Friday, December 31, 2010

Quote: New Year

I found this quote while at work the other day, and I thought it was fitting:

Youth is when you're allowed to stay up late on New Year's Eve. Middle age is when you're forced to.
~Bill Vaughan


Happy New Year to everyone!

Taboo

I know that talking about money is taboo.  However, I like to talk about numbers.  I don’t mind sharing information about how much Todd and I have in our 401K’s with work, how much we’ve paid off in the past year, how much more we have to go, what I am planning to do with IRA’s for the both of us in the near future, how much we owe on our house, etc.

I don’t understand why money is such a touchy subject.   It is something that is not talked about openly by many.  It is hush-hush about how much a family makes in a year.  Our finances would probably make more sense if you knew how much we made.  A $418 mortgage payment doesn’t sound like a lot, but what if we were making $25,000/year?  That would be A LOT!  That same mortgage payment would seem like nothing based on a $100,000 income, would it not?  I have talked about every other aspect of our finances except our incomes, and that is going to change in the next sentence.  Todd and I make approximately $68,000/year combined (it may be a little higher this year.)  There you have it.  That may be piddly to some, or a lot to others, but it is what it is. We make approximately the same amount, which is odd, because Todd’s hourly wage is $4 less than mine.  However, one week, he works 36 hours, the next he works 48 hours.  That overtime makes our incomes pretty close (within $5,000/year.)

My goal is to learn how to live off of one income.  I would really like for Todd to get out of the place he works.  Also, if we were to have children, I would like to stay home with them. 

So, there you have it.
Everything is out in the open.

Purge

I was looking through my armoire trying to find something to wear to work last week, and I decided that it is time to start purging. 
  
Rachel at Frugal and Simple worked last year on the declutter-challenge from Amy’s Finer Things.  Bloggers were striving to get rid of 2 items a day for the entire year.  I am not sure if Amy’s Finer Things is doing this again, but I have decided that this is something I am going to do this year.

I have so many clothes that I have not worn in ages.  They either don’t fit right, or I just don’t like them any longer.  Also, in my armoire, I have stacks and stacks of books.  Why?  Because we don’t have a single bookshelf in our home!  I am working with 5 or 6 publishers receiving free books to read and review, and then they sit there on top of the books that people give to me.  I have many of my own books that I’ve purchased at garage sales or library book sales for next to nothing that I’ve wanted to read, but haven’t had time to get to them.  So, this year, I am going to try to read all of these books and sell them.  There are only a couple of books that I want to keep.  Everything else is clutter.  Not only will the books be out of my hair, I will have extra money to put toward my allowance money and use towards the chickens or the items I want to get from Amazon.com.

Would anyone like to join me in my monthly purge sessions?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Todd's Vehicle is Officially Paid Off!

We paid off Todd's vehicle this morning!!!  With my paycheck and his, we had enough to pay off the vehicle and have about $560 left over for the week to live on. 

I am so excited!  That car looks SO much nicer now that we dont owe $227 on it every month!

As a side note, money is going to be tight in January.  I can already tell.
Todd only worked for a few hours yesterday and came home due to some pain he has been having in his jaw.  He couldnt close his jaw completely and he couldnt eat because of the pain.  He called his doctor when they first opened, and they informed him he should go straight to the ER.

So...to the ER he went.  It ends up that his TMJ flared up due to stress and exhaustion.  He's had back pain for the past week too, and he says that's why he's so stressed. 

SO...we will be getting a bill from the hospital.  I'm not sure how much his copay is for ER visits.  Not to mention the meds and the mouth-guard he bought.

Luckily, he is OK.  He slept pretty well last night (better than me! I was up at 12:30 with a zillion things going through my head!)  I pray that his back heals soon, and he can eat more than soft foods and liquids soon. 

Miser

I think I may be turning into a miser.  That scares me.
I know that I am cheap.  I always have been, but lately, I feel like we are better off saving money than doing most things.  We still go out every couple of weeks we go for our $20 date-night together.  Other than that, we don’t do much.   

Todd asked me the other morning, “What do you want for your 30th birthday? Want to go to Ireland?”  I said, “I want to be debt free.”  He responded, “How do I wrap that up in a box?” 

I was completely honest.  I want to be out of debt.  Plus, everything I enjoy is at home.  Not out at a store or restaurant.  I enjoy spending time with my husband over a  homemade meal, watching movies with him (as long as I am sitting up – so I don’t fall asleep before the previews have completed,) reading, our animals, the garden, the hummingbirds, the flowers.

I have gotten to the point that as much as I love to travel, I don’t want to pay for hotels or meals.    

Is it possible to be called a miser when we spend so much? 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

SwagBucks Update

SwagBucks is finally working for me!  On Christmas day, I received enough points to get my first $5 Amazon.com certificate.  That next Tuesday, they had something on Groupon listed where if I purchased the product from Groupon, I would get 280 SB’s.  It was a t-shirt for Todd for his birthday.  It cost $8.00 (including tax and shipping.)  It said: “We will never forget you, LeBron Jones.”  He is going to love it AND it was 64% off. I told a guy at work about it, and he wanted one too!  So I ordered the Groupon for him, snagging 280 more SB’s!  This scored me another $5 Amazon.com certificate, and left me with 184 SB’s to add to for our next certificate.

I am really excited about it.  I don’t want to make it a habit of buying items just to get SB’s, but this is something that Todd will love, and the price was right.  The guy at work paid me as soon as I printed out the Groupon for him.  No harm, no foul.

Wordless Wednesday: The Kittens






Todd has mentioned on several occasions that the kittens sleep in a basket in their bedroom.  I didnt believe him, because every time I go into the bedroom, they are out and running around.  These are some photos of Tux & Red. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Animals

I realize that some people are not animal people, and that’s OK.  However, I don’t remember what life was like without them.  I have been with “needy” animals since we got Squiggy (as a surprise from my mother) in October of 2007.

Every morning, I have to wake up and feed the outside animals (Squiggy & Lana.)  Then I bring Lana in (Squiggy wants nothing to do with coming inside the house now, which is strange considering he was an indoor piggy the first 3 years of his life up until a few months ago!)  I spend time with Lana – one on one.  Then, it is time for her to go play with piggy for the day.  It’s funny, after about an hour or two, she whimpers wanting to go outside back to Squiggy.  I think she misses the little porker.

After taking Lana back outside, the kittens get to come and play with us in the Family Room.  It is like we are in shifts.  Right now, Lana wants to play with the kittens.  Lana is still 100% puppy (she will be 7 months in a few weeks,) and I could see her pouncing on the kittens and hurting them.  That’s why we work in shifts.  

The kittens are a bundle of fun, as well as the older cats (Chance – the 11 year old is still my baby boy.) 

Then, in the evenings, it starts all over again.  Feeding the outdoor animals around 6 or 6:30, bringing Lana in to play for a little while and spend time with us (Todd does not spend time with them outdoors like I do.)  Then Lana whimpers for Squiggy, and she goes outside for the night to sleep with the Squig-ster.

No matter what kind of day I am having, these little critters bring a smile to my face.  Every single last one of them.  Logan ( the 1 ½ year old cat) does NOT like the new kittens.  She grumbles and hisses at them constantly.  However, as moody as she is, there are moments that she just wants to be with ME. She will rub against my leg, or follow me into the bathroom in the mornings to get some love.  She jumps up on the bathroom counter (she has done this since she was a kitten) and drinks out of the tap. Yes, some of you may think that’s gross, but I think it’s cute.

As much as Chance is my baby boy (I’ve had him for 10 years now.  I keep saying he’s 11, but he’s actually 12,) Squiggy is also my man.  I love that pig so much.  He is so much fun to be around.  The grunts and squeals he makes (that I don’t even notice anymore until someone comes over and mentions how cute it is,) the way he follows me around, when he chases us around the yard to play, the way he flops over to get his belly rubbed.  He cracks me up.  It’s like we are on the same wavelength all of the time.  He knows just what to do to make me smile. 

Lana, as rambunctious as she is will look at me with those puppy dog eyes and it makes my heart melt.  When I’m in the shower in the morning, she sits outside of the curtain and puts her head in to drink water from my hands.  When I walk into a room, I say, “Hi honey!  It’s me…and my shadow!” Because I enter first, and then Lana is at my heels.

Red and Tux; I’m really glad they came to us within days of one another.  They keep each other company (instead of antagonizing the “older” cats.”)  It’s hard to think that I was going to give Tux away to a farm.  I call Red my “trophy kitten,” because she is this beautiful red color and a big puff-ball.  She is so pretty, but not the brightest bulb if you know what I mean. I fell in love with her pretty quickly.  In the beginning, I could do without Tux.  But within a week, he warmed right up to us and he is the most affectionate of the cats we have!  I hope he always stays that way!  When he first sees us, he crawls up our legs to be right in our faces and to give and get some love.  I continually have scratches on my legs because he has yet to realize when I’m not wearing pants!  And yes, he crawls up my leg WITHOUT any pants on!  It’s quite painful, but I love him anyways.

That is our crazy, hectic house on a daily basis.  These “granimals” keep us busy!  I couldn’t imagine what it’s like with a couple of children to the mix!!  These fur-balls are a lot of work as it is!

And on a sad note, I don’t even want to think about the day that we lose any of these critters.  It would be devastating for me.  How in the world would we transport a 200 lb pig?  Todd knows that if anything were to happen to Squiggy, he’d have to build a box and burry him in the yard. And the same goes with Lana, or any of the cats.  Oy.  I don’t even want to think about it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Gurney's 2011 Catalog

I recieved my official 2011 Gurney's Seed catalog in the mail today.

I get so excited to look through this catalog and determine what I want in the garden, where I want to put my plants, etc.

For now, I have to go through my seeds to see what I already have so that I dont duplicate them.

I vowed last year that I would not start anything from seed.  Everything I've started from seed did not do well.  However, I am going to look into getting more strawberries from Gurney's, and possibly blueberry bushes or blackberry canes.  OR...possibly concord grapes.  I dont know...the possibilities are endless.

Does anyone else act like a giddy little schoolgirl when they get their Gurney's seed catalog?

Roth IRA

I have started my research to get ready for opening a Roth IRA for Todd and I in 2011.  My friend from a message-board I am part of brought up a great point a year or two ago that I think I’m going implement.  We both have older hubbies.  Todd is 10 years my senior, which means he has less time until retirement, but can also start withdrawing funds sooner (without penalty.)  That being said, we are going to try to fully fund his Roth IRA to the maximum allowed ($5,000/year in 2011,) and then any additional funds we were going to invest (an extra $1,000/year,) would be put into my Roth IRA.

This way, in just 20 years, if we decided that we want to retire early, we can start withdrawing from his account without any penalties.  The extra money we will be investing will be for 10 years later when it’s MY turn to withdraw without penalties.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to withdraw until we HAVE to.  If we can live off of part-time income or off of the interest of investments, that’d be GREAT.  But you know me…always planning ahead.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Is This Cheap or Frugal?

I am known for trying to save money.  Everything Todd and I do, we try to save money...without living like misers.  I'm sure alot of people think we live like misers, but I have the bank statements and credit card statements to show that we dont!  We used to spend too freely, which is why we are working so hard at saving to get out of debt. 

At any rate, we received an awesome Keurig Coffee Machine for Christmas from my mom and Doc.  This is a picture of it:

I had been contemplating buying one of these for myself with my allowance money (we get $25/week to spend on whatever we want,) but I had talked myself out of it.

So, we got the machine and an amble supply of k-cups to keep us well-hydrated for a couple of months.  I have been looking at prices for the k-cups, and they are EXPENSIVE!  Yes, if I bought Starbucks every day, this would seem like a huge savings to buy this single-serve machine and the supplies, but I dont.  I drink coffee at work only, and buy myself creamers for $1.99/bottle. 

I dont like the fact that the k-cups are plastic, and I'm sure they take forever to disintegrate in a landfill, and I really dont want to pay $0.50+ per cup of coffee.  So, Todd and I have been looking at ways to SAVE while using this great gift.

So, we found this refillable cup on Amazon.com for $14.95 (free shipping if we order $25+ worth of products.)


Todd despises coffee.  He cant even handle the scent of coffee.  Mom gave us some Chai Latte K-cups, and Todd LOVED it! However, they cost about $1/cup.  No thank you.  We will not be paying $1/cup for Chai Latte.  However, I found this item that we will be purchasing.


 This is a 6 pk of 10 oz. Chai Latte that could be put into the reusable k-cup to be made into Chai Tea Latte.  I cant determine the price per cup, or what the "break even" point would be without getting these two items first and testing it out, but I know it'd be alot less expensive than $1/cup!  Plus, I plan on using SwagBucks to purchase these items, so our out of pocket expenses would be minimal.

We will not be purchasing these items today, tomorrow, or even next month (I have to accumulate more SwagBucks!)  But when our supplies get a little lower, we will definitely be making the investments listed above and be more cost-conscious of our daily coffee/latte's!

I love our new gadget from mom, but I love it even more than there are other alternatives to expensive morning drinks that enable us to use this new toy at a fraction of the cost!

Book Review: Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball by Donita K. Paul

Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball by Donita K. Paul was the perfect book to read this past week.  With Christmas coming and the snow on the ground, it was easy to get completely caught up in this book. 

Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball is a book that takes place at Christmas-time in the life of a woman, Cora, and her boss' boss, Mr. Derrick. The book gives us a glimpse into Cora and Mr. Derrick's professional and personal lives and how their families have been and continue to be.  Cora has been born-again, and she is able to meet and truly get to know her boss' boss, to which she has worked with for the past five years.  Mr. Derrick is able to truly see Cora for who she is and what she stands for throughout the book.  
 
In my opinion, Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball is a modern-day Cinderella story that will keep you guessing from page 5 through page 205.  It was a great book that warmed my heart the whole way through.  I couldnt put this book down!

I loved the story, the ease of getting to know each of the characters, and the lessons taught ever so discretely.  I am adding Donita K. Paul's other novels to my reading list for 2011.

Disclosure:
I received this book free from WaterBrook publishers as part of their Blogging for Books program.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

How Much is Too Much?

I hope it's not too early to start voicing my opinion about Christmas.  This is an observation that has opened coveration for Todd and I to discuss what we want for our family if we are blessed with children in the upcoming years.

Todd and I celebrated Christmas morning at my father's house.  My niece, Natalie and her mom, Tosh, live with my dad and his wife.  Every year, I think Natalie gets a bit too much.  This year was no different.

This year was Barbie-palooza at dad's house.  Natalie watches ALOT of TV (which is another thing I dont agree with,) and it is apparent that commercials have gotten to this child.  EVERY commercial that comes on, she "wants."  And, "Oh! I love this! I NEED it!"  I have mentioned to Todd in the past about her saying these things, and we've discussed what we want for our children.

Well, as I mentioned, Christmas for Natalie was Barbie-palooza 2010.  I've NEVER seen so many Barbie items in my life (except for at Toys R Us.)  Barbie mansion, Barbie car, Barbie fairy / princess, Barbie camper, Barbie PJ's.  I kid you not.  All of this, in one day.  Actually, within an hour.  How much is too much?  How much is enough?

This is not something we want for our children.  We dont want the material things for them.  We want them to know what is important - family and faith.  NOT "stuff."  We want them to have nice things, and we want them to be provided for, but not to this extreme.  Our children will not get even a fraction of what Natalie got this Christmas.  OK...maybe from Grandma (my mom - she spoils the grandkids!) but not from us.

With a room-full of already Barbie-licious items, these gifts will just get lost in the mounds and mounds of Barbie items Natalie already has.  Will she remember this Christmas 3 years from now and all the items she got? I doubt it.  She has probably already forgotten about half of the gifts. 

What did Auntie M & Uncle Todd get Natalie for Christmas?  A Barbie lunchbox.  Something she can use daily.  Yup.  That may be a fuddy-duddy thing to buy a 4 1/2 year old, but I know she'll use it for preschool and on road-trips.

What are your thoughts on this? 
Do you think we are completely off base?

Christmas Day 2010

Yesterday was an awesome day.  We had a blast with my dad, his wife, my step brother, step sister, niece and new nephew.

Here are a few picures:

 My 4 1/2 year old niece, Natalie.  She is such a diva!  I love her to pieces!

 My father and his new grandson, Jacksyn.
 Natalie and her mom, Tosh (my step-sister.)
 My step-brother, Kenny, and his girlfriend, Laura
 Kenny & Laura's new addition, Jacksyn (3 weeks old Christmas Day)
 Todd and his parents
Todd's mom, Linda

I was just thinking the other day, I'm not sure if I ever posted any pictures of Todd on the blog.  If not, there he is. Super-Todd, my hubby.

I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas as well!



Saturday, December 25, 2010

I Am Finally Up To 450 SB's!

It is 6:30 on Christmas, and Todd and I have been up since 5:30.  We just got home from spending the day with my father, his wife, Tosh (stepsister,) my niece (4 1/2,) my step-brother, his girlfriend and their 3 week old baby.  After the fun at my dad's house, we went to Todd's parents house (20 minutes away.) 

Now, we are home, at last.  Completely exhausted.

Santa was really good to us.  We are so blessed with such great families.  We were laughing so hard, we were crying.  That is one thing that is guarenteed if you go to my father's house.  It is never dull. 

I will post any pictures I may have taken tomorrow, when I have more energy.

But I just hit 452 SB's, and I was so excited, I had to post it.
So...$5 Amazon.com gift card...here I come.

For those experienced with SB's, can I get the $5 Amazon gift card and use it a couple of months down the line?  Or should I accumulate the SB's and get them all at once? Any suggestions?

Christmas Eve 2010

Mom, Doc and Annabelle came to visit on Christmas Eve this year.  This was the first time they've come up for Christmas.  Doc has to work on Christmas Day (the hospital doesnt close for Christmas!) and this was the only time we could get together.  I am so glad they came up to visit us.  We had a lot of fun.

We started out with opening gifts.  It was alot of fun.  Annabelle is old enough to open gifts on her own, and everything was, "wow! Open peaze!" 

We had appetizers, and then we had turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, corn, rolls, mixed fruit and shrimp coctail.  I must admit, it all turned out really well.  Todd made an awesome turkey.  It was a 21 lb. turkey, so we have LOTS of leftovers!

Then, Doc fell asleep on the couch (turkey coma?) and Annabelle was running around the house.  She has so much energy and NEVER stops.  She was running from one side of the house to the other. 

Here are some pictures:



 Annabelle gets a book!

 Doc got a Jerome Bettis signed football (Steelers) from my brother. I wish Derek were home. :-(

 Mom and Doc werent going to exchange gifts...but Doc CAN'T NOT buy a gift for mom.  Doc spoils her with lots of jewelry, and this will just add to the collection.  My mom has gotten into black diamonds over the past few years, and this is a beautiful tennis bracelet Doc got her.
 Mom & Doc

 Todd's "nice" dishes for special occasions.  He did really well at setting the table.

 Annabelle meets Red. 
 Oh, she loved the kitties.  She loved Tux.


 Annabelle kisses Tux.
 Annabelle hugs Tux (I think it's time for a new camera.  Alot of blurry photos.  Maybe it was the photographer?!? Oh wait, that'd be ME!)
 I thought this was absolutely precious. 
Annabelle has to go to another Christmas party, so had to get dressed in a new outfit.  

Spoiled Rotten

I will admit it, I am spoiled rotten.  My mom knows me so well, she knows what I'd like even before I do! She is great with giving gifts.  However, she always goes overboard.

This year for Christmas, I got:

New jammies (a staple in our family.  Mom made us get a shower on Christmas Eve because "Santa doesnt deliver gifts to dirty kids!" As soon as we'd get out of the shower, there would be new jammies on the counter for us to wear that where delivered by "elves.")

An apple peeler and corer!  I cant wait to get another box of apples!  It will be so easy to peel and core them!  Also, I'd like to get a couple of trees, so this corer will get lots of use for years to come.



A beautiful necklace with a saying for Daughters.  I love it!



A beautiful black pearl necklace (I love this one too!)  The story behind the black pearl necklace is that I had one many years ago.  The chain broke at a restaurant, and the pearl rolled somewhere.  We could never find it.  I even asked the employees to keep an eye out for it, but it was never found.  Well, now I have a new black pearl necklace.



Then, we had our combined gift.  It was a Keurig machine.  I fell in love with some coffee at mom's house from their Keurig machine.  I was hooked.  Well, now we have one of our own, and lots of drinks to go with it.  Todd HATES coffee.  He cant even handle the SMELL of coffee.  But mom bought him some hot cider k-cups, chai latte cups, and cocoa.  I got some coffee blends.




As I mentioned, mom went overboard, as always. 
We are definitely spoiled rotten.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!!!
I pray that everyone is spending quality time with their family and loved ones today.
This is a picture of my mom, her husband (Doc,) and my niece, Annabelle from their visit yesterday.



Friday, December 24, 2010

Cross-Stitch

Last weekend, Todd and I had some running around to do before the holidays.  We went to the mall about 30 minutes away.  While there, we went to Hobby Lobby because I wanted to look at the cross-stitch materials they had.  Neither of us have ever been to a Hobby Lobby (because they are never open when we go, it seems!)  Wow.  The store is pretty awesome; however, we cant afford to go there often!  Everything seems expensive there!

At any rate, after walking around for 15 minutes, we finally found the cross-stitch section. I was in cross-stitch heaven.  Oh my goodness, they had so much stuff.  And surprisingly, the prices weren’t too bad!

I ended up purchasing a large piece of material to cross-stitch on.  It is a lot cheaper when you buy it in bulk!  And I bought the thread need to make two different patterns.  So, I am on my way to starting my homemade Christmas gifts for 2011!  I should be able to make a total of 6 of the two patterns I chose on the piece of fabric I bought.  The total cost for everything at Hobby Lobby was less than $12.  And that included needles as well as the wood thing to hold the fabric taught.  Not too bad. 

The patterns, I got for free from books at the library.  I have the physical books right now, but I plan on copying the patterns on our scanner to use throughout the year. 

I cant wait to start stitching!

How Low Can You Go: Beer!

I have talked about doing homemade gifts in 2011 and less purchased items.  I was sitting at work last week, and I thought about Todd and his beer.  Todd loves beer.  He likes the dark, bock beers.  All of a sudden, a light went off in my head.  I am going to try to make Todd beer!  We make our own wine and have all of the equipment needed.  I found several websites that have instructions, and there are a few YouTube videos as well.

I saw online that there are these adorable brown plastic beer bottles that can be purchased from Amazon.com (swagbucks!) for $14.  I was so excited I found them.  They are reusable! Just wash them out and then rebottle in them with the next batch!  Then I remembered what this is really about.  It’s not about the LOOKS of the bottled beer, it is about the TASTE and showing my creativity and love to Todd.  I can get plastic bottles from people here at work.  They drink bottled water like it’s going out of style (I wish they’d invest in a Kleen Kanteen,) and the bottles are always in the recycle bin.  There is a sanitizer that is used for wine and beer making that cleans them out thoroughly.  The only thing I will need to make the beer is malt.

Another great thing from what I’ve read about the beer-making process, it doesn’t take NEARLY as long as wine does.  Todd could be drinking his homemade beer within 2-3 weeks of me starting the project. 10 gallons could be made for the price of the malt and some sugar.  It was recommended that if I want to bypass the sugar (which I do because the least amount of ingredients used, the better my chances are to making great tasting beer,) I could double-up on the malt and leave the sugar out.  SO…because we have a 6 gallon carboy instead of a 10 gallon bucket, and the malt comes in 4 lb cans, I am going to make 4 gallons of beer for Todd.  I came up with this number after doing some math.  I did some research and found that the malt I would want to buy to make a dark bock for Todd would be less than $15!  This malt would make 4 gallons (of the double-malt, no sugar mixture) which is equal to 32 – 16 oz. bottles of beer.  How much would the beer cost per bottle, you ask? $0.47!

I probably wont start the batch until February to be ready for his 40th birthday.  I am going to try to hide it from him so that it will be a surprise.  I cant wait!  I am horrible and keeping surprises.  Can I do it?!? We will find out!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tennis Elbow

Last weekend, Todd and I had all weekend together.  We went out shopping on Saturday to pick up some items for the Christmas Eve guests we have coming to visit, and we went to lunch together.

Sunday, we were lounging around most of the morning.  I bought Todd the Nintendo Wii 2 years ago for Christmas.  We played it so much the first year and it’s pretty much sat for the past year (since last Christmas.)  We use it to stream video from Netflix, but we haven’t played any games.

I asked if he wanted to play with me.  It had been so long, I needed to get reacquainted with the controllers, so we started off with bowling.  I beat Todd both games we played (he was NOT a happy camper.)  I even got the best score I’ve ever gotten on the second game: 249! 

Todd was getting frustrated, so I asked if he wanted to play tennis. 2 games of tennis (best of 5.)  He won the first one, I won the second. 

I don’t know what it is, but every time I play the Wii, I get tennis elbow.  My right elbow hurts so bad.  I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong.

I would really like to start playing the Wii more.  For Christmas, I bought Todd a controller charging station so we never have to worry about switching out batteries in the remotes again.  I have so much fun playing games with him, but we rarely ever take the time to do it.

That is going to change in 2011!

Chicks! Chicks! Chicks!

I realize that I have 3 or 4 more months until I can get the chicks, but I am getting really excited!  I know NOTHING about raising chickens.  So…I used eHow.com to ask a lot of questions and I have a couple of books coming from the library to help teach me how to raise chickens!

There were a few bits of information that I was surprised to learn.  Chickens start producing eggs by the age of 6 months old.  Did you know, on average, a chicken will produce 300 eggs a year?  That is almost 1 a day!  Also, I read that their “peak age” of laying eggs is 18 months.  In general, they lay eggs until the age of 3 or 4 and then their production goes down.  So, depending on how this all goes, we may be getting new chicks every other year!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What Am I Going To Do With Myself?

For the next two weeks of the Holidays, I have 4 day weekends.  Todd is working at least one of those 4 days each weekend. 

I have off Christmas Eve - Eve (the 23rd,) Christmas Eve, Christmas Day & the day after Christmas.  Todd has off Christmas Eve-Eve with me, but I have a feeling that I will be preparing for company.  I plan on playing with the “granimals” (as we call Lana & Squiggy now-a-days,) helping Todd out with cleaning up the rest of the house as needed (we are already ahead of the game with this!) and then a little bit of cooking.  I am going to prepare the artisan bread dough for rolls, the blueberry coffee cake and hash-browns  for brunch on Christmas Eve and peel the potatoes to have ready to cook for mashed potatoes for lunner (late lunch – early dinner) on Christmas Eve. Oh, and the apple crisp. 

Even though that sounds like a lot of work, I should be done with the preparing for Christmas Eve within an hour or two.  And the animals, they will be around with me. 

For the New Year, I am taking the 30th off using my last vacation day of the year.  Todd will be working that day.  Then we have the 31st through the 2nd off together.  We will have company the evening of New Years Eve staying the night.  But I have the 30th all to myself. 

So…I am contemplating what to do on my days of relaxation.  I really don’t want to plop my butt in front of the TV and get sucked into it all day.  The same goes with the internet.  I tend to get “carried away” in the many blog sites I enjoy reading.  This may be a great opportunity to get started on my Christmas 2011 gifts (cross stitch) and possibly start reading a book from my Book List

What do you enjoy doing on your “relaxation days?”
I have no hobbies.  Well, that’s not true.  My hobbies are eating and wine.  Both of which I enjoy doing with my husband. 

"Having A Car Note When You're Married Is A Given"

I was having a conversation with a woman here at work.  She is single, and her kids are grown and out of the house.  We were talking about bills.  I was talking about our efforts to pay off Todd’s vehicle by the end of this month.  She said, “Having a car note when you’re married is a given.  One of you needs to have a note.”  

I told her that we are striving to be without ANY notes, but she kept persisting that it’s not likely that we will be without a car note for long.  She continued, “It seems like the mechanics know when you don’t have a car note, because they just keep charging $400 every time you take your car in to get fixed.  You are better off with a newer car and a note!”

I was a bit perturbed (to say the least) when she was saying this.  THESE ideas are what are keeping people in the United States in debt!  It is absolutely absurd! 

I bit my tongue and let her go on her way.  If she really believes this, then there is no sense in me talking until I’m blue in the face about how I believe that debt-freedom is the way to go.

I understand that not everyone has a handy hubby like I do.  I am blessed that Todd can work on our cars.  Heck, he rebuilt a transmission on his old clunker car for a FRACTION of the price.  But Todd and I both have new(er) vehicles.  Todd maintains our vehicles very well.  When we bought my vehicle (brand new in 2006,) he sprayed underneath of it so that it wouldn’t rust.  He did the same with his when he bought it.  My car is an ’07 and his is an ‘08.  If we can’t keep these vehicles up and running for another 5-7 years, I would be very disappointed.  

Wordless Wednesday: Granimal Edition

video

This is what my morning looks like.  This is Squiggy's bachelor pad (a large shed at the house next door that we own.)  Yes, it's a mess, but what do you expect in a pig stye?  Lana is always trying to get attention, and Squiggy is not interested in anything other than his food at this point.  Those white things you see when he yawns are his tusks.  They were cut last year by the vet, and they are growing in alot thicker this year!

So much for "Wordless" Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

SwagBucks Update

I have started early on my “New Years Aspirations” and have been trying to get used to using Swagbucks while at home and at work.  The first time I searched for something at home, I got 50 SB’s!  I was so excited, but didn’t get anything but one or two for the rest of the evening.

I have been using the swagbucks search engine as much as I can while here at work, and for the past two days, I won at least 8 SB’s while searching for random things.  I’ll take it!  Right now, I’m up to 304 SB’s.  I try to do the online poll every day.  What other ways can I earn SB’s that wont take too much time?

Upon researching gift cards that can be received with SB’s, I noticed a $5 Amazon.com gift card can be received for 450 SB’s.  However, the $25 gift card can be received for over 3,000 SB’s!  Does anyone else realize that you get the “best bang for your buck” if you get the $5 gift cards?  You better believe that’s what I’ll be doing.  Hopefully, by the end of this week, I’ll be close to 350 or more, and on my way to getting my first $5 Amazon.com gift card! 

By the way, the “best bang for your buck” was something my Micro & Macro Economics professor in college always said.  She was a sweet older lady with an English accent.  I didn’t get much out of the class (actually, I didn’t do well in either class,) but I still use her phrase all the time.  Whenever I think the phrase in my head, I can hear her adorable English accent and the pucker of her lips when she said it.  That is completely off topic…but oh well. 

Travel

Todd and I have been talking about taking a cruise in December of 2011.  Yes, we plan THAT far in advance.  We have been talking about this for months now.  However, the more I think about it, the more I don’t want to go. 

After flying to Florida, I feel like flying is a waste of time and money.  They pretty much take up a whole day, especially if you can’t get a flight straight-through.  Even though we won our trip for free, the flights were $305/person!  Yikes!

So, back to that cruise from Miami to Belize, Cozumel, Roatan, etc.  The price for the cruise was $550/person for a room with a balcony.  That includes meals, water/tea, some entertainment on the ship and NO excursions on the island.  When we were originally talking about it, we were so excited…”What a great deal!”  No…it’s really not if you think about it.

  $1200 for room and board
+$600 in flights
+$400 in excursions
          One very expensive week!

I may be becoming a tight-wad.  In the past, I wouldn’t have thought twice.  I would have chalked it up to “a once in a lifetime experience!”  But now…I see it as my take-home income for a month!

I am so glad that we didn’t book the trip a few months ago.
Todd read somewhere that the best places to visit for couples are places they’ve never been.  But Todd speaks quite fondly of the places he lived and visited while in the Navy, and I’d love to experience them with him.  There are some places I’ve been in the past that I’d love to take Todd to experience with me (Macinac Island, MI & Put-In-Bay, OH which would be a day-trip for us.)  Do you know how many mini-vacations we can take next year for the price of that one week cruise?!? At least 2-3! Maybe even more if we go camping with my dad in 2011!     

So, I think we will trade in our passports this year and do several fun trips throughout the Spring and Summer as we did this year.  I love doing “mini vacations” of 3-4 days because I don’t burn through my 3 weeks all at once as I do with 7-8 day vacations.  Some of the best trips with Todd have been those mini vacations and the “fly by the seat of your pants” excursions we did.  One was a buffalo reserve in either Michigan or Indiana where we got into the back of a truck and rode with the buffalos.  One came right up to us in the back of the truck, it was amazing.  And the smell of the concord grapes in Erie, PA this October is unforgettable.  We had such a great time…and that could easily be a day trip for us again next year.

Great experiences together…that’s what life is all about (in my opinion.)

Monday, December 20, 2010

My 401K

Over the past twelve months, I have watched my 401k steadily grow.  It is so exciting considering how much I’d lost in previous years.  I know that it is not the end of the year yet, but thus far, I am up 14.8%!  I am completely happy with that return!

This made me a little curious.  I noticed that I was able to see my account information up to 24 previous months.  This is where I was at:

4th Quarter 2008:
I started at $15,282.57
Ended at $12,450.17
That is a -19.7% loss Q4 2008.  Ouch!

2009 numbers were:
Started at $12,450.17
Ended at $20,732.80

This year, I started at $20,732.80 and am currently at $26,904.11.  I put in a little over $2,000 thus far (5% of my income,) my employer put in almost $900, and the market increased more than the two put together.   

If I put nothing else into my 401k, assuming an 8% return from today until I retire in 30 years, my balance would be: $271,691.70.  Assuming 10% return, I’d have $471,133.90. Lastly, assuming a 12% return (as Dave Ramsey does,) I’d have: $808,917.90.  Wow.  What a difference between an 8% return and 12% return.  Of course, once the debts are paid off and the 3 month emergency fund is in place, we will be increasing our contributions from 5% to 15%.  The numbers above are my 401k only.  Todd just started investing in his at work, and is doing well, considering it’s the first year.  Investing 15% of our income is a bit scary, because that’s an additional $500/month that would go toward investments. How in the world are we supposed to pay down our mortgage when we have that chunk going into a Roth IRA?  I’m sure when the time comes, we’ll figure it out.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Book List 2011

I decided that instead of just reading books throughout the year randomly (or when I get obsessed about a certain topic,) I will try to have some organization and read based on a book list.  So far, this is what I am going to try to read in 2011:

The Five Love Languages (I have taken this out from the library at least 3 times but haven’t been past the second chapter!)

Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half

The Money Answer Book

Can I be a Christian without being weird?

Courage to Change

Dangerous Surrender

The Surrendered Wife

Outlive Your Life

Your Money God’s Way


…that leaves 3 more books to go for 2011.  Any suggestions?

These are books I’ve wanted to read but haven’t had the chance to actually do it.  Well…this year, I’m going to knock ‘em out!

Recipe: Eggs In A Basket

Growing up, my favorite (and only) way to eat eggs were "Eggs In A Basket."  I have only seen this at one restaurant, Cracker Barrel.  Well, in case you've never heard of eggs this way, here is a "how-to."  I made these for Todd and I yesterday morning before going out shopping.  Please note, Todd was starving, so he got 4 eggs. 

Ingredients:
Butter, Bread & Eggs

 Plain Bread

 Buttered on both sides

 Cut a hole in the middle of the bread (I use wine glasses)


 Place bread in a pan or skillet.  Crack an egg into the center.
 Once browned, flip to cook the other side (approximately 1 minute - I dont like the yolks over-cooked.)
 Serve

I dont like the gewey clear stuff, which is why this is the only way I'll eat my eggs.  When you peel back the egg, there is a little pocket of yolk.  Yummy!

Have you ever had/made eggs in a basket?

Life Is Never Dull

Before Todd and I got married, we went to see the pastor who was marrying us.  We had never met the gentleman before.  He was a patient of mom & Doc’s from the office. 

I remember when the pastor (I cant for the life of me remember his name!) was asking us questions, and he asked each of us what we love about the other.  I will never forget Todd’s answer:  “Life is never dull with Meg*n.”  I laugh every time I think of the conversation we had.

To this day, Todd can get pretty irritated with me.  I constantly have 100 (or more) things going through my head.  I have ideas about businesses I’d like to start, garden planning, schedules to abide by, house chores I’d like to get done, projects I’d like him to start or finish, budget information, work, family, vacation ideas…the list keeps going on and on.  I politely remind him, “That’s why you love me! Remember?”  That normally starts us both laughing…because it’s true.  Life will NEVER be dull between his sense of humor and my ideas which are usually “simply bonkers!”

And yes…that’s why I named the blog that.  Because that’s how I feel most days!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

My Mr. Fix-It

Todd really should have been an engineer.  I swear, it’s his calling.  This man can fix ANYTHING!  I am constantly amazed at what he can fix, and what he thinks up. I cant imagine how much the home-improvements on our home would have cost if he couldn’t do them by himself.  So far, the only three things we’ve hired people to do are: 1.) Roof (because I wanted to make sure it was done right and had a warranty), 2.) Septic (required by the county to be one of their approved excavators,) and 3.) Cutting down huge trees that were too close to our home.

Todd installed the gutters on our home when we first moved in (there were no gutters when we bought the place!)  Ever since, we’ve had really bad icicles.  These never really bothered me, except for when they dripped on my head when I walked out the French doors.  Apparently, they’ve bothered Todd.  So…he went looking for a solution.

And guess what?  He found a solution!  He bought women’s pantyhose (he must have looked weird in WalMart looking at boxes hose) and a couple of jugs of the de-icer pellets.  Of course, if we didn’t have little critters running around, he could have gone for the cheaper salt, but this is pet friendly (thank goodness, because Lana was drinking out of the rain gutter yesterday!)  You fill up the knee-highs with the de-icer and tie the end.  He then tied several of them across the roof where we have the most icicles.  He made and tied 6 of them.  And it worked!  We had a really good snow, and so far, there are no icicles! 

He is such a fart smeller…I mean, smart feller!  (This is his joke that he’s said since we met…and now, I’ve acquired it!)

My Mr. Fix-It costs us a lot of money sometimes, but he sure does come in handy.  I love him to pieces.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Status of Todd's Car PayOff Plan

I got paid December 15th (Wednesday) and THOUGHT I was going to put a large portion of my paycheck toward Todd’s car; however, I decided against it.  The next payment on his car is not until October of 2012, and even though I want to pay his vehicle off by the end of the month, I wanted to get some other things paid off first.

I get paid on the 15th and 30th of every month.  That said, 4 times a year, I get an extra week’s pay.  Luckily, this paycheck had an extra $475 in it to help pay some things.  What did I decide to pay from this paycheck? 

1.)    The mortgage of $418.00 (due 01/01/11)
2.)     Propane Bill (not due until January 4th, but I didn’t want to push it.  We need gas to heat our home! This last fill-up was $120 more than I expected.  It ended up being $768 instead of $650!)
3.)    Every other bill we have (satellite, DSL, cell phones, Todd’s credit card, dog tag renewal (Lana is now legal through 2011,) septic renewal ($175: we are legal through the end of next year.)
4.)    Finished purchasing Christmas gifts (I had 3 gift cards to buy : and I was able to do it with this paycheck!)

So…we are paid up on all of our bills through the end of December!  Luckily, we did NOT get the invoice for our property taxes yet, so I can wait to pay those after the New Year. 

I allocated $300 for the rest of the month for groceries/party items for the two parties we will be having at the house.  I also allocated $150 for the two of us in gas as well as $80 total for allowances for the two of us through the end of the year. 

All else said, with my last paycheck of the year and Todd’s next 3 paychecks (every Friday through the end of the year,) we SHOULD be able to pay off Todd’s vehicle (current balance: $1,235.27) and have $450 left over by the end of the year assuming we don’t have any unexpected expenses.

One less revolving payment sounds so great right about now…