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Archive for May, 2010

I Figured it Out

May 31st, 2010 at 05:37 pm

I kept feeling like I haven't had as much time as I should!

I finally figured it out - I have been cooking a lot more. Kind of time consuming! (Which doesn't really make much difference in the grand scheme of things, since dh cooks 90%+ of our meals). But, I have been enjoying cooking more, all the same.

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This weekend was nice. Had a nice visit with my parents on Saturday. Yesterday we went swimming. It was about 90 degrees (after weeks of unusual cold and rain).

Today we stuffed ourselves silly at a friend's Housewarming BBQ.

I had planned to bake up some red potatoes and I have a ton of cabbage salad in the fridge. For dinner - keeping it light.

Dh bought a $3 watermelon to bring to the BBQ - we ended up bringing about 1/2 of it back home. We can add that to dinner.

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Yesterday was the first day it got a little warm in the house, this year. I was disappointed since it was the first "hot" day, (the house heated up so quickly) but we managed to be comfortable enough without the AC. I thought we would cave at bedtime - even if we only generally turn it on a few minutes to cool off the upstairs before bed.

But, we didn't cave, and it turned out to be cooler than expected, today. Was sad not to see the sun, but the weather was "just right," otherwise.

To get through May without flipping on the AC for a few days, is a new record. Not one I could take credit for. I missed having a little warmer May, but glad it wasn't sweltering, all the same. We've got all summer to swelter. But, kind of glad to say good bye to these grey skies! Next week is looking hot. Time for that AC weather.

Gearing Up for Busy

May 29th, 2010 at 07:02 am

The month of June is getting a wee bit crazy!

Dh is volunteering about 30 hours, nights and weekends. Just seems to be a big volunteer month (Scholastic and Public TV station).

BM has a last day of school BBQ, and a big fundraiser; LM has graduation from preschool (hard to believe!)

Dh is organizing some grade school reunion (lord knows why - so unlike him!)

My work is having a big dinner.

We are going on our family camp trip for 4 days in Tahoe.

I think I have turned down 10 invitations on the day of June 18. It's like the day all the stars aligned. Some of these things have been scheduled to work around us (work dinner got moved to the 17th?).

Oh yeah, dh has a volunteer appreciation dinner (which are always really nice - at the TV station).

I don't remember the last time the kids had a babysitter, and now we have 2 dinners in one month. I think we can arrange a "trade" with a neighbor - & have a 15% off coupon for the drop-in place, for the other dinner.

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This weekend is also turning up a wee bit crazy. I was kind of looking for some quiet/settling down time. Suppose we can try for July. Big Grin

We can tend to be really hermit-y. You wouldn't know it, but we do have one extrovert child, which forces us to come out of hermithood more than we care for. LOL. So, it's a bit much, but will be good for us all the same.

My folks are coming up this weekend and we made plans with friends on Monday. Sunday we can have a full day of being hermits - phew!

This & That

May 27th, 2010 at 01:25 pm

**So, started both kids on piano lessons. Is going well.

Time is so finite and precious with small kids, my tolerance for using precious time, has been thin the last few years. But that has lightened up quite a bit, with time.

Anyway, I am finding this good practice for me. What I need to do is get back into practicing a bit myself. Though I know I am perfectly capable of teaching, I am a little rusty, and don't have much to show how I was a much more accomplished player at some time or other.

I realized I Am probably in no shape to teach at the moment, but am considering letting the neighbors know that I teach, and starting to offer lessons. Maybe in a year. One or two nights a week. With the uncertain economy and everything, I think it is good to start building the foundation for a side income stream.

Oh teaching was so much WORK last time. As all teaching is.

For now, my kids are the guniea pigs.

I suppose another idea is to contact local teachers and ask if they need a substitute. Or a tutor of sorts. Might be more my speed. I primarily taught 15-minute private lessons to kids in group piano classes, as a student teacher. It would be helpful to network with teachers, I suppose. I've got the experience but no music degree. Not sure how it would be taken, but you don't know until you ask!


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**Well, the weather here has turned manic depressive.

(I suppose I like that term?)

I was sweltering in my car the other day around the noon hour. I Was kind of like, "oh, it's not hot enough for the AC," but whimped out in the end. About 4 hours later, when I left work, it was freezing!!!! I flipped on the heat. At 5pm. Like, I rarley do that in winter! It was so bizarre! A storm had moved in rather quickly. I think it was the shock of the cold - not that it was "that cold."

I skipped aerobics Tuesday because it was pouring rain out of nowhere and I didn't want to deal with the stupid drivers. (My drive home is rather reverse commute, and wide open, but the route to aerobics cuts through some bad traffic). I figured it could take hours, anyway. Accidents, traffic and everything.

Today ain't looking much better. It was rather nice a few days this week. Got in some bike rides and walks, etc. But stormy stormy stormy today.

That said, should warm up this weekend.

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**This weekend, plans are filling up the schedule:

Saturday - going to a little zoo/park to see a show and some sheep shearing. Free with our membership.

Sunday - is supposed to reach 86 degrees. I think Sunday will be a great day for swimming, though I think it is possible they won't heat the pool until Monday? Like, it opens Memorial Day? Hopefully they mean, "Memorial Day Weekend." Usually we get a heat wave and brave the pool anyway in May, but it hasn't been swimming weather at ALL! Well, at 86 degrees, probably fine in the afternoon, heat or no. We like the morning when no one else is there, is all. Giant pool to ourselves!

Monday - Invited to a BBQ

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I'd like to have a no-spend week - until next Thursday. The credit card closes Thursday - I think we spent enough this month. We are like this every month.

BUT, I feel like the forces are working against me.

I keep thinking of little things. Like, I thought the weekend might be nice to cook up some salmon. $10/pound. Eh, nevermind. Plus, we should bring something for the BBQ...

Well, will try to keep it low key. I can bring cabbage salad - I got a TON!

It's just been that kind of week, is all. Haven't been out to lunch in forever, and a friend was available at the last minute, yesterday. Wasn't worth saying no. I had been bugging her to get together for a couple of weeks and hadn't done much lunch since last year (surgery, tax season, everything). But sometimes no-spend weeks are easy peasy, and sometimes not so much. I will be practicing a lot of self control for the next week! Trying, anyway.

Overall, I think we have a nice, low-key weekend plan. Want to get caught up on some house cleaning, too.

Amazon & Other Updates

May 23rd, 2010 at 08:42 am

In the last couple of weeks, dh made $130 with Amazon.

Our disgrunteld ebay buyer (or scammer?) let his complaint expire, so that whole thing is over. We theorize he probably was a scammer, and gave up once we didn't roll over and give him a refund? Either way - he doesn't seem that concerned about it.

It's for the best - I think Amazon has been easier, and more profitable, for our purposes. Not sure we would have thought to try it, if not for bad e-bay experiences of late.

Dh also made a $70 craigslist sale, today.

It's not as grand as it sounds - he took $230 from our checking to buy some big game bundle thing, and gave me back about $250 in the end. HE did it more to keep some of the good stuff that came in the bundle, than for a profit. So, with the $70 sale, it's probably a rather average $100 profit month.

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In other news, we had a good month. I don't keep cash around, nor do I keep any money in my checking (just works best for us - we are aggressive on the savings), but BM needed $20 for a yearbook. I actually don't mind the yearbook purchase. We actually don't buy the school pics - could care less - but the yearbook is a nice way to get a picture of his class and all that. $20 is pretty reasonable, I think.

Anyway, it is no biggie, but it was going to be a pain to transfer $20 over, etc., etc.

Well, lo and behold, I got some random $21 refund in the mail yesterday. A RX refund from our HMO? No idea what the heck it is.

Well, that makes it easy! It's been a while since things have worked out like that. But often, they just do.

I was actually wary, because it was clearly some blue statement or notice, which I had never seen. "What the heck is this?" I thought. I was nervous. I actually thought it was a "late/overdue statement" because a $1500 payment I had made through the mail hadn't cleared yet.

Instead, it was a check. Yup - never got a refund from them before!

They have seemed to have lots of problems adjusting to their new deductible/out-of-pockets this year. I am sure it stems from that. Maybe a RX purchase that should have been reduced to a co-pay since we had used our deductible? I don't know. We generally do not have prescriptions, but we all had pink eye twice, BM got an inhaler, and dh got some pain meds after surgery. So lord knows which prescription this applies to. Any other time it would probably be obvious - but we are a mess this year! I presume the inhaler since it cost like 3 times as much as LM's had. I suppose that was a mistake.

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We decided to get a new computer monitor for Father's Day. We primarily use one computer, and 2 of our computers have monitors circa 1980.

This is something we have been meaning to purchase for a long time, and I see our window of opportunity closing, as our finances tighten a bit.

My idea was to just buy it because it would probably save energy. (Changing light bulbs was a bust because apparently we don't use them enough. That, and our non-CFLs were apparently quite energy efficient, as is). The computer monitor is something clearly heavily used and ancient. I think we have better odds to improve on it!

I think dh has a modern monitor in his office for video editing and such. (Now that I think about it - we only bought that one because one ancient monitor went dead after nursing it along for many years). When I brought up the idea to dh, he really liked it, since he plans to use the main computer for more editing. Basically, I didn't realize he was kind of thinking of getting a monitor anyway - for his own working purposes.

We will pay for it with the first month of "no preschool." He's already picked one out - I asked him to card it in June or after, is all. So I don't have to touch savings for it.

I think that will cool it on big purchases for us. Last year was really good financially, and this year has not been so good. We used last year's bounty to really catch up on some stuff around the house. So, it's been a really good run. But we are happy to cool it for while.

We also discussed keeping it a low key/close to home year. We re-instituted a vacation budget in the last couple of years (survived many years without one) and it's kind of the first thing to go. Last year we used it more for season pass/amusement park type stuff. Staycation. We didn't even go on a big trip. But, I was telling dh last night that maybe it's best his surgery used up so much of my vacation time - and this big Hawaii trip his mom has planned. Because, I think we should contract it in and be a little less spendy this year.

I can't even manage a day off for an amusement park (avoid places like that on the weekend - can't stand crowds). So, works out.

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We will survive just fine!

We already went to Monterey Bay Aquarium (which is quite a treat!).

We have memberships to the local parks/zoos, museums, and can spend our summer at the pool and bike riding by the lake. Cost is like $100 vs. $1500! (Our vacation budget is only $1500 - and we generally do the memberships on top of that, anyway).

It's fun to splurge once in a while, but it doesn't have to be all the time.

I think this is also an easy year to be low key. IT has more to do with my work situation than anything (which we haven't vocalized to anyone, so no one really knows our compensation has been hit. I might have talked about it to my mom, but that is it). That said, dh's surgery situation hasn't been that huge a hit, but people kind of expect us to be broke because of it. It's always easier to be frugal when people expect that you are broke. Wink So, phew.

Borrowing Ideas from Thriftorama

May 22nd, 2010 at 10:09 am

I am in the way super early stages of thinking about gardening.

I've never had much luck in the garden, and don't consider it really my thing. But as I look for new ways to economize, gardening is kind of the next obvious step. Dh is also a little more into it, and has always liked the idea of growing a garden with the kids.

"Sacramento's long growing season (240+ days) gives us two major vegetable planting periodsó spring and fall. As you'll see from the calendar below, however, there's actually something edible to plant every month of the year."

{I am having no luck pasting the link here - something like sacramento gardening dot com.}

I suppose we will start with peppers (easy and May is the time to plant). Next would be carrots, radishes, and deciding on some herbs. Those seem obvious, anyway.

Anyway, yesterday, I came across a blog entry on gardening (on another local blog). The blog mentioned it is nearly impossible to grow edibles in our soil, and went into "frugal" ways to build raised garden beds. May be on the fugal side, but seemed pretty complicated to me. Ugh.

I thought, "there has got to be something more frugal!" So I googled "cheap raised garden beds," or something of the like, and probably got a zillion ideas on re-using recycled materials. Much more my speed!

OF course, then I came across the best idea of all:



I have been storing these forever (to freecycle, or use, at some point. I might have at least 6 laying around the house right now (some white ones too!). We will probably cut them in half (top half/bottom half) and make holes in the bottoms of them.

So, today I was ruminating on where to make space for all these plastic containers, in our soil. I am sure we will invest in some nicer looking ones for the patio and such. These will be good around the yard as we find places to sneak in some veggies around the yard.

I thought of Thriftorama's plan to hide her veggies behind bushes in her front yard (you know, due to the "no gardens in the front yard" thing to which I have the feeling my HOA would subscribe to). Even if that wasn't an issue, fact is, we have very little yard to grow anything out front.

So I Was ruminating, and then it hit me! I totally forgot that we had some unused space in our front yard, hiding behind a pile of bushes. We used to fret about what to do with that space and eventually just figured no one could see it so who cares.

ding ding ding!!!



We will have some weeds to clear out - but it ain't half bad - looks like it even gets water back there? Big Grin



SO, I have to think Thriftorama for that idea.

Time for a secret garden! Wink

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Finally, I need all the luck in the world. The only thing I have successfully planted, ever, is my wildflowers (from seed). As I mentioned earlier. While taking pictures, I snapped a pic.

My little wildflower jungle! Big Grin



Hopefully I can expand my horizons beyond wildflowers...

Anyway, if nothing else, I feel relieved that it looks like we can start gardening, whenever. Summer and fall is a good time for lots of plantings. Yay!

Birthday, Check

May 20th, 2010 at 04:50 pm

I didn't go the cheap route, but I did go the SIMPLE route.

Got the kids' party reserved.

Was going to say, now all we have to do is show up. BUT, I suppose I need to send out invites first. Then track RSVPs, and then show up.

& if I drive down some day at lunch (not too far from the office) I can pick up 15 invitations.

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We've got room for 15 kids, including my own 2.

We want to invite about 45 kids. Is that insane?

Thing is, the 20 kids from BM's class, and about 10 from LM's - I don't expect most of those to show. It's hard to say though. Last year we did a weekday party (only a few showed). On the flip side, even if Saturday is more popular, it is still in the middle of summer when everyone is on vacation.

Also includes cousins in another city who likely will not come.

cousins = 4
friends = 7
my kids = 2

That leaves 2 random kids to show up. More like 6 since I don't expect the cousins to show.

For another $45 we can double the size of the party, up to a week before. So I will just hope people respect the RSVP! I wouldn't mind doubling it if the turnout is big. I just don't expect it to be big.

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Dh has scored a bunch of video games and books for the kids, and has some Scholastic shifts this next month (where he gets paid with games and books). SO, I ain't shopping for them or anything. The in-laws will also spoil them rotten.

I'd say, that was the easiest birthday to plan, ever! It took a 10-minute phone call. Big Grin

Unseasonably Cold?

May 20th, 2010 at 06:59 am

I am still adjusting to the weather here, but I don't remember May as a month of endless rain. I remember it as Hotter than Hades! Not that HOT is normal, but it seems we get at least one or two heat waves every May.

So, I am enjoying the pleasant weather (not crazy hot) but am kind of over the rain, all the same!

Today I did my first a.m. bike ride, this year. I could stand to lose a few pounds. The secret, for me, is just to be active every day. So, I am hoping summer will help motivate me.

I was wide awake at 5:30 am (not unusual for me) and the sun was peeking out, so I Decided this morning was a good of time as any.

The air was SO COLD!!!!! Bah. It was slightly humid and I didn't feel overly cold, but my ears and eyes (if you can believe it) were FREEZING. It took me a while for my eyes to adjust to the cold. This was something new.

It got a little better as the sun rose and I felt some warmth.

I thought I was just being overly whimpy, but the I checked the weather when I got back. "Feels like 45 degrees." Holy Hell!

This girl does not do 45 degrees. Gah! I mean, that is a winter low temp. WINTER!

So, I was awake, and the sun was out. But next time I think I will hit the gym. Or at least check a thermometer before I head out. There is a reason I don't do dawn bike rides in the winter. So my eyes don't freeze?

What can I say - I am a California girl.

Anyway, I did warm up a bit and it was a nice ride. I saw a TON of jack rabbits. I will usually see a couple. Today I disturbed a lot of them, and saw some little baby rabbits. Too cute!

I didn't see a soul outside - it was divine!

SLAW

May 19th, 2010 at 06:15 pm

First off, I am terrible at eating my fruits and veggies. Doesn't matter how well dh cooks or stocks the house, I've got 25+ years of bad eating habits to overcome! (I don't think I ever saw a fruit or veggie as a child - don't ask. Thank goodness for dh to set us all straight).

Secondly, my unofficial goal this year has been to expand my culinary skills. Dh and I cook a fair amount, and well more than the average American, but that isn't saying much!

I suppose it started when my mom gave me a pile of extra potatoes. I decided I better figure out what to do with them. I've never cooked a potato before. I might have made mashed potatoes from scratch - once?

Of course, I felt silly because it was uber easy to cook with. & I love potatoes. A good way to add something on the healthier side, to my diet. We are hooked on potatoes now. I just fry some up every weekend with some seasonings. I never have to order a french fry again - home made is so yummy! & much healthier, I presume.

Next was fresh salmon. I decided to be adventurous and try some new things.

Of course, since then, I haven't thought of anything new. We did try some lentils, I suppose (dh did, in the crockpot).

Until, slaw!

Actually, it all started when we pigged out all weekend. The in-laws ordered us a pizza. My parents treated us to a mexican feast, etc., etc. Come Sunday night I told dh I would be happy to skip dinner. I told him all I could possibly eat was a salad. Very out of character for me, but I couldn't take one more giant/greasy meal, either.

SO, I don't remember what I ate Monday, but Tuesday I came home and still felt bloated from the weekend. Dh had a package of cole slaw in the fridge. It sounded DIVINE! I have never had it but for at a restaurant and always thought it was super yummy. I don't even know what cole slaw is. I am not a veggie fan, but love salads, for whatever reason.

So, I asked dh if he needed it, and actually, he had no idea what to do with the leftover slaw (had used some for a recipe).

I wondered aloud what I should do for dressing, and dh pointed out it had a recipe on the bag. It was okay.

Today I perused online and found this recipe, and read how great cole slaw (cabbage) was for the diet.

Anyway, this link had a vinegar-based and a mayo-based dressing. I will try them both.

Text is http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/coleslaw and Link is
http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/coleslaw

I am sure I could get sick of it real fast, but today a summer of cole slaw and frozen fruit smoothies sounds divine! Big Grin I could eat that stuff all day. (I'll eat any fruit in blended/frozen form). I don't even care so much about the cole slaw dressing. Just something to help slide it down a little easier. A little dab will do!

Actually, I also love green onions, which was mentioned in the recipe above. Carrots, green onions, and cabbage. Yum!

Anyway, dh asked if I wanted more cole slaw, when I told him I got some dressing recipes. Oy vey. No, I need some cabbage, carrots, green onions, and maybe some radish to spice it up. Prepackaged, shredded cabbage? Is he kidding me? Wink

It's just one of those things we generally don't *get.* How hard is it to chop up a few veggies? Particularly now that we have the big processor and a mandolin slicer. I told dh I think I could handle shredding some cabbage up. Wink

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Cole slaw and potatoes. Pretty basic stuff, eh? I am learning...

I've actually been experimenting with rice recipes as well. Screw rice-a-roni. I think the internet is awesome as far as finding those "just right" recipes. I always tell people that a well rounded cooking repretoire takes time. We've eaten primarily home cooked meals for about 8 years, and we still have so much room for improvement. But, it's like one habit at a time. Get used to home cooking A, then B, then C, and on and on and on. Slowly the prepackaged items have been disappearing from our pantry. Which means, our grocery bill continues to go down, with time. The learning possibilities still seem endless.

So, what shall I tackle next???