Monday, June 27, 2011

Adults Do The Darndest Things

Tonite we had dinner with the Thibdoeauxs at Lupe Tortilla.  There were 8 of us so the four adults sat at one end of the table, the two oldest kids toward the middle and the youngest kids at the end. The way God intended.

Jayson was sitting at the end of our end of the table and noticed an unusual looking device laying on the table next to us. There were 2 adults and 3 kids at that table and next to one of the adults was an electronic device that looked like a cross between an iPhone and an iPad.

I was positioned facing the adjacent table so I got a fairly good glimpse of the device but was too far away for me to be able to distinguish any details. Jayson thought it might be some kind of strange cell phone or other communication device but he wasn't sure.

The table of interest was behind Chad and Jamie so they couldn't get a good look at the mystery device without being too obvious. Chad glanced back a couple of times but never saw anything. He was convinced it transformed into a burrito the minute he turned around.

Jamie was sitting directly across from me and next to Jayson which put her in a good position to get a good look but she'd have to turn completely around in her chair to do so. She very discreetly did the "oops I dropped my napkin" maneuver, bent to the side and looked behind her. Needing a better view, she bent lower and lower and lower and twisted further around until she was pretty much standing on her head. Discreetly.

She said it appeared to be some kind of gaming device and we all agreed that made the most sense. Later in the meal the lady handed the device to one of the kids, confirming our brilliant deduction. Chad and I got on our iPhones and began Googling images to find one that matched the device that now held our full attention and was the main topic of our dinner conversation. (Well, that and how long it takes some family members to drop a deuce but I won't get into that).

After presenting Jayson and Jamie, who got the best view of the device, with at least a dozen different images of potential matches, we finally found one that they both agreed was a definite match. Here is the image we found:

The picture is an outdated version of the PSP handheld gaming device but it was the silver circle on the back of this one that helped us to finally be able to discover what it was. Since the nearly hour long mystery had been solved we were finally free to leave the restaurant even though Chad still had doubts the device ever existed.

Once we were in the car we began to congratulate one another on our amazing investigative skills. For the first time the kids overheard what we were talking about so we briefly told them about how there was a strange looking device on the table next to us and I handed them my cell phone to show them the picture above.

8 year old Emily said with a puzzled expression on her face, "That's a PSP".

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Water for The Inherently Lazy

Did you know that you can get bottles of water delivered directly to your front door for about the same price as buying them at the store?? Okay, maybe everyone in the free world but me already knew this but I just learned it and I'm SO impressed!

For some reason we've been drinking a lot more water since we moved to Houston. I think that's partly due to the fact that we've trained ourselves to grab a bottle any time we leave the house because you never know when you might be stuck in traffic for 2 hours. The only thing worse than being thirsty in gridlock is having to pee in it. Or rather, during it. In the midst of it. Whatever.

Last week I reluctantly started cruising websites to see who had the best deal on one of those big 5 gallon water cooler things. We've gone that route before which was fine, but I have several issues with those coolers. For one thing they're ugly and they take up space that could be used for something much cuter. Also, I have a few parts and pieces missing from my right wrist due to a surgery I had to have caused by a birth defect that went undetected for 35 years which was probably the result of too much intermarrying in my mother's family. In other words, I can't lift those heavy 5 gallon bottles. My final complaint is that they work fine until they don't. I've had one of the coolers malfunction and dump 5 gallons of water onto my kitchen floor and I don't care to relive that experience.

Imagine my surprise, dare I say my elation, to discover that most of the water companies who deliver those 5 gallon bottles to your door will also deliver cases of regular bottles of water if you so choose! And I do so choose! I woke up this morning to find 2 cases of Sparkletts water bottles waiting for me on my front porch. They're easier for me to lift and carry than those 5 gallon beasts plus I can now cross "water" off my grocery list! It's a very exciting morning here at the Green House.

And don't even think about lecturing me on how wasteful all those water bottles are. If you read this blog with any regularity at all you should know that I either recycle each of those bottles or I repurpose them into some amazing piece of art that would make Michelangelo green with envy. In my mind.

In case you're wondering, here are the water sites I investigated:



Nestle Pure Life

I had intended to choose Ozarka because they had the best price for my area but Jayson said he doesn't like Ozarka water because it makes his throat scratchy. I honestly can't tell one bottled water from another so it didn't matter to me.  I investigated several other brands but found they were all part of the "Ozarka family" which to me meant it's all the same water wearing a different dress.

I don't remember why I chose Sparkletts over Nestle. That was like 4 days ago and I'm not a history major, okay? They were all pretty much the same as far as price and options so I think I picked the one with the easiest to maneuver website. Or the prettiest graphics. I've used that criteria to choose things way more important that water and you'd be surprised at how often it works out well.

Monday, June 20, 2011

All Hail Couponicus: Queen of the Nap

I think I've established the fact that I like to save a buck whenever I can. That habit was born around the same time my daughter was, 20 years ago. Actually it was probably born way before that but I just didn't notice it until then. I have both Arab and Jew genes at war in my body and we know how they are about money.

I wrote out this big long post about when I started clipping coupons and why but it bored me half to death so I figured no one else would want to read it either. Instead I'll just cut to the chase: I do it and I'm about to tell you the method that works for me. Right now anyway. It might not work so well in a couple of months and I'll change it cuz that's how I roll.

I used to be an avid couponer for the first 5-6 years of Taylor's life when I had $40/week in the family budget to buy groceries, toiletries, cleaning supplies, oh yeah and diapers and formula too. Let me tell you, that was a challenge. As our financial situation improved I got lazy about clipping coupons but a friend recently forced me to watch an episode of Extreme Couponing and I got the fever again. Don't worry, you're not likely to see me in an upcoming episode any time soon. However, if TLC does a program about Extreme Napping...I'll be instantly famous.

Taylor has recently started calling me Couponicus, which I rather like. It has that geekiness which fits me well but it also sounds a little bit like a Greek goddess or maybe even a super hero and those also fit me well. In my own mind. 

Last week it took me almost an hour and half to do the grocery shopping which is not unusual when you're couponing and trying to match your coupons to whatever is on sale in the store and combine them with a store coupon and whatever incentives your store card is offering at checkout.  I shop at the Kroger a couple of blocks from my house and I still haven't quite memorized exactly where everything is.

I thought it might save me some time if I wrote down the layout of the store and had my coupons separated according to that layout so I could find what I need more quickly.  I considered filing them to match the aisles of the store, but since I do occasionally shop at other stores that really didn't make much sense. Instead, I decided to file them by category but when I pull the ones I know I'm going to use for that week, I refile them by store aisle. I have a visual that will make more sense.

I also revamped the grocery list that lives on our fridge. Everyone in my house knows that if they want me to pick up something from the store they must write it on the list. Don't tell me about it, don't leave me a note somewhere else, write it on the dang list or do without. They learned fast when they ran out of deodorant or toothpaste and I said, "Sorry, I've already done the shopping for this week, you're on your own."

Here's my new list. I printed out about 10 copies and made a little magnetic pad to stick to the front of the fridge.

There's always a pen right next to it so no one has an excuse for why they didn't write Chocolate Frosted Honey Buns on the list if that's what they really needed to survive the week.

I used a scrap of chipboard covered with wrapping paper and a couple of book posts for the binding.

This cheesy magnetic clip has held our fridge pen for 20 years. I stuck a vintage rhinestone on it to pretty it up but I don't want to replace it because I like it.

The different sections on the list each correspond to a different aisle at the store. I don't start my shopping on aisle 1 so I didn't start my list there either.

I'm keeping fairly detailed descriptions of each section on here until my family gets the hang of this and learns what goes where. If we're out of soup, they find the soup section and write in what kind they want. Simple, right?

When I'm ready to go to the store, I rip the list off the pad and put it in the front of my handy dandy coupon organizer bag thingie that I got from Glowgirl's etsy shop. She has lots of different sizes and fabrics to choose from and will even customize for you.

The bag is made to attach to your shopping cart when it's open which is a huge convenience.

I file my coupons by category and within each category the ones expiring the soonest are toward the front. Before I go to the store I check the Krazy Coupon Lady to make sure I didn't overlook any of the weekly specials at my stores. I also scan through her Coupon Database and her eCoupon Database to make sure I didn't miss anything there either. I pull the coupons I know I'm going to use then I refile them in those numbered dividers at the front of my organizer. Those are my store aisles. That way when I'm on aisle 17 at Kroger all I have to do is look under my tab #17 to see the coupons I've already pulled to match the store's specials. If I hadn't already done that, I'd have to look under the tabs for soap, lotion, haircare, dental, deodorant, shaving, etc. since all those things are on aisle 17. I may still have to go back to my main tabs on occasion if I find an unadvertised special, but for the most part everything I need will have already been pull and is right there waiting for me.

At the back of my organizer, I have tabs for restaurants, shopping, services (like an oil change or car wash) and special offers such as rebates and my Extra Care Bucks from CVS. Behind those tabs I keep a printout of the current eCoupons that are loaded onto my Kroger card. 

eCoupons are something new to me. You get them from stores like Kroger who have a store card that entitles you to specials. You register on the store's website, enter your store card number, then look through the coupons they're offering and select the ones you want. Your selections are automatically loaded onto your card so that when you buy that product you get the discount without having to present a printed coupon of any kind. Pretty cool, huh? Before each shopping trip I go through and highlight the eCoupons I'll be using so that I'll remember to save my printed coupon for another trip.

Kroger also has a pretty cool fuel program too. For every dollar you spend at Kroger you earn one point. Some things like prescriptions and gift cards are worth more points. They accumulate on a monthly basis and you have until the end of the following month to redeem them at the Kroger gas station. For every 100 points you redeem, you get 10 cents per gall off of one fill up. You can redeem up to 1000 points at a time which means you'd get a discount of $1.00 per gallon on one fill up. That's a pretty good deal considering all you have to do to get it is buy the groceries you need anyway!

That's how I cut corners on our grocery bill! The Houston area Kroger stores stopped doubling coupons shortly before we moved here and I'm a little miffed about that. But I still manage to save an average of $30-$50 on each shopping trip which isn't bad at all. I can save more at CVS with their Extra Care Bucks.

I don't have enough storage space to stockpile 83 tubes of toothpaste like they do on Extreme Couponing but if I can get something really cheap I'll go ahead and buy 2 or 3. Besides, we're a family of 3 and our little chickie could leave the nest at any minute so we really don't have a need for 83 tubes of toothpaste at this point in our lives. It won't be long and we probably won't even have our own teeth anymore. Besides, if I did buy 83 tubes of toothpaste I would just forget where I put them. Or forget that I bought them in the first place and buy 83 more. Extreme couponing is not for the elderly.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My day of upholstery, IBS and pneumatic nail gun envy

Yesterday I had been working around the house all day and at 4:00 I realized that Jayson would be home in a couple of hours and once again find me looking and smelling like something the cat dragged in. He comes home looking and smelling like the gorgeous executive that he is which makes my appearance that much worse.

I jumped in the shower only to hear a few minutes later, "I'm home!" Crap. He came home early and I wasn't clean yet. When I got out of the shower I told him I was trying to clean up before he got home since I'm sure he's tired of finding me looking and smelling like a homeless person. He said he was used to it and looked forward to my stank. I didn't quite know how to take that but I did make sure he had something to look forward to after work today.

I spent most of my day today listening to the contractors our lease management company sent over to fix a loose banister on the staircase. It's been loose since we moved in but it's not a big deal for us. We know it's loose so we just make sure we don't put any weight on it. I recently got to thinking about some friends of ours who are spending their vacation with us in a couple of weeks. They have two kiddos who are great kids but still they're kids. I had nightmares about them playing upstairs and one of them pushing the other against the banister then it gives way and they both fall to their deaths. That might put a damper on the vacation for the rest of the family so I asked our slum lords lease management company to fix it.

A week ago they sent out a couple of maintenance guys to fix it and I knew as soon as they came to the door that they wouldn't be able to do it. The wood that is attached to the floor and also to the spindles is split and needed to be replaced. Mutt and Jeff drove a bunch of 4" screws through the big corner spindle and into the split wood which did absolutely nothing. Like I told them it would before they even did it.

The contractors who were here today really didn't have much more of a clue than Mutt and Jeff did but at least they knew what to do when the 6" screws they drove into the rotted wood failed to hold. Like I told them it would. Why doesn't anyone listen to me??

While they were busy with that I reupholstered my dining room chairs while trying to pick out the few Spanish words I recognized from their conversations. I took 4 years of Spanish in high school and 2 years in college and still I can just barely manage to read the menu at Chuy's.

I had intended to reupholster my green autumnman to match the purple otterman I had done last week. I troll Craigslist on a regular basis and ottoman is one of the words most commonly and entertainingly misspelled there. I discovered that I didn't have enough fabric and really wasn't in the mood anyway so I tackled the dining room chairs.  

I also had the opportunity to ponder the Murphy's Law-ish-ness of IBS. Why does it kick in at the most inconvenient times?? There I was with a house full of contractors who probably don't have a single green card among them (no disrespect intended, I'm just sayin') and my colon says we gotta go NOW! I had no choice but to obey so I chose the downstairs bathroom since it was the furthest away from where they were working.

Just when I got "comfortable" in there I heard, "Mees Shannon? Hallo? Mees Shannon?" Well perfect. For two solid hours they hadn't said a word to me then when I sat down to take care of my business I was suddenly in high demand. Knowing there was no way to salvage my dignity, I flushed my 1.6 gal/flush econo-toilet (twice) and exited the bathroom with as much grace as possible. Fortunately Mr. Contractor had the decency to pretend not to notice that I just came out of the bathroom in Glade Clean Linen fragrance cloud with a few beads of sweat on my brow. It was the high point of my day, really.

Apparently Mr. Contractor wasn't nearly as traumatized by the whole event as I was because a couple of hours later he offered to spray my staple gun with WD-40 when he saw that I was struggling with it. It was Jayson's old silver staple gun, the kind that I have to squeeze with both hands while balancing all of my weight on top of it. Maybe he offered to oil it because I mentioned that I wished I had a pneumatic nail gun like his. He probably sensed that I really wanted to borrow it to finish my chairs so he had to come up with some way to redirect my attention. The staple gun actually worked a lot better after he sprayed it so I wasn't eyeing his nail gun quite so much.

When he left, Mr. Contractor left me his business card in case we need him when we buy a house or he said he could build one for us if we like. I looked at the long list of services on the back of his business card and sure enough he does it all, including installing "sidding". Oh bless his heart, he must be on Craigslist.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Plumbing Hide & Seek and The Creepy Cat Lady Goes to Lunch

We've been having some minor plumbing issues here at casa del Verde and decided we probably need to have our pipes snaked. Since I can't say that without blushing and giggling I just told the plumber that we were having to plunge the potties from time to time to keep them from overflowing.  And it's not just the worthless water saver downstairs potty that you have to flush 3 times for it to be effective, it's all the potties. When I was complaining about the water saving toilet recently, one helpful friend suggested that we just poo smaller. Well duh, why didn't I think of that?

Of course the potties flushed perfectly while the plumber was here but the water level in the potty fluctuated when he ran water in the sink. Mr. Plumber said that's usually a sign of some kind of blockage in the main line so we went on a search for the access.
I know what to look for, it's the little round white thing that's usually hiding in a flower bed somewhere near the house. We searched for 20 minutes and couldn't find the dang thing! Whoever used to own this house put concrete pavers all around the foundation at the back of the house. It looks great and is really convenient cuz it gives you a little sidewalk to stand on when you're turning the water hose off and on. But I have a feeling that the main line access thing is hiding somewhere under those pavers.

Mr. Plumber is supposed to come back Wednesday to run a camera down the potty to find where the access is. I envision this as sort of like a colonoscopy for your toilet. Maybe I should flush a bunch of Golytely to prep it first.

After me and Mr. Plumber completed our unsuccessful search for the main line, Jayson called to ask me to check our bank statement to see if any hotel charges showed up for his last business trip. While I was looking that up I noticed that the Holiday Inn in Lafayette had charged our debit card twice for the night we stayed there to close on our house. I called the Holiday Inn and told the gal what happened. She looked it up and assured me that they only charged us once and said that I would need to contact my bank to get that cleared up. In other words, she was too lazy to look into it.

Great. I called MidSouth Bank, explained it all to them and they told me I would need to go to their one and only branch in Houston, which is not exactly conveniently located for me, since there's a form I would need to sign in front of a notary to dispute the charge.  I decided to put that off until after lunch.

I met a friend who I haven't seen for at least 10 years for lunch and we had a nice visit and some great food. I'm not a people person and generally don't require much human interaction. I almost always prefer to be alone rather than with other people even though I realize this is not necessarily the best thing for me. I sometimes have to force myself to socialize just to keep from getting weird. Or weirder. Right now I can pass for relatively sane but it might not take much for me to turn into Howard Hughes and I wouldn't be able to pull that off at my income level. When rich people do that they're called an eccentric recluse. When people like me do that they're called the creepy cat lady on the corner.

Another friend from Lafayette recently moved to this area so hopefully after she gets all moved in and settled I'll put on my big girl clothes again and have lunch with her. Not that I usually wear little girl clothes, but my daily attire over the past several months has been a pair of ratty shorts and a t-shirt covered with paint. If I'm not leaving the house, and I don't leave it every day, I see no need to get all dressed up just so that I can get sweaty and gross working on projects around the house. The only problem with that is when I do put on my big girl clothes I feel like I'm playing dress up in someone else's clothes. Nothing fits exactly right, everything is itchy and binding and I'm just counting the minutes until I can go home and put on a t-shirt and shorts.

This same friend who moved here from Lafayette recently posted on her Facebook about shopping for a cocktail dress for a party she and her husband would be attending. They didn't even have their furniture yet and they already have a party to go to. I've been here for 2 weeks and the closest I've come to making a friend is the Ace Hardware girl who told me they didn't carry what I was looking for but she stood there and stared at the shelf with me in complete silence for almost 10 minutes as I tried to will the product to magically appear. I thought we had something really special between us but she never called.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

What Did You Do Last Week?

I've been very busy over this past week with lots of little DIY projects. Some have been on my to-do list for quite some time, others showed up just recently. I guess a normal person would take care of the oldest projects first and work their way to the new ones. That would be logical. I choose which project to work on based on the supplies I have on hand and whatever seems fun at the time.

Here they are in no particular order:
Glued my thrift store Limoges plates to some thrifted candlesticks. I'm not sure what to do with it now, but I've seen from all the blogs I read that I'm supposed to have these.
Bought this cute sideboard on Craigslist for $80. Stained the inside which was unfinished.
Filled the cute sideboard and could probably use another one.
Screwed dollar store citronella pails under the kitchen sink to hold scrubbies.
Used thrifted porcelain door knob on an IKEA box.
More thrifted door knobs make a rack in the downstairs bathroom.
Before: family photo wall in the upstairs hallway.
After: family photo wall with frames painted white. A few more are waiting for their turn with the spray paint.
Before: icky hand crocheted hankie I got at the thrift store for 80 cents.
After: it just needed to be washed.
Tacky terra cotta chiminea turned to "concrete".
Before: an unfinished canvas I've been playing with for a while.
During: Kandinsky's circles had to go.
During: a little vaseline, a little paint, a little sandpaper.
During: just beginning to collage some papers and fabrics. There will be lots of layers on this one and it won't be finished any time soon.
Before: two ottomans (ottomen?) that are neither shabby nor chic.
Before: eggplant microfiber.
After: Garden Ridge remnant.
Before: urban contemporary.
After: your grandma's bathroom.
Picked up these remnants at Garden Ridge for my dining room chairs. There wasn't enough of either one to do all the chairs so I bought both and will do half the chairs in one, half in the other.
The new fabrics next to the current one. BIG change. Do you see why I am freaking out about the pastels?
I haven't actually recovered the dining room chairs yet but I hope to get it done before the weekend is over. When I say "recover" I'm not talking about a professional reupholstering. I'm talking about a scrap of fabric and a staple gun. The last time I recovered them it took about a year.  I think I covered one or two of them then decided it wasn't fun anymore and left the rest for my sister to do when she came to visit. Or maybe I covered them all but didn't screw them back on to the chair because that 10 minute chore was just too much for me to handle. I can't remember exactly what I did but I do remember that I did it half way and my sister finished it for me. I might try that again since it worked to my advantage last time.