Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Beating the Budget Busters: Spring

If the amount I spend on gardening every year was any indication, one would be sure I lived on an acreage.  I don’t know what size my imaginary acreage is, but it must be huge because boy is it costly to maintain!  Ok, all joking aside, every year I seem to manage to spend a small fortune on my postage stamp sized yard.  Something about spring makes me want to run out and buy a zillion plants. 

I head to a local garden center, or three or four, and load up on annuals, seeds, perennials and the odd bag of peat moss or compost.  Somehow I always manage to pick up enough to supply a hobby farm.  Last year I gave the extra annuals to neighbourhood kids to plant in their flower beds.  Even when I have enough plants for the few spaces I can plant them in, I inevitably find some beautiful little flower that I would love to have, which leads to me having to buy more pots.  Then, I can always squeeze another plant or two in…  You get the idea!

This year I determined to be more realistic about how much space and money I have.  I should have written this post a week ago, before I went to three local greenhouses…  Ok, yes, I went, and yes I bought a couple more things than I planned, but mostly I am on track for the year.

I decided to plan how many plants I could fit in the pots I already have, and only buy those.  This way, I know too that I will have the time to maintain them.  Besides spending too much, the problem with buying extra plants is that I always manage to kill most of them because I don’t have the time to water and maintain them all.  The girls want two hanging baskets on their playhouse, Baden wants two tomato plants, beans, peas, carrots and parsley in our children’s garden, and then I have three little window-box like containers that are hung on our fence.  That’s all, and this year I mean it! 

Buuuuuut, the previous owner of this house was an amazing gardener with no young children and therefore more time on her hands.  Front and back, this house has lots of perennial beds.  Over the last three years, I have changed and reduced them to a more manageable level for me, but every year, there is always more I’d like to do.  Just a few boards to make edging here… the odd plant to fill in where one died… and all those doggy spots on the lawn.  You get the idea.  I never seem to be able to leave well enough alone!

In this too, I resolved to do better this year!  I am 9 months pregnant, and cannot do a lot of the yard chores anyway.  Once I have the baby, the yard will be lucky if I remember to turn on the under ground sprinklers once a week!  Well, that determination lasted until my wonderful husband offered me a day of his labour.  All I had to do was sit in a lawn chair, and he would do whatever chores I asked him to.  Shawn got a lot done, and I got a nasty sunburn.  “ Hey hunney, you know, a few boards along here and this flower bed would look nice and tidy, it would really finish it well” he says… on his way to the garden center.  “ This old shrub is over grown and not too nice anymore, I’ll rip it out for you” was quickly followed by “ Hmmm, what should we buy to plant in it’s spot? Maybe some cedars?”  “ Would be nice to buy some boards and finish the walking path this year” had to be quashed, though.  “ You know, that edging in the back looks great, maybe I should grab some for the front yard too” is still in the negotiating phase.  I’d love to rip out the dead bushes in the front, change the shape of that bed and edge it, but I don’t really want to spend the money either.  I can’t decide, which is worse: the dead bush, or a huge bare hole?

Ok, there are some ways I’ve been frugal about my yard wish list.  Almost all of my perennials have needed dividing over the last few years.  I’ve used a lot of these cuttings to fill in spaces when needed.  I’ve also given away enough daylilies, irises,  and hostas to stock several friends’ yards.  This year, I’m mooching a few things from a friend who is cleaning up her yard.  There always seems to be someone dividing and cleaning out plants if you are looking around.  Also, because Shawn is always at construction sites as part of his job, he often finds odd scraps of sod.  Contractors order in enough for the project and then toss aside the one or two lengths that are inevitably left over.  He’ll grab them and use them to fix up the doggy spots in the lawn.

We’ve Frankenstein-ed together the sections of our fence that are the worst with scrap boards we had laying around, and determined to ignore how ugly it looked until we could afford to fix it.  But, in order to keep the neighbourhood kids out and the 70lb dog in, we really need to address the fence, or at least portions of it, and soon!  Several spans of the thing are rotted to pieces.  I am constantly hollering at the kids next door “ Get off the fence! You’re gonna get hurt!” and “ Don’t hit the fence, the boards are falling off!”  We had some wind this week, and the fence flaps like wind-chimes!  The back section is supported because our boat is behind it… classy, I know!  Several sections have been tied up with rope.  I don’t know how much longer we can ignore it!  I think we may have to pick the worst parts of it this year, and plan on replacing it section by section.  I remember from the last fence we built, fencing is a lot of work, and it’s expensive!

Alright, so if I was going to make myself a score card of how I’ve done so far this spring? I’d have to give myself koodos for improving, and tsk a little at how we did too.  Next on our plate this year is the job of finishing the playhouses.  Shawn built them the year Lily was born, two years ago, and has put time and money into them every year.  This year, we plan to finish the few details that remain, and stay on budget too!  Stay tuned!!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Book Review: Daddy Dates

Daddy Dates by Greg Wright is a must read book!  While reading, you feel as though he is sitting across the couch from you chatting about what it’s like to be a dad.  He approaches this important role in a man’s life with humour, charm and insight. 

Daddy Dates starts with his realization that he wanted to be a great dad to his four daughters, but just wasn’t sure exactly what that meant.  He sets off on a  journey committed to being intentional about getting to know his daughters as individuals, and being the strong male influence in their lives.  By teaching them how they should be treated with care, concern and genuine thoughtfulness, Wright is raising daughters who know their real value and worth.

The book is full of hilarious anecdotes, examples and ideas to help jump start each dad’s plan to treat his daughter well at every stage of their growing up years.   Wright shares insights into the female heart and mind that he has learned as the lone male in a house with five women.  He doesn’t leave anyone out, including plenty of ideas and encouragement for all dads, even those who may not live with their daughters due to divorce. 

Helpfully included are tools to let dads discern the different personality types individual daughters may have, and “date” ideas that may appeal to each style.  He even covers why it’s important to continue to invest time and energy in dating your spouse throughout your entire marriage.

Even though as a mother, I am not the intended audience for the book, I enjoyed it so much I cold barely put it down!!  A great read for moms and dads alike!  I received this book from Booksneeze in exchange for my honest review, and I know it’s going to be passed around to many of my friends!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Books : To Buy or to Borrow?

For those of you who don’t know it already. I’m a bookworm.  A first class, library card carrying, piles of books all over the house bookworm.  So is Shawn.  As you can now probably imagine, there are books all over our house.  In fact, at the moment, I cannot think of a single room in our house that is NOT stocked with some books.

Over the years, we have spent more money on books than I could possibly imagine or estimate anymore.  I buy them both used and new.  I know that there are now so many ways to have e-versions of books, but it’s just not the same.  I like the feel of a book, the smell of the paper and the look of them on shelves.  We used to have a monthly budget for books ( yes, seriously) but that is something that has been cut out.

One of my favourite places to buy books was Value Village.  Often kid’s books are on sale as low as $0.25 each, and normally they are around $1.00 to $2.00 each. Buy four, and you get a fifth one free!  We used to go, and dig through the bins, finding “treasures” like old “Little Critter” books to add to their collections.  I would wander through the adult books and pick up a novel by a favourite author, or find neat reference books on topics that interested us.  It wasn’t unusual to come home with 20 books for the kids, and two or three for me. 

Another favourite of mine was online shopping.  I found great books, used and new alike on Amazon.  I also love Christian Book( www.christianbook.com).  They sell at wholesale prices, and even with exchange and shipping, their prices are great!

I have frequented the library over the years, often looking up topics I was interested in or authors I liked.  But, I was always returning things late because I wanted to re-read that chapter that had some great bit of information I wanted to remember. Since cutting out money for books, I  have completely fallen in love with my local library all over again.  I can look up any topic or book on the search engine, and they will order it in for me from wherever it may happen to be in the province ( a great new feature since the whole province joined into one giant group).  Our kids own mountains of books, but they still love library time, wandering along the shelves choosing whatever jumps out at them, or searching for a specific interest.  I love that we can still read mountains of books without spending a dime.  And now we’re there so often, I don’t usually forget to bring the books back on time.

I still like actually owning books though.  Sometimes, I just know that it’s something I’ll enjoy rereading again in the future.  Sometimes, it’s because we are studying it with our Sunday School group, or as part of a Bible Study and I know I am going to write in it.  Sometimes, it’s just an awesome reference book that I think we’ll use.

So for now, books are not a regular part of our budget.  There are special exceptions when we’re going to be studying one, or when I choose to use gift money on one.  I’ve started reviewing books, so I get some for free.  And, I’m making full use of what is already available to me for free : My Library!

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