Saturday, April 11, 2009

Update: The Haircut War!

There is an update for the ongoing war that has been brewing in our home.  The parents have won! After much thought and consideration, my son realized that the internet game he has been pining for is more important to him than the hairstyle that he has been trying so hard to keep.  It truly was a hard fought  battle.  He deserves a medal of honor for bravery and showing great integrity when finally admitting defeat.  We are very proud of him.  However, we are feeling very smug ourselves as we prepare to say WE WON!  

The above pictures are before and after shots taken this afternoon.  As anyone can see, he really needed a haircut.  This could not have come a moment to soon.  As we will be visiting grandparents over the next few days.  I am pleased to announce that his eyes are blue! Something that we had not seen in a while.

We did in fact stay rather frugal on this haircut.  We took him to Cost Cutters.  Although, the last time he got a haircut he was 10, he had the child rate.  Now he is 11, we had to pay the adult rate for a cut.  Oh well, you won't hear any complaining from me.  The hair is cut, and I am sure the battle will begin again in about 6 weeks.  Wish us luck.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

Today I broke one of my rules about going to the movies.  Why?  You may ask.  Well, I have 2 girls ages 10 and 6, what movie came out today?  Hannah Montana!  Being the good mother that I am, I let my girls each invite a friend to the opening of the movie.  We went to McDonald's for lunch and then to the movie.  I gasp when I realize how much this expedition cost me.  But, I have been reminding myself that we are frugal so that when days like this come around, I can do these things guilt free.  The girls had a great time.  They of course would not sit with me, so I looked like a freaky adult woman who had to go to the opening of a teeny bopper movie.  I may never forgive them for that!  I was a lone 30 something in a sea of pre teens dropped off by their mothers, alone and abandoned.  If you want a review of the movie, it was predictable and corny.  Perfect for the demographic it is aimed at.

After the movie, we came home and decorated Easter eggs.  Is there a cheaper activity out there?  I don't think so.  For a grand total of $2.00 we decorated Easter eggs and had a great time doing so.  We even pulled out the crayons tonight and drew on the eggs before sticking them in the dye.  Surprisingly, even my husband got in on the action and decorated a few eggs of his own.  I can in all honestly say that after 14 years of marriage, I have never seen him participate in such an activity.  Of course, being the cynic that he is, he encouraged our daughter to decorate an egg that said "beat me" on one side and "eat me" on the other.  Not really in the spirit of Easter if I do say so myself.  But, he was participating, so I refrained from being to critical.  Regrettably, our son was not able to participate.  He is at a friends for a sleep over, so he missed out on the fun and excitement.  At age 11 though, I am guessing that he will not be losing sleep over being unable to decorate a couple of eggs.

We are ending Good Friday with movie night.  The movie on tap for this evening is "Mamma Mia".  My husband is the only male in the house tonight, so, he is feeling a bit out of place being forced to watch a chick flick.  He will have to get over it though, last weekend's choice was "Iron Man".  While I love the movie, my girls do not feel the same way and feel some vindication in forcing their dad to watch a musical.  

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The one hobby I wish I could learn.

There is a hobby out there that I have longed to learn.  It is a hobby that I truly believe will make me a happier and calmer person.  I have seen people who participate in this hobby happily at work while engaged in conversation with others.  Sipping coffee.  Or quietly in their own world, happy and at peace.  The hobby I speak of is knitting.

My 10 year old daughter, Hannah, knows how to knit.  My mother and mother in law knit. Many of my friends and acquaintances knit.  My sister in laws knit.  I do not know how to knit.  I have tried several times to learn this calming hobby.  My neighbor gave me several lessons, my mother tried to give me a couple lessons and yes my daughter tried to teach me.  For some reason, I seem to be incapable of learning this peaceful and invaluable hobby that so many people truly love and embrace.  I feel left out when I see a group of women knitting and chatting at a local coffee house.  I wonder what it must feel like to have a common interest like knitting.  I even put off reading the book "The Friday Night Knitting Club" because I fear that I will end the book with a feeling of regret that I have yet to pick up knitting.

I wonder what it is about me that makes this seem like an unachievable goal.  Am I impatient? Probably.  Am I uncoordinated? Definitely.  Am I stupid?  No, I am not.  What I am is a wife and mother who is not able to manage my time wisely and find the time to learn how to do something I talk about doing so often.  The fact of the matter is, the people who try to teach me, leave me with the knowledge and the tools to knit.  I put the project aside, intending to try later, but get engrossed in something else.  By the time I can get back to it, I have forgotten everything I learned.  I look at the yarn and the sticks and wonder where do I begin?  At that point it seems easier to just pick up a book and read.  Why not, I know how to read.

My husband mentioned getting me knitting classes for my birthday which is in 2 weeks.  I hope he reads this blog and seriously considers those classes as the perfect gift.  I think that a set time each week for me to devote to this hobby will help me to get to a point that picking up the yarn and sticks won't scare me.  It would be a great feeling of accomplishment to knit a scarf for each of my children for next winter.  Something that I made for them, something that I had to work so hard to create. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Anticipating Summer Vacation

For those of you who have school age children, I am sure you understand what I am feeling when I say I have mixed emotions about summer vacation.  Personally, I always have a list of activities that are going to fill our long, lazy days.  In the past, the list has included such fantasies as:

1.  Flying kites on the shore of Lake Michigan
2.  Go on nature walks in the woods and find unusual and exotic bugs
3.  Build a puppet show in the back yard with an old appliance box and make homemade puppets out of old socks
4.  Go to a water park in Wisconsin Dells

I don't need to bore my readers with the rest of my list. It is obvious that while this list conjures up visions of angelic children, smiling and laughing, we all know better.  First of all, Lake Michigan is great.  I am blessed to live in such a wonderful area.  Not to mention, the kite flying is fabulous, with adults!  Imagine three kids, three kites and the winds that Lake Michigan can produce.  Yes, a recipe for disaster!  Fights will ensue, kites will tangle and tears will be shed.  Not to mention mom will yell and probably swear at some point during this much anticipated day trip to the lake.  Next, my big idea of nature walks.  Two words, Wisconsin and mosquitoes.  I learned very early on that when on a nature walk in this great state of ours, it is a war in June and July.  Mosquitoes versus humans, mosquitoes usually win.  Even with OFF! My next great idea, the puppet show.  Well, let's just say that great project of mine ended with the box being torn apart by the dog before the show could go on.  Finally, a water park in Wisconsin Dells.  Need I say more?  

This year, I am ready.  Much to the dismay of my children, I have thrown out my frugal tendencies in preparation for the summer months.  With the help of careful budgeting and early planning, I have uttered two words dreaded by children all over America.  Summer School.  As of 8:11 p.m. this evening, my 3 wonderful children are enrolled in our school district's Summer Opportunities Program, known to all of us as summer school.  For 4 glorious, fight free, whine free weeks my children are going to summer school from 8:30 to 11:30 am.  Yes, the "I'm boreds", the fighting and the constant nagging to go on the computer will begin at 12:00 everyday, but my mornings will be blissfully without the aspects of summer vacation all parents dread.

The second thing I have done to combat the summer fighting and the ultimate boredom, I signed my older children up for summer camp.  They are lucky to be going to the same camp that my husband and I both attended when we were kids.  It is a beautiful camp in Northern Wisconsin.  They will be attending camp for one week, enjoying the great outdoors, and probably fighting those mosquitos.

We are able to give our children these opportunities this summer because we are not going to take a vacation.  We usually take a summer vacation somewhere, even if it is within the state. We are using our vacation fund on these activities this summer instead of a trip somewhere.  It seems like the prudent choice this year given the state of the economy and the uncertainty we are all feeling right now.  By using the vacation funds set aside, we can pay for these activities without wondering where the money is going to come from.

I need to end my post by emphasizing that I do love having my children home with me in the summer. We have wonderful memories of summers past.  We catch fireflies at night, swim in Lake Michigan, grill out most evenings and bike ride.  The majority of our time together is peaceful and positive.   Realistically though, I know that the summer is just too long for them. Sibling fighting is normal and it is normal for parents to get frustrated with the many disadvantages of such a long break from school.  I do have plans for summer activities, and when I imagine doing those activities, the outcome is perfect.  But, then I snap back to reality and realize that no matter what, no activity ever turns out perfect, it is part of being a parent. Who knows, maybe I will even attempt that trip to a Wisconsin Dells water park this year.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Buying in Bulk

On my most recent trip to the grocery store I found a great buy that I could not pass up.  The store I visit had buy on Sirloin Tip Roast, get one free.  The cost of the first roast was about $3.49/lb, the final cost was $13.81.  I got the second roast which was $13.00 for free.  Both roasts are around 3 pounds, so I got 6 pounds of sirloin tip roast for $2.30/lb.  I felt that was a pretty good deal and knew that I could feed my family 4 meals with these 2 pieces of meat.

Tonight I cut the first roast in half and cut it into chunks, we are having beef stroganoff.  My family loves stroganoff, it is a great comfort food, especially on the blustery day that we are experiencing here in Wisconsin.  The stroganoff will be over egg noodles that I got for .55 cents and we will have a side of asparagus, which I found for $1.99/lb.   Total cost for tonights meal will cost us $6.00.  I am not including the cost of pantry staples that I used to flavor the meal; butter, garlic, onion, sour cream and beef cubes.  I have those things around all the time, so it is not a cost that I incurred specifically for this meal.

I have already cut the other half of my roast into bite sized chunks.  Tomorrow's menu is beef stew cooked in the crock pot.  I have some carrots that are probably a bit past their edible raw stage, some potatoes and green beans, all will be thrown in the pot.   Since I work tomorrow, it will be so nice to come home to dinner being cooked.

Generally, my family does not eat a lot of red meat.  We very rarely eat it more than once a week, if even once a month.  But, I made an exception to the rule this week so that I could take advantage of the low cost of the meat I found.  The second roast will remain in the deep freeze for several weeks until I pull it out again and turn it into 2 meals for my family.   For my 2 readers out there, if you have any great ideas for that second roast please send recipes.  I am always open to new ideas in the kitchen.


Well, it is that time of year again.  Tax time.  Recently, my husband did our taxes, thankfully we are receiving a refund.  Because we do our taxes online, we received our state refund in 5 days. Our federal refund has yet to be deposited, I am sure that we can expect to see that small windfall soon.

With a tax refund, it can be hard to decide what to do with it.  Pay bills?  Save it?  Invest? Go on vacation?  Home Improvement?  The list can go on and on.  My husband and I didn't really discuss what we are going to do with this year's refund, we are both on the same page right now with finances.  Unfortunately, we are in desperate need of a new roof, so part of the refund will be going into the roof fund that we have established for that home improvement project.  The rest of the refund will be going into the emergency fund that we have established.  We are trying to reach the 6-9 month salary goal that so many financial experts are telling us we all need.  We are getting there, but I wish someone would tell me how you are suppose to reach that goal when other financial obligations get in the way.   

In years past we have used the refund as fun money.  Last year, our taxes helped fund a vacation to Italy that we took with my parents to celebrate my father's birthday.  Two years earlier, we went to Scotland, again the refund helped fund that vacation.  I am hopeful that when I am writing about the refund we receive from our 2009 return it will include plans for another vacation.  We are cautiously optimistic that things will improve in not only the US economy but the international economy as well, and that we can use the tax refund we will receive next year for something we will all enjoy as a family.  Until then, we are going to do what so many people are doing these days.  We are going to hold onto our money, preparing for the worst but hoping for the best.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Gym Membership

I have had a gym membership at a local club for about 15 months.  It is a gym that I really like, a lot in fact.  My number one reason for liking it, there are very few children roaming around when I visit.  It is a club for adults, with a few small children's classes.  It is not the Y so I don't run across the endless stream of children everywhere.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE children!  I have 3 of my own and welcome my children's friends into my home happily.  I do find though that when I workout, I like it to be as close to child free as possible.  So, I have kept this membership instead of opting for the YMCA. 

My membership is $65/month.  Sadly, because of the distance from my house and my hectic schedule I do not get to the gym as much as I would like.  So, I decided that it is time for me to reevaluate if this membership makes sense to me financially and if it is even practical.  I have always been frugal, but never felt that it was a good idea to forgo a gym membership if it means better health.  My gym allows me to put my membership on a 3 month hold for $5/month, which I have chosen to do.  For the next 3 months I am going to see if I can exercise at home successfully without the hefty price tag.

I am also going to reevaluate whether or not my apprehension to join the Y is valid.  Yes, I have an aversion to have so many kids around while I work out.  But, part of the reason I can't find time to get to my own gym is my children's schedules.  Maybe, if I stop being so stubborn about this I could sign my kids up for activities at the Y and enjoy some time to myself exercising while the are busy.   I know that my daughters would be so appreciative if I would get a Y membership.  They are avid swimmers and our local YMCA has a beautiful pool.  My son could play basketball or run on the track.  I might even be able to get my husband to join us for a night at the Y.

I am off to a good start!  I just worked out in my basement on my recumbent bike for 35 minutes.  Not enough time for a good work out, but better then nothing, counts toward that 30 minutes of activity a day that we are all suppose to get.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


After a fun and active weekend for the kids.  School carnival on Friday, sleepovers on Saturday and a mother/daughter Brownie activity on Sunday for lunch, I knew it was time for something quiet.   Not to mention, as was the case last weekend, bad weather was on the way, again.   I have a craft cabinet in my kitchen full of activities for days like today.  

All of my children love doing Perler beads.  For those who do not know about this great invention, it is time to visit your local craft store. All you need is an iron and imaginative kids and you will have an afternoon of fun and most importantly, peace.   Today, my son stayed busy with the perler beads.  My daughters found the moon sand.  I wish I could be as excited about Moon Sand as I am about Perler Beads, but, I'm not.  Yes, moon sand is fun, but it is messy.  I often find the moon sand stuck to the bottom of t my socks even after a complete clean up.  I keep it around because the kids love it.  My daughter did suggest today that we save the moon sand for the summer, that way we can use it outside.  I think that is a great idea.  I also have Plixo's, play dough, foam stickers, markers, paint, crayons, paper, coloring books and countless other craft supplies and crafts to fill their afternoons.  These craft supplies are frugal when purchased at Michael's with a coupon.  It is also so much cheaper to do crafts at home then it is to find expensive things to do outside the house.

My youngest daughter, Maeghan, and I went to a local paint your own pottery place today with her brownie troop.  We had a great time!  The troop set up a lunch and project for a mother/daughter activity.  Maeghan painted a ceramic tile that we will have for years to come as a memory of the nice time we had together.  This activity got her in the mood for more crafting when we got home today.

With the exception of a few "bumps in the road" today, we had a nice day together.  The kids are all in bed sleeping now.  It is time for me to mentally prepare for this week and the start of Spring Break next week, which I already have packed with activities.  More info to come:)

March 29th to April 4th Menu

Here is our Menu from last week.  I have tried to estimate the cost of each meal so that I can get a grasp of our grocery budget.

Sunday 3/29- Tagine of Chicken with Peas and Potatoes.  $10.00 estimated cost

Monday 3/30- Turkey Burgers, Sweet Potato Fries $6.83 estimated cost

Tuesday 3/31- Pasta w/Red Sauce & Salad $5.50 estimated cost

Wednesday 4/1 - Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Sweet Potato Fries.  $5.50 estimated cost

Thursday 4/2 - Hot Dogs, Carrots & Dip, Mac & Cheese.  $5.00 estimated cost

Friday 4/3 - Leftovers.  Unable to estimate, maybe $4.00 or $5.00

Saturday 4/4 - Taco Night.  estimated cost $10.00.  My kids had friends over, so we had more mouths to feed.

I am not going to include breakfast and lunch.   The kids take a bag lunch to school every day which includes a sandwich, fruit, juice box, cookies, etc....  Breakfast is usually eggs, pancakes, breakfast meat, oatmeal or cereal with yogurt.  I try to make a hot breakfast every day because I am a freak about giving them a big breakfast so they concentrate better at school.  I don't know if it works.

My husband uses the Tagine when making Moroccan and Indian foods.  It makes the best chicken, ever!!  I used a lot of food that was left over in the freezer this week in order to save on the grocery bill.

My husband also wanted me to point out another frugal thing I did this week that I did not include in yesterday's list.  I love wine, I like one glass of red at night to unwind.  I mistakenly bought white yesterday.  I don't like white, at all.  But, I will drink it instead of giving it away (which was my first impulse).  I am keeping it cold, very cold to make it taste better.  Maybe, I will learn to like white after this week.  I also want to mention that I include my wine in the grocery bill.  I can make a bottle last 4-5 nights since I have a small amount each night.