Category: challenges

February Reading

Actually managed to get all my goal reading for February done!  Since having a kid, I never seem to have any reading time, but I’m trying to make a change.  To start, we’ve cut down our TV time and are no longer watching any in the evening until after Autumn is in bed.  As a result, we’re reading aloud almost every single night.  I made a list of books I would like to read each month, along with a read-aloud.  So far, we have done the read-aloud books for February, March, April, and have started May’s!

What did I read?

Organized Simplicity – I’ve got to admit that after the first couple chapters I was ready to lay this one aside.  It seemed a bit over the top, but I kept reading.  Largely because I was on the treadmill at the gym with nothing else to read on my new Kindle.  And as I continued to read, I not only started to appreciate the writing more, I also started to feel convicted and get some good direction.  We’re slowly trying to work through some of the activities and challenges presented in the book.  (While I can’t take off 10 days to completely declutter and clean my house, I am trying to get it done…just in baby steps.)

The Billionaire’s Vinegar – This is one of those books that I’ve been “in the middle of” for a long long time.   I decided this was the month to finish it.  A fascinating non-fiction story of people with ridiculously large amounts of money that are willing to spend huge amounts on very old wine…and the man who takes them all in with fakes.  I probably would have enjoyed it more if I had known a little more about the subject of rare wines, but the plot was compelling, if at times a bit long.  And, hey, it’s finished!

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie – This was the book group pick for this month. I did enjoy this book, but it is not one of my favorites.  While the mystery and story were fun, unexpected, and well-written, I had a very hard time liking ANY of the characters involved.  I assumed from the beginning of the book that the protagonist, an 11-year-old girl, had Asperger’s or something similar, but maybe not?  She was obsessed with chemistry and, while her character was very interesting, I couldn’t really identify with her. The family was very dysfunctional and the sisters treated each other very poorly.

Homer Price – Our read aloud for this month. This is just a fun book that I loved as a kid.  Funny, charming, off-the-wall adventures of a boy growing up.  DH read parts of this to Autumn as well, and I have to say his version (with voices) was a lot better than mine.  He also caught a lot more of the jokes dealing with classical characters than I did. 🙂





We have been enjoying plenty of produce from the garden lately!  To be honest, the cherry tomatoes rarely stay around for more than a few minutes, as Autumn LOVES them, and steals them off the vine and gobbles them up before they even get inside. We’re also getting random late asparagus and yard-long beans which are delicious!  FIL gave us a bucket of small peaches which are quite yummy, but most of them were very buggy, so ended up in the compost.


A new grocery store opened up in our town and was running several in-store specials.  I stocked up on brick and string cheese, as they were .75 cents each.  I’ve been waiting for a cheese sale for MONTHS.  Also, brats and sausage for .99 cents a pack. Great for the grill. 🙂


Oh, and markdown ground beef and .99 cent cantaloupe, too!


We also got quite a bit of produce from the farmer’s market.  As mentioned before, I don’t calculate this in, as it’s more of a barter system.


Strawberries and blueberries got eaten up before I could get a picture. 😉


Harvested white carrots from our raised beds this week.


And garlic, too!


And some more yard-long beans.  Will definitely plant these again next year- so so good!

Unfortunately, all this stocking up on cheese means I went way over budget this week.  Leaving me only $8 in the budget for next week.  Can I do it?















Changes for February:

-$25 per week (up from $20) – running low on meats/proteins, so I think we need a little wiggle room

-$10 per week toward garden fund, $15 per week toward beef purchase

-no longer counting dog and cat food in total

-free after rebate items will only count tax (as long as rebate is sent off right away)

How we did this week:

I went over budget this time. 😦  Which means we are on a much stricter budget to make up for it next week.  We ran out of several must-have items this week, so that’s why the total was higher.

Didn’t get pictures of most of it, but here’s what we got this week:

Produce: 1 bag baby purple potatoes(FREE a/c), 2 bags fresh baby spinach, big bunch of markdown bananas, 3-lb bag organic apples, 2 large onions

Drinks: 4 Gatorade (FREE a/c), 6-pk of Pediasure (FREE after rebate)

Dairy: 2 dozen eggs, 4 four-packs yogurt (FREE a/c), sour cream, 2 bottles half&half

Frozen: 2 whole fruit sorbet,  6 ice cream (had to use up drugstore credit before it expired)

Canned: 27 cans ro-tel (FREE a/c)

HBA: 2 toothbrushes(FREE a/c), mineral foundation

Other: 3 bags bagel chips (FREE a/c), 2 bags organic corn chips, 6 balance bars, 4 big bags M&Ms for valentines, baking soda, kitty litter (FREE after rebate)

Total Spent: $30.06

Total Saved: no idea, but it was a lot

Next Week’s Budget: $19.94

Goals for 2011

Okay, so I know this is way later than most people are posting, but with DH’s job, our year tends to start in late January instead of January 1st.  He works a LOT in November and December, since he’s in retail. We take some days off in the middle of the January as our “holiday” and take time then for a mini vacation and usually a nice long planning session with DH.

We planned out a lot of things and made lots of resolutions, but the two I want to share now are:

1) Do/learn a new thing each month. I have way too many projects I want to do and things I want to learn that I never get around to doing.  I think I can handle one thing a month.  The next few months: January – learn to hem pants.  February – sew curtains for kitchen. March – make birch bark vases.

2) Do a “photo shoot” of DD at least once a month.  I’ve found myself taking fewer and fewer pictures lately.  I know I won’t be able to commit to a project 365 or something like that, but I’m  sure I can take a bunch of pictures at least once a month.

And since deciding on those goals I’ve gotten both done for January!  I hemmed five pairs of pants using two different types of hems (all learned from watching youtube videos), so DH has a whole new wardrobe. 🙂  And I got in a little photo shoot of DD the other day at the playground.

So after debating for a while, we decided to take vacation week completely off of the challenge. It was just too much to try to keep track of when out of town. So I’m acting like it never happened.

Didn’t take money out for my goals and didn’t track spending.  So that makes last week #3.  I will be continuing this challenge through the month of February as well, but may change up a few things.

I didn’t get pictures this week at all, but bought the following:

-4 yo-plus yogurt 4-pks

-1 bunch bananas

-8 whole fruit sorbet

-1 coke 12-pk (free item coupon)

– 1 bag organic tortilla chips

-1 bag cat litter

-8 cans rotel tomatoes

-1 big tub plain yogurt

-1 dozen eggs

-3 bags cornmeal

-4 pouches gatorade (DH likes these before long runs)

-1 pack tofu

-1 bag cough drops

-1 cucumber

-1 sweet onion

– 2 heads red/green leaf lettuce

– 1 bottle of hair gel (paid full price because we ran out – yikes!)

Total Spent OOP: $21.02

Total Saved: $52.83

Leaves me with .32 cents left over from last time, so next week’s budget is $20.32

I started off the week forgetting to pack Matt a lunch, so off to a bad start, but we finished up pretty well.

We spent a total of $9.95 on groceries this week and bought the following:

  • 1 lunch from the grocery store
  • 2 packages chicken sausage
  • 1 clamshell container of baby spinach
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 package paper towels (free)
  • 4 boxes Excedrin (paid tax only)

And we ate out for lunch today (using a BOGO coupon), but that’s it.  Crazy thing is how little we actually ate up from the pantry/freezer!  We could go for a long time at this rate.

Also took a bunch of extra food to the local food pantry.

So I’ll be carrying over $10.05 to next week, for a total grocery budget of $30.05.

My main goal this time around is to cut our grocery spending down to $20 per week by eating mainly from the pantry and freezer this month.  It will also mean being extremely on top of things with packing lunches for DH, so that he doesn’t have to buy lunch.

Most of the money saved will be set aside to start a fund for buying a pasture-raised, organic, antibiotic-free, hormone-free, in-other-words-super-healthy side of beef (aka, the steers my parents raise).  I also want to set aside some money for another raised garden bed to increase what we plant this year.

I think we will be taking some vacation days this month and will take a vacation from the challenge on those days as well, but that should be it.

So my challenge goals are as follows:

  • $20/wk grocery budget focused on produce, protein, and dairy. This includes all people AND animal food.
  • Eat out no more than once a week, including fast food. Try to use gift cards/coupons if possible.
  • Set aside $10 per week for garden bed supplies.
  • Set aside $20 per week for beef purchase.
  • Donate excess to food pantry.

By the end of the challenge I want to:

  • Have an empty freezer to defrost.
  • Learn some GF baking skills.
  • Weed all expired and “junk” foods from pantry.
  • End with a complete inventory of all foods in freezer and pantry.
  • Do a better job of sticking to meal plans and packing lunches.

Going to start out with a very simple menu plan, but it’s probably going to get very “creative” before the month is out:

Monday B) blueberry protein smoothies*  L) leftovers D) breakfast for dinner – eggs, sausage *, fruit

Tuesday B) yogurt, granola* L) hummus* or peanut butter * with veggie dippers and whole grain pita* D) black bean soup*

Wednesday B) eggs or cereal* L) leftover black bean soup*, salad D) pork* stir fry

Thursday B) protein smoothies* L) leftover stir fry* D) chicken*, brown rice*, collard greens*

Friday B) yogurt, granola* L) salad D) mexican chicken soup*

Saturday B) egg “mcmuffins”* L) leftover soup*, salad D) homemade chili*

Sunday B) yogurt, fresh fruit L) out or GF pizza* D) leftover chili*

*indicates items that are coming from (or all the ingredients are in) the freezer and/or pantry.

Groceries to buy this week: cilantro, avocado, stir-fry veggies, lettuce/spinach, fruit.

I can’t even tell you how much I love this kit!  Such a fun fun kit for summer!  And it’s only $3.50 – think how much you can add to your summer crafts with this inexpensive kit!  (Click on the image above to purchase.)

Echo Park paper, stickers, and alphas. MS border punch and label. Ric rac and ribbon from August kit.

ricrac from August kit, American Crafts stickers, Twinery twine and label, Cosmo tiny type alphas, Basic Grey chipboard and paper, 7Gypsies sticker, cinder glimmer mist, acrylic paint

acrylic paint, WRMK rub ons, AC thickers, ribbon from August kit

7Gypsies stickers, Cosmo Cricket papers and chipboard, AC thickers, ribbon and ric rac from August kit


I decided to play along with the XOXO girl’s challenge blog this month again.  This month the sponsor is Lucky Girl Crafts.  I scrap-lifted two layouts.  This first one is my attempt to lift Sarah Webb’s beautiful layout and turn it from girly to masculine.

Junk Food Layout


  • Hobby Lobby cardstock
  • SavvynSassy ricrac from the August kit
  • Caribbean baker’s twine and free printable label from The Twinery
  • Basic Grey paper and chipboard
  • 7Gypsies stickers
  • Cosmo Cricket and American Crafts alphas
  • Cinder glimmer mist
  • orange acrylic paint

For this second layout, I lifted the basic “sketch” of Kimmy Jaster’s layout, but totally changed up the theme, colors, and made it a little more simple.

Play in the Surf Layout


  • ribbon and trim from SavvynSassy
  • Echo Park papers, stickers, and alphas
  • Cosmo Cricket tiny type alphas
  • Martha Stewart template and border punch

This is another page inspired by the XOXO challenge blog.  This is from challenge #10 sponsored by Divine Design Kits.  I lifted Sarah Webb’s design here. I used a technique here from hair bow making to make the twisty grosgrain ribbon springs.

Pink Paislee and Crate papers, Pink Paislee stickers, Cosmo Cricket tiny type alpha stickers, American Crafts thickers, Prima and various flowers, various buttons, Prima leaves, ribbons by SavvynSassy