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Home > Archive: November, 2014

Archive for November, 2014

Christmas Joy ...

November 30th, 2014 at 11:59 am

We returned to our home parish after several weeks away. It was nice to see familiar faces, and we give high ratings to the new "visiting" priest who has taken over the 11 AM Mass. And in the Narthex was the gift tree with one last remaining gold star on it with the age and wished for item of the gift recipient.

My younger daughter is particularly giving and has a real heart for service. She was so happy to grab that star and said, "We can share the joy."

Well, our six-year old boy would like an Air Hog Remote-controlled Roller Copter and it could be found at Walmart. And I seriously wondered how much this items would cost and if that was the reason why it was the last star on the tree. Well, my people were all happy to pass the star up and down the pew to one another so they could read it. And I decided that whatever the cost, this little boy would like this item and we'd find it for him. I figured at least $60?

Happily, we purchased a red one online for $44.95 which includes shipping. And we can't stop with just that - have to buy socks and mittens and candy!

So fun! Tis the season to share the joy. I am so happy that my children want to share it!

Welcoming an Uncluttered Christmas

November 28th, 2014 at 05:46 pm

We've embraced simplicity and been clearing out and cleaning up. Today we turned the kids loose with furniture polish and the vacuum cleaner and they did a really good job on the family room, dining room, and living room. We used to have two trees and tons of Christmas clutter on every flat surface, made me feel very claustrophobic and antsy on December 26th.

Then last year we removed the "fun" tree from the family room because of our then-puppy. That area was his to romp and play and had to be clear of anything ground level or it would become puppy fodder and chewed up. So we ditched the "color-coordinated" snooty tree in the living room, and our family ornaments (which is quite varied and extensive) went in the living room. We also used my parents' artificial tree that they used one year and then determined it was too big.

Well, this year we decided to stick with the one tree. And some of the pre-lit white strands were out. We opted to put colored lights and a strand of solid blue. It looked so fun. And by the time all the ornaments were on, it was so fun. Collectively we agree this is the best tree we've ever had and reflects "whimsy" was the word.

We were avid collectors of things awhile back. Dept 56 Dickens Village and Dept 56 North Pole/Alpine Village. I mean tons of houses and people and stuff. This year we asked the kids which set of houses they'd like and they picked the North Pole, which is fun. So that village is on the mantle in the family room. We put out our collection of snow globes on the entertainment center. And in the china cabinet I did a vignette with some of the things I like best - vintage things from the 50s from my grandmother, a Mary Englebreit teapot with some colorful snowmen and a Jim Shore Mickey and Minnie mouse. And that's it.

We've got the Nativity set up on a table and have two baskets of our vast collection of Christmas books.

It sounds like a lot, but it really is FAR LESS THAN WHAT WE'VE HAD. I no longer feel and obligation to put out ridiculously expensive holiday knick-knacks from the MIL. I can look at what we've got and admire and enjoy it.

And each child is getting one gift to open under the tree. These are gifts in the $160-$180 range and are items that they've asked for or were on the very short list they provided. Instead of stocking this year, we're letting the Advent Buddies (our version of Secret Santa) fill those, and DH and I will be putting together a family gift basket with some games/movies/snacks, etc.

And gifts from the extended family will be fewer. My brother gave the girls very nice phones and paid for the first two months of service. That was Christmas and birthday. My parents and brother are going in on video rockers for the boys since they have the video game set up in their room. My inlaws will give cash to pay for a weekend away in February at the indoor water park. Our gift giving is pretty minimal, too.

Simplicity really is where it is at. Of course, focusing on the real reason of the season for we who are Christian. And we've been attending a different parish for weekly Mass, and at dinner today my younger daughter said she misses our attendance there so we said we'd return for Advent and Christmas Eve Mass.

That's all for now. Smile

Black Friday. Who's doing it and what are your finds?

November 28th, 2014 at 07:04 am

For those of us opting out this season for whatever reason, there is some residual fidgety energy that I've got, though I'm pretty much over the "oh my gosh, it's an item I can't live without and it's at a deeply discounted price ..." feeling/fear /brainwashing/consumerist mentality.

I will admit to going to Radio Shack yesterday at 8:00 AM to purchase my oldest daughter a Nikon Coolpix L830 with free memory card ($300 reduced to $169.99, paid $184.xx out the door with tax). This is the daughter who is a natural in front of and behind the camera - unique perspective and a true photographer's eye.

We had a lovely Thanksgiving at my brother's house. He's getting married in July and the new sister-in-law to be is very companionable. Since she was a casual girlfriend for several years (and my brother dated other while dating her) I didn't worry too much about bonding. But I really like her and I missed her kids (who were at their father's). It will definitely be nice to grow the extended family.

So, anyhow, going full circle back to Black Friday ... I am hoping that some of you can post your finds and steals so we can get our Black Friday Fix. And how early did you all head out?

Happy Turkey Day!

November 26th, 2014 at 08:42 am

This is a bit early, but I'll be spending time in the kitchen cooking the sides we contribute to Thanksgiving dinner at my brothers and playing games with the kids.

Just wanted to say:

Seriously, I am thankful for the SA Community here! I appreciate all the support and advice over the past year when things have been uncertain. Hope you all enjoy your day with family and friends.

This was a fun freebie pattern that I found online. I would have liked to do a larger version of this, but the pattern was more than I wanted to pay and I am rather short of time to be crafty. And the designer is the same. So win-win all the way around.

Some more shopping done today -

November 24th, 2014 at 12:43 pm

I went to Kohls and spent the $50 in Kohl's cash (Disclosure: really purchased half-hearted items last week before bucks expired, ended up returning those items and got the $50 on a gift card) plus my last $10 cash and used $9.04 on the debit card to purchase a Magic Bullet for DH's Christmas gift. He inherited his mother's Vitamix and thinks it is too labor intensive to use on a daily basis. He's getting more serious about becoming healthy, so I think it was a wise move. I ended up buying the simple original one.

And Kohls gave me an additional $15 Kohls cash for spending $50. The never-ending allure to keep the Kohls shoppers coming back!

And then I headed to Target where I purchased two boys robes and one pair of slipper socks. $30 - $5.00 coupon - $10 gift cards (used one of my three collected over the past ten days). OOP was $14.xx and I used the Target Red Debit for additional 5% savings.

I do feel like I spent wisely on items that will be used. And appreciated.

Odd Fiscal-Related Stuff; Jumble of Mish-mash, Disjointed

November 24th, 2014 at 05:36 am

1) DH's Rx was in need of refilling. Last shopping trip to Target yielded me a coupon for $10 gift card with a transfer. I transferred it and got the gift card. Now up to $30.

2) I have a coupon for $5 off of $25 kids' clothes purchase at Target. Yesterday I found robes on sale for $10 and am in need of two (we regularly pass things down). I will also get an additional pair of gloves or socks to get it up to the $25. Again, needed item so "saving while spending."

3) I spent more than I had planned this weekend. Youngest son went to state for the soccer challenge (his older brother went and won two years ago, and oldest sister qualified but didn't compete three years ago). DH filled up the tank where gas was cheap so that was $50. The three oldest went to see "Mockingjay I" and I spent $21.50 on tickets for matinee and $5 on candy at CVS. I also had lots of other kids in the house. One young lady spends at least 2/4 weekends with us, sometimes 3/4. And we had four additional boys for a sleepover on Saturday (impromptu). Cupboards are definitely a lot lighter after that go around.

4) Being crafty and substituting items in my stash. I found several freebie patterns that I'm using and am definitely being creative. Saving $ there.

5) Today is our annual muffin making marathon. We give the teachers at the school an assortment of goodies because we are thankful for their efforts. Last month we found the cutest clearance mugs that look like owls at Michaels. I think I spent $1.25 on each. We only bought those for sons' homeroom teachers.

Random Observation: The cost of healthy snacking ...

November 22nd, 2014 at 05:59 am

I'm trying to have a better stocked pantry/fridge for healthier snack options. I've been shopping more at Sam's Club and filling in with an Aldi's run for things not purchased in bulk. My grocery budget has increased about 15%, but I'm OK with that.

In one week (tracked for past three), we (7) go through about 5# of apples, 5# of tangerines/oranges, 3# bananas, one dozen hard-boiled eggs, 20 ct. box of fiber bars, 36 Danimals, and 20 Oikos yogurt. That does include supplemental breakfast and lunch items, and after school/sports snacks, and sometimes bed time snacking.

The cost for this is $6 + $6 + $1.50 + $1.00 + $7.75 + $10.50 + $8 (just looked at Sam's receipt) = ~ $40.00.

Since this is a random observation, I'm not sure why I'm sharing. I am taking a closer and more honest look of spending in all areas. The "LIVING" category encompasses both gas and groceries (and groceries is the umbrella for food/cleaning/paper/personal care/pets).

I suppose the next area I will look at is lunches. My kids and husband bring their lunches from home. Both the high schools have a cafeteria, but the girls bring from home. The parochial school has an optional hot lunch program but it is ridiculously expensive ($5-$6) for each meal and when you've three eating that can blow the budget very fast.

Since it's a two-day week, I won't bother tracking the cost of lunch things until the first week in December.

Minor Money Updates

November 20th, 2014 at 10:16 pm

(1) Made $750 IRA contribution from birthday funds
(2) Added $250 to EF/Small savings
(3) Spent $50 on groceries at Target - got $10 gift card
(4) Paid $20 cash for gift card at Steak N Shake - got $5 gift card for future use (Jan)
(5) Past week was low spend, with 3 NSDs
(6) In addition to the two big gifts for the kids, I spent $5.50 on candy for stockings and $6 on two ornaments
(7) Non-financial: Decluttered two big bags of trash to dumpster, two bags of hand-me-downs passed on, making headway in the basement.

Wallowing ...

November 18th, 2014 at 11:21 am

Last week: plagued with insomnia.

This week: germs, feeling run-down with no great culmination in any illness (aside from drippy nose and sore throat). Husband has it and one son is home today.

Last night: 4.25 hours of sleep. Today: no naps despite trying hard.

Tonight: Induction into NHS for older daughter. Just showered and am trying to pull myself together. Will be fine, but hope I don't crash.

I spent $57 on groceries at Target yesterday and got the $10 gift card. Have another two coupons and will shop on Friday/Saturday (payday is Friday). Derailed on menu planning and know that I could be doing better in that dept. Will try to have that $100 in groceries cover menu items for girls' birthday and some holiday baking.

So, just schlepping along ...

Annual trip to Kohls

November 17th, 2014 at 11:03 am

Yep, it happens once a year, usually at this time when everyone seems to need at least something and I decide to bit the bullet and go to Kohl's.

It happened yesterday with 4/5 of the kids. The remaining 1/5 went earlier in the week and I spent $37.61 OOP (A dress suitable for NHS induction and Christmas was $33.99 and a winter sweater was $19.99). I had a $10 off coupon and daughter put in $10 of her allowance because sweater was more of a want/need.

If only yesterday had been so easy: I spend just over $300. That got: one medium warmth winter coat (Columbia/I try to invest in decent coats as they move on down through the boys over the years), on Nike winter hat, one Nike hat/glove combo, two pairs of Nike gym shoes, two Christmas sweaters for boys, one Christmas dress for younger daughter, and a winter sweater for same daughter. I ended up with $60 Kohls cash that I'll use for DH's Christmas gift.

At $300, I probably could have done better at different stores shopping sales/discounts, etc. However at $240 (which is what I consider I spent given the Kohls cash) I think I did reasonably well.

I'm also investing in better shoes for the boys. Payless Shoes just don't hold up and if they at least look "cool" they are easier to pass down.

I defrayed a second winter coat by offering to spruce up a gently used North Face for 2nd son. He was in need of hat/gloves so he was very happy with the Nike combo he picked.

Still sticking to NEEDS versus WANTS. Spending was definitely within reason. Put it on the Chase Sapphire which has a decent reward after $3K.

Distribution of generosity

November 15th, 2014 at 09:40 am

Well, another birthday rolls around and I find myself a year older, maybe a bit wiser, and a bit thinner (thanks to sustained effort in running). Happier than before (when there was uncertainty about our financial future).

I think I deleted the post about step-nephew and his poor choices (like being a 20 year old in jail on a third arrest - this time a felony X for distributing and selling weed and Molly near a school). I was a bit surprised that my biological father/surrogate grandfather to said step-nephew was posting $50K cash bond and covering discounted $11.5K retainer for a well-known Chi-town criminal defense attorney). Well, again, not my money, not my song. Still I was left with a big dumb look on my face and a "?" in the thought bubble over my cartoon self.

Well, my father sent me a birthday card with a check for $1K. I'll be putting $750 into my retirement fund and use the remaining $250 toward a family outing - we'd like to see something this holiday season. And in our conversation he said he'd like to contribute toward our plans to adopt. Home study/travel, just let him know when we're ready. Still in the getting ready phase of fixing house/paperwork/etc. We'll move forward in January.

So, I really think that my attitude served me well. Best to mind my own business. And generosity came my way. And I think I'm reasonably happy with my distribution. 75% responsible - 25% frivolous. Smile

Christmas Item #2 - Another Score

November 13th, 2014 at 11:25 am

My sons are at the age where they are becoming more interested in technology. The only item on one son's list was the Nintendo 3DS XL. I purchased that earlier in the week for $168.xx out of pocket (paid cash)

Another son had two items on his list, one of which was the beats headphones (blue was his preference) which are about $199 everywhere I have looked. Target. Kohls. Walmart. Just found them on Groupon for $129.99 down from $199. I purchased them and couldn't be happier.

ETA: Out of pocket with tax $142.00. Smile

This move necessitated me moving a $150 tuition payment to the 21st. But, again, cash.

Also, thank you for all the kind suggestions about dealing with insomnia. I managed to fall asleep for three hours, was awake for several, managed about another two before the alarm went off. Then came home and dozed another two hours. So I at least feel somewhat rested. Yesterday was a hazy fog.

Insomnia. I've got it and don't want it and don't know what to do.

November 12th, 2014 at 01:58 pm

Insomnia. It's mine. I don't want it. At my last appointment with the doc, I requested sleeping pills. He wouldn't do it. Said he doesn't prescribe them. Which sucks. For me.

In the past when I've been desperate to sleep, I've used Vicodin. Bad, I know. But the result was sleep. And I felt better. And I've bummed both Ambien and Lunesta from my best friend. Again, sleep was the result.

I've gone through a spurt of sleeping with Zzquil. But then when I switched to generic, that just made me nauseous and dizzy and rather sleepy. But I still wok up in the middle of the night and had to deal with not being able to sleep and feeling sick. Frown

I sleep in a room with all the lights turned off. No TV or clock. Window opened a crack. Decent pillow. Decent blanket coverage (nothing too heavy or too light).

And I'm not sleeping. Four nights in a row now and I think I'm gonna crash.

So I think I need to try melatonin or something else.

Wondering what has worked for you in the advance.

Anything at all is appreciated. Smile

Little did I know that Mr. Bean would come to epitomize my existence (toothpicks to keep eyes open!)

Biting the Christmas Bullet - Did Some Shopping

November 10th, 2014 at 03:48 pm

On of the boys for Christmas had one item on his list: a Nintendo 3DS XL. I priced them a few weeks ago and they appeared to be $200 - still a stretch because I don't spent that much on each child.

I got the ads from my mom this morning. I've given up couponing and shop for groceries at Sam's Club or Aldis, but figured I should start keeping an eye on things.

Target had the item on sale for $174.99 and I had a $10 off of $100. It shouldn't have worked, the cashier told me, but it did, so I ended up paying $168.xx after using the debit RED card. I had a $100 bill for Christmas plus DH's $80 fro his second job with bio dad. Paid cash. One child done.

Now moving on to tackling the next desired purchase. Will have to pick one item and start strategizing.

Sharing the cold, and feeding the troops, other family updates

November 9th, 2014 at 08:13 am

I have a cold, similar to ccfree, some of the kids were under the weather and I thought I dodged that bullet. Nah. And I watched the second-to-last-game of the soccer season yesterday and it was COLD. So, now I have a massive sinus head-ache, popping ears and a sore throat. Will head back to bed for a nap, or at least curl up with my book ("Sharp Objects" by Gillian Flynn who wrote "Gone Girl". I'd be enjoying it more if my best friend's boyfriend's daughter wasn't currently inpatient due to cutting) Frown

The budget pots are pretty low this week (due to the poor timing of property tax payment/mortgage). The cupboards are a rather odd assortment of mish-mash that I'll finish for my lunches during the week.

All is well. Off to catch up on the blogs, and I'll end with a wish that everyone stays healthy. Smile

I planned on spending $95 for household (groceries/toiletries/pets). I spent $87.50 between Ultra and Aldi's (saved $4 at Ultra). I cooked yesterday making a big vat of cabbage/tomato soup for DH, along with curried chickpeas and spinach (from budgetbytes.com). I also made vegetable stew in the crockpot and homemade mac and cheese. I shop on Fridays, so Tues will be leftovers, Wed will be scrambled eggs and waffles, and Thurs will be sandwiches and pasta salad.

Big news is my grandmother (who is 95 and in California) is moving in with my mom and stepdad. In two weeks. She's lonely and losing weight and misses all of us. My uncle and his wife are in CA and both work full time and only see "G" on the weekends for grocery shopping. Here there is also my brother and I, my 5 kids and my brother's getting married in July and he'll have two stepkids, so there is always something going on here.

My kids pressed me for a birthday gift - something to open. I told them to pool their resources and I'd like one charm for my Brighton bracelet. Something birthday related or Thanksgiving related. I think the most they'll have to pony up is $5-$7.50 each. And for my "party", my mom will make pizza from scratch and a triple chocolate whammy cake.

We're having our plumber friend out to give us a quote on some leaky drains/pipes. Our family room ceiling has two holes in it. Hoping to get that done by end of November. In January we'll formally move on the home study. We've decided on an agency other that the one we originally were going to deal with because it is more universally accepted, and we are open to several options.

Celebrating: Keeping it fun, but frugal

November 7th, 2014 at 05:59 am

Warning: Proud Mom Rant below

Older daughter will be inducted into the NHS on 11/18. She isn't exactly what I would consider an extroverted leader; she is very quiet and insightful. I've heard wonderful things about her leadership qualities as a group leader at several retreats. Our Youth Pastor said it best, she leads by her quiet example. She attends a parochial high school which had a graduation requirement of 40 service hours over 4 years. Going into her junior year she has just over 200 hours of service. She was the only person in her religion class who said it didn't matter to her if her potential mate had piercings or tattoos (not only have we raised her to be open minded and aware that its on the inside that counts, but we her parents and uncle have piercings and tattoos).

Induction into the NHS is going to be attended by the family plus grandparents on both sides and her uncle. We've decided to come back here to the house to celebrate with an ice cream social. We've got some pretty cool dishes to accommodate banana splits and Sundaes. I'll get a big tub of ice cream from Sam's and stop at Aldi's for the toppings. If we went to Steak N Shake and treated everyone with shakes it would cost an arm and a leg and a lung ($5 x 12 - family and guests). Our money will be able to walk a whole lot further here (at home) than there (at Steak n Shake).

I've also carved $35 out of limited budget funds to go toward something for my daughter to wear. The summer/spring wardrobe isn't lacking, but winter is. I also have a $10 off of $25 at Kohls, so I hope she can find a skirt and top that she can wear at least part of (if two pieces) at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Better to give than receive

November 5th, 2014 at 04:05 pm

Our money tank is running on fumes for the next two weeks and two days. I don't anticipate much spending other than gas and groceries. The property taxes and mortgage payments left very little room to navigate. I wasn't exactly lamenting this situation, because the budget corrects itself on 11/21.

On a whim, I ran into the resale shop at 4:30. I'm looking for two or three book titles that my girls will be needing for second semester Lit classes.

The resale shop supports the local domestic violence shelter and I have seen women shopping there with vouchers. I always find that sad because my mother was a victim of domestic violence when she was married to my biological father and I remember how carefully she planned her departure. It helped that she was legally divorced from him before my brother's birth but decided to stay after he was born. My mother rented an apartment on her own, had my grandfather come one morning, they packed and moved out whatever would fit in one run. My mother picked us up early from school and we were on a plane to FL to visit my uncle before my father got home from work. Anyhow, my mother did go on to marry my stepfather and they've been happily together going on 35 years. My biological father has a long string of unsuccessful relationships (two marriages, and is now in a 15 year dysfunctional relationship with someone my age). Boy that was a bit of diversion from my post topic.

Anyhow, today there was a little girl maybe 10 shopping for a Christmas gift for her mother (I am assuming that based on the items she was looking at). She had her vouchers and was carrying Christmas wrapping paper. I watched her look as she carefully looked at each home décor item. She picked thing up and put them down and finally went back to a brown betty teapot. I know that because my mom has a collection of them. I wondered why she picked that item, but whatever the reason, she had a smile of her face of contentment.

I complimented her choice, saying that was the prettiest thing on the shelf. She just smiled and nodded and didn't maintain eye contact.

I wonder what her story was? What she's seen and where she lives now. Regardless, I am thankful to whomever arranged this shopping trip for her. She had the freedom to look and chose whatever item her (presumable) mother would like. A mother that loved her enough to get out of a situation to keep her safe.

I'm thinking that the gifts that we do buy for relatives this year will come from places that support a cause. We've scaled back this season on the gift list, just because we aren't lacking for anything and there are so many people in need.

On another note, we donated our pumpkins from Halloween (we carved late) to our neighbors who were collecting treats for goats and sheep. I'm amazed at the little things that can be done to help create joy. In this instance, for goats and sheep.