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 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 (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!
Viewing the 'Getting a Grip on the Groceries' Category
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!
...but my youngest and I are not minding one bit 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!
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
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!!
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
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 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 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!
....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 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
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!!!
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
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!
Happy Holidays and a wonderful New Year to all!
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 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
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
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!
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 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 Enjoy your weekend - take care!
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!
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
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!!
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!
...for students and those who work with a school calendar, that makes a person crazy and lazy all at once!
I'm finding that I'll have big bouts of frenzied got-to-do-before-school-starts work sessions intermingled with oh-forget-it-all-and-go-to-the-lake carefree times. August at its finest....
My oldest was home for the past week, and it went fast, but was fun. We spent many afternoons in the lake, which was perfect for the hot, humid weather we had. We explored the Mpls Farmer's Market, and bought wonderful food for the week. We have a teeny local one, but it's fun to run into the city once in a while. We also explored the Uptown area while in town, and I showed the girls a few favorite places, including the fun Majors and Quinn Bookstore (a booklover's heaven.) We saw a movie (Cowboys and Aliens - daddy's choice) and had a shopping/lunching girls day (mostly window shopping, but definitely the girls' choice.) The girls used their season passes to Valleyfair Amusement Park. We cooked and grilled, played board games and watched some favorite dvds. We took oldest back on Friday, so she'd have a couple days before going back to work. We met up with the boyfriend and ate out before driving home. They may head our way in a couple weekends for a long weekend visit, and if they don't, we'll probably go up one more time before school starts up (we all go back after Labor day.)
Next weekend we are hosting a bbq for my husband's family. His aunt and uncle are visiting from Michigan, and his dad and sister and family are coming (not yet sure if his brother and family are - communication isn't the family's biggest asset.)
With company at our house in the next two weekends, we switched from decluttering to cleaning mode. Between kicking back in the lake and being outside every possible moment, there comes a time when you realize you've really let the house go! Actually we're pretty good with the regular stuff like meals and dishes and laundry and bathrooms, but it's the "projects" we're in the midst of that mess us up! We really mean to finish the project, and so leave it out. But with the incentive of company coming, the projects are being finished or put away for later, and the house is put to rights.
Current projects that are to be completed in time for this weekend's company - refinishing the dining room table top. I refinished it when I got the table, which I realized was seven years ago! It held up well, but was needing a good sprucing up. I knew I didn't want to be doing it in the last two weeks before school and with some predicted perfect weather, this week is it! May also do a dresser we've had in the living room, but not a high priority.
Another project is the flower gardens again... The weather has created a bumper crop for weeds! My cherry tomato is producing about one or two little tomatoes a day (note to self - plant several more of these next year.) The big tomatoes are starting to come in (think they're Big Girls) and used some in a taco salad last night. Boy, if all of the tomatoes on that plant go at the same time, well, I'll have to freeze some I guess!
Today, I'll put a couple of coats on the table, grocery shop, and organize one last shelf of the cabinet of the school supplies. From previous times, we're still supplied. I had about $42 in MaxPerks rewards from OfficeMax, so I bought more printer ink and the mechanical pencils the girls prefer (still have plenty of my preferred wooden ones.) Maybe there will still be time for the lake later this afternoon :-)
Have a great weekend!
....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
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 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!!
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!!
I feel less than ambitious with our current weather. I even made chili yesterday, as it's been cool enough! I was able to hang out one load of laundry, and managed to not lose anything to the wind. Today, it's clouds, wind and cold (as in furnace turned on once more...)
On the financial front, my husband got a little raise - about 2%. We decided to up the amount to his 401k by 2%, as the increase will do more good there than the tiny bit it adds to our pockets. After reading online that others were seeing good things happening to funds recently, I took a look at the 401k fund, and found that the gain for the month of April equaled the gain of the previous three months together. Good, good good!
What was it with April?? As others here have mentioned, I too forgot to mail out the monthly payoff for our Target Card, though I caught it before the due date. So I tried out, and don't laugh, the pay online feature of the account (I know, quite the daring soul, aren't I?!!) I was very amazed at how simple and easy it was to pay this way, and may continue to do so to save postage and fraught at mailing it on time (and it's the actual mailing only, as I always write out the bills as I get them.) Trudging along, I may yet get up to speed in this century :-)
Not a lot else going on - being a bit more mindful of certain aspects of the budget have been helpful in building up the coffers (boy, I'm full of revolutionary ideas today!) Particularly, eating out has been reduced (good for budget and health.) Even though we're eating more meals at home, I'm spending less at the store (I think I'm getting better at quantities needed for less family members eating - oldest at college and second daughter working evenings and eats at work.) I'm improving on using up the bits and leftovers, though there are weeks that seem to be leftovers for half of the days! Still need a little tweaking on recipe quantity and freezing.
The next few months are focused on getting as much into the savings as possible. We can pay my oldest's summer tuition from our budget, and then, as much as possible, cover the next year tuition for both girls. Summer is usually a low spend time for us - we swim, bike and visit libraries and free/low cost places around the Twin Cities area. We have some camping trips planned, but the sites are reserved and prepaid, and other costs are generally covered from the budget (the SD trip will be a little more - mostly for gas, but some sightseeing too, but not too expensive.) Some upcoming expenses are my second girl's graduation party in early June, and my third girl is considering a season of cheerleading, with practice starting in June also. Challenges, but not insurmountable...
That's all for now! Take care!!
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!!
Busy week at work - the resource room I work out of has a student that has been difficult to service, and we're trying to figure out ways to accommodate his needs, while still balancing the needs of the other students in the room. As a staff, we're taking turns visiting a facility that services students with unique needs from area school districts (the most difficult students to service in our small, short-staffed local school districts.) I went on Tuesday, and felt our student would fit perfectly at the facility, which has a 1:1 student/staff ratio. I'm not sure how well we'll do with creating that sort of environment at our school, given we aren't anywhere near that ratio! But I came away with some great ideas that will help with the student(anything would help the situation!)as well as for the other students I work with. Still loving my job and the kids! People ask all the time how I'm liking it at the middle school, and my standard response has been that it's the same needs as in early childhood, just taller kids. This week I have to say though - same needs, taller kids, but hormones make quite a difference -yikes!
Last week I had mailed out a renewal of a work license for my husband to the state. Yesterday, we received a mailing from them, and opened it. Out dropped a mangled version of what we had mailed, with the bottom half missing, plus a letter saying they couldn't process the license or check. Hmmm, I wonder why - maybe because it was half missing?! Not sure where it happened (suspect the PO, as the stamp hadn't yet been canceled,) but mailed it out once again. Fingers crossed!
Finally got tabs renewed for my minivan and our trailer this week. I went to do it over our little break a couple weeks ago, and missed the office being open by a half hour (early hours on Fridays - got to remember that)and then on that Mon, it was closed for President's Day. Glad to have it done, though we need some warm weather to put the tabs onto the plates.
Last Sunday, we visited a free zoo and conservatory. My two middle girls are taking the same photo class at school, and they both had a ball with their cameras. The conservatory had their spring flower show - so beautiful! It gives one hope of things to come....
Will be heading out for groceries at SuperTarget soon. I have a pair of black pants of my daughter's to return. Not too much needed today, as we had stocked up at Sam's last weekend. Just some items, we can't get at Sam's, and some we just prefer to get at Target. Doing well with eating at home, except for planned eating out. Plus we've made good use of giftcards for restaurants we received at Christmas. It's all good...
As many have mentioned here, gas is getting pricey. It just seems that when the prices are highest, we end up driving all the more - ha! I do get reimbursed for mileage I did for school, which will help. We have been trying to do something fun on Sundays, usually it's a free activity, except for gas. Oh well, at least we can still afford it. (I feel most bad for those who can least afford the prices and have no other options but to pay :-(
My oldest called with news - she and her friend have found a place for all of next year (Jun '11 - May '12.) She needed some help with the deposit, and I transferred the dollars to her account. I also checked it out online (love google) as much was possible. The owner is local to the unit, which is nice. There are four bedrooms, and as of yesterday, they already have a third friend for a room. The monthly amount divided by two is a little high but not unreasonable, divided by three is what she is paying now, and by four will be wonderful! It's an older home (as most of them are in the area) but smaller and less grand than the one she is in now - meaning the ceilings aren't so high or not so many grand, cold windows,etc. Plus it's been updated better. My daughter has the whole top floor with lots of windows at her current place - "I can see Lake Superior!" My first thought was shoot, it'll be freezing when those winds come a-blowing. She also has a cranky radiator. The thing is massive, but you couldn't tell for all the heat she gets in her room. It's been a learning experience for sure! We sent up an electric blanket and a space heater - luckily electric is a part of what her monthly rent covers. She was very proud in finding that first place, but knows a little more about covering the basic human needs. She and her friend found this one on their own too, but it looks like it'll be a good choice for them. It's as far from the school as the other, but a quicker route, as it's nearer the main street heading up to the campus. So my girl is set with a place, a job, and classes to take over the summer. We'll be definitely heading up to her for visits this summer - it'll be so different...my girls are growing up, and mom has to get used to it!!
My second girl just got a job at Applebees. She went through three interviews with three managers, and she did it! It should work out great, as it's near the school that she'll be starting at this August. They know she's still in high school until June, and it sounds like her hours will increase over the summer, and then back to a reasonable amount for school again - so yay!. (There's a few doing the same thing.) She starts training on Sunday.
Already did some of the weekly cleaning/chores last night and this morning. Groceries in a bit, then maybe some more snowshoeing (the sun is out!) Maybe a little baking - been on a kick with the new range, plus the girls like the treats in their lunches brought to school. Maybe tomorrow we'll head to our history center (free with our membership.) It's a weekend with much potential! Take care!!
...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!!
...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 :-)
...though the list may be endless!
Drove off the other day without the three bags of donations - so I have a good start to this year's donations. Thrift-o-rama commented in my last post about checking out resale shops. We do sell (and buy!) from Plato's Closet, but ours is pretty particular about what labels are on the clothing and they can be no older than last year's season. These were my oldest's who keeps her clothes a while and most were Target brand (not quite what they look for at this store.) My second is the fashion girl, and so has more luck selling to Plato's. There are other resale places, but not nearby, and we have found each store has a particular look they will purchase (and it's not often the eclectic jumble of clothes we acquire:-)
I have to make one last return - a pair of snow gloves for my youngest. I picked up a large youth size, and somehow, some way she's bigger than that! My baby!! Will exchange them for a pair that fits.
I did get to Sam's a couple days ago, so we are pretty stocked up food-wise for a while. I bought a huge beef roast there that I put in the crockpot yesterday for shredded beef sandwiches. It smelled wonderful cooking all day as we took down our tree and cleaned the house. We then brought it and other meal items over to dad-in-law's yesterday to eat after we took down his tree and decor. There are lots of it leftover, so that's what we're eating tonight.
I've been reminding the girls to get their school stuff together for tomorrow. I start my new position too, and am figuring out a new routine for the morning, as I have an earlier start time. Much of the household tasks got done before I left for work, but we'll have to see how it all works (I'm an early riser, but 5 or after is more my style, and I already do that!) I have a couple of crockpot meals planned. There's one medical appt and a marching band night, but otherwise a pretty quiet week. Yay!!
My oldest will be heading back to school next weekend, and we may head up with her to help her get settled in her new place, depending on who of her friends is up there to help. Either way we'll buy her what groceries and the few items she'll need.
I have a couple of bills to pay out this week. I'm starting to collect what's needed for the taxes and fafsa (two this year!) ...like I say, the list never ends......so I better get to it!
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!
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!
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!
The FAFSA is done!! Taxes last weekend and this thing today - I'm on a roll. Now we'll wait and see...
My oldest signed up for a registration session for her upcoming fall college classes over spring break in March. I'm off, and my husband may take a vacation day. We might even take the rest of the girls too for an overnight, sort of a mini-vacation. The session cost $40, and I was thinking wasn't the school already getting enough from the tuition we'll be paying?! I was told by a co-worker that this is only for new incoming students and only happens once - whew! Some things about college have changed a lot in the 29 years since I was starting out. I've much to learn!
Yesterday, the girls and I were off from school and work (teachers' professional day) and we're off on Monday. Not a lot planned, but finishing off a bit of my to-do list. The girls are content with sleeping in and not doing a whole lot. We did manage a trip to the bigger area library in our system, and checked out bags of items. The girls have been reading in various places throughout the house. My self-imposed goal was to get the FAFSA done, then I too could delve into my library bag!
We finally accepted that my daughter's totaled Suburu was truly unsalvageable, and got rid of it yesterday to a local junker. Kind of bittersweet for my daughter, as it was her first car bought with her hard earned money.
My husband and I and the younger two spent a little time earlier today looking at used RVs. We have come to the realization that we have a popup tent trailer-sort of a vehicle, as well as a budget. We left all the campers where we saw them today.
Just when I thought I had the groceries in control...I made the fatal mistake in allowing those in my family who wanted to come along if they wish. Ha, should have known better! Oh well, at least I know how the amount got where it did, and how to remedy it in the future.
Usually, we don't do much for V-day - we like quiet and simple (or as much as a life with four girls and three cats allows!) I did up some candy treats and simple homemade cards for my husband and girls, with a nice meal planned for the evening. My girls helped their daddy pick out flowers and a box of candy for me, which was a nice surprise. The cats have all expressed high interest in the flowers, as usual. Little sniffs somehow result in little nibbles. So either they are closed up in the bathroom (flowers, not cats, though that IS an idea...)or we keep an eye on them and scoot all the crazy nibblers on their way.
For dinner, we grilled steaks outside, and it's a toss up which was the bigger treat - the steaks or being able to grill outside in mid-February! For dessert, we had brownie sundaes. A very nice day!
Happy Valentine's Day to all!!
All of our travelers are home. My second girl arrived back on Saturday, after enjoying her time at a church youth convention in southern MN. My third daughter flew in last night from Washington DC. She was a bit nervous about the plane ride (her first!) After arriving in DC, she texted me saying so, and I jokingly replied back that she had survived the flight. Her reply - "Yay for the plane!" Yes, indeed!
Her two older sisters had also taken the same trip as 8th graders, but daughter 3 was the most technologically supplied. She took almost 1200 pictures on her digital camera, while her sisters made due with disposable cameras. They all took cell phones to call us at night, but #3 knew better how to text. We knew when she landed, when she ate, what sights were being seen, where she waited in lines. I had to do a top-up to her phone by the third day. A co-worker's daughter had gone too, and when we compared notes, she was receiving even more texts from her daughter (and photos too!) Well, it was almost like being there! All in all, My third had a great time.
The four of us left at home this break took Friday to head down the Mississippi River to the quaint little town of Red Wing. We wandered around antique stores, where my husband and I discovered more of our childhood there than we'd like to admit to. We checked out the other shops a little, nothing of interest (decluttering the house sure squelches the desire to bring stuff home.) We did bring home some candy from a little shop that's been there forever, and we and others want to keep it there - oh, the sacrifice. We ate a delicious lunch at a cute little sandwich shop. Then we walked down to the river, and were surprised to find the American Queen from New Orleans docked. Only those with boarding passes were allowed on, but it was fun to see it. The boat usually heads up to St Paul, but we were told that the river has been too low to go up the river that far this summer. We also walked through the old train depot that houses local art. It was a gorgeous day!
The rest of the time off has been taken up by doing all those little piddling things that for too long go undone. I don't know why, but my grandest accomplishment has been sewing all of the badges on my youngest's new girl scout cadette sash. I'm a sewer, but I have the darndest time doing this (and yes, it took me all of a half an hour!) Well, she can now start out the year properly badged.
With only four at home for a bit, I was able to scale down the grocery shopping this week. I saved the bigger quantity meals for when we all would be eating, and used up some frozen meal makings in some smaller meals. I feel like I'm keeping a good grip on this part of our budget.
Now if only I had such a tight rein on our vehicle expenses! We're enjoying the cheaper gas prices (the lowest was $2.42 in Red Wing.) Unfortunately, we've had some vehicle repair and maintenance. None of it's too unexpected, but gee, it likes to lump together. Our minivan needed a water pump and all four tires replaced. There's still some work needing to be done on its drivetrain we think. It's been hard tracking down what exactly is wrong, and that always seems to be expensive! My oldest's suburu also had a timing belt replaced and work on a cv-joint. My husband has been methodically changing oil and filters, etc, on all of the fading fleet before the snow flies.
Today is dentist visits for five of us. I have some more piddling things to get crossed off my list. And I'll bake for the week today - I have helpers!
Gosh, where has October gone?!
We have the most beautiful trees this year - the drive to the school has been wonderfully colorful lately. We went to the pumpkin patch the next town over last weekend. The farmer was saying what a bumper year it's been for pumpkins, and we brought home some huge ones. They're decorating our front step, and along a fence near our side door. Also against the fence is a stuffed scarecrow that the girls' grandma had given them many years ago (he definitely borders on the tacky side, but we cannot not put him up each year!) We split him at a seam here and there, and added some extra stuffing, as he had been getting a tad droopy. The stuffing has been in my sewing area forever, and it eludes me why I would ever have needed so much!
I've been alternating crockpot meals with simple, fast dinners... so no unplanned meals out, which really helps the budget.
The girls and I are off from school, and my husband is taking vacation for Thursday, Friday, Monday and Tuesday. It's our state's teacher union and professional days. My third daughter is heading to Washington DC with some of her class. My second daughter is heading to a church youth convention in the southern part of our state. The rest of us are going to try to get a few things done around the house before the snow starts to fly. We take time to do a few fun things too.
I'm being summoned to pick up a daughter... Take care!
...we're down to six at our house again. We had such a wonderful visit with my brother, his wife and four kids from Anchorage. Their older two and our younger two are the same ages, and all the cousins had a blast. We had my other brother and wife come over yesterday for a bbq - lots of food, talk, a cutthroat game of monster badminton and picture-taking. We miss them already, and it's so quiet here.
We did great on the meals. I stocked up ahead on milk, cereal, sandwich-making items and fruit, as well as plan out the week's dinners. We ordered in pizza once with a coupon deal (we paid.) My sis-in-law offered to make a meal (she shopped for what was needed.) And the rest of the meals were what I had planned out, with no restocking needed. As I plan out meals normally for us, I should have known how great it would work for double the people!
Loving my new camera more and more. We usually have an extra friend or neighbor we can call upon to take a group shot, but not this time. I figured how to use the self-timer feature, and we got several great pictures. (I know - probably most cameras have this feature, but I am so proud to have figured it out.) We are still working on my oldest's senior pictures - we may already have too many pretty shots to choose from.
We have found that my brothers and I will each have a bit of money coming to us, and it's a bit of a shock, though not totally unexpected. Going to give thorough thought to its use...kind of thinking along the lines of paying off the rest of the house and a little leftover medical debt from old times, definitely will max out the 401k, check into funding a Roth. I have a certain minimum amount of it that I'd like to see boost our EF. So far, those lines seem reasonable, but then there's the rest...
It would be nice (and a foreseeable need soon) to update one of our failing fleet of vehicles. We have made due with the under $1000 wonders, but I have to admit that we seem lately to be unlucky magnets for cars with troubles. Right now we have enough cars to allow one to be out of commission to be worked on. My husband does much of the work, but still it's pretty constant. The cars have managed to live up to that expectation and quietly take their turns being the car in the midst of repair. Except that we kind of look like a really bad used car lot, I don't really mind old cars as long as I can get to work each day. None of us really tie our identities to what we drive (though there are days when I probably do look as tired and worn out as my car, but that's something different.)
But occasionally, I get to thinking that while a new car is a poor investment, it's also nice... We've had a good experience with buying a brand-new car just after my husband and I married in 1984. We knew what we wanted, offered a price and quite amazingly got it. We loved every moment with that car, and we drove until its end (a sad day indeed.) We car camp, and more recently, have been venturing further from home across the country (I know, great timing with gas prices and all...) Is there a Dodge Colt equivalent out there for us - something reliable, gas efficient, travels well? Or do we bump up to a $5000 wonder? Lots to ponder, and we don't have to rush into any decisions at the moment luckily.
Otherwise, we're enjoying a quiet Sunday, with a mix of leftovers to do a "fend for yourself" day (the boarding house cook is taking a day off!) It's homecoming week, so tomorrow we're back to busy!
Enjoy your day!
We all survived the first week of school! I did manage to keep on top of all of the papers (my homework as it's called) and the checkwriting (why do I ever think I'm done with just the supplies and shoes!) All fees and forms are complete - my girls are now free to attend school, just us parents are broke!
I used the crockpot twice last week, as there were curriculum nights and activities. It all has to start at once, I guess. All other meals were at home too. Grocery-shopped this morning, and kept to budget.
Because I started back to work too, I was again using the dryer for the daily load of laundry. Today was beautiful, though, so my clotheslines are filled.
My brother, his wife and four kids from Anchorage are coming for a visit in a week. Actually they started driving on the 1st and may have arrived up north in MN today - they have plans to hike the Superior Trail before heading down to us next Saturday. They homeschool their kids, so have the flexibility, but the week they'll be here is kind of a crunch week for us, with something going on each afternoon or evening. I'm doing my best to pare all that I can... and at least there will be the two weekends. I'm planning out some large-crowd, kid-friendly meals - chili, tacos, grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, etc. With my nearby brother and his wife, there will be 14 of us around the table, into the living room, and on the floor. We'll be cozy, and I'm looking forward to it all!
On the spending front - I purchased a new digital camera last weekend. I went in with a particular camera in mind, but was flexible enough to spend $20 more to get double the megapixels and 2x more optical zoom. Actually, I'm totally amazed at what I spent on this new one and all of its features compared to its few-generations-ago predecessor (my old camera was four years old, and very well-used - it was a great camera while it lasted in and out of my hands!) I loved my old Canon, and really love my new one (720IS)! I took some gorgeous senior pictures of my oldest last weekend at a nearby historical house and grounds. It's where the local Proex goes for their outdoor senior photo sessions. All I can say is that this new camera made ME look like I knew what I was doing, as well as making my daughter look as beautiful as ever. Plus the camera was cheaper than the Proex portrait session I was pricing, which was the lowest of the senior picture gamut around here. Thanks to all who encouraged me to do so after my previous senior picture mention a few entries back!
Still cleaning up a bit around here - we should look pretty presentable by the time our company arrives next week. The teacher that I work with at school gave me the prettiest tub of yellow mums for a 'late birthday/welcome back to school/oh my, what a caseload this year' gift. It looks wonderful on my front step, but the nearby summer flowers are looking really sad and past prime. Kind of want to get some more mums.... but it'll pass because I don't have time to go get some (being busy works in my favor often - no time to shop!) Oh well, I guess that's what fall is all about here in the upper midwest. If they get too bad, those summer flowers are compost!
Dinner will be grilled tonight - chicken and peppers for fajitas. Enjoy your weekend!!
Boy, the last paycheck just shot of our house, between bills and back to school, coupled with no OT. Hmm, I think we start to enjoy that OT too much, then forget it's not always there.
Oh well, this is where the 'laying low' comes in. There isn't anything we need, and nothing to spend on that is worthy of touching the savings.
We're sort of restless with these last days of summer break. So far, we've headed to the beach every day for the last two weeks. It's been absolutely gorgeous for this late in August. Usually, the 'dog days' have arrived, along with the pea soup green scum. Definitely, soaking up as much summer as possible - we're about due for a true MN winter here in a few short months.
We hit the library earlier this week, and I've actually found some books to pique my interest. I've gone through three so far. I love reading, but if it doesn't grab this tired mom's attention fairly quick, I fall asleep. (Of course, the reading of late is not improving the said mom's tiredness...but it's still summer break.) Oh, and I picked up some dvds - Zorba the Greek (I haven't seen it since I was a kid, but I remember my mom loving it- it may be a hoot, or not.) Also Snakes on a Plane - missed that one the first time around, though from what I hear it's a lot of snakes popping up everywhere (hope I didn't give away the story!)
I've been doing great with using up some of the newly discovered frozen foods at the bottom of my recently cleaned freezer. Lots of crockpot use lately. I even used a lasagne recipe twice that was so delicious and easy, I may not return to my oven recipe. I know Boo and some others here have mentioned this site - crockpot365.blogspot.com - it has lots of great recipes and fun commentary on the author's commitment to using her crockpot every day for a year.
I do have to meet my husband later at the DMV to renew our driver's licenses - both our birthdays are coming up. I'm looking about as good as it gets...
Enjoy your Friday!!
...and dinner's in the crockpot.
On Sunday, I cleaned out the chest freezer and the one on the kitchen frig. I also had to defrost our older model chest freezer. It wasn't too full, so it seemed like a good time for the job. I pulled its plug, and sorted its contents, getting rid of the insanely old. We propped a fan to blow into the chest, and it was defrosted in a couple of hours.
A side note - I always kind of know what I have purchased and put into the freezer. But then, my inlaws clean out their freezers, and pass along their castoffs. We eat what doesn't look too old and frostbitten, but unfortunately, most of the food should have been thrown. To my inlaws though, someone should get to use it, even if they can't, and no one else should. Oh well, we're just that extra step to the garbage sometimes- what the inlaws don't know, doesn't hurt them!
A side note to the side note - the inlaws do this with 'things' too. I cringe when I hear they are cleaning out the corners in their house. They invite our girls to help, which is great, but then they send home lots of 'too good to throw' things. That's another long story... They mean well, and we do respect that a lot, and deal with it all (things and food) accordingly.
Anyway, back to my clean freezers. They look wonderful, if I may say so myself. I also wrote a quick tally of what are in them, and making plans for meals, so I don't pass along too old frozen food to my children - you know,once they move out and are on their own and all. (Boy, didn't know how much planning went into keeping insanely old frozen food! I should really give my inlaws credit in ths feat.)
Yesterday, I put a close to too old beef roast in the crockpot, and cooked it until shreddable for sandwiches. Today, with a bit of cooler, rainier weather, I'm putting on my favorite crockpot minestrone.
I'm relishing my clean freezer time - once the kids start rummaging around in there, well, it never lasts too long, does it?!
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