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Spent More to Save....

January 19th, 2014 at 06:43 am

Between sales and coupons (rare for what we buy,) my grocery amount was a little higher than usual. But we will eat many a meal!

Still on a soup kick...last night's was a black bean and rice soup - so delicious! I'd say it's my favorite, but I'm a bit fickle and say it for all my soups Smile I may be pushing it for the family, but I'd love to make a broccoli cheese one for tonight (adding cauliflower too because it was a great price at the store!) I love soup - it's warm (needed this winter esp!) It's forgiving and frugal - using up dribs and dabs in the frig. And it's adjustable - I can feed any and all sitting around the table at dinnertime and/or are blessed with leftovers for another meal or the week's lunches. Can't say enough good things about soup!

Our mail box got whacked by the county plow - the neighbor's box was on the ground, ours is hanging by a single screw. The route foreman has determined it was their blade and not the snow that did the damage (makes a difference on whether they're responsible!) I'm hoping the driver doesn't get into too much trouble, but we had just replaced it about a year and half ago. Finally - I might add!! Usually my husband is wonderful about all things needing repairs around here, but for some reason our old rusty mailbox was not on his radar. It got to the point that when you'd open the door, the whole box would tip over with it as it hung by one rusty screw. Eventually that thing would be either in the hands of the mail carrier or on the ground....so one day after a whole summer of teetering, I helped it a teeny bit on a Saturday Smile (Maybe the plow incident is payback for doing that??!)

Today's activities include a visit to the library and hopefully, some snowshoeing - it's predicted to be a heat wave today...followed by more of that crazy cold vortex thing coming our way again. Quite the gamut this winter!! Take care!

Winter Break That Never Ends...

January 6th, 2014 at 03:04 pm

...but my youngest and I are not minding one bit Smile School is closed again tomorrow, and we're relishing the extra time off.

I've got my discounted turkey in the oven - $.29/lb at Target at the end of last week. I saw a gal with a whole cart full!

Otherwise, enjoying time to get the house back in order and clear out the excess (made a last minute donation run on the 31st, and there's already a start to another pile!) Did some online financial doings yesterday - bills all paid or scheduled for the month, and monies shifted to savings. I love the holidays and the busyness, but I also love the getting back to normal!

Looking forward to a warm meal in my cozy house, maybe watch a movie with my girls while working on my winter punchneedle project, and then cuddle in with my library book, before further burrowing myself under the blankets for the night. A good winter's night!! Stay warm!

Thankful Times

November 24th, 2012 at 07:49 am

Much to be thankful for.....

We enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal at home with all of our girls and the two older girls' boyfriends. The girls helped out with the cooking and setting of the table. It seemed like such a lot of food, but we have made quite the dent in the leftovers! And we did take a break from the turkey last night to head out to our favorite Mexican restaurant (inexpensive, but muy bien!)

On only one night of the year, Thanksgiving evening, cars are allowed to traverse the length of Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis to see the holiday lights and decorations of "more than a half a million twinkle lights, 300 illuminated snowflakes and about 4,000 feet of natural garland. The mall's planters have been newly replanted with more than 5,500 spruce tips." It was dazzling! We also got see the crowds of people lining up at the downtown Target. Over the course of day the balmy weather that we woke to Thursday morning gave way to snow and plummeting temperatures, so everyone was bundled up - hopefully the deals were worth that cold wait!

We're not real big on shopping, and especially with crowds (online shopping R us,) so we've been hanging out and visiting and playing card and board games. The beautiful annual wreath that my husband's aunt sends was hung up on the door on Friday. Later we cuddled onto the couch with blankets and cocoa and watched the first on our holiday movie-viewing list - "It's a Wonderful Life". The holiday season is here!!

Later this morning we'll do our annual trek to Clear Lake and choose and cut our tree. We'll ride the wagon pulled by Maggie and Mike the Percherons - the driver has been the same through these 20-some years we've been coming here, and his team is ALWAYS Maggie and Mike Smile So we'll sing some carols (the driver says the horses insist!) and pet Maggie and Mike and the other barn animals, take pictures with the llama because she has pretty eyes, get our candy canes from Santa...oh, and remember to strap our tree to the top of the van. We'll take this over a shopping trip anytime!

I've been squirreling away baking supplies during sales for the past few weeks. I put some butter on the counter to soften for later today - we'll do my oldest's favorite, chocolate crackles. We'll bake enough to send some along when she heads back to school tomorrow. I already pulled banana and pumpkin breads loaves from the freezer to send along too - her college crowd loves homemade baked treats (which is handy, as I love to bake for an army!)

On the medical front, we spent Wed at the hospital redoing some testing on our youngest. The course of treatment that she had been following for the last 2.5 yrs suddenly wasn't working the last 1.5 months. Based on the new test results, the cardiologist prescribed a new treatment plan, and we are hopeful. The Dr still calls her his one-in-a-million case - he and his colleagues have never seen a case so extreme. We're still hoping it will be something she outgrows. We're now letting her old meds clear out of her system, and she's already feeling better, which makes it feel that we are indeed moving in a positive direction. I know there are many times side effects to using meds, and that often you have to choose which is worse - what is being treated or the treatment itself - and it seems we had run the course for those meds. We'll start the new med tonight, and hope, hope, hope and hope again.....and pray a whole lot.

Luckily, or maybe not, we've met our medical deductible early in the year - I think maybe March or April. We tried out the HDHP/HSA, and while I panicked a little at first, it worked out well. So well in fact, that I went ahead and chose that option again for next year. Granted the only other option isn't all that great, and there is more company financial incentive offered for the HDHP...I'm sure I'll be panicking again come the first few months of the new year but I'll be fine,gray hairs and all Smile

Hope everyone is enjoying a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend (or recovering from the rash of illness several here have been dealing with!) Take Care!!

Christmas Tidings

December 27th, 2011 at 08:29 am

We had a fun Christmas. We spent within what we had planned, and everyone got many nice things. My brother and his wife and daughter #2's boyfriend joined us for a Christmas Eve ham dinner at our house. It was an evening of laughter! We slept in a little for the next morning, and then opened gifts to each other and stockings from Santa. Later on Christmas Day, we headed over to my dad-in-law's place. We all brought food and visited. We were home by 5pm or so, and watched a new dvd. By 7pm, we were either asleep already or nodding off, so early to bed for us!

My husband had yesterday and today off as holiday, and Wed as a vacation day. Second daughter headed into school today, and has an appt made for her older sister later today. We'll do a couple of store returns and a bookstore stop (giftcards!) before I drop her off for her hair coloring and facial. After they are done, the rest of us will join them for a meal out - not sure where yet.

No real plans otherwise for the time off - I can tell it will go fast though! I've been cleaning out little spots that have been driving me crazy as I encounter them. A drawer in the bathroom, a couple of shelves on a bookcase in my room, my closet floor (now that Santa is done storing his stuff in there!) Adding to my donate pile, which will head out of here before the year's end Smile

There's no snow in MN! So no snowshoeing or other usual wintery things we like to do here. Can you believe it - 40s for temps? As long as we don't have to pay in the spring (like snow in May - hate when that happens!)

I need to sum up in a holiday journal that I keep the details of this Christmas for reference next year - what went well, what didn't, ideas for gifts. My mom-in-law gave me my first one the Christmas after I was married, and I've diligently kept one up since. It helps me mostly for not repeating gifts to extended family over and over (once I have a good idea...,) and how many batches of what cookies so I don't run out, or have too many in the end. I also track prices of things, so I'd have a running tab on the total, and it's interesting to see how much postage or tree costs have increased, or what changes the budget went though - children added or job changes or medical expenses or car stuff.... A lot happens in 27 years!!

On the near horizon - the monthly tuition for number 2 daughter, the semester bill for number 1 daughter, the annual life insurance bill for me, tabs for some of the vehicles, property tax (April) - there probably is more that I'm not recalling at the moment. We'll help my oldest with some expenses too - she works on campus, but the school shuts down for about a month between semesters (so she's not working.) She'll receive one more check soon, but then it'll be four weeks without. Her expenses are low luckily, so we'll help with her share of rent and enough groceries to see her through until she's got money coming in again. I've been freezing chicken, ham and meatballs and quick breads and cookies, and we'll send along holiday leftovers. Then we'll transfer enough money to her account for her to fill in the gaps once she's back up there. She's in a house of four, and with the break they can meal share a bit more than they usually can (all different schedules!) A bit more time for cooking soups and stuff for the oven etc. It's fun to see her really "get" stretching the budget - I'm so proud!

Also in college news...with the end of this past semester, my oldest is officially a senior! She's on track to graduate one year from now, which is a half year early!! She's signed up for classes for this upcoming second term, then will take two courses in the May term, and finish up next fall term. Her classes are mapped out with her counselor, and she has preference now as a senior. We didn't use all of her financial aid offered for this year, so there is money for the May term that we weren't planning on. Life is good! Daughter is a little nervous with the prospect of getting a job after college, but plans to make use of any and all services provided by the college.

Except for tonight's dinner out treat, we've been, and will be, eating leftovers and making a dent in the fridge! We made a huge ham on Christmas Eve, and we were given the bbq shredded pork leftovers from Christmas Day - none will go to waste! We have a lot of fresh vegies and dips and fruit to round out the meals a bit.

I guess it's the same old, same old around here... but it's always something! Smile

Happy Holidays and a wonderful New Year to all!

Dallying in December

December 3rd, 2011 at 06:43 am

We got our snow! It's only about an inch, but it's looking a bit more like December now.

Lots of holiday prepping - Some baking already in the freezer, with more to happen this weekend. The girls like to help - a good thing to do on a frosty day.

Gifts are getting there - probably more than half way done. When the girls were little, it was far easier to get their shopping done early! Except for the twin nieces, extended family that we exchange with is done. For the two little girls, my girls and I will head to a wonderful toy store in a town near us, and pick out some fun things for them (they're the only little ones left, until the time of grandchildren!) It's a store that we'd go to when mine were little that encourages a lot of trying out of the toys. The owners are tolerant of big kids playing too!

We went to cut our tree on Thanksgiving weekend, when all the girls were home. It's up in the living room with lights and garland on, with only this year's new ornaments for the girls on it so far (small handmade felted mittens from our trip to Grand Marais this fall.) It smells wonderful! Hopefully we can decorate a bit more on Sunday.

In other financial news - Our Honda Odyssey has been occasionally not starting at inopportune times, though I've been always able to get a family member to come give a jump. I told my husband that it's not comforting to have to carry jumper cables wherever I go....so we replaced the battery as a first lowest cost measure. So far, so good! The old one wasn't super old, but a new battery is cheaper compared to the work and expense of replacing the starter or whatever else it could be.

Of the six members in my household, two-thirds of us wear glasses/contacts (and one of the remaining wears drugstore readers Smile I had thought I could start replacing eyewear in the coming year, but some of the needs were too great.

Repairs to my oldest's glasses were getting beyond what most would find acceptable in public (blatantly ignoring her father's offer of duct tape repairs!) She wanted to try contacts out, and so stayed within what was paid by the insurance for the glasses at least. A chip off the old block - well,the one that uses less duct tape anyway.

My third daughter was saying it was hard to see the board at school. We took her in, and she had a significant change. Glasses for her (no sticking things in the eye for her!) Number two girl will be heading in for a new pair in the next week or so. Me I'm pushing off into the new year, as my glasses aren't cheap. My luxuries are bifocal with a progressive lens and as thin as they can go polycarbonate Smile

My oldest registered for second term at college. I've yet to peek at her account to see if the bill has been posted, but I'm thinking it should be comparable to what we paid in the fall. My second's schooling is paid monthly, with the last payment being in March or April (can't remember if we pay for 8 or 9 months.)

Have been doing very good in keeping our grocery costs down. A little effort in planning goes so far, but falls too easily to the wayside when I'm not watchful of it - I want to say human nature, but it's more likely my nature Smile

Took a look outside, and everything is covered in hoarfrost - beautiful!! The drive to get groceries should be spectacular...

Take care and enjoy your weekend!

School's out for summer!!

June 10th, 2011 at 06:38 am

Whirlwind of activity lately! But school's out, and I'm very ready for summer to begin....

Got through graduation and birthday festivities for second daughter. We hosted a grad party for her last weekend, and it was fun to catch up with everyone and see the crazy grads together.

Oldest daughter has been home since last weekend to join us in all of the celebrating, and also squeezed in medical and dental appointments before she heads back to school on Sunday. She's attending the summer session and working on campus this summer, but took off a week from work before school starts.

I got to see the new place when I picked the oldest up. She and her friends made all of the arrangements, and were stressing a bit before the move-in. Details like old lease ends on the 31st and new one starts on the 1st, how to move stuff between places with no vehicles, transferring utility accounts - well, the four new roommates learned much in this move :-) It's a cute house, near the busline to the campus. All her stuff is moved in, except for the massive amount of laundry she came bearing home. Because of the quick change of her rooming situation last year, she made due with an inflatable mattress for her bed. A few patches here and there every so often, and the occasional hint of wishing for a REAL bed...well, she did live to tell the tale. But all good, and not so good, things come to an end, and she is now the proud owner of an inexpensive, very portable bed setup from Ikea. You'd think we'd given her a million dollars.

We're heading up to the college on Sun - daughter, her laundry and new bed, along with us and the trailer and camping gear, as we'll stay up for the week to visit her and help get her settled in the new place. Second girl won't be able to join us due to work (though may head up for a couple of the days mid-week.) Entering new territory as we add more jobs and school to the mix!

As you might imagine, distracted times lead to distracted spending. Nothing too horrible, but have had a bunch of unexpected expenses to deal with. I've made reference to our fading fleet of vehicles, well luckily, my newer Honda Odyssey is holding true. The other two older cars - all I can say is at least they are tag teaming the repairs! The Plymouth will be in the shop while we're gone - and fingers crossed we're making the right decision in its repair, rather than its demise. We are keeping a lookout for a replacement (toss up on whether the Plymouth or Olds go first - and it would be so nice if it wasn't at the same time!)

We've also had a resurgence of what was happening last year with my youngest health-wise, with the fainting. Not as often, and doctors feel it's still within an acceptable range. Last year, we were very lucky with no injuries, but this spring, she's hit her head (luckily a goose egg with no lasting effects) and did a direct hit onto to her shoulder (resulting in ortho dr visits and physical therapy sessions - and the insurance this year doesn't pay as well as in the past.) So frustrating to have a good run of seven months with no fainting, and then have it all start up again. I made contact with a mom whose daughter is going through a similar experience - she's more where we were last year - and she talked of program down at Mayo, so there may be hope yet. We are lucky to have so many medical resources available in the area, but in the end it comes down to eliminating what it isn't, and realizing how much is not known about the human body. Some days I'm better with patience than others, but I'm always searching for answers, and trying to keep life as normal as possible for her.

I guess the rest of it (finances included)luckily comes together on its automated way. We could be the poster family of "When thinking of the cost of raising kids, it's not about the diapers!" I always tell people, learn from us :-) Oh well, I figure my husband and I will have down pat the "tired" part of retire -ha!

Off to a running start today - picking up prescriptions, and getting my oldest driver's license renewed, and the library (desperate for books!)and maybe a haircut. And laundry, which I'll hang out if it doesn't rain, and grocery shopping for the camper. I better get to it! Take care!!

How fast April is going....

April 18th, 2011 at 11:54 am

What a busy time lately, but so much accomplished!

I came home today at mid-day from work. My youngest was sick and stayed home from school, and she's old enough to be home alone. She has some health concerns that make her particularly susceptible to dehydration and fainting, and she knows to keep the fluids going, but I got worried at a call from her mid-morning, and arranged for a sub at work. Now I can see that she's getting fluids and electrolytes, and she's doing better (and I feel better about it all too.)

Our old house has tiny closet space, so my clothes rotate in and out of the closet per season. I recently washed up my winter sweaters to store (in underbed boxes) and pulled out my lighter weight clothes. In doing so, I culled, from both sets of clothing, the tired and the worn and the just plain not-for-me-anymore items. There is still plenty of clothes to choose from :-) The girls went through their closets and drawers also, and pulled and passed down items. What wasn't snatched up, was bagged up for donation. Later today, I'll go through the house and seek out some household items ready to be donated. Spring cleaning!

Last weekend, I managed to get a haircut in, as I was getting very shaggy. Meanwhile, at home, my husband was setting up to take down a dying tree. The youngest two girls were around to help too. We hooked up my dad's old trailer to our old station wagon, ready to haul the branches, as they were cut, to the city compost. (Much easier cleanup, keeping up as we went. We did some trimming about three years back, and what a huge job to clean up after the branches were all down.) My third girl is newly licensed as of last week, so she was excited to get to drive the Olds and trailer, back and forth, with me along for the ride. My husband still has about a 5-6 ft section to cut log-size, but he ran out of steam by the end. The section is between ours and the neighbor's driveways, so it's fine to work on as he can after work this week. Still need to split and stack to dry what we hauled to the back yard. I'm sad to see the tree go, as it offered a bit of shade in the late afternoon, but it was coming down limb by dead limb. A few backyard campfires in that wood!

My new clothesline is up and ready to try out today. It's not the warmest day, but there's a breeze, so I'm game to try.

Speaking of weather, snow is supposed to come again - will it ever, ever end??

Yesterday, my husband and I shopped for groceries and made a return to a store. Later I went to the library with my third girl. So we're busy, but it's a good busy!!

Lots Learned....

February 12th, 2011 at 07:41 am

...in the last two weeks! First, we finally, FINALLY, received the tax forms needed for our taxes. Refund from federal (e-filed through TurboTax with refund to be paid out the 28th if I recall.) Of course, we owe the state (always do) and the forms are ready to be mailed out nearer tax day. Whew - done with that!

I did my oldest's taxes last night and e-filed her federal, and attempted a free e-file for the state, but decided to just do that one by hand. It was a bit weird - It was a site that had an interview process, much like TurboTax's, but then at the end, you couldn't print a copy of the state taxes, but they could mail you one for a fee - grr! I should have known 'free' was too much to expect from the state. But these are done and over!

I still need to do a quick check on number two daughter, but I think her earnings are too small to have had any tax withheld.

Left to do are the fafsa's for the two girls, which I'll start after I get off here. I want to know, but I'm not sure I'll like what I'll learn (or maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised :-)

We've been improving on the eating out front (planned rather than circumstantial lapses.) I've always been good with meal planning, but I feel like I've become more realistic lately in the amount of food I need to bring home. Maybe I was in denial of my oldest going away to college last year or something, plus the reality of my 2nd just being busy and not home as much for meals, but it took me a while to not be cooking such big amounts of food for meals, as I'd done for years. And then I'd put the leftovers in the frig, and no one would want it because "we just ate it". Talk about stuck in a rut! So, now I'm fixing meals in smaller amounts (still can accommodate my 2nd girl's comings and goings plus the addition of a friend staying for dinner - yep, no one starves at my house!) For meals that are a better deal to make in quantity, like chili and soups, I send leftovers right to the freezer. I know, slow learner!!

I'm not sure I took on HouseHopeful's lunch challenge, but my girls and I all brought our lunches each day. We always do and did, so not much of a challenge for us. My husband mostly brings his, but maybe once every week or two, he'll head out to a fast food lunch with the guys. He works in the field and eats alone most days, so if the coworkers are working in close proximity, they'll eat out together. For the most part, it sounds like few from his work bring a lunch. We, and many here on the blogs, stand alone in the crowd on this lunch from home front :-)

Loving my job more each week - I knew I needed a change, and the middle school position was available, but I really didn't know how it would go, as I've worked only in early childhood and some elementary. I'm so enjoying my students and the other kids and teachers of the the classes we're in. I'm amazed at how helpful and inclusive the kids are, even in light of some hard-to-understand behaviors of our kids. I help our kids navigate the typical classes, but I also help others be comfortable with and enjoy our kids. I'm witnessing such compassion and growth on all parts. I'm glad I took the chance (and my superiors took the chance on me!)

On the agenda for this weekend: two fafsa's, grocery shopping, a little house cleaning, clear the catch-all counter.... for fun, my husband wants to go to the camping, rv and vacation show on Sunday (printed off discount coupons.) We haven't gone for many years, and what can I say, it's been a long, long winter and we need some hope our tent trailer will be exhumed of it's snowy burial at some point :-)

Take care!!

Still Waiting,,,,

January 31st, 2011 at 02:49 pm

...for tax documents to arrive! Specifically, I'm waiting on my daughter's 1098 from her college. I checked the school's site, and they will be mailed out on Jan 31, and they aren't available electronically - arg! I have all else that I need for our taxes and the fafsa for my two oldest. As soon as the 1098 arrives, I can finish it all up.

Tomorrow I took off from work due to medical appointments for my two youngest (had to take a whole day as the appt overlaps morning and afternoon half days.) With the extra time off, I'm going to try to figure how to get reimbursed from the fsa. In the past, we were issued a debit card, and it was very simple to use. Now we're supposed to file a claim, one per person with original receipt. Because the only way we can get our meds is through the insurance's mail-order, we get several prescriptions for multiple family members on one receipt. Hopefully they'll have an easy answer....

I'm also doing a quick gathering of donations tonight, as the donation drop-off is near tomorrow's appointment. So far this month, I've dropped off about ten sacks of household and clothing two other times. Why does it still amaze me how much we can keep clearing out of our house?

It started snowing last night, and has continued all day. It took me and the girls thirty minutes to get to school, only four miles away. Unfortunately, my husband had a job that took him to Eau Claire, WI today, so hopefully he'll have no trouble getting home. I'm making chili to warm us all up tonight.

Stay warm!!

Working through the errand list...

January 2nd, 2011 at 10:37 am

...though the list may be endless!

Drove off the other day without the three bags of donations - so I have a good start to this year's donations. Thrift-o-rama commented in my last post about checking out resale shops. We do sell (and buy!) from Plato's Closet, but ours is pretty particular about what labels are on the clothing and they can be no older than last year's season. These were my oldest's who keeps her clothes a while and most were Target brand (not quite what they look for at this store.) My second is the fashion girl, and so has more luck selling to Plato's. There are other resale places, but not nearby, and we have found each store has a particular look they will purchase (and it's not often the eclectic jumble of clothes we acquire:-)

I have to make one last return - a pair of snow gloves for my youngest. I picked up a large youth size, and somehow, some way she's bigger than that! My baby!! Will exchange them for a pair that fits.

I did get to Sam's a couple days ago, so we are pretty stocked up food-wise for a while. I bought a huge beef roast there that I put in the crockpot yesterday for shredded beef sandwiches. It smelled wonderful cooking all day as we took down our tree and cleaned the house. We then brought it and other meal items over to dad-in-law's yesterday to eat after we took down his tree and decor. There are lots of it leftover, so that's what we're eating tonight.

I've been reminding the girls to get their school stuff together for tomorrow. I start my new position too, and am figuring out a new routine for the morning, as I have an earlier start time. Much of the household tasks got done before I left for work, but we'll have to see how it all works (I'm an early riser, but 5 or after is more my style, and I already do that!) I have a couple of crockpot meals planned. There's one medical appt and a marching band night, but otherwise a pretty quiet week. Yay!!

My oldest will be heading back to school next weekend, and we may head up with her to help her get settled in her new place, depending on who of her friends is up there to help. Either way we'll buy her what groceries and the few items she'll need.

I have a couple of bills to pay out this week. I'm starting to collect what's needed for the taxes and fafsa (two this year!) ...like I say, the list never ends......so I better get to it!

Take care!

Tying up the loose ends

December 31st, 2010 at 06:29 am

Trying to get ready for back to school/work on Monday and for the new year!

Yesterday, I took my third daughter to the doctor - new prescriptions to mail off today. I also finished calling in the mail-order refills on the family's meds needing them. We're set for a bit, medical-wise.

My oldest took the opportunity of being home to go through her clothes. She filled three bags! The other girls went through them and pulled out what they wanted. I'll be heading past the donation place today, and will drop off this last amount for the year.

I've been going through the counter papers - still trying to find the "just right" system of dealing with them, but I guess as long as I go through the pile weekly, nothing gets forgotten or lost. It just bugs my organization sensibilities!

One of my errands today will be grocery shopping. I have a good list for Sam's, but I may have to make due at SuperTarget, if my other errands take a bit longer. Not my favorite activity, and it's probably going to be crowded today. Where the rest of this week went, I do not know!!

Otherwise, the week off has been wonderful, though always too short. Two of my girls and I went snowshoeing a couple days ago - such a perfect day and lots of fun. And it was a good thing we went that day, as yesterday it was in the 40s and raining all day! I can hardly wait to shuffle my way out to the van this morning with all the ice out there - just the walkways and driveways, at least the roads look fine. Crazy weather this year!

As for tonight, my oldest and a college friend are heading to another college friend's family's house a couple hours away and staying overnight (they will leave later this morning ahead of the snow, and hopefully return tomorrow afternoon when the roads will be good again.) My second girl's plans are still in the making, but likely a sleepover with friends. The youngest two will be home with mom and dad - so some fun food, games and a movie, then the two girls jostle us awake (we only rest our eyes a bit during the movie) to see the ball drop on tv, and we all head to bed :-)

Happy New Year!!

Back to Reality...it's Snowing!

November 13th, 2010 at 01:55 pm

I can tell I live in good old MN again, after all of the unusually warm weather we've been having.

And, like a true Minnesotan, a little weather didn't hold me back from leaving the house this morning.

I had a soon-to-expire coupon for Great Clips, and I was going to use it! I ran into the Target next door, and picked up a couple items for the girls for the holidays. I really would have liked to finish up the shopping errands at Home Depot for some things for dad-in-law, but the roads were getting worse as the morning went along, and no plows were in sight. (Plus seeing a few cars in the ditch, coupled with a couple encounter with some crazies - well, I have plenty to keep me busy safe and sound at home:-) My husband did head a town over to visit/check on his dad (not that I'm implying he's crazy or anything, he just did, and he took the girls that were home with him!)

My oldest got the news this week that the house she's been renting a room while she's at college is being put on the market, and she'll have to find a new place for the next term in January. We had it good, while it lasted, or maybe it was too good to last...it was a great deal. She's telling everyone she knows, and has a couple places to look at. And there is on-campus housing, if need be.

On the agenda for the rest of the weekend.... cleaning the house, baking (I love to give an array of cookies on my trays for the holidays, so I start early with ones that I can freeze - I know I'm a dying breed, but my mom would have started even earlier than this - ha!) Making a big pot of chili for dinner, which I probably had on the menu the last time I blogged. I'll head to the sewing machine sometime this weekend to shorten some black dress pants for my third daughter for her early December band concert.

I've also taken DisneySteve's decluttering project to heart. I've been clearing out, bagging up, corraling in the back of one of our minivans, and periodically delivering to our favorite place to donate. I don't know why I continue to be so amazed at how much we clear out...but I guess the girls continue to grow up and grow out of things, we lose interest in items, or we just plain don't have need or use for things. But my word, you'd think we'd eventually reach a point of not having so much to pass along :-)

Take care and have a great weekend!!

Sept ramblings

September 23rd, 2010 at 07:38 am

Here it is another month gone by...so much has happened.

My mom-in-law passed away earlier this month. She had been battling colon cancer over the summer, and had been three treatments into her chemo before it became all too much for her body to take. The summer was filled with helping her and my dad-in-law, who has health issues and uses a walker himself. It was precious time indeed for all of us...

My husband and I grew up in the same town and only moved the next town over when we purchased our house. Our girls were the oldest (and the only for quite a while) grandkids, and were very close to all of the grandparents, so it's been hard. With both my parents and now my husband's mom gone, well, Grandpa is getting lots of attention.

I'm very proud of my oldest at college - she signed up to participate in an upcoming cancer walk in memory of her Grandma.

Having seen my dad ravaged by mesothelioma and my mom-in-law by colon cancer - please take advantage of any early screening available. Those who have witnessed the suffering caused by cancer know what I mean, and those who haven't, really you do not want to. My mom-in-law talked often over the summer her greatest regret in not getting screened when it was recommended a few years back, which we didn't know about until after her surgery.

My in-laws also didn't have a living will or POA or anything - my husband's family tends to keep private those sorts of details. That part was much easier with both of my parents - we talked openly about their wishes, and then followed up with the paperwork. There's so much else happening at those times of crisis that you don't always have time or ability (as in questionable cognition after the surgery) to discuss what measures are to be taken. Very, very difficult time... So my PSA is to take care of yourself and try to avoid cancer if possible, screen for cancers early AND get all your affairs in order and paperwork figured out before anything happening.

Within the midst, the girls and I started back at school. Third week in and all of my girls have gotten upper respiratory infections with coughs. At my school, staff have been going home sick with fevers, kids have been throwing up, preschoolers suffering from diarrhea - I have been vigorously washing my hands, taking extra Vit C, snuffing up the nasal saline solution. I've yet to catch what's going around. Boy, this seems very early for the stuff beyond the allergies and little sniffles the kids usually get after getting back together at the year's beginning. I'm so wanting to avoid getting sick! Pretty please....

My brother and family from Alaska also made their annual visit to us and the lower 48. They were roughing it through the wilds of Canada and hiking the Superior Trial up north, so we weren't able to reach them to tell them what they were coming into at our house with funeral plans and all. But it all was fine, and actually very healing to be so totally surrounded on all sides by family. We bid them safe travel to WI and then onto the western states on Monday.

There is more on our financial front, but with all that's been happening - well, suffice it to say, thanks be to savings accounts that see you through times of less watchful spending.

Take care!

August Rush

August 3rd, 2010 at 07:47 am

Woke up to wet, drippy fog - luckily it's burning off in the morning sun. I hung out some laundry already, with another load to wash and hang out in a bit.

It just sounds like August outside! The cicadas are out in full force. It's promising to be another hot and humid day - one to be spent at the lake again this afternoon!

We bought some corn at our favorite stand after swimming at the lake yesterday, and it was too hot and humid to even do anything with it (no ac at our house, with temps in the 90s and dewpoint in the 70s.) We splurged and went to the local Subway and hung out in their ac for a while, then took a little drive in our the van's ac.

Today has a plan though... we will shuck the corn this morning, and then cook it tonight on the grill. When it's corn time here, the corn is the meal, maybe with sliced tomato on the side. I'm not sure if this is done anywhere else but here, but that's what I and many here grew up with :-) This is after spending the bulk of the day in the lake of course! We get a little wacky in this heat. It's supposed to get better tomorrow....

Yesterday I did wash and hang out two rugs that are inside our most often used side door. I thought they were goners, but figured that I'd take the chance running them through the washer. They look like new, and the backing held up. No new rugs needed at this time!

There's something about August to put the rush on all of those summer projects. Currently in the works, a bookcase that I use in my bedroom needs to be painted. It came from my mom's house back when we first moved her into an assisted living in 2004, and the paint job on it probably was a good 20 years old then...it's time to remedy this! We also have an old park bench that is in sound shape, but getting rattier each passing summer. Nothing a little paint won't improve!

Next on the list...all I can say is that my husband is running for cover, as we're moving onto the bigger two-person projects!

Enjoy your day!

Enjoying the Lazy Days of Summer

July 29th, 2010 at 07:11 am

Not a lot happening at my house, which is not a bad thing.

My mom-in-law is moving forward slowly in her recovery of her surgeries. She's still too weak to do the chemo yet, and after yesterday's visit to a wound specialist, we're hopeful for her ileostomy site to improve. Along with my parent's lost battles with mesothelioma and Alzheimer's Disease, I'm adding what my mom-in-law is going through now with colon cancer to the list of things I never, ever want to have happen to me or anyone. The body is very strong and resilient, but so fragile too.

My dad-in-law uses a walker, so I've been getting them to appointments, running errands, and helping him at the house (mom-in-law is in a nursing home for her after-care.) Luckily, I'm off for the summer, though the time is whizzing by quickly.

Otherwise, we've been pretty low-key at our house. The weather has been good for hanging out the laundry. The heat/humidity has been upping the fan usage a lot, which my electric bills have been reflecting. We haven't resorted to putting in the window ac units, as it's been such extremes in temps this summer, and it's a pain to put in the units and take them out, with our old "once they're open, they're open til it snows" windows. (Yes, we do need windows, but replacing them is like starting a teeny snowball rolling from the top of a very tall snow-covered hill...we're living with them for the time being as we navigate through the college years of the girls!) As it turns out, we're going through a very wonderful few days of weather at the moment, and enjoying it greatly!

My husband got a new toy, which I turned out loving. We got a cheap water smoker grill at Home Depot. We chose the electric one for the ease of use, and darn if isn't an outdoor equivalent to my beloved indoor slow cooker! We fill the two racks with marinated chicken breasts and leg quarters and put a couple pieces of hickory wood at the bottom, put water into the tray, and it's good to go. We've been feasting on chicken all week. I put a turkey breast on last weekend - no marinade or anything, just the water and hickory pieces - and put it on to smoke - it was lovely. The trick will be to watch for meat sales.

We've been making a huge effort to eat at home after the fast food/ordering in increased at the end of the school year followed by all the family medical crises. Between the grilling, crock potting, and lots of main-dish salads, we're are eating both cheaply and well.

Otherwise, our activities have been inexpensive. We've been swimming at the two lakes near us a lot. We've been going to the library once or twice a week for loads of books, magazines and dvds. We have five county libraries within 10-12 miles of us, all on the way to other errands, so we vary where we go. Walking, biking, backyard badminton - we're an easy crowd here! The only thing we haven't gotten to do much of is our camping. Our day's has been eaten up by medical, and then my husband's oncall at work has been a bit high (grumble, grumble,) but there is still August...or next year, if need be. Some years are like this...

Couldn't resist a few back-to-school supply purchases, even though I am so not ready to go back yet! I had some MaxPerks rewards ($40) from OfficeMax to use up and I made my start on the computer ink for at home and for my oldest at college. I also did my first coupon thingy at Walgreens. I happened to be near one during one of the medical appts, and was able to get the girls some spiral notebooks, pocket folders and pens for pretty cheap. The staff had to help me find all the coupons I needed, and there wasn't a limit on amount purchased (except for the pens.) It was a good deal, but a bit of a pain to pull everything together to get the deal, plus it's not a store that's in my regular path. I'm happy to have gotten the deal, but give me my pretty much low everyday, as I hate shopping, prices at Target :-)

That's all for now...Enjoy your day!

Invasion of the Pinchy Bugs and Ants

July 12th, 2010 at 06:42 pm

Well, "pinchy bugs" is the name given to these bugs by my daughters due to their nasty bite.

Their numbers seem to be increasing, so I finally looked them up on the internet. I found out that they are called earwigs. And these evil creatures are not only biting us, but it turns out that they are also responsible for demolishing several plants and flowers in our yard. I was wondering what could possibly be attacking my rhubarb that normally withstands all kinds of neglect. These bugs are also after my new Twist and Shout hydrangea. They are in the house winging about, with the cats leaping after them and girls frantically screaming. I'm getting frazzled...

And the ants go marching on.... if only they'd bypass my house! We've tried the more gentle natural approach, and we've resorted to an all-out chemical warfare against both the ants and the earwigs. There is nothing, and I mean NOTHING that I'm able to buy that is making a dent in their populations. I think I'm killing more as I walk along my sidewalk, so at least there is that.

What's up with earwigs in MN anyway?? I've lived my whole life in here, and never have I seen them until last year. And as long as I'm asking, what about the possums too? I've only seen them here in the last five or so years, though they've quickly succeeded in becoming the number one roadkill. I'll ignore their freaky looks as long as they do not come to my house, as I'm pretty sure if Home Depot doesn't sell something to get rid of the ants and earwigs, there is little hope in getting rid of possums.

Good old MN mosquitoes are a pain, but at least you know what's what with them! Time for bug patrol!

Whirlwind Weekend

April 5th, 2010 at 06:02 pm

I picked up my oldest at college on Thursday, so she could work and spend Easter with us. On Friday, she worked, while the rest of us grocery shopped and cleaned the house. On Saturday, the family headed to Como Park Zoo, with ice cream at the Java Train Cafe in St. Paul. A free zoo and conservatory, coupled with gorgeous weather, made for a very busy place!

On Easter, I bucked the traditional ham dinner for a brunch. (Note to self - when doing something different, don't try out so many new recipes!) No one was left hungry, but it was a different way for us to celebrate Easter. What was I thinking?!

Along with the usual chocolate bunnies and jellybeans, my girls' Easter baskets (yup, they still humor me:-) included unfinished bird houses for our garden area. After cleaning up the brunch, we sat and painted very fancy bird houses. We have very crazy birds, who will resign themselves to nesting in them. (We did this a few years back, and figured no bird would come near them, but they did...and this garden is near the door we use all the time too!) Crazy houses for crazy birds!

After the artistry, we headed back north to take the oldest back to school. Too much driving...I so appreciate when she has a ride! Very happy she could be with us though.

Today, the three younger girls and I had the day off from school. It was errand day! It was also spend my money day. I got the state taxes (owed a little) ready to send off, mailed another mail-order prescription, did the bills and checkbook, went to the service center to get license tabs for two of our vehicles, and picked up reserved items at the library (at least this was free.)

I think I'll have to go back to work to relax. Well, not really, as I work with special ed preschoolers, but at least I get to spend time on the playground twice during the day! Next on my list is to reign in the spending a bit - this seems to be a spendier spring than normal.

(I'm trying for the first time to add a photo above - I'm having my daughter hold my hand through this process. I'm such a dinosaur with this all. I hope it works!)
Take care!

A Busy Start to April

April 1st, 2010 at 06:52 am

I'm taking a half day off to go get my oldest from college. I wasn't expecting her to come home, as she was here last week for spring break. She didn't have a ride, but how could I say no to wanting to be here? I figure soon enough the girls may all be scattered, so of course, I'll drive up and get her, so we can be together for this Easter. (Luckily her Friday class was canceled, so I'll start heading up at noon today, and be home for a late dinner.)

As far as Easter goes....I have only jelly beans, which is something, but not a lot. I haven't planned the meal yet, colored eggs, even decorated. Oh my! I need to get hopping! Good thing I'm off tomorrow.

We owe a little to the state for our taxes. The taxes are done and printed, but I want to get everything ready to mail out over the weekend. I also want to go over upcoming spending in the next couple of months - it's all sort of put together, but I want to make sure nothing is missed. (We have many unusual bills at this time of year, and we recently didn't receive two such bills in the mail. Though I caught them before they were late, it was close. I should have a better grip on what I should be expecting, but I also want to follow through at the post office in some way. I guess I'm feeling a little unsettled, so I need to make some lists. That always makes me feel better :-)

Have a great day! (It's going to be 78 today - we're skipping spring and plunging right into summer...I can dream!)

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!

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.

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!!

A Good Day Indeed...

February 14th, 2009 at 06:23 pm

The FAFSA is done!! Taxes last weekend and this thing today - I'm on a roll. Now we'll wait and see...

My oldest signed up for a registration session for her upcoming fall college classes over spring break in March. I'm off, and my husband may take a vacation day. We might even take the rest of the girls too for an overnight, sort of a mini-vacation. The session cost $40, and I was thinking wasn't the school already getting enough from the tuition we'll be paying?! I was told by a co-worker that this is only for new incoming students and only happens once - whew! Some things about college have changed a lot in the 29 years since I was starting out. I've much to learn!

Yesterday, the girls and I were off from school and work (teachers' professional day) and we're off on Monday. Not a lot planned, but finishing off a bit of my to-do list. The girls are content with sleeping in and not doing a whole lot. We did manage a trip to the bigger area library in our system, and checked out bags of items. The girls have been reading in various places throughout the house. My self-imposed goal was to get the FAFSA done, then I too could delve into my library bag!

We finally accepted that my daughter's totaled Suburu was truly unsalvageable, and got rid of it yesterday to a local junker. Kind of bittersweet for my daughter, as it was her first car bought with her hard earned money.

My husband and I and the younger two spent a little time earlier today looking at used RVs. We have come to the realization that we have a popup tent trailer-sort of a vehicle, as well as a budget. We left all the campers where we saw them today.

Just when I thought I had the groceries in control...I made the fatal mistake in allowing those in my family who wanted to come along if they wish. Ha, should have known better! Oh well, at least I know how the amount got where it did, and how to remedy it in the future.

Usually, we don't do much for V-day - we like quiet and simple (or as much as a life with four girls and three cats allows!) I did up some candy treats and simple homemade cards for my husband and girls, with a nice meal planned for the evening. My girls helped their daddy pick out flowers and a box of candy for me, which was a nice surprise. The cats have all expressed high interest in the flowers, as usual. Little sniffs somehow result in little nibbles. So either they are closed up in the bathroom (flowers, not cats, though that IS an idea...)or we keep an eye on them and scoot all the crazy nibblers on their way.

For dinner, we grilled steaks outside, and it's a toss up which was the bigger treat - the steaks or being able to grill outside in mid-February! For dessert, we had brownie sundaes. A very nice day!

Happy Valentine's Day to all!!

How time flies...

November 16th, 2008 at 09:32 am

...when you're busy! I check the blogs daily, but it's not always easy to find the time to post.

As recorded in Fern's No Heat entries, we kept our heat turned off until Nov 7. We're happy to get into November some years, so this was good. It also helped remind us that we can tolerate temps a little lower, and we've been adhering to our new high/lows without a problem (I say this bravely before the snow flies!)

We swapped out the last of the incandescent bulbs for CFLs. We've had a little savings on the bills, but it's a bit of a wash with rate increases. It could be worse without the bulb changes, so no complaints.

I paid $1.86 a gallon for gas on the way to the grocery store yesterday morning! Very thankful for these lower prices lately.

Speaking of groceries - I spent far less for this week than normal. My husband headed out for training in Indiana today until late on Thursday, so the girls and I will be making do with what in the cupboards/freezer/ frig for meals. I did pick up milk and produce, but the rest of the groceries was in preparation of holiday baking (I lucked out with things on sale too.)

I've been Christmas shopping a little with each paycheck, and have been making good progress on my list. I like to get done with the bulk of it by Thanksgiving or so, as December gets really busy with activities and events.

We've been working hard the last few weeks, and there is still more on the to-do list (who keeps adding to it, I want to know?!!) So today, in between church, homework and baking for lunches, the girls and I are heading to Mpls to visit a Russian Museum of Art. It's a fairly new place, and we've never gone. We picked up free tickets at the library yesterday. We're looking forward to a little break!

Have a wonderful Sunday!

Monday Musings

October 20th, 2008 at 07:25 am

All of our travelers are home. My second girl arrived back on Saturday, after enjoying her time at a church youth convention in southern MN. My third daughter flew in last night from Washington DC. She was a bit nervous about the plane ride (her first!) After arriving in DC, she texted me saying so, and I jokingly replied back that she had survived the flight. Her reply - "Yay for the plane!" Yes, indeed!

Her two older sisters had also taken the same trip as 8th graders, but daughter 3 was the most technologically supplied. She took almost 1200 pictures on her digital camera, while her sisters made due with disposable cameras. They all took cell phones to call us at night, but #3 knew better how to text. We knew when she landed, when she ate, what sights were being seen, where she waited in lines. I had to do a top-up to her phone by the third day. A co-worker's daughter had gone too, and when we compared notes, she was receiving even more texts from her daughter (and photos too!) Well, it was almost like being there! All in all, My third had a great time.

The four of us left at home this break took Friday to head down the Mississippi River to the quaint little town of Red Wing. We wandered around antique stores, where my husband and I discovered more of our childhood there than we'd like to admit to. We checked out the other shops a little, nothing of interest (decluttering the house sure squelches the desire to bring stuff home.) We did bring home some candy from a little shop that's been there forever, and we and others want to keep it there - oh, the sacrifice. We ate a delicious lunch at a cute little sandwich shop. Then we walked down to the river, and were surprised to find the American Queen from New Orleans docked. Only those with boarding passes were allowed on, but it was fun to see it. The boat usually heads up to St Paul, but we were told that the river has been too low to go up the river that far this summer. We also walked through the old train depot that houses local art. It was a gorgeous day!

The rest of the time off has been taken up by doing all those little piddling things that for too long go undone. I don't know why, but my grandest accomplishment has been sewing all of the badges on my youngest's new girl scout cadette sash. I'm a sewer, but I have the darndest time doing this (and yes, it took me all of a half an hour!) Well, she can now start out the year properly badged.

With only four at home for a bit, I was able to scale down the grocery shopping this week. I saved the bigger quantity meals for when we all would be eating, and used up some frozen meal makings in some smaller meals. I feel like I'm keeping a good grip on this part of our budget.

Now if only I had such a tight rein on our vehicle expenses! We're enjoying the cheaper gas prices (the lowest was $2.42 in Red Wing.) Unfortunately, we've had some vehicle repair and maintenance. None of it's too unexpected, but gee, it likes to lump together. Our minivan needed a water pump and all four tires replaced. There's still some work needing to be done on its drivetrain we think. It's been hard tracking down what exactly is wrong, and that always seems to be expensive! My oldest's suburu also had a timing belt replaced and work on a cv-joint. My husband has been methodically changing oil and filters, etc, on all of the fading fleet before the snow flies.

Today is dentist visits for five of us. I have some more piddling things to get crossed off my list. And I'll bake for the week today - I have helpers!

Take care!

Enjoying October

October 15th, 2008 at 06:22 pm

Gosh, where has October gone?!

We have the most beautiful trees this year - the drive to the school has been wonderfully colorful lately. We went to the pumpkin patch the next town over last weekend. The farmer was saying what a bumper year it's been for pumpkins, and we brought home some huge ones. They're decorating our front step, and along a fence near our side door. Also against the fence is a stuffed scarecrow that the girls' grandma had given them many years ago (he definitely borders on the tacky side, but we cannot not put him up each year!) We split him at a seam here and there, and added some extra stuffing, as he had been getting a tad droopy. The stuffing has been in my sewing area forever, and it eludes me why I would ever have needed so much!

I've been alternating crockpot meals with simple, fast dinners... so no unplanned meals out, which really helps the budget.

The girls and I are off from school, and my husband is taking vacation for Thursday, Friday, Monday and Tuesday. It's our state's teacher union and professional days. My third daughter is heading to Washington DC with some of her class. My second daughter is heading to a church youth convention in the southern part of our state. The rest of us are going to try to get a few things done around the house before the snow starts to fly. We take time to do a few fun things too.

I'm being summoned to pick up a daughter... Take care!

Catching up

October 2nd, 2008 at 04:57 pm

The expenses have been settling down finally, though I did just write one more check for a field trip for my oldest. Back to getting my checks regular, and getting the savings built up again.

It's been a beautiful fall, but the last few days were very cool. The temps have been hovering in the upper 30s at night. With the windows closed up, and the extra blankets on the beds, we haven't had to turn on the heat yet, though I was tempted last night as it inched to 61. I open the blinds in the morning to let in the sun, and close them at night to keep out the cold. We're hoping to hold off the heat until at least the 15th (later would be great!)

With a few extra activities this week to work around, the crockpot has been getting quite the use. I generally use it 1-2 times a week, but so far have used it straight since Monday. I planned ahead, and have been able to vary the menu a bit, so no protests yet. After a day of working, and then running kids around, I am really enjoying the convenience. And no fast food!

I have to drive daily to the main school campus in the next town over. Three afternoons a week, I head over to the school building just a street behind where I live. So MWF, I eat my lunch at home (leftovers!)and bring my lunch the other two days. Then I head over to the school via my bike. Will enjoy this as long as it lasts - lots of predictions for a very cold, very snowy winter ahead - oh yay! Before I head into the classroom, I ride the bus with one of our more fragile students, who has frequent seizures (I keep an eye on her, and can administer her meds if needed.) The bus driver is a nice retired guy, who recently lost his wife to cancer. He has apple trees that are having a bumper year, and offered me some. He gave me two full grocery bags of them, and we are making great use of them.

The computer is needed, so time to get off. Take care!

Our Company's Left...

September 21st, 2008 at 12:49 pm

...we're down to six at our house again. We had such a wonderful visit with my brother, his wife and four kids from Anchorage. Their older two and our younger two are the same ages, and all the cousins had a blast. We had my other brother and wife come over yesterday for a bbq - lots of food, talk, a cutthroat game of monster badminton and picture-taking. We miss them already, and it's so quiet here.

We did great on the meals. I stocked up ahead on milk, cereal, sandwich-making items and fruit, as well as plan out the week's dinners. We ordered in pizza once with a coupon deal (we paid.) My sis-in-law offered to make a meal (she shopped for what was needed.) And the rest of the meals were what I had planned out, with no restocking needed. As I plan out meals normally for us, I should have known how great it would work for double the people!

Loving my new camera more and more. We usually have an extra friend or neighbor we can call upon to take a group shot, but not this time. I figured how to use the self-timer feature, and we got several great pictures. (I know - probably most cameras have this feature, but I am so proud to have figured it out.) We are still working on my oldest's senior pictures - we may already have too many pretty shots to choose from.

We have found that my brothers and I will each have a bit of money coming to us, and it's a bit of a shock, though not totally unexpected. Going to give thorough thought to its use...kind of thinking along the lines of paying off the rest of the house and a little leftover medical debt from old times, definitely will max out the 401k, check into funding a Roth. I have a certain minimum amount of it that I'd like to see boost our EF. So far, those lines seem reasonable, but then there's the rest...

It would be nice (and a foreseeable need soon) to update one of our failing fleet of vehicles. We have made due with the under $1000 wonders, but I have to admit that we seem lately to be unlucky magnets for cars with troubles. Right now we have enough cars to allow one to be out of commission to be worked on. My husband does much of the work, but still it's pretty constant. The cars have managed to live up to that expectation and quietly take their turns being the car in the midst of repair. Except that we kind of look like a really bad used car lot, I don't really mind old cars as long as I can get to work each day. None of us really tie our identities to what we drive (though there are days when I probably do look as tired and worn out as my car, but that's something different.)

But occasionally, I get to thinking that while a new car is a poor investment, it's also nice... We've had a good experience with buying a brand-new car just after my husband and I married in 1984. We knew what we wanted, offered a price and quite amazingly got it. We loved every moment with that car, and we drove until its end (a sad day indeed.) We car camp, and more recently, have been venturing further from home across the country (I know, great timing with gas prices and all...) Is there a Dodge Colt equivalent out there for us - something reliable, gas efficient, travels well? Or do we bump up to a $5000 wonder? Lots to ponder, and we don't have to rush into any decisions at the moment luckily.

Otherwise, we're enjoying a quiet Sunday, with a mix of leftovers to do a "fend for yourself" day (the boarding house cook is taking a day off!) It's homecoming week, so tomorrow we're back to busy!

Enjoy your day!

A bit chatty today....

September 6th, 2008 at 04:01 pm

We all survived the first week of school! I did manage to keep on top of all of the papers (my homework as it's called) and the checkwriting (why do I ever think I'm done with just the supplies and shoes!) All fees and forms are complete - my girls are now free to attend school, just us parents are broke!

I used the crockpot twice last week, as there were curriculum nights and activities. It all has to start at once, I guess. All other meals were at home too. Grocery-shopped this morning, and kept to budget.

Because I started back to work too, I was again using the dryer for the daily load of laundry. Today was beautiful, though, so my clotheslines are filled.

My brother, his wife and four kids from Anchorage are coming for a visit in a week. Actually they started driving on the 1st and may have arrived up north in MN today - they have plans to hike the Superior Trail before heading down to us next Saturday. They homeschool their kids, so have the flexibility, but the week they'll be here is kind of a crunch week for us, with something going on each afternoon or evening. I'm doing my best to pare all that I can... and at least there will be the two weekends. I'm planning out some large-crowd, kid-friendly meals - chili, tacos, grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, etc. With my nearby brother and his wife, there will be 14 of us around the table, into the living room, and on the floor. We'll be cozy, and I'm looking forward to it all!

On the spending front - I purchased a new digital camera last weekend. I went in with a particular camera in mind, but was flexible enough to spend $20 more to get double the megapixels and 2x more optical zoom. Actually, I'm totally amazed at what I spent on this new one and all of its features compared to its few-generations-ago predecessor (my old camera was four years old, and very well-used - it was a great camera while it lasted in and out of my hands!) I loved my old Canon, and really love my new one (720IS)! I took some gorgeous senior pictures of my oldest last weekend at a nearby historical house and grounds. It's where the local Proex goes for their outdoor senior photo sessions. All I can say is that this new camera made ME look like I knew what I was doing, as well as making my daughter look as beautiful as ever. Plus the camera was cheaper than the Proex portrait session I was pricing, which was the lowest of the senior picture gamut around here. Thanks to all who encouraged me to do so after my previous senior picture mention a few entries back!

Still cleaning up a bit around here - we should look pretty presentable by the time our company arrives next week. The teacher that I work with at school gave me the prettiest tub of yellow mums for a 'late birthday/welcome back to school/oh my, what a caseload this year' gift. It looks wonderful on my front step, but the nearby summer flowers are looking really sad and past prime. Kind of want to get some more mums.... but it'll pass because I don't have time to go get some (being busy works in my favor often - no time to shop!) Oh well, I guess that's what fall is all about here in the upper midwest. If they get too bad, those summer flowers are compost!

Dinner will be grilled tonight - chicken and peppers for fajitas. Enjoy your weekend!!

Cleaned the Freezers...

August 12th, 2008 at 06:49 am

...and dinner's in the crockpot.

On Sunday, I cleaned out the chest freezer and the one on the kitchen frig. I also had to defrost our older model chest freezer. It wasn't too full, so it seemed like a good time for the job. I pulled its plug, and sorted its contents, getting rid of the insanely old. We propped a fan to blow into the chest, and it was defrosted in a couple of hours.

A side note - I always kind of know what I have purchased and put into the freezer. But then, my inlaws clean out their freezers, and pass along their castoffs. We eat what doesn't look too old and frostbitten, but unfortunately, most of the food should have been thrown. To my inlaws though, someone should get to use it, even if they can't, and no one else should. Oh well, we're just that extra step to the garbage sometimes- what the inlaws don't know, doesn't hurt them!

A side note to the side note - the inlaws do this with 'things' too. I cringe when I hear they are cleaning out the corners in their house. They invite our girls to help, which is great, but then they send home lots of 'too good to throw' things. That's another long story... They mean well, and we do respect that a lot, and deal with it all (things and food) accordingly.

Anyway, back to my clean freezers. They look wonderful, if I may say so myself. I also wrote a quick tally of what are in them, and making plans for meals, so I don't pass along too old frozen food to my children - you know,once they move out and are on their own and all. (Boy, didn't know how much planning went into keeping insanely old frozen food! I should really give my inlaws credit in ths feat.)

Yesterday, I put a close to too old beef roast in the crockpot, and cooked it until shreddable for sandwiches. Today, with a bit of cooler, rainier weather, I'm putting on my favorite crockpot minestrone.

I'm relishing my clean freezer time - once the kids start rummaging around in there, well, it never lasts too long, does it?!

Take care!

This, That and Everything...

August 1st, 2008 at 08:22 am

Not much happening lately. After a little time of spending - final payment on a Washington DC trip for the 8th grader, a sports registration fee, some school supplies sale shopping, etc. - we're in a blessed quiet time money-wise.

We've been heading to the beach nearly every day (storing up these warm, sunny days for the long winter!) The girls and I have been making great use of the various close-by libraries. They are all part of our county system, but each has its own personality (plus they are near where we do errands, so no extra gas expense.) I should add that all of the libraries are wonderfully air conditioned, and we are not at our house...so a nice break on some of hot,muggy days.

We're getting ready for a week of camping up north along the North Shore of Lake Superior. My husband and I and our two youngest will head out early with the tent and gear. My second girl and a friend will head up later after work, with everything that doesn't fit in the minivan. My oldest won't be along for the first time - she's on a road trip with a friend and her mom on their way down to Florida. I'm a tad nostalgic for the old days of cramming everyone and everything into our old conversion van. Bit by bit, I grow up too with my girls - ha! This is an annual trip for us, so it's relaxing and fun.

We had a little rain yesterday morning, but I still could hang out on the line before noon. The dewpoint was so high, it took til well after dinner time to dry.

After a concerted effort to reduce some of our utility costs, we've had some successes. The water/sewer bill came in at $30 less than last quarter, which ends up being about a 10% reduction - not great, but at least down. The electric bill went up a little, though, due to rate increases, warm weather and fan usage. I got a call about a week ago from the natural gas company, stating in an automated message that the rates will be going up about 50% over last year. We got the bill, and sure enough they did. The past year we've been paying $84 a month, and we're scheduled to start paying $129. In all the years we've been on this program, they've estimated our usage higher than what it is and re-estimate our bill in February....may it be so this year! It seems our saving efforts just go to maintaining our status quo, and that's better than not!

Take care!

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