Archive | June 2011

Garden Update #5

Thanks to a number of days with rain, I avoided the garden for about half a week. When I finally went yesterday I was hoping there would be more than weeds in the plot. I am happy to report that, despite my neglect, the garden is still thriving. I brought home more cilantro, green beans (something is still nibbling on their leaves though), arugula, and kale. We also have three almost full-sized cucumbers, tomatoes growing on all four plants, and half of our pepper plants are flowering.

Getting Away from the Office

I think my favorite part about being a freelancer is the flexibility. For example, this morning it is rainy and dreary. While I am thrilled that the downpour is providing our garden with lots of much-needed water, it doesn’t exactly make me want to get out of bed and get to work! Particularly when my husband brought me breakfast in bed to start the day. Of course, my days certainly don’t go this way on a regular basis and typically I am at my desk by 7:30 am. Occasionally I have found myself working on a weekend or late at night, but generally speaking, I have to admit the schedule of a freelancer is simply the best.

In the past few weeks I have had a few opportunities to embrace the work/life balance that comes from setting your own hours of operation. A few weeks ago my mom was visiting from California and we spent three days in NYC. Since we went up Thursday morning and came home Saturday I took Thursday and Friday off of work. We’d planned the trip a few months in advance, so I had been arranging projects around those days, but when the time came I felt guilty being away from my computer. How would it look if I didn’t return an email within 5 minutes of receiving it? Well, I had set up an out-of-office message, I told myself. After a few hours I found that I was perfectly relaxed and enjoying walking around the city with my mom. We took in a few Broadway shows and enjoyed some delicious food, making it a fabulous mini get-a-way.

I don’t have anymore multi-day excursions planned for the next few months, but last week I embraced a bit of quiet time in my schedule to meet my husband for lunch downtown on a weekday and then visit a few museums. Despite spending 4 hours away from my desk, I still made it home early enough to squeeze in a bit more work before jazzercise. And I got to enjoy a lovely sun-filled afternoon away from my desk. It was inspiring and just the break I needed.

I think that breaks like this are something everyone would benefit from, but it is so difficult to make them happen when you work in an office with an allotted amount of time for lunch. Now that I have the chance, I’m going to do my best to embrace the freedom that comes with crafting a schedule that really works for me.

Extreme-ish Couponing

Oh coupons, they can make life exciting in a nerdy, frugal sort of way. I have posted about experiences where, thanks to coupons, I saved more than I spent. I have also managed to utilize around 20 $1+ coupons during a super double day. And while both of these were great opportunities to save, I recently saw a few episodes of Extreme Couponing and it really freaked me out. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good deal as much as the next person, but I also know that no one needs 400 yogurts just because you can get them for 5 cents.

At the start of an Extreme Couponing episode, they usually examine a person’s “hoard” prior to going on a shopping trip that requires 8 carts and takes all day. Last weekend I was organizing the hall closet where we keep all our toiletries and I pointed out to my husband that I have created a mini hoard. Why do we have 5 shampoos? Perhaps it has a little to do with a dream I had a few years ago when shampoo was no longer available, but mostly I think it is because each bottle was purchased when I hit the bargain trifecta — the item was on sale, I had a coupon, and the coupon was being doubled (or tripled). Who can say no to buying the shampoo you actually want to use for $2 or less when it is normally $5?

But a person needs to draw a line when it comes to saving. Just because something is cheap — or even free — it doesn’t mean you need 300 of them. For example, I saw a woman on the show go to the grocery store and buy 85 packs of freeze-dried mashed potatoes and other packaged meals, but no fresh veggies or fruit. I mean, just because there aren’t any coupons for those items doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feed them to your family! Couldn’t she have bought a few pouches of packaged mashed potatoes then used the rest of the potato money on something fresh and green?

On another episode a woman bought 50 bottles of Mylanta. Um, unless you have severe stomach issues how will those bottles ever get used? And if you are intending to use 50 bottles before they expire, you probably need to see your doctor. Sixty cents each or not, it is a waste of money to purchase a large quantity of an item that you aren’t likely to use—particularly if you are on a tight budget.

Personally, it’s enough for me to take advantage of a buy one, get two pints of blueberries deal or rejoice in the weeks when milk goes from $4.19 a gallon to $2.97. And no, I didn’t buy 10 pints of blueberries to get 30 or as much milk as I could fit in my fridge. Saving and being reasonable can go hand-in-hand. For me taking advantage of each of these deals once is plenty, thank you very much!

Garden Update #4

Well spring may have been slow to arrive, but summer is definitely upon us. As it is well before the official start date, I think someone should have a little chat with Mother Nature about that! I began my daily morning treks to water at the garden around Memorial Day and so far most plants seem to be thriving in the heat. I would readily welcome a good storm or two, though. It’s been dry for the past few weeks and I have a feeling that the plot would benefit from a good soaking.

Luckily it seems that the summer heat is just what our plants needed to get growing. Everything is coming along fairly well except for the snap peas. After claiming two peas for actual consumption, the vines withered and died, which is disappointing. But in better news, all of our tomato plants are flowering (and are already much bigger than they are in the picture). The cucumber and green bean plants have flowers on them as well.

We’ve been harvesting a good amount of arugula and kale and in the herb department both cilantro and dill are really taking off. We need to remember to include all of those items into our meal plan so that we manage to take full advantage of them before the heat becomes overwhelming.

Unfortunately all of our pepper plants are still growing slowly so we’ll see if we ever end up with any jalapeno, cayenne, golden treasure or red bell peppers of our own. Also something at the garden apparently finds the leaves of our green bean plants quite tasty and is doing a whole lot of nibbling. Although I am not excited about the snacking that is going on, this morning I saw the first few beans growing so here’s hoping that whatever is eating the leaves stays away from the beans!