Monday, February 26, 2007

Keeping Up With the Joneses

I copied these articles from and it's so very true. How often do we find ourselves buying things we don't really need because we feel like we "should" have it, because subconsciously we're being told to spend spend spend and to define ourselves by what we own? (every time I see the "He who dies with the most toys wins" license plate frame I want to get out of my car and SHAKE the driver - "Wake up! That's not the way to live your life!") The more I think about our society's out of control debt, excessive clutter, disorganized homes, and financial stress (btw, 90% of illnesses are stress-related) the more I realize how our culture's priorities are entirely out of line. We keep eating too much or spending money trying to make ourselves happy, when truly all that can make us happy is to choose the simple things - our families and friends, nature's beauty, and a relationship with God. Ultimately, the things we buy are worthless when compared with the promise of a debt-free life, a clutter-free home, and a low stress level. So I'm going to continually simplify, simplify, simplify. I'd rather be relaxed than have lots of "things" to clean or put away. :-)

Of course, I know all of this in the same way that smokers know that smoking is insane. It will be a daily battle for me to suppress my consumerist habits. But a battle worth fighting!

Anyways, here are the articles:

Don't Buy In!

Are "They" Ruining your Finances?

Sunday, February 25, 2007


I've decided this year that I'm going to observe Lent for the first time. I'm a bit late, as Lent started Wednesday the 21st, but I'll just start now. :-) We're going to give up fast food for 40 days. This may seem strange, considering that I'm a vegetarian and pretty health-conscious, but the last few months we've been eating a lot of Burger King veggie burgers and Taco Time because we were on the road for so long and got used to eating on the go, plus cooking in someone else's kitchen just feels kinda strange. And those veggie burgers can be pretty satisfying if done right... Anyhoo... Matt's trying to lose weight and I'm embarrassed to admit I'm eating fast food regularly, so this will be good for us. It's not exactly deep and spiritual, but it is a habit I want to break for our health. With Matt's family history of heart disease, it's my responsibility to protect the heart of the love of my life. (BTW, I'm not counting Subway - it's somewhat healthy if you choose wisely, and sometimes you gotta eat on the run!).

The link below is interesting, and he suggests also adding something positive for Lent. We're going to add our morning walks. We've been doing this off and on, but it's so wonderful to have time outside and to be able to be alone and talk.

I should probably do something deeper than this, but I'm at the Kindergarten level of Christianity, so this is where I'm starting for Lent. :-)

Weekly spending:

Monday: $0
Tuesday: $0
Wednesday: Matt's cigarettes - $5.25
Thursday: Burger King (2 veggieburgers) - $5.13
Friday: Library late fee - $0.20
Saturday: Kettle corn and rented "Fearless" (Matt loved it, I was bored and frustrated that it's tough to knit lace and read subtitles at the same time, haha) - $5.60ish
Sunday: $0

Total = $16.18

We were so good this week! Matt only bought one pack of cigarettes and I didn't buy ANY knitting stuff AGAIN (woo!). Of course, nothing we bought was necessary... Oh well. Still darn low. :-)

Friday, February 23, 2007

Maintaining a Tidy Home

I found this article at - it's not so much about organizing but maintaining your home in small chunks of time so you don't have to devote a lot of time to cleaning. It's all familiar but good ideas. :-)

10 Daily Steps to an Organized Home
By Tracy Alt

In this day and age when it is common for both parents to work full-time and our kids are involved in many extra curricular activities, life moves at a pretty fast pace. It can be difficult to find the time or energy to keep the house clean amid all of our other daily responsibilities. The problem, however, is that if you let the house go too long it will become an overwhelming place, rather than a safe haven for you to retreat to after a long, busy day.

It doesn't take much to keep your home running like a well-oiled machine. If you can find five to ten minute pockets of time you can accomplish small tasks that will make a huge impact on the orderliness of your home. Here is a list of ten key tasks that take little time but make a big difference. Start adding them to your daily routine today and see the difference in how your house looks and how you feel.

  1. Make your bed every day. Making your bed takes all of five minutes, but at the end of a busy day, when you can retreat to an inviting bed you will be able to feel the stresses of the day slip away as you slip under the covers. Make it a daily chore for your children to make their beds too. It will help your home look neater and teach them responsibility.

Do one load of laundry every day. I have a washing machine with a timer so I gather up a load of laundry each morning, place it in the machine, add the soap to the dispenser and set the timer so that the wash starts just before my husband gets home from work. When the machine stops, my husband transfers the load from the washer to the dryer. After dinner we fold the clothes together and get them put away. Broken down into segments, doing a load of laundry this way takes no time at all, but the difference it makes in keeping the laundry under control is unbelievable. If you do not have a washer with a timer, gather the load in the morning and throw it into the machine. As soon as you walk through the door in the evening get the load started so it will be ready to transfer to the dryer just before you sit down for dinner. The dryer will be done by the time you are finished cleaning up the dishes and you will be ready to fold the clothes and put them away. Doing a load of laundry every day adds only minutes to your daily routine, but when you do not have to spend your entire weekend trying to dig yourself out from underneath a mountain of dirty laundry, you will be glad you took those extra few minutes throughout the week.

  1. Plan dinner in the morning. If you know exactly what you are going to make for dinner each night you will save yourself so much time that would have been wasted standing in front of the open refrigerator wondering what you can make. Pull anything out of the freezer that needs to defrost during the day, chop up some veggies or marinate something. If there is anything you can do in the morning to make the dinner time rush go smoother, do it
  2. Make a list of any errands you can do while you are out. Blending errands into your daily routine will save you the hassle of having to run all over town on the weekends. Can you make a stop during your lunch hour? Can you drop something off on your way in to work or can you swing by and pick something up on your way home? Doing your errands throughout the week will save you a lot of time in the long run.
  3. Clean up the kitchen after dinner. Although you are exhausted at the end of the day and it is tempting to put the dishes in the sink with the thought that you will do them in the morning, how many times has the next morning come and you get busy with other things? When this happens you wind up leaving the house with the dishes still undone and you have to come home to an untidy kitchen. Make a point to spend the extra ten minutes cleaning up the kitchen after dinner so that you can start each new day with a fresh clean slate instead of getting behind and letting things pile up.
  4. Clean up the living room before going to bed each a night. Make this a family chore. Take five or ten minutes to do a sweep through the living room and put everything back where it belongs. Leaving things laying around is exactly how mountains get created out of molehills.
  5. Schedule homework time. Life may not always allow for strict schedules, but try to keep things as consistent as possible so that your kids know what to expect and what is expected of them. Choose a time that you will be able to stick to most nights of the week and dedicate it to homework. Turn off the television and eliminate any other distractions so that your kids can sit down and really focus on their studies. Right after dinner is a good time for this if possible. The kids can sit at the table while you are cleaning up after dinner. You can spend time together while still accomplishing the task at hand and you are readily available for any questions they may have.
  6. Pick out your clothes the night before. We all know how much easier it can make the morning rush to have your children choose their clothes the night before. Practice what you preach and choose your own outfit the night before. Remove all necessary items from the closet or dresser drawers and lay them out so they are close at hand. The precious minutes you save when you don't have to try and decide what you will wear could make the difference between running late and being right on time.
  7. Make a bedtime routine. Explain to all of your family members what is expected of them when you say it is time for bed. This would include things like bathing and brushing their teeth, putting their clothes in the laundry hamper, changing into their pajamas, choosing their clothes for the next day and getting into bed. Practice this so that when you say "it's time for bed," they know exactly what to do. If you do not have to follow them around telling them what to do next, while they are executing their routine, you will have time to take care of any last minute details you need to accomplish before calling it a day. If your kids need some motivation, create a reward system for each night that they can successfully accomplish their bedtime routine all by themselves.
  8. Keep a note pad next to your bed. It is always just as we are getting ready to retire for the day that we remember something we have to do tomorrow. Be prepared for these end of the day ideas with a note pad at hand to write down anything you must remember. The next morning, simply pull off the top sheet of paper and put it in your pocket or purse to refer to later in the day.

Start small. Add one or two things to your routine each day. Before you know it, your house will be neater and feel more inviting and you will be happier and less overwhelmed. Maybe you can even find some free time to spend relaxing.

Cabinet Hardware Sources

These websites were featured in This Old House, and I thought I'd pass along the best ones in case anyone needed them. (Especially Dani)
(my favorite)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Guaranteed to give you a big silly smile

(you need sound)

"Today is the day to act like today is your day and you will be surprised that it is, that it is."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Spring Cleaning

This is a start for organizing ideas. I'll post another set of ideas in a couple weeks. :-)

  • BUY LESS STUFF! I’m going to keep repeating this, mostly to remind myself. ;-) Disciplined shopping = less clutter, more money!
  • When gift time rolls around, tell everyone you're decluttering and you'd really love gift cards for dinner out or tickets to an event. A lot of our clutter is gifts that we feel guilty tossing but we're just not sure what to do with it.
  • If you're with a friend and they HAVE to stop at the store, leave your purse in the trunk. This will make impulse buys more difficult, and if you find something amazing you can always run out to the car to get your wallet.
  • Prepare for decluttering by putting on REALLY peppy music and possibly drinking a lot of caffeine.

  • Do one project at a time. Have ten minutes? Go through one drawer. Slow and steady wins this race. Don’t empty your entire dresser onto the floor and expect to finish it without getting overwhelmed, tired, or bored. Attack decluttering in bite-sized pieces.

  • Start in “public areas” – kitchen, living room, etc. Seeing clutter vanish will inspire you to keep going!
  • One of the best places to start is the junk drawer. Dump out the entire drawer into a box, put in dividers (like in your silverware drawer), and put back only the things that really need to be accessible (sticky notes, pens that work, rubber bands...).

  • A little extreme, but works: If you have a clutter magnet area, put everything from that area into a cardboard box and write the date on it. When you need something out of the box, take it out and put it where it belongs. After a month, whatever is still in the box is obviously not being used. Take the box to Goodwill and be free of it!
  • Is your purse a disaster? Set out a pretty basket that you dump your purse into daily (or weekly, whichever works for you). This way it's easy to put back all the important things, put away stuff you don't need, and toss gum wrappers and receipts.

  • As a former Sunday school teacher, I apologize on behalf of all teachers for the amount of adorable, difficult to store art projects that come home with your little ones. You really CAN keep all their priceless art without filling your garage! Just photograph 3D projects and scan artwork into your computer. You can put hundreds of projects onto one little CD. Then you can watch it all on a slideshow on your TV!

  • Open your mail over the recycling bin as soon as you get it. I’ve seen clients with bags full of unopened mail. It takes only a minute to do it now! Also, call each of the catalogs you receive and get off their mailing list.

  • Books:

Unread books: Does that book look exciting enough that you’ll ever get around to reading it? Be honest with yourself.

Was it a mediocre book? Sell it to Half Price Books (they give you very little $, and the trick is to make it out without buying even more books, haha) or donate it to Goodwill or the library (get a donation receipt for tax records)

Would you recommend it to a friend? Give it to a friend.

Would you read it again? Really? Honestly? Then keep it.

  • Magazines:

My biggest clutter challenge. I get a lot of design and construction trade mags so it’s hard for me to part with all those good ideas. This is overkill for most people, but what I do is: as I read it, I tear out and recycle all the pages I’ll never refer to again and write notes on the useful pages with a fine Sharpie so I know what was interesting about it. This way the ideas are already bound, and I can look at my mags and see which ones are full of ideas and which ones end up pretty skinny, and cancel subscriptions to the less useful ones. Ideally, someday I’ll file the articles in an accordion file according to topic. One of these days…

  • Clothes:

Turn around all your hangers and stick a note in your closet with the date you flipped them all. As you wear things, turn the hanger around the right way (if you take it out but don’t wear it, turn it backwards again). After six months, what is still backwards? Take it to Goodwill.

When cleaning out your closet, it's handy to have someone there who loves you enough to tell you if something isn't your color or isn't flattering. It will go much faster.

Donate formal dresses and shoes to Cinderella's Trunk.

Great links:

Monday, February 19, 2007

Resolutions check-in

For accountability's sake, I wanted to check in on my resolutions and see how I'm doing.

  2. Take a walk with Matt or work out 5 days a week. Not so much. We walked this morning though, and we're recommitting to it now.
  3. Become a rockin' good healthy cook once again. I've been working on it a little here and there - MIL is doing most of the cooking.
  4. Think and speak positively. Usually... I have my mean moments.
  5. Consume less! I've been doing better.
  6. Actively practice my guitar and knitting. Knitting, yes. Guitar, no.
  7. Find more good friends that fit where I'm at in life. This doesn't count yet, 'cuz I'm not home. ;-)
  8. Get outdoors once in a while. Yes! We go to the beach and the park and even played catch.
  9. Remember everyone's birthday and send the card out on time. Six out of six so far. Go me!
  10. Do yoga every morning, even just a little bit. Not at all. Oops!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Matt's hat

This is Matt's Valentine's hat. He chose the basic pattern and colors, and designed the motif himself. He's pretty excited about it. :-)
It turned out a bit too big (I'm new at sizing), but I'll get it to shrink a little.

See the peace sign in the earflaps?

A close-up of the motif. It's Matt's initials, MWH.

The top does this cool swirly thing.

This is the pattern I followed, and we just replaced the wave with his initials.

Now I'm going to figure out how to make myself one with cherry blossoms around it. :-)

Weekly spending:

Monday: Pet food and catnip - $35.39 (yes, Tink and Lucky are very chubby and VERY spoiled), Key - $3.21, Ipod dock for the van ~ $10 (a little unnecessary but MUCH cheaper than putting in a CD player), Shipped Mom's hat (finally done!) and Nick's Oxypads - $2.94

Tuesday: Cigars - $4.00

Wednesday: Cigars - $4.00

Thursday: $0

Friday: Cigarettes (American Spirit refuses to animal test, supports animal protection groups, and uses no chemicals in their tobacco. Granted, it still kills people... but better than most cig companies!) - $4.50, Cliff's Pleasant View (3 grilled cheese sandwiches, a cup of clam chowder, and a pitcher of beer) - $21.00 inc. tip

Saturday: Burger King (4 veggie burgers - one for MIL) - $10.27

Sunday: Ready? Ross (Matt's flip-flops and shorts) - $20.31, GNC (HydroxyCut for Matt - YIKES - Nothing scares me like diet pills) - $9.71 after leftover gift card, Marshalls (my sunglasses - retail was $30!) - $16.10, Target (my flip-flops - 2 pair) - $13.94, Taco Bell - $2.13, Burger King - $3.64

Total = $161.14

Ick, I had high hopes for this week and it didn't turn out so well. Cigarettes at an all time high ($12.50), fast food ($37.04 ), and our Sunday shopping spree ($60.06) did us in. You know, I don't really feel bad about our Sunday shopping though. We didn't go crazy really, and we actually needed some Spring stuff. This project was originally slated to be finished in January, so we didn't pack many Spring clothes, and all my sunglasses are broken (3 pairs in one year!). So I can rationalize it. ;-)

BUT I didn't buy ANY knitting stuff! Go me! Except for shipping Mom's hat, which was only 87 cents.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Another beautiful sunset in Benicia, CA

Matt's parents have an amazing view from their back deck. I'll really miss the views and the weather (it's been like a WA June lately - so nice!) when we go back home, but I will still be happy to be home. :-)It'll be nice to visit them now that we know our way around!

How to get the best performance from your contractor:

As a willing ear to my general contractor hubby's rants and raves, I hear quite a bit of what helps, hinders, and annoys the heck out of contractors. A happy contractor is an efficient contractor, so here's how to do your part:

  • Feed them! The old adage "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach" is very true here. Matt loves the homeowners who make him lunch, even if it's just a sandwich or leaving a frozen pizza and a note. Those clients typically get a lot more for their money, fyi. They'll go the extra mile for you if you're kind to them.
  • Supply a few gallons of bottled water for the crew. It's sweaty, thirsty work. Please don't provide beer. Most construction workers I know currently or used to have a drinking problem. You want them thinking clear and sharp anyway.
  • Keep your things clear of the work area so he can work easily without having to move a bunch of stuff out of the way.
  • Unless it is VERY important, stay the heck out of his way! Often Matt comes home saying, "I'd be done already if they'd stop interrupting me to talk!"
  • Be clear and honest.
  • Provide a bathroom, and if you'd rather they use one and not another, tell them. Matt got an earful once for using the master bathroom when no one was home - the other one was broken, what did they expect?
  • Don't flirt with him. Most contractors are married (strange phenomenom but true!), and you don't want to get on the wrong side of a woman who knows her way around the tool box! ;-)

This goes for all construction guys, from the plumber to the landscaper to your general contractor. It's rough work, and they deserve respect and kindness.

Click here for a good article on choosing a contractor.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day to my baby!

This is Matt and I in Vegas. I love him so much it's unbelievable. He's just amazing. We've been together seven years now! Married for three years.
Matt in the Venetian Hotel

Like the song says:
...we got everything
We need right here
And everything we need is enough
Just so easy
When the whole world fits inside of your arms...
Jack Johnson -
"Banana Pancakes"

And it does. My whole world fits inside my arms.

Tink and Lucky are best friends.

You guys, I'm pretty excited that I can post pix. If I try to post pix to my profile it "thinks" all day and never works, so I never bothered to try sticking them in a post. But it works!

Anyhoo, these are my adorable little animals. They snuggle all the time and it's so cute!

Hi! OMG I got a pic to load!

So, Carly, how's the remodel at the in-laws' going?

Oh, pretty well, thanks for asking. ;-)

A blank canvas! Isn't it amazing how small rooms look when they're entirely stripped? We tore out the kitchen entirely the other day because the cabinets are due to arrive next week! Now we need to put up new drywall, install the tile flooring, and paint PDQ. Now is when it gets exciting.

Most of you know that the reason we're in California right now is that we are extensively remodeling Matt's parent's kitchen, dining room, living room, and family room. I thought some of you may want to know how it's going and what we're up to. So, this is where we're at:

Matt's done basically all the structural design work AND labor. He's awesome. I stayed out of the design because I had a tough time determining their aesthetic and it was getting pretty messy trying to get my FIL to make decisions. Aye aye aye. He's a thorough thinker. All the material/ color choices were made by the in-laws.

I've been helping as much as I can with the labor, though!
Carly's bad@$$ power tool use so far:
I've gotten to use a rotozip, nailgun, screwgun, powerdrill, and table saw. Yep, I'm awesome. ;-) Today I got to remove tile with a prybar and a ten pound mallet. I am woman, hear me roar! Ten pounds gets really heavy after a few dozen swings though, haha!

Some materials we're using:


Mascarello granite counters

American cherry cabinetry, handcrafted by a local business.

Brushed stainless bow pulls (22" wide on drawers, 6" and 10" wide on doors, depending on placement)

Brushed stainless KitchenAid appliances throughout, including a dramatic hood, double dishdrawer and an undercabinet microwave drawer.

Tiberias Gold travertine tiles in kitchen and around fireplace (honed in kitchen, polished around fireplace - BIG TIP - always get a physical sample of what you're ordering. We had a honed sample and ordered polished assuming it'd be the same but shinier. Nope. Much darker and the pattern looks entirely different. Weird!)

Tiffany pendant lamps over island

Undercabinet puck lighting

Variegated natural stone backplash, 2"x2" tiles

Raised the ceiling, expanded the "boundaries" of the kitchen

Family Room/ Living Room:

Napoleon gas double sided fireplace (black) w/ remote

Mascarello granite counters

Bellawood prefinished Bloodwood in hallway, dining, and family room

Built-in LCD TV

Built in flush-mount surround sound speakers

Entirely restructured walls (pix to come)

I can't wait to post pix of the finished product!

We're right on track to be done by the end of March, so we should be back home in early April!

Other than energy star appliances, low VOC paints, and good insulation, this project is sooo ungreen... what's the opposite of green? Red? This project is red. But they are the client, and the client doesn't give even the smallest hoot about the environment. We tried! :-(

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Money saving tips

So, one of my biggest goals this year is to minimize my debt (other than the impending mortgage) to zero on the credit cards (almost there!!!) and to $6k on my student loan (that loan doesn't worry me much - low payments and interest rate).

I ran across a statistic that kinda freaked me out. I don't remember specifics (and I'm not going to spend all day googling for it, haha), but what it basically said was that while the average U.S. family's income is at an all time high, so is our debt and the number of bankruptcies. How can we be making more money and still be in such awful debt? Well, ours is a materialistic society. We want bigger better faster shinier newer, when what we have does its job just fine. Watching "Cribs" and the E! channel and reading magazines gives us the impression that we should have all these extravagant things. It's just not true.

Spooky facts:

  • Average household credit card debt has increased 167% between 1990 and 2004
  • The rate of personal savings in the United States dipped below 0% for the first time since the great depression, hitting negative .5% in 2005
  • Approximately 96% of Americans will have to retire financially dependent on the government, family or charity, according to a 2003 study
  • According to a 2004 study, the number one cause of divorce is financial stress
So, I assume many of you are in the same place as we are, trying to rein in the spending and kill the debt monsters. And if financial strain can damage something as wonderful and important as your marriage, then it's definitely something to watch out for.

Frugality is not about depriving yourself, it's about choosing your luxuries and spending intelligently. Do I want to buy espresso/lunch out 5 times or do I want to go to a concert? Do we want ten nice dinners out, or do we want to spend the weekend in Vegas? Do I want to blow $150 shopping, or do I want to put it in savings for my vacation/ new furniture/ retirement/ new house/ cabin? Am I more relaxed when I have a bunch of shiny new things, or when I am free of credit card debt? Honestly, being debt free feels like a luxury. I can't wait to roll around in all my zero balance credit card statements. ;-)

There are, of course, major things you can do, but it seems to me that the best way is to plug all the little money leaks here and there - it adds up quickly! And so, after all that pontificating, here are some tips and links I've culled from the web and my experiences.

  • Log your spending. It helps to have a friend keep you accountable, like Dani and I are doing, but even just writing it down for yourself and reviewing it at the end of the week makes you more aware of where the heck your money went (me- knitting needles, Dani - Starbucks - haha)
  • Never go to the store without a list. When you're about to get in line, look through your basket - what is in there that wasn't on the list? Take it out! I know, it's nice, you've been good, and you deserve it, buuuut... Is that the best way to spend that money? You don't need it and it's just going to be one more thing to have to put away.
  • Buy secondhand when you can, but be objective. Don't buy tons of stuff "because it's such a great deal!" It's only a great deal if you love it (or love how it will look once you paint it, etc.), will truly use it, and it won't clutter up your closet or end up in your garage sale next Summer!
  • If you have a favorite store that you know you won't resist, at the beginning of the month buy a gift card for yourself. You can use that set amount throughout the month guilt-free because it's built into your budget. When it's used up, stop spending and wait until the next month starts to re-up. If you're really good one month and you have a leftover balance, roll it over and re-up like normal for when you have a really spendy month.
  • Organize and declutter your home. I've worked in a lot of garages, closets, pantries, etc., and I always see duplicates of things that people couldn't find so they bought another. When you cut away the excess and make all your things accessible and organized in an easy to use fashion you can save a lot of money by not buying doubles. Also, going through all your things objectively can really bring into focus how much stuff we all have, and how little of it we really need. I'll post organizing tips in the next week or two.
  • Make friends with a hairdresser and trade babysitting or other favors for hair cuts. ;-) (Lindsey, come back to the mainland and cut my hair!!!)
  • Beauty experts say it's better for your skin and hair to wash it every other day (this is really hard for me - I like my hair squeaky clean or I feel dirty, and not in the good way) - uses half as much shampoo, conditioner, and hot water.
  • Pack a lunch every night - it probably won't happen in the morning (if you're anything like Matt and I)! Much healthier than what you'll buy out, and will save you a bundle.
  • Get books, magazines, movies, audiobooks, and Cd's (I rip them to my computer - shhh!) from the library rather than buy them. (Some library websites will allow you to download audiobooks for free - a great way to entertain your brain while commuting)
  • Pay your car insurance six months at a time - they'll give you a huge discount
  • Don't buy payment protection plans or extended warranties
  • Do your homework before you make a purchase, and buy online when you can - just check for free shipping deals first! Also, if there's a minimum order and you only need a few things, see if a friend wants to combine purchases to make the minimum to get the free shipping.
  • Do online bill pay or automatic withdrawals - The average household gets 15 monthly bills, which adds up to $70.20 in stamps yearly. Every little bit adds up.
  • Carefully review all your bills and consider the expense and what you get out of it - odds are there are corners you can cut, downgrades that won't hurt, better quotes you can get (on insurance and whatnot), and maybe even cancel a service entirely.
  • It's only necessary to change your oil every 5,000 to 7,500 miles rather than the standard 3,000. Check your owner's manual for specific info.
  • Save wear and tear on your pajamas. Sleep nude! If your bedbuddy does the same, you'll stay nice and warm or nice and cool because your body temp can regulate itself easier.
  • Eat less meat
  • Downgrade your cable or go without - there are much better things to do with your evenings than watch TV (when you do want to veg, sign up with netflix and rent tons of movies for $10-20/ month - an added bonus of zero commercials!)
  • When you get together with friends, do something at someone's home rather than go out (make dinner, play games, work on a project together, perfect your bartending skills, BBQ) - consider potluck/ BYOB
  • When you do go out to dinner, drink water. A hard drink is usually $5-$8, soft drink is $2-4, and the average calories? A cocktail runs 150-780 calories (whoa!!!), avg. beer is 150, avg. wine is 125, avg. soda is 136 (Studies show that the leading source of calories is from drinks! A little juice, a little pop, a glass of wine... adds up). Same goes for appetizers and desserts - avg. price $3-12, avg. calories 250- 1270! So, think before you order and fatten your wallet as you trim your waist at the same time.
  • Join restaurant birthday clubs to get coupons for lots of free food (they don't need to be used on your B-Day). Tony Roma's gives you a free entree, dessert, and bottle of BBQ sauce with purchase of a second entree (IF you have the coupon), Alfy's gives you a free personal pizza, Cold Stone gives you free ice cream, and so on. Google around for your local chain restaurants and find out what you can get! Be sure to sign up everyone in your household. Yes, baby is only a year old, but you'll help them eat it! ;-) Of course, you have to go into the location to sign up, and that's how they get you.
  • For cheap entertainment, scout out your local parks and recreation website or newsletter, the newspaper's website, volunteer at your local theater in exchange for tickets, google for local events, and local search engines (like for free or inexpensive events. Check the website of local museums/ theaters, etc. for free admission days or 'pay what you can" nights - most of them do this. The Seattle Art Museum is free the first Thursday of the month, Everett Children's Museum is free the first Friday of the month... Also, check out for get-togethers of people with your interests. Always exciting to meet strangers!


Frugal Living

The Guide to Living Well

Better Budgeting

Debt Zapper

Check back from time to time, because I'll add new ideas as they come, and if you have an idea please post it in my comments (you can post without having an account) because I need all the help I can get! ;-)

Monday, February 12, 2007

How's your inner child?

Your Inner Child Is Surprised

You see many things through the eyes of a child.
Meaning, you're rarely cynical or jaded.
You cherish all of the details in life.
Easily fascinated, you enjoy experiencing new things.

What pattern is your brain?

Your Brain's Pattern

You have a tempered, reasonable way of thinking.
You tend to take every new idea in, and meld it with your world view.
For you, everything is always changing. Each moment is different.
Your thinking process tends to be very natural - with no beginnings or endings.

Gotta love a silly quiz now and then.

Your Heart Is Blue

Love is a doing word for you. You know it's love when you treat each other well.
You are a giving lover, but you don't give too much. You expect something in return.

Your flirting style: Friendly

Your lucky first date: Lunch at an outdoor cafe

Your dream lover: Is both generous and selfish

What you bring to relationships: Loyalty


Oh my goodness, this is exactly how I feel sometimes! Granted, I'm too addicted to cheese to be a vegan, I'm just a vegetarian but I've heard every question and every vegetarian joke in the world.

If the "play" button doesn't pop up in the middle, here's the link:

Weekly spending:

Weekly spending:

Monday: $0 (woohoo!)

Tuesday: Home Depot (4 dowel rods to make into knitting needles, outlet insulators) - $6.36

Wednesday: Matt's cigarettes (aagghhh!!!) - $4.50, Joann Fabrics (Sharpies and stuff for Dani's prize for last month's spending challenge and Lindsey's b-day gift) - $12.19 - This is amazingly low, really! I didn't buy ANYTHING that wasn't on my list and I had lots and lots and lots of temptation. Not to mention that Kristi and I went to several stores and I didn't buy anything but the stuff I set out for. Go me!

Thursday: Raley's (Matt bought 3 boxes of cereal, at supermarket prices. We could have bought 4 boxes at Target for this price. Oh well. Now he knows.) - $12.84

Friday: Michael's (beading needles) - $3.53, Target (toothpaste and All Free & Clear Small & Mighty - love that stuff) - $4.42 b/c my toothpaste was free! I emailed Crest and told them I hated their new toothpaste and they sent me a coupon for free toothpaste!

Saturday: Benicia Knitting Circle (needles, darnit, again) - $25.61

Sunday: Parkside Cafe (3 ice creams, 1 med. fry, 1 veggie burger - shared w/ in-laws - MIL is on the veggie burger bandwagon now!) - $12.00

Total = $81.45

Well.... only about $18 was entirely unnecessary. I bought a LOT of knitting stuff ($45! More than half the total...) but they were all for projects that I had committed to - Mom had asked for a hat that needed to be done and shipped to WA by the 16th, Dani's prize for last month's spending challenge is still in the works, and I wanted to get started on Lindsey's birthday present. Hmmmm... Well, I'll do better next time. Sooner or later I'll have all the needle sizes. ;-)

Friday, February 9, 2007

Remodeling Sources and Ideas

Hi everyone,

I had a request for green remodeling info (Congrats on the new home, Ann!), so here it is:

Maintenance Ideas:

  • Replace all the light bulbs in your house with CFL's.
  • Install dimmer switches.
  • Install a motion activated light switch in places where the light is often left on unnecessarily.
  • Avoid heating/ cooling areas that don't need to be comfortable - such as closets, pantries, etc. Seal the rooms by installing weather stripping and a door sweep under the door, and shut off the heater vent in that room.
  • To seal around windows, carefully remove the trim (first cut the paint attaching it to the wall with a knife), then spray Great Stuff Window and Door Formula (the regular formula will bow your jambs!) or DAP Tex Plus (which is easier to clean up) into the gap between the wall and the window jamb. Trim off excess with a knife and reinstall the trim. Warmer windows!
  • Seal up the garage and basement. That cold gets into your house!
  • Check for leaks in ductwork and seal them with aluminum tape (NOT DUCT TAPE) on straight ducts and pure silicone caulk on joints.
  • Hate to be a party pooper, but fireplaces are one of the biggest leaks in a home and when lit actually suck warm air out of the rest of the house! When you're not using it, fill a plastic bag with insulation and stuff it up the chimney. Just be sure to take it out before lighting a nice cozy fire, haha!
  • Tune up your heater.
  • Clean your air conditioner.
  • Put a "jacket" on your hot water heater and foam sleeves on your pipes.
  • Install low-flow showerheads.
  • Plant an organic veggie garden, if you have room. Doesn't get any more "locally grown" than that! And considering an organic red pepper is $4, that could save a lot of money!
  • Vacuum behind and under your fridge to keep it efficient. Fridges account for over 15% of energy usage in homes. If you're considering upgrading, click here.
  • To make your dryer more efficient: Replace flexible ducting with 4" rigid metal duct, with as few bends as possible. Lint can't clog a nice smooth straight duct. Install a 4"x4" vent hood rather than the standard 2 1/2" - this is the equivalent of shortening the ducting by 6 feet - a great thing. Vacuum out the lint chute yearly. Scrub the lint screen with a brush and soapy water yearly, especially if you use fabric softener. Softener clogs the mesh, which means less airflow and slower drying. Also, vacuum the area under the drum inside the motor once a year - not only does this make it more efficient but it will make your dryer last longer and reduces the risk of dryer fires.
  • Check for air leaks around your home. I've heard that if you added up all the tiny leaks in your house you could drive a truck through it! Yikes! It's wonderful to have an energy auditor come and check out your home with an infrared camera (oooh!) but that costs $250-400, and for that price you could fix a lot of little leaks in common places. Walk around your house and feel the floor, walls, windows, recessed light fixtures, attic access door, and exterior doors for cold spots. 35% of air leaks are in the attic, 18% doors and windows, 17% floors and basement, 13% walls, 10% ceiling. Adding more insulation (check Certainteed for insulation suggestions), outlet sealers, weatherstripping, caulking indoors and out... Crawling around in the attic to add more insulation is not a pretty job, but somebody (coughyourmancough) really needs to do it. Just don't do it on a hot day!!!

Very important: When you seal up your house nice and tight, you MUST invest the $20 to get a carbon monoxide detector. A well sealed home keeps you comfortable with less electricity, but also will help hold in carbon monoxide. This is imperative!

Remodeling Ideas:

  • Use low/ no VOC paints. Most major paint stores (Kelly Moore, Rodda...) carry them, and your local environmental home store has them, too.
  • When replacing the flooring, use rubber, bamboo, cork, reclaimed wood (which can all be fixed rather than replaced when need be), or marmoleum (one note- to clean solid floors, use the swiffer-style mops with washable microfiber covers, not an actual Swiffer. Waste of money and landfill.) Carpet is not only a germ and dust magnet, but it has to be vacuumed (which takes electricity), and even when it's recycled carpet it will still need to be replaced in a few years, and will probably end up in a landfill. Matt is a total diva about carpet and flat out refuses to put it in people's homes. ;-)
  • Install radiant heating.
  • Obviously, buy Energy Star appliances when it's time to upgrade.
  • Research any materials you might use. There are a lot of great options out there. Educating yourself can save you money and give you a very "green" and beautiful home.
  • Countertops come in amazing materials - paper (really!), quartz, recycled glass... It's best not to use natural stone. Yes, it's beautiful, but impractical for daily life and quarries are bad news for the environment.
  • If replacing a toilet, check this site and click on "CWWA Maximum Performance Testing of Popular Toilets Reports".
  • When doing any demolition, contact a building materials recycler, and freecycle or craigslist any useful stuff you don't want any more.
  • Check out salvage shops for beautiful high quality materials with history. Not always money saving, but good for the environment and kinda exciting when you find a one of a kind piece that calls to you.
  • Check local classifieds and Craiglist for used materials. We've gotten brand new double pane vinyl windows for next to nothing (or actually nothing) just by doing our homework.
  • Consider quality. It's better for everyone if your purchase lasts a very long time and looks great doing it.
  • Refinish cabinets, or if necessary, replace the doors if the cabinet layout is good but the cabinets are ugly. This goes back to the big picture of Buy Less Stuff.
  • Go for timeless beauty. Trends are fun now, but in ten years you'll be dying to remodel again because it's so "outdated". Stay contemporary with paint colors - cheap, fast, and easy. On the big ticket items think about how well it will blend with changing aesthetics. That doesn't mean it has to be boring! Just classic. Again, saves you money and saves the world. They're connected so often!


Of course, in ten years when Matt and I build our Zero Energy Home development, you can just buy one of our houses! ;-)

Thursday, February 8, 2007

The Most Terrifying and Inspiring Movie I've Ever Seen:

We watched An Inconvenient Truth last night, and, frankly, I'm alarmed. The scientific data behind global warming is undeniable. Of the 928 scientific studies published on the subject, not a single one has denied its reality. The "controversy" we all hear is just spin put out to confuse the issue so businesses can continue doing things their own way without changing for the better. It's exactly like what happened when the Surgeon General announced that smoking causes lung cancer. As much as we want to ignore it, it's the truth.

What's most remarkable is that we can do SO MUCH to reduce the effects, but as a general public, we just don't care. It's time to care. It's time to educate ourselves on what exactly is happening and how to change it. We fixed the hole in the ozone layer, we can change this too! We just have to choose to. Politicians are essentially just salesmen, and they will sell us what we ask for. If the voters are saying "We want policy changes made to fix this", it will happen. We need to vote for leaders who care about the future, we need to write letters, we need to make conscious buying decisions. In the business world, we vote with our wallets. Vote for environmentally responsible businesses and products.

Most of you reading my blog are in the 20-30 year old range. We will soon be entering into the time of our leadership. It is also the time that many of us are raising and educating the new generation. Will we create a volatile environment that our great-grandchildren may not survive? Or will we change our habits and take charge of this crisis? We need to not only tell them but show them our responsible actions, and they will follow in our footsteps. Now is the time to change the world for the better. If enough people care, it will happen.

I realize this is a bit of a rant, but when you see this movie, you'll want to rant too. Everyone, please watch this movie. Then go to these websites and see what you can do to help. Also, below the links I listed some very simple starter ideas on what we can do.



(free and often money saving)
  • Buy Less Stuff!!! This one is major. Everything we buy has to be manufactured, shipped, and displayed in the store; and then we drive to the store to buy it, then someday it'll be thrown out. Stop shopping as entertainment and start only buying what you truly need.
  • When you need new clothes, buy classic, quality pieces, preferably from a responsible manufacturer.
  • If you're just going down the street, walk. Save the world, gas money, and your figure. ;-)
  • Don't circle the parking lot looking for the "best spot". Just park and walk the few extra feet. Think of the cumulative effect of all the people across America circling parking lots. Every little bit adds up.
  • Turn off the tap while you’re brushing your teeth or shaving — every minute the water flows wastes up to 2 1/2 gallons, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Run full loads in washing machines and dishwashers. Water plants in the early morning to ensure that the water goes into the ground instead of evaporating. And use a bucket to wash the car, hosing it off for a quick rinse, to save 90 gallons of water per wash. For more conservation tips, go to the California Urban Water Conservation Council site, at Savings: $189 a year, or nearly 40 percent off the average U.S. household’s annual water bill of $476, according to a 2003 study prepared for the National Rural Water Association.
  • Freecycle the things you don't need any more rather than throw them out.
  • Buy recycled toilet paper and use cloth napkins (more elegant, anyway)
  • Bundle up/ strip down rather than adjust the thermostat.
  • Wash your laundry in cold water, and line dry whenever possible (your clothes will also last much longer). When you line dry, hang your clothes inside out so the sun won't fade the colors.
  • Unplug all electronics you're not using at the moment. They often use almost as much energy when off than they do when in use. An easy way to do this is to plug it all into a power strip you can switch off, or even set up your outlets to turn on/off with a light switch.
  • Join the do not mail list, and even call the catalogs you receive and get off their mailing list. Junk mail is more than just annoying, it uses lots resources to get to your mailbox.
  • Turn off the TV and enjoy spending quality time with your family instead.
  • When traveling to another state, consider taking the train. Same price as flying and takes more time, but greener, more fun, you get to see beautiful scenery as you travel, and it's great one-on-one time with your travel buddy.

(Invest less than $10 - and often save much more)
  • Install outlet sealers on exterior facing walls. It'll cost $2 for an eight pack at Home Depot/ Lowe's and you just need a screwdriver and ten minutes. Outlets and light switches are one of the leakiest spots in exterior walls and these little guys can go a long way in keeping in precious heat or A/C. Also, of course, weatherstripping doors and windows goes a long way too.
  • Buy (and actually remember to use, haha) reusable grocery bags. The ones at Whole Foods are $1 each and are 1000% more pleasant to use than plastic bags. Five trillion (geez!) plastic bags enter the market every year, and most of them end up in landfills, not to mention the energy and resources used to make and ship the bags in the first place.
  • Use a reusable lexan/ nalgene water bottle rather than disposable water bottles.
It's all in the baby steps!

If you're remodeling your home, there are tons of options too. I can give you guys an idea list or links if anyone is interested. :-)

I'd love to hear everyone else's great ideas and suggested links, too. Now let's go save the world!

Monday, February 5, 2007

Weekly spending:

Monday: $0
Tuesday: Matt's cigarettes - $4.50
Wednesday: Stamps - $7.80, Target (cereal, envelopes, etc.) - $14.91, Raley's (top ramen) - $2.00, Burger King (veggieburger) - $2.84, Benicia Knitting Circle (needles) - $9.13, Michael's - $7.51, Walmart (8 pack of Valentine cards) - $4.01
Thursday: Tix to Kodo at UC Berkeley (our Valentine's gift to each other) - $54, (replacement yarn for Mom's hat... long story. Also 4 stitch holders and shipping) - $13.92 (btw, is AWESOME - very soft, great colors, unbeatable prices)
Friday: Water and juice - $4.00, Kodo DVD/CD set plus shipping - $14.09
Saturday: Post office (10 3 cent and 10 cent stamps) - $1.30
Sunday: Matt's cigarettes :-( - $4.50

Total = $134.51

Not such a great way to start the month... Next week I'll be really good though. And I learned how to make my own knitting needles on, so that should save me some money!

Saturday, February 3, 2007

HGTV's 25 Biggest Decorating Mistakes

I caught HGTV’s 25 Biggest Decorating Mistakes on TV tonight and it is so so true! It’s very important to be surrounded by beauty and have harmonious space to call home, and most major mistakes are free or cheap and easy to fix! Here’s the list:

#1: Fake Flowers

#2: Too Many Pillows

#3: Knickknack Overload (Hissss… oh, nothing bothers me like excessive knickknacks)

#4: Fear of Color

#5: Ignoring Windows

#6: Pushed–Back Furniture

#7: Tacky Couch Covers (does anyone actually have couch covers?)

#8: Frames Hung Too High

#9: Improper Lighting

#10: Floating Rugs

#11: Too Many Colors or Patterns

#12: Furniture That Doesn’t Fit (I'm guilty of this - we have this amazingly comfortable but MASSIVE sectional that swallowed our old living room whole -but our next living room will be just the right size for it.)

#13: Following Fads

#14: Everything Matches

#15: Lack of Traffic Pattern

#16: Uncomfortable Dining Chairs

#17: Too Formal

#18: Keeping Something You Hate (Just because it's a gift doesn't mean you need to keep it. But please oh please don't buy anyone knickknacks as a gift, 'cause then they'll have to keep it or feel guilty tossing your gift. Stop the cycle! )

#19: Lopsided Furniture Arrangements

#20: Outdated Accessories

#21: Out-of-Place Themes

#22: Undressed Cables

#23: Ignoring the Foyer

#24: Too Many Photos

#25: Toilet Rugs

For full explanations, here’s the link.

One handy tip they mentioned was to take a photo of your room, then evaluate how it looks. It's so much easier to be objective when looking at a photo, and it really clearly shows what's wrong. When you're standing in your room it's like, "Oh, it's not bad", but if you pretend like you've never seen it before and look at the photo you see "Eww, the table looks awful there!"

Just trying to spread beauty around. :-) After all, being a personal organizer/ designer/ contractor, I am qualified to be a design snob... just kidding, just kidding. Kinda. ;^)

Friday, February 2, 2007


Matt and I went to see Kodo at U.C. Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall tonight as an early Valentine's Day (since MIL wants us to spend real Valentine's Day "as a family". Sacrilege! But, she's had a HARD 6 months so it's fair to give her V-Day this time.) It was absolutely amazing!!! It's an ancient Japanese style of drumming, often called "samurai drumming". Samurai is right! These guys (and two girls) were KILLING their drums, throwing everything they had into pounding massive drumsticks into enormous drums. It was an incredible sight (and sound). They were amazing athletes too, holding exaggerated lunges and sit up positions while throwing their weight into drumming for so much longer than anyone should be able to hold that position. At one point they wheeled out a drum about 5 feet long and 4 feet in diameter (cut from a solid tree trunk!) and this guy POUNDED on that thing with drum sticks that looked wide enough to be rolling pins.

This night inspired Matt and I to start budgeting in a $60 "culture allowance". We'll just buy cheap seats or buy tickets the day of the show from one of the half price ticketing agents once a month, and think of the amazing shows we'll experience! Our two tickets plus the processing fee was $54, and it was an experience we'll remember for years. If you really think about it, how easy is it to blow $60? Two movie tickets and dinner, a night out dancing and drinking, entry for two to the zoo plus parking and lunch... And ultimately, which experiences do you keep longer and affect you more deeply?