Monday, May 25, 2009

Free Father's Day cup or cone at TCBY

Did you enjoy a free cone at Ben & Jerry's a while back? Or, 31 cent scoop night at Baskin Robbins? I sure did!

I don't know the details yet, but TCBY is announcing a free cup or cone for dad on Father's Day, June 21, 2009 at participating locations.

Also on their site was a promotion of 99cent waffle cone Wednesdays.

I will admit I thoroughly enjoy ice-cream and have spent many well-earned dollars at Marble Slab, but those days are gone. There's no room in my budget now for a $6 ice-cream; heck, with MS's prices, they might as well be charging $20/person as far as I'm concerned.

If you also enjoy ice-cream, sign up for e-mail deals with Marble Slab and Baskin Robbins, among others. You'll usually recieve free ice-cream on your birthday and several other offers.

It's a great treat for a kid on his/her birthday.

I also enjoy making homemade ice-cream on occasion, which is a great way to be certain the ingredients are high-quality, organic, vegetarian and so on... I particularly enjoy Pina Colada!


TCBYs are not so common around our neck of the woods any longer, so check here for locations. Hopefully, they'll all be participating locations.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

How I bit a litterbug

Last week as I was driving around the corner near my house, I saw a litterbug in action. I’m not referring to the lowly insects who throw garbage out their car windows. This bug was a more sophisticated insect, one who puts on airs and whose own life is seemingly litter free. This bug maintains the perfect yard complete with topped trees, sprinklers during drought, and green, two-inch high grass (or whatever grass height the cool people prefer).

The bug was approaching the roadway with litter in hand, and after the other cars and I passed, she crossed the road and threw her trash onto our neighbor’s property.

(As a regular victim of roadway litter myself, I understand that she must be frustrated.)

Now, don’t get me wrong here—she wasn’t throwing trash from one manicured yard to another—that, I’m sure, would be sinful in her eyes. The bug’s neighbor in question (whom I’ve also met) is elderly and doesn’t regularly maintain her property all the way to the road. The area by the road is mostly wooded. But in my eyes, the crime is no different.

I decided right then that the bug should be punished.

I had seen this kind of detestable act before and was sickened by it. Now, it was my own neighbor, and my mind raced with ideas for revenge.

First, I imagined her yard strewn with diaper globs, broken glass, toilet tissue, cans, magazines, cigarette butts, shredded paper… Last, I thought of the people I admire, their actions and wondered what would be the right thing to do.
I decided the best response was to be a good example. I could wait until she was outside, and then proceed to pick up trash along the roadway; I’d begin with my own littered yard and work my way around the corner. Of course I’d also include her yard.
Though I consider the above to be an ideal response, there were several problems: a) I can’t actually see her house from mine, just some of her yard, so how would I catch her outside? b) Umm, the toddler? The roads are busy and no place for baby. c) It’s hot summertime, yuck. d) There’s plenty of Poison Ivy along parts of the area, too. Certainly a deterrent, especially again considering the toddler.

I also considered an anonymous letter, and my husband noted that if she knew someone had seen her, she’d probably never do it again.

I made my final decision on what action to take and acted on it that evening before I could get too nervous. Under cover of darkness, I filled a small trash bag with the litter from the property across from hers. Once finished, I set the bag at the end of her driveway and left a "Don't throw down on K-town" bumper sticker for effect.

Sure, I could’ve just thrown the trash back into her yard. She would’ve still gotten the point (I think), and I could’ve smiled mischievously watching her pick it up the next morning, but I want to do the right thing.

I’m hoping for a cleaner roadway around here and may just start picking up trash myself.

As for my litterbug neighbor, I hope my bite is still itching.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Save 50% or more at restaurants

Next time you're thinking about what to buy for an upcoming special occasion, consider checking a couple Web sites before you make your purchase.

Two sites I know of are:

If the upcoming occasion necessitates an evening out at a restaurant, why not purchase a gift certificate for half price. Or, you might find a store listed where you enjoy shopping.

Furthermore, if you frequent money-saving blogs, you might find a promotional code saving you even more off your purchase. Also check Retail-Me-Not for promotional codes before you buy anything on-line, yes, that's including half-off depot and on top of savings.

As always, be sure to read the details before you make your purchase. For example, a restaurant may be offering a gift certificate for 50% off, but might require a minimum purchase, and gratuity and alcohol are usually omitted. Remember it's only a good deal if it's the right deal for you or someone you're buying it for.

One great option for sale now at Half-off Depot is a gift card for Earth to Old City. You pay only $12.50 for a $25 gift card. Since I've already been there many times, I know it's a great place to buy gifts, so I've purchased one gift card that I'll post on my bulletin board at home. Next time I'm in a pinch for a gift for someone's new baby, wedding, or another special occasion, I can just grab the card and go shopping!

I also purchased a card for The Glowing Body, as I intend to write a review in an upcoming blog after I eat at their vegetarian cafe.

So, if you have an anniversary coming up and a restaurant you like is on the list, now you can save half off your dinner by ordering your certificate in advance!

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Strawberry

Large, plump, red… and not sweet at all if you buy them from the supermarkets. We picked tonight but pickin's were slim where we went, and the berries weren't very ripe, as you can see from the photo.
In any event, if you’re a strawberry fan it’s time to plan a visit to a pick-your-own strawberry farm or make a trip to a farmer’s market and make a purchase. Don't know where to start? Check this site for a comprehensive listing of pick-your-own farms--just scroll down the page for a list arranged by counties; if you don't live in East Tennesse, you'll need to re-set the page to your needs.

Once you get a taste of fresh strawberries, you’ll want lots of them, which is great because strawberries are easy to freeze. Want to make homemade strawberry jam? You can! Read here.

Don’t forget a sunhat!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Many things my mom taught me, and a few she didn't

This is a little late for mother’s day, but every day should be a celebration of mothers, sisters, children, parents, friends, grandfathers and all our loved ones. The following list began brewing in my mind in the days leading up to mother’s day.

Many things my mom taught me, and a few she didn’t:

To be responsible—when she agreed to do something, she followed through. There was never a church board meeting that didn’t reach a quorum because she wasn’t there.

To live cheaply—if you want to save money, don’t spend it. For many years it was just me and her, never any child support and no rich grandparents to help us. Living cheaply was necessary for our survival.

To conserve and reuse—we washed Zip-lock bags, and empty margarine containers made great Tupperware and storage.

To love animals and nature—she was the kind of mom who paused to admire an intricate design in a spider web. I never had an ant farm as a child. Why would I need one? I left food for the ant colony under our front porch and spent hours watching them work.

To be myself—I am learning this lesson every day.

To enjoy a good book—we always utilized our local library, and if the book was too good to put down, it was fine to read it nonstop until finished (we could eat and sleep later).

To organize and clean—and to stay that way, well, I’ve been working on this one because, I confess, I come from a long line of bad housekeepers. For me, it’s never been better than it is right now, though, and I’m learning from scratch just how other families fight off clutter and mess.

To budget and pay off debt—anyone who can live in a travel trailer to save money for a down payment on her own home, and accomplish that in two years… well, she’s good with money.

To procrastinate—this one… I’m unlearning it.

To build, create and design—mom could do anything. She planned and built my own playhouse: I mean with 1 ½ stories, a 2 x 4 structure and a real roof.

To take care of my children—she believes children should be with their parents, not at moms day out, daycare, with cousins, hanging out with friends, and so on. Though most of her restrictions were too tight, I understand the principle: I am responsible for my child, her well-being, and most importantly, I am responsible for what she is exposed to.

To challenge myself—when I was still in high school, mom was talking about how I could try to purchase a small house and have it paid off before I even graduated college. I thought she was crazy!

To enjoy flavorful food and spices—mom’s idea of “spicy” is ketchup. Once I struck out on my own, I experimented with food and tried different kinds of restaurants and oh, I love it!

To educate myself—while my friends contemplated what they would be doing after high school or which college they wanted to attend, I was already in college—a semester early. There was never any question that I would be educated, the only question was in what subject.

To value my time—Though I had some trying semesters in school, I truly understood this lesson after I started my first job as a teacher. As soon as I arrived, someone wanted me to sponsor this group, someone else wanted me to support that activity and everyone wanted me to do everything. Sometimes, she said, you decline because you “have a prior engagement”--that engagement being an appointment with time for yourself.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Not enough money for all the deals

I recently read a post with advice I needed to take to heart: Just because there's a deal doesn't mean I have to go after it.

I'm not referring to items I don't need here. I'm talking about all the things I will use... eventually. I don't want to eat or store 15 boxes of the same kind of cereal of all the cereals I enjoy, but I do want and have unlimited basement storage for 15 bags of dog food.

I've calculated my savings on my last three major outings to Kroger and Target for basic supplies and am consistently saving 35%. I'm thrilled! I used to be happy because the item I wanted to buy happened to be on sale or if I had a coupon or two. Now, I'm doing much better at lining up coupons with what's on sale and stocking up. However, with my limited budget, I can only go so far.

I also don't know that I will ever reach the level some couponing queens do because I am brand specific on more things than others. As a vegetarian I'm looking for specific foods and products that do not contain animal byproducts. For example, I have no use for Campbell's soup. Or, if there's a brand or line of products of which only two are vegetarian, how many can I use--not so many. And, for the most part, there aren't coupons on fresh vegetables. Doesn't matter what time of year it is or what the price is, I'll always be buying zucchini, potatoes, spinach, broccoli, peppers, etc at a higher frequency than non-vegetarians with only a few exceptions.

Back to money matter at hand, it doesn't matter if spaghetti is on sale for $.05 a box if I only have $.03 to spend.

I found a great deal on Pampers wipes last week (Big Lots in South Knoxville), and I've been dying to go back and get more. In fact, I was counting down the days till payday, so I could hit the deal and stock up on even more... By the time payday came, though, I realized that if my family is going to be able to afford a small beach camping trip we've been planning, I'm going to have to cut back on spending, even if that means holding back on stocking up on good deals to save in the long run.

So, the next thing I need to do is work closely on not over stretching our budget. That said, however, our tax refund check came today! Now I can run over to Big Lots! And, in all seriousness, this year I plan to budget from our tax refund check for stockpiling things we use all the time. Now I'll be ready when there's a killer deal on diapers, dog food, toilet paper, peanut butter--or even spaghetti.

These Peonies from my front yard are eager to burst open!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

New Vegetarian Restaurant in Knoxville

There’s a new restaurant in town that won’t be including dead animals on the menu…

Here’s a picture of their current sign in their window:

It’s been an especially long wait for me because I, a lifelong vegetarian and enjoyer of restaurant eating, happened to see their “coming soon!” sign MONTHS ago at their location off Central Avenue. So, I’ve been waiting a LONG time. I did find this article, which to sum up, basically confirms that yes, I’ve been waiting a very long time for them to open.

So it is still not open as of today, May 6, 2009, but I am waiting.

Veg-O-Rama will finally give me & my fellow veggie Knoxvillians our own private spot where we can be ourselves and not have meat eaters gawking at our plates--or vice versa. Speaking of spots, Sunspot Restaurant consistently receives a best vegetarian restaurant award in various Knoxville news mediums, though Sunspot has fewer vegetarian options than several other notables. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Sunspot, but they only serve about two dishes I like, which means if I’m not in the mood for one of those two things I have two choices: check their site for a delectable veggie special or eat somewhere else—it’s usually the latter.

At one time before my married—with children life, my husband and I would make the two hour drive to Asheville and visit The Laughing Seed Restaurant, a vegetarian’s Mecca. Ordering food at the LS was nearly impossible for me because instead of scanning the menu for a little symbol representing the two or three items I could choose from—the little symbol on their menu stood for vegan, and I could eat those meals too! Aggghhh! Choice Overload!!! [Note to self: never become upset with a carnivore for taking too long to order as they have so many choices.]

Other Notables for you Knoxville vegetarian, restaurant-loving folk to check out:

The Glowing Bowl

(this place is also completely vegetarian, but it’s a café and is only open during the day: Monday-Friday: 8:30am-6:00pm, Saturday: 9:00am-3:00pm, Sunday: closed. That said, when I checked their Web site just now, I saw: Beginning May 1st, the Glowing Bowl will be expanding our hours to be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights until 9pm. Additionally, the Glowing Bowl was voted as a runner up in the recent Metro Pulse best of Knoxville polls. )

The Tomato Head
Taste of Thai
PF Changs
Lemon Grass
Calypso Café
Falafel Hut
Green Hills Grille
King Tut’s Grill
Nama Sushi Bar

I haven’t eaten at all of the above but I will eventually. I have a feeling that when I do try The Glowing Bowl, it will need a blog of it’s own.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

Summer reading programs for kids in Knoxville

Don't forget to sign up your children for summer reading programs around town. Even though my daughter can't read yet, most programs include a "listening" reader. As part of the public library's reading program last summer I kept track of books I read to her and turned in her list for a very useful coupon book with free passes and discounts to attractions like Zuma Fun Center, The Three Rivers Rambler, Bounce House, etc.

Coupon Katie has a list with links here.

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Saturday, May 2, 2009

My motivation for using coupons

I went to a great couponing class today led by Gabrielle Blake. Turns out I already knew her face—but not her name—both from both children’s programs at the library and Holistic Moms Network. She has been featured in the News Sentinel:

Her first point for those just learning to coupon is to have a goal.
What is motivating you to want to save money? Are you trying to pay off debt? Live within your means? Not be wasteful?

I definitely want to do all of those things and learning how to use coupons to my advantage is a necessary part of affording the life I want for my daughter—a life where she spends the majority of her quality time with her family instead of at daycare. It’s not a life possible or desirable for everyone, but for me it’s been so rewarding that I plan on doing everything in my power to continue.

I never, ever envisioned my future as a stay-at-home mom. I pictured myself as a successful career woman, and my husband and I didn’t even think we wanted children. A pregnancy scare during my first year of teaching changed all of that. During the time before we could take the test and know for sure while my mind raced with all the possibilities, I decided I had to be okay with either result. (In case you’re wondering how I knew so quickly, just say the word “pregnant” and I become nauseated. During my pregnancy with my daughter, I was nauseated within days of when I became pregnant, two weeks before I took the test.)

The result was a weak positive, then the next day, a negative, no more nausea and all was back to normal except for one thing—now we wanted a child. As we talked it over the next two years before we took the plunge, we toyed with this idea of me staying home. My husband first suggested it—he grew up with no mother. I, with no father. For us, it’s our way of making up for what we felt we missed.

But this blog was supposed to be about what I learned today!

More on that later.

Friday, May 1, 2009

On getting started

It's a daunting task for sure: beginning.

My beginning as a writer probably first began when I was a highschool freshman. I wrote a piece about Babe IV, my pet chicken. My English teacher was highly amused and never let me forget that piece of work, a mere five paragraph theme about a favorite pet.

More recently, I began rummaging through social networking sites and found that I enjoyed finding and sharing information with others. Sometimes with commentary, sometimes not.
My goals for this blog are simple:

1) write!
2) share money-saving tips, coupons, etc
3) share events or happenings in Knoxville, especially for families
4) contemplate biracial, interracial or other issues that relate to my life or interests