Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Today as I left the Hardee's drive thru, I told the girl how thankful I was for her and her crew as they make my mornings easier and more pleasant. Her previously curt demeanor changed before my eyes! Not tooting my own horn, but encouraging you to think outside the box with your thankfulness. I challenge you to choose one (or two or ten) person(s) today that only slightly touch your life and thank them. Then sit back, grin and watch!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Martha Stewart Syndrome

Ah, Fall. A return to schedules, notebooks and backpacks. The crisp air becons us to shake off the haze of summer and dive into leaf piles and pumpkin patches.

At our house, autumn brings about a magical change. My husband calls it Martha Stewart Syndrome. I want to bustle about the kitchen baking and stewing all sorts of heavenly treats. I dig out the aprons that were too hot for summer and wrap my hair in an old bandana. Cleaning, organizing and cooking are the order of every day. When I finally come to my senses, there is soup on the stovetop, bread in the oven and my cupboards are overflowing with canned goods and pantry staples. And school supplies. And while all of that is very good, if Mrs. Pennywise isn't careful she could have overspent on everything. So let's tackle things one category at a time and see if we can enjoy MSS without breaking the bank.

Unless you're 12, you're probably not really excited to go back-to-school shopping. I'm not an expert on the matter, but I do know that both public and private schools in this area are kind enough to compile a list of needed items for each classroom. Moreso, it would seem, for the elementary grades where children can forget to bring the list home...or to give it to Mom...or that there ever was a list. The key here is to not overbuy. And remember that you don't HAVE to buy everything brand-spankin' new. Get a list, take it home and look it over. Chances are that you have many items already lurking about. Designate a shelf or bin for school supplies and place them there. Then venture out with your list. Leave the kiddos at home or you could end up with something like a Justin Bieber lunchbox or something. And do you really want to see that every morning at 6 a.m.? I thought not.

At this point you have a choice. My habit would always be to check loss leader stores (like Not-Little Lots and Hundred Pennies General). See if they have the items you need. If so, great! If not, just buy your standard item and leave. (What, you don't have a standard item?? Yeah, right. Everyone has a standard item they buy at loss leaders. I do. And it may or may not involve chocolate.) Then proceed to the larger store of your choice. Take a deep breath and plunge in. I should warn you that there will probably be 562 parents, 47 children and possibly 14 yaks. It's okay. Just grab only what you absolutely must have and leave. Just walk away. Another deep, cleansing breath....and there...it's over. Now all you have to do is take your stock home, only to return in a couple of weeks and finish out your supply shelf. Not only have you saved a tremendous amount of hassle, you could benefit from some pretty nice markdowns as well.

Parents of children who are homeschooled have a whole other set of temptations when it comes to the back-to-school season: curricula. Because most HSers purchase curricula themselves, it can be a real money pit. Once again, do your research! Talk to other parents, and make your decision. Then hit the internet with your list in hand. Use your search engine wisely and you're sure to find a bargain. Because curricula is expensive many parent teachers choose to purchase used material, much like collegiate material (more on that later). Just be sure you're buying up-to-date material. Of course, even here you can "choose your battles" so to speak. I tend to purchase older math texts because the rules of math just don't change. Subjects that need to contain updated material should be new, in my opinion. Purchasing non-used books can be done frugally as well. Keep your eyes open for the Pennywise page on Facebook for links and tips. And please respect copyright laws. It is really tempting to purchase one text and make copies for all the children. Most books for homeschooling have a note about copying, and what the publisher of that particular text would rather you do. Abide by their request and sleep better at night.

Public, private or home school households can also benefit from some good old fashioned bargain hunting in the guise of the yard sale. I LOVE yard sales! I picture myself as a grand adventurer (only with latte) searching far and wide for treasure. And boy, have I found it before. You know how fishermen have their one or two great stories, right? “There I was, fishin’ since dawn…” Well, I hit the queen royal of yard sales a few years ago. While we’d just made the decision to homeschool, it never really occurred to me that I’d find much while yard sale shopping. Little did I know that the home to which I’d come was that of a retiring elementary school teacher. (Insert celebratory Mardi Gras type music here.) I got a shoebox full of brand new pencils, several packages of erasers and crayons, left-handed scissors for my little southpaw and more for an embarrassingly small amount of money. She was so sweet! I even got some great advice. So hold on! There is hope that the next sale will have your school supply or clothing stockpile! The thing is, it won’t walk to you. You’ve got to invest some time and effort.

While many people consider new clothes and accessories as school supplies, that term takes on an even wider connotation when applied to the college student.For those who are going away to school it means buying the necessities of life, and it is easy to get caught up in the emotion of a child entering college. This is, once again, a time to pick your battles. Purchases that rate high on the "cool" scale and low on the "useful" scale should be carefully considered. Here is where impulse shopping will get you every time. Keep those receipts! There's nothing like realizing that you've blown the budget AND thrown away the receipts. You're left with buyer's remorse and a set of Hello Kitty steak knives. Knowing your priorities helps. You may not want to buy yet another pair of floppy sandles for shower shoes. But are you prepared to buy the $10 per tube athlete's foot ointment? I didn't think so. Buy the shower shoes. Despite the name, fungus isn't fun. Also consider what will get the workout. Invest in the best quality you can afford in things like laptops and backpacks, leaving the $200 touch screen mp3 player on the shelf for the student to purchase for themselves or Christmas.

Ask any parent or seasoned collegian and they'll tell you that a major money-eater is textbooks. Up until now, your only options were to mortgage the house (again) and buy new or camp out at the used bookstore and hope they have what you need. Even then, costs can be prohibitive. At last, this issue is being addressed. Hop on a computer, strap on your favorite search engine and look for "rent college textbooks". At the date of writing, that search phrase generated about 261,000 returns on Google. You read it right! One of the larger rental companies claimed at the time of writing to have saved students more than $246,000,000 over the cost of new books. Even though it's been a few decades since college, I decided to search for a textbook I liked so much I kept it. (Yes, I'm weird.) A business communication text by Thill & Bovee came in online around $110 new, but I found it to rent for $54. That's a substantial savings! Don't forget to check the college bookstore and local used bookstores too. Sometimes the internet doesn't have the best deal. (I know, right?! I was shocked too!) The recurring theme still holds true: do your research so you can make the most of your funds. Remember what P. T. Barnum said in The Art of Moneygetting, “A penny here, and a dollar there, placed at interest, goes on accumulating, and in this way the desired result is attained. It requires some training, perhaps, to accomplish this economy, but when once used to it, you will find there is more satisfaction in rational saving than in irrational spending.”

As for the lamps, d├ęcor and such that accompany this first adverture in adulthood…thank your lucky stars that retro is IN! That doesn’t mean you can run down to Goodwill, buy a lamp and have your young adult love it. Retro is in, yes…but think more along the lines. Like a house. No matter how lovely the home, paint it hot pink and lime green and it is no longer appealing. Consult magazines, craft stores, boutiques and websites. Know what you’re looking for and buy accordingly. If you can find exactly what you want – great! But if you’ll just be prepared to add a new fabric cover or fresh paint you could send your kiddo off to live in their stylish new digs.

As for the cooking and cleaning of it all, there are hundreds of internet sites and pages devoted to frugal cleaning method. Scour (pun intended) the net and you’ll find something to meet your needs. Once again, this is a time to choose your battles. I love saving money, but there are a couple of cleansers that I just can’t do without. So I use coupons and stock up on them while they are on sale. Vinegar and baking soda make a wonderful cleanser with antibacterial properties…the smell is pungent but dissolves quickly and tends to not disrupt people like me who have asthma.

Check out the net for more information – and recipes for homemade cleaning products that I’m certain you’ll love. You can also use this forum to ask a question or leave a comment. Until next time, I wish you happiness as you journey in frugality.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Menu-Planning Monday -- Back in the Groove

So here I am, trying to get back in the blogging groove again. Let's start simple: Menu Plan Monday! Here's what we'll be having for dinner this week:

Monday: Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, dressed bananas.

Tuesday: Baked fish, Dick's Rice (made with consumme, so good!), pinto beans, corn bread

Wednesday: Crockpot Sticky Chicken, white beans, broccoli, rolls

Thursday: Ham Sandwiches and Split Pea Soup

Friday: Pizza, Salad

Saturday: Curry Chicken, Dal Makhni, Rice, Naan

Sunday: Pasta Salad, Cold Cuts

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday Hymn Post - He Hideth My Soul

A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,

A wonderful Savior to me;

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,

Where rivers of pleasure I see.
Refrain: He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock, That shadows a dry, thirsty land; He hideth my life in the depths of His love, And covers me there with His hand, And covers me there with His hand. A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord, He taketh my burden away, He holdeth me up and I shall not be moved, He giveth me strength as my day. With numberless blessings each moment He crowns, And filled with His fullness divine, I sing in my rapture, oh, glory to God! For such a Redeemer as mine. When clothed with His brightness transported I rise To meet Him in clouds of the sky, His perfect salvation, His wonderful love, I’ll shout with the millions on high.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A giveaway link...

I'm so excited to pass this giveaway link on to you! I really enjoy this blog site, and would love to win their fantastic prizes! Once you've entered their contest, take a look around their new location. I'm certain you'll like it!

Mash here: http://foodstorageandsurvival.com/?p=492

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Near the Cross

Jesus, keep me near the cross,
There a precious fountain
Free to all, a healing stream
Flows from Calvry's mountain.

In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever;
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.

Near the cross, a trembling soul,
Love and mercy found me;
There the bright and morning star
Sheds its beams around me.

In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever;
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.

Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day,
With its shadows o'er me.

In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever;
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.

Near the cross I'll watch and wait
Hoping, trusting ever,
Till I reach the golden strand,
Just beyond the river.

In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever;
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Thrifty Gardening

We've all seen 'em. You know the ones. The folks who walk into the local big-box garden center looking to fulfill their dreams of growing 4 pound tomatoes or blue ribbon-worthy pumpkins. Whatever their motivation - from a yearning for simplicity, a desire to eat more organically, or frugality - they've now decided to put in a garden. And could there be anything more inviting to a salesperson than the sight of the new gardener staring at the mountains of plants and supplies? Whether they grew up on a farm or could rival Billy Crystal for the lead role in "City Slickers" the novice gardener can drop a pile of money before ground has even been broken. In larger cities you may need to wear a garlic necklace to repel the hoardes of sales-hungry garden center helpers, but in Bowling Green and the surrounding areas folks are nice and pretty understanding of the need for frugality. In any case, preparation and education are key to spending only what you must to obtain your desired results.

Much like shopping in thrift stores, a list is probably the single most valuable tool for the thrifty gardener. You'll find seasoned gardeners poring over books, magazines and websites as they sip coffee and watch the snow fall. By the time Spring nears, they've got a really good idea of what they'd like to include in their garden. As winter wears on, they check the mailbox more often than Ralphie Parker waiting for his decoder pin. Why? The catalogs. They arrive long before the first Robin, but are just as certain a harbinger of the gentle days of Spring. Even if you don't plan to purchase plants via mail order, catalogs are a great way to find out what's new and what works in your area, and to begin to budget. With your list or garden blueprint in hand, you may enter the garden center with more confidence.

Of course, the basic need for all gardeners is good soil. Do you get confused when you hear people talk about adding things to the soil to change the Ph? So do I. Just take my cue and head on over to the Extension Office. Don't know where it is? Shame on you! These folks can answer all kinds of questions about horticulture in Warren and surrounding counties - and it's free! They even offer a soil test. Now, it isn't free, but available for the nominal fee of around $6.00. The results of that test will help you know what you need to have the best soil in your garden. The test will pay for itself many times over in yield and crop quality. Hop on over to their website and look around: http://ces.ca.uky.edu/Warren/horticulture. You can even follow them on Facebook! Just enter the keywords "UK Cooperative Extension--Warren County Horticulture"

Next to good soil, you need good plants. If you don't plan to start your plants from seed, you'll need to find a resource that has done it for you. To find the best plants at the best prices, I'd suggest you ask around. For whatever reason, gardening is exploding in popularity this year and you can be the beneficiary of some really fantastic local resources. There are greenhouses galore in addition to the farmer's markets. Starting plants from seeds can be tedious and time consuming, but offers near infinite choices in variety. With careful planning, for the cost of one greenhouse-grown plant you can have trays and trays of seedlings ready to set as soon as Jack paints his last frost of the season. Consider purchasing seeds from non-traditional sources as well as the tried-and-true. I got 150 heirloom pepper seeds for the grand total of 50¢ on eBay earlier this year. The seller had fantastic feedback, so I took a chance. By the looks of things, it was a great deal. Heirloom varieties can be more expensive, but have some distinct advantages that make them the more frugal choice. They are said to provide tastier, more nutritious fruit. They are open pollinated, which means that you can save your seeds from year to year. “Seeds saved from heirloom vegetables will produce plants that are true to type, unlike hybrid seeds. If you try to save seed from hybrids, you usually won’t get good results,” says Andrew Kaiser, manager at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Heirlooms also tend to be less uniform than hybrids, meaning they won't all ripen at once. That's an advantage when there just aren't enough hours in the day to can or preserve that bountiful crop.

After you've gotten your soil in shape and you've bought or grown your own sets, it's time to plant and maintain. Regardless of the latest fashion or gadget, all you really need are the basics: a spade, a hoe, a hand trowel. If you're a southern woman a big floppy hat seems to be a necessity, but I really like my old-fashioned sun bonnet. A pair of old shoes will serve just as well as the cutesy garden clogs, and an old leaky hose easily replaces a topside soaker. Old mini-blinds find new life when cut down to size and shape for plant stakes - recycling an old product and saving you around $5. The latest foam plant ties retail in a popular seed catalog for $12.95 for 32 feet. Pantyhose and knee-highs with runs are free and just as gentle when tying up heavy plants like tomatoes. An old bucket and free plastic kids' meal cup will water your plants just as well as the new OXO watering can - and it won't cost $19.99. (What? Are they insane? I could give you the website I found that one on, but I won't.)The one area in which I absolutely do not skimp is good quality gloves. They are absolutely necessary when working in garden or yard, and can be found at relatively reasonable prices throughout the year.

Just like thrift shopping, a heaping dose of common sense is your greatest tool to keep your gardening endeavors frugal. Are you lacking in that department? Unsure of yourself? Or do you just need some support? A Google search for "frugal gardening" netted 278,000 results as of this writing. Pour yourself a cuppa something wonderful, tuck the kiddies into bed and have a blast learning more about your new hobby. Even better, enlist your family and/or friends to help. Start a gardening co-op in your neighborhood. Take a class or two, if you have the time and money. Shop online to find great deals if your time is limited during daylight hours. A little knowledge and research goes a long way, so make the most of those rainy days and nighttime hours. And if, by some chance, you happen upon that so-cute copper Labrador retriever weathervane that is on sale for ONLY $369.00 (ha!) do what I did and step. away. from. the. keyboard. Until next time, I wish you well.

Mrs. Pharris is a graphic designer and the author of several poems and short articles. She is a homemaker, small business owner, homeschool mom and wannabe tightwad. She lives with her husband – who wishes she were more of a tightwad, and her son – who is glad she isn’t, a dog that eats anything and a cat who won’t.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

So there!

Cincinnati Homeschool Convention

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Looks like fun!

Monday, January 3, 2011


Friends, the surgery has quite done the trick! I found out my poor body has been battling several severe conditions for decades! Can you believe it?? Other than the typical winter junk (colds, asthma) I feel FANTASTIC!

I'll be posting a lot more now, and have so much to share!! But right now I'm on deadline for the sports magazine...see you again soon!