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Archive for December, 2008

Thoughts on Goals for 2009

December 30th, 2008 at 11:39 am

Okay, I'm just not quite ready to commit! I'm thinking about some things, though.

A couple of years ago, I decided to try to read 52 books (a book a week) for a year. And I'm talking about decent literature, not the mass market paperbacks. I only made it to 51... and among those books WAS one Nancy Drew that my daughter begged me to rad. But the rest of the books were of respectable length and challenge. I might try that again. It was fun, and yet I felt like I was accomplishing something!

Sad to say, I could lose 10 pounds. Over the past few years, my jeans have been getting tighter, and this winter when I went to pull out all my nice size 4 cords, they didn't fit. I'm trapped in size 6 jeans and I want out of them! So, I'm thinking about that. Plus, a few pounds gone and I would be healthier, which is what it's really all about.

I want to set a reasonable goal for making money outside my real job. I credit Fern for my motivation in this area! I have done a few surveys, gotten some rebates, etc... but I haven't really kept track. I also want to start the $20 challenge, and I guess I could put all my extra money there and see how much I can grow.

I need to acquire another 17 college units to get to the next pay raise for my job. I have signed up for seven units at the local junior college (all classes are actually online, and DO relate to my field), but I'm not sure I will keep them all. I don't have to pay until January 20, so I have some time to decide. Junior college is my best option, because it's just $20 per unit, but if I change jobs this year, they might not be applicable everywhere. I have found an opportunity for 9 other units, which relate perfectly to my field and which I can earn through an independent study kind of thing through University of San Diego. But, they are $100 a unit. Ouch.

I swim most every day, but I would like to run, too. A few years ago I ran a half marathon and it was a great experience. I don't consider myself a runner, but I am in pretty good shape. I usually run for some amount of time, and then walk for a minute. I would like to find a race in the fall, sign up and start training. The Nike Women's Half Marathon is in SF in October, I think, and I've heard it's great. That half-marathon I did was my first running race ever.

And of course, money goals. I need to sit down and go through everything and see WHERE it should all go. "Save as much as possible" is already on my money goals list, as well as "figure out the stinkin' Quicken program."

This time of year can be so hopeful! I just want to give myself some reasonable goals so I don't feel like a failure i March!

Quicken and Target

December 29th, 2008 at 07:36 pm

I did it! I bit the bullet, paid $39.99 for Quicken at Costco, and I'm working through getting started. I'm really looking forward for yet another way to keep track of details that most people don't bother with! Yippee! I'm excited to see how it all works, and hoping that it's simple enough to maintain when things get busy (i.e. I go back to work after this lovely 2 week vacation!)

On November 1, I bought a pair of jeans for my husband at Target. He hates them, and says they're cheap. Well, they were $17.99...so, yes, cheap! Today I washed them, and when I went to take them out of the washer there was a 3 inch by 3 inch pretty-much-square-shaped hole in them! At the bottom of the washer... the 3 inch by 3 inch "patch!" All I can think of is that there was some defect, because the washer couldn't have done that...maybe there was some "hidden" acid-washing. I don't know.

So I took the jeans back to Target, with my receipt showing that they were approximately 7 weeks old, and clearly defective...and guess what?! They hassled me like crazy, telling me that they didn't have to take things back that had been washed...blah, blah, blah. I wasn't too persistent, but they gave me a new pair in exchange, all the while complaining at me. I have never liked Target clothes because of the poor quality, but I've given in a few times for what seemed like a good deal. I think I'm done with that! I'll buy sale Levi's at Kohl's or at the Eddie Bauer outlet. Husband doesn't even wear jeans much, except on the weekends.

Costco is the opposite! They'll take ANYTHING back after ANY amount of time if you have your receipt, which I love. I don't take advantage of it, but I did buy a sweater there that just didn't wash the way it should have, and they happily gave me cash back.

I made the rounds for monthly shopping today... I planned a month of menus (mostly around items in the freezer - I usually just do a week or two, so we'll see...) and got what I needed at Costco and the cheap store in town, Savemart. Tomorrow I need to get a few bulk items at the health food store, and then I hope I'm done except for milk and fresh fruit and veggies, which I will buy each week.

We had turkey soup with dumplings for dinner tonight, and it was fabulous!

Ah, the small thrills! Check those prices!

December 28th, 2008 at 05:37 pm

I went to the store to grab a couple of items this afternoon. I really want to get back to shopping just once every two weeks (with the possible exception of fresh fruit and milk), but we are making turkey soup today with the carcass, and I needed onions and carrots for the stock.

I went into my grocery store... bulk onions were 79 cents a pound, but the 3 pound bag was $1.49. Carrots... a 2-pound bag of smallish carrots for $2.99 or a 5-lb bag of large carrots for $2.99.

I also decided to get a can of tomato sauce. I normally buy it at Costco, since it is cheaper there, but it was one of those days (I'm headed to Costco tomorrow, probably!) So I had a coupon for $1.00 off a can of Muir Glen organic tomato product. The shelf said $1.69 a can (!), but it rang up $2.19, so I got it free... at this store you get the item free if the computer and the shelf don't match. But I wanted to use the coupon, so I got a second can, and they fixed the price. So really, I got two cans for $.69.

Not as great as making money in the stock market, but I still consider it a victory!

What system do you use for organizing financial paperwork?

December 27th, 2008 at 11:20 pm

Since the New Year is coming and I love getting organized... I am getting things organized. And I'm wondering if there is a better system.

What do other people use for tracking all expenses? I know that quicken is a great option... but I really like the tactile part of keeping a notebook, envelopes, the actual receipts and all that. Plus, I can easily find receipts should I need to be reimbursed for something or look up the cost of certain items.

Anybody have any great ideas? What I have been doing works, but now is the time if I am going to make improvements on my system!

Thanks to all!

Clean New Year? and Christmas is over!

December 27th, 2008 at 10:03 am

I'm wondering if anyone has tried the homemade laundry soaps? I have seen several recipes online, and I've been tempted to try them. We have a lot of laundry, and though I shop carefully, and use detergent minimally in my high efficiency top-loader, I might be able to save a little there. My biggest concern is the effect on the clothes... I mean I don't want any of the really nice articles of clothing to be ruined.

We had such a relaxing holiday, it is unbelievable. We had dinner with family on Christmas Eve, which was great. It was not at our house, but we got to see everyone. Christmas Day, we lounged in pajamas, watched movies and played games, and enjoyed each other.

Now I'm gearing up for getting organized in the new year! I LOVE getting things organized, so I'm excited to get going today. We will take the tree and all the decorations down today, because they have been up since the day after Thanksgiving. And then my crazy cleaning and organizing can start!
*clean up tree and decorations
*catch up on laundry
*make a menu for at least two weeks
*review file of financial papers, get
tax items pulled together
*transfer information to new calendar

I have a ham that my family sent home with us because no one else thought they could eat it up (there are six of us and everyone else has smaller families)... Funny, I'm just going to chop it up and get it in the freezer for later! I guess no one thought of that!

And the best thing is that this is the weekend! Happy weekend everyone!

The Week Was a Blur! and Plans for the Weekend

December 20th, 2008 at 09:50 am

Whew! We made it! It was a crazy, crazy week. I followed my menu, except for one night when I had to drive on a field trip that ran late, and was just nearing home around 6pm. I had one teenager home with the younger kids and nothing had been started for dinner. I stopped at a Take and Bake Pizza place, used my $3 off coupon, and got a giant cheese pizza for $5.99. We cooked it, ate it and some salad, and rushed out the door to the next event in less than an hour! I actually considered it a triumph! Unbelievable week.

Today we're going to make cookies with some friends. Not sure what kind, but tomorrow at home by ourselves I want to make a million gingerbread cookies. I used to make gingerbread men, but now we make turtles, geckos, birds, crabs (with my Maryland Blue Crab cutter) and whatever wild animal we can come up with. They're so delicious, and we decorate with wild colors, too, like purple, pink, turquoise, orange... I have some boxes from previous years and will pack some cookies up to give away.

The other "cooking" thing on my list today is to make some caramel popcorn. It's delicious, cheap, and great to give away because no one ever makes it! I'll get the process going and make several batches.

The other non-cooking thing on my list is to get some sewing done. I may have to plan to do that tomorrow, really. I am making fabric bags, like the kind you can carry your groceries in, for most of my family (aunts, sister, brother-in-law, etc.) But, I'm using wild, beautiful quilting fabric. I've been waiting for great sales, and then purchasing a yard of fabric. The bag takes exactly a yard... and the really nice, quilt-store fabrics were less than $5 per yard on sale. Some of the fabric is even cheaper than that. But, I have been watching sales for a long time so that I could get the right fabric for the right person. My dad's is airplanes, my sister's is otters, my brother-in-laws is map fabric, etc. Thankfully, the process of making the bag takes less than 20 minutes, so I can whip out a bunch really fast. And it's a useful gift!

I'd better get started! Hope you all have a great day!

Menu Plan for the Week

December 14th, 2008 at 05:43 pm

I have a hectic week ahead, as I imagine most of you do! It's such a busy time of year and I have kids going every which way and a husband with two dinner meetings and two separate music concerts. I will feel so relieved Friday when the kids are out of school for vacation!

So, I tried to plan some easy meals this week. I tried to incorporate the crockpot for the nights we have concerts, and I am trying to use up whatever we have in the freezer/fridge.

Sunday: Chicken Caesar Salad, Rolls, fresh Satsuma mandarin oranges

Monday: Pot Roast, Carrots, Potatoes and Onions in the Crock Pot...I'm trying a friend's recipe, since I don't often cook a roast...with Garlic Green Beans

Tuesday: Pasta Bake... a casserole with cream cheese, cottage cheese, tomato sauce, ground turkey, garlic, onion and pasta, of course! I use whole wheat noodles, and we'll have a salad with it.

Wednesday: Taco Soup in the Crock Pot...with corn, chicken, tomatoes, tomato sauce... and we have it with cornbread and garnish with cilantro, cheese and lime juice.

Thursday: Turkey Burgers (already hand-formed and sitting the freezer) on English muffins, with fresh fruit and veggies to dip.

Friday: Spaghetti and Meatballs... I make tons of meatballs at one time with a giant Costco pack of ground turkey. The meatballs have pesto in them and I freeze them raw. Then, I just simmer them in tomato sauce. Easy and fabulous.

Saturday: Soup and grilled cheese. We're already planning on a lazy Saturday this coming week.

A friend gave me a beautiful fruit basket for a gift yesterday. I wondered if I'm getting old and cheap, because I was truly THRILLED! I couldn't think of anything I'd rather have (maybe that new roof, but other than that...) We'll be eating delicious apples, pears, kiwis, oranges and pomegranates all week. Yum!

Christmas is Cancelled!

December 13th, 2008 at 10:14 pm

Just kidding... but does anyone watch The Office?

I am really not in the mood to spend money this year. My motto has been, "Nobody needs anything!" I mean really, of course I could buy more clothes and toys for everyone, but we just don't need it. I love clothes and shoes, but I just don't need anymore. Same with the kids and hub. We have plenty of games, movies, toys.

I bought a couple of tiny gifts today (dollar store), and I plan to do some wrapping tomorrow, but I'm just not doing much. I made jam all summer, so I'll be giving that to the neighbors and some family friends. I do need to come up with a Santa gift or two for each child. And I need to take care of gifts for the teachers.

My daughter was involved in an amazing musical program of sorts the last few days. We did a lot of volunteering, and I feel really relieved to be done with that. Tomorrow we get to sleep in and have our family together for the day. I'm hoping that we'll have a little time to make some cookies and watch an old, classic movie together. I'm hoping the kids are not too loaded down with homework.

Tomorrow's list:
-make menu and shopping list for the week, which needs to include at least 2 crock pot meals due to the week's schedule
-probably an hour of work from work, so that this week will be less hectic!
-laundry, especially sheets and towels
-repair a few Christmas ornaments that I set aside when we did the tree
-make cookies
-make rolls (great for making sandwiches for kids' lunches)

It's cold here, but I haven't run the heat that much. When I think of being warm, I just want to get in bed with a book! And that sounds like such a good idea... I think I should try it out now!

A Shopping Thrill

December 7th, 2008 at 11:08 pm

The other night I realized too late in the evening that I didn't have any tights to wear to work with my outfit the next day. Everything was closed except WalMart, and I figured it was worth a try to see if they had any. My daughter needed tights, too, since she had grown out of most from last year.

So, off I went in the wee hours to look for tights. I was extremely disappointed that there were not any tights in the color I needed! I walked to the girls' department contemplating my options for the next day, when it occurred to me that my daughter is not much smaller than I am these days.

I bought her the white tights she needed, and decided to try a pair for myself, too. I bought the 12-16 size (my daughter wears about a 14, and I figured that if they didn't work for me, she could wear them).

Friends, I'm hooked! The tights were absolutely fine under my lovely wool skirt, and they cost $1.67!!

If my growing daughter weren't approaching my size, I never would have thought of it. But it worked!

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I made a menu for the week and did the shopping today. I used more coupons that usual and saved about 10%, although I did get a few items that I don't normally buy. I tried to look at those items at the discounted price to decide if they were worth purchasing. Other items, such as some candy ($1.50 off of $7.50 worth) I have stashed for stocking stuffers. For example, I don't normally buy chips. But with a sale and coupon, I was able to buy a 11 oz bag of Sunchips for $1.05. For that price, it will be a treat for the kids that I can live with.

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I'm making flannel pajama pants for the family for Christmas. I made several trips to the fabric store to maximize my coupon usage and sales. I finally got the last piece of fabric today, so I'm excited to get sewing. There were some really cute prints. I found some that were even teenage boy appropriate, which is often hard to do.

Have a great start to the week, everyone!

Tales of the Thermostat

December 2nd, 2008 at 11:15 pm

Well, I had chosen December first as my goal for the no heat contest. Once we got through all of November, and then yesterday, I started thinking, "Hmmm... if we can go that long without turning on the heat, maybe we can go a little longer...maybe all this "cold" stuff is just in our heads...maybe it will suddenly warm up again...maybe the cold doesn't bother me anymore...blah, blah, blah!"

I turned on the heat this morning as soon as I woke up. It was only 62 in the house, and I only turned the thermostat to 65, but for some reason, I suddenly decided that I'd reached my goal and I deserved a little heat. The house warmed up to 65 in a matter of minutes and I turned it back off again, since we were all heading out within an hour or two.

It was nice. And my children were most appreciative. The weather here has been really damp. And don't they say that "damp cold" is worse than "dry cold?!" Whatever.

I will still try to be extremely conservative with the heat. And thanks to the "contest," we waited until later than usual (might have had something to do with the unseasonably warm weather, too).

Dreamin' of summer...