Tuesday, August 15, 2006

What's on YOUR desk?

I see this on other writers' blogs from time to time, and I've yet to join in, mostly because I don't write at a desk per se, but on the kitchen table. But, because I am seriously procrastinating some editing I need to finish, I will detail for you...

What is on Mary's "desk," from left to right:
  • withered bush bean blossom
  • neon-green foam walrus sticker, its tail stuck to its own underside
  • black Uni-Ball Vision pen, micro tip, my favorite writing instrument
  • red and white checked cloth napkin
  • Baby Van Gogh DVD
  • pile of third birthday cards
  • Thomas the Tank Engine plastic track
  • telephone
  • my Dell laptop
  • Palm Pilot cradle
  • latest Writer's Digest (he's a she!)
  • pepper mill and salt shaker
  • junk mail to shred
  • digital camera
  • another telephone
  • husband's defunct cell phone
  • husband's G4 laptop
  • grocery/menu list
  • glass of water
  • empty decaf mug
  • Stepford Wives (Oz remake) DVD
  • today's News Journal
  • coupon carrier
  • Garden Design issue from May/June 2004
  • rice sock heating pad (I'm tending to a neck spasm)

I'd love to hear from you guys on this, and I know some of you have done it already. Even if you're not a writer, I'd like folks to post a comment with a link to what's on YOUR desk!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Skinflintstones: Grocery Challenge, Final Episode

Well, August 8 was the final day of my month-long attempt to lower the grocery bill by purchasing inexpensive yet healthy and et'ical foods. We have a good deal of home improving to do in the next year or two, and saving money will for a while be high on my list of priorities. If you're just now tuning in, I (temporarily?) gave up my career as an English professor to stay home with my two babies, now 17m and 3y. No plans yet to return. Before I left the profession, we didn't spend any time worrying about money. Now, we must attend to our bank account. Despite this concern, our lifestyle is one we believe in.

Sooooo, how'd we do, Mary?
Grand total for the month: $335.
I have a nagging feeling that this is probably close to what I usually spend when I'm just shopping normally--following the fliers, using coupons, thinking healthy. Was it too much trouble for too little payoff? I'll have to think about that. Just a reminder that my running total only covered food items, not household or paper goods. Now something that WAS different, and that you can't see in the grocery tally, is that we ate out far less than usual during this period. I worked hard to pack lunches for D, and pushed through on particularly tough afternoons to make dinner for everyone when it would've been easier--and much more costly--to get take out. But I survived. And we were healthier for it, I'm sure.

Starting on September 1, I am going to start the experiment again, but this time, pull the belt a bit tighter. I won't follow it on the blog, but I may give an update halfway through for kicks.

And finally, a correction. I noted on my Be A Local Yokel blog entry that Delaware had seen the last of its market strawberries. But lucky for me, I was mistaken. Highland Orchards has a crop of late summer berries out right now that are petite and orangey-red. So sweet-looking, but I can't speak to their taste because, well, I didn't want to spend the money to buy a carton. So, huzzah to the strawberries of summer--long may they produce!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

New Ultrasound Study

I just read this article on cnn.com: Ultrasound scans can affect brain development.

I do not doubt that sonograms do things to fetuses that we don't know about--we may never know about in our lifetime. Lord knows I had enough sound waves shot through me to cook little A in my womb juice. All because I was 40 and pregnant, and no one wanted to be sued for malpractice by a geriatric parent.

Here's a question that the study raised in my mind: Is there a connection between the growing number of sonograms done on fetuses and the rise in autism diagnoses?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Skinflintstones--Bringing it Up to Date, Day 26

Well, I tallied the bills from the past two and a half weeks. I've basically kept shopping the sales, stocking up on non-perishable or freezable loss leaders, and only buying the necessities instead of luxury items. The walnut substitution in the pesto was OH SO AWESOME, by the way. I put it on pizza one night and dressed up some spaghetti and shrimp with it another. For dinners we've just been eating what's around the house, but DANG we go through sandwich bread quickly around here. When I find it for less than $2/loaf, I stock up and freeze . I could spend more in gas and visit the thrift store twenty minutes away, but what's the trade-off there?

My thinking on eggs: We eat a lot. I'm going to stop buying them at the Superfresh. I'm sick about the poultry industry in the U.S., disgusted at the poor conditions for the laying hens and the inferior nutritional quality their feed creates in the eggs, and I've decided it is worth it to pay extra for the on-site free-range eggs from Highland Orchards. I don't know what they feed their hens--I will ask next time I go--but I do know they can range the farmland there. The hens and the eggs are healthier. It really is worth it to me.

Interesting fact: Both the Rite Aid pharmacy (24hr) and the Target sell a gallon of whole milk for $2.89, $1 less than does my grocery store.

So, add to the $63 from Day 7,
7/16: $30 (party food minus cake, which my parents paid for)
7/20: $22
7/23: $64
7/27: $27
7/28: $3
7/30: $6
8/1: $33

Running Grocery Total for Day 26: $248
I'm doing pretty well considering houseguests, a birthday party, and two emergency caffeine-detoxifying, medicinal dark chocolate candybars ($5). Remember that I'm not counting paper goods. I am trying hard to keep those costs down, too, but I'll work more diligently on that next month. Oh, and in the interest of full disclosure, D had to buy lunch for himself today, I bought the babysitter and me some subs for lunch last week, and D brought home a take-out pizza the other night. These are three hits to the wallet that I guess I am willing to live with. If we were hand to mouth, though, we wouldn't let them happen, obviously. (Not to mention we couldn't afford a babysitter.) We are a terribly lucky family to have what we have. Praise be.

I just dug up, oh, about a dozen potatoes from the potato patch. And how many seed potato chunks did I plant back in early spring? Oh, about a dozen. This is such a non-payoff that I don't see myself trying potatoes as a food crop anytime soon. It was purely an experiment this year--my first attempt. I didn't treat them very well, and as you just read, they are returning the favor. Digging up measly potatoes is no one's idea of fun. Live and learn, right?

We are eating lots of things from the garden, pantry, and freezer still. Black beans and rice, pasta y fagioli soup, tonight will be green bean and tofu stir fry with rice with potstickers and some miso soup. I think my husband is getting a little tired of cheese sandwiches for work lunches, but we lately seem to eat all of whatever I make for dinner the night before. I guess he's so hungry from his puny lunch that he eats his usual dinner helping plus lunch leftovers at the same time. Also, the kids are eating more and more, which I need to get into my thick head. I've already learned to double the amount of pasta I cook at once. They are crazy for any sort of noodle, but I can't give N any sauce with tomatoes in it because it makes his eczema worse.

That's it from the hot country.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Be a Local Yokel

Please read this essay by Jim Scharplaz, entitled "Biting the Land that Feeds Us."

Now go seek out your local farmers' market, family farm, or orchard stand. Buy from them first. Start thinking about where to put a little garden next spring, and pick one or two vegetables you'd like to grow. Let your kids help you! My 3yo ate a cherry tomato and some parsley tonight, with a tough game face. He was attracted because he knew they were out of our garden. If they'd come from the store, he wouldn't have thought twice about waving them away.

If you have to buy supermarket stuff, as I do sometimes, at least try to buy what is in season in your neck of the woods. Delaware's strawberries are long gone this year. But that's okay! There are plenty of other fruits we can enjoy grown not two miles from here.

Finally, educate yourself about the consumption habits of your country. If you live in the same country I do, the U.S., you are part of a miniscule 5% of the world's population, using 20% of its resources. Lots of those resources ultimately go toward growing, harvesting, and delivering to us the food we have become accustomed to eating. In unhealthy quantities, I might add.

I'm by no means perfect, but if you'll join me in making a few small changes, then maybe we can lighten the burden our kids are surely going to suffer under.