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Wending my way through the weekend

September 30th, 2012 at 12:09 pm

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 What dressier outfits I have are too baggy and/or seriously out-of-date.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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy your Sunday - take care!!

September already

September 2nd, 2012 at 11:27 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!!

How can it be.....

July 3rd, 2012 at 02:00 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Money-wise -

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dallying in December

December 3rd, 2011 at 02:43 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care and enjoy your weekend!



November Natterings

November 19th, 2011 at 01:14 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer summary

July 8th, 2011 at 02:26 pm

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

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

Besides losing typed entries to oblivion....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy your day!!

School's out for summer!!

June 10th, 2011 at 01:38 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I want Spring now!

May 2nd, 2011 at 02:37 am

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!!

Forms, forms...

April 10th, 2011 at 12:25 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ready for April

March 31st, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Our spring break ended with a fizzle....

My youngest got sick, and she was knocked out on the couch or in her bed for several days. The high school played in championship basketball games, and my third girl played in the pep band several times over the course of the week. The least I say about the snow storm mid-last week, the better. Spent two afternoons, straightening out the FSA and all things health insurance - I have nothing civil to say about the process, except that I am really hoping there is someone there who can, and will do, what they keep telling me they will do to fix it (and no, I do not want another confirmation number as I have plenty!)

Not all was dismal though - I spring-cleaned my bedroom, and it's now lovely in there. Cleared out several bags worth of stuff from all over the house and dropped off at our favorite charity. I tried out some new recipes and baked. We visited the library a couple of times, and we all read more than we had been lately. In my ever quest to be organized, I came up with yet another way to keep track of user/passwords for everything on the computer (took longer than it should have, but now even my husband could figure it out if he had to, and the new way does not involve a flutter of post-its:-) Wild and crazy life, I know!

Back to school and work for us girls this week. Time for buckling down expense-wise too. We're expecting to have to pull together some big dollars by fall for schooling for the two oldest. There is enough to cover it from our savings, but I'm thinking we can do a bit better with our budget of late and get together at least a good amount before the first payments are needed. We have some sort-of figures from the fafsa, but won't know until just before school starts what we'll need exactly (and this drives me crazy, so we always over-estimate, which isn't a bad thing either.) My oldest got some good news a couple days ago - she was awarded more work-study funds for the rest of this school year, which is great because she is signed up for classes in the summer in her quest to graduate early. (I feel like a broken record with all my posts in trying to figure out this college stuff....but I guess I've been known to talk to death some subjects in real life too - just the way I roll I guess :-)

My third girl is heading to Denver after school on Friday for her high school band trip, so tonight will be wrapping up the packing. She's excited! We're hoping for good weather (not sure what that is any more for any where this year.) I'm sure she'll have a great time.

Have a wonderful spring day!

Time for Spring!

March 20th, 2011 at 10:38 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking forward to this weekend...

March 5th, 2011 at 04:15 pm

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!!

Where have all my entries gone...

January 22nd, 2011 at 02:34 pm

...even my old standby highlight and copy wasn't keeping them safe. Well, maybe I was just too wordy!

So short and sweet-

Oldest back to college and new room is working out. Got her bill for 2nd term with an increased state grant amount - surprised, but will take it!

My new job is a blast! I moved over to our middle school, and a very different experience than early childhood, but I'm loving it. Same special ed needs, just taller kids!

We're on the search for a new range. We replaced the washer, dryer, and dishwasher in Oct. I guess the range too is feeling its use and age. (This is what we get for buying all of our appliances all at once eons ago!) Luckily we've been skimming along using the burners and crockpot and microwave, so as to do some comparison shopping. My husband is very handy, but when we priced the part needed for the repair and figured in the age and wear of the appliance, it made sense to find a good sale. (Fingers crossed for our hard working frig - we need a couple more years and then we could downsize a little too.)

As many here have mentioned, I too am awaiting the tax forms to do our taxes and fafsa (for two girls this year!) Soon enough we'll have an idea of what to expect to pay for next year with two in higher educational pursuits - it's like you want know, but you don't want to know :-) I just keep throwing money into the savings in anticipation of what it might be. We didn't have the means earlier on, but learn from me - you'll be so thankful for any dollars saved ahead. The pay-as-you-go method is hair-raising!

Ok, getting a little wordy at the end, but I'll try it, and hopefully it'll publish! Take care!!

Back to Reality...it's Snowing!

November 13th, 2010 at 09:55 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care and have a great weekend!!

Enjoying the Lazy Days of Summer

July 29th, 2010 at 02:11 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A month and a half later...

June 18th, 2010 at 01:53 pm

We now know what's going on with my youngest. Such a relief! After more and more doctor visits and testing, we have a diagnosis. Luckily, we have many medicine options - the trick will be to find the right dosages and combination. But at least we know and have something to work toward.

The aftermath of bills pales in comparison to my girl's health, but it is a force to be reckoned. The few bills we have received so far have been absorbed in the regular budget. We canceled our CO camping trip - partially because we didn't yet know what was going on (and didn't want to be too far from our doctors)and the mounting medical costs. CO isn't going anywhere! I do feel blessed to have access to wonderful doctors and medical facilities, decent insurance when we needed it, as well as the funds to cover any remaining bills. (I'm still going to try to absorb as much into the budget as possible - I do well with challenges!)

The girls and I are all off from school this week, and my husband had taken off for our vacation. So we played tourist in our own area. I love the recent blog entries of "what to do in your area". I'm going to do my own entry soon. We live in a fantastic area - don't we all say that!

I'm still having lots of trouble publishing entries - they vanish as I try to save and publish. Is anyone else having this problem? Are most people writing their piece elsewhere (like in Word) and then copying over to here? I hardly ever had this problem before the new upgrade. I hope it's not just me, though I readily admit that my computer skills are limited!

I need to go enjoy our few minutes of sunshine ... I'm thinking I'm getting a feel for what it's like in the Pacific NW! Take care!!

edited - I'm so excited...this entry published!!

Whirlwind Weekend

April 6th, 2010 at 01:02 am

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

It's really spring (in March!)

March 29th, 2010 at 11:03 pm

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy your evening and take care!

A Good Day Indeed...

February 15th, 2009 at 02:23 am

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!!

Taxes & Tires & Tidbits - oh my!

February 8th, 2009 at 03:43 am

The taxes are done! I e-filed my oldest's federal and will mail out her state - both with refunds. I also changed her withholdings. I used TurboTax for the first time (I'm a long hold-out with the paper and pencil!)and e-filed our federal - we get a refund of all of $50. The state taxes is a 'oh my, how did this happen??' We owe $674, which include a $17 penalty for being over $500. Not much has changed from last year, but somehow we ended owing this much. Will be submitting new w4s on Monday for sure.

Well, we upped our percent going to my husband's 401k - we're at the max. I'm hoping this is, and will be, a good move, but as it is said, we're in it for the long term (so please, please turn yourself around, market!) I'm a public employee and my retirement fund is a prescribed employer/employee amount, so no more there I can do. Next is to check into a Roth IRA.

It's been one of those weekends where things want to join together in falling apart. A couple nights ago, we were doing our nightly shuffle of the cars so everyone is parked in the right order to get out of the driveway in the morning (yes, we look crazy and yes, the neighbors think it's hilarious.) When my husband pulled our Olds into the driveway, he heard a sudden hiss, and one of the tires went flat. A puncture in the sidewall of one of the new tires we had just bought in May. Poo... My husband took it off, and brought it to the tire store. Not salvagable, so another $80 for a new one.

Today we were finishing up the last load of laundry, and my husband commented on how long the last load was taking to dry. He went to check on it, when he found it was wet and cold, not a good sign. Luckily he's a handy sort and after dismantling the machine, he did a little check online for a schematic and found that it was a heat sensor fuse that had blown. We'll have to wait for the Sears Parts store to open (we'll check, but I'm thinking it's not open on Sunday) but the part is about $15, which isn't too bad.

My husband is thinking that work is starting to look more relaxing that these 'restful' weekends.

I'm thinking there are forces out there trying to part us with our money. Always!

In other news...we got the official letter saying that our mortgage has been satisfied and officially payed off. We'll still need to get the copies of the record from the county when it becomes available. I guess my category of "I owe,I owe..." is now "I don't!"

And oh my...the best news of all is that my oldest got an acceptance to her first choice of college. (This is what spurred me on to accept what my taxes were saying and just get a move on in filing!) On to the FAFSA - oh yay...

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

How time flies...

November 16th, 2008 at 05:32 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a wonderful Sunday!

Monday Musings

October 20th, 2008 at 02:25 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care!

A bit chatty today....

September 6th, 2008 at 11:01 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This, That and Everything...

August 1st, 2008 at 03:22 pm

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

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

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

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

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

Take care!

Money In...Money Out...Money Saved

July 18th, 2008 at 01:03 pm

I got a check on Tuesday, and my husband got his yesterday. Oh, the ways to spend them!

After the deluge of recent medical, things have settled down - finally! In a bit I'll head to the grocery for our two week shopping.

I do have a Target list, and a pack of girls who want to come along. They have been informed that if something isn't on my utilitarian list, they have their own money to spend.

Upcoming spending to keep in mind...

We head up for our annual camping up in Duluth and along the North Shore of Lake Superior in early August. We don't spend a lot, and it's probably a wash for what we would spend at home. But gas prices are up, plus we like to eat out a couple meals, as a break from the hot dogs and hamburger over the campfire.

My third girl is a returning cheerleader, and the fee is due mid-August. So far no mention of an extra camp (and fee) - this is good!

Then there is school shopping - hiss, boo! It seems like summer has barely started... Actually, only the two youngest have supply lists, and the older two just need basic supplies for high school. Bags and backpacks are in good shape. My youngest will need athletic shoes, though her feet keep growing fast, so nice but cheap is in order. She'll also need some jeans. They all enjoy going to a favorite thrift store, and of course to Plato's Closet. We don't buy too much up front, as it's still warm at school. A nice outfit each usually to start. School pictures are the first day at the high school.

Speaking of pictures...I started pricing some senior photo sessions for my oldest. There is quite the price range, though I can't imagine paying some of those top figures (someone must though.)

Enough thinking of ways to spend. There will be still enough to send a few hundred over to savings. It's nice to get it all together to do all three...earn, spend, keep.

Take care!

Working on Loose Ends

July 17th, 2008 at 01:35 pm

My husband had his eye dr appt yesterday, and he needed glasses. No getting by with drug store cheapies. I told him he was getting old - ha! So another $100, exam copay included. This is the end of our vision care needs, for this year anyway!

A lot of loose ends got tied up this week. Not sure how they get lost in the pile...

We've got the rest of the dr appts scheduled in August, as well as an orthodontist retention appt.

I sent off my second daughter's discount papers and license info to the auto insurance, so they can calculate her insurance into the picture. I also sent along our homeowners' insurance info. In the past they haven't been able to give us a better deal, but as we add drivers, it's worth it to keep checking.

Need to reply on a shower and wedding invites for our next door neighbor's girl - and get a gift for the shower, and a card for the wedding (I think money will be most appreciated.) Gosh, wasn't she just a little girl...

Still need to schedule my oldest girl's senior pictures, or decide if my digital camera is up to snuff for it. It's not very high in pixels or optical, so we'll see... I can try a few outdoor pics.

And I even printed out the school supply lists for my two youngest (the older two tell they need only 5-subject notebooks and pens and pencils.) I can't bear to peek and those quite yet. Maybe another beach day will give me the strength -ha!

More Medical Spending

July 15th, 2008 at 01:30 pm

I took my two youngest girls to the eye dr yesterday. The 13 yr old got her first pair of glasses last year, and a had significant change at this exam. So she picked out a new pair. My youngest checked out fine in her exam, and no glasses necessary. On Wednesday, my husband has his appointment. He's only needed to get cheapie reading glasses, and we think they'll suffice still. (Will keep our fingers crossed though.)

Which brings me to our HSA... This is our first year using one, and I'm finding that my conservative use estimates done in November 2007 are severely underestimated, and it's only July. Part of the problem is that with insurance changes each year, it's hard to estimate exactly how insurance will cover the charges.

For example, as I mentioned above, my 13 yr old got a pair of glasses a year ago at our cost of about $250. This year we paid $60. Another example is how a prescription was filled for my oldest. She needed to take 60mg in the morning and 80mg in the evening of the same medication. In 2007, one script was written, stating the above directions. The mail order pharmacy filled it as one prescription with 20mg capsules, with the directions stating the number of pills to take in the morning and evening. The first time using a new mail order pharmacy this year, the pharmacists filled it as two prescriptions, and accordingly charged it as two (very expensive) prescriptions. Pooh!

Then I came across a reference to Target having 3 mon for $10 prescriptions (I knew Walmart did, but there isn't one convenient to us.) Sure enough, I found three of my families meds were on the list. I mail order these at $25 each, but for $10 at Target, it's worth it to switch. I always check out where it will cheapest to fill our prescriptions at the beginning of the year, whether we have an insurance change or not. But I'm finding that that may not be often enough. Am I the only one feeling like I need to be constantly checking on all of our insurances - medical, vision, dental? I wish it wasn't so hands on all the time ... I mean really, I have other things in my life that need attending to - our finances, the girls, definitely the dust bunnies taking over my house!

Take Care!

Spurts of Spending....

July 7th, 2008 at 11:19 pm

...or maybe more like gushes! Nothing too out of ordinary, but still...

My two oldest and I went to the eye dr today. We all wear glasses, and we all needed new prescriptions (it's been four years on the current glasses, so not too unexpected.) The girls said it's like shopping! I felt the same, only without the exclamation point. I'm always amazed at how the word 'shopping' brings two such diverse reactions in my house.

The girls have simple lens needs, and so after insurance, their pairs cost about $40 each. Now mine, on the other hand...not even close to that. I would be wearing very thick lens, if not for the wonderful progressive thin(!) that are available now, for a price. I'm at an age where I appreciate the blended feature of my bifocal, for a price. And my frames, again for a price, make my grey hair less noticeable and might even make me look a bit funky...um, thank you daughters, I think?! Well, these super-duper specs came to about $350. I very much appreciate the sight they afford me, so it's ok and a part of my life, such as it is. But still...!

Over the weekend, I did our two-week grocery shopping. Because of some great store coupons deals on meats especially, I spent a little bit more than usual, but not too bad - $240. We also made a bread run to the thrift store and got enough bread and buns for a few weeks (I freeze most of it.) They've been out of bagels the last two visits, which my girls enjoy, but we'll make due until they get them in again. I probably need to get there earlier in the morning. Plus I go on the one of the two discount days, so lots of things go fast. It seems more people than ever are shopping there - it can get a bit crowded at times.

We've been going through a dry spell here, weather-wise. I've been hanging my laundry out on the line. I know it probably sounds corny, but I do enjoy doing it. It's been beautiful outside, and I get to watch the birds and squirrels chasing around. It's usually a solitary activity, which isn't a bad thing in our not-so-large, not-so-quiet house. Sometimes my youngest comes out to help and chatter. I look over the flowers, while I'm out there. I talk to our three cats who sit in the window begging to come out (ok, no longer corny, now crossing the line to loony...) Well, you can see, it doesn't take much to entertain me!

Tonight is a grill night (it's hot and humid.) On the menu, hot dogs and brats, beans, chips and cut up fruit (we have guests - teenage males to be precise - so cheap, but plentiful is the plan.)

After dinner, we'll have some monster badmitton time. A couple of weeks ago, we bought a set with its big raquets and birdies, and the kids have been having a great time with it. Not particularly a financial note, but it is a fun and inexpensive way to entertain the troops.

Enjoy your evening. Take care!

Catching up

October 8th, 2007 at 09:25 pm

How busy the last month has been! Between school's start and my new job and my husband's job, along with the girls' few activities - whew!

I've now worked long enough to get three paychecks, and all I can say is that it's so nice to write out the bills and have the funds ready. Our checking account buffer is back in place again, along with the small emergency funds. Now we're working on the one last cc debt - actually we have been for the last year, but we are making greater strides in obliterating that balance.

This month hasn't been cheap either. The school fees and expenses aren't fun, but are normal and expected. The unexpected included another repair on the conversion van (along the more important repairs, I now have the driver side washer fluid line working AND I have greatly improved heat and defrost. Yay! As this has been our warm weather camping van, this hasn't been too much of an issue. But with my oldest driving her sisters to school in the minivan, I'm using the behemoth, and well, heat is a good thing.)

The other expense that we weren't expecting quite yet was some dental work for my husband, which I paid in full today. Easy come, easy go the paychecks!

Budgetwise, we're holding tight. I've been cooking at home and still shopping once every two weeks. My grocery budget has actually decreased a little, due to changing to a different grocery store. I've been able to stick to just under $200, which has been my goal. The last couple trips I've been including stocking up bit by bit for upcoming holiday baking. I've also been trying out new recipes, mostly because I'm bored with our usual meals. Many are from the Light & Tasty magazine - some have been more successful than others. The girls come to the table warily, and I'm no longer bored as it's very entertaining to watch their expressions. A mom's gotta have fun once in a while!

Utility-wise, we're doing pretty good. MN has been going the whole range of weather lately, and we have had the heat on one night a couple weeks back. The last two days have been very humid and near 90. I keep a pile of blankets next to the beds and keep a constant refrain of "take the jacket...where's the jacket" ringing in my girls' ears.

That's all for now...take care!

Work is working out

September 11th, 2007 at 01:28 am

It always take a week or two for us to adjust back to school and work. Last week I was tired, and my head was swimming by the end of each day. This week is going smoother so far (one day, I know - ha!)

I get my first paycheck later this week (I thought it would be on the 30th.) With all of the beginning of school year expenses, the timing will be great. Actually, all I have left is school photos for the youngest and yearbooks for the oldest two. Whew - I don't know why I'm so surprised at the flurry of checks the first couple of weeks of school.

I'm already trying out my paid sick leave on Wednesday afternoon. I arranged for a sub so I can go to a medical appointment with my oldest, scheduled from last spring. We're winding down on these appointments, as her medicine seems to be where it needs to be (finally!)

Last weekend was busy, but fun. We went to the high school football game on Friday night to watch my third girl cheer and my second one dance at halftime. The girls looked great (yes, I was the mom taking those annoying flash pictures.) The evening was absolutely perfect weatherwise, and the team won too.

Saturday I ran errands in the morning, including the grocery shopping. Later I took the younger girls over to the next town over for their Heritage Festival. Very small town, but it was fun seeing so many people we knew. My youngest two spent most of the time in the petting zoo area, with hedgehogs, bunnies and guinea pigs. They also went up the portable climbing wall a few times. The girls helped their daddy, who's a police reserve officer, in the public safety area. An AirCare helicopter even came as the highlight - I did mention small town, right?

The two youngest went to an amusement park
with our church youth group on Sunday afternoon. The two oldest were busy with friends. Gosh, my husband and I almost had visions of what it'll be like in a few years. So what did we do?? We made a run to make a return to Officemax, had a fast food lunch we were both craving, and gassed up at the cheaper gas station up that direction. Then we came home and caught up on some housework. I baked for the week's lunches. Hmm - not very exciting, but nice just the same.

I did good at the grocery store. I got a ton of food for the next two weeks, as well as some at the store deals on meat that I put in the freezer. Slowly, but surely I'm stocking us back up for the fall. A few weeks back, I switched back over to Cub Foods for most of my groceries. With this change, my oulay of dollars has decreased once again, making me wonder why did I ever leave Cub in the first place? I shop every two weeks, and I keep a running list of groceries needed, as well as menu plan a night or two before I go to the store. I guess there have been periods in my life where that much preparation was beyond what I could handle. I'm getting better at this as my girls get older. No slacking for me!

My house and work all seem to be in order - at the moment. Please make note, as it can all change in the next moment!

Have a great weeek and take care!!


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