Tuesday, July 28, 2009

First Nightmare

Little Philip was sobbing tonight because he did not want that big brown thing to come out of his wall and take all of his stuffed animals again.

Nightmares are so scary. Now I'm going to have a nightmare about a big brown thing coming out of my wall too.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Grocery Glee

Sometime ago I wrote about how we started to use coupons in our household to save money. By my estimation, we have come to the point where we save, on average, about 35% on our total monthly grocery bill. This is a good thing considering our summer energy bills went up due to the typical Alabama heat and our need for some good backyard water slide fun. Because of couponing, we are rarely financially stressed when we turn that water spicket in the backyard or adjust our A/C by a degree or two.

Some couponers have all the time in the world to put their entire grocery shopping experience out on their lovely dining room or kitchen table, artfully displayed to show the amount of groceries they received after subtracting their coupon savings. I sometimes think they have fake children because there is no way I am taking that 15-20 minutes out of my day to artfully display the food my children are already clammering for, let alone slapping off the hand of my hungry husband. But for today, I will make an exception because it was just one of those grocery shopping experiences that put it all in perspective.

Here is what I bought. I have highlighted in red what was NOT on sale to show that I was able to buy these items relatively guilt free as a result of being offset by coupon savings. Most of these items were fresh produce or specialty items that rarely come with coupon potential. The total of these non-sale items was $29.06. Keep that figure in mind when you see my final bill.

2 bags Glory Brand Cut/Washed Turnips - $2.99 each
Publix frozen green beans - $2.69
Veggie Stix organic veggie chips - $4.27
Mary B's frozen tea biscuits - $2.59
Publix gallon 1% milk - $2.89
Bag of red potatoes - $3.99
Publix extra large eggs - $1.49
Birthday card - $.99
Whitewheat Bread - $2.00
Shout Trigger laundry spray - $2.99
Publix 6 pack kids yogurt - $2.00
2 packs of Yoplait Gogurt (B1G1 deal) - $1.44
Publix antibacterial wipes (B1G1 deal)
Lysol All purpose cleaner - $1.59 (B1G1 deal)
Kraft Zesty Italian dressing (B1G1) - $1.50
Kraft Cucumber Ranch dressing (B1G1) - $1.50
Kelloggs Special K Blueberry cereal - $3.99
Special K cereal bars - $3.19
2 bags 8 o'clock ground coffee - (B1G1) - $2.50 each

Total bill before coupons and B1G1 deals - $70.15
Total savings with coupons and B1G1 deals - $25.23
TOTAL FINAL BILL - $44.92 a savings of 36%.

Some of the really good buys included the Kraft dressing (50 cents each) and coffee ($1.49) and the Lysol All Purpose 40 oz. cleaner (60 cents). Again, if you look above, I bought a lot of items that were not on sale, and bought mostly brand name items and still, I saved a bundle! If you see a brand name purchase, that means with coupons, it was cheaper than buying the Publix generic verson. And the best part, NO WAL-MART! I won't say I don't go there at all but let's just say in the five years we have been in Birmingham, I think I've been there six times. I think that is pretty good considering the evil empire's ability to infiltrate your life. All my savings come from my friendly local Publix. Mike, the customer service manager tells me to "knock it out" when he sees me arrive, knowing I'm a couponer. There are several cashiers that are super nice and enjoy ringing me up just to see what kind of savings I racked up for the week. Simply put, Publix rocks and I want to support a business that practices ethical care and support for their employees, customers, and the community in which they abide.

Where do I get my savings ideas? My home girl Jenny over at www.southernsavers.com. She is amazing! Want to know more about couponing? Just ask me or check out Jenny's blog as she taught me everything I ever wanted to know and she continues to teach me even more tricks of the trade.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sew Frustrated

I have had the enormous blessing of a few days all by myself. Literally, my husband has been in Mississippi for staff development week and his parents graciously offered to take Helen and Little Philip to Tennessee for a few days of spoiling and cousin time.

Big Philip's time in Mississippi unfortunately parted us for our eighth anniversary yesterday. However, after eight years of marriage, we know how to adapt so we celebrated last Friday. In our minds, the actual "date" of a birthday or anniversary is less important than celebrating it the right way on a day when you can.

I am sure my children are having a blast with all of their cousins, aunts, uncles, Mamie, Bop Bop, Mama Em, Papa Papa and then some. I hear that they went to an exotic animal farm where wild animals came right up to them, allowing the children to feed them. I am sad to miss such fun but...

Did I mention that I had these last few days all by myself? Sunday night after Big Philip left I wandered aimlessly around the house, pittering on facebook, attempting to discern what to do with this incredible gift of time and space. After a long hot bath in complete silence, a conversation with a girlfriend that did not involve hiding from my children in order to have said adult conversation, I decided to get busy sewing.

Now you should know that I am a sewing-crazed fool that has zero skills. That is a major problem since it means I have dozens of patterns and fabric I have purchased this past year and most often, end up ruining the fabric and my spirit attempting to teach myself to sew. I have been known to look inside the shirt and dress collars of my preschoolers to see if their mothers or grandmothers handmade their outfits. I have also been known to wait by the classroom door to accost these mothers and grandmothers and asked them how they did it. I took one sewing class at The Smocking Bird here in town and learn how to sew the Children's Corner "Lucy" pattern for Helen. That taught me some very basic skills and tricks that I have been able to apply. However, I continue to be baffled by the dreaded zipper, that appears in every pattern I have purchased to make clothing for myself. Still, I keep at it. So here are the results of the last 72 hours.This is a Lucy dress I made for Helen. It was very easy except for making the buttonholes. I recently bought a buttonhole foot for my Bernina 150 but no matter what I do, I have to gently tug the fabric along to keep it from snagging. I made it work but an expert seamstress would look on my work with a heavy heart. It is a cute little jumper and something that is not so PINK since most of her wardrobe is still so PINK. I thought it was time to branch out.
This is a skirt I tried to make about two months ago. I checked out Heather Ross's Weekend Sewing book from the library after seeing some craft blogs tout how simple, functional, and easy the patterns were in the book. I chose the Yard Sale Wrap skirt and got to work. To tell you the truth, my work was virtually flawless and then I tried it on. Mind you, I made the X-large size so imagine my dismay to find it would not go around my waist by about six inches. Some quick googling revealed that Heather goofed and did not get corrections completed before the book went to press. I was so upset. I printed off the errata sheet and tucked it into the book before I returned it to the library so some other poor soul did not find herself as frustrated as I was. However, the bliss of these last 72 hours gave me the time to cut out the beautiful waistband, pull up the skirt to shorten it and fit my teeny-tiny waist (detect that sarcasm?), and attempt to put in a dreaded zipper. I failed again, but it does zip, and it will stay on. I just need to wear a slouchy t-shirt with it to cover my terrible sewing skills.This is a dress I complete a while back and had planned to wear to some summer wedding weekends. Again, it is virtually flawless except for my inability to put in an invisible zipper. Because of this, there is a hideous white zipper that glares at you from the back. I post a picture of it despite the fact that I did not do a thing to it these last 72 hours. However, I spent about an hour trying to work up the courage to take it apart and try again. I decided against it and plan to take it to an alterations place to have them correct my zipper mistake and make it wearable before my Southern upbringing makes it impossible for me to wear eyelet linen past Labor Day.

I started to back smock a pink panel I was given that should form a cute bubble but comparing it to Helen's current bubbles made me think that she has definitely outgrown it. If I had a smocking pleater, I probably would have spent some more time starting some new smocking projects.

So here is my wishlist to feed my need for sewing.

A smocking pleater
The Smocking Bird's intermediate sewing class (set in sleeves, collars and piping)
The Smocking Bird's smocked bishop construction class
The Smocking Bird's smocking stacking class

Too bad we need groceries first each month!

Tomorrow I will be able to press my sweet children's faces to mine and give them big sloppy kisses and hugs. Saturday I can give my husband big sloppy kisses and hugs too. For now, I plan to go soak in one more hot bubble bath and enjoy that last glass of white wine chilling in the fridge.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Ahoy, Me Hearties!

Today we had Little Philip's 4th birthday party. The weather was absolutely perfect, right in the mid 80's. It was actually a tad bit chilly if you were playing in the water slide we had for the party! Lots of little friends helped us celebrate with a pirate themed party. Aunt Lizzy had plenty of beads and doubloons she brought from New Orleans so we draped the back deck and used them to decorate the treasure chest full of party favors. Little Philip finally received the big boy bike he has been hoping for, with "two wheels." It is 8:55 pm now and both children are sound asleep in their beds after an exhausting but fun-filled day. Love that silence!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Happy 4th Birthday, Philip!

Little Philip turned four years old on Monday. I had hoped to post big smiles and happy pictures but instead, we had one sick little boy on his birthday! We returned from a family wedding in Mississippi this past weekend with both children down with a stomach bug. Let me tell you, there is nothing worse than having two children throwing up on "both ends" and being stuck in a hotel room, plotting your five hour drive home for the next morning. We were sad not to be able to visit with family since the first incident occurred as we were pulling up to the church for the wedding. Let's just say that the rental car we still have should air out by the time the body shop actually finishes fixing our van...we hope. To all our aunts, uncles, and cousins who waved at us from the Hampton Inn breakfast Sunday morning, it was great to "see" you.

So Monday morning we filled Little Philip's room with balloons, just like we did last year. He didn't even notice them as he weakly dragged his poor little boy out of bed to throw up one more time before heading back to our bed for the day. He slept most of the day away but was feeling much better by dinner time.

Fast forward to Tuesday, when Mommy returned to work and left Daddy to care for the two mostly healed children. Little Philip decided to use his new beanbag chair as a slide off of the sofa. He slid alright, right into the coffee table face first. His lip and front gum look like something out of a gory movie, but Dr. Hamm assures us that his teeth are in tact (our biggest concern) and that lips and gums are amazing to watch heal. We hope it heals in time for some birthday cake on Saturday!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Helen Eats and Talks

Helen is just shy of 16 months now. She started walking the second week of June, FINALLY! Actually, she spoke her first word before she ever took her first step. Her first word was "thank you" which roughly translates to "I-am-holding-out-my-hand-and-repeating-this-phrase-until-you-feed-me-what-is-in-your-hand-and-if-you-don't-I-will-shriek-like-a-wild-banshee-causing-a-huge-public-scene." It's adorable, really it is, the first ten times, but then it kind of wears on you without a Tylenol fix. Unlike her brother, who eats like a bird, Helen eats roughly her weight in food each day.

This past week she added another new word to her ever growing repertoire: "cookie." She also says "cracker" but cookies are more prevalent in our house lately than crackers since baking them is a family activity in itself. Yeah for the Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough recipe that keeps wonderfully in the fridge! Here is a little clip of us holding food hostage until she says the word. Please note her frantic use of baby sign language taught not by her parents, but by her brother across the dinner table.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Summer Activities

A blog called The Long Thread shares a plethora of summer craft activities you can share with your children or yourself. I am drawn to blogs like this since I am now teaching preschool. Little Philip is a glutton for arts and crafts and anything involving books. Helen wants to tag right along, despite her tender age of 15 months. Thankfully, we are past the point of eating craft glue so she is able to join us with most projects.

Here are a few projects or activities we plan to do this summer, all gained from the above link but specifically linked in each project (former BSC Honor Council members, please note my effort to cite sources):

We seem to go through the store bought sidewalk chalk like toilet paper around here, so we will be making our own sidewalk chalk. I have an enormous four year old container of plaster of Paris I bought to make Little Philip's first feet impressions. However, the cute little tin I bought to put his cute little footprints in turned out to be too little since I gave birth to a son roughly the weight and size of a Thanksgiving turkey.
We will be making our own sidewalk chalk paint but will not be using Mommy's beloved silicone pastry brushes. Daddy has some perfectly good paint brushes in the garage that has seen their last latex painting days. Since we can't afford to fixed the horribly cracked concrete driveway, I'm devising a grand sidewalk chalk mural that will disguise the cracks for the little ones to complete one day.
Because Little Philip loves to read and has discovered the Dr. Suess section at our local library, we will be making oobleck. I have not read this book, nor do I know what this stuff is but it looks a like like Flubber and getting ooey-gooey is quite a treat for my little ones. On a rainy day (if there will ever be one!) we will be making kaleidoscopes:
And one more project. We will be making our own bubble mixture which basically consists of dish washing liquid, water and unflavored gelatin. For all my couponers, remember those $4 off any one Knox unflavored gelatin coupons that resulted in about a $2.50 overage to spend? I have about ten boxes of that stuff that have just been sitting waiting for a use like this.

And the good news? All of the above activities will cost us nothing since we have all the required materials or ingredients already on hand!