successfully expand on my poor little compost pile. I don't tend mine at all, and it shows. So this year I want to maintain my compost pile and use it successfully to grow food!
  4. Another by-product of gardening is a lower food bill. My resolution for this is along the lines of lowering bills, paying down debt and saving more. Our finances aren't exactly in the greatest shape right now, as are most of the country I'm sure, and I hope this will help.
  5. Take more pictures to share! I have a very good point and shoot camera that takes wonderful pictures, especially outside, so now I'd like to share my visual world a little more with everyone. Here's a sneak peak of our pond...it's just gorgeous I think! I've also got some lovely flowers and unintentional mushrooms. So a good start I think!

So there it is. We'll see how this goes :)