Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Making Resolutions

Going to make my post short and sweet tonight. December is proving to make blogging nearly impossible. But, I plan on making a resolution starting in 2010, regular blogs! It makes me happy, keeps me connected and allows me to brag about my kids! Okay, just kidding on the last one. Since Christmas is in 2 days, I am planning on not blogging until at the earliest, next week. Have a Merry Christmas all! Stay warm and safe, it looks like a massive storm will be taking over the continental U.S.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Snow Day




Today was a snow day! The kids were off of school, we were not surprised. The weather was nasty.

I have a great kids. They helped their dad shovel the driveway this morning, which was so nice. Especially because our snow blower died this morning. Yes, that's right. Time to dip into the emergency fund again. For those who do not live in the Midwest, I need to emphasize that a snow blower is a necessity around here. I would love to say that a simple shovel will do the job, but it will not.

After helping their father they spent the morning building snow forts, snowmen, having a snowball fight and playing with their dogs in the snow. They had so much fun, I did not hear any fighting while they were playing. Maybe we need snow everyday.

I took advantage of the day and baked, baked, baked!! We have fudge, 5 types of cookies, pumpkin bread and cranberry bread. My youngest daughter was a great help today. Her siblings spent their day off with friends. No surprise I guess. At ages 11 and 12, I guess the company of friends trumps the company of parents any day. I am trying very had to accept that fact.

After several hours of baking, Maeghan and I played a 2 match of Monopoly. She beat me! I can't believe it. She is 7 years old and she has a very real concept of money management and real estate. She gets it. She did not just beat me, she kicked my ass!

Dinner tonight was a batch of Butternut Squash Soup and homemade bread. I made the soup, my husband made the bread. It was a delicious meal that was perfect on such a cold, snowy day. Dessert, cookies from this afternoon's baking marathon.

Our upcoming weekend is packed. My daughters have Christmas parties and my son is having his birthday party. Sunday we are going to see The Nutcracker in downtown Milwaukee. After the show we plan on walking around the downtown to look at the lights and enjoy a winter day by Lake Michigan. It should be a perfect day.

Monday, December 7, 2009

December

This month is proving to be busier than I imagined it would be. I guess I should not be surprised. The holidays are quickly approaching. I work in retail, for a candle store, during the busiest shopping month of the year. I have 3 kids who understandably want Christmas and all the pleasures it has to offer. We have been invited to parties and we are throwing a couple parties of our own. Throw on top of that the tickets I bought for The Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and Annie, and we have a busy month!

This time of year always creeps up on me. I always plan on baking, making homemade Christmas cards, wrapping the gifts like Martha Stewart and making a grand Christmas meal. But, time is always an issue. The cookies are often times made from premade Pillsbury dough, I order picture cards from Walgreens, throw on some wrapping paper at the last minute only to go out for Christmas Eve dinner. Remarkably, what I end up doing works for us, and I am happy in the end.

So, this year, I am going to do what I can with the time I have. If I have to use premade dough, I will do that without guilt. I will enjoy the holidays this year and worry about perfection next year.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Going to keep my post short and sweet. Happy Thanksgiving! We all have so much to be thankful for. I am eternally grateful to my wonderful family. I have a great husband and fantastic children. My life would not complete without those 4 perfect people in my lives.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Today I had lunch with a good friend. It was so nice to get out with an adult, go to a restaurant that does not have crayons on the table and have a nice conversation. We had a lovely time, I can't wait to do it again.

After lunch we went to a little Italian market nearby and bought those fun (and not so frugal)foods that you cannot find at your local grocery store. The store was great. Italian music was playing in the background and the smells, oh the smells. The store smelled like heaven, nothing is better than Italian food. Next on the agenda, a trip to Trader Joes, which is frugal. I stocked up on canned pumpkin (for my son) and other odds and ends that are so much cheaper than the alternative at the grocery store.

Tonights frugal meal is split pea soup in the crock pot and bread. With the holidays quickly approaching, I need to stick to cheap dinners for the family.

It is a cold and windy day here in Wisconsin. Winter is just around the corner.

Monday, November 16, 2009

How to make edible Brussels Sprouts

Tonight for dinner I did the impossible! I made Brussels Sprouts, and I liked them. To get why this is a big deal, one had to understand how much I truly hate Brussels Sprouts. They taste awful, the remind me of little brains and they smell terrible. As one can see, I have a very strong opinion about them. But, our CSA sent them in our last box. Since I do not like to waste food and I believe in frugal living, I was forced to prepare them for tonight's dinner.

This is how I made them. Cut the Sprouts in half, saute them flat side down in oil until they are browned, put them in a baking dish, smother them in balsamic vinegar and bake until blackened. They were delicious, crunchy and tart. I did not detect the taste of sprouts and they smelled like balsamic vinegar, delicious.

Dinner tonight was a nice occasion. We all ate together, at the table. Talked about the day and had many good laughs. My son told us about Super Hero's he is creating based on Pastries. He has hero's based on cupcakes, brownies, croissants, bread, etc. He had so much fun telling about his creations. It was the perfect end to a wonderful day.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

S'mores

Tonight, after a very long day of raking, we built a fire outside and made s'mores. What a treat. Eric and I did indulge in such a sweet treat, but we had all the fixins for the kids.

Tonight was one of those perfect fall evenings that I think you find only in the Midwest and Upper East Coast, no offense to the rest of the U.S., I am just biased. Crisp, cool air and the smell of all the burning leaves made it very pleasant. It was a nice, quiet night as a family. We sat on our patio, around the fire pit with our dogs and talked. Can you think of a better way to spend a Saturday night? Now, I blog a little with my tea, getting ready for a bubble bath. I love fall.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Frugal Acts this week

1. I brought my lunch to work

2. Instead of going to the movies, we watched on through Netflix

3. Had several family game nights

4. Used a coupon for tonight's pizzas

5. Bought several Christmas gifts with coupons this week

6. Took advantage on buy one get one free sales at Walgreens and Pick and Save

7. Washed all laundry in cold water

8. Ate a lot of leftovers

9. Shopped my pantry and freezer several times

10. Used several gift cards I accumulated at Target for my daughter's Big Christmas gift while also using a coupon.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Looking for recipes for frugal Meals

As a general rule I try to cook healthy, but frugal meals. My family has a handful of meals that we all really like that are both cheap and good for us. But, we are in a rut. Too much rice, beans, pasta and soup have left me feeling unimaginative and boring when preparing meals for my family. So I am calling out to people to please send suggestions or recipes for simple meals that won't break the bank.

Here is a list of some of our stand by meals:

1. Potato Leek Soup
2. Pasta w/red sauce or sauteed vegetables
3. Various rice and bean recipes
4. Pizza
5. Baked Chicken
6. Vegetable Soup with our left over CSA vegetables
7. Chili
8. Minestrone Soup

As one can see, it is time to liven things up around here. But I am both too busy and tired to start looking for something new. So, I need help.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Happy Birthday Alec!!

Today is my son's birthday. Alec is 12 years old, and he is a great kid. Here is a list of 12 things about my son.

1. He wants to be a writer when he grows up. He talks about being a food critic and writing fiction novels.

2. He watches Top Chef every week without fail. He is the only child I know of who knows who Tom Colicchio is.

3. When he was 3 years old he went through a phase of drawing pictures of Buzz Lightyear. He did not give up until he felt that his final masterpiece was perfect.

4. He plays guitar and saxophone.

5. He is a great soccer player.

6. He has big dreams, he talks about going to Columbia University when he goes to college. This frugal mom better start saving even more.

7. His favorite food is pumpkin. Anything that has pumpkin in it, he will eat.

8. Halloween is his favorite holiday.

9. He has fantastic and loyal friends.

10. He is funny and serious at the same time.

11. He is great company

12. He is loved more than he will ever know.

This morning we started his day off with a breakfast of his choosing. Pumpkin pancakes and bacon were his choice. This time of year, I go through a lot of pumpkin. Family members all pitched in to help pay off a snowboard that he wants. I also bought him a book and chocolate pumpkin truffles. He loved all his gifts. We took him out for Mexican food, gave him cake and did not sing to him because he refused to allow it. I think it was a good day for Alec.

I can't believe he is 12. I am so proud of him and proud to be his mom.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What I have learned as a parent

Tomorrow my oldest child will be turning 12 years old. Good grief!! Where did the time go? It sounds like a cliche, but it really seems like he was born yesterday. With the birth of my son, the hardest job that I will ever have began. Bringing a human being into the world and than raising that human to be become a moral person takes a lot of work, patience and stamina. Here is a list of the things I have learned in the last 12 years.

1. Never count on getting a good night's sleep, especially during cold and flu season.

2. Don't make promises, when in doubt say no, maybe or we will see. It has been years since I have given a firm yes to anything.

3. When buying tickets to an event, plan on not attending due to stomach flu. We have thrown away more money than I want to count due to vomiting.

4. Accept that your house will never be perfectly clean again, or at least until the youngest moves out. I am still finding baby paraphernalia in odd places. My youngest is 7.

5. Give birthday parties. They are fun, they are memorable and they tell your child that each year they have one day all their own.

6. Take a lot of pictures!

7. Your child will never, ever pick up his/her clothing without being asked, coaxed or threatened. It is a fact of life.

8. Do not be a helicopter parent. Teachers hate it and you loose credibility with them.

9. Be frugal in all areas except when it comes to books. Kids can never have enough books. I have raised 3 book worms, I credit that to letting them have their rooms full of books.

10. Allow at least 3 pajama days a year. There is nothing better than staying in your pajamas on a really cold and snowy day. Of course one parent (usually dad) has to get dressed to plow the snow.

11. Know when you kid needs a mental health day from school. Don't ask questions and let that child veg out for the day. Insist on returning to school the next day. Even kids need a day off.

12. Your children will never offer to empty the dishwasher

13. Your car will become a garbage dump filled with sucker sticks, juice box straws and cookie wrappers.

14. The pre teen years are harder than the toddler years. Not because they are more labor intensive but because your child has opinions and for some reason, no fear of communicating those opinions.

15. Tell your children you love them daily.

This list could have gone on and on. But thought 15 was good number stop at. So, did I miss anything of great importance? I would bet that I did. If you are visiting, please let me know what you have learned as a parent.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Photos of Fall Fun!!!












Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween everyone!

Tonight is the second most important holiday to a child, first of course going to Christmas. My kids have been waiting for this day since November 1, 2008. Sadly, my oldest will not be participating in tonight's festivities. The flu is firmly holding on to him for dear life. In fact, the ear infection I was dreading did in fact infect him last night. Because of this, he doesn't seem nearly as bummed about missing out Halloween as I had feared. I am assuming that once he feels better and realizes that he really did miss out, he will be angry.

In preparation for tonight, I think I am going to take my daughters to Macy's to have their makeup applied. Macy's is doing that for FREE all day today. I am always on the look out for a really good deal, it is even better when it is free. Given that I went over budget on the costumes, it is seems smart to cheap out on the make up my daughter keeps insisting that she needs to make her costume perfect.

This afternoon we will help the kids (those who are healthy) carve their pumpkins. Now, I have to be perfectly honest here. I do not like carving pumpkins, and neither does my husband. It is not our thing. We do it every year, with a smile. I don't think the kids are aware of our dislike of this particular activity. But, we do look forward to the year when it has become a thing of the past. I think that we have several more years though. My 11 year old still loves, and our youngest 7. Based on those ages, my math tells me we have a minimum of 4 more Halloweens of carving pumpkins.

The rest of our weekend will be devoted to our yard. Too many trees on our property. I love it in the summer, but always find that I am reminded of the cons of having trees in our yard come the first week of November.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A change in plans

So, this morning my son was suppose to get tubes in his ears and his adenoids removed. But, yet again, parenting proves to be full of surprises. Last night, upon returning home from a friend's house, Alec announced that he did not feel good. I assumed that it was a con because I had called him home to mow the lawn. A quick reading of his temperature told me that he was in fact sick. A fever of 100.7, a cough, dizziness, headache and sore throat led me to conclude the obvious. H1N1 has returned. A call to the nurse confirmed my suspicions, leading to only one safe outcome. The surgery has been postponed. His ears already hurt! The surgery that was going to end his chronic health problems has been derailed by a virus that is going to cause his chronic health problem to return. UGHHHH!!!! I feel so bad for him, he is miserable. With Halloween being tomorrow, I know he is worried that he will have to miss out on the festivities. It makes me sad to know that he is sad.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Autumn

I love this time of year! I look forward to Autumn every year, anxious for all it has to bring us.

Last weekend we took the kids to a pumpkin patch and apple orchard, to do the obvious, pick apples and pumpkins. It was a perfect Wisconsin Fall day. The air was crisp, the sun was shining. We were able to wear sweaters without coats, and remain comfortable. The farm we visited provided a hay ride to the orchard and patch. My kids had a great time, so did Eric and I. I was able to take some priceless photos, even turned one of them into a Halloween card for family. We purchased some apples and a world famous Apple Pie in a Brown Bag. It was delicious, although not very frugal, one of those treats in life that prove to be worth the extra money. When we got home I made a roast chicken with roasted root vegetables. The day ended with the perfect Autumnal meal. This is the best time of year for our CSA vegetables. I love the summer bounty of tomatoes and peppers, but nothing tastes better on cold nights than squash or parsnips.

Today, my kids are off of school, so I decided to take advantage of another fall activity. The corn maze. We went with another family, split the kids up into teams of boys and girls and then let them loose. Thankfully the maze had a lookout with flags so that if the kids got lost they could see the flags and go to that location without being scared. My friend and I parked ourselves on that lookout and let the kids find their way out. It took them one hour and they had blast! Worth every penny. I will be the first person to say that I do not like the little petting zoos at the road side corn mazes. First of all, I think it is wrong to have goats and peacocks caged up to be over fed and tortured by small children. Second, they are little germ factories. Every time I see one of my kids touch one of those animals I pull out the antibacterial gel. The animals are very cute, but what purpose does it serve to have them at these locations?

Tomorrow my son will have tubes put into his ears and his adenoids removed. He has a habit of getting killer ear infections every winter. Now that he is in middle school, we felt that it is time to end the infections so that he does not miss a lot of school. I am worried that he will not feel up to trick or treating on Saturday night. I know that soon, he will announce to us that he is past the age of Halloween. I am not sure I am ready for that proclamation quite yet.

This year I ordered my kids costumes online. I just did not have the time to go out and search the stores for the costumes they had their hearts set on. So, I found a coupon code for an online store, they found what they wanted and I did not have to waste gas and time searching. Because I spent more than I had planned on, I told them they will wear the same thing next year. Surprisingly, they were all fine with that. Sometimes I don't give my kids enough credit for being reasonable in these situations.

As I write this, I am looking forward to a quiet fall evening. I am hoping my husband will light a fire and we can watch a movie. My youngest is a sleepover for a birthday party, my middle child is tired from a sleepover last night and my oldest needs to turn in early in preparation of tomorrow's surgery. It seems likely that it will be a quiet night in this house. Perfect for a date night with my hubby and a glass of wine.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

We finally meet, H1N1 that is.

Life has been so hectic the last couple of weeks. I had to go to Atlanta for a funeral, my work hours have increased (I am NOT complaining about that one), my kids seem busier (okay a little complaint on that one) and H1N1 has paid my home a visit. My middle child, Hannah, has brought this beast into our home, uninvited, I might add.

In the spring when this flu hit, Hannah was so worried about getting sick. She was convinced that if she got it, she would be one of it's casualties. Luck would have it that she was the first in our family to get it and so far the only victim. While she has been miserable, it has been no worse nor better than the regular seasonal flu. To be honest, I am shocked! With all the media coverage focused on this particular illness, I was expecting so much more fear and drama from Hannah and myself. Instead, she sleeps a lot, watches a lot of TV, has read 5 books (she is bookworm) and refrains from participating in sibling rivalry. Last night after 4 days and 4 nights of lethargy, she perked up and suggested we all play charades. We declined, we are not really a charades kind of family. Especially when we are watching our recorded episode of Top Chef, the only show we watch every week, as a family. So, I sit here and write my blog, wondering if I can send her to school today. She still has a cough, it is a bad one. Her fever has only been "broken" for 12 hours. But she wants to go back to school. This is one of those decisions that I feel will be wrong either way. If I send her to school, I am not following the "guidelines" put into place by our district on H1N1. If I have her stay home, I run the risk of having to play charades on my day off from work. Decisions, decisions. Stay tuned, she is not up yet.

Off the track a little bit now. Last week I received an email from Ticketmaster offering tickets to the Kelly Clarkson concert for $25 per ticket. Let me start our by stating, I do not like Kelly Clarkson as an entertainer, she seems very sweet, but not my type of music. I do not watch American Idol, it bores me. But, I have a 10 year old daughter who is part of the Kelly Clarkson demographic. Tween, female, girly girl, dreams of being a singer/actress, the list goes on and on. I happened to receive this email during a generous mood. So, during my break at work I walked to the Ticketmaster outlet at our mall to find out if this is in fact an accurate price, turns out that it is. Of course, the $25 did not include the convenience fee, I always for get about that charge. So, this Friday, my daughter and I will be attending the Kelly Clarkson concert. I look forward to the time with my little girl, alone. It will be great bonding time. While we are at the concert, my 11 year old is having a "Halloween" party with some friends. My husband is in charge of that. Little Maeghan will probably have her choice of Barbie movies that evening, sadly, she has not been included either activity.

Today, I need to go to the grocery store. We are running low on fruit and dairy. I am going to attempt to keep my purchases limited to those two departments, attempting to skip the middle of the grocery store. No mans land, the area of processed junk food.

Have a great day!


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I apologize for not posting for 2 weeks. Things have been crazy in my house. Some personal things have come up. Not the type of things that would keep me from the computer. But, the kind of things that have my mind else where. To be honest, I have completely forgotten about my blog for the last couple of weeks. But, as of this week, things seem to be better, I am more optimistic, ready to get back to blogging.

This weekend I need to fly to Atlanta for the weekend. An unexpected death in the family finds me taking an unexpected trip out of town. For this trip, I got back to my frugal roots. I found the cheapest flight I could, grand total with insurance is $175 for a round trip ticket. I will be sharing a hotel room with family and renting a car with the same family members when we get there. I have decided to dig out an old outfit from the depths of my closet to wear to the funeral. It is times like these that I hate being frugal. But, this weekend we have to have a tree removed from our yard. To remove the 100 year old tree from our yard, we have to pay $2200. That's right over $2000!!!! Not frugal is it?

Because of these unexpected expenses, I am clipping more coupons, staying in more, driving less and buying gifts for the upcoming holiday season on sale. I feel like we can't seem to get totally ahead, no matter how much we save. So, I will write the check out for the tree removal and focus my attention on replenishing our savings as fast as possible, knowing that in all likelihood we will have another emergency come up that requires us to dip into our emergency fund.

Tomorrow I have to go to the grocery store. I am going to walk into the store with a $100 budget, I will stick with that budget no matter what!

I need ideas from people. How do I get back on track? I need ideas, tips and motivation. Help this Frugal Midwest Mom get back to normal.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday

Tonight is a big deal in this house. It is my son's first school dance. I can't believe it! Of course, it is a middle school dance. It is 2 hours long and the cost of the ticket was $5.00. We were not required to buy him a new outfit, instead he will be wearing shorts to ward off the heat of an overflowing middle school cafeteria. Alec is very excited, he is going with his group of friends after having pizza at one of their homes.

My daughter, Hannah, will be at a birthday party tonight. It is not a sleepover, but will keep her busy during the active hours of a Friday evening. So, I find myself a bit excited at the prospect of having one child at home on a Friday while my others are out, socializing and having fun with their friends. I am excited, until I realize that I will have to leave my cozy home at 9:00 to pick up a group of sweaty, excited middle school boys at the same time the rest of our communities parents will be picking their own children up. Should be fun:)

Happy Friday!


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Increased work hours

I have started to work more hours. I am grateful for the extra hours and time away from home. I have been a stay at home mom for 12 years. I started to work part time 2 years ago, working about 10 hours a week. I am now working 20 hours a week. This increased work schedule, thankfully, gets me out of the house from 10-4:30 three days a week.

I am so grateful for the extra hours. I am getting to the point of being completely bored at home. My kids do not need as much from me and a toilet can only be cleaned so much before it has been cleaned too much. For the most part, my household chores are caught up daily. My children are helping more and volunteering at the school now bores me. Work is good. I like the adult conversation. I like the extra money. Finally, I like having a reason to get out of my house every day. I am happy.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Why I will never move!

My husband and I have a very modest, older, ranch home in the suburbs. Our home, needs a lot of work. It is sad to say that, because we have already put a lot of work into it. Our home is a work in progress, I know that it will never be done. Molding will always need replacing, wood work will need staining, floors sanded, painting, bathrooms. The list goes on and on. I make it sound like our home is in shambles. It is not in fact. I find it very nice, lived in and comfortable. The cosmetic work that needs to be done is probably only noticed by me, but of course I am going to be our homes worst critic.

We bought this house in October of 2000. On Halloween, we moved our toddlers into our new house, vowing that we were going to make this structure our home. Almost 2 years later we brought our last baby home, establishing this as her first and only childhood home. A decision I have never regretted.

I know that in the day and age that we live in, families move. Job transfers often require a cross country move that uproots and entire family. When this happens, obviously a family has no choice but pack up and move on. Sometimes that is a good choice, sometimes it is not. We are fortunate. My husband has a very stable job that will in all likelihood keep him here in Milwaukee. Unless something terrible happens, he is set. Given that he is in the financial industry and he weathered last year's storm. I think we are safe.

So, why do I insist on staying where we are? We could move to a different suburb, build a new house, find a house that doesn't require so much work or find something that is more practical. It is simple. I want my children to have a place to call home, forever. When they talk about their "home" as adults, I want them to remember our house and community as that home. I envy the fact that when they graduate from high school they will be graduating with people they have known since they were 4 and 5 years old. When they go to high school reunions as adults, those reunions will mean more to them because they will be able reminisce about events and memories from childhood. They are establishing bonds with their peers that will likely last a lifetime. Even if after they graduate they don't see those people ever again, they will remember them. By doing this, I believe I am giving my children roots. They will know where they came from. That they were raised in a home where family was what was most important. With friends and community coming in closely behind.

Maybe I am naive. But, I hope I am not. There was a time when family, extended included was took precedence to everything else. When grandparents, aunt, uncles, cousins and siblings were active in the raising of children, giving us pride in where we came from. I think it is sad that so many of us have moved away from that tradition. Myself included. But, maybe by taking one small step, like having my children live in one home for their childhood, I can help my family move more toward tradition.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Well, I hope to be back. The last 2 weeks have been incredibly busy. The kids started school, in addition to soccer, cross country and swimming lessons. To top that off, I have started working about 20 hours a week. My days are filled and I find myself falling into bed at night exhausted and often times very crabby. I know that once we establish a rhythm to this crazy routine, all will be well. Until then, well, it is any one's guess how well we all handle it.

Since my last post, we ended our post card project. We ended with 97 cards. So close, and yet so far. I am very sad that we did not accomplish our goal of 100 cards. Maybe we can try again next year. My guess though is that the kids will not be interested in doing this next year.

I started working more hours. The extra money is going to be nice. More money coming in, less time to spend it. Seems like a win win situation for everyone.

Alec started middle school. He decided to join the cross country team. It is an excellent way to maintain fitness. It does take up a lot of his time. He has practice everyday 2:45 to 4:30, in addition to his extra homework, it is proving to be a bit difficult for him. Thankfully, it ends on October 8th, which really isn't all that far away.

We hemorrhaged money in August. School registration, school clothes, sports fees, my husbands birthday and the last minute outings I wanted to take my kids on added up, fast! Eric and I both agreed that September and October have to be especially frugal. I guess I better clip more coupons and scan more sales. Time to get our finances under control again.

Finally, 9/11 always makes me so sad. I remember that day so vividly, as we all do. My 3 year old son (now 11) was getting ready for his first day of preschool. I was so scared to drop him off, but felt that it would be best to keep things normal for him. I even remember what I was wearing that day, down to the shoes. I can't even remember what I wore yesterday, but an outfit 8 years ago has left a lasting impact on me. Every year on 9/11, I have that sad day on mind the whole day. It is never far my thoughts. I guess that is how it should be.

Well, off to bed. My days start early, so I try to get to bed at a reasonable hour.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I will be back to normal blogging Thursday

I want to just post a short note that I will be back to normal blogging on Thursday. The new school schedule, in addition to my increased work hours and additional activities has left me a bit frazzled. I think that by week's end I will be back to normal and ready to blog.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Last Day of summer vacation

Today is the official end of summer, in this house at least. Tomorrow, the kids go back to school. For me, the beginning of the new school year has always been more like New Years for me than January 1st. This is the day I have resolutions that I try to implement into my life. They are typical resolutions. Lose weight, exercise more, get organized, spend more time with family, etc. I suspect that by September 5th, I will have given up and gone back to life as usual. But, for a few short days, I will be healthy, well rested and organized. Maybe blogging these resolutions will help me keep them this year?

Tomorrow will also be the start of our fall schedule. Soccer, swimming, cross country, after school dances and all the other activities children bring to a family will begin. As I try to organize these schedules onto my calendar I feel tired just looking at it. Why do I agree to all of these commitments? I feel guilty that I do not insist that the kids lighten their load a little bit. They over schedule and I allow it. But, my son and youngest daughter love being busy. They love the fact that with these activities, they make new friendships, meet new people and learn new skills. It seems as like they really thrive in such conditions. My middle daughter, takes violin 1 day a week and is truly content with her one activity. She plays because she loves to and appreciates that free time one activity allows her to have. She really is more like me in this aspect. I remember that as a child I preferred time with my friends in unstructured activities.

Post card update, nothing has arrived since our card from Chile. One week and counting. Labor Day will be the unofficial end to our summer project. Of course, we will continue to map out any cards that continue to arrive after the 7th.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Airfare to Italy


As I mentioned in a previous post, my husband and I took our children to Italy last summer for a summer vacation. I have decided to document the frugal steps I took to make that vacation affordable, while being fun. I can't think of a better place to start with this blog, than the beginning, which is airfare.

We knew that we were going to take that vacation for about 18 months before we left. It is not possible to buy tickets that far in advance. Knowing that, I had several months to save the cash that we would need for airfare. You can buy tickets about a year before departure, so we knew that we had 6 months to accumulate what we would need in savings. When we hit the year mark before departure, my husband started to stalk the fares. He also did a lot of research about what time of year is cheapest, how far before departure, what cities have cheaper departures, would it be cheaper to fly into one city versus another. The list went on and on. He knew that it was cheaper to take the train from Florence to Venice and fly out of Venice than it would be to fly directly out of Florence. This knowledge helped us make informed choices about our flights. We finally decided to fly out of Chicago (MUCH cheaper than flying out of Milwaukee) into Zurich Switzerland with a connection into Rome Italy. Our flight home was a bit different. We flew out of Venice, into Zurich, back to Chicago. We saved a lot of money taking this route, plus, we were able to see the Italian countryside by taking the train to Venice.

We decided to fly Swiss Air. It was OK. To be honest, I am being very generous with that OK rating. The food was inedible, the seats were the worst international seats I have ever sat it and there was a mix up with our passports in Switzerland with the airline. I think I would need to use that airline again to get a better idea of the service. Of course we chose Swiss Air because it provided the most affordable fares.

When we bought our tickets we used a credit card that gives a rebate and than paid it off right away. The rebate was applied to that credit card while we were on vacation. We had accumulated $120 cash from the tickets which we turned around and used in Italy. We were able to buy a very nice dinner in Florence, in fact my parents were able to stay with the kids the night we had that dinner. It was a memorable date for us in Italy.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Day at the zoo!


Today we went to the zoo. Milwaukee has a really nice zoo that we have always enjoyed visiting. In the past, we always had a zoo membership so that entry would be free. But, since the kids have gotten older, I have not renewed that membership. It seemed like such a waste of money. My husband's company gave us tickets, which we used today. We went against our normal routine and bought lunch today, usually we bring a picnic. I think we all agreed that we wanted to have a fun day, not worry about saving a dollar and having the luxury of walking through the zoo without a cooler and backpack.

This year the zoo has an interactive bird exhibit. It was really cool. Visitors are able to feed the birds while the sit on your shoulder, arm, even your head. The kids loved it! I was so impressed with it. Every year I am shocked by how nice the Milwaukee Public Zoo is.

Last night I took my son to middle school orientation. I can't believe that he is going to be in middle school. He is ready, I think I am too. Our family life will likely change, for the better I hope. He is planning on joining some after school clubs and activities. Those commitments in addition to my increased work schedule, his sister's activities and my husband's work schedule will really test our ability to stay organized. I think I am up for the challenge, but, of course only time will tell.

Postcard update: 1 card came this week from Chile. We are 5 away from 100. So anybody who might be reading this blog. PLEASE send a postcard. We are so close to 100, I would hate to see us not make it.

Tonight's dinner was Tilapia, potatoes (from our garden) and green beans (from our CSA). It was another frugal dinner, which of course was necessary after the $34.00, really terrible lunch at the zoo.

Looking for ideas on how to save at the grocery store. Coupons always get lost in this house. I am guessing that I already use the better known tricks to save, but wonder if I am missing out on something. I am open to any suggestions.

Well, off to bed, very early in fact. I had a busy day.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Summer's End

One week left of summer. It is time. My kids are tired of summer, me and each other. It makes me sad to think that they are growing up so fast and that I have only a few more summers with all 3 of them together. We are going to make the most of this last week. My husband is taking 2 days off of work so that we can do a couple of things together as a family. I look forward to it.

The weekend was uneventful. Saturday was spent at home, laying on the couch, watching movies. Normally, we would never spend a summer day doing such a lazy activity. But, fall seems to have arrived early this year. It was a cold, wet and dreary day. Perfect for the 80's movie marathon that we watched. Thanks to Netflix on demand, free with our monthly membership.

My blogs have been short and sweet this summer. I am hoping that when the kids return to school next week, I can get back into my blogging routine. I am planning on talking about my trip to Italy in detail. I have lots of frugal tips from that trip alone.

Good night

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I am so tired tonight. I am ready to say that we have had enough summer already. While I love my children and love having them home, I need a break already.

Monday my mother in law paid us a visit and took the kids school shopping. Her generosity is appreciated, as she bought the kids expensive clothes I would never agree to. I have to remind myself that it brings her joy to give them so much. I found myself a little embarrassed by her extravagance (my daughter got 9 shirts alone).

Tuesday I finally fulfilled the years long promise to take the kids to Noah's Ark in Wisconsin Dells. It was a great day. However, my two oldest fought constantly, by 8:00 pm I had enough. I punished them by making them clean the house top to bottom, inside and out, yesterday. They did a great job, I think they got the point. That has not stopped them from bickering a little bit today.

Today the kids were free to join the world again so there were kids here all day. They had a good time and left me alone for the most part. Of course, having children around that are not yours can prove to be exhausting, which I am right now. I better build up my strength though, both of my girls are having friends sleep over tomorrow night.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Post card update, 6 cards came today. We got 3 from Brazil, 1 from England, 1 from Michigan and 1 from Spain. Total is 93 cards received so far. Three weeks until the end of this project, looks like 100 cards will attainable.

Dinner tonight was an easy pasta dinner made with basil and tomatoes from our garden. The pasta came from the discount rack at our local grocery store. A quick, simple, cheap and healthy dinner. What could be better.

Tomorrow we are taking that much feared trip to Wisconsin Dells to go to the world's biggest water park, Noah's Ark. I feel excitement and fear this evening knowing what lies ahead tomorrow. Lines, children, heat and impatience. I think it will be a really fun day and I look forward to the time I get to spend with the kids.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Postcard update since my last post, we are at 87 cards. The kids received one yesterday from Bangkok Thailand. Again, from someone I do not know, the word is getting out about our project.

Now, on to the grocery bill. So far for this month, I have spent $124.00. The benefits of the garden and the CSA have finally paid off!! We are overflowing with produce. Tonight my husband harvested potatoes, onions, shallots, tomatoes and broccoli. That is for tonight only. We have watermelon and cantaloupe from the CSA to cover our fruit for the week. We have pounds of peppers, tomatoes, carrots, beans and zucchini for the week. Along with this bounty we have a huge bag of flour and rice. Not to mentions pounds of garbanzo, kidney and black beans. Our meals have been extremely simple, but so tasty and healthy. My kids have not complained and our budget is so happy. I really feel like we are doing something good for us and the planet.

Tonight my husband made an Indian dish made of garbanzo beans, tomatoes, garlic and onions. He made rice to put the beans on and homemade bread. Very frugal. So often, he inspires me to try something new, I almost always like what he has made.

Tomorrow we go school shopping with my mother in law. She is very generous to help with the school clothes, with 3 kids it can be expensive. Every little bit helps.

Off to watch Mad Men now. Have a good night.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Post Card Update

We received 2 more postcards this week, both from Door County Wisconsin. That brings our total up to 86 cards. We need 14 more to reach 100!! I hope we can do it.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Italy on a budget

Last year my husband and I took our kids to Italy for nearly 3 weeks. We were able to pay cash for the trip after saving for months, actually close to 2 years. It was the trip of a lifetime that proved to be worth every penny spent. That trip was proof to me and my husband that living frugally does not mean deprivation, it means being able to give things up that don't matter to you so that you can the things that really do matter to you. For my husband and I , travel is what really matters to us. We love being able to show our children the world, we want them to see that their world is more than the metro Milwaukee area. We want them to experience different cultures, taste different foods and see different cities. It is a commitment that my husband and I made to each other when we had children.

So, over the next few weeks I am going to blog about the steps we took to ensure a fantastic trip to Italy for 5 without breaking the budget

State Fair on a Budget

I took my girls to the Wisconsin State Fair today. For those of you who have been to a fair, you know that being frugal can prove to be difficult. But, I did it!! Here are the things I did to save money, in fact I only spent $22.75 on today's field trip.

First, we ate lunch before we went. I made it very clear to the kids, I will buy them each the afternoon snack of their choice. I would not cheap out on that, but, nothing more than 1 snack. They were fine with it. I did not hear any complaints. Before, during or after the fair about this agreement.

Second, I told them no to the rides before we even got in the car. I know, it sounds unfair. But, they went to the amusement park at Mall of America, Bay Beach and will be going to Six Flags in a couple of weeks. The rides at fairs are ridiculously expensive and I believe that I am not in the minority on that belief. There were no lines for the rides today. I told the girls that we were there to see the animals, look at the exhibits and watch some free shows. Again, they did not complain.

Third, I took advantage of a ticket special. When I went to the grocery store recently, one of the products I buy had a special that if you bought 2 instead of 1 you get a free ticket. So, I bought 2. Of course, I had to pay for the product, but I would have bought it anyway.

I am really proud of us. We proved that a family can spend the day at the fair, have fun and just enjoy being together for very little money.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

School Supplies

I took my daughters shopping for school supplies. What a budget buster! This year, like years past, we recycled as much as we could. Rulers, scissors, supply boxes among several other supplies are being reused. I know a lot of people who buy new everything, every year. Not me. It is wasteful both economically and environmentally. My kids understand this and have never complained.

This year, I also bought the kids Tupperware food containers for their lunches, instead of Ziploc bags. The upfront investment was high, but I think that it will prove to be economical by mid year. Even if it doesn't, again, the benefit to our environment makes it worth the cost.

Post card update. We have received 5 cards so far this week. 1 from New Zealand, 1 from Germany, 2 from France and 1 from Sri Lanka. Grand total so far, 84 cards. We are still in need of a card from Africa and Australia. Four more weeks until Labor Day, the end of our project. I really hope we can reach 100 cards by then.

Friday, August 7, 2009

School Shopping

Today we started the long and sometimes tedious process of school shopping. A tradition that my children look forward to every year. A tradition, I also look forward to, but can dread because of the financial strain that it can pose on our checkbook. This year, I thought a head though and found myself prepared as we headed to the mall for the first of what will be many trips to the mall to prepare for the upcoming school year.

Our first stop was Macy's. We left the store with $140.00 in merchandise, but paid $0.00. That's right not a dime was spent from my checkbook. One might ask how did I accomplish such a feat? Well, last year when going over the terms of my credit card and rewards program, I noticed a great benefit. Accumulating 20,000 rewards points results in a $250 gift card. It took me a full year to build up enough points, but I did it. I knew last September that this particular card would be used for school clothes. I also have a Kohl's gift card, accumulated the same way. It is only $25.00 and will be used for the running shoes my son will need for cross country in the fall. One word of caution about credit card reward programs. They are worth nothing if you don't pay the bill off every month. The interest charges will exceed the rewards in a matter of a couple of months.

Our next stop was The Gap. There was a great sale there today. Buy one pair of jeans, get the 2nd for $10.00. I bought my son his jeans for the fall at a deep discount. Sadly, I did not have a gift card for The Gap, but I guess I can't expect to get all of their school clothes for free.

We did not finish our school shopping today. I want to take advantage of as many sales and coupons as possible. One advantage to working at the mall is that I always see the deals and specials. I can't complain about that.

I took advantage of a couple of specials this summer that resulted in free stuff for the family. Barnes and Noble has a reading program for the kids. If your child reads 8 books and records those books on a chart from the store, they can earn a free book from the store. All 3 of my children participated in that summer program. We were able to claim approximately $15.00 worth of free merchandise. Not bad for doing something that they love doing, reading.

The miniature golf course close to our house gives the kids at their school coupons for a free game. We used those coupons and had a fun afternoon of golf, all for free. I will be the first to admit that none of us have the foggiest idea of how to actually play and score miniature golf. We don't let that get in the way of our fun.

Every quarter Godiva Chocolate sends a coupon for a free product at the store. Recently we received a coupon for a free milk shake. The milk shakes are huge! More than enough for 3 people (I pass on that calorie laden, future heart attack!). The kids order a shake and the woman who works there splits it between 3 cups. Dessert while shopping for free! I bought a truffle for myself, I don't want to come across as a free loader.

As the weeks go on, I will continue to update on our school shopping. We have a lot to do still.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

When Driving

My daughter and I saw a terrible car accident today. Well, really, it shouldn't be called an accident, let's call it an avoidable crash. Which is what it was. My daughter and I were at a red light, it turned green and the cars proceeded to move. It was after all our right, the light was green. Then, some bonehead moving from the opposite direction, decided that was the perfect time to accelerate instead of stop. So, while the traffic started moving, he sped through. Hitting a car. Unfortunately for him, he flipped his car several times being ejected from the window. No seat belt either. My 10 year old had to see a man laying motionless at an intersection. She seems to be handling it okay, I can't get the image out of my head.

The moral of my story, or rant as some may call it, is this. Yellow means slow down and prepare to stop. Red means stop. Not, accelerate and hope that the other direction does not notice they have the right a way. It means Stop, plain and simple. So easy, that even 3 year old children can figure it out while coloring in the safety coloring pages they get at preschool during safety week.

Why am I so mad? Because my daughter was on the passenger side of my car, the direction that man was coming from. If I would have been at that light 1 to 2 seconds earlier, we could have been hit. She could have been a victim today in one man's mad dash to where ever he was headed. My guess, there is not a destination so important that endangering the lives of innocent victims is okay.

This story has some sad news and some happy news. The sad news, the man who set this tragedy in motion was taken to a hospital via Flight for Life. I don't know his status, the news sources say he has life threatening injuries. The happy news, the person he hit is okay. Thank goodness that the person who carries no fault in this accident will be home with her family this evening. She deserves no less. However, I am betting that today's event will linger with her for awhile, especially if the man who caused does not survive. The rest of us who saw this accident occur with our children at our sides get to play the what if game for the next few days, wondering what could have happened.


**Update to this story. I refrain from profanity when I blog out of respect. However, on this particular day I am going to choose to set that rule aside. I gave my statement to the police, I was told that after reviewing the tape, my car was much closer to being hit than I thought. So, bonehead is not sufficient. Selfish asshole is! I know he is in critical condition, but my child's life was endanger, hence, the name asshole. I make no apologies.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Garden

Here is a picture of one of our 6 garden beds. My husband has proven yet again to have a green thumb. This year's harvest should yield potatoes, corn, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, squash, kohlrabi, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. I am sure that I missed something. Thanks Eric for helping to contribute to my frugal cause. Come September, we should have a lot of free and organic food.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Swiss Chard

I made Swiss Chard edible tonight. I cut it up, added it to some homemade marinara sauce. I boiled it to the point that I am sure all nutrients were lost. I then poured the sauce over polenta and baked it for 20 minutes with Parmesan on top. It tasted great!

What a great week!!

Tonight will be the last night of having one child. Tomorrow we make the 2 hour trip to Green Bay to pick up her siblings and resume with life as usual.

I had a great time with my daughter this week. One on one time with her has been priceless. Monday I had to work, so Maeghan spent the day with a friend. Tuesday we played mini golf together, went to the park, went to vet (she loved it) and had lunch together. Wednesday was spent at home. We played in the pool together, decorated the patio with sidewalk chalk and played several games of SORRY. Thursday, she accompanied me to meet a friend for coffee, she helped me deliver Meals on Wheels, we had lunch with her dad and went to the Milwaukee Public Museum. Tomorrow we are going to leave early for Green Bay and spend the day at Bay Beach. Bay Beach is an amusement park that has kiddie rides for .25 cents per ride. The place is a frugal moms heaven! Whew! What a week. We did not go to a movie as planned, for 3 reasons. One, the day we had planned on going was beautiful, nobody should have been allowed to sit inside all day on that particular day. Two, my other kids want to go to both movies that were being considered. Finally, going to a movie is not very frugal, especially when you consider that I had no interest in the movies that were in the running.

A couple of updates. We received a postcard from Germany today. Our total is now 75. I hope we get some more next week. We had started out so strong this summer, things have really slowed down in recent weeks.

I tried my household chore schedule this week. If I can stick to it, my life will be easier. One load of laundry a day took very little time to fold and put away. I didn't feel helpless while cleaning in my designated areas (I even had time to do yard work because I was organized). I went to the grocery store on Wednesday with a list and coupons and only had to spend $50.00 because I had a meal plan. I am not going to get to excited about all this though, it is not like this is the first time I have tried to do something like this. The difference this time is I have a written schedule. That could make all the difference.

One final thought. Please keep a very special child in your thoughts. For those of you who pray, your prayers. I recently found out that a childhood friend of mine has a daughter with a rare cancer. Her mother told me that she feels comfort knowing that people all over the world are praying for her. I keep her in my thoughts often.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Very grateful

My blog this evening is going to be brief. I just want to take a moment to say how truly grateful I am to have 3 healthy, happy and wonderful children. Recent events have forced me to take a close look at how lucky I really am. First of all, 2 of my kids being gone, has made me realize how much I love my crazy, loud and unpredictable life. I wouldn't have things any other way.

Second, in recent months I have had several friends and acquaintances being forced to deal with the untimely illness of a child. It has made me appreciate my own children more and the fact that we have been so lucky for so many years. I am truly grateful.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Time to organize my household chores!

I have a confession to make. I am unable to get my household chores organized. This is a life long inadequacy of mine. I try to get it together, but something always distracts me and I inevitably leave a chore 50% done only to start another one. I have been trying to come up with a way to get organized before my kids go back to school. I am choosing September 1st as my New Year because the start of the school year has always felt like a better time to start resolutions.

Because laundry is forever piling up in my house, this is the first thing I am going to tackle. Instead of trying to do all the laundry once or twice a week, I am going to do one load a day.

Monday - Whites
Tuesday-Lights
Wednesday - Darks
Thursday - Towels
Friday - Sheets
Saturday and Sunday- No Laundry Days!!

Next thing to tackle, cleaning the house. I have a 2000 square foot, 4 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath house. I think it is time that I deep clean one room a day, while doing a quick clean up of the other rooms everyday. Three of the bedrooms belong to the kids. These rooms are not my responsibility, my kids need to keep their rooms clean. I like them to keep them presentable. I try not to expect perfection, after all, these rooms are their personal space. I do insist they make the beds every day, I can't stand an unmade bed. One of the bathrooms also belong to them. It is their responsibility to clean their bathroom. So, that leaves me with 4 rooms in the house that I do not have to worry about.

Monday - Master Bedroom and Bath
Tuesday - Kitchen and Laundry Room
Wednesday - Living Room and Dining Room
Thursday - Family Room and Half Bath
Friday - Quick Clean Up of Entire House
Saturday and Sunday - Maintain

Bill payment will take place on the 15th and last day of each month. These are the days that my husband gets paid. It makes sense that I pay bills only twice a month with his pay schedule. This is a routine that I have been consistent with for many years.

Grocery shopping. Oh, this is a problem for me. I really hate grocery shopping. I don't exactly have a problem with going to the store and picking out the food. It is the unloading of the groceries that gets to me. I have a tendency to put off this errand for days, even weeks to avoid the inevitable unloading that I loath. Which of course only means that I have more to unload when I finally give in. My plan with this resolution of mine is to go to the store once a week, Wednesdays. I am choosing Wednesday because that day is double coupons at our local grocery store. Since Wednesday will be grocery day, Tuesday will become my meal planning day.

I will not have a specific errand day. I usually have errands to run daily, to try to set a day aside for that is unrealistic. It would be nice if that was possible of course, better for environment and better for our wallet. Maybe, next year.

Finally, I am going to plan on not doing chores on Sunday. I am not a religious person, so I am not setting Sunday aside for religious reasons. But, I do like the religious concept of a day of rest, it is a great idea which has been forgotten about in this fast paced society that we live in. Is it really so bad to have one day set aside for family, a big meal and relaxation? I don't think so and I think my family will be stronger for it.



Sunday, July 26, 2009

Camp!

We dropped the kids off at camp today. Yesterday I talked about my fear of something happening to one of my kids. Well, something happened while I was there.

My son saw something in the pond, he walked over to the pond and unknowingly stirred up a wasp nest. He of course walked away without a sting. His 7 year old sister was the first to walk over the angry wasps and got stung twice. My 10 year old daughter who was actually no where near the nest got stung 6 times!! My husband got stung 3 times and I got stung 2 times. My second sting occurred while trying to wrangle a dead wasp out of my daughter's hair. That's right, I got stung by a dead wasp.

It was chaos, screaming children, angry wasps, confused parents and a nurse station busy checking in medications for this week's campers. I wanted to take my children and go home at that point. But, when my daughter calmed down, she was rational. She asked me to take her to her cabin and requested that her father, sister and I go home. Which is what we did.

We left camp at 4:00 pm and at 7:15 I got a call from the nurse at camp. She told me that Hannah is having a fantastic time and that she wanted me to know her stings were much better. I love that kid!! She is forever the optimist. I looked online at the photos the camp is posting daily and it does in fact appear that my kids are having a great time at camp.

One last thing to mention. Ironically, when my son took the Camp Director to the location of the wasp nest he upset, he found a four leaf clover. He has all the luck!


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Home for dinner!

I had to work today! So sad. It was a beautiful day, my kids leave tomorrow, the mall was so slow and to be honest, I just wanted to stay home. But, I had no choice. So at 9:30 a.m., on a Saturday, I left for work while my husband took the kids fishing.

I spent the day feeling left out of the fun. Regretting my decision to offer working on a Saturday (a day I never work). Knowing my family was having fun without me. During my bout with self pity, I forgot that when I work, my husband cooks. I have to mention, my husband is for lack of a better word, an awesome cook. I believe his calling was the Culinary Arts, he disagrees, he is a Software Engineer.

When I walked into the garage, I could smell all the aromatics from the food he was cooking for his family. My very resourceful husband ( I say resourceful because he managed to use so many CSA vegetables) is making Broccoli, Leek and Pea Soup and Basil Chicken Stir Fry. The house smells like a restaurant. The best part of all of this, he does not want any help. So, as he cooks, I blog. The one thing I was hoping he would utilize was the Swiss Chard. Nope, he didn't. So, that vegetable remains in my refrigerator, continuing to be my responsibility to prepare and serve next week. I am still waiting and hoping for recipes. Anyone? Anyone?

Off to the North woods tomorrow to drop off my children. Wish me luck as I do something I have never done before. Leave them alone for a week.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Swiss Chard

Tonight's CSA box included Swiss Chard. I am in search of the best Swiss Chard recipe out there. So, if anyone has a recipe that they wouldn't mind sharing with me, please send it my way. This is a vegetable that seems to end up in the CSA box several times per season, I need to find a recipe that make in edible for us.

Thanks!!
Today I spent the afternoon helping my two oldest children pack for summer camp. My husband and I are both very excited for them to go to camp. They are attending the same camp that we both attended as children. My parents also went to the same camp. It is proving the be a family tradition that needs to be carried on.

I would be dishonest if I said that I am not sending them off with a little bit of apprehension. I am a typical mother. I find myself worrying that they could drown, catch Lyme disease, find themselves bunking with the meanest child in Wisconsin. My list could go on forever. I have to stop myself from continuing because if I do, I will probably find myself attending camp with them. I wish that I could let them go without a worry. But, I have accepted that is not going to happen, so I have to have faith that things will be okay. They are strong swimmers, so drowning is out of the question, I think. Lyme disease can be controlled if I do a full body search when they get home. Finally, since it is a YMCA camp, I am confident that the meanest child in Wisconsin will in fact not be in attendance at summer camp in the North Woods.

I am looking forward to a full week alone with my youngest daughter. We have plans for the week, that are frugal. We are going to play miniature golf using coupons I have for a free game. We are going to go to the art and public museum. Both free because we have memberships. The only activity that we have planned with a price tag is a movie. Ice Age 3, an animated film. I NEVER stay awake through animated films. They bore me to sleep. My kids accept this fault of mine and have begun to make jokes about it.

My daughter Hannah, who is going to camp, is a vegetarian. Next week will be a meat heavy week around here. I make a lot of vegetarian meals in an effort to respect her choice. Next week will be a full week of chicken, beef, pork, turkey and brats. We can eat these meals without the animal rights speech we get nearly every time we indulge in meat.

So, Sunday the family is driving to Northern Wisconsin from Milwaukee to drop the kids off at a camp that will give them an education in the outdoors. I hope I can make it through the week without worrying too much.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

South America

Just a quick blog this afternoon before tonight's longer blog. The kids got 4 postcards from Brazil, South America today. Yeah!! They only need to collect 1 from Africa and 1 from Austrailia to reach our goal of at least 1 from each continent. Grand total so far of cards collected, 74! Only 26 more to reach 100.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Today I busted the grocery budget, as anticipated. As of today, I am going to increase our grocery budget to $600/month. With 3 kids, 2 of them growing like weeds, $400 is not practical. I set us up for failure every month and probably end up spending more than I need because I tell myself that it makes not difference, the budget has already been broken. Our meal plan for this week is as follows:

Sunday- Jambalaya, corn on the cob
Monday - Tenderloin, cucumber and tomato salad, corn, bread
Tuesday - Spaghetti, Italian Sausage, Cucumber and Tomato Salad
Wednesday - Tacos
Thursday - Vegetable Soup (using all leftover vegetables from the CSA)
Friday- Pizza, Cucumber and Tomato Salad
Saturday - Turkey and Veggie Burgers, Baked Beans, Potato Salad

I make a lot of cucumber and tomato salad in the summer. Our CSA sends a lot of cucumbers, so I use them as a salad base instead of lettuce. I just drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar on then vegetables with a little bit of salt and pepper. It makes a perfect salad.

An update about the puppy. It seems as though our older dog, Stella, is in fact going to be top dog. She didn't seem interested in fighting for the coveted position, but she has proven us wrong and has done us proud by putting our cute little puppy in his place.

Tomorrow, I am determined to find time to exercise. I am having a terrible time finding time right now. It is very frustrating. I can feel the weight piling on right now due to inactivity. I need a jump start and an incentive to get myself on a healthy track again. I love having my kids home for the summer, but it does have drawbacks. Number one drawback is that I do not take care of myself the way I used to.

We received another postcard from India.

One final update to our summer. I finally finished The Giver. My son and I read the book together and had a great book discussion about. We are going to read To Kill A Mockingbird next. Off to the library tomorrow for books.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

End of the Week

Postcard number 71 arrived from Switzerland today. My dear high school friend, Ricky, a foreign exchange student I knew in 1990 sent us a card today. This week was a little light on cards, I am hoping that next week brings more cards for our project.

Our puppy found his voice today. He is loud! I was concerned he was sick because he wasn't acting like a puppy, until tonight. The puppy in him has been found. He is trying to become top dog. It just might happen, Stella doesn't seem interested in fighting for the position, until a Kong filled with liver paste enters the scene. Then the hairs rise and she is interested in a fight. The next few weeks should be interesting as these 2 dogs fight for the coveted position of "Top Dog". I am hoping Stella wins, she is after all older and had to wait for several years while Max was still with us to rise to the top.

The grocery bill remains low in this house. As of today our total grocery bill is $150.00. We are going out of town for the weekend, so we can bide our time for a few more days. However, we are out of food for the most part. We will be coming home on Sunday, I think that the grocery bill on Monday will likely exceed the $250.00 minimum required to keep our budget. The upside to this experiment has been that we have used up nearly everything in our pantry. I found instant oatmeal I did not know we still had and the kids finally ate the packages of microwave popcorn I have been collecting but never cooking. We can start fresh next week with "fresh" food.

I need to organize the closets and cabinets in this house. So, I have decided to take my experiment in using up all the food to the next level. The objects that take up space in the closets and cabinets are consumables. So, I am going to use up everything I can that does not need to be replaced for the next 2 months and then organize. Of course, some of those things have to be replaced, toilet paper is the first thing I can think of. But, I have 5 bottles of fabric softener on hand. I am confident that I can use that up before stocking up again.

Tomorrow is the last day of summer school for my kids. Next week will be a week without a routine for my daughters. My son has soccer camp in the morning, but the girls are going to be without plans. It could either be a disaster or a blessing. I guess time will tell. Well, time to sign off for the night. I will be out of town for weekend, look for a new blog on Monday.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Weekend Updates

Postcards received so far, 70! Over the weekend the kids received 5 more cards from Poland, 3 from Pennsylvania, 1 from Wisconsin and 1 from Jamaica. As of today, we have received a grand total of 19 cards from Poland alone. If the trend continues, I can assume that Poland will win the prize for most postcards!

It was a busy weekend, for me that is. Saturday I had to work and Sunday I went to a wedding. My dear husband had to be a single, full time parent this weekend. Not only did he do a great job with the kids, but he also made dinner both nights. He used ingredients on hand, utilizing the vegetables from our CSA box. In fact, he deserves some kind of award for being a great cook this weekend. This week's box had kale in it, we HATE kale. My creative husband found a recipe that called for crisping the kale on the grill with sea salt. The result was delicious, almost addictive like potato chips. My kids were even impressed, leaving no left behind kale on their plates. An amazing accomplishment in my opinion for children. Good job, Eric. He was also able to make beets edible. I will not compare the beets to the delicious kale, but I was able to eat the beets without gagging. I must sound like a picky eater, I am not in fact. I just do not like the following: beets, brussels sprouts, kale, swiss chard and peas. Otherwise, I like vegetables. It just seems that these vegetables always arrive in the same box and I find myself forced to cook with an ingredient I hate. It is very hard to do that because I don't want my kids to pick up on dislike. However, I draw the line at brussels sprouts, I won't eat them, period!

The kids had another weekend at home. They swam in our pool and played with the kids in the neighborhood. When Sunday night arrived, all 3 of them fell in to bed, ready for sleep. This week is going to be busy. We end summer school, start gymnastics camp and will be preparing for a weekend at a friends cottage next weekend. No complaints from me though. This is week number 6 without hearing "I'm bored".

Friday, July 10, 2009

New Puppy

We bought a new puppy. A black lab mix that we found at the humane society.

Several weeks ago I wrote a blog about our dog Max who we had to euthanize. A gut wrenching decision for anyone who has ever had to make the decision to put down a dog. A few short weeks ago I was so distraught by the loss of our dog, I thought it would take months to get myself into the place of wanting a new dog. But the cliche holds true, time heals all wounds. While I will never forget Max, I recently found myself ready to add a new dog to the family. Enter our new dog, Odinn.

It has only been 24 hours since Odinn joined our family, but he is fitting in well. He is very calm for a puppy. Cuddly and eager to show affection to all of us. The only family member who is annoyed by the new puppy is our Golden Retriever, Stella. Stella enjoyed being the Princess in the house for 7 short weeks, she truly liked being an only dog. Last night, in a fit of anger she ran out of the house and broke through the invisible fence. A mistake she most likely will not make again. After a jolt, she returned to the yard, ran into the house and implanted her butt in a corner of the family room. I am so grateful for the invisible fence, as inhumane as they may seem, she would have run away. She is a runner, the fence was finally installed after we had grown tired of running around the neighborhood screaming "Stella". I am sure neighbors thought we were reenacting the famous scene in A Streetcar Named Desire or even an episode of Seinfeld.

Look for future pictures of both dogs, as I am sure they will become best friends soon. Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

My baby is turning 7

Tomorrow my youngest, Maeghan, will be turning 7. I can't believe how quickly the last 7 years have flown by. Seven years ago, tonight, I was packing my bag, knowing that the next day I would be induced into labor. It was a very hot night, I was miserable and just wanted it to end. Now, 7 years later, I don't even know what happened to those years. It is a mystery.

But, on to frugal thoughts. Even with birthdays, I find ways to save money. Maeghan always makes that very easy for us. She is easy to please, preferring the simple pleasures in life, with one exception. She has a NinetendoDS, I know, how does that daughter of a frugal mother get something like that? The answer is her father loves technology of all kinds, and he isn't as frugal as I am. All she wants is DS games. So, I bought her 2 this year. One full price and one on sale. I paid $53.00 for the games. I wanted to get her one more thing. So, while at Kohl's today I found at Scene It High School Musical 3 game on sale for $12.00 and I had a $5.00 off coupon. I am proud to say that I spent $60.00 total on her birthday gifts. I bought her what she wanted, she will be happy and it didn't bust the budget.

Her birthday dinner request is also very cheap and easy to make. She loves a dish called Broccoli Pasta. The cost to make this meal is probably no more than $5.00 total and it is her favorite dish. I will be happy to post the recipe if anyone would like me to. She requested an ice cream cake with a chocolate crust and mint ice cream. So, I bought an Oreo Premade Crust for $1.80 and a half gallon of ice cream. She is getting ice cream pie for her birthday. The requested ingredients with a different shape. She is excited about her pie.

Finally, she wants to go to the Milwaukee Art Museum after having lunch at her dad's office. We are members of the museum, so admission is free. Her favorite thing to do there is to go on an art scavenger hunt that is set up for the kids. Our art museum is really very kid friendly, all 3 of my kids enjoy visiting it often. Lunch in my husbands cafeteria will be at a reduced rate.

We will end her birthday, at home, watching the movie Surf's Up, as a family. I ordered the movie from Netflix.

I sometimes feel guilty for maintaining frugality during birthdays. But, I have to remind myself that because I remain frugal most of the time, occasionally we can splurge on something that is expensive. For example, for my daughter's 9th birthday last year, we were able to take her to the Hannah Montana concert on her birthday. She will remember that birthday for the rest of her life. When something like that comes up for the other kids in the future, we will be able to give it to them because we stay frugal.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Updates

We received a few more postcards since my last post. As of today, we have our first card from Asia! My husband has a coworker who went to India, he sent the kids a beautiful card. A great big thank you again to everyone who has participated. We have 3 continents down, 3 more to go. I really hope that we are able to get at least one card from Africa, South America and Australia.

Fourth of July weekend turned out to be a blast! Not to mention very cheap and frugal. We drove to my parent's home in Minnesota to celebrate. Because we live 300 miles away, we had to budget for the cost of fuel this weekend, in addition to one meal on the road. Regretfully, I did not think ahead and make a picnic lunch to eat on the drive there. Of course, for the return trip, my mom packed us a lunch. Thanks mom, we were are all very grateful for the tasty meal.

Fourth of July has always been a cheap holiday for us, this year proved to be no different. We attended the obligatory 4th of July parade on Saturday morning. As always, candy and prizes were thrown to the children in the crowd. This year, however, brought a surprise that we never expected. Because we were in suburban Minneapolis, Mall of America had a representative handing out mystery tickets to excited children. At the very least, the kids would get a ticket for a free ride. The best case scenario was unlimited rides for a year or a day's worth of rides. My mom and I decided to utilize the five tickets we had, buy an extra ticket if need be and let the kids go on 2 rides each. As it turned out, we made a good decision to make that extra trip to the mall. Of course, the first 4 tickets we were given had the equivalent of 1 good ride or 2 kiddie rides. It wasn't until I took my youngest to the Ferris wheel for our final ride that we found we had scored the jackpot. The last ticket in our pile had 100 points! A value of over $100.00. Our 4th of July afternoon was set. With 3 very excited children, and a grandma who really wanted to go on the log ride, we took full advantage of our unexpected bounty. For the next 2 hours we went on every ride we had wanted to go on (but too cheap to pay for) and had a truly fantastic time. All for free. Talk about frugality at work.

My parents made a great 4th of July dinner, cake included to celebrate my youngest daughter's birthday this week. We ended the evening with another free 4th activity, fireworks. It was a great weekend. The total lost for this weekend was $78.75, the cost of the fuel and McDonald's. Thanks mom and dad for a great time.

Today was a stay at home day. We have a big blow up pool for the kids. I had 8 kids here today (my own 3 included in that total)playing in the pool, running around, playing in the yard. Doing typical kid summer stuff, of course all for free. Watching my kids play today, made me realize how little kids need to be truly happy. My kids just needed some sunshine, good friends, fun activities, ice cream and kool aid to have a really good time. Grand total for today, probably pennies.

Two more months of summer and I am still enjoying having them home. I have not started counting down the days to the start of school, in fact, I don't know when the first day of school is. I am hopeful that we will continue to have such a fun and busy summer, void of "I am bored", which I have not heard yet.

I am going to start July with another attempt at getting control of our grocery budget. Yesterday, my husband spent $8.00 for groceries. Today, I spent $105.39. Our grand total so far for the month is $113.39. Since it is July 6th, I am hoping that we can get away with spending $400.00 on groceries this month. I am pretty sure that number is unrealistic, but who knows, maybe we can get away with it.

I am signing off now. Looking forward to reading The Giver tonight. My son and I are reading it for a book discussion later this week.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Returns

I hear this over and over again from friends, "I never return anything, it is embarrassing!" Well, I disagree with that statement for a few reasons.

First of all, it is a waste of resources to purchase something, never use it and eventually throw it away. For example, today I returned a swim cap that my daughter will never use. It was still in it's packaging, not used and sitting on my desk for weeks. I returned it today for the $10.00 I paid for it a few weeks ago. The fact of the matter is, had I not returned it, it would have sat on my desk probably until Christmas (much to my husband's dismay)at which time I would have shoved it into a cabinet to sit for a couple of years, only to be thrown away at some point. What a waste of the time and energy it took to produce the cap and to ship this product from China! Instead, return it so that it will be used by someone else.

The second reason I return items is due to dissatisfaction. Recently, I bought a pair of sandals that I loved. I got them home started wearing them only to find out that the straps were digging into the soles of my feet. They were the most uncomfortable shoes I have ever worn. With every step, I felt like I was walking on a pebble. Not what I bargained for when I paid $25.00 for a pair of shoes. I took them back to the point of purchase with receipt in hand and received a refund. Nobody should ever have to keep a product that they are not satisfied with.

Finally, return unused items to save money. If someone buys a product thinking they need it, only to find out that it is unnecessary, it should be returned. Otherwise, it is money being thrown away. No matter how small the purchase may seem, every dime adds up. After a year of returning items that are not needed, you can see a significant savings. Letting something sit because you are embarrassed to return it is silly, let someone else get enjoyment from that item.

Let me end by saying that I DO NOT support purchasing things for a special occasion, using it and returning it. I would not do that. I just say if you don't need it, return it and count the savings.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Brrrrr

Boy did it get it cold overnight here in Wisconsin. It is so hard to believe that one week ago we were contending with 100+ heat indexes and today we need a jacket to keep warm. What a difference a week makes! I save the movies my children want to see for days like today. Cold and dreary, the perfect excuse to see a long awaited movie. The kids have patiently been waiting to see Up. I would prefer to save it for late summer when it is offered at 10:00 a.m. on a Wednesday for $3.00, but in light of the today's weather, we will go this afternoon.

An update to the postcard project. We received 2 more cards today, one from North Carolina and one from South Carolina. Score!! Again, 2 more states I assumed we would not get, but a stranger who heard about our project dropped them in the mail for the kids. It was a great learning opportunity for them. Not only did they have to find the states on the map, but because they came from coastal communities, we also had an excuse to find the Atlantic Ocean and talk about it. We all look forward to what may arrive in tomorrow's mail and eagerly await a response to the 4 letters we sent out today requesting cards. Stay tuned to see if we reach our goal by summer's end.

Dinner tonight will be a Chick Pea and Spinach Stew that I found at www.thesimpledollar.com. For anyone interested in in saving money and staying frugal, this is a great website. The meal I am making will utilize the remaining spinach I have from last week's CSA box. I would hate to see good vegetables go to waste. I will report on how the stew tastes after tonight's dinner.

One final note. Summer continues to go by with very little fighting or boredom. I was concerned that maybe I had over scheduled my children for the summer. But, it appears as if the decision to keep them busy was the right one after all. I admit that we are still early into the summer break, but if things continue to go as smoothly as they have the last few weeks, we should be fine.