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Archive for March, 2010

It's really spring (in March!)

March 29th, 2010 at 04:03 pm

Some of the little flower and vegie seedlings we planted last week are starting to sprout. We've been opening the covers to allow the condensation to dissipate, which attracts our cats' attention. And I thought the outside bunnies were dastardly? So far we've held strong against the evil kitty forces...

Oh my word, the temperature is nearly 60! And we're headed into the 70s later in the week. The weather guys have been saying this will be the first March in recorded weather history with no snow. Usually March is MN's second snowiest month. Absolutely no complaints here!

We broke out the grill last week - my favorite way to cook. On tonight's menu is grilled chicken to top a spinach salad with strawberries, red raspberries, red onion, and feta cheese topped with a berry vinaigrette. I hope it tastes as good as it looks in the magazine (Taste of Home's Healthy and Light.)

Later, we'll head out for a walk. Can't take this beautiful weather for granted!

On the spending front, March is looking a little on the spendy side, but not horrible. The girls and I all did a little various wardrobe updating. I stocked up on groceries this past weekend, as we had gone two weeks since the previous shopping. We worked through quite a pile of frozen items. While adjusting to cooking for less, I'd end up freezing more and more food. Finally after one too many shove and slams to the freezer door, I decided it was time to resolve this problem. We are so souped, stewed and chili'd out now, but my freezer looks much better. (Spring cleaning of a sort!)

Enjoy your evening and take care!

Our Spring Break

March 28th, 2010 at 04:53 pm

My younger three girls and I had our spring break this week. (My oldest had hers last week.)

My second girl went with a friend's family to Mexico, after earning her ticket and spending money. She is a very lucky, hard-working girl, who came back with lots of fun to tell and a not-so-fun sunburn.

The younger two and I had a bit of a quieter time here at home....

My third girl took and passed her learner's driving permit. We've been out daily terrorizing the local back roads. You'd think by the third, I'd be more sensitized to this new driver process - ha!

My youngest had a couple of sleepovers at our house. With one friend, she likes doing crafts, so we headed to Michael's with coupon in hand. We came home with some wooden boxes to paint and a huge $3 package of embroidery yarn for tying into bracelets.

Otherwise, we spent time outdoors as often as possible - raking, walking, biking, and exploring a quaint little nearby town. On the less nicer weather days, we cleaned cabinets, cupboards and closets. I was amazed at how little stuff we had to get rid of - could it be after all of these years that we are finally equalizing the contents of our house??? Wonders never cease...

Tomorrow, we're back to school and schedules! Take care!!

I'm all for change, but...

March 27th, 2010 at 08:56 am

I'm not sure I am liking this blog change - I just typed up my entry and lost it all to a fatal error. And I keep having to sign in, but then I'm not - over and over.

Oh well, I'm trying this out as an entry, and will get back to my Saturday. I'll also give it a few days to see if things will improve.

Tending My College Blossom

March 26th, 2010 at 08:22 am

Yesterday I wrote an entry about our first year of college at our house, likening it to new attempts at gardening. (Well, minus the doing away part of so many of my gardening feats - luckily my girl is a plucky little blossom!) It was definitely an "our" experience, as our oldest daughter has gracefully executed her freshman year, while we, her parents, muddled our way through the finances.

We've learned much this year....

Living in the dorm afforded my oldest great access to the school and all that it offers. We looked at the meal plans, and ended up picking an appropriate one for her. She didn't have a need for a car up there, with free city bus passes offered to students and plenty of rides to/from home (we always give the driver gas money, whether asked for or not.) We relied on the campus bookstore, buying used and ebooks as available, and selling them back. This wasn't the cheapest route we know, but it was the easiest. So many times, my daughter had to have specific editions, or a book list was posted less than a week before classes started.

A good start with many areas for improvement in "our" sophomore year...

The first area of savings, as it turns out, is that my daughter will be moving off campus for her housing next year. (Had she wanted to stay on campus, it would have been fine too;-) A good friend of my daughter from high school and her family relocated to this college town. And the mom, seeing great real estate opportunity in this very depressed area, has purchased several houses near the campus, one that is housing her own daughter, and come next fall, my daughter too. Even with a very generous amount for groceries, etc., her room/board/meals expense will be cut in half. (As an aside, we too had looked into buying something in the area, but for the moment, this alternative seems way less of a hassle.)

My daughter also was able to get a job on campus (a very difficult year for those!) She works as a sub in the dining hall for the remainder of this college year, and has a contract putting her on the schedule starting in the fall. She has been coming home monthly to earn a few dollars and to retain a position at an assisted living dining center for the summer. Usually she's been able to time it to holidays and school breaks. This summer she'll also work at our local school's pool as a swim instructor.

Her college offers a plan where college credits are charged up to a certain number, and then free after that point. She made good use of this during her first year, and will continue doing this next year. Books are definitely an area to cut costs on, and now that she knows more about the system, we'll search out more savings for the coming year.

We're hoping that these saving measures will allow us to reduce or even eliminate student loans for her sophomore year (the last one with a single kid in college for a while.) It's kind of like a pay-as-go plan for college, and I'll readily admit there are far superior ways, involving planning better and saving in advance. Well, we did the best that we could...and we can only move forward on this journey. It's definitely a learning process for all of us, that's for sure!

Take care!!

How Does My Garden Grow...

March 25th, 2010 at 08:14 am

Yesterday, I was shopping with my two younger girls, when we came upon a rack of seeds. Oh, those packages are very seductive, thoroughly capturing my girls' fancy...

I tried to break it to them that it's not so easy- we have three curious kitties (the inside version of the rascally rabbits who wreak garden havoc outdoors.) We keep our house pretty cool, when those darn packages say to keep the sown seeds in a warm spot. We've even managed to swap over to CFLs, so not even an incandescent bulb to offer a little heat (and as if the cats wouldn't all be crowded underneath anyways - the indignities suffered at their expense to save a little expense,so we're regularly informed.) I mumbled a bit about the backyard bunnies and the slight lack of sun in our yard, but hey, what do moms know?

A few dollars later, they're setting out to prove me wrong. I say good for them, as the 'what I know' could use a little shake-up now and again. So, against all odds...Grow little seeds of tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, flowers and more flowers, grow like your life depends on it!

***************************

Another way my garden grows, (or a cheesy segue) - my oldest is attending her first year at college. What a befuddler to the budget!

My daughter is at a campus that is part of the U of MN system a few hours away from home, and lives in a freshmen dorm. She is doing well there, and has made good use of her first year - learning about being away from home, about her school and all that it offers, and meeting new people. She had declared a major upon admittance last spring, questioned it a little in the fall, but after doing some testing and work with her guidance counselor, she has a renewed focus with that major.

The total college expense divides roughly in half - tuition/fees/books and room/board/meal plan. How college was paid for this year divides roughly into thirds - scholarships and grants (yay for daughter!), us writing some mighty hefty checks, and unfortunately, student loans.

We made it through year 1! Only 9 more to go through...and if all works out, only 6 of the years will have two girls attending college at the same time, and 3 years will have one. (Not even going to acknowledge the existence of potential grad studies - overload,overload!)

All I can say is, my, how things have changed since I was in college!

We never had the means in the past to put away much for college for the girls. We worked under the vague assumption that it would work out...The girls would work (they do!) There would be help (yes, but mostly in the form of loans for higher than I ever, ever imagined college costs.) I would be working (this is true after being home with the girls for 11 years.)

What I know now is that there is no such thing as too much money saved for college, and I can't even begin to think how we'd do this if we hadn't have paid everything off! Including our mortgage, as what we paid this year was like a making a bigger than imagined mortgage payment - one we may have barely qualified for in the past, but would have never in a million years believe we should take out sort of mortgage. (Kind of makes our old mortgage looks very small in comparison.) I'm thankful that we were as prudent as we were over the years, that's for sure.

Well, as I'm running out of time (dentist appointments are beckoning - oh joy)... I'll conclude by making parallels to my garden theory (I see the eyes rolling.) I think we're at the point where college is like newly sprouted seeds. What we do now will make or break the growing process...da, da,DA! Tune into tomorrow's riveting episode (ok, ok it's only riveting to me :-)

Enjoy your day!! Take care!

Life Happens

March 24th, 2010 at 07:26 am

As I was saying yesterday, before being preempted by the cantankerous blog god...

A lot has happened in the past year, and not a lot.

Foremost, my mother passed away last June, after a long battle with Alzheimer's Disease. For a long time, I've struggled with a lack of words, kind of like her loss of words was mine also. Being the oldest and only daughter, I've felt like the keeper of the memories my first family held. And there was only silence, and I say this as a self-acknowledged wordy person. I like to talk and to write - a lot...but not so much this past year. I'm just starting to feel ready to venture into the world of words again.

The recurring thought that replaced words for a long time was that my mom was 22 years old when she had me. It's always in my head that she battled the disease for 10 years, and was under assisted living/nursing home care for the last 5 of those years. What shape will I be in 10-12 years? (Smacking into my own reality of I'm not getting younger, now am I, hmmm...) Time has helped with this thought, but it surfaces with every pin number not remembered (I try to keep in mind now that it may be a sign of too many pin numbers in my life!)

Lessons about life always abound (and some are even financially pertinent:-)

Live in the moment (plan for the future, but actually live now)

Simplify your life (or yes, you can have too many pin numbers and phone numbers and accounts here and there and everywhere) All I can say is, oh my gosh, the amount of numbers in one form or another that you collect as you get older!

It's all about checks and balances, isn't it?! Well, I'm off to live a little life, as it is Spring break at my house. Later, I might even try to obliterate a number or two in that ongoing quest of simplifying my crazy life. Take care!!

Where oh where...

March 23rd, 2010 at 07:54 am

...did my long entry go! Probably the blog god's way of saying it was way too long.

The gist of the entry was-

Long time no blog - we're all older (some a little grayer) - college is expensive - we have and will continue to learn about life and finances.

Let me nurse my blogging wounds, and I'll be back to fill out the entry a bit more. Less wordy, I get it now!! (shaking fist at the sky)

Take care!!