Monthly Archives: February 2012

Sunday Night Chit Chat

Hmmm – I can’t decide if Sunday evening is the start of another week or the end of this one. I wish I had an interesting picture to add, but for now will stick with one of my current book.

This evening I am:

Reading: Acqua Alta by Donna Leon, a murder mystery set in Venice. Italian is scattered throughout and I am surprised by how much I can still remember.

Watching: Nothing this evening. I’ll watch Downton Abbey online tomorrow.

Listening to: Four girls and my husband talking downstairs. There’s no school tomorrow so WenYu has a friend over for a sleepover.

Cooking/Baking: I made a strawberry-rhubarb cobbler a little while ago for our dessert tonight (I took one bite). Mr. Losing It made dinner though – a big, yummy pepperoni pizza!

Happy I accomplished this past week: Getting over my back ache. I didn’t accomplish much of anything else other than finishing two books.

Looking forward to next week: Another pretty calm week. I have only one day of work (tomorrow morning) and one appointment, but that’s it. I’m also excited to find out the winner of my Kiwi knife giveaway!

Thankful for today: That my girls are all good students and so drama-free. With three teens in the house things could be a lot worse, but the girls are kind to each other (for the most part) and kind, respectful and loving with my husband and me. They are also open-minded and tolerant of differences in others, and totally onboard with our family goals. We are so blessed to have these girls in our lives.

Thanks to Carla for hosting!

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Saturday Morning Weigh-In and Some Other Stuff

It has been a good, but not great, week. Although I thankfully lost another pound (169 this morning!), I did something to my back last Tuesday and haven’t been able to move around much, although it was decidedly better yesterday morning (Thursday night I was in so much pain I couldn’t climb the stairs or get into bed without help) and my back feels normal again this morning. Heaven only knows what I did to cause myself so much agony. Because I had to stay immobile for so long though, I was able to get quite a bit of reading done, so I guess that’s one positive to came out it.

In other news:

  • We received our annual Costco refund this past week for $75.52. Combining that amount along with the meals we’ll get from the turkey that’s been in the freezer since last November (as well as other things on hand) means I can cut the next two weeks’ grocery budget in half! The extra $160 will go into our vacation fund.
  • I love using the coupons in my Chinook book! I had breakfast yesterday morning with a friend and we saved the price of one entree thanks to the coupon. We’ve also gotten a free giant pizza, free re-usable shopping bag, free organic baguette, and a whole lot of other goodies using the coupons and still have a ton of them left.
  • The Kiwi knife giveaway ends on Monday – don’t forget to enter to win two new sharp knives for your kitchen. The comments so far from readers about their favorite frugal kitchen tools are well worth the read – I’ve been taking notes!

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The One We Were Waiting For

Credit Card #1 has been a thorn in our side for over two years. We have a huge balance at a fairly high interest rate we have been chipping away at, but it’s been slow going. Right before the new credit laws went into effect, the company increased our interest rate by several points even though we’ve never missed a payment (on anything, ever) and always pay more than the minimum payment. This company has also slowly but surely whittled down our credit limit to where it’s always barely over the amount we owe, and we’ve taken a ding on our credit score every time they “re-evaluate” us.

Over the past few months we have received several offers for 0% interest credit cards, but haven’t taken advantage of them because none of the offers were enough to cover the balance on Credit Card #1, and the length of the promotion was never enough that we could pay the entire balance before time ran out and the interest rate jumped right back up, usually to a higher rate than what we currently pay.

That changed yesterday though with an offer from the bank/company that handles our homeowners and car insurance. We were offered 0% interest until September 2013, and a credit line that more than covers the remaining balance on Credit Card #1. Since our goal was to have the balance paid in full by June 2013, this more than works for us. We have been paying nearly (or over) $100 per month in interest on the balance, but now every last cent each month will go to paying down the principle!

I would have like to have added on the student loan and Credit Card #2 balances so we could have just one payment with no interest every month, but we didn’t get enough of a credit line to cover those as well. However, the interest rate on the student loan is only 2.9%, and Credit Card #2 still has a very low promotional rate and will be paid in full by the end of April, so I don’t feel too badly about leaving them alone for now. The orthodontist balance is already interest free and will be paid in full by the end of June so there’s no sense in moving that one either. But we will be done, done, done with the Credit Card #1 bank for good!

Patience does have its rewards!

P.S. Don’t forget to enter the Kiwi knife giveaway for a chance to win two sharp, versatile kitchen knives.

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A Pretty Sharp Giveaway!

Last week I wrote about how much I loved my Kiwi mini cleaver (or blunt meat knife) and that it’s my new favorite frugal kitchen too. I use it for everything these days: chopping, slicing, and peeling and after over two months of heavy use it’s still incredibly sharp. This past weekend when I picked up one of these knives for a friend, I also bought one and a Kiwi paring knife (the two knives in the picture) to give away to one of my readers!

There are several ways to enter to win both the blunt meat knife (heavens, I love that name) and the paring knife. You can do one or all three:

  • Leave a comment about your favorite frugal kitchen tool.
  • Become a follower of I’m Losing It Here.
  • Post about the giveaway on your own blog (leave me a message to let me know)

The giveaway is open until midnight next Monday, February 20. A winner will be randomly chosen from all entries on Tuesday morning and your knives shipped as soon as possible, either later Tuesday or on Wednesday. U.S. and Canada entries only.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Good luck!

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Menu Plan Monday: The Last Birthday

This past weekend we celebrated the last of the girls’ birthdays. WenYu turned 14, and requested ravioli with Alfredo sauce, garlic bread and roasted brussels sprouts for her birthday dinner. I found some roasted eggplant ravioli at Costco and fixed those, and instead of plain garlic bread I whipped up some “herbed” garlic butter (melted butter with garlic, dried basil, lemon juice and finely sliced green onion top) and topped the bread slices with that before toasting. She again requested a rich, decadent flourless dark chocolate “San Andreas” cake, so-called because it forms deep cracks as it bakes and cools.

This week will be an “empty” week, meaning we have no appointments, no visitors, no substitute hours (that I know of now) – nothing but our regular schedules, which are hectic enough without adding in anything extra. We also have a school late-opening morning on Wednesday, which means we all get to sleep in an extra two hours, something we’re all looking forward to. Meals this week are going to be fairly simple, although I plan to try out a new recipe for Cottage Pie (or shepherd’s pie). Meiling has been asking me to make it for ages, and I’m finally going to get around to it.

WenYu and Meiling will be baking chocolate chip cookies this afternoon so they can give some to their boyfriends for Valentine’s Day, but otherwise no baking this week. The San Andreas cake will last for several days so we’ll be good for dessert for the rest of the week.

Oh yes – I’ll be hosting my first ever giveaway this week – stayed tuned!

This week we’ll be having:

  • Roasted eggplant ravioli with Alfredo sauce; herbed garlic toast; roasted brussels sprouts; San Andreas chocolate cake (Sunday)
  • Pizza with pesto, feta cheese, Italian sausage and red onion
  • Gingery pork & cucumber pitas; Asian cole slaw
  • Spanish tortilla; roasted asparagus
  • Beef & broccoli stir fry; steamed rice
  • Cottage pie; bread; green salad
  • Grilled vegetable panini; sweet potato fries

School lunches will be beef & barley soup; ham & cheese sandwiches; cup noodles; chicken noodle soup; and rice with nori. Breakfasts will be pumpkin pancakes; breakfast burritos; pizza; hash browns & eggs; and French toast.

You can find more great menus and recipe ideas at Menu Plan Monday at I’m An Organizing Junkie.

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Sunday Night Chit Chat

Is it just me, or do these weeks seem to be speeding by? It’s almost hard to believe we’re nearly half way through February.

Anyway, this week I’m . . .

Reading: About John Brown and his raid at Harper’s Ferry before the Civil War. I know, another book about the Civil War, but I’m learning all sorts of stuff I didn’t know before. I blame this current obsession on the Ken Burn’s documentary we watched again at the end of last year.

Watching: Nothing these days. I’ll watch Downton Abbey tomorrow online, but otherwise I haven’t watched anything on TV is a long while.

Listening to: WenYu play her guitar. She is getting good enough that I thought I was listening to a CD the other day.

Cooking/Baking: I made eggplant ravioli with Alfredo sauce, herbed garlic bread and roasted brussels sprouts for WenYu’s birthday dinner this evening (her choices). I also baked her a decadent flourless dark chocolate cake that she asks for every year.

Happy I accomplished this week: I finished another book, lost a pound, paid off more of Credit Card #2, and didn’t spend any extra money.

Looking forward to: An “empty” week. No appointments, no visitors, no teaching – just our regular schedule and we have a late opening day for school on Wednesday. I’m also excited to hold my first ever giveaway next week!

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Saturday Morning Weigh-In

I was expecting my weight to stay the same as last week, or at best, maybe lose a few tenths of a pound, but this morning’s weight was 170 pounds, a whole pound less than last week! Yeah me! It’s nothing momentous, but as I remind myself (constantly), slow and steady wins the race.

I got in two good walks this past week, and also discovered that two hours of teaching is also two hours of being on my feet, walking back and forth in front of the class, going to the board, walking among the students to check papers and answer questions, and so forth. It might not be entirely aerobic, but it’s sure better than sitting down.

 

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Frugal Product Love: My Kiwi Knife

That's the "blunt meat knife" on the bottom.

It’s always said that the most important tool in the kitchen is a good knife, and I wholeheartedly agree. I have some very good, high-end knives that I’ve received over the years as gifts from my husband or from others or even won as a prize. One good knife I now own was left after a potluck at my house and the owner never came back to reclaim it (even though I called her repeatedly).

But, my good knives are feeling rather forgotten and unloved these days. My favorite right now, the one I reach for again and again, is my Kiwi mini-cleaver (“blunt meat knife”) purchased from our local Asian supermarket. It’s versatile and easy to maintain. It’s a nice, comfortable size that’s easy to hold, use and store. I use it to chop, peel or slice fruits and vegetables, mince herbs or garlic or ginger, and slice or chop meats (which is to say I use it for everything). And, it’s sharp. Very sharp. As one reviewer put it: “These things take “scary sharp” to a whole new level. They are like razor blades with handles — seriously. You hear about “knives you can shave with”, well, these things should have “Gillette” stamped on them. I’m not intimidated by knives, but these made me pay very close attention to what I was doing.” After two months of heavy use, my knife is still as sharp as the day I bought it, which I will repeat is very sharp.

To say this knife was affordable would be a gross understatement. I paid $3.39 for my Kiwi knife. That’s right, $3.39. Although the knife can be sharpened, at that price I’m not going to feel too badly about letting it go and getting another when the blade gets dull, although I intend to keep it sharpened as long as I can. When it’s time for it to go, both the blade and handle of the old knife can be recycled so there’s no waste.

Kiwi knives are made in Thailand, and come in a variety of sizes, from paring knives up to full-size cleavers. Next time I’m at an Asian market I’m going to check and see if they carry the paring knife as my current $10 Swiss paring knives are fading fast. The Kiwi knife I currently own has been nothing short of a joy to use and I’m greatly looking forward to owning a couple more in different sizes.

P.S. If you’re interested in owning one, check out Asian markets before you look online. I have found online prices to be much higher (and you have to pay shipping). Amazon’s prizes are over the top compared to what I paid.

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Some Cheap Things We Do That Drive the Kids Crazy

Our daughters have been great team players in our efforts to live more simply and frugally on this journey of becoming debt free. For the most part they’ve embraced the cutbacks, haven’t complained and have even come up with ideas for saving. But they haven’t been entirely happy about everything we do, or all of my ideas for cutting back or saving. For example, the other night I scored a huge pan of Chinese food that was leftover from the potluck dinner we attended. Part of the food that evening had been catered in – twice-fried chicken, lo mein, fried rice and stir-fry vegetables – and there was plenty left over. It was going to be thrown away, an absolute crime in my book these days, so I asked if I could take it home. I got a couple of funny looks from the “you take potluck leftovers?” crowd, but our girls were thrilled and enjoyed two days of tasty leftovers. I was a hero because I’d thought to score those leftovers.

What they weren’t crazy about though was that Mr. Losing It and I also asked if we could take all the empty cans for recycling. They too would have been thrown out, but in Oregon you can get back five cents for each can, and with 36 cans to be recycled I didn’t want to let $1.80 go into the trash. We have recycled cans and bottles for years, and I am not above picking up stray cans I find when I’m out walking. The girls tell me I’m cheap, but we’d pick up a nickel off the ground so why not a can worth five cents? I’ve also been known to stop if I’m driving by and see boxes of glass beer bottles out for recycling. The girls all duck down so no one will see them, but the last time I stopped I got over $6 worth of bottles to recycle. That $6, I reminded the girls, will cover the cost of a fruity drink with an umbrella in it some evening in Hawaii. I’m not as obsessive about picking up cans and bottles as I once was, and I don’t pick cans and bottles out of the trash, but otherwise every nickel counts and they add up quicker than you would think.

Our girls also don’t like that we no longer buy Kleenex or any other kinds of tissues (paper towels, either). We instead use cut-up t-shirts for handkerchiefs and rags around the house. The girls are terrified one of their friends is going to discover this cheap and potentially humiliating secret of ours some day. We do have nice cloth napkins for when company comes, and use regular toilet paper, but I otherwise can’t justify the cost and waste of paper tissues and paper towels these days.

Another cheap thing I do that sort of drives them nuts (and I can’t figure out why) is to ask for and bring home tea bags if any are left over at meetings or gatherings where coffee and tea have been provided. Lots of places, I discovered a while ago, throw the individually packaged tea bags away rather than reuse them (I was shocked to discover this), but I am happy to ask and often end up with a nice selection of gourmet tea bags. I think the girls would care less if I could find the type of tea they like (green tea with jasmine), but other than buying tea bags for them and loose lychee tea in the summer (it makes the best iced tea) I haven’t bought tea bags in years.

Mr. Losing also occasionally brings home some of the small condiment packages he gets at work. He’ll find he picked up more than he needs for that meal, and rather than throwing them away he brings them home and we put them away to take camping with us. The girls think this is another cheap thing we do, and roll their eyes when they see a packet out on the counter, but for me, free packets of catsup, mustard, relish and mayonnaise are a lot easier to pack and store on a camping trip than jars of condiments.

Do you have any frugal or cheap habits or ideas that make your family cringe?

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Menu Plan Monday: Return to Normal

I consider it a minor miracle that I survived the past week. By Thursday evening I apparently looked so exhausted that Mr. Losing It sent me to bed and took YaYu back to her science fair. He came home and reported that I probably would have suffered a breakdown if I’d gone as planned for the all the people, kids and noise. I somehow managed through Friday, enjoyed myself at the potluck that evening and got up early Saturday to say goodbye to our exchange student. But I stayed in my pajamas all day Saturday – it was glorious to have nothing to do all day but rest and read, and by evening I almost felt like my own self again.

The last thing I felt like doing at the end of each day last week was to fix dinner. This week I am looking forward to cooking and eating together with the family without having to worry about whether the exchange student will like what I fix or not. This week’s menu is full of easy, but comforting dishes that will use up what’s on hand in the freezer and pantry. The weather also looks like it will cooperate to where we can light up the barbecue this week, although all I have on hand to grill are some hot dogs.

The only baking I plan to do all week is to make a pan of brownies late in the week – we had an abundance of sweets around last week while the exchange student was here and we all need a break.

This week we’ll be eating:

School lunches will be Italian wedding soup; roast beef & cheese sandwiches; cup noodles; clam chowder & crackers and honey-barbecue chicken wings. Breakfasts will be breakfast burritos; hash browns & eggs; congee; potstickers; and shu mai and rice.

Be sure to head over to I’m An Organizing Junkie to check out more menu plans and recipe ideas.

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