Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Miss MoneyPenny was sitting out on the deck this morning after her shower trying to get cooled off when she heard a neighbor guy say "F**ck, man, its snowing!!."  It is not every day that you can sit in the bright sunshine and have it snowing at the same time.  This was not serious stuff...just a little dusting from old man winter saying goodbye.

Sundays are always crazy busy around here until about noon and then things practically come to a standstill.  I did two loads of wash, made a loaf of bread, and roasted up a giant pan of veggies for pasta, and other assorted domestic chores.  Just your basic getting ready for the work week, but what I really wanted to to was go outside and play in the dirt.

When I went outside this afternoon I was surprised at how darn cold it was with that wind blowing, so I took a few pictures and scurried back inside.  What you are going to see here is the crocus in full bloom, DC the cat, and the guy from Seattle trying to get in an afternoon nap...after I cleaned his clock at Scrabble.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Eddie Vedder is Here!!

Back in the olden days when Miss MoneyPenny was married to her favorite ex-husband, we had a sun room in our house.  It was my favorite room and it had rattan furniture with loud splashy cushions and lots of plants.  Just like the jungle, so naturally I had a large cage of parakeets out there.  This worked great until I moved into my own smaller place and the only place for the birds was in the corner of the dining room, but I've gotten used to having bird seed flung all over the place.

What I'm working up to here is that over the years some of the birds have flown over to the other side, leaving one very lonely bird.  So someone would give me a bird or I would buy one just so they wouldn't have to be so sad and blue.  I decided a couple of years ago that I was getting out of the bird business and so Stevie Nicks (or Stevie Wonder, one never really knows) was going to have to tough it out by her or his self. 

But as time went on I just couldn't live with that sad and lonely bird.  Today I told Stevie that I was going down to PetSmart to get a green bird to go with her beautiful yellow plumage and his name is Eddie Vedder.  Being a big fan of Pearl Jam, she was thrilled.  So today this is what we did and we were quite happy to see that green (only) parakeets were on sale for $19.99!!

Here are a couple of pictures of Stevie and Eddie getting to know each other:

Food waste update:

What you see is a jar of Vegenaise.  The guy from Seattle loves this stuff.  I hate it and much prefer Best Foods REAL mayonnaise, so it rarely gets used.  We used about half of it before it went bad.

Cha ching: $5

Friday, February 24, 2012

Doctor My Eyes

Pretty crazy title, don't you think?  Good song, though.  Anyway, Miss MoneyPenny has been dealing with doctor bills and insurance forms and thought that it would be a good topic, but not a good title.

This is how it went.  In January I had my eye exam and ordered new and stronger glasses.  The doctor has been following some suspicious spots and thought that a laser thingy was necessary to figure out what they were, which I had.  Okay, that was a visit for the exam, a visit to pick up new glasses, and a visit for the laser which was covered 100% by my insurance.

Somehow I ended up with a bill close to $500 and no way could I make sense out of it.  The nice ladies in the office couldn't figure it out either.  Luckily my insurance forms showed up at the Post Office, so I went right back and they made copies.  Of course, the person who figures these things out left for the weekend, so will wait for Monday, but it looks like they charged me twice for something and the insurance company denied it.

Now this was most likely an honest mistake, but it shows how important it is to match up your insurance forms with your doctor bills because this kind of thing happens all the time.  This little practice has saved me some serious money.  I usually get insurance benefit statements before the bill and I keep them in a folder.  When the doctor bill comes I match them up before I pay them.  Once they are paid I staple them together with the date and check number, etc. and file them because sometimes you need proof of payment.

If I did not have insurance I would still have a folder for the bills and I would go over them with a fine tooth comb.  If there are issues, take all of your paperwork with you and be nice.  I like to pull out the old debit card and set it on the counter, letting them know I plan to pay...just not what I don't owe.


An alert reader (the guy from Seattle) noticed that in my last post that I wrote "crackpot" instead of "crockpot."  Miss MoneyPenny has been known to BE a crackpot at times, but never cooks her pork roast in one.  Spell checker is not really your friend.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Grocery Basket 2/23

The famous MoneyPenny Research Department has been running trials on lettuce to see what the difference in taste and quality is between QFC and Chimacum Corners romaine lettuce.  They are priced about the same, so cost isn't in the equation.  What the team found is that the organic (California at this time) from Chimacum Corners is far superior.  And get this!!  It was still fresh in my crisper after two weeks!! while the QFC lettuce was pretty much unusable after a week.  Just giving you information here.

With that out of the way, here are the deals at QFC this week:

Nature Made vitamins - 50% off (coupon for $3/2 in the S/1/29 insert)
Pillsbury brownie mix - 50% off (good to have in the pantry for chocolate emergencies)
Fresh Dover sole fillets - $4.99/lb
Farmland pork shoulder roast - $1.49/lb
Ranger Free Range whole chickens - $1.59/lb
Asparagus - .99/lb
Peppers - $1/ea
Nature Sweet cherry tomatoes - $2.50/10.5oz
Organic Fuji or Braeburn apples - $1/lb
Organic mini peeled carrots - $1/lb
Red or Green seedless grapes - $1.28/lb

I usually don't cover the Safeway ads because all the other bloggers do, but there are a couple of promotions that bear looking at this week:

Buy 3/Save $6 - this looks to be coffees and teas, so check for coupons.
30% off frozen foods
30% off the Amy's and Kashi line

It is too early for me to buy the pork shoulder for my annual 4th of July party because my 22 year old Kitchenaid frost free side-by-side would suck the every lovin' life out of it before then, but here is my recipe for pulled pork sandwiches that I usually serve.

Put the pork in the crackpot with chopped onions, salt and pepper, bay leaf and cook until done.  Drain and cool.  When cool, shred the meat and put back in the cooker with more chopped onions.  Mix in that barbecue sauce that you got for cheap last week.  I don't know how much.  However you like it for going onto buns.  Let it cook until bubbly and perfect.

This does require two cooking sessions, so start the day before your guests show up.  Serve with good buns, coleslaw and cold beer and everybody will be happy.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Big Fat Check

Miss MoneyPenny gets a kick out of Ebates calling their checks big and fat.  My checks are usually on the skinny side because I don't do that much shopping.  My check this quarter was $33 but it is still free money and I'll take it to the bank!!  I've already got $18 waiting for next quarter and have not been paid for a JJill order and the order.  That reminds me...the OneHanesPlace order is coming up on 30 days, so I will need to claim it and nudge them along.

I've noticed lately that the Daily Doubles that are exciting are few and far between these days.  I always wait for Macy's and to hit, but I get a little irritated when I don't get notified until after 5:00.  What is with that?  Doesn't give me much time to get my act together and get an order in.  Maybe that is the idea.

But I'm not complaining too hard as I've received $234.55 from Ebates in the last year and a half just for using their site. 

Thank you, Ebates...this is going towards the cruise Miss SmartyPants and I are taking up the Inside Passage next year.  I'll be sure and send a postcard.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Bad Spring Fever

Miss MoneyPenny has bad spring fever.  Every weekend we've been going outside to check out the wonder that is happening in the flower beds.  If we are having an early spring, and I think we are, it should be pretty gorgeous around here in about a month.

My plan this year has been to tend to the flower beds every week, instead of waiting until the weeds outshine the plants, which is what usually happens.  Those weeds move fast and if you aren't paying close attention, they win.  Well, they win anyway but at least you've got a fighting chance of seeing your lilac in bloom and mine is about 15 feet high.  You get the idea.

Today I pruned the deadwood from the blueberries and Don Juan, the red and very good smelling rose that gets every disease known to roses.  He is worth it though.  On a good year, he is perfection itself.  The blueberry that I moved last weekend seems to be very happy with his new digs, so to speak.

The guy from Seattle took a couple of pictures today.  The first one is the first blooming purple crocus and the second one looks like a mystery plant.  If you guessed the sedum Autumn Joy you would be correct.  It was a stunner last fall and if you want a start, let me know.  Gardeners need to share the love to keep the Gardening God happy.

Autumn Joy


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Demon Cookies

Today at Weight Watchers, Miss MoneyPenny discovered that you cannot eat four giant heart shaped shortbread cookies covered in pink icing and expect to lose weight.  The nice guy over at the Farm's Reach Cafe give me four cookies when I had only ordered two last weekend.  I warned him that I would eat them.  He assured me that it would be fine.  Today I told him how wrong he was.

Consequence:  +2 lbs

Friday, February 17, 2012

Grocery Basket 2/17

Yesterday Miss CutiePie and I were talking about how lame the grocery ads have been lately and it got me to thinking about how the way I shop for groceries has changed in the last year.  These days, my food shopping has morphed into a "hunter/gatherer" technique and I like it better. 

Now, I don't want you to get all worried and think that Miss MoneyPenny is out hunting deer or anything crazy like that.  I'll leave that kind of activity to Mr. CutiePie.  I'm the kind of person who carefully, with Kleenex, removes the spider from the bathtub and carries him over to the nearest plant. 

What I'm talking about is keeping a close eye on food prices and where I can get the best deal.  I gather things from Costco, Trader Joes, QFC, Safeway and Chimacum Corners.  In the summer, I regularly visit Shannon at World Peace Produce up on the highway.  And we can't forget the garden.

I don't go to these places every week.  That would be madness!!  I shop the loss leaders and use coupons at QFC and Safeway if there is anything of interest.  I hit Costco once a month after their coupons come out and Trader Joe's a couple of times, since I'm in Silverdale once a week for Weight Watchers.  I do shop every week at Chimacum Corners for their local organic produce and meat.  That store is really coming on.  They are open seven days a week and keep adding more and more items.  And the people who work there are very pleasant.

Here are the deals at QFC this week:

Kraft barbecue sauce (stock up for summer) - buy 10/pay .69 ea/get $2 coupon for next trip
QFC large eggs (dozen) - 4/$5
Colgate toothpaste - $1 ea (coupon S/1/29 .50) = .50 ea
Draper Valley whole chicken - .89/lb
Blueberries - $3.88/18 oz
Del Monte melons - 2/$6
Organic navel oranges - $1/lb

Food waste update:

What is it, you say?  These are individual servings of humus that I bought at Costco a couple of years ago that have been languishing in my freezer.  I bought them thinking that I need to eat more protein, but I dislike beans and beany things, so what on earth was I thinking?

Cha ching: $8 or so, I think.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chicken Valentine

Miss MoneyPenny figures that if she is going to pay $2.79 a pound for a fresh organic chicken that, by golly, there had better be a long term relationship involved. I know - enough with the chicken posts!! This will be the last. I promise, sort of.

I was dozing in my chair today lusting after one of those neck collars that you see people wear who have been in a wreck (Miss MoneyPenny's neck hurts) when I started to think about chickens and the olden times before you bought them all cut up. It occurred to me that one of the reasons that you can get sick from eating chicken is the same reason as for ground beef. If you have someone manhandling all those pieces there is a better chance that bacteria can get in. When you buy a pack of chicken thighs, just how many chickens are we talking about here, and where did each one come from?

So I thought I would tell you what I did with that chicken, bless its heart (it is Valentines Day.) The first go round was roasted with carrots and bell peppers cut in fourths nestled around it. The peppers were from last week's QFC deal. We ate the legs and thighs that night. The next step was to take the chicken off the bone. I chopped it and put it in labeled freezer bags, except for a half breast which is for my salads this week. The rest of the bones and skin, plus a couple of leftover carrots went into the crock pot for stock. I added a couple of ribs of celery, bay leaf and the end of an onion with lots of pepper.  After eight hours, I strained it and fished out the skin, carrots and any meat pieces which I mashed up and fed to the doggies.  They were thrilled!!

After the stock chilled, I scraped the fatty layer off and got almost two quarts of jellied stock, which went into the freezer.  Now I've got enough broth and chicken for chicken and dumplings, plus for stir fry. 

Whew!!  Now I feel like the chicken and I had a successful relationship.

Speaking of relationships.  The guy from Seattle came through for Valentine's Day with a new charm for my bracelet.  Check it out.

Monday, February 13, 2012

King Leftover

Now, you know from some of the disgusting pictures that Miss MoneyPenny has been posting that food waste equals money down the drain in the MP household.  I would have more fun just setting dollar bills on fire than not paying attention and letting good food go to waste. 

I don't know when I decided that it was okay to waste food.  I certainly didn't get that from Mom.  She fed us stuff that SHOULD have been thrown out.  Really!!  And she was a butter wrapper scraper.  I bet everyone has one of those in their family who lived through the first big depression in the thirties.  In fact, I'm going to try and hunt down somebody who can tell me how they ran their households and fed their families in such a tough time. 

Anyway, times are a-changing and a lot of us are finally getting IT.  Learning, or in my case, relearning a better way to do things isn't easy.  Planning and careful management of the food we eat is a skill that will really pay off in all kinds of ways, not just in our food budget.  You will really learn to stretch those creative muscles when you have to come up with a recipe using a cup of cooked brown rice, the bottom of a jar of pesto and a couple of chicken wings before they go bad.  Also, the landfill will thank you.

Here is a link to an article about using up leftovers that I thought you might find interesting.  If you have some good ideas, let me know by leaving a comment.  I love comments.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Early Bird Gardening

Gardening is beginning early this year at the MoneyPenny household.  The veggie garden is planned and the seeds are almost selected.  I usually don't start the veggie garden until Memorial Day weekend, but this year has been so mild.  If you follow Cliff Mass's blog on the weather, you will notice that he is just about ready to start planting and that is good enough for me.

The guy from Seattle and I went outside today to gather all the branches that had fallen all over the place in the last windstorm.  First, we had to pick up the trash that had blown into the yard from Cousin Eddie's place next door.  Grrr.  What a menace!!

While we were out there, we checked everything to make sure that they made it through the winter.  Looks good.  We also moved a blueberry bush to a better location.  The bulbs are coming up everywhere!! and the chives were peaking out from under the cardboard in the raised bed, so I folded it back so that the chives can reach for the sun.  Also, dug around in the compost, now that it is thawed out.  The wormies look happy.

Lately I've been making a loaf of my special bread for the guy from Seattle to take home with him.  I don't dare keep it around here without a chaperon.  It is that good and is my own recipe.  I make mine in the bread maker, but it would work the old fashioned way too.  Here's my recipe:

1 1/8 c warm water
package yeast
1 1/2 T oil
1 1/2 T molasses
1t salt
1 1/2 c bread flour
3/4 c whole wheat flour
3/4 c oats
1/2 c sunflower seeds
Put ingredients in breadmaker and use the whole wheat setting.  This makes a big beautiful loaf and it is perfect for toast.

Food waste update:

We've been doing pretty good about not wasting.  You think twice about throwing something away if you are going to take a picture of it for the whole world to see!!  The first one is the leftover Super Bowl dip and the avocado is from the QFC two for a dollar deal.  Guess you get what you pay for.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Shopping at Macy's, Part Two

Now, you know that Miss MoneyPenny has been on an ongoing mission to lose the baby fat.  I know.  I know.  The kid is 38 but you just can't rush some things, and weight, for me anyway, is one of those things.  I am so happy if I drop anything over a half pound a week.  I'm sure that Weight Watchers is making a bundle on me, but it is money well spent as I'm learning a lot from them.

You may wonder where I'm going with this.  Today was the first time since 1994 that I bought my jeans in the ladies department instead of plus size.  Yahooty!! as my dear mother used to say.

I didn't really mean to.  We were at Macy's to return my latest too big purchases.  The guy from Seattle hates to shop so I showed him where to sit in the mall and people watch.  On the way back into the store, I passed by the Misses and noticed how much nicer the clothes were than in the larger size section.  The next thing you know, I was trying on a pair of Levis.  And they fit!!  Then I found the cutest top!! and so it begins.

If you have ever been banished to the plus size department, you know that you don't have much to choose from and everything is so expensive.  A real wasteland, man.  I was surprised at the lower prices in the Misses and they actually took my coupon.  In fact, they gave me a $10 coupon for buying jeans for my next shopping trip.  Lately, in the PS department, my coupons do not work for various excuses.  What is up with that?

When we got home today, I told the guy from Seattle that I was going into the bedroom to cry because I was so happy.  It seems like a silly thing to get all emotional about, but everyone who has been on the weight loss journey knows where I am coming from.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Book Shelf 2/9

If you are like Miss MoneyPenny, you have been sunk down in the bleak, black bowels of winter and need a quick trip to a tropical island.  Some fun in the sun with a cold beverage and a good book sounds just right about now.

I can't help with the island getaway but I can assist with some good wintertime reading.  Pretty good segue, don't you think?

Anyway, I have been interested in the time after World War I in Great Britain and there are two really good series that I've been reading over the years.  The first one is written by Jacqueline Winspear and the main character is called Maisie Dobbs, which is the title of the first book in the series.  Maisie goes to the front in the war as a nurse and when she comes home, she sets herself up as a private detective.  This is a very well written series and just gets better with each new book.

The second suggestion is written by Charles Todd.  This is actually a mother and son writing team, which I couldn't possibly imagine considering how cussedly belligerent my son is, but they do live in separate states.  Their main character is Ian Rutledge.  He was a man from a wealthy family with a job at Scotland Yard and a lovely fiancee before the war.  After the war, he is a broken man with the voice of a young Scotsman in his head that he had to put before a firing squad for refusing to obey the order to take his men into certain slaughter.  When he gets out of the hospital, he gets his old job back at the Yard and begins the slow process of healing while solving cases.  The first one in this series is A Test of Wills.

Both of these series are in the categories of literary/historical/mystery fiction.  The research that has gone into these books is really amazing.  You learn so much about the people and this time in history.  I know that this sounds geeky but I like to look at a map just to get a general idea of where the places are even though they are all made up except for London.

Give these books a try if you are starting to get bored with seed catalogs and want something with more plot.  Neither of these series has sex and violence, it is only alluded to, but they are definitely not cozies.  That's okay with me because I have a very vivid imagination.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Fun in the Dark 2/6

Miss MoneyPenny and Miss Know it All took in a matinee at the beautiful Rose Theater on Friday.  We thought that we were going to see a nice piece of fluff starring George Clooney.  Not true.  This is one of the reasons that I keep going to movies.  I'm always hoping for that little gold nugget and The Descendants is definitely in that category.

Director Alexander Payne really delivered on this one.  George's character (we are on a first name basis here) is Matt King.  He is a man with lots of situations going on.  First, his wife is in a coma after a boating accident.  Second, his two daughters are out of control and he doesn't have a clue what to do with them.  Third, he finds that his wife was cheating on him.  And just for fun, George is a direct descendant of Hawaiian royalty and is the trustee for a very large chunk of virgin land that all of his many cousins want to sell.  So you can see that George, I mean Matt, has his work cut out for him.

Beau Bridges had a small part as a cousin that was priceless.  We don't see enough of Lebowski's big brother, but the character who I thought that really worked was the oldest daughter's boyfriend, Sid, played by Nick Krause.  He took that doofus boyfriend character off the charts.  But certainly, the biggest most beautiful character of all was Hawaii.  As Coldplay sings "Par-Par- Paradise."  How can there be a place of such pure beauty and why don't I live there?

The Descendants hit on all my cylinders for movies and books: Drama, plot, comedy, setting and great characters.  And if you go to the Rose, be sure and sit in the balcony and eat cookies.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Body Lotion War

Now, you know that Miss MoneyPenny is heading for retirement and has been working on getting the expenses down.  There has been a pretty spendy item in the health and beauty area that the famous MoneyPenny Research Department has been working on and I thought you might like to see the results.

Miss MoneyPenny has very sensitive skin and has been paying $58 for a 33.8 ounce jug of Origins Precipitation Body Lotion.  This usually lasts about three months which equals $232 in just body lotion alone but it does come in a cool pump bottle.

I happened to pick up a jar of Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream (20 ounces) this fall and was quite surprised at how much I liked it.  When I first started using it I felt like I was rubbing Crisco on my legs but I got used to it and really liked how good my skin felt.  But this thing is not pretty and you have to take the top off and dig in.  It also lasts about three months and you can get every last little bit out easily.  No waste.

So here is the deal.  The Research Department checked around and this is what they discovered price wise with the Cetaphil:
Don's Pharmacy - $19.99/16 oz
Safeway - $14.99/16 oz - $13.49/16 oz
Target - $10.79/16 oz
Costco - $11.49/20 oz - $4 coupon = $7.49 for the 20 ounce size.
Obviously Costco is the place to get this stuff even without the $4 coupon, but with the coupon it becomes a screaming deal.  This is the breakdown for a year and remember, I HAVE to use a body lotion or else I itch myself to death:

Origins = $232
Cetaphil = $30

Difference = $202!!!

This is a no brainer and all I did was do some price checking.  I'm thinking that there are several of these little "necessities" lurking around where I could save some serious cash just by paying attention.  $200 will get both my schnauzers groomed three times and if I let them get hairy - which they hate- that could be the grooming (which they also hate) bill for the year. 
And since you are going to ask me why I don't groom them myself, you obviously have not tried it yourself with a wiggling dog trying its best to jump off the counter in one hand and a pair of clippers in the other.

Grocery Basket 2/4

Miss MoneyPenny is doing the monthly Costco run today.  Costco has coupons for a couple of the things on my list so will stock up. 

I've been working a couple of rebates lately and one of them is buy a 42 count Prevacid and they will send you a check reimbursing you for it.  One of the coupons is for $4 off Prevacid.  The deal works like this: buy the Prevacid, cut out the upc symbol, circle the cost on your receipt and send them off.  Then you get a check.  Free money for almost nothing for the cruise fund.

QFC has some nice loss leaders this week that are worth stopping by for:

Top sirloin steak - $3.99/lb
Red, orange or yellow peppers - $1/ea
Hass medium avocados - $1/2
Fresh wild Alaska True cod - $6.99/lb
Fresh sole - $6.99/lb
Fresh cut tulips - $10/3 bunches

They are still running their Buy 10 get $5 sale, so if you are having a Super Bowl party on Sunday, you might check out the chips and pizzas.

A friend of mine has his annual Bead Bowl party for people who hate football and I've been to it a few times even though I don't hate football.  There is always good food and munchies and everybody brings a project such as knitting, beading, crocheting, etc. and everybody has a good time.  Although I have noticed that I always end up ripping back any knitting that I have done at these parties from having TOO good a time.