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Archive for June, 2011

Woke Up To Snow

June 29th, 2011 at 09:15 pm

The *heat wave* last week made camp bearable. So, we ended up going.

The weather was just perfect the whole time. The snow was absurd probably a week ago, but it had been melting rapidly in the heat. A lot of the snow melted while we were there.

This morning the kids told me they had seen snow falling all night from the windows at their top bunks. I thought they must be mistaken, but shortly after, more snow blessed us. Thankfully, we were getting the heck out of there. (Hadn't exactly brought that kind of warm clothing!) So a perfect end to a perfect little vacation.

I think turnout was a little small because of the snow/weather situation. Which made it an extraordinarily pleasant camp.

I was wary because we were the first group in. But, so many of the staff had been there so many years, everything ran perfectly smooth.

I don't know if it was because of lower turnout, but they also served us drinks on the patio and kept a tab. Like a 5-star resort. Big Grin

Down side? The big hike was snowed in. To top if off, dh decided to take BM yesterday, anyway (many adults had braved it - though got wet feet), but BM ended up mildly ill. With red eyes, just hoping that it is not pink eye AGAIN! Pink eye seems to never end. I promised him we could wait since last time it just went away. IT doesn't seem to be getting worse... (Anything but MORE eye drops!!)

I also considered allergies, but he completely lost his appetite. Free food for 3 days - and my kid loses his appetite. Of course! (My kids are generally bottomless pits). Of course, accordingly, his lack of appetite was very unsettling. But in the grand scheme of things - seemed like a pretty mild virus. Well, he doesn't let that kind of thing slow him down usually. & he was not happy that we would not let him hike like that!

Anyway, then the cold and rain came in last night anyway. So, we told him that we could probably go back and do the hike any time. Maybe we will go back in a month when the trail is more dry! There is public parking in camp for this particular hike - and it is only a 90-mile drive from our home.

At home, it will be about 75F degrees today, but it is supposed to be near 100F on Friday. The weather continues to be crazy and unpredictable.

Oh - the snow. It was "melt when it hits the ground" snow. But, it was exciting all the same. Will share some pictures later. I am so relieved we didn't get stuck in mud. So concerned about the mud situation, and then it rained/snowed for 12 hours straight (overnight). We slip and slided out of camp - not exactly fun - but we survived!

Vacation was super awesome because SIL came. Which means, MIL was all up in her business, and I barely saw her the whole time. To the extent she probably thinks I was avoiding her or whatever. I wasn't consciously, and don't mind her in small doses. But, also, the kids were old enough to do their own thing, and it was an extraordinarily relaxing vacation. Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh... Lots of sleeping, reading, hiking, vegging out.

Birthday Parties

June 26th, 2011 at 03:37 pm

Two years ago, when BM was in Kinder, he was invited to a party for every one of his classmates. Just about. The invites were endless, and the whole class was invited, of course!

This year there were no birthday parties in Kinder. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Kind of weird.

I think dh was annoyed when the kids and I decided to do one combined birthday for the kids. We always do, and had discussed separating them this year. BUT, the kids were pretty gung ho on having one party, and I encouraged them since it would probably be a lot cheaper. IF nothing else, I made clear it was 2 modest parties, or one party of better means. "You can pool your resources," I told them. They chose one big bash.

I am glad it worked out that way. BM is Mr. Social and usually has pretty good birthday party turnouts - even in the middle of summer. Plus, he wants to invite everyone, which increases the odds that some will show (& will not be on vacation). LM, on the other hand, wanted to invite 4 kids from his class. & NONE can make it.

Though I am relieved that we combined the parties (with family), it does make it ackward with presents, I guess. For next year we may just have to do a class party during the school year to increase the odds of a decent turnout. I don't know - more thought will need to be made.

I voiced aloud to my friend about the lack of birthday party enthusiasm - that just dried up with only one year in between kids. She told me that everyone was doing family parties these days and just bringing cupcakes to class. I presume that is due to the economy. Because the parties we go to are generally across the board over-the-top. I suppose in the midst of endless foreclosures, a $300 party is out of the equation for the 6-year-old. As with everything, it then just becomes "all or nothing." If you can't go ALL OUT, then no party? Really? I think it's kind of a sad state of society. (This isn't exactly Beverly Hills or anything - thus the guess of a $300 price tag - but I don't know since when a birthday party wasn't complete without a bounce house rental or something like that. The parties of today resemble nothing of the simple parties of my own youth. Plus, I am thinking of the 0-6 year-old crowd. I have less disdain for the *bounce house party* for older kids who will actually remember their parties).

We generally do pretty modest birthday parties. Years 1-5 were pretty much hang out and eat cake and ice cream. The funny thing is we always get compliments. How nice to have such a simple party! Yet it is something few seem interested in attempting.

This year is a mixture of simple and fancy, for us. We did hire a magician at $150. But the thing is I only have one party and I don't mind splurging a bit. We also don't really do much in gifts (kids will be drowning in them from family and so on). So I don't mind splurging a bit. BUT, that is about the extent of it. I'll make some "instant" cupcakes and order some cheap pizza. & that is all I have planned. As with anything, why make it more complicated than it has to be???

I suppose that next year we will probably do a pool party. I don't remember the cost to reserve our HOA pool/clubhouse, but from the past I remember it was dirt cheap. It may only be a deposit - it is probably free. If I recall correctly. We show up with some food, and a party is born. Easy peasy, right?

If people are really making the hard choices, financially, I applaud them for that. But, I don't particularly see the hard choices being made. Over and over I see little sense of middle ground when it comes to financial choices. It always seems to be all or nothing, and birthday parties have gone the way of "all or nothing," it seems.


I was just talking to BM about his e-vite and he mentioned his "maybe" friend RSVPed yes for 6 people. 6 people? What? LOL. (I saw the "maybe" but not the "6 people.")

I had actually put his name only on the evite because his younger twin siblings are in the same grade as LM - and I figured that made it clear that only the eldest child was invited. (The younger kids are not in the same class and don't particularly know each other).

I just checked - and he was right. Problem is both our neighbors RSVPed yes for the whole family (of course they would) as did several relatives. Plus a couple of family friends. Several of the classmates RSVPed one yes, in comparison. But reviewing the evite I See why they felt comfortable replying yes for the whole family - since so many others did.

Note to self: When you just want to invite the kids - don't send an evite where everyone can see the RSVPs. Big Grin

Oh well - this will be a packed house on party day!

The Clothing Shuffle

June 25th, 2011 at 07:26 pm

IT was an extraordinarily odd year in that there was no need to shift wardrobes until practically July!!

So, I did the deed today, and was rather pleased with the outcome. Dh was trying to tell me that "BM only has 3 pairs of shorts." I knew he had 2 pairs we bought for track (Casual) and 2 pairs that I had bought specifically because they were casual, but could work for school uniform. In the end I found 5 pairs - not including what was in laundry. Meaning - he doesn't need any more! Shorts are easy with my kids - they grow up but not out. So they have a pile of shorts that would otherwise be SEVERAL sizes too small. But the pants are not as forgiving since they become "flood pants" so quickly with the rapid growth.

BM's wardrobe looks threadbare compared to LM. For LM I have all the clothes that MIL bought for BM (though she never listens to me as far as size). So TONS of clothes that BM never even wore (too SMALL), that I kept for LM. There are always hand-me-downs from relatives and friends (usually BM's friends). & then, to top it all off - I buy LM something once in a while just so his wardrobe is not 100% hand-me-down. It's not like it matters or he cares - but it's fun to spend $10 here and there and to know he is not lacking for anything. Of course we can splurge on something new here and there since I never need to buy him much otherwise.

Anyway, due to the sheer volume of clothing, I set aside everything labeled 3 & 4. Even though many items still fit.

I hit the sweet spot with the kids. BM can pretty much hand his clothes directly to LM, any more. No more storing things in between. The "in between" bin now merely contains a handful of size 7 pants. & the only reason they are there is because he has so many size 6 pants (no room for more pants in his drawers!). Anyway, in past years, "in between" was maybe 2-3 bins full. That said - "sharing clothes" can get kind of confusing. As it becomes less clear what belongs to who, as their sizes converge. I am sure at some point they will simply be the same size. Even their shoes are only one size apart any more - and they keep putting on the wrong pairs because they look the same.

BM, on the other hand, did outgrow all his pants, so I will buy him a couple of pairs of jeans to get through summer. But, he's got some flip flops that still fit, and plenty of other clothing. So, for summer shopping - 2 pairs of pants is pretty easy. I think we can swing that!

As far as when school starts, I will hit the hand-me-down exchange closet. I never have before - left it for people who needed it more. BUT, now that I have clothing to contribute - I will see if I can just do an even exchange. All the XS clothing in exchange for size 8 pants for BM. Unless he is up to size 9 by fall. I swear I just bought size 7s about 6 months ago. But alas, they are getting way too short!


I ended up splurging on myself last night. My year-o-date allowance expenditures was only about $20 as of yesterday. I hit Target merely to get some white t-shirts for camp (tie dye) but got sucked in by all the summer clothing. Truth is I only have one pair of shorts that really fit well, anyway. Which is fine for most the year. It's always pre-vacation that I become aware about how minimal my summer wardrobe really is. (In comparison, for work I have one wardrobe for all year. A/C in the summer = wearing sweaters to work all summer). On the weekends, one pair of shorts suffices. Plus, I tend to hole up inside rather than go out in the heat, anyway.

For $100 I bought:

-2 shirts for tie-dye (was going to return one after getting more opinions - but dh encouraged me to just do both).

-Leggings for $7 (could use for the wardrobe)

-2 pairs of shorts

-2 VERY causal pairs of shorts (for around the house)

I could have easily lumped a lot of this into "needed clothing" category. But, since my allowance spending has been so little this year, I will just toss it to the allowance category. Not entirely altruistic since I am sure I have pushed the envelope in the past with, "I need that!" I figured it probably evens out in the end.


I've got one large bag for Goodwill. Will set it out next time a charity comes by. (I just missed a pick up for last week). I went through my closet and grabbed about 10 things to donate, as well.

There is probably a lot of stuff in my closet I Would never miss. But, it has been working well to just grab a handful of things (very quickly) every time I have a bag for charity. Or, every time I buy more clothing. Best not to over-think it. I just get rid of whatever I am in the mood to get rid of. There are several items I was reluctant to give up on the 1st, 2nd or 3rd pass. But on every pass, it gets easier!


Anyway, the long and the short of it is that if you went through my older child's clothing, you'd think it was pretty minimalistic. But, if all you saw was LM's wardrobe, you'd think I was a shopping fiend!

June is not over...

June 24th, 2011 at 09:08 pm

But I think we did well.

Last night we got Free dinner #10 or so for the month. I had forgotten about that one - volunteer appreciation dinner at the public TV station. Every year is better than the last. I'll have to post some pictures later - fancy schmanzy!

After attending almost 9 years in a row I will say it was a very small turnout compared to usual, and a really small raffle also. Of course, maybe it was just last year - seemed to be far more raffle items. Usually odds are good enough to win something, but didn't win last night.

Of course, spent $20 on babysitting, so was not free.

Looks like there may be a big neighborhood 4th of July party, so we may be able to string out the parties/celebrations/lots of free food into a bit of July. (Last year we were asked to bring plates - and there was SO MUCH food. I wouldn't mind bringing something more substantial - but I am sure we will get far more than we put in - if anything like last year).


We had the luck to leave town when the triple digits hit, so did not run the A/C much this week. I believe that our electric bill will reflect a huge decrease compared to last June. May was not that impressive (compared to last May) but June will reward us for *lower than normal* temps. I hope! If not, it's because our A/C is so efficient. Sometimes it's hard to improve on. Which is certainly not a bad thing!


I do not believe that we will need groceries or gas until the 1st, either.

That said, we do need to pick up some sun screen, mosquito spray, white t-shirts (tie die), etc. for camp. I hadn't thought much about any of that until today. The kids have some grungy looking white polo shirts for school that I decided to take this year. (I personally don't do white - too much hassle - and lord knows why dh insists on some white t-shirts for them. But glad we can find another use since they are more grey than white any more. Plus some sort of other stain - they are rambuctious boys - and seem to attract permanent marker marks if nothing else - don't ask me how or why). I may look for a white tank top or something different, for myself. Though waiting until the last minute I may stick with a plain old men's shirt again - is probably the 4th to add to my wardrobe - why I wanted to choose another style this time.


I was poking around my Chase reward today and was able to squeeze a $5 Olive Garden gift card out of my old Chase card. Last time I looked I could not find anything to redeem for less than 1000 points - so I think this was new. I am glad I looked. If this was all I could redeem - is worthwhile - and I don't remember the last time we went to O.G.!

While poking around I realized I can probably redeem $1030 cash when all is said and done - with the Sapphire card. $1000 with the bonus points, but $3000 charged = $30 cash reward, in addition. I didn't catch that part before.

I will have to sit down and pay the July bills tonight and see where we are at. But so far, so good. (Well - I put everything in Quicken. Then I set everything to pay on their due dates. How it relates to June is I pay off the June credit cards in July - so why I sit down ahead of time to make sure it all balances and that I didn't do anything stupid!)

July is also going to have to be a low-spend month, outside of "vacation" type purchases, which comes from our short-term savings. We are on track to not spend our entire vacation budget this year, anyway. Well below budget. Since no big trips planned. Even LegoLand = free admission and free hotel. The food always adds up for us since we can't be as uber frugal as we are at home. & food will make up the bulk of the vacation budget. Food and random adult admissions - the kids seem to have free admission to everywhere.

Quiet Weekend

June 21st, 2011 at 09:24 pm

The weekend was quiet, and very nice!

Lots of reading, lots of kids playing in the backyard, and lots of vegging by the pool. We also made our first smoothies of the year.

LM has remembered all of his swimming skills. Just took some time. Still not overly strong in the water, so would still like to do lessons. "When?" is the question. Maybe some time in July. But in the meantime, I am glad to see it all coming back.


"Vacation Plans" for this week? We are FINALLY making it to the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. First, it is expensive. Two, it's usually crowded beyond belief. Three, it's kind of a pain to get to.

BUT, we are making the trek this week. Going mid-week since it should be a little more bearable with the crowds.

In the end, I found a 20% off coupon code, and it really isn't that expensive when all is said and done. Almost 20% off for getting tickets online, so maybe paid 40% off the initial prices I looked at a while back. Phew!

On the flip side, gas is adding up very quickly with driving logistics. We are pretty much taking a huge detour south to pick up my dad - and have to drive the van, accordingly. But, may save us hours of sitting in traffic - so may work for sanity. I am hoping we can just drop my dad off at the train and drive straight home. We haven't discussed that part yet, but will work it out. Driving him home too, still beats meeting him there - traffic-wise.


I finally looked at my calendar and worked everything out. Signed up for all my continuing education seminars, etc. & then narrowed down when it made sense to take vacation time.

Chose a day between the kids' birthdays where we will go to Six Flags on a week day. They've got free tickets to use up.

I narrowed down one week that would work for a trip to So Cal. Maybe the last week before school starts up.

If I do so, that makes all my vacation days as time off with the kids. But, I did have 2 weeks surgery recovery (kids in school) where I laid around and didn't do anything. So, I think I can forego a vacation of REAL down time. I usually look forward to a little quiet time at home.

I had already requested a week off in October (with the kids) since it is the only week they get off during the school year that I can get off. The rest being during tax season and all... So, I suppose that can be a bit of a down time-y type vacation. We were thinking road trip, but the weather has been so wacky. IT was kind of an iffy time, and who knows how that will pan out. If we do a road trip, we will probably wing it. It would also be nice if the weather was nice enough to camp, etc. (versus freezing cold). Since camping could really keep our costs down. I don't think we will really know until the time approaches. Of course, it just occured to me that a Plan B could be to drop off the kids with Grandma a few days, since that is like a week after our anniversary! We could maybe do both - road trip with kids + weekend getaway alone.

So, who knows. But, it feels good to have all my dates planned out. I like looking at all the time off from "work work" on my calendar. Big Grin January - April is *work* 6 days a week. & the rest of the year really averages about 4 days a week when all is said and done. I've got all these Mondays and Fridays off for seminars, for one. & we actually get holidays the rest of the year. & then there is all the vacation time. Ah, MUCH more relaxing!!


If you noticed my side bar, summer really did arrive. 100F+ degrees today. This is the June I know and hate! Eh, it's not do bad. It's the summer I know and am used to and why I don't see why working is such a big deal. What else am I going to do from 9-5 but hole up indoors anyway. With the A/C! Outdoor activities resume in the evenings and in the early mornings when it is bearable outside.

The kids have been going to the dirt cheap city day camp, but are sitting out these three-digit days. I've never been thrilled that it is outdoors, because of our ultra hot summers. Why I never signed them up before. But, still is a good deal if we only take them on cooler days.

How I will make $2000 sitting on my butt!! (Chase Sapphire double bonus!)

June 21st, 2011 at 02:41 pm

Okay, almost, but not quite.

I am well on the way to $600 Fidelity (Cash) rewards this year.

I took a small detour from this card to get the Chase Sapphire $500 bonus.

I did see a promo for Citi for that could be translated into about $450 cash. BUT there was an initial annual fee of $125. So I scratched this one.

However, I just popped onto MyMoneyBlog this morning, and was probably one of the first to see that I could convert my $500 reward from Chase into $1,000.

I followed the instructions and e-mailed Chase, asking to match a new bonus they are offering to specific customers. They wrote me back in just a couple of minutes. Even better, they will just give me 50,000 bonus points when my statement closes this month. (No waiting until I spend $3,000 - the initial reward was supposed to take 6 weeks after you spend the $3,000). Woohoo!

I am thinking of taking $125 of my $1000 reward to have dh apply for the Citi deal.

& that is how I will make $2,000 on credit rewards in 2011, without hardly lifting a finger. (Okay - maybe closer to $1900 with the fee - but the year is young. More offers are sure to entice!!!)

It literally took me one minute or so to apply for the Chase card through my existing account. It then took me about 30 seconds to cut and paste the e-mail request (& edit slightly) that I sent to Chase this morning. Spend credit cards as would otherwise, and wala. EASY MONEY!

This is also tax-free money, by the way!

For the Sapphire bonus:

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I will apply for the Citi card once we are well on our way to rest of Chase bonus. Have to get that one out of the way first, since Citi requires $2k spending in 3 months. (& anyway, maybe something better will come along in the interim. Though $300-ish net back from Citi is a pretty sweet reward in the grand scheme of things!!)


As an aside, I was going to get off my lazy butt and cancel my Chase Freedom card this morning. I think I will wait until I get these bonus points now. Since I told them in my e-mail I Was such a loyal customer. Wink If I had cancelled it first, not sure it would have mattered. (Maybe they would want to entice me to stay, even more). But just funny that I hadn't gotten to that. & now I will wait a bit before I get to it.


This $$ will go a LONG way to my overly aggressive mortgage goal for this year. I didn't really think it was possible, but now it is.

I was also going to apply for a $250 bonus to donate to the school. Before all this. So I may still give $250 for the school. That's a tax deduction on tax-free money. Rest will probably go to the mortgage, though I may wait until the end of the year to decide for sure.


2011 is going down as a record year for credit card rewards! I can usually earn $500 - $1000 pretty easily, and I don't shun EASY money. But, this is far better than usual.

Smoky Chicken Enchilada Skillet

June 18th, 2011 at 05:28 pm

Smoky Chicken Enchilada Skillet Recipe:

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This is one of the better new recipes we've tried recently. Dh made it last week and I see the recipe is available to the public now (without registering anyway. I highly recommend registering, for free, to get recipe ideas).

This recipe = YUM!!!

For dinner, it's Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta:

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It's nothing spectacular, but sure beats Hamburger Helper!


**I *think* camp is on, but we will be packing boots and sleds. We've been given the option to cancel or try it out. I was impressed with pictures of DRY areas (snow completely shoveled out and given some days to dry). & dh made the point that it was "muddy as heck" last year - anyway. So it looks like it will be about the same maybe? Though we will be completely surrounded by tons of snow this time, probably. Hence, sleds. Unless 9 feet of snow melts faster than I realize. In camp, they simply dug it all out. Well - they have a ways to go. But there are now places to park and stuff. Will see!

**Haven't done a thing for Father's Day. Was going to go on a hike with my dad tomorrow, but the driving itinerary this month was pretty out of control. I wanted to postpone, and my dad agreed.

Dh is working Scholastic all day (he brought home a pile of books last week, and today's work is for the school library). So, we have got all day to work something out for Father's Day. We will think of something.

**Will go swimming this morning before the peak sun hours. We either go very early, or in the late afternoon/evening. Probably saves a fortune on sun block that way. I just hate the stuff. & well - makes life much easier.

**Going to the library today for some puppet show or something, and I will attempt to renew my library card again.

While out I figured we would grab some yogurt, juice and bananas, to make some smoothies. It's been so cold and haven't really been in a smoothie mood. But, smoothie weather has arrived!

Auto Insurance

June 16th, 2011 at 03:01 pm

I got dh's auto insurance renewal and was able to sign up for the low mileage discount for him.

His premiums had reduced $70 per year, anyway. When I get the paper bill I will look at what changed. Woohoo!

I then got a $20 up front discount for signing up for the low miles discount. It's State Farm "Drive Safe and Save" which I mentioned recently. Before you had to drive less than 7500 mils or so per year to get any discount, but if you sign up for this program they have a tiered savings program. Since we drive about 10k miles per year, each car, will have a chance to save 5% - 10% off our premiums.

I signed up my van before, but had to wait for the other car's insurance to renew.

Before we moved to Sacramento we had just turned 25. I remember our auto insurance was next to nothing (neither of us had collision insurance either, with our OLD cars). We moved up here and it immediately doubled. Rolleyes I could quickly see why. I drive different here. Everyone is CRAZY. I wouldn't label Bay Area drivers as the best and the safest, but when I am there it's TOTALLY different. People are polite there. Here? God forbid you try to merge. People rather run you off the road. Literally. God forbid you drive the speed limit, etc. Everyone is in some insane huge hurry - no idea why. & just little patience when anyone gets in their way.

Thus, I understand the high insurance.

So, to see dh's auto insurance drop below $300 per semi-annual renewal, is pretty sweet! Was $400 just a couple of years ago - and this car hasn't had collision in many years either. So, it's just the liability insurance. We are probably paying more than we were a decade ago, still. But it's getting better.