Weekend Link Love, July 25, 2015: Death Penalty, Rejection, and Parenting

But not all at the same time . . . .

Hello Friends,  Real quick-like, here are a few choice picks from the internet of the past few weeks:

1. Check out this article on how a Mexican drug lord recently succeeded in a meticulously planned prison escape.  It made me think about the death penalty and Catholic Church teaching on it and whether need for the death penalty is really so rare.  In Mexico anyway?  I dunno.

2. I loved this article from Money Saving Mom.  My daughters already have to deal with feeling rejected by other kids from time to time.  I know what it’s like to feel rejected.  I’d give anything to shield them from it, but I can’t.  Crystal discusses how to handle it constructively.  

Honestly, as a mom, I wanted to rush in and scoop them up and protect them. I wanted to express anger and frustration and say things like, “That was so rude and mean… You can never play with those girls ever again!!”

I hurt for them. But I knew deep down in my heart that trying coddle and bubble wrap my kids is doing them a disservice. I cannot shield them from hard things forever.

. . . .

Because there’s a world out there that will crush you in two if you don’t develop backbone, stand strong, know the truth that you’re enough, and lovingly forgive and believe the best about people.

So part of growing up is learning to love others even when they do unloving things to you. It’s forgiving when you are slighted or skipped over — whether intentional or accidental. It’s not harboring bitterness and anger toward people who don’t treat us fairly.

. . . .

I also told the girls that the best remedy for times when you feel lonely and left out is to do something for someone else. Reach out to someone else. Be interested in other people’s lives. Look for ways to serve. Find opportunities to show love.

3. I learned a lot from this article from this Wall Street Journal about the Confederate battle flag brouhaha in South Carolina.  I’ve been seeing a lot more of those flags flying in our town.  I didn’t have a strong opinion on the flag earlier.  My feeling before was, “Just take it down already.”  I have a soft spot for federalism though (or states rights, but that phrase has a negative connotation), and there seemed to be some connection.  I honestly had no idea that the flag was resurrected in the mid-1900s in reaction to the civil rights movement.  And now . . . yeah, seriously, take it down already.

4. On a lighter note, here’s a good resource showing proportionally how much electricity various household items use, and how much energy-saving strategies actually save. It’s something I’ve been thinking about because it looks like we actually will be moving to a bigger house soon, and I’m not looking forward to those utility bills.

5. Remember that singer, Jewel, and her album Pieces of You?  I know some of you remember it.  And that song “Sensitive,” where she whines in her little girl falsetto,

Please be careful with me/ I’m sensitive and I’d like to stay that wa-ay.

Anyway, that makes me roll my eyes and think, “Just get over yourself already.”  But, as Modern Mrs. Darcy explains well, there really is something to “highly sensitive persons” and parenting one is quite a challenge. It’s not so much an issue of having your feelings hurt easily, a la Jewel, but of having overactive physical senses.

6. Speaking of parenting, this funny article by Rob LaZabnik, a writer for the Simpsons, made me laugh: “They’re Back! How to Cope with Returned College Graduates.”

So the time has come for you to cut the cord. And by that I mean: Take your kid off your Netflix account. He will be confused and upset at first, not understanding why this is happening to him, but it’s a great opportunity for him to sign up for something all by himself.

Which brings us to money. It’s finally time to channel your Angela Merkel and get tough with your young Alexis Tsipras.

It also make me think, “No God, please no.”  Also, who is Alexis Tsipras?  I don’t even know, but I still laughed.

7.  Hope you’re having a lovely weekend. Click over to This Ain’t the Lyceum for more quick takes.

Advertisements

Shopping for the Perfect Health Diet at Walmart

The Results Are In.

English: Walmart Home Office, the headquarters...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Our total grocery spending for September was $1078.  (This includes diapers, paper products, cleaning supplies, and over-the-counter medications.)   I made all of our main, weekly grocery shopping trips at Walmart
  • This is a slight increase from our August total of $1059, when I did the bulk of our shopping at Aldi.
  • Factoring in the $22.40 required for gasoline to shop at Aldi that month, however, the total was $1081, which means . . . .

My grocery costs were basically the same at Aldi as at Walmart.

  • Our 12-month average before I started this experiment was $1188.  Wal-mart always has been my primary grocery store in theory, but I had slipped into shopping more and more at the closer, more expensive “regular” grocery store.

Shopping at Aldi and Walmart resulted in a net savings of $107-110 per month, or about 9% of our average monthly grocery expenditure.  

  • During both months, we made smaller trips to other stores as needed.  In August, these smaller trips added up to a full 50% of our grocery bill.  I attribute this to Aldi having a smaller selection.  In September, our smaller trips to other stores were only 20% of the total.

My spreadsheet has prices for various items at Walmart, Aldi, and our local grocery store (Martin’s).   You can see it here: grocery price spreadsheet.

Advantages of shopping at Walmart:

  • It is in near to our house,
  • It has low prices, and
  • It has everything.

Disadvantages of shopping at Walmart:

  • It has everything.  I can’t seem to walk out of Wally World without spending $230.  Why $230?  I don’t know, but the total is usually $230-something.  Our non-grocery household expenditures were $250 more the month I shopped at Walmart than when I shopped at Aldi.  Coincidence?  Probably not.  But there are so many other factors involved here that I’m not including this in my analysis now.
  • Okay, it doesn’t have everything.  I still have to go to other stores for items like rice syrup.
  • Also . . . I hate it.

Man, I really hate shopping at Walmart.  It’s huge.  It’s ugly.  It’s depressing.  I know I’m being classist here, but the general population there . . . you know . . . .  (As Pat put it, “We always see people we know at Target, but we don’t see as many people we know at Walmart.”  Yeah.)

Sometimes we went together as a family on the weekend.  This works, but Walmart is such a crowded, depressing place to be on the weekend.  It’s not so bad on weekday mornings, but that entails my taking the girls on my own.  That never, ever ends well.  And Walmart at night, after the girls are in bed, is a very scary place.

But a slightly more pleasant grocery shopping experience is not worth $1300 a year to me.

My plan going forward: Regular weekly trips to Walmart, plus one monthly trip to Aldi for items like maple syrup, frozen blueberries, and cheese, that consistently are cheaper at Aldi.  I’ll also try to make a monthly trip to the nearest grocery outlet (over 30 minutes away).  It has great prices but its selection varies widely.

What about you: where do you do your grocery shopping?  And if you follow a whole foods/ paleo/ GAPS/ Perfect Health Diet type of diet, how do you keep costs down?

****

Can You Shop for the Perfect Health Diet at Aldi? Yes, but . . .

**Update: I get a number of hits on this post from people searching for whether Aldi has coconut oil.  As of November 8, 2014, the answer is now yes!  They have a 14 oz. jar of unrefined coconut oil (“Simply Nature” store brand) for $7, as I recall.  It was near the baking ingredients and cooking oil.****

 

I made my four main weekly grocery shopping trips at Aldi last month, hoping to lower our grocery spending.  Here’s the lowdown:

  • Our total grocery spending for August was $1058.72;
  • Our 12-month average before last month was $1188.32 (I had miscalculated this slightly in my earlier post);
  • I spent about $22.40 more in gas, as Aldi is a ways away from our house;  therefore we achieved a

Net Savings of $107.20, or 9% of our average monthly grocery expenditure.  

This is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s less than I had hoped.

The disadvantages of shopping at Aldi were

  1. The distance (not an issue for everyone, obviously),
  2. The self-bagging system: I find this especially burdensome when I have the kids in tow, and
  3. The limited selection: I still had to make trips to other stores to get things like coconut oil, coconut milk, dish soap, unsweetened almond milk, and all-natural peanut butter.
It takes all my moral courage plus a bag of chocolate pretzels to get through a grocery trip with this one.    And then I have to bag my own groceries???

It takes all my moral fortitude plus a bag of chocolate pretzels to get through a grocery trip with this one.  And then I have to bag my own groceries???

The advantages of shopping at Aldi are

  1. The limited selection: this has an upside.  I made do without some items or buying less expensive alternatives.  For instance, Aldi doesn’t have jasmine rice  (they had it when I went on Nov. 8, 2014), so I settled for less-expensive regular rice.  Aldi only has artichoke hearts in cans.  I prefer buying them in glass jars, which is more expensive, but I made do with the cans.  Etc.
  2. The price.  Obviously.   Aldi beats out the other stores for almost every item on my list (you can see my slightly updated grocery price spreadsheet).  I was tickled to find a good price at Aldi for real maple syrup:

IMG_3446

It’s sooo much better tasting and better for you than the fake stuff.  It isn’t Perfect Health Diet compliant, as far as I know, but I use it in small amounts for this recipe, a favorite of ours:

Man-Pleasing Chicken (woman-pleasing too!)

and for occasional treats like this:

For September I plan to make our weekly grocery shopping trips at Walmart, which is much closer to me.  Its prices are higher than Aldi but only marginally so.  I am hopeful that price difference will be cancelled out by the savings on gasoline.  We shall see . . . .

****

Can You Shop for the Perfect Health Diet at Aldi? {Menu Plan Monday}

I mentioned a few weeks ago that our grocery spending has been wickety wack lately.  As in, averaging $1,119.50 per month for two adults and two small children.  (The amount includes diapers, paper products, household cleaning supplies and the like.)

So, for the month of August I’ve resolved to do our weekly grocery trip at Aldi, instead of the local grocery store, to see if it makes a difference.

I’ve done a price comparison chart you can see here if you’re interested.*  Aldi wins on paper, but we’ll see how it shakes out in real life.

Aldi and I have an uneasy relationship:

  • It’s about 25 minutes away, and I have to subtract about $7/trip from any cost savings.
  • Also, you have to bag your own groceries. . . . There was that time I bagged in a hurry because Girl 1 was pitching a fit.  I got home and dropped an over-stuffed bag of pasta sauce in the carport, sending tomato sauce and tiny shards of glass everywhere.
  • Then there was the time sensorily-sensitive Girl 1 held her hands over her ears for the first 15 minutes or so, sobbing pitifully that her arms hurt and she was scared, because of the buzzer that occasionally goes off near the dairy section.
  • Another time I was so exhausted after a trip that I gave Girl 1 a whole bag of dried apricots to eat on the way home.  And she did . . . too many of them . . . and had an unfortunate accident later on . . . at the library . . . in the middle of the kids section . . . in full view of several other families.  Fortunately, she’s still a bit young to get embarrassed easily.  I sent flowers to the poor librarian who had to clean up.
  • And just last week I got cocky and, despite prior mishaps, took both girls with me again.  Only about 10 minutes into the trip, Girl 2  tired of reaching behind her into the cart and throwing groceries onto the floor, stood up in the front set of the cart despite the buckle, and threatened a terrible tantrum.  I let her and Girl 1 run loose and throw grapefruit at each other while I aborted the mission, checked out with only half my list completed, and got the h*ll out of there.

Already I’m talking myself into grocery shopping at Walmart instead.  But I get so sick of Walmart.  And even though their prices are low, they sell, you know, everything, and I can’t seem to leave there without spending $230.

So I’m determined to give Aldi a fighting chance.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

* Not all the items on the chart are PHD compliant.  We still feed the girls sandwiches on regular bread.  And we can’t quite give up peanut butter.

****

I’m linking up with Org Junkie for Menu Plan Monday.  I’m trying out a couple new recipes this week from Paleo on a Budget.  At least I’m planning to if I can get back to Aldi without both kids.

Breakfasts:  Scrambled eggs with avocado OR two-ingredient grain-free “pancakes,” OR  oatmeal (not completely Perfect Health Diet compliant)

Lunches: Our main meal (see below)

Dinners: Leftovers, some variation of a big-ass salad, a smoothie, or a baked sweet potato

Monday: Bare minimum mode chicken and potatoes (probably my favorite recipe ever)

Yummy baked thingy from Paleo on a Budget


Tuesday: Yummy baked thingy

Wednesday: Steak with mushrooms and onions, potatoes or rice, and a veggie

Thursday: Salmon some way or another

Friday: Cheese pizza using Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free pizza crust mix

Saturday: Easy paleo chicken and spinach

SundayFrittata

7 Pressing Concerns

— 1 —

Girl 2 wakes us up each morning at 6 o’clock on the blippin’ nose.  How to stop this?

— 2 —

Where should I sell my wedding dress?

085_24-1

And the dress I wore to my sister’s wedding?

IMG_0191

Both were perfect for their respective occasions but I won’t be needing them again.

— 3 —

Why is my grocery bill over $1000 a month?  This amount includes diapers and paper products and toothpaste, etc., but that still seems like a lot.

— 4 —

Can I save money and yet stick with our eating plan by shopping at Aldi?  (This lady seems to think so.)  I went there this morning and am about to do a big price comparison.

— 5 —

How annoyed were the other shoppers by Girl 1’s belting out Sound of Music tunes over and over again?

— 6 —

I got an email this morning from my around-the-corner neighbor, with whom I am friendly.  She is going to be induced today at 42 weeks + 3 days.  I knew her due date had passed.  If I weren’t on the computer so much, would I have thought to give her a call and see how she was doing?

— 7 —

Will you please still read my blog even after all this drivel?

For more more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Style and the Stay-at-Home Mom: Building the Uniform, Part 2

Before I go further with this series (you can read the first two posts here and here), I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the man who is my inspiration, both in fashion and in life: my husband. Patrick has perfected the art of the fool-proof everyday uniform, as shown in his fall/winter work wardrobe:

IMG_1633

Sweater: Lands’ End (no longer available in Tall)
Jeans: Old Navy
Shoes: New Balance

Same style, same color, different sweater

Same style, same color, different sweater

Same style sweater, different color

Same style sweater, different color

3 sweaters, 2 looks.

But don’t worry, sometimes he cuts loose and does something a little different:

IMG_1634

(Clearly, I’m fortunate to have a husband who doesn’t take himself too seriously and sometimes lets me have fun at his expense.)

So back to my fall/winter uniform:

IMG_1284

My current line-up includes both new and old purchases. I must admit, I’ve been buying things here and there before doing a complete closet clean-out and reassessment. But it worked out okay (with they exception of a few flubs, described below).

For example, this outfit has a Gap Outlet cardigan from 2009. I pair it with a new, striped tee (a (rare) Old Navy clearance rack purchase of recent months) and a skinny belt.

IMG_1266

This next outfit has another cardigan from the same Gap Outlet shopping trip of 2009. I pair it with a floral tank I bought from Lands’ End last summer (no longer available).

Until recently I wouldn’t think of combining a print with argyle, but I like how they go together (also seen with a polka dot skirt one recent Sunday):

IMG_0417

One of these days I’ll clean that mirror.

Here’s yet another sweater from that same fateful Gap Outlet trip of 2009. I pair it with a scarf I found at a yard sale.

IMG_1412

But with jeans.

One of my favorite recent purchases is this sweater (which I wore in this What I Wore Sunday post):

IMG_1580

I’m trying to accessorize more when I go out, but I’m not quite sure what to do with this one. This necklace (discussed in this post) would be good in a different color, but I see red + green and think Christmas tree:

IMG_1581

These earrings look the part, I think, but, I dunno, would you wear them to story time at the library? (And would you trust your toddler not to rip through your earlobes with them?)

IMG_1583

IMG_0588

So I’m on the lookout for a scarf or necklace to wear with the polka-dot sweater.

Next in my current line-up, I have a cable knit white cotton sweater:

IMG_1368

This, however, is next in line for the give-away pile. You see, I bought this sweater at a consignment store recently. I wish I had Mary with me because I ignored the fact that it didn’t fit quiiiiiiiite right.

I just love the look of a white cable knit sweater. So crisp.

So Brideshead:

Alright, maybe fictional, effeminate Oxford boys of the 1930s are not the best fashion inspiration. But Kate is!

But mine just doesn’t fit exactly right. And one thing I’ve learned is that fit is everything. If you don’t have fit, you don’t have style. My white sweater would be better a bit longer and preferably a little fitted at the waist. And maybe a v-neck would be better?

IMG_1365

Not quite the right fit.

Also it could use some accessorizing. Since becoming a Color Me Beautiful aficionado, I’m convinced that white and black wash me out and it’s better to wear color near my face.

I thought perhaps a collared shirt underneath would work, like this:

But no.

IMG_1278

Sarah Vickers I am not.

I have a hard time with collared shirts under sweaters. I don’t know what it is.

I also tried it with scarf, but nope. Maybe I’ll try tying the scarf a different way, or a different scarf.

Maybe if I'll try tying the scarf differently.

Maybe if I’ll try tying the scarf differently.

So, a better-fitting white sweater is also on my look-for list. In the mean time, I still wear the sweater because . . . well, I still kind of like it. My new rule for buying clothes, whether at a thrift store or elsewhere, is to buy something only if I’m 100% satisfied. In a world of unlimited wants and limited resources, though, my rule for keeping things once I’ve already purchased them is maybe . . . 75% satisfaction. 😉

I learned a few things just as I was taking pictures for this post. For example, I have worn this combination a few times. But after taking a picture I mended my ways. Meh.

IMG_1291

Belting it didn’t help much:

IMG_1292

I bought the striped shirt from a thrift store a few months ago (duh duh DUN), and it has now received what most of my thrift store purchases have received (i.e. the boot). The cardigan was a Target purchase and, like most things I’ve bought there, it hasn’t kept its shape. For some reason, though, it looks okay with the chambray shirt, so I’m keeping it around for a while longer.

But with jeans.

But with jeans.

Sometimes I wear the chambray shirt (another recent Old Navy clearance find) on its own with this scarf:

IMG_0497

I also have a heavy wool sweater for very cold days, like this past Thanksgiving:

IMG_0645

Just recently, when I should have known better, I bought a $9 striped, dolman sleeve top from what is truly the dregs of the retail market: Ross . . . in the junior’s department {hanging head in shame}. I don’t have a great picture, but you get the idea here:

IMG_1322

When I bought it, I didn’t notice the tag saying “HAND WASH ONLY.” Right, like that’s gonna happen. I machine washed it in cold water, hung it to dry, and it didn’t fit as well afterward. Now, a couple more cold-water washes and drip-dries later, it’s pilling, it has threads coming off, and it’s lost even more shape. $9 down the drain.

IMG_1279

Well, there you have it: my everyday uniform for the colder months.

Except that I haven’t discussed, you know, the entire lower half of each outfit. That is a post in itself, (make that two posts or three) for next time . . . .

Style and the Stay-at-Home Mom: Building the Uniform, Part 1

I began working on my “mom uniform” a few months ago, frustrated at having lots and lots of clothes but nothing to wear (as described in last Saturday’s post).   I decided to build a functional wardrobe, and not collect pieces at random as I had done for years.

Mary, of With My Sisters, has a very helpful,  ongoing series on building a wardrobe on a budget.  I’ve drawn lots of inspiration from that and also from Audrey’s series on Building a Wardrobe From Scratch, over at Putting Me Together.  Both ladies say an initial step is to make a plan, to determine what you really need for your lifestyle.  (And here I was, all my life, thinking the first step was to browse the 70% off rack at Target!)

This is what I think my ideal wardrobe would look like:

  • 7 casual outfits, comfortable enough for chores around the house and presentable enough for being seen in public
    • 4 pairs of pants would be enough here, but
    • 7 separate tops are ideal because the kiddos leave so many mementos of themselves on me throughout the day
  • 4 church outfits
  • 2 dressier outfits (weddings, fancy parties, etc.)
  • 1 or 2 “going out”/ “dressy casual” outfits (I have so much trouble with this category).

Another crucial step  is cleaning out your closet.  I made a big purge of summer clothes last year (no pictures though), and one of winter clothes this year.

Mary describes the process well on her blog.  I did my big closet clean-out before she wrote her post, but I pretty much followed the process she describes.

The most crucial questions for me were

(a) Does it fit? and more fundamentally

(b) Whether or not it fits, would I enjoy wearing it?

I was surprised at how often the answer to (b) was “No.”

Here are my rejects:

Casual sweaters and tops, all either uncomfortable, unflattering, ill-fitting, or pilled.  Plus a truly ancient denim skirt.

Casual sweaters and tops, all either uncomfortable, unflattering, ill-fitting, or pilled. Plus a truly ancient denim skirt.  (I later decided to give the cardigan at the top left another try.)

An assortment of (mostly) old work clothes.  Any guesses what my color story used to be?

An assortment of (mostly) old work clothes. Any guess what my go-to color scheme used to be?

I bought the top on the left at Target when I was a few months post-partum and DESPERATE for something that fit.  I hated it almost as soon as I bought it but kept wearing it for months.

I bought the shirt on the left at Target when I was a few months postpartum and DESPERATE for something that fit. I hated it almost as soon as I bought it but kept wearing it almost every day for months.  Good riddance!

Assorted not-me tops.  I love the colors of the green shirt in the middle, but the style was uncomfortable and unflattering.

Assorted bad-idea tops. I love the colors of the green shirt in the middle, but the style was uncomfortable and unflattering.

A skirt and assorted pants that were old, old, old, never did fit really well and never will.

A skirt and assorted pants that were old, old, old.  Most never did fit really well and probably never will.

A pair of Sevens for $6 at Goodwill!  $6 too much, as it turns out, since the rise is ridiculously low and I will never ever wear them.

A pair of Sevens for $6 at Goodwill! . . .  They were six dollars too much, as it turns out, since the rise is ridiculously low and I will never ever wear them.

What’s amazing to me is how many of these items I bought at thrift stores, consignment stores, or on super-duper clearance but never really liked.   I wish I hadn’t been so “thrifty” and had bought just a few nice items instead.  I probably would have spent less money in the long run.

At the end of this process, I had whittled down my cold-weather wardrobe so that it all fit here:

My tops, skirts, dresses and jackets, plus all my shoes, all hang on my side of the closet.

My tops, skirts, dresses, jackets, and shoes all fit on my side of the closet.

Some jeans and sweaters are on the bottom right shelf.  Gym clothes, underwear, and night clothes are in the drawers.

Jeans, sweaters, and sweatshirts are on the bottom right shelf. Gym clothes, underwear, and night-clothes are in the drawers.  You can see my rejects in the box on the floor, awaiting a trip to the consignment shop.

Summer clothes and maternity/post-partum clothes are stored away in bins.  Also (I admit), I have ten or so items hanging in my daughter’s closet: things I really like but that don’t fit now, plus some suits and blazers for the occasional times I need to look professional.

Once I cleared away all of the items that (a) didn’t fit well, (b) I didn’t like, or (c) weren’t appropriate for my life, it was pretty easy to put together an everyday “uniform” mostly from items I already had.

For the first wardrobe category–my everyday outfits–I’ve assembled these:

IMG_1284

Plus jeans.  I’ve decided that right now I want to wear blue jeans every day.  Boring perhaps, but it works for me.  Finding the right blue jeans, though, has been an ongoing process that is anything but boring.   I’ll describe that in a separate post.

Everything is machine washable (crucial, crucial, crucial) and comfortable enough that I don’t mind wearing it all day long.  Ideally nothing would need to be ironed, but I make an exception for the chambray button-up.  Usually, though, I wear it about once a week and can get away with washing it every other time.  So I only have to iron every two weeks.  😉

Here’s how it might work on a typical day:

When I get dressed in the morning (sometimes not until late morning but oh well), I can grab a pair of jeans and a top (or sweater/top combo) easily, without having to think about it.

Woo hoo!  Dressed.

Woo hoo! Dressed.

If you knock on my door in the middle of the day, I’ll probably look like this:

Just call me Mrs. Joe Gargery

Just call me Mrs. Joe Gargery

But if I’m going out, it only takes a few minutes to pull myself together because I’m already wearing real clothes!  Brilliant, right?  😉

IMG_1551

Today was chilly and we were going to the playground, so I put on a navy corduroy blazer over my cardigan and added a pink scarf and a black hat (because brown, navy and black totally work together, right?):

IMG_1553

And there are some lots of days when the girls are uncooperative and we need to leave ten minutes ago, and all I can manage is this:

IMG_1560

But hey, it’s better than pajama pants and Crocs!

I’m not looking to make it on anyone’s best-dressed list.  I still have so much to learn about dressing well.  But I’m happy with the progress I’ve made, so I share it with you.  If you have any comments or suggestions I’d love to hear them.  (If you think it’s hopeless and I should just give up now, well, just keep it to yourself.)

In my next post in this series, I’ll give more details of my current wardrobe and some thoughts on how I’d like to improve it.