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Archive for March, 2012

New Account and New Car?

March 28th, 2012 at 06:08 pm

We have been jumping through hoops to open a new account at the credit union associated with The Husband's employer. The hoops are high and small... it's been challenging! But I think once we get into the groove it will be worth it because the interest rates are very good. We will need to monitor, though, because if we don't follow all the rules we could get charged. Crazy. But for us, it will be worth the better interest rate, I think.

We've been putting off shopping for another car for a long time. I think we might be getting close to actually admitting that we need another car AND doing something about it. The Husband has been texting me links to Craigslist cars all day!

We currently have two cars. One is 14 years old... the commuter... it's a Toyota, not pretty, but pretty good gas mileage. Swimbabies drive it most of the time. The second car is nearly 9 years old... not great gas mileage, but it can carry the whole family and it's in really good shape. We are looking at a very nice (used, German) car that will become the commuter for the adults so that the swimbabies can take over the other one. We'll pay cash, except perhaps $1000, which we will finance and pay off quickly, mainly just for documentation on the credit report.

Of course, this doesn't mean we'll have another car anytime soon. When we bought the last car, it took us at least a year to make a decision.

Happy Wednesday!

Cheap Gas!

March 27th, 2012 at 08:49 pm

Not really...

But I was quite pleased to be able to fill up today for a mere $4.05 per gallon! What a deal!

Pedicure, Previews, Plastic, and Precipitation

March 26th, 2012 at 10:34 pm

Aaaaah... what a treat! I got a wonderful pedicure today. I have found someone I really like and I love getting pedicures. If money were no object, I'd probably go every three weeks. But I do get a pedicure about every four weeks. It is a complete delight.... massage chair... lovely orange-scented foot scrub... a good massage... hot rocks... and a cute color, for sure! I love the Opi nail polishes, and today I chose the color "The Show Must Go On." Crazy, I know, but it's worth the $25 to me!

We all liked "The Hunger Games" movie, but of course, it was not as good as the book! What we didn't like: the twelve previews we had to watch before the movie began!

I haven't thought about Plastic Jungle for a while, but I'm definitely going to get back to it. I had a quick look today and found cards for places I would use for sure. That isn't always the case. Of course, it will require a little planning ahead. But some places I know I will shop... like the Gap. I don't buy tons of things there, but spend $200-$300 per year between the whole family. Unfortunately, The Husband just ordered an iPad (old, bargain version! Ha!) and we didn't think of Plastic Jungle. If we had, he could have saved about $24.

More rain this week. We need it, I know, but it complicates the way everyone gets to school/work. We will survive, and hopefully a little suffering now will keep the water rates from skyrocketing this summer!

Weekend

March 24th, 2012 at 11:17 am

STILL waiting for our money to hit the IRAs. Not sure what has happened. The money is still in our regular checking and shows as "Pending" in the IRA. I will have to call Monday to find out what the heck has happened. It's been over a week, and it never takes that long.

The Husband and I each get a little bit of cash from all of his paychecks sent to our individual accounts. All other money we mix, but we decided years ago that we should each have our own stash that we could use for anything we want, without discussion from the other. It's not a huge amount that we get every other week, but enough to go out to lunch/coffee with a friend, or buy a book or two... But I haven't felt like spending in quite a while, so I'm building up a chunk there, too. And of course, the more that builds up, the less I want to spend it! I do want a pedicure, though, so might do that this weekend. And it does feel nice knowing that if I suddenly want a new wardrobe or something crazy, I can spend freely! The Husband is going to get an iPad soon because he hasn't been spending either.

Still frustrated with gas prices, in case you were wondering! The Husband and I both have to commute, and the higher prices are making a difference.

It won't be a thrilling weekend, other than not going to work! I'm planning to make pizza for dinner, and maybe some cookies today. There won't be any gardening this weekend, because it's supposed to rain. Hunger Games on Sunday!

Hair Games and Hunger Games

March 20th, 2012 at 06:26 pm

Irritating... last week I decided to use a gift certificate that a friend had given me. It was for a haircut at a rather upscale salon, and she had gotten it at one of those fundraising auctions, but decided to stick with her regular hairstylist who does color, etc.

I'm very picky about my hair, and I have someone who usually cuts it who I LOVE. My hair is thin, fine and straight and it's difficult to cut. But I've been growing it out, and I just wanted an inch or so trimmed off the bottom, and I figured practically anyone could do that. And for free!

Long story... The free haircut was actually costly... the stylist didn't listen to me at all, added layers when I asked her not to, cut about three inches off and it looked terrible. So today I went to see my usual *fabulous* guy and he fixed it all and made my hair look great. But of course, I had to pay! So much for the free haircut... lesson learned. Smile More than anything, it was a waste of time!

I went to Costco. $99.80!

The cheapest gas I could find today was $4.18 per gallon. Ouch.

And I snagged that $5 for $10 at Amazon before the sun was even up this morning. Sweet!

The swimbabies are excited about the new Hunger Games movie. Actually, I'm excited, too. I read all the books last summer, and I've been looking forward to the movie. I can't tell you the last time I went to a movie theater (we usually wait for DVD), but we are going this weekend! We had planned to go to the midnight movies on Thursday (well, Friday, really, since the official start of the movie is 12:01), but we decided to do a matinee on Saturday instead. Not sure that it will cost less, but I was getting nervous about being able to stay awake through it!

Running in the Rat Race

March 19th, 2012 at 10:01 pm

It's a busy week!

But yesterday I ordered new running shoes. I bought through Ebates, found a coupon code, and got my usual running shoes (which are normally about $110) for $62 and free shipping, plus I'll get 8% from Ebates! I can't wait until they arrive. My old ones are really worn out, and it will feel so great to run in new ones!

Today I got a message from our local health food store. Apparently I took a survey a few months ago -- I don't remember, but it sounds like me! Smile And the reward for doing the survey, which was totally about this local store, is a gift card for $10! What a treat! Free health food!

Today I made more homemade goldfish crackers for the swimbabies' lunches. I made a giant batch, and after that, it had to be a quick dinner --- one of our comfort foods. One of our favorites: I cut potatoes in cubes and roast them in a tiny bit of oil until they are crispy. Everyone gets a pile of potatoes topped with a poached egg, plus strawberries and orange juice. Delicious and quick.

I'm trying to wait patiently for our IRA money to really hit the account. I know it's on it's way, but I get a thrill out of just seeing that higher balance. Right now, I think the money is in "Transferland" between our accounts, floating out there in the air somewhere! Hopefully it will all come together tomorrow.

IRAs and Target and Menu, OH MY!

March 18th, 2012 at 09:30 am

On Friday, I fully funded IRAs for The Husband and me for 2011. Yes, a little behind schedule, but still, it's done now. I also send a considerable chunk of cash from short term savings to long term savings. It's just been sitting there, and since we haven't needed it, I decided to move it. Felt great! I'll start building up the short term fund next paycheck.

Yesterday I did some shopping at Target, with the old manufacturer's coupon combined with store coupon method. My total without sale or coupons should have been over $60. I paid $30 and got two $5 gift cards. Not fabulous, but I always try to just think about if I'd been in a hurry and paid the full $60. $30 savings for a few minute's time to use coupons is worth it to me.

Today I need to plan the week's menu, organize the Sunday paper coupons, and finish up the laundry. I KNOW! Exciting and glamorous!

I tried a ton of new recipes last week. Five different, new, main dishes plus three recipes for crackers (always trying to feed the swimbabies), two cupcake recipes, and one new soup. Amazingly, everything was delicious, and I'll be making all of it again. This was one thing that everyone really loved, and it will be going right back on the menu this week.

http://pinchofyum.com/chicken-tamale-pie

Happy Sunday, everyone!






St. Patrick's Day Saturday

March 17th, 2012 at 11:04 am

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I'm hoping to get tons done today. I want to make up caramel sauce and chocolate sauce that I use to fancy-up my coffee. I also found a recipe for homemade goldfish crackers, so I want to give that a try, and I'll probably make bread and cookies or cupcakes for next week because it will be particularly busy.

I also have to do a little shopping. Dislike. I need new running shoes, as do two of the swimbabies. And one kid needs new *unmentionables*, and The Husband needs a new pair of work shoes. I don't particularly like shopping, but I guess it will be good to cross it off the list.

Also on my list is a little fun at the drugstores! Rite Aid and CVS both have deals expiring today.

And I need to think of something for St. Patrick's Day dinner. We often make a meal of green things, like spinach pasta with pesto, green salad and mint pie, but I am thinking maybe pesto pizza with vegetables. And perhaps chocolate cupcakes with mint frosting. What are you having for dinner?

Gas and Raincoat

March 15th, 2012 at 04:31 pm

I cannot believe the gas prices! Today I paid $4.33 per gallon, and that was the cheapest I could find.

Totally unrelated, but I have been shopping for a raincoat. About a month ago, I found the one I wanted online, but then I couldn't decide if I should get it or not (Yes, of course I should! I really need a long raincoat to wear to work... my REI parka-style is terrible with dresses!)

So a couple of days later, I decided that I definitely wanted it. I got back on the website to order it, and it was gone. They only had it in size large, which won't work for me. So I pouted a little, scolded myself for not ordering it when I first found it, and moved on.

About a week later, I was going somewhere in the rain, and I thought, "Hmmm.... I wonder if they happened to get any more of those really cute raincoats?" So I got back on the website and sure enough! They have XS, S, M, L, and XL! I was so excited! A whole new shipment!

Just as I'm pulling out my wallet to order it, there's a semi-emergency at work and they need my help. "It'll just take a second," I hear from my colleague. So I left the browser window open with that adorable coat in my shopping cart! Forty-five minutes later I went back and they only had M, L, XL. I need a small. I considered ordering a medium, but thought better of it.

A few days later, I check again. Awesome! There's a small in stock. Oops. I just paid all the bills and will need to transfer money. I open another window and get on the bank website. Seriously. Unbelievable. TEN minutes later -- you guessed it!!-- no smalls!

Finally, a week later, all the planets and stars aligned, and the coat was in stock and I ordered it!

My new raincoat arrived today. It's perfect! A medium would have been too big, so I'm glad I waited for the small. It was well worth the hassle... it's black with a couple feminine details but definitely a classic! The style is perfect on me, and it's a little more fitted that most, which I like. The quality is excellent and I expect I'll have it for many years!

Oh, and I bought it through Ebates, of course, and the shipping was free! Happy rainy day!

Rain

March 14th, 2012 at 08:51 am

It's been raining constantly since Monday. I can't complain because it hasn't rained much this winter, and we really need the water. But I'm cold!

I just want to stay inside and curl up with a book, a blanket, and a cup of tea. Um. Right. Uh-huh. Not going to happen, but it's fun to dream.

I'll be taking advantage of a one-day deal today... a dozen eggs for 69 cents (limit 3) ...yes, please.

For dinner, I'm making tomato basil soup, homemade biscuits, and salad. One good thing about rainy days is that I can sneak in something meatless, and the swimboy won't complain and ask for a blood meal.* For some reason, soup is acceptable when it's raining, though it's not at any other time...

Delicious biscuit recipe
http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/flaky-buttermilk-biscuits-10000001853981/

(*swimboy doesn't really complain, but he loves his meat!)

Television is NOT Addictive

March 13th, 2012 at 03:34 pm

While I was growing up, I didn't have access to cable television, and we could only watch two channels on our small black and white TV. It didn't matter a whole lot... I was busy with music lessons and swim team and school activities. It was a treat to visit my grandparents, who got four or five channels!

After graduating from college and getting my first job, my husband's dad commented, "Now you can afford cable!" His family was much more into television than mine was, and it was inconvenient for them to visit and not have access (especially to sports), apparently.

I didn't see any reason to get cable just because we could afford it, but the next summer there was some kind of promotion and we decided to try it. I remember the fun of realizing that I could watch an enormous variety of shows and movies whenever I wanted to. Very entertaining! And I was home all day, every day with my newborn, so I also had the freedom to watch whatever I wanted whenever I wanted to!

One day, I got a new recipe called "Oh Slap My Face Peach Cobbler," and listened to the guest chef talk about how it was THAT good. And it was. I made many cobblers that summer, experimenting with other fruits, just like they suggested on TV! I watched Wimbledon each day it aired, used the start of the evening news as a cue to fix dinner, and also caught bits of the many, crazy talk shows that were on. I learned about genetic testing, addictions, drugs, nutrition, gardening, decorating, parenting and home security. I became a Today Show faithful, always turning it on as I did housework or folded laundry in the mornings. I watched the local news at noon, and planned trips to the grocery store around Oprah's topics.

My undoing came in the middle of the night. I had that newborn, remember? And each night when she would wake for a feeding, I would plop myself down on the couch and turn on the television. I told myself that it was to help me stay awake while I fed her, but I think we all know the truth, don't we?! I distinctly remember one night when "Parenthood" came on HBO or Showtime or whatever it was, and I can't resist a Steve Martin movie! I love that movie! I started watching while my daughter nursed, continued watching as she fell asleep, and then sat there crying at the end... just as she woke for the next feeding!

Soon after that night, I insisted that my husband do whatever he could to get the cable cancelled immediately! I simply couldn't take it. And it had only been a month!

I haven't had that much free time since then, because we decided to give that precious little newborn a herd of siblings. We haven't watched a ton of TV since, either, because we just haven't been that interested, and well... we couldn't get all those great channels without cable. And we had learned that it really isn't worth the money for us.

But now we are able to watch a few shows on the internet through Hulu or Megavideo or Project Free TV or through some other websites my teens have found. We can watch most shows just a day after they air, and don't have to worry about "missing" anything.

We like to watch "The Big Bang Theory" (nerdy humor!) and "The Office" (not as good as it was when Michael Scott was around, no matter how much he got under our skin!) We have seen the pilot of "Touch," with Kiefer Sutherland, and can't wait for the second episode, which will air next week. We were instant fans of "White Collar," and "The Firm," and "30 Rock," and my kids like to watch "Glee" occasionally. Access by internet is perfect for us. We usually do a little catch up on Friday or Saturday nights or on rainy days or during vacations from school.

I calculated that my in-laws have spent more than $11,000 on cable since my father-in-law suggested we spend our money on it, too.

But we love watching over the internet. It doesn't interfere with real life and the price is just right!

Warehouse Store Shopping

March 11th, 2012 at 10:16 pm

I love shopping at my local Costco. I don't go for the samples, like my kids do, I go for the bargains.

And the entertainment. I'm simultaneously amused and shocked when I see some of the carts that people push up to the check out area. Piles and piles of chips (my favorite thing to hate!), lots of croissants, cakes, pizzas, sodas and other non-essential items. I know, I know, everyone gets to make their own decisions! But every time I shake my head at the craziness I see there.

When I shop at Costco, my bill is ALWAYS between $95 and $125 no matter what. I am not sure how it happens every single time. I've never gone over $125 in several years of shopping there. Very occasionally, I'll spend less. It doesn't seem to matter how often (or seldom) I go, or what I buy. Do I just have an internal clock-like limit? I'm never consciously paying attention to how much I buy. Instead, I'm monitoring the prices and whether each item is a good value or not. If we need it and it's a good price, into the cart it goes!

The good bargains at my store (I know that prices vary from location to location): flour, Tillamook cheese, Foster Farms chicken, eggs, butter, wheat bread, chocolate chips, ground turkey and milk.

Sometimes these things are a good price, but not always: berries, apples, grapefruit, oranges, avocados, carrots, salad mixes, chicken broth, and nuts.

Some of the items I buy I can sometimes get better deals with coupons (or make my own), but we go through enough of the item that it's worth a bit more money to have less hassle. Wheat bread is a good example. I make my own when I have time or buy it when I can get a great coupon deal, but I always need more. Same with eggs.

Last time I was at Costco, though, I got some great jeans! They are Calvin Klein and have cute pockets. They had just a few pairs left in the sizes at the ends of the spectrum (sorry, if you needed an 8-10-12, you were out of luck!), and oh yes, they had the right size and length for me. $24.99! I am thrilled. They fit me perfectly, look great and were certainly less than my favorite Gap jeans! I also picked up three pairs of Smartwool socks for $12.99, along with the groceries we needed.

The total? $115.72. Shrug and smile. Weird.

A Bit of Do-It-Yourself Joy

March 11th, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Well, many months ago... no... actually MANY months ago, I was driving on the freeway. Something fell off the truck in front of me and did a little damage. I had kids in the car, it was a very busy traffic time... and I didn't get the license plate number. Wish I had. The piece of whatever-it-was that hit my car wrecked a headlight, knocked a piece of decorative grill off and made a tiny dent.

I can live with the dent. It's really tiny (two fingerprint size?) And the decorative grill is cute, but not totally necessary. But the non-working headlight has been a problem. We have an enormous deductible, so knew we'd pair for the repair ourselves. Not a problem!

The Husband is pretty darn handy. He can fix anything in the house and most things on a car. But he has been extremely busy with work and commute and work travel for MANY months. And this is the car that I mostly drive, not him.

At one point, I took my car to a repair place in town to get an estimate. We've taken cars to this place for minor mechanical repairs and they have done decent work for a fair price. For the grill and headlight and a fog light, the estimate was $1000. I wasn't really surprised, and I was eager to get the light fixed...driving at night has been a constant worry...don't want to get pulled over! So I've mostly driven our other car at night.

So I was ready to pay the $1000. The owner of this car repair place said he had one more part to try to locate and find the price of, and he'd call me. Never did. Waited. No call. And then I got busy with life and didn't follow up.



Fast forward MANY months to last weekend. The Husband decides on the spur of the moment to order a headlight. Not sure what motivated him... The headlight cost $140, arrived this week, and it took The Husband no more than 6 minutes to pull the old one out and put the new one in.

Seriously! I've been driving with one headlight for MANY months. Well, really it's probably been four years. And it was that easy? And comparatively cheap?! Geez. Took MANY months, but eventually saved $860.

I loved driving the swimbabies around last night to their various events. It was all dark... and I had two headlights!

Phone Land Line

March 10th, 2012 at 11:01 am

Why do we still have a land line?!

Truth is, it's for the internet connection. But I finally talked the husband into calling and cancelling the long distance, at least. Then we'd just have local and internet services. I've been pleading for this arrangement for a few years! I'm thrilled! Of course, that was this morning and the offices are closed on Saturday.

But... he took it upon himself to suggest that he also call the cable companies to see what kind of deal they have on just internet. Either way, it won't make a huge difference in our budget. But glad to be exploring again, looking for the very best deal!

The other day I went to the Gap to return something I'd bought for a daughter that she didn't like. I had paid with my debit card, and the cashier asked if cash back was okay. I agreed, and then she proceeded to tell me how it's so much better for the Gap to give cash back, because they are charged every time a card is swiped. Of course, I know this, but really?! She's trying to get my sympathy for a multimillion dollar corporation's card fees?! I get it, I really do. We used to own a business and I know that those fees add up. But really, the item I was returning was probably marked up to the tune of 600% and they are certainly making a hefty profit. Sheesh!

Bought our first basket of strawberries for the season yesterday... on sale for $1.66, and they were delicious! I wasn't too hopeful, as the first ones of the season are usually red but flavorless. But they were good enough that I'll be going back for another basket today.

Organizing and Cooking Plans and Small Savings

March 8th, 2012 at 11:43 am

I've spent the last few days re-organizing and cleaning the kitchen. It needed it. I found extra cooking utensils that we really don't use, and since they are taking up precious space in our tiny kitchen, I've decided they can go. I also found some vintage items that I'm just not attached to. I know they belonged to my grandmother and I loved her so much... but they are not her, and they are going, as well. So from the hours of rearranging, washing and taking stock of items in the kitchen, I have gleaned a small pile for eBay. Proceeds will go to one of our online savings accounts. I'm sure it won't be much, but that feeling of gaining space AND a few dollars always makes me feel good!

This particular online account is what I've been using for tiny little checks that come in the mail. A couple of times each week, we get a small check (under $20, usually) of some kind: rebate, Pinecone, medical reimbursement, etc. I have been collecting a few at a time and then sending them off (in pre-paid envelopes!) to the savings account. Ah, the joys of watching the balance go up! Slow, yes, but pretty steady. I guess it's where my "challenge" money has started to go. And I have never kept secrets from my husband, but he doesn't know what I've been doing with those checks. I'll surprise him when it's a substantial amount, send it to our regular savings and start over. So Shh! Don't tell!

Yesterday I baked a quick chocolate cake. I thought I just wanted a treat, but perhaps it was the purging of items that belonged to my grandmother that really set the project in motion. I haven't baked this particular cake in over a year, but it was her recipe. I didn't make the connection until long after it was cooked, frosted and half eaten! I also made sandwich rolls and a delicious batch of macaroni and cheese from a new recipe.

Today, I'm baking more sandwich rolls (so many kids to feed!) and some cookies for the freezer. Pulling chicken from the freezer for dinner. I will have to go to the store for milk (so many kids to feed!), but that's all we need for today.

Gas prices are downright crazy! Glad I can stay home today and work on more organizing and cleaning!

Chocolate Cake
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cubes butter
4 T. coca
1 c. water
1/2 c. buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
Mix sugar, flour and baking soda in a bowl. Heat together water, cocoa and butter in a saucepan. Bring to a rapid boil and then pour on dry ingredients. Add buttermilk, eggs and vanilla. Pour into 12" by 18" (like a cookie sheet) pan and bake for 20 minutes at 350.

Icing
1 cube butter
4 T. cocoa
6 T. buttermilk
1 pound powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Bring butter, cocoa and buttermilk to a boil in a saucepan. Remove from heat and add sugar and vanilla. Spread hot frosting on hot cake.