Trying times

Posted May 3rd, 2007 by Penny Wise

It's a relief to see from the Forum that I'm not the only one being plagued with mice lately. The cats keep bringing them in and I never know where one's going to pop up at the moment. I have taken to using the upstairs bathroom at the moment, because every other day I wander bleary-eyed into the downstairs toilet and find a little mouse sitting in the corner staring at me. The next day he's gone, then the day after, he's back again! Then I opened the front door yesterday to take the kids to school, only to find a tiny flattened mouse under the door - the very same one Noel had rescued from the cats and put out the night before made the totally daft decision to try and get back inside and squeezed itself under the door, to its unfortunate demise. The worst one however, thankfully happened to Noel and not me, or I think I would still be in shock. He opened the cutlery drawer in the kitchen only to have a fat wee mouse leap out and run under the stove! It's still there - and every day when the kids are at school it pops out from underneath, scuttles around the kitchen, then darts back under the stove when it spies me. I know what you're thinking, why don't we set a trap? I did - and every time I go to check the trap the cheese has gone and the little blighter is sitting on top of the trap blinking innocently at me. I have learned plenty about trapping mice on the Forum and I know peanut butter is supposed to be the way to go but I just can't bring myself to kill anything - that is definitely Noel's job. How on earth it's survived so long in a house full of cats in the first place is beyond me but I've found it great for losing weight this week because I don't want to go into the kitchen to get anything to eat unless I absolutely have to. I guess that's one way to save on the grocery bill but I can think of more pleasant ones!

I have been wondering lately if perhaps us Simple Savers are sometimes too hard on ourselves, do you think? With our current financial situation not requiring so much tightening the belt as squeezing it into a corset, I have been spending a great deal of time berating myself for obviously making crap decisions and having a non-existent resolve. So I sat down with a pen and paper and decided I was just going to have to remind myself how to start from scratch again. No impulse buys or luxuries, foregoing the wine (AGAIN), getting all the old bad habits back in check again - you know the kind of thing. I was expecting to swiftly draw up a long list of all the things I was doing wrong but the truth was, there really weren't that many. Last week I spent $4 on borrowing a CD and kids DVD from the library, which we could have gone without but that was hardly going to keep me awake at night. As I struggled with my list, I realised that in my efforts to pinpoint all the things I was doing wrong, I had forgotten about all the things I was already doing right. It's pretty hard to pull your budget in even further when you're already doing the best you can! It reminded me of a letter I received not so long ago from a lovely lady who asked me for advice on how she could lower her grocery bill for her family of six. After scrutinising her weekly shop carefully and even asking Naomi's advice, I had no choice but to write back to her and tell her we both agreed she was already doing a fantastic job - she just didn't realise it.

We all need a reminder sometimes of the good things we do. I got a hefty reminder of this a few nights ago. Apologies for being a bit quiet on the blog front lately - and also to anyone currently waiting for emails, I am having a wee meltdown at the moment! Two years ago I gamely agreed to be registrar of our local rugby club - a job I was told involved nothing more than entering the name, weight and date of birth of every player in the club into an online database. Unfortunately I didn't realise that this position also involved applying for grants, organising weigh-ins and musters, drawing up team lists, sorting out disputes, finding coaches and managers, getting them all to attend coaching courses, drawing up inventories of every jersey, ball and whistle in the club and getting new ones, organising first aid kits for all the teams, getting new badges and numbers sewn on, spending hour after hour on the phone to coaches, managers and parents, finding boots for children who don't have any, writing and sending out newsletters, chasing around the countryside getting things to coaches and managers, attending every training, designing and printing off certificates for the coaches to present to their players every week, finding transport for kids who don't have any and blowing up rugby balls. The season starts tomorrow and already one coach has pulled his entire team out at the last minute and I have less than 24 hours to create a new team and find a new coach. I don't like my chances. I am over this season before it has even begun! However, I still know darn well I'll be doing it next year, just like all the other parents who take on these things in the hope of getting the best deal for their kids. I just have a little catching up to do, so please bear with me! Actually with everything that's been going on I have been very grateful for SS - I definitely have my Vault knowledge to thank for saving my carpet (you know - the one that's only a few months old?) As you know, I do like the odd drop of red wine but I had vowed I was giving it up this week and had swapped my usual Cabernet Sauvignon for plain old soda water. So I was pleasantly surprised when Noel treated me to a bottle on Monday. The only problem was, by the time I sat down on the couch to actually enjoy a glass on Monday night, I was so pooped that I fell asleep in seconds and flopped the whole glass over my lap, the couch and the carpet. 'Oh noooo!' I jumped up in horror, while Noel rolled his eyes and called me a plonker or something of the like. 'What will I do? What will I do? Soda water!' I ran to the fridge, sloshed some soda water all over the patches, threw a towel over the lot and did the dance of joy on it. It worked a treat, once it was dry nobody could see a thing! Which was just as well because the exact same thing happened on Tuesday night and then Wednesday night. In fact, I got to drink barely any of the wine OR soda water at all! But thank heavens, at least my carpet was spared. I'm starting to think I would definitely be safer with Chardonnay...

Another Vault saviour I have been very grateful for is the Sticky Sausages recipe. With ever-increasing rugby team woes to sort out, I was close to giving in and getting takeaways but suddenly I remembered this simple and tasty recipe. It's one of those ones which look as though you've gone to a decent amount of effort to cook dinner but actually requires very little! Rather like Sophie Gray's wonderful new book. I'm sure she'll kill me for writing about her but a couple of weeks ago it was my friend (and ex-neighbour *pout*) Maxine's birthday and I knew just what to get her - Sophie's new book, Enjoy! With all the stress of moving house - make that FARM and switching to fulltime work, Maxine confessed that baking and other domestic niceties had gone out the window, to be replaced by packaged muesli bars and crap dinners (you said it Max, not me!) I figured that Sophie's shiny new book would soon have her bestowing the family with home-cooked goodies again and I was right! Just a couple of days ago she rang me and said how much she liked the book and rattled off all the recipes she had already tried from it. The kids were delighted that mum was baking again and after serving up 'Linda's Chicken Couscous' her husband told her 'That was delicious! See, you can do it!' Poor Max wasn't at all sure what he meant by that but I assured her that it was because Sophie's recipes are so fast, simple and delicious it means that us working mums ARE able to put a decent meal on the table. Shame I didn't practice what I preached myself the following night then. After two hours' rugby training and a visit to the in-laws, I just couldn't face cooking dinner. I was whacked and knew whatever I served up to the family when I got home would be both late, and crap. So I did something I haven't done in longer than I can remember. I went to Mr Patel's and bought a frozen Hawaiian pizza for the kids, plus a loaf of garlic bread and a frozen vegetable quiche for Noel and I. By the time I served up dinner it was still 8.30pm and it was just horrible! The kids thought it was great because they hadn't had anything like it for so long but as far as Noel and I were concerned, it was revolting, no two ways about it. I made a mental note to myself that, no matter how hectic things get, I am NEVER to buy anything like that again. I don't think anything I could have conjured up at home would have been as bad as that!

For anyone who is not yet aware, Matt and Fiona have very kindly made the $21 Challenge Survival Guide available to download on the site! I have received so many wonderful emails lately from people who have recently done their own Challenges that I am full of motivation to do another one. Last week my food bill came to no more than $60 but after reading other members' Challenge menus and recipes, I realised that I could still be whittling it down to much less. What a fantastically frugal bunch we are! Yesterday marked two whole year's worth of blogs - wow! I have never been able to keep a diary for more than a few weeks before. It just goes to show, when it comes to saving money, there's new stuff to learn all the time. Although it seems I need to have a wee bit of a refresher course on basic email sending. I received an email not so long ago from SS member Edwina. I don't often pass on email jokes and suchlike, but this one was so cute, with dancing kittens and chimpanzees that I thought my friends would like it. Barely 10 minutes had passed before my mum called me and said 'Are you alright? Are you having a bad day?' 'No, I'm fine!' I replied, puzzled. So I dropped another friend a line, 'Did you get my last email?' 'Yes', she said. 'Have you finally flipped?' Oh dear, this wasn't good! I had to get to the bottom of the problem - luckily it didn't take me long to find. Somehow I had neglected to share the cute chimps and dancing kitties when I pressed 'send' and all the recipients got was the following:

Do you feel like working today?


The day after?

Next week?

Next month?

Me neither!

I just want to PARTY!

Thank heavens I didn't send it on to my boss, I might have ended up doing the $21 Challenge every week indefinitely!

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