Thursday, January 30, 2014

You Know You Live In Minnesota When...

...the snowdrifts are taller than your car.

...you race the plow home so you don't get "plowed out" of your driveway (or in if you're planning on leaving soon).

...you bake cookies and take them to the nearest DOT office as a thank you to the snowplow driver who saw you coming and let you get into your driveway before he plowed passed it!

... you have to watch for snowmobiles on the intersections on the way home after dark (and sometimes in the afternoon too!).

...classes are canceled due to wind chill...not snowfall.

...you have to scale a 3-foot-tall snow pile to get from the parking lot to the sidewalk in front of the store or business you need to go to.  And it doesn't phase you in the least.

...you know to lift small children over the pile of snow next to the sidewalk before climbing over yourself.

...it rains in the bathroom because it's cold enough outside for the water vapor to condense out of the air in the exhaust vent.

...warm, ear-covering hats are a fashion statement...as are tall, waterproof, fleece (or fur) lined boots.  And no one cares what their hair would look like because frostbite would look even worse.

...you wonder how anyone could leave their gloves anywhere other than on their hands.

...the teachers know which snow pants belong to which child - and they're all black bib snow pants!

...you take the freeway to and from work because you know they plowed that already.

...you know the brand of snow blower by the sound it makes.

...when you pack extra food and drinks for the drive to school because you know it can take a long time (1 hour and 45 minutes for a 20-minute drive this morning folks - and that's in the city!).

...it's pajama day at school and you don't have to tell the children to wear long sleeves because they only own long-sleeved winter pajamas!

...the school has projects for parents to help with (cutting out shapes, filing papers, organizing, etc.) on icky days because they know that some parents will just stay all day rather than going home and coming back to pick their children up.

...the children refuse "hot" lunch on a day when it features anything cold - including ice cream!

...and the temperature reaches +10F and you don't wear socks, slippers or shoes in the house because it feels positively balmy!

We now have enough snow that this guy is up to his waist in snow and we had to take off the hat because it would have been long gone!!!  WOW!

Hope winter is treating you well where you are and that you are all safe and warm.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Goals - Week of January 26, 2014

School has started and we are back in a cold snap with all our schools closed again today.  The children are both excited and bummed about school be canceled  - they had a field trip planned for today and wanted to see their friends after the weekend, but they are excited about having a long weekend and some time with just Mom.  We had another busy weekend and with the storm front that came through twice this weekend, I have been down and out with a colossal headache for most of the weekend. And in a bit of extra running around this weekend and I'm glad we have an extra day (or two) at home this week. We have a couple of fun things planned for today - baking bread and cookies and watching a show online as well as making a craft for Valentine's Day.  I'm looking forward to it all!

I've been reading Crystal Paine's book, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode, and I'm trying to implement some of what is in there.  It's hard to do, since we have so much on our plates right now and there is very little we can remove.  John is reading the book too and we've decided on a few things around the house and with our daily routines that should make our days a little easier anyway.  My to-do list isn't necessarily any shorter, but my routine of my day is simpler and I'm excited about that.  We're also being much more intentional about bed times for all four of us and rise times as well.  I did make the painful decision to quit my church choir for now. I love singing and love the friends I have there but I really do need that evening at home right now.   Hopefully all of this will help things feel more calm around here  and we'll start noticing a difference in my stress levels in particular and in all our stress levels in the next few weeks!

Here are my goals for this week:

Work:
Be ready for class each day
Keep up with grading (I tend to do well for a while and then get really behind!)
Update grade book as needed
Check references from MS Thesis against Bib and recycle what isn't needed

School:
Contact my advisor
Cross 5 things off my list (don't worry - they're little things)

Jazzercise:
Teach 2 classes
Attend 1 class
Learn 1 new routine
Complete some administrative things that need to be done

Family:
Swimming Lessons
Piano Lessons (part of the school day)
Dance Lessons
Family Night
Date Night

Home:
Ironing
Finish cleaning out the filing cabinet
Finish (finally) Christmas Thank You Notes (2 to go!)
Bonus goal: 2 small sewing projects (only if everything else is done!)

Faith/Church/Ministry:
Congregational Meeting
Pot Luck
One load of items for donation
Write to our Compassion Child

Personal:
Get my hair cut (should have done this last week but ran out of time!)
Find a babysitter for an event John and I have in a couple of weeks
Photograph outfits for the dresses I own

What are you up to this week?  Care to share?  Visit Money Saving Mom for more inspiration!

Menu Plan Monday - Week of January 26, 2014

Our Christmas Eve Dinner Table - Swedish Meatballs and Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Corn, Lefse and some fruit that isn't on the table in this photo!  The china belonged to my Grandmother.
We're back in the single digits below zero this week - brr!!!!  As much as I love winter, this one has been a bit much with the cold temperatures. Usually we can be outside with no trouble, this year, well, not so much!   It's great soup and stew and baking weather though!

Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday, January 26:
   Breakfast: Cereal and Milk
   Lunch:  Leftover Chicken, Fruit, and Cracker
   Snack: Peanut Butter Cookies
   Dinner: Church Pot-Luck: Bring Fruit Salad

Monday, January 27:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal with Dates and Almonds
   Lunch: Hot Lunch for Children, Leftovers for Adults
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner: Scalloped Potatoes with Ham, Tossed Salad, Strawberry-Banana-Orange Salad

Tuesday, January 28:
   Breakfast: Bagels with Peanut Butter and Cinnamon, Bananas
   Lunch: Chicken Noodle Soup, Homemade Bread, Oranges
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner: Beef Barley Stew, Homemade Bread, Tossed Salad, Grapefruit Wedges

Wednesday, January 29:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins with Bananas
   Lunch: Hot Lunch for Children, Leftovers for Adults
   Snack: Peanut Butter Cookies
   Dinner: Easy Black Bean Soup, Cornbread, Tossed Salad, Orange Wedges

Thursday, January 30:
   Breakfast: Chai Spiced Oatmeal
   Lunch: Hot Lunch for Children, Leftovers for Adults
   Snack: Peanut Butter Cookies
   Dinner: Book-It Pizzas for the Children, Leftover Stew and Salad for the Adults

Friday, January 31:
   Breakfast: Pancakes from the Freezer with Applesauce
   Lunch: Hot Lunch for the Children, Leftovers for the Adults
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner: Shrimp Stir Fry with Noodles, Oranges or Grapefruit

Saturday, February 1:
   Breakfast: Waffles from the Freezer with Powdered Sugar and Almonds
   Lunch: Vegetable Barley Stew from the Freezer, Grapefruit
   Snack: Popcorn
   Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Breadsticks

What are you eating this week? 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Super Savings Saturday - Last Week's $30 and This Week's $20 Shopping

Boy, every time I think I've got a handle on this whole blogging thing, life happens and I don't get to my blog for a few days.  *SIGH*   We had a wonderful weekend last weekend, but it was a very busy weekend and that continued all week this week.  All that said, I did get photos of last week's groceries and this week's groceries to share with you all!

Here's what we bought last Saturday (January 18).  We spent approximately $27 on this (it was $26 and change but I don't remember the exact amount).


Since it's a little hard to see everything in the photo here's the list: 8lb red grapefruit, 10lbs oranges, 1 dozen eggs, 2 gallons of milk, 2 packages shredded and 1 block Kraft cheese, 1 package brown sugar, 1lb carrots, 1 container Smart Balance, and 1 packet each Bob's Red Mill Flax Seed Meal and Wheat Germ.    I use the flax seed meal and wheat germ occasionally in cooking and use it regularly in making granola and I was completely out.  We still have plenty of everything except milk left from this trip.

Here's what we bought this week:


John went to one store and here's what he got for us:

Tide Original $5.98 sale price - $1.50 coupon = $4.48
3 Butter Kernel Corn 3/$1.98 coupon = $1.98
2.55lb Bananas @ $0.59/lb = $1.50
Fresh Express Spring Mix $2.98 coupon = $2.98
Sweet Mini Peppers 2/$4 coupon = $4
1 Gallon Skim Milk $3.19
5 Yoplait Greek Yogurt @ $0.88 sale price = $4.40 - $1 - $1 -$1 - $1 doubled coupons = $0.40
Strawberries 1lb $2.50 sale price

Total (including tax on the laundry detergent): $21.46
Total Saved According to Store Receipt $17.03

How did you do with your shopping this week? Come back Monday to see what we're eating this week!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Frugal Friday - Frugal Things We Did January 10-16, 2014

So, it's a Frugal Friday again!  I can't believe how fast the weeks travel sometimes - we're already halfway through January! Can you believe that?

Here's the "extra" things that we did since last Friday that count as frugal and are outside our "normal" happenings around here:

* Ate all meals at home or brown-bagged this week.

* Shopped for our stock up for Internship. What we purchased you can read about here.

* Made arrangements to share a fruit share in a local CSA with a friend. Last time she did this she had enough fruit for her family for 2 years so we're hoping that by spitting it we'll have enough for both our families for 1 year.

* Baked 4 loaves of French Bread - giving two away as gifts (we can't eat 4 at a time before they start to mold).

* Made homemade granola.

* Tried a recipe for a new wheat berry salad to take for my lunch at work this week - Yummy!

* Worked from home two days this week since I didn't have class or meetings.  Used the "doing while" time to catch up on the laundry from the holidays (extra linens like napkins, tablecloths, etc.). Bonus: Both days were icky weather so I was glad that I didn't have to drive much.

* Accepted 4 containers of already processed home-grown horseradish from a friend.

* The children went sledding as part of the Scout's program this week - my daughter went along since I had choir practice at church and she just would have had to sit in the back and wait.

* Made arrangements to swap childcare with a friend while I serve on Jury Duty this summer.  She'll watch our children while I am on Jury Duty if we watch her daughter a few times for her husband is out of town and she is at work (she works odd hours).

* Used a sale and coupon to order some craft materials online.  Will use these to make very inexpensive gifts for family and friends later.  I'm really excited about this!

* Returned books to the library.  Decided that we would read some of the many books we have at home rather than checking any out for the time being.

* Worked on a couple of homemade gifts.  Didn't finish either one but they're getting there!

Frugal flops for the week:  throwing away some leftovers that went bad (they had dairy in the them so I didn't want to compost them) and composting a melon that looked good on the outside but was moldy on the inside, and one recipe we tried was a flop with everyone but me (so I get to eat the leftovers for a while).

What did you do this week?

Visit The Prudent Homemaker's Blog and Web Site for inspiration and to share!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Work Home and Family - Our 12 Days of Christmas Party (Menu and Review)

So, one of the things we're trying harder to do this year is to celebrate the church year in our home.  The church year starts either late October or early November with Advent, then travels through Christmas, Epiphany, and on through the rest of the church year.  We started with Advent, giving us some time to get into the school year and all it entails before jumping into "additional" things.

Christmas officially starts on December 25th and continues through 12 days until Epiphany. Since the tree and all of our other decorations stay up until Epiphany (January 6) we thought a good way to "end" Christmas would be to have a 12 Days of Christmas Party.

I read here about 12 Days of Christmas Dinner/Party and thought it sounded  like a really fun idea to try.  My parents were here and our good friends wanted to make sure they got to see them while they were here, so the four of them plus our family got to be our guinea pigs, so to speak.

After it was all said and done I realized that neither my Dad nor I had taken a single photo.  How's that for neglectful?  *Sigh*

I had typed up the lyrics to the song along with the meaning of each verse/stanza (whatever they're called) and then the menu on the back with what we were having to coincide with each verse.  I added some free clip art that appealed to me, and we sang the song and chatted just a bit about the meaning while enjoying the food and the company of our friends.

Anyway, we had a great time, though it seemed like a ton of work at the time, and I thought I'd share the menu with you.  The other menus I have seen have been a combination of appetizers and desserts but I wanted an actual 3-course meal. (I know what was I thinking?).

Here's what we came up with:

Appetizers:
* Frozen Quiche Appetizers (Drums - 12 Drummers Drumming)
* Deviled Eggs (Six Swans A-Swimming)
* Three types each of cheese and crackers (Three French Hens - we chose "French" cheese for this)

Main Course:
* Cornish Game Hens (Two Turtle Doves)
* 9- Fruit Salad (Nine Ladies Dancing)
* Breadsticks (Flutes - Eleven Pipers Piping - though my clip art had bagpipes! Ha!)
* 7-Layer Salad (Seven Swans a-Swimming)
* Noodle Ring Pasta Salad (Five Golden Rings) (John wanted Onion rings but he was the only one!)

Desserts:
* Chocolate Dance Shoes (Ten Lords a-Leaping)
* Baked Pears stuffed with Pecans and Brown Sugar (A Partridge in a Pear Tree)
* Non-Alcoholic Eggnog Punch (Eight Maids a-milking)

Drinks:
* Water, Milk, Orange Juice and Lemonade (Four Calling Birds) (Yes, this is lame but it was the only thing we could come up with that fit with everything else - and we intended to have wine instead of the orange juice but didn't make it to the liquor store before the party!).

In retrospect it wasn't as much work as it could have been since we made the salads, breadsticks, chocolate shoes, punch, and deviled eggs the day before.  The pears were prepped and just had to be put in the oven as we sat down for the main course.  And roasted Cornish game hens are super easy anyway and all we had to do was bake the quiche.

We did this buffet style since our house is tiny and I honestly think all appetizers and desserts would work better with a buffet style (maybe that's why "everyone else" is doing that!).

I realized afterward that part of the reason this felt like SO much work was that we had the additional company of my husband's parents and youngest brother for Friday and Saturday before had the party on Sunday so all the prep had to be done around that visit - so I stayed up way too late, working in and around the small pieces of time that we were home and not entertaining them. I think if we had done this without having that extra company right before - or if we had included it as part of entertaining them -  it wouldn't have felt like so much work.  

What do you think?  How would you celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas at your house? And what would you have for the Four Calling Birds?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Healthy Habits in 2014 - Giving Yourself Grace

One of the biggest things we need to work on with ourselves as women, wives, mothers and human beings is giving ourselves grace!  It is so important in every aspect of our lives, but often, we are our own worst enemies - treating ourselves worse than we would people we don't like.

This Week's Habit:  Give Yourself Grace

Giving ourselves grace is often one of the hardest things.  If we mess up or don't meet our own expectations, we can beat ourselves up for weeks, months or even years.

What kind of Mom am I to take the time out of my day to exercise when I should be doing something with my children instead?

What kind of wife am I if I make my husband cook dinner (clean the house, watch the kids) so I can exercise (take a nap, take a shower, get my hair cut)?

What kind of person am I if my house isn't spotless (don't cook from scratch, eat all organic, have a high-power career, am overweight, don't know how to dress "sharp")?

We do this again and again and again.

And often it's sabotaging.

Well, I ate that giant piece of cake today, might was well go whole hog and eat the rest of the junk I'm not "supposed" to eat.

Well, I "made" Hubby watch the kids tonight, might as well quit expecting time to shower (exercise, eat, nap) when they kids are up because that is so selfish of me.

Well, the house was a mess when I came home so I turned around and left because I didn't want to deal with it. Now I can't go out ever again because I'm such a terrible person for ignoring it.

We all hit the end of our limits - mine this week was "If I have one more day where I have to run here and there and everywhere..."   It made me want to hide under the covers and not go anywhere for a while - including working out, necessary errands and church.

The scale crept up on my over Christmas break when the weather was terrible, I wasn't on my feet most of every day teaching and I wanting to spend extra time with my parents. 

John got mad at me this fall because I was putting off taking a shower every day. Since I work out 4-5 days a week, I'm pretty good about showering after  work out.  It was the other days when it would be 1130pm (I usually shower before bed) and I was dead tired and I'd say "Nah." and just go to bed.  I promise I didn't smell, but John finally told me that he could tell because I had a harder time falling asleep on those nights.

I often push back my bedtime because I have one more thing that I could do.  And then I'm tired and grumpy and often get sick.

If I skip working out one or two days a week because I have other things to do or I'm just too tired, I get sick and my digestive track doesn't work as well (I have a blood flow problem that is combated by exercise). 

It isn't a crime or a sin to take care of ourselves. 
In fact, it is necessary for us to function at our best. 

Beating ourselves up because we can't be Super Woman is self-damaging.

Often we set the bar way too high and instead of moving the bar down a little we quit because we "goofed up" at meeting an expectation that was just out of line to begin with.

Give yourself some grace, pick some realistic expectations and start with baby steps.

Sometimes those baby steps have to be tiny for us to complete them.  That's okay.  It will make us stronger and better and more able to care for ourselves and our families.

For example:

Did you set a goal to workout 7 days a week for an hour when you've never worked out before? Did you quit because your body complained after one day or because you missed a day?

Did you quit taking time for a nap even though you had a new baby at home because you had "so much to do"?

Did you tell yourself you are a horrible person because you asked someone else to clean your house, put your children to bed, or make dinner one night? And you felt that you were the one who is "supposed" to do it?

Take a minute to think about things that would help you that you've quit in the past because you set unreasonable expectations.   None of us are able to live up to these expectations.  We need to give ourselves grace, give ourselves realistic expectations for this time in our lives and not beat ourselves up when we mess up.

As you set your goals and resolutions for the New Year, think about giving yourself some grace and aim for baby steps that make us all healthier and more resilient in 2014.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Goals - Week of January 12, 2014

So my word for 2014 is COMPLETED.

What have I completed so far in 2014 that was on my list to complete?

* A Christmas/Winter tablecloth (mittens and snowflakes prints) was sown.
* I cleaned out the top drawer of the filing cabinet in our Family Room (Why on earth was I keeping bill stubs from 2010? Never mind - don't answer that!).
* I cleaned out 2 1/2 drawers of my 5 drawer filing cabinet at work.
* I cleaned off the table/shelf thing in the laundry room so we can use it as storage for things like toilet paper, etc. in the coming year.
* Six garbage bags of shredded paper were confidentially recycled.
* Reorganized the toiletry and medicine shelf in the linen closet - this was a huge mess and the organizational methods we had just were not working for us anymore.  So far, this is working so much better!
* I've learned 3 new or new-to-me Jazzercise routines.

The goal with both filing cabinets is to get rid of them and downsize to something smaller.  We decided the paper expands to fill the space available and we have just too much of it!  In the case of school, my desk has 3 file drawers and two of them were completely empty.  That should be more than enough.  At home we have a large two-drawer lateral file.  We're downsizing to a traditional two-drawer cabinet.

Of course the big thing on my list to complete is my PhD, but that will take more steps than one!  Progress will be made and I WILL put "done" on that this year.   I crossed off 2 things from my to-do list for my dissertation this past week.

Here are my goals for this week:

Work:
* Finish cleaning out the file cabinet and have it removed
* Paperwork
* Go through the work turned in by my independent study students

School:
* Complete 4 items on my dissertation to-do list
* Meet with my committee

Jazzercise:
* Learn two new routines
* Teach two classes
* Attend 1-2 classes
* Do my Pilates video (I need to work on my flexibility)

Family:
* Swimming Lessons
* Piano Lessons (this is part of their school day)
* Family Night
* Attend a friend's wedding
* Library Trip

Home:
* Ironing
* Clean out the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet
* Donate the filing cabinet
* Finish Christmas Thank You Notes and mail
* Two online orders that need to be made

Worship/Church/Ministry:
* Write to our Compassion International Child
* Email for the "spring" choir schedule
* Start making the Prayer Beads for Lent

Personal:
* Paint my toe nails (Missy got some fun new nail polish for Christmas and we've been having fun with it!)
* Shop my own closet for outfits to go with my skirts
* Photograph the outfits I put together

What are you up to this week?  Visit Money Saving Mom to be inspired!

Menu Plan Monday - Week of January 12, 2014

Homemade Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread - YUM!
It's another week here and we're cold but not as cold as we have been.  I'm excited that the children might actually get outside for recess this week - if the actual air temperature is below 10F, they don't go out.   We can always tell if they've been inside for recess - they definitely need that fresh outdoor air!
We're eating well here and hoping to use up some things that have been in our pantry and freezer for a while over the next couple of weeks.   We have good friends getting married this weekend so we're really looking forward to their wedding and reception.  We also have some fruit left from our 12-Days-of-Christmas party, which needs to be eaten - the cantaloupe and pineapple we bought were not ripe enough to use that night and now they finally are!

We also have a relatively restful week in terms of activities.  Due to flooding at their dance studio (a consequence of the sub-zero temps and a neighbor business who wasn't paying a whole lot of attention), they only have one extra-curricular this week so we don't have to run as much!  That is a nice treat since John is in intensive classes this week and is gone from 630am until approximately 8pm most nights and two nights he won't get back until approximately 10pm.  We're grateful for the opportunities he has and that he can take meals with him or that they feed him at no extra charge while he is there! The children have school off on Friday this week due to a teacher in-service so we're knocking off a bunch of appointments that day and will have lunch at home (John will be fed at school that day).  It's a busy yet less "running-around" week than normal so we're looking forward to some relative calm and John's lowered stress levels as well. 

Here's what we're eating this week:

January 12, Sunday:
   Breakfast: Cereal and Milk
   Lunch: Breakfast Tacos
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner: Macaroni and Cheese, Melon-Pineapple-Blueberry Salad

January 13, Monday:
   Breakfast: Waffles from the Freezer, Blueberries and Walnuts
   Lunch: Leftovers for Adults, Hot Lunch for Children
   Snack: Clementine's
   Dinner: Crock pot Chicken Noodle Soup, French Bread, Tossed Salad, Melon-Pineapple-Kiwi Salad

January 14, Tuesday:
    Breakfast: Oatmeal with Dates and Walnuts
    Lunch: PB&J, Carrot Sticks, Yogurt, Peanut Butter Cookies
    Snack: Clementine's
    Dinner: Fish Tacos Melon-Pineapple-Pear Salad

January 15, Wednesday:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins and Banana-Peanut Butter Smoothies
   Lunch: Cheese and Matzo Crackers, Carrot Sticks, Peanut Butter Cookies
   Snack: Clementine's
   Dinner: Pork Loin, Sweet Potatoes, Tossed Salad, Orange Wedges

January 16, Thursday:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal with Dates and Walnuts
   Lunch: Leftovers for Adults, Hot Lunch for Children
   Snack: Clementine's
   Dinner: Pancakes with Kiwi, Bananas, and Walnuts

January 17, Friday:
   Breakfast: Chai Spiced Oatmeal
   Lunch: Homemade Pizza and Bread sticks, Clementine's
   Snack: Peanut Butter Cookies
   Dinner: Honey Dijon Chicken, Rice, Sweet Potatoes, Melon

January 18, Saturday:
    Breakfast: Pancakes with Strawberry Jam and Powdered Sugar
    Lunch: Chicken Wrap Sandwiches, Carrot and Celery Sticks, Pineapple
    Snack: Peanut Butter Cookies
    Dinner and Dessert:  At a Wedding Reception

What are you eating this week?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things - Things from the Christmas Season

I have to say I love January.

Once the hubbub of Christmas and John's birthday dies down and the decorations are all put away, the peace and quiet that comes is something that I always enjoy.  No wonder it's a time for resolutions and new goals and reevaluating things. 

All that said, I also love the Christmas season.  I love cookies and decorations and snow and "making merry" and spending some "extra" time with my family.  Christmas was extra special this year  because my parents were able to be with us and my Dad is in remission from his cancer.  Best Christmas gift in my lifetime I'd say!

Here are some of my favorite things from the Christmas season:

 
Cookies decorated by my children.
 
 
The lovely doll furniture made by my Dad for my Missy.  Here she was getting them ready for a tea party with her dolls and their puppies.
 
 
My children making the snowballs for a snow man.  This was my favorite photo because it's so FUNNY!  Even funnier - my tiny Mom put on my big down parka and helped!
 
 
Aren't these cute?  They are two clay nativity scenes that we bought this year - one for each child. 
 
 
The Kit-Katt Keyboard that I made for the children's piano recital. I 'm glad I got a photo because it  was a huge hit and was gone in about 5 minutes!
I got the idea here.
 
 
Homemade Lefse! Yum!
 

I love this idea - the title of the Christmas Eve sermon at our church was "The Cross in the Cradle". I love that.  And I love this visual in front of the altar too.  (Not so sure about that blue poinsettia though!)


 
Lots and lots and LOTS of good and yummy food!  This was Christmas morning "Brunch".

 
We played lots of games - this is the "vintage" Life game that I had growing up.  We love playing this!  We played Monopoly and I was reminded again why I don't like that game! It can stay in the cupboard forever, in my opinion.  We have so many other fun games to play instead.
 

 
The final product of the snowman making.  We got a "Snowman Kit" for Christmas a couple of years ago and it makes a really good snowman!

 
We got the children these little guys for their stockings.  The force on the inside of the egg as the inside critter expands causes the egg to "break" and the critter to come out.  We got the children lizards this year.  It takes about a day before the egg pops open and they love it!  leaving the critter in the water makes it get nice and big too.  
 
What are some of your favorite things from this Christmas season?

Super Savings - $30 Shop and $60 stock up

Sorry - no photos!  I did the shopping this week around everything else (a birthday party, an event, and my husband running to the airport to pick up friends/classmates for intensive classes this next week) and just didn't get photos taken.

We had our "normal" $30 grocery bill this week plus a $60 stock up amount.  We are starting slowly to stock up on non-perishable things (the perishable we'll do closer to June).  We'll be transferring over our $30 to $20 in March for our regular grocery shopping as a "practice run" for internship.  Yep, you read that right $20 per week for groceries, toiletries and paper products!  That's all we're going to have during internship to that's what we're going to be using!  We'll use that $10 difference through March, April and May to do some of our stocking up for the next 18-24 months. 

Here's what our $60 stock up fund bought this week:

2 48oz bottles of Palmolive dish soap $4.99 - $0.50 coupon = $4.49 (we don't have a dishwasher)
Axe Men's Bath Set $6.99 clearance price - $2 coupon = $4.99 (bath jell, deodorant, face wash and a bath poof)
Crest Toothpaste 3pk of 6oz $5.99 - $.075 coupon = $5.24
Softsoap 2pk of 48oz $5.99
Listerine 48oz $5.99 - $1 coupon = $4.99
Listerine 32oz $5.99 - $1 coupon = $4.99
Dove Men's Body Wash 2pk 48oz plus bonus $6.99 - $2 = $4.99
Afrin Nasal Spray $5.99 - $1.50 = $4.49
22ct Always Ulta Pads $2.98 sale price - $1 double coupon = $1.98
3 Starkist Tuna 3x$0.78 sale price - $1 coupon = $1.34
6 cans of beans (3 black bean, 3 kidney bean) 6x$0.49 = $2.94
Total Spent: $46.43

So we have $13.57 to put back toward our stocking up.  In reality, we were getting low on meat so we used a very small amount of this of this money to buy help buy some meat too. 

Here's what we spent at the grocery store for our "regular" shopping trip:

Store #1:
Whole Mushrooms $0.88
Baby Carrots $0.98
Clementines 3lbs $5.99 - $0.50 = $5.49  (not the best price but the kids were asking for these and they can take them as snacks to school this week)
Total store #1: $7.35

Store #2:
Buddig Lunch Meat 2oz 5 @ $0.59 = $2.95 - $2 doubled coupon = $0.95
2 Hormel Pork Tenderloin approx. 1.5lb each B1G1 coupon = $10.62 - $2 doubled coupon = $8.62
Cucumber $0.50
Anjou Pears 1.25lb @ $0.99/lb = $1.24
2 Gallons Store Brand Skim Milk $5 with store coupon
Yoplait Yogurt 10 @ 10/$5 with store coupon - $2 doubled coupon = $8
Total Store #2: $24.31

Total for the two grocery stores: $31.66

So we have $1.66 that came out of the "stock up" money, leaving us $11.91 for future stock up deals.  Our favorite laundry detergent is on sale this week so I'm hoping to pick up 2 bottles of that and a few more cans of beans this week.  I'll have to see what else is on sale too.

If you're wondering where our "stock up" money is coming from, we cut our budget back to bare bones - our basic living expenses only.  The extra $60 comes from the money left in the budget after that.  We're also purchasing gas and grocery gift cards as well as gift cards to the hardware store where we buy our water softener salt, home repair items, etc. to  help get us through the times when we don't have any cash on hand but need food for us or gas for the cars or something else that happens to be necessary.  Next week we'll add another $10 to the $11.91 to make $21.91 to stock up with on that week's shopping trip.  It sounds really complicated, but trust me, it's much simpler on paper! :)

How did you do with your shopping this week?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Frugal Friday - Frugal Things I Did This Last Week

It's Friday again - that means "Frugal Friday!"  Whoot!  
I always love reading about other people's frugal ideas - I always learn something.  And I do mean always!

We're in a new year and a new budget. 

We are still trying hard to save up at least a year's worth of mortgage payments (we still have a long way to go with this to be where we'd like to be) and for some other expenses like car tabs, licensing fees, etc. that we will not have the cash on hand for once John starts internship in June.  So we cut our budget back to bare bones and are using the "extra" money for the things we absolutely have to buy or have done with the house before June and to fill up that savings.  This will also kick-start our stockpile for that next year.  

We're working hard on things like turning off the lights, not buying any food out, and line-drying clothes. We're also cleaning out the last of the "clutter" which is predominately paper clutter. I think our recycling company is going to love us over the next month or two! :)

In addition to all of that, here are some things we've done in the last week that can be counted as "frugal":

- Purchased a turkey on markdown at 79-cents/lb.  This is the cheapest I've seen them this year.  The only other groceries we bought this week were a gallon of milk and a bag of oyster crackers (spent $14 total this week).

- Received two jars of homemade jam as a belated Christmas present from my best friend - YUM!

- Baked two loaves of whole-wheat sandwich bread and a batch of oatmeal cookies.

- Hosted a 12 Days of Christmas party on Sunday night - my parents purchased most of the groceries for this and we also just used what we had in the house - and have been eating the leftovers all week.  Total groceries last week were $50 -so $20 over our regular money. Since we didn't buy the groceries, I didn't worry about it.

- Made and froze "chicken" stock using the carcasses of the Cornish game hens from the party.

-  Worked on not throwing out any food this week other than the stuff we don't eat - like the skin of the acorn squash.  Dug out the compost container so we don't have to run outside when it's 40-below-zero outside and can still compost!  So far we haven't thrown away any edible (or once-edible) food in 2014!

- Turned the thermostat down even more at night from 60F to 58F and set it to the same while we are gone during the day.

- Hemmed a pair of pants for my son. 

- Went through my fabric and made a list of what I have and who I plan to use it for.

- Took $35 of my Christmas money (from my in-laws) and went to my favorite consigned shop for their new year sale.  I bought a tan skirt, a tunic-style purple sweater (to be worn with leggings/stretch pants and tall boots), a super cute black and white polka-dot dress, and two necklaces for $30!  I'm very happy with what I got and know they will be worn quite a bit.  I needed a new tan skirt and I can always use another dress to wear to work.

- Made homemade gifts for my husband for his birthday (I'll hopefully post about these next week).

- Shopped the clearance toy isle for a present for a birthday party and paid $7 for something the birthday child really wanted.  I also picked up a birthday present for my daughter for $5 that I will tuck away for her birthday in May.  With had I will be making her, that will be more than plenty!

- Chopped and froze two green peppers that were getting a to the end of their prime. Will use those in cooking later this winter.

- Used the children's Book-It pizzas for a picnic dinner between dance classes this week.  John and I packed sandwiches and leftover salad.

- My parents bought John two new sport coats using a buy-one-get-one-free sale as a combination Christmas and Birthday gift.  They look great and he'll be sent for a couple years now.

The other thing that happened this week that I thought was "frugal" but probably doesn't count as such is that I had lost my iPod - I use this for teaching my Jazzercise classes - some time last week. I was so upset because it had our Christmas photos on it (our camera died and I haven't replaced it yet) and I was going to have to buy another iPod.  Someone returned it to the customer service counter at the store I had lost it in. Since I had a contact information file on it, they called our home phone and I got the iPod back!  Hurray!!!  I am SO thankful for honest people! 

Guess what the first thing I did was? Yep - download those Christmas photos!

What did you do for frugal living this week?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Meny Plan "Monday" - Week of January 5, 2014

Our Christmas morning "brunch" - after church and opening gifts.
Is anyone else a bit freaked out by writing "2014"?  I'm not sure I'm ready for this!

We are in a period of eating leftovers - lots of leftovers!  My husband celebrated his 40th birthday on Friday last week and since we didn't know who of my in-laws was coming we bought way too much food!  Then we hosted a 12 Days of Christmas party on Sunday night and had leftovers of some things (mostly salads) from that.   So leftovers have been the name of the game around here and probably will be all week.

We were totally spoiled by my parents buying us groceries twice while they were here as well as some of the food for the 12 Days of Christmas party.  We're back to our "normal" grocery budget - in fact we're cutting it even further - but I'll write about that with shopping on Saturday this week (Lord willing, of course!).   The children were home from school Monday and Tuesday due to well below zero highs for temperatures (our high on Monday as -14F..that's actual temperature, wind chill is even lower!), so we had lunch at home for three of us those days.

Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday, January 5:
   Breakfast: Leftover coffee cake or PB toast, Bananas
   Lunch: Out at a favorite restaurant - treat from my parents
   Snack: Oatmeal Cookies
   Dinner and Dessert: 12 Days of Christmas Party (I'll write more about this later - promise!)

Monday, January 6:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal with Dates and Walnuts
   Lunch: Leftover Soup
   Snack: Oatmeal Cookies
   Dinner: Leftover Chili and Fruit Salad, Ham Sandwiches

Tuesday, January 7:
   Breakfast:  Waffles with Bananas
   Lunch: Leftover Waffles with Oranges
   Snack: Leftover Crackers and Cheese
   Dinner: Leftover Soup and 7-Layer Salad, Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Wednesday, January 8:
    Breakfast: PB Toast, Bananas
    Lunch: Leftover Crackers and Cheese, Orange Wedges, Carrot sticks or tomatoes, Oatmeal Cookies
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner: Baked Acorn Squash,  Leftover Salads (two of them), Orange and Grapefruit Wedges

Thursday, January 9:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal with Cinnamon, Craisins and Walnuts
   Lunch: Leftover Soup and Salad
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner: Book-It Pizza for the children, Ham Sandwiches and Salad for adults

Friday, January 10:
   Breakfast: Chai Spiced Oatmeal
   Lunch: Soup from the freezer, Leftover Salad
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner: Chicken Pot Pie, Pineapple-Melon-Blueberry Salad

Saturday, January 11:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins and Bananas
   Lunch: Baked Potatoes, Tossed Salad, Orange and Grapefruit Wedges
   Snack: Popcorn
   Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Breadsticks, Pineapple and Melon

What are you eating this week?

Happy New Year!!!

Wow!

I really didn't mean to take an unplanned blogging break. 

Thanks for letting me do so! 

We enjoyed our holidays - Christmas, New Year's and John's birthday - very, very much. 

We had my parents here for three whole weeks and my in-laws did come up for my husband's 40th birthday!  We even celebrated the "end" of Christmas by hosting a 12 Days of Christmas party on Sunday with some very dear friends.

It's been good and restful and everything a real break should be.

What about that New Year thing?

Oh yeah.  That.

Well, let's just say I'm trying to forget a good chunk of 2013 - it was quite memorable and not so much in a good way.  We started off the year with my Dad's cancer diagnosis followed by chemo.  We battled influenza B, double ear infections, bad colds and flu and I managed to come down with shingles.  John and I realized our communication wasn't up to snuff and neither was the Seminary's (**Sigh**) but we're back on tack and grateful for second chances and for improved written and verbal communication about the things we need to know moving forward.  We were thrown a curve ball with some opportunities that were sent our way and had to re-evaluate what we were doing in light of where God wants us to be and what He wants us to do.  My Dad had to have a pacemaker put in in September and November brought a trip to the ER for John with what we thought was a heart attack (thankfully, it was not a heart attack).  I realized yet again that I needed to redo my "new" course at work.

There have been very good things too - lots of meeting new people and new-to-us congregations,  John got a huge amount of practice in preaching and leading worship, the children moved up a level in both swimming and piano lessons as well changing "pods" (to the 3rd-5th grade pod) at school.   Work is going well for both of us and I can definitely see the end of my doctorate here any day now.

In light of our big transitions coming up this year - internship (vicarage, if you will) and financial changes and who knows what else - I decided to choose one word for 2014.

My one word for 2014 is COMPLETED.

"What does that mean?", you ask.

Well, I'm really good at starting things and never finishing them.
 
I have several partially finished projects here at home and at work that I really want to stamp "completed" on. 

I am ready to "complete" this PhD and end my formal academic schooling for quite a while. 

We're all ready for John to "complete" this phase of his life and move on to the next.

Right now, it looks like 2014 is going to be a year of huge change for us.  What better time to complete the things, projects and ideas that have been hanging over my head for, in some cases, years?

What are your goals, ideas or your single word for the new year?