Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Frugal Lodging in Minneapolis

It was not picturesque.  It did not offer great views.  It was not grand, but it was home base and it worked.  Pre-planning for our Spring Break 2015 Minneapolis / St. Paul involved extensive research into lodging, what would be our most expensive budget item.  Talking with friends who knew the Cities, one said -- go with the best price, all you need is a home base to operate out of, use Expedia.

So we did.  One night we entered our parameters: pool, fridge/microwave, etc.  Numerous locations popped up.  We analyzed, finding several with a shuttle to the Mall of America, a place we planned to check out because of the aquarium, Star Trek exhibit and Lego store.  We played with the dates a bit, finding the best prices.  We had the week off, so we could play with dates of travel.  Once we settled on the best location, price, features, we then checked the same location, etc. on USAA.  And there we secured the exact same lodging for $40 less.  Done deal!

We ended up staying at Spring Hill Suites, sprouting from a brown field near the airport and MOA, in Bloomington, Minnesota.  It was perfect.  Free parking.  A small pool perfect for families.  Free breakfast that included: eggs, sausages, waffles, numerous cereals (hot and cold), fresh fruit, yogurts, juices, teas, coffees, etc.  The room came with a decent sized dorm fridge and a microwave.  One small room offered a sleeper sofa for the kids, the other room was tucked away and had a comfortable bed.  Two huge TVs were included, where our son discovered the NFL network!  We also had access to a free shuttle to MOA, dropping us off at the aquarium. All of this for $101 a night (taxes included).

It may not have been a pretty location, but it worked and worked well.  If you are aiming for a frugal vacation in an urban/suburban setting, we highly recommend these suite style hotels.  Plenty of space, ability to keep and prepare food in your room, plentiful breakfast, and shuttles to popular destinations.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Interested in Frugal Travel? Keep It Short!

Texting with an aunt this evening about our safe arrival home from "Spring Break" she wrote "I thought you'd be gone longer!".  No, not us. Keep it short, keep it frugal is our motto.  In fact, here are three things we do to keep our travel in-line with our frugal ways.

  1. Keep it short.  Lodging is usually the most expensive part of our travel budget, so each night away drives up the cost.  Our most recent trip was for two nights. Sound dismal?  Because of this method our frugal family has been to Seattle, Tampa, and Minneapolis this past academic year.  Not too bad for a kindergarten and 4k brother and sister!
  2. Drive when possible.  If your location can be reached in 24 hours or less by car, AND you will need a car in that location, drive it.  Spring Break 2015 took our frugal family to Minneapolis / St. Paul -- for $40 in gasoline!  No cost for a car rental or other transportation costs.
  3. Focus on learning.  The bulk of our break was spent focused on art and education, most of which was free or low-cost activities. There were exceptions,but we found the free and low-cost to be the most fun and in sink with our values.
That is it for tonight.  As the week progresses I will fill you in more on our ways to save on lodging and food costs, details on a great free zoo in Minneapolis / St. Paul, and specific play-by-play on the art/education vs. mass consumer products of Spring Break 2015.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Clearing a Frugal Path

A tiny library book sits on my bedside table at the moment, filling me with inspiration as I take in all it has to offer.  The topic - simplification of the home.  One gem I found so far is the question - if you had 20 minutes before your house was destroyed, what would you take with you?  Answer that, and the rest is clutter you can do away with.  That is a bit extreme for me, at least in my current phase of life.

Books on the shelves are old friends I like to revisit.  Sure, I can always buy them again or borrow from the library, but something feels right when they stand guard on the book shelves.  Then there is the fact I am in the stage of motherhood, with young ones who love each set of holiday decorations I pull out.  We've just tucked St. Patricks Day items away and brought out the eggs and bunnies. Would these be loaded in the car if I had 20 minutes to save items from the house?  No, but I would move them if we decided to sell and move on.  And that is the standard we are using with the Great Purge of 2015.  Yes, as we work to rid our house of 2,015 items in calendar year 2015 I find myself asking, would I pay to move this?  If not, then on it goes.  Be it donation, recycle, gift to a school or friend, trash, or free on the curb.  Out it goes.  And that resolve is strengthened with each page of that tiny book --  more on that later though.

Why?  It's Friday, accountability day.  To date we have purged 632 items from our home!  This weeks items consisted of more personal papers placed in the recycle bins.  Massive amounts of papers that were moved from my childhood home.  But then there were random bits and pieces, perfect for a garage sale.  And that is where they are headed -- a former co-worker of mine works for a non-profit who is holding a garage sale.  The drop off location is closer than my normal Goodwill, so off I went with items in hand.  Happy to see them get a second life while raising funds for a local non-profit, and happy to clear our frugal path just a bit more.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Downward Dog Meets Interloper Cat: Adventures in Frugal Fitness


Downward dog yoga pose meets interloper cat!  Staying frugally fit has its challenges.  At the end of February we let our couple membership and the gym expire, and are turning to other ways to stay fit and be active.  Yoga at home has been on my go-to list this month, and earlier today I gave it a whirl. Wrongly, I assumed a house free of husband and children, who were off to work and school, and no urgent need for me to rush into the office would mean quality yoga mat time for me!  Wrong.  As I slid into Downward Dog I found myself saying hello to interloper house cat.  Kiki specifically, the youngest of our three.  My other two cats, just shy of ages 17 and 15, were off doing what cats do best, napping.   But not Kiki.  She was all over that mat, and even gave me a few nips for not petting her adequately enough.  All in all, I got some mat time in, plus a little cat affection.  So goes the adventures in frugal fitness.

Thoughts and comments on how to lead a frugal and fit life (with kids) are always welcome.  Please share an idea if you have one.  When looking for a structured yoga routine, I turn to: 1) one of the two DVDs we own; 2) DVDs borrowed from our local library; or 3) YouTube.  What's your favorite frugally fit strategy?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

What's In Your Cupboard?

On the playground, and the children wrapped up a vigorous period of play with friends, I pulled out a bag of my Pumpkin Scuffins.  They were eagerly consumed.  A friend said, "hmmm, pumpkin, I have a can in my cupboard I should use up - would you send me the recipe?"  Here it is.  Sort of scone meets a muffin, it is my modified version and easily accepts pumpkin, apples sauteed in butter and cinnamon, rains with nuts or any other healthy ideas sitting on your selves.

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
1/2 cup bran (or mixture with flax meal, my touch)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup -- pumpkin, or apples, or bananas, or nuts or a mixture.

Mix well, use a mini ice cream scoop, baking sheet in the oven for 14 minutes (slightly less if your over runs warm) at 350 degrees.  They are delicious straight from the oven, and freeze quite well.


Enjoy!

But I did not stop with the scuffins.  I am on a missions to use up items lingering in the freezer as well.

First came the wild rice, mushroom, turkey casserole.



And second, using more of the heavy cream, a seafood chowder, again with the wild rice and a package of Trader Joe's seafood mix that was in the back of the freezer. And I finally used the Fish Stock I found nearly a year ago, with an expiration date of June 2015!


As we prepare for Spring, we also work to clear out the kitchen shelves and cupboards,  Using up what we have is good for the budget, avoids unhealthy take-out, and opens up space to put away the wonderful influx of local foods produced here in Dane County, Wisconsin.  Remember, the Farmers' Market season is just a few weeks off!

Bring on Spring (even though snow is in tomorrow's forecast - it won't last).



Saturday, March 21, 2015

Thankful for the reminder: Thoughts on the book A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg













Turns out the Badger Men's basketball game was not on broadcast TV after all last night.  I skipped finding it on the radio, opting to finish the book A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg instead.  My kind of Friday night!

My monthly Book Club with a Twist gathering is tomorrow, and I was nearly finished, and now I am. Recommended by a good friend and fellow book club member, I am thankful for taking the time to read this part memoir part cookbook.  While some of the recipes seemed a bit too concept car for me (I love Smart Cars, but they do not fit our family at the moment), I was appreciative of her reminder that dinner (or lunch) can be as simple as bread, cheese and a fruit or veggie.  I can say that I will give her recipe for Bouchons au Thon (tuna and cheese bake) a whirl in the near future.

Sound like a good book?  Read more about the author, and her blog that launched it as well as another (also on Blogspot) at Orangette.

Image result for a homemade life book

Friday, March 20, 2015

Springtime Frugal Living!

Happy Frugal Friday everyone!  Here in our home we are looking forward to two days at home, with time to cook and bake for the week ahead.  Plus a little bit of cheering for the Wisconsin Badgers Men's Basketball team......fingers crossed it is on broadcast TV. We don't have cable, but then again, there is always the option to listen on the radio.

It's Friday and loyal readers know that this is the day each week I post about our progress on purging 2,015 items from our house in 2015. Drum roll please....we have now said good-bye to 572 items! We used another round of Ebay auctions to sell another 2 computers (how many did we have just sitting around!), Craigslist brought in $85 cash from the sale of a desk that did nothing but hold clutter, and a grocery cart that came with the house 4 years ago when we bought it, but was never used.  And the happiest was passing on 13 items of lawn care products that were in our shed, again since the purchase of the house, to good friends who are attempting to revive the lawn at the home they bought a few years ago.  This freed up space in our shed, made use of resources that were just sitting around, and gave us a lovely reason to interact with friends we normally see on Sunday nights.

How about you?  Ever consider a purge? Spring arrived today, think about what you could pass on, donate, sell, recycle, or toss?  It feels great, generates a little extra cash or forges deeper bonds with friends, and helps keep your home free of distracting clutter.  Give it a try, and if you do, let me know how it goes.  Happy Spring Equinox everyone!



Thursday, March 19, 2015

Faucet Troubles Fixed

It's one of those things that sneaks into your field of vision.  At first you think nothing of it, but soon you can't deny it, something is not right.  As the dark enveloped our house last night the oddity struck my husband, definitely, something was not right.  No, nothing horribly concerning.  Just the kitchen faucet.  All of a sudden it seemed to be slow, as though the water pressure dropped. No other faucets were afflicted.  It was late, not urgent, something to push off until the sun was up.

Before sprinting off to school-drop offs and work matters, I snapped a photo or two of the lagging faucet with my Smart Phone.  Before going into my office, I popped into the early bird Ace Hardware at Hilldale. Unlike many stores, they open their doors at 8am -- thank you!  Inside I was directed to aisle 21 where a knowledgeable clerk met me in the plumbing section.  Aerator -- likely needs to be replaced.  That was his best guess, his recommendation of where to start.  Take it off and bring it in so we can get the size right.  Helpful, but not what I'd wanted to hear....yet another trip!

At home I turned to You Tube and learned that an aerator can be cleaned with vinegar and an old toothbrush.  Well I have that on hand!  Mix in a wrench and a dose of the blue-collar bravado of my youth, and there you'd find me fixing the faucet.  The cherry on top -- my daughter was assisting.  Challenging those horrible "females are helpless princesses" stereotypes that permeate society these days.  In under 20 minutes the faucet was running strongly, no need for another trip to Ace (thanks for the help), no need to pay a plumber, just some determination, research skills, and a little moxie.  Money saved, a surge of feeling good, and stretching existing material goods on an already strained Mother Earth.  Now that's a frugal Thursday!




Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Lawn Furniture From Used Toothpaste Containers!

Recently I was looking through the City of Madison's Recycling Guide On-line, and was pleased to learn I can drop off that large white styro-foam packing that comes in packages.  With the two air purifiers we ordered recently, we have a large bag full.  Sadly I learned we still cannot recycle the waxy cereal box liners.  But I did discover something I had only heard of maybe once, but not yet started: recycling used tooth brushes, toothpaste tubes and dental floss containers!  As you can see in this photo, dental hygiene is on our minds in our frugal home -- our oldest child lost his 1st tooth over the weekend!

Wanting to confirm what I had read on-line, I emailed the listed drop-off site and received this response about the used materials: "they are pelletized and then  made into other items for resale such as bath caddies and lawn furniture, just to name a couple."

Fantastic!  We now have a box in our home where we toss spent brushes and containers.  Once or twice a year I will mail them off to Artisan Dental, extending the use of the materials!  It is good for the Earth, makes me happy, and delays items from entering the landfills.

It is Spring Cleaning season -- what are your creative ways to give a second or third life to a product from your home or office?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Enough is Enough, Not One Stitch More....



Poor neglected blog!  So many days, yet no posts.  Illness has not been the culprit of delayed posts, but rather running low on my most precious commodity - time!  Busy at my office.  Busy with husband, kids, and friends.  And busy purging more items from the home.  While the past few days have been a whirlwind for us, one moment stands out that I want to share for those seeking a dose of frugal inspiration.

It was Saturday evening, the kids and I were attending a service at First Unitarian Society where they read a Story for All Ages towards the beginning of the service that illustrates some main point from the adult portion of the service.  As my kids settled into cushions on the floor at the Minister's feet, I scooted up front to keep an eye on the kids.  And I was rewarded with up close images from a delightful children's book, The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool.  I won't spoil the story for you, but the premise is to take enough, but just enough.  When we take more than we need, negative results unfold.  Of course it was the children in the story who held the wisdom adults lacked, and ever since my new mental mantra has become "enough is enough, and not one ....... more".  Fill in the blank.  Not one bite more.  Note one item more.  Not one more chore more.  Running through my head, the mantra is doing a wonderful job towards helping me achieve the balance we all seek in life.  Enough work, enough rest, enough play, enough chores, enough food.  Enough.

Whether you have little ones in your life or not, I encourage you to spend 20 minutes with this book.  It may launch you onto a frugal path or give you the boost and support you need to continue practicing frugal ways.  Enjoy.


Friday, March 13, 2015

And the Purge of 2015 Continues

Drum roll please........as of today, we have purged 516 items from our home!  This past week most of the purge was focused on recycling personal papers from my mom's items and things from my childhood.  We did list another two computers on Ebay for sale -- seriously, how many did we have lying around the house!

Work has kept me busy, and not as focused on the purge.  But warmer temps mean I can get to the back shed.  There I hope to relocate a lot of items.  One loyal reader, and friend, is interested in using them for their home.  Time to coordinate schedules for a pick-up.

Short and sweet for today.  I'm headed back home, via foot power.  Then we are off to enjoy a Lego Brick Art show at the public museum in Oshkosh -- great way to maximize family time on a day the schools are closed.

Enjoy your Friday, and thanks for all the encouragement on our efforts to purge!!!!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Frugally Fit: From Backpacks to Soccer Balls!

Spring arrived with a snap -- the snap onthe strap on my second hand briefcase I use for work.  It was light-weight compared with the heavy Coach briefcase I bought decades ago, long before laptops were common to tote around.  But yesterday I swung the bag out of my trunk ,and snap.  Thankfully the computer was sparred and did not suffer.  Today it was replaced.  I skipped the attempts to find second-hand replacement: too little time, no guarantee I'd find one, and likely inferior quality.  No, I went the opposite direction -- figuratively and literally.  After finishing up at the office I walked a few store fronts down and entered The North Face store.  Within 20 minutes I narrowed my selection to a women's sized backpack.  The built in computer compartment it too small for my Toshiba, which measures 15.6 inches.  The bags marketed to fit a 15 inch computer were just too tight, and cost $40 more.  This style cost less and was a bit smaller.  Fitted with several pockets and two side carriers for a thermos and water bottle, I was set.  The last time I bought a backpack was at Eddie Bauer, the summer of 1991, just before I started college.  It was just this year that it final reached its final hurrah.  I love a quality backpack -- quality trumps cheap prices.  My new backpack comes with a lifetime guarantee on the stitching and zippers.  The cost was $99.  I applied a $50 rebate gift card Toshiba gave me with the purchase of the latest computer, and then put the remainder on our 1% cash back credit card.  The bill is always paid in full.  And there is no time like the present to break in a new habit.  Tonight I walked up to the grocery for a few items, toting them home in the new backpack!  Bring on Spring, I'm set to be frugally fit via foot power!  Another day where my pedometer tells me I've surpassed the goal of 10,000 steps a day.


Speaking of feet and frugal fitness, our efforts to exercise without a gym membership continue.  To some this may appear to be a simple soccer ball.  But in the hands and minds of a young child it generates imaginative games of dodge, throw, kick, and chase.  After school both kids and I spent a good 25 minutes getting mom's heart rate up and burning off some of their endless kid energy on the playground.  Who needs a treadmill when you have Spring in Wisconsin and kids who enjoy tossing a ball around with mom!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Spring Rituals - Walks and Cakes

This is what Spring looks like in the upper Midwest.  Disgusted? You wouldn't be if you lived here.  Theses mounds of frozen snow, dirt, and assorted windblown garbage are one of the first signs of Spring, arriving well before the red-breasted robin.  They'll melt, eventually, usually by mid-June.  For now Madisonians drive with their windows down, re-introduce themselves to running outdoors,and in my case -- walking more errands than during the months of arctic winds.

Today I parked the trusty Honda centrally so I could walk to the local grocery, head over to Target for the Pharmacy and a few tubs of the Target Brand of no-sugar added applesauce (the only brand our oldest will eat; yes, he can taste a difference), and then across the road to our credit union.  My inexpensive pedometer showed me the value of walking this simple errands, the steps added up!

And the weather blew in thoughts of Farmers' market season.  A quick Google search told me that my favorite west side market will return....April 18th!!!  Time to up my efforts to use up the food on hand, especially the items lurking in our chest freezer.  Stashed in the corner of our garage it is out of side, and sadly out of mind.  Today I begin to carry in what will fit to our fridge freezer, where I can glance, ponder, and add it to meal.

It was not from the freezer, but the cabinet, that I finally did something with the package of wild rice I bought last fall.  Turning to Betty Crocker, I whipped up a wild rice nut bunt cake.  The pan, on loan from a fellow foodie friend, was perfect -- heavy weight aluminum that is not lined.  On her recommendation I bought special "baking" spray, which as flour added. In went the ingredients, and let me just say Betty does not hold back:  2 cups brown sugar, 1.5 cups butter, butter milk!  Pulled from the oven last night, it cooled and waited the kids for breakfast. I figured, why not see if they'll eat a small slice with breakfast -- it does contain 2 cups of cooked wild rice.


Results:
Oldest child -- tried a bite, did not care of the rice, rejected;
Youngest child - looked at it, asked for her morning croissant;
Frugal mom -- ate a small slice and was overwhelmed -- wow Betty, too powerful, I'll pass;
Frugal husband -- liked it, but in very small amounts.

So, I'll be freezing some and passing some on to folks at the office.  This is one very rich, intense, I am not sure of the word,cake.  Before returning the bunt pan I hope to try another bunt cake -- it seems like a nice way to use up some of our frozen local fruits.  Suggestions welcome!





Saturday, March 7, 2015

Is Anything Safe in the 2015 Purge?




The conversation started at the breakfast table.  Round, petite, and becoming far too small for our family of four.  Discussing our de-cluttering methods for the year, we were happy that the dinning room table now has a consistently clear surface.  "Let's start eating meals out there!" I offer.  My husband agreed, but added, "the rug must go though."  Curious I asked "why, it protects the hardwood floors".  To which is pointed out milk and yogurt will settle there, no matter how hard we clean, decaying at our very feet.  The man hates detritus!  Off to work he went, and to Google I turned.

Rug or no rug under a dinning room table?  Most hits on Google were in favor of the rug.  Lots of discussion about how they pull a room together, add warmth, are gorgeous.  Sure, they need attention -- and if you have little kids, lots of attention.  Then I read one post -- the mother wrote, our kids are 15 and 13 and still messy eaters, I'd NEVER put a rug down there.  Just sweep it up every night, and be done with it.

Weighing the issues there was the mom with messy eaters, and the women (most were women) who loved their rugs, and I mean gushed about them.  Maybe they have more time than I do to scrub out yogurt stains.  Perhaps vacuuming is their preferred pastime.  Whatever it was, I lack it.  Out with the rug!



Later this week it will either be given to Travis, my contact over at Wise Owl Auctions or posted on Craigslist.  Shocking decision?  Yes, we have hardwoods, but they are well worn and I hate shopping for rugs.  This one is approaching 15 years of age and cannot be cleaned in my washing machine.  Adios.  The only question that lingers -- does this count as 1 point on  my 2015 effort to purge 2,015 items.  One, its a big rug!!!!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Heave-Ho!

Friday, and our home has now tossed 478 items overboard since the new year.  The bulk of this past weeks efforts centered around items I had inherited from my mom's home when she died last year.  Photos were removed from frames, and those frames set aside for auction.  Many, many items were recycled -- cards welcoming me to the world, clippings that meant something to my parents, but not so much to me, and various odds and ends.  It is a slow go, and surfaces many memories, not all that are pleasant.  But slowly, I am reclaiming my home office where all of these items were put during the chaos of a year ago.

As the temperatures warm here in Madison, my future efforts will focus on our garage as well as backyard shed -- first the ice pack needs to melt before I can swing open the doors on the shed.

Thanks for following us on our path to rid our home of 2,015 items in 2015.  Tips, suggestions, or words of encouragement are always welcome!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

When Passive Wins


The past twenty-four hours have consisted mainly of sleep.  Monday I received a booster to the chicken pox vaccine.  A disease I never managed to acquire as a child, despite numerous exposures.  I received a vaccine in my mid-twenties, and then earlier this week, a booster.  While thankful for not getting the dreaded chicken pox (as a person in her 40s that would be beyond harsh), my body did have a hard time with the shot.  An arm swelled, and swelled, the chills took over, and I took to bed. Passive is one way to describe my actions.  No food consumed, except some tea.  No vehicle used. No, just sleep.


On the mend I found myself scrolling through my Facebook Feed and an interesting article was included.  Retirement, and the fact most Americans will retire without enough.  The main point of the article -- investing in the market is expensive when you use "actively managed" funds.  Turns out "passively managed" funds, known as index funds will likely earn you more gain in the long run.  Having championed the use of index funds since merging my finances with my husband, I am happy they are employed in both our retirement and college savings.

Are you in the dark about active vs. passive in the are of IRAs, 401Ks, etc?  Start with this article, the one I found in my Facebook feed.  And then keep reading.  Investing is one thing, smart investing entirely another.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Ding Dong Goes the Bell


Ordered Sunday afternoon, delivered Tuesday at Noon, oh Amazon Prime how I adore thee as a partner on my frugal path in life.  Tucked inside are two air purifiers we purchased to address the allergy needs of myself and our oldest child.  All we did was plug the model number recommended by the allergist into Amazon, confirmed it was the lowest price from other sites (took less than 1 minute), and hit click. No need to run around to stores.  The entire purchase took 10 minutes or less, and we didn't have to figure out how to fit this box into our Honda.  Kiki the cat provides some context for you.  Want to be frugal, consider Amazon Prime.  From free 2-day delivery (Sundays included) to streaming video and music, we love this resource. Plus, we used our Google Chase card, and received 3% back from the purchase price!

Now I am off to shovel mother nature's latest gift of snow -- no snow blower here.  Just a shovel and some calories expended.

Be well, stay safe if where you are winter delivered a dose of snow, and tune in tomorrow for more on the upside of a frugal life.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Afternoon Tea & Cabin Fever Games

The tag line for Frugal Upside states that a frugal life is good for the wallet, the earth, and your health.  Recently, the majority of my posts, and frugal efforts, have focused on the first two points -- frugal living is good for my wallet and my planet.  But what about my health?

March brings with it the season of change.  Days of warm sun and the emergence of a thaw. Tomorrow's forecast calls for snow, but also sleet and rain.  Times are changing, Spring is making its slow approach, and here on Frugal Upside I intend to shift a bit to focus on health.  Why now?  Yes, there is the seasonal changes.  But honestly, I spent an hour with my doctor for an annual check-up today and left with specific plans to improve my health.   And many frugal lifestyle choices will help me with those goals.  Watch for a shift in focus, if just a bit.

For example, after the doctor's visit I stopped in at my office for a bit.  Upon leaving to collect the children for their weekly swim lessons I opted to skip the coffee splurge and wait for tea at home. My afternoon coffee is not just coffee, but a cafe au lait.  Rich, creamy, tasty, and the perfect example of a few extra calories from the warm milk that I can cut out of my diet.  Going forward I plan to make tea, green or herbal, my drink of choice in the early afternoon or evening. Curbing my coffee habit, just a tad, will be one of the many small changes to improve my health.  And those foregone purchases will leave more money in my checkbook and fewer cups in the landfill!

And on a totally random aside, if you are suffering from Cabin Fever and live with little kids, consider trying out our new game.  The brainchild of our 6.5 year old son, it is inspired by the classic snowball fight.  But when the temps are oh so cold or it is pitch black out on a school night, try Clean Underwear Splat.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Guaranteed laughter will ensue as you dodge, jump, and duck out of the way of flying underwear.  Socks work as well.  Just make sure the child fetches the basket of clean items before play begins.  At first my Type A, hyper-educated adult version of myself rejected this game.  Then one night I said, why not, and started tossing garments along with the kids.  Calories burned, smiles sprung to faces, large muscles moved, and invaluable memories made.

Thanks for reading, and as always -- I love to read your comments and thoughts on the frugal path of life.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Hello Green!

Finally, March!  I know you'll be one of the longest months of the year. Teasing us with warmer days, offer bits of melt, only to throw us another 8-12 inches of snow followed by arctic temps.  But, this is the month of Spring, and sooner or later the snow will melt, grass will grow, and outdoor life with flourish once again.

This first Sunday of March followed normal routines.  Roast a chicken for a meal today and meals throughout the week.  Two soups, not just one on the stove, which will go along with the chicken, leftovers headed to the freezer for brown bag lunches.

Following the theme of green, frozen asparagus from the freezer inspired today's soup.  Refreshing, healthy, and a reminder that the sprouts of 2015 plants are just below the frozen surface, waiting patiently to rise and give us another round of local food from our own yard.

Enjoy your Sunday.  We are off to the sledding hill to burn off kid energy and get the parents to be more active.  Today marks the first day we do not have a gym membership in decades.  The aim, live more actively while being with our kids.  Let's see how it goes!