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Sunday, October 31, 2010

She's Ready...

I can't sit down and write a "normal" post. My mind isn't thinking about saving money or cooking or anything else for that matter. I'm just thinking about my Grandma.

After she was diagnosed in August with lung cancer which had spread to the brain and just finishing 15 days of radiation to the brain a few weeks ago I thought I had time. At least a few months. Time to talk, listen, and learn from such an amazing woman. Time to get used to the fact that she wasn't going to be there forever. That time has come much too soon. It was only last Sunday that I took her to church, and while frail and slower, she was still my Grandma...that strong, feisty, wonderful woman that I have looked up to my whole life.

Then Friday happened. One of my aunts noticed that she seemed confused and was stumbling on words. By nightfall she was barely able to walk. Saturday she got worse. Sunday she couldn't talk nor walk. Sunday is when her family gathered around her to say their goodbyes, as it could be any hour now.

I didn't get there until early afternoon when she was beyond exhausted. I rubbed her leg and cried like a baby as I said my goodbye to her. She was drifting in and out of sleep so I wonder if she was even aware I was there...and it's okay if she wasn't, I don't know if I will see her on this earth again and needed to just see her. I wasn't ready to say goodbye.

But she is. As I watched the priest give her the Last Rites I could see the peace surround her. As he gave her Communion she smiled a huge smile. Father said to her "You're happy, aren't you?" and she continued to smile while nodding 'yes'. She's happy and content and ready to go be with the loved ones which she has lost. Her grandparents, parents, miscarried children and grandchildren, and most of all her husband. I wonder, watching the peace that she displayed, if she possibly already has one foot in heaven while the other foot is still here with us.

Watching this brave, self-less (she did raise 10 children, after all) woman, I also realized where this peace must come from as she leaves this world. I doubt that she can have many, if any, regrets for the way she lived her life. She did things by the book...and in this case I mean The Book. Having that type of peace at the end is something that I can only hope for. Being surround by a houseful of children and grandchildren (and even great-grandchildren) shows what type of person she is and what type of legacy she will leave behind. Seeing her children rally around her and care for her with such care and compassion and overwhelming love shows what type of mother she is. Watching her friend take her hands and thank her for being such a good friend shows how many hearts she has touched.

She's ready. Let's just hope that we can hand her over to Jesus with as much grace as she has shown.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Christmas in October

It's never too early to be thinking about Christmas, especially considering that we now have less than two months until it is here! Before baking or wrapping or decorating comes cards. I typically send my cards out in the first week of December and typically don't even have a family photo done until on Thanksgiving Day (when we have a family member snap our photo).

This year Paperspring gifted me 25 personalized photo holiday cards. I was so excited to look through their site and so overwhelmed with all the wonderful choices. I kept coming back to one of the samples they sent me, so I chose this card (which is the sample card, those adorable children are not mine!):

After our family photos were taken I went to the Paperspring website, chose my card, downloaded the pictures, personalized the card and had the cards within a week. Seriously, this was one of the easiest things that I have done on the internet and the end result looks wonderful! I can't wait to mail these out!
Wanting something different this year? You can get 20% off all Holiday cards and free shipping at Paperspring by using code November20. This offer expires November 14th so order soon!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Shop Smart and Stock Up

You'd think I would take my own advice from time to time, wouldn't you? I've said it several times that when there is a good deal that we should stock up on that item. For some odd reason this summer I didn't take my own advice.

This all changed about a month ago when I read one blog which mentioned really paying attention to the loss leaders each week and especially when Martha from The Path To Frugality mentioned the prices in her area were going up so that she was stocking up even more when she found rock bottom prices.

I did the big oops! lately by only buying what I needed when I needed it instead of watching for the rock bottom prices and stocking up for when I will need it. The past several weeks I have been watching sale prices, especially those loss leaders, and have been stocking up again. One week it was cans of vegetables on sale for 3/$1 so I bought 6...this week they were again on sale for the same price at a different store so I bought 6 again. One week Ultra laundry detergent was on sale for 5/$10 and my mom gave me 5 $1 coupons so I got each jug for just $1 each! I hope to find another rock bottom price and stock up on more before I run out of what I have.

Another thing Martha mentioned was that butter was getting much more expensive and was close to $2.99 at the store. I hadn't bought butter in awhile as I still had quite a bit in the fridge but also realized that when I needed butter I just bought it, without even looking at the price. I honestly had no idea how much butter was, but was shocked to learn that it was indeed around $2.99 a lb. Just this week I saw the average price was $3.39 at Hy-Vee (which is a little overpriced but great for sale items!). When I read about this and realized that my baking season is coming up and I will be using a lot of butter I remembered that our Kwik Star ad had something about butter being on sale. I checked and lo and behold it was on sale for $1.69 a lb. There was a limit of five per customer so one day I bought five and one day hubby bought 4 (all that was left). We now have 9 lbs. of butter in the freezer which will get us through the holiday season and then some...and hopefully I will run into a sale before we run out. :)

This whole episode has taught me to be aware of prices of items that I buy (my bad!) and to slowly stock up on the essentials when they are on sale so that hopefully I will be able to stop paying full price for these things...ever! Almost everything goes on sale at one point or another so the main thing is to be aware of what the non-sale price of an item is and to stock up on whatever amount you will need until you think the next sale will be (whether it is 3 frozen turkeys or 25 boxes of cereal!). Sales typically rotate about every 6 weeks or so, though the loss leaders you may never see again! Get as much as you need and will be able to use before it expires.

Any other tips for someone who has fallen off the wagon of shopping smart and stocking up?

Following Life As Mom

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Does Trick-or-Treating Have An Age Limit?

While I understand that there are many Christians who do not celebrate Halloween (and I understand the reasoning behind it), we do go trick-or-treating with our children. I won't go into a debate about the actual holiday in itself...but this post is directed more towards those who do participate in trick-or-treating.

I remember well the excitement that Halloween would bring for my older brother and I. By the time we were 7 and 9 we were trick-or-treating in our neighborhood alone, not wanting our younger siblings to slow us down. We knew the best houses to hit and often got such a stash that our pillowcases were almost half filled. Our costumes weren't the most important part. Growing up with not a whole lot of money we often just threw together a costume at the last moment with a little face paint and odd clothing. It was the candy that we were excited about!

Looking back I also remember odd trick-or-treating experiences. One man had us come into his house while he went into a back room to bring us out a nickle a piece. I'm not sure if he wasn't prepared for trick-or-treaters (he did have his porch light on after all) or what. We were warned about not going into someone's house and I only went in because my older brother did. I remember asking my brother after we left why he went in when we weren't supposed to and he said "Didn't you see that old guy? I could have beaten him up!". Or the strange lady who had us stand still so she could take a photo of us...we didn't even know her so I wonder now what she did with those photos of the children. This was 20 years ago, no way would I let my 7 year old go trick-or-treating with a 9 year old now - with all the creepy people out there.

To get to the main point of this post: I remember when I was 11 and my brother was 13. All week before Halloween we planned our route and talked about our goals for Halloween. As it so happens, my mother gave birth to our younger brother a few days before Halloween (actually, as I write this it is my brother's birthday...so Happy 17th Birthday, Matt!). She ended up having a c-section and my Grandma came to stay to watch us kids for a few days. I recall very distinctly that on Halloween evening about an hour before trick-or-treat time my Grandma realized that my brother was intending to go along with and very matter-of-fact said "You are too old to go trick-or-treating". I remember seeing my brother's face change a bit but he didn't let on that he was disappointed. I knew, from all the talk previously, that he was just excited to go trick-or-treating as I was but he didn't debate it and instead went to his room before we left.

I hear of several people who won't give out candy to teenagers as they feel they are too old to be going around "begging" for candy. I remember the last year I went trick-or-treating was when I was 13 and I was stiffed at a couple doors myself, which was the deciding factor that it would indeed be the last year I went.

I personally feel that if it is a night for innocent fun and a teenager feels like dressing up with their friends or family and going out that it is perfectly fine. Last year we even had two ladies (who were in their 40's) come to our door. They were laughing and having fun and to me that is all that mattered...I threw a large handful of candy into each of their bags.

Can one ever really be too old for trick-or-treating? Why rush growing up if you don't have to?!

Your thoughts?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Plan Ahead

I didn't decide until late this morning whether I would be going to the homeschool picnic. My mom called to tell me that she was called into work this morning and could I bring my two younger sisters along with me to the picnic? She mentioned how it was going to be a beautiful day and near 75 degrees.

Having had a late start to the morning I rushed around getting us all ready and was about to make some sandwiches to take along when I realized all the bread was in the freezer. I could have zapped it in the microwave to thaw but was either feeling too lazy or rushed to do so (I think the word here is lazy) so we picked up some hamburgers on the way to the picnic. That was $6 that I needn't have spent had I just planned ahead and made sure we had everything for a picnic lunch beforehand.

We also ended up wearing t-shirts, which means that we were freezing at the park because it is indeed not 75 degrees out. Had I looked for the weather forecast I would have seen it would be windy and chilly today. We stayed for half an hour and then left. Luckily, no one else had shown up yet and I was able to call and cancel to the other family that I was sure was showing up.

Two weeks ago I didn't remember the phone bill until the very day that it was due. Our phone company tacks one another $10 if the bill is even just one day late so I called in to pay by phone and found out that there was a $2.95 fee for paying by phone. I went ahead and paid it considering that $2.95 is cheaper than $10 but I could have saved that $2.95 by being more aware of what was due when.

It just goes to show that a big sum of money can go towards something that wasn't necessary to begin with. Planning and being prepared can save you a lot of money in the end. Whether it is running out in the evening to pick up fast food because you are too tired to cook or have nothing in the house or being charged a late fee because you didn't pay a bill on time - it adds up.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Menu and Shopping

My menu for the week:
Cabbage Soup and cornbread
Meat Loaf and corn casserole
Sandwiches and soup
Minute steak and loaded mashed potatoes
Corn Quiche
Sausage Minestrone and homemade rolls

Everything is served with other sides to complete a balanced meal. It depends on what I have in the cupboards, fridge, and freezer at the time. Lunches and breakfasts are basics. Desserts for the week are Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, Upside Down Chocolate Johnny Cake, Apple crisp, Cherry Crisp, and Brownies.

I spent $63.66 at the grocery store and ran to Kwik Star to stock up on three dozen eggs (at 79 cents a dozen), 1 lb. of butter ($1.69), and a gallon of milk...where I spent $6.79. Which means I have a total of $4.55 left for the week.

I agree with Dee who left a comment on my previous post (and who is also one of my best friends!). She mentioned that she does not have a set grocery budget and therefore sometimes spends very little at the store when she has a lot in her cupboards and sometimes spends a lot when it seems their food supply is low. I do try to stick to about $75 a week but some weeks are far less and some weeks I spend a lot more while trying to stock up on products that are at wonderful sale prices. My goal is to spend $300 or less a month on groceries...whether that ends up being $55 one week and $100 the next it doesn't matter, as long as it averages $300 for the month.

When I don't have this goal in mind and just randomly shop for items we end up spending a lot more. I do notice prices at the grocery store going up and what I've been doing about it; next week for Frugal Friday.

Friday, October 22, 2010


I am going to withdraw $75 from the bank today and use that, and only that, for groceries for the next seven days.

I had been doing so well with menus and shopping lists this past summer. I was meeting my weekly $75 goal on groceries. Then my mind went blank this month. I stopped planning meals ahead of time and ran to the grocery store whenever I needed (or wanted) something. The grocery tab has not been good and the meals have been even worse!

It's time to get back in the saddle and round up this mess. Luckily, I spoke to my mother-in-law by phone today and she gave me several meal ideas. I will work on a menu and grocery list today and do my big shopping trip either this evening or tomorrow. And when the money is gone, it is gone and I will need to wait until next Friday for any other grocery shopping.

It's amazing how you can spend so much more at the store and get so much less when you don't have a list to go by. I have been wasting our hard earned money on stuff that we craved instead of stuff that we needed. This week hasn't been as bad since we have been doing a bit of pantry cooking and using up what we had. I think we've spent about $40 for a week's worth of groceries to supplement what we didn't already have on hand. But I would honestly be scared to add up what our total for groceries has been this month. Let's just say that I'm glad that I don't have to. :)

Wish me luck this week as I get back on the right track!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Savor the Sweetness

These are the moments that I lived for this summer:

I savored the moments when I could watch the kids enjoy the moment with wild abandon. I paused as I hung out my wash to snap the towels to release the wrinkles or smooth my husband's work shirts. I welcomed the warm sun beating on my back as I bent to pull the weeds in the garden or picked the warm raspberries fresh from the bushes.

These were the moments when I was completely at peace this summer...they were few and far between.

This has been one of the worst summers of my life...and one of the best. Best, because I became more aware of these sweet moments. I learned to just be.

Worst because so much happened. My dad lost his job this summer because his employer was not willing to work with the limitations that he has had since his cancer treatment four years ago. He also had skin cancer this summer (but thankfully that was a fairly quick fix with freezing the spot). Watching my parents struggle trying to keep his health insurance has been difficult.

My dear Grandmother was diagnosed this past August with lung cancer which has traveled to her brain. She just finished radiation of the brain to help try to slow that progression but there is no "fix" to this. The fact is, at 83 years of age, my Grandma is fighting this loosing battle and all I can do is watch...and pray. She has an awesome support system and I know that she is in the hands of very capable people but it is tough knowing that someone that I care deeply for may be scared...will be sick...and will be gone sooner rather than later. She is an amazing woman and there will be a big hole when she is gone. And yet, there are those sweet moments when I visit her and sit on the patio and we just talk and laugh and share that I wish I could grab the moment and bottle it up to pull out later when I need them. Because the Lord knows that I'm going to need them. I'm savoring these moments now.

Not to mention other personal issues that have arisen over the summer. Things that seem so trivial now but that looked so big then. This summer has been a whirlwind of stress and sadness.

Even within the darkest of moments there are sweet moments to savor. Friends rallying around you and holding you up, strangers stepping in to show you that good people do exist. This is what I continually try to remind myself...look for the sweetness and you will find it.

I'm still happy to see this summer come to end and hope to see brighter days ahead.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Is This What Happens?

Recently I have felt like an elderly grandmother. I've found myself telling my own children "When I was a child I would have been happy with just getting a treat" when they complain about not wanting what treat I picked out for them or "When I was little I had to do so much more than that" when they complain about picking up their toys.

My husband and I have also started to notice young people more and more lately. The clothes (or lack of) they wear, the makeup, the way they talk (shuddering at the thought of the language and crudeness of it!) and the basic lack of respect. It's funny because we are only about 10-15 years out of our own teenage years but it is a whole other generation now and I have to say that I'm terrified at what another 10 years will bring for my own children's sake.

My point is that I think parent's have become soft and that the coming generation is a "ME!" generation. When a child starts to complain that I didn't pick out the right treat for them at the store is when I need to step back and re-evaluate the path that we are leading them down. It's a small thing, really, but shows not only a sense of entitlement but also a basic lack of respect.

My oldest has only just turned 7 and I'm only just noticing the patterns that can make a parent turn their children down the wrong path. I haven't raised a teenager but can say that I'm terrified to in this day in age because I do not want my children to be typical teenagers, nor typical adults.

It's my fault that my children have a sense of entitlement. It is my fault that their selfish nature has grown. It is my fault that they don't respect their toys, their elders, or even their family as much as they should. These are all things that we (my husband and I) have noticed and that we have decided to nip in the bud. It is not a defect of my children, but rather a by-product of the generation. It doesn't have to be that way.

I just wonder what each older generation must think as they watch the new generation emerge. I'm only 8 years out of my generation and am shocked at the new one. Do you think each generation is getting better or worse? Can it be changed?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Life As We Know It

Another week (of perfect weather, I might add) has come and gone in a blur.

Today we spent much of the afternoon at the pumpkin patch with our homeschool group. Playing on the tire swings, climbing through hay bale mazes, going up and down the slides, and touring the actual pumpkin patch can wear one out...whether they are the ones to do it or just watching someone do those things!

I spent this past weekend getting the garden beds ready for winter. The only plants that I left in the ground are the bell peppers as they are still producing. Everything else was pulled up and composted. It's sad to see the garden come to an end but a relief to be done (for the most part) with weeding.

In the past week I have seen the good in some people and the bad that lurks in others. It makes one realize how good this world truly good be, but see why it isn't. The good has come from a stranger who has given from her heart expecting nothing back in return except to see the happiness that her good deeds can bring. The bad comes from a person who makes it completely clear in her words and facial expressions that free thought and parental decisions would be illegal if she had it her way. Either way, it brings enlightenment into my world.

We were able to get our family portraits done yesterday. It is amazing how hard it is to photograph three children at the same time! I've been reviewing the CD of photos this evening and now need to choose my favorite ones! This will be hard...but fun!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Back To The Basics

This week I've had a wake up call. I've spent way too much at the grocery store and come home with just one or two meals. Which means then I had to go back a few days later...and once again spent too much. This happened three times in one week.

I haven't been planning my menus and therefore haven't had a grocery list. We haven't been eating very nutritious meals and have been snacking on junk too much. I told my husband that I would make a good menu up for this week and go shopping today, when I realized that no, I won't go shopping but rather I will be doing some pantry cooking the next few days to use up items that have just been sitting in the cupboards and freezer. It will save us some money (which we need to do as we have had bills piled on us recently) and make do with things that need to be used up. I will just be purchasing some milk and butter today (the butter is on sale and I'd like to stock up) but otherwise I will need to become creative in the kitchen.

We also recently ran out of baby wipes and I was about to run to the store when I realized that not only could I save some money by not using wipes but also save a lot of waste (pun intended?!) from going into the landfill by using just a washcloth. My husband hasn't been too happy with that change when it came his turn to change Joe but using a washcloth is just as easy as using wipes on a baby. I have kept the travel sized wipes in the van for when we are out and about but I realize that these little convenience items that we use everyday are not necessary and are wastes of money. We have been back to cloth diapers for at home use as well. It's saving money and is better for the environment.

Now it's time for me to go see what I can find for us for lunch!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Good Things Come To Those That Wait

Most budgeting experts agree that if you are trying to manage your money and see an item that you want but don't *need* that you wait a few days and if after a couple days you still want that item then, and only then, should you purchase it. Often times it was going to be an impulse purchase and after stewing it over a few days you decide you don't want it, nor need it. I'm on board with that idea.

I go a step further and often wait for weeks or months to get something that I want or even need. Because I have found all too often (after I've purchased something for full price) that I can find that item on sale or at a garage sale for far cheaper.

One small example is that my husband wanted to buy the kids a Scooby Doo DVD. He went to a used movie store and found it for $5. I was a bit aghast at spending $5 on a cartoon and mentioned to my husband that I am sure I could have found it cheaper somewhere else. He laughed and said "I doubt it." The very next day I saw the exact movie at a garage sale for 50 cents! I had to rub that one in just a teeny bit.

Last year my pots and pans were falling apart. The Teflon was coming off and I wanted to avoid Teflon completely so researched stainless steel pans. I wanted a couple skillets, a sauce pan, and a large pot. All the sets I found were over $100 and many included items that I didn't want. Buying the individual pieces were going to cost even more. A large stainless steel pot was going to be at least $40 alone...and that was for the cheapest! I watched sales and came close to purchasing a set when it dropped to $110. I kept hesitating knowing that I would find a better deal somewhere, so I put off the purchase. I suddenly ran across a clearance find of a sauce pan for just $7 so snatched that up. I then hit the jackpot at a garage sale where I found an Emeril 6 qt. pot for $3...with it's lid and in almost like new condition. At the same sale were two stainless steel skillets for $1 each! So for $12 total I had all 4 pieces that I wanted!

A couple years ago I wanted a hall table to put against a wall in the dining room. I watched sales and saw one advertised at Shopko for $79. I drove 45 minutes there to look at it and was about to buy it but hesitated once again. Was it worth $79 to me?! In the back of my mind I knew that I would find one cheaper somewhere so I left the store without purchasing it. Just a few weeks later I found an old battered (but neat in a distressed kind of way) hall table at a garage sale for $5. A few new knobs later and I like it better than the brand new one that was at the store.

Last year we were considering a chest freezer and got close to buying one, but put that purchase off too. A few weeks later a grocery store around here had a sale of buy a freezer for $200 and get over $200 in free groceries. We were able to get the freezer and fill it up as well! You can't beat that deal.

I could list several more instances where it paid to put off a purchase. My point is that you can almost always find what you need for a better price, or often realize that you don't even need the item to begin with. Good things truly do come to those that wait.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Good Idea

Imagine my surprise when this plate showed up at my door, just a few days before Becca's birthday.

It had nothing to do with Becca's birthday but rather a gift to review and give opinions on. Expressionary recently released a new line of products - their personalized melamine plates.

While this is a frugal blog and these plates run about $25 each (personalized) I have to say that while I wouldn't use these for everyday I see how they would make an excellent gift for that hard to buy for person on your list or for special occasions in your family. Doesn't the plate above scream "special" for a birthday?! I plan to let my children eat off this plate on each of their birthdays. Considering that you can personalize several different designs these would be great for special dinners, a special gift, or just making your dinner table a bit more flashy.

We've already used our plate and it holds up well in the dishwasher, which is another plus. Be sure to check out all the designs!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bookworm Turns Shopaholic?

Can you believe that I can only recall buying two or three books brand new (meaning full price) in my lifetime?! Brand new books, to me, are an indulgence that I'm typically not willing to partake in. I would feel guilty spending $20+ on a book that I could borrow at the library for free or get for less on Paperback Swap.

Don't get me wrong, I do own books. Shelves full of books. I just don't buy them new. I occasionally buy books off the clearance racks at a used bookstore (if you have a HalfPrice Books nearby you must check them out!), and am constantly picking them up at garage sales, used booksales, and thrift stores. My main source of books is Paperback Swap and any book that I desire to own and add to my bookshelf goes on my wishlist there.

When I worked as a book distributor at Wal-mart I was curious watching people as they shopped and grabbed one or two paperbacks off the shelf and threw them into their cart, without even checking the price on the back. A paperback or two at an average of $5.99 each adds up fairly quickly. I couldn't image spending that much on something I could get for free at the library but it was entertaining watching "the book people" as I stocked the shelves.

My mom wanted me to have that type of experience. She wanted me to be able to go into a store and just pick up whatever book I wanted and buy it, without thinking of the price. When I was 18 years old she managed to scrape up $60 in Barnes and Noble gift certificates for me for Christmas. At that time I owed money for a plane ticket though so bartered that $60 to partly go towards the plane ticket. I don't know who was more disappointed in the loss of that book shopping experience...my mom or me?!

I've redeemed myself today. After a doctor appointment and a trip to McDonald's Playland for the kids we headed to the mall in a city nearby. Yesterday my mom had mentioned that GAP was having 40% off all clearance and for some reason I thought that sale would still be going on today (it wasn't). I was disappointed as I browsed the clearance racks at the GAP and saw things that would have been extraordinary deals had it been an additional 40% off. Suffice to say, I missed out on a pretty good deal by being a day late.

Feeling a bit down I decided to take the kids to Borders to let them look around and play in the kids section. As I walked into the store I saw a table with a sign stating "Selected Titles $1". I looked around in the boxes but saw no $1 prices, everything was priced at $3.99 or $5.99. I was about to walk away but decided to ask a sales person whether only certain titles were $1 or everything and she said everything on the table was $1 each.

Pure Bliss! It was wonderful to sort through brand new books and choose whatever struck my fancy, knowing I was only paying $1 per book. Granted, they weren't titles that I would have chosen had I been paying, say, their original prices but for $1 I wasn't too picky.

As you can see from the photo above, I bought 17 adult books and two kids books (for 48 cents each) for a grand total of $19.xx. It was amazing walking out of a bookstore with two large bags full for under $20!

These books are the Chick-lit type. They are my winter bath time reading. When I need a little stress-free moment at the end of a long day I hand the children over to my husband and I hop into a hot bubble bath and immerse myself in a "fluffy" book that requires little thinking. I also read classics, mysteries, and even a western or two sometimes. As well as more deep-thinking non-fiction books. But chick-lit at $1 a book makes my heart leap with joy...so no judgements on my reading material, please! :) Even my own mother has her guilty pleasure of PEOPLE magazine! :)

What fun it was! Even better is that I will now have plenty of books to trade on Paperback Swap when I am done, or make my money back and then some by selling these at my garage sale next year.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

This Is How We Do It...

Or rather, this is what we've been doing recently.

Parks. Lots of parks. Walks. Playing in the front yard, back yard, and sitting on the porch. Basically, being outside as much as possible.

We have had almost two weeks of perfect, dry weather and it looks as though it will continue all this week, though by the end of the week we will be back into the 60's.
Every other week our homeschool group meets at the park for a playdate. We had a wonderful time today with a fun craft (more about that later). It's amazing that every single time we have met the weather has cooperated with us and given us a grand day to get together. Let's hope that trend continues as the next get together is at the pumpkin patch and the kids are really looking forward to it.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sausage Minestrone

1 lb. sweet Italian sausage links
3 cups chopped carrots, onion and celery
2 cans (14.5 oz. each) diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano
2 cans (14 1/2 oz. each) chicken broth
1 c small pasta
1 can (19 oz.) red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

Coat pot with cooking spray; heat over medium-high heat. Add sausage; cook, turning, until browned (4-6 minutes). Remove from heat and cut sausage into 1/4"-thick slices; return to pot over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink (3-5 minutes); discard fat. Stir in vegetables and 1/4 t. pepper; cook until vegetables are just tender (3-4 minutes). Add tomatoes and broth, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, simmer 15 minutes. Stir in pasta; cook until pasta is tender, about 15 minutes. Add beans; cook until heated through.

Found in Woman's World magazine and enjoyed by us last week.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

10`10`10, Odds & Ends

Boy, if I was pregnant I would be hoping to have a baby today just because the date would be an awesome birthday to have. :) I also read that this month has 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays, and 5 Sundays and that won't happen again for another 800 years or so?! I'm not sure if that it is true or not but it's something to think about.

I typically write my posts the evening before posting. You know, I am a busy mama and all and don't have a whole lot of computer time during the day. I jump on every now and then to check e-mail or log onto Facebook for a minute or two, but when it comes to actually trying to do something that requires thinking, I tend to try to achieve that at night when the kids are in bed.

It is 10-10-10 as I speak (err...type) as it is well past midnight. I only just returned home an hour and a half ago from the ER, with Becca. I cringe as I type this, because I know what you non-animal owners will be thinking ("and that is exactly why I don't have pets") but Becca was rough housing with our puppy and got bit on her face. It wasn't a horrible gash, just a fairly deep cut on her cheek but considering it was a dog bite, and on the face, I took her in. They didn't stitch the wound closed as they said that increases the likelihood of infection so put strips on the wound to hold it together, while still allowing air into it. She will probably have a scar there but I'm just thankful that it is small and that it missed the eye. Our dog is not vicious (puppies will be puppies, after all) and the kids now have a greater respect for not teasing or climbing on her. Lesson learned, both for children and parents.

She's fine (no crying, even!) and is in bed now, as is the rest of the family. It just seems that if it isn't one thing, it's another.

On a brighter note, we have been enjoying an Indian Summer. I have let housework, school, and responsibilities fall to the wayside the past few days and we have been making the most of these precious "perfect days".

We spent much of the afternoon today at the pumpkin patch (more about that later!) and spent the rest of the day outside playing and taking walks. My energy has been limitless (well, to an extent, that is) these past several days. The bright sunshine and perfect temperatures have brightened my soul and spirit. By the end of today we were sun-kissed, worn out, and totally content. You know, until the ER run, that is.

It sounds like another perfect day is in store for us tomorrow (err...actually, today) so I suppose that I should hit the sack because the little munchkins will be waking me up before I know it.
Have a terrific Sunday and ENJOY it!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Frugal = No Fun?

I personally find frugal challenges fun, for the most part. Seeing how much I can get at the grocery store for so little is an adventure. Clothing my children in nice clothing for a very small fraction of what they originally cost is a game...selling them at the end of the season for more than what I paid means I won that game! The list can go on and on.

It sounds like a but is coming, right? Correct! BUT, sometimes being frugal just for the sake of being frugal can be stressful and not so fun at times. I get that some people have no choice in the matter and have to do everything in their power to cut every single penny. They have to deal with those stresses whether they want to or not, and I feel for them.

For others, such as myself, there are certain frugal measures that are a given and then there are frugal measures that are a choice. We drive used cars paid for outright with cash because we can't afford a $200+ monthly payment on a car (while we do drop a load of cash at once when buying a vehicle we have it paid off right then and there. We do not want to carry a car loan because even if we could afford the payments when we bought the car there is always a chance that we couldn't afford it down the road. Not. A. Good. Situation.) We live in a smaller, older house because we can't afford a McMansion. We keep the thermostats turned down in the winter because we can't afford a hefty gas bill each month. Those are all measures that we take because we have to.

Other issues, not so much. I don't have to buy the majority of our clothing used, but choose to because I see no point in spending 90% more for the same exact thing. Used clothing may have a little wear...but they will get that way whether you bought them new or used in the first place. Eating out less is a choice. And so on.

Which brings me to my struggle the last two weeks. We have had beautiful fall weather. Perfect weather...an Indian Summer. I've also been up to my eyeballs in places to go, people to see, things that need to be done. Where am I going with this? This is the type of weather that a frugal person, such as myself, takes advantage of and gets all their laundry caught up with and hung on the line. BUT, I have been bogged down with stuff that needs doing that I really don't want to take the extra time to hang the clothing up and then remember to take it down before dark.

It was a stress that was adding to my plateful of stress. A small mole hill (my laundry) because a mountain...in more sense than one. Feeling as though I could only do laundry if I would hang it out (because mama never uses the dryer on a sunny fall day, right?!) made me put off doing laundry on the rainy days, which made the pile of laundry grow, which made me feel like I would never catch up. Add into that factor that many days I had appointments in the mornings, playgroups for lunch, and errands to run and I just wasn't at home to hang the laundry out.

It dawned on me that when being frugal for the sake of being frugal is adding such a huge burden to your life that something has to give. I've realized this in other aspects of my frugal life. For example, I know that baking your own bread can be done more cheaply (and healthy!) than buying it at the store, but I didn't want to add that stress to my daily life so compromised and buy bread at the bread outlet for a reduced price. It saves me time, and a bit of money.

When it comes to laundry I have been a holdout. I love hanging clothes on the line. I love the smell of the crisp sheets and crunchy towels. These past few weeks it hasn't been a pleasure to hang clothing out and I realize that when push comes to shove, it is worth it to me to pay a little to use a dryer if it means that my laundry is getting done and my stress is lowered. *Light bulb moment*

And that, my friends, is the point of this long drawn out post. If you have the money and are able to do something a bit faster or a bit easier it isn't always best (for your own sanity!) to keep doing things the hard way just because you *should*. Some days the hard ways are just too hard, and other days the easy ways are too easy. Compromise works.

I've been hanging my laundry out on the line when I have a little extra time but have not been feeling guilty using the dryer, even on a wonderful sunny day. Last week I loved watching my sheets and blankets dance in the breeze outside and this week I enjoyed popping the kid's sheets into the dryer and having them done lightening quick so that I was able to make their beds up in no time and get things in order faster. Some days are just like that.

Really, my point is to be aware of your frugal ways but to not get stuck in them.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Zero, Zilch, Nadda

Nothing. I lost nothing in one week's time. Granted, it is better than gaining weight. I will confess and say that I didn't try all too hard on losing so can't be very disappointed.

This past week was crazy busy and with all the running around and activities planned I had zero time to think about healthy eating and exercising. I didn't have to try too hard to get exercising in, as the weather has been gorgeous and so we have been taking walks and playing outside. That part was easy. I still didn't notice a difference in the scale or my clothing though.

Better luck next week, huh?

Fun Filled Day

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Frosted Brownie Cookies

I love brownies. I also have a hard time, for some reason, getting them to turn out perfectly when baked in a pan. They are either too gooey and fall apart or too hard and barely come out of the pan.

These brownie cookies are the perfect texture (a bit crunchy on the outside and chewy inside). My kiddos love to help decorate them. I found them on the back of a Pillsbury box a couple years ago and we have been in love with them since.

1 pkg. Pillsbury Double Chocolate brownie mix

1/3 c. Crisco Butter Flavor Shortening, melted

1 egg

1 can frosting


Heat oven to 350 degrees, grease cookie sheets.

Stir brownie mix, chocolate syrup packet, melted shortening and egg. Scoop into 1 1/2-inch balls and place on cookie sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes. When cool, frost and decorate.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Something Is Going On...

...in the laundry room, that is.

I think that our clothing is having secret rendezvous at night and breeding at the rate of rabbits.

Because, really, you would think that a line of clothing, such as this,

would be a weeks worth of clothing. And yet it seems that I am washing loads of children's clothing several times a week.

I need to get to the bottom of this. It's getting tiring never seeing the bottom of the hamper!

Friday, October 1, 2010

October 1st

Where, oh where, did the summer go? I'm amazed, shocked, awestruck, and in disbelief of how quickly this summer went by. I'm also enjoying, loving, and making the most of this beautiful Autumn weather that we are having. And somewhat dreading the cold endless winter ahead.

Now that a new month (and new season) is here, it was time to decide a new challenge. Only two readers expressed an interest in any challenge yesterday (come on people, more than two people read this site!) and both pointed towards the budget challenge.

Believe me, I do need to cut back this month as we have had a tremendous amount of bills lately. Eye doctor, plate renewal for the van, doggie vet bill, Tae Kwon Do, etc. It seems that the money is just flowing out of our hands lately so I need to get a better grip on it all.

I also want to loose a few pounds and thought that would be a good challenge.

Then I realized that both those challenges could get boring if I talked about them all month long considering that I have talked about my budget enough that it would be me reiterating it all again. And just how much can someone talk about weight daily without it getting old real fast?

This month I am arranging things a bit differently. Wednesdays I will be talking about my weight challenge (I would love to loose those last five pounds this month, so this is my goal) and Fridays I will be talking about my budget and money saving ways. My goal this month is not to come within $1,200 but rather just be aware of where my money is going and cut the spending down to a point where we can stick a little more in savings than usual. I will post about other money saving ideas I have come up with and ways I am able to cut this month. It's a good way to work these challenges into my everyday posts.

With the wonderful weather we have been having I am off to play outdoors with the children, hang up laundry, and get ready to head to a garage sale down the street.


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