Month: May 2014
Coldest Winter Ever – How Much Did it Cost?
Now that it feels like summer time, it seems like a good point to turn back and reflect on this past winter. On the books, it was our coldest and snowiest winter ever recorded (it might have been 2nd coldest, idk). We practiced some good energy saving tips such as keeping the thermostat set low (62 for most of the winter), closing unused rooms, wearing extra clothing, and sealing up any leaks that we could find.
Below is our gas usage history. Our utility company estimates the meter every other month, that is why January, March, and May (actual readings) are high while December, February and April (estimated readings) are low.
In the summer months when we were only using gas for cooking and the water heater, our bill was about $15. If I subtract out $15 from November-May, our furnace gas consumption for the coldest winter cost us $632.83. That’s right around $90/mo for heating.
Other heating costs included one routine inspection, $99, and one furnace breakdown, $230.
How’s that compare?
I’m always looking for good quantifiable data. I suppose it is the scientist in me that wants to be able to say, “here are the facts.” This article from Chicago Business talks about what Chicago residents paid on average for heating in 2014. Most of the article discusses the stark pricing difference between Chicago gas and suburbanite gas. While we don’t live in the suburbs of Chicago, we do have the same gas company mentioned in the article. Yep, Chicagonites paid an additional 78% per therm compared to us ($1.21 vs $0.68). Ya gotta love the city that works.
On average, the not gauged folks paid $626 for heating from November through March. We paid $633 for November through May.
In conclusion, we paid a little bit less than the average for our area. Our circa 13 year old furnace did break down once and the repair cost put us over the average. So long winter!
Hello summer! Did I mention our AC is broken?
Finding a Care Provider (aka babysitter)
Well, I lasted a total of 3 days with Frugal Boy before he drove me up the wall, across the ceiling, and down the other wall. Stay at home moms/dads of the world, you are true superheroes.
I’ll still be watching him in the mornings, but starting tomorrow he will be spending his afternoons with a nearby mom. At least that’s the current plan.
It was quite an adventure to find a babysitter and hopefully we have made a good choice. We started out by asking our friends and acquaintances for recommendations. That gave us a couple of names, but those leads got us nowhere because they weren’t taking anymore kids right now. We also tried tapping into our neighborhood association to see if we couldn’t get a referral that way. That also ended up being a bust when only one teenager piped up.
Our next stop on the head hunt for a long term babysitter was the internet. More specifically Craigslist and Care.com. I had never heard of Care.com before and was a little skeptical, but they claimed that there were over 800 care providers in our area and it was a free* site registration. Craigslist has been around for ages and is basically the newspaper classifieds section. Sometimes you can find great deals/stuff/services on Craigslist, other times it is a stinky cesspit. It really depends on the city.
We posted a craigslist ad and within two days it had generated 6 replies. Most of these were easy to toss out of consideration. For example, don’t tell me that you’d love to babysit my 3 month old because you have a 2.5 month old and they will have lots of fun playing together. #1. Frugal Boy doesn’t play. He drools, eats, sleeps, poops, and cries. #2. I question the sanity of anyone that wants to care for multiple infants at the same time. #3. When both babies are hysterically crying (trust me, it’ll happen), which one are you going to pick up and comfort? That’s what I thought.
Care.com was a bit more interesting. After registering for the site as a “care seeker” we set about searching and filtering the 800 providers by criteria that we had come up with. Then we ordered them in preference based on their profiles. Finally as we were all set to start contacting them to learn more about them and their availability we hit the Care.com paywall. If you want to cold call providers, you have to pony up money ($40/mo) to the middle man.
Well, we can post a job for free and let the masses come to us, so that’s what we did. In total we had 21 applicants in two days. Like Craigslist, it was easy to throw out the majority of applications. High school and college kiddies were culled. I’m sure that some of them would have been excellent for a night, but none of them are going to be around day after day after day. Some applicants only talked about money or opened up with money. I’m not about to hand over my bundle of hysterical tears to someone that is only interested in making an “easy” buck. Finally, there was a big group of summer time only’s. Eh, pass.
With our short list in hand it was time to contact them with a list of detailed questions. Again, we hit the Care.com messaging paywall. There was a small reply link that you can use to get around it though.
After calling and visiting we decided to go ahead with one mom. It is certainly nerve racking handing your child over to a stranger (a couple of conversations doesn’t make them any less of a stranger). Still, we had a pretty good vibe about her so here’s to hoping it works out. :-\
If you use(d) a babysitter how did you go about finding them? If you were/are a stay at home mom/dad, how did you stay out of the looney bin (or did they never catch you)?
Happy Mother’s Day!
This year Shae got inducted into the sorority of Mothers so naturally we had to do a little extra celebrating for Mother’s Day.
One of the popular Mother’s Day gifts are hanging baskets. A hanging basket can provide beauty for several months, fits nicely into gift spending price ranges, and coincides well with the normal growing season.
On Friday, we shopped around some of the locally owned nurseries to see what kind of hanging baskets they had.
Wow, what a lovely display of annuals. Here is another attractive arrangement.
Store prices range from $10 at big box retailers to upwards of $50 at Mom & Pop establishments. The ones shown above where 10″ plastic pots for $30.
We wanted 3 baskets to fill out our front porch and while we could have picked out 3 and called it a day we wanted a bit more of an experience. So we decided to try and make our own!
After striking out at two garden centers we finally found some nice Calibrachoas fresh off the growers truck at where of all places? Lowes. We also found Dwarf Coreopsis, a mounding perennial. To tie it all together we picked out an attractive metal and coconut lined 14″ hanging basket. In my opinion it looks far superior to the plastic bins that most pre made hangers come in. One advantage of larger basket sizes is that they hold moisture better than smaller baskets and that means less chance of the flowers drying out and wilting.
On a side note, don’t wear a red shirt and a front baby carrier to Lowes. I was asked by a gentlemen to get the forklift and load a pallet of stone into his truck. He was surprised when I informed him that I wasn’t an employee. Later, a woman asked me what time the store closed. Apparently wearing a baby screams Lowes employee to people. Who knew?
Anyway, back to the task at hand. I read that the coconut liners are prone to drying out and that a plastic liner should be used to help retain moisture. We made impromptu liners out of grocery bags and cut holes in the bottom for drainage.
Then we added a bit of enriched soil to the bottom of the pots. Container plants have to get all of their “food” from a finite amount of soil. Each time you water the plant, a little bit of the food is washed away from the roots. That is why it is important to add a time released fertilizer that will slowly leach food into the soil over the course of several months.
Here are our two Calibrachoa (mini petunias) baskets. There are 6 individual plants in each one and hopefully they will get much larger. Each basket weighs about 20 pounds when fully watered.
With the annuals all set to go it was time to work on the perennials.
The dwarf coreopsis were tightly intertwined with their neighbors and proved difficult to separate. Instead of trying to separate them at the store we just bought a carton. When we finally did get them pulled apart, we discovered that one of the pots was just dirt! A quick trip back to the store and a skeptical dirt poking clerk later we were back on track.
With the pots fully watered we proudly hung them up on our front porch. Aren’t they nice looking?
Happy Mother’s Day.
The E… WAIT!!!
STOP THE PRESSES. There is a problem.
All of these plants are full sun but they are in the shade. We figured that we either needed to lower the baskets down to the level of the railing or extend them out further from the house in order to get full sun. The latter seemed like a better option so I set about making some base plates for the metal extension hooks. These simple octagon plates are made from some scrap 1×4 with only a miter saw and router.
Now these sun loving plants can get all the rays that they need.
I also trimmed up all of the bushes so I can check that off my honey do list.
Making our own baskets didn’t save us much money this year because we had to buy the reusable baskets and extension hooks. They also aren’t as full bodied as the store bought versions. On the plus side our baskets have many positive memories associated with them and we learned a lot by doing this project. Next year we might try to start some annuals from seed and see if we can have any success.
Finally, it wouldn’t be a complete Mother’s Day post unless I included a couple of pictures of Grandmothers and Frugal Boy.