Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Years Resolutions

I am sure the same subject is coming up in blogs all over the internet, but here I am anyway adding mine.

I try to keep mine to no more than 5 reasonable goals. I don't want to fail and making too many changes is definitely not going to help.

1: Exercise Daily. I used to do this. I was a gymnast and ran track as a teen so being in shape was vital. After my younger kid was born, I had a gym membership and I went daily. When we first bought the gym equipment I was all over it. A knee injury, then a chest cold, then pure laziness kept me away. My goal is to exercise every single day even if it is nothing more than a 20 minute walk on the treadmill.

2: Drink more water. I am chronically dehydrated. I don't drink anywhere near enough water. I am lucky if I drink one glass a day (although when I am sick I can't get enough. At least my body knows what is good for me) I want to drink at least 4 glasses (16 oz) of water a day. I think that is reasonable.

3: Do some school work daily. I am a procrastinator. The past two terms I put things off then did a huge scramble last minute. This term hasn't been much better but I can still catch up. I know I procrastinate and setting a goal to stop like I have in the past just doesn't work, so instead my goal is to complete at least one task from my course of study each day.

4: Quit smoking. Remember my one month quit-aversary? Well it wasn't long after that my grandpa got sick, my stress level went up and I fell off the wagon. I am not going to promise to put them down tomorrow and never pick them back up. I do have an overall goal of quitting by April. I turn 30 next year. It seems like a good year to quit.

5. Take a picture a day. Last year I was a part of Project 365 in which a picture a day was taken and posted. I went until April. I would like to make it the entire year this time. I think I will post pictures to this blog at the end of my posts. At least I will be held somewhat accountable then.

Happy New Year everyone. May 2010 be a wonderful, productive year for everyone.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Homemade pizza - $8.01 for 3 pizzas

For a while, every week we were getting pizza. It cost us around $13 to get two large pepperoni which were usually greasy and lukewarm by the time we got them home. I started making our own pizzas which had way better toppings, were hot from the oven, and cost less.

My dough recipe originally comes from the Tightwad Gazette. I was reminded of it from this blog. I make 3 batches of this dough. One for me, one for my husband, and one to split between my kids. This also leaves us with leftovers (and who doesn't like leftover pizza?)

1 Tbsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
3/4 cup very warm water

Combine the three and allow to sit for 5 minutes.

Then add 1 tsp salt, seasonings such as garlic, basil and oregano, 1 Tbsp oil and about 2 cups of flour. Add it slowly until you can't mix in any more. Then knead for 5-7 minutes or until the dough is firm and elastic. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes.

Roll out dough building up around outside edges for the crust. Top with 1/3 jar of pizza sauce, 4 oz shredded mozzerella, favorite toppings, and a sprinkling of parmesan to top it off. Throw it in a 450 oven for about 15-20 minutes depending on how thick your dough is.

This is my husband's pizza before it went in the oven. He likes his pizza with pepperoni, jalapenos, olives and onion.

And mine after it came out of the oven, complete with olives, onion, banana peppers, roasted red peppers, mushrooms, and feta cheese. Mine doesn't come out as pretty because I only have one pizza stone and my husband got it this time.

My girls like a simple pizza with just cheese and pepperoni. Everyone gets what they want without paying a fortune at the pizza place to get it.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Oatmeal with cinnamon

No one can deny that oatmeal is good for you. They are a great source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. It lowers bad cholesterol. It has a ton of vitamins, may have antioxidants that help fight cancer and one of my favorite reasons, it slows down the digestion of starches. What does that mean? You feel full longer. For someone who is trying to be more conciensious about what goes in their body you can't get a more perfect breakfast food.

But wait! You can make the oatmeal even better by adding cinnamon. Cinnamon has also been shown to lower LDL cholesterol. It too is a blood sugar regulator. There is a possibility it helps get rid of problematic yeast infections. It has anti-clotting effects on the blood and it too has multiple vitamins and minerals.

Oatmeal and cinnamon are also both really cheap. It makes it a frugal breakfast choice as well as a healthy one.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Microwave nastiness

The problem with preteen children is their love for the microwave and their inability to clean up spills. My kids love coco wheats for breakfast. I don't mind. It is hot, fairly healthy and fairly cheap. The problem is that when you make coco wheats in the microwave, if you don't keep a very close eye on them, they tend to explode. I broke my cardinal rule of avoiding photographing anything that can be described as nasty, dirty or disgusting just for today's very special post.

Exhibit A: I rarely use the microwave so this lovely mess may be up to 3 days old by the time I discovered it.

So, I am going to share my secret with you. It takes me less than 4 minutes to have it sparkling again. Ready?

Step one, get a clean dishrag sopping wet with plain water.
and throw it in the microwave.

Microwave it on high for a minute and a half.

I then take the microwave carousel out and simply wipe the crap away. It is that easy. No scrubbing. It is very very hot though, so please be careful.

I then run a scrubbrush over the carousel, top and bottom. This takes less than a minute as the grime on it too was softened, and I am back to a sparkly clean microwave.

Now, if only I had the solution to getting my spawn to want to keep it clean as well...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

I have been married 12 years today

I really do have the ideal husband. He cooks. He cleans. He fixes everything. He is a great dad and a truely awesome husband. I am lucky in every possible way. I am not typically a sappy person but he manages to get through my cynical nature. I am looking forward to our 13th year married.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The magic of baking soda

Despite the craziness of the holidays and trying to do ten million and a half things, I needed to share this with everyone.

If you are having issues with heartburn and don't have tums or other convenient tablets, mix half a tsp of baking soda into about 4 oz of water. It will taste nasty. It will work better than anything else. You can adjust the amount of baking soda should you need more or less. I don't actually measure so that is an estimate. This also works for indigestion, gas, and occasionally, upset stomach. It is cheaper than tums, rolaids, pepto and so on too.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I am a neglectful blogger

to be honest, my brain has just been exhausted this month.

I figured I would start today off with my peanut butter fudge recipe. My family loves this recipe. I have also had it win a candy contest which was a nice little boost. I haven't yet made it this season but will be making some for thing 2's Christmas party at school. No peanut allergies to contend with so it works.

Peanu Butter Fudge $1.25

2 c. milk
2 c. sugar
1 c. peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp butter

In heavy saucepan combine sugar and milk. Heat on medium stirring occasionally, until it comes to a low boil. Continue cooking until mixture reaches softball stage. After reaching softball stage, remove from heat, add peanut butter, vanilla and butter. Stir to mix well. Beat mixture until it loses its glossiness. Pour into slightly buttered 8x8 or 9x9 pan.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

More dental work

This is where I recommend that if you grind your teeth, and you don't already have one, get a mouth guard.

I have been doing the jaw clenching thing at night for years. The past 3 years or so I added teeth grinding to the mix. I looked at mouth guards before but at $20-$50 I kept putting it off.

During my last dental cleaning, they found 5 teeth with cavities, all in the front. I had worn the enamel off the backs of my front teeth. I now have a mouth guard to wear at night but it's a little late. Today I had 3 teeth filled. I ended up paying the $20 for the mouth guard anyway (and plan on spending $30 more since the one I have is not comfortable at all) plus I had to spend $72.40 today with another $40 bill coming to cover my deductable. That doesn't include the 2 left to be filled on the 23rd. Not using a mouthguard cost me way more money in the long run.

Cavities are not pleasant either. My dentist is very good about making sure I am completely numb so besides the initial first shot (and I needed 3 shots of that crap total) it didn't hurt, but the sound of the drill is awful. Sitting for 40 minutes with my mouth open is far from comfortable, and now my nose is numb along with my top lip which is just really weird. I only had one cavity growing up and I don't recall getting it filled at all so this was a new experience for me.

And can I just say how much I appreciate dental insurance once again? $72.40 is a much better deal than paying the $362 it would have cost without it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Bartering services

This is probably one of the best ways of saving money. Everyone has their own strengths.

I had a small leak under my sink that decided to soak some things today. My husband was at work and the valve thing wasn't doing much. I called my neighbor, who happens to be a plumber and he came and fixed it up for me. Don't ask me what he did because I have no clue.

My husband is amazingly good at computers. He can fix anything. My neighbor has been having issues with his computer. My husband has offered to fix it before but I don't think he wanted to bother us with it. So I told him he now has to bring it over to be fixed so I can pay him back. I don't have a ton of money but we do have some knowlege. I have also traded photography services for things as that is my area (although that is another of my husband's areas too. The man is good at everything, I swear)

So network and use your talents and you can get some things done.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Rest in Peace Grandpa

You will be very very greatly missed.

Darwin Joe Morgan
9/10/35 - 12/8/09

Monday, December 7, 2009

Save some gas

This post is probably pretty obvious to many, but I am sharing it anyway.

I drive a lot lately as my grandpa is still in the hospital an hour away, my kids are in school, my younger kid swims and I still have errends to run. I do whatever I can to save gas.

1. Combine trips. I live out in the country. It is a 15 minute drive to get just about anywhere. I combine trips as much as possible. I go grocery shopping after I take my daughter to swim practice while I am in town. I do all my grocery shopping in one big trip and usually do things like get gas at the same time.

2. Accelerate slowly. If you punch it everytime you take off, you are using more gas than if you do a slow, steady acceleration. You should also try to maintain your speed, and though it can be tempting, avoid speeding. Most cars get optimum gas mileage between 45 and 55, so take your foot off the gas.

3. Public transportation. It isn't all that available where I live, but I do utilize what we have, which means my kids ride the school bus home in the afternoon. It is coming by anyway. Might as well use it.

4. Carpool. Again, not a whole lot of that happening way out here, but since my husband does go right by the school in the morning on his way to work, he takes the kids in the morning, and includes the neighbor kid. Not really saving gas since they would otherwise take the bus, but not wasting it either, and my kids get a little dad time in the AM.

Of course there are other things you can do. Keep your car tuned up. Make sure your tires are inflated to the proper pressure. Walk when you can, or ride a bike. Save a dollar and be a little more environmentally friendly.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Cheap date?

My husband and I have recently taken bowling back up. It really is a lot of fun and at $2.75 a game, it isn't a bad price either. You can bowl two games easily and still be ahead of going to a movie. It's one of those things that everyone can play and have fun, even if they are not good at it.

My husband got a ball and shoes for an early Christmas present. The shoes will save us money in the long run as shoes can run anywhere from $1.50-$3.00 to rent. Rentals just are not comfy either. So I spent $30 on shoes that will probably last forever. I still have my shoes from when I was a teen and they are in perfect condition. I am talking 15 year old shoes that still look like new. Not bad.

The ball will not save us money. That was purely comfort and a nice present. I am really looking forward to getting out more with my husband. We really have hit the golden years with our kids. They are too old to need a babysitter, but too young to ask to be dropped off at the mall. I plan on enjoying some free time with my husband, which we haven't gotten much of since my oldest was born.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Because I am so proud of my kid

for not chickening out of this meet, I am posting this all over the place. I finally got to see what all our swim money is going to. Check back because I will keep posting videos as we get them up.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Work, work, work

I subbed at the daycare center I used to work at. I have only been gone 3 months but wow did those babies get bigger. I had an awesome time and it was a good reminder about why I loved my job. I was also essentially offered my job back.

It was so hard to turn it down. I did though. As much as I adore those babies, I am not the greatest at multitasking. I miss the weekly paycheck sure. However, my school needs to be a priority and I can't seem to manage that and work and the house and family.

So I will sub in for the rest of the week, and make up a little bit of what we spent on Christmas. I will enjoy every minute, then go back to being a housewife.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Take hold of those apron strings

or why I wear an apron.

An apron is probably one of my best investments. It has saved my clothing on a number of occasions. After I realized I have a nasty habit of wiping my wet/dirty hands on the butt of my jeans, I started wearing an apron regularly when I cook or clean. I don't worry as much if cleaner splashes me. It's just an all around good practice.

As an added benefit, it has a nice deep pocket for my mp3 player. I have an armband but I hate the way it feels so I try to save it just for working out. The pocket is deep enough to hold it securely even when I have to bend over.

So there you have it. I am an apron wearer and proud of it.

I do recommend taking care with the ties should you need to use the bathroom...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Real or fake...And I don't mean boobs

I am talking Christmas trees of course. I grew up with a fake tree. I was totally convinced that it was the only way to go so for the first several years of my marriage, we carried on with a 4.5 ft fake tree from walmart. When we moved to this house, I so badly wanted a bigger nicer tree. I also learned something that changed the way I do things.

A fake tree will sit in a landfill for more than a century.
Fake trees are made from petroleum products.

Over the years I have become more environmentally conscious. I try to pay more attention to my impact on the planet. I did not want to buy another fake tree, but I still did want a nice tree for our living room. So we found a tree farm and brought home our very first real tree. The small tree was kept (keep it out of the landfill! ) and I put it in my girls room which makes them feel special.

So why is it ok to kill a real tree? Well, we get ours from a farm rather than a forest so they were specifically grown just for this purpose. It also becomes our firewood for our first bonfire of the spring, which has become a lovely tradition and makes sure that nothing is wasted. One could also mulch it and recycle it back to the earth.

Our first tree was a disaster. I found the perfect tree in the discount line. It was a huge mammoth of a tree. It cost us $8. Now, we knew nothing of real trees. I don't know if I was expecting them to come with a stand or what because we didn't have one. My husband managed to fashion one out of 2x4s and a pie pan. Yeah. That didn't work so well. The tree was gorgeous but it fell over half a dozen times before we anchored it to the wall. The smell was amazing though and I fell in love with having a real tree.

We have done a real tree every year since. We pay a lot more now, mostly because we get the tree earlier than we did that year. We also invested in a nice stand and learned the difference between the pines and the spruces. Scotch pines are full and beautiful but they shed really, really bad. The needles are longer and are what we call vacuum killers because they clog the vacuum. Blue spruce is pretty but they are not fun at all to handle. This year we went with a red spruce and we cut it down ourselves (a tradition we started last year) We paid $31 for it which is definitely more than we spent that first year but picking our own tree is so much fun plus it is still cheaper than we would pay getting a precut somewhere else.

I will have to add pics later since my browser is not liking the idea, but I will say that it looks lovely. We have a lot of fun every year picking out our tree. The guys at the farm recognize us which is a nice little treat, and last year the local paper took our picture which ended up in the paper. That was really very cool for my kids.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday a deal?

Well...yes. If you shop for the right things.

I learned years ago that big ticket items are out. Limited supply, everyone else wants them too and you have to get up ridiculously early to even have a shot. Not happening.

However, we were in clothing crisis. My older daughter was in desperate need of pants, as was my husband. He needed shoes and both girls need new coats and boots. I also was still in search for a dress for kid 2 to wear to the Daddy Daughter Dance.

I spent what I consider to be an obscene amount of money, but it's money I had to spend anyway and I figured I would try for deals.

Now I have mentioned before that my husband wears a size that I can't find used. Ever. That goes for shoes too. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find size 13 mens shoes in good shape? Very very unlikely.

So here is my haul, all bought at Kohls at about 9:00 AM.

1 pair mens dress shoes, originally $65 on sale for $19.99
2 pair of girls boots, originally $33 each on sale for $16.99 each (cheaper than payless!)
2 stainless steel water bottles, originally $9.99 on sale for $3.99 (impulse buy but I have been looking for them)
2 girls coats, originally $50 each on sale for $14.99 each
3 pairs of Dockers Khakis, originally $34.99 on sale for $26.99
1 pair of Lee Khakis, not on sale but needed $19.99 (He would have gotten more of these had they had more than one in his size)
2 pair of girls pants, originally $26 on sale for $15.60
1 girls dress, originally $58 on sale for $23.20
1 leggings set, originally $32 on sale for $12.80 (another impulse, but I wanted to shop for kid 2 also)
1 long sleeve shirt, originally $16 on sale for $6.40 (see above disclaimer)
1 pair girls pants, originally $20 on sale for $8
1 pair girls pants, originally $28 on sale for $11.20

Grand total $302.83 and I got $50 in Kohls cash to go back and spend later which means I can get myself a new jacket too.

Total without sales $633.06

Now to be fair, I never would have paid full price for any of that outside of the shoes for my husband, but I got better deals today than I normally would have shopping retail.

Why buy my kids stuff retail? Well, they are at that size that makes finding used coats almost impossible. Same with boots. The pants could be found used if she would wear jeans, but she has sensory issues that make her very particular about clothing. Add that to her size and while I have been watching for pants for a long time, I have found a total of one pair.

I still feel I got some deals. Definitely worth braving the crowd, which wasn't horrible at Kohls.

Now ask me to go to Walmart or Best Buy today and I will ask you if you have lost your ever loving mind.

Monday, November 16, 2009

My favorite back to school subject

The girls officially go back to school tomorrow. Hooray for big yellow buses, music class, comunicable diseases...

Oh and Lice.

My kids have had lice 3 times now, twice from school.

Lice are becoming more and more difficult to get rid of. They are a nightmare and a half. The pesticides, the combing, the cleaning, the combing, the boiling, the combing. The very idea of those bastards make me want to puke.

However, they are a fact of life, and not just for "dirty" people.

Time 1: We tried Walgreens lice killer, mayonaise, olive oil, hair dye, and finally killed them for good with Licex (no longer available that I can find) It took way longer than it should have and cost me well over $100.

Time 2: We tried Rid,Nix, Licex, olive oil overnight, cetaphil, flat iron, blow dryer, and finally killed them with a long, drawn out combination of olive oil and a robotic lice comb (the kind that zaps the live bugs and kills them) Took forever, and cost us more than $200.

Time 3: Listerine. Cost: $15 total over 3 heads, 2 treatments. Total time: 4 hours.

I found out about the listerine treatment on my mommy board. It is by far the easiest, cheapest, most effective method for getting rid of lice. Buy the original listerine (the brown stuff), saturate hair with it, cover with a shower cap for 2 hours, and rinse. They were gone. There were no half live bugs like there were even with the Rid and Nix treatments. There were 0 live lice, and while we did nit comb, I have never been great about not missing some. This killed the eggs as well. We repeated the treatment at 10 days, even though there didn't seem to be any. They have been gone since. Best method you can get, and one of the cheapest as well.

I have heard that lavendar and tea tree oil help keep them away, but I have also heard that they contribute to precocious puberty so we are skipping it for now. I may however, go back to putting their hair up before school.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The hunt for the elusive backpack

I had forgotten how hard it is to find a decent quality backpack without paying the hard and heavy price for it.

Last year, younger kid, totally in love with Hannah Montana was allowed to get a character backpack. I knew it would only last a year. I overestimated. One zipper was broken within a month. Still she managed to limp it through the school year.

The other kid had my old college backpack from when I did my photography degree. It was still in perfect shape and was really cute. It was an Oglio and cost me $45 but was worth every penny. Unfortunately, thing 1 left some kind of food product in it at the end of the year and by the time I discovered it...well lets just say I didn't have the stomach to do anything with it other than toss it.

So my kids are going back to school. It occurred to me yesterday that they didn't have backpacks, and were a few other supplies short. So today, when I went grocery shopping, I started with school supplies.

Lunch boxes were easy. Meijer has Thermos lunch bags for $7.99. Not a bad deal. Those will at least last the year if not a couple. I purposely stayed far away from characters.

Folders, a few pencils, pencil cases. Most of the stuff like crayons, glue and paper I have plenty of. Pencils like to disappear. I fear my dog may be eating them like doggy pepperoni sticks.

So my first stop, Meijer, yielded everything but the backpacks. The backpacks were all cheap, crappy made in China dorky looking things. Now I spent my entire childhood looking like a poverty ridden dork. I am not all into the latest trends but I am sensitive enough to keep my kids somewhere in the middle.

Ok, next stop, Big Lots. That may seem counter productive but sometimes they do have name brand stuff. Not so much this time. A trip to Hobby Lobby since it was right next door, had me considering making them a messenger bag but I don't have a ton of time, and the cost would have still been up there as the pattern alone is $16.

My next stop was Staples. They had some lovely Jansport bags...for $60 a piece. That is just too far up there in price for me. I can't make myself drop $120 just in backpacks.

Kmart is nextdoor to Staples so I tried there. I found one okay Starter backpack but I really am trying to cut down on the things I buy made in China. US is preferable, but anywhere but China will do. I have a reason for this, but I am saving it for another post.

Finally I trudged on to Kohls, where I bought a gorgeous dress (thinking ahead to the daddy daughter dance and it was $10. You can't beat that) for my older kid. After finally locating backpacks I found 2 Jansport backpacks for $16 each, normally $40. Sweet!

So, not made in the USA, but made in the UK which is better. I wish I had the money for the High Sierra which if I remember right is a US company, but since locally I am looking at at least $45 per bag, this will have to do.

Friday, November 13, 2009

I'm a total failure

Or at least that is how it feels. My kids are going back to school next week. I just don't have the time, energy or money to give them the education they need. I am not confident that being in the system is going to be much better, but at least on the days I go to the hospital, I won't be mentally kicking myself thinking how far behind my kids are getting in their education.

My husband did offer to put more into it, but it's me this time. I just don't have it in me. Can you feel my guilt just oozing off this post? Sickening isn't it?

Thousands of kids go through the school system and become successful adults. I know this and I know that the last time my kids were in school they did very well. Doesn't stop me from feeling guilty.

I told my husband I would give my left tit for a decent charter school in our county. There are methods of schooling I do feel work well. Montessori for one. Sudbury for another. Unfortunately, even working full time I don't bring in the kind of money the tuition for one of those would run, not to mention I would be driving at least an hour for the nearest acceptable private school.

So I guess future posts from me will include some of the stuff that goes into having school kids. Lunches for one. We qualify for free, or at least reduced lunch and did that last year but frankly I am not impressed with the nutritional value of hot lunch. My older daughter for a time was on a gluten free diet so I was getting creative with the lunches. I am hoping to dig some of that creativity back out.

So not looking forward to the early mornings again LOL

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Frozen apples

It's a little late for this post since apple season is over for the most part, at least in Michigan.

Almost a month ago, the girls and I, along with the little girl next door, went to the local apple orchard. The girls managed to pick a bushel of apples. Now we had managed to go through close to half a bushel a week up to this point, so buying a bushel of apples for $13 was a great deal. The problem? Everyone must have been appled out.

So last week, I realized that some of the apples were starting to get soft. We still had well over 1/2 a bushel left. I have already done applesauce, apple butter and dehydrated apples from my tree and my inlaws' trees. So I started reading, and learned that you can freeze apples.

So I took about 2 hours to process almost all the apples we had left. I think I left just a few of the firmest, nicest apples for eating.

Now frozen apples are great if you want to make pie later, or applesauce, or anything that needs to be cooked. The texture is not going to be right for eating raw. I wish I could figure out the best way to save apples for that.

I wish I had taken pictures of the process but I did not. However the directions are simple. I chopped up and peeled most of the apples. I put them in a water/lemon juice mix to prevent browning, then put them in the freezer in a single layer on a baking sheet. Once they were halfway frozen, I put them in a freezer bag, and put the next batch in. I also sliced some up with the peel still on. These are my breakfast apples.

Fried apples with brown sugar and cinnamon

About 1 cup sliced apples with peels (frozen or fresh)
1 T butter or olive oil (butter is better, but I would rather use olive oil than margarine)
2 T brown sugar
a sprinkling of cinnamon and nutmeg

Heat your butter or oil over medium heat. Add the apples, and stir until soft. Add brown sugar and spices, and stir until thick and gooey. Eat over waffles, pancakes, toast or mixed into oatmeal. It is divine.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I have been MIA

My grandfather has cancer. He is not doing well at all and I have spent a majority of my time either at the hospital or driving to and from.

With my mom, stepdad and brother in town, I am going to take a couple of days off to gain control back over my house and mine and the girls' schooling.

So, to come, hopefully sometime this week, how to hem jeans without making them look completely dorky, best way to clean a ceiling fan, maybe another recipe or two, and I may or may not delve into living wills and power of attorney.

So there it is. I am still alive. I have just been terribly busy.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Being thankful

I got this from another blog. I realized I have spent so much time concentrating on the things that have been going wrong, that I have not spent any time being thankful for the stuff going right.

Things I am thankful for today:

1. My 11 year old daughter. She is smart and funny and full of creative ideas. The girl is so imaginative it is amazing to me. She tries so hard to make me happy and is in that beautiful stage somewhere between little girl and teenager.

2. My 9 year old daughter. This kid completely cracks me up. She is absolutely the typical preteen, enamored with iCarly and Hannah Montana. She has put everything she has into her swim team, and I am so proud of how well she has been sticking with it. Her first meet is this Saturday, and despite the sickeningly early wakeup call necessary to get there, I can't wait to see her.

3. My husband. I have been with this man since I was 15 years old and he was 17. We have been married 12 years next month. We have been through so much and he still amazes me daily. Yesterday, I was so overwhelmed with everything, school, homeschooling, the house, my grandpa, that I wasn't sure how I was going to cope. When I got home last night, my girls were working on their schoolwork with him, he had cooked dinner, cleaned the house and caught up the laundry. He did all this on top of a full work day. I love that man.

4. My animals. They annoy the living crap out of me sometimes, but there is something a little bit sweet about the cat who insists on sleeping on your head at night, and the dog who constantly hogs half the bed. The puppy is becoming a sweetheart, despite the still occasional accident. He does have enough manners to keep it to the much easier to clean hard floors at least.

5. My husband's job. We live in Michigan. That is almost enough said right there. Not only does he have a job, but he has a job that allows me to stay home. I also found out that sales were so good last month that we are getting a pretty good commission check toward the end of this month, just in time for Christmas. That really is a load off my mind.

So typical and cheesey I guess, but something I needed today.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Family takes care of one another

This has absolutely nothing to do with living on a budget. It's just really on my mind right now.

Today I left my house at 1:00PM. I drove an hour to pick up my grandpa who had a doctor appointment today near me, and can't drive as he has been ill. I drove all the way back, dropped my kid off at swim practice, went to his doctor appointment and drove him home. I made him dinner, did his dishes and told him he could call me tomorrow if he can't find a ride to a different doctor appointment tomorrow. By the time I got home it was almost 8:00PM.

Now he did pay me gas money. I wish I was able to forgo it, but expenses this month make things a little tighter than usual and I have been back and forth to his place a few times a week to help him out since he has been ill.

The man is a shell of what he used to be which is really hard for me, knowing how strong of a man he was before, and it is exceptionally hard on him. It took me a month to convince him to let my husband get his lawn tractor ready for winter and put away. It has taken everything he has to ask for help. He has always been the one ready to help other people.

It's hard for me though. I have so much on my plate already. Still, family takes priority. My mom and stepdad are on the road, my siblings live in other states. I am really the only one able to help him at the moment.

I don't really have a point for my posting I guess. My grandparents are getting older and it breaks my heart watching them break down.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Winter is on it's way

for Michigan, that means icy cold wind, snow, sleet, and through the roof heating bills. The first year we lived in this house, our winter heat bill nailed us hard. We moved in October 2004. Our December gas bill that year was $450. We were not expecting that one.

Over the years we have learned some secrets to keeping the bill within a manageable range. They are still high, running $200-$250 some months, but considering how much the cost of energy has gone up in the last 5 years, I don't think we have done too bad.

1. Turn the heat down. Seems pretty obvious. When we had the old dial style thermostat, we pretty much kept it at 62 degrees day and night. That is actually pretty chilly. My hands were always cold and I was not really a happy camper. Last year we invested in a digital programmable thermostat. It cost us about $30 and allows us to adjust it as needed. We had it set at 58 at night and when nobody was home (work and school) and 64 the rest of the time. Still chilly but immensely more comfortable. Our heat bill will probably be higher this year as the girls and I are home all day, but it's still handy to have.

2. Insulate. Another obvious suggestion but an expensive initial investment. We put several hundred dollars worth of insulation in the roof last year. It definitely helped. The snow stopped melting off that portion of the roof, which is a good sign. We still have another portion of the house that needs it, but thanks to roof project 2009 we may have to delay it a bit.

3. Seal the cracks. Our back door has been terrible. In all honesty we need a new door, jamb, and all. However, that is not yet in the budget so every year we apply new foam along the outside edges and a new door sweep as ours manages to disintegrate every year. We also check the outlets and random holes the previous owner liked to leave...

4. Plastic up those windows. It looks dorky as hell, and may not be necessary for those who have nice new thermal windows. We have a mix of new and old, and the old ones let in all kinds of cold air. Plastic helps. Just don't burn anything in the oven while it's up because there is no opening up the windows after that...

5. Seal off unused areas. I don't know how many normal people actually have this going on in their house. We came into this house knowing it needed some work. We underestimated. One of the things that needs to be done is to totally renovate the master bedroom and bathroom. We are actually staying in the smaller bedroom right now and the girls are staying in the very big, oversized laundry room so that we can keep that room sealed off. We just did this last winter and between that and the insulation, I am pretty confident that was more than $150 a month saved by itself. We simply don't heat those rooms. Just make sure if you find yourself in bizarre home situations of this sort that you remember to turn the water off to the master bathroom or you may find yourself with a slight water problem. Not that I would know anything about that...

6. Install an energy efficient furnace. Not that we have done this yet, but I imagine it will help when we finally get around to it. We found out that our furnace is not only older and definitely nowhere in the realm of energy star compliant, but also only meant to heat an addition. A furnace meant to heat 500-600 sq feet was overworking itself to heat about 1600. No wonder we saw improvement when we cut down the amount of area we were heating. That is on the list of things to get taken care of ASAP. Since I don't exactly like the idea of freezing my butt off while a new one is installed, that is something we can save for springtime. If the old girl will just last us one more winter, that will work for me.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Dental care a luxury?

Another blogger suggested that dental care was a luxury. She proposed that by taking care of her teeth, it was unnecessary. I beg to differ.

My children have always had to brush their teeth. They were supervised at first, then as they got older, it was on them. I made it through 11 years of parenting before the first cavity came along.

Thing two grinds her teeth. In doing so, she has made her teeth more vulnerable to cavities. In January she was cavity free, and the grinding had just become evident. By September she had two cavities.

The cost to fill two cavities without dental insurance is $253. Today I paid my portion which came to $41.40. That is a bit of a difference. I don't know what ignoring cavities costs in the long run because I refuse to allow it, but I imagine it isn't pretty. Pretty much every state insurance has a dental program for children, so low income is no excuse for it either.

Now dental insurance itself is debatable as a need. Some feel it's cheaper in the long run to pay for visits out of pocket. I can respect that, if they actually make those visits happen. Still, a cleaning runs about $90 a person. Multiply that by 4 and again by 2 for the twice a year we go and that ends up being $720. Our dental insurance per year is about $384. The 100% covered cleanings alone make it worth it. That doesn't even begin to factor in the other dental work (and I will just say that my mouth is a mess that having insurance will allow me to take care of)

The original purpose of my blog

I have gotten a little off track from where I was going with this blog and started making it look like my desk. It's covered in a series of lists. I am a bit ADD. Lists help me function. They also allow me to procrastinate which is a problem.

The purpose of my blog was to offer realistic ways in which people can save money.

College is an expense, regardless of how you do it. Some people use community college as a way to do it the least expensive way possible. Others depend on grants or scholarships. Some work their way through holding down one or more jobs while attending in order to pay for it. Some suck it up, take the loans and cross their fingers that when the time comes to pay it off, they can.

I have always wanted to be a teacher. I went on a bit of a tangent with the community college and the photography degree. I don't regret it, but I should have known better.

My options where I am at are fairly limited. I live in a college town, but both are private colleges costing more than $20,000 per year. The closest state school is a little more than an hour away, and while dramatically cheaper, between the tuition and the drive it is still a lot of money.

My solution came with Western Governors University. It is an online program that has an IT college, a business college, a nursing college and a teachers college. Unlike the well known diploma mills like Phoenix, they are fully accredited not only as a college but by things like NCATE, or the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. They were also featured in Time Magazine.

The reason I am bringing this up is because the tuition is so ridiculously low that it seems kind of scammish. Is scammish a word? Probably not, but it suits me.

The WGU terms are 6 months long. My 4th term actually started yesterday. 12 competency units are considered full term. I pay just under $3000 for each term. Community college cost me more than that. You pay per term, not per credit, which means if you have the time, the drive and the dedication you can get through more classes per term, shorten the total amount of terms and save you money. This term I am starting with 13 credits, or competency units. If I can get through them quickly enough I intend on adding 4 more. It is self paced. Adding one or two extra classes per term allows me to graduate 6 months sooner.

The classes are pass or fail. There are no grades. However, the trick is that until you pass the assignments or the test, depending on the class, with a B or better, you don't pass the class. There is no sliding by with a C-.

So, tuition is $3000 per term. I also have a scholarship offered through WGU. Mine is the scholarship for rural math and science educators. It is $7500, paid $1500 over 5 terms. The terms of the scholarship include teaching at a rural school for 2 years after I graduate, and I have to maintain good academic standing. If I do not, I get to pay it back. Between that $1500 and my pell grant, my tuition is pretty much covered. I take student loans to cover books and other expenses, but my goal is to get to the point that I am not taking anymore loans.

I just thought that I would offer it up as an option for those looking for an education. If you are interested let me know, because if I refer you, you don't pay an application fee. My goal with this post was not so much to advertise, but share. WGU is probably the hardest school I have ever dealt with (including the 4 year school my husband started with) but I think in the end I will have a really good education.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

It's finally caught up with me

So let me officially introduce myself. I am a 29 year old mother of two, homeschooling two preteen girls and I am also a full time college student working on getting my teaching degree in secondary science. My younger daughter is on a swim team and swims 4 days a week. I drop her off and my husband picks her up on his way home. This means my husband leaves for work about 7:30AM and gets home with the younger kids around 6:00PM. He is also a full time college student which means that after dinner and his schoolwork it is about time for bed.

What this means is that I do a majority of the housework, schooling of children, buying of groceries, etc and so on.

I am burning out fast.

I am chronically behind on either my own school work or the teaching of my kids, trying hard to make it up on the weekends (which they love by the way *insert sarcasm here*) My house is slowly falling apart and I have exercised once in the last month. I feel like I am in way over my head.

So, here is my plan. I need to put myself on a schedule. I can't think of any other way to keep it from all falling apart.

You can be part of my experiment. Should it fail, I will have to come up with an alternative because the way I am working it now is not working.

My new schedule:

7-8 Wake up, eat breakfast, just chill out
8-9 Work out
9-11 My school work
11-12 Lunch
12-2 Girls School work
2-3 Clean house
3-4 Take thing 2 to swim
4-6 Errands, school or cleaning as needed
6-7 Dinner
7-8 Girls school
8-9 Chill out
9-10 Get ready for/go to bed

It will be a work in progress. For any non-homeschoolers who are concerned about the lack of official school time, consider how much actual direct instruction your children receive in school and scrunch it down. My kids still have work they do on their own, and I don't have to teach to 20 or more children. We have never had an issue keeping up with a shorter time in instruction.

I will cover any other typical HS questions later as they always tend to come up.

Friday, October 30, 2009

I went over-budget

and I hate that. Today is grocery shopping day. Last time I went, I bought just enough to get us through the end of the month, so not only was I lacking my usual surplus, but we also started running out of all the stuff I don't normally have to buy every time. Toilet paper, toothpaste, garbage bags, etc.

My grand total this time around: $215.79 Ouch. Still, that is for a family of 4, plus a zoo of animals for two or more weeks. That isn't bad considering.

So what can just over $215 get you when you shop with me?

Meat: $33.19

10 lbs ground turkey
1 bag frozen tilapia fillets
1 bag boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 package hot dogs
1 bag frozen cooked shrimp
1 dozen eggs
2 family packs pepperoni

Dairy: $23.44

5 lbs mozzarella
1 lb cheddar
1 lb pepperjack
1 gallon milk
1 lg container cottage cheese
1 container parmesan

Veggies: $37.86 (I count tomato sauces)

2 bags frozen corn
2 bags frozen peas
1 bag french fries
10 lbs russet potatoes
2 packages fresh broccoli crowns
1 bag tater tots
1 head lettuce
2 cans tomato paste
3 cans mushroom pieces
2 cans tomato sauce
3 cans black olives
1 jar roasted red peppers
1 package beefsteak tomatoes
1 package vine tomatoes
3 jars pizza sauce
2 jars spaghetti sauce
2 acron squash
1 spaghetti squash
2 pumpkins

Fruit: $2.64 (we still have apples out the wazoo and frozen grapes so this is short)

4 bananas
3 oranges

Grains: $18.77

1 bag egg noodles
4 boxes cereal
1 bag pasta shells
1 box frozen waffles
2 loaves wheat bread
1 box instant oatmeal
1 box saltines
1 bag cheese puffs
1 bag nacho cheese chips

Misc. food $37.74

1 can sloppy joe sauce
3 packets taco seasoning
2 boxes frozen pierogies
2 bags frozen cheese stuffed shells
2 jars peanut butter
1 bag dry pinto beans
1 bottle extra virgin olive oil
1 bag powdered sugar
1 bag chocolate chips
1 bag butterscotch chips
1 jar taco sauce
1 container anise seed
1 container curry powder
1 bag dry navy beans
1 jar chopped garlic
1 container cajun spice

Hygeine: $1

1 tube toothpaste

Cleaning: $9.58

2 bottles cascade

Pet supplies: $30.04

1 17.6 lb bag dog food
1 16 lb bag cat food
1 14 lb container scoopable cat litter
2 rawhide coils
2 dog bones

Paper/plastic: $15.96

1 8 pk paper towels
1 12 pk double roll toilet paper
5 paper bags
1 box 30 garbage bags
1 box 25 gallon sized storage bags

Misc. Household: $5.57

1 muffin pan
2 pumpkin cutters

So there it is. The only thing I should need to buy in the next 15 days is another gallon of milk.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I am done whining. Let's do dinner ideas instead.

You ever get sick of hearing yourself talk? I have been boohooing all month about my rotten luck. You know what? Yes. It sucks. Money has been spent, family has been sick, and vehicles have been vandalized. My entire extended family is falling apart. That sucks.


We have food, shelter, and nobody has died (knock on wood) so I am going to be Miss Mary Sunshine today because I am sick and tired of being miserable. Yay optimism!!

So let's talk dinner. I am going to have to make up a menu at some point. I am done planning out breakfast, lunch and snack. I have been doing it long enough that I have a general idea of what, and how much we eat. Cereal, oatmeal, frozen waffles through the week, and nicer breakfasts on the weekend. Mostly leftovers for lunch with the occasional sandwich or soup thrown in. We have enough apples and apple products to keep us in snacks forever, especially when you throw in my tendency to make pumpkin bread or freeze grapes. So this time, I am only doing dinners.

One thing I hate about making menus is that I can never remember what we eat. I don't like having the same thing over and over (except pizza. Weekly homemade pizza is a must) but everytime I go to make a menu, I end up with a lot of the same crap over and over again. SO, last night I made a list of every meal that I make that my family will eat (well most of them. Kids might end up with breakfast for dinner on chili night and eat sandwiches in place of hot italian sausage). I figured I would post the list here for 2 reasons. The first, so I have something that won't be lost. I make a ton of lists. It's a compulsion. That one will disappear and I will be back to square one. Secondly, maybe it will either give someone else ideas, or they will share ideas I am missing with me. So here it is. 50 days of WFD.

1. Veggie Stir Fry
2. Chicken Pot Pie
3. Potato Soup
4. Black Bean Quesadillas
5. Risotto
6. Polish Sausage, Sauerkraut, German Potato Salad
7. Lasagna
8. Veggie Fried Rice
9. Veggie Fajitas
10. Garlic Parmesan Chicken, Baked Potatoes, Peas
11. Chili
12. Shrimp Alfredo
13. Macaroni and Cheese
14. Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup, Grilled Cheese
15. Beer Brats, Cottage Fries, Sliced Zucchini
16. Chicken and Broccoli Stir Fry
17. Tacos
18. Lemon Pepper Tilapia, Rice, Broccoli
19. Pork Chops, Homemade Rice a Roni, Green Beans
20. Cheese Tortellini Primavera
21. Sloppy Joes, Tater Tots, Corn on the Cob
22. Chicken and Dumplings
23. Meatball Subs, Macaroni Salad
24. Hoppin' John
25. Veggie Lasagna
26. Tuna Mac
27. Homemade Pizza
28. Pulled Pork, Potato Salad, Grilled Asparagus
29. Pierogies with Butter and Onions
30. Hot Dogs, Fries, Corn
31. Chicken Enchilladas
32. Tuna Salad
33. Spaghetti, Salad
34. Nachos
35. Meatloaf, Barley Vegetable Medley
36. Bean Soup with Sausage
37. Shrimp and Snow Pea Stir Fry
38. Taco Mac
39. Salad
40. Calzones
41. Hot Italian Sausage with Onions and Bell Peppers over Noodles
42. Basil Butter Salmon, Rice, Carrots
43. Chicken Fajitas
44. Pasta with Pesto
45. Beanie Weenies
46. Ham, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Green Beans, Rolls
47. Subs, Chips, Salad
48. Breakfast for Dinner
49. Ravioli
50. Fish Sticks, Fries, Corn

That is over a month without repeats. Hopefully it will make my menu planning a bit faster.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

This month just keeps getting better

I have to have some severe Karmic backlash going or something.

My fridge has been having issues for a while. When our last fridge died (the one that came with this house and was old and literally falling apart) my grandpa happened to be getting rid of his fridge, which was working and nicer than the one that just kicked the bucket. The only problem it had was the temperature control knobs were missing, so in turning them, nobody knows if they are going warmer or colder.

Things were working fine for a long time. We have had it for more than a year and except for our freezer being extra cold, making ice cream scooping a pain, it woked really well.

Over the last month, our fridge has slowly been getting colder. I have fresh produce in there that has been ruined because the items in my fridge are actually freezing. Mmmmmmm frozen lettuce...

My husband started messing with the dial. Didn't seem to help.

Last night, ice cream was actually scoopable. Weird, because he hasn't messed with the freezer temps lately, but it was still frozen so all was well.

Today it is worse. The banana I had in there for banana bread is completely thawed. The frozen waffles and the tater tots are feeling kind of soft, and my frozen veggies are not quite so frozen. The good news is it seems to be holding steady at whatever temp it's at and the ice cubes are still frozen, meat is still solid. As long as that ice holds, my meat is safe I am pretty sure.

The fridge too has defrosted in that nothing in there is frozen. It seems cold, so I think I am ok for now. Still all this temp fluxing makes me think that there are some serious issues going on, and that this fridge is heading to a dark place. Maybe it is planning it's own Day of the Dead finale.

If it goes, I won't lose much at this point. We are at the end of the month so groceries are running thin. I have plans however, to actually do something this coming shop for food. I am not real big on the idea of filling my fridge and freezer if it is going to kick the bucket.

Now, my options are kind of limited at this point. Paying cash for a new one at this point? Yeah. Not going to happen. Maybe had we not gone over-budget on the roof and maybe if my husband didn't need new contacts and maybe if my younger kid didn't need two cavities filled. Next month is full of all kinds of fun expenses. SO

We can look on craigslist: Seems to be the best option in some ways as I can find one for anywhere from $100-$400. Some of them look really nice too. Cons: We don't know how long someone else's old fridge is going to last. Since this is how we have gotten the last 3 washing machines, that all worked well at first, then died, we know there is risk. Now, we have only paid a total of maybe $150 between the three washers, so we are still ahead on the last 5 years of washing clothes BUT when a washer dies, you suck it up and go to the laundry mat. When a fridge dies, you cry a million tears over the lost groceries. I think there was over $300 worth of food in our fridge last time. That hurt a little.

We can go with a rent to own place: Nice new fridge, make payments. Can probably manage to hit the 90 days same as cash and not pay the extra $1000 or so worth of financing charges and interest. However, all the fridges are higher end, so if we can't come up with the balance in 90 days, that is going to suck really really bad financially.

We can cross our fingers, maintain, and in a few weeks buy one cash: Probably more ideal than craigslist in the long run, but that is going to depend on the fridge making it that long. It might. I don't know. It's hard to say with a fridge. A fridge bought cash out is probably not going to be great, but it will work, and will work for a while. Goes back the price vs. quality thing. If we need it sooner we are going to have to go for price. Again.

Hire a fridge repairman and get it fixed: Another choice that is probably less costly overall, but the fridge is at least 10 years old. Is it worth it? Again, I don't know.

So tell me readers. What would you do in this scenario?

Monday, October 26, 2009

I have a confession

The same camera and person who took this picture
also took this one

just like the same camera and person took this one

and this one

I bring this up because quite frankly, the photography on this blog has started to embarass me. My problem is that I am lazy. That is it. I have the equipment and the knowledge to produce really good shots but that takes more effort than I apparently am willing to put into it.

Part of the problem is that I no longer have a dedicated studio. The small room that used to house my lights, backdrops, and other equipment now houses a guest bedroom where my mom and stepdad stay a few days a month. I have no qualms about giving it up. That simply means that it is a space and time issue to get things set up properly.

I will be attempting to be a little more proactive with my skills. There is no excuse for some of the shots I have posted. Just wanted to clear up that I did learn a little bit from that first degree I obtained. It may be useless as far as getting a job is concerned, but I still take great pride in the knowledge I obtained.

**Kid 1: Organizing a complex paragraph, October book review. Kid 2: Writing a complex paragraph. Both: Rosetta Stone German. Me: Stoichiometry**

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ooey Gooey Goodness

I love brownies. I mean I really love brownies. I have never actually made them from scratch. How sad is that? My brownies have always come from a box. Tonight I changed all that. I got this recipe from another blog .

Total cost is about $2.50 which is a little pricey as I try to keep desserts under $1 but I promise it is worth every cent.

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
3/4 cup cocoa
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 and grease the pan.

Melt the butter. Stir in the sugar, then the vanilla and eggs, then the cocoa and the flour, the baking powder and the salt. Pour into the pan and bake 30-35 minutes. They are some of the best I have eaten.

Things I splurge on...aka...another product review

I love shopping at Aldi for food. I think most of it is top notch and it doesn't bother me at all that I am not eating name brand. I don't taste enough of a difference to care, and in some cases, Aldi food is better.

Their hygeine items on the other hand...not so impressive. I am a total brand whore in that scenario. I figured I would share my favorites that I feel are worth every penny

The pictures on this blog are lifted because I I do not have the inclination at the moment to go take pictures of half empty bottles. Maybe I will replace the photos with my work as I go.

Product 1: Listerine Total Care

I have really crappy enamel on my teeth. To add to the fun, I also grind them. The dentist I go to highly recommends that my kids and I use a floride rinse. Act, the traditional go-to product for this runs just over $4.50 or so. For $5.63 (at Walgreens, I haven't checked country market yet) I get the benefits of a floride rinse and the benefits of Listerine antiseptic mouthwash. My kids don't mind Listerine so flavor is not a problem. I love this stuff and plan on buying it until forever unless something even better comes out.

Product 2: Dove Ultimate Sensitive Care Deodarant

I am sick and tired of either smelling bad, or making my armpits suffer the wrath of overdone fragrances. This stuff doesn't really smell like anything, but the best part is, neither do I. It runs about $4 but it lasts a while.

Product 3: Garnier Fructis Curl Shaping Spray Gel

I have wavy hair, which is code for really annoying. In order for it to look good, I have to go for a full curl or I have to straighten it because otherwise it goes everywhere but where I want it. For days I go for the curl, this stuff is the only stuff I have ever used that makes it easy. I get out of the shower, run a comb through, spray and scrunch. It takes care of the rest. It costs me $3.66 but lasts me forever because it doesn't take much, and I don't use it every day. Plan to keep buying this one as well.

Product 4: Loreal Double Extend Mascara

I don't wear makeup very often. I don't like a ton of fuss on a daily basis. However, when I am trying to look good, my eyes are the first thing I go for. My eyelashes are short and straight and not very dark. Mascara and eyeliner is a must. This stuff is expensive compared to the much cheaper stuff I normally go for. It runs about $10, but again, I don't wear makeup that often so why not splurge? It takes some getting used to in order to get it on without clumping up, but the difference is dramatic. It has the two step beauty tubes and they rock. I do suggest that you curl your eyelashes first if they need it because once they are on, they are harder to work with. I curl then put the first stuff on, slowly and carefully. Let dry a minute and put the other stuff on. I will get some before and after pictures the next time I use it.

The only stuff I have to replace on a regular basis is the Listerine. That lasts 2 weeks if I am lucky. I think it will help with dental and save us money in the long run.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Laundry Detergent: A product review

I am sick and tired of running out of stuff like laundry detergent, soap, and trash bags. My husband happens to work for a company that sells many things, including janitorial supplies. I decided I am going to start bulk buying for real. My first order:Now, I hate cheap laundry detergent. My sister once bought a big box of Sun detergent when she was staying here. That stuff was awful. I mean really really bad. My kid also has sensitive skin so I have to be careful what I buy. This is a 40 lb bucket of detergent. 272 loads worth so I was taking a pretty big risk.

The stuff is great. It's a powder, which I normally hate but it is a much finer powder than the stuff you buy at the store. It has a wonderful lemon scent while in the bucket. The clothes come out clean. It even managed the get the roof shingle funk off my sweatshirt. The smell of the clothes was completely neutral. No smell at all which is awesome.

The retail price of this is $36.38 which puts the price per load at $0.13. That is what I was paying per load for the purex free and clear that I normally buy. Since my husband sells it, we get a pretty good discount and it's more like $0.09 a load. Either way, there is less waste, it is phosphate free and biodegradable. This will last at least 6 months. I don't have to think about it everytime I go to the store, if I am getting close to running out or not. I figure when I get about halfway through it, I will have my husband place another order. If my husband ever finds himself working for another company I would still be willing to pay the retail price on this stuff.

**Both kids: Costume making for halloween Me: Ionic compounds**

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A serious post: Let's talk healthcare

I am having an angry day. I read this article this morning. It talks about women who are routinely denied health insurance. They are denied because they have been raped. There may be a PTSD issue, or in the case of the first woman, she took anti-HIV drugs for a month. Isn't that just a lovely kick when you are already down?

This issue is very near and dear to my heart. When I first got married, my husband was in the Marine Corps. I never worried about insurance. Everything was covered. I think the most I ever paid was $25 out of pocket to the civilian hospital where I birthed my second kid. Then my husband got out of the Marine Corps and we came back to MI.

We followed the rules. My husband got a job that didn't have group coverage so we bought private coverage. My older kid started having problems with UTIs. We treated one with 4 different antibiotics and it would not go away. We finally managed to kill it. The doctor reccomended having her tested for kidney reflux. We did, and it was negative. This was my first time using insurance outside of the military. I was young and uninformed. I didn't think about the $1000 deductable and I didn't understand what was covered and what we needed to pay out of pocket. Let's just say at the end, our side of the bill was over $4000.

The fun continued. A few years later, my husband was a driver at this point and we were covered under group coverage. After a run in with the flu, my older kid was really sick. I took her to the doctor and she ended up being hospitalized with dehydration and severe constipation. Despite insurance and following the rules, there is another few thousand dollars we were expected to pay.

The fun gets worse at this point. My daughter was 5 at the time of her hospitalization. The chronic constipation issue started. She also snored and gasped at night, and by 7 was showing sure signs of Asperger's syndrome. A sleep study to diagnose her with obstructive sleep apnea $$$. Tonsils out $$$ (after all, despite doing my homework and making sure everything was covered, I don't get to pick the pathologist, and things of that nature), and the most recent issue, the constipation problems that would not go away. My daughter had not seen a doctor for the constipation issues in well over a year. We were handling it at home. Her ped. referred us to a gastro. My husband had switched companies a few months before this, so we were on new insurance. "Best in the industry" and fully paid for by the company he worked for. When her blood test for celiac came back positive, I looked very very carefully through the plan. I had been burned so many times. I got the pre-approval and we did the biopsy to test her for Celiac disease. The bills started coming. I knew the $500 deductable was ours. Then there was the $2300 for the anesthisiologist (I cannot spell. Forgive me.) and the pathologist that were not covered. I appealed because again, I chose an in network hospital and doctor. I have no control over the rest.

The "best insurance in the industry" decided to deny the entire claim. Pre-existing condition. Almost $7000 we owe to these people. In the last 8 years we have racked up more than $20,000 in medical bills for one kid.

By the way, the Asperger's syndrome? She shows every sign but I refuse to have her officially diagnosed at this point. Can you blame me? I am trying not to make my kid completely uninsurable.

I am not the only person with this problem. From my mommy board:

One person keeps fewer diabetes supplies on hand for her child than she is comfortable with because of the cost.

One person had to pay for the treatment of cervical cancer out of pocket

One person's insurance wouldn't cover the cost of food for a feeding tube

One person knows of someone who suffered a heart attack and never went in because of lack of insurance.

Another person knows of a women who suffered a broken bone with no insurance and could not get it treated without paying upfront.

I firmly believe that those who do not believe we need some sort of healthcare reform have never had medical issues in which they had to deal with this. We followed all the rules. We made sure we stayed covered, yet the insurance company has paid less to these medical bills than we have paid into them. That is bull.

**Kid 1: Parts of speech, define humanities and art. Kid 2: Singular and plural nouns, introduction to theater, art and music. Me: Basic atomic structure**

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Chunky Cheesey Potato Soup

Another $3 meal. This is a family favorite. We eat potato soup a couple of times a month. Everyone looks forward to it. Sometimes we use polish sausage instead of bacon but the general recipe is always the same.

I should have mentioned with the first $3 meal, that my meals are based on Aldi prices.

First take 1/2 a bag of potatoes and chop them up. Leaving skins on for me depends on the type of potatoes. Today I am using gold potatoes that Aldi had on sale so the skins stay on. Total cost for potatoes: $0.99

I throw them in a big pot (I use my pressure cooker because it is the biggest pot I have) with some water and 1/2 a bag of frozen corn ($0.49)I also chop up 1/2 an onion and put that in. I only use 1/2 an onion because my girls are not huge fans so it is less for them to pick around. ($0.07)

While that is boiling, I cook 4 slices of bacon until they are crispy. Use your favorite method. I reccomend baking it in the oven for the easiest burn free method, but I am in a hurry so I nuked mine in the microwave.

Mmmmmmmm. Bacon. ($0.63)

I also use this time to shred the 3 oz cheese. ($0.56) If you are using pre-shredded cheese you can skip this step but I always buy block cheese. It tastes better to me.
When the potatoes are done, drain most of the water. You want just enough in there to cover the potatoes. Add in 1 cup of milk ($0.12), 1 tsp garlic powder ($0.02), 1 tsp oregano ($0.02) and salt and pepper to taste ($0.01) Crumble in the bacon, and stir in the cheese until melted. At this point add in 1/4 cup or so of potato flakes ($0.05) How much you actually end up with depends on how thick you want it. You can also use a handheld blender to puree some of the potatoes to thicken it up. I just like lots of chunks.

In the end you have this

for a total cost of $2.95

SAHM vs. WOHM Round 1 FIGHT!

Ok not really.

When I first had kids, I was a rabid SAHM fanatic. I was absolutely sure that my way was the only way and that WOHMs didn't care about their kids, and one income is plenty.

Over the years I have eaten some humble pie, stuck a foot or three in my mouth and just in general realized that I really don't give a shit what other people do.

In the past 11 years I have been a SAHM, worked part time, worked full time, volunteered, been a full time traditional college student, worked full time and went to school online full time, and worked at home. I have come to realize that it's all really freaking hard. There is no easy job.

Being a SAHM is hard. You are with the kids all day. There are no co-workers. There are no breaks. There is nobody to back you up if you screw up.

Working part time is hard. You have just enough time at home to make a mess, and just enough time at work to make no real money. It never feels like there is enough time for anything. The house still needs to be cleaned. The job still needs your full attention.

Working full time is hard. By the time you get home at the end of the day, the last thing you want to do is cook dinner or catch up on laundry. The kids want attention. The floor hasn't been mopped in a week. It is madness.

I guess I got into my deep thoughts because I worked today. I quit my daycare job in August in order to concentrate on my school work and go back to homeschooling my kids. My husband got a promotion in May that made it possible. I loved my job. I seriously did. I made crap money, I was behind in my school work, and my kids were not doing as well in school as they should have been. I made the right choice but I still miss it. I am good at caring for kids. I enjoy it. So, I still sub as needed. I worked this morning so the preschool teacher could take her own kid to the dentist. I had fun. I made maybe $30 if I am lucky. Still, subbing allows me to keep this job on my resume for longer. I won't have the pain in the ass gaps that just being home has when I am ready to teach. I need about 31 more credits and I will be able to sub in the schools. That will help too.

Don't get me wrong. I love being a SAHM also. My kids are older, and don't need me as much as they used to. If I do my job right, they will only grow more independant as time goes on. I don't want to be that woman that falls apart when the kids leave the nest.

**Kid 1: algebra rules and properties. Kid 2: prime numbers. Both: Rosetta stone German. Me: Measurements in chemistry**

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My one month quit-aversary

Yep. I have been smoke free for a month. This time. I would like to say I have made it through the worst of it, but I have quit for longer and started back up again so nothing is permanent. I just take it a day at a time.

I quit for two pregnancies. The second one I didn't start back up right away. I quit for 2 years. I quit for 4 months. I have a couple of month long quits behind me.

I am not discouraged though. I quit because I just can't afford it. I wish it was more noble than that, but there it is. I only had a few a day, and never around my kids so I can't say it was for them. I have asthma and I am sure smoking makes it a million times worse but that didn't stop me either. Nope. More than $6 a pack did it. Even at half a pack a day, with my husband smoking the same, that adds up fast.

We used the patch to quit. $40 for 14 patches, which with two of us lasted a week...well a little over because I only used them for 3 days then went without because my husband has a harder time with it than I do. Still, at $6.50 a pack, it paid for itself in 6 days. After that, just for me I have not smoked $78 worth of cigarettes. I could start again tomorrow (which I won't) and I still saved that money. That helps me feel like less of a failure for the times I have fallen.

I am not saying I will never smoke again. I don't plan on it, but I never did before either. I am just taking it a day at a time. If you are looking for a way to save money, start there. Even if you only quit for a day here and there, that is money in your pocket and minutes on your life. Worth a shot.

**Kid 1: Diversity of species, settlements of the first farmers Kid 2: Properties of wind, discovery of early humans Me: Lab 1-identification of unknown substances**

Monday, October 19, 2009

The definition of a shoestring budget

You know, budget means different things to different people. My version of a budget might be bloated in comparison to some, and seriously lacking compared to others.

My budget at the moment is very much paycheck to paycheck. We have a savings plan but these unexpected expenses like to wipe it out so we have to start all over. It makes life interesting I suppose.

Things in my budget that can be consider excess bloat

$45 a month for my youngest child to swim on the swim team. I have already been over why this is important to me.

$336 a month for a truck payment. We live out in the country and we are renovating our house as money allows. Having a truck has come in very very handy. The truck payment won't last forever, and we have every intention of keeping this truck until it falls apart. We don't get new vehicles every year. Before the truck we had a car that was literally rusting away. We bought the truck because it was a truck, and because after being stranded by the side of the road a dozen times, I was hoping for something that would be reliable for a while.

$55 a month for a cell phone. I have already dropped mine when I stopped working. My husband uses his for work. We go through Boost so that we have the unlimited plan for cheap, and no contract. I will never get myself into another contract.

$11 a month for the YMCA membership for the younger kid. See the swim expense above.

$98 a month for a land line phone and DSL. We are stuck going through the local tiny phone company which means about $50 of that is phone. The rest is DSL which is the only high speed internet available to us. We have two full time college students in this house who go to an online university. I am not doing that on dial up. Talk about misery. Time is money also.

$150 a month for orthodontist payments. This hasn't actually started yet. We get to pay a bit over $1500 in December to get it started. The $150 a month starts in January and will basically take up what used to be my car payment. My oldest kid needs an extreme amount of orthodontia to correct a severe overjet. It certainly isn't life or death, but it will help her feel better about herself, and will save her teeth from excess staining because they "stick out" It falls into one of those things we do for our kids because we love them and we can.

Now, I am fortunate that my husband makes enough money that I have the option to have those things. If the worst happened, we have areas that we can scale back. I would rather squeeze my budget in other areas like shopping Aldi for food and Goodwill for clothes than give up the excess that I consider to be important.

*Kid 1: writing complex sentences, required reading. Kid 2: Assembling information to create complex paragraphs. Both kids: Rosetta stone German. Me: Scientific method*

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I am upside down and backwards

Weekend two of the roofing project. It's been interesting.

So, my total as of last weekend was $1614.97

I added

15 drip edge - $52.50
2 rolls ice guard - $120.58
3 rolls roof felt - $53.57
1 4x6x8 deck board - $2.97

The deck board is unrelated to the roof, but needed to be replaced for insurance reasons so I am adding it in.

I also had another trip to the dump - $30 Why $30 and not $20? Because I think the first guy, an older gentleman, thought I was a cute little girl doing man's work and gave me a break. Hey. I will take it. This time it was a younger guy who was all business, and charged me $10 extra which is probably where it should have been the first time.

The new total with tax is $1888.22

But wait! I over bought.

I took back
2 rolls of roof felt - $35.82
1 roll of ice guard - $60.29
2 boxes of roofing nails - $53.96
7 Drip edges - $24.36

Total back with tax - $184.90 dropping our total to $1703.32

It doesn't end there though. I overbought the nails on purpose because we owe the guy who loaned us the nailer a box of nails. The ones I bought were the wrong ones. The right ones unfortunately are more expensive. $44.50 with tax. I also bought my husband a pair of kneepads as he was getting pretty torn up. That was $16.94 with tax. That brings the total up to $1764.76


We ran out of shingles. Sigh. We also need more tar as we didn't buy any and we are almost out of what we had in the garage. I also took back all the drip edge and didn't realize we needed one more piece. We were also getting low on nails, but didn't need a box of 7200 especially since we don't own the nailer.


One 4"x150' tar membrane thing (I don't actually know what it is called) - $12.36
4 tubes of tar - $9.48
2 small boxes of nails - $13.76
6 bundles of shingles - $94.44
1 drip edge - $3.48

New total with tax - $141.53 + $1764.76 = $1906.29

We overbought LOL

We didn't need the nails at all. Unfortunately they came in plastic boxes and one broke on the way home, so we can only return one.

We still have at least one bundle of shingles, maybe 2 left.

In either case, I am not convinced that a trip back to Ohio is worth what we would get back. We are going to have to do the garage at some point in the future so maybe we will just save them.

We do still have one more trip to the dump to make. That is $20-$30 depending on who is there LOL

We came in under budget. Barely. Honestly, if you count what we spent in gas and food/drinks to feed the people helping we went over. Either way, it is 99% done. The tar work still needs to be done. We did meet our deadline.

I have never in my life been so happy to put a project behind me.

Friday, October 16, 2009

From field to table

or from pumpkin to bread.

I took my girls, and the neighbor girl to the orchard today to pick apples and pumpkins. We ended up with a bushel of apples, 4 large carving pumpkins, 4 small pie pumpkins, caramel apples and donuts for all. Not bad for $30.

I figured I would use this blog to show our journey from field to table.

I started with 4 tiny pie pumpkins. These are actually the smallest pie pumpkins I have ever seen. They are not that much bigger than the decorative ones. Still, for $0.50 each, they will work.
I took them all and cut them in half
This was the worst part because honestly, I hate the smell of raw pumpkin. It seriously grosses me out. I scraped all the inside guts out, leaving only the shells.But I save the seeds. Thrown in the oven for an hour or so with a little olive oil and some salt and you have a fairly healthy snack. My kids love them.

I then cut the cleaned out shells into pieces so that they will all fit in my roasting pan, in this case a rectangular casserole dish with about an inch of water in the bottom.

I put them in a 400 degree oven to roast for about an hour. The skins at that point come off really easily. I peel the pieces and cut the meat of the pumpkin into chunks.
I love this because they are such a pretty color. I now take my handheld mixer and puree the pumpkin chunks. A food processor would probably be faster and easier, but I don't have one, so I use what I have.Now we are ready to cook. I take 1 cup, and portion the rest into ziplock baggies, 1 cup per baggie. In total I have about 6 cups of pureed pumpkin which is a lot more than I thought I would end up with.

Onto the bread making.

Preheat the oven to 350.

1 cup pureed pumpkin
1 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 cup water

Mix all the dry stuff in one bowl. Mix all the wet stuff in another bowl. Then mix them together. Easy.
Grease and flour a loaf pan. Dump the batter in. Bake it for an hour or until it is done in the middle.
You end up with this
Bon appetit

Total cost... $1.18