Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Free Music Tuesday

There are some great deals at Amazon right now:

Order this free game (you don't have to actually download it), and right now get a $5 credit towards MP3 in your e-mail (it doesn't say how long that will last - I did it Friday and got my credit). You have to use the Amazon game downloading software.

Many free world music samplers are now available here. Again, you have to use the Amazon music downloader, but I like it because it transfers the tracks directly to my iTunes - no importing.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Goals and White Uniform Shirt Score

I've been giving this blog a lot of thought lately. What do I want it to be? A frugal living blog? Life hacker? Product review blog?

It started last year when I realized I was never going to have a savings or any emergency money if my spending equaled my earnings. (Quick study, I am). In my 20's I landed in credit card hell, got out of it in my 30's, and will do anything to avoid that again. So I started this blog to document my struggles with consumption, temptation and simplicity.

Then BlogHer, who pays me enough for a pack of gum every six months for ads on my main blog, Everyday Lunasea, said I couldn't do product reviews on that blog as long as I was receiving their advertising. So I put my reviews here. I do product reviews when I get a product free to try, or if I just really like something I buy. I don't do product reviews of stuff I don't like, because according to my agreement with the companies I contract with, I don't publish anything if I don't like the product. But I will NEVER, never write a positive review for something I had a negative experience with. I'm a blogger, not a PR person and I'm definitely not a salesperson. In fact, I suck at sales.

So I guess it's all three. This coming month should be challenging because I have to end the month with about $1,000 in my checking account in order to pay the first months's tuition for the boys and my office rent on September 1. I took two weeks off in July, which means I'll get paid less this month (I get paid for July sessions in August). Also, A. needs new uniforms and it's my Dad's birthday. Oh, and A. turns seven in early September and wants a Star Wars b-day party, so that's an extra expense during a tight month, too.

Just so you know, here's how we have our expenses divided. G and I have completely separate accounts. Here's what he pays for:

Homeowner and earthquake insurance
All home repairs
All yard stuff
Cell phone bill
Water and Garbage
Gas and Electricity
Most car repairs & maintenance

Here's what I pay for:

School tuition for A. and B.
Car insurance
Phone bill
Cable TV
All kids' needs (clothing, field trips, supplies, pull-ups, etc)
Household goods

We each pay for our own life insurance and our own business expenses. We've never sat down and compared what we pay each month and what percentage it is of our total income, but I know that my expenses are about 100% of my income and G's are about 70% of his. We should probably make that more equitable, but we haven't gotten around to it, and I seem to be comfortable in the role of the martyr.

Heading into August, we' re going to have a tight month. A. wanted a Nintendo DS for his b-day but I told him he could either have that or a party for his classmates. He chose the party. Oh the one hand, yay for him choosing experiences over things, and on the other hand, buying him a Nintendo and scrapping the party would've been a whole lot easier for me.

Now I'm searching for cardboard tubes to make 25 cheap light sabers. Yay.

Today there was a 2-day coupon in the paper for $10 off any $20 purchase at Kohl's. So we headed down there immediately and picked up 3 uniform polos for A. We're supposed to buy them from Land's End but I seriously doubt anyone's going to look inside A's collar for the tag. So 3 Arrow polos, usually $16.00 ea, on sale for $10, cost me about $23.

In our freezer we have enough fish for maybe 2 more meals, some sausages and some shrimp. I'll plan to buy frozen chicken and potstickers at Trader Joe's to fill it up. My goal is to spend less than $600 this month on food for all of us. I average about $700, and if I'm totally not paying attention and buying lots of convenience foods, it can get up to around $1000.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Quick, Touching Summer Read

Just in time for summer comes The Lace Makers of Glenmara (available next Tuesday). I'm a sucker for books set in Ireland (note the entire Maeve Binchy library over there in my GoodReads widget), and this one hits all the notes: lousy weather, rugged terrain, mysterious travellers, witty elders.

Kate is fleeing a failed relationship, a failed career move and her mother's death. She takes the trip to Ireland that she'd been planning to take with her mother, and ends up stranded in the tiny hamlet of Glenmara. She happens into a circle of lace makers, each with their own sorrows and challenges. The characters are typically Irish in their reticence to both air dirty laundry and show emotion, but the new project of designing lacy lingerie in the hopes of stimulating the economy in the impovershed village forces the women to face themselves and their challenges head on. It also provides Kate with a distraction from her past, and a way to gain confidence in her future.

Although at times the Irish stereotypes are a bit trite, Heather Barbieri shows glimpses of brilliance in her descriptions of the ruggedness of both land and people. The narrative from each woman's point of view shows us (and Kate) that every woman has her trials, almost everything can be survived, and the beauty that exists in every relationship lasts beyond death.

It's a fairly quick read, perfect for summer trips or lounging on the porch swing. And you'll probably never look at lace the same way again.

(reviewed for Mother-Talk)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

An Historic Time

Both boys were pretty interested in the presidential campaign last year. Although they thought our president's name was "Rock of Bama" for a while, they eventually figured it out and I'm proud to say that Benjamin was the only 3-year-old in his preschool class who knew that the other candidate was John McCain.

I've been looking for a book on Obama, especially for A. to read, but all the ones I've found are really thin and there's just not a lot of information. That's why this one is a keeper:

I actually got it for A., but his father keeps taking it. Filled with photos and interesting tidbits (he collects Spiderman comics), it's a quality hardcover book with lots of interesting information about Obama and his family. It's easy enough for A. to read, but interesting enough for grownups, and it's a great keepsake of this historic election. The boys have to wrestle us to get their hands on it. It's available through Amazon and the New York Times store.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


I'd have to put "I need help making decisions" on my Top 5 Reasons People Come to Therapy list. Whether it's a newly separated woman who isn't used to making decisions on her own, or the man who keeps ending up in jobs he hates, knowing how to make decisions in the absence of a crystal ball is tricky.

Suzy Welch has come up with a shorthand for evaluating decisions in her new book, "10-10-10." It's a simple method where you take your options and evaluate the impact of each in 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years. When I first read the idea, I thought, "She can fill a whole book with that?" Thinking of the long-term implications of your decisions seems, sort of, well, obvious.

But there's more to it. The real message here is how to take stock of your values and make decisions based on what's important in your life. Welch acknowledges the many pressures people face trying to balance work, family, and personal needs. She gives examples of times when she put up with some difficult shorter-term situations (like one example of putting up with sexual harrassment from co-workers) in order to reach longer range goals at work. You might not agree with her decision to put up with it, but at least you understand why she did it. (10 minutes of it might have sucked, but in 10 years - look - she's got a column in O magazine. Can't argue with that).

The best part of Welch's book is the many engaging stories she tells about people torn between aging parents, career concerns, partners and kids. It's interesting to follow each subject's reasoning, and realize that while I might make different choices, my choices are a direct reflection of my values (most of the time), and that was reassuring to realize.

Welch offers the idea that using 10-10-10 to make decisions will avoid regrets, which is probably unrealistic. Still, I will definitely recommend this book to clients wanting to live a more authentic life by aligning their decisions with their values.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Free Music Thursday

I'm only going to post freebies when I think they're worth something, so as long as your tastes are exactly like mine, you should enjoy these: Free Barenaked Ladies MP3's.

If you haven't downloaded from Amazon yet, you need to install the Amazon downloader - it's kind of annoying to need yet another piece of software, but it's so easy and it installs the songs right into my iTunes that I don't mind it. Also - check out the new U2 album - No Line on the Horizon at Amazon for just $3.99.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Free Books...

...to borrow.

I used to work near Green Apple Books in SF, a fabulous new/used bookstore. At the same time, I lived near Black Oak Books in Berkeley, another fabulous new/used bookstore. I love books. I've always dreamed of having a library - one of those book-lined rooms that are always in upper-class NY apartments. I spent so much money on books in my 20's and 30's I'm scared to even try to estimate it.

Then I discovered this place where they'll let you borrow any books you need for free, you just have to bring it back when you're done. Who knew? I am now a HUGE fan of the library. I visit with the boys about once a week, and on my own at least a couple times a month. We belong to our friendly neighborhood library, where they know us by name, and also to the city-across-the-bay's library, which is better funded but more impersonal.

I also signed up for library alerts via Wowbrary. I get an e-mail alerting me to recent acquisitions and I can go to the library's website immediately and put the items on hold. I just did that with an e-mail, today, in fact, and discovered that the books I was interested in, like the one below, were on-line and I could access them immediately! Cool! No driving, no checking out, no late fees!

The other way I keep track of my book reading is through Goodreads.com. It's a social networking site all about books. I can see my friend's reading lists, see what they thought of a certain book, and get recommendations. I have a friend who shares my fascination with the fundamentalist LDS crowd, so we alert each other when we find another book/memoir on that subject.

My favorite part of Goodreads, though, is the "to-read" shelf. Here's where I keep track of books I read or hear about and want to read. If I have time, I take the Sunday book section, note which books interest me, then add them to Goodreads. I can also log onto my library website and see if any are available to be put on hold. My neighborhood library is pretty small, but I can request any book from anywhere in the county and they'll deliver it to my library for free. Right now I have the second book in the Twilight series waiting for me. Don't judge.

I don't miss being able to keep the book for reference as much as I thought I would. There are a couple cookbooks that I keep taking out over and over, so someday I might invest in those to keep. But actually, it's kind of nice to turn the books back in and not have to find room for them on my shelf.

And, the boys get exposure to way more books than I could ever buy for them for free. Sometimes we hang out there and the boys do jigsaw puzzles or find other kids to play with. I see lots of kids who probably don't have computers at home using them at the library. I've come to see the library as an important community resource, and if I was a philanthropist, the underfunded libraries would be top on my list of organizations to support.