Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Thrills of Modern Day Inventions

Monday, February 11th, 2008

The weather here has just been brutal- blowing snow, freezing temperatures, icy road conditions…the list goes on and on. I am ready for warm weather and bathing suits. I want to sit in my lounge chair and watch the kids play in the sprinklers. I want to sweat, not shiver.

Last night the school listings were starting to post for delays and cancellations. Ethan’s school was not listed, but I was determined to not have a repeat incident of what happened last time. I checked the news website and lo and behold…you can have school delays and cancellations sent right to your phone.

I signed up for this service and the weather alert service. I am bad about watching the news so this was perfect for someone like me.

This morning I heard a beep, beep, beep. This wasn’t my alarm beeping at me…it was my telephone. “South Bend Community Schools have been canceled. Go back to sleep, momma!” (Well, I am adding that last part for the sake of narration…)

Roll back over and go back to sleep. Thank you, sweet modern day invention!

Sound Off: Do you do text messaging or receive any free services like this to your cell phone? Coupons, deals, alerts? Please share!

Free Family Fun Subscription

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

Head over to Baby Cheapskate and read how you can get a free subscription to Family Fun Magazine!

This is a great magazine for those of us who try desperately to craft with our kids, but are stumped for ideas!

While you are over there, Angie has added new additions to her Freepeats program…including Chicago. Midwest moms say, “Hurray!” Boston & Houston communities were also added to the mix.

Enjoy!

All Around the House 02.07.08

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

You might be wondering where I was yesterday? Well, I am proud to say that I am tackling one of my New Year’s resolutions and have begun a sewing course over at Hancock Fabrics. I had been looking into it (or procrastinating on it) for several months now and finally decided that this was the year to learn.

To say that sewing is hard for me is an understatement. I am really struggling with learning to sew. Does sewing come naturally to anyone? I find this whole thing to be quite tedious compared to using a hot glue gun and a staple gun. I am one of those free spirits though that doesn’t like to measure or follow direction, but that is not what is expected of you in a sewing class. I know I am being taught the proper way to sew, but I don’t envision myself doing half the stuff I am learning when sewing. My goal really was just to learn how to use the sewing machine so that I could make throw pillows or curtains. An added bonus for me would be to be able to make a simple skirt or apron, but never to sew my own pajamas (which is our third project in this series of classes).

Our first project was pillowcases. I have a feeling I will never make pillowcases again because this is something I would rather buy in the store. Of course, the purpose is to learn how to sew, not necessarily to learn how to make pillowcases. These were supposed to be an easy first time project, but it took me four hours to make these. They didn’t turn out perfect, in fact, one of my pillowcases had to be completely sewn again because it wasn’t done right. I also had made the mistake of picking striped fabric, which I wouldn’t recommend to anyone who is trying to learn to sew because all of the lines had to match up and it took forever to cut these and sew them.

Our next project will be more up my alley. We are learning how to make aprons and this time I picked a green polka-dotted print. Seeing as the pillowcases took me four hours, I can imagine that an apron will take me about twenty hours.

Regardless, I am really enjoying Ivy’s, from Home Ec 101, posts on learning to sew and she is offering a great tutorial for beginning sewers. Taking her free advice is a lot less expensive than taking the courses, which average $15 each plus materials, but I am hoping this class pays off for me.

If you have any kind words for a discouraged sewer, I could really use them! I know I am not very patient!

Ethan was also the superstar in his class for the week. They pick one person each week to be the star and each day they do something special with that person. He had to make a picture about himself and his family which shared all about himself and his favorite things (pancakes and trips to Chicago). The next day he shared his favorite book, “How do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon.” The next day was spent sharing about his favorite toy- his Mega T-Rex. Lastly, today we had to make his favorite snack to bring in to share with the class..Pumpkin Muffins. After my sewing class last night, I came home and whipped these up to take this morning while my little superstar slept.

The whole family chipped in to make his superstar week, complete. Even Emily & her monkey helped by handing crayons to our rock star to complete his project! This was definitely a family effort to make his week special.

Open Your Own Bed & Breakfast

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

Pre-children, my husband & I got the opportunity to take some really fun trips and to visit some really amazing places. While we have never gotten the opportunity to travel out of the country, we have gone lots of great places in our own country.

One of our trips lead us to a beautiful bed and breakfast in Cape Cod. Our room was tucked away in the attic of the home and it was filled with beautiful antiques and slanted ceilings. They served us an amazing breakfast and we lounged on their antique couches and enjoyed our beautiful breakfast while reading the paper. We spent the entire day window-shopping and curled into our bed, covered in quilts and feathered pillows. It has been one of our favorite little getaways and was one of the last trips we got to take before our son entered the world.

Since we have had children, our travels are more limited, but I have been trying to capture the feeling of a good bed and breakfast over the weekends in our home. While I don’t have someone here to keep the home tidy, I try to revel in the details that can help make our home feel more like a vacation house, instead of just the place we live in.

Here are some of my ideas for helping create a bed and breakfast in your own home:

1. Putting fresh sheets on the bed makes climbing into bed so much nicer. I love to turn the bed back to make it look more welcoming. I wouldn’t suggest doing this until the evening (or you will probably end up in it!), but doing this before bed makes the bed seem more inviting. If you don’t have time to clean the sheets, fresh pillowcases or just neatly making the bed can help to freshen it up.

2. If you have the space, pull a comfy chair up into your room. Our glider was rarely used in Emily’s room anymore, so I brought it into our room to make a cozy little reading corner. A basket of library books are right next to my bed so I always have a little reading material.

3. I love my trays and I keep one in our bedroom too. It is a great place for me to put my current reading material, the newspaper, and a Suduko puzzle book. I like to rest my coffee in the tray while I do my reading so I don’t have to balance a cup on our bed. You could also bring your breakfast into your bedroom and take a little mommy time-out on the weekends. My husband sometimes lets me disappear for a little bit and I can enjoy a few moments in peace. It is great!

4. One of the fun things about staying at a hotel is getting to try all sorts of new bath and body products. I keep a basket of freebies in our room and love to dig into these on the weekend. It is so fun to try tons of spa products without paying a dime for them. What could be better than that?

5. On Saturdays, we love to make pancakes or waffles. On Friday night, while our pizza is cooking, I try to make up the batter for our brunch the next day. I put this in a bowl and tuck it in the fridge for the morning. The next day, all I have to do is pour the batter out and we are ready to go. It helps eliminate a lot of the work for the meal the following day and makes my morning run much smoother.

6. When serving your brunch, break out the good dishes! Everything looks and tastes so much better when it is well-presented.

7. If the budget allows it, buy some fresh flowers for your bedroom and table. A beautiful bouquet at Aldi is only $2.99 and has enough flowers that it can be split into two rooms.

Here are a few recipes for creating your own bed & breakfast:

Oatmeal Waffles
Spiced Pumpkin Waffles With Honey Butter
Yeast Waffles
Banana Pancakes
Pete’s Scratch Pancakes
Pumpkin Pancakes With Oven Fried Bacon (scroll down)
Amy’s French Toast
Gingerbread Waffles
Cinnamon Muffins
Apple Pie Muffins
Sour Cream Muffins
Pumpkin Struesel Muffins
Almost Nutra Grain Bars
Amy’s Favorite Cocoa Mix
Homemade Pancake Syrup
Homemade Nonstick Spray (This will help keep your waffles and pancakes from sticking)

For inspirational reading on making your house feel more like a fabulous weekend retreat, I love to read INNside Innkeeping in Montana. There are excellent tips for home maintenance and tons of delicious recipes to try.

Sound Off: What is your favorite thing to do on the weekends? How do you help keep your weekends running smoothly?

I Heart Oz (Or I Heart Carrie)

Monday, February 4th, 2008

I got an unexpected package in the mail last week. I didn’t remember ordering anything, but tucked between all of the junk mail was a squishy envelope.

I opened the envelope up and out fell an “I Love Oz” t-shirt. There was a sweet note explaining that my awesome blogging buddy Carrie had attended a swap night and happened upon this shirt. She remembered my entry about my surprise birthday tickets to the show and she also knew my size. Wouldn’t you know she snatched it up for me?

I really wanted a shirt when I attended the show, but you know me and my money. We are tight. I kept my money in my pocket and never imagined that I would have gotten such a nice surprise!

Thank you, Carrie! You truly made my week!

Braggy McBrag-Brag Strikes Again…

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

You can read an interview about how I got my start in the frugal community on Frugal Hacks today. Much thanks to Kim for showcasing my blog this week. I am awfully flattered and oh-so-proud!

Does Your Safety Net Look Worn Out?

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

I have always tried to keep money in an emergency fund for the unexpected because, frankly, the unexpected seems to happen a lot in our family. About five years ago, we faced an unexpected time of unemployment for my husband’s job. Without that emergency fund strongly in place, I truly believe that we could have ended up in bankruptcy. Trying to be dedicated savers, we had put all of our money into a savings account to prepare for those rainy days.

Well, that rainy day came in our house. And it rained. And it poured. And it thundered. And it… well, you get the picture. He went almost a year without finding a job and I tried to help with the finances by working full-time until he found something. Even though we were drawing an unemployment check and I was doing my part working full-time, we were just covering my husband’s pay and we were missing our additional income. We had a new baby, a new mortgage, and a huge amount of student debt.

What we had to be thankful for was a fat savings account that would ride us through the storm. We had saved up around $15,000, after purchasing our home, for those rainy days that were ahead. During that time of unemployment, we managed to eat through all of that saved money and then accumulated more debt on top of that.

Now we are better money-managers, but we are working with only one income. I feel very privileged to be home with my children, but I miss being able to jump right in with my own income in these emergency situations. That safety net just isn’t what it used to be. In fact, my net looks a little threadbare and it often scares me. I have found because I have faced uncertain times in my financial past, that it is rare for me to feel true certainty when it comes to my finances. What I mean to say is that I can’t seem to put my finger on a magical number that would be right for my emergency fund so that I could feel at peace with an unemployment situation happening again. Gosh, $15,000 seemed like a magical number at the time and yet…it wasn’t magical enough.

Now with each paycheck I am trying to sock money away into an emergency fund for our family. The big question is…what is more important- building up your emergency fund OR paying down your debt?

An emergency fund trumps debt, at least it does in my family. We are steadily paying down our debt, but we are also putting our nickels and dimes away in our emergency fund too. If given a choice between putting money towards my credit card or putting my money towards my emergency fund…I would lean towards saving. The reason is, if something unexpected should happen, I would need that money from my emergency fund a whole lot more than looking at my extra $25 payment that got absorbed into my credit card.

I am wondering what the scenario is in your homes. Do you have any emergency fund? Is your emergency fund in a savings account or do you keep your money elsewhere? What is your magical number/equation you use for deciding how much to put in your accounts?

Worth Its Weight in Gold

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

Last week I went to a local market to stock up on meat for the month. I have been really disappointed in the quality of the meat at our supermarkets in town so I decided to go to another town to stock up on meat there based on some great recommendations from my mom’s group. I ended up getting some really excellent deals for my money and the meat was a much better quality too.

I brought home ten pounds of chicken, ten pounds of ground beef, and two whole chickens. I broke out my FoodSaver, purchased from the thrift store, and one of my favorite kitchen tools…my postal scale.

I got my postal scale off of eBay and I use it often for shipping purposes. It has saved me a lot of time and hassle at the post office, but it also has been such a useful tool for me to weigh ingredients when cooking in bulk.

I divide my meat into one pound portions because that is the amount we typically use in a meal and it also thaws a lot quicker when it is in these smaller portions. Each one pound portion was vacuum-sealed and labeled for the freezer.

The whole chickens were rubbed with my Sticky Chicken dry rub and are all ready to go for a yummy meal one night. The chicken breasts were cleaned and trimmed, and then cubed for the various dishes I will be using them for.

With the grocery prices rising, this is one easy way that I can save my family money during the month.

Sound Off: Do you buy your meat in bulk or do you have store that you usually find good meat sales at? What would be a good price on meat in your area?

A Special Prayer Request

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

Update: Austin’s surgery went really well and he is now in recovery. Thank you for your prayers and thoughts. Please continue to keep him in your thoughts and prayers, as he has a long recovery ahead of him.

I don’t often ask for a prayer request on here, but we have so many amazing readers that I would love to tap into that today. My nephew will be going in for a very serious surgery tomorrow morning. He has a rare condition called, Congenital Nevus that covers one of his legs.

They are attempting to get skin to use for a grafting and the past few surgeries have failed. They will be expanding his tissue in a different place this time, in hopes that this tissue will be stronger and give them more to work with. The more skin that they can get, the more of the nevus they will be able to remove.

Please pray for their family this week and ask God to help heal him. He is only six years old and it breaks my heart that they have to go through all of this. They are a young family and need all the prayers and support that we can offer them.

It’s Official! I’m OLD!

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

I turn thirty today! Isn’t thirty the new twenty? Or the new ten? I keep hearing those rumors so I am hoping that they are true. Does it help that I feel much younger than I am? Or that I still get carded?

How do I know that I am getting older? Well, I was mortified when I saw someone in our family wearing fishnet stockings at a holiday get together. I actually felt sorry for her… until I discovered that fishnets could be something that was not only fashionable, but was encouraged by fashion experts this year. And yet, I thought these were just for street walkers. I am starting to show my age!

How do I know I am still young? I still indulge in stupid teenage shows like “The Hills” & “Gossip Girls.” I stay up too late playing the Wii and hanging out with my husband. Last but not least, I still feel like I am playing dress-up & house over here even though we have been doing this for years now.

In honor of my special day, I offer you a vintage post from my archives. This is one of our more infamous posts that brings searches in by the hundreds. Here is my link to all of those great birthday freebies that you can score.

Be sure to bookmark this for your special day. After all, Friday shouldn’t be the only day you get free stuff on our blog!