Sunday, August 31, 2008

To Buy or Not To Buy, Or Dilemmas at the Dollar Store

After many years of wrinkled nose disdain, I have made the dollar store a regular stop on my monthly shopping schedule. My original dislike was rooted in a little bit of snobbery and a little bit of practicality. Practically speaking much of what can be found at such places is simply junk. I'm not the type of person to go trudging through a place that smells of plastic looking for hidden gems, but one thing kept me occasionally visiting the dollar store, one of my favorite things, Wrapping Paper.

Unlike most people, I take gift wrapping seriously. I refuse to give gifts in a bag, to me it says, "I barely had time to buy you something, much less spend any energy making it look nice." There have been rare occasions when the shape and size of a gift was impractical wrapped and I did use a bag, but it was always tied with a balloon or two to make it just a little bit more special. But I digress, wrapping and a card can easily add ten bucks to the price of gift and with a daughter in school now, birthdays started multiplying, so I sought out the dollar store to save a little green.

I have compiled a list of things I find are really worth the extra stop at a strip mall, and a list of things that are a waste of money even at the price of $1.

To Buy

  • Wrapping paper (gift bags too if you are of that persuasion)
  • Mylar balloons-these can easily cost $3 to $6 at party stores and you always want more than one
  • Greeting cards-the selection is a little cheesy and you would not want to buy your wife's anniversary card there, but great for those never ending kid's birthdays. While $3 to $5 at the gift stores they are usually two for $1
  • Hand soap-So many of my friends and family buy that great pumping soap from Bath & Body Works for their bathrooms and kitchens, but my kids go through hand soap like crazy and if you find a nice dollar store they should have a nice selection of name brands.
  • Body Lotion-I'm sure I will lose a few of you here, but I'm a cocoa butter girl and a giant vat of cocoa butter for $1 that will last me two months is irresistible.
  • Toys-When I'm looking for stocking stuffers or party favors this is the first place I go.
  • Stationary-My local dollar store has a great selection of note cards and grocery lists, not to mention a surprisingly nice group of scrapbook items, and stickers, my kids love stickers.
  • Kid's Learning Workbooks-I have paid $7 at Target for similar books. Recently I picked up a Disney Princess Math for my 6-year-old and a Disney Princess Alphabet Writing for my 4-year-old.
Not to Buy
  • Household Cleaners-I've tried them, they suck (I think the pretreat spray I bought was just scented water). Even if they have the brands you love, they are usually in smaller packages that aren't really worth a dollar.
  • Food-Oh, the junk they sell. Expired, tiny packages, creepy ingredients, the whole food aisle is an organic advocate's greatest nightmare.
  • Hair products-When it comes to the hair you just need to stick with what you love. Apparently, I do not love balsam protein conditioner or generic scented kids shampoo, Stinky!
  • Pens-It is amazing how angry you can get when an entire package of pens won't write.
  • Floral arrangements-No explanation needed.
  • Toys-Toys make both lists because they are hit and miss. Many, many things in the toy aisle are cheap in all the worst meanings of the word cheap.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Summer Fun

These first few weeks of summer have been jam packed with social activities and just plain fun. So I thought I might share some of the great things we've been doing, just in case you were running out of your own ideas.

  • Pick some local fruit--We went to the Owasso Tree and Berry farm and picked six pounds of blackberries. At $3.00 a pound it was a bargain and lots of fun, although they should have charged us for all the berries that the 1 1/2 year old downed before any made it into the bucket. There are still several weeks left in berry season and peach season is next month. One caveat, I had a friend who ended up buying 12 pounds because she took several older children, so unless you are ready to freeze a bunch you might limit the amount they pick.
  • Cool off--Yes, I know water parks are a no brainer, but look outside your local area. We went to the River Country Family Water Park in Muskogee and had a blast. It's smaller than Big Splash, which is here in Tulsa, but that was what made it so great for us. Since my kids are all under 6 a smaller park was just perfect for them and at $5 and $4 for admission we could easily afford the gas to get us there.
  • Make friends--A lazy summer day is always more fun with new friends. We have had friends over at least once a week and Mommies and Kids love to socialize. For the cost of chicken salad sandwiches and brownies any summer day can be a party. Sometimes we want to wait and have people ask us over, but go ahead and decide to be the neighborhood hostess for the summer.
  • Join a group--Most bigger churches have Mommy and Me groups and lots of communities do as well. We have Bible study every Tuesday, it has a class for moms and a class for kids. Our church nursery has a Mommy and Me group every Friday, usually we go to a park or kid themed restaurant.
  • Community Freebies--Several local theaters have free kids movies once a week in the summer, they are usually movies that are several years old, but fun nonetheless. Tulsa is brimming over with great libraries, not just filled with books, but reading programs and puppet shows and activities.
  • Community Outreach--One of our best days this summer was visiting an older friend from church, who was homebound because of a recent surgery. She was delighted with the children and she let us clean her kitchen and bathroom and make her lunch. Talk about a great way the spend the day, you should never underestimate the joy of helping others. Your children will get it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Charmed Life

Recently, I was working at my desk when my screen saver slide show caught my eye. Photos of our children at various ages, Christmas pictures in front of the fireplace, friends on water skies, the traditional family photo album slide show. I've seen all these images flash by a hundred times, but for some reason this time I was moved by what a charmed life I lead.

We have a very ordinary American life. We have a beautiful, blessed, amazing life. Of course we have bumps and setbacks, but what are they compared to those snapshots of joy and abundance? I live, any very likely you do too, the dream that people are willing to lock themselves up in a freight container and cross the ocean to achieve. Warm holiday meals, get togethers with mobs of friends and family, lazy summer days punctuated with a cracked open watermelon and kids dripping with pool water, dark evenings on the couch with my husband and Netflix, lake excursions that send you home exhausted with fun, school plays more satisfying than I could go on indulging myself with the sweet moments of my life.

I am constantly telling my children to stop being upset about the things they don't have (typically a popsicle) and be thankful for what they do have (probably a peanut butter & jelly sandwich) I am determined to apply this principle to my own life as well, so I am off to enjoy my new home and quit fussing about all the new furniture I don't have to fill it.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Goo Gone

Spring cleaning recently found me in the "way back" of our minivan. My children really love gum and apparently they really love to string gum all over the floor and leather seats of our van. After several moments of inhaling deeply I went and grabbed the Goo Gone. We have used it successfully in the past to remove candle wax and sticker residue, but I wasn't sure if it was up to this challenge.

It was amazing! It completely dissolved two giant clumps of gum off the floor mats and left no oily residue behind. The strings of ancient gum on the leather seats required some scrubbing and scratching, but it's all gone. Don't mess with ice or peanut butter, if you need to remove gum, wax or anything sticky Goo Gone is the perfect tool. I have even used it on a pair of cream wool dress slacks with success.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Eyelash Implants

Did you know that for a mere $300 you could be the owner of eyelash implants?

They are only semi-permanent and need maintenance, but thick dark lashes are only an economic stimulus check away. As an eyelash disabled person, I have to admit that this is very tempting. I have recently become a member of the Tammy Faye Baker club of mascara. My routine consists of three coats of Estee Lauder's Magnascopic expertly separated by a metal Chanel eyelash comb then retouched by what ever free trial size Lauder mascara I have laying about. So my current eyelash investments in time and money already have me halfway to implant mark.
I have been trying fake eyelashes since high school, but I cannot master the application.

I don't know what this says about me as a person but I want them. I suppose for now I'll just have to imagine waking up looking like Brooke Shields.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Quick Recommendation

I rarely read Christian living books. When I do read them I usually find them pretty mediocre but several months ago I started reading John Bevere. I picked up Driven by Eternity after hearing Bevere preaching on the internet and it made me sob uncontrollably. Right now I'm reading Under Cover and it is positively life changing.

The Godly principles in his books are like T-bone steaks for the soul. Do not read them if you have a weak spiritual stomach. While each one is on a pretty simple topic like Obedience, they are strong, scripture heavy works that will make you question who you think you are in Christ. The person who first introduced me to his writings said that she once threw the book across the room she was so convicted.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Factory Tile

When I set out to find tile for my breakfast nook I naturally started at the big warehouse stores. They have pretty decent selections at pretty decent prices, but I wasn't satisfied. I wanted something unique and cheap. A quick google search surprised me with tons of listings for tile warehouses in the Tulsa area. I eventually purchased some beautiful tile for a song at Factory Tile on 46th and Memorial. Even though they only have a small showroom, it was stocked with tons of reasonable tile, stone and woods. It has encouraged me to continue my redecorating shopping off the beaten path.

Unleashing my Inner Artisan

Our cozy new home is a blessing from God...but it needs some work.

Chief among it's flaws is the carpeted breakfast nook. I'm not sure who thought it was a good idea to put white carpet underneath a casual dining area, but my guess is that they didn't have three small children. So I've bought tile and picked out paint colors and I'm ready to make over my space, but now I actually have to do it. My husband is not so Happy about the challenge of laying 300 square feet of tile in our main living area, so I've been researching different flooring and installation methods and it has got my creative juices flowing.

I imagine myself a master artisan creating a mosaic of elegant proportions on my breakfast floor. Of course I am also a master seamstress with blue silk curtains in the works and an upholstering genius ready to recover my aging wing chairs. I've been pouring through books and the world wide web for tips and plans. I can feel the excitement in my fingertips.

Delusions of grandeur aside I'm started to get really excited about slowly buy surely making this house a beautiful, comfortable place to live.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Accomplishments of Man

My Grandmother once told me about how her father was renown for his impeccable lawn. The neighbors constantly rewarded his hard work with glowing compliments and pats on the back. However, she told me, what no one knew is that my Great-grandmother nagged him into it. He didn't perfect his yard because he liked doing it or liked to impress the neighborhood, he did it because she wouldn't get off his back on a Saturday until it was done.

I love this story. I love just thinking about all the marriages in my sphere of acquaintance and the seen and unseen dynamics that make them work. I have the great privilege of know many "happy" healthy marriages that function in completely different ways.

How do we as women get what we want from our husbands? Ideally we both agree on what should happen, but what about when we don't agree?

How about giving up?
Or just doing it yourself.

The world may never know all the accomplishments of man that were prodded into existence by a loving wife.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Movin' On Blues

Our Happy household has successfully transplanted to our new home. We love the house and the neighborhood and the school...but I have the blues about the state of our home. I keep telling myself that it took three weeks to pack up our old house and it could take longer to get settled into our new house but that does little to salve my irritation at the mess that still lingers in the corners of each room.

How can a bigger house not have a place for all our old stuff?
Do wires and cables breed and multiply in storage boxes?
Should I do laundry before I get all the clean clothes unpacked?
How can the floor be the best place for previously precious valuables?
Will I ever, ever be caught up?

To our credit, we have passed several major milestones. On Monday all cardboard boxes were officially moved out of the residence. Two days later the car was officially parked in the garage. Best of all, on Thursday every single toy in the universe found it's Happy placement in the playroom. The latter was accomplished in the midst of a stomach virus outbreak four persons strong.

Give a little prayer for me as I muster all my housekeeping skills and try to turn this new house into a home.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

My First Wedding Cake

While striving to throw my firstborn daughter the world's best first birthday party, I ran into a few books on cake decorating. It has been my favorite hobby ever since. I've gotten pretty good at buttercream cakes, but when my cousin got married in October, she asked me to make her a fondant covered cake. So my first wedding cake ended up being my first fondant cake, it kicked my butt. It's far from perfect but It holds a special place in my pastry heart.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


My home is a cluttered patchy mess of our belongings, and it makes me excessively happy. Next week we will move five miles south into a quiet little neighborhood in the elementary school district of our dreams. I have moved too many times in my life to remember, but my entire married life has been spent in this home and I keep waiting to be weepy or nostalgic about the whole situation. I am not. This isn't even a bittersweet moment it is simply time to go.

I love these moments of divine clarity of action. This moment comes after many months of weeping, praying, questioning and indifference. It's amazing how something as common as selling and buying a home can try one's soul. At the risk of sounding dramatic I have to admit that I am a different person from when this whole thing started in April. God has really used this as a catalyst to reshape me and draw me near. Vices and failings have melted away, worldly desires have disappeared and been replaced with an intense love for the people around me. I can't even describe the difference in me and perhaps no one has even noticed it but I am so grateful that this trial came my way. I am grateful that it's almost over and I am excited about moving my family into the next little chapter in our lives.

Not to mention all the unpacking and organizing! For good or ill I still have my insane love for making order out of chaos and I'll get to wallow in it for the next few weeks.