Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Box of Wine

*It’s Just a Box of Wine*
Probably a little too early in our relationship to admit such a thing, but when no one is watching I drink boxed wine.  It feels really good to finally have that out in the open and off my chest.  It is stressful to live with such a huge secret and the constant fear of being caught!
Frankly, I like a glass of wine.  Nearly every day around 4pm, I turn up some music, don a frilly apron, pour myself a glass of wine, and start dinner.  It isn’t always elaborate (sometimes frozen pizza) but the ritual helps me transition.  I am not sure if I am embracing my inner 50’s repressed woman or if they just had it right all along; but somehow, it makes me enjoy cooking.  By the time my DH gets home, I have mostly forgotten the nonsense of the day and am ready to relish the evening.  

Originally I poured a cocktail (seemed much more 50’s-ish in my fancy apron with a martini in hand) but years ago when I showed early signs of heart disease, I quickly switched to wine at the good doctor’s recommendation.  I would buy a reasonably priced red from Costco and go through a couple of bottles a week.  After rebudgeting with reduced fun money I added up how much this little habit cost the family:   
12 bottles a month x $7 = $84 (pre-tax)!!!!!  

Unwilling to give up my glass of wine without a fight, I put “private browsing” into effect and started researching.  Admittedly, I'm not a total stranger to boxed wine.  I drink massive amounts of Franzia at my folk’s house.  I won’t lie, it isn’t good, but it is better than water and I am with my parents (love you guys).  As I investigated, I found that some wine loving countries don’t carry the same boxed wine stigma as the US; some even sell juice box sized!  Not only that, but most professionals couldn’t taste the difference in a blind taste test (and I promise you, I am NOT a connoisseur).  

So I Took the Big Step:  I went about 15 miles away to a large liquor store where I was sure I wouldn’t run into anyone.  I kept my sunglasses on, took a deep breath, and asked the clerk what boxed wines were tolerable.  Without hesitation or even a hint of a sneer, he recommended Black Box and Big House (the same as I saw regularly highly reviewed online).  I bought them both.  I slipped them into a dark reusable tote and brought them home.  To my utter disbelief, they were genuinely enjoyable.  As a pleasant side benefit, they last a long time!  I tend to drink less often because the bottle isn’t about to go bad and I drink smaller quantities because I can easily “tap it” (hidden in the recesses of my cereal cabinet) anytime.  

In Review:  Of all of the frugal measures, this was the easiest.  I miss my growing cork collection but the wine tastes really very good.  It is better for the environment (less waste, easier to ship, and no cork) and apart from the silly stigma, I really don’t mind.  

Cost:  I am literally saving about $50 a month with this little switch.

*(title is a veiled reference to “Box of Rain” by the Grateful Dead)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Ants

The Ants Go Marching Two by Two, Hurrah. Hurrah.
I love Mother Earth. I generally don’t kill spiders, I carry them outside. I don’t spray my yard and I have never used a fogger inside. I tried to live in harmony with these tiny sweet ants. I vigilantly wiped down surfaces with white vinegar. I cleaned up food and washed dishes immediately (a good habit anyway). I kept snacks and drinks (all but water) out the family room and playroom. I tried to put those little ant traps where it appeared they were coming in. I tried to just clean up the ones that were roaming where they shouldn’t. I tried for a long time… until I came home to a TRAIL of ants marching into my PANTRY.

At this point the wrath of a suburban mom was unleashed. Let me back up 8 hours. I had 3 soccer games in 90 degree weather (not that I was playing, but cheering and socializing is a lot of work in 90 degrees). I had an end of the year party (where I was to bring a fruit salad, requiring a last minute Costco run). We then went immediately to the local pool as we were all hot and sticky and out of sorts, Only to come home at 8pm to THIS!

Now I have a friend who has “a guy”. She always has "a guy". She is in my unofficial cohort of Frugal Mentors and she always has the best contractors who do side work, but honestly, I didn’t have money (or time) for “the bug guy” so I researched how to rid us of these ants once and for all:

Step 1 – Pour a glass of wine (you will find this is often step 1 in my playbook). This is a 3+ glass project so plan accordingly.

Step 2 – Find the largest jug of white vinegar that you can (under $3 at Walmart - send your DH out if necessary) and a pile of rags. You may also need a roll of sturdy paper towels. Start boiling water in your largest pot or boiling water & vinegar if you have multiple handles of vinegar.

Step 3 – Take a deep breath; make everyone clear the area as this project is not fun. If someone is within earshot, you may need to be held accountable for the mutterings that you thought were only in your head.

Step 4 – Start wiping down the ant trail with paper towels or rags SOAKED in straight vinegar. Vinegar is safe on hardwood, grout, tile & human consumption). At this early step I believe that I murmured something about “screw the environment” and just used paper towels because they are easy to throw away, although now, in my clearer state, the rags would have been very easy to wash. Follow the ant trail to the source, the whole time killing the ants in the path with the vinegar and towel. When you get to the end, take a larger rag (hand towel size), soak it in vinegar and put it over the area they are coming from. Ants don’t like vinegar so you effectively at least stopped them from coming in and you can deal with what you have left in the house.

Step 5 – Start clearing & cleaning where ever the ants are with straight white vinegar. For example, I took every item out of the pantry, threw away ANYTHING open that wasn’t in a sealed container. I wiped down every item and every shelf until I saw no more ants. I also wiped all baseboards and sidewalls because I might as well. I wiped the ant path many times with the vinegar.

Step 6 - At this point the water is boiling. I had my DH carry it outside and we looked around for the most likely spot of the ant house and dumped the boiling water right on top of it. I also put an ant trap a couple of feet away (one inside and one outside) so that any starving survivors who were cut off from “the land of plenty” (my kitchen) and now scalded and near drowned would hopefully stagger their way to the ant bait and commit Hara Kiri (Harry Carrey).

Optional Step 7 – I literally sat on the floor (in this case it was in our powder room) with a very full glass of wine and killed each ant as they wandered back toward what used to be the entrance to their home. I think this step frightened my DH a bit (said something about "wow vigilant"). In the light of morning it did seem a bit over the top…  nearly like crazed genocide.  The Hitler of Ants.

Day 2 – Keep all food away, wash dishes promptly, and continue to kill any straggling survivors. By day 4, I have seen nary an ant. I did keep the vinegar rag over their entrance point, just in case.

Overview – I am not sure what the bug guy would have had me do, but I assume that I would have still had to clean the area myself. I avoided most chemicals.  I saved a lot of money.  It was a terrible job but not as terrible as some. Even if I had an income, I may have done the same thing, but probably not. I will say that even post shower, I felt like I was covered in ants (I was not). It was a rough night of sleep but as a mom, I’ve had worse.

Cost:  $3 for White Vinegar
            $2 for Paper Towels (optional, I should have used rags)

Time:  2 Hours of Hard Work (3 hours if you count my very vigilant step 7)

Success:  Moderate?  I still keep finding a couple of ants here or there.  I may need to actually buckle down and get chemicals (GASP!)