I am a non-competative (meaning, not-too-serious) player in the coupon game. I did my $1 one month trial with the Grocery Game to get the gist of the strategies, but I am not a die-hard stock-piler or a coupon-junkie. I must admit, though, that there are weeks that I get the adrenalin rush. AND THIS IS ONE OF THOSE WEEKS!

Softsoap Spa Radiant $4.99 at CVS — buy one, get $4.99 ECB = FREE — limit five
I had a coupon for $1.00 off and for $1.50 off

Speed Stick 2 for $5 and get $3 ECB = $1 each
I had coupons for $1.00 off one and $.75 off two

So, the above cost me, minus ECB plus coupons, -$.25. That means I MADE 25 cents buying this stuff! I suppose technically, the gas to the corner may have cost that (but both stops were in route somewhere I was going anyway).

A few tips on making couponing and the drugstores work for you:
— clip the Sunday coupons every week for any product (regardless of brand) that you might need
— live near both a CVS and Walgreens (you’ll have to make multiple trips to get your ECBs and rebates to work for you.)
— match your coupons with the drugstore sales fliers
— don’t be brand loyal
— keep track of what you can get for free or really cheap (and stock up on those items during that time.) According to the Grocery Game, the sales and coupons run with a regular routine, so, for instance, March is the time to stock up on soap and deodorant. Perhaps, April will be shampoo and conditioner, etc. The Grocery Game tracks all of that for you, so it is definitely worth the trial.


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What is in a name?

As parents, we put so much emphasis on the names we choose for our kids. There are some fabulous web sites out there to help with the decisions — my two favorites being Nymber (where you can input a favorite name and get suggestions of names with a similar style) and NameVoyager (which tracks popularity through the years).

Caroline Joyce’s name was chosen because 1) I really like the name Caroline, 2) John’s mother’s name was Carolyn, and 3) Joyce is a family name passed from both of my grandmothers to my mom (Velda Joyce) to me (Amanda Joyce) and shared by my nieces.

Our names for any hypothetical future children both include names we like (tending to what many consider traditional or classic) and family names.

What has NEVER crossed my mind (because today, I suppose, we’d fix any clerical errors right away) is that my child’s name could be influenced by a mistake. Take my grandparents. I mentioned that my middle name and that of my daughter honor my grandmothers — Joyce Faye and Joyce B. But, if you hear folks talk about my nanny (Joyce B.) you’d distinctly hear them say Joyca B. I asked about that as a child. It seems that my Ma Susan (my great grandma) meant to name my nanny (Joyce B.) Joyca. But the midwives who delivered her goofed up on the paperwork and wrote Joyce. So, her family all still called her Joyca B, but legally, she is Joyce B.

This week, we buried my Paw Paw Jenkins. He’s always been Paw Paw to me, but I knew he was called KC by everyone else. Nanny has always called Paw Paw KC. And I knew his name was Carl…Karl…My uncle and cousin share his first name of Carl. It was not until I pulled up his obituary online that I saw that his name was spelled Carl Clayton. How do you get KC from that? Did the paper make a mistake? Maybe the funeral home?

Nope, turns out, it was that midwife, 81 years ago. Grandma Jenkins wanted to name Paw Paw Karl Clayton Jenkins. The midwife filled out the paperwork and wrote Carl Clayton. Well, by the time anyone realized it, they’d been calling the boy KC, so they just continued that. Kinda like Joyca B.

I am amazed that the “legal paperwork” meant so little to these folks so many years ago that they just let it be. I am glad, at least, that they continued to call folks by the name they had intended, though. Is this just a Louisiana thing? I know we like to think Texas is a whole other country and all, but man, Louisiana seems to have its own rules as well.

Spring Cleaning

Spring has sprung! Without really planning the timing, I managed to hit much of my spring cleaning list this week — the last days of winter and first days of spring and Holy Week, a traditional week for spring cleaning. In reality, I managed to convince my husband to hire someone to clean our windows this weekend, and that was just the motivation we needed to get cleaning. I also had some extra time on my hands since we’re off from the preschool co-op this week and have just finished up our music class session.

I am amazed at the details I notice that need to be cleaned now that I am a stay-at-home mom with a pretty independent kiddo. I no longer have the excuse of a newborn, young toddler, pregnancy, etc. I have to have a clean house!)

— outsource cleaning of interior and exterior of all windows — ($100 — even though they quoted us $80. I made $100 for a one hour web site usability study last week, so it seemed like great use of that cash. Let’s see, one hour of my time with a free diet coke in an air-conditioned office in front of a computer versus two adults cleaning my windows for 3 1/2 hours.)
— dust blinds
— wash curtains
— clean screens (some of them…haven’t gotten to all yet.)

–start garden (John did the prep work. I just put in the seeds and seedlings. Will we have lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, and strawberries come summer? Or will this be time and money down the drain?)
— clean front door
— clean back door
(still need to do this…later this week)

wipe down all doors
— wipe down all baseboards (in progress…finish Thursday and Friday)
— wipe down all cabinet fronts and top of fridge
— wipe down all switchplates
— clean all light fixtures and ceiling fan blades
(John did the fans!)
— clean oven (though I admit it is a self-cleaning oven. It is still work because we need to vacate the house for a couple of hours due to burning plastic smell.)

I don’t classify organizational projects (closets and such) in my spring cleaning plan as I tackle those throughout the year. So, what am I missing? Steam-cleaning the carpets, yes, I know. We do plan to install laminate in the rest of the carpeted rooms in the next few months, so that isn’t a high priority.

Seeing how quickly most of these little tasks have gone, I wonder if I should just scrap “spring cleaning” and add these details to my housekeeping rotation. I’m torn. It seems easier to tackle all of the ceiling fans at once, when we have the ladder out. And to do all of the exterior windows at once with the supplies. But, the oven, the doors and cabinets, etc. That can all be incorporated in to my regularly scheduled tasks in those rooms. I think I’ll leave the windows and light fixtures/ceiling fans for that once a season (who am I kidding, I’m no FlyBaby!) once a year project and just put the other stuff into my regular rotation. (And I absolutely think I’ll hire these folks to clean my windows every year! If you want their number, let me know.)

Holy Week 2008

HOLY WEEK IS UPON US! Easter falls early this year, but I am ready! Ready for spring. Ready to begin life anew!

I will confess, our Lenten activities have been hit or miss. Caroline is more interested in playing with the coins than putting them in the Heifer Ark Bank. The coloring book has only been used a bit. And we don’t get to the Tree or Lenten Story Board everyday, but Caroline certainly “gets” the stories and remembers them, and she always has a name to offer for a special blessing and ribbon on the tree.

And she enjoys playing with it all. (I do really like the story board, though, so consider that a recommendation. It will last us many years.)

I’m excited to decorate (and clean — another blog post, I’m sure) the house for spring and have family visit this weekend. Here’s our plan:

Saturday (not really Holy Week yet) — Neighborhood Egg Hunt and Picnic

Palm Sunday — palms processional with instruments at church; use story board to reenact Jesus riding in to town on donkey with crowd waving palms and crying “Hosanna!”

Monday introduce Resurrection Eggs (and leave out for her to play with all week)

Tuesday — Easter lunch and egg-decorating with friends

Wednesday — eat Matzo and Charsoseth and discuss Passover and its significance for our Holy Communion

Maundy Thursday — read story of Jesus’s washing disciples’ feet and have our own foot washing at home (the church’s services are too late for a two-year-old.)

Good Friday — bake pretzels (reminiscent of arms folded in prayer and of the cross)

Holy Saturday — bake and decorate cookies; dye more eggs

SUNDAY — EASTER! Alleluia, He is Risen! — Easter basket goodies; egg hung at home and at church; feast with family


I spent some time this week, once again, rummaging through junk in the storage junk guest room in order to get it ready for guests. This spare room in our house is a necessity since all of our family members live out of town, but it does become the stashing spot during the weeks we aren’t expecting guests. Right now, the bed is covered with Easter basket stuff and spring decor. As Caroline and I loaded the CR-V with “stuff” to take to Goodwill, I felt a relief to be getting rid of the things cluttering up this room. Things I had no need for elsewhere in my house but felt, for some reason, that I needed to keep them, just in case I decided I needed or wanted them. Enough! I got rid of the stuff. But, as we dropped the stuff off in the Goodwill drive-thru, I mentioned to Caroline that we should go check out what they have in the store. “Yeah,” she said, “We can get more stuff.” Then it hit me. We just dropped off this junk, and we certainly don’t need more of it. (Of course, we did make a run through of the store, just in case they might have a trivet for my kitchen collection.) I explained to Caroline that, though we often think it does, stuff does not make us happy. In fact, stuff stressed us out–how to keep it clean, where to put it, how much it cost us, etc. I don’t know that she was listening, but I was mostly talking for my own benefit.

Then, that night, I read this blog post on Frugal Hacks, a site that I just this week added to my google reader. In quick summary, think of the space that junk in your house occupies in terms of the square footage value of your home. That 10×10 guest room that a guest can never use because the hundred square feet is chock full of junk is costing $$. Those big storage facilities on every other corner charge $1-$7 per square foot. In Austin, your junk storage home value is more in the $100 square foot range!

I can’t stop thinking about it. And looking at the stuff in my house in a totally different light. This stuff is occupying precious real estate. I don’t need to save things in the hopes of being frugal. I need to NOT BUY things in respect for the value of the space that is my home.

The books I own are weighing heavily on my mind. My husband, though frugal in most ways, loves his books and wants to keep them always and forever. But, man, books take up a lot of room. The library (and thanks to TexShare, I have access to Austin, Cedar Park, and Leander libraries plus Interlibrary Loan) has almost everything I could want, and the Internet offers what I need in terms of reference materials. I’m really struggling with acquiring books. Of course, I adore books, and it is always a great default gift idea that I offer up anytime a loved one asks. But, do I need them? Do I need to own them and then have to store them? Do I need to continue buying more and more bookshelves on which to store them?

Someone remind me of this the next time I am in Half Price Books. 🙂

My attempt at a frugal, fun dinner

I love reading others’ blogs and their frugal finds, and I drool reading the fun dinners others are preparing. It’s not often that I, myself, have anything fun and frugal to contribute. But here’s my attempt.

A friend told me that HEB had their pre-seasoned fajita chicken meat (thighs) on sale for .99 / pound. I saw them when I shopped last Thursday and picked up a four pound bag. Now, thigh meat is fatty, so I didn’t use near the full four pounds. (I read it is also higher in iron than other cuts.) I grilled it all and sliced it up. I made a batch of pizza dough in the breadmaker — all ingredients on hand (WW flour, oil, salt, honey, yeast). I topped one with some store-bought pesto I had in the fridge, added the chicken, and topped all of that with Just Tomatoes sun-dried tomatoes that I had bought with a co-op. The other, I used some pizza sauce I had in the pantry, put on the chicken, and a few roasted bell peppers from a jar, and topped it with Mozzarella and Parmesan. All ingredients were already around the house. Since I won’t count what was already hanging around, that comes to $2 per pizza. I served it with a green salad.

Now, to be honest, the chicken was really so-so. It was the other stuff that made the pizza so yummy. We ate the roasted bell pepper/chicken/mozzarella tonight. The pesto pizza is in the freezer for another day.

This is What a Feminist Looks Like

Reading the mommy blogs that I often read (blogs that tend to be written by moms, but a diverse group of moms — natural parenting types, Christians, frugal moms, and homeschoolers) I’ve come across several different views on feminism — some who outright reject feminism, which I don’t quite understand. I mean, they are women, expressing opinions. Doesn’t that make them feminists? I researched a bit and found that there are many forms of feminism today. The first wave of feminism dates to Suffrage. Then the second wave in the sixties, a la Gloria Steinem, rubbed many the wrong way. Now feminism is quite divided, with third-wave feminists, post modern feminists, these opinionated women who claim they are against feminism, all wanting different things. It’s nice to have options, though, isn’t it. Thanks to those first-wavers and second-wavers, we have a lot more choices than we used to. We can work, or we can stay home. Whatever we choose, we do have a choice.

My favorite professor at A&M once asked our class (a women’s study class in anthropology) to raise our hands if we were a feminist. I couldn’t believe not every one raised her hand! My professor talked about that being the case year after year, but the mere fact that we were women attending college made us feminists.

I once had a shirt that said “This is what a feminist looks like” on the front, so I was intrigued to see this quiz about the history of feminism on another blog today. I scored nine out of ten (missing the Supreme Court question.)

That got me wondering more about the different types of feminism today (and wondering why we have to be so divisive about everything today…but that’s a blog post for another day.) I found this quiz, What type of feminist are you? I am a Marxist feminist, according to this quiz.

Let me know how you do on the history quiz, and share which type of feminist you are.

Texas Two-Steppin’ Tonight

Wow, democracy is complicated! I’ve always considered myself somewhat politically informed, but this whole prima-caucus deal in Texas is new to me. I guess we’ve just never talked about it much since by the time the presidential primaries come up for Texas, the candidate is already decided. But this year, it is still so close.

I voted early. John voted today. He had told me he’d take care of putting Caroline to bed if I wanted to go to the precinct caucus tonight, but instead, I managed to get Caroline down for a very late nap so that we could all go. Wow! (I know I said that once already.) We waited in line for a very long time, not moving. You see, nobody can predict how many folks will show up to these things, so the one little person sitting at a table to take each voter’s information and candidate choice was a bit overwhelmed with the 230+ people in line at 7:15 tonight. (I say + because many people got frustrated at the line and left.) She quickly called for back-ups, and we ended up with a roomful (20, I think) of volunteers tabulating our votes. John and I signed up to be alternate delegates for the county convention. I doubt we’ll need to go, and I didn’t want to stay and campaign for myself, and then vote again on the delegates. We left at 9:45, knowing that 16 delegates from our precinct will cast votes for Clinton with 22 voting for Obama.

As we divided into our caucuses based on our candidates, I observed the way our groups each mirrored our candidate. The Obama group was passionate and articulate, lots of cheering. Our group was composed and efficient (but we cheered once in retaliation).

Links for more information:
numbers going into today’s primaries/caucuses

how the Texas process works