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Spent More to Save....

January 19th, 2014 at 02:43 pm

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 11:04 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 03:49 pm

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!!

Wending my way through the weekend

September 30th, 2012 at 12:09 pm

My husband and I have a wedding to attend next weekend. At this point in my life, I live in jeans and tops/sweaters, and I've been doing Weight Watchers successfully. What dressier outfits I have are too baggy and/or seriously out-of-date. Since I'm mid-way to my final weight yet, I didn't want to spend too much. I lucked out at Target though. I ended up buying a darling fitted black dress and a cocoon sweater for a coverup - perfect for cheap!

Next weekend also, my oldest and her boyfriend are heading south to visit his parents in southern MN, then they'll stop at our place on Sunday on the way back north. Usually we would take them out to eat, but we'll host a bbq here instead. It'll be more relaxed, as well as better priced.

We're keeping the spending reigned in as our two youngest are heading to Italy next spring for their band trip, and my husband and I will be joining them! It still seems a little unreal yet....but so exciting! We got the girls their passports this summer, and husband and I will later this month. Italy vs. spending frivolously - a very easy choice Smile

Scrutiny on the groceries - did pretty well. My husband likes to tag along, and is slowly understanding the budgeted amount IS what we're spending. I do better shopping alone, but I like it when he comes along, so it's a work in progress. I just try to spend that much less on the weeks when it's just me!

Not eating out is going good. Also reigned in the coffee/ hot chocolate treats - even the cheaper versions at the local Holiday gas station. As the weather started to cool - warm beverages seem such a fine treat, but we have travel mugs and the makings at home - we can do it!

Tough week emotionally at work.....a graduate from our school district was killed. He was with a couple of friends, when an suv pulled up and a group of people got out. While trying to protect the two girls he was with, he was punched once and fell back and sustained a fatal head injury. He was only 20. A 17 yr old was charged with his murder, and the attorneys want him tried as an adult. So senseless and tragic... he graduated the year between my two oldest, and well, it hits a bit close to home.

On the agenda for today - I'll take a look at finances and make an online payment to oldest's school. And will see what else needs to get sent out this week.

Will putter around outside - put away a few more garden items (pots, stakes) and pull the chairs into the garage (not too deep, as we still use them for backyard campfires.) Still lots of green tomatoes - will they turn red in time?? Crazy tomato year...

I washed and line-dried another duvet yesterday, as well as regular laundry.

Need to go through the bathroom cupboard, as it's driving me crazy with its disorderliness!

And bake - I need to bake...some for us and the girls' lunches and some to send back with oldest next weekend. Pumpkin bread for sure and maybe chocolate chip cookies (or bars, if it gets late.)

I also need to get out for a nice, long walk. I did one yesterday morning at the local county park, and it couldn't have been more perfect. So definitely planning another one today - maybe through a nearby old-growth forest. It has been a beautiful autumn here!

Enjoy your Sunday - take care!!

September speeds along....

September 23rd, 2012 at 03:25 pm

Our school schedule is up and running, and somehow entering into our fourth week. We've added two 6th graders to the crew in my classroom (no one went on to the high school this fall.) We're busy, but all are settling into their routine pretty well. (And how busy is reflected in my Saturday morning weigh-ins - I've lost 7.5 lbs over the last three weeks! I do walk daily outside of work, but I did that before school started back up...but any way it's happening, I'm happy!)

My oldest is in her senior year of college. We were thinking she'd get to graduate a semester early in Dec, but one class was not available until spring term, so she spread out the credits between the terms to receive maximum scholarship and grants. One of her instructors for her art history minor asked her to join a group she is taking to study in Italy for the May term - they'd make an exception for her minor. I told her to look into what funds are available for that, and she did, and there are. We'll run the numbers and decide before the Feb deadline. It sounds like such a wonderful opportunity! Her major is in psychology, but she really loves art history. I should encourage her to look into what it would take to double major, since there's a cap on the cost over a certain number of credits - she may be close enough to make it feasible. And who knows, maybe having two majors will help in the end for acquiring a post-school career Smile

Speaking of careers, my second daughter is really enjoying her new career at the spa/salon she went to after graduating cosmetology school. She's continues to prepay her few loans that are in the grace period, while she's still here at home. She's looking ahead to moving out into her own place, but she's biding her time and building up her money reserve. We used to joke in her younger years that the depositing of her paychecks in the bank was only a formality as they were immediately dispersed to stores at the mall. But she has grown up and listened, learned and, more importantly, acts on her financial goals and plans - very, very proud of her!

My third daughter is a senior in high school this year. We've been spending the last couple weekends photographing her in various locales for her senior pictures. Then she needs to decide which one goes into the yearbook. Over the summer we visited her first choice of community college. There's another one she'll check out nearer the downtown area of the Twin Cities that is an easy straight shot in by bus. Her first choice is a nice school, but does have some major parking issues, and the nearest bus connection is nearly to the school. Some upcoming decisions soon - free application week is in Nov.

My youngest is a sophomore already! She took her driver's permit exam and passed. Yesterday, we finally had a chance to get her in the car - by the fourth, you'd think it would be less terrifying Smile She did well after getting a few right turns under her belt and a feel for the gas and the brakes.

Husband is doing well too Smile His branch boss was let go recently, as the company reduces its mid-level management. The guy who took over manages branches here in our metro area and Rapid City SD, with the install/service areas they encompass. We're hoping for this to be a positive thing rather than a worrying thing. His line of work is in security/fire systems (he does commercial and industrial, but the company does homes too,) and this industry is still feeling the backlash of hard times and budget line reductions. My husband has been keeping stealth feelers out, just in case...and we keep our budget in line as usual.

I was looking back over some of my early blog entries, and was reminded of some of what we did during the leaner times. Sometimes I get into an automatic mode that I forget or ignore taking a closer look at what we spend money on.

First up...groceries. My groceries category encompasses a lot - our food, health and beauty, household items, pet needs, and even small clothing and school needs (blacks shoes for band concert, poster board, etc.) I should probably just call it my Target category, because that's pretty much where I shop. I'd like to look a little closer at what I'm spending and try to reduce it a little, as I think we can do better than we have. The cupboards are replenished after the summer "eat down". I'm slowly stocking up on items for the upcoming season of baking, but we're pretty stocked up household-wise, so it's a good time to hone it down.

We keep a running list on the frig of what we need, and I check in with the family before I go. I don't use a lot of coupons (not available), but what I have is always clipped to the list. My grocery list is on one of those long shop list pads, with a bull clip magnet. I flip up the bottom and write the meal list on the back. I always keep soup, frozen pizza, mac and cheese, etc on hand for crazy times or too tired days. I like eating out, but not wasting it in a frazzle or due to laziness.

With its cooler temps and school's schedule, September has me in a CrockPot mood! Last night, I tried a new soup recipe - Pizza Soup - excellent (and smelled wonderful all day.) Scalloped potatoes and ham for tonight. I do love fall!

Speaking of fall - I've been taking the most amazing walks on the paths at the nearby county park. Forget going north for the leaves this year - it's gorgeous here in the metro right now! Did I mention I love fall?!!

Enjoy your weekend...take care!

September already

September 2nd, 2012 at 11:27 pm

I'm not sure how much more could have been crammed into one month...

My husband had off the first week of the month, and the "fun" he and I planned with our two youngest was to paint our house! We prepped a couple of evenings before starting the scraping and caulking bright and early on that Sat morning. Painting the siding went quickly, but the trim, oh man, that trim took forever! Our 1200 sq ft story and a half house has sixteen windows, three doors, trim along the roof line for the gutters, as well as those gutters and downspouts. And to do the windows, the aluminum storm windows had to be removed, so all parts of the windows were washed too - my very favorite part!!

During the week after my husband returned to work, I worked with my youngest to clean out the girls' old playhouse, and painted both the inside and outside. The following two weekends, my husband repaired red squirrel damage on the trim of the detached garage, and sprayed the sides (cement block) and brush painted the trim. Yesterday, he did the same with the shed. It is all so, SO done - whew!

Just missing out on the house painting fun by a couple of days, my oldest and her boyfriend came to visit and for her dr/dentist visits. Low-key and fun, with lots of time for visiting and hanging out around the campfire. My daughter did find out she needed some additional dental work, so a return trip was warranted.

The two youngest started getting busy in the last few weeks with marching band practices and parades. Our little town celebrated its one hundredth birthday, and we attended those festivities. The youngest also took and passed her driver's permit test!

And then the last two weeks of August have been wild.... Getting ready for school (not as big a deal with older kids now.) A couple of medical appointments for the youngest two. Oldest and boyfriend returned for her dental appt, and they headed to the state fair (the rest of us went this week as the high school band was playing in the fair parade.) Then we all went to the Renaissance Fair. We had a funeral to attend (my husband's brother's fil.) Lots of visiting with extended family - not sure why it happened all at once, but sometimes it just works out that way! My youngest wanted to go to the MN Zoo to see our dolphins for the last time (they're moving to a new zoo soon) and to check out the new baby animals on display, which we did today.

I really, really would like for tomorrow to be a lazy day, getting ready for our first day back to school on Tuesday!! One can hope....

I'm really going to miss summer break, but I do look forward to the back-to-schedule feeling September and the new school year brings. Our classroom adds two new students (I've worked with both in younger grades.) We also add a new staff member to our room, given the increasing challenges of some of our students -yes! My own kids - my oldest is a senior at college, second is working at a great job (graduated last June), third is a senior in high school and youngest is a sophomore. Me, I seem to be repeating middle school Smile

I'm looking forward to reigning in the spending too - we did great in a lot ways (eating at home, spending within the budget, time at the library and beach) but much of the fun stuff came all at once (painting and the actual fun stuff!) and well, it'll be nice to get back to the program here!

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!!

How can it be.....

July 3rd, 2012 at 02:00 pm

...six months since I've last posted! Life gets so busy!!

I had to update all of the girls ages, and added another kitten to the batch. My third daughter was driving home from the next town over, and found a little kitten near its dead mother next to the road. Its a rural area, so no nearby homes, and well, she brought it home. We had our vet check her over and deworm her. Such a sweet little tortie calico, but pure kitten too (livened up our middle-aged kitten crew!)

My oldest girl is spending the summer working at the college. We got her moved into her new place on Jun 1. She missed a few days of work when the city was recently flooded. Her place only got a little water in the basement, but some of her friends had a bit more. Our favorite state park near her is closed due to massive damage - it may be years before it can reopen, though I hope not. Not sure what we'll do for our warm-weather economy lodging for a while...luckily we were up there a week ahead of the flood to visit and camp. What devastation though...

My second girl has finished her cosmetology program, and started her career this week! Her plan is to work, live at home for a few months and get her finances in order before she moves out. She's our one that really likes to plan things out, and then goes for it! And she's looking forward to signing up for the retirement plan as soon as she's eligible Smile

We'll be checking out the local two-year colleges this summer with my third daughter. She has had an IEP throughout most of her school years, so I'm a little worried (as moms always do!) But she has definite goals in mind for the future, and I'm sure we will find the right place to get her started.

My baby is taking her classroom drivers ed starting next week - how can this be??! She is my outdoor girl, and we've been spending a lot of time at the lake this hot, hot summer. We finally purchased a couple of kayaks this year, and been using them nearly daily. We often take them to our favorite swim beach, and kayak for an hour, and then swim and float on floaties for the rest of the afternoon. I lead a very charmed life, I know Smile

Money-wise -

I took my summer pay lump-sum after school ended as I usually do. Most of it is in the savings, though we helped out my oldest when she wasn't working during her May term - her school schedule was very full and intense, as the term only lasts three weeks (but by doing so, she'll graduate a half-year early, so good trade-off!)

We took our camping trip just after school ended and had a lot of fun. The rest of the summer will be pretty low-spend though, with trips to the library and daily to the beach. No one is going to school this summer which helps (except drivers ed, but that's already paid for.) Have some vacation time for husband in August, but school activities have already snuck in and claimed some, so we may get a start on painting the house (if the weather cooperates.) We've always painted our house ourselves, but we'll see how we fare - not as young as we used to be and the girls have `full calendars - I have some ideas of potential painting helper hires too.

The two younger girls will be heading to Italy for a band trip next March. I have the funds ready to pay out as the school asks for it. I do need to get the girls passports, and look for a deal on luggage (our camping duffles probably won't be up to snuff.)

We had a slew of medical and dental appointments - easier to manage outside the school schedule. Most will be covered as free annuals. I felt like I splurged, though it's been a number of years, and got myself some new glasses. My distance sight was the same, but the bifocal had doubled in stregth in the four years - my age is showing! Our new eye insurance allows only a few places in-network, and so I tried out Target optical (my girls tried Pearle Vision last year, but I didn't find any frames I liked.) So far, so good...but I still miss the service I'd get from my local stand-alone place.

Speaking of medical - We're trying out the HDHP with HSA choice this year, and besides a few panicked early months, I think we chose well. So far, we've spent a lot less than last year overall. It's just when it all comes at the front, rather than piecemeal throughout the year, it's a little scary. I also have covered everything without touching the HSA so far. I could reimburse myself or use the debit card for the account, but I'm trying to see if we can build the account up for future, more costly use. If we don't use it, we can keep it for use during our retirement years, when we may be able to afford the costs. We'll see...I feel like I'm still learning the ins and outs of this all.

Well, another hot day on tap.... we did put the window ac units in last night ...we're all a little less cranky! The heat's supposed to ease up by the weekend, hopefully. A little straightening around the house, figuring out what's for dinner, a few errands, and then it's to the lake for us Smile Take care!

It's all about taxes and fafsa....

January 29th, 2012 at 03:33 pm

....or so it seems lately! Actually, there is light at the end of this tunnel...

I've been working on our taxes last weekend and this, and finished! I'm always so jealous of all the mentions of people finishing earlier in the month. Between both tuition statements and one w-2 finally showing up on Friday - well, I'll be polite and say I was extremely pleased with their arrival.

We owe the state a little as usual, and will be getting a refund from federal thanks to the American Opportunity credit for both girls. People used to tell me that we'll have it made with two in college at the same time, but except for more offers of loans, we weren't seeing it. Compared to the dollars spent on tuition, the refund is a drop in the bucket, but I'm not refusing it! I think we'll get to do this one more year, unless the credit is renewed by the government again. We'll have almost the same tax situation in 2012, except I'll lose the child tax credit on my third. Makes my head spin!!

I still have to do the oldest two girls' taxes today- simple and easy. Then I'll start on the FAFSAs for each. I think these will be similar to last year's, and probably similar financial aid offers.

To take a break from those head spinning taxes, I've been trying to learn all the ins and outs of our new version of health plan (same provider as last year, but it's a HDHP this year) and our new HSA. Kind of makes my head spin just as fast the other way Smile I momentarily panicked after paying outright some of our first prescriptions earlier in Jan, thinking we may have made a huge mistake doing this option. But after having real figures to finagle, and not the wild ones my mind was plucking from my panicking memory,I was relieved to find the numbers that helped make the decision last Nov. Oh the safety of having those real numbers, a working calculator, a pen and paper....though there are moments when being oblivious to it all may be the way to go (lucky husband of mine!)

Otherwise, we've been hanging tight here. We had such a bout of beautiful weather most of Jan. Wonderful for getting out for walks and for less heating costs. No snowshoeing, but I can deal Smile

I've been on a soup kick lately - maybe because so many here have been mentioning soup too. I love soup because I've been using up dibs and dabs of stuff in the fridge and freezer, it takes care of itself once it's assembled (lots of crockpot ones) and it tastes wonderful. Along with our usual standbys of chili, taco soup and minestrone, I've tried chicken enchilada soup, broccoli cheese soup (huge hit!),
black bean soup (supposed to be similar to Panera Bread's and it's a close match) and a potato/vegetable soup. Many have come from a website called skinnytaste.com - it has the nutrition info and Weight Watchers points for those wanting that, and the photos of the food are wonderful.

We've been doing well with groceries, but have been noticing the creeping up of prices. It's inched up at restaurants too, so the best deal all around is homecooking. All the more important to not let any food go to waste (yay soups!) I've been baking a little every so often for the younger girls' lunches. I bagged up the leftovers from the holidays and stored in the freezer, and have started to add in a new choice - I love to bake, and it saves a little over buying at the store.

Well, a novel as usual....plus the rest of those taxes and the FAFSAs aren't getting done by themselves! Have a great day!!!

Christmas Tidings

December 27th, 2011 at 04:29 pm

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 02:43 pm

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!



November Natterings

November 19th, 2011 at 01:14 pm

Boy, it's been busy lately, but with what, I'm not sure! Cheerleading and tennis are done for the season for the youngest two. We visited with my oldest over the state-wide educators' conference break in Oct. While there, we drove up to Grand Marais for the day and had a wonderful time exploring, with the most perfect weather you could ask for on a fall day. I went to my second girl's school for a color and cut, and she did a fantastic job (told her she will be my stylist forever!)

On the money front - well, all I can say is that we survived Sep and Oct! November brings on the start of the holiday spending, but all have been put on notice of our reduced circumstance (we're in college mode, girls, and all will get their turn!) Following close behind is the continued monthly school charges for second daughter and the second term bill for oldest daughter...we'll get through, we will, we will!

We're eating a combination of meals from the freezer and less expensive meals to allow for holiday meal and baking extras. We've been eating lots of stews and soups which is fine with us as we love them! I have some beans soaking at the moment for a ham-bean soup tonight.

In anticipation of possible snow sometime today, we went grocery shopping last night. We enjoy a little baking on a snowy afternoon, so have plenty of ingredients for the stuff we will freeze. I always think of a line from Truman Capote's The Christmas Memory, saying that there comes a day in November when it's fruitcake weather. We're not much for the traditional fruitcake ourselves, but we do up a variety of breads that we give as gifts.

Please ignore all this early baking banter, if you like to do it closer to the holidays Smile I come from long line of what I like to call the cookie tray ladies...I remember the year my youngest brother was born, he was due early December. My mom and I baked and baked until we had filled the chest freezer with ice cream buckets of cookies and candy. And it was all done before Thanksgiving, luckily, as my brother couldn't wait to get here and came early, little turkey! Closer to Christmas, we created endless trays to give to friends and family. Now, my girls and I continue the tradition, with some of my grandma's recipes, some of my mom's and some of our own - lots of history in every tray and container heading out our door!

I also picked up more for our Thanksgiving meal. That's shaping up nicely, with my immediate family converging all together by Wed night. Our turkey is so huge this year, that we put it in the frig last night to start thawing. Each of the four girls picks their favorite thing from the meal to cook or bake.

The house looks pretty decent - been using our fall weekends productively. This weekend we're cleaning the carpets in our dining and living rooms (open to each other.) We need to check on our old carpet cleaner - it seems to me that there was something not working right, which was why it was in the basement near my husband's workbench. We've also been known to keep nonworking items, thinking of getting rid of them, only to keep them in that state long enough to forget that that was our intent. I use to blame this stuff on the distraction of kids, but I'm thinking we're just getting old - ha! Luckily, there's a cleaner to rent at our local grocery store, 'cause either way, it's getting done!!

We got through the nerve-wracking decision of open enrollment. Actually, the choices are fewer each year, so in some ways it's easier. This year the big decision was on choosing between an Open Access Plan (more traditional health plan) with an FSA and an HDHP with an HSA. Last year we did the OAP/FSA, and this year we went the other route. We're putting enough funds into the HSA to well cover the deductible, and our own savings could cover the max- out of pocket. We're anticipating a quiet health year, but can manage if it's not. Hopefully, we chose well....

We got our next year's proposed tax notice on our house, and for the most part, it'll be a repeat of this year. Along with it came a change in the homestead credit, and I'm pretty sure the only ones who know for sure what it's saying are the guys who created it. I guess we'll find out what's what at tax time.

Well, so far no snow... I always like the first snowfall, especially on a weekend, when I don't have to go anywhere. Snow or no snow, we have no plans to be away from home - we have everything we want or need here at home Smile Enjoy your weekend - take care!

Off to a racing start.....

October 2nd, 2011 at 03:35 pm

Haircut - I took a half day off on Friday, so that I could be my second's live haircut model. The cut was free (well relative, as we are paying tuition!) When her instructor checked her work, she told my girl she did an excellent job. I said I should have brought my camera - can still get a good eyeroll outta that girl! A fun afternoon!!

Garden and yard cleanup - Worked with my youngest and cleaned out the gardens and put away pots and garden miscellanea. Cleaned and oiled the garden tools.

Grocery shopping - Went to Sam's with my husband and youngest. Bought a lot of meat, fruit and vegies, and pantry stockup. Youngest also found canned pumpkin for some pumpkin bread, which we made later in the afternoon. Soup was in the crockpot, so dinner was easy after a busy day. All meals planned for the coming week - it's a whirlwind!

Money out - Will work on financial today - besides the normal ones, many bills are converging in October (knew it was an extra scary month!) Oldest's college tuition is due by the the 6th, second girl's by the 15th, property taxes on the 15th, 2 deposits for the February band trip to Chicago on the 11th. Plus we're pondering the idea of heading up to oldest over our state's teacher convention time mid-month...and, dum dum DUM, we might stay overnight at a motel. We looked into bringing the tent camper, but private places are already closed for the season and plumbing is shut down by the 10th at the state park, with the vault toilets on the far side of the campground (not a good thing for those middle of the night trips made by me.) We found a cheap chain motel - not as cheap as camping, but a good price.

Today will be a little more low-key, as our week is shaping up to be busy. A visit to the library, and will check with the rest of the family for any other errands while out and about. Maybe a walk on the trail near our house - the trees are getting gorgeous.

Next week is youngest's last tennis match, two back-to-school nights at the high school (husband and I each go through a speeded-up version of a daughter's day at school and introduction to each teacher - we trade notes later.) End of season party for tennis. Regular practices for cheerleader daughter and an at-home game on Friday. Before-school marching band practices for the two youngest with a performance at Friday's game. Next weekend is family birthday party for our 5 yr old twin nieces (need to get gifts.) It's going to be a very looong week!

Barreling through September

September 24th, 2011 at 01:54 pm

Man, where does the time go?! I finished the third week of school, and all the kids I work with are settling into schedules for the most part. My own kids are off to a good start. The calendar is busy for the younger two girls with school and activities, but many of the sports end by mid-October. The older two are busy with their schools and lives too (oldest is away at college and second commutes to her school and lives at home.)

Part of the fading fleet of vehicles faded further. Our oldest car, which third daughter drives, needs some work that is beyond what my husband can do. Will bring it in later this morning to the auto shop - shouldn't be too outrageous, but given the age of the vehicle (20 yrs) there can always be more that needs repair - so fingers crossed!

Back into a regular grocery shopping mode with the start of school (I stretched out trips over the summer to clear out the pantry and freezer spaces a bit.) We're restocked pretty well for our fall/winter type of cooking and baking - hey, I switched out my warm-weather clothes for cool-weather...I guess it's the same for food in the kitchen Smile

A bit of nesting going on (blame it on the recent cold weather!) Bought a new shower curtain at Target and some fall scented candles at Michaels. Got some chocolate chips for baking, and we're on our fourth type of apple from the apple stand across the street from the school (we have a big surplus at the moment, so maybe a pie or crisp to remedy this.) A trip to the library later today. Copious supplies of tea and cocoa. Ready and raring for fall!!

I like the beginning of school schedule for the fact that I'm back to getting a paycheck and that there is not a lot of time to spend it! The stakes are a little higher this year with two post-secondary payments going out, but so far so good. My check also is covering the savings amount going to car replacement and vacation (smaller plans for this during "the college years" - what were we thinking with the spacing of our girls - yikes!) On the other hand the beginning of school brings many opportunities for check writing, or as my husband states, money hemorrhaging. But once again, we've survived another year to tell the tale!

Plans for today - after dropping off the car, a little baking, a little chili-making, a trip to the library, tidying up the gardens, and the first walk on the autumn trail at our nearby county park. The sun is shining, and highs into the 60s - as perfect a Fall day as ever! Enjoy your Saturday!!

How do I spend my time....

August 20th, 2011 at 01:56 pm

I have been continuing my cleaning, organizing, de-cluttering and financing:

- worked in my bedroom - went through MY stuff (working with husband on HIS this weekend) Nice to know that I'm set for "back to school" and everything is organized and in order for crazy mornings.

- finally finished my June project of our big attic - cleared out more to donate, boxed up what was being kept, and put most of it back in the attic (except for holiday, the next time most of the boxes leave is with the girls as they move to their own permanent places in the future.) The couple of boxes still in the hallway upstairs are the only ones left to go through, but they're out of the way, so will get to as I'm able.

- ran one load of donations gleaned from the above projects a couple weeks ago, and have another smaller load to go after the girls go through their stuff once more before school (though some of their clothes will go to Plato's Closet first to see if they will buy.) Except for what was unearthed in the attic, there has been less and less for donation in general - helps to be doing it a little more regular, I think.

- in anticipation of a small family reunion of my husband's side at our house, the girls and I did a pretty decent cleaning of most of the house. What didn't get done before the party has now gotten done after - my bedroom's closet, dressers, and underbed storage (except husband's part.) I also worked on cleaning the main floor's windows and treatments, and our bed's duvet and cover. We had beautiful weather this week, so out on the line it all went to dry in the fresh air and sun. Feeling really good about the state of the house, as in the summer we tend to run to the lake or get outside in some manner over doing anything beyond basic housekeeping! And then once school starts.... :-) (Ok, ok, I'll admit I'm a bit cleaning challenged. I grew up in a house that was so clean that when we did the spring and fall housekeeping it always felt we were cleaning a clean house, but we did it anyway! Now my house...well, I love it when it is clean, but I see it as a losing battle that I never seem to win, but always have to attend. Well, my mom must be beaming at me from heaven this week!)

- clearing out the dregs of our small chest freezer - always amazing what finds its way to the bottom. Have been able to stretch out the grocery shopping this summer a bit, which is good.....

- ...as we've had to start paying for the our second daughter's schooling this week! She's off to a great start - excited about classes and what's she's learning.

- oldest daughter received her financial aid notice, and for the first time her grants and scholarships add up to enough that we won't have her take out any student loans for her this year! We can easily cover the balance of tuition and fees. Her work-study covers her living expenses and books. Life is expensive, but good around here!

- the two younger girls started their fall sports with a vengeance - that signals summer's end more than anything! Third girl is a junior and cheering again this year (not enough people for a squad last year.) And youngest is a freshman and on the tennis team. The fees are outrageous, but the girls put some of their own earnings toward the costs.

- finally getting some tomatoes - the Big Girl has gone crazy, but the Sweet 100s are struggling (something's eating the leaves - we've had an invasion in our area of japanese beetles, but I haven't found any on the plant.)

- still eeking out more summer pursuits while we can. I'm hanging my laundry out, swimming in the lake, pulling weeds and watering the garden, taking walks with my husband at the nearby county park. The state and renaissance fairs are coming up - we'll see how finances hold out as we get closer. I think we'll be cleaning and closing up the tent trailer for the season - definitely didn't go camping as much as we had wanted, but there were other things we did get to do instead. There's always next year!

Better end this novel...enjoy your weekend!

Perfection...

July 24th, 2011 at 11:54 pm

....is what I call the weather today, and enjoy it we did! I just got back from a nice long walk at the county park with my husband. We're renewing our commitment to getting a bit healthier. As his mother died of colon cancer last Sep, my husband had his first colonoscopy done this week, and two polyps were removed. They aren't thought to be cancerous, but still.... We both could be doing better with regards to weight and exercise Smile

With last week's heat, we ended up installing and using our window a/c units. I'm not sure we'll want to see the electric bill, but are very grateful for the heat relief. It feels like the mirror image of our winter, as stuck in the house in hot or cold weather is still stuck in the house! Oh, and relief at the lake wasn't even refreshing as it felt like swimming in overly warm bath water (oh the memories of sharing a bath with my younger brother as preschoolers - ugh!)

Did clear out another few bags to donate. I also mailed out the old silver to Replacements. Their offer was good, and I just plain wanted it out of my house. The crystal and china didn't pan out as well, as the offers were not worth the cost to send out. I'll likely donate them on the next trip.

Another benefit to being in the attic was that one of the roof vents was found to leak (albeit only during the torrential downpours of late.) My husband recaulked all of the roof vents, as caulk is cheap compared to the damage of a leaking roof. Problem solved!

Cooking at home continues - cooking a whole turkey in the smoker today, and it smells delicious. We'll be eating off of it for a bit this week, plus we'll share the legs with my father-in-law (he loves them!)

Went to Sam's to stock up a little earlier today. I've been able to space out the grocery shopping quite a bit, which helps the budget immensely. I was forcing the issue of using up some of the food stores around here Smile Especially those special requests that family members say they'll eat, and then it languishes in the cupboard or freezer. Both are in better shape, so mission accomplished!

The tomatoes are taking forever to turn red! I've had fruit forming for quite a while, and can hardly wait to eat some. It's been funny with the rain though. I was thankful to have the latest rain, as the front was bringing relief to all the heat. It alternated raining hard and then not so hard, so I thought I wouldn't need to water my gardens. In he late afternoon, my husband comes in to tell me that the tomatoes need watering, and I'm thinking he's crazy. I checked, and they did! It must have rained too hard to soak in properly. What a weather year....

Enjoy your day!!

Summer summary

July 8th, 2011 at 02:26 pm

I've been so frustrated with my entries disappearing!!!! (ok, got that out...)

First, thank you to all who commented on my last entry. Yes, doctors are telling us the fainting is something she should outgrow. And we're back to good again - no fainting since the first week of June.

Besides losing typed entries to oblivion....

We've been in clearing out mode here. My youngest and I have been working our way through the remaining house attic space. I'm amazed how much in there was not bought by us (actually yay!) - most originates from my well-meaning and generous inlaws. We kept the spirit and gestures behind the gifts, but donated the physical items. The girls went through their rooms, and culled the unwanted also.

Items of more value have been set aside to see if we can sell. Replacements.com is interested in, and is writing up an offer, on a set of unused silver - I'm hoping it's a good one. If that works out, we have some china and crystal to part with. We also put out an email to a gallery on a signed limited edition art print that looks like it has some value. If that place isn't interested, I'm not sure where else to try selling it.

We also junked our oldest minivan - called a cash for junker place and they came and picked it up. I know it's silly, but I was a bit sad to see it go. It was my mom's car, which we took over use when she went into a nursing home. It had a long life, and served us all very well, with the girls sharing its use at the end.

On the spending side, we purchased with cash a used Honda Accord for the girls to use. My second girl will be commuting to school in August, and we wanted something reliable and fuel efficient. We used craigslist again (we bought the Olds that way a few years back.) Of course, the state is shut down, so no title transfers can be done on either the junked Plymouth or the new Honda - arg!

The Accord needs brake pads and rotors replaced, and my Odyssey needs an oil change and oil, air and cabin filters. My husband bought what he needed last night at the auto store, and will work on that this weekend. It's very handy having a husband who is handy :-)

On the plus side for not spending - since school has ended we've been stretching out the time between grocery shopping. I did a big Sam's run before my second's grad party the first weekend in June, and then did a small trip to Target a couple weeks later to stock up on milk and fruit/vegies. I'm stretching it out another couple days, and will head to Sam's again maybe on Sunday.

Of course any savings is already earmarked :-) We have nothing for the rest of July, so catching up a bit after the new car purchase. August has a bit more though! We have a camping trip to SD planned for the first week. Sport fees are due soon after - third girl is thinking of doing cheerleading again and youngest is doing tennis. Second girl starts school Aug 15, with the first payment due that day and the 15th of the next seven months. Back to school stuff later on in Aug (ugh to be talking of it already!) I have an OfficeMax reward of $44 (expiring at the end of July,) which will take care of the bulk of school supplies. The girls are petering out on the growing, so not much for clothes (plus they have jobs to supplement any whims beyond what I contribute.) The oldest's tuition and financial aid should be known sometime in Aug, though not due until Oct.

And my favorite little ways to save are still happening - I'm biking around in town for errands, combining and planning out the errands I need to drive to, hanging my laundry outside on the lines, and tending my little tomato plants (lots of little green fruit on the branches already!), plus cooking and eating at home. Nothing extraordinary, but it all helps out.

Enjoy your day!!

School's out for summer!!

June 10th, 2011 at 01:38 pm

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 06:54 pm

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!!

Forms, forms...

April 10th, 2011 at 12:25 pm

...and more forms! We had to provide documentation for financial aid for both the oldest girls. When we had some questions on how to fill out one of the forms for my second girl, I was able to ask some questions about the process, and why we were chosen to do it. The documentation isn't related to any particular aid offered, or to be offered, to the girls. The schools are required to do a certain number of audits so as to show that the fafsa matches the tax forms and w-2s etc. And it was only by chance that we had to do it for both girls. Oh well, I'm not worried as it all matches up number-wise, and I hadn't yet filed away the tax documents so it was all handy.

Later in the morning, my husband and I headed to Home Depot to order four more storm windows. We ordered two last fall to replace two that were broken. The long story short is that our house has ancient,cheap and difficult-functioning storms. Last summer, two of the windows crashed close leaving the glass broken. We compared the cost of fixing to replacing the whole storm with ones that work, and we ended up buying two storms that are wonderful to use. Yesterday we ordered four more for the windows we most often open and close per rain over the summer. Only ten more to go! We had cashed out some rewards on our visa over the winter and used the giftcards toward the purchase. We also got a new mailbox, as the current one is in a precarious state, disintegrating bit by bit.

We also called for some estimates on gravel for the driveway, and what a range of prices! We settled on one place, and have to do a re-measure (my husband and second girl did a measure, resulting in two very different cubic yardages - 25 & 33, but as I like to point out, math uses exact figures that should result in one cubic yardage...this is absolutely why I do anything number-wise at my house Smile

While my husband cleaned out the gutters and changed the oil, filters and serpentine belt on my minivan, my third daughter and I cleared off the perennial borders. It's always a gamble on when to do it, but the weather was so gorgeous, and it had been dry for several days, with winds to dry the ground nicely. The lilies and peonies and iris all have tips up. The weeds were already growing well in the bed along the driveway. The beds all look wonderful now after an afternoon of putzing in them.

Today's highlights include grocery shopping and getting a new clothesline. Branches came down over the winter, snapping my old clothesline. Can't live without my clothesline in the warm months! Not sure why I enjoy hanging out the clothes, but I do.

Can you tell spring has sprung here finally? Today, we're supposed to warm up into the 70s! I'll take it!! Enjoy your weekend...take care!

Time for Spring!

March 20th, 2011 at 10:38 pm

The girls and I are on spring break this week. Yay!

So far, it's been a bit of shop, shop, shopping! Yesterday, my husband and I shopped at Sam's Club. Later, we headed to Camping World, finding a couple things for the camper, and Cabela's, where my youngest found an on-sale spring jacket and clearance athletic shoes. The other day I went with the girls to fill a prescription at Target (got a $10 giftcard for that) and found the right size miniblinds for some the cats managed to mangle. Definitely time to stay out of stores!!

Today, we used our historical society membership for free admission to the History Center, where a traveling exhibit of George Washington was displayed. It was very interesting, and especially fun to hear my youngest tell us about what she saw when she went to Mount Vernon during her trip to DC last October. Now I really want to go there too - adding it to my list!

Though DC isn't in the plans for this year, we've booked some camping trips for the summer. As much as we'd like to travel further from home, between gas prices and school/work commitments of the girls, plus the incredible amount of money going out to higher education for two this fall, the best thing is to stick closer to home :-) We'll camp a weekend at our local county park mid-May to work out any bugs and make sure the camper's in working order. Next we head to Duluth after school ends in early June. We'll visit our oldest and do our usual sightseeing and hanging out up there. In July, we camp near Mille Lacs. Then in early August, we all travel to Custer State Park in the Black Hills area. We went two years ago, but plan to switch up what we're visiting this time. We timed this trip so that the oldest two could join us before their fall terms start. Fingers crossed! We may add some more long weekend trips to other state parks - have to enjoy the short, short summer while it lasts.

On Friday night the sky was so clear and the moon so big, though just short of full. I would have liked to see the perigee moon last night, but it wasn't to be, as there was cloud cover. We did hear a huge clap of thunder well before the mist and rain that followed. Crazy weather continues...

Our menu is following the weather changes - last night, after a beautiful warm day, I made a ranch chicken salad...tonight to warm us up after a cool, rainy day, I'm making hot ham and cheese sandwiches and soup! It may snow by Thursday! Luckily the pantry is stocked, and meals can be flexible.

No huge plans for the week - mostly hanging out and a bit of spring cleaning! Take care!!

If it's got to snow...

February 26th, 2011 at 03:49 pm

...I might as well go snowshoeing :-) I know it's MN, but man, oh man, is it ever going to end?! At least, it's a light snow so far today. I went snowshoeing earlier in the week with my youngest, and it was wonderful to be out in the sun. We live next to a county park, and we have the option of a groomed trail along side the nordic skiing trail or we can cut our own trail throughout the campground area (obviously closed for the season.) It has been a great year for the sport!

Speaking of the campground, we're starting to plan out our camping season. A couple weekends ago, we checked out the RV and camping show, as we hadn't for many, many years. As you might expect, the biggest and very best of the camping world were on display. We had tented for decades, and then bought our tent camper two years ago, though remaining for the most part very simple campers. It's nice being off the ground, but we cook and do everything outside our camper. We're looking forward to the possibility of being snowbirds some day, but there's no interest in one of the mammoths we saw at the show. For this year, we're hoping to schedule one out-of-state trip (not too far away, though with gas prices as they are) and two to three other in-state long weekend trips. We love our state parks, it's a toss-up on whether to repeat some of the ones we enjoyed or to try out some new ones. We'll definitely heading to near where our oldest is in school, as she's taking classes and working on campus over the summer up there. And for our bigger trip, hmmm, decisions, decisions... I like to gather info on some realistic possibilities, and then put it out to the family. We hope to include everyone, which means an early August timing. Decisions soon, as reservations have to be made!

I think it was Analise that was mentioning the advantage of knowing what sort of retirement you want, and making specific plans and goals. I so agree with that, and we have been thinking along those lines for a number of years. We're focusing at the moment on our girls' post high-school education, but retirement is not far from our minds and is on auto-pilot (and not to be messed with!) It's nice to know that we won't have to forage for a half a million dollars to fund one of those show RVs - and then the gas!! Not much to say, but wow!

In other news - last weekend was productive in that I finished my oldest's state taxes, so except for mailing our state in with what we owe in April, we're totally done with that. I finished both fafsa'a for the oldest two. The results may figure highly in my "I'm ok with my simple retirement dreams" - ha! The final amount was what I was kind of figuring on.. I truly did not believe all the "you'll make out like a bandit once you have two in school" talk. My second received similar amounts as my oldest, and we pay for the slack. As we are committed to not getting a PLUS loan, we're tightening the belts another notch, and that's ok. Now that we have the figures in for this coming first year with two in school, we'll know what the next six years will hold for the most part, and then the final two years are back to one in school again for my youngest. Whew! That's what we get for spacing our girls so very well:-)

I'm off to Sam's Club in a bit for groceries. Doing well with the grocery budget and meal planning. Also doing better with a little concerted effort on the leftover front. (Freezing is the answer you seek!)

Better get to it! Enjoy your weekend and take care!!

Lots Learned....

February 12th, 2011 at 03:41 pm

...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!!

Re: Ceejay's What I Would Change

January 29th, 2011 at 04:21 am

Work - I recently made a lateral position change, which has been great. I work in a public school with special ed kids, and well, luckily there are rewards beyond the paycheck. Since I've gone back to work (after being home with my girls for eleven years) my paycheck has been for the extras in our life. We have no debt, and are currently in the midst of the pay-as-we-go college years for my girls. After the youngest graduates college, my husband and I can collapse, err, I mean retire! Specifics for now would be to enjoy my new position and that I get to learn right along with my students.

Myself/Home/Life - As for myself, I say if I haven't made peace with myself by this age...well, there is the general losing a little weight and getting into shape and a little damage control. The specific is attending AND FOLLOWING the Weight Watchers that I'm paying for - there's a saying at the meetings that you should track your foods only the weeks you want to lose. Well, it's quite true! I also try be active daily, with longer periods on the weekend/days off. I am needing to get a haircut this weekend too.

As for my home, what I said above about making peace applies here too! My husband and I bought our starter house, and then stayed and added our own wear and tear. While we chose to not upgrade our house size, we did upgrade our family size, and we've lived to tell the tale. Our house is not young (built in 1925) and not so big (1200 sq.ft.) Every owner has left their unique mark (including, but not limited to, the bank of windows along the house's front placed unevenly apart, the upstairs heat vents cut into the floors with no ductwork, the oh my 1940s newspaper insulation in part of the attic, and our very own mark, creating a half bathroom upstairs out of the lone closet on the second floor - utmost priority to a pregnant woman.) The specifics mean we fix and replace, clean and purge on a regular basis. When it stops is the day we move to assisted living!

As for my life, I wouldn't change a thing at the moment :-) I go a lot on my gut feeling, and if a change needs to be made, I give it a good think, list the pros and cons, and take a chance. Life's too short to not enjoy it! I also try to not have too many regrets as I go along - the cliches that I live by. Through the years this has seen me through job changes, the chance to be home with my girls, as well as time spent with both my parents at the ends of their lives. Specifically I keep reminding myself to not wish away anything as it all goes by too fast.

Interesting, interesting...what a thoughtful topic Ceejay has presented. I'm looking forward to seeing what others write!

Tying up the loose ends

December 31st, 2010 at 02:29 pm

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!!

Enjoying the Break

December 29th, 2010 at 03:00 pm

Christmas was very quick, but fun. The girls and I had school through the Wed before Christmas. I took a half day off Wed afternoon to finish up some errands like grocery shopping etc. Instead of that, I headed north to get my oldest from college, as all of her stuff didn't fit in the car she was coming home in (she goes back to a different apt after break and couldn't leave anything behind.) But we made it back safe and sound...and I shopped with the crowds the next day!

Christmas Eve was spent with my brother and wife at our house. After our own Christmas in the morning with the girls, we headed over the dad-in-law's, bringing tons of food, and met up with my husband's sister and family. Fun visiting all around - my voice was even hoarse from all the talking and laughing over the two days!

We've been enjoying our time off - my husband took vacation the last two days and headed back to work today. The girls and I have off the rest of this week. We've been sleeping in, eating, watching the new movies we got for Christmas, playing games, goofing around with the new toys (my youngest got Just Dance - 1st and 2nd - and that's been fun to do together, mostly because some of us (mom and dad!) are pretty lame dancers!!) Now we're getting into puttering mode - organizing and clearing out and finishing the undone. Love, love these breaks!

As mentioned above, my oldest is moving into a new apt, with a lease this time, for her 2nd term. We're helping her out with the 1st payment (rent and damage deposit), but otherwise with her campus job, a monthly amount grandpa sends and a little on our part, she's got rent and groceries pretty well covered. Her books will again be rented from Chegg, and her tuition will be the same as 1st term, as it maxes out on cost over a certain number of credits. She's been taking over that amount each term, and should be able to graduate after 3 1/2 years. She may not be so great at planning details like packing the car, but she does get the big picture at least!

Yesterday, we dropped off more donations. I've been going through some of the easy to ignore areas of my house. I checked out the wrapping drawers to see if we needed to replenish, but no need. I organized the pantry cupboard, as soon I'm needing to grocery shop again (the ham is almost done!) Things that were given to us that my inlaws could no longer eat, and had sat in our cupboard since the summer are being donated. We eat so differently that no one at my house could stomach the stuff - I feel like I should write sorry on the bag. Oh well, maybe others will enjoy it.

I'm seriously going to have to cut back on my holiday baking, as everyone is now baking and trading treats! I'm going to freeze up a bit to dole out in the girls lunches (it may see us through to the end of the school year!)

Before break, I applied for and got a new position at work. It's still the same classification, but instead of early childhood, I'll be working with special ed middle schoolers. I'm very excited to be there. All but three are students I worked with in their early childhood years and some in their elementary years too. I'm up off the floor and there's less diapering! I'll also have the same hours as my girls, as the time with them is so fleeting! I start next Monday, though I spent some time over there last week.

And the last of my current ramble - Santa brought me and my youngest each a set of snowshoes, and what fun they are! This is the year for them, with all of our snow. So far we've been trekking around in our yard, but will today be venturing to our county park a half mile down the road. The other girls are intrigued by the fun we've been having, so we'll rent some for them to try out. It should be fun!

Enjoy your day!

Back to Reality...it's Snowing!

November 13th, 2010 at 09:55 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!!

Lovely Weekend :-)

October 17th, 2010 at 10:57 pm

So enjoying our lovely fall this year....

The last few weekends were spent with one day of work and another of fun. The work days have been productive! The garage is cleaned out, the outdoor furniture and garden items are stored away, the camper is winterized, the leaves have been bagged up once (our trees take their time dropping leaves, and we have so many that we bag or rake them 3 to 5 times, depending on the arrival of snow.) Inside, most of the rooms have been thoroughly cleaned, with only those spaces that are difficult (no words to describe the catch-all upstairs landing area!) or to be taken care of by someone other than me.

The fun included all of us setting up the old scarecrow and both the indoor and outdoor decor for Halloween and fall. Last weekend, my youngest and I stopped at a new local small farm, and we picked up tiny pumpkins, squash and Indian corn. We saw that they had a pick-your-own pumpkin from the field for cheap, and we brought everyone back yesterday to pick out the Halloween pumpkins. The last two and this weekend, my youngest and I have been participating in the Autumn Hike program of our local county park system. We punch four different hikes on the card and we can mail it in for a prize - the prize this year may the absolute gorgeous weather we've had. It's been fun to explore some new trails, take photos along the way, and just be outside!

Because we've been so busy at home lately, we took the opportunity to waylay the creeping up of meals out. I've been doing some of my favorite fall dishes in the crockpot - lasagne, pot roast with veggies, minestrone soup - perfect to come inside to after a day outdoors. Tonight, it's chili on the stovetop bubbling away! I love this time of year!!

This week is a bit frantic with activities, though luckily short due to annual teachers' convention and professional days. Then on early on Thursday, my youngest heads to Washington DC for a whirlwind tour with a group of other 7th and 8th graders from her school. She's a little nervous, as were all of her older sisters, but she'll have such a great time! Did buy her a small cross-body bag with zippers for her camera and wallet, as well as a bigger sd card for her camera.

Oh, and we're officially out of the No Heat contest - while the days have been very lovely lately, the nights have been getting more and more cooler. Today we came back from the walk, and it was too chilly (even with chili!) So the heat was turned on for a bit.....:-)

Time to serve up the chili...take care!

August is one big checklist....

August 22nd, 2010 at 01:13 pm

Medical appointments - check!

Fall sports forms filled out and signed - check!

School supplies bought - check!

Each of the girls to the store for essentials for school - check!

Help my oldest get packed and ready for college - check!

Clean my in-laws basement level and clear out their closets - hey, not on my list, but what the heck, check and check!

Intense bout of 'clear the clutter' at our house - feels so good and check!

Haul my and my in-laws' clutter to the donation destination - yay and check!

Get ready to head north to camp and bring our daughter to college this week - crazy, but check!

Get husband to install new brakes and rotors on the second car heading north and distract his thoughts on why the heck the oldest needs to take so much stuff - check, check!

I think this is why I'm always so ready to have us all go back to school :-)

In financial news - we found out this week what my oldest is receiving for financial aid - not as much as last year, but it'll work out, as her living expenses will be a lot less (dorm last year vs. off-campus this year.) She also rented most of the textbooks online through Chegg, and the one book she couldn't find to rent was cheapest to buy through B&N. So we over halved her book costs this year. (We'll be geniuses by the time my youngest goes to college!)

With all of the school related purchases, I made a very concerted effort to reign in other areas of cost, and it worked....I should do it more often...

We've been eating through the cupboards and freezer, which were in great need of their own decluttering. I went to Sam's Club during their open house event earlier this month, and was impressed enough to buy a membership again (had one many years ago.) And since that shopping have only bought some produce and milk during the school shopping treks with the girls.

We've been so busy with our stuff and helping the in-laws (mom-in-law has been in her home for a week, with a slew of home-visiting nurses and therapists making it possible!) Low-key and -cost things are what we've been craving, like swimming at the beach, taking neighborhood walks or bike rides, and library visits for books and dvds. Time together always gets so precious when back to school is bearing down on us, esp. with my oldest heading back to college.

Scratch what I said above, I'm not ready to let go of summer quite yet;-)

Enjoy your day!

August Rush

August 3rd, 2010 at 02:47 pm

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 02:11 pm

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!