Saturday, November 29, 2008

My State of Mind

"If you want to know how I'm doing, all you have to do is look around. If I'm depressed, it'll be obvious."

"I suppose there's a study on that, too."

"Well, I don't know about a study, but depression and clutter are highly correlated."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Agent Cleese and Potus Intelligence

I have been getting the most amazing education since the US Election on Nov 4th.

One of the things I'm learning about is this whole anti-intellectual, what, bias? agenda? It is something I've seen before--in books on educational policy, no less.

Following the honoured footsteps of the King's fool, John Cleese gave me the clearest expression and example of the plausibility (if not the desireability) of an anti-intellectual POTUS in this guest spot on Olbermann.


Well, all was clear except for that bit about the Berkeley Hunt.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


First snow, last night.
It brought a poignant hush to our two minutes of silence outside the City Hall cenotaph at the 11th hour. And as the snow plopped off the trees onto our heads and shoulders, it felt like a giant's tears.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Intellectual Elite vs Populism, perhaps?

I don't like to get caught up in events as they are happening. I'm much too apt to put my foot in my mouth. As I have been perusing the results of the US Presidential campaign and "doing my homework" I have become appalled at the Republican's choice of Governor Sarah Palin for Vice President. But not as appalled at that as at the thought it may have been a considered, deliberate choice.

Here's the Wall Street Journal article which argues this.

And here's something which concerns me, personally.

Traditional conservatives were always suspicious of populism, and they were right to be. They saw elites as a fact of political life, even of democratic life. What matters in democracy is that those elites acquire their positions through talent and experience, and that they be educated to serve the public good. But it also matters that they own up to their elite status and defend the need for elites. They must be friends of democracy while protecting it, and themselves, from the leveling and vulgarization all democracy tends toward.

See, I'm deliberately raising my average children to become one of the "intellectually elite." And if that's too much of a stretch, then I am certainly doing my best to raise them above the fray of what passes for education in the public school system which, at best, is anti-intellecual.

Lilla says, "They must be educated to serve the public good."

Interesting question: What would that be? And who gets to define it? I think I may be looking up some of the authors he mentions in the artcle.

5 cents and Milk

I loved your responses to my accidental post last week. Indeed, it is all about the conversation!

In my beginner's tentative steps to be frugal, I was computing the cost of liquid milk (the stuff that comes in the cartons) to the cost of powdered milk (the stuff that, here, comes in bags.) I was greatly confused. I measure the powdered stuff by volume, you see, and it is sold by weight.

So, these calculations only work if 1/3c (or 75 ml) equals 25 g.

Here we go:*

A 2.5 Kg. bag of powdered milk costs $24.49.
If 100 g makes up 1 litre
then, 1 litre = $1.02

A two litre carton of 1% milk costs $2.82
so, 1 litre costs $1.41

That's a significant savings! So, last week, I mixed a 4L jug with 2L of powdered milk and 2L of milk from the carton. My son never noticed and my daughter (who saw me do it) refused to drink milk all week.

Last night, however, I was in the grocery store--and lo and behold if I didn't notice that buying 4L of 1% milk costs $4.51. (Whole milk, marketed here as 3.25% is ten cents more) Holy cow, Batman, that's only $1.13 per litre! (Making last week's 4L mixed milk at $1.22/L way more expensive.)

However, I have learned my lesson. Indeed I have. In my fridge, I now have a 4L jug of mixed milk. Cost: $1.08/L (and I have 1/2 of a 4L jug of unmixed milk, too.)

Do nickles really add up?

*PS: A quart is slightly less than a litre.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Frugal? Cheapskate? Poor?

Image from this site which has a divine sounding recipe for H.C.

What will it be?

I grew up "poor." We could never afford anything.

I hated it with a passion. I had sandwiches made with Baloney--or Spam. (And we never fried the Spam--slicing it would be a "waste"--actually--we didn't even have "Spam"--we had some cheaper Spam knock-off called "Kam") It was mashed, mixed with relish and mayo, spread on brown bread (no butter) and wrapped in waxed paper. Add an apple (oranges were too expensive) and that was lunch. Oh--and I used the same paper bag over and over until I inevitably forgot to bring it home.

Supper, because my Mom had no time to cook (and doesn't cook anyway) was canned soup and sandwiches. I don't remember breakfast. Usually Mom wasn't home (working the early shift) or sleeping (from working the late shift).

I was reminded of all this one day when I recently read a recipe for hot chocolate in The Tightwad Gazette.

The recipe:
1 teaspoon cocoa,
1 teaspoon sugar,
1/3c skim milk powder
6 oz boiling water.

And I suddenly remembered--for years and years I had had skim milk and whatever was the bulk foods cheap equivalent of Nestle's Quick as my hot chocolate mix. I never knew how much of anything I was supposed to use--so for years I skimmed globs of undissolved skim milk from the top of my mug.

I was telling my Mom recently about finding this recipe and as I was thinking out loud about trying it on my kids (who have only ever had Carnation their whole spoiled lives) she quickly interjected, "Make sure you pick up the cocoa from the bulk food bin."

And all the old anger came back.

The Grocery Challenge!

In an effort to be more fiscally responsible and get serious about paying off our debt, we've decided to set a budget.

The most challenging area will be food. I don't tend to spend much on clothes, and when I'm not curing, I don't spend much on the house, either. I've given up scrapping--because the thrill was really in the shopping and participating on-line--the actual page building was fine but became somewhat unrewarding without those adjacent activities.

But food?
I love a well stocked pantry! And the freezer bursting with food is so satisfying. It makes me feel good. It makes me feel safe. And who can criticise spending money on food? (Not even my most parsimonious husband, that's who!)

However, it is time to get responsible about this area. Even according to our "pared-down" rock-bottom budget, food accounts for 24.5% of the husband's take home pay (before overtime). That's the figure I will try to meet (and beat?) this month. This is the first month I'll be trying to stick to a set amount. Then, in a few months, (or sooner) once I know better what I'm doing, I'll try and reduce it.

My goals for this month are:

1) meet the target

2) beat the target

3) shop weekly sales specifically

4) prepare meals in advance (and freeze) for those nights I can't stand the kitchen

5) not run out of everything the last few days of the month!

The budget will run from Nov 1 to Nov 31. There's one dog, two adults and two kids, an 11 year old ("Mommy I'm hungreeeeee!" boy) and an 8 year old ("what's in this?" girl)

A few things I want to do to meet these goals are:

1) make up a cost comparison book. This should help me figure out whether the simplest of money saving tricks--serving the kids 1/2 powdered milk mixed with 1/2 "regular" milk will really save money! Powdered milk can be expensive--especially at times when a lot of it is being shipped overseas for famine or disaster relief.

2) Make up substitutions as they are cost effective.

3) Bake more cookies and sweets. (No more buying them!)

4) Prepare one soup and one vegetarian meal a week.

5) Find ways to use a small amount of meat in dishes, instead of serving a chunk to each person.

6) Rejig lunch.

1) couponing here is not a great deal. Most coupons are available on a promotional basis only for expensive name-brand products I'd never buy anyway.

2) As the husband works for a grocery chain prominent here, he wants me to continue to purchase our groceries from that grocery store only and not the others.

3) I already make up my dinner plans for the month and generate a shopping list for what I'll need--I tend to buy all freezer and pantry items on the first Tuesday of the month (10% off) and then just pick up fresh stuff once or twice a week throughout the rest of the month.

This month, then, I'll keep track of my challenge here-and post substitute recipes (and cost worthiness) here, too.
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