Monthly Archives: August 2007

Living well is the best revenge.

I recently engaged in a little Photoshoppery and made a new page header to go with the new blog theme. That’s beautiful Lake Auburn, which is about a mile from my house. If you’re viewing this inside your RSS reader, you won’t be able to see it unless you actually click on the blog link.

“Living well is the best revenge” is the new tagline for this blog. It sounds pretty mercenary, and maybe it is. Yet I find it very empowering right now in my life.

Maybe some of you might relate to the following, and maybe you won’t. I grew up with a lot of conflicting messages that immobilized me in many ways:

You’ll be our little girl forever… Why don’t you grow up?!

We’ll fix it/rescue you/make it all better… You’re much too dependent on us!

Then the old “Give a compliment in one breath, and then take it away in the next”:

You’re smart… but you’re too lazy.

You’re pretty… but you’re too fat.

I had a choice of how to process those messages, and how to live my life accordingly. For most of my life I surrendered to them– “No matter what I do, it won’t be good enough anyway, so why bother?”– and drifted along with no goals, no motivation, no hope.

Years ago, someone told me, “Living well is the best revenge”. I didn’t get it then.

I get it now.

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Filed under frugal, goals, life, personal growth, personal responsibility

New theme

In case anyone cares (or even noticed), I changed my blog theme.

I think the sidebar looks better on the right-hand side. It’s cleaner, less cluttered, and overall easier to read… and I like the little divider between posts.  I’m also working on a new header for the top.

That is all. 🙂

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Filed under blogging, cheap fun, design, frugal

Menu planning: giving it a try

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of blogs about frugality, budgeting, and various other topics in personal finance. I am determined to get my finances whipped into shape!

I’m seeing a lot of suggestions of menu planning as a great frugal tactic.

Menu planning is based on the idea that knowing ahead of time what you plan to eat during a particular time period (say, the coming week) will help you stay focused within your grocery budget.

Other important aspects of meal planning:

  1. Know what you’ve got on hand in your pantry, fridge, and freezer.
  2. Devise meals based on what you already have on hand.
  3. Know what else you need to make your upcoming meals.
  4. Make a shopping list and stick to it!

By the way, I found an interesting site about organization that offers printable planner forms. I confess I’m just OCD enough to have printed out the pantry inventory forms.

I’ve never really planned my meals too far into the future, which– when I think about it– has resulted in an awful lot of last-minute trips to the store to buy curry powder or eggs or bread or zucchini or some other crucial missing ingredient!

Before going to the grocery store today, I wrote out a loose menu plan for the next week, and based my shopping list on that menu. In the store, I did feel more focused with a solid plan. (Who, me? A planner? Huh.)

I can’t say for sure whether I’ll still be in the mood for a veggie burger on Tuesday night (I start school that day), in which case we’ll improvise. Otherwise, this could work.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Here are a few days’ sample menus…..

[Color code: Food Already On hand Leftovers Food Bought 8/29]

———— Thursday 8/30 ————

Breakfast: Last of the Corn bread and coffee

Lunch: Salad

Dinner: Spaghetti and salad (just enough left in the bag)

————Friday 8/31 ————

Breakfast: Raisin Bran and coffee

Lunch: Salad (new bag)

Dinner: Cheese quesadilla (two more tortillas left after this meal) with brown rice and black beans

————Saturday 9/1 ————

Breakfast: Breakfast burrito (scrambled egg and cheese in a tortilla) and coffee

Lunch: Salad

Dinner: Last of the Spaghetti and salad

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Filed under budget, cooking, food, frugal, groceries, menu planning, organization, shopping

Hindsight IS clearer than foresight… but it also hurts sometimes

Last night, I was reading Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. Highly recommended, and a great alternative view of personal finance. I actually found it at the Goodwill Store for like 99 cents, so yay me!

Anyway, one of the exercises in this book is to research how much money you’ve earned over your entire working life…. and compare it to what you have to show for it today. I knew this would be painful, but I had no idea how painful.

As it happens– one of those little synchronicities in life that make me shudder– in the mail earlier in the day, I’d received my Social Security Statement, which of course lists how much money you’ve earned each year of your working life!

Theoretically, if by some miracle Social Security hasn’t totally imploded by then, if I retire at age 70, I’ll be getting $938 a month. I also learned that if I become disabled right now, I would be eligible for $1,009 a month in benefits. Great.

Of course, there’s always an asterisk:

Your estimated benefits are based on current law. Congress has made changes to the law in the past and can do so at any time.

That’s just way too depressing. Back to the lifetime earnings.

So this morning, I did the math. I added up the earnings for every year since 1985, when I was 16 and worked at McDonald’s for the going minimum wage of $3.10 per hour*.

My grand total for twenty-two years of work:

$ 341,918.00

Assuming that it’s prudent to save a minimum 10% of your income, this means I should have over $34,000 in savings today… plus heaps of compound interest over the years.

I can assure you I do not have any such thing.

Ouch.

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* 2004 was a better year: I earned $27,137 while running a photo lab/ portrait studio. As I recall, I was making $12 an hour plus 20% of the studio gross. I made a lot of brats smile pretty that year. 🙂

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Filed under books, budget, frugal, money management, personal finance, thrift stores

Today’s blog brought to you by….

I think you’ll enjoy this informercial. I certainly did.

And sure, the audience is laughing, but I wonder if it’s uncomfortable laughter…. 🙂

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Filed under budget, cheap fun, consumer debt, consumerism, credit cards, frugal, insanity, money management

Of Handbag Hounds and Frankenpuppies

Let me state this from the get-go:

I LOVE DOGS. ALL DOGS.

Well, little yappy dogs annoy me, but I wish them no harm.

I grew up with dogs. For as long as I can remember, my family always had a doggie companion. I would love to have a dog right now, but at this time in my life I can’t:

1. I can’t afford to keep a dog.

2. This isn’t my house. The people I live with might not want a dog in their home.

3. And even if they did, I’ll be in school and working. That wouldn’t be fair to anyone.

4. Who knows where I’ll be living a few years down the road? “No pets allowed” would break my heart. Let me be more settled before taking on such a responsibility.


So for now, I will lavish love and affection upon other people’s dogs.

Joshua

Jake

Roseblossom (AKA Moochie McBeggarson)

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When I am in a position to seriously consider responsible dog ownership, I will go to the shelter and rescue a homeless doggie and prove to that lucky dog that not all humans are assholes.

Case in point: Designer Mutts

Recently, someone was advertising “LABRADOODLE” puppies for sale in the local newspaper.

Labradoodle = Labrador Retriever + Poodle.

Awww…. How cute. They’re fluffy and non-shedding and great for people with allergies!

OK… it happens sometimes. The neighbor’s dog gets out of the yard, a mystery litter is born, and there are varying degrees of shame and amusement involved before all is said and done.

It happens.

But, wait. These “Labradoodle” puppies in the paper were selling for $900.

NINE. HUNDRED. DOLLARS.

Labradoodle

I remember when they were called mutts… mongrels… Heinz 57… Sooners… And people were just giving ’em away!

Apparently, “Designer Mutts” are all the rage these days. Who’da thunk it, but all those stupid would-be heiresses carrying around Accessory Animals (or Handbag Hounds) aren’t the worst of our worries, after all.

Shelters everywhere are filled with mixed breeds just biding their time until euthenasia.

Meanwhile, people are INTENTIONALLY MASS-PRODUCING MORE MUTTS…. and selling them for large amounts of money to stupid people looking for another Fashionable Lifestyle Accessory?

::::: BREATHE IN…, BREATHE OUT…:::::

Shift gears….

Now, I know that purebred dog fanciers are serious about the genetic purity, but according to a CNN article about Designer Mutts

The labradoodle could be eligible for American Kennel Club recognition if there are at least 300 of them in at least 20 states with three documented generations of labradoodle to labradoodle mixing. A national breed club is also required.


So, people are lobbying for mutts to be recognized as an actual breed of their own.

I really look forward to watching the Westminster Dog Show and rooting for Bob’s Mangey Cur Crawled Under the Fence and Violated My Poodle in the Dubious DNA category.

Finally, legitimizing mixed breeds as entirely new breeds unto themselves could be a real problem, considering

….purebred advocates relish knowing what to expect from their pup since the reliability of doodle dogs’ looks is not 100 percent.

“The problem is the lack of predictability,” Lainie Cantrell, spokeswoman for the AKC, said of labradoodles and other popular mixed-breds. “That’s the whole point of a purebred dog and the benefit of a purebred dog is that you typically know what you’re going to get.”

I want to just throttle someone right now.

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For your disapproval, here are some other actual trendy cross-breeds:

SCHNOODLE (Schnauzer + Poodle)

GOLDENDOODLE (Golden Retriever + Poodle)

COCKAPOO (Cocker Spaniel + Poodle)

YORKIPOO (Yorkshire Terrier + Poodle)

DORGI (Dachshund + Corgi)

BAGEL (Bassett Hound + Beagle)


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Filed under consumerism, designer mutts, dog breeding, dogs, doodle dogs, goldendoodle, insanity, labradoodle, materialism, pets

Worst Money Wasters: Take-out Pizza

pizza.jpg

Mmmmm… pizza! Or as my dad called it– and as you’ll sometimes see on signs at the real authentic old-timer pizza places– “Apizza!”

I was born in and grew up around New Haven, CT. Some of the best pizza in the world is made in and around New Haven, and you could say I’m spoiled and snobbish about Italian food in general.

Oh, yeah. I want a pizza with a thin, crispy-tender bottom crust and tender-chewy-crispy edges. Maybe a little burnt in spots. A matte-finish, grey-brown colored crust that’s not exactly limp and floppy, but at the same time won’t stand up by itself in your hand.

A pizza that’s overall more saucy than it is cheesy. And more parmesan-y than it is mozzarella-y, and fragrant with garlic and oregano.

A pizza that’s not exactly pretty in an assembly-line uniformity way, but because it’s made with love and passion, is beautiful beyond description. Fold that bad boy in half and let the olive oil fall where it may.

Now I’m starving.

The pizza I commonly find has a shiny yellow crust– a thick and bready crust that’s wet and doughy just below the toppings. An overly-sweet tomato sauce, little to no seasoning, and entirely too much cheese. A bland, yet oddly aggressive pizza slice that stands at attention, mocking my grandiose notions of what a pizza should be.

Le sigh.

Here in my adopted home of Maine, a large (16-inch) cheese pizza at Amato’s will run you $12.95. Their pizza’s not entirely awful, but I will forever compare pizza to the New Haven-style yardstick.

During this past year and a half, I’ve learned to make my own pizza. Partly because I’ve been broke much of the time, but mostly because I haven’t been able to get a decent pie here. Since I don’t have a wood-fired brick oven, I haven’t been able to get exactly the New Haven effect, but I can make something much closer to my preference than I can buy anywhere.

And the cost?

  • Three packages pizza crust mix**: 99 cents
  • Three 8 ounce cans tomato sauce: 66 cents
  • One 16-ounce block mozzarella cheese: $2.64***

With the above (store-brand) ingredients, I could make THREE big cheese pizzas for $ 4.29.

OK… Let’s say I might also use 50 cents’ worth of grated parmesan cheese and 10 cents’ worth of spices****, bringing the cost to $4.89.

Where else are you gonna get three large pizzas for under five bucks?

Let’s pretend I’m planning a get-together and need three pizzas for my guests. But– alas– I’m broke and live in a place where good pizza eludes me.

  • 3 large cheese pizzas at Amato’s: $38.85
  • 3 large cheese pizzas, home-made: 4.89

I have a feeling I’ll be kneading some dough for that party!

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* Apizza: the Italian word for “pie”, pronounced “Ah-BEETS”.

** Before I got over my fear of yeast, I bought pizza crust mixes. I’ve since learned to make my own fresh pizza dough, and never looked back. It’s so much fresher and tastier. I haven’t worked out the cost of making yeast dough, but even if it might cost me a little more, it’s worth it.

***  That price has probably gone up since the last time I made pizza, back in the spring.

**** You can get perfectly good basic spices at Wal*Mart for only 50 cents. On pizza, I use garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, and maybe some crushed red pepper.

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Filed under cooking, food, groceries, pizza, saving, shopping